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Dick Polman — House of Clowns

It’s well known that Kevin Spacey shadowed Kevin McCarthy before shooting “House of Cards.” But if you’re looking for cheap intrigue and craven dysfunction, skip Netflix and binge-watch the real thing: House of Clowns.

We can’t let the culture scolds win

The belief that “cultural appropriation” is offensive or even evil is hardly new; when members of one culture adopt elements of another, discomfort is a fairly common response. Yet the scolds seem to be gaining momentum. Many college campuses, including my own (where the issue is sombreros), have been the scene of “appropriation” controversies.

John M. Crisp: It’s still OK to read a book

I harbor a fond nostalgia for the technologies of my youth. I keep six or seven old typewriters in my office, long after I typed the last word on any of them. In one closet I store an old-fashioned slide projector. And a turntable that will play 78s. A box camera that shoots film. A View-Master.

Doyle McManus: Why the rebel candidates are on the rise

It wasn’t difficult for pundits to spin instant explanations for why “outsider” candidates such as Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders have been surging in recent polls. Opinion surveys have long shown that American voters are unhappy about the state of the nation, frustrated with politics as usual and skeptical that conventional politicians can fix the problem. Lately, however, voters seem to have reached the “I can’t take it anymore” stage.

What does it mean to be poor in America?

According to the Census Bureau’s new annual poverty report, 46.7 million Americans lived in poverty in 2014. This finding is surprising since government spent more than $1 trillion in 2014 on cash, food, housing, medical care, and targeted social services for poor and low income Americans. (That figure does not include Social Security or Medicare.)

How dry, how long?

California in the Great Drought is a living diorama of how the future is going to look across much of the United States as climate change sets in. Like hippies and “dude,” wine bars and hot tubs, mega-churches and gay rights, what gets big in California goes national soon enough. Now, the large dark bruise spreading across the state on the U.S. Drought Monitor map is a preview of a bone-dry world to come.

Doyle McManus — Can Hillary Clinton win the angry voters?

While Donald Trump has kept the political world transfixed, Hillary Rodham Clinton has spent her summer methodically rolling out a long list of policy proposals. They add up to a platform you might call “soft populism.” It’s not the insurrectionist socialism of Bernie Sanders but still progressive enough to keep most Democratic primary voters on her side.

Learning to live with fire

The 2015 fire season is poised to become among the worst in American history. More than 6 million acres have burned nationwide, most of that in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, and the season has just come into its prime in drought-plagued California, where more than 50 blazes have prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents. By the end of summer, thousands of firefighters will have risked their lives and billions of dollars will have been spent in an attempt to control the flames. Despite the effort, towns and watersheds may well turn to ash.

Doyle McManus — Is Obama’s strategy against Islamic State working?

One year ago this weekend, President Obama launched airstrikes in Iraq to prevent the insurgent armies of Islamic State from advancing to the gates of Baghdad and conquering the country. Within weeks, American aircraft began bombing Islamic State’s bases in neighboring Syria, too, and Obama declared his war aims: “to degrade and ultimately destroy” the militant group. A year later, who’s winning the war? The answer depends on whom you ask.

GOP debaters fall short on addressing US economy

The long-awaited inaugural Republican debate of the 2016 primary season resembled a low-gas flame — generating a degree of heat, but little light in terms of what voters are looking for: a real, live, practical plan to create good jobs and boost middle-class incomes.