Sunday Links

Sunday, March 18th, 2012
  • A point that can’t be made often enough when discussing labor in the developing wrold.
  • Jeffrey Havard again denied by the Mississippi Supreme Court. I’ve written about Havard’s case several times, but here’s a good summary. The only real evidence against him was now-disputed testimony from Steven Hayne. Yet he’s now perilously close to an execution date.  I’ll have more on this later.
  • Jacob Sullum on the injustice in the Dharun Ravi verdict. It’s disappointing to see people normally skeptical of the criminal justice system celebrating Ravi’s possible imprisonment.
  • NPR asks three people who want to go to war with Syria what we should do about Syria.
  • Senators say if they could tell you how the PATRIOT Act is being used, you’d be appalled.
  • Police officer accused of sexual battery, rape while in uniform offered deal to plead guilty to extortion. He’ll get probation and the chance to clear his record entirely.
  • State politicians aren’t using money from the mortgage settlement to help out homeowners. So basically, politicians used desperate homeowners as a prop to punish banks in order to get funding to help pay down budget deficits created by politicians. If you’re surprised by this, you haven’t been paying attention.
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23 Responses to “Sunday Links”

  1. #1 |  Nick | 

    RE: PATRIOT Act Story

    The heavily fortified $2 billion center will be up and running in 2013. Flowing through its servers and stored in databases will be the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails – parking receipts, travel itineraries, book purchases and other digital “litter”. It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration…

    From The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center via ICYMI (look at the center screen in the cover graphic).

  2. #2 |  winston smith | 

    i had this on Wednesday

    Georgia Joins Other States in Diverting Foreclosure Fund Settlement Money for Non-Housing Purposes

    http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/03/12/georgia-joins-other-states-in-diverting-foreclosure-fund-settlement-money-for-non-housing-purposes/

    The states robbing the people who had got money back when they were robbed the first time.

  3. #3 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    My hope for the 21st century is that the Third World finally gets its long delayed Industrial Revolution. Nothing else is likely to do as much to lower birth rates, improve diet, and lessen the burden on the ecosystem.

    I wish I could remember the title of a book I took out of a public library some years back; it dealt with popular misconceptions, such as “only man murders” (the murder rate among lions of the Serengeti was then 19 times that of humans in New York City). One of the misconceptions it attacked was the idea that the Industrial Revolution was a disaster for the poor. Apparently studies have been done showing that the diet of the re-industrial poor was up to a thousand calories a day LESS than that of the ‘downtrodden masses’ of the cities a generation later. The Industrial Revolution didn’t CREATE masses of poor, it brought them out of the picturesque countryside and made it impossible to ignore them any more.

  4. #4 |  strech | 

    It’s disappointing to see people normally skeptical of the criminal justice system celebrating Ravi’s possible imprisonment.

    Really? As much as people are harping endlessly on the hate crime portion of the trial and verdict, pretending that’s the only reason he’s getting punished, it’s not about him saying mean things about gays. He was clearly guilty of at least 11 of the other charges (the 7 evidence tampering charges, the 4 attempted invasion of privacy charges), all of which carry the possibility of jail time on their own.

    Even if it only got investigated because of the suicide/bullying angle – so what? Anti-bullying laws are bad because they implicate speech and other legitimate conduct. What legitimate conduct is being harmed by the application of invasion of privacy laws here? Attempting to record someone having sex because being a gigantic dick amuses you is no less criminal than doing it because it turns you on.

  5. #5 |  Radley Balko | 

    As much as people are harping endlessly on the hate crime portion of the trial and verdict, pretending that’s the only reason he’s getting punished, it’s not about him saying mean things about gays.

    Bias Intimidation was the most serious charge, and the one that carries the 10-year prison term. And there’s little evidence he was trying to intimidate. The most likely explanation is that he was weirded out by having a gay roommate. Which shouldn’t be a crime. He never threatened to kill Clementi, or to beat him. He made some immature comments about Clementi’s sexuality.

    He was clearly guilty of at least 11 of the other charges (the 7 evidence tampering charges, the 4 attempted invasion of privacy charges)

    I don’t know the specifics of each evidence tampering charge, but at least one of them was him deleting a Tweet he says he regretted. This certainly feels like piling on to me.

    I don’t really have a problem with the invasion of privacy charges. But I don’t think his life should be ruined over it. The guy did some stupid stuff in an overreaction to having a gay roommate. He deserves a misdemeanor charge or two, a fine, and community service. A year of probation at most.

    People want the book thrown at him because of Clementi’s suicide, even though there’s no evidence Clementi’s suicide was the result of Ravi’s actions. (Even the government admits this.) And if Clementi hadn’t killed himself, I highly doubt Ravi would be facing a possible 10-year prison term.

