Category: Vital Signs

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After Obergefell: What Now?

I have previously suggested in these pages that the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Obergefell v. Hodges—the five-to-four decision which declared that two Americans of the same sex have a constitutionally guaranteed right to marry each other—may be the worst in the history of the Court.  First, there was no adequate legal or constitutional basis...

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The Worst State

Things are pretty dismal all over the country, but some places are worse than others. Usually, published rankings of American states are compiled by liberals who value such things as high-school and college graduation rates, personal income, internet speed, and the availability of abortion clinics.  That’s why Massachusetts and Minnesota commonly come out on top. ...

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Nuclear Baksheesh

For several months Republicans and Democrats have been jawing over the nuclear “deal” with Iran.  Unlike so many partisan debates, this one may actually involve issues of national security, but only if both sides are serious.  The Iranians have legitimate reasons to be afraid of an American Empire that has destroyed Iraq; plunged Syria, Tunisia,...

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How to Keep From Getting Deported

In September, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that an illegal alien, although properly found to be a danger to the community, should not be removed from the United States because he considers himself to be a transgender woman.  Finding that Mexico is not in the progressive vanguard in embracing transgender identity, the court...

The Poet: Companion of the Common Man
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The Poet: Companion of the Common Man

What is the role of the poet in society?  In a frequently misunderstood remark, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote in “A Defence of Poetry” (1821) that poets are the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.”  Shelley’s idea is that poets shape our view of ourselves and the world, which in turn shapes the very course of history...

The Worst Decision
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The Worst Decision

Law professors like to debate among themselves which of the U.S. Supreme Court’s many opinions is the very worst.  There has been a general consensus that the most loathsome is the one in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), in which the Court decided that the right to hold slaves in the territories was a “fundamental...

White Out
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White Out

Hand it to Ann Coulter and Donald Trump: They know how to send the left into an apoplectic conniption.  Coulter’s contribution to the left’s unhinged tantrum is her book on immigration, ¡Adios America!: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole.  Coulter has gone “full racist,” we are told, because she...

Britain Decides
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Britain Decides

There’s something admirably old-fashioned about a British general election.  Instead of the two years of incessant blather we get over here (“Just 11 weeks until the first GOP debate!” I heard recently on FOX News), the whole thing is over inside a month.  The odds are good that nobody will call you in that period...

Power and Passports
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Power and Passports

In June, the Supreme Court greatly augmented executive power by holding that the president has the exclusive right to grant formal recognition to a foreign sovereign.  This decision further pushes presidential power in the direction of royal prerogative through which monarchs enjoy the exclusive care over foreign affairs to the detriment of the people’s representatives....

Getting Out of Bed With Korea
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Getting Out of Bed With Korea

In some ways—even more than Japan and the People’s Republic of China—South Korea is dominating key U.S. markets.  I’ve noticed this for years in Orange County, where Hyundai North America just built its new $200 million U.S. headquarters in Fountain Valley, the city next to where I live in Huntington Beach.  It’s double the size...

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Trashed

This is a tale of two cultures.  The first is that of the 1960’s Britain where I grew up.  By and large, the taxpaying householder was still the unchallenged master of his domain.  The phrase “An Englishman’s home is his castle” hadn’t yet been tainted by satire or irony, nor by any hint of spurious...

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Disabled

Dear Dr. R——: Recently, I read an article about the explosion in the number of Americans receiving disability from the federal government.  In fact, that same government now pays out more for disabilities than it does for food stamps and welfare combined. Certainly, many of those receiving aid truly require this assistance.  But after perusing...

Revisiting Brideshead
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Revisiting Brideshead

It seems to me that in the present phase of European history the essential issue is no longer between Catholicism, on one side, and Protestantism, on the other, but between Christianity and Chaos. . . . Today we can see it on all sides as the active negation of all that western culture has stood...

