Is Today One of the Greatest Days Ever?

I think at least for 2014, September 4th is in the running. A quick recap:

1.) BP found grossly negligent and fined 18 billion.

2.) Gay marriage ruled constitutional in Indiana and Wisconsin.

3.) Bob McDonnell and wife found guilty and could spend a good hunk of time in the big house.

4.) Early voting changes that restricted ballot access blocked in Ohio.

5.) DC Republicans are so freaked out about the Kansas Senate race they are taking over on the ground.

6.) Obamacare legal challenge by shitburgers overturned.

7.) St. Louis County Executive apologizes for Ferguson episode and seems genuinely sorry and intent on making change.

8.) Thousands of fast food workers take to the street to demand a fair wage.

9.) Rand Paul, Ron Paul and Mitch McConnell’s wingnut tea party clown, Jesse Benton, has been subpoenaed in the Iowa bribery case.

If that isn’t enough for you, the NFL is back with opening night tonight, and because I love you, I give you this:

Word








Politicking While Black

The new sin/crime:

On Sunday the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist and television host, mentioned that voter turnout in Ferguson, Mo., was a mere 12 percent in the last election, and pledged to help boost that number with a registration drive. Twelve percent, he said, was “an insult to your children.” He wasn’t the first to think of channeling the anger over Mike Brown’s death in this particular direction. Twitter users on Saturday noted voter registration tables in front of the makeshift memorial where the unarmed teenager was shot by a police officer.

Encouraging more participation in the democratic process in a community that feels alienated from political power — hence the demonstrations — seems like an obviously good idea; and one that’s particularly compelling because it’s so simple. Voting is an alternative to protesting in the streets.

And yet, the executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, Matt Wills, denounced the plan.

Mr. Wills told the right-wing website Breitbart: “If that’s not fanning the political flames, I don’t know what is. I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.”

On another right-wing site, Red State, Dan McLaughlin also argued that there was something indecent about the registration drive. Ferguson presents an opportunity for “Right and Left” to find “common ground,” he wrote. But “the minute you turn your energies into just another effort to register Democratic voters and fire up the Democratic base in advance of an election,” he argued, “the harder you make it to keep the common ground from vanishing in the fog.”

Then, the other day, this:

The stars of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays movement took the stage on Labor Day at Charlotte’s Marshall Park to condemn the state’s record on voter suppression and racial profiling, and urge the community to organize and turn out at the polls this November. Just a few hundred feet away, police cuffed and arrested local LGBT activist and former State Senate candidate Ty Turner as he was putting voting rights information on parked cars.

“They said they would charge me for distributing literature,” Turner told ThinkProgress when he was released a few hours later. “I asked [the policeman] for the ordinance number [being violated], because they can’t put handcuffs on you if they cannot tell you why they’re detaining you. I said, ‘Show me where it’s illegal to do this.’ But he would not do it. The officer got mad and grabbed me. Then he told me that I was resisting arrest!”

Thinkprogress had an update this afternoon:

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department held a press conference about the incident Wednesday. They said they believe their officers behaved appropriately, and Deputy Police Chief Kerr Putney told reporters that officers routinely take a person away from the scene of a disturbance to “ease the tension,” and said the arrest was “sparked primarily by Turner’s non-compliance.” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham and several other supporters of Turner say they will continue to call for a full investigation.

Of course he behaved appropriately!

Look, here is how it works with bad cops and shitty police departments. They approach a person who is doing nothing wrong and mess with them. The person says “WTF are you doing?” The bad cops then arrest them for non-compliance or resisting arrest or some other bullshit. If they are lucky (translation: white or in public with lots of witnesses), they get taken to jail and get screwed with a while and released. If they are unlucky (translation: black or there is no one around with a camera), they get beaten, sometimes to death, and then taken to jail or the morgue.

In either case, the resisting or bullshit non-compliance charge is dropped 99% of the time (75% of statistics on the internet are made up) because there is no underlying charge. Regardless, the chief and FOP will stand behind the cop.

Freedom smells like tear gas and feels like plastic handcuffs in America. Especially if you are a person of color or “foreign” looking- and it doesn’t matter your station in life.

*** Update ***

According to the NY Post, only 6.2% of resisting arrest charges in NYC are prosecuted. So I was wrong- it’s not 99%, it’s 93.8%. My bad.








