If you’re a prosecutor in Washington, DC at the moment, it seems like the five scariest words in the English language might just be: “Good jurors nullify bad laws.” That’s the message on an illuminated billboard that went up recently in a subway station near DC Superior Court, where prospective jurors might well see it. According to the Washington Post, prosecutors are worried enough to have asked judges in three cases in the past week or so to make sure that jurors had not seen the billboard.
I watched director Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity last night, and if you haven’t seen it, yes, it’s good. It’s suspenseful, it’s got heart, it’s got stunning shots of what the Earth looks like from high orbit, and Sandra Bullock and George Clooney both turn in fine performances.
But beyond being a good movie, it reminded me of something I just read in renowned MIT physics professor Walter Lewin’s For the Love of Physics about why astronauts are weightless in orbit. If you think it’s because they’re far enough away to no longer be affected much by the Earth’s gravity—which is what my intuition was, without having thought about it seriously— think again.
I’m pretty grateful to be living in a relatively peaceful time and place. Violence, as Steven Pinker argued at length in his recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, has declined considerably over the centuries and decades. Admittedly, this progress has been unsteady and uneven, and there’s still a lot of strife in the world. Also, as Pinker cautions, there’s no guarantee we won’t slide back into periods of increased violent conflict, which could be catastrophic given the phenomenal destructive power of modern weaponry.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has just announced that she will not go to the polls this fall, but Quebecers across the province still have municipal elections to look forward to in six days’ time. Well, maybe “look forward to” is a bit strong.
Whenever it comes time to vote, I start to think about the purported benefits of democracy. I do believe that having a say in how and by whom we are ruled is better than having no say, as it was in days of yore, and as it still is in some backwaters like North Korea. And democracy is certainly preferable to violent coup as a means of transferring power. But why do we have to be ruled at all? Why should some individuals have power over others in the first place?
To hear some people tell it, you would think freer trade with the EU is something to worry about. “Because Europe is so much bigger a market than we are ... if we don’t hit the ground running and we don’t learn as a nation to quickly take advantage of this deal, they could quickly overtake us,” said Joy Nott, president of the Canadian Importers and Exporters Association, in last weekend’s Globe and Mail.
This just in: Coloradans and Washingtonians are not the only ones who think marijuana should be legal. For the first time, a Gallup poll has found that a clear majority of Americans (58%) is in favour of legalizing the drug. A world in which people are not arrested for choosing to use a mind-altering substance that is by all accounts less harmful than alcohol is a better world in my book.
Who Writes This
Bradley Doucet is a Montreal writer and the English Editor of Le Québécois Libre.
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