George Will explains “some reasons for feeling at least a bit grateful for 2011:”
In 2011, someone actually asked how an Amtrak employee with a $21,000 salary earned $149,000 in overtime.
In Texas, Georgia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Maryland, lemonade stands run by scofflaw children were put out of business in a government crackdown against wee people who commit capitalism without getting the requisite bureaucratic permissions.
Manning the ramparts on the wall of separation between church and state, a Seattle teacher required Easter Eggs to be called “spring spheres.”
In the year when Americans became aware that there is more student debt than credit card debt, Yale offered a course on how people with disabilities are portrayed in fiction: “We will examine how characters serve as figures of otherness, transcendence, physicality or abjection. Later may come examination questions on regulative discourse, performativity and frameworks of intelligibility.”
When the Wisconsin Education Association Council, having spent liberally defending public-sector union privileges, announced it was laying off 40 percent of its staff, it was denounced by the National Staff Organization, a union for employees of education unions.
I love the cynicism… and the truth. George Will on the belief that we need to be told everything:
You step onto an airport’s moving walkway, a flat metal conveyor belt that conveys travelers down an airport concourse, sparing them the indignity of burning a few calories by walking a bit. And soon a recorded voice says: “The moving sidewalk is coming to an end. Please look down.”
Well, yes. Pretty much everything does come to an end, doesn’t it? Besides, we can actually see what we already knew — the moving walkway does not go on forever. So, is that announcement about it ending really necessary? Whatever happened to the rule, “Do not speak unless you can improve the silence”?
Passing through a U.S. airport is an immersion in a merciless river of words. They are intended to be helpful, but clearly they flow from an assumption that increasingly animates our government in its transactions with us. The assumption is that we are all infants or imbeciles in need of constant, kindly supervision and nudging, lest we allow ourselves to be flung off a moving walkway and over the edge of the world.
In Denver, underground trains take passengers to and from the ticketing area and departure concourses. As a train arrives, an announcement slightly louder than the noise of the arriving train says: “A train is arriving.” Do tell.
On the topic of mindless banter, George Carlin comes to mind.
In response to the plan by Pennslyvanian Republicans to change the state’s electoral laws. Its electoral votes are currently given on a winner-take-all-basis to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote, as is done in 47 other states. Under the current pending legislation, “Pennsylvania would join Maine and Nebraska in allocating one vote to the winner in each congressional district, with the two remaining votes going to the statewide popular vote winner.”
Supporters of the compact say they favor direct popular election of presidents. But that exists — within each state. The Framers, not being simple, did not subordinate all values to simple majority rule. The electoral vote system shapes the character of presidential majorities, making it unlikely they will be geographically or ideologically narrow. The Framers wanted rule by certain kinds of majorities — ones suited to moderate, consensual governance of a heterogeneous, continental nation with myriad regional and other diversities.
Readers will know that I’m a fan of both the argument and the author. I would add that neither Maine nor Nebraska (4 and 5 electoral votes, respectively) is as important as Pennsylvania (21 votes) in presidential elections. They are also not considered swing states. PA is considered a swing state even though it has not gone for a Republican since 1988. Democrats will rightfully cry foul – this vote minimizes a state they usually, although not easily, win. This vote would both weaken the importance of PA – well done, legislators! – and encourage the minorities in other states to push for reforms. The next time Democrats have power (legislature and governorship) in red battleground states – VA, NC, SC, AZ, CO, NV, FL – they will push through such legislation, regardless of how slim the majority, while they have the chance. This may come back to bite them as the electoral map eventually shifts due to demographic and ideological changes, as it always does. But that is not any consolation. It only serves to make the system both more unpredictable and less democratic.