Stories by George
As soon as the Constitution permitted him to run for Congress, Al Salvi did. In 1986, just 26 and fresh from the University of Illinois law school, he sank $1,000 of his own money, which was most of his money, into his campaign to unseat an incumbent Democratic congressman. Salvi studied for the bar exam during meals at campaign dinners.
Texting while driving is dangerous, especially if you are driving a train. A commuter train engineer was texting on Sept. 12, 2008, near Los Angeles, when he missed a stop signal and crashed into a freight train. Twenty-five people died.
Lord Byron was, according to one of his legion of lovers, "mad, bad and dangerous to know," but he also loved dogs, which explains his cameo appearance in a recent Texas Supreme Court opinion. It answered an interesting question in a way that shows how courts can avoid creating opportunities for trial lawyers.
Early in an opinion issued recently by a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge A. Raymond Randolph says: "Although the parties have not raised it, one issue needs to be resolved before we turn to the merits of the case." The issue he raised but could not resolve — that is up to the Supreme Court — illuminates the Obama administration's George Wallace-like lawlessness. It also demonstrates the judiciary's duty to restrain presidents who forget the oath they swear to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution."
"He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to … cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner."-- Article 2, Section 1, Articles of Impeachment
Thirty-one months ago Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell affronted the media and other custodians of propriety by saying something common-sensical. On Oct. 23, 2010, he said: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." He meant that America needed conservative change from the statist course of Obama's presidency (the stimulus, Obamacare, etc.), therefore America needed a president who would not veto such change.
People who talk incessantly often talk imprecisely, and Barack Obama, who is as loquacious as he is impressed with his verbal dexterity, has talked himself into a corner concerning Syria and chemical weapons. This is condign punishment for his rhetorical carelessness, but the nation's credibility, not just his, will suffer. His policy is better than his description of it, and his description is convoluted because he lacks the courage of his sensible conviction that entanglement in Syria would be unwise.
Two of the three most infamous Supreme Court decisions were erased by events. The Civil War and postwar constitutional amendments effectively overturned Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), which held that blacks could never have rights that whites must respect. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which upheld legally enforced segregation, was undone by court decisions and legislation.
America's most interesting development since November is the Republican Party becoming more interesting. Consider the congressman from Grand Rapids, Mich., who occupies the seat once held by Gerald Ford, embodiment of vanilla Republicanism. Justin Amash, 33, may seek the Senate seat being vacated by six-term Democrat Carl Levin, who was elected in 1978, two years before Amash was born.
Former British prime minister died last week at 87
She had the eyes of Caligula and the lips of Marilyn Monroe. So said Francois Mitterrand, the last serious socialist to lead a major European nation, speaking of Margaret Thatcher, who helped bury socialism as a doctrine of governance.
Education system wastes tax dollars, time on teaching political correctness
The real vocation of some people entrusted with delivering primary and secondary education is to validate this proposition: The three R's -- formerly reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic -- now are racism, reproduction and recycling. Especially racism. Consider Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction. It evidently considers "instruction" synonymous with "propaganda," which in the patois of progressivism is called "consciousness-raising."
As America tiptoes toward a fourth intervention in an opaque and uncontrollable conflict — now Syria, after Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya — Webb's words require two minor modifications: Obama has demonstrated a power, not an authority; only the Constitution authorizes. And as Webb understands, Obama has been able to do so only because Congress, over many years, has become too supine to wield its constitutional powers.
Supreme Court needs to avoid social science arguments in Calif. case
When on March 26 the Supreme Court hears oral arguments about whether California's ban on same-sex marriages violates the constitutional right to "equal protection of the laws," these arguments will invoke the intersection of law and social science. The court should tread cautiously, if at all, on this dark and bloody ground.
Rodney Francis is insufficiently ambitious. The pastor of the Washington Tabernacle Baptist Church in St. Louis has entered the fray over guns, violence and humanity's fallen nature with a plan for a "buyback" of children's toy guns. And toy swords and other make-believe weapons. There is, however, a loophole in the pastor's panacea. He neglects the problem of ominously nibbled and menacingly brandished breakfast pastries.
Progressives are remarkably uninterested in progress. Social Security is 78 years old and myriad social improvements have added 17 years to life expectancy since 1935, yet progressives insist the program remain frozen, like a fly in amber. Medicare is 48 years old and the competence and role of medicine have been transformed since 1965, yet progressives cling to Medicare "as we know it." And they say the Voting Rights Act, another 48-year-old, must remain unchanged, despite dramatic improvements in race relations.
RICHMOND, Va. -- A display case in the lobby of the Federal Reserve Bank here might express humility. The case holds a 99.9 percent pure gold bar weighing 401.75 troy ounces. Minted in 1952, when the price of gold was $35 an ounce, the bar was worth about $14,000. In 1978, when this bank acquired the bar, the average price of gold was $193.40 an ounce and the bar was worth about $78,000. Today, with gold selling for around $1,600 an ounce, it is worth about $642,800. If the Federal Reserve's primary mission is to preserve the currency as a store of value, displaying the gold bar is an almost droll declaration: "Mission unaccomplished."
