THE SUPREME COURT’S weirdly busy October brings to mind an old Cadillac commercial showing a sedan gliding silently down the highway, driver calm and confident in a hermetic, leather-appointed cabin, while the announcer intones, “quietly doing things very well.” Whether the justices are doing their jobs well depends on your point of view. But there is no disputing that they have been doing their most consequential work in uncharacteristic silence in recent weeks. The justices' moves on gay marriage, abortion and voting rights have been delivered all but wordlessly, as Dahlia Lithwick of Slate recounts. The notable exception to the rule is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the justice who refused to hold her tongue over the weekend, when six of her colleagues permitted Texas to enforce its new photo...Continue reading
NEW YORK is a tough town. An unpredictable one, too. The city has hosted any number of musical dramas that brim with controversy, courtesy of John Adams, an American composer, and Peter Sellars, an American theatre director. One humanised Richard Nixon, a Republican President with a tarnished reputation; another considered the life of Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb. Both of these operas and others earned polite applause from audiences and indifferent shrugs from nearly everyone else. On Monday night, however, the Metropolitan Opera in New York presented “The Death of Klinghoffer”, a new production of an opera first staged in 1991, with a score from Mr Adams, original direction from Mr Sellars and a libretto by Alice Goodman. The show is about a self-made man from Manhattan’s Lower East Side who makes a fateful voyage on an Italian cruise ship in 1985. Now everyone is up in arms.
The opera takes its name from one Leon Klinghoffer, a successful appliance manufacturer who took his ailing wife of 36 years on a Mediterranean cruise in 1985. The Klinghoffers had the misfortune of boarding the Achille Lauro, along with hundreds...Continue reading
THE most improbable bike path in the world is surely on the MacArthur causeway, a road connecting Miami Beach with the city of Miami proper. The road–more a motorway really–has six wide lanes of traffic and a maximum speed limit of 50mph. This being Florida, and speed limits apparently only loosely enforced, in light traffic people travel far faster. And yet driving across it today, your correspondent spotted a lonely cyclist working his way up the road against the traffic. Along the road’s right-hand side, unseparated from the traffic by any physical barriers, was a thin cycle path.
Your correspondent in his day-to-day life cycles everywhere. In Washington, DC, turning left on a main road can be dicey if drivers are not patient. In London, racing lorries at the Elephant and Castle roundabout and the Vauxhall interchange both provided daily adrenaline rushes. Yet he would no more cycle along the MacArthur causeway than he would take up bullfighting. It would be utterly insane.
In 2012 some 120 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents across Florida. That is as many as were killed in Britain in the same year–a country with three times as...Continue reading
“IT IS in my power | To o’erthrow law, and in one self-born hour | To plant and o’erwhelm custom,” declares Time in “The Winter’s Tale”. Alas, such fortitude was missing from Georgia Shakespeare, a 29-year-old theatre company dedicated to the bard, which was forced to close its doors on October 8th.
Buckling under accumulated debt of $343,000, Georgia Shakespeare has been in dire need of a Duke Theseus. “We really needed a lead donor,” explains Jennifer Bauer-Lyons, the company’s managing director. A campaign to save the company in 2011 raised more than $500,000 from local arts patrons. But donors—who are regularly squeezed to compensate for the state’s pitiful cultural funding—failed to come up with enough ducats this time around. The Georgia Council for the Arts set aside just $750,000 in total grants for the 2015 fiscal year; at the height of its generosity in 2002 it gave $4.5m. The state ranks 50th in the nation for spending per capita on the arts.
Such stinginess seems amiss in one of the South’s richest cities—particularly one with such a long love affair with Shakespeare. As...Continue reading
A FEW weeks ago I was talking with an advertising professional who had been discussing potential campaigns with Greenpeace, the environmental group. We both admitted that these days, our reactions to people scaling buildings and unveiling banners range from apathy to mild annoyance. Those tactics seem to belong to another era, before the mass institutionalisation of flash-mobs; they lack the hook needed to achieve virality. Over the past few months, however, Greenpeace has staged a wickedly clever campaign that feels entirely of this moment: a part-online, part-meatspace twist on memes from "The Lego Movie", aimed at convincing the Danish toymaker to cut its longstanding promotion deal with Shell, an Anglo-Dutch oil company, in protest against the company's drilling in arctic waters. On October 9th Lego gave in, announcing it...Continue reading
ON JANUARY 1st 29-year-old Brittany Maynard (pictured) was diagnosed with brain cancer. On November 1st she plans to end her life by ingesting a lethal medication prescribed by her physician. Only five states (Vermont, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico) recognise the right to die, so Ms Maynard relocated from California to Oregon to secure this right. This is a move that many Americans are unable to make.
Assisted suicide has been legal in a few European countries for years. But progress in America has been halting: in 1997 the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the constitution does not include the right to suicide. Aid-in-dying has ideological affinities with other issues where personal autonomy and liberty are at stake—same-sex marriage, for instance, or a woman’s right to an abortion. Yet many Americans have long been uncomfortable with sanctioning suicide. This seems to be changing. Now more than two-thirds of Americans support aid-in-dying laws for the terminally ill and mentally competent. Death with dignity legislation is now pending in seven states.
But why have Americans held out for so long? And what...Continue reading
OUR correspondents discuss what might happen if Republicans win the Senate in November’s mid-term elections. Will America find common ground or succumb to political paralysis?
IN THE 1930s Father Charles Coughlin was among the most popular figures in America. Roughly 30m listeners, at his peak, tuned in to hear his weekly radio broadcasts, which were carried by CBS—then among the biggest American radio networks. Though he began by broadcasting his weekly sermons, he quickly moved into politics. I suppose you would call him an economic populist: he advocated, among other things, unionisation, shrinking government and reducing taxes, abolishing the Federal Reserve, nationalising resources and seizing private wealth during wartime. Yet as war drew nearer, he returned to one subject again and again: Jews. He held them responsible for communism and the war; he reprinted "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", a classic anti-Semitic text; and he warned: "When we get through with the Jews in America, they'll think the treatment they received in Germany was nothing." Eventually, his broadcasters grew tired of him, the Church warned him away from politics...Continue reading
IOWA’S Senate race is a knife-edge contest between two sharply differing candidates that could well decide which party controls the United States Senate after November. As a key swing state in presidential elections, Iowa also plays host to aspiring candidates in trip after trip. Local voters ultimately have the power to affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans and indeed billions of people worldwide.
That is the view from Washington anyway. In Iowa, the importance of the imminent Senate race is not so obvious. Of a dozen or so people quizzed by your correspondent in a park in Davenport, on the western banks of the Mississippi river, just a couple could name both of the candidates. A couple more had formed an opinion from the attack ads that air continuously on every local television station. A few expressed the (arguably reasonable) view that Washington is broken, and politicians never represent their constituents, so why bother. Across Iowa, as across most of the United States, the reaction to these elections seems to be an enormous collective shrug.
After watching both Democrat and Republican candidates debate...Continue reading