April 20, 2014 |
The government of Iraq last week announced that it had padlocked the infamous prison at Abu Ghraib. The gates are closed. The inmates moved. Whether the closure is permanent or temporary -- Iraqi officials suggest the latter -- this ought to qualify as a notable milestone. What does it signify? Sometimes a prison is just a building, its closure of no more significance than the demolition of a market or the shuttering of a strip mall. Yet from time to time, the closing of a facility constructed for the purpose of confining humans invites reflection.
April 20, 2014 |
Campaign finance reformers are worried about the future. They contend that two Supreme Court rulings - the McCutcheon decision in March and the 2010 Citizens United decision - will magnify inequality in U.S. politics. In both cases, the court majority relaxed constraints on how money can be spent on or donated to political campaigns. By allowing more private money to flow to campaigns, the critics maintain, the court has allowed the rich an unfair advantage in shaping political outcomes and made "one dollar, one vote" (in one formulation)
April 6, 2014
Re "Even more money in politics?," Editorial, April 3 As an attorney, any remaining illusion I had that our highest judicial body decides cases on a nonpartisan basis is gone after reading the Supreme Court's decision in McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission. First, the tortured Citizens United finding in 2010 - that corporations have 1st Amendment rights similar to those of individuals - opened the floodgates for those who want to buy the government. After that, the Shelby County case gutted the Voting Rights Act, resulting in gleeful red states passing laws that prevent poor people and minorities from voting.
March 27, 2014 |
A few years ago, I found myself sitting on an airplane next to a gentleman from Egypt. Talk quickly turned to the upheaval in his country, where the so-called Arab Spring was in full bloom. "We want a real democracy," he told me, "not like yours. " When I pressed him to elaborate, he shot back with a question of his own. "How many times have you voted," he asked, "when someone named 'Bush' or 'Clinton' wasn't running?" The answer, I sheepishly admitted, was once: in 2008. Before that - going back to 1980, the first year I cast a ballot - every single presidential ticket featured someone from one of those two families.
March 23, 2014 |
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- As students occupied Taiwan's legislative chamber Sunday for a sixth day to protest a free-trade agreement with China, President Ma Ying-jeou denounced the takeover as a threat to democracy. Government officials have pledged not to use force to remove the protesters, who fear the agreement will hurt Taiwan's small businesses and give China too much influence. [Updated at 3:45 p.m., March 23: While the standoff continued at the legislature, a group broke into the government's main executive building Sunday night, reaching Premier Jiang Yi-huah's office.
March 9, 2014 |
Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma, has made substantial progress in the last few years, moving from military rule toward democracy, releasing political prisoners and freeing from house arrest Nobel Prize-winning democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. However, the government has relentlessly continued its appalling treatment of the Rohingya population that lives in Rakhine state in western Myanmar. A Muslim minority in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, the Rohingya are effectively denied citizenship unless they can meet onerous requirements, such as tracing their lineage back decades.