'Zero Dark Thirty," a nominee for today's Oscar as Best Picture, reignited debate about whether the waterboarding of terrorism suspects was torture. This practice, which ended in 2003, was used on only three suspects. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of American prison inmates are kept in protracted solitary confinement that arguably constitutes torture and probably violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishments."
Before Ronald Reagan traveled the 16 blocks to the White House after his first inaugural address, the White House curator had, at the new president's instruction, hung in the Cabinet room a portrait of Calvin Coolidge. The Great Communicator knew that "Silent Cal" could use words powerfully -- 15 of them made him a national figure -- because he was economical in their use, as in all things.
The arguments against a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets are various and, cumulatively, almost conclusive. Almost. The main arguments are:
GOP governor of N.J. may show pugnacious can also be presidential
TRENTON, N.J. -- Coyness is not part of Chris Christie's repertoire, which does not stress subtlety, delicacy and intimation. New Jersey's governor is more Mickey Spillane than Jane Austen and his persona, which sometimes is that of a bulldog who got up on the wrong side of the bed, is so popular he seems to be cruising toward re-election this November and does not deny that he might look beyond that.
A willow, not an oak. So said conservatives of Chief Justice John Roberts when he rescued the Affordable Care Act -- aka Obamacare -- from being found unconstitutional. But the manner in which he did this may have made the ACA unworkable, thereby putting it on a path to ultimate extinction.
"I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it." — Col. Nathan Jessup in "A Few Good Men"
Connoisseurs of democratic decadence can savor a variety of contemporary dystopias. Because familiarity breeds banality, Greece has become a boring horror. Japan, however, in its second generation of stagnation is fascinating. Once, Japan bestrode the world, jauntily buying Rockefeller Center and Pebble Beach. Now the Japanese buy more adult diapers than those for infants.
At the end of this year in which election results reinserted immigration into the political conversation, remember that 2012 is the 150th anniversary of "the first comprehensive immigration law." This is how the Homestead Act of 1862 is described by Blake Bell, historian at the Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Neb., one of the National Park Service's many educational jewels that make the NPS one of just two government institutions (the other is the U.S. Marine Band) that should be exempt from any budget cuts, for all eternity.
Ideas are not responsible for the people who believe them, but when evaluating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's ideas for making the Senate more like the House of Representatives, consider the source. Reid is just a legislative mechanic trying to make Congress' machinery efficiently responsive to his party's progressivism. And proper progressives think the Constitution, understood as a charter of limited government, is unconstitutional.
If you have worked hard for five decades, made pots of money and now want to squander it all in Las Vegas on wine, women and baccarat, go ahead. If, however, you harbor the anti-social desire -- stigmatized as such by America's judgmental tax code -- to bequeath your wealth to your children, this would be an excellent month to die. Absent a congressional fix before Jan. 1, the death tax, which is 35 percent on estates above $5 million, reverts to 55 percent on those above $1 million.
With a chip on his shoulder larger than his margin of victory, Barack Obama is approaching his second term by replicating the mistake of his first. Then his overreaching involved health care -- expanding the entitlement state at the expense of economic growth. Now he seeks another surge of statism, enlarging the portion of gross domestic product grasped by government and dispensed by politics. The occasion is the misnamed "fiscal cliff," the proper name for which is: the Democratic Party's agenda.
"All Gods were immortal."
Conservatives should jauntily sing as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did in a year in which the country's chin was on the ground. Conservatives are hardly starting from scratch in their continuing courtship of an electorate, half of which embraced their message more warmly than it did this year's messenger.
GOP must embrace changing citizenry if it wants to enact change
America's 57th presidential election revealed that a second, important national institution is on an unsustainable trajectory. The first, the entitlement state, is endangered by improvident promises to an aging population. It is now joined by the political party whose crucial current function is to stress the need to reform this state. And now the Republican Party, like today's transfer-payment state, is endangered by tardiness in recognizing that demography is destiny.
'It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man."
Four decades after failed presidential bid and days after his death, he's having a moment
The death of George McGovern on the eve of the presidential candidates' foreign policy debate underscored a momentous political reversal spanning four decades. McGovern's nomination for president in 1972, a consequence of the Democratic Party's recoil against the Vietnam War and the riotous convention four years earlier, made the country uneasy about his party regarding national security. Four decades later, however, voters may be more ambivalent about America's world role than at any time since the 1930s.
DALLAS — In the 1920s, in the wee small hours of the mornings, employees at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas sang while they worked. One, Jack Culpepper, went into vaudeville, where he teamed up with a dance partner named Ginger. They married and performed as "Ginger and Pepper." But show business marriages are perishable, so Ginger Rogers found another dance partner, Fred Astaire.
