Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stop Snitching

Was pissed off on Sunday when I saw a mother coming out of a restaurant (with her children), wearing a t-shirt that said STOP SNITCHING. Why pissed? Because anyone who wears shirts like that say COMMIT ANY CRIME YOU WANT WITH NO RECRIMINATION. [note - these are often the same people who wear Jesse Jackson t-shirts such as NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE. Ironic but predictable.]

Philadelphia's District Attorney, Lynne Abraham, had enough of people with that approach, filing charges against a father who flat-out told his daughter in court to recant her previous testimony.

Mitch Lipka of the Philadelphia Inquirer sets the stage:
"We want people to come forward. We want people to step up," Temple University law professor Edward Ohlbaum said. "The fact of the matter is that folks don't feel secure on their way to the stand, on the stand, and after the stand."

An example of why is scheduled to play out today in a Philadelphia courtroom in the case of Donte Thomas, 29, who prosecutors say shot and killed Tyreese Gaymon-Allen, 23, in February. Gaymon-Allen cooperated with police and identified the man suspected of killing his cousin, Tyreyk Gaymon, 23, in 2004.

Last month at the trial of two men charged with killing Faheem [Thomas-Childs], six witnesses - including Devonso Lawson's 18-year-old daughter, Taniesha Wiggins - backed away from initial statements police said they had given.

Prosecutors painted Wiggins as a key witness who told police in great detail what she knew of the events that led up to and followed the shooting of Faheem [Thomas-Childs] .

"As compelling and heart-rending a scenario as the original crime, what you're talking about is a father taking a position that he doesn't want his child to end up in the morgue," Ohlbaum said.
...but the Philadelphia Daily News editorial page clearly took one side of the issue:
WE ROUNDLY applaud the arrest of the father who, in open court, told his daughter to lie on the witness stand.

And we can't help but recall Charles Barkley's proclamation, delivered in sneaker ads back in the 1990s: "I am not a role model... Parents should be role models."

Well, Sir Charles, the father in question, now identified as Devonso Lawson, obviously is not a parent one should emulate.

The district attorney's office is more than fed up with witnesses who "go south" - change their testimony during a trial. And Lawson's blatant manner in an emotional, high-profile case involving the murder of innocent 10-year-old Faheem Thomas-Childs crystallized the problem....

[Taniesha Wiggins] wasn't alone in changing her testimony. Six other witnesses went south in the Thomas-Childs case.

We're not big on events "sending a message." But the arrest of Lawson offers a smidgen of satisfaction that deliberate obstruction of the judicial process won't be tolerated.

The code of the street has no place in the court of law.

I agree. Yes, it would be difficult for me to testify knowing I might be killed by a gang. But if I were a parent, what would be worse - the fact that my daughter or son might be killed if she or he testified against a killer? Or if my child was killed and no one came forward to police, leaving my child's killer free to roam the streets and never, ever face justice, and for me to never, ever have closure? - Peter

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Dueling Banjos, in Real player format. Just because.

Duke lacrosse

Spent the weekend in Durham, NC. The lacrosse rape scandal is still front page news; more details are being leaked on both sides.

On the accuser front:
> The police officer call from the grocery store that revealed the exotic dancer appeared to be passed-out drunk somehow was released to the press. Oops.
> Did you know the exotic dancer led police on a high-speed chase while drunk (at double the state limit) and nearly ran an officer over 4 years ago? No? I'm sure we'll get lots more little nuggets like this one in the coming weeks.
> Rumor de jour: Apparently the accuser and her friend were paid $800.00 and at some point returned to demand more money.

On the "defendants" front (I use quotes since no charges have been filed, therefore 46 Duke lacrosse players should be labeled with that catch-all "person of interest" category:
> Durham police visited Duke dorm rooms this week and attempted to interview several players. Those players who have attorneys made some calls and zzaapp! just like that, interviews over. It's unclear whether any players have actually spoken with police without attorneys present since legal representation was first hired. It's also unclear how long the players' 'code of silence' will continue.
> While race, gender, social strata and violence feature prominently in this case, add one more thing: alcohol. Put over 40 guys in a house with 2 exotic dancers and what do you think you'll get? Trouble.
> At a recent town meeting at NC Central University, where the accuser is a student, one member of the audience claimed that the DNA tests were "fixed" and came out negative because Duke handled them. Uh, no. Those would go through the state crime lab in Raleigh.

For a different perspective, Michael Smerconish had this to say in the Daily News:
The question: The question: What drives this hostility toward athletes? Why a rush to judgment every time a ballplayer is accused of sexual indiscretions?

I say it's the revenge of the nerds. Most journalists would never be chosen for a pickup game of hoops, let alone a varsity sport. So they take perverse pleasure in bringing down the BMOC, however undeserved.

