Category Archives: Justice

Small Town Expertise.

David Martin, the trial attorney for the executed Cameron Todd Willingham, said Willingham was guilty on Anderson Cooper’s 360 and dismissed as biased the science debunking the “science” that determined the fire was arson. While plenty of experts have called the arson investigators’ work mysticism and folklore, the fire investigator who found evidence of arson has basically dismissed them as lab rats who have never tackled a real fire. It’s similar to the argument Martin seems to be making here. His main point is that he’s been a trial attorney for 25 years, and that’s pretty much all he says in his defense.

Which might be the biggest problem when you’re talking about a major crime investigated in these small towns. College attendance rates in rural areas, especially in the south, lag behind the national average. So, in general, you have a population that would have more on-the-job experience than education in adulthood, and it’s hard to imagine that the population doesn’t value experience over book-learning. Hence the kind of populism that George W. Bush rode to the White House twice. It also may explain the “backfire effect” studies have found causing conservatives to believe their views more strongly when presented with evidence that shows its false.

Either way, if Cameron Todd Willingham’s case shows us anything, it’s that men like the prosecutor, who believed Willingham was a bad guy because he liked heavy metal music, have a lot of power in these places. And it’s not always true that they represent the best and the brightest.

Your Monday* Random-Ass Roundup: Heard ‘Em Say

Believe it or not, I’ve been known to be a jackass. Ask anyone who had the misfortune of knowing me in college. Or a couple years ago. I really hope President Obama isn’t asked about it anytime soon:


Anyway, lots of things have happened since our last Monday roundup. Here’s a few of them, a week and almost a full day later than usual. Sorry. I blame it on death panels and creeping socialism:

1. As you all probably know, President Obama called Kanye West a “jackass” for his behavior at the VMAs. But that moment was supposed to be off-the-record, and so Terry Moran, the ABC reporter who tweeted the comment, took it down. ABC has apologized. (G.D.)

2. Alyssa agrees: maybe Kanye really does need a break. (Blackink)

3. One picture tells a million – or two million – lies. Politifact gets to the truth about the latest “tea party” in D.C. (Blackink)

4. A new poll says that 73% of doctors want a public option. (G.D.)

5. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich attempts to bring some sanity – and facts – to talk about the public option. (Blackink)

6. But even if there is a public option, Obama has plans to go beyond language in a House bill to make sure no public money goes to pay for abortions under health care reform. Why? (Blackink)

7. Speaking of health care reform, file this under everything is always good for Wal-Mart. (Blackink)

8. The FDA just approved a new vaccine against the H1N1 virus that causes swine flu. (Blackink)

9. Despite evidence to the contrary, many people, especially Southerners, think crime is on the rise. (Quadmoniker)

10. 50 Things being killed by the Internet. (Belleisa)

11. In eight states and D.C., being a victim of domestic violence is a pre-existing condition. No, really. (Blackink)

12. As if South Carolina tourism officials didn’t have a hard enough sell, a number of people have indicated they’ll be staying away from the Palmetto State following GOP Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst at President Barack Obama. (Blackink)

13. From Jonathan Chait’s fantastic review of a new biography about Ayn Rand: “‘She wrote of one of the protagonists of her stories that “he does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people’; and she meant this as praise.” Well, that explains a lot. (Blackink)

14. This is rich: President Bush thought Sarah Palin was underqualified to serve on the national level. Well, he would know best. Also, he thinks Hillary Clinton has a “fat keister.” Classy. (Blackink)

15. Wow. A study in England found that when heroin was given to addicts in supervised clinics, drug use and street crime dropped dramatically. (Blackink)

16. Sort of related: Newly released FBI numbers show that we’re nearing epic fail in the “War on Drugs.” (Blackink)

17. Call it “The Chinese Dream“: a number of Africans are migrating to China in search of economic opportunity. In fact, a 10 square kilometer area in Guangzhou has been dubbed “Chocolate City.” (Blackink)

18. After years of being the envy of the nation, California’s higher education system- if not the state itself – could face a bleak future if it follows through on a plan for a large fee increases. (Blackink)

19. Reports of sexual misconduct of federal inmates by prison staff members have doubled over the past eight years, according to The Washington Post. In many places, as Matt points out, being sentenced to prison is a form of abuse itself.

20. A video of Quentin Tarantino’s best movie picks since 1992. And “Friday” made the list. (Belleisa)

21. Racewire calls Michael Moore’s latest film, “Capitalism, A Love Story,” his best work yet. (Blackink)

22. This post, from Booker Rising, is disgusting. And not even close to funny. There will be more on this later. (Blackink)

23. From Jacket Copy, the LA Times book blog, a site called Slaughter House 90210 which mixes pop culture images with literary captions. (Belleisa)

24. Is anyone really surprised that Jay Leno’s new show was not that funny? (Blackink)

25. The Face of Foreclosure: a Planet Money listener offers up aLink series of photographs outside the foreclosed home of Minneapolis woman Rosemary Williams. (Blackink)

26. South African runner and unfortunate international curiosity Caster Semenya has now been placed on suicide watch. I strongly agree with Pam: “She deserved — and deserves — so much better from the collective us than what she’s received.” (Blackink)

27. Michael Jordan will never let us forget that he was better than everyone else. Not even as he’s being inducted into the Hall of Fame. (Blackink)

28. And give it up, New York. LeBron ain’t playing for the Knicks. Unless, of course, he somehow tires of playing on a winning team. (Blackink)

Told you I was a jackass.

* It’s actually Tuesday.

The Immeasurable Cost of Getting It Wrong.

Cameron_Todd_Willingham

This week’s New Yorker features this breathtakingly tragic and much-discussed piece by David Grann about Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texas man who was sentenced to death for starting the fire that killed his three kids. Grann’s piece points to evidence that more or less invalidates the entire case against Willingham, and exposes the shoddy “fail-safes” that are supposed to protect innocent people from being put to death by the state. More…

Giant Fall.

Plaxico Weapons Charges Football TOPIXPlaxico Burress probably should have established residency in Arizona, where he could have registered his handgun – or an automatic weapon, even – and then brandished it at a large public event. Maybe even at a health care town hall hosted by the president of the United States.

That would have been perfectly legal. And Second Amendment enthusiasts would have applauded him for his commitment to freedom, democracy and terrifying libruls.

But unfortunately, Plaxico works and plays in New York – home to some of the nation’s toughest gun laws – and made what is probably a career-ending gaffe. He shot himself in the thigh AND foot, so to speak.

Today, the former Giants star accepted a plea bargain that will send him to jail for two years. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of criminal possession of a weapon, avoiding a potential 15-year sentence on weapons possession and reckless endangerment charges.

And he was much closer to spending 15 years behind bars than he ever was to going free. From the very beginning Mayor Mike Bloombergand Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau said they would seek the maximum sentence for Burress.

Some, including a Fordham law professor, wondered if Burress was getting a harder time than your average gun possession suspect. Given the zeal with which Morgenthau prosecuted the case, I don’t think there’s any question about that.

“When you have the mayor and the district attorney both publicly demanding a maximum prison sentence, it was perhaps too much to hope for the grand jury to conduct a sympathetic review of the unique facts of this sad case,” Burress’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said after Burress’s indictment a few weeks ago.

But justice is blind, right?

Anyway, even though he will spend the next couple years in prison, I want to use this space briefly to remember Burress for the uncommon talent that he was. At 6-foot-5 and about 225 pounds, Burress had the size, strength, jumping ability, hands and smarts to someday merit consideration for the Hall of Fame. For whatever reason, it never quite worked out that way.

And sadly enough, it never will. But we’ll always have this:

Post-script: As I recently mentioned to G.D., I’ve been mulling over a top 5 or top 10 list of the biggest wastes of athletic talent in my lifetime. Plax is definitely near the top.

Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Back in the Princeton Days.

Back in the Princeton days.

Sounds good, don’t it?

The only other sitting justices who failed to clear the symbolic 70-vote threshold are Justices Alito and ThomasNate Silver says it’s unclear how much the proportion of Latin@s in a senator’s state would influence the way they voted on Sotomayor.

…among the five Republicans in the states with 20%+ Hispanic populations planning to vote against Sotomayor, Kyl and Ensign are very conservative, Cornyn is in a leadership position in his caucus, and Hutchison may have to bolster her conservative credentials in anticipation of her primary against Rick Perry. John McCain’s nay vote is more surprising, and he seems to being a thorn in Obama’s side.

Pressure from the NRA, which will “score” a yea vote on Sotomayor as being a vote against gun control, may also be a factor. With the exception of Florida, the states with large Hispanic populations are Western ones that tend to have large numbers of gun owners and where gun rights are certainly an issue with the GOP base. That seems to outweigh any concerns the Republicans might have about alienating Hispanics.

We’ll see how what the ramifications of those votes are down the road. Today, though, is an historic day.

Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: A drinkable moment

If this post from Thomas Lifton passes for true American Thought, then we’re all doomed: “I think this photo constitutes another major Obama blunder. As some AT commentators point out, this picture becomes a metaphor for ObamaCare.” A former colleague once told me, “Blackink, don’t argue with logic. Because logic will argue with you.” Truer words …

On a slightly more positive – and logical – note, here’s your PostBourgie-approved reading material from the weekend:

Have you all seen President Obama’s official Kenyan birth certificate? The document that finally proves – once and for all – that Obama is the Antichrist sent back to Earth to turn the U.S. into a third-world mudhole and bleed hard-working real Amurikins of their tax dollars in the form of reparations? No. Of course not. Because one doesn’t exist. (Blackink)

According to a bunch of economic indicators, the recession may be slowing down. Good news, but any potential recovery probably won’t be quick enough for the 1.5 million people who will probably run out of unemployment benefits in the next few months. (G.D.)

