WASHINGTON -- It was an epoch-defining decision to place in Westminster Abbey, among statues of monarchs, priests and poets, a large one of James Watt, inventor of the separate-condenser steam engine. The statue's inscription says Watt ranks among the world's benefactors because he "increased the power of man." The economist and historian ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- At this shank end of a summer that a calmer America someday will remember with embarrassment, you must remember this: In the population of 325 million, a small sliver crouches on the wilder shores of politics, another sliver lives in the dark forest of mental disorder, and there is a substantial overlap between these slivers. At ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Life is exhausting -- and daily choices are unbearably burdensome -- for some Americans who are so comfortably situated that they have the time and means to make themselves morally uncomfortable. They think constantly about what they believe are the global ripples, and hence the moral-cum-political ramifications, of their quotidian...Read more
"Congress has been dropping in relative power along a descending curve of 60 years' duration, with the rate of fall markedly increased since 1933. ... The fall of the American Congress seems to be correlated with a more general historical transformation toward political and social forms within which the representative assembly -- the major ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Air Force "sniffer plane" was collecting air samples off Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula on Sept. 3, 1949, when it gathered evidence of radioactivity, confirming that the war-shattered Soviet Union had tested a nuclear device. The Soviets' Aug. 29, 1949, test had come faster than expected.
Dating from the detonation at ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Autumn, which is bearing down upon us like a menacing linebacker, is, as John Keats said, a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Actually, Keats, a romantic, did not mention that last part. He died before the birth of the subject of a waning American romance, football. This sport will ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Summer brings no respite for academics committed to campus purifications, particularly at the institution that is the leader in the silliness sweepstakes, Yale. Its Committee on Art in Public Spaces has discovered that a stone carving that has adorned an entrance to Sterling Memorial Library since it opened 86 years ago has become ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Sooner or later, and the later the better, the president's wandering attention will flit, however briefly, to the subject of trade. So, let us try to think about the problem as he seems to: Wily cosmopolitans beyond our borders are insinuating across our borders goods that Americans, perhaps misled by British economist David ...Read more
An Act of WarMichael K. McMahan
When Lt. Travis Kelly kills a North Vietnamese officer near the Cambodian border in 1969, he tries hard to put the incident--and the rest of the Vietnam War--behind him. But like so many of Travis's experience in the war, this one comes continues to haunt him decades ...
WASHINGTON -- When John Adams wrote into Massachusetts' Constitution a commitment to a "government of laws and not of men," he probably assumed that the rule of law meant the rule of laws, no matter how many laws there might be. He could not have imagined the modern proliferation and complexity of laws, or how subversive this is of the rule of ...Read more
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Southern Gothic is a literary genre and, occasionally, a political style that, like the genre, blends strangeness and irony. Consider the current primary campaign to pick the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. It illuminates, however, not a regional peculiarity but a national perversity, ...Read more
One day [Marine Theodore Wallace] saw an officer casually aim his rifle and try to shoot a Vietnamese boy in the distance.
"Sir, what are you doing?" he'd asked.
"He's probably supplying the [North Vietnamese Army]," the officer said. "What's he doing out here anyway?"
"It's his country!" said Wallace.
-- Mark Bowden, "Hue 1968: A ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Looking, as prudent people are disinclined to do, on the bright side, there are a few vagrant reasons for cheerfulness, beginning with this: Summer love is sprouting like dandelions. To the list of history's sublime romances -- Abelard and Heloise, Romeo and Juliet, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy -- add the torrid affair between ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- In January 1988, in Ronald Reagan's final State of the Union address, he noisily dropped on a table next to the podium in the House chamber three recent continuing resolutions, each more than a thousand pages long. Each was evidence of Congress' disregard of the 1974 Budget Act. Reagan fumed:
" ... budget deadlines delayed or ...Read more
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The aircraft arrayed around the spacious lawn of Maxwell Air Force Base, home of the Air University, mostly represent long-retired types. The largest, however, is a glistening B-52 bomber, which represents a still-employed component of the Air Force's aging fleet: The youngest B-52 entered service in 1962. Sons have ...Read more
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- It is said that America's armed forces have been stressed by 16 years of constant warfare, the longest such in the nation's history. For the Air Force, however, the high tempo of combat operations began 26 years ago, with enforcement of the no-fly zone in Iraq after Desert Storm. With an acute pilot shortage, particularly in ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Predictably and sensibly, a three-judge panel of the nation's second-most important court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, recently dismissed, unanimously, a lawsuit brought by a Yemeni man, two of whose relatives were collateral fatalities in a 2012 U.S. drone attack that killed three terrorists. The suit asked the...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Cynics are said to be people who are prematurely disappointed about the future. Such dyspepsia is encouraged by watching Republicans struggle to move on from the dog's breakfast they have made of health care reform to the mare's nest of tax reform. Concerning which, House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose preternatural optimism makes ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Were it not for the provision that Pat Toomey, the Pennsylvania Republican, put into the Senate's proposed health care reform, this legislation would be moderately important but hardly momentous. Toomey's provision, however, makes it this century's most significant domestic policy reform.
It required tenacity by Toomey to insert ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- The Bronx, the only one of New York City's five boroughs that is on the American mainland, once had a sociological as well as geographical distinction. In the 1930s it was called, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan noted, "the city without a slum." It was "the one place in the whole of the nation where commercial housing was built during ...Read more
PHILADELPHIA -- Some American history museums belabor visitors with this message: You shall know the truth and it shall make you feel ashamed of, but oh-so-superior to, your wretched ancestors. The new Museum of the American Revolution is better than that. Located near Independence Hall, it celebrates the luminous ideas affirmed there 241 Julys ...Read more