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Lethal Injection

[ 295 ] April 1, 2014 |

It’s horrifying. But the larger problem is that “humane execution” is a contradiction in terms.

Wussy Live

[ 17 ] April 1, 2014 |

Erik made the trip from Rhode Island yesterday so we could see a rare gig by the Cincinnati-based band Wussy, who we’ve mentioned before. In 2005, they released Funeral Dress, one of my very favorite albums of the last decade, and they’ve followed that up with 3 more regular releases and multiple collectibles of similar quality with a new record (which they’re making available in advance at the concerts) pending.  Our Ohio-based colleague djw assured us that their live act lived up to the records and how, so I’ve been excited about the gig for a while.  And while I’m sure Erik will weigh in himself, I’m confident he’ll say that it was more than worth the 3 hour drive — seeing a band of this quality in a tiny club was mind-blowingly good.  I don’t have the chops to adequately describe their sound.  Based around the first-rate songs and weaving guitars of co-founders Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker, they bring to invoke antecedents like the Velvets, late-60s Stones and Television while being too unique to really sound like any of them. They also have a fiercely good rhythm section, and particularly considering it was only their third or fourth gig of the tour they were remarkably tight.  It’s easy to see why the recordings are of such high quality given their palpable attention to their craft; they’re a flat-out great band.

While it’s a terrific opportunity, as most coverage of the band makes clear they also merit a much bigger venue, and I’ve never been one to want to keep an unknown excellent band to myself. For one thing, I want them to be able to make a decent living.  They’re on a tiny label and a search reveals that they still have yet to get a single mention from from our deeply fallible gatekeepers at Pitchfork.  This tour is definitely not a pampered rock star operation.  (I felt guilty asking Walker to sign my CD because she was busy dismantling the guitar switches, but she did so graciously, and they immediately sought out Cleaver before I could even ask.)  I hope that the new record finally gives them some fraction of the attention they merit, but in the meantime readers in Burlington, New York, Philly and Baltimore have the chance to see something really special in the next week.  If you think you might like it, check ‘em out.

MLB 2014

[ 71 ] March 31, 2014 |

I  don’t know what to do with my traditional “bet” of a Planned Parenthood donation with Most Valuable Commenter Howard, since I no longer think highly of the Yankees. But I’m still happy to pledge a donation in Howard’s if the Yankees fail to make the postseason.  Let’s pick the divisions for fun, wild cards asterisked:

AL West: 1. Oakland 2. LAAofA 3. Seattle 4. Texas 5. Hou I think my only unconventional pick here is that I think the Rangers are in for a rough year.  The Darvish injury might not prove to be serious but they can’t afford to miss more than one or two starts from their ace given their thin rotation, their closer has thrown 27 umimpressive innings since 2011, and losing Profar for at least two months hurts.  The Mariners aren’t very good yet either but they might squeak past them.

AL Central: 1. Det 2. KC (*) Cle 4. Min 5. Chi It should be a very close race for second here, with the Tigers remaining the class of the division for at least one more year.  The White Sox look horrible.

Al East: 1. TB 2. Bos (*) 3. NYY 4. Tor 5. Bal Two very strong teams on top; for once, I’ll pick the younger Rays to win the division in the last year of Price.  The Yankees certainly could win 90 games, but given how hideous the infield looks (Teixeira is really not someone I’d like to gamble on, their ancient shortstop is as of now backed up by a guy who not only can’t hit but is probably worse than the 40-year-old Jeter defensively, and really, Brian Roberts?) I don’t think enough other things will do right in a tough division.

NL West 1. LA 2. SF (*) 3. SD 4. Col 5. Ari Despite the Kershaw injury I’ll go chalk here. The last three finishers are chosen pretty much at random.

NL Central 1. STL 2. Cin (*) 3. Pit 4. Mil 5. Chi An improving division. I see the Reds and Cards as closer than the projection systems seem too, but I can’t make a case for the former being better. The Pirates are a pretty good young team but I’ll put them behind the Reds based on the Plexiglass Principle.

