When I'm at a dinner party and someone asks the group to name the most impressive person they have ever met, I have a ready answer: Nelson Mandela. No one else comes close, not even President Barack Obama, who is pretty remarkable in person.
I met Mandela in May 2000 when he was 82 years old. He had just completed his term as South Africa's first black president after spending 27 years of his life as a political prisoner of the brutal white apartheid government....
Those obituaries for Jean Stapleton, the remarkable actress who played the guileless and good-hearted housewife Edith Bunker on All in the Family who died recently at 90 years old, made me think about the parallels of life for the Bunkers and a similar family today.
Edith and Archie Bunker were stand-ins for all of America's working-class whites who were being buffeted by the social and economic change of the early 1970s, when the show premiered. Who can forget the couple warbling Those Were the Days at their spinet piano? The song was a paean to that just-passed moment when men like Archie "had it made." Archie was a dinosaur on the verge of extinction, and he knew it. His narrow-minded fears were the stuff of great comedy....
William Blackstone, the 18th century English jurist whose thinking influenced the nation's founders and American law, famously said it's better that 10 guilty people go free than for one innocent person to suffer.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia begs to differ.
In a blistering dissent Tuesday in McQuiggin vs. Perkins, Scalia stakes out a stunning position that the court's three other conservatives join: State prisoners with evidence of actual innocence should not necessarily get their day in court....
Have you heard of "Oxytots"? They are today's crack babies.
Headlines scream of the damage pregnant women with addictions to pain pills are causing. Like this last year from USA Today: "Number of painkiller-addicted newborns triples in 10 years." Or from the Wall Street Journal: "Pain Pills' Littlest Victims." Fox News used the moniker "Oxytots" for added color.
But ginning up hysteria distorts the real science behind this public health issue, which is far more textured....
During the same week that Angelina Jolie announced that she had a preventive double mastectomy as a precaution against her genetic predisposition toward breast cancer, House Republicans voted for the 37th time to repeal or replace Obamacare.
These two events have more in common than you think.
That's because, for everyone except the mega-wealthy like a Hollywood star, having Jolie-like health care options depends on good, affordable health insurance. And having access to that kind of coverage depends on reasonable and caring leaders in Washington — something the Republican caucus is missing, as proved by the aforementioned vote....
“Wear sunscreen" was the advice to of Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich to the class of '97. She also told new graduates to sing, floss, remember compliments and "don't be reckless with other people's hearts." It was good advice, charmingly told.
But this is not the commencement address I would give to the class of '13. They are graduating into a less carefree world. For them, a college degree is not a guaranteed ticket to upward mobility or even, for that matter, middle-class stability. Premature aging from overexposure to the sun may be the least of their worries....
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is rethinking the mess the court made by taking Bush vs. Gore. But she shouldn't stop there. While she's at it, O'Connor should reflect on what has happened since her disastrous 1984 decision in Strickland vs. Washington. O'Connor's majority opinion eroded the right to counsel by making it incredibly difficult for defendants to show that their court-appointed attorneys were ineffective. Since then, attorneys completely unprepared for trial and even those who have slept in court have passed the low, malleable bar her opinion set....
"It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself — anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called." ...
From the "nice work if you can get it" desk, the New York Times business section offered this headline the other day: "Pay Stretching to 10 Figures." No, this isn't about innovators being paid for their smart and indispensable products, a la Steve Jobs. It is a story of hedge fund managers, the tin-pot potentates of the financial world.
They are America's top-dog moneymakers, pulling in more than movie stars, top athletes, even banking CEOs. They tend to shun the spotlight, and for good reason. An average family would have to work for 18 years and 146 days to make what an average hedge fund manager makes in one hour. We must all look like barbarians at the gate to them....
Most tax avoiders continue in same vein
Of the 30 U.S. companies that paid no net federal income tax on U.S. profits from 2008 through 2010, 26 remained in that category over the 2008-11 period.
Federal income tax rates on U.S. profits, 2008-11
Pepco Holdings –39.5%
General Electric –18.9%
PG&E Corp. –18.4%
Wisconsin Energy –13.2%...
Americans of a certain age will remember the three-minute mini-debates at the end of CBS's 60 Minutes when two venerable journalists, the liberal Shana Alexander and the conservative James J. Kilpatrick, politely duked it out over divisive issues. Saturday Night Live famously spoofed their argy-bargy with Dan Aykroyd's "Jane, you ignorant slut" smackdown of Jane Curtin, a line that lives on to this day....
Twenty-eight or more of the remaining 166 inmates at Guantanamo are on a hunger strike. They have lost hope that President Barack Obama will fulfill his promise to close the prison camp, now 11 years old, and end their legal limbo. At least 86 of these captives were approved for release years ago, and still they wait.
What to do about the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is a tragic puzzle with no clear solution. Like the war of adventurism in Iraq and a domestic economy in free fall, President George W. Bush left behind this towering mess for Obama to clean up....
Anyone who has read a hospital bill knows how indecipherable they can be, with charges seemingly inflated beyond belief. I once tried getting an answer from officials at Bayfront Medical Center about why they billed a breast biopsy at more than $12,000, not including fees charged by the radiologist and lab. All I got were vague answers, and no one would break down the cost.
Now comes the timely and attention-grabbing Time magazine special issue on medical billing by Steven Brill that lays bare the truth: Defense contractors selling $600 toilet seats to the Pentagon have nothing on the extortionist billing practices of America's hospitals....
First, a quick walk through some American history that might surprise you.
In 1927, a congressman from New York explained to his colleagues why the country needed a law guaranteeing that federal contractors pay their workers local prevailing wages when constructing public works projects.
Describing what happened when an Alabama firm won the bidding to build a federal hospital in his district, Rep. Robert Bacon complained that the contractor "brought some thousand nonunion laborers from Alabama into Long Island, N.Y. … These unfortunate men were huddled in shacks living under most wretched conditions and being paid wages far below the standard."...
Here are some things we know are true:
1) The economic struggles of average working people are not being addressed by the country's political system.
2) Politicians have to spend an inordinate amount of time angling for campaign dollars, and when donors and lobbyists hand over big checks, big favors are expected in return.
3) These issues are related....