CBS Republican Debate: This Just Got Real

Well, folks, here we are again. Is this the ninth or the tenth Republican debate? I think I lost count. We have heard all the talking points before, we have seen all the candidates before, nothing new could have possibly happened. Right? If that’s what you thought, you are dead wrong, my friends.

This was the first debate that felt to me like it mattered, to everyone. No kiddie debate, and finally a manageable number of candidates. In fact, this debate got so intense for a while that I actually had to take down notes to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

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The Desire to Be Disabled and the Loss of Meaning

AcediaFor the life of me I cannot figure out why anyone would want to be disabled. I am among the accursed numbers of those unable to work, having been felled seven years ago after a nearly fifty-year fight with rheumatoid arthritis. (Thankfully, my law firm provided disability insurance, which keeps me off the government dole.) At the risk of singing my own praises, I have willingly submitted to being a guinea pig for a host of treatments, some of which have potentially deadly side effects (a duel at dawn with anyone who pities me). I did this because I needed not merely to feed my family, but because work, properly understood, offers a sense of purpose which keeps the Eternal Footman at bay. But the disease finally won the day. I am a lawyer by trade, and one little-known reality is that practicing law is highly demanding, not only mentally, but physically. I never really enjoyed my chosen occupation. Fighting for a living, especially trivial battles like petty arguments and personally insulting rhetoric, will tax the most patient of men. But the intellectual work was rewarding. I miss that.

These past few years, then, have not always been a joy. Yes, I have a wonderful life with my loving wife, devoted children (even though they call me “Old Guy”), and two fantastic granddaughters. But work is an essential need of man: Not only as a means of material production, but as a spiritual and psychological route towards acquiring virtue. Plus, while I don’t know whether there are statistics to back this up, from personal experience with others forced into early retirement, life expectancy drops when work comes to an end.

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Justice Antonin Scalia

Our nation lost one of its leading lights on Saturday with the death of Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Today, constitutional theory orbits around Justice Scalia. Even though his tenure on the Court is not characterized by a string of landmark majority opinions, his demanding intellect, rigorous theories, and provocative writings sparked a revolution in constitutional law. His adherence to the written law and the Framers’ understanding drove a stake into the heart of the Warren Court’s jurisprudence. In its place, he constructed a newfound respect for the democratic process, judicial restraint, and a Constitution of enduring meaning.

Scalia tenaciously fought to prevent judges from imposing the latest political or legal fads on the nation in the guise of constitutional interpretation. Court watchers who count only majority or dissenting votes would miss Scalia’s influence on these questions. Scalia did not prevail on the issues perhaps most important to him. He attacked a majority of Justices for divining a right to abortion from “due process of law.” He notably accused the Court of taking sides in the culture wars by finding gay rights in the Constitution. He saw the Court uphold independent agencies and the expansion of the welfare state to all healthcare.

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Scalia’s Passing: A Reminder of the Stakes

The death of Antonin Scalia ought to be a wake-up call. Mitch McConnell, to his credit, has made it clear that Barack Obama will not be allowed to replace Justice Scalia. That means that the question whether we will retain even a hint of constitutional government lies in the hands of the next President.

Think about it. Do you want Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump to name Scalia’s replacement? Think about it, and think about it again and again. Given the ages of the sitting Justices of the Supreme Court, it has been obvious for a long time that the next President will be in a position to reshape the court. This sad event is a salutary reminder of the stakes.

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Mr. Justice Antonin Scalia, RIP

Thirty years ago, our own John Yoo once explained to me, not a single major law school considered “original meaning” a valid approach to the Constitution. Today, no law school can be considered serious unless it has a number of originalists on its faculty. What caused this change? One man: Antonin Scalia.

Brilliant, funny, warm, and, from time to time, cutting, but only in defense of principle, Antonin Scalia displayed a pure and fierce devotion to his family, to the Church, and to the Constitution of the United States. Here, my last interview with him, which we recorded before a meeting of the Federalist Society in 2012. One last time, that mind.

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Saturday Night Science: The Wright Brothers

“The Wright Brothers” by David McCulloughOn December 8, 1903, all was in readiness. The aircraft was perched on its launching catapult, the brave airman at the controls. The powerful internal combustion engine roared to life. At 16:45 the catapult hurled the craft into the air. It rose straight up, flipped, and — with its wings coming apart — plunged into the Potomac river just 20 feet from the launching point. The pilot was initially trapped beneath the wreckage but managed to free himself and swim to the surface. After being rescued from the river, he emitted what one witness described as “the most voluble series of blasphemies” he had ever heard.

So ended the last flight of Samuel Langley’s “Aerodrome.” Langley was a distinguished scientist and secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Funded by the U.S. Army and the Smithsonian for a total of $70,000 (equivalent to around $1.7 million today), the Aerodrome crashed immediately on both of its test flights and was the subject of much mockery in the press.

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What Does The American Creed Consist Of?

american_flag_cross

Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Charles Murray (W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute) delivers a masterful and broad examination of the heritage of America, the more recent course it has taken, and its connection to the Trump Phenomenon’ with his article Trump’s America.

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The Small Wealth Initiative

4052pigeThis primary season may be the most tumultuous and unpredictable in at least half a century. Instability opens doors to new ideas or re-opens the door to ideas that have been discussed but never tried.

A substantial portion of the electorate is seriously considering hard socialism on the left and protectionist corporatism on the right. Each is a recipe for economic stagnation and potentially depression. Worse still, each side views government as a solution rather than an impediment.

