The Washington Monthly has an interesting article by James Verini about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its president, Thomas Donohue. You already know that the chamber is a major player in Washington -- they spent $120 million on lobbying in 2009 and have pledged to drop $50 million on races this fall, mostly to elect Republicans. But the question one has to ask about the chamber is this: are they actually serving the interests of American business, or are they really just serving the interests of the Republican Party?
If like most Americans you're a longtime watcher of television, you've probably noticed a loosening of language standards over the last decade or so. You can now hear a number of words on TV that used to be bleeped out; we won't go over the list, but you know what they are. They're a subset of the broader category of taboo words that have to do with what the Supreme Court refers to in obscenity cases as "sexual or excretory organs or activities." Cable has loosened the standards considerably -- the FCC operates on the somewhat outdated theory that while broadcast is ubiquitous and therefore able to infect children's minds willy-nilly, your affirmative decision to get cable means you've agreed to hear a higher level of naughtiness.
One of the many marvels the Internet has brought us is free education. For instance, let's say you wanted to listen to a lecture about thermonuclear dynamics, or bioethics, or the history of ancient Rome. You could go over to MIT's Open Courseware site, where you can watch hundreds of lectures for free. Or do the same at Yale's YouTube channel. Or look through one of the many sites that gather free online lectures and courses together. America has the world's best universities, and much of what those universities offer can now be accessed from anywhere, for free.
President Barack Obama speaks about immigration reform at American University in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The American public was fed up with hordes of aliens pouring into the country, speaking foreign tongues and threatening to take jobs from native-born citizens. So Congress took decisive action, and passed the Emergency Quota Act. It was 1921, and the new law, designed to solve the country's immigration problem, limited immigration from any one country to 3 percent of the population from that country counted in the 1910 census -- so if there were 100,000 immigrants from a particular nation already here, then only 3,000 more could be admitted per year. But countries in the Western Hemisphere were exempt -- as many Canadians as wanted could immigrate, and the doors were wide open to Mexicans, Salvadorans, Brazilians, and everyone else from Latin America.