Readers on plea bargaining.

Readers on plea bargaining.

Readers on plea bargaining.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Dec. 13 2002 10:59 AM

A Bargain at Twice the Price

The Fray on American justice, racial and otherwise.

Readme my rights: Michael Kinsley contends that the plea bargaining system has made false confessions more likely as defendants are encouraged to trade their constitutional rights for "a few years off" a sentence. WatchfulBabbler points out that the pressures may be worse on prosecutors here:

[E]ver-heavier prosecutorial caseloads have had the same effect, and may be an even more-important factor. More-efficient law enforcement agencies, the centralization of populations (and hence criminals) into fairly small urban areas, the complex webs of conspiracy that underlie many information-age crimes, and the continually-extending criminalization of behaviors all contribute to a caseload that makes plea bargains attractive to prosecutors.

And while dozens of posts have pointed to the culpability of the "wilding" youths—at least for assault and robbery and perhaps even in the rape case itself—TheSlasher-8 reminds us what the "guilty of something" argument forgets here:

There seems to be little question that the five were involved in bad stuff that night, and you hear this point raised as justification for the fact that they served time for a crime they did not commit. About this, one can only say that people have a very perverted notion of what the word "justice" means when it's not THEIR asses on the line.

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There are many very good responses, as their usually are to a Kinsley piece. See Publius' long post here and baltimore-aureole's here

Best of a bad Lott: Nothing has the Fray more exercised than Trent Lott's comments and the fallout. In the Today's Papers Fray, ben-sf asks what the best thing about the whole mess is, and his amped-up answer here is that it wrecked Strom Thurmond's birthday:

As Thurmond limps off into the dustbin of history, the sounds that ring around his departure are not the congratulatory, diplomatically-put words of praise he, Lott and the other segregationists wanted, but the thunder of his own racist demogoguery; the nadir of his infamous career back to haunt him and the racist white voters of South Carolina and Mississippi who endorse these vicious dinosaurs time after time after time.

Return of the MAC: The federal government wants financial clearinghouses to have working backups 200 miles from New York, a distance that Dan Gross finds "arbitrary" and "designed to sap strength from the New York metropolitan area." The Moneybox Fray isn't so sure; several posters think the 200-mile limit is designed to help the system withstand a nuclear attack (not that they claim to be experts). Joan thinks  the most troubling thing about the proposed rule is not the damage it might do to New York, but the underlying message:

But the redundancy plan also carries the inference that there is no hope of actually winning this "War on Terrorism." It sounds much like a survivalist blueprint for businesses ... should the "outposts" for these banking concerns and other financial houses be draped in camouflage?

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(Not to indulge in any personal punditry, but isn't the significance of all this Ford administration retreading more a determined effort to bypass the Reagan guys than a fondness for gerontocracy? [What about Poindexter?—Oh, riiiight ...])

Registrar's Office: One unwelcome change since Fray registration has been the inability to go "back" and view the post you were responding to, then "forward" to continue drafting your response. (Your cache was cleared whenever you navigated away from the post you were drafting.) The ability to refer back has now been restored.

Several Fraysters have asked about the decline in posts since registration. The numbers did fall off dramatically at first (server problems, turkey problems) but are now about 80 percent of election week ... 7:45 a.m.

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Thursday, Dec. 12, 2002

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Cross purposes: Dahlia Lithwick describes the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Virginia v. Black here. The Fray has taken up the question of the threat implied in a cross-burning. If the case does turn on a century of history, Tonka points out  that the recent history makes the law unnecessary:

Up until now, any of us could burn a cross if we had a mind to. The great part is that very few of us have a mind to do so anymore. Great! When the KKK throws a parade these days, a few clowns show up to make fools of themselves. The march doesn't fail because it was banned; it fails because in this free country the cause lacks support, and anyone watching that parade can see that truth.

Banning cross burning at this eleventh hour would be too bad, in a way. The KKK types are assholes, true, but they lost because our ideas were better, not because they were prohibited from displaying their own ignorance.

Retief asks  why the cases were consolidated when the underlying facts are so obviously distinct:

I can't see that waking up to a burning cross in your yard at 2am would have anything at all in common with seeing a burning cross at a political rally as you drove past, or more likely, saw it on the news.

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TonyAdragna answers  that the Virginia statute does not distinguish between them. As Locdog points out here, in his usual doggy-style, lawn-burning is an obvious threat, "Why revisit this?" and rally-burning should be protected speech. The consolidation points to what is most dangerous in the law.

Abre_los_ojos asks whether "community standards" provisions or "incitement-to-riot" statutes could do the work of the anti-cross-burning law, should it be struck down. He gets some good answers, too. ...

Jackson: "Action!" Respondents to Chris Suellentrop's "Assessment" of Peter Jackson all agree that he and George Lucas would team up in one way or another. Mangar is convinced that Mr. ILM could learn something from Mr. Schlock here:

Jackson's movie had some FABULOUS special effects. But, he didn't go fancy and digital unless he really needed to. The stuff that Lucas would have gleefully given to his digital artists was instead done with miniatures in LOTR.

