In 1929, Chief Justice William Howard Taft convinced Congress to finance construction of "a building of dignity and importance" for the Supreme Court. He could not have imagined what the court will ponder during oral arguments this Wednesday. The case concerns the name of an Asian-American rock band: The Slants. And surely Taft never read a friend-of-the-court brief as amusing as one filed in this case. It is titled "Brief of the Cato Institute and a Basket of Deplorable People and Organizations."
Viewing 2016 in retrospect -- doing so is unpleasant, but less so than was living through it -- the year resembles a china shop after a visit from an especially maladroit bull. Because a law says "the state of California may not sell or display the Battle Flag of the Confederacy ... or any similar image," a painting of the 1864 Siege of Atlanta was banned from display at the Fresno County fair.
It is axiomatic that if someone is sufficiently eager to disbelieve something, there is no Everest of evidence too large to be ignored. This explains today's revival of protectionism, which is a plan to make America great again by making it 1953 again.
"To change anything in the Navy is like punching a feather bed. You punch it with your right and you punch it with your left until you are finally exhausted, and then you find the damn bed just as it was before you started punching."
Political mildness is scarce nowadays, so it has been pleasantly surprising that post-election denunciations of the Electoral College have been tepid. This, even though the winner of the presidential election lost the popular vote by perhaps 2.8 million votes, more than five times the 537,179 votes by which Al Gore outpolled George W. Bush in 2000.
Indiana's Thomas R. Marshall, who was America's vice president 100 years ago, voiced -- he plucked it from a Hoosier humorist -- one of the few long-remembered utterances to issue from that office: "What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar," which would be $1.11 in today's currency. A century later, what the country needs is a $12 twelve-ounce cup of coffee.
So, this is the new conservatism's recipe for restored greatness: Political coercion shall supplant economic calculation in shaping decisions by companies in what is called, with diminishing accuracy, the private sector. This will be done partly as conservatism's challenge to liberalism's supremacy in the victimhood sweepstakes, telling aggrieved groups that they are helpless victims of vast, impersonal forces, against which they can be protected only by government interventions.
With the end of Fidel Castro's nasty life Friday night, we can hope, if not reasonably expect, to have seen the last of charismatic totalitarians worshiped by political pilgrims from open societies. Experience suggests there will always be tyranny tourists in flight from what they consider the boring banality of bourgeois society and eager for the excitement of sojourns in "progressive" despotisms that they are free to admire and then leave.
Seventeen days before President Donald Trump, his spoken oath of office still lingering in the wintry air, lifts his left hand from Scripture (a leather-bound edition of "The Art of the Deal"), the Republican-controlled Congress will begin working. Fittingly, on Jan. 3 the First Branch of government will go first, flexing its somewhat atrophied Article I muscles.
The Republican Party resembles the man who told his psychiatrist, "I have an identity problem, and so do I." The party's leader is at best indifferent to, and often is hostile to, much of the party's recent catechism: limited government, the rule of law, a restrained executive, fiscal probity, entitlement reforms, free trade, the general efficiency and equity of markets allocating wealth and opportunity, and -- this matters especially -- the importance of decorousness in political discourse.