Tag Archives: Chicago Tribune

The Land Of Lincoln Says No

Nitasha Tiku at New York Magazine:

Illinois governor Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty today. “It’s not possible to create a perfect, mistake-free death penalty system,” Quinn declared. More than a decade ago the state issued a moratorium on executions after wrongly condemning thirteen men. Quinn, who spent two months speaking with prosecutors, victims’ families, death penalty opponents, and religious leaders, also commuted the sentences of all fifteen state inmates on death row. They will now serve life in prison. Quinn called it the “most difficult decision” he has made as governor, saying, “I think if you abolish the death penalty in Illinois, we should abolish it for everyone.” Illinois is the fifteenth state to have abolished capital punishment. With Quinn’s decision, anti-death penalty advocates hope to create “a national wave” of opposition. But in New Mexico, which became the most recent state to abolish the death penalty, in 2009, Republican governor Governor Susana Martinez is trying to reinstate it.

Martha Neil at ABA Journal:

Three other states, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York, have already banned capital punishment, and it is rarely enforced in Western democracies.

“In Illinois, there is no question in my mind that abolishing the death penalty is the right thing,” defense attorney Ron Safer tells Reuters. “It is naive to think that we haven’t executed an innocent person. We stop looking after they’re executed.”

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard

Lynn Sweet at Chicago Sun-Times:

Quinn noted that he was lobbied to sign the ban during calls from death penalty foes Desmond Tutu, Martin Sheen, Sister Helen Prejean and pleas from those who wanted Illinois to keep the death penalty on the books, including the families of victims and state’s attorneys from around the state.

Quinn said whether to sign the bill was harder to decide than other legislative matters because “It is an emotional issue when you talk to family members. I’ve talked to families on both sides of the death penalty issue, some are for abolition, some are not. So you have to really have to have an opportuniuty of review and reflection.”

I asked Quinn if he was convinced Illinois–with its record of putting wrongly convicted people on Death Row, which led to the current moratorium—won’t make mistakes again.

“That is the ultimate decision I have to make within a short period of time, whether or not problems that have existed in Illinois death penalty statute, its implementation, are corrected.”

Julia Zebley at Jurist:

Illinois legislators have attempted to ban the death penalty since then-governor George Ryan put a moratorium on it 11 years ago. Although the new law will officially take effect [Chicago Tribune report] on July 1, Quinn commuted the current 15 death row inmates’ sentences to life without parole.The death penalty remains a controversial issue worldwide. According to an Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF; JURIST report], the number of countries using the death penalty dropped in 2009, but more than 700 people were executed in 18 countries, with the most executions carried out in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the US. Last August, US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia [official website] heard a habeas petition from Troy Davis, who was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering an off-duty Savannah, Georgia police officer. In a rare move, the federal court heard the habeas petition after Davis had exhausted his state remedies under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act [text], but the court sided against Davis saying that he failed to prove his innocence. Law Offices of the Southern Center for Human Rights [official website] Executive Director Sarah Totonchi argues [JURIST commentary] said that “Troy Davis’ case illustrates that US courts simply cannot provide the certainty necessary to impose an irreversible punishment; therefore the death penalty must be abolished.”

Scott Turow in the Chicago Tribune:

Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to abolish the death penalty in Illinois is commonly viewed as a triumph for progressives. But some of the most persuasive arguments for doing away with capital punishment basically reflect conservative views. The last decade has seen many noted conservatives, including George Will, Richard Viguerie and L. Brent Bozell III, emerge as death penalty opponents. One reason that abolition became a political possibility here was not simply because it attracted Republican votes in the Illinois House and the Senate, but because many conservatives have grown more ambivalent about the issue and less fierce in their opposition.

Here are some of the leading conservative arguments for ending executions.

The death penalty is one more government program that’s failed.

This oft-quoted observation is an elaboration on comments and more than a clever turn of phrase by former Illinoisan George Will, perhaps the nation’s leading conservative columnist.

Illinois reinstituted capital punishment in 1977, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all prior statutory schemes as unconstitutionally arbitrary and capricious. We have now conducted a 33-year experiment in seeing whether death sentences can be meted out in a rational, proportionate fashion. That experiment has clearly failed.

I was a member of the 14-person Commission on Capital Punishment appointed by then-Gov. George Ryan in 2000 to study the death penalty. I started out ambivalent, because I knew there will always be certain murders and killers that cry out for this ultimate form of retribution. But after two years I came to realize that we will never construct a capital system that functions with anything resembling fairness.

