THE Constitution bars the federal and state governments from passing ex post facto laws, which retroactively apply a punishment to a crime more severe than the one on the books when the crime was committed. This is good for lawbreakers who do something that later becomes more unpopular and is thus deemed as worthy of greater punishment.
A reverse of this is happening in Connecticut in the debate over abolishment of capital punishment. Abolitionists have momentum on their side, but there's more enthusiasm for taking the death penalty off the table in future murder cases than there is for taking convicted killers off death row. Thus, according to a stateline.org report, Connecticut may abolish the death penalty but not apply the ban retroactively.
Hypothetically, at least, a hypodermic needle could still be inserted into the body of any of the 11 inmates on Connecticut's death row. We say hypothetically because the Nutmeg State has executed only two killers since 1959. Death penalty opponents may agree to the compromise simply to get the ban passed, knowing that killers grandfathered in may never be executed.
Public sentiment continues to play a larger role than justice in the capital punishment arena. In Connecticut, a high-profile home invasion in 2007 that left three dead revived flagging support for the death penalty. Even some who support the ban aren't sure they want to let these two killers live.
Mixed feelings about capital punishment play on the side of death penalty opponents. In the absence of strong support for capital punishment, regardless of how high the profile of a crime, the practice will die a slow death.
The final meals of executed murderers have long been the subject of fascination, derision and tut-tutting by death penalty opponents. A website that tracked the final food requests of Texas death row inmates was widely read but extremely controversial. Some folks think it's nobody's business what a condemned killer eats before taking the needle. The Tulsa World reports that artist Julie Green has painted more than 500 plates for an exhibition depicting the terminal meals of inmates. She hopes this will inspire people to discuss and debate the death penalty. That justification is an empty plate: No shortage of such discussions is evident. During the season of Easter and Passover, some might find the title of Green's exhibition offensive. It's called “The Last Supper” and thus links the execution of an innocent Christ with the execution of convicted killers, whose victims weren't given a menu before losing their lives.
His supporters might see President Obama's newfound love of hydrocarbons as a Nixon-in-China event. Hardly. Obama has no serious interest in upping domestic oil and gas production — other than getting him to what he hopes is a post-re-election frenzy for alternative fuels. If you want a real Nixon-in-China event, look to Washington State, where enough Republicans and conservative Democrats joined liberals to get a gay marriage bill passed. What really turned the page in Washington was key support from the business community. Large corporations have taken the lead on benefits for same-sex couples and are helping in getting gay marriage laws enacted. Corporations may want lower taxes and reduced federal debt, but they can be quite progressive on social issues. They're not the Great Wall of Reactionaries that the “Occupy” crowd claims.
President Obama used his recent trip to the Cushing area to tout an executive order fast-tracking the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline. He should have saved taxpayers the money. Critics pointed out that federal help wasn't needed to move the project forward. National Journal's energy and environmental experts agree. In a survey, 71 percent said this week that the executive order was unnecessary, and most concurred that the pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf Coast needs only local approval. The president's involvement is “not even remotely necessary,” one insider said. Another said it “looks like federal government interfering in the traditionally local decision of land-use planning, and it likely won't actually change the permitting process, which is already under way. Not great optics — and I say this as a fan of the president.”
What do cauliflower, a sewing machine and an open palm have in common? All could appear on the ballot in municipal polls in India's capital next month. Including a symbol next to candidates' names, representing their political party, dates to 1951, when fewer than one in five people in the newly independent country could read. Though a nice idea, the proliferation of registered parties has complicated matters. Major parties get permanent symbols, but hundreds of smaller ones must choose from an ever-expanding list of approved “free symbols” every election. Nail clippers, a toothbrush and a dish antenna are now up for grabs. Two state parties are battling not only over ideology or parliamentary seats but over a bicycle; the dispute may have to be resolved by drawing a name from a jar. So much for a system designed to provide clarity to voters. America has about as much fun as we can handle with the contest between elephant and donkey. Just imagine nearly 1,400 parties fighting over candidates, plus mascot selection.
Is anyone in charge at Major League Baseball? Someone figured it would be a great idea to begin the regular season by having the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's play two games this week in Japan — and then have them return to the states for a few preseason games before getting the real schedule under way again. No doubt MLB made a few bucks by taking the game, and Japanese hero Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners, to baseball-crazy Japan. But otherwise the stunt was a flop. Playing games at the crack of dawn here? Please. The real Opening Day is Wednesday but even that has been butchered — one game is on the schedule, the St. Louis Cardinals visiting the Miami Marlins. The teams play not a series but just one game, then both go on the road. Ridiculous.
Canada is literally pinching pennies from its budget. The finance minister announced this week that the Royal Canadian Mint will cease distribution of the coin this fall. Producing a penny costs about 1.6 cents, so the change is expected to save 11 million Canadian dollars annually. As our northern neighbors eliminate a coin deemed a nuisance, our Congress is considering transitioning to a coin many consider inconvenient. Replacing the dollar bill with a dollar coin would supposedly help combat the deficit. The Americans for George coalition expresses concerns about the financial and practical implications of the change. A public opinion poll shows 97 percent believe the dollar bill is more convenient than carrying coins. The Government Accountability Office estimates over half a billion in net losses to the government during the first decade of the transition, and reports by the Federal Reserve Board and U.S. Treasury raise concerns that the long-term impact may also be negative. In the past 15 years, only one major country phased out a bill in favor of a coin: Russia. A penny for your thoughts?