Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dr. Victor Zarnowitz


1919 – 2009

Tim Geithner on the Newshour

Just watched it and Geithner says it is all about Confidence in “The Plan”.

Isn’t this why they are called Con Men?

I am just asking!

Stephen Carter: Context is Everything?

I liked his comments in this Op-Ed. Though I find the simplicity of a “Bumper Sticker” appealing at times I do love complexity and the overview. And yes I am often guilty of the simple answer. Was the Daily News “Chimp and Stimulus” “Cartoon” racist? You bet it was.

February 25, 2009

Op-Ed Contributor

We’re Not ‘Cowards,’ We’re Just Loud


New Haven

JUST weeks before taking the oath of office in 1861, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd in Pittsburgh. The times were fraught. Since Lincoln’s election, several slave-holding states had left the Union. More were threatening to go. But Lincoln told the worried assemblage, “There is really no crisis except an artificial one!”

Actually, Lincoln said much more than that — hundreds upon hundreds of words, calculated to soothe the public’s fear of war. But had his speech been covered the way the news media cover political remarks today, it is likely that most people would have heard only that one line, and Lincoln, the nation’s greatest president, would have been pilloried as an out-of-touch bumpkin.

Writing teachers everywhere tell their students that context is everything. But if the response to Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks last week to Justice Department employees is any guide, teachers everywhere are wrong. The speech was written for Black History Month. Now, a week later, what most people know about the talk is that the attorney general accused his fellow citizens of being, on the matter of race, “a nation of cowards.”

The speech itself was more than 2,300 words. The already infamous phrase occurred about 150 words in. Thus we are left with well over 2,000 unanalyzed words — that is, the context for the phrase. For too many critics, the context of Mr. Holder’s remarks (like the context of former Senator Phil Gramm’s accusation during the election campaign that we are a “nation of whiners”) is quite beside the point.

Perhaps, as some have suggested, Mr. Holder’s language was infelicitous; but presidents and popes now and then regret their choice of words, so attorneys general can hardly hope for immunity from persecution. More important is what the response to the speech says about the current state of political dialogue.

Indeed, the truly intriguing aspect is not what the attorney general had to say about race, but rather what he had to say about the way in which we discuss it. Our national conversation on race, said Mr. Holder, “is too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own narrow self-interest.”

There is, plainly, something to this. When we talk about race we do tend to talk in simplistic categories, spending more energy on labeling each other than on reasoning together. Consider the entirely predictable battle lines over The New York Post’s infamous stimulus bill cartoon last week, which featured a chimpanzee. One side says the newspaper was insensitive, the other that the protesters have a double standard and are fanning the flames for the sake of attention. Plenty of sound bites, but nothing that moves us forward.

This difficulty, however, is not limited to race. There are few issues of any importance that are not reduced, in public dialogue, to sloganeering and applause lines. Whether we argue over war or the economy, marriage or religion, abortion or guns, we reduce our ideas to just the right size for the adolescent tantrum of the bumper sticker.

Consider, for example, the Obama administration’s evolving tough line on terrorism. Many critics seem to think that reminding us that President Obama’s policies are similar to President George W. Bush’s is argument enough against them. But guilt by association with an unpopular past president does not tell us whether a particular tactic is right or wrong. Or consider the economic crisis, where one cable television network, on the very evening of the Lehman Brothers collapse last fall, had a program promising to analyze not what had gone wrong but who was at fault.

Democracy, at its best, rests on a foundation of mutual respect among co-equal citizens willing to take the time for serious debate. After all, even on the momentous issues that divide us, there is usually the possibility that the other side has a good argument. Yet if we paint our opponents as monsters, we owe them no obligation to pay attention to what they have to say.

Forty-five years ago, in his classic essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Richard Hofstadter warned against this tendency, and worried that it would recur in every era. There is, he suggested, something in the Western psyche that too often makes us retreat to a vision of politics in which there is no complexity. “Since what is at stake,” wrote Hofstadter, “is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish.”

Complexity is the enemy of such fundamentalism, and, as our public dialogue grows more fundamentalist, complexity fades. If you read Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” — and everyone who loves democracy should read it, at least every two or three years — pay attention to the speech by the fire chief, Captain Beatty, explaining why they burned the books. The reason was not national security or political power. It was complexity. Books, says the fire chief, make ideas too difficult. The reader winds up lost, he says, “in a great welter of nouns and verbs and adjectives.” The people demanded the books be burned because they wanted no complicated ideas.

We may not be burning books, exactly, but we are burning argument and ideas, replacing them with applause lines. If we Americans can make our way past the fanfare over the most controversial words in Mr. Holder’s speech, perhaps we can learn from his reminder that democracy needs dialogue more than it needs bumper stickers.

Now just because there are “Simple Answers to Simple Questions” to quote Dr. Black, it doesn’t negate the need for dialogue. I am constantly shocked at how many of my Black relatives are attracted to arguments made by Victor Davis Hanson an avowed racist. But as Prof. Carter makes clear context is everything and too often it is ignored.

David Brooks on Jindal

I have been feeling really sorry for David Brooks for some time now. He is a loyal Republican and Conservative who carried the rancid water for years. And now that the scum on the rancid water is obvious for all to see, he has been at a loss for what to say. His NYT’s columns have been all over the place and grasping at any theme for quite a while. Slowly we have been witnessing the lights come on.