Despite decades of legislation and litigation aimed at establishing procedural bulwarks, the imposition of the death penalty in Illinois remained haphazard. Studies authorized by the commission found that, in Illinois, defendants were five times more likely to be sentenced to death if they committed their crimes in rural areas, as opposed to cities; twice as likely to be sentenced to death if they killed a woman; and 21/2 times more likely to be capitally sentenced for the murder of a white person, as compared with an African-American.

Doug Mataconis:

False conviction issues aren’t just limited to Illinois. The Innocence Project has been involved in nearly 300 post-conviction exonerations based on DNA evidence, including nearly two dozen cases where a convict was sitting on death row at the time of his conviction.  Moreover, there’s at least one case on record where it now seems fairly apparent that the State of Texas executed a man for a crime that he didn’t commit.

There was a time when I was a supporter, albeit a reluctant one, of capital punishment, but that time has come to an end. For one thing,  I’ve come to the general conclusion that the state should not have the power to take anyone’s life, even when they’ve committed a violent and horrible crime. Additionally, ever since the advent of DNA evidence, we’ve seen far too many instances of innocent men imprisoned for crimes that they clearly did not commit to think that it hasn’t happened in a capital punishment case.  Finally, my own professional interaction with the criminal justice system on a regular basis made it clear to me fairly early on that the system was far too imperfect to trust it with the power of life and death, and this is especially true when a defendant facing a death sentence is forced to accept court-appointed counsel that lacks both the experience and the resources that a private-hired attorney would. The question of whether you live or die shouldn’t depend on whether or not you’re rich enough to hire a good lawyer, but, far too often, it does.

Illinois has taken the right step here. Let’s hope that more states follow their lead.

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Some Dead Fish With Your Deep Dish Pizza

Eli Rosenberg at The Atlantic with the round-up

Chicago Tribune:

With startling arrogance and audaciously twisted reasoning, two appellate judges ignored more than 100 years of legal precedent, invented a new definition of “residency” and ordered Rahm Emanuel off the Feb. 22 mayoral ballot.

With the election just four weeks away, the appellate panel voted 2-1 to reverse the decisions of the Chicago Board of Elections and a Circuit Court judge. It’s an adventurous, flawed ruling that has immediate and profound consequences. The case is headed to the Illinois Supreme Court, but the ballots are headed to the printer — without Emanuel’s name. Early voting begins Monday.

In a blistering dissent, Appellate Justice Bertina E. Lampkin accused her colleagues, Thomas E. Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Marie Hall, of “careless disregard for the law,” and harshly criticized them for refusing to ask the Supreme Court for an expedited review.

Lampkin accused the majority of ignoring case law that clearly supported Emanuel’s argument —including a significant case in which Hoffman prevailed.

“The majority’s new standard is ill-reasoned and unfair to the candidate, voters and those of us who are charged with applying the law,” Lampkin wrote. The decision “disenfranchises not just this particular candidate but every voter in Chicago who would consider voting for him.”

Richard Hasen at Slate:

Illinois, like many states, requires anyone running for a municipal office to be a resident of the municipality. This sensible rule ensures that elected officials understand the interests and desires of their constituents. Emanuel long lived in Chicago and was a congressman representing part of the city for many years before he became President Obama’s chief of staff. At that point he moved his family to Washington, D.C., and rented out his house. But he kept family heirlooms and other items locked in the Chicago basement, indicating a plan to return. It was well known that Emanuel hoped to come back and run for mayor whenever Mayor Richard M. Daley decided to step down from that office.

When Daley announced his retirement and Emanuel filed to run in the race, his opponents challenged his residency—and lost before the elections board, which found that Emanuel had intended to return to Chicago after his D.C. stint for the president. A trial court affirmed the board. Now this intermediate appellate court says that’s wrong. Because Emanuel did not have a regular physical presence in Chicago in the year before the election, he is ineligible to run.

Ed Morrissey:

Emanuel moved to Washington DC and stayed there for 21 months, only returning when Richard Daley announced he wouldn’t seek another term.  Under that definition, the statute becomes essentially meaningless; anyone who lived in Chicago for any period of time could return and run for office on the shortest of notice and dare anyone to prove that returning wasn’t the intent all along.  The majority ruled that the legislature intended this requirement to apply to physical residence — which makes sense, because one wants a mayor who’s actually familiar with the city’s issues.

Eugene Volokh

Michelle Malkin:

Rahm gave a short statement to the press (no profanity delay buttons were necessary today). An appeal is on the way. He brushed off suggestion that politics played a role in court decision and said: “I have no doubt in the end we will prevail.”

Then, he cackled.

Ed Driscoll:

Just another day in the life of David Brooks favorite “Warmhearted Machiavellian.” But given that it’s Chicago, who know what will happen with the appeal. We’ll know it’s over if and when President Obama’s office Fed Exes Rahm another Luca Brasi-style dead fish.

