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Michelle Kosilek, sits in Bristol County Superior Court, in New Bedford, Mass. A federal appeals court on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014, overturned a 2012 ruling ordering Massachusetts prison officials to provide taxpayer-funded sex-reassignment surgery for the inmate born as Robert Kosilek, who had been convicted of murdering his wife in 1990. (AP)

No free sex changes

In a rare triumph this week for judicial restraint, a federal appeals court in Boston overturned a lower-court ruling, telling the state of Massachusetts that it doesn’t have to pay for reassigning a prisoner’s sex — or “gender,” as the excessively delicate insist. (Nobody ever called Marilyn Monroe a genderpot.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sentences New York to further economic stagnation

New York just gave Vladimir Putin and the Middle Eastern energy sheikhs an early Christmas present. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after considerable dithering, finally did what everyone assumed he would. He banned fracking and gave up the bounty lying beneath his state. He sides with the radical environmentalists of the Democratic Party against the interests of his 19 million constituents, wasting an opportunity to fire up the rusty economic engine of high-tax, slow-growth New York. So much for the Empire State’s boastful claim that “New York is open for business.”

Protesters outside of Cafe Versailles on Calle Ocho in Miami,  decry the exchange of convicted Cuban spies, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014,  for USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, who has been held by the Cuban government. (AP Photo/El Nuevo Herald, Roberto Koltun)  MAGS OUT

Making nice with the Castro brothers betrays their victims

Sen. Marco Rubio calls President Obama’s remarkable gift to the Castro brothers, and agreement to “normalize” American relations with Cuba, the work of a “willfully ignorant” man. We hope so. Ignorance can be corrected. Perhaps, to put the most generous face on it, this deal originated in the bowels of White House incompetence that is the mark of this administration. But Mr. Obama may not be ignorant at all, willful or otherwise, but proceeding skillfully to radicalize America’s place in the world to fit the wishes and dreams of the determined and radical left from which the president sprang.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 12, 2104, as the Senate considers a spending bill. The House has passed an additional stopgap spending to make certain the government doesn't shut down at midnight Saturday when current funding authority runs out. The move would give the Senate additional time to process a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill.  (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

Ready, fire, aim

Ted Cruz is a brave conservative who, unlike some of his fellows, does not quail at the sound of the guns. He sets an example others could emulate. His tenacity, both at the grass roots where he has many friends and in Washington where he seems to have few, gives the conservative coalition a much-needed shot of testosterone in its flabby arm. His stand-up attitude is particularly valuable as Democrats try to figure out who they are and who they want to be in the wake of the thumping they took in November.

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RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. (Associated Press) ** FILE **

Republican establishment plots to get the candidate it wants

The Republican establishment, which gets so many things wrong, is trying to manipulate the party rules to make sure it gets the presidential candidate it wants in 2016. The party chiefs put it another way, of course: They're just trying to make sure that the party nominates a "respectable" candidate who won't be mortally wounded before it's time to fight Democrats. Some of what Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wants to put into place makes sense, but many of the suggestions from other quarters don't.

Sony Computer Entertainment President and CEO Kazuo Hirai speaks how to use its new PlayStation Portable "NGP" at PlayStation Meeting 2011 in Tokyo in this Jan. 27, 2011, file photo. Sony's online PlayStation store was inaccessible to users for part of Monday in the latest possible cyberattack on the electronics and entertainment company. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

Hacked in Hollywood

Liberal hypocrisy in Hollywood? Malice in Tinseltown? Pettiness among the stars? "Say it ain't so, Joe." Oscar Levant, the movietown piano player with a sharp mind and a sharper tongue ("I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin") once offered a hopeful analysis of what's wrong with the town: "Hollywood is made of tinsel, but if you get beneath the tinsel you'll find the real tinsel." The hackers of Sony Pictures took the challenge, and have revealed the details of the malice, pettiness and tinsel in purloined emails, and La-La Land is beside itself with fear, loathing and mortification.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014. With the government due to shut down in a week unless the lame duck Congress agrees on funding, Pelosi has encouraged House Speaker John Boehner to work with Democrats to work together on a funding bill while she confronts internal conflicts from rank-and-file Democrats. Though conciliatory about being in the minority, Pelosi cautioned her Democratic caucus not to rush to support a Republican plan until they know exactly what’s in the bill.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

EDITORIAL: Congress' budget compromise could be worse in form of 'cromnibus'

Nancy Pelosi is finished as speaker of the House — as in gone, finished, kaput. But the lady's famous assurance that Congress would have to enact Obamacare to see what was in it continues as the guiding spirit of this Congress. The congressional leaders negotiating the "cromnibus" were so determined to avoid a government shutdown that they were determined to let their colleagues be surprised by what they voted for.

Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois G. Lerner has been at the center of a scandal involving her erased hard drive and missing emails. (Associated Press)

EDITORIAL: Obama's IRS faces scrutiny with Republican-led Congress

The corruption of the Internal Revenue Service is still under investigation, but the public has learned a lot already: The IRS targeted conservative and tea party groups for extra scrutiny and harassment, Lois G. Lerner tried to hide behind the Fifth Amendment to avoid prosecution for violating the rights of taxpayers, and the president of the United States assured one and all that there was not even a "smidgen of corruption" at the agency when he knew better.

University of Alabama at Birmingham President Ray Watts,left, and UAB Vice President for Financial Affairs and Administration Allen Bolton, right,  address the media during a news conference to discuss the results of their athletics strategic planning process and closing of the UAB football football, rifle, and bowling programs, Tuesday, De. 2, 2014 in Birmingham. Ala. (AP Photo/Tamika Moore, AL.com) MAGS OUT

An Alabama university drops football

It takes strength, courage and resolve on the part of young men to play football. Sometimes it requires even more strength, courage and resolve on the part of college and university administrators not to play football.

This handout artist conception provided by NASA depicts multiple-transiting planet systems. (AP)

New respect for Pluto

These are definitely not the glory days of the American space program, but we should be thankful that, as Daniel Webster said of Dartmouth College, "there are those who love it." While many were busy protesting and rioting this week, mourning young black men shot by policemen by lying down in front of passenger trains, scientists at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory turned their attention to a quieter and saner world.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, as she leaves the Senate chamber after releasing a report on the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques at secret overseas facilities after the 9/11 terror attacks. Feinstein  branded the findings a "stain on the nation's history." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

EDITORIAL: The politics of torture

The Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday released the results of the long anticipated investigation into the CIA's detentions and interrogation techniques in the prosecution of the "war" on Islamic terrorism, and there's something in it for nearly everyone.

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2013 file photo, white roses with the faces of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are attached to a telephone pole near the school on the one-month anniversary of the shooting that left 26 dead in Newtown, Conn. Newtown is taking its time to decide what a permanent memorial should look like. A commission has been hearing proposals for concepts including murals, groves and memorial parks, while looking for lessons from paths chosen by other tragedy-stricken communities. Public forums are planned for 2015, the next step in a process that is expected to last several more years. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

EDITORIAL: That something good may come

Two years ago this month, a young man who killed his mother and took her guns walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and began firing. When the smoke cleared, Adam Lanza, 20, had shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children, in the five minutes between the time he shot his way into the school and the time police arrived. He then shot himself dead.

Even though the Army told Congress that it would prefer to buy no more of the outdated Abrams tanks, the Defense Authorization Act includes a $120 million earmark for more Abrams tanks. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress emphatically that there's no need to buy more such tanks. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

EDITORIAL: Authorization for wasting money

The House has passed the $585 billion Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Clearing that obstacle is good. Unfortunately, the legislation is larded with billions of dollars in waste and fat, and now the Senate must muster the determination to do what the House wouldn't.

The dilemma that John Boehner, the speaker of the House, faces is that conservatives in the House want to include measures to thwart President Obama's immigration amnesty. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

EDITORIAL: The angry House conservatives

Conservatives in Congress are steaming, and with good reason. If the 113th Congress, now on its deathbed but still twitching and making dying sounds, doesn't appropriate the money needed to keep the government operating until the deadline at the end of the week, the government will have to shut down. This is something the Republican leaders in both the House and Senate vow they will avoid by whatever means necessary.

Let Freedom Ring is gathering signatures for two online petitions calling on Mr. Obama to reveal prior to the election his plans for the 2015 Obamacare premium figures. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick, File)

The science of the plop

The art of the spin has become a science in Washington, and just as important as the art of the spin is what we can call the science of the plop. The plop doctors drop the bad news with a resounding plop! on Friday afternoon, just as the guilty parties are on their way to Reagan National Airport or Union Station (few take the Greyhound bus) to flee for the weekend, leaving the bad news to marinate while the spin doctors cook up their mush for Monday morning. Every White House is staffed with Ph.D.s in both plop- and spinology. The Obama White House is particularly adept in both the science and the art.

President Barack Obama listens as Dr. Nancy Sullivan, Senior Investigator; Chief, Biodefense Research Section, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a NIH tour of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Ebola virus survives a turf war

Turf wars are expensive, but they're popular in Washington. Every turf warrior thinks he's saving the republic by making sure his bureaucracy has a bigger budget and is more powerful than the bureaucracy across the street. Somebody has to pay for these wars, however, in both money and in kind, and that somebody looks a lot like the rest of us.