As a member and eventual chairman of the Federal Election Commission, Bradley A. Smith spent five years arguing against the campaign finance rules he was charged with enforcing. He recalls his one meeting with the man behind their latest iteration. Sen. John McCain, says Smith, "started scolding me and called me corrupt, a bully, and a coward." Smith, the only FEC member to be referred to in the media as a "one man wrecking crew of democracy," explains exactly how the McCain-Feingold law squelches dissent in "John McCain's War on Political Speech" (page 36). Smith resigned his post in August and left Washington for Columbus, Ohio, where he teaches election law and jurisprudence at Capital University Law School.

Years before his current gig as research director at Colorado's Independence Institute, Dave Kopel was a district attorney in New York –a city he calls a "perfect example" of the way gun control laws prove counterproductive. In "Defenseless on the Bayou" (page 29), Kopel looks at another city whose policies famously failed to protect its people. Tracing New Orleans' descent from an "elective kleptocracy" to "anarcho-tyranny" after Hurricane Katrina, he exposes law enforcement that "refused to protect the public from criminals while preventing people from protecting themselves." Kopel is a frequent contributor to reason on gun, antitrust, and privacy issues; he's also the author of nearly a dozen books.

Moving to St. Louis from Calcutta as a bookish 10-year-old, Bidisha Banerjee turned to an unlikely source for a sense of the familiar: American science fiction. "Something about alien races and humans living in different contexts, the sense of estrangement, really appealed to me at the time," says Banerjee. Now a Washington, D.C.-based editorial assistant at Slate, Banerjee still sees contemporary issues reflected in science fiction. In "Dahlgren in New Orleans" (page 68), she reexamines author Samuel R. Delaney's 30-year-old classic tale of racially-tinged chaos in a city struck by catastrophe.