Archive

April 29th, 2016

It's not about sentencing; police need arrests

    In preparing for a White House conference this week, I've reviewed the recent data on the fight against crime. And it's depressing. For example, the share of violent crimes in the U.S. for which arrests are made is shockingly low -- less than half in 2014, the FBI reports. For burglaries, the share was only 14 percent.

    That, in turn, points to the great flaw in how we've gone about fighting crime: We've relied too much on longer prison sentences for those convicted. A wide variety of other evidence suggests that lengthy prison sentences do remarkably little to prevent crime and may well create more recidivism, a point highlighted by the Brennan Center for Justice (on whose advisory board I serve), by the White House Council of Economic Advisers and in a recent op-ed by Jason Furman and Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

    A better approach involves not only expanding education and employment opportunities, to provide better alternatives to crime, but also increasing the odds that a criminal will be captured.

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How to be presidential, the Donald Trump way

    If in the early hours of a Saturday morning, there's a traffic jam in your neighborhood, it won't be because it's the opening day of the county fair. These days, it's more likely to be Donald Trump.

    In Waterbury, Connecticut, this weekend, three days before the state primary, people began lining up at 4 a.m.; the doors opened at 7 for a rally scheduled for 10. The adults being led to the overflow room were as disappointed as the children finding out that that they'd been awoken early for politics, not a carousel and cotton candy.

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Coal Country Is Desperate For Donald Trump

    Grundy, Virginia, looks as if it fell into a crevice and got stuck. The seat of Buchanan County, Grundy snakes for miles between high Appalachian mountain walls that restrict its width in places to little more than a stone's throw. To beat recurring floods from the Levisa Fork River, and to wedge a Wal-Mart into a struggling downtown, the Army Corps of Engineers blasted 2.4 million cubic yards of rock off a mountain face. The entire project cost around $200 million, and left the town, population 1,100, without a core.

    It didn't stop the walls from closing in. Like the coal industry on which it is utterly dependent, Grundy is shrinking. The population of Buchanan County has been declining. Schools consolidate as children grow scarce. In February 2006, the county unemployment rate was 5.2 percent. A decade later it's more than 12 percent, making in-migration even more improbable than ever in this remote and inaccessible hollow.

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Candidates look past the Northeast

    Voters in five Northeastern states--Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland--go to the polls in presidential primaries today (Tuesday), with frontrunners Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump Clinton favored to win in most or all of them.

    If so, Clinton will move to the brink of nomination, on the expectation assumption that she will corral a heavy majority of superdelegates from the ranks of her party's establishment, who will go to the July convention in Philadelphia with a free hand to vote as they choose.

    According to the Associated Press, she now has 513 such delegates pledged to her, to only 38 for rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and a total of 1,941, with 2,383 needed for nomination. At stake in the five states are 384 delegates, including 189 from Pennsylvania and 95 from Maryland, where Clinton is running particularly well in the latest polls.

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Clash of the Injured Titans

    If trends hold and the parties’ front-runners become the parties’ nominees, November is going to be an epic election: a hobbled titan (Hillary Clinton) versus a mortally wounded one (the real estate developer).

    The upcoming contests only buttress the possibility that those two will be the last man and woman standing.

    As of Sunday, The Huffington Post’s Pollster average of polls had the real estate developer leading Ted Cruz by almost 30 percentage points in Connecticut, 19 points in Pennsylvania and 20 points in Maryland. All three states vote on Tuesday. The real estate developer is leading in Rhode Island and Delaware as well — states that also vote on Tuesday — but those states don’t have the same volume of polling to make the results as reliable.

    That same site had Clinton leading Sen. Bernie Sanders by 26 points in Maryland, 15 points in Pennsylvania and six points in Connecticut. She, too, was leading in Rhode Island and Delaware.

    We seem to be watching the prequel to a foregone conclusion.

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April 28th

You can't stop campus rape by forcing clubs to go co-ed

    For the members of Harvard's super-elite "final clubs," perhaps nothing produces a more immediate shiver of Not Our Kind of Thing than comparison to fraternities of the Greek system, with their herds of suburban business majors and their abundance of chapters popping up at every benighted State U and third-rate Catholic college. In a sense, fraternities are the very opposite of what a final club represents, which is, first and foremost, a sui generis association with the single greatest university in the history of the world.

    Yet most of Harvard's all-male final clubs began as Greek letter societies, adopting their unique characteristics only after the university banned fraternities in the 1850s. These clubs emerged as a response to the aspects of higher education that young men found feminizing: the enforced chastity, study, prayer and self-discipline. And they've been fulfilling their mission to vex college administrators and delight male students ever since.

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What Bernie Sanders wants

    With Hillary Clinton's double-digit victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the New York Democratic primary, the assumption has taken hold that his presidential candidacy is just about over, and the questions now are how he should be handled and how he should behave.

    Clinton has taken the predictable view that "there is much more that unites us than divides us." It's a clear invitation for a cease-fire in Democratic ranks and for moving on against the Republicans in the general election.

    But Sanders has built a rather incredible political force among progressives in the party he has only latterly accepted as his own, and he cannot be ignored. Nor can his ability to generate an amazing fundraising machine through his call for a pointedly more liberal political agenda. The challenge for Clinton now is how to enlist both in her campaign at the party's July convention and thereafter.

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2016's scrambled coalitions

    Republicans are a more ideological party than the Democrats, but ideology has mattered less in the GOP primaries this year than in the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

    Clinton is in a nearly unassailable position to win her party's nomination. But assuming she prevails, her primary fight with Sanders has underscored weaknesses she will have to deal with to win in November.

    And Donald Trump's moves toward moderation on social issues last week reflects not only his campaign's understanding that he cannot win as a far-right candidate, but also his need to tread carefully to maintain the crazy-quilt coalition he has built in the GOP primaries.

    New York and Massachusetts Republicans are quite different from the ones found in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. Trump carried all five states, bringing together some of the most extreme voters on the right end of his party with a large share of those who consider themselves moderate.

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Make U.S. dollars as diverse as our history

    If I didn't know better, I would have expected today's conservatives to love Harriet Tubman. After all, she was a pistol-packing black Republican who repeatedly risked her life to lead slaves to freedom. What's not to like?

    But real life isn't that simple. Reaction to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's plan to put Tubman's likeness on the front of the $20 bill sometime after 2020 clearly fell along racial and political lines.

    Eighty-one percent of Democrats polled Thursday by SurveyMonkey support putting Tubman -- who helped hundreds of slaves find freedom via the "underground railroad" -- on the $20, reported Politico, while 50 percent of independents and only 34 percent of Republicans agree.

    Among supporters of the Grand Old Party's frontrunner Donald Trump, seven out of 10 opposed the plan, which would move Andrew Jackson -- a war hero and populist, but also a Democrat and, let's face it, a genocidal racist -- to the flip side of the $20 bill.

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A discussion that goes beyond bathroom talk

    Into the overheated, under-informed bathroom wars comes a well-timed intrusion of sanity in the form of a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The court's ruling in the case of Virginia high-school junior Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy, was correct -- and groundbreaking, with implications beyond the school setting. Yet the decision also creates the legal framework for situations more challenging -- and perhaps more unsettling -- than what should be the routine matter of letting people use their restroom of choice.

    Grimm was born a girl but has changed his name, has undergone hormone therapy, and identifies as a boy. When Grimm and his mother told school officials of this fact, they took it in stride. He used the boys' restroom. No big deal.

    Then the school board got involved, with community meetings that sunk to predictable levels, with warnings of impending sexual assaults and straight boys donning dresses to infiltrate the girls' bathroom.

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