Letters to the Editor

Year’s first Columbus homicide victim lost her life to wrist-slap ‘justice’

It's happened again, as it does with alarming and disgusting regularity. Columbus' first homicide of the new year reportedly was committed by a man who should not even have been free to commit the offense.

Tommy McNeal was arrested in the shooting death of Nancy Johnson early Monday morning. In 1975, he shot and killed police officer Hugh Eubanks in Tennessee. Convicted and sentenced to life in prison, a reasonable person (and surely the jury) would have expected that society was now safe from McNeal for the foreseeable future. Instead, he was paroled after a mere seven years. This is an insult to law enforcement officers everywhere.

Granted such undeserved mercy, did he "go and sin no more?" Not McNeal. In 2000, he was sentenced to 15 years for assault and armed robbery, but was released after less than five. If he's convicted and given a lengthy sentence for this murder, can we expect that he'll nevertheless be walking among us again in ten years or so?

Why is it that parole boards, who do not sit through the trials, hear testimony from witnesses, or see the tears of victims, can impose their judgment over that of the judges and juries charged with determining guilt or innocence, and with meting out appropriate punishment? If the allowable sentences for murder and other violent crimes are too long, then let our elected representatives set more appropriate ones (though I expect they will decide that seven years is somewhat too brief for a cop-killer. And for heaven’s sake, no "time off for good behavior." Behaving while in custody is the least that should be expected of criminals, and further misbehavior should result in additional time.

You think I'm being too harsh? Tell it to the families of Nancy Johnson and Officer Eubanks.

Larry Cline, Midland

Political pathology

Of all the elements of Trump Derangement Syndrome, the cry for impeachment puzzles me the most. No doubt it is more based in catharsis than reality, but it apparently has the staying power of an entry in your permanent record from high school. “Impeach 45” is a sure fire way to get a crowd’s juices flowing and guarantees lots of face time on the cable shows.

My puzzlement comes from the Sisyphean challenge confronting the afflicted. Impeachment is a long and arduous road. First, they have to get a mere majority in the House, but then they have to achieve a two-thirds majority in the Senate. So if in November the House swings Democratic, they cannot start until January 2019. As then Minority Leader Ford noted years ago in remarks supporting the impeachment of Justice Douglas for financial irregularities, impeachment is whatever the House says it is. So, as is often noted in the criminal arena, a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich if so inclined, and therefore the House could impeach (indict) President Trump for the way he wears his hair. But where do they get 67 senators to go along?

The punch line to this hypothesizing is that even if Trump is impeached, Vice President Pence takes over, and by all accounts he is far more conservative and has far less baggage than President Trump.

You would think that mature, rational politicians would spend their time trying to strike a deal trading DACA for a few miles of the Wall or an infrastructure project in exchange for passing some nominees on through to the floor. But then, any statement that begins with “you would think” means you really haven’t.

Michael Fox, Midland

The Big Con

“Regulation” seems bothersome to many people, but a logical antonym of “regulation” is “chaos.” To this point, within the past week the Interior Department in the current administration has rescinded two regulations regarding offshore oil drilling, one regarding blowout prevention, the other drilling in areas currently restricted.

The most pressing of these withdrawn regulations was the requirement for enhanced blowout prevention to forestall another event like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil industry groups, according to the AP story of 12/30, claimed the cost of complying would be “… at least $228 million over 10 years,” and would “threaten thousands of jobs.”

These claims are absurd on their face. First, analyze how $228 million for blowout prevention over 10 years compares to the $15 billion so far spent by BP for the Deepwater Horizon event. That corresponds (rounding to the nearest digit) to .017 of the cost and .0017 per year averaged out. By analogy, it would be equivalent to buying $100,000 worth of insurance for $170 a year, certainly within the range any homeowner would be glad to pay.

In an industry that nets several hundred billion per year, it is equally absurd to claim that amount would threaten jobs. One may assume the major oil companies pay more for coffee service. Most important, it discounts the loss of life and the environmental damage from the single event.

As the second withdrawn regulation opens new ocean floor areas for drilling, say, the Florida and Georgia continental shelves, how many over-pressured zones may be encountered without adequate blowout prevention? Why would any rational Interior Department not take all reasonable measures to prevent another ocean tragedy? The answer is obvious: the false assumption that regulation is bad for business. So is chaos.

David R. Schwimmer, Columbus

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