New Mexico

Leaving Normal

In the historical race to the bottom that is Nixon v. Bush, the late trickster would seem to have the edge: He was an unimpeachable lawbreaker-- actually, an impeachable one--a claim that doesn't quite stick to Bush. But, in the last month, Bush has been closing fast. While he may not have any second- rate burglaries under his belt, his record now includes his very own version of the Saturday Night Massacre, thanks to the purging of eight U.S. attorneys.

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STORMIN' MORMON DAMON LINKER'S ARTICLE ABOUT Mitt Romney and Mormonism was unworthy of The New Republic's standards of journalism and ethics ("The Big Test," January 1-15). If Romney's religion is such a concern, why didn't Linker fret about its impact on Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader? Reid is an active and believing Mormon, but Linker failed even to mention his name or explain why far more than half of Senate Democrats voted to make him their leader. Religion is only dangerous in the hands of conservative Republicans, it seems. Linker is also dead wrong on Mormon doctrine. He claims

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Albuquerque Vice

Say what you will about Bill Richardson's White House chances, but at least his presidential campaign is making New Mexico safer for roosters. From the AP: Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat running for president, has come out strongly in favor of a ban on cockfighting.

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Wasteland

Captain Ty Wiltz normally oversees the narcotics division of the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office. But, since Katrina hit, he has been leading a search and rescue team deep into the parish bayou, which begins just south of New Orleans and runs nearly 100 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Rummy Punch

Of course George W. Bush should fire Donald Rumsfeld--it's no longer an interesting debate. Even the Iraq war's most fervent supporters--people like John McCain--have denounced Rumsfeld's refusal to send enough troops to secure Baghdad in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's fall. Rumsfeld's support is now concentrated among people less invested in the survival of Iraq than in the survival of Bush. And, even on the right, their numbers are dwindling fast. The real question is whether, at this point, Rumsfeld's resignation would even make a difference.

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To understand how deeply the United States has descended into fiscal madness, compare the present situation with the last time GOP tax-cutters ran Washington, the Reagan presidency. Just like George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan used his first year in office to enact a series of tax cuts tilted toward the well-off that helped plunge the nation into debt. For this, Reagan is remembered by both the right and left as an unflinching avatar of supply-side economics.

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Donald Judd had his share of staunch supporters. But you are likely to meet with skeptical responses if you announce that you are captivated by his magnum opus, a composition consisting of one hundred aluminum boxes that is the linchpin of the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. Chinati is where the sculptor made a permanent home for the frequently large-scale work that interested him and some of the contemporary artists whom he admired. It has an eccentric, off-the-beaten-track kind of grandeur that rubs some people the wrong way. The austere forms that Judd (who died in 1994) arranged in and

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith (Random House, 462 pp., $25.95) A genre is hardening. It is becoming easy to describe the contemporary idea of the "big, ambitious novel." Familial resemblances are asserting themselves, and a parent can be named: he is Dickens. Such recent novels as The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Mason & Dixon, Underworld, Infinite Jest, and now White Teeth overlap rather as the pages of an atlas expire into each other at their edges.

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Ambassador Feelgood

Over a thousand delegates gathered in early October at the Sheraton Chicago for the fifteenth annual Hispanic leadership conference. The gleaming hotel, towering over the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, seemed emblematic of Hispanics' growing political heft. Speakers at the conference included former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry G. Cisneros, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, and Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman.

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Great Supreme Court decisions, for all their theatricality, are notoriously weak engines of social change. The commands of Brown v. Board of Education weren't implemented until decades later; Roe v. Wade confirmed a trend toward the liberalization of abortion laws that had been percolating in the states. But, a year after it was handed down, Adarand v. Pena is proving to be a startling exception. Like a boulder thrown into a placid pond, Adarand has been sending ripples through the lower courts in ways that are already transforming affirmative action as we know it.

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