Just Making Shit Up to Kill People

scalia-gesture

Speaking of that worthless scumbag Scalia, this, were we living in a sane nation, would be shocking:

Thirty years after their convictions in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in rural North Carolina, based on confessions that they quickly repudiated and said were coerced, two mentally disabled half brothers were declared innocent and ordered released Tuesday by a judge here.

The case against the men, always weak, fell apart after DNA evidence implicated another man whose possible involvement had been somehow overlooked by the authorities even though he lived only a block from where the victim’s body was found, and he had admitted to committing a similar rape and murder around the same time.

The startling shift in fortunes for the men, Henry Lee McCollum, 50, who has spent three decades on death row, and Leon Brown, 46, who was serving a life sentence, provided one of the most dramatic examples yet of the potential harm from false, coerced confessions and of the power of DNA tests to exonerate the innocent.

***

In 1994, when the United States Supreme Court turned down a request to review the case, Justice Antonin Scalia described Mr. McCollum’s crime as so heinous that it would be hard to argue against lethal injection. But Justice Harry A. Blackmun, in a dissent, noted that Mr. McCollum had the mental age of a 9-year-old and that “this factor alone persuades me that the death penalty in this case is unconstitutional.”

The exoneration based on DNA evidence was another example of the way tainted convictions have unraveled in recent years because of new technology and legal defense efforts like those of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a nonprofit legal group in North Carolina that took up the case.

Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out, right Fat Tony? You might wonder where our “strict constructionist” are getting their legal advice in some cases:

Justice Antonin Scalia made this point in a 2011 dissent chastising the majority for its blithe acceptance of “government-funded studies” that “did not make an appearance in this litigation until the government’s merits brief to this court.”

But “Supreme Court briefs are an inappropriate place to develop the key facts in a case,” Justice Scalia wrote. “An adversarial process in the trial courts can identify flaws in the methodology of the studies that the parties put forward; here, we accept the studies’ findings on faith, without examining their methodology at all.”

The net result, he said, is “untested judicial fact-finding masquerading as statutory interpretation.”

At least the studies that Justice Scalia complained about were submitted by a party to the case and thus were likely to be closely examined by the other side.

Most of the information from the amicus briefs recently cited by the justices was not subjected to even that level of adversary scrutiny. Only 28 percent of the cited materials drew a response from one of the parties in the case.

In the Hobby Lobby case, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. pushed back against the recent trend, refusing to consider “an intensely empirical argument” in an amicus brief. “We do not generally entertain arguments that were not raised below and are not advanced in this court by any party,” he wrote.

Not so, Professor Larsen wrote in a recent blog post. “This descriptive statement by Justice Alito about Supreme Court practice is simply incorrect,” she wrote.

Consider these examples.

In a 2011 decision about the privacy rights of scientists who worked on government space programs, Justice Alito cited an amicus brief to show that more than 88 percent of American companies perform background checks on their workers.

“Where this number comes from is a mystery,” Professor Larsen wrote. “It is asserted in the brief without citation.”

In a 2012 decision allowing strip searches of people arrested for even minor offenses as they are admitted to jail, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy cited an amicus brief to show that there are an “increasing number of gang members” entering the nation’s prisons and jails. The brief itself did little more than assert that “there is no doubt” this was so.

And in a 2013 decision, Justice Stephen G. Breyer cited an amicus brief to establish that American libraries hold 200 million books that were published abroad, a point of some significance in the copyright dispute before the court. The figure in the brief came from a blog post. The blog has been discontinued.

In an interview, Professor Larsen said she was struck by how often justices cited the amicus briefs themselves as sources of authority, as opposed to the materials collected in the briefs. “It really makes you wonder how much digging the justices are doing,” she said.

If we are settling law on the basis of blogposts, Lady Justice isn’t blind, she’s stupid and a sociopath.








What a Steaming Load of Bullshit

Precisely why the hell did Chief Jackson open his press conference naming the cop who murdered Michael Brown with video of a completely unrelated robbery, when the Chief himself says that the cop who killed Brown was not responding to the robbery?

To smear the victim and blur the lines. That’s why, because I seriously doubt they are going to charge Brown’s corpse with robbery.

I was on the road and out and about all day, and I just came home and watched the presser, and I am just gobsmacked. Beutler is absolutely right:

We now have an answer to question number four, above. According to Police Chief Jackson, “The initial contact between the officer [Darren Wilson] and Mr. Brown was not related to the robbery.” Wilson approached Brown and his companion “because they were walking down the middle of the street, blocking traffic.”

