TPM Cafe: Opinion

While the nation has its eyes on ISIS and the newly opened front in Syria, there has been a critical development in a place where the U.S. has spent hundreds of billions of dollars, seen over 2,300 American troops lose their lives, and fought the longest war of our history.

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On Saturday, I was horrified to see a segment of the Fox News program, "Cashin’ In," in which host Eric Bolling and several of his panelists made remarks calling for racial profiling, stigmatization, and, ultimately, violence against Muslims. While I have seen and heard irresponsible, xenophobic, and even racist rhetoric in the American media and on cable news shows, Monday’s segment went far beyond anything I had witnessed in a long time.

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Friday’s press conference surrounding the League’s poor handling of domestic abuse is rife with examples of how not to lead an influential organization.

As a college leadership educator, I am charged with providing opportunities to students that are often very close in age to some of the newest members of the National Football League. I like to find examples in current events of how leadership should look- and how it shouldn’t look. In Friday’s press conference, I had an unfortunate chance to draw from Roger Goodell’s “performance” to address the latter. But through my own personal disappointment and occasional anger, I was able to distill a few things about the commissioner's leadership style. As controversy continues to unfold, America now regretfully knows more of the man overseeing this process...and has reason to be concerned.

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A political party with close ties to religious conservatives wins a national election thanks to unhappiness with the ruling center-left party’s economic and financial performance. Challenged to redeem its platform promising a major reversal of landmark laws making abortion generally legal, the conservative party promulgates a law banning the procedure, with exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the physical and mental health of the mother. Protests appear and spread as women object to the turning back of the clock. Public opinion surveys show 70 to 80 percent opposition to the new law. And finally, the conservative party’s prime minister relents, puts off implementation of the abortion ban on grounds that it would be reversed at the next change of party control, and instead proposes a face-saving measure providing for parental approval of abortions by minors. Anti-choicers and religious officials are very, very displeased and the governing party could be heading toward disarray.

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In less than two years, Pope Francis has changed the face of a two-thousand-year old institution. His emphasis on humility, mercy and social justice offer a vivid contrast to a vocal minority of U.S. Christian leaders who only see dark clouds and battles to fight. Think of it as a struggle between Christians who subscribe to the joy of the Gospel v. those who wage a culture war. The latter are being kicked to the curb by a pope determined to rescue the church from self-righteous ideologues, princely clerics and conservative activists who think opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion are the only real litmus tests of authentic Catholicism.

The Francis revolution has now arrived in the United States.

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The dramatic release of 49 Turkish hostages being held by ISIS in Mosul over the weekend was a welcome piece of good news amid the deteriorating situation in Syria and Iraq that necessitated Turkey closing its border for the first time officially this week. After over a hundred days of captivity the safe and triumphant return still shrouded in mystery over the exact terms reached between Ankara and the ISIS caught most of the world by surprise. Turkey’s unwillingness to date to publicly support America’s growing coalition against ISIS has caused many in Washington to scratch their heads, but was generally chalked up to the hostage situation. Now that this has been resolved, Ankara is a necessary partner and the most critical country for America to win over if ISIS is to be defeated.

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“The Wire” is one of television’s crown jewels and remains a cultural touchtone, but it’s not just a closely detailed vision of how institutions in an American city are failing individuals that gives it such a place. David Simon, writer and director (pictured, left, next to Wendell Pierce who played Detective Bunk), also threaded through his drama clear allusions to our ventures into the Middle East, and strangely, as we reenter the chaos of Iraq and confront the rise of ISIS, these allusive yet potent metaphors are still playing out.

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been pro-choice. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve been in pain, thanks to nerve abnormalities in my face and head that I was born with, and severe wrist problems that started in my late teens.

There’s no correlation between being in favor of reproductive rights and having chronic pain. But these issues have a great deal in common, such as the questions of bodily autonomy, patient dignity, and stigma. Chronic pain may not stir up religious passions, but it it is almost as politicized as abortion, falling in the orbits of the war on drugs, women’s health, stigma, and the Republican backlash against Obamacare.

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This past Tuesday, Senior Researcher at New America’s “Early Education Initiative” Conor P. Williams, wrote an essay in this space to express his dismay that Campbell Brown's opponents are using "ugly rhetoric" against Brown, as they had against Michelle Rhee before her. To Williams, this is part of "a troubling pattern for reform opponents ... prone to shooting any reform messenger." In this case, as part of a larger effort to challenge the Vergara v. California-style lawsuit she’s bringing to New York.

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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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