“I saw more eagles than UFOs,” John Podesta joked.
The former chief of staff to Bill Clinton and veteran of the Obama White House had just returned from a trip to Alaska and, speaking with me from California last Friday, shared his thoughts on the highly anticipated government report on unidentified flying objects, set to be released later this week.
Over the past few decades, Podesta has emerged as one of the most prominent public figures goading the Pentagon to disclose information on UFOs—or, in official channel parlance, “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAP). In his view the report’s expected release marks a sea change in not only public sentiment, but political posturing around the issue.
“There’s always been tremendous public interest in this, but it was kind of pushed to the fringe. People were viewed as a little bit goofy if they wanted to raise the topic,” he explained. “Now I think that’s changed.”
Thirty years ago, sociologist James Davison Hunter popularized the concept of culture war. Today, he sees a culture war that’s gotten worse—and that spells trouble for the future of the American experiment.
In 1991, with America gripped by a struggle between an increasingly liberal secular society that pushed for change and a conservative opposition that rooted its worldview in divine scripture, James Davison Hunter wrote a book and titled it with a phrase for what he saw playing out in America’s fights over abortion, gay rights, religion in public schools and the like: “Culture Wars.”
Hunter, a 30-something sociologist at the University of Virginia, didn’t invent the term, but his book vaulted it into the public conversation, and within a few years it was being used as shorthand for cultural flashpoints with political ramifications.
He hoped that by calling attention to the dynamic, he’d help America “come to terms with the unfolding conflict” and, perhaps, defuse some of the tensions he saw bubbling.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Jones v. Mississippi makes it easier for judges to sentence children to life in prison with no chance of parole.
After 15 years of decisions that placed limits on the sentences given to juvenile offenders convicted of violent crimes, the Court reversed course in a profoundly antiscience decision written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The murderer in this case had just turned 15. This new ruling claims that the early teen years cast the die for how someone is likely to behave for the rest of their lives.
When criticizing this decision, legal pundits have been entranced by stare decisis, the legal doctrine that states a court will abide by precedent. But this argument woefully ignores the neuroscience that explains why juveniles should not be treated like adults—the very scientific evidence that influenced and guided previous court decisions
Trump wasn’t able to steal the 2020 election because enough state and local officials held firm against his anti-democracy efforts—but what happens if the ex-president’s allies nab key roles in future contests?
Donald Trump put United States democracy through a grueling stress test in the last election, forcing Americans to consider all sorts of chilling “what if” questions and underscoring how little a process that relies heavily on the honor system can constrain someone who has none.
It’s tempting to view the fact that the country passed—Trump eventually did leave office and Joe Biden took his place—as a testament to the strength of our institutions. To some extent, it was.
But the fate of those institutions depends on the people who comprise them, and it’s possible they could have fared worse were it not for several key officials who resisted Trump’s demands. Indeed, what would have happened to Biden’s victory in Georgia had Brad Raffensperger, a pro-Trump conservative, not stood his ground and declined to “find” 12,000 votes for the incumbent?
What if election officials in places like Pennsylvania and Arizona hadn’t won out over the will of Trump and GOP state legislators, who insisted, without basis, that the vote had been marred by fraud? Could Trump’s relentless attempt to undo his loss have worked?
America is inching closer to a possibility it has never seen before: the indictment and trial of a former president.
May 19, 2021, Kimberly Wehle, Professor of law at the University of Baltimore
Yesterday evening, New York State’s attorney general, Letitia James, announced, “We have informed the Trump Organization that … We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity.”
According to The New York Times, James will be sending two of her office’s prosecutors to join the team of Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan DA.