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Policing and Profiling

A growing nationwide disdain for police officers has resulted from several highly publicized shootings of “unarmed” minority men who have resisted arrest or attacked officers.  The media’s rhetoric has inflamed passions, resulting in the murders of two New York policemen seated in their cars, and the assassination of four Lakewood, Washington, officers eating in a...

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Trigger Warnings

In a May 21, 2014, Washington Post column, Kathleen Parker alerted readers to a phenomenon in higher education termed “trigger warnings.”  These are instructional caveats offered about class assignments that may contain language, situations, or expressed political, religious, or personal philosophy that might be “upsetting” to students, thereby giving them the choice to opt out...

The Nightmare That Wakes Us Up
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The Nightmare That Wakes Us Up

G.K. Chesterton had a low opinion of his own abilities as a novelist.  “[M]y real judgment of my own work,” he confessed, “is that I have spoilt a number of jolly good ideas in my time”: I think The Napoleon of Notting Hill was a book very well worth writing; but I am not sure...

A Master Accompanist
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A Master Accompanist

Few jazz pianists are “accompanists” as gifted in knowledge, technique, and taste as Norman Simmons, able to back vocalists with consummate skill in chording, passing notes, and background lines, but also wise in the use of space.  “A pianist is a piano player—that’s different from accompanying,” Simmons said recently, as he approached his 85th birthday. ...

Cultural Cleansing, Phase One
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Cultural Cleansing, Phase One

In 1833 James Fenimore Cooper returned from a European tour to Coopers town—founded by his father, one of the first pioneers into the dangerous frontier of New York beyond the Hudson Valley.  Cooper property included a pretty peninsula on Lake Otsego that the family had allowed the community to use for fishing, picnics, and boating. ...

Epiphanies of Grace
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Epiphanies of Grace

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.  Books are well written, or badly written.  That is all.”         —Oscar Wilde, from the Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde wrote several first-rate plays, on which his literary reputation principally rests, and a number of mostly...

Dealing With the Devil
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Dealing With the Devil

Ralph Sarchie exudes an aura of intense strength when he walks into a room.  A fit, middle-aged man with heavily tattooed arms (pictures of his daughters and tough cop tattoos, like one that reads New York Untouchables) and a buzz cut, who speaks with a Queens accent straight out of Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas, Sarchie has...

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The States Fight Back

What if the states started to fight back against federal refusal to protect American borders?  What if they started challenging, even nullifying, federal actions that promote illegal aliens coming and staying here? Despite the centralization of America since at least 1865, the 50 states retain a surprising amount of autonomy.  And oddly enough, the flood...

Is Immigration Our Fate?
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Is Immigration Our Fate?

Political correctness has it that immigration is a perennial phenomenon in Western countries.  This is preposterous.  Immigration as we know it today is an extremely recent phenomenon. The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, they say.  This is just plain ridiculous.  A small group of people leaving their country to found their...

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Delivering the Goods

My local post office in suburban Seattle seems to be rigged to discourage customers these days.  When you ask for the slightest bit of “consumer assistance”—as their cheerful mission statement on the wall promises they’re only too happy to provide—they seem to get ferociously cross.  I was once read the riot act by a young...

Holy Ghosts and the Spirit of Christmas
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Holy Ghosts and the Spirit of Christmas

It has been argued that, after Shakespeare, Charles Dickens is the finest writer in the English language.  His works have forged their way into the canon to such a degree that it is much more difficult to know which of his novels to leave off the recommended reading list than it is to choose which...

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The Ice Storm

This morning, an icy December predawn, about 5:30, Oncor, our utility company, performed a miracle.  I’m not sure if anyone actually said, “Let there be light!”; but for a certainty, there was light—and heat—and it was good.  After more than 55 hours without electrical power, my wife and I, our three animals, and an array...

The New Political Science
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The New Political Science

I once presumptuously thought I knew what “political science” was (Aristotle told me), and I even remembered Eric Voegelin’s New Science of Politics, but I was wrong—again.  Is there is p-p-pattern developing here? Yes, there is a New Political Science that is a contemporary Zeitgeist, and I am talking about what happens when “science” is...

