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Bad News

[ 0 ] July 25, 2007 |

Ulrich Muehe, the Stasi agent in The Lives of Others, has passed away. I had no idea he was sick, but apparently he’s been suffering from stomach cancer.

Rest in peace.

Brief Thoughts on Ward

[ 0 ] July 25, 2007 |

From someone at CU:

The one thing that makes me feel OK about this, is that our faculty peers have found him [Ward Churchill] guilty of academic misconduct serious enough to recommend sacking him. The only people I trust to do, or at least to try to do, the right thing in this situation are the faculty. That various faculty committees more or less determined that he is a fraud is the biggest thing that makes me feel OK about the firing. Only caveat there is that those of us who love this place really love this place. It is a wonderful institution that has been stained in the last several years with lots of bad things. The little voice in the back of my mind does wonder whether even faculty might have let this sway their judgment toward the expediency of firing Ward (in terms of getting some of the stink off of CU) over the long-term and more general interest in protecting speech and tenure. I hope it’s not the latter, and for the moment I satisfy myself that faculty acted correctly (and certainly not as instruments of some neo-con conspiracy).

Right. There’s obviously a danger of rush to judgment in such situations, but the fact that he was convicted of academic misconduct by a group of people with a deep, vested interest in maintaining the protections and integrity of tenure helps relieve me of the concern that Churchill was railroaded. While the initial investigation may have been motivated by Churchill’s political statements, I think there’s good reason to believe that the conclusion wasn’t.

Laugh Line of the Day

[ 0 ] July 25, 2007 |

It’s so early in the day, and I’ve already had what may be the biggest laugh of the day. From the Center for American Progress daily Progress Report:

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who championed the confirmation John Roberts and Samuel Alito, plans to review the Supreme Court justices’ Senate testimony to “determine if their reversal of several long-standing opinions conflicts with promises they made to senators to win confirmation.”

Feels like a little too little too late from Arlen. Is there really any redress for this now? Methinks not.

Be Very Afraid

[ 0 ] July 25, 2007 |

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Remember Clarence Thomas replacing Thurgood Marshall?

In case you had any doubt about whether the 2008 election is a high stakes one, Tom Goldstein has a GOP Supreme Court shortlist:

As things stand, my short-list for a first nomination is: Ninth Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan, Florida State Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero, Sentencing Commission Chairman Ricardo Hinojosa, Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina, and Fifth Circuit Judge Priscilla Owen.

Yikes, imagine Priscilla Owen replacing Ginsburg or Stevens. In addition to being the bought-and-paid-for pro-business hack you would expect to emerge from the Texas bench, her jurisprudence is an object lesson in why the judicial bypass option for parental consent doesn’t work. She’s written several dissents — yes, dissents, she’s reactionary even for a Texas appellate court judge — arguing that young women haven’t received quite enough pro-life propaganda and religious instruction to demonstrate that they’re “mature.” Particularly remarkable was here unwillingness, contrary to the language of the statute, to grant a bypass given a likelihood that a young woman would be abused after telling her parents:

She further testified that she did not want to inform her mother about her decision to have an abortion because “her mother would tell her father and her father would become angry and physically take it out on her mother.” This was insufficient for Owen, who stated that “the evidence of physical abuse of Jane Doe’s mother was not so direct, clear, and positive that a trial court was required to conclude as a matter of law that if one of Jane Doe’s parents were notified, then Jane Doe may be emotionally abused.” Four justices disagreed, noting that, under the express terms of the statute, a judicial bypass “shall” be granted when the minor shows that parental notification “may lead” to her emotional abuse. [cites omitted]

Anybody who thinks that Kennedy’s opinion in Carhart II wasn’t quite sexist enough will love Owen. And, yes, she’s now on 5CA, in case you had any doubts about whether the “Gang of 14″ agreement was anything bit a crushing victory for the GOP.

The Double (Edged) Helix of DNA Evidence

[ 0 ] July 25, 2007 |

There’s been a lot of fanfare recently — and in many ways, rightly so — over the over 200 people who have been exonerated by DNA evidence. Many of these people served upwards of fifteen years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit (many of them for rape or rape & murder, crimes for which DNA evidence is more likely to exist). Several were on Death Row. In many of the cases, prosecutors at first refused to perform DNA testing that could exonerate the convicted and identify the truly guilty. That these 200 are just a small fraction of the people wrongly convicted is intuitive and undeniable, especially considering a new study, published in the Columbia Law Review in January (and available on SSRN), which concretizes this intuition. As the New York Times’s Adam Liptak wrote in a column Monday about the study (behind the damned TimesSelect shield), the leading reason for the false convictions of the (mostly) men exonerated by DNA evidence were faulty eyewitness IDs and testimony, which played a role in 79% of the wrongful convictions. In several of these cases, the person who provided the faulty ID was later revealed to be the person who actually committed the crime (revealed through DNA, usually). The impact of bad eyewitness IDs, of course, is no surprise. The Innocence Project, among others, has documented the high rate of error in eyewitness IDs.

