aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, June 18, 2007
A Real comeback
Real Networks (RNWK), the company that was one of the first companies to bet on streaming media (first audio and then video) recently released a new player, adding click-and-save web video feature. The company executives, while not being explicit, seemed pretty bullish about their prospects. [...]
I have been using the software for a couple of days, and it seems like it is time to give them a second chance. The company has stripped out most of the crap from their software, and the download button is becoming an addiction. Being time starved, it is easier to download and save the videos, so that I can watch them at a more convenient time.
By turning a blind eye to the legality of the software, some of the premium content available on the web is helping me live the no-old-TV life. Apparently, I am not the only one who feels that way. Michael Wolf, who is an analyst with ABI Research, also feels Real is ready for a comeback on the desktop.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
NYC apartment building fued
I’ll be in NYC in a week or so. I love the city and used to thoroughly enjoy digging in to zoning and real estate issues like those presented by the proposed bulbous triplex penthouse apartment suspended over the house next door on 15th Street between 6th and 7th. I actually kind of like the design as pictured; I’m not so sure my friends in the neighborhood will.
The argument that it makes everyone’s property more valuable doesn’t fly with them (like Manhattan real estate prices would otherwise fall???) and I agree with critics who point out that the city allowing the curb cut and interpreting the Sliver Law to allow exceptions for penthouses is a travesty not in the neighborhood interest but is, rather, a sop to rich real estate developers at the expense of the quality of life of the existing residents.
The couple building this project would balk if we applied that characterization to them. But the story in the Times Real Estate section Sunday, headlined Not in My Front Yard, suggests they’re hardly strapped:
Long before they began the current project, the couple spent five years creating the apartment next door - a place like no other in the city. It contains a two-story-high waterfall that flows into an 18-inch-deep river set into the living room floor.
The river, which is home to 10 large koi, follows the outline of the Yangtze, a feat the Raths accomplished by building a Styrofoam model (following a National Geographic map that they enlarged), setting the model onto the building’s foundation, and then pouring the concrete floor around the model. (The final step was using gasoline to dissolve the Styrofoam, Mr. Rath said.)
Now Plexiglas sheets cover the river, to keep out the Raths’ daughters and cats, Sunrise and Rosie.
The Raths did much of the construction work on their apartment themselves, even carving out the basement using five-gallon buckets. All the while, they lived on a sailboat in the Hudson River or under plastic sheets in the building, where for six months there were no plumbing fixtures, only a hose.
Interestingly, the whole process is being chronicled by documentary filmmakers. I would love to see that film!
Chronic widespread student loan abuses
This deserves more attention than I’ve given it. From The Chronicle (subscription):
Questionable practices that have come to light in investigations of the U.S. student-loan industry were routine and widespread, involving payments of illegal or improper inducements at dozens of colleges and lenders, both large and small, according to the first Congressional report on the matter.
The report, released on Thursday by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Senate education committee, may not change the fundamental understanding of a situation in which college administrators were accepting personal benefits—from pens and notepads to vacation trips and stock options—from lenders in return for access to their students.
It does, however, make public a depth of detail on the case that makes it harder for colleges and the lending industry to suggest that students were not shortchanged, or that potential violations of the federal ban on paying inducements to secure loan applications were rare or isolated events.
The 50-page report by Mr. Kennedy’s staff, titled “Report on Marketing Practices in the Federal Family Education Loan Program,” is backed up by a 530-page compilation of e-mail messages and other documents that contain ever more embarrassments for colleges and loan companies already held up to public shame by disclosures over the past several months.
While I certainly agree with Kevin Bruns, executive director of the industry group America’s Student Loan Providers, that “the vast majority of the men and women in the financial-aid and student-loan communities are honorable people trying to do the right thing,” it seems to me they must see the light and come to understand that some longstanding practices accepted as all well and good must change.
Friday, June 15, 2007
It won’t surprise you to learn that I’m no sports fan. And it doesn’t surprise me to learn that lifelong football players engaged in a head crunching “gluttony for combat” would be found to have brain injuries:
The discovery of a fourth player with chronic traumatic encephalopathy will most likely be discussed when N.F.L. officials and medical personnel meet in Chicago on Tuesday for an unprecedented conference regarding concussion management. The league and its players association have consistently played down findings on individual players like [the former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Justin] Strzelczyk as anecdotal, and widespread survey research of retired players with depression and early Alzheimer’s disease as of insufficient scientific rigor.
Uh, and smoking doesn’t cause cancer… I have to say I don’t quite get what a “concussion management conference” is going to accomplish. A quota on tackles?
It’s actually a very interesting story of players dying young and suffering from depression and other “significant psychological problems” that researchers are finding was caused by chronic head trauma. The researchers have set up a non-profit to “formalize the process of approaching families and conducting research.” Good for them for trying!
A gay mayor in Dallas?
Is a city closely associated with cowboys, family values and social conservatism ready to make history by electing a man who is openly gay as mayor?
Dallas voters will answer that question on Saturday as they choose between Democratic party-endorsed gay candidate Ed Oakley and nonpartisan Tom Leppert in a run-off race to replace outgoing mayor Laura Miller.
If Oakley wins, he would become the first openly gay man to be elected mayor of a major U.S. city, according to the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a Washington-based gay rights group.
The race is too close to call.
LATER: He lost, “Choosing a wealthy retired businessman over an openly gay City Council insider, voters elected Tom Leppert as Dallas mayor Saturday by a safe margin to lead the nation’s ninth-largest city.”
Simply put, widgets are the most recent embodiment of highly distributable Web media. Widgets permit users to separate the content from the Web page, permitting users to implant them on all types of pages, from personalized portal home pages to blogs to personal pages on social sites like MySpace or Facebook. I believe that over the next three years, widgets will change online advertising as we know it today. . . .
Are widgets the next search? I don’t think so. However, I do think that the concept of highly portable, object-oriented content that is personally and virally distributed will redefine how we think about Web pages, and how advertisers think about using the Web to communicate and interact with consumers.
He also rediscovered a related post he wrote two years ago: Feedthink meets Widgethink. “Most content is a feed and feeds can fill many widgets and that adds up to a new architecture for pages and content.” Cool!
Voter Fraud Ministry of Truth
Georgia and Texas are at the heart of the voter fraud story, with their dubious redistricting and onerous voter identification laws. Now that we know there is virtually no evidence that voter fraud ever existed, the voter fraud crowd is trying to rewrite history and erase the facts to hide its dubious intellectual underpinnings.
Richard L. Hasen is doing absolutely stupendous work, on display most recently at Slate, uncovering the foils and fudging of the voter fraud warriors:
In a recent Slate column, I noted the strange demise of the American Center for Voting Rights, an organization that sprouted up in the last few years to push the “voter fraud is a big problem” line at government hearings, conferences, and, most importantly, in the courts to defend strict new voter-ID laws. The brains behind ACVR is a St. Louis lawyer, Mark “Thor” Hearne, who has worked for the Bush-Cheney campaign and other Republican candidates for years. Oddly, the organization suddenly disbanded recently and yanked its Web site. Even more strangely, Hearne’s rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ© at his law firm, Lathrop and Gage, was scrubbed of references to ACVR. Thanks to the Internet Wayback Machine and blogs like the Brad Blog, much of ACVR’s material still remains available, however. You just can’t erase stuff put out in cyberspace very easily.
But Hearne apparently wasn’t satisfied with just cleansing his rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ©. Despite the Slate article and follow-up by NPR, National Journal, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Hearne, ACVR, and his possible connection to the U.S. attorneys’ scandal, someone is working hard to scrub Hearne’s paper trail. And now somebody is going into Hearne’s Wikipedia entry and trying to cleanse it of references to ACVR. (Just about anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry, though the organizers have some methods of quality control.) Moreover, someone’s been trying to clean up Wikipedia’s entry on ACVR itself.
Who would do such a thing? Wikipedia keeps records of the user IDs or IP addresses of whoever changes its pages, and it turns out, astonishingly, that this cleansing was done by someone at one of the IP addresses of Hearne’s law firm.
