"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."
-- Mr. Micawber in "David Copperfield"
WASHINGTON -- By history's frequently brutal dialectic, the good that we call progress often comes spasmodically, in lurches propelled by tragedies caused by callousness, folly or ignorance. With the grand jury's as yet inexplicable and probably inexcusable refusal to find criminal culpability in Eric Garner's death on a Staten Island sidewalk, the nation might have experienced sufficient affronts to its sense of decency. It might at long last be ready to stare into the abyss of its criminal justice system.
Intellectually undemanding progressives, excited by the likes of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. -- advocate of the downtrodden and the Export-Import Bank -- have at last noticed something obvious: Big government, which has become gargantuan in response to progressives' promptings, serves the strong. It is responsive to factions sufficiently sophisticated and moneyed to understand and manipulate its complexity.
WASHINGTON -- In 2010, Plymouth, Conn., was awarded $430,000 for widening sidewalks and related matters near two schools. This money was a portion of the $612 million Congress authorized for five years of the federal Safe Routes to School program intended to fight childhood obesity by encouraging children to burn calories by walking or biking to school. Really.
America's Newtonian Constitution might again function according to Madisonian expectations if a provoked Congress regains its spine and self-respect, thereby returning our constitutional architecture to equipoise. But this is more to be hoped for than expected. Even without this, however, the institutional vandalism of Barack Obama's executive unilateralism still might be a net national benefit. It will be if the Republicans' 2016 presidential nominee responds to Obama's serial provocations by promising a return to democratic etiquette grounded in presidential self-restraint.
Before the tryptophan in the turkey induces somnolence, give thanks for living in such an entertaining country.
Seen through the prism of subsequent national experience, Nelson Rockefeller resembles a swollen post-war automobile -- a land yacht with tail fins, a period piece, bemusing and embarrassing. He remains, however, instructive.
MILWAUKEE -- It is as remarkable as it is repulsive, the ingenuity with which the Obama administration uses the regulatory state's intricacies to advance progressivism's project of breaking nongovernmental institutions to government's saddle. Eager to sacrifice low-income children to please teachers unions, the Department of Justice wants to destroy Wisconsin's school choice program. Feigning concern about access for handicapped children, DOJ's aim is to handicap all disadvantaged children by denying their parents access to school choices of the sort enjoyed by affluent DOJ lawyers.
Western reflection about human nature and the politics of the human condition began with the sunburst of ancient Greece 2,500 years ago, but lurched into a new phase 70 years ago with the liberation of the Nazi extermination camps. The Holocaust is the dark sun into which humanity should stare, lest troubling lessons be lost through an intellectual shrug about "the unfathomable."
Barack Obama's coming request for Congress to "right-size and update" the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against terrorism will be constitutionally fastidious and will catalyze a debate that will illuminate Republican fissures. They, however, are signs of a healthy development -- the reappearance of foreign policy heterodoxy in Republican ranks.
Now that two of the last three Democratic presidencies have been emphatically judged to have been failures, the world's oldest political party -- the primary architect of this nation's administrative state -- has some thinking to do. The accumulating evidence that the Democratic Party is an exhausted volcano includes its fixation with stale ideas, such as the supreme importance of a 23rd increase in the minimum wage. Can this party be so blinkered by the modest success of its third recent presidency, Bill Clinton's, that it will sleepwalk into the next election behind Hillary Clinton?
Unlike the dog that chased the car until, to its consternation, he caught it, Republicans know what do with what they have caught. Having completed their capture of control of the legislative branch, they should start with the following six measures concerning practical governance and constitutional equilibrium.
Mix a pitcher of martinis Tuesday evening to fortify yourself against the torrent of election returns painting a pointillist portrait of the nation's mind. Before you become too mellow to care, consider some indexes of our civic tendencies.
In a sun-dappled square decorated with scores of entrants in the community's Halloween scarecrow contest, a balky sound system enables, if barely, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate to exhort a few hundred people, mostly supporters, to urge neighbors to vote to reduce Sen. Harry Reid to minority leader. The exhorter is David Perdue, a glutton for punishment who has been campaigning incessantly for 15 months and may be doing so for two more.
The early morning paramilitary-style raids on citizens' homes were conducted by law enforcement officers, sometimes wearing bulletproof vests and lugging battering rams, pounding on doors and issuing threats. Spouses were separated as the police seized computers, including those of children still in pajamas. Clothes drawers, including the children's, were ransacked, cellphones were confiscated and the citizens were told it would be a crime to tell anyone of the raids.