Quick hits (part I)

1) This WP story/essay about a high school rape in Texas 12 years later is like a gut punch.  Just read it.

2) Paul Waldman, “Why do all these racists keep joining the GOP?”

Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis has a problem, one he shares with a lot of Republicans these days: For some reason, racists are attracted to his campaign and seem eager to give him money and lend their vocal support.

Why does this keep happening to members of the Republican Party who desire nothing but equality and respect for all people? It’s a real mystery…

But you know who doesn’t have to worry about getting endorsed by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and racists? People who don’t give neo-Nazis, white nationals and racists any reason to believe that they share their views. [emphases mine]

Now, it’s true that there are Republican elected officials who don’t. But just by virtue of being Republicans in 2018, being lumped in with racists is a risk they run. Their favored news outlets are positively saturated with white nationalist rhetoric. Their party is led by a man who is not only an obvious bigot but who also turned himself into a political figure by advocating the racist lie that Barack Obama is not actually an American, who ran a presidential campaign built on xenophobia and racial resentment, and who, in office, continues to stoke fear and hatred of immigrants. President Trump doesn’t get celebrated on white nationalist websites because they’re laboring under some misimpression about who he is. So, if you’re a Republican standing enthusiastically behind Trump, racists have every reason in the world to think you’re on their side.

3) Normally, Americans, collectively, are not so smart.  So, for Americans to have figured out the truth of the Republican tax cuts, means, damn were they really bad:

“On average, it looks great. We’re as wealthy as we’ve ever been,” Zandi says. “But that’s not representative of many, many American households. The very skewed distribution of wealth is as skewed today as it was five years ago.”

4) Hillary Clinton speaks out on Trump.  And she’s right on the details which are worth your time:

It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States. On the day after, in my concession speech, I said, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” I hoped that my fears for our future were overblown.

They were not.

In the roughly 21 months since he took the oath of office, Trump has sunk far below the already-low bar he set for himself in his ugly campaign. Exhibit A is the unspeakable cruelty that his administration has inflicted on undocumented families arriving at the border, including separating children, some as young as eight months, from their parents. According to The New York Times, the administration continues to detain 12,800 children right now, despite all the outcry and court orders. Then there’s the president’s monstrous neglect of Puerto Rico: After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, his administration barely responded. Some 3,000 Americans died. Now Trump flatly denies those deaths were caused by the storm. And, of course, despite the recent indictments of several Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, he continues to dismiss a serious attack on our country by a foreign power as a “hoax.”

Trump and his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track. I think that may be the point—to confound us, so it’s harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy. As citizens, that’s our most important charge. And right now, our democracy is in crisis…

5) I love the idea that we need to take our “social infrastructure” libraries, public parks, etc., more seriously.

6) This story of a woman who’s 1-year old child was literally ripped from her hands and drowned in post-Florence floods is heart-rending.  Also, sad, is just how cruel people are in their “just world biases” and doing everything they can to blame the mother.  Sorry, sometimes bad stuff just happens and it could happen to you, too.

7) Really liked the NYT’s “how to build strength” guide.  I think I need to modify my routine and start pushing myself a little harder.  On the bright side, this linked site said I have the health of a 32-year old. Yeah, me!

8) OMG, so much wrong with our criminal justice system.  But “felony murder” when you can get a murder conviction without actually taking any actions to kill someone (e.g., you are the lookout for a robbery, but then the robber decides to shoot the victim– sure you should be punished, but murder?!) is often so wrong.

The felony-murder doctrine is “one of the most widely criticized features of American criminal law,” the University of Buffalo School of Law’s Guyora Binder wrote in a 2011 law-review article. “Some have concluded that felony murder rules impose unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment by ascribing guilt without fault, or that they violate conditional due process by presuming malice without proof.”

There’s no shortage of cases where people were convicted of felony murder despite no demonstrated intent to kill. In 1980, 18-year-old Orlando Stewart and nine other teenagers approached a stranger in Pennsylvania, planning to mug him. One of the teens hit the man, knocking him to the ground and causing a skull fracture that led to his death two days later. Stewart was convicted of felony murder and will remain in prison for the rest of his life.

And this April in Alabama, Lakeith Smith was sentenced to 65 years in prison, including 30 for felony murder. In 2015, the then–15-year-old burglarized two homes with several friends. When the police approached, one of the teenagers fired and was shot and killed by an officer. Smith was convicted of the felony murder of his friend, based on the felony burglary he was committing when his friend was shot.

Felony-murder rules disproportionately affect young people like Brooks, Stewart, Holle, and Smith, who are more likely to commit crimes in groups and are more impulsive than adults, increasing the chances someone in the group pulls a trigger. A law-review article from 2017 described felony murder as “the quintessential juvenile crime, capitalizing on the developmental vulnerabilities of adolescents.”

9) Is this, maybe, karma for Kavanaugh:

It is on this point that the cosmos may be having a laugh not just at Kavanaugh’s expense but at many other people’s. After decades of competitive moralizing and situational ethics—in which every accuser in due course becomes the accused, and anyone riding a high horse can expect to be bucked off—even the concept of fairness in American politics seemingly is defunct.

Three decades of remorseless ideological and cultural combat—over Robert Bork, over Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, over Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, over Bush v. Gore, and, at last and above all, over Donald Trump—have made the question virtually irrelevant.

Fairness is rooted in the idea of principles, precedent, proportionality. Few people in American life witnessed at closer range than Kavanaugh the modern reality that when things really matter—in the way that the balance of the Supreme Court matters—all these fine notions matter less than the cold, hard exercise of power.

So here was Kavanaugh—who spent his early 30s as a Ken Starr warrior pursuing Bill Clinton for the political and legal implications of his most intimate moral failings—now in his early 50s facing a political crisis over disturbingly vivid, passionately contested, decades-old allegations about Kavanaugh’s own possible moral failings.

Few prosecutors, it seems likely, would ever open an assault case—36 years later—on the basis of Christine Blasey Ford’s account of being pinned down on a bed by a drunken Kavanaugh, then 17, and being aggressively groped until a friend of his physically jumped in.

But few prosecutors in the 1990s would have pursued an extensive criminal investigation over perjury into a middle-aged man’s lies about adultery if that person had not been President Bill Clinton. In his zeal at the time, Kavanaugh, like Starr, may have worked himself into a belief that this was about sacred principles of law, but to many others—and ultimately to a clear majority of the country—it was obvious that the case was fundamentally about political power.

10) Chevy Chase wants to work, but nobody really wants him.  Recently re-watched “Fletch” and “Fletch Lives” with my oldest.  Still love them (much to my wife’s dismay), and to my great pleasure, so did David.  But they are oh-so-1980’s in so many ways.

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