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The Quintessential Democratic Politician

What follows is an attempt to portray not the typical statesman, as he repeatedly appeared in the course of Western history up to yesterday, but the average professional politician of our times, the man (or woman) whose chosen trade is to govern his (or her) fellow citizens. Any ruler must somehow be subordinate to the...

Living the Good Life in the South
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Living the Good Life in the South

Havilah Babcock was a teacher who was once one of the best-known educators in South Carolina and a writer who had a national audience.  Today, few remember him.  This is partly because of the passage of time—Babcock died in 1964.  It is more owing to changes in American life and literature. Babcock was a proud...

The End of the United Kingdom?
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The End of the United Kingdom?

Of course Scotland won’t leave the United Kingdom.  That was the conventional wisdom when the referendum on Scottish independence was announced two years ago.  But today no one is quite certain what the outcome will be.  The referendum is scheduled for September 18, and polls indicate that a majority of Scots favor staying in the...

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Country

Maximus: Marcus Aurelius had a dream that was Rome, Proximo.  That is not it.  That is not it! Proximo: Marcus Aurelius is dead, Maximus.  We mortals are but shadows and dust.  Shadows and dust, Maximus! —from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator Every time I watch the above scene from Gladiator, that powerful movie about the decadence of...

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Practical Distributism

Distributism is a Catholic social philosophy that, as Thomas Storck writes, “seeks to subordinate economic activity to human life as a whole, to our spiritual life, our intellectual life, our family life.”  Unfortunately, distributism is frequently debated or discussed in terms of macroeconomics—a national economic system.  But the more important activity is already occurring at...

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No Free Lunch

This summer, as U.K. schoolchildren go on vacation, their school buildings will become hives of activity.  Construction workers will descend in droves to overhaul kitchens and dining halls.  These need to be refitted for a major new purpose.  Starting in September, state primary schools will be serving free hot lunches to all pupils in their...

Mencken and the World Warmonger
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Mencken and the World Warmonger

As World War I is remembered in this year of its hundredth anniversary, one rivalry continues to resonate across America.  It isn’t between the Allies and the Central Powers, or between two houses of European royalty, but between two countrymen: President Woodrow Wilson and H.L. Mencken, the Bad Boy of Baltimore. Despite a couple of...

Jimmy Rowles
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Jimmy Rowles

In person, jazz pianist Jimmy Rowles was a cutup, a card, a madcap presence, a piece of work.  After coming east from California in 1973, he would appear often, sometimes for weeks at a time, at Bradley’s, The Cookery, The Knickerbocker, Michael’s Pub, and other top New York City piano rooms, usually in duos with...

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Endorsing Demise

There is a distressing history of foreign insurgent groups manipulating U.S. political figures, policymakers, and opinion leaders into supporting their causes.  Frequently, that support goes far beyond rhetorical endorsements.  On several occasions during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, foreign lobbying efforts have led to U.S. military and financial aid being given to highly...

Elena Chudinova: Telling the Truth
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Elena Chudinova: Telling the Truth

In the autumn of 2005, I moved to New York City, breaking out of the green confines of bucolic and insufferably boring upstate New York to continue college.  I wandered into one of the numerous Russian bookstores on Brighton Beach—a noisy, dirty, and delicious corner of the Soviet Union, preserved on the southernmost tip of...

The Writer and the Lawyers
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The Writer and the Lawyers

If there are two vocations more opposite than, on the one hand, the starving but gifted poet, mystery and horror-story writer, and prolific essayist and, on the other, the obscenely rich, ambulance-chasing attorney, this writer does not know them.  Yet these two are conjoined at birth.  To understand this, one must know something about the...

CPAC Moves to Rockford?
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CPAC Moves to Rockford?