"The president shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate."-- The Constitution, Article II, Section 2"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."-- Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass"When on Jan. 20, 2009, Barack Obama swore to defend the Constitution, he did not mean all of it. He evidently believes that the provision quoted above merely expresses the Framers' now anachronistic anxieties about abuses of executive power. (Thomas Jefferson's lengthy catalog of George III's abuses is called the Declaration of Independence). So on Jan. 4, 2012, Obama simply ignored the Recess Clause.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Fortunately, not everything is up to date in Kansas City. Esther George, president of the regional Federal Reserve Bank here, is refreshingly retrograde regarding what less-circumspect people welcome as the modernizing of the nation's central bank into a central economic planner. She has concerns, both prudential and philosophical, about the transformation of the Fed in ways that erase the distinction between monetary policy, which is the Fed's proper business, and fiscal policy, which is inherently political.
Both parties' claims about president's role are missing the point
In every year divisible by four, the dominant superstition of American politics — faith in the magic of presidential words and deeds — reaches an apogee that feeds national narcissism: Everything that happens anywhere is about us, is a response to something America did or did not do, and can be controlled by a president doing — even just saying — something.
College football is Obama's progressivism put into big-time action
With two extravagant entertainments under way, it is instructive to note the connection between the presidential election and the college football season: Barack Obama represents progressivism, a doctrine whose many blemishes on American life include universities as football factories, which progressivism helped to create.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Four years ago, Barack Obama was America's Rorschach test upon whom voters could project their disparate yearnings. To govern, however, is to choose, and now his choices have clarified him. He is a conviction politician determined to complete the progressive project of emancipating government from the Founders' constraining premises, a project Woodrow Wilson embarked on 100 Novembers ago.
Conventions are the seventh-inning stretches of presidential politics, a pause to consider the interminable prelude and the coming climax. Republicans gathered in Tampa faced an unusual election in which they do not have a substantial advantage concerning the most presidential subject, foreign policy.
Because the possibility of effectively supervising government varies inversely with government's size, so does government's lawfulness. This iron law of Leviathan is illustrated by a dispiriting story that begins with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka the stimulus, that supposedly temporary response to an economic emergency.
Method, outcome merit the adjective 'presidential'
When, in his speech accepting the 1964 Republican presidential nomination, Barry Goldwater said "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice" and "moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue," a media wit at the convention supposedly exclaimed, "Good God, Goldwater is going to run as Goldwater." When Mitt Romney decided to run with Paul Ryan, many conservatives may have thought, "Thank God, Romney is not going to run as Romney."
Ted Cruz's victory in Tuesday's Texas Republican runoff for the U.S. Senate nomination is the most impressive triumph yet for the still-strengthening Tea Party impulse. And Cruz's victory coincides with something conservatives should celebrate, the centennial of the 20th century's most important intra-party struggle. By preventing former President Theodore Roosevelt from capturing the 1912 Republican presidential nomination from President William Howard Taft, the GOP deliberately doomed its chances for holding the presidency but kept its commitment to the Constitution.
HOUSTON -- The average high temperature in Texas on July 31 is 94 degrees, which might matter in the selection of this state's next U.S. senator. Or perhaps the crucial fact will be a residue of Reconstruction.
PHOENIX -- The federal government is a bull that has found yet another china shop, this time in Arizona. It seems determined to inflict, for angelic motives and progressive goals, economic damage on this state. And economic and social damage on Native Americans, who over the years have experienced quite enough of that at Washington, D.C.'s hands.
The federal government is a bull that has found yet another china shop, this time in Arizona. It seems determined to inflict, for angelic motives and progressive goals, economic damage on this state. And economic and social damage on Native Americans, who, over the years, have experienced quite enough of that at Washington's hands.
The name of the nation's largest labor union -- the National Education Association -- seems calculated to blur the fact that it is a teachers union. In Chicago, however, the teachers union candidly calls itself the Chicago Teachers Union. Its office is in the Merchandise Mart, which resembles a fortress on the Chicago River, which resembles a moat. This is all appropriate.
Supreme Court ruling on health care law has major silver lining
Conservatives won a substantial victory on Thursday. The physics of American politics -- actions provoking reactions -- continues to move the crucial debate, about the nature of the American regime, toward conservatism. Chief Justice John Roberts has served this cause.
COLUMBIA, Md. -- Three hours before showtime, Brian Wilson says: "There is no Rhonda." Sitting backstage, gathering strength for the evening's 48-song, 150-minute concert, Wilson was not asked about her, he just volunteered this fact. The other members of the Beach Boys seem mildly surprised to learn that the 1965 song "Help Me, Rhonda" was about no one in particular.
Many parents and the children they send to college are paying rapidly rising prices for something of declining quality. This is because "quality" is not synonymous with "value."
'All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress."