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November 30, 2005

Progress at Harvard

Glenn Reynolds links to an article in the current issue of The New York Observer by Anna Schneider-Mayerson describing a recent trend towards embracing ideological diversity at Harvard Law School. Evidently, Larry Summers' appointment of fellow Clinton administration official Elena Kagan as the new Law School Dean was a smart choice. She appears to be doing a great job of encouraging the selection of the best scholars and teachers for the faculty, regardless of their politics. (In the process, also managing to attract some first-rate conservative legal scholars.)

However, judging from a recently published study in the Georgetown Law Journal by John O. McGinnis, Matthew A. Schwartz, and Benjamin Tisdell analyzing campaign donations by law school faculty members, Harvard has a long way to go before its Law School faculty "thinks like America" on political issues. (For some preliminary results from this study, you can visit Professor McGinnis' web page.)

Meanwhile, kudos to Dean Kagan and President Summers for moving in the right direction.

November 30, 2005 at 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fundamentalism vs. Science

This time in the UK.

November 30, 2005 at 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

All the News That Fits Our Agenda™

You'd have thunk that Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman's statements this week reporting on progress in Iraq and calling for the US to stay the course would have been mentioned by the NYT. But you'd have been wrong! (The only mention of Lieberman's comments found in a search on the NYT's website came in the last two paragraphs of a Reuters wire service piece that never made it into the dead tree edition.) In the NYT's alternative universe (what is the opposite of Bushworld?) this counts as UnNews. Double plus ungood.

For the record, here is what Lieberman had to say about Iraq in his WSJ OpEd yesterday:

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

Contrast the NYT's treatment of Sen. Lieberman's comments with those of Congressman John Murtha.

What is really annoying about the NYT is that unlike other major US newspapers (like the WSJ, WaPo or even the liberal LAT), the Times makes no attempt at presenting an even-handed review of the day's news. Entire controversies that gain extensive coverage elsewhere (like UNscam, for example) are consigned to the NYT's memory hole as not being newsworthy. All I can say is thank god for the Internet. If people actually had to rely on the one-time "newspaper of record" for their news, they would be sadly misunderinformed (as President Bush might have put it).

November 30, 2005 at 06:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 29, 2005

Tookie Williams Deserves to Die

I've been emailing back and forth with a friend about Stan "Tookie" Williams and his request for clemency before his scheduled execution on December 13th. So I was interested to see a story in today's LAT profiling Barbara Becnel, who is Tookie's main defender and advocate. This story led me to Becnel's web site Tookie.com, which contains testimonials on the redemptive power of Tookie's anti-gang work, MP3's of Tookie's anti-gang radio PSAs, etc. The site also links to a motion requesting discovery related to his original trial and the police investigation leading to his arrest as well as Tookie's clemency petition to the Governor.

I read his lawyer's petition to re-open his original trial with interest. She makes a persuasive argument that Williams' conviction was based on the testimony of career criminals, who had an interest in helping the prosecution in order to obtain favorable treatment in their own cases. Interestingly, while Williams has publicly apologized for his role in starting the Crips, he has maintained his innocence in the four counts of murder for which he was sentanced to die. Could he possibly be innocent, at least of these crimes?

I tried Googling "tookie williams guilt innocence," but could find very little discussion of the actual crimes he was alleged to have committed. Fortunately, I stumbled across the LA County DA's response to Williams' petition for clemency. Reading the evidence, it becomes clear that Tookie did, in fact, murder four innocent people in cold blood. While a case could be made that there were some technical problems with his trial (for example, the defense alleges that the prosecution impermissably disqualified black jurors from the case), there is little room to believe that they got the wrong guy. Tookie did it, all right.

Which brings me back to my original position. If someone seeks clemency, or mercy, good works in prison are not enough, at least in my book. If a man commits multiple murders and does not take responsibility for his actions, express genuine contrition, and apologize to the families he destroyed, then he does not deserve mercy. I just hope that Arnold has the balls to stand firm and let justice take its course.


I thought some more about Tookie and his case this evening at the gym. One of the things that makes his crimes so terrible is that they were cold-bloodedly calculated killings. He told his partners in the robberies that he did it because he didn't want to leave any witnesses. It wasn't a case of passion, or a robbery going bad where he had not intended to hurt anybody, he went into that convenience store and motel planning to kill anyone who could identify him.

Of course, he was high on PCP at the time, and I have no idea what that drug can do to one's perceptions of events. But the man did have a sawed off shotgun in his possession, which he bought legally, using his drivers license and with his signature on the form.