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On the Origins of Classical Liberalism

usalbibliotecaSome argue that classical liberalism (now conservatism), as a philosophy, began in the Enlightenment (late 17th century into the 18th century) with the works of thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, Smith, Bastiat, and Hume. As Friedrich Hayek categorized it, classical liberalism had a French and British branch.

Conservatism, according to this narrative, was rather a unique and radical idea in comparison to all previous philosophies. In other words, what the English did in the Glorious Revolution was the result of a new Protestant paradigm shift from the old and defunct schools of thought which permeated a still predominantly Catholic Continent.

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I Just Spent a Week in America

52e8034c43da7.imageEvery year, the National Rifle Association holds the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, PA. Billed as the largest outdoor show in the world, it’s acres and acres of guns, boats, outfitters, power tools, camo, country music, and on and on. Pretty much the opposite of a Bernie Sanders rally.

I have been here a week now (we do NRA News live remotes from the show), and have to say, it was great to get out of Washington DC, and spend a week in real America. This is an America where the people are kind and generous. No matter how packed the aisles were (and they were packed), I never once saw someone push or shove or even say a cross word. There are huge families with kids everywhere. People stop and thank other people wearing something showing that they serve(d) in the Armed Forces. And dogs. There were dogs everywhere, many of which were PTSD or other military support dogs. I’m a sucker for dogs, especially service dogs.

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Message Matters: Trump Succeeded, Yellen Failed

yellen-trumpMost political reporters are fixated on the presidential horserace rather than the message candidates are sending to voters. Message wins all the time. Message moves polls. Message raises money. Message determines elections.

Most of all, a clear message tells voters what a candidate believes and where he or she wants to take the country.

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Ted Cruz’s Ad Game Is Strong

‘Tis the season of political ads. About 47 percent of them are uninspired and another 52 percent are downright embarrassing. This cycle, the remaining one percent belong to Senator Ted Cruz. Today his campaign revealed a pitch-perfect parody of the printer scene from Office Space, which itself is a parody of gangster movies:

Earlier this week, he focused on the GOP frontrunner with a spot explaining Trump’s personal and policy failures in an entertaining way:

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Need to Know with Mona Charen and Jay NordlingerEp. 146: Who Dealt This Mess?

Mona welcomes the Daily Caller’s Matt K. Lewis to Need to Know this week. They discuss the Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders and socialism, and Matt’s new book Too Dumb To Fail. Matt’s book, a critique of some aspects of the right (“con$ervative” media, for example) couldn’t have been better timed.

MattLewisHeadshotTalk of the right and its woes leads naturally to theRepublican race. Could “con$ervative” media have given us Donald Trump? Is Ted Cruz the only man who can stop him? What is Jeb Bush’s legacy? Can Rubio still come back?

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Ricochet Primaries

Gilmania Is Dead

So is this election to me.

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore has decided to suspend his campaign.

Gilmore’s decision, reported by the Washington Examiner on Friday, ends a campaign that failed to gain any traction at all, even among some of the lowest-polling candidates among the GOP primary when it was at its largest.

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Kiss the Ring

The Ricochet PodcastEp. 291: Breakfast In America

Let’s get right to the point: we’ve got Larry Kudlow (shameless plug: listen to Kudlow and Pawlenty’s Money & Politics podcast) who may or may not be the next Senator from Connecticut to school on why Donal Trump ought to be taken seriously and other matters both political and economic, followed by the great Michael Barone, who joins us from the side of road in South Carolina. He breaks down the primary scene and gives us a look ahead as well. Finally, Bernie and Al break bread — as one wag on Twitter put it, “guy who wants to raise taxes has breakfast with guy who doesn’t pay them.”

Music from this week’s episode:

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A Reprieve … and Perhaps More

shutterstock_364443764A week ago, as you may know, I underwent surgery for bladder cancer. The procedure is a bit gruesome — and I described it in some detail in my earlier post, which is linked above. I will spare you the grisly details this time and say only that medically this species of surgery is less traumatic than most forms since the surgeons do not have to slice their way in.

Today I learned the prognosis. First, although the tumor was reasonably large, it had not extended itself through the bladder wall. That is exceedingly good news, for it means that the cancer was contained. Second, it was a low-grade tumor, which means that the cancer was slow-growing and not particularly aggressive. That, too, is excellent news.

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A Quick Question for the Ricochet Grammarians

Many of my Ohioan peers and coworkers omit the verb “to be” in passive constructions, especially when assigning tasks. They’ll say, “These shirts need folded,” rather than, “These shirts need to be folded,” or, “These shirts need folding.”

Today, I asked my Latin professor about this. She speculated that the form may be a “Germanism,” a bit like the infamous question, “Come with?” (In the 19th century, central Ohio harbored a sizable German population.) According to my German-major roommate, though, the German language, like English, permits only the infinitive (“needs to be folded”) and gerund (“needs folding”) in this situation.

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Mitochondria: Facts and Dilemmas

Last week, a panel commissioned by the FDA gave a qualified endorsement for research into mitochondrial DNA replacement therapy in humans, though such research is prohibited during this fiscal year. This follows a similar endorsement in the United Kingdom last year.

Mitochondrial DNA is a distinct form of DNA with a few dozen genes that exist outside of each of our cell’s nuclei and whose function overwhelmingly concerns each cell’s metabolism. It’s so physically and functionally separate from the rest of our genome that its ancestors are believed to have been a kind of bacteria that entered into a symbiotic relationship with archeal cells, creating eukaryotes (basically, all multicellular life forms) hundreds of millions of years ago. Mitochondria are passed down exclusively from mother-to-child, as a sperm’s mitochondria are discarded upon fertilization.

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