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W_H_Sleeman is more interested in auteur psychologies than effects. For him, the Jackson-Lucas match is a way of healing the longstanding breach in psychoanalysis here:

[I]t's fair to say that Lucas, with his Conrad-derived archetypes, is a Jungian, whereas Jackson's movies carry so much covert and overt Freudianism that one wonders why the old doc never gets screenwriting credit. …

[I]t does seem almost tragic that Jackson was not the director behind Attack of the Clones. Here was the story of a young man fearing the loss of his mother, while developing an intense adolescent affection for a surrogate mother figure ... Jackson could have probably done a more successful job of making that dynamic able to bear the dramatic burden it had (and failed) to. ...

Common roof accessory: pizza delivery sign: As a counter to the Journal's boomer-heavy auto coverage, Geoff proposes a look at the "Average Driver: 1986 Chevy Nova" here:

That would get you out of the median. All such cars on the road appear to be blue.

Drivers are predominately single.

Average age appears to be 24.

Average price seems to be $600.

Common Interests seem to be alcohol, marijuana, sex, indie rock, and video games.

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Scratch this: Rob Walker tackles more mascot recycling in his story of Bounce's rebound as the new furball of fun for USA Track & Field (see also this older Ad Report Card). Suggested names are pouring in (well, we have two), but Serip offers "Marketing Rule #73": "Anything that is described as 'Zany', isn't." ... 8:35 a.m.

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Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2002

Imperial bedfellows: When Christopher Hitchens writes, The Fray reacts. (Only Bob Wright seems to produce as reliable an outpouring of "egad".) For this edition of "Fighting Words" (on "imperialism"), Zathras, has a Christmas list of criticisms, running from history lessons ("America began building a large navy not after 1918 but during the Theodore Roosevelt administration some 15 years earlier"—this is the Alfred T. Mahan imperial program for the Pacific) to

the intellectual sloppiness inherent in using the same word to refer to American influence with some postcolonial Third Word governments and the Russian effort sustained over many generations to absorb a multitude of nationalities within first the Tsarist Empire and then the Soviet Union, or the Soviet imposition of police states on the people of Eastern Europe.

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In place of the sloppy "imperialism" BML proposes "clientism" (Too Hair Club? Hamid Karzai: I'm not only the President …)

While many posts point to the inevitable corruptions of imperial power, atsjackson argues that the problem is American imperial laziness:

One critical consideration absent from this article is the reluctance of the American citizenry to sustain a foreign intervention. Indeed much of the "imperial" adventures of the US have been undertaken at the outset through secretive means in order to avoid political restraints imposed by citizens anxious to avoid dealings with foreign peoples and their cultures …

Last: what does liberal patriotism sound like? Like this post from MrZero …

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Big Debbie: The Ballot Box Fray has responded to William Saletan's "pick a leader" soundbite matching  with ringing endorsements of Debbie Stabenow and the expected senator-from-GM conservative talking points. For The_Bell, Stabenow is a sign of the Democrats' needed "Mary Kay makeover":

I do not know when or where it happened but the current Democratic leadership - Daschle, Gephart, candidate Gore - all seem to have lost their nerve. Based on what I have been reading and hearing lately, names like Stabenow, Pelosi, and Landrieu seem to be the first breath of fresh air and hope for Democrats in some time. All these Democratic politicians have something in common - they have taken the position of actively opposing President Bush's policies instead of agreeing with/supporting him but with reservations. They all have something else in common in well - the lack of a Y chromosome.

Zathras is about consequences; he thinks that Congress is too firmly in the grip of "the permanent campaign" to choose between Bush's tax breaks for the wealthy and Stabenow's "demand side" breaks for the less well off:

We are much more likely to get both, with both sides shoveling massive tax breaks to the people whose support they are trying to get 23 months from now and declaring their determination not to rest until we return to the boom economy of 1999-2000 … The boom economy of the late '90s is not coming back. No combination of supply side, capital investment and populist doctrine bundled together in a tax bill can change that. If such a combination is attempted the political story of the next decade will be about which party most successfully evades blame for its consequences.

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Don't miss a good long thread begins with TonyAndragna's post here

(All this against a background of debate over Trent Lott's comments and whether they are a voice from the heart of the conservative movement or whether liberal hypocrisy on the race issue is more nefarious or both—I'm paraphrasing.) ...

The men behind the curtain: AdamMorgan asks what Secretaries of the Treasury do; BernardYomtov answers

Every morning they go into a secret control room filled with levers and knobs and dials and computer screens. They adjust the controls until the economy is acting as they wish, according to the data on the computers.

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Daniel Gross attributes the stock market's Monday decline to the announcement that John Snow would be the new lever-switcher. Don disagrees, and explains why the real reason for the market's decline makes Snow a good choice.

[T]he market … certainly wasn't responding to Snow; it was the first trading day after UAL's chapter 11 filing and IBM reported bearish news as well. In light of the huge problems we face in transportation, with UAL filing and others in trouble, having someone that has been part of the turn around in railroads seems like an appropriate choice. He was also a Undersecretary of Transportation.

Don should also report to Best of the Fray  for his overdue star.

