Like so many in New England, I spent February and much of March hallucinating about what could be under our enormous snowdrifts (tunnels from North Korea? graboids?), but I got some writing done.
My column in the print edition of America magazine was on "The Prison Trap." An excerpt:
our political system does not always reward sensible reform. A single violent act, even if it is not indicative of a rising crime rate, can frighten the public enough to cause a return to blindly punitive policies. The benefits of criminal justice reform, including financial savings and the repairs to communities damaged by mass incarceration, do not necessarily redound to prosecutors and judges, so they may not be motivated to tighten the prison pipeline. The N.R.C. report estimated that only 5 percent of felony convictions come from juries; most often, prosecutors exact guilty pleas from defendants by threatening to seek longer sentences at trial.
At my (Un)Conventional Wisdom blog, on America magazine's website, I weighed in on Matthew Yglesias's provocative essay on the USA's "doomed" system of government. From the post "American government may be doomed by efficiency, not by dysfunction":
what if gridlock is the only thing keeping the United States together? Our entire history has conditioned us to expect half-measures and abandoned initiatives from the federal government. We don’t know how we’d react if an unprecedentedly disciplined, ideologically cohesive political party seized control of the White House and Congress and governed “aggressively.” (The past few years in Wisconsin provide one example, with protest marches and an attempt to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.) Would states governed by the opposite party be bolder about trying to “nullify” federal law, the way same states have tried to do with Obamacare? Would the minority party in Congress refuse to participate in votes, or resort to political theater such as boycotting State of the Union addresses?
We’ve made it this far only because of weak political parties with little sense of principle—giving us, among other things, a bipartisan policy of white supremacy that lasted for nearly two centuries. But the Democratic and Republican parties recently figured out that in the natural order of things, they’re supposed to be rivals, not siblings. Think of them as a cheetah and a gazelle, playfully wrestling as infants until the inevitable day when one nearly tears the head off the other. You can decide which, if any, is the more aggressive in this situation.
Read more posts about politics at the (Un)Conventional Wisdom page. I promise posts not about politics here in the future, assuming I get out of my apartment and find some urban adventures.