aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, April 29, 2007
NYTimes on Georgia’s Shame: The Genarlow Wilson case
The New York Times tells it like it is. Monday’s editorial:
Every day that young Genarlow Wilson remains in prison for consensual sexual activity is a further indictment against the prosecutors, lawmakers and judges of the Georgia legal system. Lawyers for Mr. Wilson have applied for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge his cruel and unusual 10-year sentence. The Superior Court should grant it. [...]
The behavior of the district attorney, David McDade, requires particular scrutiny. He charged Mr. Wilson with raping a different girl at the same party, and a jury acquitted him in 2005. Mr. McDade has distributed a graphic videotape of the events in that case to legislators as part of a lobbying effort at the State Senate against Mr. Wilson’s release. And Mr. McDade went on television last month and said, referring to Mr. Wilson and others involved, “Six young men basically gang-raped a 17-year-old.”
At best, this is irresponsible considering that Mr. Wilson was acquitted of the charge. It demonstrates poor judgment not by a minor, but by an adult who should know better.
A selection of posts for more info: This isn’t the first time the Times noted David McDade’s behavior. For the record, a Wilson juror says, “We immediately saw the tape for what it was. We went back in and saw it again. Then everybody immediately said not guilty.”
I’d also single out for particular scrutiny Georgia State Senate President pro tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, who has continued to claim Genarlow is guilty of rape with full knowledge that he was acquitted of that charge. Matt Towery who wrote and introduced the bill used to charge and prosecute Genarlow has said again and again that it was not intended to imprison our kids. If you think the Times is over the top for using the term “cruel and unusual,” think again:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
...How can it be that, in the judges own words, a “promising young man with good grades and no criminal history [is sentenced] to ten years in prison without parole and a lifetime registration as a sexual offender because he engaged in consensual oral sex with a 15 year old victim only two years his junior” and THAT IS NOT CONSIDERED CRUEL AND UNUSUAL???
I am as distressed about this case and what it says about the state in which I now reside as any citizen could possibly be. With all of my heart I believe that if this is Georgia justice, there is no justice in Georgia. Georgia’s shame indeed! We need, Genarlow needs, help from outside. Make noise. Please, do something.
On Marilee Jones
I work in academia. With a Bachelor’s degree. My only options are to stay put and never rise, or go back to school for some higher credential. My life experience counts for something - I joke that had I done at Yahoo! what I did at Mediapolis I’d be a full professor with an honorary degree from an Ivy League school - but not much.
In my job I have had the opportunity to serve on search committees. I have given voice to the notion that maybe, just maybe, we should consider hiring someone from outside of the academy. That was shot right down. I can make an argument for alternative credentialing. I might make it one day here but in the context of my job I wouldn’t even bother. It’s crystal clear that would never fly.
Marilee was good in her job. Kevin Drum even ventured that maybe “this didn’t necessarily require the death penalty. Surely there was something MIT could have done to demonstrate it took this seriously without also losing a valued and high performing member of its administration?” He was shot down in comments and quickly took it back.
The lie is a problem, no getting around that. But credentialism is a problem too. I haven’t seen much commentary examining that. Saul Levmore at the University of Chicago comes closest:
It is tempting to say that the fact of the dishonesty is reason enough to demand resignation. But in many situations we regard dishonesty as but a small flaw when it is not shown to have “caused” a significant harm. A baseball pitcher might lie about his age; a spouse might lie about something in the family background; an employee might lie about fluency in a foreign language. In all these cases, if the party who was miseld discovers the dishonesty rather quickly we are comfortable with a decision to break a contract. Age discrimination law aside, the baseball player’s chance of injury and improved performance are related to age. A spouse might not only be uncomfortable with a partner who hides unpleasant things but also might regard family background as important in the choice of a partner. But my sense is that if, instead, there were a twenty-eight year period of great success in these relationships, as there was at MIT, we would think it odd if the original dishonesty were not forgiven or even regarded as fortuitously unknown. To be sure, the employer or spouse might want to send a message to future applicants that signals are serious business, but at some point the reality of performance overcomes this systemic call for integrity and efficiency in the screening process.
Consider, for example, those cases where an applicant for insurance lies about preexisting conditions. We normally ask for causation. If Y lies and says that the premises have a burglar alarm when they do not, and the premises are destroyed by an otherwise covered natural disaster, we regard the insured as deserving of the agreed-upon payments, even though there was an “unrelated” dishonesty in the application process. There remains some deterrent to dishonesty, as there is in the employment context, because the employer might discover the wrong soon after employment (and the insurer might investigate after a burglary to see whether there was indeed an alarm). It is tempting to suggest that there ought to be a norm akin to a statute of limitations in these matters, except that rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ© fraud usually requires ongoing misstatements (or republication of the offending document). If the admissions dean had lied to the employer about drug use thirty years earlier, I do not think that new information, coming to light so much later, would lead to a dismissal or resignation. It is hard to believe that the difference between the cases is that one requires repeated misstatement. Nor is it obvious that the difference is that the employer regards the academic credential as especially central to its mission. Non-university employers also regard such fraud as career-ending. Perhaps employers recognize that if they do not take credentialing fraud seriously, no one else will - while drug use has other crusaders and deterrents.