Well, apparently Bobby “The Exorcist” Jindal put a spot light on the problem with his opposition remarks and response to “The One’s” first non-State of the Union, State of the Union speech last night.

Now I find it interesting that he throws in the line about Jindal being a “very promising politician” as rather disingenuous once he calls what Jindal said, “Insane.”

I am amused that anyone who has seen Jindal, do or say anything, would find him “promising.” To my mind he is on the same level as Burris, clearly not the brightest light in anyone’s closet. Does Jindal have a mausoleum? It is NOLA after all.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Professor Dyson v. Pat Buchanan

Now any debate between Prof. M. E. Dyson and Pat Buchanan it is clear who is going to come out sounding intelligent and reasonable.

Dyson 1 -Buchanan 0.

And Mike Barnicle is a coward (or an idiot as the case may be.) Now I am not saying, I am just saying.

Update: Okay so you all know that I love Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, but really am I being biased with this particular exchange? I don’t think so. I think that PB’s inner racist is so on display that it can’t be missed. JMHO of course.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Forensic Fallacies

Just like eyewitness identification most forensic evidence is questionable. Unfortunately most people don’t question it. Thankfully the National Academy of Sciences has looked into this problem. Today, the NYT’s has taken notice on the Editorial Page:

Crime Scene Imperfections

Next time you see one of those television crime-scene investigators crack a case with high-tech analysis, better take it with a grain of salt. The National Academy of Sciences, the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization, has surveyed the field of forensic science and found it grossly deficient.

It’s not just that many forensic laboratories are poorly funded and staffed with “experts” who are poorly trained. The more fundamental problem, according to the study, is that there is little evidence of the accuracy and reliability of most forensic methods — especially those that rely on expert interpretation.

The most thoroughly validated technique is nuclear DNA analysis, which has a minuscule likelihood of error when done right. But other well-known methods that can supposedly identify a guilty person or link a weapon or other evidence to a particular crime have no rigorous scientific proof that they work consistently.

That goes for analyses of hair, bite marks, fibers, documents, tools, firearms, shoe impressions, tire tracks, handwriting and blood spatters, among others. The analyses can help focus an investigation but can seldom provide infallible evidence of guilt.

Even fingerprint analysis depends on a subjective judgment by experts as to how closely two prints match, a conclusion that can be biased by the examiner’s knowledge of the suspect or the case. Examiners have sometimes disagreed with their own past conclusions when viewing the same prints in a different context.

The academy’s panel makes sensible suggestions for improvement, such as certification of forensic professionals, accreditation of laboratories, uniform standards for analyzing evidence and independence of the laboratories from police and prosecutors who might bias judgments. In the long run, research is needed to determine the accuracy of forensic methods. For now, judges, lawyers and juries are on notice that high-tech forensic perfection is a television fantasy, not a courtroom reality.

Defense Counsel should wake up and question every “Forensic Expert” they encounter on the stand. If they don’t they should be considered Per Se Ineffective. Now of course there is that pesky “Stickland” problem, but I know many “Brilliant,” and I do mean “Brilliant,” Appellate Attorneys who should be able to find a way around this. Sort of like a Brandeis Brief workaround. Don’t’ ya think? Where is Justice Marshall when you need him?

I’m not saying, I’m just saying!

He’s Back!

I have so missed Bill. Here is the Monologue:

This brings us to the “New Rules.”

Welcome back Mr. Maher.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

As Long as This Doesn’t Prop up the Housing Bubble!

If CR doesn’t think it is horrible, I will go along.

The price of houses has to get to the level where they are affordable to the average person with an LTV that is realistic. Propping up real estate is the wrong way to go for the long run.


Oh, and if you aren’t checking in with Calculated Risk daily what are you doing with your time?

Rachel is Right!

I never would have thought that Rachel was a fashion maven. But I was wrong. This coat is TOO FABULOUS!

My favorite coat is a full length Black Trench which is made from some mystery material. If it had a lining like this I would never take it off. WOW!

Oh, and by the way, if you continued watching, the Japanese Finance Minister resigned after that display at the G7 in Rome.

Holder on Race

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Eric Holder, the nation's first black attorney general, said Wednesday the United States was ''a nation of cowards'' on matters of race, with most Americans avoiding candid discussions of racial issues.

In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

''Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,'' Holder said.

Eric Holder is right. If you bring up race in a conversation you can see folks, Black and White, visibly squirm. It’s like bringing up religion, sex and politics all at once. Oh, and I am not talking just Republicans here because they cover the whole religion, sex and politics thing.

What are we so afraid of?

Say It Isn’t So!

Starbucks Coffee, Now in Instant

The World is really going to Hell in a Handbasket!

What’s next Egg McMuffins?

In Howard Schultz’s 1997 book about developing Starbucks, he wrote, “Nothing pains me more than hearing critics compare Starbucks to a chain of discount stores or fast-food operations.”

On Tuesday, the man who set out to improve Americans’ taste in coffee, unveiled instant coffee bearing the Starbucks brand. Packages of Via Ready Brew will appear in Starbucks shops in Seattle and Chicago on March 3, the same day that Starbucks will begin offering breakfast value meals in stores nationwide.

Selling instant coffee and serving value meals might sound more like the purview of an American convenience store and less like that of an Italian espresso bar. Water-soluble coffee is a gamble, marketing analysts said. It could lure customers who drink fast-food or grocery store coffee, or it could water down the Starbucks brand.

But Mr. Schultz said he was ready for the critics who say, “This is desperate, this is a Hail Mary pass, this is off-brand for Starbucks.”

“We are going to reinvent the company, reinvent the category,” he told a group of Wall Street analysts, journalists and retailers on Tuesday at a tasting of the new product in New York. “This is not your mother’s instant coffee.”

The instant coffee is available online at the company’s Web site in two varieties, Colombia and Italian Roast. Along with Seattle and Chicago Starbucks stores, Costco and Target will start selling it this spring. Starbucks will introduce it in its stores worldwide by the fall and it will be in grocery stores in 2010.

Starbucks found early success because it convinced people that coffee could be a luxury product. But that luxury has been one of the first to go as consumers cut back on spending. Sales at Starbucks stores fell 9 percent last quarter, and the company is closing 900 stores, out of roughly 16,800. The stock price has fallen 47 percent in the last year. Mr. Schultz has said he is working hard to convince customers that Starbucks is affordable. Starbucks is introducing its breakfast deals, which include $3.95 pairings like coffee cake or a ham-and-egg sandwich with coffee, in direct response to the lagging economy.

Tough Economic Times Folks!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stan Freberg on the Vietnam War

I grew-up on Stan Freberg. He has always been politically correct or incorrect depending on your view. Here he is discussing some of his political work.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it!

If you don’t know this guy, go and take a look.

Simon Johnson on the Oligarchs

Simon Johnson was on Bill Moyers’ Journal talking about the Bankster’s Swindle and how it should be dealt with. As is usual The Very Reverend Moyers asks thoughtful and probing questions.

Watch here because he makes a lot of sense.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why I Hate Grover Norquist!

A while ago I was at a small dinner party when for no particular reason one of the guests contemptuously blurted out that, “No One Likes Paying Taxes.”

So, I said, “That’s Not True.”

The other guest said incredulously, “You Like to Pay Taxes?”

So, I said, in a manner which made it clear that I was serious as a heartattack, “Yes! I like clean drinking water, the electrification of the country, a safe food supply, the rule of law, public transportation, Social Security, Medicare, the roads you drive on and a whole host of programs brought to us by government through taxation. Don’t you?”

Kind of ended the argument, dontcha know!

So, when I saw this video I had to laugh.

Grover Norquist’s “Small Government” crowd includes the banksters who are opposed to “Government Intervention” until they need to be bailed out of course. And just like the guest who is opposed to taxes, Medicare and Social Security are her due even though she resents having to pay the taxes to support those “necessary” programs. Well, actually, if truth be told, I pay taxes so that she and her cohort can collect from “Big Government.” But then I really shouldn’t be so petty or “Small.”

And no “Hate” isn’t too strong a word.

h/t Dave Johnson

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Congress Moves to Curb “State Secrets” Privilege!

This is a good sign. And the Dems are on the case. Glennzilla writes about it in Salon:

Earlier this week, I wrote about the State Secrets Protection Act of 2008, which was co-sponsored by numerous key Senators [including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee's Chair (Pat Leahy) and ranking member (Arlen Specter)], and which was approved by the Judiciary Committee last year with all Democrats voting in favor. That bill, in essence, sought to ban the exact abuse of the State Secrets privilege which the Bush administration repeatedly invoked and which, now, the Obama administration has embraced: namely, as a weapon to conceal and immunize government lawbreaking (by compelling the dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance) rather than a limited, document-by-document evidentiary privilege.

Yesterday -- as an obvious response to the Obama DOJ's support for the Bush view of the privilege -- Leahy and Specter, along with Russ Feingold, Claire McCaskill, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ted Kennedy, re-introduced that bill in the Senate. When doing so, Leahy made clear that the bill was more needed than ever in light of the actions of the Obama administration:

During the Bush administration, the state secrets privilege was used to avoid judicial review and skirt accountability by ending cases without consideration of the merits [ed: exactly what the Obama DOJ endorsed this week]. It was used to stymie litigation at its very inception in cases alleging egregious Government misconduct, such as extraordinary rendition and warrantless eavesdropping on the communications of Americans [ed: exactly what the Obama DOJ endorsed this week]. . . .

We held a Committee hearing on this issue last year, and the appropriate use of this privilege remains an area of concern for me and for the cosponsors of this bill. In light of the pending cases where this privilege has been invoked, involving issues including torture, rendition and warrantless wiretapping, we can ill-afford to delay consideration of this important legislation.

It is so good to see our Congresscritters doing the right thing and taking their responsibilities seriously no matter who is in the Whitehouse.

It is just what I said the other day.

So, "Thank You Senators."

A Lawyerly Bloodbath?

So, what many of us thought would happen is happening. For quite some time during the recent obvious meltdown the major law firms have been leaking out stories about how they needed to change their business model. Now this wasn’t just from the embarrassment of the Marc Dreier LLP fraud and collapse of a 250 lawyer firm. His firm’s structure (not the fraud but the “business model) wasn’t all that different from most large, midsize and small business firms (as horrifying as that is.) It is from the basic problem that most Law firms large and small don’t have a business model in the sense that it can be called a business because they are only focused on their widgets (the Legal Product).

They are managed by lawyers who have an almost total distain for business and how it is different from the widgets of legal work and not as elevated in the scheme of things (see: Danny Greenberg at LAS) and frankly see themselves as intellectually above the “Administrative Issues.” Remember that famous saying,” You don’t know who is swimming naked until the tide has gone out.” Well folks, the tide has gone out, and now the naked swimmers are being exposed.

