The Chronicle of Higher Education published the speech Kevin Birmingham delivered last October upon receiving the Truman Capote Award for his book, The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses. In his speech, Birmingham decried the widespread employment of adjunct faculty members, particularly in the humanities, as “exploitation” and “injustice.”
Horror movies don’t get the respect of dramas, comedies, or even superhero movies, but in some ways they are the most daring kind of storytelling. Unlike romantic comedies or action movies, horror films are allowed to be unpredictable. Characters we’ve come to like bite the dust. Everybody knows that Spider-Man is not going to go down but in The Exorcist (1973), the leading character, a priest, does. In Drag Me to Hell (2009), a young woman who was heartless to a poor old woman gets sucked into the netherworld by demons. In Sinister (2012), one of my favorites, a writer played by Ethan Hawke realizes too late that his fascination with watching grisly movies he found in the attic of a new home is letting a sinister force into his house. That sort of thing won’t happen to Captain America.
American constitutionalism is famously about written rules. Our constitutions are filled with “thou shalt nots.” So much so that many unfortunately jump to the conclusion that the entire point of a constitution is to impose limiting rules. And certainly for several decades, the American experiment with written constitutions stood out for the ways in which it bound government officials with legally enforceable rules.
Imagine a President encountering legal headwinds as he took action to preserve the safety of the nation. Imagine a citizenry forced to consider the justifications of officers of two separate branches of the federal government, both claiming institutional powers of review.
No, this isn’t last week, but rather a constant state for 1930s Supreme Court jurisprudence, during which Justice George Sutherland (1862-1942) served as model of probity.
The old Democratic playbook on Republican Supreme Court nominations will no longer work for the Gorsuch confirmation hearings. Democrats used to spend much of their time talking about the importance of precedent and demanding that nominees follow it. The point, of course, was to protect one particular precedent above all—Roe v. Wade—and more generally keep alive the precedents favoring liberalism that were minted in the Warren and to some extent Burger and even Rehnquist eras.
But this approach no longer fits the times. One reason is multiplication of precedents that the Democratic base wants overruled. Citizens United is the best example. Hillary Clinton was even going to make its overruling a litmus test of her judicial appointments. But there are others too. Senator Schumer has already complained in the context of this nomination about Shelby County v Holder, which found a portion of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. And few cases enraged the left like Hobby Lobby, which held that closely held corporation had religious freedom rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. More generally, given that liberals have not been a majority on Court in several generations, there is growing body of precedent they do not like.
And much of the Democratic party too is changing to become more openly radical. Thus, its base is not satisfied with simply standing on past precedent while hoping that the Court will drift their way. It wants the Court to be a more active partner in progressive social change.
This creates a dilemma for Democrats. The very important advantage of prioritizing precedent is that that appears to make them adherents of following the law, where the law is defined as the past case law of the Supreme Court.
What are we witnessing these days? Clearly we are witnessing a war of sorts, but who is it between and what are the weapons? In a broad sense, it is between conservative and liberals, but only in the broad sense. Many conservatives oppose Trump, and many Democrats in the rust belt supported him. So it is complicated. Perhaps it is easier to look at the matter from an institutional perspective. Which institutions are supporting Trump and which are opposing him? If one looks at American society, it is clear that most of the governments are controlled by Republicans. At the federal level,…
In The Federalist #10 James Madison famously observes that the “most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.” But Madison discusses numerous other sources of faction as well:
Charter 77, the human rights group in the former Czechoslovakia dedicated to recognizing and protesting the lawlessness and abuses of the communist regime, turned 40 last month, and the milestone was marked by a panel discussion in Washington sponsored by the Czech Embassy and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
“The Enduring Significance of Charter 77” featured leading scholars and also Martin Palouš, one of the original 241 signatories of the Charter, who became his country’s ambassador to the United States a decade after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Palouš called the Charter movement “a candle in the middle of the night”—the night having fallen over Czechoslovakia with the thunderous Soviet invasion of 1968. The movement emerged quietly during the dark days of what the communists called “normalization”—the restoration of “really existing socialism” after the 1968 invasion quashed the experiment in liberalization known as the Prague Spring.
There are several ways of understanding how people can become addicted to drugs. It has been described as a brain disease, as a developmental learning disorder, or simply as a bad habit. When construed as a habit, addiction is always understood to be a condition from which addicts could free themselves by an always possible, if seldom made, sustained effort of will.
Addiction as a brain disease is the view most widely shared by healthcare professionals today. What makes drugs addictive, says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is that they “increase dopamine in brain reward regions.” They hijack the reward-motivation conditioning in the brain, according to recent studies. With many diseases, we don’t put the responsibility for illness on the sufferer, and we should not for drug addiction either, Volkow argues.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are psychologists who believe addicts can and do make rational decisions, and can choose to stop taking drugs. One is Gene Heyman of Boston College, who has written that most addicts “quit using illegal drugs by about age 30” and do so “without professional help.” Dr. Heyman listed “the correlates of quitting” as “legal concerns, economic pressures, and the desire for respect, particularly from family members,” among other factors.
A major proponent of the view that drug addiction is a developmental-learning disorder—which falls somewhere between the aforementioned stances—is a former cocaine addict, the neuroscientist and professor of developmental psychology, Marc Lewis, who emphasizes what he calls “neuroplasticity,” and “the brain’s capacity to change.” This last matches the approach taken by journalist Maia Szalavitz in her new book Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction.