Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ill omens in the wind

Three news stories that make a civil libertarian despair.

Police Raid Berwyn Heights Mayor's Home, Kill His 2 Dogs

The Alabama Supreme Court had ample reasons to block today's execution of Thomas Arthur

Clarion County man not a 'terrorist,' wife says

In the first we see a state that is so intent on executing a man that they refuse to perform the DNA tests that could exonerate him. Now that there is mounting pressure for the tests, the Alabama Nifong's tell us that they might have "lost" some of the crucial evidence.

In the second we see how the drug war is really waged. Our love of paramilitary raids has gutted our most basic constitutional protections. Warrants are passe, lets kick in the doors and shoot the dogs while we are at it.

The last one should set off the hinky meter of any one who remembers Randy Weaver and Waco. Did the Feds catch a dangerous criminal? Or were they just after some headlines?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The truth about serial killers

Interesting FBI report that dispels many media-created myths. They also have some pointed comments about the talking heads who populate the tabloid cable shows.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A good argument against the death penalty

Governor's vetoes cut funds to fight wrongful convictions

In a state known for sending innocent people to prison, Gov. Rod Blagojevich [Democrat] has angered prosecutors and defense attorneys alike by vetoing millions of dollars lawmakers set aside to fight wrongful convictions and support sweeping death penalty reforms.

One budget cut eliminated first-time funding for a Downstate advocacy group with several key court victories on behalf of convicted defendants. Another veto blocked funds for videotaping interrogations in murder cases under a law championed by Barack Obama when he was a state lawmaker

If we are going to the death penalty, then we have to make certain that only the guilty are sent to Death row. Here we see further evidence that politicians really don't care about wrongful convictions.

When you read crap like this you can understand Justice Blackmun's refusal to "tinker with the machinery of death."

HT: Talkleft
Good read

Do problems with Wikipedia presage social networking’s end?

Wikipedia is supposed to be the on-line encyclopedia for everyone, but what it has become is something entirely different: an early and illustrative warning of the collapse from informed social networking to propaganda.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Watergate Curiosity Shop (I)

Of all the abuses he suffered at the hands of prosecutors, L. Patrick Gray was most outraged by his indictment for the illegal break-ins conducted in pursuit of the Weather Underground fugitives.

He had a right to be angry. It was a pathetically weak case that depended solely on the word of Mark Felt and Ed Miller-- two high level FBI executives who admitted they had ordered agents to conduct the black bag jobs.

The prosecutors found no documents that tied Gray to the break-ins. Felt and Miller claimed that Gray had approved them verbally but were vague and inconsistent on when Gray did this.

Unfortunately for Felt he claimed that Gray announced that the FBI would go back into the burglary business at a meeting of FBI supervisors. When those supervisors were questioned, they denied that Gray ever said any such thing.

This is where the plot thickens. Prosecutors had not spoken to most of the FBI agents before they indicted Gray. They let the indictment hang over his head for three years and then dismissed it after Felt was found guilty.

Not only did the government finally drop its case against me, but it also issued an open-court public exoneration. This was no small white flag, this was unconditional surrender. I would have thanked them for it three years earlier. Now it just made me angrier. They had known the truth for three years and had refused to drop the case until Felt and Miller were convicted. By keeping me under indictment they had prevented me from testifying against my accusers at their own trials. Of all the prosecutorial outrages I endured in the seven-year war, this was by far the most egregious.
Maybe prosecutors were blinded by their eagerness to “get” one of The President’s Men. Nonetheless, their sloppy investigation and reckless indictment was a terrible injustice to Gray. Moreover, it actually hurt their case against Felt and Miller. They lost the chance to show that Felt’s word could not be trusted

The mind boggles at the thought of Deep Throat in the dock and L. Patrick Gray as a prosecution witness-- all thanks to Jimmy Carter’s Justice Department.

Bob Woodward recognized the danger that the trial presented to Deep Throat’s historical reputation. Deep Throat was a sincere public servant driven by extreme circumstances to take drastic actions. Mark Felt looked like “he was out of control, a free lancer inclined to take things into his own hands for larger purposes that he, and he alone defined.”

In The Secret Man Woodward tells how Felt was asked by a grand juror if he was Deep Throat. Felt denied it but his startled reaction was noted by the prosecutor, Stanley Pottinger. Pottinger reminded Felt he was under oath, noted that the question was not germane to matters at hand, and asked if Felt wanted to withdraw the question. Felt quickly agreed, the question was withdrawn, and Pottinger never revealed his secret except to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post.

Woodward was grateful that Pottinger kept Felt’s secret and he reports that Pottingger believed that Felt was justified in leaking to the Post. What we don’t know is what Pottinger thought about his investigation after that revelation. Here was the great hero of Watergate and Pottinger was leading the effort to send him to jail. That’s one of the sidelights that make history so interesting.


