Thanksgiving, 1789

If you want a clear example of how the authors of the US Constitution understood our government’s relationship to religion, look no further than the proclamation of a day of thanksgiving to God in 1789 by President George Washington. Here is his speech inaugurating this holiday (and yes, “holiday” is a derivation of “holy day”).

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

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As I was sorting through some old things, I ran across a little thanksgiving prayer I had written the first year my husband and I were married. We had a quiet Thanksgiving that year, just the two of us and a duck. We’re off to a much larger (and doubtless noisier) Thanksgiving dinner with extended family soon. Enjoy giving thanks, all, and God bless!

Harvest Thanksgiving

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Choose Gratitude

shutterstock_291383003My job requires me to follow all the awful things happening in the world; after all, that’s what makes up the news cycle. War and death and poverty and injustice (okay, and a few cat videos) fill my computer screen from the moment I wake until I go to bed. By the fourth day of the work week, it’s easy to cycle between outrage and despair.

Many on all sides succumb to this emotional low road, which is why there’s so much anger about failed politicians, terrible policies, and broken promises. Our grandparents would yell at the newspaper, our parents at the TV, and now we vent on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube, amplifying the misery. In the past few years, we’ve seen mobs shutting down freeways and burning down neighborhoods while students at even the most exclusive universities screech about the raw deal they got in life.

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This is an open post to discuss all the things for which we’re thankful, big and small.

MediaItem_234I may have more reason to be thankful today than most: First, I’m thankful to an anonymous pig who (reluctantly, I imagine) donated its aortic valve to my father, replacing his dangerously calcified human one. (Thank you, gentle pig! We hope you liked your experience of xenoplantation, and welcome you to your new human lifestyle! You’ll love settling in to watch The Simpsons with my dad: We absolutely loved that when we were growing up.)

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The FDA’s Looming Regulatory Onslaught Threatens the Freedom to Vape

shutterstock_299809835Americans who are trying to kick their nasty smoking habit have found healthier alternatives in e-cigarettes and vapor products that could, quite literally, save their lives. But the bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration are trying to put this $3.5 billion industry out of business.

Small mom-and-pop shops have sprung up across the country to meet the growing demand for vapor products, which allow users to refill their vaporizers with their favorite e-juices. Separately, big tobacco companies have invested in non-refillable e-cigarettes.

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Pilgrims Progress

Law Talk With Epstein, Yoo & SenikEp. 79: OK Computer

The Ricochet Law School (diplomas available on Ebay) is back in session for another romp through the legal and constitutional issues of the day. This week, do governors actually have the power to turn away turn away Syrian immigrants? Then, a look at the controversy surrounding encryption and whether or not opening it up would in fact make the world safer. Finally, should computers have First Amendment rights? The Profs have an opinion. Let us know yours in the comments below.

Tell it to the judge, EJHill.

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A Culture of Good Marksmanship Makes for a Good Police Force

Theresa Scarbrough /

The news of the death of Laquan Macdonald last year is shining a spotlight on the training and ethics of the Chicago police force. This is a situation that we’ve seen far too often, but my question is, why is it that the police forces of cities like Chicago seem to have problems with basic marksmanship? Is it because there’s no history and culture of civilian marksmanship to flatten the learning curve when it comes to gun safety?

Handguns were banned in Chicago for almost an entire generation, and despite recent changes, it remains a steep uphill climb if you want to own a gun in that city. Something in Chicago and other cities such as Washington D.C., New York, and Los Angeles seems to have affected the quality of the police forces in those cities, and one thing they all have in common is a mistrust of common citizens owning guns. In fact, we’re seeing a trend of over-reaction and ill-advised police shootings in all manner of “gun free” locales.

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It’s Happened! Democrats Have Finally Run Out of Other People’s Money

It’s not only the GOP that’s deeply divided these days. In a new Time magazine piece, “Hillary Clinton’s Middle-Class Tax Pledge Divides Democrats,” reporter Sam Frizell highlights a major fissure within the Democratic Party (italics mine):

Among the various policy ideas and position papers put out by Hillary Clinton so far in the Democratic primary, one stands out for its bumper-sticker simplicity: If your family makes less than $250,000 a year, your taxes won’t go up. … But behind that simple promise is a roiling debate within Democratic circles about the future of the party’s domestic agenda.

