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Former San Antonio Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, center right, is embraced by his twin brother U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), center left, during an event where Julian Castro announced his decision to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

On to field of dreams

Most of the government is idle and the nation’s capital is shrouded in nearly a foot of snow with more on the way, but politics, the capital’s only industry, grinds on at a quickening pace. Over the past few days, two more Democrats have entered the race for president, joining Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. John Delaney of Maryland. These four, gathering press notices while they may, won’t be the last.

A new poll reveals the gender divide on President Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico: Men favor the barrier, women don't. (Associated Press)

The aspiring new moralists

A congressperson as the arbiter of national morality, the judge of what’s right and wrong, the earnest scholar of government theology? Who knew? Yet Nancy Pelosi says building a wall on the border is “immoral.” Ours is an age that mocks the values that created America.

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In this photo taken May 2018 and released by Yulong Snow Mountain Glacier and Environmental Observation Research Station on Oct. 18, 2018, the Baishui Glacier No.1 is visible next to a tourist viewing platform high in the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the southern province of Yunnan in China. Scientists say the glacier is one of the fastest melting glaciers in the world due to climate change and its relative proximity to the Equator. It has lost 60 percent of its mass and shrunk 250 meters since 1982. (Yulong Snow Mountain Glacier and Environmental Observation Research Station via AP)

Cold shoulder from the sun

When snow covers the ground even as autumn leaves flaunt their colors, it's a sign that winter is running ahead of schedule. There's no use griping about the weather. Everybody talks about the weather, Mark Twain observed, but nobody does anything about it. Humans keep a seasonal calendar and the world of nature has its own. And just when the savants of science think they've found the key to natural powers, unseen forces demonstrate that, like the lesson of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," their wisdom is mostly from Mickey Mouse.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, present details of the new sanctions on Iran, at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

War by other means

There's a fierce war going on out there, but it usually gets scarce attention because the weapons don't make much noise. It's a war of economics, and noise or not, it raises wide-ranging issues with America's European allies.

CNN's Jim Acosta walks into federal court in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, to attend a hearing on legal challenge against President Donald Trump's administration. Trump's administration contends it has "broad discretion" to regulate press access to the White House as it fends off a legal challenge from CNN and other outlets over the revocation of Acosta's "hard pass." (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Restoring trust in the press

Reporting the news is difficult and expensive. Grandstanding is more fun and everyone has an opinion. That's why reporters were once taught, often by a stern taskmaster, to leave opining to the columnists and the editorial page, and save their opinions for after work in the bar across the street. This particular affliction — grandstanding rather than reporting, advocacy rather than observing and distilling those observations before passing them on to press and tube, is the affliction of the modern media. And why not? Talking is cheaper than reporting.

The Capitol is seen in Washington, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, before Congress returns to work Tuesday for the first time following the midterm elections. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Managing change, preserving what's important

It's difficult to deny the ring of truth in certain platitudes. Heads nod in agreement with the wisdom of "change is the only constant in life," often attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. But 23 centuries later, French journalist and critic Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr similarly nailed it again with his observation that "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Common sense is a convenient tool for sorting out life's inconsistencies and forming a suitable resolution. Some things change, but not everything, nor should it.

An Israeli security officer examines the damage of a chicken coop after it was hit by a rocket fired from southern Gaza Strip, Near the border with gaza southern Israel, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushed back to Israel on Monday, hours after an Israeli army officer and seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas commander, were killed after an incursion by Israeli special forces into the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Coming awake again

The Israel-Arab peace effort is suddenly awake again. Whether this movement will redeem the Trump administration's promise "of a peace of the century" is another matter. But we'll soon see.

Miami-Dade Election Center supervisors recount the ballots and are already halfway through the recount total on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018.  (C.M. Guerrero/Miami Herald via AP)

Searching for the immaculate election

This sounds elemental, as it ought to be. Every legitimate voter — from new immigrant to descendant of the Mayflower voyager — is endowed with exactly the same electoral value, one vote and each voter entitled to cast it only once. Citizens one and all, they settle their differences on Election Day. Or so they think. Then cries and shrieks split the morning-after calm, pleading that the tally is unfinished, incorrect, illegitimate.

Workers load ballots into machines at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office during a recount on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Lauderhill, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Cleaning up elections

Electoral reform is no longer a matter of good government, but self-preservation for those, whether Democrat or Republican, who understand it's important to hold honest elections. Until now the focus of reformers has been on preventing fraud at the polls by requiring voter identification and tightening registration rules. But that's only half the battle.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the opening ceremony for the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. Xi promised Monday to open China wider to imports at the start of a high-profile trade fair meant to rebrand the country as a global customer but offered no response to U.S. and European complaints about technology policy and curbs on foreign business. (Aly Song/Pool Photo via AP)

Cracking China's great wall

Americans up to their elbows in election alligators might have missed it: The great wall of Chinese trade just cracked. While voters were busy recalibrating the balance of power in President Trump's Washington, China pledged to make its markets more accessible to international business. Promises made are not always promises kept, but this may signal that the president's hard-nosed method of dealing with the most stubborn of global competitors is paying off. If daylight seeps through China's formidable trade barriers, it would be good news for Americans and, ultimately, the global economy.

