Two memories from second or third grade: the fall of ’91, when the Braves swelled our little hearts with their miraculous “worst-to-first” season, and the morning the year before that we’d gathered in the school auditorium before a television rolled in on a cart, to watch the International Olympic Committee make its fateful announcement of the site of the ’96 games: “It’s Atlanta!” Thereafter the Braves and the Olympics hovered over my Atlanta childhood like helicopters, these buzzing presences that were always up there, flying awkwardly but flying nonetheless. They gave me the illusion that I lived in a big-deal city, which is precisely the illusion that Atlanta’s city fathers have been striving to generate in residents and observers alike for over a century, whether through Henry Grady’s paeans to the New South or Mayor Hartsfield’s encomiums to “The City Too Busy to Hate.”
Well, it’s no longer Atlanta for the Atlanta Braves, or so it seems. Continue reading
The Arizona Legislature is apparently considering a bill that would sanction schoolteachers for “engag[ing] in speech or conduct that would violate [FCC standards] concerning obscenity, indecency, and profanity if that speech or conduct were broadcast on television or radio.” Most commentators have fixated upon the many constitutional and pedagogical problems raised by the law’s end — policing teacher language and conduct — and rightly so.
Still, I must admit that I’m far more befuddled by the law’s means. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that there might be some valid reason to regulate teachers’ speech and conduct. Upon a modicum of reflection it’s pretty obvious that importing FCC standards could never be a remotely sensible or even possible way of achieving this regulatory goal. Broadcast standards are literally not applicable without reference to an actual broadcast. Continue reading
I don’t usually follow politics closely, but I do have a great fondness for weekly elimination reality TV shows like “American Idol,” “Top Chef,” and “The Voice.” Since the GOP primary has basically turned into one of those shows, whatwith its regularly scheduled on-stage performances and someone voted off by the viewers each week, I’ve started watching.
And I’ve noticed some confusion, among the candidates, about the history of immigration law.
At tonight’s debate, Rick Santorum presented the following account of his family to explain why he opposes “a pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants: Continue reading
In the 1870s and 1880s, Americans kept dying, or losing limbs, because they were getting hit by trains. Now, you might say, who cares? It’s people’s own fault if they are stupid enough to walk onto a train track. That’s not, it turns out, how Americans and their governments reacted at the time. As the casualties mounted, the state railroad commissions — relatively new agencies set up to monitor and regulate railroad safety — “conclud[ed] that enough was enough; no man had a right to willfully risk his life.”
So writes Barbara Young Welke in her fascinating work of legal and cultural history, Recasting American Liberty: Gender, Race, Law, and the Railroad Revolution, 1865-1920. When I heard about the other night’s GOP primary debate, in which Dr. Ron Paul emphasized the need for “personal responsibility” and audience members cheered the notion that a man who decides not to purchase health insurance should be allowed to die, I immediately thought of Recasting American Liberty. Continue reading
Representation is an odd thing. As a professor of mine once hinted, it’s as much an aesthetic as a political concept. Why does red represent anger? Why does a triangle atop a square represent a house? Why do lines criss-crossing one way represent Christianity, lines criss-crossing another way represent the Nazi regime? Why does Anna Eshoo, a person whom I have never met, and whose political views I could not tell you, represent me in Washington, D.C.? (I just Googled Anna Eshoo so as to provide a link, and as a result, for the first time, I now know what she looks like. I pass by her local office on the way to the grocery store, though, and I’ve voted for her.) Continue reading
Adrian Vermeule summarizes John McCormick’s proposal for reforming America:
He proposes an amendment to the Constitution that would establish a People’s Tribunate—a randomly selected group of common citizens whose income or wealth may not be too high and who have not made a career of holding public office, and who assemble for a one-year non-renewable term. Omitting the intricate details of the scheme, the main powers of the Tribunate during its annual term would be to veto one congressional enactment, one executive order, and one Supreme Court decision, to initiate one national referendum whose product if approved by the voters would have the force of a federal statute, and to initiate impeachment proceedings against one federal official from each branch of government.
With the news of the massacre in Norway comes the news that Norway’s maximum prison term is 21 years. The self-appointed pundits are angry:
“Most murderers in Norway spend just 14 years behind bars. The terrorist is 32 years old. He will get out when he’s 53. That means he’s serving about 3 months for every person he murdered. Justice?” asked a blogger at Big Peace.
Now, there may well be arguments to make that 21 years is not enough punishment for the perpetrator of this horror. But this particular argument cannot be it. It rests upon an obviously absurd premise: that there is any number of months, or years, or decades, or eternities that would ever be commensurate to the number of persons he murdered — that would ever amount to “justice.” Continue reading
Recently, I’ve noticed a tendency among everyone’s favorite denizens — web commenters — to make facile but elaborate analogies between the national debt and their personal credit card bills. But whatevs: when you read some random anonymous typer’s earnest explanation of how the debt ceiling is the precise equivalent of your college-age daughter’s MasterCard limit, you always have the option to assure yourself, “Well, it’s the Internet. Anyone can say anything” and move on with your day.
But now our president, too, has adopted the trope — for instance, last night in his latest speech on the Great Debt Ceiling Impasse of 2011, in which he stated: Continue reading
I’ve been thinking about public libraries, lately. The Oakland Public Library is facing devastating cuts: 14 of 18 branches could close. The remaining four branches would only open three days a week. Also on the chopping block are the Oakland History Room and the adult literacy program, among other programs. Continue reading
Here’s Bruce Schulman, in his book The Seventies, decrying the proliferation of “-gate”s in American political culture (p. 43):
Watergate would leave a tangled legacy. Most obviously, it triggered the “gating” of American life. Every subsequent scandal—no matter how petty—has received the suffix “-gate.” … From this misleading practice, millions drew the unfortunate conclusion that these scandals somehow resembled each other—that they all revealed the same corrupt, sleazy political underworld.
But the “-gate” suffix confused old-fashioned graft with true constitutional crises. Worst of all, the practice led Americans to conflate Watergate with all the other “-gates” it seemed to generate. Watergate was unique; it forever altered the way Americans understood politics and the presidency, the way they reported and discussed national politics, the way they conceived, investigated, and understood wrongdoing by government officials.
Watergate was much more than a bungled attempt to break into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate apartment and office complex … Nixon’s abuse of power preceded the burglary and extended far beyond it. In the course of unraveling the Watergate story, investigators uncovered a wide range of sordid and illegal activities—a rogue government.