It does raise a question: Just what is it about Hearne’s work for ACVR that he or someone else at his firm is trying to hide?
It’s time for a new, re-imagined Civil Rights movement
I have to agree with Jimmy Carter that race played a role in Genarlow Wilson’s prosecution. “There is some statistical evidence reported by various non-profit agencies in Georgia, leading me to believe that white minor defendants in the same circumstances as Mr. Wilson’s receive far lesser forms of punishment.”
Meanwhile, The Newsmax crowd got the quote it wanted from their favorite Martin Luther King Jr. family member. Former Georgia House representative and Coretta Scott King foe Alveda King said of Genarlow (and Paris Hilton), “I wouldn’t presume to comment on the details or merits...[but] a generation’s having grown up with legal abortion is a big reason for the consequence-free mindset that plagues our young”
With that repetition of our same-old same-old truths from, even, the same-old same-old players, I realize that it’s time for a new, re-imagined Civil Rights movement.
So what would a re-imagined Civil Rights movement look like? I don’t know, but the place I’ve heard the issue framed most articulately was in an interview with Melissa Harris-Lacewell on Bill Moyers’ Journal. I came away from it smitten; she said many things we all should listen to, but my favorite of her observations is that you can’t use a hammer on a nail:
“What I’m suggesting is we are experiencing a new form of racial inequality. We could think of Jim Crow as a nail. And the protest against Jim Crow were a hammer. And a hammer is an extremely effective tool when you’re dealing with a nail. Contemporary racial inequality is structural. It’s undercover. It is connected with also with sort of black achievement which is also going on at the same time. Contemporary racial inequality is a screw, and if you take a hammer and start pounding on a screw, you just end up with a mess which means we have to live with the fact that a new generation is going to have to innovate a screwdriver to deal with the new problem. And that screwdriver might not look anything like the hammer. And we can’t keep yelling at them to use a hammer for a new problem.”
RELATED: In response to Tom Schaller’s Whistling Past Dixie, I call on Big ‘D’ Democrats to redouble their efforts in the South.
LATER: Please don’t anyone think that this is what I’m talking about. Hutchins just looks like more of the same-old same-old to me.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Same sex marriage will stay legal in Massachusetts
Same-sex marriage will remain legal in Massachusetts, as its proponents today won a pitched months-long battle to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
“In Massachusetts today, the freedom to marry is secure,” Gov. Deval Patrick said after the legislature voted 151 to 45 against the amendment, which needed 50 favorable votes in order to come before voters in a referendum in November 2008.
Today’s vote means that opponents of gay marriage would have to start from square one to sponsor a new amendment, which could not get on the ballot before 2012. Massachusetts is the only state where same-sex marriage is legal, although five states allow civil unions or their equivalent.
McDade a friend to victims?
District Attorney David McDade, whose office prosecuted him, could let Genarlow go free in the meantime if he would agree to bail. Standing firm in the face of public outrage and protests, he won’t. [...]
McDade, who has won recognition as a friend to crime victims, wasn’t acting like one when he gave legislators a videotape of the party that led to Genarlow’s prosecution.
Not only was the oral sex captured on tape, the video also showed a 17-year-old girl—who claimed she had been gang-raped—having intercourse. Genarlow’s jury decided what happened to the older girl wasn’t rape, though McDade has continued to characterize it that way as have legislative leaders justifying their refusal to give Genarlow a break.
It isn’t clear whether the girls’ faces were obscured in the video. But the idea of a prosecutor distributing a sex tape to lawmakers in the name of victim protection is bizarre at least. The young women and their families can’t possibly be grateful for help like that. We aren’t talking about Paris Hilton here.
Girl’s mother defends Genarlow
Not only was the punishment too severe, the mother of the then 15 year old girl said the prosecutor threatened her if she would not cooperate in prosecuting Genarlow for being on the receiving end of the sex act. She apparently said that on Tuesday. On Wednesday:
A bizarre series of events occurred Wednesday morning after Douglas prosecutors learned [Veda] Cannon was speaking to the press. Cannon said [Douglas County Assistant District Attorney Eddie] Barker and a colleague soon showed up at her home with an audio recorder to discuss her comments to the AJC.
In a subsequent interview with the AJC, she raised concerns that she was being misquoted.
After that conversation, Douglas County District Attorney David McDade disclosed his office had taped Cannon’s conversation with the AJC.
“We were actually at her home when you were talking to her [Wednesday] morning,” McDade said. “We were recording the conversation and so we have a tape of her telling you that you were twisting her words.”
In the initial interview Tuesday, Cannon described a conversation she had with Barker before Wilson’s case went to trial. She said she had asked Barker what would happen if she did not want to participate in the prosecution, and she said he responded by telling her she could face legal trouble for “neglect” as a parent, an assertion Barker vehemently denied.
On Wednesday, Cannon said Barker was not “threatening” her when he told her what could happen if she did not cooperate with the prosecution. She said Barker was giving her advice she had solicited and that his office was open and helpful to her.
Cannon ultimately testified in Wilson’s trial, pointing out her daughter on a videotape of the party that was played for the jury. Her daughter did not take the stand. [...]
“She did not want any of this to happen,” Cannon said of her daughter. “She was friends with all of them.”
More and more I’m telling you, it looks like David McDade and Mike Nifong are birds of a feather.
Justice is the victim
I was once beaten and robbed. My face was swollen, bruised and bloodied to the point where friends gasped when they saw me. The small grocery store on West 96th Street spontaneously gave me my groceries for free.
People stared as I walked on the streets and I experienced a trauma I can recall but cannot really explain. That trauma was repeated months later when the perpetrators went to trial. Lucky for me they plead guilty the night before I was to testify.
I say this to explain that I do have real sympathy for the victims of crime. Even so, I oppose victims’ impact statements. They don’t make a safer or more just society. Instead, abetted by ardent prosecutors, they feed vengeance and lead to more wrongful convictions and excessive punishment.
Yet victims are becoming more involved in trials than ever before. All Things Considered looked at the value of victims’ rights laws some weeks ago:
Ms. SARAH HAMMOND (National Conference of State Legislatures): There’s been - I think it’s 27,000 victims’ rights enactments passed since 1980 in all the states.
ARI SHAPIRO: The rules go beyond impact statements and consultation rights. Some laws mandate notification, keeping victims posted about the progress of the case, or restitution - letting victims try to get money back from criminals.
Then there are laws that provide for witness protection and confidentiality.
SHAPIRO: Thirty-three states have victims’ rights in their constitutions. A proposed federal constitutional amendment failed in 1995. Then, three years ago, Congress passed a law called The Crime Victims’ Rights Act. The wording is very broad. For example, victims should be, quote, “treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.”
A federal panel is trying to figure out what exactly that means. One proposal they’re considering would entitle victims to their own attorneys and let them appeal verdicts they don’t like. University of Utah Law School professor and judge, Paul Cassell says the traditional two-party adversarial criminal justice system may become a thing of the past.
Mr. PAUL CASSELL (Judge; Law, University of Utah): I think we are moving in the direction of a three-party system: The prosecutor represents society, the defense attorney represents the defendant, and we need to get counsel for crime victims so that they have their voices heard in the process as well.
SHAPIRO: The Justice Department recently funded nine legal clinics across the country for victims’ attorneys. John Gillis directs the Justice Department’s office for victims of crime.
Mr. JOHN GILLIS (Director, Office for Victims of Crime) These are attorneys who work pro bono. They will represent the victim in court. They will help them get through that maze of the criminal justice system. They are not involved in the prosecution of the case; just the victim’s rights to make sure that those rights are afforded the victim.
SHAPIRO: That sends shivers down the spines of many defense attorneys who worry that these developments will skew the balance between government and accused in a trial.
Me, I think that balance got skewed some time ago.
