September 28, 2011
Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern AmericaBy Richard White (W.W. Norton, 660 pp., $35) I. The scene is iconic, known to many Americans even casually acquainted with their history. Locomotives of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads come engine grate to engine grate, separated by a mere railroad tie, at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.
Fat Presidents: A Survey
September 27, 2011
Amid speculation that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will enter the presidential race, there's been some talk about the weight issue. How does it affect his health? Would voters judge him harshly for it? (Jon Corzine tried and failed to make an issue of it, obliquely, in the 2009 gubernatorial election.) I prefer the historical approach.
Why Death Penalty Opponents Are Closer to Their Goal Than They Realize
September 27, 2011
Georgia’s execution of Troy Davis last week was a poignant reminder of the continued presence of capital punishment in the United States. The Davis execution generated extraordinary interest because of troubling doubts about his guilt. Some observers have already speculated that the Davis case might serve as the spark that could reignite the movement to abolish the death penalty. But lost in some of the attention that the execution has generated is the death penalty’s unmistakable and precipitous decline over the past decade.
Is Perry Debate-Proof?
September 26, 2011
Take a look at these results from a CNN poll conducted Sept. 23-25 (i.e., after the most recent GOP presidential debate).
America Reaches a Demographic Tipping Point
August 29, 2011
The latest wave of 2010 Census data, released this week, confirms what earlier surveys have strongly hinted: Virtually half of recent births in the U.S. are minorities. We are becoming a more globalized nation than most Americans have ever experienced. This great demographic change has potential long term benefits for our economic competitiveness in the international marketplace.
The Best Responses to 9/11—and the Worst
August 24, 2011
I was in bed at a New York hotel when my stock trader called to say that one of the Twin Towers had been hit by an airplane. “A horrible accident,” he surmised, adding “unprecedented” to the presumption. He told me to turn on the “tube,” such nomenclature dating him as middle-aged. The phone rang again: “The second tower is on its way down. And, of course, this means it is no accident at all.” Which was my intuition as soon as I’d heard the first terrible tidings. Moreover, I knew instinctively who’d done the dreadful deed; and it wasn’t a new version of the Unabomber.
Conservatives, Nostalgia, and Racism
August 19, 2011
[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] Reihan Salam, in a column today: One thing that is undeniably true is that American conservatives are overwhelmingly white in a country that is increasingly less so. As the number of Latinos and Asian-Americans has increased in coastal states like California, New York and New Jersey, many white Americans from these regions have moved inland or to the South.
By the time Matt Damon got to the microphone at the Save Our Schools rally last weekend, the few thousand public school teachers in attendance had been standing not far from the White House in the July heat for nearly three hours. Yet their enthusiasm had not flagged, and they cheered loudly as Damon said … not much, really. That teachers like his mother are “awesome,” that standardized tests are bad, and that people who have literally never taught anyone anything have no business being involved in education policy.
Debating Obama's Ransom
August 01, 2011
My evaluation of the debt ceiling deal is decidedly mixed, and many liberals are deeply unhappy. Dave Weigel wittily captures the spirit in his liberal denunciation mad lib: I am [outraged/fed up/fixin’ to vomit] at the news of this [sellout/betrayal/Chekovian drama of political adultery]. While I have yet to see all the details of this plan, it may be the worst piece of legislation since [the Kansas/Nebraska compromise/the Enabling Act/the one that renamed a rest stop in New Jersey after Howard Stern].
Getting Past ‘Goo-Goo’ on Freight Policy
July 25, 2011
A national policy for freight--one that recognizes the multi-modal and increasingly globalized nature of goods movement and accordingly directs federal spending based on rigorous and defensible criteria--is one of those classic goo-goo initiatives that everyone seems to want, but isn’t sexy enough to make it past the “Hey, that’s a good idea!” stage. Twice in the past year, Sens.