Nuking the Senate

Senate Democrats employed the so-called “nuclear option,” changing Senate rules so as to eliminate the possibility of a filibuster for presidential appointments (not including Supreme Court justices–nor does it apply to regular legislation, which may still be filibustered).  The threat of a filibuster–that is, unlimited debate, unless a supermajority shuts it down–has meant that Senators had to cobble together 60 votes to pass a bill or confirm a nominee.

Yes, the filibuster slowed things down, but, as (liberal) Dana Milbank points out, it also required the forging of bipartisan support.  For that reason, he says, today’s Senate has actually accomplished much more than the polarized House of Representatives has. “Now the Senate will be just as dysfunctional.”  See Mr. Milbank’s case for the filibuster after the jump. [Read more…]

50 years of Doctor Who

The 50th anniversary of the first episode of Doctor Who, BBC’s quirky Science Fiction series whose main character can regenerate with new actors, was celebrated with a special episode simulcast around the world, which came on here in the colonies at 2:50 ET.  The episode was quite ingenious.  See outtakes from reviews after the jump.

Surely there are lots of readers of this blog who are also Doctor who fans.  What’s your take on the special?  the series after 50 years?  Who is your favorite Doctor?  (The definitive Doctor for me was Tom Baker, who had an important cameo at the end–as the Curator–but who, I suspect, was not even recognized by younger fans.  Or are fans so fanatical that they know all of the doctors? If you are young, did you know who the Curator is?) [Read more…]

Happy Lewis/Huxley/Kennedy day!

Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis, John F. Kennedy, and Aldous Huxley.  The curious conjunction of the death of these three individuals (a Christian apologist, an American president, and a speculative novelist), with their different cultural contributions and different worldviews, on November 22, 1963 is worth contemplating, especially at the half-century milestone.  So that’s what we will do today on this blog.

A good way to observe the day, after the jump. [Read more…]

C. S. Lewis on the salvation of Susan

One of the unsettling details in the Chronicles of Narnia is that Susan, one of the original four children who stumble into the wardrobe, does not go into Aslan’s country at the conclusion of the series.  She is apparently an apostate, who came to prefer worldly shallow concerns like “nylons and lipstick and invitations” to Narnia.  Symbolically, she seemed to be rejecting the Christianity that Narnia means, signifying her damnation.

And yet, a child back in C. S. Lewis’s day asked the author about this, and he gave a very different answer.  Jeremy Lott tells about it, and poses a challenge of his own. [Read more…]

A society controlled by inflicting pleasure

Aldous Huxley, who died on this date 50 years ago along with C. S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy, was the author of Brave New World.  The other great dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell offers many lessons about totalitarianism and state tyranny.  But the year 1984 came and went, and though we worry about “Big Brother” and rewriting history, most of Orwell’s predictions did not come to pass, at least not yet, and at least not in America.

But back in 1931, Huxley predicted the severance of sex and procreation.  Children are conceived and engineered in laboratories and brought up in state-run nurseries, eliminating the family.   The population doesn’t worry about its all-controlling government because everyone is blissed out with drugs (“soma”) and constantly entertained with “feelies,” which offer total immersion into what we would call virtual realities, including those of a pornographic nature.  Though romance is forbidden, casual sex is encouraged.  And at the age of 60, everyone is cheerfully euthanized.  Any of that sound familiar?

Huxley himself seems to have missed the message of his own novel, becoming an early adopter of LSD and other soma-like drugs and embracing the ideology of the brave new world that was the ’60s.  But his book was more prescient than he was.  After the jump, a comment from the late media critic Neil Postman about Huxley’s novel that will leave you reeling. [Read more…]

JFK on the Hand of God

The Chaplain of the U. S. House of Representatives, Father Daniel Coughlin, says that President John F. Kennedy taught him how to pray and speak of faith in the public arena.  See President Kennedy’s Gift of Language and the Art of Prayer.  The man, for all his faults, certainly was eloquent, making today’s politicians sound like inarticulate adolescents.

To observe the 50th anniversary of his death, read his Inaugural Address, which contains many rich ideas in addition to the justly famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  So much for the entitlement mentality that drives so much of today’s politics and government.   What else do you find in this speech that we would never hear today?  Are there ideas in the speech that suggest a way forward out of our current malaise?  I’ll post the speech–it isn’t long–beginning here, with my emphasis, and continuing after the jump:

[1] Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, Reverend Clergy, fellow citizens:

[2] We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end as well as a beginning–signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

[3] The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God. [Read more…]