Short Cuts

RBG's Big Mistake

Frederick Wilmot-Smith

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died 46 days before November’s presidential election. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, almost immediately announced his intention to confirm a new justice. Just as immediately, he was accused of hypocrisy. Scalia died 269 days before the 2016 election and that, Republicans argued at the time, was too close to the election for it to be right to confirm a successor. What happened to the ‘constitutional principle’ invoked to block Garland’s appointment? There are various arguments. Ted Cruz claims that voters were drawn to Trump by his stance on the courts; Lindsey Graham invokes Democrats’ treatment of Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing. These ‘arguments’ go nowhere. McConnell, though, pointed to the fact that the Senate in 2016 was ruled by ‘an opposite party’ to the president’s. The real principle here is power: whoever has control of the Senate decides whether its advice and consent will be given. The Republicans were in charge in 2016 and they are in charge now: they can exercise their power as they wish.

The Longplayer Assembly

Presented by Artangel, in association with the LRB: 24 leading thinkers converge in a non-stop 12-hour conversation relay, live online on Saturday 26 September, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. BST

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Impeaching Andrew Johnson

Eric Foner

It seems​ like ages have passed, not just nine months, since the all-consuming public issue in the United States was the impeachment of Donald Trump. The trial was a giant anticlimax, of course, its proceedings lacking witnesses, its outcome predetermined. That Trump remains in the White House reminds us that there is almost no way of unseating an American president, even one manifestly...

 

Sheets of Fire and Leaping Flames

Thomas Jones

Itmust have seemed like the end of the world, and for thousands of people it was. The Younger Pliny was 17 when he witnessed the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. He described it many years later in two letters to Tacitus, who had asked him for an account of his uncle’s death. The Elder Pliny, now best known for his encyclopedic Naturalis Historia and for dying under the volcano, was...

 

In America’s Blood

Deborah Friedell

Financially, Trump’s victory was a disaster for the NRA: members became complacent with an ally in the White House, and dues dropped by $35 million. In the midterm elections, for the first time, the NRA was outspent by gun control advocacy groups, and they’ve had layoffs. All this has made them increasingly dependent on large donations from gun manufacturers, sometimes estimated to be at least 60 per cent of their income. It’s not just American money: a quarter of the guns in the US were made in Europe, and Austrians (Glock), Germans (SIG Sauer) and Italians (Beretta) have donated millions of dollars to the NRA in order to protect their biggest market. The interests of gun sellers and gun buyers often overlap, but not always. I used to wonder why the NRA seemed to value the right to carry a concealed gun over an openly carried one, until it was pointed out to me that gun manufacturers often make more money from accessories – waistband holsters, ankle holsters, jackets with special pockets, vegan leather handbags with gun compartments – than from the guns themselves.

 

The Women’s Liberation Movement

Jenny Turner

Iwaswashing up or something ten years ago when an episode of The Reunion with Sue MacGregor came on the radio, the one about the Women’s Liberation protesters who stormed the Miss World competition at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970. I must have known about it already, but it was like I’d never got the point. Listening to that programme, for some reason, took me right back into...

 

Those Pushy Habsburgs

Ferdinand Mount

PhilipHabsburg landed at Southampton on 20 July 1554 and married Mary Tudor five days later at Winchester Cathedral, where he was declared king ‘de jure uxoris’, though Parliament refused to let him be crowned, to his considerable annoyance. If Mary had borne him a son, there would have been a Habsburg dynasty in England. Unfortunately, her ghastly gynaecological difficulties,...

 

Flour Fixated

Bee Wilson

Notmany people have heard of Norman Borlaug, but his invention – the high-yield, short-straw wheat that fuelled the Green Revolution – is consumed every day by the majority of humans on the planet. Without Borlaug’s wheat, there would be no modern food as we know it. Everything from sandwiches to pizza to soy sauce to animal feed is manufactured from wheats adapted from...

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