  6. #6 |  Mike T | 

    Attempting to record someone having sex because being a gigantic dick amuses you is no less criminal than doing it because it turns you on.

    He is facing a punishment that is far worse than what most violent criminals face. He could have put a gun in his roommate’s face and demanded he give him his wallet, and chances are the punishment would have been less severe.

  7. #7 |  Mike T | 

    Radley,

    It’s also interesting to note how many of these people are cheering at this case, but were upset over the action against Lori Drew over the suicide of Megan Meier.

  8. #8 |  PersonFromPorlock | 

    The senators can reveal the ‘appalling misuse’ of the PATRIOT Act on the Senate floor without suffering any consequences. So, why don’t they?

  9. #9 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    “…the government in a democracy must act within publicly understood law so that voters ‘can ratify or reject decisions made on their behalf’ — even if that ‘obligation to be transparent with the public’ creates other challenges.”

    Nice sentiment there, Senators Wyden and Udall, but the fearful sheep in this country — from across the political spectrum — eagerly hand over our fundamental freedoms every time our Glorious Leaders shout “terrorist!” We are so fucked.

  10. #10 |  strech | 

    Bias Intimidation was the most serious charge, and the one that carries the 10-year prison term.

    Yes, the “bump up a category” NJ hate crimes laws is a bad idea (the base crime is 3rd degree, so the bias charge is 2nd degree). And 10 years (max sentence from base 5-10 range for 2nd degree crimes) would be unjust.

    But the sentence hasn’t been handed out yet, and NJ judges can bump things down a category from 2nd-3rd if they justify it (although the prosecution can appeal that). The judge may hand down an unjust sentence. I don’t know if he will, because he has a certain amount of discretion.

  11. #11 |  croaker | 

    @8 Just because the Constitution says there are no consequences, doesn’t mean that Homeland Security won’t take action.

  12. #12 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    My college roommate wasn’t gay, he was simply an idiot; a nice, not too bright kid whose family had decided (without taking any input from him) that he was going to be an MD. He rapidly fell into a pattern of behavior that would result in an academic meltdown – I’ve always thought it was a subconscious rebellion, frankly. Which I suppose I understand, now. At the time it simply made him impossible to live with, especially since I was having my own meltdown at the time. I don’t think I managed to sleep a night in my dorm room more than a handful of times that whole year. Finally, one day in spring, I came in, dead tired, at one o’clock in the morning, and found him and two of his friends STARTING a bong-party. I snapped. I pulled a fighting dagger out of my sock drawer(yes, I was one of THOSE), and told those there assembled that I was going for a half-hour walk. When I got back I was going to sleep, and I had every intention of eliminating any problems with that by any means necessary. When I got back they were gone.

    I suppose he could have complained to somebody and gotten me in a lot of trouble, but he was too busy flunking out. I heard later that his family got him into a med school in the Caribbean. I sometimes wonder if he ended up becoming an MD after all, and spare some prayers for his patients.

    Sharing a dorm room with some random jerk isn’t easy, even without any questions about sexuality. What bothers me most about this case, I think, is that if the ‘victim’ hadn’t been a Protected Minority, but some other kind of ‘oh Gods, how am I going to live with THAT!’, the punishment wouldn’t be as harsh. I probably should have gotten in trouble for what I did. Of course, roomie should have gotten in trouble for spending his time watching the world through the bottom of a bong, too.

    I dropped out of Johns Hopkins after that first year, but hung around the campus for several years thereafter. The whole time I was on and around campus, I met TWO pre-med students that I would willingly have allowed to touch me with a stethoscope. Even more amazing was the proportion of horrible pre-meds who were absolutely CONVINCED that they would be the exception to the rule that Johns Hopkins didn’t take Johns Hopkins undergrads into its Medical School.

    *shudder*

    There should be a limit to how much of a jackass you are allowed to make of yourself over a roommate before you get dinged. I crossed that line. This guy Ravi crossed the line. But a possible ten year sentence is too much.

  13. #13 |  Mike | 

    #1 Nick – Remember, “If you are not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about!” (Shudder)

  14. #14 |  Jerryskids | 

    @#5 – He was clearly guilty of at least 11 of the other charges (the 7 evidence tampering charges, the 4 attempted invasion of privacy charges)

    I haven’t been following this story much because we already know all the lines in this PC morality play, but wouldn’t most of those charges be “add-on” charges, that is they have to be connected to some predicate crime? (Although I have seen plenty of instances of people being charged with resisting arrest with no other charges being filed.) The guy was busted for setting up a video cam in his own room wasn’t he? How does that work?

