Archive

January 27th, 2016

Why do prosecutors go after innocent people?

    When people think about how our criminal justice system tries to avoid convicting innocent people, they probably think of the second half-hour of a "Law & Order" episode: defense attorneys making motions to thwart the prosecutor, jurors furrowing their brows as they wonder whether the state really has met the high standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

    But that's not reality. In real life, once a prosecutor decides to file felony charges against a defendant, that defendant will almost certainly be convicted - and local prosecutors have a strong incentive to file, likely thanks in no small part to electoral pressures.

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There'll be no justice in Flint water crisis

    If a private company distributed thousands of bottles of water with high levels of lead and other contaminants, lawsuits would chase it toward bankruptcy. So why should authorities in Michigan get a pass?

    Seriously.

    Imagine a class-action suit on behalf of the people of Flint, Michigan. There are plenty of available defendants. The Detroit Water Board, for cutting off the city's supply of water in a childish snit. Flint's own water department, for doing a lousy job of testing its only product. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, for ignoring claims that there was something wrong with the water and not overseeing the Flint department. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for appointing as head of the DEQ a person without significant environmental experience. Oh, and the Environmental Protection Agency, for doing ... well, nothing.

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The un-Christian Anglican Communion

    Last week, the Anglican Communion, the worldwide collection of national and regional churches that consider themselves Anglican or Episcopalian, suspended the U.S. Episcopal Church from full participation in the global body because of its decision to perform same-sex marriages. The suspension should have been the other way around. It is the Anglican Communion that deserves sanction. It, not the Episcopal Church, of which I am a member, has departed from the faith and teachings of Jesus with its un-Christian treatment of gay men and women.

    The Anglican Communion's strike against the Episcopal Church has ramifications beyond intra-denominational discord. Under the sway of some conservative African and Asian bishops, ably assisted by weak-kneed Church of England primates, the Communion has thrown in its lot with some of the most anti-gay regimes in the world.

    In Africa, 38 of 53 nations outlaw same-sex relationships. In four - Sudan, Somalia, Mauritania and Nigeria - they are punishable by death.

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The presumption of innocence doesn't apply to my child

    I leave work early every day. I race to pick up my daughter from her high school promptly at 5 p.m. I'm never late - not even by a minute. I want to be at the door of the school before she emerges out into the U Street District. That Washington neighborhood isn't particularly dangerous, but my child and her classmates are presumed to be.

    They are children of color and their innocence is not presumed. There is no room for childish mistakes for them. There is no carefree lingering with a group of peers on the street corner outside the school. There is no mischief-making running down the street after one another. The cops are there, watching. One slip-up could mean handcuffs or worse.

    If you are black, if you are Latino, or if you are poor, it is your guilt rather than your innocence that is presumed - not just in court but at school, on the street, in the stores and everywhere else you go. The Equal Justice Initiative argues that the presumption of guilt is so prevalent for poor children and children of color that their parents fear the schools as much as they do the criminal justice system.

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Ted Cruz embraces the death penalty, even though he should know better

    This New York Times piece on Sen. Ted Cruz's time as a Supreme Court clerk has been getting a lot of attention this week. A number of Cruz's former colleagues, including some who clerked for conservative justices, told the paper that they were at times disturbed by Cruz's obsession with the death penalty.

    In interviews with nearly two dozen of Mr. Cruz's former colleagues on the court, many of the clerks working in the chambers of liberal justices, but also several from conservative chambers, depicted Mr. Cruz as "obsessed" with capital punishment. Some thought his recounting of the crimes - "dime store novel" was how one described his style - seemed more appropriate for a prosecutor persuading a jury than for a law clerk addressing the country's nine foremost judges . . .

    Cruz also clerked for the conservative federal appearls court judge J. Michael Luttig.

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Republicans are heading for another Goldwater-style debacle

    Just over a half-century ago, a sharp-tongued conservative seized the Republican Party and led it to one of its worst presidential election defeats in history: the landslide loss of nominee Barry Goldwater to President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

    The victim proved to be a hapless candidate, but he was much loved among the faithful, millions of whom clung to the notion to the end that he would win the White House. The affection for Goldwater endured thereafter, embraced by the California political newcomer Ronald Reagan, who was elected governor of California two years later and eventually won the Oval Office in 1980.

