January 13, 2013 |
Hey, reader. If you bristle ever so slightly at the presumed familiarity of that salutation, you're almost surely over 40, and you likely grew up well north of the Mason-Dixon line. If you say "hey" back, the demographic possibilities are a lot broader. Everyone from anywhere who was born after 1980 seems to have adopted this onetime Southern regionalism, as have over-40s who work in a business that uses "trending" as a verb and requires them to stay forever young. I get "hey" emails and in-the-hallway greetings from students who've never been as far south as Philadelphia, who hail from India and Austria, from the Northeast and the Midwest and Canada.
December 20, 2012 |
Last month, I sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in federal prison for his shooting rampage in Tucson. That tragedy left six people dead, more than twice that number injured and a community shaken to its core. Loughner deserved his punishment. But during the sentencing, I also questioned the social utility of high-capacity magazines like the one that fed his Glock. And I lamented the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004, which prohibited the manufacture and importation of certain particularly deadly guns, as well as magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
December 7, 2012 |
Democracy as conventionally understood relies on decision by simple majority. Whichever side has more votes wins. Supermajority requirements stand this principle on its head. Whenever the side with the greater number of votes fails to reach the designated threshold, the side with the least votes prevails. The inevitable outcome is minority veto power. Though minorities cannot govern, supermajority requirements enable them to prevent majorities from governing as well. That is the primary structural source of our political gridlock at the federal and state levels.
November 18, 2012
In the last two years, Myanmar - also known as Burma - has made significant progress along the road to democratization. The military, long a brutal and repressive ruling force, handed over power to an elected government last year (although former generals hold most senior ministerial posts, and one was elected president). There are fewer restrictions on journalists. Opposition political parties were allowed to participate in the elections, and some of their members were elected to parliament, including, most notably, the human rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest before her release in 2010.
November 15, 2012 |
YANGON, Myanmar - Ko Paul had been warned that the old Yamaha piano in the upstairs sitting room of the dilapidated lakeside mansion was in bad shape. Tropical climates aren't great for pianos. Heat warps their sound boxes, humidity swells their pin blocks, reducing string tension, and termites savor an easy meal. But this one was worse than the piano tuner expected that day in 2009. "Pretty much everything had to be changed, the pins, the dampers, all the hammers," he said in a coffee shop in Yangon.
November 8, 2012 |
NEW DELHI - President Obama will visit Myanmar this month, the White House said Thursday, as his administration seeks to bolster democracy and strengthen ties with nations in the region. The visit will be part of a three-country tour Nov. 17-20 that will include stops in Bangkok, Thailand, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where the president will attend an Asian summit, the White House statement said. In Myanmar, Obama will meet with President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Though a visit to Myanmar carries political risks, most notably by staking presidential prestige on a government still dominated by generals with a brutal past, it dovetails with the administration's support for Myanmar's nascent democracy.
November 1, 2012 |
Just in time for Election Day comes "Democracy at Work," an amusing farce that takes a wry bite out of the campaign process, partisan politics, talk radio, the Internet and, yes, dentistry. Writer-director Wasko Khouri shows a distinct flair for the kind of silly-dark comedy that's able to skewer a topic without entirely laying it to waste. For the filmmaker, hope - albeit fueled by beloved American opportunism - springs eternal. Set around one chaotic day in a fictional, local election, the movie juggles three separate, sporadically intersecting stories: a dime-turning campaign manager (Michael Scovotti)
October 27, 2012 |
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently outlined 13 ideas for tackling Los Angeles' persistent budget problem, and one of them was to split the city attorney's office in two. The criminal side -- consisting of those lawyers who prosecute infractions and misdemeanors -- would continue to report to an elected city attorney. But the civil side, which is the part that drafts ordinances, advises city officials, files lawsuits and takes care of other such noncriminal matters, would report to an appointed lawyer.
October 24, 2012 |
When sample ballots started arriving this month, many California voters must have wondered where all the candidates went. Previously it was possible to vote for someone other than a Republican or Democrat; most voters will not have that option this year. Some won't even get to choose between a Republican and Democrat. They'll have to pick between two Democrats or two Republicans. What happened to all the other candidates? Proposition 14 and the California Legislature happened. Neither was good for democracy.
October 23, 2012 |
I'm writing this before Monday night's presidential debate, on the assumption that neither candidate changed the dynamic of the race too dramatically. But what if one did? What if Barack Obama announced in a fit of pique that "America doesn't deserve a president as awesome as me. " Or what if Mitt Romney pulled open a panel in his chest revealing that he is, in fact, an android? And he was made in China! Or the game-changer could be something more plausible. The point is, what if something was said or done that caused large numbers of voters to change their minds?