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It's a jungle in Louisiana

Vie, 23/10/2015 - 15:56

ON OCTOBER 24th voters in Louisiana will send two men to a run-off that will determine the state’s next governor. That vote will take place in November, but it is the first election—known as an open or “jungle” primary—that really counts. This year, anyway.

In a jungle primary, candidates compete in a scrum, regardless of party, and the top two move on. The effect of such a system can be unpredictable, varying with the size of the field and the politics of each candidate. Sometimes, it can boost those at the fringes. In 1991, much to Louisiana’s embarrassment, former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke and a flamboyantly corrupt governor, Edwin Edwards, managed to capture so many of the votes at the margins that the two of them met in a run-off, spawning a raft of rueful bumper stickers. (Among them: “Vote For the Lizard, Not the Wizard.”) The unfortunate centrist squeezed out that year was the incumbent governor, Buddy Roemer, who had become increasingly unpopular—but whom most Louisianians still probably wished they could have picked when it came to it.

This year, the fringes are not so extreme, but there is a similar dynamic at play, to the...Continue reading

Grilling Hillary Clinton

Vie, 23/10/2015 - 08:20

SHORTLY before 10pm on September 11th, 2012, around 150 Islamic militants swarmed into the lightly defended American consulate in Benghazi. After blasting a way inside, with grenades and vehicle-mounted machine-guns, they poured diesel onto the compound and set fire to it, unleashing a cloud of noxious smoke into the safe-room where Chris Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, and Sean Smith, a junior colleague, were hiding. Both died of asphyxiation. Later that night the militants launched a second attack, on a nearby CIA compound, where they killed two Americans agents with mortar rounds.

The ten-hour grilling Hillary Clinton was subjected to in Congress on October 22nd was, said her Republican interrogators, necessary to uncover the truth of how and why those four Americans died. But this was nonsense. The Benghazi select committee, launched by the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, has spent 17 months and, by a conservative reckoning, $4.5m shining little more light on those questions than seven previous enquiries. And indeed, the truth of the matter does not seem terribly elusive.

By the night of the attack, the US-backed effort to...Continue reading

Nebraska’s ban of the death penalty is on hold

Jue, 22/10/2015 - 03:34

EARLIER this week the “Daily Show” sent one of its correspondents to Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska, to tape one of the comedy show's daily acerbic segments on current affairs. The topic? The death penalty, and Nebraskans' rather messy attempts to repeal it.

In May, the Midwestern state’s unicameral parliament overrode the veto of Pete Ricketts, the new Republican governor of Nebraska, of a bill to ban the death penalty. Governor Ricketts is a vocal opponent of the abolition of capital punishment, but he was obliged to sign the bill into law. Nebraska thus became the 19th state, and the first conservative state in more than four decades, to ban the death penalty.

The repeal stunned pro-death penalty Nebraskans. They immediately launched a well-organised and well-funded counter offensive. All across the state they stood with big clipboards in parking lots, supermarkets, country fairs and knocked on doors to collect enough signatures to bring about a state-wide vote on reinstating capital punishment. Their effort was bankrolled by “Nebraskans for the Death Penalty”, a lobby group partly financed by Governor Ricketts and his wealthy father, to the tune of a...Continue reading

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