Garance Franke-Ruta at The Atlantic:

If he is not granted that stay and the Illinois Supreme Court does not overturn the lower court’s opinion, it seems unlikely he would want take the Lisa Murkowski route and run as a write-in candidate, because the residency ruling would lead to a legal challenge to his being sworn into office.

On the one hand, there is no legal process to stop Emanuel from running a write-in campaign, according Ken Menzel, a legal counsel with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

“We don’t have a challenge process for write-in candidates in Illinois,” he explained. “You can’t prevent a person from being a write-in candidate.”

According to James Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections, Emanuel would have until Feb. 15 to file a write-in bid for the Feb. 22 Chicago mayoral primary election.

On the other hand — and more importantly — the state residency statute in question in the case decided today governs eligibility to hold public office, not eligibility to be on a ballot.

“The basis of the challenge is the allegation he’s not eligible for office,” Menzel said.

The finding that Emanuel failed to meet the state’s strict residency requirement, if not reversed, means a write-in campaign would begin in environment of uncertainty as to whether Emanuel could assume office, were he to win.

“I think you’re getting into uncharted waters if you get into a write-in campaign,” Menzel added. “This is the sort of thing that perhaps, if he were to try, we’d see some case-law made.”

Abdon Pallasch at Chicago Sun-Times:

The Illinois Supreme Court has ordered the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners to put Rahm Emanuel’s name back on the mayoral ballot, attorneys for Emanuel said Tuesday.

The court has not decided whether to hear Emanuel’s appeal of Monday’s Illinois Appellate Court ruling that tossed him out of the race to replace Mayor Daley. The Supreme Court granted Emanuel’s motion for a stay of the ruling, Emanuel attorney Mike Kasper said Tuesday.

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“We Didn’t Want To Advertise What We Were Doing Because We Didn’t Want A Bunch Of People Calling.”

Chicago Tribune:

We didn’t want to advertise what we were doing because we didn’t want a bunch of people calling.”

—David Pickens, former top aide to Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan

The quote says it all. CPS officials maintained a secret list to track requests from politicians, businessmen and other VIPs who wanted to get students admitted to one of the city’s elite high schools. Most parents didn’t know they could appeal to Duncan’s office for a closer look, and that’s the way school officials wanted it.

It’s one more example of how things are done in Illinois: One set of rules for people with clout, another set for everyone else.

Getting into one of Chicago’s nine selective-enrollment high schools is a fiercely competitive process, with tens of thousands of students vying for a few thousand slots. Admission is based on a point system, but principals have limited discretion to enroll students who wouldn’t normally make the cut.

For years, some parents have complained that well-connected neighbors were able to access those few spots through back channels. Last summer, a handful of public officials acknowledged they had used influence to get friends and relatives admitted. A federal investigation was launched in July, and Duncan’s replacement, Ron Huberman, ordered an internal investigation and an outside audit. The district’s clout list, maintained over several years under Duncan, was obtained by the Tribune this week.

Those on the list include House Speaker Michael Madigan, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and half of the Chicago City Council. The initials “A.D.” — Arne Duncan, Pickens says — appear dozens of times. Duncan’s mother and his wife also appear as sponsors.

John Hechinger at Business Week:

The Chicago school system’s Office of the Inspector General is investigating whether influential citizens circumvented the normal admissions process to gain entrance to the schools for certain applicants, according to the district’s Web site. Students are primarily chosen for selective high schools on the basis of test scores. Principals in some cases can select students using their own discretion, according to the Web site.

“We were trying to be responsive,” said Cunningham, who was also a spokesman for Duncan in Chicago. Duncan was “never” personally involved on behalf of any of the people on the list, Cunningham said in an interview.

Rob Bluey at Heritage:

Duncan’s role comes amid growing concerns in the District of Columbia over the fate of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a signature school choice initiative that benefits low-income families. As education secretary, Duncan has overseen the dismantling of the program, which the Obama Administration has essentially left to die after strident opposition from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and teacher unions.

Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget cuts funding for the program, leaving just $8 million for scholarship recipients for the remainder of their time in the program. And despite appeals from D.C. parents last August, Duncan withdrew the scholarships of 216 students who had been admitted to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Those students are attending lower-performing schools as a result.

The irony, of course, is that Duncan himself attended the exclusive University of Chicago Lab Schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

One has to wonder: What does Arne Duncan have against low-income students who, for the first time in decades, have found an effective education in the District of Columbia? Shouldn’t these students have the same opportunities as the rich and powerful who appealed to him for help in Chicago?