Internet strategies for parents with children
CNet has posted a guide for developing safe and smart Internet citizens from attorney and child advocate Parry Aftab. Here’s the advice for 16 and up:
By age 16, child advocates say, it’s time to take off the training wheels and trust your child to do the right thing. General guidelines:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Teach your children their online responsibilities. Stress the importance of respecting others online and the need to read Web material with a critical eye.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Talk to them about the risks of sharing personal information online and meeting strangers offline.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Have them google themselves regularly--and even establish a Google Alerts pegged to their screen name--to monitor what surfaces.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Teach teens to use antivirus programs and security firewalls and to check regularly for adware and spyware on their PCs.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Tell them to come to you if anything goes awry for them when they’re online.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Enlist the help of older teens to help younger brothers and sisters navigate the Web safely.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Pick your battles.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Advise teens against using a Webcam; remind them that they’ll have little or no control over videos or still images once they’re posted online.
SEE ALSO: Danah Boyd on Educators, Social Networks and “Mediated Publics.”
The NCAA’s ransome
Whose first amendment is it anyway???
The NYTimes today reports on the newspaper blogger evicted from a baseball press box for blogging about a game while it was in progress. The paper is considering suing. The NCAA claims:
“Reporters covering our championships may blog about the atmosphere, crowd and other details during a game but may not mention anything about game action. Any reference to game action in a blog or other type of coverage could result in revocation of credentials.”
Rich Gordon, an associate professor of journalism at Northwestern University and a director of its new media journalism program, said that “this is just the latest skirmish in a longer-term war” that will get more contentious.
“The law, as happens in many cases, has not kept up with the technology,” Gordon said. “As a journalist, you’re inclined to wave the First Amendment flag. This is going to get messier before it gets figured out. The media trends are at odds with the leagues’ goal of controlling distribution and extracting a ransom.”
Big Media had bought and paid for those free speech rights, so competitors can’t have it! You and me? Free? Speech? Huh? We’re not even in the picture!
Michael Savage says gay parenting is “child abuse:”
On the June 7 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage called gay parenting, “child abuse,” echoing remarks he made during the February 26 edition of Talk Radio Network's The Savage Nation.
Savage made his comments while criticizing Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who, at a June 6 campaign event, reportedly referred to same-sex parenting as part of “the American way” and an example of “freedom of choice.”
Police in northwest Georgia have rescued a boy from a hot car where his mother’s companion is accused of tying him up.
Ringgold, Georgia, police say a Cracker Barrel restaurant employee called police after seeing Raymond Minchew take the 6-year-old out of the restaurant and return without him—then finished eating his meal. Ringgold is 13 miles southeast of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Police found the bound boy sitting in the car, crying.
Sgt. John Gass says the child was soaked with sweat and had a rope tied to one of his ankles. Gass says the temperature was in the 80s Saturday in Ringgold.
The 61-year-old Minchew and the boy’s mother—35-year-old Rachel Gilchrist—were arrested and charged with cruelty to children and concealing a weapon. There was a handgun in the car.
Says Terrance, “I guess being heterosexual doesn’t automatically make you a good parent, but in Savage’s world being gay automatically makes you a bad - even abusive - parent.”
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Bob Barr calls for Don’t Aks, Don’t Tell repeal
Think Progress quotes the WSJ Online:
As a conservative Republican member of Congress from 1995 to 2003, I was hardly a card-carrying member of the gay-rights lobby. I opposed then, and continue to oppose, same-sex marriage, or the designation of gays as a constitutionally protected minority class. Service in the armed forces is another matter. The bottom line here is that, with nearly a decade and a half of the hybrid “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to guide us, I have become deeply impressed with the growing weight of credible military opinion which concludes that allowing gays to serve openly in the military does not pose insurmountable problems for the good order and discipline of the services. [Ã¢â‚¬Â¦]
Because the military can’t fill its slots, it has lowered its standards, extended tours of duty and increased rotations, further hurting morale and readiness. Conservatives are supposed to favor meritocracy - rewarding ability - especially in the armed forces. Instead, the military is firing badly needed, capable troops simply because they’re gay, and replacing them with a hodge podge that includes ex-cons, drug abusers and high-school dropouts.
Doctor or drug pusher?
Tina Rosenberg wrote the 8,000 word cover story coming in the NYTimes Magazine this weekend:
Ronald McIver is a prisoner in a medium-security federal compound in Butner, N.C. He is 63 years old, of medium height and overweight, with a white Santa Claus beard, white hair and a calm, direct and intelligent manner. He is serving 30 years for drug trafficking, and so will likely live there the rest of his life. McIver (pronounced mi-KEE-ver) has not been convicted of drug trafficking in the classic sense. He is a doctor who for years treated patients suffering from chronic pain. At the Pain Therapy Center, his small storefront office not far from Main Street in Greenwood, S.C., he cracked backs, gave trigger-point injections and put patients through physical therapy. He administered ultrasound and gravity-inversion therapy and devised exercise regimens. And he wrote prescriptions for high doses of opioid drugs like OxyContin.
McIver was a particularly aggressive pain doctor. Pain can be measured only by how patients say they feel: on a scale from 0 to 10, a report of 0 signifies the absence of pain; 10 is unbearable pain. Many pain doctors will try to reduce a patient’s pain to the level of 5. McIver tried for a 2. He prescribed more, and sooner, than most doctors.
Some of his patients sold their pills. Some abused them. One man, Larry Shealy, died with high doses of opioids that McIver had prescribed him in his bloodstream. In April 2005, McIver was convicted in federal court of one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and eight counts of distribution. (He was also acquitted of six counts of distribution.) The jury also found that Shealy was killed by the drugs McIver prescribed. McIver is serving concurrent sentences of 20 years for distribution and 30 years for dispensing drugs that resulted in Shealy’s death. His appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Supreme Court were rejected.
McIver’s case is not simply the story of a narcotics conviction. It has enormous relevance to the lives of the one in five adult Americans who, according to a 2005 survey by Stanford University Medical Center, ABC News and USA Today, reported they suffered from chronic pain - pain lasting for several months or longer. According to a 2003 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, pain costs American workers more than $61 billion a year in lost productive time - and that doesn’t include medical bills.
Privacy, what privacy? Google Street View
I’ve not dug in and read all that’s being said about the privacy issues raised by Google Street View. My default setting is that with private security firms and police forces having cameras on all of us everywhere, I want one too. Google gives me that.
But that default position is subject to revision as I think it through.
Meanwhile, it’s kind of a chuckle to read that Google announced on Tuesday that it would reduce how long it keeps the Web search histories of we users, to 18 months from 24, as a nod to privacy concerns. Golly, I really feel less exposed now.
Perhaps in an effort to do unto Google as they have done to us, CNet’s got a photo of the Google Jacuzzi outside of building 40 at the Mountain View, California campus. The Jacoogle? The Goocuzzy?
What, no zoom?
TB patient’s family unhelpful at first
I made something of a big deal out of the fact that Andrew Speaker’s father recored his conversation with health officials before the family went off to his wedding in Greece. It appears that health officials have some ammo of their own:
Health officials trying to stop a globetrotting honeymooner with a dangerous form of tuberculosis got little assistance from his lawyer father and his future father-in-law, a TB expert who not only balked at stopping the Greek wedding but attended the ceremony himself, according to e-mail obtained by the Associated Press.
Some of the 181 pages of e-mail, obtained through a public records request, suggest that Andrew Speaker’s father was clipped and combative in phone conversations with health officials.
E-mail from Fulton County officials portray his father-in-law, CDC microbiologist Robert C. Cooksey, as initially unhelpful, at least before May 22, when tests showed that Speaker had a more dangerous form of TB than previously understood.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Transplanted Media Reality
Over the weekend I read in passing of the Dutch Big Organ Donor Show reality series. The ratings grabbing gimmick was that the winner would get a life-saving kidney; the shock turned out to be that the show was a purposeful hoax. The purpose? To get the policy changed in Holland from an opt-in organ donor program to an opt-out program (which is something of the norm in Europe).
I didn’t see it so I can’t say. But listening to the Chairman of BNN Networks, Laurens Drillrich, describe his idea and how they did it to commemorate a colleague who died of a kidney-related disease, I was persuaded of the legitimacy of the tactic. If you still have any doubt, consider this observation:
We had a very clear message, which was about organ donorship. Our message was not let’s try and see how far reality television has gone, because to a large extent we as BNN also contributed to that. We’re not hypocrites. We’re not going to complain about that.