So, now the tide is going out and the naked are being exposed. Now I know that much of this has to do with the economy that is infecting all of our business models but if you haven’t taken an interest in business up until this point in time you are going to be hit especially hard and unprepared. The legal community is just one such community which is going to be hit hard and hit it is.

This Thursday, when many large law firms passed out pink slips, and which conveniently missed the deadline for the Friday (no NYLJ edition) reporting of the “bloodbath” was an example. There are a lot of Student Loans out there that aren’t going to be repaid in a timely manner. We now have MBA’s and JD’s on the street with Joe the Plumber.

Now why law firms, large, small, for profit and not for profit don’t use basic business models and adhere to “best practices” is beyond my understanding. Now I am not saying that there is a particular business model that should be adhered to but when you have a business plan you always look to what is the worst outcome and plan for that not the best outcome and plan for that.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez! Non!

Aren’t these folks supposed to be, like the “Masters of the Universe,” the “Best and the Brightest?”

I’m not saying, I am just saying!

Update: I have never worked in a private Legal Organization that didn’t totally distain and reject “best practices’ on the business side of the firm such as skill based hiring, resource allocation management and most of the basic algorithms of business management. Of course when I worked for the Federal Government it was expected that anyone hired would pass the test and have the skills necessary to do the job under the job description, but then that was just bureaucracy. Oh, and work for the Public Good while they were at it!

But I guess that was back in the day before Government became a “Bad Thing” and the “Private Sector” was going to save us all and float our economy’s boat.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Could Madoff have Made Off with Everything On His Own?

I never thought it was possible. Now this comes out about his wife’s multi-million dollar withdrawals right before his confession. So, what stays in the family may still be in the family?

I’m not saying, I am just saying!

And why did he confess other than the obvious liquidity problem? There is something else going on here. Do the prosecutors have access to his medical records?

I’m just asking!

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss?

“State Secrets” Defense and The Big Swindle (see TARP 2.0) continue unabated.

Though he is more nuanced about it.

And Everyone Will Want One, Too!

From the very rude and crude folks at the Onion (earmuff the kids):

Sony Releases New Stupid Piece Of Shit That Doesn't Fucking Work

Thank you Dr. Black!

Oh, and see the Very Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I know there was all that talk prior to our economic meltdown about decoupling.

So, how is that all working out?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What Dr. Black says!

When quoting Dean Baker that is!

So, How’s that Bipartisanship Thing Working Out?

Just wondering!

No DNA for Exonerations

DNA and the Innocence Projects have exposed the Wrongful Conviction Non-DNA situation that is more than likely rampant in our country.

Here is another article in the Times about the problem in part:

So-called innocence projects at Northwestern, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Cincinnati have reported that their non-DNA caseloads have risen. And for almost a year the district attorney in Dallas has been focusing on wrongful-conviction claims that lack DNA evidence.

“All these hundreds of DNA exonerations across the country have demonstrated to anyone who’s paying attention that there are far more innocent people in prison than anybody could imagine,” said James McCloskey, the founder of Centurion Ministries, an innocence project based in New Jersey.

Cases that lack what many call the “magic bullet” of DNA often require cumbersome investigations, including finding and re-interviewing witnesses or poring over thick files to find anything vital that a trial lawyer might have missed. Even when crucial evidence is uncovered — witness recantations or exculpatory statements that were ignored by prosecutors — judges, juries and prosecutors often treat it with skepticism.

One of the most recent successes for Centurion Ministries illustrates the promise and challenges of trying to exonerate a prisoner without DNA evidence.

A state judge in Missouri last August overturned the conviction of a man who had served 23 years for a murder in St. Louis. The judge cited the credibility of the prosecution’s main witness, who had recanted his testimony that the convicted man was the killer.

But the judge’s decision came six years after a panel of federal judges, having considered much of the same evidence, ruled that though it had “a nagging suspicion that the wrong man may have been convicted of capital murder,” it could not overturn the conviction of the man, Darryl Burton, because of numerous procedural impediments. The panel suggested that the state court take another look at the case.

Despite the challenges, a study by Samuel R. Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan, said that 195 prisoners were exonerated without the help of DNA from 1989 to 2003, with the number spiking from 2000 to 2003.

The New York State Bar Association, in a report issued last month, found that a majority of wrongful convictions it examined in New York were reconciled not because of new DNA evidence but because of mistakes by law enforcement officials, as well as the misidentification of the accused by victims or witnesses.

You need to read the whole thing. Justice delayed is justice denied. Our system delays the adjudication of justice for procedural reasons and therefore denies justice not to mention poor and faulty forensic science. And that is just the least of it. Everyone knows what is wrong but the system refuses to fix it. Is the Prison Industry really that powerful?

Disenfranchisement of Millions of TV Viewers!

My personal feeling is that this switch to Hi-Def from Analog, and the way the Bush Administration has carried it out, is about shutting out millions of TV viewers and their access to any information available (such as it is.) It will make the MSM TV information roadway less available to a large segment of the American Electorate. In large swaths of this country there is no cable and analogue is what is available. This is based on availability and economy.

