Browsing the blog archives for March, 2012.


Voice Screaming for Help Was Not Zimmerman

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criminal justice, Trayvon Martin

Orlando Sentinel:

As the Trayvon Martin controversy splinters into a debate about self-defense, a central question remains: Who was heard crying for help on a 911 call in the moments before the teen was shot?

A leading expert in the field of forensic voice identification sought to answer that question by analyzing the recordings for the Orlando Sentinel.

His result: It was not George Zimmerman who called for help.

Tom Owen, forensic consultant for Owen Forensic Services LLC and chair emeritus for the American Board of Recorded Evidence, used voice identification software to rule out Zimmerman. Another expert contacted by the Sentinel, utilizing different techniques, came to the same conclusion.

Zimmerman claims self-defense in the shooting and told police he was the one screaming for help. But these experts say the evidence tells a different story.

Anyone want to review?

Counting down the nanoseconds before the right wing noise machine finds some excuse to dismiss the science …

Y’know, I can remember when conservatives screamed perpetually about how liberals made the criminal justice system soft on crime. We coddled criminals. We allowed bad guys to walk because of silly legal technicalities. Of course, there always was some selectivity about which criminals were to be coddled and which ones not.

But now we may look on in wonder — or derision, or anger, or whatever — at the turning of tables. Now liberals are asking the criminal justice system to get tough on the “doer,” and conservatives are making excuses for the shooter.

Funny how that works.

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It’s the Police Inaction, Stupid

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criminal justice, Trayvon Martin

Righties have a congenital inability to get the point. The brain damaged Rich Lowry whines that lots of black people get shot without everyone on the Left making a Big Bleeping Deal about it. For example:

Last year, Charinez Jefferson, 17, was shot and killed on a Chicago street. “She begged the shooter not to shoot her because she was pregnant,” a pastor explained. The alleged assailant, Timothy Jones, 18, shot her in the head, chest and back after seeing her walking with a rival gang member. New York Times columnist Charles Blow did not write a column about Jefferson’s killing as a symbol of the perils of being a young black woman in America.

That was a terrible thing, yes. But you know what happened after that, Rich? The police went looking for her alleged killer. The following week, they found him and arrested him. He was charged with the murder and held without bond.

That’s why Charles Blow didn’t have to write a column about it, you bleeping idiot.

Compare/contrast to the murder of Trayvon Martin. A quickie timeline –

February 26 — Trayvon Martin is shot. His killer is questioned and released.

[cricket chirps]

March 13 — ABC News reports “questionable police conduct” regarding the shooting.

March 16 — Charles Blow column published; 911 tapes released.

By all appearances, if national media hadn’t started to get involved, the Sanford police would still have done not a dadblamed thing regarding this case. That’s why people got angry, Rich. You can check out a timeline at ABC News for more.

Lowry provides some more examples, and they are all very tragic, but he says nothing about how the police responded in each case. This detail seems insignificant to Rich. Then he says,

Everything about the Trayvon Martin case is a matter of contention. About this, though, there should be no doubt: If Martin had been shot by a black classmate, if he had been caught in a random crossfire, if he had looked at a gang member the wrong way, his death would have been relegated to the back pages of the local newspaper. Not a cause, not even a curiosity: Just another dead young black man. Nothing to see here. Please, move on.

Then going on about statistics about shootings perpetrated by African Americans, he says,

There is no comparable epidemic of half-Hispanic neighborhood-watch volunteers like George Zimmerman shooting young black men.

Seriously, he said that. He thinks the only reason this case is a big deal is that the shooter was not black.

If Trayvon Martin was killed for walking while black, I’d say Lowry is guilty of writing while stupid. And bigoted. And being a whiny self-absorbed wingnut.

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Eat It, Scalia

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Health Care, Supreme Court

I haven’t had a chance to react to this week’s Supreme Court drama. So let me just link to some other reactions.

Dahlia Lithwick was reasonably upbeat after the first day of arguments. Not so by the end of it. “It’s not a good day for the Affordable Care Act,” she writes. “This morning’s argument requires the justices to start from the assumption that the court will strike down the individual mandate (the issue argued exhaustively yesterday) and asks them to pick over the carcass, to determine what, if anything, survives.”

The most illuminating comment is by Charles Pierce.

I think Justice Antonin Scalia isn’t even really trying any more….He hung in there as long as he could, but he’s now bringing Not Giving A Fuck to an almost operatic level….

…It is plain now that Scalia simply doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act on its face. It has nothing to do with “originalism,” or the Commerce Clause, or anything else. He doesn’t think that the people who would benefit from the law deserve to have a law that benefits them. On Tuesday, he pursued the absurd “broccoli” analogy to the point where he sounded like a micro-rated evening-drive talk-show host from a dust-clotted station in southern Oklahoma. And today, apparently, he ran through every twist and turn in the act’s baroque political history in an attempt to discredit the law politically, rather than as a challenge to its constitutionality.

See also John Cole, who has a long roundup of many other reactions. Worth reading.

Update: Krugman

Given the stakes, one might have expected all the court’s members to be very careful in speaking about both health care realities and legal precedents. In reality, however, the second day of hearings suggested that the justices most hostile to the law don’t understand, or choose not to understand, how insurance works. And the third day was, in a way, even worse, as antireform justices appeared to embrace any argument, no matter how flimsy, that they could use to kill reform.

