Archive

April 15th, 2016

How teen murderers change counts for sentencing

    What good is winning a reprieve from life without parole if the court just turns around and resentences you to 59 years in prison?

    For juvenile offenders, that question was partially answered Monday when an appeals court reversed the new sentence given by a lower court to a defendant convicted of committing rape and murder when he was 16. Kids grow up, and the appeals court said the sentencing judge should have considered how much the defendant might have matured in the decade between his crime and resentencing.

    The case, out of the U .S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, matters because it sets a benchmark for how courts should reconsider sentences of life without parole for juveniles after the Supreme Court's landmark 2012 decision, Miller v. Alabama. In the Miller case, the court held that it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a person to life without parole for crimes committed when the defendant was a juvenile -- no matter how horrific the offense.

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Bernie Sanders is a powerfully ambitious man

    Ambition is the most consistent, yet variable, component of public life. Lincoln and FDR had it, and that was good. Benedict Arnold and Joseph McCarthy had it, too. And that turned out very bad.

    Bernie Sanders is not often described as an ambitious man. But you don't run for mayor of your city without a dash of ego and drive. You don't leverage that position into a congressional seat without wanting more. And no one ends up a U.S. senator without the gnawing, often insatiable, hunger peculiar to political ambition.

    After more than a quarter century of playing at the margins of the political arena, Sanders has entered the main contest. Running for president is the most public imprint of an individual's ego, ambition and desire. That's not to suggest Sanders is in it solely for himself; his ideals have been manifest throughout his career. It's merely a statement of political fact, as indisputable as weather.

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What Trump can learn from Reagan and the '76 delegate fight

    As we approach what may be the first contested GOP convention since 1976, Donald Trump is complaining that Ted Cruz is using "crooked shenanigans" to win delegates and deny him the Republican presidential nomination. But Cruz is doing exactly what Ronald Reagan did in '76 in his insurgent campaign for the GOP nomination -- running a well-organized ground game designed to win every available delegate at state and local conventions across the country. Trump's failure to respond with a ground game of his own could cost him the nomination.

    Like Trump today, the Ford team complained about Reagan's tactics. As Craig Shirley recounts in his masterful history of the 1976 campaign, Ford's chief delegate hunter, James Baker, complained to Time magazine that Ford's people were being "out hustled" by Reagan, declaring "These Reagan people don't care; they're absolutely ruthless. They want all of it." Reagan traveled across the county addressing state and local conventions, and called uncommitted delegates inviting them to private dinners (adding "By the way, do you mind if I bring along John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart?").

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Those tiny fees make your financial adviser rich

    The Department of Labor last week published new rules for financial advisers, requiring them to adhere to a new, stricter fiduciary standard. This is designed to prevent advisers from acting as salespeople, ripping off clients by selling them bad financial products that someone else pays them to unload. The president's Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this policy change will save investors $17 billion a year.

    This is a good step, and there's bound to be a lot of debate over whether more needs to be done. I wonder if there's an even more important issue that few people are talking about: Americans simply don't understand how much they pay for asset management. The fees seem tiny, but over time they do a lot of harm to your lifetime savings.

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Republicans know Hillary Clinton is not going to be indicted - they just can't say so

    If you've spent any time inside the conservative information bubble, among the things you know is that not only did Hillary Clinton commit all manner of nefarious crimes with relation to the emails she sent and received as secretary of State, but she will be indicted for those crimes soon, and that indictment will throw the 2016 to the Republican presidential nominee. If you inhabit the world outside that bubble, you may know that the chances of such an indictment are infinitesimal.

    But conservatives hold on to the possible indictment like a life raft amid swelling seas, the one thing that can save them from the horror of a Clinton presidency.

    So it was that when President Barack Obama agreed to be interviewed by Fox News Sunday for this week's broadcast, host Chris Wallace had to get him to weigh in on the matter. Obama's answer was pretty much what you would have expected, but it was the panel discussion afterward that was most revealing. Here's how Obama answered Wallace's first question:

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Maryland's Donna Edwards would be a voice for black women and single moms in Senate

    The Democratic primary for Maryland's open Senate seat has gotten hotter than a steaming tray of Chesapeake blue crabs. And what's at stake is about much more than the people of Maryland.

    The race pits an outspoken 57-year-old African American woman, Rep. Donna Edwards, against a progressive 57-year-old white man, Rep. Chris Van Hollen. And it raises issues of parity and equality, and the very nature of American legislative representation. It's about race and gender in American politics. It's about a looming question in this election season as Hillary Clinton makes her historic run for the presidency: Do you vote for someone because of gender?

    Edwards, who lives in Prince George's County and represents the 4th Congressional District, is running hard for the seat opening up because of the retirement of the Senate's longest-serving woman, Barbara Mikulski, D.

    And if Edwards were to win the Democratic nomination on April 26, and then the Senate seat in November (almost a given in deep blue Maryland), she'd make history as only the second African American woman to serve in the chamber.

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Is Trump a 'choke artist'? Continuing unforced errors bode poorly for his hopes in a contested Republican convention.

    Donald Trump loves to call Mitt Romney "a choke artist" because he could not beat Barack Obama in 2012.

    But Rick Santorum dropped out of the Republican race four years ago Sunday, effectively giving Romney the nomination.

    At this point, in the best case scenario for Trump, he'll maintain his lead but not secure the 1,237 delegates needed to become the GOP's standard bearer until June 7, when California and New Jersey hold primaries.

    In "The Art of the Deal," Trump emphasized the importance of closing the sale. "You can't con people, at least not for long," he wrote in 1987. "You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on."

    Once again, Trump struggled last weekend to deliver the goods. And often it was attributable as much or more to his own campaign's organizational failures than to Ted Cruz being a brilliant tactician.

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How not to squander this anti-establishment moment

    The current campaign is in no small part fueled by an anti-establishment fervor born of deep dissatisfaction with established Washington politics and the failure of policymakers to address the real economic concerns of the broad middle class. On the right, majorities have soured on tax cuts for the rich and "free trade" as the way to raise their living standards; on the left, Bernie Sanders's followers are fed up with incrementalism and want to leapfrog the current system to a much more interventionist model of social policy than we've had in this country.

    While my own positions differ from these, I still think this anti-establishment movement makes great sense, has been a long time coming, and could and should be a valuable force in the American political economy. But that energy is also at risk of being squandered.

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Clinton-Sanders brawl could spur reforms in the Democratic nominating process

    Over the weekend, Bernie Sanders emphatically declared that there's still plenty of time to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning a majority of pledged delegates, and hinted that if so, he might move to extract concessions from her at a contested convention. That actually could happen, since Sanders has the money to keep on going until the last votes are cast.

    If so, here's one way this could end: Sanders could demand concessions in the form reforms to the Democratic nominating process. That's something voting reformers (and a lot of Sanders supporters) would be very grateful to see happen -- and it would make sense, given that one of the big stories of the Sanders challenge is that it has exposed a number of flaws with that process.

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Why dress codes can't stop sexual assault

    When news broke that Deputy Principal Cherith Telford at Henderson High School in New Zealand told female students that their uniform skirts must be knee-length to "keep our girls safe, stop boys from getting ideas and create a good work environment for male staff," reactions were mixed. Singer Erykah Badu felt that the girls had no business wearing skirts that stopped above their knee to school, while actress Reagan Gomez argued that it wasn't the responsibility of the girls to avoid being a temptation to grown men.

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