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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Will The Death Penalty Ever Die?, by Jed S. Rakoff, New York Review of Books

The law professors Carol S. Steiker and Jordan M. Steiker (sister and brother) have written a revealing book about the history of the death penalty in the US and, in particular, the continued difficulties the Supreme Court has had in attempting to regulate capital punishment so that it conforms to constitutional standards. If I have a criticism of their otherwise trenchant account, it is of their failure to give more than passing attention to the moral outrage that provides much of the emotional support for the death penalty—outrage felt not only by the family and friends of a murder victim, but also by the many empathetic members of the public who, having learned the brutal facts of the murder, feel strongly that the murderer has forfeited his own right to live.

The Alien That Therefore I Am, by Matt Ossias, 3:AM Magazine

Alien: Covenant (2017) begins with a question that is almost as absurd to ask today as it is to raise in the even more thoroughly scientific future of the film: how did life emerge? Peter Weyland, the wealthy futurist funding the enterprises of the Alien series, disavows the scientific consensus that life sprang into existence from out of a cosmic accident that has likely occurred (and will continue to do so anew) on seemingly innumerable planets. Organic life was born as the contingent effect of a confluence of material causes that are rationally intelligible without thereby implying an intrinsically meaningful raison d’être . David, an android named after the Michelangelo sculpture, is told by Weyland, his creator, to seek out a different answer to creation concealed beyond the Copernican sun of our galaxy. What David finds is not our alien origins, as the film suggests, but an allegory of the alienation constitutive of subjectivity.

‘The Long Haul’ Is A Trucker’s Slangy Tour Of The Road, by Jennifer Senior, New York Times

Truck driving may be dangerous, and truck driving may be stressful, but Finn Murphy is here to tell you that of all species of truckers driving all species of trucks, it’s the long-distance drivers of moving vans who have it worst. You think easing a 53-foot rig through snowy Loveland Pass high in the Rockies requires steel-reinforced nerves? Ha! Here’s what requires a cast-iron stomach and the imperturbability of a Navy SEAL: Backing that rig into the twisting driveway of some starter castle in Aspen, Colo., or Greenwich, Conn., without getting stuck or crushing the new owners’ geraniums.