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Cultural Appropriation Is Sexy

Protest_Halloween-featIt’s difficult to imagine a more loathsome fad — or better exemplar of victim culture — than the current practice of crying “cultural appropriation” whenever a person identified with one culture uses ideas from another without approval. In the Washington Post, Cathy Young has an excellent piece cataloging some recent examples ranging from the controversy over “Kimono Wednesdays” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to various artists and musicians being forced to kowtow to twitter mobs for the crime of offending the easily offended. We’ve seen the phenomenon repeated at Yale and Claremont McKenna, where students who wore Mexican-themed costumes for Halloween were criticized not so much for being lazy and crass, but for using cultural ideas that were not their own “inauthentically.”

Offensive-Costumes-620x300But besides the practice’s spoil-sporting and petty totalitarianism, it’s also fantastically stupid. As with biology and technology, culture thrives when different ideas are allowed to recombine in novel ways, and declines or stagnates when it closes itself to new ideas or new combinations of old ones. After all, the only truly “authentic” cultures are all barbarous and primitive. Indeed, Matt Ridley has made a career of pointing out that sexual-style admixture is the best model for allowing distinct things — be they biological, technical, or cultural — to combine and work collaboratively, rather than compete directly with each other:

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What Will Capitulation of the GOP Establishment Look Like?

UntitledIt looks increasingly likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for President. He has led in the polls for four months, he has more money than all the other candidates combined in spite of which he is the beneficiary of seemingly limitless free media, and his campaign rallies have the excitement of rock concerts.

As my co-host Todd Feinburg and I discuss in this week’s Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast, Trump is rolling on. And that no doubt precipitates PVCs from many of the elites on the right (not to mention utter hysteria from everyone on the left).

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Things I’m Grateful For

shutterstock_157218698“Who is happy?” asks a sage in the great Jewish wisdom compendium “Sayings of the Fathers.” Answer: “He who is contented with his lot.”

And how, with Thanksgiving Day beckoning, do you acquire contentment when you are constantly barraged with evidence that others have more beautiful possessions, are better looking, more talented, healthier, more admired, more loved, more valued? I count my blessings.

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Planned Parenthood, Be Proud of Who You Are

a katz /

I recently read an article on National Review that reflected on a recent episode of Scandal, which featured the main character aborting her baby. The description of the scene – a woman on an operating table, prepped for an abortion, while Silent Night plays in the background – was more than enough for me to read. I have not watched, nor will I watch, this or any other episode of the show.

What caught my attention was the quote from Planned Parenthood’s official statement praising the show:

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Bad News: Turkey Shoots Down Russian Jet. Good News: Sierra Leone is Ebola-Free

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 08.23.29Turkey has shot down a Russian jet. this was the first time a NATO jet shot down a Russian one since 1952. Those who grasp the gravity of this have broken out in a cold sweat. Yes, it’s as serious as it sounds.

I don’t know exactly what happened, and truly, no one who really does is going to be talking. Given that this is the kind of thing that can — although probably won’t — expose NATO as a paper tiger, crank the current level of geopolitical hysteria up to 11, and even, in extremis, lead to direct superpower conflict, I don’t think it would be helpful for me to opine about what the United States should do, save to say that I hope wisdom prevails, and urge all concerned to back away from the precipice (as if anyone would listen to me).

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Gift Ideas for the Gun Nut in Your Life

2360-000-110_MediumLet’s face it: If you’re a shooting sports enthusiast gun nut, you’re not easy to buy gifts for: Try explaining to your wife that yes, those magazines for an AK are wonderful, but you own an AR, not an AK. She’ll say “It’s just one letter, what’s the big deal?” and then go on about how she doesn’t actually own six pairs of black pumps, she owns one pair that’s black, one’s that ebony, one that’s jet, one that’s deep charcoal, one that’s…

Where was I? Oh yeah; gun gift ideas.

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Kasich SuperPAC Unveils Anti-Trump Ad (Update: Kasich Releases a Second Salvo)

Ever since The Donald descended from that Trump Tower escalator, Republicans have insisted that someone has to take him out. We’ve heard this cry from movement conservatives, political consultants, the squishy “GOP establishment,” conservatarian ideologues, and the vast majority of activists who don’t support the curiously coiffed billionaire.

