Exceptionally absent from the debate that surrounded the so-called “fiscal cliff” in the past few months, was the issue of the national debt, which stands at an unfathomable $16.3 trillion. That issue is inherent in the whole discussion of taxes, revenue, deficits, spending and the economy — and it is the public incarnation of those private problems — but the national debt, per se, consistently has been shoved aside in the rhetoric of Speaker of the House John Boehner and President Barac…

Wherever we go, there are books. Indeed we seem to have taken Thomas Jefferson’s declaration “I cannot live without books” to heart. They function as props, shields, antidotes to boredom, windows into far-off lands and times bygone, and many other functions as we carry them around train stations, airports, coffeehouses and, with the advent of the Kindle and its apps for iPads and smartphones, in our pockets.

Shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, the temptation to sentimentalize and reflect on the blessings in our lives increases. That occurrence takes place so regularly that, just as often, opinions that we should consciously extend the reflective nature of Thanksgiving to all the other days of the year — in the form of actual columns in newspapers, Facebook statuses, Twitter tweets and probably every other form of discourse — materialize.

Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, recently visited Ames to express his support for Congressman Steve King. Depending on the results of Election Day, King might be the new representative for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. Santorum expressed his support in no uncertain terms: “If we lose, and Obamacare is implemented, it’s over.”

Money complicates things. As Pink Floyd said decades, ago, “Money, it’s a crime / Share it fairly / But don’t take a slice of my pie.” On a related note, one of the larger issues of the 2012 presidential campaign has been the fate of the middle class.

Holidays such as Columbus Day rarely make headlines,  as they are rarely considered exciting. Setting aside this day is, like setting aside other holidays, intended to mark a special event. “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” as goes the old rhyme school children become familiar with.

Regularly, I check for interesting reads at The New York Times website (among others), including their opinion section. Back in July, I found one piece that got me thinking: It was a dialogue entitled “Caring About Politics” by David Brooks and Gail Collins. The exchange focused on voter apathy.

Up to a certain point, it is easy to write columns week after week. Up to a certain point, finding important news is easy, and ideas and their articulations flow out of a writer’s brain like a volcanic eruption.

Eventually, every college student needs a quick dose of caffeine. Inevitably, there comes a point at which the source of the caffeine is irrelevant. A student who ordinarily prefers hippity-dippity coffees may very well find himself in a bind where upholding preference is not convenient.

Most deaths are inherently a time for reflection. Indeed, if the person was at all known by family, neighbors or friends, reflections abound immediately afterward, at funerals and memorial services, and at anniversaries that call the person’s memory to mind. Such nostalgia is natural.

As clear as crystal and without question, courts such as the Supreme Court of the United States and the Iowa Supreme Court are vested with the power to determine whether a law is constitutional and, if it is not, to strike it down. Nevertheless, with another judicial retention vote drawing near among the elections of Nov. 6, the Family Leader has launched a campaign, begun on Saturday, Aug. 8, against Iowa Supreme Court Judge David Wiggins.

One of the criticisms Iowa’s secretary of state, Matt Schultz, has received throughout his effort to eject noncitizens who legally cannot and ethically should not vote in American elections is that his is a partisan effort to keep Latinos and Democrats from voting. Unfortunately those criticisms (most lately reified in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens) are somewhat valid.

Over the past several months, I have learned that more often than not in 2012 success in journalism and providing news is measured in how quickly a writer can post something — anything — to a website and link to the zygote of a story on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, as well has how many Internet hits the story receives along with its Facebook and Twitter recommendations.

Contrary to the implications of such magazines as Cosmo, Glamour and Vogue, women do not need to possess the idyllic physical features of fashion models to attain high levels of beauty. Personality, perception, a charming smile with honest eyes — in other words, what they do with their assets — are more than enough to make a woman the most enchanting of beings.

Ever since Republicans fed the increasing partisanship of American politics following the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, and especially since the midterm election victories in 2010 of members associated with the so-called “Tea Party,” officials who have given decades of their lives to public service have decided to retire. Others have lost in their primaries.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in the case National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, which pronounced judgment on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as Obamacare, neither vindicates in an “I told you so” fashion the Democrats who voted for the act and lost their seats, nor does it embody a victory for the American people because it upheld policies that ensure health insurance for everyone.

