The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

The highly addictive This American Life

In the past, I've tended to stream NPR from WBUR in Boston. But they've decided to rejig for the broadband listener, and I've had to move on - to WBEZ Chicago. Which produces TAL.

I'm struggling to pin down exactly what makes it so good (what I've heard of it).

But, dipping into the archive I'm hearing good stuff.

For instance, the story of a Tajik-American (!) who (apparently) got taken by the FBI as a terrorist suspect by reason of a chapter of accidents. It's a million miles away from agitprop - though the political point is certainly made, there are no Al Franken-style anvils dropped - it sounds like the best sort of indy movie: really involving.

(Whether the story is true, made-up or mostly-true-with-stretchers, is up to the listener to decide.)

There's a touching tale about an expatriate American father's telling fantastic bedtime stories to his son on the theme of early twentieth century baseball - a game the boy had not seen even on TV. Sappy but with narrative kick, in the best Hollywood tradition.

And a piece about the neighbours of Elizabeth Smart in Salt Lake City who, when her captors took her through local streets, failed to recognise her.

Stand-out detail: in any other state in the union, she'd have been assumed to be a daughter with her father - and what bystanders saw would have been judged against that paradigm.

But, because this was Utah, people said they thought she was the kidnapper's polygamous wife! Now, I had this strange idea that polygamy was not only illegal but unconstitutional in Utah (March 7 2003).

But, it seems, this was for show, not for blow: according to this,
There are said to be over 30,000 people practising polygamy in Utah, Idaho, Montana and Arizona...
- and, according to a 2004 piece on the Cook polygamy case,
the laws against polygamy are rarely enforced -- and then only in particularly troubling cases, such as when a minor is involved.

And, if one can believe Elizabeth Smart's neighbours, perhaps not even then.

Again, one suspects stretchers, but the truth is not integral to your listening pleasure.

When it comes to baiting the religious right, polygamy is something of a perfect storm: Mormons are heretics, but are imbued with such protestant intolerance and self-righteousness as to cause maximal confusion to the hellfire crackers.

An unholy alliance, such as obtains between Catholics and Moslems on abortion, cannot surely be ruled it.

How piquant that the Big Push on polygamy in the courts is coming as a result of the Supremes striking down the sodomy law in Lawrence v Texas!

(Bronson v Swensen is the case - the claim failed in the US District Court; an article (PDF) from the Catholic Lawyer discusses this issue.)

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