Worry no longer, Republicans, for your savior has arrived. John Kasich’s SuperPAC, New Day for America, has released a 45-second collection of Trump quotes that’s sure to scuttle his quixotic campaign before voters in Dubuque and Dixville Notch get the chance to weigh in. So lie back in your La-Z-Boy, sip on your skinny half-caf grande chestnut praline latte, and enjoy the demise of Donald Trump’s political career:

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Mad Dogs & EnglishmenEp. 116: Woodrow Wilson, Guns, and Turkey

Mad Dogs Charles C.W. Cooke and Kevin Williamson stop by for a little chatter on the issues they’ve been writing about this week, including refusing to sell guns to those on the Terrorism Watch List, the kerfuffle over Woodrow Wilson at Princeton, more fallout from Mizzou and free press on campuses in general, and the qualifications of journalism “professor” Melissa Click. The secret word is GaGa

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“Dilbert” Creator Convicted of Thoughtcrime

DilbertThis is hilarious, but also sad: Scott Adams, the creator of the comic strip “Dilbert” and a man who has been convicted of thoughtcrime by the good folks at Gawker Media on more than one occasion, transgressed again this week.

Adams wrote a blog post entitled “Global Gender War” that decried the condition and treatment of women in areas dominated by radical Islam. He contrasted that treatment with conditions in Western nations, going on to say that the current, increasingly and alarmingly global battle in which we find ourselves is a clash between cultures that treat women well and cultures that treat them horribly. Adams also chalked up the fervor that fuels suicide bombers, et al., to an impulse of desperation by young men who have no access to anything sexual.

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Obama’s ISIS Paralysis

Obama FrownThe recent events in Paris and elsewhere have led the leaders of the civilized world to search for an appropriate response to the barbaric actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The toll of deaths, injuries, and property damage all point to a single conclusion: something powerful must be done, and done now. In spite of this, during an intense press conference in Turkey, President Obama doubled-down on his current strategy, despite the pushback from an ever-more skeptical press corps: “The equation,” Jerome Cartillier of AFP said, “has clearly changed. Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?” The centerpiece of Obama’s flawed strategy is the refusal to commit American ground troops to more than a marginal role in seeking to drive ISIS from the extensive territories that it occupies in Syria and Iraq.

The President’s policy stems from an emphatic rejection of Pax Americana, or the view that the United States’ military force is the anchor of the free world’s security. Indeed, my own decidedly pessimistic appraisal of the dire consequences of Obama’s ISIS policy sadly underestimated the massive level of dislocation and violence that would follow from the President’s insistence that patience is required before an entity like ISIS is “ultimately” destroyed.

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The Refugee Crisis: A Response to Claire

My main objection to the debate over Syrian refugees is that we’ve been debating solutions — or rather, one particular (partial) solution — before articulating either the problem or our objectives. I think Claire’s post this morning greatly improves the debate, but I wanted to tease out the issues a little further.

First, let’s articulate our objectives regarding the Middle East and the Islamic world in general. In the near term, our goal is to defeat the Islamic State; in the longer-term it’s to destroy, discredit, and supplant the ideology of radical Islam with something more amenable to modernity and peace. Everything our government does in the region should be at least compatible with those goals and — ideally — in furtherance of them.

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Political Economy Podcast with Jim PethokoukisEp. 36: IKEAmerica: Should the US really be more like Sweden?

Many “progressive” Democrats, including Hillary Clinton rival Bernie Sanders, argue America should model itself on Scandinavia and its egalitarian social democracies. As Sanders told ABC News, “I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.”

img_0674But is IKEAmerica really possible or even desirable? To find out about whether the US should be Swedenizing — as well as the latest about that country’s immigration crisis — I chat with Tino Sanandaji, a Stockholm — based economist and author who received his graduate degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago. Some listeners may be familiar with his work in National Review where he has written on immigration, education, and entrepreneurship.

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Murder, She Spelled

shutterstock_266120711Every now and then, in the swirl and cascade of bad news, you have to take your laughs when and where you can find them. This woman, for instance, who tried to kill her husband:

Following family arguments, Jacqueline Patrick, 55, twice tried to kill her husband Douglas, 70, in October and on Christmas Day 2013, by spiking his cherry Lambrini, a drink favored by teenagers looking to get drunk on a low budget. “Perhaps most shocking of all was the note she gave to the London Ambulance Service purporting to be from her husband, stating that he did not wish to be resuscitated,” Detective Inspector Tracey Miller, of London’s Metropolitan Police, said in a statement. The forged note showed a misspelling of the word dignity as “dignerty.” When police later asked her to write the word, Jacqueline Patrick made the same mistake.

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