Archive

June 28th, 2016

The wrong turn on immigration

    No one has to wonder about the enormous consequences of the Supreme Court's decision Thursday to let stand a lower-court ruling blocking President Barack Obama's plan to protect from deportation millions of undocumented immigrants who are parents of citizens or permanent residents. All you have to do is look at how much the smaller program it was modeled on has accomplished and multiply.

    A little more than four years ago, the Obama administration announced a new and life-changing program that allowed young immigrants the opportunity to apply for deportation relief and the ability to work legally in the United States. Close to 730,000 young people have taken giant steps toward the American mainstream as a result of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and have, in turn, contributed significantly to American society.

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The Sun, not the rain, tipped the U.K. vote

    Leighton Vaughan Williams, a professor at Nottingham Business School who specializes in betting research, has long held that betting markets are better predictors of election outcomes than polls. Yet ahead of the U.K. vote on whether to leave the European Union, the bookies failed as miserably as pollsters to predict the result -- actually, they did much worse. At certain points on Thursday, the probability of a "remain" vote implied by betting odds stood at 90 percent.

    When I asked Vaughan Williams what had happened, he gave a surprising answer for a believer in the wisdom of markets:

    "The markets were expecting the undecideds to switch predominantly to the status quo, as this has happened in previous referendums, such as the Scottish referendum and the Quebec referendum; but in both those cases the mass papers were backing 'remain.'

    "This time was different. It was The Sun and Daily Mail that won it and the impact these mass distribution tabloid papers have on the popular psyche, especially in whipping up emotion, is difficult to overestimate. It is another lesson learned," he said.

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Tax Dodging on the High Seas

    Let’s criticize cruise ships.

    I know, I know. Things are bad enough without going negative about your summer vacation. But we’ve got some problems here. Plus, I promise there will be a penguin.

    The cruise industry seems to be exploding — the newest generation of ships can carry more than 5,000 passengers. They make a great deal of profit from the sale of alcohol, so imagine the equivalent of a small city whose inhabitants are perpetually drunk.

    Really, these things are so huge, it’s amazing they can stay afloat without toppling over. And when one is parked outside, say, Venice, the effect is like one of those alien-invasion movies, when people wake up and find that a spaceship the size of Toledo has landed downtown. (Venetians also claim the ships are causing waves in their canals.) Environmentalists wring their hands over the air pollution and sewage — a 3,000-passenger ship, which today would rank as medium-size, produces 21,000 gallons of sewage a day, sometimes treated and sometimes not so much. But always pumped into the sea.

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Justices help keep the family together

    On the day of Britain's vote to leave the European Union, it was perhaps appropriate for a divided Supreme Court to decide a case about the complex, coordinated relationship between federal and state law.

    Among many other things, some Britons were worried about maintaining the sovereignty of their legal system against the increasing encroachment of the European Union. In that context, it's worth noticing that well over two centuries since the U.S. Constitution made the American union "more perfect," plenty of kinks remain.

    The particular kink in question involved the Armed Career Criminals Act, a federal law that criminalizes possession of a firearm if you've got three prior convictions for "violent felony," defined somewhat idiosyncratically to include "burglary, arson, or extortion."

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Five things Hillary Clinton definitely shouldn't do at the Democratic convention

    Just what the Republican convention in Cleveland might look like has been the subject of much morbid speculation. But as Politico and other outlets have started to report on Hillary Clinton's plans for the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, it's worth thinking about what she shouldn't do. As with everything about the campaign, the portable insanity generator that is Donald Trump's operation shouldn't be a cause for complacency, and the Democrats should avoid these missteps:

 

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Five myths about sharia

    Clearly, Americans fear sharia, Islam's legal framework. At least nine states have passed "foreign law" statutes banning sharia in American courts - even though no U.S. court has ever ruled based on sharia. Although the Constitution expressly forbids a religious test for would-be leaders of the nation, then-presidential candidate Ben Carson said last year that he'd oppose any Muslim White House aspirant who was "not willing to reject sharia." In this election year, Donald Trump calls for a ban on all Muslim immigration, and pundits argue that sharia prompted the killing of innocent dancers at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Falsehoods about Islam abound, and many of them center on what sharia is and what it is not. Here are five myths.

