Archive

January 26th, 2016

Are you a drunken driver after you stop driving?

    I can't be the only one who thinks they should bring back the original "Law & Order." If NBC did, the show's first case should be one that went on trial this week in a local court in Mineola, New York. A man has been charged with homicide in the death of a police officer who was hit by an SUV.

    The twist is that, when the crash happened, the defendant was leaning against the guardrail. He had been driving home from a night of drinking, got involved in a minor accident and was pulled over. The policeman was hit by a different car while investigating the crash. Is the homicide charge justified? Ask Jack McCoy -- or really, if you want to be a hard-core "L&O" fan (and I am), ask Ben Stone.

    This case is begging to be ripped from the headlines by TV writers. In real life, the Nassau County district attorney filed charges against James Ryan in the death of police officer Joseph Olivieri. A New York state appeals court had already blessed the charges.

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Americans are bargaining away their innocence

    The presumption of innocence helps to combat prejudice and prejudging in the U.S. criminal justice system. But because plea bargains have supplanted trials in our criminal justice system, that presumption does not apply to most cases in the United States.

    Prejudice against the accused is quite common. Consider your own experience: If you see that a police car has pulled a driver over to the side of a highway, what do you make of the situation? Most people probably think to themselves, "Hmm, that driver was probably caught speeding." Similarly, if you heard that one of your neighbors had been arrested, you would likely say to yourself, "I wonder what crime he committed." It is a common reaction to presume that the authorities had a good reason to detain or arrest someone.

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Welcome to Flint: Don't drink the water!

    President Obama made a long-planned trip to Detroit this week to celebrate the resurgence of America's auto industry. But his visit was overshadowed by news that Detroit teachers had staged a "sick-out," forcing the closing of most of the Motor City's 100 public schools. Teachers were protesting the shocking condition of city schools -- buckled floors, leaking roofs, collapsing ceilings, broken-down furnaces, rodent infestations -- which force them to teach, and students to learn, in unsafe conditions.

    In many ways, complaints about unsafe public schools in Detroit echoed complaints about unsafe drinking water in nearby Flint. And there is a connection. Because, until he took over as emergency manager of Detroit's school system in January 2015, Darnell Earley was emergency manager of the city of Flint -- and the man responsible for poisoning Flint's water supply. Governor Rick Snyder appointed him to both jobs.

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Questions for Bernie Sanders' establishment guy

    Bernie Sanders has attracted liberal activists and young voters to his presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton dominates with elected Democratic politicians and party officials. A notable exception is Paul Kirk, who endorsed Sanders last week.

    Ryan was party chairman from 1985 to 1989 and the longtime chief political aide to Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy. When Kennedy died in 2009, Kirk was appointed to his Senate seat and served for 4 1/2 months.

    Here are Kirk's comments from an interview this week, slightly condensed and lightly edited.

 

    Q: Why Bernie Sanders?

    A: Bernie Sanders deserves an endorsement because he's speaking to the fundamental values of the Democratic Party - economic, political and social justice and, not least, the renewal of a fair and truly representative democracy. I chose to endorse him because of what he's focusing on.

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Japan must let its zombie companies die in peace

    Imagine that you're a Japanese 26-year- old with big dreams. You graduated from Waseda University, an elite private school, with a degree in electrical engineering. You and your college buddies used to hang around your apartment, watching anime on your LCD television, which was made by Sharp Corp. -- the world's 10th-largest LCD TV manufacturer. Even then, you had ideas about how to improve the product.

    Now, after graduating and working for four years in the research division of an LCD manufacturer, you're sure that you have figured out how to make LCD panels more cheaply, at higher quality. You also believe that you could market these TVs more effectively to young people with cool, fun designs. Instead of giving the idea to the higher-ups in your giant corporation -- which, knowing Japan, might get you little more than a pat on the head -- you decide to leave your job and start a business with your college buddies. You just know that you can beat lumbering, struggling incumbents like Sharp.

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How Change Happens

    There are still quite a few pundits determined to pretend that America’s two great parties are symmetric — equally unwilling to face reality, equally pushed into extreme positions by special interests and rabid partisans. It’s nonsense, of course. Planned Parenthood isn’t the same thing as the Koch brothers, nor is Bernie Sanders the moral equivalent of Ted Cruz. And there’s no Democratic counterpart whatsoever to Donald Trump.

    Moreover, when self-proclaimed centrist pundits get concrete about the policies they want, they have to tie themselves in knots to avoid admitting that what they’re describing are basically the positions of a guy named Barack Obama.

    Still, there are some currents in our political life that do run through both parties. And one of them is the persistent delusion that a hidden majority of American voters either supports or can be persuaded to support radical policies, if only the right person were to make the case with sufficient fervor.

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Former VP Candidate Doesn't Fade Away

    A week before the Iowa primaries the political world just gets "curiouser and curiouser!"

    The only person I know of who could make Donald Trump look worse has now endorsed him. Who else? Sarah Palin.

    If there is a combination who could beat that I can't imagine who. I suppose there are people someplace, somewhere in this nation who are impressed by her but don't count me among them. She obviously has staying power of some sort. Obviously, she knows how to keep the limelight shining on herself. I will concede that she and the orange-haired one do belong to each other. After all birds of a feather are said to stick together. The wonder is how in the world did these two with their limitations ever find themselves on the stage they now occupy. Amazing!

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The challenge of being Hillary

    It has never been easy to be Hillary Clinton.

    Evidence for that proposition is already in the minds of many who are reading this: What do you mean Hillary hasn't had it easy? Would she even be in this race if she hadn't been married to Bill Clinton? Would she have been elected to the Senate from New York? Would she have received all those speaking fees?

    See what I mean?

    Few people are as assiduous as she in learning lessons from past failures. In 2008, her staff was a jumble of conflicts. So for this campaign, she has put together a relatively harmonious operation. The last time around, she was outmaneuvered by a Barack Obama campaign that understood the delegate selection rules cold. So Clinton hired on many Obama '08 veterans and is as hip to the small things as to the big things.

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January 24th

What Trump gains from Palin's endorsement

    So Sarah Palin has endorsed her fellow reality television star Donald Trump for president.

    It may not be a sign of the apocalypse, but the announcement is certain to keep the media and pundits busy for at least 24 hours. At the very least, that helps Trump stay ahead in his Red Queen's race -- that is, his attempt to maintain his domination of political news, which makes it harder for any other candidate to move up.

    It's even possible that a handful of Iowa tea party voters who have been wavering between Trump and Ted Cruz could be swayed by the Sage of Wasilla. And who knows? In a very close election, just a few voters could make all the difference: Trump and Cruz are in a dead heat in Iowa, according to HuffPollster's current estimate.

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The whole GOP goes rogue

    The fixed smile on Donald Trump's face as Sarah Palin unleashed her free-association, who-knows-what-she'll-say-next harangue endorsing him on Tuesday sent its own message. "How long do I have to stand here?" it seemed to say. But of all the developments in the astonishing Republican presidential contest, this moment told us what we need to know about the state of a once-great political party.

    Consider the forces that brought Palin to the national stage in the first place. In 2008, John McCain, running behind Barack Obama in the polls, wanted to shake up the contest by picking a moderate as his running mate. His first choice was Sen. Joe Lieberman, and he also liked former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

    But McCain won the nomination against the will of the Republican right as more conservative candidates had fractured their side's vote. "He is not the choice of conservatives, as opposed to the choice of the Republican establishment -- and that distinction is key," said Rush Limbaugh, using language that is now oh-so-familiar. The establishment, Limbaugh charged, had "long sought to rid the party of conservative influence."

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