Friday links! You’re better than that edition [with update!]

Christopher Hitchens, young

Christopher Hitchens died yesterday in Houston. Houston seems like the wrong place for that man to finish up, and such a detail, essentially arbitrary, intensifies the sense of decline that naturally accompanies death. Declinism is a hazard. The other night a former philosophy professor advanced to me his theory that Europe had sunk and the United States was being sucked under with it.* He seemed to be getting close to Houston himself, and I considered that declinism is a worldview for an old person. The rest of us have to fake it until we make it. For a young(ish) person, to say that civilization is in decline is to abdicate a very real office. It is to ignore free choices and the responsibility that comes with them, and we’re better than that. Or at least we could be, were we not committed to the notion that we are living in the last two minutes of a basketball game, when we can foul everyone and throw up wild shots with impunity. It’s Friday, the surest way to blow the game is to decide that we’ve lost already, and the voice of conscience cheers loud as ever. Even if it did get esophageal cancer.

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S. 782 offers terrifying glimpse of how a bill becomes a law

"Would it kill you to bring two sandwiches? Is this so much?"

Yesterday, the US Senate voted on S. 782, a bill to reauthorize and fund the Economic Development Administration. The EDA has been around for forty years and commands a paltry $300 million budget, but S. 782 died in a 49-51 vote due to what The Hill calls “100 mostly nongermane amendments offered by Republicans and Democrats.” What was supposed to be an innocuous or even benign “jobs bill”—and those scare quotes should be taken as extremely frightened—sunk under an accumulation of proposed additions, including amendments to suspend Obamacare, repeal last year’s financial regulatory reforms, block the Department of the Interior from declaring the prairie chicken an endangered species, and abolish the Economic Development Administration. Jim DeMint proposed that last one, and I don’t imagine he did it with a straight face. After much debate and a speech about the importance of Rhode Island’s Gaspee Days, S. 782 died a lugubrious death. It was a hard outcome for the bill’s sponsor, Barbara Boxer (D–CA,) who just that morning opined that “this is a moment we can show we do what we say we are going to do. I am hopeful this bill doesn’t die today.”

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