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Wednesday, January 11, 2017 6:00 PM
This week, author, political columnist, jazz critic and – to quote his wife – “social mischief maker” Nat Hentoff passed away at his apartment in Greenwich Village “surrounded by family listening to Billie Holiday,” according to his son, Nick Hentoff, on Twitter.

Holiday was not merely music to live for and die to; Hentoff knew her. Over the years covering the jazz scene in America from the 1950s onward he got to know many of the greats (including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane) and the music was a passion of his life. His contributions to the music industry – magazines, books and productions – alone deserve recognition at his passing. But many, including myself, know him for his political commentary as well.
  • HARPER/Obamacare on life support
    “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,” President Obama made those promises on multiple occasions while trying to sell the Affordable Care Act to the American people. We now know that neither of these statements turned out to be true. Obamacare has done the opposite of what the president promised when he said, “You’ll find more choices, more competition, and in many cases, lower prices.” What we are seeing across the country is fewer choices, less competition, and skyrocketing premiums. But the full story of Obamacare is more than a string of broken promises - the onerous rules and regulations are causing the law to collapse under its own weight. The simple truth is that it is hurting more people than it is helping. Just two months ago, 8 in 10 Americans told Gallup they want Obamacare either significantly changed or replaced altogether.
  • BROOKS/Bannon vs. Trump
    It’s becoming clear that for the next few years U.S. foreign policy will be shaped by the struggle among Republican regulars, populist ethno-nationalists and the forces of perpetual chaos unleashed by President-elect Donald Trump’s attention span.

    The Republican regulars build their grand strategies upon the post-World War II international order — the U.S.-led alliances, norms and organizations that bind democracies and preserve global peace. The regulars seek to preserve and extend this order, and see President Vladimir Putin of Russia as a wolf who tears away at it.
  • LOWRY/Obama’s ‘Russian reset’ failure
    President Barack Obama has finally had it with Russia. It only took eight years of cold reality — topped off by the Russian interference in the November election — to make the outgoing president almost cleareyed about the Kremlin.

    Not that Obama is ready to admit error. Asked by George Stephanopoulos on Sunday if he underestimated Vladimir Putin, Obama said no, he had only missed how cyberhacking could be used to meddle in our electoral system — in other words, it was a technical mistake, rather than a fundamental misassessment of a foreign adversary.
  • DUNCAN/‘What the law shows about our hearts’
    Open your Bible to Luke 16:14-18 as we continue our way through this gospel. Remember that the last thing Jesus was saying to His disciples and to the Pharisees around them had to do with faithfulness regarding money. You’ll also notice that the next thing that Jesus says has to do with the story of a rich man and a poor man. So the focus on the love of money is a topic that surrounds this passage.
  • GETTING THE MESSAGE/2nd Timothy 4:6-8
    Our Lord came into this world in order to give men new life with God. The apostle Paul is the model of this new life. We see here Paul’s summary of his Christian life as death approaches. He says: “I am already being poured out like a drink offering and the time has come for my departure.”

    Paul uses the language of sacrifice to refer to the end of his life. A drink offering in the Old Testament was the final act of a sacrificial ceremony. An animal such as a bull or lamb would be offered on the altar signifying the need to be cleansed of sin and holy before the Lord, and then the drink offering would be poured next to the altar as a sign of complete dedication to serve the Lord.
  • BROOKS/The Snapchat presidency
    Normal leaders come up with policy proposals in a certain conventional way. They gather their advisers around them and they debate alternatives — with briefing papers, intelligence briefings and implementation strategies.

    President-elect Donald Trump doesn’t do that. He’s tweeted out policy gestures in recent weeks, say about the future of the United States’ nuclear arsenal. But these gestures aren’t attached to anything. They emerged from no analytic process and point to no implemental effects. Trump’s statements seem to spring spontaneously from his middle-of night-feelings. They are astoundingly ambiguous and defy interpretation.
  • LOWRY/Defund the UN
    We’ve come a long way from Daniel Patrick Moynihan excoriating the U.N.’s 1975 “Zionism is racism” resolution in one of the finer exhibits of righteous indignation in the history of American speechifying.

    The Obama administration acceded to — and, reportedly, assisted behind the scenes — a less notorious but still noxious Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. By the administration’s lights, the action is clever — it will be extremely difficult to reverse and will increase Israel’s international isolation.
  • TANNER/Think twice about Sessions
    When President-elect Trump selected Alabama senator Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general, many conservatives cheered. Immigration hardliners were thrilled to have one of their own in the position, while other conservatives saw Sessions as the type of dynamic presence needed to clean out the Stygian morass of President Obama’s Justice Department. “A sensible pick that promises to restore some integrity to a Justice Department tarnished by eight years of Obama-administration lawlessness,” the editors of National Review called it.
    As we enter into the New Year we look at this familiar passage in Luke about the birth of Jesus. We might use it as a challenge for us in this upcoming year. So I want to look at the passage from that point of view.

    First, we can be intentional about serving the Christian King. That of course is the Lord Jesus Christ who reigns over all. In verse one we read about the great Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. He was born Octavian, a distant relative of Julius Caesar. After Caesar was assassinated, Octavian was named in Caesar’s will as his adopted son and heir. A struggle for power ensued, but Octavian won when he defeated Antony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 BC.
  • DUNCAN/‘Wholly devoted’
    Turn to Luke 16:1-13 as we continue our way through the gospel of Luke. This is a hard parable. The commentators sometimes struggle to understand what Jesus is speaking about. It's difficult for a number of reasons. One is, in this parable, Jesus commends a dishonest manager as the example to His disciples. It's also not quite clear exactly what the manager is doing to extract himself from his situation.
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