TPM Cafe: Opinion

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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TV these days is pretty bleak: The womanizing, alcoholic ad man; the meth-making chemistry teacher; the self-labeled sociopathic consulting detective. The anti-hero has all but taken over primetime television. More than a decade ago James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano changed the landscape of television protagonists, but it can become a bit draining to commit hours each week to watching jerks, whether you’re hoping to see flashes of compassion or waiting to see how low they can get. Can they be redeemed? Should they be? Is it okay to find such pleasure in how terrible they are?

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In my column last week I mentioned seven distinct advantages Republicans had in pursuing control of the Senate in this cycle, along with the entirely unrelated “mandates” they are likely to claim if they don’t blow a winning hand. I might have added that in addition to the unreal individual factors that will be cited as reasons for a GOP victory heavily dictated by ephemeral circumstances of landscape and turnout, we will hear a lot of thundering about a “center-right nation” and “the death of liberalism” and so on and so forth. While all kinds of partisans tend to see irreversible world-historical trends in every election win, today’s Republicans are especially prone to confusing themselves with the essence of Americanism.

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Updated 10:24 a.m. ET

Few issues these days bring the rhetorical heat like education. So I probably shouldn’t have been surprised to see a new attack site purporting to reveal “The Real Campbell Brown” as a right-wing mouthpiece shilling for Wall Streeters. After all, Brown is a leader in an ongoing legal fight in New York — where several lawsuits are seeking to replicate a recent California court’s decision striking down a number of the state’s teacher tenure rules (Vergara v. California).

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