 

    Myth No. 1

    Sharia is "Islamic law."

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Democrats revive the sit-in tactic to push gun control

    In this evolving era in which political theater takes the place of real decision-making, the House Democrats' scheme of staging a sit-in on the House floor for stronger gun control was a bit of imagery genius.

    While it failed to bring about the sought-after votes on two Democratic gun-control bills that the House Republican leaders are smothering in their cribs, it cleverly if only temporarily revived the spirit of the civil rights movement that dominated America in the 1960s.

    Particularly effective was the recruitment of Georgia Rep. John Lewis as the visible point man in the effort. Lewis brought to the scene the same urgency and commitment that marked his historic leadership in the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where he was brutally beaten by segregationist police thugs.

    The House Republicans willingly if foolishly bought into the political theater by ordering the C-SPAN cameras shut off to stop recording the live action in the House chamber. Their action enabled the Democrats to cry cowardly repression at the hands of their political adversaries.

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Britain's decision to leave the EU is a warning to America

    Like everybody else in London, I woke up this morning, after not much sleep, to graphic depictions of the pound crashing, the stock exchange collapsing and markets all over the world in turmoil. I have no doubt that tomorrow, or the next day, the story will be different. Traders will take a step back and notice that nothing, actually, has happened yet. There will be cheap assets to pick up. Markets will stabilize.

    The true impact, on Britain and on Europe, will not be visible for many years. In a certain sense, it will not be visible at all, for the real damage will be done by the things that will now not happen. The slow agony of the divorce proceedings will take up precious political time and energy in London and other European capitals, so Europe's leaders will not unite to cope with other crises. The U.K. will turn farther in on itself, so British energy and talent will not be dedicated to pushing back against the Islamic State, resettling migrants, resisting Russia. The situation of the U.K. will be unstable and uncertain for a long time to come, so investments will not take place. Money will not be spent. Opportunities will not be created.

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A better way to punish police

    The acquittal Thursday of another Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, like the acquittal 25 years ago of the Los Angeles officers who beat Rodney King, reveals the inadequacy of the criminal-law remedy. Suing the police for money under a strengthened federal civil rights law would be a better response to police misconduct.

    Right now, however, federal law makes it more difficult to sue a police officer for denying a citizen his constitutional rights than for injuring him by ordinary negligence. If an officer negligently drives his car and injures a citizen, the victim can win money just by proving negligence, and the city that employs the officer pays whatever the jury awards.

    But when an officer uses excessive force or makes an unlawful arrest or search, proving wrongful conduct is not enough. Under Section 1983 of the federal civil rights statute, the officer can escape liability with the special defense of qualified immunity - showing that he reasonably believed his conduct was lawful, even if it was not. And if the jury finds the officer liable, federal law does not require his employer to pay the award.

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Trump, Champion of the Downtrodden? Ha!

    On Wednesday, Donald Trump gave a meandering, fact-challenged speech — read from a teleprompter, no less — that framed him and the Republican Party as champions of America’s women and racial, ethnic and LGBT minorities. I laughed out loud, repeatedly.

    Trump continues to make the incredible claim that his religion-based anti-Muslim policies on immigration and refugees would be good for members of the LGBT communities because many of those people come from countries with brutally anti-gay records.

    As Trump put it: “I only want to admit people who share our values and love our people. Hillary Clinton wants to bring in people who believe women should be enslaved and gays put to death.”

    What? Not only has Trump never specified a values-based exemption to his Muslim ban, but also how on earth would a values test be administered? And where is the specific proof that Clinton explicitly “wants to bring in people who believe women should be enslaved and gays put to death”?

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