When funding UFO research suddenly seems practical: A Pentagon briefing from 2009 warned that “what was considered science fiction is now science fact,” and that, without more study, the country would be unable to defend itself against some of the technologies discovered. The military intelligence official who ran the program for years said that more attention should be given to “the many accounts from the Navy and other services of unusual aerial systems interfering with military weapon platforms.” In short, the truth is out there.
Sasha Abramsky: I’m sitting in my office considering the pros and the cons of 2017. It’s really not a contest: This was a befouling, grubby, shameful year. The sort of year that leaves an overwhelmingly sour taste, that makes one feel dirty simply for having experienced it. Sure, there were some good things. As a tennis fanatic, for example, I find Roger Federer’s renaissance dizzying in its brilliance. And the solar eclipse was quite something to behold. But the bad things are in a league of their own. From Klansmen in Charlottesville to to threats at the U.N., the best thing to say about this year is that it will soon be over. Here are all the ways 2017 made America ‘great’ again.
Erwin Chemerinsky: The resignation of Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski shows the need for oversight on the federal bench. Judicial independence comes at a cost: the lack of checks on federal judges who behave badly or simply no longer should be on the bench. The reality is that there are federal judges who are widely regarded as no longer able to handle the position.
Dan Walters, CALMatters: Will California spend its surplus, or save it? Jerry Brown habitually warns about the inevitability of recession and the need to build reserves, and Mac Taylor mirrors that caution in urging his bosses in the Legislature to set aside more money.
Ian Adams: California’s natural environment is changing and becoming more fire prone. But insulating those at risk from the impacts of this shift from the true cost of the risks that they now confront cuts against California’s otherwise enlightened approach to climate awareness championed by policymakers like Sen. Ricardo Lara.
Take a number: 2,087
The Center for Responsive Politics’ reports that for the first time since it began counting, the number of lobbyist clients working on tax-related issues in Washington, D.C. topped 2,000–2087 in 2017, up from 1,825 in 2016. Clients that retained lobbyists to work on taxes from Comcast and Altria to CalPERS and Tesla. They all had our best interests at heart.
Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones: On paper, Robin Stublen and I should never have been friends. He was a Donald Trump-supporting self-identified redneck who hated Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, thought liberals were ruining the country, was deeply offended by NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, and supported oil drilling off the coast of Florida, where he lived. I am a bleeding-heart liberal who fears what President Donald Trump is doing to the country, thinks it’s about time that political protests hit the NFL sidelines, and abhors oil drilling off the coast of Florida, even though I don’t live there and never will. Improbably, though, we were friends, at least until this month: Robin died on December 19 at the age of 61.
San Francisco Chronicle: In 2014 and 2016, House incumbents’ re-election rates were 95 percent and 97 percent, respectively, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and the figure hasn’t dropped below 85 percent for at least half a century. Fortunately, the Supreme Court may be embarking on a belated effort to draw some boundaries on the partisan gerrymandering that contributes to such results.
Salt Lake City Tribune: It would be good for Utah if Orrin Hatch, having finally caught the Great White Whale of tax reform, were to call it a career. If he doesn’t, the voters should end it for him.
Chicago Sun Times: Bit by bit, the U.S. Department of Education is sneaking Fraud 101 back into our nation’s for-profit college curriculum. If the department’s secretary, Betsy DeVos, has her way, students who fall victim to tuition scams from bogus “colleges” and “universities” once again will find themselves at a heartbreaking dead end — without the skills to get a better job — and mired in hopeless debt.
Albert Hunt, Bloomberg: Confederate apologists, helped by some 19th-century historians, depicted Ulysses S. Grant as a military butcher, a chronic drunk and a corrupt and failed president. It's a lie, and one that makes Ron Chernow’s voluminous biography, “Grant,” all the more important, especially in the context of a contemporary neo-Confederate revival on the political right.
Paul Krugman: Let’s be clear: America as we know it is still in mortal danger. Republicans still control all the levers of federal power, and never in the course of our nation’s history have we been ruled by people less trustworthy.
Frank Bruni: I’m not minimizing Trump’s capriciousness or cupidity. He could yet fire Mueller, the special counsel. Some conservatives’ intensifying attacks on the counsel and the FBI are clearly grist for that. And the tax bill is indeed a messy, fiscally reckless means for Republican lawmakers to please their donors and crow that they are getting big things done. But the end of the world? Come on.
Eric Posner, Foreign Policy: A lot would have to happen after Robert Mueller is fired for a constitutional crisis to occur - not least, we would probably first need a Democratic victory in the 2018 congressional elections, without which impeachment hearings are unimaginable.
Francis Wilkinson, Bloomberg View: American culture and U.S. politics are under growing duress. Conservatives are becoming less democratic, more fearful and more aggressive. Instead of purging their predators and liars, they are nominating them for high office. The White House is run by people who exhibit contempt for suckers who tell the truth and follow the law. A bitter, nation-defining fight – likely over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and its consequences – is coming.
David Brooks: “Somebody warned him that a large gator had been seen in it days before.” Could we give a Sidney to an essay the title of which we couldn’t quote in a family newspaper? We decided that our mission, celebrating the year’s best long-form journalism, is more important than the staid and stifling morality of a patriarchal bourgeois neoliberal society.
“Our city fathers want revenue on the cheap and they have it. Red light camera operators simply notify the courts of a violation and skim their piece of the action with balance off to City Hall.” – John Nickols, Sacramento