Gross also tagsSnow as an "access capitalist," noting CSX's continued ownership of the Greenbrier resort in Virginia. B1FF here notes that this could be the ultimate access pass: in the event of a nuclear war, the Greenbrier bomb shelters are (were?) to play host to the House and Senate …

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More Trotskyites: Nora Ephron's Imaginary Friends explains why broadway is dead for baltimore-aureole (TheSlasher-8 agrees, and supplies some old-Left history). If you want some real Ephron bashing, try whocaresatthispoint here) … 12:45 p.m.

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Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2002

Tony Hiss manqué: Geoff wades into the Chatterbox Fray to criticize Emily Yoffe's guest Chatterbox on "Radical Chico" Chesa Boudin. Far from the new bottle into which the old Molotov cocktail has been poured, Boudin seems to him to be someone

trying to escape his parents' legacy without making waves in his family. As someone with relatives guilty of violent crimes, I can understand that tension.

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Geoff bolsters his claim by noting that "it's clear from the article that the young man was interviewed IN THE COMPANY of his adopted parents."

Now, I don't know whether or not he needs to be defended. But if YOUR parents were imprisoned terrorists, and then, sluttish unrepentant media hounds... well how would YOU deal with it?

For Publius here, Boudin "apparently has not learned much from his parents' or foster parents' abhorrent excapades in revolutionary zeal" …

Grey Lady down: The results of NoStar's "New New York Times slogan" contest are in, and the winners are excellent (but you gotta go get 'em.) … 6:05 p.m.

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If you ain't eatin' Wham…: You're eating Spam. The funniest Ad Report Card Fray in a while bellies up to the "whipped pig" for some good discussion. ilovespamsothere chastises Rob Walker for dissin' the S, and offer her own creepy Spamemory here ("we would take a thin slice and savor it in our mouths until the breakfast was ready"); Gilker_Kimmel thinksWalker should at least have tried the stuff:

[S]uck it up and quit advertising your own lack of experience. Buy a can of Spam, taste the gritty, gelid mass of pig parts and THEN sneer.

opie_it explains that if Hormel's "Spam-ku" contest is any guide, the company has always thought of it's franchise product as funny:

I was proud to be chosen as a contributor for Spam-ku, Tranquil Reflections on Luncheon Loaf …Hormel got final right of refusal in the book, but if you give it a read, you'll see they approved a great many that were funny but less than complimentary. My favorite from the book follows, and no, it's not one of mine.



Perfection uncanned

Like a beautiful redhead

Fresh from her trailer.



or this



Do Spams reproduce?

Not unless you wash off the

Spamicidal gel

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You can offer your own Spam-ku here5:30 a.m.

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Monday, Dec. 9, 2002

Alkoans: What did in Paul O'Neill—his zen comments on economic cycles or his tendency to go "off the reservation"? DB_c1w tries to say "something nice":

[H]e said some common-sensical things about capitalism and business that are hard to disagree with (the market goes up, the market goes down; he wouldn't rely on traders to do any deep economic thinking; some companies (like Enron) go out of business; a lot of wall streeters are out of tune with the needs of smaller businesses).

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But ChasHeath offers this explanation for the timing:

He was on his way out the door, anyhow, but I suspect that the ideas that O'Neill floated just after the election about going for real tax reform have now been confirmed DOA.

Betty_The_Crow conjures a Frankeinstein's monster of a replacement for O'Neill. Take

the ethical probity of Phil Gramm, the charisma of Steve Forbes, the personal integrity of Jack Grubman and the political skills of Harvey Pitt ...

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Bureau of Star Management: If I give Game_Warden his star, will that keep him from leaving the Fray and starting his own blog? (After a post like this one about tax cuts—last year's was badly timed, we need a big one now—there may be some danger. All this independent thinking.) Regardless, it's the right thing to do. He can pick it up in Best of the Fray.

Albee back: There is a two-part consensus in the TV Club Fray: our regulars are much happier with last night's episode than the psychologists, and Dr. Melfi has done some good—Tony whacks no one, resorting to some Bush-pere-style sonic warfare instead. Declinists or not, the Fraysters were surprised by the domestic turn. Zinya had the Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? analogy last night. Rob_said_that pinned Edie Falco's aria here:

The look she gave Tony in the hallcrazy, querulous, desperate, wild, and, above all, free at lastwas the single most powerful moment, for me, in the entire series. Her tear-soaked mascara turning her eyes into a death stare, she looked like someone come back from the dead, and indeed that's what she was. Falco really showed her range tonight, and the character of Carmela deepened dramatically. Maybe this was catharsis enough.

Did Carmela know what she was getting into when she married Tony? Follow dharmabum01 here. If you want to follow the motif-track of the episodes, check out HumsTheBird's posts (such as this on "whitecaps" and this). ...

Like the lunar mission, only with rich guys: Sympathy from the unlikeliest quarters as raprap thanks the billionaire boat club for stimulating in their own way here:

In the end we all prosper. These guys have dispersed about a half billion in cash back into the economy, and have made a game out of it. Besides, there is something to be learned from the composite materials being used. ... 8:30 a.m.