Friday, July 25, 2008

The stunted growth of conservative journalism

Robert S. McCain has a good post on why there are so few conservative reporters.

Everybody's a pundit

I think all of his points are valid. I don't think that we should overlook the close-mindedness of the liberal MSM. (Is that redundant?)

When the rare conservative reporter breaks a story, the rest of the guild usually ignores it. I made that point here:

Bias can also be a factor in how other journalists treat the "scoop." Both Bill Gertz and Sy Hersh have many talkative contacts in the Pentagon. The rest of the MSM is ignorant about those source's identity, credibility, and competence. Nevertheless, ABC or the LA Times are far more likely to run with a Hersh story that one by Gertz.

Why? How can the reader/viewer be certain that this has nothing to do with Hersh's reflexive anti-Rumsfeld slant or Gertz's pro-brass slant

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An essential portrait

In Nixon’s Web: A Year in the Crosshairs of Watergate, by L. Patrick Gray with Ed Gray

The revelation that FBI man Mark Felt was Bob Woodward’s Deep Throat produced an unexpected by-product. Felt’s nemesis, former Acting Director of the FBI L. Patrick Gray, was moved to break his thirty-year silence and rebut the lies and half-truths that flowed from the Felt apologists. Unfortunately, Gray was dying of pancreatic cancer and gave only one interview after Felt’s exposure.

In his last weeks, Gray began writing his memoirs. His son, Ed Gray, completed the book after his father’s death.

In Nixon’s Web is a valuable source for Watergate junkies. It also provides new information about the Hoover-era FBI and the actions of old guard Hoover loyalists like Mark Felt. Finally, it fleshes out our picture of L. Patrick Gray who for too long has been portrayed as a cardboard villain in order to highlight the noble heroism of Deep Throat.

The flesh and blood Mark felt comes off badly in Gray’s telling. He was an inveterate leakernot just to Woodward but to the New York Times and Time magazine as well. His leaks were not confined to Watergate but were aimed at discrediting Gray and his attempts to curb the tyrannical abuses of Hoover and his minions. Moreover, when confronted about the leaks, Felt lied and tried to direct suspicion at other, innocent parties.

Ed Gray has also unearthed powerful evidence that Woodward overstated Felt’s role and credited Deep Throat with information that came from other sources. The “Deep Throat as composite” theory is far from dead.

Patrick Gray comes across as an honest and patriotic man who was, unfortunately, naïve and unsophisticated about politics. Had he been more cynical, he would have been more suspicious of Dean and Magruder, which might have broken the cover-up in the summer of 1972.

Nonetheless, Gray was never a Watergate conspirator. Nor did he impede the investigation in any material way. Moreover, at critical points in the drama, Gray helped expose the conspirators.

For example, Gray told the Senate Judiciary committee in March 1973 that John Dean had “probably” lied to the FBI on 22 June 1972 when he professed ignorance about Howard Hunt’s White House office. Gray’s statement helped convince Dean that the game was up and sent him scurrying to the Watergate Special Prosecutors and the Ervin committee.

Ed Gray is acutely aware of the chasm between his father’s image and his actual performance. He believes that this gap grows out of the mythmaking melodrama of All the President’s Men. To make Deep Throat look good, Woodward and Bernstein had to paint Gray in the worst possible light. Later writers fell in line with the myth and never looked closely at the facts.

His argument has a lot of merit. Fortunately, this book goes a long way toward restoring L. Patrick Gray’s good name.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

The best and worst of the Ramsey case
The Chicago Tribune has an outstanding analysis.

JonBenet toxic gossip was in itself a true crime

The LA Times is still blaming the victims:

JonBenet's image a haunting reminder of all troubled childhoods - Los Angeles Times

I find it difficult not placing her in the larger context of abused children as incidents occur in L.A. of babies killed in the crossfire of gangland feuds, or left to die in the street by hit-and-run drivers or tortured by parents whose madness seeks vengeance in their own aberrant worlds.

See. The Ramsey's were abusers even if they were falsely accused of killing their daughter. Scum. Some journalists are just scum.
Not everybody is on the Favre train

Cold Hard Football Facts weighs in.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

D&D for sociology majors

I think he is on to something .
Outstanding article

Why Iraq Was Inevitable

It is a useful reminder of how the world looked in February 2003.
Tony Snow, R.I.P.