Ed Morrissey:

This is bald corruption.  Having a secret process that only the powerful know to get preferential treatment for their children is the antithesis of openness and transparency.  It turned Chicago schools and their admission process from an open competition to another spoils process in the Chicago Machine.  It’s not surprising, given the rampant corruption in the Windy City, but it is disgusting.  Parents of children who got aced out of a spot in the school of their choice now have to assume that Duncan and his team gamed the system, putting children at a disadvantage in order  to gain political favor for themselves.

Anyone participating in that system should leave public service immediately, including Duncan himself.  Will Mr. Hope and Change keep Duncan as part of his White House team and endorse this patronage system built on the backs of children?


Prediction: There’ll be special “lists” for powerful people who need kidney transplants, too.

Joanne Jacobs:

Really… whoever could have guessed that the best of publicly funded resources would go to the powerful?  It’s bad enough that the rich can fund their own better schools.  It’s even worse when they demand that the middle and lower class do it for them.

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“McGuinn And McGwire Just a-Gettin’ Higher…”

Ed Price at Fanhouse:

Far from election to the Hall of Fame in four chances and about to re-enter baseball after a long absence, Mark McGwire on Monday admitted to using steroids.

McGwire — who set a single-season record with 70 home runs in 1998, a feat that is credited with helping baseball rebound from the 1994 players’ strike — said he used steroids in the 1989-90 offseason, 1993 and “on occasion throughout the nineties, including during the 1998 season” in a statement released by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Part of the statement reads:

I’m sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids. I had good years when I didn’t take any and I had bad years when I didn’t take any. I had good years when I took steroids and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn’t have done it and for that I’m truly sorry.
The team, for whom McGwire played in ’98, had hired McGwire as hitting coach in October but had yet to face the media. His reputation took a major hit — and the suspicion that he used steroids multiplied — when in a 2005 hearing before a House of Representatives committee he declined to address the matter, saying only, “I’m not going to go into the past or talk about my past. I’m here to make a positive influence on this,” and “My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family and myself.”

Now he has answered the questions.

Duk at Big League Stew:

Today’s admission from Mark McGwire raises plenty of sidebar questions and topics that we hope Bob Costas will address with the shamed slugger in tonight’s MLB Network interview.

Here are a few them:

Why did he wait so long to confess? After retiring in 2001, McGwire turned into baseball’s version of J.D. Salinger and disappeared completely from the spotlight. Did he only admit to using steroids so that he could take a hitting coach job with St. Louis?

How did he get the drugs? Who provided him with PEDs on the A’s and Cardinals? Were his book-selling brother and Jose Canseco both right about injecting Big Mac themselves?

Why did he start using? Was he looking for a competitive advantage or just a way to overcome all those injuries that plagued him during his career?

Does this improve his Hall of Fame chances? McGwire was snubbed again during last week’s Cooperstown voting, his third year on the ballot. Does he think that voters start to change their mind after his admission and apology?

Steve Rosenbloom at Chicago Tribune:

McGwire made his confession Monday, saying he juiced when he hit 70 in 1998, among other things. The guy looked like a parade float then, had no flexibility, and hit baseballs 450 feet with a check-swing — jeez, who would suspect ‘roids?

Baseball apologists will give McGwire credit. Give him credit? For what? Mark McGwire was the last guy to come around on Mark McGwire. His own brother wrote a manuscript that outed the guy as a juicer.

No, wait, McGwire was the second-to-last. Tony La Russa claimed McGwire was clean, that he never saw anything suspicious, or somesuch hogwash that made the Cardinals manager sound like an idiot or a liar, pick one.

Why is McGwire now finally admitting to cheating that was so obvious at the time? For the same reasons he was cheating in the first place: for his own good, his own selfish pursuit. McGwire is the new hitting coach for La Russa’s Cardinals. He wanted back in the game, but someone in St. Louis finally figured out he couldn’t stay in the game amid all the questions of whether he was teaching current Cardinals players about swinging a Louisville Syringe.

Among other things, McGwire said, “I wish I had  never played  during the steroid era.” So, there you go: McGwire is not only late, but lame. Wise up, the steroid era didn’t make him juice. He did it himself. He didn’t have to. He chose to. He was not chained to a bathroom stall and injected time and again.

Dan Levy at Sporting News:

What rubs me the wrong way is that he “truly” apologizes. Like living a lie for the last two decades can be forgiven with one line that you’re now “truly” sorry about things. The fact of the matter is, nobody should find this is shocking in any way. Sure it’s huge news, but does anyone really care that McGwire is getting out in front of the barrage of media that undoubtedly were prepared to swarm upon spring training for St. Louis this year? It’s so hard to imagine any players not being on something at this point that an admission after the fact really doesn’t change much.