I live in Manhattan and the only TV reception is cable. I tried for many years, due to my economic bottom line, to deal with only analogue and though we got some PBS for the most part we didn’t have any MSM (okay, so that isn’t so bad) reception. My son got us hooked up to cable several years ago and then had it up-graded to digital recently. The digital signal isn’t perfect as we are in the flight path of both Kennedy and LaGuardia which makes the signal breakup constantly. That said, we are in better shape than most. What is important is that it is expensive. I have an overall low nut so I can afford to splurge, and it is a splurge, on digital and high-speed internet at least for now. But many folks out there can’t afford this “transition.”

Shortly before his inauguration, President Obama asked Congress to delay the deadline. Last month, Nielsen, which tracks TV audiences, found that more than 6.5 million households were not ready for the transition. Many senior citizens and non-English speakers are in that group. More than 3.7 million consumers are on a waiting list to receive coupons…


In 2005, Congress passed the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act, mandating that broadcasters vacate their analog airwaves to make room for first responders and commercial wireless companies who said they needed more capacity over the air.

Telecom companies such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T bought licenses for soon-to-be-vacated airwaves, raising more than $19 billion for the government. Broadcasters also expected the higher-quality digital programs to help them compete with cable and satellite providers.

Concern that the most vulnerable consumers were likely to own analog televisions led to the creation of a $1.34 billion coupon program to help pay for the converter boxes. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an arm of the Commerce Department, was put in charge of the effort.

More than 47 million coupons have been sent out, but the program confused consumers, requiring them to use the coupons during a certain time period. Because of the program's budget shortfall, new coupons cannot be mailed out until already-issued ones reach their 90-day expiration date.

Last month Obama's call for a delay was echoed by consumer groups, some broadcast networks and Democratic lawmakers. AT&T and Verizon Wireless said that a one-time delay of the transition would not hurt their plans to use the airwaves for their own advanced wireless products.

But Qualcomm opposed the delay. The company paid more than $500 million to access the digital airwaves, said Qualcomm chief operating officer Len J. Lauer. "It breaks an agreement we had with the government."

Republicans who opposed the bill argued that postponing the switch would undermine plans by public safety agencies to use the freed airwaves. Harlin McEwen of the International Association of Chiefs of Police said "it would be better if there wasn't any delay for public safety because there are agencies planning to use that spectrum on Feb. 18."

Public safety agencies can use airwaves as they become available.

"I'm so disappointed," said Wayne McBride, deputy director for public safety communications in Prince George's County. The new deadline will delay the county's plans to use the old analog airwaves to create an emergency response radio system for police and firefighters that will be interoperable with systems in surrounding counties. The county has spent $76 million to buy equipment and build the system but cannot start testing it until broadcasters vacate the airwaves, McBride said.

Some broadcasters say the delay will be expensive. Christopher Lane, vice president of technology and engineering at WETA, Washington's public television station, said keeping the analog signal will cost $20,000 a month. "But we can't be the only broadcaster in the market not to be broadcasting. It puts us at too much of a disadvantage."

I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that the Bush Administration f’d this up as well. Is there anything that they touched that isn’t screwed-up? It isn’t as if they didn’t have enough time to get this right without disenfranchising millions of Americans and to have appropriated the necessarily genuine financial support for this transition (see Iraq War.) Is it that the mostly poor, non-English and elderly vote against the Republican interest? I guess that I need to put my aluminum hat on tighter.

I am not saying, I am just saying!

Saturday, February 07, 2009


I am a fan of Rosa Brooks and I hope that the LA Times will continue to host her column. If not the NYT’s could replace W. Kristol’s perch with her. I am not saying, I am just saying!

So that said, her column on Afghanistan is quite interesting. There is a reason folks that Afghanistan is called the “Graveyard of Empires.” Do we as a country, Empire if you will, want to relive the experience of the U.K. and the Soviet Union? Because I think that is where we are headed.


Thomas Frank and Our Bonus Outrage:

From the pages of the WSJ no less! Okay so it is Thomas, The Wrecking Crew, Frank but it is also the WSJ (paper of note and Rupert Murdoch.)

Not Exactly a Left-Wing Nut!

Steven Pearlstein is not a wild-eyed lefty. So, as the “Stimulus Bill” is being “Debated” in Congress and on the MSM I found his column so rational and instructive. One might even say “Bipartisan.” Now I have many issues with the “Stimulus Bill.” I think that there are just too many ridiculous tax cuts and not enough for Mass Transit and Green Spending. That said, the “Debate” does appear insane.

So, without further delay here is Mr. Pearlstein:

Wanted: Personal Economic Trainers. Apply at Capitol.

By Steven Pearlstein
Friday, February 6, 2009; D01

As long as we're about to spend gazillions to stimulate the economy, I'd like to suggest we throw in another $53.5 million for a cause dear to all business journalists: economic literacy. And what better place to start than right here in Washington.

My modest proposal is that lawmakers be authorized to hire personal economic trainers over the coming year to sit by their sides as they fashion the government's response to the economic crisis and prevent them from uttering the kind of nonsense that has characterized the debate over the stimulus bill during the last two weeks.

At a minimum, we'd be creating jobs for 535 unemployed PhDs. And if we improved government economic policy by a mere 1 percent of the trillions of dollars we're dealing with, it would pay for itself many times over.

Let's review some of the more silly arguments about the stimulus bill, starting with the notion that "only" 75 percent of the money can be spent in the next two years, and the rest is therefore "wasted."

