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Bordering on the absurd

The war of words opposing President Trump’s relentless quest for a wall on the southern border has uncorked a flood of flapdoodle toward the fundamental security of the United States. Foolishness can sometimes be funny, but grins fade and eyes roll when the assault on common sense borders on the absurd.

In this Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, file photo, trade show attendees examine handguns and rifles in the Smith & Wesson display boot at the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Tradeshow, in Las Vegas. With all major markets in a severe sell-off Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, shares of companies that make guns surged as new data pointed to strong sales at the close of 2015, a year marked by mass shootings in Paris and California, and new political pressure to tighten regulations. Shares of Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. rose almost 6 percent Monday, one of the biggest percentage gains over the past year for the gunmaker. Its shares hit an all-time high two weeks earlier. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

Fighting back

The poisonous activism of social justice warriors has spread into the nation’s corporate boardrooms. As activists — some might call them partisan troublemakers — on the outside decry the corruption and evildoing of big business, others have worked their way inside to offer resolutions to require companies to “do good,” as the warriors define “good.”

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French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after delivering a speech on 'The presentation of the strategy for ecology transition', at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 27 2018. Macron said the government will find a way to delay tax increases on fuel during periods when world oil prices are rising. The move aims to reproduce the situation that has led to protests in recent days, some of which have become violent and even marred the famed Champs-Elysees avenue in central Paris. Behind reads: Change together. (Ian Langsdon, Pool via AP)

France's fuel-tax follies

The Earth travels its appointed course through the heavens without effort, but not much moves across its surface without oil. That fact is now painfully apparent in France, where the result of confiscatory environmental taxes has sparked a riotous citizen fury.

A migrant child playfully sticks out his tongue as others stand in line to receive food outside the Benito Juarez Sports Center serving as a temporary shelter for Central American migrants who traveled north in a caravan, in Tijuana, Mexico, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. The mayor of Tijuana has declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city and says that he has asked the United Nations for aid to deal with the approximately 5,000 Central American migrants who have arrived in the city. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Chaos on the border

A funny thing about caravans. They move. In the weeks before the midterm congressional elections, the Democrats and the media chastised President Trump for the attention he paid to the caravan of thousands of migrants moving steadily from Central America, through Mexico, toward the American border.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a signing ceremony for the Papua New Guinea Electrification Partnership at APEC Haus in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Changing Japan

Japan is about to take its most culture-altering step since Gen. Douglas MacArthur restructured Japanese society in the wake of World War II. With no apparent alternative to sustain the highly-skilled workforce that is the key to a successful economy, the Japanese are moving ahead with a scheme to import foreign workers, some of them to stay permanently.

In this Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, photo, visitors walk past a fort at Plymouth Plantation living history museum village, in Plymouth, Mass., where visitors can get a glimpse into the world of the 1627 Pilgrim village. Plymouth, where the Pilgrims came ashore in 1620, is gearing up for a 400th birthday, and everyone's invited, especially the native people whose ancestors wound up losing their land and their lives. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

No program for Thanksgiving

It's not easy for moderns to wrap their minds around the challenges of the first settlers when they sat down to the first Thanksgiving table, folded their hands and asked the Lord's blessings. The spirit of serving divine providence, of braving frightening forces of nature, of laboring with unwavering perseverance, is actually as rare as summer snow in any generation. If the sojourners of yore had been afforded the advantages of today's artificial intelligence in crunching the possibilities of success, odds are they would have stayed home. Smart machines may be, but an algorithm can't account for the invisible spark of human ambition.

Strange times in the House

Nancy Pelosi, that avatar "of San Francisco values," received a note of support from an unlikely ally the other day. She got a fan letter from Donald Trump. Against a backdrop of the gossip, some more informed than other, that she might not get enough votes in her caucus to regain the speakership, the president tweeted: "I can get Nancy Pelosi as many votes as she wants in order for her to be Speaker of the House. She deserves this victory, she has earned it. But there are those in her party who are trying to take her away. She will win!"

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.