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Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., center, is flanked by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., left rear, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as the Senate Budget Committee met to work on the Republican tax bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A Christmas quarrel

Christmas lights usually signal a season of goodwill. But in Washington, they're more like the check-engine light on a dashboard, warning that time to fix the nation's finances is running out. Before the holidays give way to a new year, critical decisions on tax reform and budget levels must be made. The capital Christmas rush features a deathly struggle between congressional Republicans and their Democratic nemeses. Failure to reach a resolution would produce the sort of gloom that suffuses Charles Dickens' tale of Ebenezer Scrooge.

The fuel of holiday cheer

Black Friday is the holy grail of retail, but there's no day that the nation's cup doesn't runneth over with black gold. American oil and natural gas are flowing like rivers, poised to power the nation's economy to new prosperity. Having just given thanks for the nation's bounty, Americans are rushing into a high-octane season of gift-giving, with every reason to anticipate more prosperity in 2018.

People sit on an independence heroes' monument after watching a ceremony marking the 214th anniversary of the battle that led to Haiti's independence from France, in Cap Haitien, Haiti, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. During the ceremony, the Haitian president officially reintroduced the army some 22 years after the national army was disbanded. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Going home to Haiti

How long is "temporary?" Like the answer to so many of life's questions, it depends. The man who sits down on a red-hot stove, "temporary" seating will be a very short time. "Temporary" applied to a government program can mean a very long time. The temporary buildings built on the National Mall to accommodate the federal bureaucracy during World War II, for instance, were not razed until the Nixon administration did it more than two decades later.

Pamela Bresnahan, Chair, Standing Committee On The Federal Judiciary American Bar Association, is sworn in during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on nominations on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A standard of fool's gold

Sen. Harry Reid's legacy as a Democratic majority leader is that he eliminated the Senate tradition of requiring two-thirds of the senators to confirm judicial appointees, making it easier for President Obama to pack the courts with liberal activist judges.

In this photo taken with light reflections on a pot German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Frau Merkel's migraine

The reckoning is at hand for Angela Merkel in Germany. None of the political parties came close to winning a majority in the September voting, and trying to put together a workable coalition has given Frau Merkel — and Europe — a headache the size of a continent.

Judiciary Committee members, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, left, talks with ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on nominations on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. (Associated Press) **FILE**

'Packing' the judiciary

When what goes around comes around, only the quick and nimble escape a painful smackdown. The Democrats in California have had remarkable success over the years packing the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals with judges who have small appreciation for the Constitution as it was written, and now that may be changing.

Turkeys, worms and Schadenfreude

Republicans and other conservatives who are tempted to indulge excessive Schadenfreude over the woes of Charlie Rose, Al Franken and their sordid fellows, taking delight in their pain and humiliation, should remember Iron Law of Politics No. 3, that nothing recedes like success. Giving too many hoots and hollers at turkeys over this holiday season is great fun, but the universal truth about worms is that they eventually turn.

FILE - In this May 15, 2017 file photo, protesters hold signs during a demonstration against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban, outside a federal courthouse in Seattle. A Somali refugee living in Washington state is asking a federal judge to let his wife and young children join him in the U.S., saying the Trump administration's indefinite ban on allowing the families of refugees to enter the country violates immigration law. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Bordering on Obama-era dysfunction

Fidelity is scarce in Donald Trump's Washington, except among the not so loyal opposition. Whether owing to compassion or incompetence, the Trump administration one year on has failed to replace holdovers, leaving in place Barack Obama's people who are dedicated to obstruction and delay of the new era. In some federal departments, the greatest danger a bureaucrat faces is a paper cut. But about immigration, it's whether the laws enacted to protect the American people will be enforced.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., center, arrives to speak to a large group of protesters rally against the Senate Republican healthcare bill on the East Front of the Capitol Building in Washington, Wednesday, June 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The season of the big slice

President Trump has something extra to be grateful for this Thanksgiving: a the long-awaited tax cut bill, passed by the House and en route to the Senate. As he marks the season with the traditional pardoning of the White House turkey, Republicans in line for similar clemency will get it only if the voters can find it in their hearts to forgive a plodding, inefficient (did someone say "incompetent"?) and lazybones Congress.