What went on in the Kobe case and at La Salle and now at Duke? The unathletic are getting their chance to vent at those who are. And they crucify these young men with gleeful speed.

While the "victims" are allowed to remain anonymous and aren't prosecuted for their tales, the athletes they accuse don't get the same treatment. These young men are the real victims, no quotation marks needed.

No winners here, just losers. -P

Sunday, April 02, 2006

W and his bold leadership

I enjoyed today's Doonesbury. Reminds me of Sean Hannity. And Hugh Hewitt, among others. Guys, don't break anything as you fall over each other trying to kiss W's ass.

Duke lacrosse rape

ESPN summarizes the story here of a Black exotic dancer who was allegedly raped by three Duke University lacrosse team members in a private home in Durham, NC on March 13. The woman, who is a student at N. C. Central University (also in Durham), is supported by Durham's district attorney, Mike Nifong. Protestors marched across Duke's campus, to the home of Duke President Richard Brodhead, and to the home where the alleged assault occurred.

The event also sparked protests in Durham, since the story involves issues of assault, rape, racial epithets, class, treatment of women by athletes and Duke vs. Durham.

From Newsweek:
According to Duke Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek, the police information "left many questions unanswered." A week and a half after the incident, police obtained a court order that 46 of the 47 men on the team (all but its one black member) be required to give DNA samples. By now the parents were hearing about the incident, and they began hiring lawyers, who told the young men to remain silent. The three team captains did come forward to deny the allegations to Duke University President Richard Brodhead.

Lots of questions here:

Why was there a 12-day gap between the night of the assault and the suspension of the lacrosse season by Brodhead?

Why is the lacrosse team still allowed to practice pending the outcome of the investigation?

Did the predominantly white team specifically ask for black dancers? If so, would this suggest premeditation?

What work does the Duke Center for Black Culture perform, other than make nice soundbites? If Duke-Durham relations are at the boiling point, it looks like the Center has done nothing of substance to help the Durham community.

Some other observations on Duke and Durham:

Duke is in Durham, but no longer really part of Durham. 85% of the students are from out of state, and most of those are from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. It's the old Town and Gown problem, but some communities handle the mix better than others.

Duke has gone to great lengths to isolate itself on occasion from Durham. For example, Duke once closed off all streets on Duke property with barricades, and added a little yellow box marked "private street" or "private road" to all street signs leading in to the campus. Why? Because Duke could.

For years, Durham police and Duke officials have minimized legal infractions by Duke athletes. Why should lacrosse be any different?


Illegal Immigration Protests

Thousands of protestors marched from coast to coast this week in favor of illegal immigration. Well, many marched in favor of immigration, period, but by embracing illegal immigrants, they support violation of US law.

Flying the Mexican Flag in Houston....

Reagan High School Principal Robert Pambello was ordered to remove a Mexican flag Wednesday morning that he had hoisted below the U.S. and Texas flags that typically fly in front of his school — a symbol he agreed to fly to show support for his predominantly Hispanic student body.

"It is appropriate to fly the flags of the United States and Texas over schools in the Houston Independent School District, since we are a public entity of the state," HISD spokesman Terry Abbott said. "It would not be appropriate for the school district to advocate allegiance to a country other than the United States. Therefore, it is not appropriate to permit use of school district flagpoles for the purpose of flying flags representing other countries."

Better cancel that St. Patrick's Day parade, too.

Meanwhile, economic issues overshadow the arguments flying back and forth over what do about illegals. Andrew Cassel of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes:

Take the argument over immigrants and employment. One side asserts newcomers take jobs from those who (or whose ancestors) got here first.

The other side counters with the (by now) cliche that immigrants "do the jobs Americans don't want."

Who is right? You won't find the answer on cable TV or radio talk shows. It turns out there's almost no consensus on immigration's impact, even among the learned and dispassionate ranks of economists.

But maybe both sides miss the point.

Here's a way to think about immigrants and the economy that you don't hear in the rhetoric, but that makes a lot of sense. I got it from Berkeley labor economist David Card when he spoke here last year.

Immigrants increase the labor pool, Card said, but the effect isn't mainly to drive down wages for other jobs. Nor is it mainly to do jobs Americans prefer not to do themselves.

Rather, immigrants do work that otherwise would be done by machine, or not at all.

Take the wine industry. In Australia, vineyards are harvested by machines. In California, Mexicans do it.

The same comparisons can be seen from construction to car washes. Abundant labor simply makes it cheaper to hire people than to invest in more machinery.

Does that mean the economy could survive with fewer immigrants? In some areas, probably so.

But immigrants also do valuable jobs that otherwise wouldn't get done at all - because they can't be automated, because labor is too expensive, or because there simply aren't enough eligible bodies to hire.
And besides, too many of them work for Republicans.