A reporter asked Majority Leader Harry Reid how he could justify exempting Nebraska from Medicaid payments forever, in exchange for Sen. Ben Nelson's vote. His reply:

There's a hundred senators here. And I don't know if there's a senator that doesn't have something in this bill that was important to them. And if they don't have something in it important to them, then it doesn't speak well of them. That's what this legislation is all about. (Harry Reid, Dec. 21, 2009, Democratic press conference after cloture vote on health-care bill)

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Democrats insisted on changing the law in Massachusetts to require an election to fill the office of Sen. John Kerry, should he be elected president in 2004. They argued that the people, not the governor, should choose the senator's replacement. Of course, the governor at the time was a Republican, Mitt Romney. Now that the governor is a Democrat, the people should not choose Ted Kennedy's successor; the governor should make the appointment. The duplicity here is despicable.

Democrats went berserk over what they called President Bush's "power grab," but are silent in the face of President Obama's massive consolidation of power. The duplicity here is despicable.

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When the president announced last week that he would “cut out the middleman” and make direct government loans to students, he laid bare his contempt for free enterprise. He is fulfilling a campaign promise by overhauling the system through which he claims, “Private lenders are costing America’s taxpayers more than $15 million dollars every day and provide no additional value except to the banks themselves.”

Consider the philosophy behind his statement. If government cuts out the middleman and performs the service instead, it will be cheaper and more efficient, he reasons. Apply this same reasoning to, say, the entire banking industry. Government’s direct involvement in the banking industry can eliminate all those bonuses paid to greedy executives and profits earned by greedy share holders, and make sure that loans are extended to low-income borrowers whether they qualify or not. Direct government control of the banking business will surely make it fairer and more efficient.

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So much of our reasoning about race is both emotional and faulty. In ordinary, as well as professional, conversation, we use terms such as discrimination, prejudice, racial preferences and racism interchangeably, as if they referred to the same behavior. We can avoid many pitfalls of misguided thinking about race by establishing operational definitions so as to not confuse one behavior with another.

Discrimination can be operationally defined as an act of choice. Our entire lives are spent choosing to do or not to do thousands of activities. Choosing requires non-choosing. When you chose to read this column, you discriminated against other possible uses of your time. When you chose a spouse, you discriminated against other people. When I chose Mrs. Williams, I systematically discriminated against other women. Much of it was racial. Namely, I discriminated against white women, Asian women, fat women and women with criminal backgrounds. In a word, I didn't offer every woman an equal opportunity, and they didn't offer me an equal opportunity.

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One of the best statements of how the Framers saw the role of the federal government is found in Federalist Paper 45, written by James Madison, who is known as the "Father of the Constitution": "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. ... The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people." Today's reality is the polar opposite of that vision. The powers of the federal government are numerous and indefinite, and those of state governments are few and defined.

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South Africa has been thrown into the news because of President Donald Trump's recent tweet that he instructed his secretary of state to "closely study" alleged land seizures from white farmers in South Africa.

Earlier this year, a land confiscation motion was brought by radical Marxist opposition leader Julius Malema, and it passed South Africa's Parliament by a 241-83 vote. Malema has had a long-standing commitment to land confiscation without compensation. In 2016, he told his supporters he was "not calling for the slaughter of white people -- at least for now" (https://tinyurl.com/y7mfmhco). The land-grabbing sentiment is also expressed by Lindsay Maasdorp, national spokesman for Black First Land First, a group that condones land seizures in South Africa. He says, "We are going to take back the land, and we'll do it by any means necessary." The land confiscation policy was a key factor in the platform of the new president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

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The Immigration and Nationality Act mandates that all immigrants and refugees undergo a medical screening examination to determine whether they have an inadmissible health condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has technical instructions for medical examination of prospective immigrants in their home countries before they are permitted to enter the U.S. They are screened for communicable and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis, polio, measles, mumps and HIV. They are also tested for syphilis, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases. The CDC also has medical screening guidelines for refugees. These screenings are usually performed 30 to 90 days after refugees arrive in the United States.

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Mike Scruggs