One of the defects of public discussion of the Supreme Court is that journalists who are so enamored of process stories in electoral contexts cut straight to the bottom line—who won, who lost—and skip the constitutional reasoning where the judiciary is concerned. That was how one of the biggest jurisprudential stories of last week—the extraordinary whiplash judges and partisans on both sides displayed between Tuesday’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act and Wednesday’s on DOMA—got overlooked. Call it a tale of two laws, each passed by overwhelming legislative majorities, one gutted by the Court’s conservatives, the other overturned by the Court’s liberals (the evanescent Justice Kennedy counts as both), each of whom accused the other of activism and called for restraint—all within 24 hours, and passing virtually without remark. Those who hope for a consistent ethic of judicial restraint—which is to say those who haven’t been paying attention—will have to wait for another term.
Archives for July 2013
There is a great deal of pessimism about the nation and the culture, so I thought it would be appropriate to mention one area where I think we are in a golden age: television.
I suppose that it is a little misleading to call it television. What I have in mind are the cable (and mostly pay TV) series. Shows like Game of Thrones and Mad Men (the early seasons were better for the latter), both of which just completed their seasons, House of Cards (which I am now watching), Boardwalk Empires, Downton Abbey, Dexter (again the early seasons), and a host of others. All of these shows won’t appeal to everyone, and I am sure I am leaving out some favorites of the reader, but you get the idea.
In my view, these shows – for lack of a better term, let’s call them Pay TV series – are better than ordinary TV (a weak standard) and movies. And the question is why?
There are various factors responsible. One is that most of these series are on Cable and Pay TV and therefore are not subject to the restrictions on words and mature themes that govern ordinary TV. Another is that these series are a new genre, if you will, giving the authors 12 shows in a season to develop characters and story arcs. Unlike ordinary TV, the shows require that you watch them in order, so that they build plot lines and develop characters.
For the past n years, I had the privilege of serving on the Board of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think-and-litigate tank. (Predictably, some of CEI’s many admirable exploits have been subjects of this blog.) At its June 20 Annual Gala, CEI celebrated its Thirtieth Anniversary and the passing of the leadership baton from its founder and long-time president, the one and only Fred Smith, to Lawson Bader, formerly of the Mercatus Institute. CEI’s annual events has themes; this year’s was James Bond. For a libertarian outfit, that’s an odd choice: we’re celebrating a government agent??? (Next year, Kathleen Sebelius.…
Ballooning scandals at the IRS, government snooping, and the run on ammunition are the main topics of conversation at the range these days. It’s illuminating to hear people outside the chattering class talk about checks and balances, ammo shortages as a barometer of discontent and looming tyranny. Tyranny especially, used to be the cry of black helicopter conspiracy theorists. It signals something when regular folk, will say the word and talk unselfconsciously about how to define it and what to do about it.
The president, armed with inherent executive power topped with statutory authority, faced a dilemma: Danger beckoned. Congress alternated between theatrical hems and political haws. The international position and perhaps security of the United States were at stake. So he chose the path of boldness—the path down which greatness lies.
Reported in certain journals, that might have been President Bush at the height of the Global War on Terror. But portrayed in other outlets, it was President Obama bypassing Congress, employing unilateral executive power to regulate greenhouse gases. Politically, a great distance separates Bush and Obama. Constitutionally, it is increasingly difficult to tell them apart—and one reason is the theory of the Presidency some conservatives propagated a decade ago and which is now being bent toward purposes that probably make them wish they had remembered the axiom never to endorse any power one would not entrust to one with whom one disagreed.