    Two rather improbable conservatives are doing a fair Barry Goldwater imitation this election year. Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz are coming to the fore of the Grand Old Party as apostles of the true right-wing gospel, with plenty of tough talk thrown in.

    Suddenly, the Republican establishment of center-right politics that reigned from the Goldwater defeat through the presidencies of Nixon, Ford, Reagan and two Bush administrations is being cast aside for a pair of outsiders.

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January 26th

The planet's most powerful city, dusted

    As we've proved before, we're not good at snow. And on Wednesday night, we proved it again in utterly humiliating fashion, morphing from a powerful city of powerful people to a demolition-derby, wagon-training cold mess.

    A one-inch snowtastrophe involving at least 1,000 accidents, eight-hour commutes and cars abandoned on freeways by desperate, disgusted commuters. Some people hadn't even made it home by dawn Thursday.

    Our commander in chief was equally powerless in the face of the fluff, as it took his lights-and-sirens motorcade nearly two hours to make the usually 30-minute commute from Joint Base Andrews to the White House.

    It was a nearly perfect deja vu of a light snow in 2011 that generated epic Twitter travelogues of misery. Only difference this time? It was more fun to Snapchat the whole calamity.

    Didn't we learn a thing back then? Apparently not.

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Palin takes the GOP campaign to new lows

    I love poetic justice. This wild and wacky Republican presidential campaign deserved Sarah Palin, and now it's got her.

    Palin's endorsement of front-runner Donald Trump at an Iowa rally this week was a master class in surrealist poetry. Geniuses of the Dada movement would have been humbled by her deconstruction of the language and her obliteration of the bourgeois concept we call logic.

    The GOP candidates have been competing to see who can spew the most nonsense, but they'll never top Palin. Not when she offers gems such as this: "Believe me on this. And the proof of this? Look what's happening today. Our own GOP machine, the establishment, they who would assemble the political landscape, they're attacking their own front-runner. ... They are so busted, the way that this thing works."

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National Review's Lowry: Debate establishment is 'terrified' of Donald Trump

    National Review Editor Rich Lowry and his colleagues had a feeling that their package of editorials under the banner "Against Trump" would cost them their partnership with CNN, Telemundo and Salem Communications for a pivotal late-February GOP debate in Houston. It did: Late last night, the Republican National Committee notified National Review Publisher Jack Fowler that it was out of the mix. "Small price to pay for speaking the truth about The Donald," wrote Fowler in a posting on the turn of events.

    There'll be no outrage from Lowry about the RNC's call. "We basically declared war on one of these candidates. I don't think it's entirely unreasonable" for the group to disqualify National Review from participating.

    That said, the episode did provide Lowry with a "window" into the forces that orchestrate the Republican Party's primary debates. And he suggests there's a great deal at stake. "They're all terrified of Donald Trump and worried that he won't show up or threaten not to show up," said Lowry in a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog.

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How Cruz loses friends and influences people

    There was a time, not so long ago, when Republican insiders believed there were really two races for their party's nomination. There were the establishment candidates (Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and John Kasich) and then there were the outsiders (Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson).

    The hope was that after an establishment candidate emerged, the party could get behind him and crush the outsiders. But with a week to go, that isn't going to happen before the Iowa caucuses. The January polls for Iowa show Trump has 27.9 percent, Cruz 26.4 and then a steep drop off to Rubio who comes in at 11 percent. The national average is about the same: Trump at 34.8, Cruz at 18.8 and Rubio at 11.6.

    So if it's between Cruz and Trump, who will the Republican establishment support? On the surface this seems obvious. Would Republicans really support a New York plutocrat who invited Hillary Clinton to his wedding over a Texas Republican who shut down the government to repeal the health care act?

    And yet many in the establishment are so opposed to Cruz that they say they could tolerate Trump.

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