Version 24.1
Posted April 1, 2016, 12:01 a.m.

It has been a long and unusual presidential election season. The United States faces unprecedented troubles, including threats abroad, affronts to personal liberties at home, and an impassioned debate over what kind of nation we are, and what kind of nation we want to become. In the face of this, one party has put forth a well-known and prominent member of its establishment, a person with whom we are already very familiar. The other party, meanwhile, still reeling from its losses four years ago, is rending itself in two. It has separated into two camps; the old-guard is trying to hold the party together while outsiders agitate behind a noisy firebrand.

Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge

The Republican Party has nominated incumbent President Calvin Coolidge for reelection. Coolidge ascended to the presidency following the untimely death of President Warren Harding last year, and has attempted to distance himself from the scandals associated with his predecessor.

For its part, the Democratic Party has nominated former Ambassador John Davis, who is relatively unknown. Davis was a compromise candidate, elected only after more than one hundred ballots at the party convention, and is unpopular with the party’s growing progressive wing. Meanwhile, Republican Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin has formed his own party, which he Christened the Progressive Party, though it is unrelated to Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive ‘Bull-Moose’ Party from 1912. La Follette has attracted the support of many progressive Democrats.

Harding and Coolidge have presided over a robust and growing economy, marked by relatively little government regulation and interference. Coolidge promises to continue in this ‘laissez-faire’ way, keeping taxes low and limiting the scope of government. Although this is likely to keep the good times rolling, we do risk a collapse later on if speculation continues unchecked. Some reasonable economic regulation is warranted.

Davis does not make any better proposals; in fact, on the key economic issues, he is essentially indistinguishable from Coolidge. La Follette’s leftist proposals provide no alternative; they are destined only to accelerate any upcoming crash.

Although Coolidge is oft’ labeled a ‘conservative,’ he is, in fact, quite liberal in all of the most honorable ways. He supports expanded civil rights for blacks and would prohibit lynching. He supported measures to grant citizenship to Indians, who will be voting for the first time in this presidential election. He supports women’s suffrage. He supports individual liberty and opposes our absurd social experiment in alcohol prohibition.

Although he has been properly reluctant to enter into foreign entanglements, such as the ill-advised League of Nations, Coolidge is not a rabid isolationist and has been willing to support our interests abroad. For example, as governor of Massachusetts, Coolidge was a strong supporter of entering the Great War. This was a politically risky position in a state with large German and Irish populations that tended to strongly oppose our involvement.

Though Coolidge has only been president for about one year, he is already proving himself correct on the key policy issues—as was his predecessor—but without the apparent corruption and controversy that dogged the Harding administration. Davis’s challenge is weak, at best. He is ill-prepared for the rigors of the office and he, it is worth noting, agrees with Coolidge on more issues than he disagrees with him. If you like Davis, you might as well just vote for Coolidge. La Follette does differentiate himself from both Coolidge and Davis, but only by proposing absurdities that are hardly worth consideration.

With all of this carefully considered, Off on a Tangent is proud to endorse the reelection of President Calvin Coolidge.

Posted March 16, 2016, 10:56 a.m.
Judge Merrick Garland

Judge Merrick Garland

President Barack Obama (D) will nominate Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the United District of Columbia Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, to the United States Supreme Court.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Garland would replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died of natural causes last month. This would shift the ideological makeup of the court; Scalia was a right-wing conservative firebrand, while Garland is generally regarded as a moderate or center-left judge.

Garland was first nominated to the D.C. Circuit by President Bill Clinton (D) in 1995, but the Senate did not act on the nomination at that time. After Clinton’s reelection in 1996, he re-nominated Garland, who was then confirmed in March of 1997 by a bipartisan 76-23 vote.

This appointment sets up a clash with Republican leaders in the Senate, who have promised not to act on any Supreme Court nomination until after the 2016 presidential election. The U.S. Constitution, however, charges the Senate with providing the president with its “advice and consent” on judicial nominations, and whether inaction constitutes “advice and consent” remains an unanswered legal question.

