NEWS AND OPINION:
There’s a fair amount of fuss about the Bilderberg Conference, which gets underway in Austria on Thursday and attracts titillating media coverage, angry protesters and public curiosity about the idea that 140 powerful people from 22 nations are meeting to figure out what the world should do at this alarming juncture. Henry Kissinger, David Petraeus, James D. Wolfensohn and Richard Perle are among those representing America. “USA” and “US elections” are on the organization’s 15-item to-do list, along with Russia, terrorism, globalization and cybersecurity — but there’s nothing on climate change.
And yes, it is possible to see who will be there. There’s a spare but well-meaning press release and a complete list at the official website here: Bilderbergmeetings.org.
‘NOTHING MORAL ABOUT GUTTING THE CONSTITUTION’
When in doubt, buff up the moral argument and add some earnest trimmings. President Obama, indeed, framed the Affordable Care Act in dramatic, almost heroic moral terms in a speech before a Catholic health association on Tuesday, advising his audience, “America is not a place where we simply turn away from the sick or turn our backs on the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. It is a place sustained by the idea, ‘I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.’”
Carrie Severino, chief counsel to the Judicial Crisis Network and former law clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, is not buying any of it — particularly as the Supreme Court gears up to rule in King v. Burwell, a major case that could deal a devastating blow to the Affordable Care Act.
“The president’s moral case boils down to this: If you like your morals, you can keep your morals. There is nothing moral about gutting the Constitution, playing politics with the health care plans of millions of Americans or forcing people to violate their deeply held religious convictions,” Ms. Severino says. “And there’s nothing moral about attempting to bully the Supreme Court by presenting a false choice between the rule of law and love for one’s neighbor.”
Need a book? Some summer selections here, courtesy of David M. Whalen, provost and professor of English at Hillsdale College, who offers a list of must-reads for those craving more than a vacation potboiler. The recommendations, followed by Mr. Whalen’s personal commentary:
“The Inn at the Edge of the World” by Alice Thomas Ellis. (“What better time than summer to read a novel about Christmas, especially Christmas as experienced by people trying to avoid it?”)
“The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard. (“Short, intense, dense and lyrical at once, this is as thoughtful a book as it is beautifully done. Substance and style are one.”)
“The Age of Exuberance: Backgrounds to Eighteenth-Century English Literature” by Donald Greene. (“Originally published in 1970, this small gem would be considered dated by now. But then, so would the 18th century.”)
“The Four Men” by Hilaire Belloc. (“A whimsical, elegiac, outrageous and profound meditation on many things wrapped in a tribute to Sussex, England.”)
“Parochial and Plain Sermons” by John Henry Newman. (“Good for the soul.”)
THE TENACITY OF BEN CARSON
The mainstream news media must be getting nervous. Following twin polls that placed Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson among the top five GOP candidates, press reports are getting aggressive. “From idol to sellout: how Ben Carson is losing his legacy,” read one MSNBC headline, while The Washington Post reported in-house problems within the Carson campaign. But he soldiers on and stays on message.
“‘We the people.’ By opening our Constitution with these three simple words, the Founders made it clear that in America, the citizens would be the center of power. Government would only act with our consent. This was the true American revolution. I am running for President because too many people in Washington have forgotten this,” Mr. Carson said in a campaign message to voters released Tuesday.
“I am not interested in picking fights with my fellow candidates. I am interested in working together with you to heal, inspire and revive this great nation that we all love. You’ll often hear cynics in the Washington political class discount me by saying, ‘Dr. Carson has no political experience,’” he continued. “There are a lot of people in politics who are wise and can solve our problems. But there’s some people in politics I wouldn’t let tie my shoes.”
Mr. Carson is in Iowa for a half-dozen grass-roots stops, including volunteer work at a food bank in Waterloo and some time at an ice cream social at a wildlife club in Eldora. He is advising folks to use their “God-given common sense.”
Yes, life is frantic and chaotic because of smartphones and because of those who are mesmerized by them — which appears to be much of the known universe. A new study of phone use habits in 14 nations finds that Americans check in with the social media outlets of their choice an average of 20 times a day — but that’s nothing.
“Smartphone users in Thailand, Argentina, Malaysia, Qatar, Mexico and South Africa launched social apps a staggering 40 or more times per day,” reports Informate, a Seattle-based marketing research group, which also notes that fussing with Facebook and Twitter represents up to half the total time consumers spend on their mobile phones. And yes, there are psychological studies revealing that this can make people despondent or edgy for a variety of reasons. Neck and posture problems are also being reported.
“While social networking may have started as a viral craze for U.S. teenagers,” says Will Hodgman, CEO of the company, “it’s steadily matured into an everyday lifestyle for many adults around the world, who are now eclipsing teens and young adults as most-frequent users.”
ROMNEY ON THE RADAR
Prepare for a brief Romney re-emergence. Mitt Romney will likely garner significant news coverage with his three-day Experts and Enthusiasts Summit, to be staged at a five-star resort east of Salt Lake City on Thursday. The event is conveniently known as the E2 Summit. Headed out that way from the presidential crowd: Sens. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, Govs. Scott Walker, Chris Christie and John Kasich and Carly Fiorina, who will be arriving from a campaign stop in New Hampshire. Also among the 250 guests: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, Yahoo anchor lady Katie Couric, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates — and, interestingly enough, former White House adviser David Axelrod.
Along with much presidential posturing, activities for the politically inclined include flag football, skeet shooting, horseback riding, early morning hikes, a hot-air balloon ride (with an unnamed special guest) and yoga.
POLL DU JOUR
• 79 percent of Americans say middle-class people are “falling” into a lower economic class.
• 75 percent say achieving a middle-class lifestyle is harder now than it was in the past.
• 60 percent are worried and concerned about “what the future holds” for the U.S.
• 56 percent say a “decent-paying job” is the most important part of a secure middle-class lifestyle.
• 41 percent say the nation is still in the midst of a housing crisis.
• 21 percent have taken a second job to pay rent or mortgage, while 17 percent have stopped saving for retirement.
Source: A MacArthur Foundation poll of 1,401 U.S. adults conducted April 27-May 5 and released Tuesday.
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