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Thin Skins and Prayer

May 7, 2014 - 6:00pm

WASHINGTON -- After the marshal on Monday spoke the traditional "God save the United States and this honorable court," the Supreme Court ruled that the upstate New York town of Greece does not violate the First Amendment's prohibition of "establishment of religion" by opening its board of supervisors' meetings with a prayer. This ruling would not scandalize James Madison and other members of the First Congress, which drafted and sent to the states for ratification the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights. The Congress did thisafterhiring a chaplain.

The Heavy Hand of the IRS

April 30, 2014 - 6:00pm

FLINT, Mich. -- Earnest moralists lament Americans' distrust of government. What really is regrettable is that government does much to earn distrust, as Terry Dehko, 70, and his daughter Sandy Thomas, 41, understand.

The Adolescent President

April 23, 2014 - 6:00pm

WASHINGTON -- Recently, Barack Obama -- a Demosthenes determined to elevate our politics from coarseness to elegance; a Pericles sent to ameliorate our rhetorical impoverishment -- spoke at the University of Michigan. He came to that very friendly venue -- in 2012, he received 67 percent of the vote in Ann Arbor's county -- after visiting a local sandwich shop, where a muse must have whispered in the presidential ear. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had recently released his budget, so Obama expressed his disapproval by calling it, for the benefit of his academic audience, a "meanwich" and a "stinkburger."

Understanding Our Divisions

April 16, 2014 - 6:00pm

WASHINGTON -- In a 2006 interview, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said the Constitution is "basically about" one word -- "democracy" -- that appears in neither that document nor the Declaration of Independence. Democracy is America's way of allocating political power. The Constitution, however, was adopted to confine that power in order to "secure the blessings of" that which simultaneously justifies and limits democratic government -- natural liberty.

A Recourse to Budgetary Inaction

April 9, 2014 - 6:00pm

PHOENIX -- From the Goldwater Institute, the fertile frontal lobe of the conservative movement's brain, comes an innovative idea that is gaining traction in Alaska, Arizona and Georgia, and its advocates may bring it to at least 35 other states' legislatures. It would use the Constitution's Article V to move the nation back toward the limited government the Constitution's framers thought their document guaranteed.

Jeb Bush's Challenge

April 2, 2014 - 6:00pm

WASHINGTON -- The human kindling that makes up the flammable Republican base may soon burst into flames, again. Portions of that excitable cohort are looking -- some with fawn-like eyes filled with hurt, others with sparks shooting from eyes narrowed like gun slits -- askance at other Republicans urging Jeb Bush to seek the 2016 presidential nomination.

When Geography Matters

March 26, 2014 - 7:00pm

WASHINGTON -- Igor Stravinsky, the Russian composer, said of Poland, perilously positioned between Russia and Germany: "If you pitch your tent in the middle of Fifth Avenue, it is quite likely you will be run over by a bus." Poland has been run over hard and often; indeed, between 1795 and 1918 it disappeared from the map of Europe.

A Half-Century in Denial

March 23, 2014 - 7:00pm

WASHINGTON -- Critics of Rep. Paul Ryan's remarks about cultural factors in the persistence of poverty are simultaneously shrill and boring. Their predictable minuet of synthetic indignation demonstrates how little liberals have learned about poverty or changed their rhetorical repertoire in the last 49 years.

The Benefits of Prudence

March 12, 2014 - 7:00pm

WASHINGTON -- In September 1958, a future columnist, then 17, was unpacking as a college freshman when upperclassmen hired by tobacco companies knocked on his dormitory door, distributing free mini-packs of cigarettes. He and many other aspiring sophisticates became smokers. Six years later -- 50 years ago: Jan. 11, 1964 -- when the Surgeon General published the report declaring tobacco carcinogenic, more than 40 percent of American adults smoked. Today, when smoking is considered declassee rather than sophisticated, fewer than one-fifth do.

The Face of IRS Behavior

March 9, 2014 - 7:00pm

WASHINGTON -- What's been said of confession -- that it is good for one's soul but bad for one's reputation -- can also be true of testifying to Congress, so Lois Lerner has chosen to stay silent. Hers, however, is an eloquent silence.

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