Monday, January 25, 2016

Caveat Emptor

New York Post -- By Peter Schweizer
Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive Marc Rich continues to pay big

Fifteen years ago this month, on Jan. 20, 2001, his last day in office, Bill Clinton issued a pardon for international fugitive Marc Rich. It would become perhaps the most condemned official act of Clinton’s political career. A New York Times editorial called it “a shocking abuse of presidential power.” The usually Clinton-friendly New Republic noted it “is often mentioned as Exhibit A of Clintonian sliminess.”

“Rich’s business partners, lawyers, advisers and friends have showered millions of dollars on the Clintons in the decade and a half following the scandal.”

International NYT -- David Segal
What Donald Trump’s Plaza Deal Reveals About His White House Bid

“He has the ability to imagine what the other party wants him to be and then be that person,” said Michael D’Antonio, author of “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success.” “He presents the Trump that will work in the moment.”

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Martin Luther King and our Primary Moral Concept of Equality -- by JARRETT STEPMAN
MLK Day:
The Enduring Power of the Declaration and American Ideas

King explained how equality before the law that Lincoln and the United States stood for had not been accomplished, that a century after the Emancipation Proclamation it was time to fulfill the promise of liberty and equal rights for all Americans.

“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir,” King said. “…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

By framing his argument in the natural rights tradition of the United States—and placing it within the context of the long history of American ideas—King was able to reach many who might not be initially amenable to his views. In many ways this was a rebuke to the idea that the American republic was originally founded on racist premises and prejudice.

But as King, Lincoln, and Jaffa argued, the Declaration’s statement that “all men are created equal” really did mean all men regardless of race—that racial equality before the law was a continuity with the American philosophical tradition, not a break from it.

The Far Center -- James Rutherford
Equality as an Affirmation of our Common Humanity

Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much. Public opinion, or any subject, always has a “central idea, from which all its minor thoughts radiate. That “central idea” in our political public opinion, at the beginning was, and until recently has continued to be, “the equality of men.
                                                                      — Abraham Lincoln 1856

See Also

The Death Penalty End Game

International New York Times -- Editorial Board

Now there may be an answer in the case of Shonda Walter, a 36-year-old black woman on Pennsylvania’s death row. On Friday, the Supreme Court met to discuss whether to hear a petition from Ms. Walter, who is asking the justices to rule that in all cases, including hers, the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishments.

In the past 14 years alone, the Supreme Court has barred the execution of several categories of people: minors, the intellectually disabled, and those convicted of a crime other than murder. In that last case, decided in 2008, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court, “When the law punishes by death, it risks its own sudden descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint.”

Justice Stephen Breyer, in a long dissent from a 5-to-4 ruling that allowed Oklahoma to proceed with its inhumane lethal-injection drug protocol, suggested he would be open to a case challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty itself.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Another Blow against the Death Penalty

Supreme Court deals blow to Florida's death sentencing system
Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

“The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down Florida's system of letting judges, not juries, decide whether convicted criminals deserve the death penalty.”

“In Florida, judges can impose the death penalty even if the jury has not ruled unanimously or agreed on any aggravating circumstance. If the jury has issued a recommendation, the judge doesn't have to follow it. No other state gives judges such discretion.”

Courts, States put Death Penalty on Life Support
Richard Wolf and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

"The imposition and implementation of the death penalty seems capricious, random, indeed arbitrary,'' Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said in dissenting from the court's June decision allowing the continued use of a problematic sedative for lethal injections. "From a defendant's perspective, to receive that sentence, and certainly to find it implemented, is the equivalent of being struck by lightning."

Monday, January 4, 2016

An Epidemic of National Drug Overdose Deaths

WP -- Fareed Zakaria
America’s self-destructive whites

“The main causes of death are as striking as the fact itself: suicide, alcoholism, and overdoses of prescription and illegal drugs. “People seem to be killing themselves, slowly or quickly,” Deaton told me. These circumstances are usually caused by stress, depression and despair.”
National Overdose Death Rates

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Goodbye to 2015, a year of absurdity and overreach

WP -- George Will
Goodbye to 2015, a year of absurdity and overreach

“The American Council of Trustees and Alumni reported that 48 of the top 52 liberal arts colleges and universities do not require English majors to take a Shakespeare course.”

“A young girl was sent home with a censorious note from her school because her Wonder Woman lunchbox violated the school ban on depictions of “violent characters.” An Oregon eighth-grader, whose brother served in Iraq, was suspended for wearing a T-shirt that depicted an empty pair of boots representing soldiers killed in action. The school said the shirt was “not appropriate.” A Tennessee boy was threatened with suspension from elementary school because he came to school with a military-style haircut like that of his stepbrother, a soldier. A government arbitrator prevented the firing of a New Jersey elementary school teacher who was late to school 111 times in two years.”