Bread and Circuses

For decades—at least half a century—we have been hearing about “activist (meaning liberal) judges” making judge-made law.  The mantra of the conservatives who protested this supposed phenomenon wanted legislatures to legislate and judges to judge. Indeed when Samuel Alito and John Roberts were appointed to the Supreme Court more than 15 years ago, Roberts proclaimed…

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America’s Weimar Moment?

Are we in the Weimar period of our American democracy? By that I mean are we enjoying a spring of liberal and progressive values and legislation before a dark night of autocracy, chaos and repression descends on us? It ought to be clear by now that the threat to our democracy didn’t end with the…

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Democracy, Voting Rights and the Filibuster

Twelve years ago I wrote a piece for the Nieman Watchdog chastising my former news colleagues for laziness in writing that it took 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate. My point was that by writing that, rather than saying it took 51 votes to pass a bill, they were misleading readers. Then,…

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Neither Gone Nor Forgotten

Our text for today is taken from “Six Crises,” an early memoir written in 1962 by a former vice president of the United States, Richard M. Nixon. In the book, Nixon discusses six events involving him that he chose to characterize in a melodramatic way as “crises”. The wisdom he imparts from these experiences is…

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Restoration and Renaissance

  It’s  been a long four years since this time in January 2017 when Barack Obama was succeeded by the 45th President. In the past four years we have become aware, if we didn’t already know it, that our country is seriously–may even dangerously–divided. If we didn’t know it before, we certainly did after January…

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Ends and Beginnings

A couple of months ago I suggested that given the destructive, chaotic behavior of the soon to be departed Chief Executive it was hard to know what else we should worry about his doing. Since the election his desperation has grown along with the outrageousness of his actions. We’ve all remarked on his being aided…

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Mark Shields

As most of you know, after 33 years of incisive political analysis every Friday night on the PBS NewsHour, Mark Shields has decided to leave his seat opposite David Brooks. For us devoted fans, it is a bittersweet moment. Many of us made a point of not missing those Friday nights, and if we couldn’t…

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Malign Neglect or Depraved Indifference?

On September 22, the United States recorded its 200,000th death from Covid19. Since then, the death rate has accelerated so that in eight short weeks another 50,000 men, women and some children have died. At this rate–and we have no reason to assume that it will decelerate–by Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, we will have…

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What’s on the Ballot?

This will be the last time I bother you before the election. I trust everyone has voted or has a plan for voting. Without fear of exaggeration, I think we all realize that this really is the most important election of our lifetimes. For the first time in our lives in this election we are…

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High Anxiety

Some years ago, in a moment of dark humor, I blamed Jerry Springer for the profusion of violent “reality” shows on television. I was convinced, among other things, that the increased use of coarse language could be traced back to him. Words like “asshole” and “pissed off” started occurring with some frequency on television dramas…

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