Best columns: The U. S.
The end of Republican dogma?
Republican lawmakers often privately complain that their party is being held back by conservative “purists,” said Ramesh Ponnuru. On issues like taxes and welfare, the GOP’s elected officials have had to meet “a series of litmus tests” to avoid being branded traitors by the doctrinaire conservative base. But Donald Trump has blown traditional GOP dogma to smithereens. The Republican presidential nominee has proposed new child-care subsidies for working mothers, the removal of millions of poorer people from the income-tax rolls, and a tax increase for some six-figure earners. He has “put in a good word for Medicaid,” suggesting that he may favor expanding the program instead of cutting it. He has even indicated that millions of illegal immigrants may one day apply for legal status—that is, “amnesty.” Other Republicans seeking office would never dare voice such “heterodox thoughts”—yet they don’t seem to have hurt Trump at all. Granted, he’s a celebrity candidate, and has “maintained the party line” by voicing his opposition to abortion, samesex marriage, and Obamacare. “But he has exercised more freedom than Republican politicians dreamed they had.” Whether or not he wins, “the stranglehold” of conservative dogma “now appears to be broken.”
Why protest is an act of faith
The Miami Herald
“Colin Kaepernick has struck a nerve,” said Leonard Pitts. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback ignited a firestorm of controversy several weeks ago, when he refused to stand for the national anthem, a silent protest against racial discrimination and police violence. His protest “has caught fire,” spreading to other NFL teams and to high school and college teams as well. Meanwhile, people who subscribe to a mindless form of patriotism are calling for Kaepernick to leave the country, and “the internet is awash in videos of his burning jersey.” Blowhards like Rush Limbaugh are saying that Kaepernick has no right to protest because he’s wealthy, as if successful black men enjoy some magic protection against “driving while black.” We don’t. For Kaepernick and other African-Americans, protest is not unpatriotic. It’s “an act of faith”— an expression of belief in the nation’s founding premise that all men are created equal and can expect the same rights and freedoms. It’s that faith that “has allowed us to support a country that would not support us, defend a country that would not defend us, love a country that did not love us.” But until true equality is achieved, we will not be silenced.
Convictions based on junk science
The Wall Street Journal
Our legal system has convicted hundreds of thousands of people of crimes based on “voodoo science,” said federal appeals court Judge Alex Kozinski. A new study from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has concluded that most forensic-evidence techniques—including fingerprint, bite-mark, firearm, footwear, and hair analysis techniques—have surprisingly high error rates, and often are “rank guesswork.” Only “the most basic form of DNA analysis” is scientifically sound, the study found. This is stunning news, given that our courts heavily depend on the kind of forensic evidence glamorized by TV shows like CSI and Forensic Files. In reality, forensic experts often work for the prosecution, and see their job as helping to secure a conviction. They usually tell juries that their risk of error is “vanishingly small” or “essentially zero,” but that’s simply not true. Bite-mark analysis turns out to be totally unreliable. Fingerprint analysis can be wrong nearly 5 percent of the time. When several people’s genetic material is found, even DNA analysis can be subjective and mistaken. The disturbing truth is that our justice system has sent countless numbers of people to jail—and executed some of them—based on junk science.