Finally, there is something interesting about the all-or-nothing quality of the dishonesty’s treatment. MIT has just as much incentive to regard plagiarism or other academic dishonesty as a serious offense. But in these cases, a penalty is rarely career ending. One who has cheated on a single exam or paper is, in most universities, likely to be readmitted after some penalty period. Yet that wrong also goes to the core of what the university is about, it is unlikely to be policed by other authorities, and it can be understood to say something about the person.
I don’t lie on my resume. I was once named to a congressperson’s advisory committee; somewhere I have the letter that welcomed me (if I can’t find it I can call up and get another). In three years we never met. Do I put that on my resume? If I do, is it then padded?
Remember this from a couple weeks ago, “one lender sampled 100 stated-income loan applicants and found that 90 had exaggerated take-home pay by 5 percent or more and that nearly 60 inflated their pay by more than 50 percent.”
Padding is rampant. Lately I’ve been wondering about awards, too; does anyone doubt that award systems can be worked? I even worked it once, winning a number of awards for a student film. Later, busy doing good work, I stopped working the award system. My bad. Marilee will probably be okay. She’ll write a book and go on Oprah and be interviewed by Diane Sawyer. But I don’t expect we’ll learn anything from it.
I am a fan of those hive-mind, wisdom-of-crowds theories. I like to think that our credentialism is the best we can do with the technology we have. And that maybe one day we’ll be able to more accurately measure skills and accomplishment without as much reliance on degrees and resumes. Of course, then we’d have to take care of the flip side, too, and value everyone, if not equally, at least adequately.
A man can dream can’t he?
DC Madam: GO TO TRIAL!
I so hope she does!
So now ABC News has a list of clients from a DC madam with “thousands of names, tens of thousands of phone numbers...and there are people there at the Pentagon, lobbyists, others at the White House, prominent lawyers - a long, long list.”
Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the woman charged, turned down a 4 month plea deal and says she wants to go to trial. A front page WaPo story today - ‘I Abhor Injustice,’ Alleged Madam says - has more about the scandal. The first casualty:
On Friday, Randall L. Tobias resigned as deputy secretary of state one day after confirming to Brian Ross of ABC that he had patronized the Pamela Martin firm. Speaking yesterday on “Good Morning America,” Ross said Tobias told him Tobias’s number was on Palfrey’s phone records because he had called “to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage.” There had been “no sex,” Ross quoted Tobias as saying, and that recently he has used another service, “with Central American gals,” for massages.
Tobias was director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. He previously held a top job in the Bush administration overseeing AIDS relief, in which he promoted abstinence and a policy requiring grant recipients to swear they oppose prostitution.
Pam and Josh comment on the obscenity of the “I switched to brown girls” defense. Nico and georgia10 note Tobias’s “it was like ordering pizza” defense. Atrios says, in essence, “none of our business.”
I find the hypocrisy bad on its face, but the reason I believe it emphatically must be our business is that I believe this is what fuels our sex offender hysteria and the criminalization of our kids.
I see no threat from 16 year-old suburban boys or 17 year-old football players or 40 year-old female substitute teachers. Rather, the cultural threat is rooted in the guilt and shame of our hypocritical married 65 year-old policy makers. They’re criminalizing our kids and our neighbors for the guilt and shame they’re suffering over their own behavior!
More from the WaPo story:
Palfrey’s flamboyant attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, said Friday that he has been contacted by five lawyers recently, asking whether their clients’ names are on Palfrey’s list of 10,000 to 15,000 phone numbers. Some, Sibley said, have inquired about whether accommodations could be made to keep their identities private. ABC is expected to air a report on Palfrey and her clients on “20/20” on May 4, during sweeps.
I’ll be watching.
Ubuntu Linux v Windows Vista
I’m a Linux dilettante; the only flavor I know is Ubuntu. If not before, the day I lose my Mac will be the day I become a maven. In the meantime I’ve got a couple Ubuntu projects going to move me in that direction.
So I was interested to see the Ubuntu Linux Vs. Windows Vista: The Battle For Your Desktop in-depth comparison piece from Information Week:
The prevailing wisdom about Linux on the desktop runs something like this: “I’ll believe Linux is ready for the desktop as soon as you can give me a Linux distribution that even my grandmother can run.”
For some time, the folks at Ubuntu have been trying their best to make Granny—and most everyone else—happy. They’ve attempted to build a Linux distribution that’s easy to install, use, configure, and maintain—one that’s at least as easy as Windows, and whenever possible, even easier. As a result, Ubuntu is one of the Linux distributions that has been most directly touted as an alternative to Windows.
From the conclusion:
[T]here’s at least as much about Ubuntu that I find disheartening or frustrating. There are still too many places where you have to drop to a command line and type in a fairly unintuitive set of commands to get something done, or edit a config file, or—worst of all—download and compile source code. For a beginner, this last is the kiss of death, because if compiling code fails, a beginner will almost certainly have no idea what to do next.
To be scrupulously fair, the situation isn’t always much better in Windows: Most people find the idea of spelunking the Registry to be about as unappealing—although the Registry does enforce at least some degree of consistency in the way configuration data is stored.
RELATED: MP3 Open Business Interview with Mark Shuttleworth: The Business Ecology of Ubuntu.