It does say something about ways that you have to find to try to attract attention. It’s very clear that if we would have done a documentary about the three contestants - the three contestants were real kidney patients and they are on the waiting list - if we would have made a documentary with these three people to show their lives and to show their suffering, we would have had an audience of maybe 60,000 or 70,000 people and we would have had one or two small articles in a newspaper.
Now people talked about this show and about organ donorship constantly for a full week, and we had a 1.7 million rating, which is extremely high in Holland. So in that way, it does say something - that if you want to get your message across, very traditional things do not work any more.
Does anyone doubt that’s true? Thus, given the media landscape we all must live in, the idea was brilliantly effective.
Genarlow’s cruel and all too usual punishment
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
When the Georgia Supreme Court denied the appeal of Genarlow Wilson last December - acknowledging, in the judges own words, sympathy “to Wilson’s argument regarding the injustice of sentencing this promising young man with good grades and no criminal history 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” - there was discussion that his 10 year sentence was not cruel and unusual punishment.
I disagreed. Sadly, I no longer do.
Today, in our ostensibly “free” country, we lock up more people than any nation in the world (Putin’s Russia is #3, Castro’s Cuba #7). Here in George Bush’s America we have redefined cruelty so that the once feared “Soviet-Style ‘Torture’” has become a legally permissible and American administered “Interrogation technique.”
While our culture, aided and abetted by our market-driven media, increasingly sexualizes and fetishizes our kids, we apparently find it easier and more acceptable to criminalize them than to help them through the very real struggles of their extended adolescence:
[Teens] often lack fine tuning in their sense of judgment. [Temple University professor of psychology Dr. Laurence] Steinberg’s research shows that adolescents facing tough decisions in experimental settings don’t give much weight to the long-term consequences of their actions. He finds a troubling discrepancy between some of the rules that society imposes on teens, especially as they relate to juvenile justice. In some states, a 13-year-old can be tried as an adult for a capital offense, but can’t vote. If we don’t think he’s responsible enough to vote, asks Dr. Steinberg, is it reasonable to hold him to adult standards of legal responsibility? He and [University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine professor of psychiatry and pediatrics Dr. Ronald] Dahl agree that parents and other adults have an important role to play in helping teens through the years to adulthood.
I want to live in and foster an empathetic and rationally just culture. The sad fact is that’s not America. Here it is no longer considered cruel and it is far from unusual to abdicate our responsibility to our progeny. Instead, I live in a culture that’s happy to turn its back, lock them up, and throw away the key.
LATER - A legal reader of Andrew Sullivan:
[T]he comment by your correspondent that the court lacked the authority to release Wilson and that General Baker is the only person standing up for the rule of law is deeply flawed. This was a habeas petition, and Georgia law gives the county containing the prison exclusive jurisdiction to determine habeas petitions. Additionally, section 9-14-48 of the Georgia Code requires that habeas relief be granted “to prevent a miscarriage of justice.” Section 9-14-42 makes clear that the judge has the right to decide the case on grounds of both the Georgia Constitution and, more importantly, the US Constitution. In this case, the judge found Wilson’s sentence to be not only a miscarriage of justice, but also “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the 8th Amendment of the US Constitition. That conclusion, by the way, is one that is supported by a number of US Supreme Court cases, most notably Salem v. Helm (1983), which defined even a prison sentence as cruel and unusual if it was overly harsh compared to the underlying offense, the sentences imposed on other criminals in the state, and the sentences for the same act in other states. Wilson’s sentence would seem to be excessive under each of these tests.
The gAy bomb
I remember hearing this years ago. It turned up in the news again last week in California:
A Berkeley watchdog organization that tracks military spending said it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting.
Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 that military leaders had considered, and then subsquently rejected, building the so-called “Gay Bomb.”
Maybe you’ve heard that Judge Robert Bork is suing the Yale Club for $1 million in damages for injuries he sustained in a fall as he climbed to the podium there last June. The case has been called exceptionally silly and it doesn’t even come close to explaining why punitive damages would be warranted.
