[with contributions from Matt O'Brien and Darius Tahir] The prevailing story about passenger air travel is that it used to be a lot more fun or, at least, a lot more comfortable. I wonder how true that claim is. Weren’t the old planes a lot noisier? Didn’t they take longer to reach their destinations? Weren't they less safe? But a few things clearly have changed – among them, the introduction of separate fees for baggage. Virtually every major airline now charges passengers to check bags.
Lord help me, but I have to agree with Grover Norquist about something. A primary subject on Sunday’s talks shows and, more generally, media reports of the last few days has been the "failure" of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – a.k.a., the Super-Committee. As you know, the Super-Committee’s members could not agree on plan to reduce the ten-year budget deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. As a result, automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion – what’s known as a “sequester” – are now set to take effect in January, 2013. But does that really mean the Super-Committee failed?
In June 1985, Flora Lewis wrote in the New York Times that then-President Ronald Reagan said he had pounded the walls in frustration over the hostage crisis in Beirut. Given what we know about Reagan, it's not hard to believe that he would resort to such measures to express his rage. Now try to imagine Barack Obama similarly venting his frustration at the Republicans taking his agenda hostage for political gain. Hard to visualize, isn't it? That's no accident.
For six weeks, I was a sightseer in a foreign city in downtown Manhattan, a land with its own laws and institutions, bankers and janitors, leaders and followers, heroes and fools. When Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked why he chose to invade Zuccotti Park in the dead of night and sweep it all away, his answer was a familiar one: “Health and safety.” Occupy Wall Street had turned chaotic, he argued. It had to be excised from lower Manhattan like a malignant tumor, with the area sanitized of all press and onlookers.
[Guest Post by Darius Tahir] Early this September Stanford Hospital discovered that somebody had posted personal data for nearly 20,000 emergency room patients online, so that anyone who happened across the page could look up everything from the patients’ names to the codes identifying their various diagnoses. Worse still, the data had been online for more than a year. The tale of how the data ended up online involves the sort of slapstick you expect from a bad sitcom.
Ever since Bush v. Gore, we’ve come to expect that federal courts will divide along predictable ideological lines: Judges appointed by Democrats are supposed to vote for Democratic priorities, while judges appointed by Republicans are supposed to prefer Republican priorities. In short, many people now assume judicial institutions will behave like legislative ones. But four recent decisions from the federal appellate courts call this assumption into question. On November 8, Judge Laurence Silberman, writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.
Politics is a serious business. Despite the best efforts of some, it’s not a form of reality television. Instead, it’s the way that we distribute the costs and benefits of our collective life; it’s an opportunity to express and fight for our deepest values in the view of our fellow-citizens; and it’s … uh … what was that third thing? Oops. I’m sorry; I know that particular joke has long since passed its sell-by date.
The two most salient facts about Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy as the January primaries approach are that he is always first or second in the polls and that his support is stuck at about 25 percent. It’s premature to call Romney the presumptive nominee before any votes are cast, but this year’s Republican field is so weak that alternative outcomes are pretty hard to imagine. Yet the GOP base remains wary of Romney because of his moderate record in Massachusetts and the extreme pliability of his political views.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Perry v. New Hampshire, a case concerning the reliability of eyewitness testimony. It was the first time the Court had tackled the issue in 34 years. During those three-plus decades, we’ve learned a lot about eyewitness testimony—namely, just how unreliable it can be.
It was an odd and unexpected moment when, on October 18 at the CNN debate in Las Vegas, the normally even-keeled Mitt Romney suddenly lost his cool. Challenged by Rick Perry about once having employed illegal immigrants as lawn workers, Romney initially answered with a chuckle and strained smile; but, when Perry kept interrupting his attempt at a reply, Romney’s temperature shot skyward. “Anderson?” he called to the moderator, and, when no help arrived, he turned on Perry, his voice rising to a shout and his eyes flashing with anger. “Would you please wait?” he barked at Perry.