NL East 1. Wash 2. Atl 3. NY 4. Phi 5. Mia A declining division. The Nats seem like the class of the division given the devastating injuries to Atlanta’s pitching staff. The Mets could have made things vaguely interesting if Harvey was healthy and they acquired a major league shortstop, but neither condition applies. Ruben Amaro, Jr. is already a bad general managing legend; the Phillies’ decline was inevitable but they didn’t have to get this bad this quickly.  (They have been an effective stimulus program for professional out-makers named “Young.”) A bad baseball team assembled by some of the worst people in sports will be witnessed by as many as hundreds of thousands of fans in south Florida, although there’s at least some young talent.

Using Casey to Obliterate Roe

[ 44 ] March 31, 2014 |

I have more on the 5th Circuit upholding the draconian Texas abortion statute. A major part of the problem remains Casey itself; not just the plasticity of the “undue burden” standard but its decision to uphold the waiting period gave states a road map to banning abortion through the back door.

Until We Can Level Down, Level Up

[ 115 ] March 31, 2014 |

A public defender says that some people are taking the wrong lesson from the DuPont heir who was given no jail time after pleading guilty to raping a child:

If there’s one rule that you can live by in criminal court, it’s that if there’s something remotely objectionable happening in favor of a defendant, a prosecutor will object to it. So when two prosecutors act as if this isn’t that unusual or shocking, you know that maybe what the judge did isn’t so outrageous after all.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a problem with wealth. Mr. Richards got to go home because he needed treatment and he was able to afford to go to a clinic in MA to get that.

The real takeway from this should be not that Mr. Richards got a break, but that he got fair treatment for himself because he was rich and thus, there are hundreds who deserve the same but can’t get it because they are poor.

Just because he is the scion of a wealthy family doesn’t mean that his sentence wasn’t just. We mustn’t punish him for that. We must be punished for creating a system that encourages this disparity. We fail to adequately fund prisons so they can have adequate rehabilitative programs for all needy inmates. We fail to consider anything that is slightly nuanced and deviates from the mass-hysteria of instant and lifelong incarceration for anyone accused of serious crimes.

I agree with this to a point. Certainly, the conditions of American prisons are a disgrace, and even people who commit serious crimes should not be reflexively seen as irredeemable monsters.

Having said that, however, I don’t really buy the defender’s argument here:

  • I’m not at all convinced that the sentence in this case was just even on its own terms.  Sexually assaulting a child is a violent offense; this isn’t a drug possession case.   Even in the context of more humane justice system, it’s hard to imagine this offense not meriting some jail time.  It seems relevant to note here that this 5-year-old conviction came to light because Richards was accused in another lawsuit of sexually abusing his son. While American mass incarceration is a disaster, I would say that people convicted of sexually assaulting children should be very far down on the list of people for whom we should be considering not incarcerating for any time at all.
  • As a public defender concedes, whatever we would like the American criminal justice system to look like, it’s inconceivable that a defendant without Richards’s connections would have gotten off so lightly for a such a serious offense.  And this makes the outrage in fact fully justified.  Prison and sentencing reforms are very important goals, but to exempt the well-connected from the sentences and conditions an ordinary defendant would receive is not only grossly unfair in itself, it’s counterproductive to the larger cause.  One of the many problems with arbitrary exemptions from general laws granted to the well-off is that they make it even easier to sustain unjust prison conditions and sentencing regimes.

We need prison reform and sentencing reform.  But lenient treatment for the well-connected is the last place this should start.  The argument that Richards wouldn’t “fare well in prison” wasn’t exactly wrong, but in the context of the actually existing American criminal justice system it proves too much.

The Victims of the (War On Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs

[ 12 ] March 31, 2014 |

Monica Potts longform is always a must-read, and this is certainly no exception.

Free Markets

[ 71 ] March 30, 2014 |

Your reminder that corporations generally don’t like them.

The Ladder of Law Has No Top And No Bottom

[ 133 ] March 30, 2014 |

Of all the crimes for which one expects rich white people to have a de facto exception, you’d like to think this wouldn’t be one of them:

A Superior Court judge who sentenced an heir to the du Pont fortune to probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter wrote in her order that he “will not fare well” in prison and suggested that he needed treatment instead of time behind bars, according to Delaware Online.