There are many cases of people who repent for their crimes while on death row. They face the death penalty with dignity, and with love, compassion and regret in their hearts. Texas, for example, has an interesting web page with the last statements and "offender information" of people who have been executed in that state. Here are some examples of killers who accepted responsibility for their actions and apologized for their crimes, at a point where there is no reason for them to lie: they are in the execution chamber, the governor is not on the phone, and they face certain death.

There are many more. Some are even poetic. David Martinez (who was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering a 24 year old woman) signed off this way: "Only the sky and the green grass goes on forever and today is a good day to die." Maybe Mr. Williams should make peace with himself and prepare to accept that his day is coming soon.

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November 29, 2005 at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Take From the Poor and Give to the Rich

Today's LAT has an excellent feature by John-Thor Dahlburg exposing one of the most egregious examples of eminent domain abuse I've ever seen. Essentially, the city government in Riviera Beach, Florida wants to condemn the homes of 18% of its residents (6,000 families) to make way for a marina and high-end residential development. But wait, it get's better: the population of Riviera Beach is predominantly black and less affluent, in spite of its waterfront location across the inlet from Palm Beach. So, the city wants to buy the homes of its poor minority citizens at fire-sale prices and then use this land to build a playground for wealthy retirees and tourists, all in the name of economic development.

The Washington Times also ran a story by Joyce Howard Price on this travesty back in October.

November 29, 2005 at 08:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 28, 2005

Bloody Murder

NYP Front Page Image

I live in one of the safest neighborhoods in Manhattan, but there have been a couple of murders within two blocks of my house during the past two weeks. The most recent one made the front page of the NYP and appears to be a real whodunnit. Some local bloggers have more on the story:

The murder apparently occurred in the building above a restaurant called "Chicky's on 86th," which actually has pretty good roast chicken to go. (Though it is currently closed for renovations.)


The plot thickens:

More Updates

The personal trainer and yoga teacher, Paul Cortez:

November 28, 2005 at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Limping Canard?

The UK Telegraph reports that French President Jacques Chirac's popularity has fallen to a new low in a recent poll.

November 28, 2005 at 07:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Reptile Broadcasting Service?

When it comes to invective, the North Korean government takes a back seat to no one. Evidently, the folks in Kimland appear to be miffed at CNN.

November 28, 2005 at 06:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 27, 2005

Saddling up to the Bar?!

I'm no word freak. I found Bill Safire's old weekly column "On Language" usually unbearable. But I draw the line at malapropisms, especially in major newspapers. And this is the second one I've noticed in the NYT over the past month.

In today's "SundayStyles" section, Raya Kuzyk ("a writer living in Brooklyn"), had a creepy first-person story about how she used a Powerpoint presentation to break up with her boyfriend:

We met at the restaurant bar, saddled up and ordered our drinks. After my third scotch and soda I said it: "Let's end things now, tonight, while we're a little buzzed and in good moods."

He paled, straightened, slumped. "Why?"

I reached into my bag and, nodding somberly, pulled out my laptop, resting it on the bar in front of us.

For the next 20 minutes Nick sat lighted by the screen's glow. Because I wasn't responsible for voicing the presentation myself, I started freely on my fourth drink while using my other hand to prompt each slide.

Leaving aside the question of why this piece of appalling behavior is deemed to be newsworthy, surely the NYT has people on its editorial staff who know the difference between "saddling up" and "sidling up." (Here's a hint, if there is no horse involved, go with sidle.)

But maybe it's a Gen X thing. Perhaps all the young people are using this fractured phrase these days. Some quick Googling showed that no, only the illiterate young people were doing so. For example:

  • From a George Washington University student newspaper (and not even the official student paper), came this brilliant sentence from a recent bar review: "After saddling up to the bar and ordering a Magic Hat #9, we opted not to stay at the loud very overcrowded downstairs bar."

  • This one is from another bar review found on VirtualTourist.com: "The people inside were nice, and we were too tipsy to really care, so we saddled up and let the bartender make us all kinds of new drinks. Decor and ambiance is very cool at this place." (In case you're curious, the author ends her review with the following comment: "Whatever, I wore jean shorts, tank top.")

  • Finally, from the aptly named "Stupid children answers the personals" comes this attempt at humor: "Saddling up to the bar and getting “Mountain Juice” as they call it, is just part of growing up in the south."

If the Times isn't willing to take the trouble to use standard American English for the sake of curmudgeonly ex-subscribers like me, please, please, do it for the children.

November 27, 2005 at 12:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Clemency without remorse?!

Michelle Malkin writes about Hollywood's effort to gain multiple-murderer Stanley "Tookie" Williams a reprieve. If Schwarzenegger gives in to this nonsense, he's permanently lost my respect.

November 27, 2005 at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack