The Washington state Supreme Court got it exactly right when it ruled Thursday that the state’s death penalty, as it is applied, is unconstitutional because who gets killed has more to do with race, wealth and the predilections of prosecutors than it does with how heinous the crime was. Rather than executing the so-called worst of the worst, the nation’s capital punishment states tend to execute the weakest of the weak and, occasionally, the innocent.
There’s a reason why increasing numbers of political conservatives are working to abolish the death penalty. At the risk of sounding flip, if people don’t think the government can get anything right, why in the world would they expect it to get the death penalty right?
In baseball, the winning pitcher is the one who was on the mound just before his team took the lead for good — regardless of how well he pitched. So a reliever who gets hammered, turning a three-run lead into a two-run deficit, nevertheless will get credit for the win if his teammates retake the lead the next time they’re at bat.
Keep that in mind whenever President Trump talks (or writes) about health insurance premiums for Obamacare policies, which are sold to people not covered by a large employer’s group plan.
The administration announced Thursday that the average premium for the “benchmark” Obamacare plan — the second-lowest-cost plan that covers 80% of the customer’s expected medical costs — will drop 1.5% in 2019 in the 27 states where the federal government operates the marketplaces (called exchanges) for Obamacare policies. That’s the first decrease since the program’s inception in 2014. Nationwide, analysts at Avalere Health project that average premiums will go up a little more than 3% — a far smaller increase than previously seen.
Remember the “gay wedding cake” case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year?
Officially known as Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case involved Jack Phillips, a Christian baker in Colorado who refused to “create” a cake for the wedding celebration of a gay couple and found himself the target of a complaint that he had engaged in discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
By a 7-2 vote, the court ruled in favor of Phillips. But the justices punted on what seemed for a while to be the key issue in the case: whether requiring Phillips to bake a cake for Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins would have forced him to engage in “compelled speech” in violation of the 1st Amendment.
The carbon tax proposal that Exxon Mobil is backing is the only one that has a prayer of becoming a reality in the United States. I’m not saying it’s likely to be enacted anytime soon, I’m just saying it’s a tax increase designed with some political savvy.
On Monday the giant oil and gas company announced that it would contribute $1 million over the next two years to Americans for Carbon Dividends, a nonprofit group lobbying for a gradually rising federal tax on carbon. That tax revenue would be returned to the public in the form of monthly checks. The group is led by two former U.S. senators, Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.), known for their friendliness to the energy industry, and its plan was written by two luminaries from previous Republican administrations, James A. Baker III and George P. Shultz.
The main argument in favor of carbon taxes is that increasing the price of carbon would provide a powerful incentive for people to use less fossil fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, it harnesses market forces to combat climate change, rather than imposing regulations to dictate reductions in carbon use.
It’s no surprise that California’s insanely high housing costs were the first topic that gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom and John Cox tackled during their one and only debate Monday.
What is surprising – and frustrating – is that Cox actually has expertise in the real estate development business and should be able to offer some practical ideas for lowering the cost of new construction. Instead, his answers to questions about the state’s housing affordability crisis were vague pronouncements rather than substantive plans.
“I build apartments for a living,” Cox said during the debate. Cox is president of Equity Property Management, which has developed and manages apartment buildings in the Midwest; his opponent, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, has a long track record in public office. That gives Cox a pretty good vantage point to critique California’s home building regulations.
As Republicans bask in the glow of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, right-of-center pundits are coalescing around the view that Kavanaugh rescued his nomination by, as Matt Damon put it on “Saturday Night Live,” starting at an 11 and taking it to about a 15 real quick. The point was to cast Kavanaugh as a victim too — and someone who would forcefully defend his integrity.
I don’t buy that.
Another bit of conventional wisdom emerging from the right is that Democrats were their own worst enemies in the Kavanaugh fight, and they’re only hurting themselves more now.
“I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear,” Melania Trump told a gaggle of reporters on Saturday, who had gathered in Giza, Egypt, to chronicle her blitz through Africa.
What she’d worn the day before, and what she was referring to, was a pith helmet. Whether planting trees in pale pink stiletto heels, sporting her infamous “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” Zara jacket to visit children separated from their parents at the border, or tooling around in a 19th century colonial administrator hat, Melania’s sartorial choices have been terribly memorable.
Can’t a woman vogue around the pyramids in a linen suit without being personally victimized by the sexist media?
Pop megastar Taylor Swift disrupted the space-time continuum over the weekend by endorsing a Democrat in the race for an open seat on the U.S. Senate in her home state of Tennessee.
This was viewed in some circles as cataclysmic (and in others as overdue) because, like so many contemporary pop hit makers, Swift has kept silent on many of the burning issues of our day. That may be a smart way to hold onto a fan base that crosses geographic ideological lines (although it skews young and female); the oft-cited cautionary tale here is that of the Dixie Chicks, whose criticism of President George W. Bush led many country radio stations to drop them while they were hot. But it also feeds the “shut up and play” mentality toward celebrities — whether it be music, sports or entertainment — that denies them the right to be actual humans with opinions that might just conflict with their fans’ view of the world.
But I digress. What struck me about Swift weighing in was that it wasn’t an endorsement of Democrat Phil Bredesen — a guy with a substantial track record, having served eight years as the state’s governor. Instead, it was a repudiation of Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, one of the music industry’s biggest and most reliableallies in Congress.
The warning couldn’t be any more clear and direct: Without near-immediate action, the world will fail to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to a new and highly anticipated report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And the chances of the human race actually coming together to address the problem are not very good, the report says.
The result: A radically different environment, with rising seas, species disappearing, food chains in chaos and human migration and competition for resources leading to political instability. The poorest nations and the lowest-lying countries will suffer the most, but there will be plenty of impact to go around from bigger swings in extreme weather (more and stronger hurricanes), more extreme drought and more extreme flooding, depending on where people live.
The temperature rise can be combatted, if political and industry leaders show the will. The IPCC says the rise can be capped at 1.5 C (less than 3 degrees in Fahrenheit) if global carbon pollution is cut 45% before 2030 (in 12 years), and reaches zero emissions by 2050. As the Guardian reports, “This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2 C target (set in the 2015 Paris agreement). But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.”