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The North Korean Red Line

February 9, 2017 - 7:00am

The Cold War was waged and won in many places, including this beach city, home to the RAND Corp. Created in 1948 to think about research and development as it effects military planning and procurement, RAND pioneered strategic thinking about nuclear weapons in the context of the U.S.-Soviet competition. Seven decades later it is thinking about the nuclear threat from a nation created in 1948.

An Excess of Intellectual Emptiness

January 30, 2017 - 7:00am

In 2013, a college student assigned to research a deadly substance sought help via Twitter: "I can't find the chemical and physical properties of sarin gas someone please help me." An expert at a security consulting firm tried to be helpful, telling her that sarin is not gas. She replied, "yes the [expletive] it is a gas you ignorant [expletive]. sarin is a liquid & can evaporate ... shut the [expletive] up."

The Waterbeetle of American Politics

January 19, 2017 - 7:00am

He flabbergasts the Human Race

          By gliding on the water's face

          With ease, celerity and grace;

          But if he ever stopped to think

          Of how he did it, he would sink.

          -- Hilaire Belloc, on the waterbeetle

The Patent and Trademark Office's Assault on Free Speech

January 16, 2017 - 7:00am

In 1929, Chief Justice William Howard Taft convinced Congress to finance construction of "a building of dignity and importance" for the Supreme Court. He could not have imagined what the court will ponder during oral arguments this Wednesday. The case concerns the name of an Asian-American rock band: The Slants. And surely Taft never read a friend-of-the-court brief as amusing as one filed in this case. It is titled "Brief of the Cato Institute and a Basket of Deplorable People and Organizations."

Good Riddance, 2016

January 2, 2017 - 7:00am

Viewing 2016 in retrospect -- doing so is unpleasant, but less so than was living through it -- the year resembles a china shop after a visit from an especially maladroit bull. Because a law says "the state of California may not sell or display the Battle Flag of the Confederacy ... or any similar image," a painting of the 1864 Siege of Atlanta was banned from display at the Fresno County fair.

Making America 1953 Again

December 29, 2016 - 7:00am

It is axiomatic that if someone is sufficiently eager to disbelieve something, there is no Everest of evidence too large to be ignored. This explains today's revival of protectionism, which is a plan to make America great again by making it 1953 again.     

Peace Through Technology

December 22, 2016 - 7:00am

"To change anything in the Navy is like punching a feather bed. You punch it with your right and you punch it with your left until you are finally exhausted, and then you find the damn bed just as it was before you started punching."

Our Excellent Electoral Vote System

December 19, 2016 - 7:00am

Political mildness is scarce nowadays, so it has been pleasantly surprising that post-election denunciations of the Electoral College have been tepid. This, even though the winner of the presidential election lost the popular vote by perhaps 2.8 million votes, more than five times the 537,179 votes by which Al Gore outpolled George W. Bush in 2000.

Starbucks and Our Pursuit of Snobbery

December 15, 2016 - 7:00am

Indiana's Thomas R. Marshall, who was America's vice president 100 years ago, voiced -- he plucked it from a Hoosier humorist -- one of the few long-remembered utterances to issue from that office: "What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar," which would be $1.11 in today's currency. A century later, what the country needs is a $12 twelve-ounce cup of coffee. 

Trump's Carrier Ploy Was a Repudiation of Conservatism

December 8, 2016 - 7:00am

So, this is the new conservatism's recipe for restored greatness: Political coercion shall supplant economic calculation in shaping decisions by companies in what is called, with diminishing accuracy, the private sector. This will be done partly as conservatism's challenge to liberalism's supremacy in the victimhood sweepstakes, telling aggrieved groups that they are helpless victims of vast, impersonal forces, against which they can be protected only by government interventions. 

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