The fact that DNA has been able to exonerate these 200 people who were wrongly convicted, whether by eyewitness mis-identification or any of the other causes of wrongful convictions (including faulty forensic evidence, which, according to the Times, was involved in 55% of wrongful convictions), is no doubt good news. But the power of DNA to exonerate these people (and, often, to elucidate the identity of the real perpetrator) also presents problems for those people wrongly convicted of crimes for which there is no DNA evidence, whether because there was none to be gathered, or because the DNA has been lost. Take Troy Davis, for example, the potentially innocent man who came within 24 hours of execution in Georgia last week. As the DMI Blog notes, Davis was convicted solely on the basis of “eyewitness” testimony. Of the nine people who identified him, six have recanted, one refuses to cooperate, one was the principle alternative suspect whom others labeled as the shooter, and one contradicted the testimony made at trial. Yet, while the Georgia Board of Pardons is considering his plea for clemency, Davis’s life hangs by a thread. In large part because if indeed he is innocent, there is no DNA evidence to exonerate him, only false testimony to convict him.

At the close of his column, Liptak notes that the “era of DNA exonerations is a finite one,” since DNA is being collected and analyzed more and more on the front end of prosecutions. But that still leaves this gaping hole in cases that lack DNA evidence and where there is (potentially faulty) eyewitness testimony. DNA has delivered justice for some, but it has also obscured the need for real reform that can provide justice for greater numbers and more often.

Vicious, Ad Hominem Attacks

[ 0 ] July 25, 2007 |

Hilzoy, on behalf of Jonah Goldberg:

Robert Farley: a pale, little man who hides within his armature of logical principles and arguments and consistency, like a grub cowering inside its discarded exoskeleton.

I’ll confess to the pale; my Anglo-Irish heritage has left me a legacy of skin that burns after 10 or so minutes of exposure to the noonday Kentucky sun. Curse my rain-sodden forebearers! But little? My dear, I haven’t subsisted on a diet of bourbon sours and Kentucky Fried Chicken for the last two years just to be called little. Due in no small part to the former, I’m also not so sure about the armature of logical principles, arguments, and consistency…


[ 0 ] July 25, 2007 |

So, the Hall of Fame class of 2012 could potentially include Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds. No one yet knows whether the last three will retire after this season, but that would be a pretty good haul. Of course, Biggio (although deserving) may get squeezed out by the others, and the sportswriters may decide to punish Bonds by keeping him out for a year or longer. Alternatively, the class of 2013 would look very strong if Clemens, Bonds, and the Unit stuck for another year and were joined by Sosa, Glavine, and Maddux.

It’s also mildly satisfying to note that, for the first time in a while, baseball is the least scandal-afflicted of the three major sports.

"Dial M For Moustache"

[ 0 ] July 24, 2007 |

Tomorrow on Tom Friedman.

And the Award For Most Hackish Column About Economics Not Written By The WSJ Ediotiral Borad or Larry Kudlow Goes To…

[ 0 ] July 24, 2007 |

Bobo! My heartiest congratulations. (Admittedly, I haven’t been keeping tabs on Donald Luskin recently, so the award must be considered provisional.)

Because I hated Barbarella, I’m outraged by Jane Fonda’s trip to Vietnam

[ 0 ] July 24, 2007 |

Loomis is right — this bit of red-baiting is pretty absurd, though not quite as obnoxious as this 2006 David Boaz piece, from which Yglesias finds support for his childhood loathing of Pete Seeger’s music.

Not to, you know, defend folk singers or anything, but the fact that Seeger’s views on World War II changed several times from 1939 to 1941 is hardly unique and marks him as “Stalin’s songbird” (David Boaz’s phrase) only in the sloppiest and most circumstantial of ways; indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find many Americans — “Stalinist” or otherwise — who did not follow a similar course. Moreover, Seeger’s departure from the CPUSA in 1950, several years before Uncle Joe’s fortunate and belated demise makes it difficult to cast him as a “hard-core Stalinist” no matter what his views on the Cold War might have been. If “previous affiliation with” is going to be the new “hard-core,” I suppose we’ll have to start thinking of Ann Althouse as a “hard-core Feingoldian,” which would be pretty goddamned silly.

My Thoughts Exactly

[ 0 ] July 24, 2007 |

In her post responding to last night’s CNN/YouTube Democratic debate, and with an eye toward the GOP version, Pam Spaulding asks the question about same sex marriage versus civil unions that I’ve been wondering about for some time now:

If civil unions are the answer to equality under the law, then are the candidates advocating that all heterosexual marriages be converted into civil unions, leaving the issue of religious “marriage” as a separate entity outside of government interference (which it should be)? If not, then they are admitting that that heterosexual couples are entitled to “special rights” not available to gay and lesbian couples.

Exactly right. Maybe marriage should not be the purview of the state at all, since it is today a fundamentally religious institution. Maybe the state should be in the business only of civil unions, and the religions can fight the battle over the word “marriage” out amongst and within themselves. There would then be no question that in the eyes of the state, straight and gay unions and families are equal. Not a likely solution, but an interesting one nonetheless.

But I’ll bet Cambridge would have hired Ward Churchill

[ 0 ] July 24, 2007 |

Shorter Jeff Jacoby:

My absurd hypothetical demonstrates that contemporary science is unremittingly hostile to 17th century alchemy.

Next week: Jacoby wonders why Pliny the Elder couldn’t get hired at MIT. Also: looking to have Lamarck’s Recherches sur l’Organisation des Corps Vivans taught in your high school? Think again, God-boy!

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