Here in the middle of a midsummer heat wave, your thoughts probably will turn at least once toward where on earth you can go to escape the hot, humid weather. Destinations range from short trips to St. Paul or Chicago to transatlantic voyages to the Emerald Isle or the City of Light. The possibilities are limitless and, depending on how you go — study abroad, with some group you’re involved in or with friends — you could end up anywhere.

Given his experience in law and politics as a constitutional law professor, state senator, U.S. senator, and president of the United States, President Barack Obama ought to know and understand by now that holding public office requires interacting with people on a sometimes unexpected basis. He has, after all, been at the apogee of the American political system — the presidency — for more than three years. During that term, he has been presented with as many learning opportunities as he …

Voters in North Carolina recently approved, 61 percent to 39 percent, an amendment to their state constitution that would prohibit marriage between same-sex couples. As usual with such events where supporters and opponents invoke words like “equality” and “sanctity,” the referendum — and President Barack Obama’s next-day expression of his own support for marriage equality — received immediate condemnation and approval.

Politics, I think, are pretty fun. Too often, however, politics are confused with government, a completely separate concept. Politics happen whenever two or more people get together to have a discussion or do something together. Put simply, politics are out having a good time. They require interaction with other people and being out in the world. Politics require exposure to forces outside one’s own mind.

Groups on the political left are just as guilty of fundamentalism as groups on the right, such as members of the Tea Party. Both sides race away from real policy discussions toward the first principles of rights; for Republicans and conservatives, that often takes the shape of invoking appeals to religious freedom and economic liberty. For Democrats and liberals, that often takes the shape of invoking women’s rights or fairness.

Everyone lobbying the Supreme Court to rule in favor of or against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is acting totally irrelevantly. The judiciary is supposed to be independent of political forces such as popular opinion. The Supreme Court deals in constitutionality; it should be independent of fleeting political whims. When dealing with the Constitution, there is a right or wrong answer to a question. It is not like politics. It is law.

Good movies have the power to inspire us, reveal our unconscious thoughts and capture the dearest and most controversial sentiments of our time. The magic and power of cinematographic art also goes with an escapist opportunity too.

Barack Obama is often maligned by social conservatives such as Rick Santorum as, in Santorum’s words, “a person of the left.” According to Santorum, Obama “is someone who believes in big government.” That support for big government is apparently worse than support for a big society.

From time to time, I learn something from the reactions to my columns, even if they were written and rewritten over the course of a week as well as reviewed by my colleagues on the Opinion desk. The lesson I have learned from the reaction to my column last Thursday, about requiring that birth control be a part of health insurance, was compelling.

Gov. Mitt Romney is a very rich man. To be sure, he deserves to keep as much of his wealth as is consistent with the welfare of the nation whose laws allowed him to amass so much. Various news outlets such as CNN and NPR relating his statement that he cares about neither the very rich nor the very poor, but instead the 90 to 95 percent of Americans who are struggling, refer to the statement as a gaffe.

Having spent my middle and high school years watching President George Bush's State of the Union addresses almost every year, I always look forward to the president's assessment of how our nation is faring and what legislation Congress should enact to either patch things up or direct our attention toward achieving lofty goals or fulfilling brilliant missions.

Perspectives on American politics, policy and economics increasingly come from the libertarianism of Ayn Rand. Over the past few years now, Republicans have emphasized deregulating economic activity and lowering taxes to restore economic growth. The best articulation of those ideas is within the pages of "Atlas Shrugged," Rand's monumental 1,000-page novel.

The American people as a whole have always been a resilient, audacious people. Americans should remember that. There is no reason to believe that our best days are behind us. If America as one unit wants glory, greatness, power and credit, it can have them. If Americans as individuals want those same things, they too can have them.

Doing any job well requires experience or, at the very least, familiarity with the rules by which the position operates both by itself and as it interacts with subordinates, superiors, and equals. If I came into work having forgotten how the Daily does the news, with no ability to talk to columnists, editors, graphic designers or photographers, this page would look awful — if there was anything on it at all.