  15. #15 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Simple solution for college students with abusive roommates to stop the torts dead in their tracks: Describe the torts and instruct Residential Life to immediately provide a new rooming assignment or else grant an exemption from any on-campus housing requirement along with a prorated refund of money paid for the remainder of the semester or academic year; advise Res Life that refusal to comply will result in the college’s balls being stapled to the wall in Superior Court; if Res Life still refuses, either retain counsel to back the fuckers into a corner or file a pro se civil suit, which will make the college look even worse when it deploys paid attorneys against a student seeking judicial relief without the benefit of legal counsel.

    An alternate solution in some cases is to wait for the abusive roommate to do the first thing that warrants a restraining order, then obtain the order and serve Res Life with a copy. Bring along a townie cop or a sheriff’s deputy to oversee the move if Res Life or Public Safety seems particularly dense or arrogant. They’ll be in deep shit for obstructing the petitioner in that event.

    Some of the most pathetic specimens of humanity that I’ve ever known worked for Res Life at my Alma Mater. They were petty bureaucrats who got off on lording it over students, but a decent lawyer or townie cop acting on a mistreated student’s behalf could have had them in tears and soiling their pants in a minute. They were that sniveling and fragile.

    Attorneys in the peanut gallery may end up correcting me on points of law, but based on my experiences I suspect that the average residential college isn’t sued for most of the willful torts that it commits against its students. As a matter of equity and eliminating moral hazard, this ought to change. Colleges need to stop making up their own rules in violation of superseding laws, and they won’t stop unless they’re forced.

  16. #16 |  Ted S. | 

    Count me as one of the people who agrees with Radly, CSP, and “Jerry’s Kids” above.

    Would there have been any invasion of privacy charge if Clementi had been a loud snorer, and Ravi videotaped that and broadcast it to all the world? Somehow I doubt it. Ravi got charged because (like Lori Drew or Casey Anthony) he was Easy (and Acceptable) to Hate.

  17. #17 |  long-time reader | 

    C.S.P. Schofield, do you remember anything else about the contents of that book? I thought it might be Otto Bettmann’s The Good Days-They Were Terrible!, which is a kick in the balls for anyone who thinks the past didn’t fundamentally suck, but it’s not that.

  18. #18 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    long-time reader,

    I’m sorry to say that I don’t, other than it was in the public library branch in Columbia, MD (and I doubt that helps much). I got it out simply because I have a habit of browsing through the non-fiction section of public libraries, and taking out anything that looks odd.

    As for THE GOOD DAYS – etc., both my parents were history teachers. I grew up knowing a lot of that. And I’m STILL amazed at what passes for historical fact in the popular mind! I remember watching several Jack-The-Ripper-Conspiracy films (FROM HELL and MURDER BY DECREE come to mind) and wondering what kind of mind thinks that ANYBODY, even the most brain-dead aristocrat, ‘covers up’ a scandal by doing several spectacularly gory murders?

    *sigh*

  19. #19 |  Brandon | 

    “The senators can reveal the ‘appalling misuse’ of the PATRIOT Act on the Senate floor without suffering any consequences. So, why don’t they?”

    Because they are the ones who voted to reauthorize it, and they’re just trying to score cheap partisan points in an election year.

  20. #20 |  Sam | 

    Radley,

    If your own roommate had done to you what Ravi did to Clementi, would you glibly laugh it off as being no big deal? And for the record, what we’re talking about is spying on you, videotaping you, broadcasting you, and encouraging other people to watch.

    Ravi, incidentally, rejected a plea deal that would have kept him out of prison, assuming apparently that he’d literally done nothing wrong at all.

  21. #21 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Financial crisis: Most politicians creamed their trousers at the thought of how they’d rape this opportunity…I mean tragedy.

    NPR: not the only ones guilty of this, of course. “Pick a card, any card”…from a Svengali deck. Don’t know what a Svengali deck is? Bing it!

  22. #22 |  Radley Balko | 

    If your own roommate had done to you what Ravi did to Clementi, would you glibly laugh it off as being no big deal?

    Can you show me exactly where I glibly laughed it off as being no big deal? Pretty sure I did nothing of the sort. I think Ravi behaved like an ass. But I don’t think he deserves 10 years in prison. Or any years in prison. I’m fine with the invasion of privacy charge. But the “bias intimidation” smacks of thought crime.

    It’s always a bad idea to determine policy based on “what if you/your child/your spouse were the victim of this crime?” hypotheticals. But since you asked, no, I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t want him to go to prison for 10 years. Depending on what he was able to record/broadcast, I’d imagine my reaction would fall somewhere between suing him civilly and a strong desire to punch him in the face.

  23. #23 |  Rob in CT | 

    Ravi sounds like a total jerk, but I can’t see how 10 years in prison (if that’s what he gets) is the right answer here. Or even 2 years. Getting expelled, roundly condemned, and maybe some compulsory community service is probably enough. I say that as someone who finds his behavior disgusting.

    Hate Crime is waaaay too close to Thought Crime for my comfort.

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