Fox News announces U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, as the winner over challenger Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, during the Dallas County Republican Party election night watch party on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 at The Statler Hotel in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

Disappointment for everyone

So much to be outraged about, so little time. The election results, The New York Times said with more than a little understatement, "it wasn't necessarily the night of either party's dreams." The Democrats got the House, though the blue wave that was supposed to wipe out Republicans for a generation was nowhere to be seen.

The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Ambassador John Bolton, delivered remarks at the National Historic Landmark Miami Freedom Tower Nov. 1, 2018. Bolton spoke about the Trump Administration's policies in Latin America. (Emily Michot/Miami Herald via AP)

Opportunity in Latin America

After eight years of the Obama administration's complaining, false modesty and general incompetence, President Trump has reluctantly backed into the logical role as leader of the free world. If not us, who? Who else to keep at bay the United Nations, even more incompetent than Mr. Obama?

James Fitzgerald, of Boonsboro, Md., a poll worker for the last four months, sets up a voting booth at Northern Middle School in Hagerstown, Md., Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, on the eve of the 2018 midterm elections. (Colleen McGrath/The Herald-Mail via AP)

Be careful what you wish for

Americans revel in full-contact sport. Football, alas, has replaced baseball as the national pastime. No longer satisfied to put on their favorite team jersey, some parents stoke their competitive fires by dyeing their toddler's hair to match the team colors. But pigskin fanaticism is not politics, and Election Day isn't game day. Flush with acute political angst — some call it a prelude to a second civil war — voters face off Tuesday across the nation. More than bragging rights are at stake — the outcomes will determine decide the nation's future. (If only for the next two years.)

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Ca., speaks during a campaign event for Democratic candidate for Florida governor Andrew Gillum, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, at Miami Dade College in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

A Halloween leftover

It's fun to dress up on Halloween and pretend to be someone else, the more unlikely the costume the better. The prize for dressing up as the unlikeliest of all goes this year to Kamala Harris, the junior senator from California. With an eye on 2020, and having discovered that millions of Americans are having difficulty paying their taxes and maintaining a comfortable standard of living, she pretends to be Donald Trump the tax-cutter. Just as the ghosts and goblins were gathering for their annual blow-out she introduced something called the Lift the Middle Class Act, providing a tax credit of up to $6,000 to families earning less than $100,000 annually.

Vigilante 'justice'

By the code of the streets, he got what he deserved. Hundreds of the kith and ken of the dozens of men and even some women who died at the hand of James Joseph "Whitey" Bulger would agree. Whitey, the notorious Boston mobster, was killed in prison this week at the age of 89. It was a fitting and violent end to an extraordinarily violent life.

This is a painted rock found Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, part of a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, to the 11 people killed during worship services Saturday Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The fruit of religiosity

Authentic religious faith teaches nothing if not the lesson that God breathes into every person a spark of the divine. Some master the core of that authentic religious teaching eagerly, some accept it in stages over a lifetime of experience and, a few, like the man of pure evil at the Pittsburgh synagogue, never get it at all.

People stand cast their ballots ahead of the Tuesday, Nov. 6, general election at Jim Miller Park, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Marietta, Ga. Less than two weeks before Election Day, early voting returns forecast a midterm election turnout not seen in decades, with Republicans and Democrats demonstrating engaged bases on each end of the political spectrum. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Wrecking the vote

Some things are simple and exact, like a chemical formula or the multiplication tables. Equally simple by logic: Everyone who votes should be eligible to vote, and before receiving a ballot should be able to prove it. Voting-rights activists find dark motives in the elementary desire for clean elections, and are eager to cry voter suppression. With the approach of crucial midterms, Americans have every right to make sure their votes still matter when relaxed rules make eligibility irrelevant.

A woman lights a candle, Monday Oct. 29, 2018, at a memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue, to one of the 11 people killed when a gunman opened fire during worship at the temple on Saturday Oct 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

A weekend from hell

The unspeakable anger after an unspeakable act, like the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh and the attempted pipe-bombing assault on senior Democrats, including a former president, always follows as if a ritual. It's now drearily familiar.

This is an undated photo of a portrait of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson by artist Rembrandt Peale.  (AP Photo)

The working press

Almost from the founding of the republic, there has been a vibrant competition between the government and the media for expressing government policy and governing strategy.

U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Beto O'Rourke campaigns at Bert Ogden Arena on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Edinburg, Texas. (Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP)

The fading blue wave

Elections rarely live up to the hype. Reporters and pundits in hot pursuit of clickbait had barely begun recovering from the 2016 election before they began confidently predicting a comeuppance for Donald Trump in the midterm congressional elections.

In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman addresses the Future Investment Initiative conference, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. The Crown Prince addressed the summit on Wednesday, his first such comments since the killing earlier this month of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

The Muslim moment

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi encapsulates the crisis which has overtaken 1.5 billion Muslims, 22 percent of world population, their religion and their scattered and widespread civilization.

The HealthCare.gov website is photographed in Washington on Dec. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick) ** FILE **

Better health care, state-style

No one is guaranteed a tomorrow, but expectations run pretty high for happy days in the here and now. Americans consider first-rate health care a right tucked somewhere in the Constitution, between baseball and free hot dogs. The lengthy struggle over the proper role of government in facilitating access to modern medicine — including the grinding Obamacare tug-of-war — has reached an exhausting stalemate. With voters soon to pass judgment on the well-being of the nation, legislators at every level would be advised to get on with devising a health care system that Americans can live with. The key could be loosening the bureaucratic rules and enabling states to do what they were meant to do.