In 1924, to demonstrate the effectiveness of a bullet-proof vest he invented, a New York man donned the garment, posed as the target and allowed three policemen to shoot at him at close range. Repeated fire of thirty-eight and forty-five caliber bullets failed to penetrate the vest. The missiles were flattened against the sides of the protector and fell harmless to the ground. Following this demonstration, young women put on the vests and also served as targets.
While the picture is a bad re-enactment (the distance was greater than that), the vests from the 1920s and 30s could stop a .38 special bullet fired from ten yards, a .45 acp at sixteen. The old vests used steel or duraluminum allowing the wearer to withstand “blunt action trama.”
Did You Know
When informed that he was not allowed to bring his pet dog to Cambridge University, Lord Byron successfully argued his way into keeping a pet bear in his dorm room (though he was unsuccessful at getting it enrolled as a student).
Other animals he kept throughout his life include geese, horses, monkeys, peacocks, an eagle, guineafowl, a badger, a fox, a heron, a falcon, an Egyptian crane, a goat, and a crow.
as a brit, may I ask - how did the us get to the point where the supreme court has the power to abolish rode like this? because the concept of people who can stay in their posts for life, can't be fired/voted out, and who have the power to pass this sort of law despite the vast majority of the population's opposition (including the president himself!) feels so contrary to the democratic ideals we associate with america, and I'm flummoxed to know how this monarch-like power came about?
Hoo boy. This is a complicated and difficult question that requires understanding a lot of background in American history and politics, how the Trump-era Republicans have systematically disregarded and ignored all previous precedents, and why. First, in brief, the Constitution created the Supreme Court, its jurisdiction, and its function as the highest level of the judiciary branch of the tripartite government (executive, legislative, judicial). One thing it did not specify was the size; you can read about the historical wranglings and acts of Congress that adjusted the number of members here. As such, expanding the court to compensate for its current rabidly ideological right-wing tilt is not actually unconstitutional (though one of the handy features of conservative textualism/originalism is that you can make it say pretty much anything you want and ignore the rest).
For example, there are thirteen Circuit Courts of Appeal, which are the regionally-based federal judiciaries that are the last stop before the Supreme Court. Expanding it to thirteen justices, to match each of these regions, is an entirely logical idea. However, President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to expand the Supreme Court in 1937 and got witheringly smacked down to the point that the Senate Judiciary Committee claimed it should never, ever be tried again. And with how radical the Republicans have gotten on literally everything, there's no way in absolute fricking hell that they will support any changes to the one institution that is now, as designed, finally doing their exact and unchallengable bidding for the foreseeable future. And some Democrats will likewise have to be convinced to support such a drastic move, because of the general respect for "precedent" and the way "things have always been done." Which, as we have seen, constrains the Republicans exactly shit.
Ever since Roe was originally handed down in 1973, and Christian conservatism became the party’s dominant ideological theory in the 1980s under Reagan, Republicans have pursued a focused strategy of hijacking and politicizing the supposedly impartial judicial branch, especially the Supreme Court, especially because they realized that its decisions cannot be challenged, reversed, or otherwise easily gotten around. This exact kind of partisan takeover has always been the goal. They tried it in 1987 with Reagan's attempted nomination of hard-right ideologue Robert Bork to the Court (defeated by the Democrats and particularly then-Senator Joe Biden, resulting in Reagan being forced to pick Anthony Kennedy instead). That's why Mitch McConnell refused to even hold hearings after noted hard-right justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016 and Obama picked Merrick Garland to replace him. That's why McConnell and Trump then forced Kennedy to retire under sketchy circumstances in 2018, and rushed Amy Coney Barrett onto the bench as fast as possible, as an election was already happening, in 2020. They knew all along that ultimate capture of the Supreme Court was the best way to achieve their goal, especially in the case of Roe. Democrats have often ignored or disregarded the importance of the judiciary, and they're paying the price for that now, yes. But that doesn't make their actions morally or causally equal to the Republicans literally exploiting every bad-faith loophole they possibly could in order to do exactly this.
Trump didn't do much during his four years, aside from rage-tweeting, fomenting hatred, and cramming through right-wing judges and tax cuts for rich people with the eager assistance of Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Congressional Republican caucus, but boy, did he sure wreck both the office of the presidency and the entire honor-system precedent on which American democracy rests. Institutions don't maintain themselves, as we all saw when they were stretched to the very limit during the period between Biden winning the election in November 2020, the January 6 Capitol attack during the certification of the election results, and Biden finally being sworn in on January 2021. The January 6 Committee hearings have recently been putting all the evidence out there, as to how carefully and extensively orchestrated the plot to illegally keep Trump in power actually was. It failed because people made certain choices and followed the established rules, but that was not a given, and immense pressure was put on them to do otherwise.