This is your new Republican party: Writes Like She Talks posts 13 candidates in the GOP “Young Guns” program — an initiative to challenge sitting House Dems (unsurprisingly, very few of them are actually “young”). Guess what? Out of the 13 GOP challengers, one is a woman, and two are Asian men. Meanwhile, five of the races are challenging Democratic women. (Shani-o)

Our very own Jamelle, Matt Y, Steve B and Ezra offer thoughtful rebuttals – some might call them smackdowns – of Ross Douthat’s column today praising Texas as a “model” economy. As a sort of aside, I had quite a chuckle when Jamelle referred to Ross “an affirmative action hire.” Good one. (blackink)

Adam at TAPPED notes the state of leadership in Black America. It ain’t pretty. (Shani-o)

Lou Dobbs has become a “publicity nightmare” for CNN. (G.D.)

In case you missed it, here’s the text of the e-mail Boston police officer Justin Barrett sent to Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham. What’s funny is that he criticizes Abraham for her “ridiculous” and “substandard” writing. What’s scary is that he thinks suspects don’t have rights. Here’s hoping no one ever again sees this guy trailing them in their rearview mirror. (Blackink)

In the early 1800s, firefighting was a private, for-profit industry in most urbanized U.S. cities. And it might surprise you – or not – to know that the industry was “corrupt, bloated and expensive.” Sound familiar? (Blackink)

Hortense at Jez takes to task another one of the “stupidly named sociological gangs” women frequently find themselves placed in by the world. Like Cougars, MILFS, and PUMAs, the latest term is “TWITS” and it stands for “Teenage Women in their Thirties.” Ugh. (Shani-o)

Michael Pollan, self-appointed champion of food and foodies everywhere, pens a piece in the Times Magazine on television’s role in the death of real home cooking. mute sees his latest pronouncement as snobby and ineffective; Amanda Marcotte calls him antifeminist. (I wonder what our resident kitchen maestros universeexpanding and Jamelle think about his conclusions) (G.D.)

There’s absolutely no reason that a cop should tase a 72-year-old woman on a dare. (Blackink)

Business woman and blogger Penelope Trunk muses about when to work on romance, and when to work on … work. (Shani-o)

A luxury condo in downtown Fort Myers, Fla., has 32 stories and only one tenant. (Blackink)

College Humor offers a solution to MySpace’s problem: dead accounts. (I think I might need that MySpace Hospice option.) (Shani-o)

Baatin, one-third of the original Slum Village lineup, was found dead in his home. He was 35. (Jay Dilla, the hugely influential producer who was the group’s most famous member, died in 2003 from complications due to lupus.) (G.D.)

New York, Boston and Chicago round out the top 3 on Forbeslist of best cities for singles. But Milwaukee at No. 9 and Miami at No. 29? Really? (Blackink)

The best take on Michael Vick, The Commish and the sanctity of The Shield that I’ve read so far: “Since he was first covered by the media, prosecuted by the government, and admonished by the NFL with such brio, Vick has served as a vessel for the country’s anger toward black men. There was little effort made to understand what he did and why he did it, as though stopping to do so would necessarily excuse it. Beyond this lack of general curiosity and empathy, there was an ugly racial element. To be blunt, Vick’s crime was a black one.” (Blackink)

Rob Neyer, Scott Lemieux, Allen Barra and Will Weiss take issue with Toure’s somewhat poorly reasoned review of three books largely centered on steroids in baseball. (Blackink)

Joe Jackson explains to us the difference between spanking and beating. (Shani-o)

And at this point, Mariah has pretty much proved her point about Eminem being obsessed with her. Who keeps the voicemails of someone they slept with once, several years ago? More on this later in the week. (Blackink)

Oh. And could someone tell Stephon Marbury to turn off the camera? Please?

A Fair Point.

sotomayorII-395

I tried my best to avoid the hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor. It’s honestly hard to tell what the Senators really think because they’re so busy show-boating, and the only thing you’ll learn about Sotomayor is that she, like others before her, has the innate or practiced ability to be as bland as possible in the face of inanity.

These hearings had added annoyances, of course. But I will say this, Jim Geraghty, a contributing editor for the National Review, made a pretty fair point on The Brian Lehrer Show yesterday. I had assumed Republicans were harping on the so-called “wise Latina” speech and the policy-making statements because they had nothing else: her record shows a mainstream jurist who is smarter than most of the senators interviewing her. But Geraghty’s point was that you can’t really look at her case history, because judges on lower federal courts are enormously bound by precedent. The only court that can set a new precedent is the Supreme Court. So you can’t really know what a judge will do until they’re a justice. And you kind of can’t blame them for being careful. They’ve been screwed before.

Geraghty also made the point that Sotomayor’s rhetorical flourish defense is a little hard to swallow. Also fair. We all know she meant what she said. Most would, I hope, see her statement as a simple, untroubling fact when taken in context. Others, well…I think we know what side of history they tend to fall on.