In other words, Wilson didn’t know about the robbery at all when the encounter began. Which calls the incident report’s legal relevance to the circumstance of the shooting into question. If the altercation began under totally different pretenses, why try to connect the two? One reason would be to build a narrative that’s consistent with Wilson’s story. If Brown had just committed a crime, and was willing to tussle, and Wilson thought he was dealing with a couple of harmless jaywalkers, then it’s easier to believe that Brown was combative and Wilson was caught off guard. Both things need to be true if we’re to believe Wilson’s version of events—that Brown assaulted him, lunged for his gun, and was subsequently shot.

It’ll work, too, with a large segment of our population, because OOGITY BOOGITY SCARY NEGRO!

The entire god damned Ferguson police force needs to find new jobs, starting with that Chief. And if you really want to get depressed, read Julia Ioffe interviewing white folks from St. Louis. Wonder how many of the white cops in Ferguson live in neighborhoods like that?








Shameless Attacks

Rick Perlstein, who I think wrote perhaps the best history book I have ever read, Nixonland, has a new book out about the rise of Reagan called The Invisible Bridge. Nixonland is essential reading, and I am reasonably sure that Invisible Bridge will be as well. However, since the topic is Saint Ronnie of Simi Valley, the usual suspects are very upset that some facts are being brought into the debate and chipping away at the carefully manufactured image Republicans have created, and the media is dancing to the tune of the wurlitzer:

Rick Perlstein always hoped his book on the rise of Ronald Reagan would set off serious debate among scholars and historians. Just not this debate.

Mr. Perlstein’s new 856-page book, “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,” which comes out Tuesday, is proving to be almost as divisive as Reagan himself. It has drawn both strong reviews from prominent book critics, and sharp criticism from some scholars and commentators who accuse Mr. Perlstein of sloppy scholarship, improper attribution and plagiarism.

The most serious accusations come from a fellow Reagan historian, Craig Shirley, who said that Mr. Perlstein plagiarized several passages from Mr. Shirley’s 2004 book, “Reagan’s Revolution,” and used Mr. Shirley’s research numerous times without proper attribution.

In two letters to Mr. Perlstein’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, Mr. Shirley’s lawyer, Chris Ashby, cited 19 instances of duplicated language and inadequate attribution, and demanded $25 million in damages, a public apology, revised digital editions and the destruction of all physical copies of the book. Mr. Shirley said he has since tallied close to 50 instances where his work was used without credit.

Mr. Perlstein and his publisher said the charges are unfounded and noted that Mr. Perlstein cited Mr. Shirley’s book 125 times on his website, rickperlstein.net, where he posted his endnotes, which include thousands of citations and links to sources.

“The claim of plagiarism doesn’t fly; these are paraphrases,” Mr. Perlstein said in a phone interview. “I’m reverent toward my sources. History is a team sport, and references are how you support your teammates.”

Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, called the plagiarism charges “ludicrous” and said the book was ”a meticulously researched work of scholarship.”

Mr. Perlstein, 44, suggested that the attack on his book is partly motivated by conservatives’ discomfort with his portrayal of Reagan. Mr. Shirley is president and chief executive of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, which represents conservative clients like Citizens United and Ann Coulter.

It’s just shameless smears. Personally, I would have put footnotes in both the book and online, but I haven’t written an 856 paged anything, so if you don’t mind, I’ll suggest that my opinion is worth about as much as it usually is. At any rate, Scott Lemieux edifies us on this ginned-up nontroversy:

Paraphrase with attribution is not plagiarism, and facts cannot be copyrighted. These are not complicated questions.

There are reasonable questions to be asked about the online-only endnotes of The Invisible Bridge, something that I’m guessing is going to be more common. My take is that the online source notes with links are, in themselves, an invaluable resource. Recognizing that resources are scarce, publishing serious works of history is generally a low-margin enterprise at best, etc., I would prefer all things being equal that they be supplements to traditional endnotes rather that replacements. As I’ve been working my way through the book there have been multiple times where I’ve wanted to look up a reference but haven’t been around a laptop. This is a question, however, that has nothing to do with scholarly integrity; online references are still references. And the specific campaign against Perlstein is plainly a political hit job.

Exactamundo. The puke funnel never stops.