Court records show that in Judge Jan Jurden’s sentencing order for Robert H. Richards IV she considered unique circumstances when deciding his punishment for fourth-degree rape. Her observation that prison life would adversely affect Richards confused several criminal justice authorities in Delaware, who said that her view that treatment was a better idea than prison is typically used when sentencing drug addicts, not child rapists.

Well, at least the free pass for raping a child goes to one of the deserving rich:

Richards, who is unemployed and supported by a trust fund, owns a 5,800-square-foot mansion in Greenville , Delaware, and also owns a home in the exclusive North Shores neighborhood near Rehoboth Beach.

As an aside, this is an excellent illustration that the appropriate solution to draconian drug sentences isn’t “give judges more discretion” but “don’t allow judges to give harsh drug sentences to anybody.”

[Via Henley.]

“Or We Could Try Appealing To More Voters.” [Pause] Hearty Laughter Breaks Out All Around.

[ 52 ] March 30, 2014 |

Today in Republican vote suppression:

Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls.

The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote.

Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.

Note the Republican focus on reducing voting hours. There’s not even a theoretical relationship between these laws and addressing the zero consequential cases of voter fraud that have ever existed. The laws are openly and explicitly about making it harder to vote, period, because the more people vote the worse it is for Republicans. This, in its entirety, is what the wave of vote suppression in Republican statehouses is about.

America’s Wrongest Pundit, Evidence File

[ 88 ] March 29, 2014 |

I don’t know if it would be possible for Chuck Lane to compete with such prodigious opponents as William Galston or Bill Kristol in the contest to determine America’s most consistently erroneous pundit. But as the case is being compiled against Lane, two things to add:

Pundit’s Fallacy of the Day

[ 368 ] March 28, 2014 |

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Gillespie, always trying to pretend that libertarianism is anything but insanely unpopular.

It’s also worth noting the additional fallacy here. If there’s a contradiction between libertarianism and bog-standard Republican cultural conservatism, it’s a safe bet that Rand Paul will favor the latter.

5CA Upholds Texas’s War on Roe v. Wade

[ 78 ] March 28, 2014 |

As you may recall, Republicans have convinced themselves that neutral regulations that don’t actually require companies or their managers to do anything represent a “substantial burden” on the Deeply Held Religious Principles of said secular for-profit coroporations and/or their managers, even when these Deeply Held Religious Principles were re-defined two years ago to become to compliant with the Republican war on the Affordable Care Act. On the other hand, for most Republicans non-neutral regulations that have demonstrably achieved their goal of causing many safe abortion clinics to close and in so doing make it enormously difficult or impossible for many women to obtain abortions do not constitute an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion:

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that two provisions of a Texas abortion law are constitutional, including one that has closed a third of the state’s clinics. The unanimous panel, made up of three women appointed by Republicans, had already allowed the full brunt of the law – the same one now-gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis tried to block – to go into effect.

[...]

The Fifth Circuit wasn’t impressed at how much harder it has become for Texas women to have abortions, both because clinics whose providers have been rejected for privileges have closed outright and because clinics with doctors that have been able to get privileges are operating at reduced capacity. According to a map by RH Reality Check’s Andrea Grimes, “As of March 6, there are 25 open abortion clinics, six of which are ambulatory surgical centers, in Texas.” There were 36 abortion clinics in Texas at the time the law was passed, meaning that the dire prediction that a third of the clinics would close has come true. When requirements that abortions be provided in ambulatory surgical clinics go into effect in September, that will leave only six clinics, plus another one Planned Parenthood is building in San Antonio. In 2011, there were 73,200 abortions in Texas.

All three members of the 5CA panel were appointed by Reagan or George W. Bush. Odd — I was told by Real Progressives that the typical Republican nominee these days is like Earl Warren and William Brennan. More on this Monday, but the ruling is an (all-too-predictable) disaster.

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