In this Aug. 10, 2017, file photo, a man watches a TV screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

Back on the list of bad guys

You can't blame North Korea for playing American presidents for willing suckers. A succession of them applied for the job. President Trump didn't, and Monday restored North Korea to a deserved place of prominence on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

FILE - In this May 14, 2012 file photo, King Salman, left, speaks with his son, now Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, (MBS), as they wait for Gulf Arab leaders ahead of the opening of Gulf Cooperation Council, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The surprise dismissal and arrest of dozens of ministers, royals, officials and senior military officers by MBS late Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, is unprecedented in the secretive, 85-year-old kingdom. But so is the by-now virtually certain rise to the throne of a 30-something royal who, in another first, is succeeding his father. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Interesting times in Arabia

If hard times can make a monkey eat red pepper, as the ancient saying goes, tough times might require Arab and Jew to join forces to bring home the bacon. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.) The reformation of Islam, which stalled in Spain in the 16th century, might be struggling for renewed purchase in Saudi Arabia.

In this April 4, 2012 photo made available by the University of Goteborg in Sweden, the Swedish research team practices before the operations to transplant wombs at the Sahlgrenska Hospital in Goteborg, Sweden. Nine women in Sweden have successfully received transplanted wombs donated from relatives and will soon try to become pregnant, the doctor in charge of the pioneering project has revealed. “This is a new kind of surgery,” Dr. Mats Brannstrom told The Associated Press. Brannstrom is leading the initiative at the University of Goteborg and will run workshops for other doctors on how to perform womb transplants later this year. “We have no textbook to look at,” he said.  (AP Photo/University of Goteborg, Johan Wingborg)

When two heads are better than one

China is thinking big. The Middle Kingdom has already built a small chain of islands in the South China Sea, fortifying them and bids to make them armed fortresses astride the sea lanes connecting Asia to the world. Leaders have to think big, and China obviously wants to replace the United States as the world's superpower.

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai speaks to the Associated Press after giving a press conference at his home in Harare, Zimbabwe, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.  Tsvangirai said President Robert Mugabe must resign and called for a negotiated, inclusive transitional mechanism as well as comprehensive reforms before elections. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Coup in Zimbabwe

"Every great cause begins as a movement," the television philosopher Eric Hoffer once observed (maybe), "becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket." There's some dispute about whether Mr. Hoffer ever actually said it, but there's no dispute that it's an accurate description of what happened to the Zimbabwe of Robert Mugabe.

NBC's Megyn Kelly interviews Juli Briskman, a former government contractor who was fired after she was photographed giving President Trump's motorcade the middle finger. (Image: "Megyn Kelly Today" screenshot)

The 100-grand salute

Salutes to the president can be monetized, and a middle-finger salute to a passing presidential motorcade can sometimes be worth more than a hundred grand. Is this a great country, or what?

Homeward-bound jihadis

War is hell, especially for the losers. Rather than winding up in a World War II-type concentration camp, defeated terrorists of ISIS are merely gathering up their wounded egos and bloody heads and heading home. Mom might be overjoyed to welcome the return of little Jihadi Joey, but the neighbors, not so much. When reauthorizing the nation's surveillance code, Congress must make sure that in protecting the privacy of the law-abiding they don't overlook the dangers posed by returning fighters who have lost the battle abroad but intend to continue the fight at home.

Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore leaves after he speaks at a church revival, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Jackson, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The dilemma in Alabama

"You can't beat Somebody with Nobody" is one of the first rules of politics, but occasionally Somebody is exposed as a wolf in borrowed clothes and Nobody wins by default. Nobody in Alabama is a man named Doug Jones, and a fortnight ago his chances of defeating Roy Moore were somewhere between Slim and None. And then Slim unexpectedly left town.

The Supreme Court in Washington is seen here at sunset on Oct. 10, 2017. (Associated Press) **FILE**

California and the Constitution

There's a lot about the law and the Constitution that California does not understand, particularly the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps willing to offer the needed tutorial in the law, has agreed to hear a legal challenge to a California law requiring private pro-life pregnancy counseling centers to tell their clients that the state will provide an abortion instead.

President Trump has undermined the judiciary by using his pardon powers on former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and has hurt the First Amendment by berating news outlets or calling them "fake," according to some of the Democrats' articles of impeachment. (Associated Press/File)

Home, with a side of bacon

President Trump is home from the hill, and Thanksgiving isn't far away, but the only words of gratitude from the liberals and the harder left is, "Thanks for nothing." That's all the president gets from his sore-loser critics following a whirlwind diplomatic and deal-making excursion through Asia. When they lock their partisan opposition in concrete and vow never to say an encouraging word, Americans are reminded why they voted to "Put America first."

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