High-wire Act 

Those of us who had nothing better to do Sunday afternoon — a base group that, judging from television ratings, comprised millions of Americans — spent a good deal of tension-filled, nail-biting time tuning in to the Discovery cable channel or to various sites online. The object of our curiosity was one Nik Wallenda, who was attempting to walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon.

Not the whole of it, mind you, though it was churlish for one news organ to report, later on, that Wallenda, a member of the famed Flying Wallendas acrobatic/tightrope/trapeze family, had performed his feat "near the Grand Canyon." It was the canyon, all right, or at least, close enough — a gorge deep almost beyond imagination. And the section of open air that Wallenda traversed, with nothing but space and hard rock far below, was some 1,400 feet in length, roughly, as various advance reports had it, the length of four football fields. No safety harness. And as far as rigging a safety net was concerned? Forget it!

Now, those readers who may have objected to the suggestion made above that there was no more urgent venue on Sunday, not even the pew of the righteous for resolute churchgoers, should know that Wallenda, during the course of his 21-minute stroll across the abyss, invoked the name of Jesus more often than Joel Osteen at his most hyper. At Wallenda's request, TV evangelist Osteen was on the other side, by the way, praying pretty intensely, to judge by the occasional camera cut his way. But no more than Wallenda, who was miked for our vicarious gratification.

That circumstance, coupled with the fact that Wallenda made it, surely gratified the religious viewers. But the more secular-minded got their inspiration as well — from the more commonplace observations made by Wallenda before, during, and after. Did we notice the shaking of the wire beneath him and swings of the pendulum weights attached to the wire as guides to the tightrope walker? We did. Did we observe the briskness of the winds that whipped his clothing back and forth — winds strong enough to have disrupted most of us on a walk around the block? We did. But we were somewhat buffaloed to hear him complain later that the winds had swirled up so much dust that it got under his contacts. He wears contacts? He might have lost one? Or blinked? Or — God knows what.

Shelby County v. Holder
There are sure to be repercussions from the Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday on a suit by an Alabama county government that affected several Deep South jurisdictions that had been required by Sections 4 and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act to pre-clear their voting requirements with the Department of Justice. By a 5-4 vote, the court found those sections to be no longer necessary or constitutional.

We have not had time to parse the decision, but, in this age of photo ID legislation and the like, we do have our concerns, which we will comment on later at some length.


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