In 1960, when John Kennedy was elected president, America's population was 180 million and it had approximately 1.8 million federal bureaucrats (not counting uniformed military personnel and postal workers). Fifty-seven years later, with seven new Cabinet agencies, and myriad new sub-Cabinet agencies (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency), and a slew of matters on the federal policy agenda that were virtually absent in 1960 (health care insurance, primary and secondary school quality, crime, drug abuse, campaign finance, gun control, occupational safety, etc.), and with a population of 324 million, there are only about 2 million federal bureaucrats.
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.
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."
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
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."
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.