TPM Cafe: Opinion

We are only a few legislative days away from a government shutdown. I was in Congress to witness the last Republican shutdown of our government, and it had lasting effects on our economy. The 2013 shutdown resulted in 120,000 fewer private sector jobs being created in just two weeks, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and our economy saw a total loss of $24 billion

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The story of Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old Texas high schooler arrested this week after he brought a homemade clock to school, has been framed by two recent trends: the attention the #BlackLivesMatter movement has helped bring to disparities in the responses of law enforcement to people of color vs. other Americans; and the emphasis the war on terror and its accompanying security and surveillance states have placed on Muslim-American communities. (Those seeking to defend Mohamed’s arrest have often analyzed it instead through the lens of school shootings.)

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CNN’s Wednesday night Republican debate, with its emphasis on personal animosity and weird answers about women on the $10 bill, provided plenty of entertainment value for political junkies and late night hosts. But the most consequential moment of the evening was a jaw-dropper of a lie that Jeb Bush told during one of the boring stretches in the middle of the three-hour slog.

In a bit of ugly sparring over who did or did not support the Iraq War, Jeb Bush, in a moment of pique, jumped in with, “You know what? As it relates to my brother, there is one thing I know for sure, he kept us safe.”

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Like a really brutal boxing match between equals, the CNN Republican presidential debate was long and bloody and not terribly conclusive.

For the second time in two debates, the moderators had a big impact. But while the Fox debate revolved around a network decision to demolish (or at least rein in) one candidate -- Donald Trump -- the CNN debate was skewed heavily by a format that began nearly every question with a quote from one candidate about another, and then allowed follow-up by the candidate quoted. This naturally favored the more combative and quote-worthy candidates, and also guaranteed another Trump-heavy debate.

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President Obama promised that as soon as the Iran nuclear deal is closed he will refocus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Given this shift of focus is now in sight, Obama should grant U.S. recognition of Palestine as an independent state, albeit a militarily occupied one. Such an elementary step is long overdue and may be the sole act that saves the two-state solution.

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Like many in my profession, I am shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden and violent death of Ethan Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. As I’m writing this, many of the details of today’s shooting in Jobe Hall on the Delta State campus remain unknown. What we do know – that Dr. Schmidt was gunned down, in his faculty office – puts my friend and former student in a long and baffling list of Americans of all ages murdered by men with guns.

Ours is not usually considered a dangerous occupation, but in today’s milieu of seemingly unchecked (and depressingly un-responded to) gun violence, I am unsure whether any profession is truly safe. My thoughts, and those of many, many others, go out to Ethan’s wife Liz, his colleagues, family, and especially his three young children.

I was not Dr. Schmidt’s dissertation director at the University of Kansas – that honorable job went to my colleague Paul Kelton. But I did know him, and taught him, and felt considerable pride as he progressed through our Ph.D. program, defended his thesis, accepted first one and then another tenure-track job, and published his book The Divided Dominion: Social Conflict and Indian Hatred in Early Virginia (University Press of Colorado, 2015).

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Are state legislatures breaking all records for attempts to rig our courts? The results are still coming in, yet it appears to be a banner year for elected politicians trying both new and well-established ways to bully, politicize or pack impartial courts.

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It might be hard to believe now, given the recent outcry over Pope Francis’s comments about abortion and forgiveness, but the Catholic Church used to stay out of women’s reproductive systems. Up until the late 1860s, the Church only considered late-term abortions to be a mortal sin; early-term abortions were considered to be basically the same thing as contraception, which was (and still is) a minor sin.

That's not too surprising when you consider that abortion was legal, at least until the time of “quickening” (approximately the fourth month of pregnancy) pretty much everywhere in the country until the 1870s. Of course, that wasn’t the only difference between abortion now and abortion then; until the beginning of the 20th century, abortion care was primarily provided by midwives, or by women who had learned from their relatives and friends which drugs or herbal methods could terminate a pregnancy.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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