Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Who's the victim here?

The classic definition of chutzpah is of a defendant who murders his parents and then asks the judge to have mercy on him because he's an orphan.

We have a new contender.

According to today's Times:

ROME — The Vatican recalled its ambassador to Ireland on Monday, citing reaction to a recent Irish government report that said the Vatican had discouraged efforts by bishops to report cases of sexual abuse to the police.

If you're wondering, the report of the Irish government, over 400 pages, is very strong in its condemnation of the church's responsibility for the rape of children all around Ireland by Catholic priests.

Last week, the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, denounced “the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day,” in a speech that represented the government’s sharpest-ever direct attack on the Roman Catholic leadership.

The prime minister told Parliament last week, “The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation.’ ” Mr. Kenny added that the Vatican had not listened “to evidence of humiliation and betrayal” with compassion, but had instead chosen “to parse and analyze it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.” The Irish Parliament also passed a motion denouncing the Vatican’s role in “undermining child-protection frameworks.”

Any decent human being, or any organization with the slightest regard for human rights and human dignity, would be so humbled the the only possible response would be abject apology, or, in the case of the organization, to dedicate all its resources to compensate the victims and help them to heal.

Of course, the Catholic church, having no regard for human rights and human dignity, takes the opposite approach, recalling its ambassador in affront over the Taoiseach's comments, noting that, "the decision “does not exclude some degree of surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions.”

Yes, believe it or not, in this situation, the injured party is not the rape victims, or the government officials who stand up for them, but the criminals who were at the receiving end of "certain excessive reactions".

Chutzpah, anybody?

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thank you, John Boehner!

It was just Thursday night and yesterday morning that I was resigned to another sellout by President Obama.

Once again, although negotiating from a position of strength, Obama was just about to sign onto a deal to give the Republicans what they wanted while holding out for what, exactly? Pretty much nothing. The terms of the deal were vague, but they clearly included slashing Social Security and other expenditures in exchange for some vague promise to raise revenues in the future. Like in the middle of campaign season next year, right when the R's were going to need to prove to their base that they held firm on no tax increases, ever.

Senior House GOP aides they had reached a tentative agreement on cuts of $300 billion to Medicare over 10 years and reductions of between .25 percent and .50 percent in program spending over the next 10 years. These savings were to be achieved by raising the eligibility age, increasing premiums and co-payments and other measures.

There was also an understanding the White House would accept up to $125 billion in 10-years savings on Medicaid and the children’s health insurance program. Those agreements, GOP aides said, did not shift and represented what they hoped would be the foundation of significant entitlement reform.

And remember, there was no reason for Obama to agree to this. The polls show us that Obama was winning this issue with the American people: they realized that the Republicans were to blame for the crisis, so Obama should have had the upper hand.

And still he wanted to cave.

But then John Boehner rides to the rescue. With his "fuck you" letter to Obama, Boehner rescued Obama from himself.

Because nothing is enough for the Republicans.

So instead of cursing yet another capitulation by the Democrat we worked to elect, we are cursing the Republicans, and thanking them for their loyalty to their wealthy patrons above all else.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Haboobs, or just plain boobs?

Here's the latest from the Arizona booboisie.

PHOENIX — The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.

The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.

Apparently there's something wrong with using a word for a sandstorm that comes from a part of the world where sandstorms are common. After all, "haboob" comes from the land of the A-rabs, or "Camel Meskins" as they're known in Arizona.

My question is this: I have no doubt that the people complaining about this will have no problem avoiding such Arabic invaders as algebra or algorithms, but whatever will they do without alcohol?

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Prosecutorial Misconduct in Casey Anthony trial

I didn't watch the coverage of the Casey Anthony trial. At all. I just wasn't interested, so I really have no opinion about whether the jury did the right thing, or whether she actually killed her baby, or anything like that.

What I am interested in, though, is prosecutorial misconduct. In a criminal trial the cards are already stacked against the defendant, with all the investigatory and prosecutorial resources of the state lined up to throw one person in jail.

What we have learned now, though, is that the prosecution's tactics went beyond its permissible advantage against the defendant and withheld potentially crucial evidence it had.

The murder case against the defendant was based in part on a finding that she had done on-line searches for chloroform, and that demonstrated her intent to kill her baby and her knowledge of the means of doing it.

