Preaching morality while practicing cupidity can be tricky, but various American governments have done it for years regarding smoking. This mental contortion now has a new chapter. The four largest American tobacco companies (Altria, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard, Philip Morris) are, under government compulsion, funding newspaper and television ads to tell -- actually, to remind -- people that their products are sickening:
It is protected by Washington state's lopsidedly Democratic political class, which knows who butters its bread. It has been provided with bespoke law, tailored for its comfort. Nevertheless, the Service Employees International Union has been so avaricious in its objectives and so thuggish in its methods that it has been bested by the Freedom Foundation.
Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) meant that intellectuals in his day tended not to be temperate. In our day, this defect -- moral overheating -- has been democratized: Anyone can have it. Now, everybody can be happily furious, delirious with hysteria and intoxicated with intimations of apocalypse, all day every day.
The first use of nuclear weapons occurred Aug. 6, 1945. The second occurred three days later. That there has not been a third is testimony to the skill and sobriety of 12 presidents and many other people, here and abroad. Today, however, North Korea's nuclear bellicosity coincides with the incontinent tweeting, rhetorical taunts and other evidence of the frivolity and instability of the 13th president of the nuclear era. His almost daily descents from the previous day's unprecedentedly bad behavior are prompting urgent thinking about the constitutional allocation of war responsibilities, and especially about authority to use U.S. nuclear weapons.
The Republicans' tax legislation is built on economic projections that are as confidently as they are cheerfully made concerning the legislation's shaping effect on the economy over the next 10 years. This claim to prescience must amaze alumni of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, which were 85 and 158 years old, respectively, when they expired less than 10 years ago in the unanticipated Great Recession.
American democracy's comic opera frequently features collaborations of "bootleggers and Baptists." These entertainments are so named because during Prohibition, Baptists thought banning Demon Rum would improve public morals (oh, well) and bootleggers favored the ban because it made scarce a commodity for which there was a demand that they could profitably supply. On Monday, the Supreme Court will listen -- with, one hopes, a mixture of bemusement and amusement -- to arguments concerning another prohibition.
Although it is plausible to suspect this, it is not true that the Credit Mobilier scandal of the late 1860-early 1870s (financial shenanigans by politicians and others surrounding construction of the Union Pacific Railroad) and the 1920s Teapot Dome scandal (shady dealings by politicians and others concerning government oil leases) were entangled with Division One college basketball programs. Back then, there were no such programs. About the 1970s Watergate scandal, however, suspicions remain.
Tryptophan, an amino acid in turkey, is unjustly blamed for what mere gluttony does, making Americans comatose every fourth Thursday in November. But before nodding off, give thanks for another year of American hilarity, including:
But for the bomb, the four would be in their 60s, probably grandmothers. Three were 14 and one was 11 in 1963 when the blast killed them in the 16th Street Baptist Church, which is four blocks from the law office of Doug Jones, who then was 9.
The Republicans' tax bill would somewhat improve the existing revenue system that once caused Mitch Daniels (former head of the Office of Management and Budget, former Indiana governor) to say: Wouldn't it be nice to have a tax code that looked as though it had been designed on purpose? Today's bill, which is 429 pages and is apt to grow, is an implausible instrument of simplification. And it would worsen the tax code's already substantial contribution to "moral hazard."