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426 posts
  • Opinion
  • Guns and Ammo
This is the right way to shoot a leopard in Africa.
This is the right way to shoot a leopard in Africa. (African Travel Inc.)

The multiple photos of the wild animals in Africa that were slaughtered by one of Idaho’s top wildlife officials are almost too horrific to believe. Did Fish and Game Commissioner Blake Fischer kill them legally in Namibia? Yes, apparently. (Disgusting.)  Of course, hunters do this all the time in African countries that are willing to sell them licenses to kill in exchange for huge sums of money. 

So, what Fischer got — and we got, because he proudly emailed them around — were photos of him grinning over the bodies of numerous animals, including a family of four baboons. He knelt, triumphantly, behind the baboons, their dead bodies clustered together. The smallest one was in front, with its head thrown back, blood on its chest.

There’s only one word for this: depraved. It doesn’t matter if it was legal. It doesn’t matter if he thinks he can justify it — as hunters have told me — as some primal urge to shoot things that move really fast, as some sport challenge. In the end, this guy did nothing less than massacre more than a dozen animals to amuse himself (and, apparently, his wife). Like I said, that’s depraved.

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New documents show that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross likely lied to Congress over the 2020 census citizenship question.
New documents show that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross likely lied to Congress over the 2020 census citizenship question. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

So it looks like Wilbur Ross was being, how do I put this, less than truthful when he explained to Congress earlier this year how he came to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Big shrug, you say? Well, it’s true that lies from this administration come as regularly as the sunrise.

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Former California death row inmate Vicente Benavides Figueroa, who was exonerated earlier this year.
Former California death row inmate Vicente Benavides Figueroa, who was exonerated earlier this year. (Associated Press)

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?

The federal government's online marketplace for Obamacare policies, HealthCare.gov, is shown on Dec. 15, 2017.
The federal government's online marketplace for Obamacare policies, HealthCare.gov, is shown on Dec. 15, 2017. (Jon Elswick / Associated Press)

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.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
  • The Swamp
Maybe we could get somewhere if we started naming good policies after President Trump and bad ones after Barack Obama.
Maybe we could get somewhere if we started naming good policies after President Trump and bad ones after Barack Obama. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

My colleague Jon Healey had a good overview Wednesday on the tricky road ahead for a national carbon tax. The short version: Republicans won’t support anything with the word “tax” attached to it.

And President Trump likely won’t like a carbon tax, either, unless the proceeds flow up to his fellow one-percenters.

But the world knows Trump does like a couple of things: using his name as a brand, and having his ego stroked.

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  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Gay rights activist Gareth Lee stands outside the British Supreme Court in London on Wednesday.
Gay rights activist Gareth Lee stands outside the British Supreme Court in London on Wednesday. (Victoria Jones / Associated Press)

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.

  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
Gas prices are displayed at an Exxon gas station in Woodbridge, Va., on Jan. 5, 2016.
Gas prices are displayed at an Exxon gas station in Woodbridge, Va., on Jan. 5, 2016. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
  • Election 2018
Republican candidate John Cox speaks during a California gubernatorial debate with Democratic candidate Gavin Newsom on Monday.
Republican candidate John Cox speaks during a California gubernatorial debate with Democratic candidate Gavin Newsom on Monday. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

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.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) smiles during a ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at the White House Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) smiles during a ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at the White House Monday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

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.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
First Lady Melania Trump visits Egypt's Giza pyramids on Saturday, Oct. 6.
First Lady Melania Trump visits Egypt's Giza pyramids on Saturday, Oct. 6. (Saul Loeb/ AFP)

“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?