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Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell speaks during a session about opioids at the National Governors Association meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 15, 2016. (Associated Press) **FILE**

Striking a blow for good sense

When the urge to be edgy leads to fad, the unique, the uncommon and sometimes the weird and goofy is suddenly high fashion. In 2016, "transgenderism," the urge to be what you're not, became a fad. A visitor from Mars might think that every Earthling is determined only to change his sex and find an inappropriate place to pee.

A capital chance for change

Congressmen love recess almost as much as the kids do, and no one knows for sure what either Congress or the kids will do when the bell finally rings and they return to their seats. With the opening of the 115th Congress, there's high anticipation that Congress will settle down to conduct the nation's business like adults.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tom Perez announces a civil rights unit to be based in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday. The unit will be responsible for prosecutions and lawsuits. (Associated Press)

A race to the bottom

Once they get over their post-election pout (and even if they can't, and don't), the Democrats must choose a new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The two top contenders, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, represent that great distinction without a difference.

In this photo released by the Kremlin Press service via Sputnik agency, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during an undated recording of his annual televised New Year's message in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin Press Service, Sputnik, via AP) ** FILE **

A lesson in score-settling

Settling scores is always petty, whether by pouty teenagers, embittered ex-spouses or soon-to-be former presidents. Barack Obama is making himself look small and insignificant when he could be looking like a big man making a graceful exit.

A new sticker designates a gender neutral bathroom at Nathan Hale high school Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in Seattle. President Obama’s directive ordering schools to accommodate transgender students has been controversial in some places but since 2012 Seattle has mandated that transgender students be able to use of the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. Nearly half of the district’s 15 high schools already have gender neutral bathrooms and one high school has had a transgender bathroom for 20 years. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

North Carolina stands its ground

There once was a time, and not so long ago, when men and women who violated the well-understood ways that society is organized would refrain from challenging the normal behavior standards, or do as they like and be treated accordingly, as social outcasts.

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the State Department, in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016.  Stepping into a raging diplomatic argument, Kerry staunchly defended the Obama administration's decision to allow the U.N. Security Council to declare Israeli settlements illegal and warned that Israel's very future as a democracy is at stake. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Obama's one-two punch

That's quite a one-two punch President Obama has organized at the White House. Barack Obama applied the knife to the back of Israel, and then John Kerry, the secretary of State, arrives to give the blade a lingering, painful twist — just in case the Jews didn't get the point.

FILE- This June 30, 1999 file photo shows the sun setting behind mountains as the Hollywood sign overlooks Los Angeles. For a century and a half California has been a destination for every conceivable sort of adventurer. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

The day the music didn't die

Media gossips report that Donald Trump is having trouble recruiting Hollywood celebrities to entertain guests at the inauguration. The likes of Elton John, KISS, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Garth Brooks and Justin Timberlake have been more or less reliably reported to be still nursing snits and pouts, unable to come to terms with the election results, and will be missing in Washington on Jan. 20.

When asked in an interview that aired Sunday on "60 Minutes" about the "crooked" and "corrupt" claims by Donald Trump and numerous other Republicans, Hillary Clinton said she is being held to higher standards of ethics than other people. (Associated Press)

Where was the bias?

President Obama, still on the scout for meaning in what happened to the Democrats in November, suggests now that Hillary Clinton lost because of media bias. If the president actually believes that, he's surely the only man in America who does.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, file photo, an Uber driverless car is displayed in a garage in San Francisco. Uber has pulled its self-driving cars from California roads. The ride-sharing company said Wednesday, Dec. 21, California transportation regulators revoke registrations for the vehicles. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

A lesson from the horses

A century ago dealers in horses and manufacturers of buggies and buggy whips took a sad story to the politicians: The newfangled manufacturers of horseless carriages are driving them out of business. Somebody has to do something.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the African Methodist Episcopal church national convention in Philadelphia in this July 8, 2016, file photo. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Life inside the bubble

The weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth on the inconsolable left continues seven weeks after Hillary Clinton blew her inevitable presidency, and the mourning now is mostly about the inevitability of a Donald Trump presidency and whether the correct-thinking can survive in the dirty, rotten world where cruel fate has cast them.

