U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks on civil liberties at an ACLU membership conference. (AP Photo/Chris Greenberg)
Shortly after Elena Kagan was nominated to the Supreme Court in May, a front-page headline in The New York Times reported that she "Leaned Toward Conservatives" on a key issue. The issue was the First Amendment, and based on a major law review article Kagan wrote in 1996, reporter Adam Liptak predicted that in her views on freedom of expression, Kagan would be closer to conservative justice Antonin Scalia than to John Paul Stevens, the liberal justice she would replace.
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) (Flickr/republicanconference)
If, as predicted, the Republicans take control of the House, or both houses of Congress, this November, will they: 1) shut down the government? 2) propose massive budget cuts? 3) begin proceedings leading toward impeachment of President Barack Obama? 4) repeal the health-reform bill?
There’s much to be said about the life and career of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who represented all the possibilities for change that American life promises and delivers too rarely: Lifted from abject poverty to success and power through hard work; self-taught, to the point of erudition; an unhesitant racist who by the 1970s shed every hint of that heritage; the classic congressional inside operator who in the Bush years took up the voice of an outsider to describe abuses of power with a moral clarity that others weren’t capable of.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island. (Flickr/Center for American Progress)
The Gulf oil spill, we now understand, is not a natural disaster but a result of the interaction of two completely failed organizations: the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service and the oil company that now calls itself BP (nee British Petroleum). The sight of BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward at a yacht race on the Isle of Wight, days after indifferently telling Congress that he had barely known of the existence of the "nightmare well" known as Deepwater Horizon, is a lasting image. As Joseph Nocera established in detail in TheNew York Times on Saturday, even now, there's something deeply sick about the culture of that company.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag look at President Barack Obama, March 24, 2009. (White House/Pete Souza)
In a column last April that had a subtle but profound influence on the financial-regulation debate, Paul Krugman recalled that when he was in graduate school in the 1970s, "everyone knew that banking was, well, boring." Make it boring again, Krugman proposed, by eliminating the crazy risks, huge bonuses, and near meltdowns that have characterized Wall Street since the late 1980s.
I don't remember when banking was boring (mine was the generation of the original "greed is good" Wall Street, not the forthcoming sequel), but I do remember times when Washington was a lot more boring. And while politics should never be as boring as banking, it would be a good idea for politics, too, to dull things down a bit.