Category Archives: Uncategorized

Short Take: Warren’s Truth

The kerfluffle (and it is truly a kerfluffle, nothing more) about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s native American ancestry provides the backdrop to the overarching question of whether she’s entitled to facts or truth. Her truth.

A defender of the faith offered this in response to the ridicule sent Warren’s way.

Warren suffers from epistemic injustice where her assertions of heritage are given unjustly low weight based on stereotypes associated w/her identity. It’s her story, her family’s story, her truth. Why a need to deny her identity that has informed her entire life?

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Biscayne Park’s Slam Dunk

Former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano wanted to keep the mostly white suburb of Biscayne Park under control during his tenure, and part of that meant closing every crime, no matter what. So his small police force of 12 did just that.

The two former Biscayne Park police officers testified before a federal grand jury about how the department’s ex-chief pressured them to arrest people of color and others for crimes they did not commit in the leafy bedroom community north of Miami.

Dayoub, 38, and Fernandez, 62, testified that Atesiano’s goal was to achieve a 100 percent burglary clearance rate, even if it meant pinning unsolved break-ins on people who were innocent victims, according to newly filed court records.

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The Zombie Study That Just Won’t Die

Michael Stern opens with an appeal to authority, which isn’t surprising as there’s a fairly good chance his otherwise tepid observations would never get real estate at USA Today.

I used to prosecute sexual assault cases. Here’s what I learned and how it could help us.

And according to Stern’s website, he was indeed a prosecutor.

30 Years of experience as a litigator:  25 years as a Federal Prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice, 3 years as an Assistant District Attorney.

For the unwary, federal prosecutors don’t prosecute sex crimes. It’s a state crime, so his experience comes from his first three years rather than the last 27. Yet, his point would have been just as obvious, and just as benign, had he been the guy selling hot dogs outside the courthouse, so what might otherwise have been considered a bit of rhetorical hyperbole doesn’t present any real problem. Continue reading

Are Civility And Political Correctness The Same?

At WaPo, Elizabeth Bruenig writes about an ongoing debate in certain circles, whether the problem facing the body politic is our inability to talk to each other, to find sufficient common ground to disagree without being disagreeable.

“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about,” Clinton declared in a recent CNN interview. When and if Democrats assume power in Congress, she said, “that’s when civility can start again.” Members of the American left agreed; those on the American right did not. Meanwhile, a study published last week by the think tank More in Common found that 80 percent of Americans believe that “political correctness is a problem.” Conservatives hailed the study as supplying empirical backing to common sense; liberals dismissed it as methodologically flawed and politically motivated.

While Bruenig’s focus is whether there is an American history of political civility, beyond the brief halcyon days following World War II. she suggests we’ve got a long history of being politically uncivil. But there is a collateral question raised in the context of this civility debate. Are civility and political correctness the same? Continue reading

Tuesday Talk*: Can You Believe And Still Defend?

A young, male public defender got hold of me the other day to ask if he was crazy. It wasn’t a personal question, but raised the views of his colleagues who both fancied themselves fierce defenders of the accused while simultaneously being absolute in their support of #BelieveTheWoman.

I began by pointing out the obvious, that it would seem impossible for someone dedicated to social justice ideology to do the nasty work of defending people accused of terrible crimes, whether a man accused of raping a woman, or beating his spouse, or a white man accused of a “hate crime” against a black man, or worse still, woman.

Can they cross the accuser hard enough to make them cry, to destroy their credibility, to traumatize them if it serves their client’s interest? If they can’t, or won’t, then they aren’t the defender they claim to be. Continue reading

The Bail Bludgeon Response

Activists are decrying the imposition of cash bail as a means of imprisoning people for poverty. They contend that cash bail is merely the way the wealthy buy their freedom while the poor languish in jail, turning bail into another rich person’s privilege. And the unwary are buying this simplistic argument, telling the stories of sad, poor innocent people held for lack of the ability to pay.

This narrative isn’t false, but it isn’t sufficient either. And there is no doubt that being held for the inability to bail out is one of the foremost wedges coercing the innocent to plead guilty. There is much, much, about bail that’s wrong and demands correction. But it is not the simple binary of rich and poor, and to argue otherwise is to argue  falsely, to call for an untenable system and to invite a bludgeon in response.

Many people think that “innocent until proven guilty” implies that everyone should be let loose on their own recognizance before trial. A moment’s thought reveals that this is idiotic. The white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people on June 17, 2015 at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. His image was captured on security cameras and he was arrested the next day. Roof’s trial, however, didn’t start until more than a year later, December 7, 2016, and he wasn’t convicted of anything until December 15, 2016. Should Roof have been released before trial because he was “innocent until proven guilty”? Of course not.

I stand second to none in demanding high standards before the state can deprive a person of their liberty but high standards do not demand binary divisions. Tradeoffs are everywhere and when the evidence against the accused is strong and the danger to the public is high, it’s not unreasonable to deprive the legally innocent of some liberty prior to trial. The tradeoffs are ugly, as they always are when trading off two sacred values, but the tradeoffs cannot be avoided.

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Short Take: The Change Du Jour: 52 States

None of these were problems in 2008 or 2012, but they sure are now. The electoral college has to go. The First Amendment needs to be changed to prohibit hate speech. The Supreme Court needs term limits or, in the alternative, to be packed with the right sort of justices. And now we need two new states.

The biggest racial preferences in this country have nothing to do with college admissions or job offers. They have to do with political power. And they benefit white Americans, at the expense of black, Asian and Hispanic Americans.

There are many arguments, problems, that could follow this paragraph. Gerrymandering to deny predominantly black areas the ability to elect a representative of their choosing. Voter suppression to reduce the number of minority voters. Felon disenfranchisement, which coordinates with the disproportionate focus on minorities to deny them the right to vote. But that’s not what follows. Continue reading

Believe The Accuser In Little Rock

In a remarkable piece of investigative reporting, Radley Balko reveals the pointless, baseless, destructive raid that turned Roderick Talley’s life into misery.

“You don’t know what fear is until you wake up and your own front door is flying at you,” says Roderick Talley.

Talley may not have been a perfect guy, but he was a good guy, and so had no reason to  anticipate the explosion that would awaken him on August 10, 2017.

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Short Take: The Survey Says

When Harvard political scientist, Yascha Mounk, wrote about the results of the study at The Atlantic, I felt a brief moment of hope for the future.

According to the report, 25 percent of Americans are traditional or devoted conservatives, and their views are far outside the American mainstream. Some 8 percent of Americans are progressive activists, and their views are even less typical. By contrast, the two-thirds of Americans who don’t belong to either extreme constitute an “exhausted majority.” Their members “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.”

Most members of the “exhausted majority,” and then some, dislike political correctness. Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that “political correctness is a problem in our country.”

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But For Video: A Child’s Inadvertent Brush

The video is replete with issues, from the accused being a child, a black child, to the “survivor” bizarrely remembering her trauma backwards, where she claimed someone else claimed to be a cop when it came from her mouth. Reactions to the video are as varied as there are IQ scores. But there is one tiny slice of what happened that can’t be distinguished by age or race, the lie of traumatic memory or #BelieveTheWoman.

What happened to her was “sexual assault.” We know because she said so. While #BelieveTheWoman would preclude anyone from doubt that it happened, it also prevents all but the slave to facts from questioning her conclusory claim, that whatever actual conduct occurred, it was “sexual assault.” Not a grope. Not even “copped a feel,” but “sexual assault.” Continue reading