Fifty years from now, when Malia and Sasha are grandmothers, their father's presidency might seem most consequential because of a small sum -- $100 million -- for studying something small.
Nowadays the federal government leavens its usual quotient of incompetence with large dollops of illegality.
"Colleagues," said the June 27 letter to 98 U.S. senators, "now it is your turn." The letter's authors are Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the chairman and ranking Republican on the tax-writing Finance Committee, respectively. From their combined 71 years on Capitol Hill they know that their colleagues will tiptoe gingerly, if at all, onto the hazardous terrain of tax reform.
The pedigree of human beings, Lewis Thomas wrote, probably traces to a single cell fertilized by a lightning bolt as the Earth was cooling. Fortunately, genetic "mistakes" -- mutations -- eventually made us.
Barack Obama's increasingly grandiose claims for presidential power are inversely proportional to his shriveling presidency. Desperation fuels arrogance as, barely 200 days into the 1,462 days of his second term, his pantry of excuses for failure is bare, his domestic agenda is nonexistent and his foreign policy of empty rhetorical deadlines and redlines is floundering. And at last week's news conference he offered inconvenience as a justification for illegality.
This city is the broken tooth in Michigan's smile. Nevertheless, the preternaturally optimistic governor, from whom never is heard a discouraging word, cheerfully describes his recent foray with a crew cleaning up a park in a particularly, well,challenging neighborhood:
Gazing from the 14th floor toward the city center and the fragile sprouts of urban development along the river, Detroit's Caesar says laconically: "One hundred and thirty-one to go."
In 1860, an uneasy Charles Darwin confided in a letter to a friend: "I had no intention to write atheistically" but "I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars."
When Houston was competing with a Brazilian city to be the site of a Japanese-owned plant, Houston could provide the Japanese with pertinent information about the educational attainments and other qualities of its workforce and the number of Japanese speakers in the area. The plant is in Texas partly because Houston had superior statistics, thanks to an inexpensive federal program currently under attack from some conservatives.
Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi knows neither Thomas Jefferson's advice that "great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities" nor the description of Martin Van Buren as a politician who "rowed to his object with muffled oars." Having won just 52 percent of the vote, Morsi pursued his objective -- putting Egypt irrevocably on a path away from secular politics and social modernity -- noisily and imprudently.
At this intermission in the immigration debate, with House Republicans preparing to look askance at the Senate's handiwork, the argument is becoming ever stranger.
In the 1780s, the son of a farmer in south-central Pennsylvania purchased from his father 116 acres where two roads intersected. He laid out 210 lots for a town he named for himself. He was James Gettys.
Progressives resent progress when it renders anachronistic once-valid reasons for enlarging the federal government's supervisory and coercive powers. Hence they regret Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling that progress has rendered Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional.
"In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race."
-- Justice Harry Blackmun, 1978
"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
-- Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007
The question of whether Barack Obama's second term will be a failure was answered in the affirmative before his Berlin debacle, which has recast the question, which now is: Will this term be silly, even scary in its detachment from reality?