I first heard him when he would substitute for Rush Limbaugh. I liked his obvious intelligence and his understated manner. Unlike most talk radio hosts, he eschewed bombast. Listeners got the impression that he was looking for informative dialogue, not just cheap histrionics. As a press secretary, he was better than this administration deserved.
Interesting trivia

NFC teams have won 22 Super Bowls, but AFC teams have lost 23.
The gunslinger becomes a diva

I am heartily sick and tired of the Bret Favre saga. The man really wants to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral. You would think he was a wide-receiver or an NBA player.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

This can't be repeated often enough

Despite the Brady Campaign’s machinations, they’ve never been right once. Not once, about the issue of concealed carry laws leading to more violence.

More here.
An interesting blog

In Case Of Emergency, Read Blog

A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Maybe the tide is turning

Nice article on the antics of Nancy Grace and Co.

Media's Influence on Jury Trials

For modern pundits, "presumed guilty" has more entertainment value than "presumed innocent"

It doesn't say anything that bloggers did not say hundreds of times during the Duke lacrosse case. But it appears in Readers Digest.

It's kind of appropriate given today's big crime news"

Family cleared in JonBenet Ramsey’s death

For almost twelve years verminous scum like Wendy Murphy made their accusations. Now, it turns out, they were persecuting innocent family members and crime victims. Nice work for some who proclaims herself a "victim's advocate".

UPDATE: No surprise really, but Wendy Murphy was on Nancy Grace and still eager to malign the family. It's probably worth linking to KC Johnson's analysis of her performance on the Duke lacrosse case.
Just tryin' to help out


Monday, July 07, 2008

An enduring puzzle

Say you were in charge of a struggling business. You face falling revenue, changing technology, and a host of new competitors.

Under what conditions would your best strategy be to give away your best product to your competitors?

I’m hard-pressed to think of one. Yet daily newspapers pursue just this strategy when it comes to cable news networks.

Repeatedly, we see newspaper reporters show up on Nancy Grace or Fox News to help them cover a story. Frequently, those print journalists provide all the facts while the hosts contribute only speculation and histrionics.

It is easy to understand why CNN and Fox do it. Getting free information fits perfectly into their low-cost model.

But why do newspapers allow their employees to subsidize the competition? In most cases, the newspaper does not even get useful PR. “Hawks do not share” and O’Reily, Grace and Greta rarely promote the newspaper that actually did the reporting.

Like I said, it’s a puzzle.
Looks like that's $50 million down the drain

Gap Widens Between Morning TV Competitors

Now the gap is wide again, the biggest it has been in four years. Since the start of the year “Today” is up about 3 percent, leading “Good Morning America,” which is down 6 percent, by about 1.2 million viewers a week.

So CBS hires Katie Couric and she does nothing for their news ratings. NBC "loses" Couric and their ratings improve. They have some smart people running television networks.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Newsroom blinders

The Chicago Tribune writes about spree killers in the aftermath a recent events in Illinois.

Because spree killers move so fast, police are reduced to combating them with public warnings about where they may be headed next.
Killing sprees, though, are all but impossible to curtail. Each of us has to make do with the slim hope that we'll never again hear of this pathology that, within the past few days, terrified so many Midwestern communities
It's true that the police can do nothing to to prevent a killing spree and that they are hard-pressed to stop the killer in the first few days of the spree. OTOH, the public does have alternatives beyond cowering in fear. They could, uh, maybe, arm themselves.

The murders in Illinois is a case in point. Several of the victims were chosen at random and all were bludgeoned. I don't think it is outrageous to suggest that a handgun might have prevented one or more of the murders.

Not a critical point, but it is not accurate to say that Bonnie and Clyde were stopped by "Louisiana law officers." Four of the six posse members were from Texas including two Texas rangers.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Sen. Jesse Helms RIP

He was the midwife of the Reagan Revolution. If the Gipper had lost in North Carolina in 1976, his political career would be only a footnote. Helms was almost alone among GOP senators in 1976 in his support of Reagan and it was his organization that help RR pull out the win that put his campaign back on track.
What a surprise

Slate doesn't like the Dirty Harry movies.

The reviewer apparently was so repulsed by their “quaintly repugnant politics” than he could not pay close attention to the movies. His summaries are almost laughably wrong.

I guess it is naïve to ask why it is OK to criticize Dirty Harry for its repugnant politics when more celebrated films-- The Godfather, Bonnie and Clyde, or Hannibal, for example-- are immune from this type of analysis.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sad but true

From James Joyner:

Further, as I’ve discussed perhaps ad nasuem in posts over the past five plus years, most blogs are frankly unreadable by those not sympathetic to the point of view of the author. This holds true even when one excludes the 90-plus percent of political blogs that are unreadable, period. Few people have an appetite for being rudely insulted on a regular basis, having their intelligence, decency and patriotism questioned.

To rip off Lionel Trilling, I'd say that there is no thought, as such, on the typical political blog, just "irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas."