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The case for monogamy

the economistJue, 09/07/2015 - 21:56

Stephen Macedo is Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University and the author of, Just Married:  Same-Sex Couples, Monogamy, and the Future of Marriage (Princeton University Press, 2015)

MANY progressives are signing on to a central plank in Chief Justice John Roberts’s dissent in the recent same-sex marriage case. As W.W. put it in a recent post here, now that same-sex marriage has “blasted open” the “libertarian door,” liberals need “more rationally compelling arguments” to shut polygamists out. Indeed, the author asserts that accounts of polygamy’s social harms, including mine, have “the same speculative character as some conservative arguments against legal gay marriage.” And if...Continue reading

Those "activist" judges

the economistMié, 08/07/2015 - 22:25

IT WAS “the best term for the left in at least a quarter century,” says Tom Goldstein, a Supreme Court litigator and publisher of SCOTUSblog. In the dramatic final days in June, the justices refused to undermine Obamacare or undercut civil-rights protections under the Fair Housing Act. They rebuffed a plea from Republican legislators in Arizona that would have nixed a fix to partisan gerrymandering. And they decided that marriage equality for gays and lesbians is a constitutional right. There were twin consolation prizes for conservatives on the final opinion day, but Mr Goldstein counts liberal wins in eight of the ten most...Continue reading

Divide and conquer

the economistMié, 08/07/2015 - 19:16

STANDING in the marbled lobby of one his Manhattan skyscrapers, Donald Trump, a real-estate magnate and television personality, announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination last month by traducing Mexican immigrants in carelessly general terms. They are "bringing drugs, bringing crime, they’re rapists," he said in a blasé tone of imperious certitude well-known to viewers of "The Apprentice", Mr Trump's recently cancelled reality show.

Americans of Hispanic descent, who now make up over 17% of the population, were incensed. Macy's, Univision and NBC, among others, were swift to sever business ties with Mr Trump. Piñatas of the improbably coiffed Mr Trump are now available to those keen to whack "the Donald" with a stick. Meanwhile, more credible Republican presidential contenders, whose West Wing dreams hang on refurbishing their...Continue reading

Packing heat

the economistMié, 08/07/2015 - 03:39

“I USED to love the summer,” says Elizabeth Dozier in the CNN documentary “Chicagoland”, which aired last year. “Then, once I became the principal of the school, I just started to hate summer. I have lost kids over the summer. I have had kids hurt and shot over the summer….I can't wait for the fucking summer to be over.” Ms Dozier is the principal of Christian Fenger Academy High School in Roseland, a troubled neighbourhood on the South Side of Chicago, where violence flares up as soon as temperatures rise.

The mayhem gets especially bad on public holidays, and this year was no exception. Mayor Rahm Emanuel made sure more police officers were on the streets over the long July 4th weekend, but ten people still died and at least 55 were wounded in shootings between the evening of July 2nd and the early morning of July 6th. Among the dead was Amari Brown, a sweet-faced seven-year-old African-American boy, who was gunned down in Humboldt Park on the West Side, and 17-year-old Vonzell Banks, who was shot while playing basketball with his cousin in a park in Bronzeville on the South Side. "I am...Continue reading


Tom PetersMar, 07/07/2015 - 23:57

No. I do not believe it. I just (a few days ago) posted my ... 50,000th tweet. 50,000. Who woulda thunk? There are ideas I care about. And twitter is a great platform to have an ongoing discussion with (mostly) likeminded colleagues. Thousands upon thousands thereof. It adds up to a lot of time. Too […]

The post 50K appeared first on Tom Peters.

Stuck on the wrong side

the economistSáb, 04/07/2015 - 00:33

A NEW advertising campaign, “Not Alone”, is making the rounds on social media. It flashes through a conspicuously diverse array of Americans brought together by a shared feeling of alienation. “I’m a little bit nervous about people hearing I’m this way, and then thinking, uh well, she’s not welcome here,” a woman begins. Another cuts in: “I would say I’m different; we’re all different.” A man confesses, “Pretty scary… You wonder, how many people can I really, truly, honestly be open with?”

These people are ready to come out. After a few more suspense-building displays of vulnerability and hand-wringing, they finally confess: they believe that “marriage is between a man and a woman.”

In the week since the Supreme Court recognised a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, many Americans have celebrated the expansion of freedom and civil rights. But some, predictably, are uncomfortable with the change, and a few are...Continue reading

Three's company, too

the economistVie, 03/07/2015 - 00:24

ANTHONY KENNEDY, in his majority ruling legalising same-sex marriage nationwide, tried to allay the concern that polygamy would be next. John Roberts, in his dissent, said he couldn't see a principled way of opening the door to same-sex couples without also letting polygamists through. Who's right? Is legal polygamy next? Should it be?