My headline is lifted from Ampersand who helpfully dug up this Bork quote from the March 9, 1995 Washington Times:
Our expensive, capricious and unpredictable civil justice systems present precisely the kind of conflicting and costly state regulation of commerce that the Commerce Clause was designed to solve. Lawsuits, verdicts, settlements and the insurance necessary to defend and indemnify against them, are driving up the cost of goods and services everywhere, and consumers are paying the bill. The litigation explosion has no respect for the state lines because commerce and insurance are now national. Interstate commerce and trade have become the principal victims of a runaway liability system.
Courts are now meccas for every conceivable unanswered grievance or perceived injury. Juries dispense lottery-like windfalls, attracting and rewarding imaginative claims and far-fetched legal theories. Today’s merchant enters the marketplace with trepidation - anticipating from the civil justice system the treatment that his ancestors experienced with the Barbary pirates.
Comments Amp, “it is difficult to imagine Robert Bork the judge having much sympathy for Robert Bork the plantiff.”
Monday, June 11, 2007
Genarlow Wilson: justice undone
Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker has blocked Genarlow Wilson’s release by filing an appeal:
Jubilation turned quickly to anger Monday after Georgia’s top prosecutor vowed he would fight a judge’s order that would have set free Genarlow Wilson, a Georgia man serving a 10-year prison sentence for a consensual sexual encounter he had as a teenager.
Wilson’s attorney, B.J. Bernstein, said her client would not accept a proposed plea bargain that would get him out of prison because it would require Wilson to plead guilty to a felony.
A judge ruled Monday that his conduct should have been punished as a misdemeanor.
“We’re going to keep fighting,” Bernstein told reporters at a news conference at the state Capitol. [...]
Monday, acting on a petition filed by his attorneys, Monroe County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson ruled that Genarlow Wilson’s punishment was cruel and unusual and voided it on constitutional grounds. The judge reduced the sentence to one year and said Wilson should not be put on Georgia’s sex offender registry, as the old law required.
Still today the DA said:
“Six young men basically gang-raped a 17-year-old and had repeated sex acts with a 15-year-old,Ã¢â‚¬Â� Mr. McDade said in a television interview last year. “‘There’s no member of the legislature that I think would condone that behavior.’”
Clearly this DA has not accepted the not-guilty verdict of the jury; he and State Senator Eric Johnson continue to call it rape despite the jury verdict:
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Here’s what it was in the minds of the jurors. We know; we talked to them.
MARIE MANIGAULT, JURY FOREPERSON: When we viewed the tape, there was absolutely nothing in there that showed us that he in any way encouraged this person, even invited the person to come.
The only way to justice for Genarlow is for this nation to shine a spotlight on this case and this state. For today there is no justice in Georgia.
LATER: The AJC says, Justice mocked again in Genarlow Wilson case:
It’s not just wrong, it’s a senseless outrage… How are the citizens of Georgia helped by making a teenager with no prior record remain in prison for a decade because of a poorly drawn law? How is justice served?
My kind of happy meals
My friend Sam sent an email, “remember those ‘family’ meals?”
Indeed I do.
He and I spent a decade together waiting tables in some of the finer New York restaurants of our era, and together we savored that hallowed restaurant tradition known as the family or staff meal:
It’s the time when people who make and serve food for a living finally get to take a busman’s break and feed themselves. In European kitchens, such meals tend to be sit-down affairs, a final civilized huddle before the hordes arrive. In America, the meals can take wildly different forms, too often that of warmed-over takeout - “a lot of hot wings thrown in a pan,” as Christopher Monaco, an expediter at Per Se, put it.
There are notable exceptions, like Chanterelle in SoHo, whose staff meals are so elaborate they yielded their own cookbook. And in the empire of [chef Thomas] Keller, recently named restaurateur of the year by the James Beard Foundation, their importance takes on an almost religious intensity, a feeling that they are as integral to his restaurants’ success as a preternaturally perfect brunoise.
I was gone before Keller came on the scene, but I am among the lucky few to have had a number of family meals at Karen and David’s table. Though I was never brought on as permanent staff, I count at least one of their alumni among my lifelong friends.