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Posted in Briefly, Reports
Posted February 13, 2016, 5:16 p.m.
Justice Scalia

Justice Scalia

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court has died while visiting the Cibolo Creek Ranch resort near Marfa, Texas. He was 79. Scalia went to bed last night complaining that he did not feel well, and then did not appear for breakfast this morning. He was later found dead in his room. There is no indication of foul play and it is believed that he died of natural causes in his sleep.

Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan (R) in 1986. He was considered to be part of the court’s ‘conservative’ wing, and routinely issued firey opinions in favor of an originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

Scalia was very active during oral arguments before the court, asking more questions (and making more statements) than any of his fellow justices. He also wrote more concurring opinions than any other justice in the history of the court. Only two justices have written more dissenting opinions.

He is survived by his wife, Maureen, and their nine children.

Posted in Briefly, Reports
Posted February 9, 2016, 2:00 p.m.

The automotive industry continues to move forward, introducing a lot of new, good-looking cars and discontinuing the ugliest ones. On the 2015 version of this list, four of the cars from the previous year’s list had been discontinued. This year, another three models get sent to the great parts-bin in the sky. The Scion xB, Honda Crosstour, and Mini Coupe are—thankfully—no longer available.

I’m starting to have a hard time finding ten truly ugly models to make this list, which is a good problem to have if you care about cars and how they look. The trends are moving in a good direction. But the show must go on.

The criteria for inclusion is the same it has always been. I don’t include models that aren’t sold in the United States. I don’t include models that sell in low volume (and volume is defined completely subjectively based on how many I see on the highways in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area). I don’t include exotic, military, or special-purpose vehicles—so no super-cars, tanks, or postal trucks. I also don’t include vehicles reserved exclusively for the commercial market, such as the persistently horrific Ram Promaster.

This list is entirely my personal opinion. If you own one of the cars on this list, well, don’t take it personally. Read More…

Posted in Articles, Products
Posted December 8, 2015, 8:18 a.m.
Discovery of the Plot (Henry Perronet Briggs)

Discovery of the Plot (Henry Perronet Briggs)

On November 5, 1604, a group of English Catholic conspirators led by a man named Robert Catesby attempted a terrorist attack on the English parliament. The plan was to detonate a thirty-six barrel cache of gunpowder that had been hidden in an undercroft (basement room) beneath the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster.

The explosion was to be timed to the State Opening of Parliament, a commencement of parliament sessions featuring a speech from the monarch—then King James I of England (who was also James IV of Scotland). If successful, the plot very likely would have leveled the building, killed the king, and killed or injured the countless members of the House of Lords and House of Commons who were gathered there.

In the chaos that would follow, the conspirators planned to stage a full-fledged revolt centered in the English Midlands and then install Princess Elizabeth—the nine year old daughter of King James—as a puppet queen who would be raised Catholic and then later married to a Catholic husband (apparently whether she liked it or not).

Needless to say, the plot failed. An anonymous letter revealing its details had been sent to authorities, and so they searched the building around midnight the night before the State Opening. There, they found Guy Fawkes—one of the conspirators—guarding the cache of gunpowder. Fawkes was the one who would be responsible for lighting the fuse at the proper time before escaping.

The plot—known as the Gunpowder Plot, Gunpowder Treason Plot, or Jesuit Treason—resulted in a major operation to find and either capture or kill the conspirators. Several were indeed killed during the hunt, including mastermind Catesby. Eight surviving conspirators, including Fawkes, were tried, convicted, and then put to death. The British continue to celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot on November 5 each year, lighting bonfires, burning effigies of Guy Fawkes (and, in earlier years, the pope), and setting off fireworks. They call it Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night, and it’s the rough equivalent of our Independence Day celebrations here in the United States. Read More…

About Scott Bradford

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.