Likewise as I have warned numerous times before, the Republicans are rehearsing for a 2024 encore in plain sight, especially by trying to get Big Lie loyalists installed in key positions. They are also terrifyingly close to doing this. In Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, one of the most extreme Republican gubernatorial candidates in the country, who stormed the Capitol on January 6, has called for unregistering all voters and making them register again under harsh restrictions, and has promised to appoint a Big Lie advocate to the position of Secretary of State, is running only three points behind Democrat Josh Shapiro, which is within the margin of error. If Mastriano and a flunkey were in power in Pennsylvania in 2024, rather than its current Democratic governor and secretary of state, they could just simply refuse to certify the win of a Democrat in the presidential election. What would happen then? We don't know, because it's never happened before. We really don't want to find out.
Yet again, this demonstrates how fragile American democracy is on all levels, and how if people simply don't follow the established rules or operate in good faith, it can go to hell very quickly. The Supreme Court, like the rest of the American government, was set up according to eighteenth-century Enlightenment principles of reason, democratic self-governance, and the belief that people could be trusted to act rationally in their own best interests. As such, it's vulnerable to a concerted bad-faith effort to drive a nakedly partisan agenda forward, even while pretending to be "impartial." There's no law that says they can't, and since Trump, as president, exercised the presidential right to select judicial candidates, that likewise wasn't actually against the law. The founders didn't trust human nature unequivocally, which is why they set up checks and balances and didn't allow the president to directly pick Supreme Court members. That's why candidates have to go through Senate confirmation hearings, which is formally known as giving its "advice and consent" to the president's appointment. But during their confirmation hearings, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, the three Trump-picked justices, all baldly lied (under oath, no less) about whether they considered Roe to be settled law and established precedent, or even whether they had an open mind about it. So if would-be justices just flat-out lie to get confirmed, in the service of carrying out a partisan task like overturning Roe, then.... how do we respond to that? We don’t know, because we haven’t had to do that before.
America, for all its deep, DEEP flaws and shortcomings, has operated since its founding on the principle of a peaceful transfer of power from one elected administration to the other. This has been followed since George Washington's death in 1799. Even goddamn George W. Bush, the Iraq war criminal, No Child Left Behind-er, and Reagan-holdover hawk whose administration was largely run by fucking Dick Cheney, now manages to look like a saint for being gracious and cordial to Obama and helping to achieve a smooth transition. That is how low the bar has fallen. Bush did the bare minimum that every president before him had done, and that alone makes him look like a hero (which he fucking isn't) next to Trump. Bush was a hard-right neocon, but he also generally paid lip service to America's founding ideals and the practice of pluralistic democracy. Trump did absolutely none of that and did not care about anything except his own power, greed, and grift. He was willing to wreck everything in the country if it kept him in power (and shielded from lawsuits thanks to executive privilege). And yet, successfully marketing himself as an “America First!!!” champion to a lot of people who were motivated by nakedly racist, sexist, nativist, homophobic, and xenophobic appeals to the very worst parts of a country founded on the genocide of Native Americans and institutional slavery and brutalization of African-Americans. Because America has never properly reckoned with that past, and keeps trying to ignore, dismiss, or downplay it, it has once more become a raging cancer in the body politic.
Republicans, at this point, aren’t motivated by anything other than deliberate cruelty and white supremacy, especially since domestic racial issues have once more become the primary “Other” against which right-wing America defines itself. This was the case in the 1960s during the civil rights movement, but in the 1970s and 80s, the Cold War and the “Evil Empire” USSR became the chief existential threat. In the 90s, it was gay people; then came 9/11, the War on Terror, and the Scary Muslim Enemy. Now that the decades-long and utterly pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are finally over, the Republicans -- always in need of a good non-white boogeyman, and desperate to tamp down the reckoning on racial justice and the emergence of movements like Black Lives Matter -- have once more turned to whipping up the fear and resentment of white America against the idea of being “replaced.” This is because any systematic examination and discreditation of American racism threatens the foundations they have built their power on ever since the post-Civil Rights Movement partisan realignment. That is what the “Southern Strategy” literally was (and is). So when you have one party who simply flouts and ignores all the rules and norms of the country’s entire history, because the only thing that matters to them is the consolidation and maintenance of indefinite white-supremacist fascist minority authoritarian rule.... again, what do you do?
Anyway, to sum up: the Supreme Court is acting as it now is because the Republicans designed it to do exactly that over decades, played the long game, and trampled over every established rule or obstacle or moral objection in their way. Democrats didn’t act like that because Democrats aren’t fascists. How they -- and we -- respond to that is going to shape the future of the country for generations to come.