As any economist will tell you, the economy tends to be forward-looking and emotional. So if businesses and households can see immediate benefits from a program while knowing that a bit more stimulus is on the way, they are likely to feel more confident that the recovery will be sustained. That confidence, in turn, will make them more likely to take the risk of buying big-ticket items now and investing in stocks or future ventures.

Moreover, much of the money that can't be spent right away is for capital improvements such as building and maintaining schools, roads, bridges and sewer systems, or replacing equipment -- stuff we'd have to do eventually. So another way to think of this kind of spending is that we've simply moved it up to a time, to a point when doing it has important economic benefits and when the price will be less.

Equally specious is the oft-heard complaint that even some of the immediate spending is not stimulative.

"This is not a stimulus plan, it's a spending plan," Nebraska's freshman senator, Mike Johanns (R), said Wednesday in a maiden floor speech full of budget-balancing orthodoxy that would have made Herbert Hoover proud. The stimulus bill, he declared, "won't create the promised jobs. It won't activate our economy."

Johanns was too busy yesterday to explain this radical departure from standard theory and practice. Where does the senator think the $800 billion will go? Down a rabbit hole? Even if the entire sum were to be stolen by federal employees and spent entirely on fast cars, fancy homes, gambling junkets and fancy clothes, it would still be an $800 billion increase in the demand for goods and services -- a pretty good working definition for economic stimulus. The only question is whether spending it on other things would create more long-term value, which it almost certainly would.

Meanwhile, Nebraska's other senator, Ben Nelson (D), was heading up a centrist group that was determined to cut $100 billion from the stimulus bill. Among his targets: $1.1 billion for health-care research into what is cost-effective and what is not. An aide explained that, in the senator's opinion, there is "some spending that was more stimulative than other kinds of spending."

Oh really? I'm sure they'd love to have a presentation on that at the next meeting of the American Economic Association. Maybe the senator could use that opportunity to explain why a dollar spent by the government, or government contractor, to hire doctors, statisticians and software programmers is less stimulative than a dollar spent on hiring civil engineers and bulldozer operators and guys waving orange flags to build highways, which is what the senator says he prefers.

And then there is Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), complaining in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal that of the 3 million jobs that the stimulus package might create or save, one in five will be government jobs, as if there is something inherently inferior or unsatisfactory about that. (Note to Coburn's political director: One in five workers in Oklahoma is employed by government.)

In the next day's Journal, Coburn won additional support for his theory that public-sector employment and output is less worthy than private-sector output from columnist Daniel Henninger. Henninger weighed in with his own list of horror stories from the stimulus bill, including $325 million for trail repair and remediation of abandoned mines on federal lands, $6 billion to reduce the carbon footprint of federal buildings and -- get this! -- $462 million to equip, construct and repair labs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"What is most striking is how much 'stimulus' money is being spent on the government's own infrastructure," wrote Henninger. "This bill isn't economic stimulus. It's self-stimulus."

Actually, what's striking is that supposedly intelligent people are horrified at the thought that, during a deep recession, government might try to help the economy by buying up-to-date equipment for the people who protect us from epidemics and infectious diseases, by hiring people to repair environmental damage on federal lands and by contracting with private companies to make federal buildings more energy-efficient.

What really irks so many Republicans, of course, is that all the stimulus money isn't being used to cut individual and business taxes, their cure-all for economic ailments, even though all the credible evidence is that tax cuts are only about half as stimulative as direct government spending.

Many, including John McCain, lined up this week to support a proposal to make the sales tax and interest payments on any new car purchased over the next two years tax-deductible, along with a $15,000 tax credit on a home purchase. These tax credits make for great sound-bites and are music to the ears of politically active car salesmen and real estate brokers. Most economists, however, have warned that such credits will have limited impact at a time when house prices are still falling sharply and consumers are worried about their jobs and their shrinking retirement accounts. Even worse, they wind up wasting a lot of money because they give windfalls to millions of people who would have bought cars and houses anyway.

What adds insults to injury, however, is that many of the senators who supported these tax breaks then turned around and opposed as "boondoggles" much more cost-effective proposals to stimulate auto and housing sales, such as having the government replace its current fleet of cars with hybrids or giving money to local housing authorities to buy up foreclosed properties for use as low-income rental housing.

Personal economic trainers would confirm all this. Until they're on board, however, here's a little crib sheet on stimulus economics:

Spending is stimulus, no matter what it's for and who does it. The best spending is that which creates jobs and economic activity now, has big payoffs later and disappears from future budgets.

I am constantly astounded at how ridiculous our Congresscritters are. I am also constantly astounded at how uninformed the media covering the debate is as well. Luckily we have Jamison Foser and Media Matters to cover the coverage. And thank you Mr. Pearlstein.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Get Well Justice Ginsburg!

Pancreatic Cancer is tough to beat. Ginsburg is one tough cookie and it is reportedly in its early stages. So, I am trying to be optimistic.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

This is Sad!

After years of struggling the Oscar Wilde Bookshop in the Village is going to close at the end of March.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Daschle Out!

Well one less, or actually two less, distractions. Change we can believe in?

What are these folks thinking?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Next Supremes?

The popular consensus is that there is a left-wing and right-wing of the SCOTUS. This is blatantly untrue as Justice Stevens and this article points out. There is a right-wing and a more or less centrist-wing of the SCOTUS. The hope of liberals and the left is that finally there might be an actual liberal appointment to the court with this new administration. As the “One's” appointments so far exhibit, I am less than assured that this will happen. I am thinking that at best we get another semi-quasi liberal centrist. I guess we should be happy that it isn’t another out and out corporatist like Alito.