Only it turns out that the computer analysis was wrong. The expert who did the analysis realized that he had made a mistake, and that when he thought he had identified 84 times that the defendant had searched for "choloroform", it turned out that it was only one time. He did the responsible thing. He redid his analysis, presented it in spreadsheet form to the prosecution, and even offered to fly down at his own expense to explain his error to the jury.

Concerned that the analysis using CacheBack could be wrong and that a woman’s life might be at stake, Mr. Bradley went back to the drawing board and redesigned a portion of his software to get a more accurate picture.

He found both reports were inaccurate (although NetAnalysis came up with the correct result), in part because it appears both types of software had failed to fully decode the entire file, due to its complexity. His more thorough analysis showed that the Web site sci-spot.com was visited only once — not 84 times.

Mr. Bradley, fearing that jurors were being given false information based on his data, contacted the police and the prosecution the weekend of June 25. He asked Sergeant Stenger about the discrepancy, and the sergeant said he was aware of it, Mr. Bradley said. He waited to see if prosecutors would correct the record. They did not.

If you're a regular viewer of any of the myriad of Law and Order shows on TV you know about the Brady rule. Based on the Supreme Court decision of Brady v. Maryland, it requires prosecutors to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. Among other things, evidence that evidence being presented against the defendant may not be credible is specifically covered by case law applying the Supreme Court’s Brady decision.

This body of law was addressed by the Supreme Court this spring, when they allowed a conspiracy by New Orleans prosecutors to conceal evidence to go unpunished.

So now we have a well-established example of the prosecution sitting on substantial exculpatory evidence in a high-profile case.

What's the response from the prosecution?

The State Attorney’s Office in Orlando did not return messages seeking comment.

Capt. Angelo Nieves, media relations commander for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, said Mr. Bradley had a vested interest in coming forward since his software was used in the investigation.

“We’re not going to relive the trial again,” Captain Nieves said. “We are not prepared to do that nor are we going to participate in that.”

I hope there is followup to see that justice is done.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Murdoch, Journalism, and the Wall Street Journal

It's obvious by now that not only does Rupert Murdoch have no affirmative interest in journalism, he's actually opposed to it, right?

Almost two years ago, shortly after Murdoch bought it, I published a diary pointing out how Murdoch's ownership had corrupted the news side of the Journal, bringing a newspaper formerly acclaimed for the quality of its reporting down to the status of a house organ.

Yesterday Joe Nocera has a column in the Times making the same point.

In her book, “War at The Wall Street Journal,” Sarah Ellison recounts how editors inserted the phrase “assault on business” in an article about corporate taxes under President Obama. The Journal was turned into a propaganda vehicle for its owner’s conservative views. That’s half the definition of Fox-ification.

One of the reasons we in the blogosphere do what we do is dissatisfaction with the mainstream sources of information. Even for someone who, like me, has never been a reader of the Wall Street Journal, the debasement of any publication of genuine quality is very bad news.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Those of us who have been wanting to see Obama show some fight have to be happy tonight.

I wish I'd blogged this at the time, but it really is true that when I heard about the deal Obama cut with McConnell to extend the Bush tax cuts last year the first thing I thought to myself was, "I hope he got an increase in the debt ceiling as part of the deal."

Well, as we now know, he didn't, and we are now being held hostage by Republican terrorists.

But if the press reports are accurate, today's the day Obama decided to stop negotiating with terrorists.

Here's what he reportedly said at today's meeting with Cantor, McConnell, and the other Republicans:
"I have reached the point where I say enough," Obama told the leaders, according to the account. "Would Ronald Reagan be sitting here? I've reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this."

He's right. Enough is enough.

It will be very interesting to see what happens at their meeting tomorrow.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Good news in Wisconsin

The first round of the Wisconsin recall elections was held today, and there's good news.

You probably recall that the Wisconsin Republican Party organized a bunch of fake
democrats to run in the primary leading up to the recall election. It was estimated that running the fake Democrats, which the Republicans didn't even bother to pretend that they weren't behind it, were going to cost the state more than $400,000.

That's right--the party that was supposedly trying to save the state money by screwing state employees out of their pensions and collective bargaining rights--is making the state throw money away.

The result, possibly inevitable, came out today. All six fake Democrats were defeated, leaving the real Democrats to move forward to the general election on August 9.

One step closer to replacing those union-busting scumbags.

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