Well, except the fact that McGwire should be in the Hall of Fame.

And no, I am not one who believes that an admission of guilt is the final act of Hall of Fame contrition and he can be absolved by simply saying four Hail Mary’s – wait that’s football. Maybe a few sacrifice flies?

I digress. McGwire should be in the Hall of Fame. So should Rose and Shoeless Joe and anyone who ever played the game and made enough of an impact to warrant discussion this long after their careers ended. Could you imagine a Hall of Fame without McGwire or Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens? Add in most of their contemporaries and we are really looking at a time in the next ten years where nobody is going to get voted into the Hall of Fame. So let them all in and make this terrible era in baseball – the same era that made McGwire famous and the same era he’s now blaming for making him so good at mashing the baseball over a fence – where it belongs in baseball history. We’re so caught up on the purity of the game and rewarding ‘the right people’ to get elected each year. Guess what, the more closely we look any of these guys, the more warts we can find. Nobody is perfect. And nobody has to be. Baseball is America’s pastime, after all.

Now, should we laud McGwire for coming forward now? Absolutely not. The guy is a coward who had ample chances, including that famous time in front of (hello!) Congress, to admit this. Maybe he has a book coming out. Maybe Tony La Russa made this a part of the deal for him to come back into the Cardinals organization. Or maybe he thinks the voters will forgive him in a few years and he can get the clock started ticking toward Cooperstown.

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A Stroll Down The Memory Bush


Time Magazine’s Massimo Calabresi and Michael Weisskopf have an article on the final days of the Bush Presidency, especially the drama of the non-pardon of Scooter Libby.

These last hours represent a climactic chapter in the mysterious and mostly opaque relationship at the center of a tumultuous period in American history. It reveals how one question — whether to grant a presidential pardon to a top vice-presidential aide — strained the bonds between Bush and his deputy and closest counselor. It reveals a gap in the two men’s views of crime and punishment. And in a broader way, it uncovers a fundamental difference in how the two men regarded the legacy of the Bush years. As a Cheney confidant puts it, the Vice President believed he and the President could claim the war on terrorism as his greatest legacy only if they defended at all costs the men and women who fought in the trenches. When it came to Libby, Bush felt he had done enough.

Ed Morrissey:

The article is well worth the read.  It describes the kind of inside-baseball that we all know exists in Washington and in every administration, but usually doesn’t get revealed until the next administration takes its place.  It has no hint of illegal or even unethical behavior, but instead just the tactics of people who play to win in politics.  It also dispels the notion that Bush was Cheney’s hand-puppet, as it makes plain that Bush played the same level of politics, and with the same talent.

On the issue of Libby and the pardon, that actually underscores the effort both men gave in pursuit of their values.  For Cheney, the issue was loyalty and a sense of unfairness over the targeting of Libby in the Plame investigation.  For Bush, as the passage above notes, the issue was maintaining the integrity of public service.  He clearly sympathized with Libby’s plight, as he showed in commuting the sentence, but Bush could not bring himself to ignore that Libby lied to investigators and under oath.

Bush stuck to his view of justice and integrity, and in the end, I believe he made the right call for the right reasons.

Forums to discuss on right and left, Free Republic and Democratic Underground

Mark Silva at The Swamp at the Chicago Tribune:

Cheney considered the conviction a “he-said-he-said” case about what Libby had or hadn’t told the late television journalist, Tim Russert, and called the prosecution the work of an “overzealous” prosecutor – that would be Chicago’s Patrick Fitzgerald.

Josh Bolten, the president’s chief of staff, punted the case as a legal matter for the legal office to sort out. White House Counsel Fred Fielding concluded that Libby had, indeed, lied under oath about what he had told the journalist, the conviction was propert, and the president already had gone a long, and reasonable, way in commuting his sentence.

Bush, the Time account explains, still had Cheney with whom to contend.

Cheney lost.

Taegan Goddard

UPDATE: John Cole

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We’re Going With A Horse’s Head In Ahmadinejad’s Bed


New Bloggingheads up with Eli Lake and John Hulsman concerning Hulsman’s new book “The Godfather Doctrine.” Husman wrote the book with A. Wess Mitchell. Think Duvall as liberal institutionalism and Caan as a neocon. According to the book, we need to be more like Pacino. Which is a good rule for life.

You can find their article outlining this here. There’s a review of the book in Dissent magazine by Ethan Porter.

In the Chicago Tribune, Michael Esposito talks about the book and other movies that could be foreign policy guides. Hey, that sounds like a post here!

EARLIER: Popcorn and Passports

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