“An influx of additional funding would allow Amtrak to eliminate this backlog and pave the way for faster, more frequent service, passenger rail proponents argue. “There’s so much we can do, and it’s the biggest bang for the buck we can expend,” said Biden about increasing Amtrak funding back in April.
Nevertheless, one of the reasons that Amtrak’s maintenance backlog is so big in dollar terms is that it’s incredibly inefficient at spending the money it does get.
At current costs, Amtrak needs to spend $90 million per mile “merely to keep the same service as exists today,” wrote the Manhattan Institute’s Connor Harris in an April New York Post column. “For comparison, in countries such as France and Spain, less than half that cost per mile would cover a brand-new high-speed rail line good for speeds of more than 200 miles per hour.”
Getting Amtrak’s costs down to European levels would allow it to fix a lot more of its infrastructure for a lot less money. Lawmakers of both parties instead appear set on simply shoveling more taxpayer money at the inefficient agency.”
“The Anti-Drug Abuse Act was one of the most disastrous laws passed in the 1980s by lawmakers posturing as tough-on-crime. It imposed substantially heavier penalties against federal crack offenders, who were predominantly black, than powder cocaine offenders, despite there being little to no pharmacological difference between the two substances. The result was that someone with a small amount of crack cocaine would receive the same sentence as someone with 100 times as much powder cocaine. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported that black people made up nearly 77 percent of all federal crack convictions in fiscal year 2020.”
“Over 14,000 unaccompanied minors are now in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Detained minors in their testimonials for the case described limited time outside, sporadic showers, and being served inadequate or unsafe food, including raw chicken and foul-smelling hamburgers. A 13-year-old Honduran recounted being “locked up all day” during five days in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody. A 14-year-old Guatemalan girl said that detainees at a facility in Houston had to drink expired milk when they ran out of water. “I was never allowed to make a phone call while I was there,” said a 17-year-old Honduran who was in CBP custody for 11 days. Minors reported receiving few details about how long they would be in custody and many were transferred to other facilities with little notice or explanation.
Those conditions have left detained minors despondent. “I used to be able to cope with my anxiety and breathe through it, but now I feel like I’ve given up,” said a 17-year-old from Guatemala. “I feel like I’ll never get out of here.” One child was placed on suicide watch and another described how difficult it was to get an appointment with a counselor, though many girls in detention “have thoughts of cutting themselves.” Teens have resorted to cutting themselves with their identification cards since employees at one facility banned pencils, pens, toothbrushes, and even the metal nose clips of N95 face masks over concerns of self-harm, according to testimony and worker accounts.
“There is no one here I can talk to about my case,” said a 17-year-old Honduran detainee. “There’s also no one here I can talk to when I’m feeling sad. There’s no one here; I just talk to God. It helps me and I cry. It would help if I could have a Bible.””
“Contrary to what the Times reported, that policy is not “legally shaky.” It relies on the well-established anti-commandeering doctrine, which says the federal government cannot compel state and local officials to enforce its criminal laws or regulatory schemes.
That doctrine is rooted in the basic design of our government, which limits Congress to a short list of specifically enumerated powers and leaves the rest to the states or the people, as the 10th Amendment makes clear. That division of powers gives states wide discretion to experiment with different policies, some of which are bound to offend the Times.
The paper suggests that defending state autonomy is disreputable, because that argument was “deployed in the past in the South to resist antislavery and civil rights laws.” But federalism does not give states a license to violate rights guaranteed by the Constitution or to flout laws authorized by it.
Although the Times tries to tar the anti-commandeering principle as racist, the same basic idea was a crucial weapon for Northern states that refused to help the federal government enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Today that principle likewise means that state and local officials have no obligation to participate in the “deportation crackdowns” that the Times decries.
Similarly, the ongoing collapse of marijuana prohibition—a development the Times welcomes—would be impossible if states were obligated to participate in the federal war on weed. While both progressives and conservatives might wish that federalism could be limited to achieving results they like, that is not how constitutional principles work.”
“Over the weekend, President Kais Saied fired the country’s prime minister and suspended Parliament in what his political opponents have called a coup. But he says the move was justified after thousands of Tunisians took to the streets in recent days to protest the government’s handling of the pandemic, which has deepened the country’s economic woes.
Supporters of the president cheered his ousting of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and other government ministers, but those celebrations turned to clashes when those who opposed Saied’s moves also took to the streets to protest.
“One of the big question marks is: Is this a coup?” said Sarah Yerkes, a former State Department and Pentagon official and now a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program who focuses on Tunisia. That’s a question a lot of people are asking right now, and it doesn’t actually have a straightforward answer, in part because democracy in Tunisia is still very new.”
“The president has, I would say, extralegally, or outside of normal legal channels, fired the prime minister. He is allowed to do that, although he has to consult with Parliament — but he also suspended Parliament. And so that is certainly not something he’s allowed to do.
He has fired other ministers, too. So he declared himself kind of the chief executive. He normally functions as the head of state, and then the prime minister is the head of government. The president, in normal times, just has control over foreign affairs, defense, and national security. The prime minister oversees everything else. But now the president is overseeing everything.”
“When the president made the declaration, he said he was following Tunisia’s Constitution. There is this article, Article 80, that allows the president to take on emergency powers. But I’ve been following various Tunisian legal experts on social media and through other conversations, and it seems that Article 80 does not really apply to how the president carried things out.”
“Yet what happened this spring in Oregon is just one example, though perhaps the most extreme one, of a larger trend vexing Democratic strategists and lawmakers focused on maximizing the party’s gains in redistricting. In key states over the past decade, Democrats have gained control of state legislatures and governorships that have long been in charge of drawing new maps — only to cede that authority, often to independent commissions tasked with drawing political boundaries free of partisan interference.
Supporters of these initiatives say it’s good governance to bar politicians from drawing districts for themselves and their party. But exasperated Democrats counter that it has left them hamstrung in the battle to hold the House, by diluting or negating their ability to gerrymander in the way Republicans plan to do in many red states. And with the House so closely divided, Democrats will need every last advantage to cling to their majority in 2022.”