Back in 1956, when he was 22, [Hal Faulkner] was discharged from the Marines after more than three years of proud service. There were no real blots on his record. No complaints of incompetence or laziness or insubordination. There was only this: A man with whom Hal had spent some off-duty time informed Hal’s commanding officer that Hal was gay. The commanding officer suspected that this was true and, on that basis, determined that Hal had to go. The discharge was classified as “other than honorable.”Just go read it.
“It wrecked me,” Hal told me when I visited him on Friday at his home here on the 16th floor of a high-rise with a panoramic view of the Atlantic. The morning was gloriously sunny, but tears streamed down his cheeks. Although more than half a century has passed since that harsh judgment — he’s 79 now — it has always stayed with him, a tight, stubborn knot of sadness and anger.
“They gave up on me,” he said, referring to the Marines. “I never forget it.” He was haunted in particular by those three words — “other than honorable” — and wanted more than anything to have them excised from his epitaph. That became his dying wish: that those words not outlive him.
Now, on to the insensibility... paging Ross Douthat!
Ross Douthat lives up to his name in saying that liberals can't hope to actually, you know, help the poor.
This much can be said for Bill de Blasio’s inauguration, which featured a concentration of left-wing agitprop unseen since the last time Pete Seeger occupied a stage alone: If the waning years of Barack Obama’s presidency are going to be defined by a liberal crusade against income inequality, there’s no more fitting place to kick it off than New York City. ...See, liberals can't win because turning New York into Sweden would take taxing people who are only rich, instead of super-rich. And rich people who voted for de Blasio would never stand for that, because they certainly didn't notice he was liberal. Or something. Wasn't Douthat supposed to be one of those "reasonable Republicans"? Week by week, he seems to be auditioning for Fox and Friends.
... the new mayor’s political coalition also provides a clue as to why a comprehensive policy response may never actually be tried. In his primary upset, de Blasio enjoyed strong backing from the city’s college-educated upper middle class. He even did slightly better among voters making between $100,000 and $200,000 than he did among the poor.
In a way, this shows the potential breadth of populism’s appeal. But while upper-middle-class voters are happy to support higher taxes on 1 percenters — not least because they’re tired of trying to compete with them for schools and real estate — they don’t necessarily want a program that would require their own taxes to rise substantially.
And this is a problem for the populist left, because to build the kind of welfare state — European, Scandinavian — that seems to really level incomes, you need lots of tax dollars from the non-rich. Yet the current Democratic coalition has been built on a promise to never raise taxes on anyone making under $250,000 ... or maybe $400,000 ... or possibly $500,000, the threshold de Blasio chose.
But hey, he did acknowledge that those Scandinavian systems, the ones that create the happiest nations in the world, the ones with among the best quality of life, and the ones that regularly provide better education, and have more income mobility than the United States, are precisely those where income inequality is minimized. Not a coincidence.
Lets go inside and see what else there is to read this morning...
The New York Times editorial board is busy this Sunday, first up: the lopsided legal system.
In the justice system, prosecutors have the power to decide what criminal charges to bring, and since 97 percent of cases are resolved without a trial, those decisions are almost always the most important factor in the outcome. That is why it is so important for prosecutors to play fair, not just to win. This obligation is embodied in the Supreme Court’s 1963 holding in Brady v. Maryland, which required prosecutors to provide the defense with any exculpatory evidence that could materially affect a verdict or sentence. ...So long as prosecuting attorney is a step toward higher office, there will be an unfailing incentive built into the system to keep conviction rates close to perfect, no matter how its done. Combine that with no consequences for overreach, and the pitiful budget given to public defenders, and there's a good reason why American prisons are so full.
The Brady problem is in many ways structural. Prosecutors have the task of deciding when a piece of evidence would be helpful to the defense. But since it is their job to believe in the defendant’s guilt, they have little incentive to turn over, say, a single piece of exculpatory evidence when they are sitting on what they see as a mountain of evidence proving guilt. The lack of professional consequences for failing to disclose exculpatory evidence only makes the breach of duty more likely. As Judge Kozinski wrote, “Some prosecutors don’t care about Brady because courts don’t make them care.”
Colin Robinson looks at how the changes in the publishing industry are making it hard on readers.
A range of related factors have brought this to a head. Start with the publishing companies: Overall book sales have been anemic in recent years, declining 6 percent in the first half of 2013 alone. But the profits of publishers have remained largely intact; in the same period only one of what were then still the “big six” trade houses reported a decline on its bottom line. This is partly because of the higher margins on e-books. But it has also been achieved by publishers cutting costs, especially for mid-list titles.As a decidedly mid-list author whose every novel is long out of print, I can tell you this isn't a new problem, but it's one that has accelerated in the last two decades to the point where writing has become a mirror of the income inequality found in the rest of the nation. And it's still getting worse.
The “mid-list” in trade publishing parlance is a bit like the middle class in American politics: Anything below it is rarely mentioned in polite company. It comprises pretty much all new titles that are not potential blockbusters. But it’s the space where interesting things happen in the book world, where the obscure or the offbeat can spring to prominence, where new writers can make their mark.
Budgets have been trimmed in various ways: Author advances, except for the biggest names, have slumped sharply since the 2008 financial crash, declining by more than half, according to one recent survey. It’s hard to imagine that the quality of manuscripts from writers who have been forced either to eat less or write faster isn’t deteriorating. Meanwhile, spending on editing and promotion has also been pared away.The last year I made my living from writing I did eight novels and over three dozen articles. At the end of that year, I was $5k in the hole and had to go find a "real job" again. I don't know how to fix publishing, but I can tell you that Aunt Jane would not find this system very sensible.
The New York Times editors are back again, holding a magnifying glass over Colorado.
On New Year’s Day, government-licensed recreational marijuana shops opened in Colorado, the first place in the world to regulate the drug “from seed to sale.” Later in 2014, marijuana retailers will open in Washington State. As public opinion shifts away from prohibition, these two states will serve as test cases for full-on legalization. Here’s what to watch for in the early stages of this experimentNo surprises on the "watch for" list, but you can be sure plenty of other states will be watching.
George Johnson looks at why "cancer" seems to be the word we're all hearing much too often.
Half a century ago, the story goes, a person was far more likely to die from heart disease. Now cancer is on the verge of overtaking it as the No. 1 cause of death.Which may be the most depressing menu choice in the history of ever.
...Cancer is, by far, the harder problem — a condition deeply ingrained in the nature of evolution and multicellular life. Given that obstacle, cancer researchers are fighting and even winning smaller battles: reducing the death toll from childhood cancers and preventing — and sometimes curing — cancers that strike people in their prime. But when it comes to diseases of the elderly, there can be no decisive victory. This is, in the end, a zero-sum game.
The rhetoric about the war on cancer implies that with enough money and determination, science might reduce cancer mortality as dramatically as it has with other leading killers — one more notch in medicine’s belt. But what, then, would we die from? Heart disease and cancer are primarily diseases of aging. Fewer people succumbing to one means more people living long enough to die from the other.
Kathleen Parker warns that Republicans are on the brink of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
If you happen to be one of those who enjoy politics as a blood sport, 2014’s midterm election promises to be a carnival of gore.Funny how problems with a web site is ending the year with blunders, errors, etc. while there's no mention of the shut down fiasco that happened literally days earlier. I suppose even the most "sensible" Republican has a limited memory.
And that’s just in the Republican Party.
Democrats must be giddy.
After ending 2013 with tails tucked, thanks to a series of errors, blunders, glitches and misstatements of true-ish-ness, Democrats were poised to lose control of the Senate. Instead, tea party Republicans seem bent on helping Democrats win.
The formula is familiar by now: Republicans who aren’t conservative enough, meaning they might deign to work with Democrats, are targeted for primary challenges by folks who often couldn’t win a staring contest, much less a statewide election.
Dana Milbank seems amused that John Roberts is shaking the begging bowl.
Forgive me for not feeling charitable toward John Roberts’s Tiny Tim routine this holiday season.And then the ghost pushed Scrooge into the grave and shoveled in the dirt.
The chief justice invoked both Scrooge’s ghosts and George Bailey’s guardian angel in the first sentence of his annual report on the federal judiciary, released on New Year’s Eve, in which he begged for more money for the courts. “Both ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ have happy endings,” he wrote. “We are encouraged that the story of funding for the Federal Judiciary — though perhaps not as gripping a tale — will too.”
...his conservative majority has made the Roberts Court the most pro-business court since the 1930s, and he and his fellow justices have done a great deal to expand the rights of the wealthy and the powerful — most notably by allowing them to spend unlimited sums to purchase lawmakers and to sway elections. The wealthy and corporate interests have responded by buying a Congress determined to shrink government and to weaken its reach — including that of the courts.
This is the consequence of Roberts’s judicial philosophy. This, Mr. Chief Justice, is what limited government looks like..
Jane Goodall laments the passing of the wolves in a photo essay.