Here’s how you’ll know the conservative movement means something again: when the Conservative Political Action Conference moves its annual meeting from Washington, D.C., to Rockford.  Or Dubuque.  Or Peoria.  Or Helena.  Or San Antonio.  Or Bakersfield.  Or Murfreesboro. Anywhere but the District of Corruption. Conservatives flock from around the country to CPAC, expecting to advance...

California Surfs Toward Bankruptcy
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California Surfs Toward Bankruptcy

Beach Blanket Bankruptcy would be a great name for a 1960’s-style surf movie about California’s state and local finances.  Alas, although Frankie Avalon still is with us, the beauteous Annette has gone the way of fiscal solvency. Already in recent years, four Golden State cities have declared bankruptcy: Vallejo in 2008, and Stockton, San Bernardino,...

Never-Ending War: An Economic Policy
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Never-Ending War: An Economic Policy

Contrary to the assertion of official historians, April 1865, which saw the fall of the Confederate States of America, was not the month in which the “Union” was saved or a “nation” was forged.  It was the month that saw the transformation of the republic into an oligarchy, and the expansion of government subsidies into...

That Special Relationship
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That Special Relationship

John Kennedy and Harold Macmillan were the odd couple of the Special Relationship.  Conjuring a picture of them from the cuttings files and obituaries, they seem almost comically mismatched.  For much of the three years that they overlapped in their respective offices, the grouse-shooting British premier appeared ludicrously archaic next to a President who confidently...

Deadly” “Kiss Me
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Deadly” “Kiss Me

My title is not the title the film is known by, but it is, with familiar strangeness, the title that we see, as the credits crawl “the wrong way” (in this film, the right way), imitating the unwinding of the road as seen from a speeding vehicle.  In other words, the plane of the screen...

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The Neopagan No-Rule Book

Paganism?  You bet I remember paganism, as any man with white hair ought to.  The movies used to be full of it—Yul Brynner calling pharaonically on the gods of Egypt to bring back his son to life; Jay Robinson, as the emperor Caligula, turning Richard Burton (of all people) into a Christian martyr.  There was...

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Herman Foster

Late in 1961 the pop-jazz singer Gloria Lynne was booked into one of New York City’s top jazz supper clubs, Basin Street East, on Manhattan’s East 48th Street, where she was to record her first live album.  The emcee announced, “And now, ladies and gentlemen, Basin Street East proudly presents a young artist who was...

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A Supreme Disqualification

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court once again trampled on the rights of the states.  The media took little notice. Since it became a state in 1912, Arizona has had a citizenship requirement for voters.  In 2004, the people of the state, in an effort to combat voter fraud, enacted Proposition 200.  This initiative requires...

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Forever 1965

In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).  Under the formula, states or their political subdivisions are “covered jurisdictions” if they maintained in the 1960’s and early 70’s tests or devices (e.g., a literacy test or moral character requirement) as a prerequisite...

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Finding Beauty

Beauty is the battlefield where God and the devil war for the soul of man. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky In the last five years, a heightened awareness of beauty and the mystery of beauty has played with my senses more than at any other time in my life, excluding, perhaps, my childhood, when the world so often...

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Citizens, Then and Now

There was a time, within living memory, when the label American was highly respected—perhaps the most respected term of nationality in the world.  Probably most Americans have yet to take note, but that is no longer the case.  A libertarian writer complains that the Boston bombers are referred to by government and media as Chechens. ...

Mick Jagger at 70
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Mick Jagger at 70

“Ooh ooh baby, I got a message for you,” Sir Mick Jagger croons, among other endearments, on the most recent Rolling Stones single, the aptly titled “One More Shot.”  The creative muse may have gone south for Jagger and the boys sometime during the first Nixon administration, but the marketing machinery keeps these specimens of...

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The Horrible Politics of “Equality for All”

Equality is a pernicious and dangerous political policy, but that’s exactly what President Obama declared in full voice in his Second Inaugural Address in January as the cause and preoccupation of his administration for the next four years. Of course equality in the abstract is meaningless.  It becomes concrete only when we figure out what...