Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist and author
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Unless you are spending this time of year at a spiritual retreat cut off from TV, newspapers or internet service you cannot escape the blaring music and the marketers attempting to sell you something they promise will bring you happiness and peace. The many definitions of peace seem inadequate at this or any other time of year.
One way to kill a predatory animal is to deny it sustenance. The tax-cut bill passed by the Senate, if it clears a conference with the House and President Trump signs it, may be the first step toward starving the big government beast. Reporting on the Senate vote early Saturday morning reflected the biases of various media outlets. Predictably, The New York Times and Washington Post characterized the cuts as favoring the "rich," while doing nothing for the poor.
Rarely has the idiom "virtue is its own reward" looked better than it does in light of the sex scandals sweeping the nation. The so-called "prudishness," of a previous generation and the respect most men were once taught to have for women -- and which Hugh Hefner and his disciples of "free love" mocked -- are looking better with each passing day. Conservatives have been told they can't impose their morality on others, so how is its opposite working out for individuals and the culture?
The English poet of the Middle Ages, Geoffrey Chaucer, is generally credited with coining the phrase that has been updated in modern English to read, "better late than never." It means to do something or to arrive later than expected may not be good, but it is better than not at all. That may not be true in the case of former President Bill Clinton's enablers and apologists for his sexual misdeeds before and after winning the White House.
When Jim Zeigler, the state auditor of Alabama, invoked the Bible to defend Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore against allegations that he had inappropriate contact with underage girls while single and in his 30s (which Moore has sort of denied), it signaled perhaps the final stage in the corruption of American evangelicalism.
It should surprise no one that when it comes to sexual harassment, members of Congress and their staffs are treated differently from the rest of us. The Washington Post notes a law in place since 1995 under which anyone accusing a lawmaker of sexual harassment can file a lawsuit, but only if they first agree to go through counseling and mediation, possibly lasting several months.
Federal income tax was first introduced under the Revenue Act of 1861 to help defray war costs. Congress repealed the tax in 1871 when the need for government revenue declined, only to restore it in 1894 as part of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act. The public policy debate surrounding the constitutionality of income tax has been going on ever since.
If it were a plague, the government would rush to quarantine the infected, as occurred during Europe's Black Death in the 14th century. An immigration debate at Seattle University School of Law is a plague of a different sort, but deadly in a different way. The victim here is the right to free speech.
Responding to the recent Las Vegas concert shooting that killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds more, President Trump described the act as one "of pure evil." One definition of "evil" sounds so inadequate in today's culture: "morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked: evil deeds, an evil life."
In school, I liked math the least and history the most. Both can be useful in the coming debate over President Trump's proposed tax reforms. The one thing I learned in math class is that if the formula is wrong, the answer will be wrong. In history class, I learned we are not the first people to occupy the planet and that the experiences of those who came before us can be helpful when considering contemporary issues.
"The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher plain." -- Sen. George McGovern (D-SD) Filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have performed a vital public service in making their documentary "The Vietnam War" for PBS. Given the division that war caused in America, it is a pretty fair chronicling of the way things were half a century ago. The film brought back a lot of mostly bad memories to people of my generation.
At a National Archives ceremony last Friday in Washington, D.C., 30 immigrants became naturalized U.S. citizens. In a video, President Trump encouraged them to embrace the "full rights, and the sacred duties, that come with American citizenship." It was a noble sentiment that once resonated with Americans who believed passing along their history to a new generation of citizens was something that ought to be done. Not anymore.
What just happened? President Trump cut a deal with Democrats to pay for hurricane damage relief and raise the debt ceiling without getting anything in return, except the temporary avoidance of a government shutdown. How to describe this? Was it a sellout, or a pragmatic act? It's football season again, so let's call this deal the "option play." It isn't used much by today's professional players, but the play is designed to give a quarterback the option of running the ball, or, if he sees he can't make it through the defensive line, toss it to a player trailing behind him in an effort to gain yards.
ISTANBUL -- Coming from the airport into this city of about 15 million people and 5 million cars, as my driver describes it, I pass ancient Roman ruins and blocks of upscale shops; an old hotel where Agatha Christie penned "Murder on the Orient Express," smoke shops and modest restaurants, and luxury car dealers. It is a metaphor for the choices Turks are being forced to make under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: forward to a better future and a recapture of their secular state, or back to a nostalgic past when Islam was the official religion of the Ottoman Empire.
What is it about the month of August that finds so many celebrities dying? Just this month we've seen the passing of Glen Campbell, Barbara Cook, Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis. Thomas Meehan, who wrote the book for the musical "Annie," died last week. Marilyn Monroe died in August 1962 (though she "lives" on in so many ways). Elvis Presley died in August 1977. He, too, lives on, though it now costs $28.75 just to walk by his burial plot at Graceland.
"The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history." -- Friedrich Hegel We will learn even less from history if we wipe it clean, as some are trying to do by removing statues of Confederate leaders whose beliefs about slavery and race most, including me, find offensive. Conversation beats censorship.
In the South during the Jim Crow era, the "one-drop rule," codified into law, asserted that if a person had just one drop of African-American blood, they were considered "black." I wonder what we'd learn if we gave former KKK leader David Duke and the "white nationalists" who caused havoc in Charlottesville last Saturday a DNA test to determine their racial makeup?
In biblical times, a sanctuary city was a place where someone who had committed unintentional manslaughter could find refuge from "the avenger of blood." If the offender left the sanctuary city, he could be set upon by a relative of the dead person and killed. No sanctuary was available to anyone who committed murder with malice aforethought.
One month after the election, President-elect Donald Trump made a "victory tour" of states that had helped deliver his surprise win. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, Trump introduced his choice for Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis, and pledged the following: "We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn't be involved with. Instead, our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying ISIS, and we will."
The Establishment, a construct of Democrats and Republicans that rules in Washington no matter which party controls government, appears to be over its fainting spell following Donald Trump's election. It is now throwing everything at him from a daily -- make that hourly, even minute by minute -- onslaught of investigations to big media's equivalent of Molotov cocktails.