President Obama's parting shots

President Obama is making sure that Americans won't forget him soon. From shutting down promising sources of domestic energy production to throwing open the nation's prisons and borders, the lame duck in the White House employs a little quackery to make good on his promise to fundamentally transform America.

President Barack Obama greets people waiting for him outside Island Snow Hawaii in Kailua, Hawaii, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, after the president, joined by family and friends, had shave ice during the first family's annual vacation. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

When a president runs a tab

Only the fiercest partisan churl begrudges the president, any president, a few days out of the Oval Office. Everybody looks forward to a summer vacation, and presidents have the same wants and wishes their constituents do.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016. (Dan Balilty/Pool photo via AP)

A final insult to Israel

President Obama continues his long march to the rear, where he imagines leadership should reside, and last week enabled the worst elements of the United Nations to condemn Israel once more for its settlements on the West Bank.

This September 2012 photo shows The Great Sand Sea, 28,000 square miles of rolling dunes along the northern edge of the Sahara, one of the main attractions of a visit to the Egyptian oasis of Siwa, a Berber town of some 27,000 people roughly 450 miles (about 725 kilometers) southwest of Cairo. The palm tree-lined area is known for its quiet charm, ancient ruins, abundant natural springs, a vast salt lake and rolling sand dunes in the surrounding desert. (AP Photo/Kim Gamel)

Hope in the Sahara

As struggles against the established order go, conflict in the Western Sahara is small potatoes. The people there have been struggling for self-determination and nationhood for 46 years, since Morocco imposed its rule over the territory. Lately the warriors are lawyers armed with writs and torts instead of revolutionaries armed with knives, guns and bombs.

 Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Capitol is at rear. Pruitt is President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Doing the right thing at EPA

Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma and Donald Trump's nominee for director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, calls himself "a national leader in the cause to restore the proper balance of power between the states and the federal government."

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2016 file photo, members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions carry an effigy of South Korean President Park Geun-hye as they march during a rally calling for Park to step down in Seoul, South Korea. The jailed confidante of the disgraced president begins a trial Monday, Dec. 19 that will explore a scandal that led to Park's impeachment after millions took to the streets in protest. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

Keeping South Korea on balance

Donald Trump won't become president until Jan. 20, but the globe will demand his attention before the echo of his oath of office fades across the National Mall. Political turmoil in South Korea could well provoke mischief among U.S. adversaries in Asia during the intervening six weeks.

FILE - In a July 14, 1955 file photo, Zsa Zsa Gabor arrives at London Airport from Paris, in a Crimson dress and a straw hat. Gabor died Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, of a heart attack at her Bel-Air home, her husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, said. She was 99. (AP Photo)

Farewell to Zsa Zsa

Some celebrities are famous just for being famous. You can find them all over the internet. Other celebrities are famous for being infamous. There are even a rare few, like Zsa Zsa, who died this week age 99, who are famous just for being who they are.

FILE - In this June 25, 2012 file photo, a crew works on a gas drilling rig at a well site for shale based natural gas in Zelienople, Pa. Hydraulic fracturing to drill for oil and natural gas poses a risk to drinking water in some circumstances, but a lack of information precludes a definitive statement on how severe the risk is, the Environmental Protection Agency says in a new report that raises more questions than answers.  (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Fracking and clean water

Gauging the effects of hydraulic fracturing on the nation's drinking water is much like considering whether the glass of the precious stuff is half-full or half-empty. When energy companies employ hydraulic fracturing in search of oil and natural gas they should take care, and most of them do, to avoid contamination of nearby reservoirs of drinking water. But the incoming Trump administration must determine again whether there's an unacceptable risk to supplies of fresh water.

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2016 file photo, Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin talks to reporters as he arrives at Trump Tower in New York.  There's growing concern among Republicans about the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings Mnuchin, the Wall Street financier Donald Trump has chosen to head the Treasury Department (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Where are Trump's free market voices?

Donald Trump's Cabinet selections so far have been good -- principled conservatives like Dr. Ben Carson at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Rep. Tom Price, a physician, who will head the Department of Health and Human Services.

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