Jonathan Rauch, who wrote this newspaper's ahead-of-the-curve 1996 cover piece advocating same-sex marriage, has plenty of experience in keeping people off this slippery slope. According to Mr Rauch, the problem with a man marrying two women (we don't see many real-world examples of polyandry, a woman with multiple husbands) is that it leaves another, usually lower-status man without a match. As higher-status men hoard wives, lower-status men are "denied access to life's most stabilizing and civilizing institution," he writes, and thus "are unfairly disadvantaged and often turn to behaviors like crime and violence". It's bad...Continue reading

Jersey Boy

the economistMié, 01/07/2015 - 04:18

BOB TOWEY is the president of Livingston High School, a position held by Chris Christie some 35 years ago. Like any good politician, Mr Towey knows a good opportunity when he sees it. He and his fellow student officers agreed it was a “real honour” to have New Jersey’s governor back at the school to launch his run for president of the United States. Mr Christie joins 13 others in the very crowded race to be the Republican pick for 2016.

“He’s like the hometown hero,” cooed Michael Ciccone, a high-school junior. Mr Christie’s old school gymnasium was packed with local politicians, some fans and scores of school chums (many greeted each other with back-slaps and bellows of “class of ‘82” or “class of ‘79”). Banners boasting state and regional championships adorned the gym and flanked the enormous American flag. The atmosphere felt more like a reunion than a political rally.

This modesty was reinforced by the subdued pomp: a mere two people introduced the governor, rather than the gaggle most candidates seem to prefer (Jeb Bush’s launch featured a full roster and a Cuban band). The first, a Democrat...Continue reading

Legal prophylactics

the economistMar, 30/06/2015 - 17:11

IN 2010 Jacob Szafranski and Karla Dunston decided to undergo in vitro fertilisation (IVF) to create and freeze embryos together. After the couple broke up, Mr Szafranski sued Ms Dunston to prevent her from using their three frozen embryos. Ms Dunston, rendered infertile from chemotherapy treatments, filed a counterclaim seeking sole custody and control over the embryos so that she may one day have children. This month an Illinois state appeals-court affirmed a circuit-court ruling in favour of Ms Dunston. Because the couple never signed a contract specifying who controlled the embryos, the court found Mr Szafranski agreed to allow Ms Dunston to have his child when he provided his sperm to fertilise her egg. 

“Had Jacob wanted to preserve his ability to later veto Karla's use of the pre-embryos,” writes Justice Laura Liu, an appellate judge, “the time for expressing that condition was when he accepted Karla's offer. All he would have been required to say is:...Continue reading

Last gasps

the economistMar, 30/06/2015 - 05:37

WHEN Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett by lethal injection in April 2014, the state used an untested sedative. The drug apparently failed to bring on the coma-like state that is meant to precede the introduction of drugs to stop his breathing and then his heart. Lockett spent 43 minutes writhing in pain on the gurney. “This shit is fucking with my head,” he said before finally dying. 

Of the 35 people who were executed in America in 2014, at least three died grisly deaths. The problem is that states are having trouble getting the drugs they need to ensure these deaths are painless. European companies will not sell drugs to be used in executions, and American companies are increasingly squeamish about having their brands linked to lethal injections. So Oklahoma and other states have been tinkering with the three-drug protocol, in some cases using a drug called midazolam, which apparently botched Lockett’s execution...Continue reading

The inside of John Roberts's head

the economistSáb, 27/06/2015 - 01:19

JOHN ROBERTS, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, has conservatives vexed. To many of them, Mr Roberts' dissent to the majority's decision legalising gay marriage today seems flatly inconsistent with his reasoning in the King v Burwell case, which saved Obamacare. "Under the Constitution", Mr Roberts wrote in his dissent in the gay marriage case, "judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be". But didn't the court effectively rewrite the text of the Obamacare just two days ago when it ruled that insurance exchanges established by the federal government should be counted among those "established by the states"?

"The inside of John Roberts's head must be a very interesting place," tweets John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary. "Kind of like the Civil War, only no Confederate flag". Mr Podhoretz vividly captures a common conservative sentiment about Mr Roberts today.

It is easy to see why Mr Roberts' two opinions may seem at odds. He seems both willing and unwilling to have the court say what the law should be. But Mr Roberts is in fact totally consistent. A closer look at his opinions on Obamacare...Continue reading

Expect more shouting

the economistVie, 26/06/2015 - 16:33

THE Affordable Care Act has survived another encounter with the Supreme Court. Now 7.5m Americans who might otherwise have lost subsidised health insurance can keep it. This is a good thing. Trying to disentangle the effects of the law, better known as Obamacare, from all the other changes affecting health care is like trying to count raindrops. The implementation of the law has coincided with a slowing in health-care inflation and a drop in unemployment. This suggests that the two main charges against the law—namely that it is a job killer and it drives up costs—are shaky. Given that the ACA has been blamed for all sorts unwelcome...Continue reading

A constitutional right

the economistVie, 26/06/2015 - 15:22

THIS morning, on the anniversary of two previous rulings expanding gay rights, and on the eve of gay-pride weekend in New York and San Francisco, America's Supreme Court announced a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

By a vote of 5-4, the justices ruled that the 14th amendment prohibits states from banning gay nuptials. The case, Obergefell v Hodges, was argued in April.

