Archive

December 4th

Needed: A GOP statement of conscience

    As Donald Trump's behavior on the campaign trail grows ever more outrageous, the time is long overdue for leading Republican establishment figures, past and present, to speak out in unison before their Grand Old Party is irreparably compromised.

    Trump's latest egregious comments and mockery of a New York Times reporter with a physical disability goes beyond the pale even for him. He wasn't satisfied with earlier disparaging the looks of rival presidential candidate Carly Fiorina ("Look at that face! Would anyone vote that?").

    His latest target is a man with severe malfunction of his arms, which Trump for good measure appeared to be mimicking. He also mocked the reporter's employer as "rapidly going down the tubes," even as the Times editorial board continues to pummel him for his bullying.

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December 2nd

The ultimate real estate deal for Trump

    Donald Trump's motivations for running for president have been transparent from the start. He wants everyone to know what a success he is as a real estate mogul. What better proof could he give of that than securing the White House, the one piece of U.S. real estate currently beyond his reach and, arguably, the most valuable property in the world.

    He told us his goal in his announcement speech. "I'm building all over the world, and I love what I'm doing. But they all said, a lot of the pundits on television, 'Well, Donald will never run, and one of the main reasons is he's private and he's probably not as successful as everybody thinks.' So I said to myself, you know, nobody's ever going to know unless I run, because I'm really proud of my success. I really am."

    Nobody's going to know what a successful real estate mogul he is unless he runs for president. That is the logic of his argument.

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The prosecution cannot rest on a trade secret

    On the surface, TrueAllele Casework, a computer program that extracts genetic profiles from DNA samples, would seem to mark an advance in criminal justice technology. But defense lawyers say it shouldn't be allowed in court, because Cybergenetics Corp., the firm that owns the program, won't reveal the software's source code, which it considers a trade secret.

    The resulting conflict, which is presently playing out in a Pennsylvania murder trial, poses fascinating and important questions: Do we need to know exactly how a given technique works to consider it scientifically reliable and admissible in court? And is it democratically right to convict, and possibly execute, someone based on a secret process the defendant isn't allowed to know?

    Start with the science. To oversimplify a bit, ordinary DNA analysis depends on qualitative comparisons made by human beings. Typically, a technician will type a defendant's DNA, then compare it to DNA in samples found at the crime scene. By comparing peaks and valleys in the statistical representation of the DNA sequences, the technician determines the likelihood that the two samples match.

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Stephen Breyer, a justice for the global age

    Stephen Breyer, a progressive force on the Supreme Court for more than two decades, advocates U.S. courts taking into account foreign law. That's the stuff of a good debate, befitting a justice who got to the bench courtesy of former President Ronald Reagan and the archconservative senator Strom Thurmond.

    His ascent was due mostly to the exceptional political skill and standing of a mentor, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who got resurgent Republicans to approve the liberal judge when they could have instead tapped one of their own for the seat.

    We'll revisit that story, which is illustrative of the way Washington used to work.

    In Breyer's recently published "The Court and the World," his third book since becoming a justice, he suggests the court should look abroad for guidance on some decisions because about 20 percent of cases have something to do with what happens outside the U.S. This notion is anathema to conservative members of the court, including Chief Justice John Roberts and the most forceful advocate of the right, Antonin Scalia.

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Needed: A GOP statement of conscience

    As Donald Trump's behavior on the campaign trail grows ever more outrageous, the time is long overdue for leading Republican establishment figures, past and present, to speak out in unison before their Grand Old Party is irreparably compromised.

    Trump's latest egregious comments and mockery of a New York Times reporter with a physical disability goes beyond the pale even for him. He wasn't satisfied with earlier disparaging the looks of rival presidential candidate Carly Fiorina ("Look at that face! Would anyone vote that?").

    His latest target is a man with severe malfunction of his arms, which Trump for good measure appeared to be mimicking. He also mocked the reporter's employer as "rapidly going down the tubes," even as the Times editorial board continues to pummel him for his bullying.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

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Laquan McDonald and the ‘System’

    I spent Wednesday night following a gaggle of protesters through the streets of downtown Chicago. The air was unseasonably warm, but the sentiment in the air burned with a rage and revulsion.

    Disturbing video had been released of the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. He had been shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke. Most of the shots were fired when McDonald was no longer standing. Some entered through his back.

    Shortly before releasing the tape, the Cook County state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, announced Van Dyke would be charged with first-degree murder.

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Inequality and the City

    New York, New York, a helluva town. The rents are up, but the crime rate is down. The food is better than ever, and the cultural scene is vibrant. Truly, it’s a golden age for the town I recently moved to — if you can afford the housing. But more and more people can’t.

    And it’s not just New York. The days when dystopian images of urban decline were pervasive in popular culture — remember the movie “Escape from New York”? — are long past. The story for many of our iconic cities is, instead, one of gentrification, a process that’s obvious to the naked eye, and increasingly visible in the data.

    Specifically, urban America reached an inflection point around 15 years ago: After decades of decline, central cities began getting richer, more educated, and, yes, whiter. Today our urban cores are providing ever more amenities, but largely to a very affluent minority.

    But why is this happening? And is there any way to spread the benefits of our urban renaissance more widely?

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A 'kill-and-cover-up' police culture?

    When public officials refuse to release a video that shows alleged misconduct by a police officer, you should only expect the worst.

    That's particularly true in Chicago, where one "bad apple" too often has signaled a bushel of cover-ups and other problems underneath.

    Such are the suspicions that haunt the city's stalling for more than a year the release of a dashcam video that shows white police officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots into the body of black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel denounced the behavior as a case of one allegedly bad apple. Yet the video and various actions taken before and after the shooting point to systemic and institutional problems that extend far beyond one allegedly trigger-happy cop.

    Why, for example, did the city sit on the dash-cam video for more than a year before a judge ordered its release on open-records grounds?

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What good retirement plans everywhere have in common

    Old style defined-benefit pensions get better investment returns than defined-contribution retirement plans such as 401(k)s. That's been established in survey after survey.

    But what if this particular fact is out of date? That's the argument that Josh B. McGee makes in a really interesting paper. McGee is a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and a vice president at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which has been advising state and local governments on pension reform -- and in many cases pushing them toward 401(k)-style plans. In his paper, he presents evidence that defined- contribution plan assets are being invested a lot more efficiently and responsibly than they used to be, and have wiped out pensions' performance edge.

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Terrorism on American Soil

    During this past week a three-year-old boy in Rock Hill, S.C., killed himself when he was playing with a loaded gun in his house.

    He wasn’t the only one in Rock Hill to die from a gunshot. In July, a man killed himself after shooting his wife, her son and the son’s girlfriend. The following month, someone killed a 30-year-old woman; someone else that same week killed a 27-year-old man.

    Rock Hill, a city of about 66,000 is not unique.

    About 2,700 children are killed every year from gunshot violence; about 60 percent of them are homicides, the rest are suicides or unintentional deaths, such as that of the three-year-old. Every year, another 15,000 youth are wounded from gun fire. Overall, about 33,000 die from gunshot violence; 76,000 are injured from gunshot violence, according to data compiled by the Brady Center. The names, faces, and lives of everyone killed or injured just blend into tables of statistics.

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