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 Deirdre McCloskey believes this honor, conferred in 1834, signified society's endorsement of the dignity of practical people who apply science for human betterment.
Many Americans' moral vanity is expressed nowadays in their rage to disparage. They are incapable of measured judgments about past politics -- about flawed historical figures who were forced by cascading circumstances to make difficult decisions on the basis of imperfect information. So, the nation now needs an example of how to calmly assess episodes fraught with passion and sorrow. An example arrives Sunday night.
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 decisions. And they are making themselves nervous wrecks.
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.
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 Ricardo, persist in purchasing.
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 law.
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 Anthony Scaramucci and Donald Trump. The former's sizzling swoon for the latter is the most remarkable public display of hormonal heat since -- here a melancholy thought intrudes -- Jeff Sessions tumbled into love with Trump. Long ago. Last year.
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 the fighter pilot community, and with a shortfall approaching 4,000 among maintenance and staffing personnel, the service is, as Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson says, "too small for what the nation expects of it."
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.
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 ago, but it does not flinch from this fact: The war that began at Lexington and Concord 14 months before the Declaration of Independence was America's first civil war. And it had all the messiness and nastiness that always accompany protracted fratricide.