In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy began by noting that "[t]he centrality of marriage to the human condition makes it unsurprising that the institution has existed for millennia and across civilizations",...Continue reading

Hail to the chief

the economistJue, 25/06/2015 - 19:31

FOR the second time in three years, Chief Justice John Roberts has departed from his conservative colleagues and voted to keep Obamacare chugging. In 2012, he authored the majority opinion in a 5-4 ruling that turned back a constitutional challenge to the law’s requirement that most Americans buy a health insurance policy. This time, he wrote for six justices in scuttling an objection that the legislation, as written, is self-defeating. Mr Roberts is again being booed on Fox News and by opponents of the law. Michael Cannon, a director at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, says the ruling has “validated President Obama’s massive power grab” and is proof that the Supreme Court has “allowed itself to be intimidated”.

But to read his characteristically lucid 21-page opinion, there are few signs Mr Roberts has been cowed into submission. He seems, instead, rather to like Obamacare. The first...Continue reading

Speaking truth to obliviousness

the economistJue, 25/06/2015 - 00:34

If you're a white American, you're more likely than not to vote Republican, though it's a close call. If you're white and male, or white and religious, or white and from the South, or white and old enough to collect Social Security, your odds of a GOP affiliation go up a good deal. If you happen to be a 70-year-old white evangelical gentleman from Tennessee, you're either Republican or exceedingly odd. About as odd as a black Republican. Ben Carson, a black retired neurosurgeon running for the Republican presidential nomination, is odd—and valuable. Black Republicans aren't quite unicorns, but they are capable of working a rare magic. Unlike the president, Mr Carson, a staunch Tea Party conservative, is a black man white Republicans will pay attention to when he talks about race.

After a young white supremacist murdered nine black people in a Charleston church, another Republican doctor, Rand Paul, a Kentucky senator and presidential contender, Continue reading

A culture of violence

the economistMar, 23/06/2015 - 17:03

THE MURDER of nine black Americans in Charleston, South Carolina by a young white man hoping to start a "race war" has renewed calls for stricter gun control, as well as the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state house. It has also renewed a pressing question: why are mass shootings so common in America? One popular answer is that there are simply too many guns in America, and that it is far too easy to get one. But what can be done about this? As Lexington rightly noted, not much. But why not?

Joseph Heath, a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto, published a penetrating meditation last week on the ways ideology can distort sincere attempts at social-scientific explanation. He has nothing at all to say about gun control. But he does offer a series of insights about the follies to which experts are prone when attempting to analyse social problems. In particular, Mr Heath points to...Continue reading

Time for the museum

the economistLun, 22/06/2015 - 20:39

(Update: On Monday South Carolina's Governor, Nikki Haley, along with both state senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, and a bipartisan group of other lawmakers called for the state to remove the Confederate battle flag from state grounds. "Our state is grieving, but we are also coming together," Ms Haley said.)

FOR nearly half a century Georgia’s state flag was three-quarters filled with the battle flag of the Confederacy, a symbol of the pro-slavery side in America's civil war. This state flag had been adopted in 1956, two years after the Supreme Court integrated America’s schools with its Brown v Board of Education ruling. But by the 21st century flying this loaded flag seemed awkward. Georgia had been home to some of America’s great black civil-rights leaders, including Martin Luther King junior, John Lewis and Andrew Young. Atlanta, the state’s bustling capital (and your correspondent’s hometown), had also spent the postwar decades striving to be the centre of a “new South”, “a city too busy to hate”.

In 2001 Georgia adopted a new flag, with the state seal on a plain blue background, below which were...Continue reading

The Republicans have a pope problem

the economistLun, 22/06/2015 - 20:11

IT WAS bad enough when Pope Francis began banging on about inequality. Worse still when he changed the church’s tone when it comes to addressing gay people (“Who am I to judge?”). Now the pope has issued a papal encyclical affirming the science of climate change and calling on leaders to phase out fossil fuels from the global economy. 

This puts the GOP’s presidential candidates in an awkward position. At least five of them—including frontrunners Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio—are practicing Catholics. Messrs Bush and Rubio have both questioned or denied the science of climate change and rejected policies to regulate the burning of fossil fuels. And they are both from Miami, a place seen as...Continue reading


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