The NYT’s has a good article on this most important issue:

February 1, 2009

To Nudge, Shift or Shove the Supreme Court Left


WASHINGTON — Justice John Paul Stevens, the leader of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing, likes to say that he has not moved to the left since he was appointed to the court by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975. It is the court, Justice Stevens says, that has moved to the right.

“Every judge who’s been appointed to the court since Lewis Powell” in 1971 “has been more conservative than his or her predecessor,” Justice Stevens said in a 2007 interview. He added that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg might have been the sole exception but included himself as one of those 11 ratchets to the right.

Justice Stevens, who continues to be a keen and lively participant in oral arguments at the court, will turn 89 in April. Actuarial statistics alone suggest that President Obama may end up naming his replacement.

And that will present the new president with a question. Should he appoint someone who by historical standards is a full-throated liberal, a lion like Justice William J. Brennan Jr. or Justice Thurgood Marshall? Or should he follow the lead of President Bill Clinton, whose two appointees, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Stephen G. Breyer, are by those standards relative moderates?

The vacancies that are likely to open up in the early years of the Obama presidency will, if the conventional wisdom holds, arise from the retirements of one or more of the court’s liberals — Justice Stevens, Justice Ginsburg or Justice David H. Souter.

If that is so, Mr. Obama will not be able to put a new liberal vote on the court. But he can, if he wants to, add a big liberal voice.

“A really powerful, articulate, moral, passionate voice on the left,” said Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, “would really change the dynamic on the court. It would pull the other justices who are inclined to be sympathetic to that voice in that direction. It would shift the center of the discussion — about what’s the middle.”

There is precedent for this. Justice Antonin Scalia, who has been on the court since 1986, was for years a lonely and energetic dissenter on the right. But the seeds he planted in those dissents have over time taken root in majority decisions.

According to a study last year by William M. Landes, who teaches law and economics at the University of Chicago, and Judge Richard A. Posner of the federal appeals court there, four of the five most conservative justices to serve on the court since 1937, of a total of 43, are on the court right now: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. The fifth was Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, whom Chief Justice Roberts replaced in 2005.

The study took into account the votes in divided cases on ideologically charged issues like criminal procedure, civil rights and the First Amendment. Justice Thomas, the most conservative justice in the study, voted for the conservative position in those cases 82 percent of the time. Justice Marshall, the only other African-American to serve on the court, was by this measure the most liberal, voting for the conservative side 21 percent of the time.

The study also reinforced Justice Stevens’s caveat, counting Justice Ginsburg as more liberal than the justice she replaced, Justice Byron R. White. But Justice Ginsburg, whom the study identifies as the most liberal current justice, barely makes the Top 10 in the full tally.

The Roberts court is, then, conservative by the standards of recent history. But is it conservative in some absolute sense?

“It is fair to say that the Supreme Court both now and historically has been to the left of the American public,” said Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Columbia and an editor of “Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy” (Oxford, 2008).

“On school prayer, for instance, the Supreme Court is far to the left of the American public,” Professor Persily said, referring to decisions saying that officials may not organize, lead or endorse prayer or devotional Bible reading in the public schools.

“On racial issues, it’s pretty clear from the Michigan cases that the Supreme Court is out of step with the American public,” Professor Persily said of the pair of 2003 decisions allowing public universities to consider race in admissions decisions. (In a 2007 decision, the Roberts court leaned the other way, forbidding public school systems from explicitly taking race into account to achieve or maintain integration.)

Other areas in which the court is to the left of popular opinion, Professor Persily said, are criminal procedure and free speech. Decisions protecting flag burning under the First Amendment, for instance, were quite unpopular.

There is a structural reason for some of this. The court is charged with protecting individual rights even when majorities would deny them. In many cases, those protections resonate as liberal. But that explanation is not a complete one. The court’s recent decision saying the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns, for instance, cuts in the other direction.

There is a sense, however, in which popular opinion is perfectly reflected in the court’s decisions, said Sanford Levinson, a law professor at the University of Texas. In a great majority of the ideologically charged cases that reach the court, the crucial swing vote belongs to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. And Justice Kennedy, Professor Levinson said, “may in fact be closest to the median national voter.”

In another sense, though, the terms “conservative” and “liberal” do not always track the conventional political ones when they are applied to judicial decision making.

One kind of conservative judge, for instance, defers to the democratic process and views decisions to strike down laws enacted by Congress as “judicial activism.” This kind of conservative judge might say that legislatures rather than courts should decide whether to protect abortion rights.

Another kind of conservative judge is perfectly willing to strike down laws on constitutional grounds when they may be said to violate the original understanding of the meaning of the Constitution. This kind of conservative judge might vote to strike down a law allowing eminent domain as a violation of the Constitution’s takings clause.

Still, “there is a surprising amount of ideological coherence on the court over the last 30 years,” said Christopher L. Eisgruber, Princeton University’s provost and the author of “The Next Justice: Repairing the Supreme Court Appointments Process” (Princeton, 2007). “If you tell me where a justice stands on abortion, I can tell you what that justice’s position is on affirmative action, gun control, criminal procedure, federalism and other privacy issues.”

But coherence is not the same thing as passion.

