Archives: 11/2009

New Trial For Cory Maye

Great news - for a change!  A Mississippi court has ordered a new trial for Cory Maye.

When Cato author Radley Balko was preparing his report on violent, no-knock, drug raids, he discovered the case of Cory Maye, who was then on death row for murdering a police officer.  On closer inspection, Radley thought the shooting looked like self-defense, not murder.  At Maye’s initial trial, he had lousy legal representation.  Thanks to Radley’s writings about the case, Maye secured top notch lawyers for his appeal.  With a new trial, Maye now stands a very good chance of getting out of prison altogether.  Congratulations to Radley Balko!

Previous coverage here.

Wednesday Links

  • If the health care overhaul bill were a medical product it would have to come with a warning label, which could read something like this: Warning: This product will increase your health insurance premiums, make your children poorer and won’t make you healthier. That’s not all. There’s more.
  • Unintended Consequences: Could government efforts to redesign cities to make them more pedestrian friendly, concentrate jobs in selected areas, and increase mass transit actually raise C02 emission levels?

A Pledge Worthy of a Free People

I’ve long criticized having state school officials lead students in a pledge of allegiance to the state. It runs precisely counter to our nation’s founding principles. Michael Lind has gone beyond criticism and proposed an alternative pledge, more fitting to a free people. It’s definitely worth reading.

Of course a free people deserve a free intellectual and education marketplace, in which parents choose their children’s schools without state interference. Those schools, acting in loco parentis, could decide what, if any, pledges their students recite. They could even chose the current one, if that strikes their fancy. That’s what freedom’s all about.

What about K-12, Secretary Duncan?

Speaking to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, education secretary Arne Duncan said that “he would gladly cut federal red tape if institutions, in return, showed greater progress on improving student performance.” So the secretary supports less government intrusion in education if schools show improvement.

Except he doesn’t. Not at the K-12 level, anyway. Because Arne Duncan has advocated a slow death for the DC voucher program that his own Department of Education shows is… wait for it… significantly improving outcomes while getting government out of the business of running schools altogether.

But maybe that’s the problem. Schools work better the smaller the role government plays in them, but that means we don’t really need a secretary of education at all, do we?

HRW: “New Castro, Same Cuba”

Human Rights Watch has just released a lengthy report detailing the constant and blatant abuses of human rights and basic individual freedoms in Cuba under the rule of Raul Castro.

Some hoped that the timid economic reforms announced by the “younger” Castro brother, when he assumed the official leadership of the geriatric regime, would constitute the opening salvos toward a more open and freer Cuba. However, a few of us spotted cracks in that fairy tale early on.

The recent beatings of Yoani Sánchez and other independent bloggers (described here by my colleague Ian Vásquez) are a clear reminder that, in Cuba, it’s business as usual under the Castro brothers’ rule.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed on Trial

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Steven Simon makes a difficult case, and he makes it well, regarding the Justice Department’s decision to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in a civilian court in New York City. I agree with his bottom line:

no trial can provide closure for the traumas of that day. But a judgment in New York, where the greatest suffering was inflicted, will remind us both of the narrow viciousness of the terrorists’ cause and of the enduring strength of our own values.

I say again, this is not an easy case to make, and not just because of the emotions involved. Most people have already made up their mind that 1) KSM is undeserving of such treatment (the same could be said of most mass murderers); 2) that the risks posed to national security by a public trial (including the possibility of an acquittal and the potential disclosure of sensitive information) are not outweighed by the benefits; and 3) that AG Eric Holder made this decision in a haphazard manner, and for all the wrong reasons.

But I think that Simon renders a great service in making Holder’s argument, and, indeed, in making it better than the AG did.

My objectivity can be called into question: Steven has spoken at Cato a few times, and he was and is a participant in our ambitious counterterrorism project. I have enormous respect for his expertise on such matters.  

But I submit that anyone who reads Simon’s op-ed with an open mind must concede at least some of his points, and therefore further conclude that some of the criticisms of the decision are unfair. That does not mean that Simon will ultimately change a lot of minds. One might still conclude that, on balance, the DoJ’s decision was unwise, and that KSM should have been tried by a military tribunal, or merely detained forever. In truth, I was leaning in that direction before I read the piece.

But, on reflection, my confidence in our system of government and in the rule of law leads me to believe that Simon has it right. To the extent that KSM is given a forum for propagandizing on behalf of al Qaeda, the net effect of his rantings will be to remind the entire world that AQ is nothing more than a bunch of self-important, murderous SOBs who kill innocent people.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Human Capital Con?

With President Obama hoping to turn the United States into the world’s greatest diploma mill, and greedy public university leaders shamelessly demanding more of everyone’s tax money, a critical question must be asked: Do more college degrees necessarily mean greater human capital? In a terrific essay, the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy’s George Leef answers with a resounding “no”:

Let’s put it this way: passing a college course no more indicates a human capital gain than just going to a gym indicates an improvement in physical fitness.

To get through college, many students don’t have to become better at reading, at writing, at math, at logic. Sadly, the key consideration at many colleges is not educational excellence or even modest progress, but simply enrolling and collecting tuition from as many students as possible. Therefore, course content has been watered down and expectations lowered so that even the weakest and most disengaged students can pass. As Steve Balch, founder of the National Association of Scholars says, “We don’t so much have higher education these days, as longer education.”

It all comes down to this: Bloviate all they want about the ”common good,” people in higher education are just as self-interested as anyone else, and will do whatever they can to get the most money for doing whatever makes their lives the easiest. And the best way to ensure that this yields the worst possible outcomes for everyone else? Rather than requiring schools and students to earn your money, have government just keep handing it over to them.