A few early reflections

I am heartbroken by the tragedy in Arizona and wish the best for everyone affected by the shootings, those grieving and those recovering from the horror of Saturday.

In my column Thursday I will touch on the broader issues this has raised, but I will briefly take note here of how this event is already affecting the 2012 presidential race. Let's start by agreeing that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is not remotely responsible for the actions of mentally unstable people and should not be the central focus of the discussion over how to arrive at a more measured and reasoned debate. Do comments like "don't retreat, instead RELOAD" coarsen the political discourse? Absolutely. Is she the only person who talks that way? No way.


From the minds of babes

Like everyone in America, my three granddaughters in Atlanta were troubled by the recent murders and mayhem created in Arizona by a crackpot using a Glock. So much so, they wrote to their president seeking his leadership in this troubling violent world they find fearsome. “I don’t think there should be guns. People would have to figure out there [sic] problems without hurting each other,” Anabel wrote.

These aware children have genuine cares and fair questions. “I hope these violent things stop. What can we do about this?” Cait earnestly asked her country’s leader.

Joanna inquired of her president, “If you have any good ideas, please write me back.” She noted, “It’s not OK to shoot people,” along with reporting that she is sorry about what happened to Gabrielle Giffords.


Arizona justice

Some guys never catch a break.

In 1974, William Macumber was convicted of two counts of murder in Arizona and sentenced to concurrent life sentences without parole. Two other clients of Macumber’s attorneys had confessed to the crimes, but the lawyers couldn’t say anything because they were bound by rules of attorney-client confidentiality. When their confessing client died, the attorneys received permission from the state bar ethics committee to reveal their deceased client’s confession in order to avoid an injustice to Macumber.


National Guard or a new national drug policy

I turned on Fox News and watched Laura Ingraham interviewing a state senator from Illinois. The state senator wants to call out the National Guard to patrol the streets of Chicago, which has been enduring a running gun fight for months now in the city’s toughest neighborhoods. Laura asked a simple question: Why can’t the cops handle it? The answer: They are outgunned and outmanned.


Cheney: The Liz mob

Instead of considering this a political controversy, let's make it personal. Forget Liz Cheney and Fox News. Let's suppose YOU are charged with a violent felony and face years in prison. You'd sure want an attorney. Right? The best you can get.

But let's suppose the particular crime is one that everyone despises so much that they assume anyone accused of it is guilty and deserves the harshest treatment ... including you.


The strange case of the unhinged professor: Nancy Drew could have solved this one

The case of Amy Bishop, who shot to death three of her colleagues on Feb. 12, keeps getting stranger. The AP reported on Friday that the current district attorney for Norfolk County in Massachusetts has ordered an inquest into the 1986 shooting by Amy of her younger brother Seth. On the day of the shooting, the police booking of the then-19-year-old Northeastern University student was halted midstream. Amy’s mother, who allegedly had some clout in the suburb of Braintree where they lived, was a witness to the shooting as she stood in the family’s kitchen with her son. Amy was sent home with her mother that day, and 11 days passed before the mother was questioned. The death of Seth Bishop, a freshman at Northeastern, was ruled an accident.


Gun control

There is abundant evidence that our cities are safer with guns. One of the most remarkable examples of this simple maxim is Washington, D.C.

Thirty-two years ago, lawmakers banned gun ownership in D.C. Over the next three decades, the murder rate in the nation’s capital skyrocketed 134 percent. Yet in the two years since a federal appeals court overturned the D.C. ban of handguns, the incidence of gun violence has dropped dramatically.


Anti-gay attacks and hate crimes — why most Republicans don’t get it

The vote in the House of Representatives yesterday to extend hate crimes from a victim’s race, color, religion or national origin to include sexual orientation was a matter of common decency. In the end, 131 Republicans voted against it, while 44 supported it.

When it comes to fairness and equality and gay rights, the train has left the station. Ending discrimination, preventing bias when hiring and firing, allowing gay couples to live open and free lives, extending full benefits to those couples, and, yes, gay marriage is the future. Tolerance and acceptance is becoming the norm, not the exception.


Is the death penalty defensible?

I never agree with Bob Herbert, the New York Times columnist. But on this one, he may have a point. He wrote a column today about the plight of Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texan who was put to death for the crime of starting a fire in his own home, a fire that killed his three small children.

He was charged with murder, and refused to take a plea deal because he insisted that he was innocent. It turned out that he was right and the folks who had him executed him were wrong. Later evidence proved to exonerate him, but that exoneration did little good. He is still dead.


The Beer Summit

It’s an Irish thing to work out differences over a beer.

When Officer Crowley told the president, “Let’s talk about it over a beer,” he was inviting Mr. Obama and Mr. Gates into a longstanding Irish tradition of fostering better relationships over some libations.

The Irish are friendlier when they have a couple of beers in them. It loosens them up a bit and gives them a chance to relax their inhibitions.

Drinking at the local pub is, of course, an Irish tradition stretching back generations. Back in the old country, it was at the local pub where information was shared, music was played, stories told, politics discussed.