These days, Professor Stone said: “The right side is very bold and very conservative. The liberal side is not bold. They are incrementalists. They don’t set the agenda.”

The old-school liberal justices were simply more ambitious than Justices Breyer and Ginsburg, Professor Eisgruber said. “Brennan and Marshall were willing to think creatively about questions like, Could the Supreme Court take a leading role in thinking about, say, how to eradicate poverty?”

Mr. Obama’s first Supreme Court nomination will no doubt be an accomplished lawyer whose views are generally to the left of the ideological center. What remains to be seen is what sort of liberal — and what sort of liberalism — he intends to endorse.

So, we shall see what the new makeup of the SCOTUS is going forward. I am hopeful but not delusional.

Wrongful Convictions and Human Error!

No shit! If you had read Actual Innocence you would know this already. Apparently we need a report to point out the obvious. I can’t imagine that there is anyone in the criminal justice system (oxymoronic isn’t it), other than an ideologue idiot, who doesn’t know this and yet the “system” has refused to date to ameliorate this obvious problem which actually impedes justice and allows the malefactors to get away with their crimes.

February 1, 2009

Examining Human Error in Wrongful Convictions


A new examination of wrongful convictions in New York City and around the state found that a number of them stemmed not from DNA evidence being used to prove someone’s innocence, but from a far older phenomenon: human error.

The report, released on Friday by the New York State Bar Association, studied the cases of 53 men and women whose convictions were overturned, often after spending years, sometimes decades, in prison for murders, rapes and other crimes they did not commit.

It determined that the root causes of the convictions included errors by a prosecutor, judge or member of law enforcement, as well as the misidentification of the accused by victims or witnesses. The mishandling of forensic evidence and a reliance on false confessions from the accused or false testimony from jailhouse informants were also to blame.

Fewer than half the cases involved new DNA evidence. Even with the DNA cases, elements of human error were found.

In many of the 53 cases, several factors, not just one, played a role in the wrongful convictions, the report found. Thirty-six cases involved a misidentification by a witness or a victim, and 31 involved errors by prosecutors, judges or law enforcement, it said.

“If you were manufacturing widgets, and 53 widgets were defective, it would be acceptable,” said Barry M. Kamins, a Criminal Court judge in Manhattan who was the chair of the state bar association task force that prepared the report. “If you’re dealing in human lives, and 53 people are innocent and serving time for crimes they didn’t commit, that is unacceptable. One is too many, and 53 in New York is unacceptable.”

The 53 cases in the report read like a litany of legal missteps.

Betty Tyson spent 25 years in prison before her murder conviction was overturned in 1998. She was convicted of strangling a Philadelphia businessman in Rochester in 1973, largely as a result of the testimony of two teenagers who said they had seen her with the victim.

One of the teenagers later recanted his account, and a police report of an interview with the other teenager, in which the witness said he did not see Ms. Tyson with the victim, was suppressed by the police and never given to her lawyers at the time of the trial, according to the report and news accounts.

James Walker was convicted in 1971 of murdering an armored car driver in Brooklyn, based on the testimony of an informant. But the report stated that the prosecutor and the lead detective in the case suppressed the fact that the informant had actually implicated a second man and that a surviving victim had seen Mr. Walker in a lineup but selected another person. Mr. Walker served 19 years in prison and was freed in 1990.

Bernice K. Leber, the president of the bar association, said the wrongful convictions have not only eroded public confidence in the criminal justice system but have also had a significant, often-overlooked economic impact.

A 1984 state law permits lawsuits and damage awards for unjust conviction and imprisonment.

Anthony Faison and Charles Shepherd, two men whose cases were examined, were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 14 years in the 1987 shooting death of a livery cab driver in Brooklyn. Their conviction relied on the testimony of a witness who later admitted she had lied to collect a $1,000 reward. In a settlement with the state, Mr. Faison and Mr. Shepherd each received $1.65 million.

“These are huge numbers of dollars we’re talking about,” Ms. Leber said. “What kind of toll is that taking on the state? I really do think that this report will be a seismic step and a wake-up call for our legislators and the governor to take a hard look at where these dollars are going.”

The report comes amid criticism that New York has failed to do enough to prevent wrongful convictions. Several states have established innocence commissions to review cases and propose legislative and procedural changes, but New York has not. The state also does not require law enforcement agencies to record interrogations, as some other states do.

In a statement, Ann Pfau, the state’s chief administrative judge, said, “We look forward to studying the report and working with the bar, legislative leaders, the executive branch and criminal justice professionals on this critical issue.”

Paul J. Browne, the New York Police Department’s chief spokesman, said police officials had not had a chance to review the report.

“The N.Y.P.D., as much as anyone — in fact, more than most — is committed to convicting the guilty and exonerating the innocent, and reasonable measures to accomplish both are welcome,” he said in a statement.

The task force that prepared the report makes a number of recommendations, including additional training for the police, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges, as well as changes in how police lineups are conducted. It also calls for interrogations of all felony-level suspects to be electronically recorded, and urges the state to provide financial aid and re-entry services to those exonerated, which Mr. Kamins said is not provided currently.

The bar association will hold two public hearings on the report’s findings — one in Manhattan on Feb. 13 and the other in Albany on Feb. 24. The report will then be presented on April 4 to the bar association’s House of Delegates, which will vote on whether to formally adopt it.

Should there be any question as to whether the report should be adopted? I think not and I believe that justice should finally prevail.