We’re been calling the Roberts court “corporatist,” but the weird thing here is that the insurance industry wants the mandate. This reveals at least some of them to not be so much pro-corporation as pro-Republican Party.

Anyone else who doesn’t get why the broccoli defense is stupid needs to read Krugman’s entire column.

Update:Justice Scalia is an oxymoron.”

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The Next Phase in the Martin-Zimmerman Case

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criminal justice, Trayvon Martin

There’s a Twitter search #shitzimmermansays that is hysterical — sample –

Ta-Nehisi Coates ‏ @tanehisi
George thought he had a problem when Trayvon said “I came to chew skittles and whip honkies. And I’m all outta skittles.”

This is via a post from Angry Black Lady, which also includes an amazing Nancy Grace video. Yeah, I know, it’s Nancy Grace. But even Grace got so disgusted with one Zimmerman friend/apologist that she cut off his mic.

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Women Fighting Back Through Social Media

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abortion, Women's Issues

An Oklahoma judge overturned an ultrasound law today. Score one for us.

The more interesting story is that women around the country are organizing through social media to push back against what is going on in their states. A record number of abortion restrictions were passed in 2011, but so far in 2012 a lot of similar bills are hitting a wall of resistance. Some of them are getting passed, but many others have been blocked by a lot of pissed-off women.

Here’s a great article at Salon explaining how women are using social media to get the word out and organize protests. Many of these women have never been active before, but they’ve been shaken up by attacks on Planned Parenthood as well as by things said by some really, really stupid state politicians –

In Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that hundreds of people attended hearings on the state’s proposed ban on abortion after 20 weeks – a law based on scientifically spurious claims of “fetal pain” that six other states have passed since 2010. It failed partly because legislators couldn’t agree on an exception for “medically futile” pregnancies. In Pennsylvania, a forced-ultrasound bill “has been shelved indefinitely by House leaders, in part because of outcries by more moderate GOP lawmakers who don’t want to deal with it in their election year,” according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News. (But not without Gov. Tom Corbett, who weighed in cluelessly in another widely circulated comment: “I don’t know how you make anybody watch, OK? Because you just have to close your eyes.”) In Tennessee, a legislator felt compelled to back off posting abortion records online, citing a fierce backlash and, he claimed, death threats.

“Every time a politician says something terrible, people respond emotionally to that,” says Luther. “It makes people in Florida care about what’s happening in Idaho.” It was harder, she adds, to get people fired up about Utah’s mandatory waiting period, maybe because there was no single tweetable moment.

Some pro-choice organizations have talked about an “enthusiasm gap” among the younger generation, which doesn’t remember back-alley abortions and which they say isn’t fired up the way young anti-abortion activists are. But social media has made it possible for women and men to keep up with the laws that emerge seemingly by the minute — and then sign a petition or, if they’re up for it, flood legislators’ Facebook pages with graphic updates about the vulvas the politicians are so interested in regulating. For progressives in conservative states, who often feel alone in their views, all this can be particularly galvanizing.

People are organizing on their own initiative. NARAL hasn’t been part of it, which doesn’t surprise me. More than 30 years ago I stopped paying dues to NARAL because I felt they were completely out of touch with anything going on outside of Washington, and sending them dues was a bit like throwing money into a black hole — you never saw any results from it. And the Democratic Party hasn’t been any better, especially at state level in right-wing states.

So this is a good thing. Maybe there’s hope.

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George Zimmerman’s Invisible Injuries

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criminal justice, Trayvon Martin

A police video of George Zimmerman after he shot Trayvon Martin shows no apparent injuries.

Granted, it’s possible Zimmerman had some minor abrasions that can’t be seen clearly in this video, and if his head had really been slammed into pavement maybe he had a concussion, which also wouldn’t be apparent from the video.

And maybe the reason police didn’t photograph his “injuries” is that there was nothing to photograph. I still can’t believe even an incompetent police department wouldn’t have photographed Zimmerman’s injuries if he had any.

Some rightie bloggers are saying that the video doesn’t change anything, but to me it underscores the fact that we can’t trust any information coming out of the Sanford Police Department. Think Progress has a list of five unanswered questions in the case, and they all focus on police conduct.

Update: Some lame-brained idiot (or else a Breitbrat social media provocateur) has a twitter page calling for open season on George Zimmerman. As of this writing the page has all of 130 followers, which is not exactly a mass movement. But the Breitbrats want President Obama to apologize for it. Give me strength …

Update: Ta-Nehisi Coates explains why it will be really difficult to prosecute George Zimmerman under Florida law.

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Earl Scruggs, 1924-2012

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entertainment and popular culture

Keep pickin’, Earl.

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SCOTUS and Tea Leaves

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Health Care, Supreme Court

The oral arguments over the Affordable Care Act are over, and I’ve been cruising around getting reactions. First, there’s general agreement that it be be a divided decision, and the swing votes will belong to Roberts and Kennedy. No surprise there, I don’t think.

Today the Court heard arguments about “severability,” or whether the entire law has to fall if the individual mandate is struck down. And it appears there may be some awareness on the court that if the mandate goes, and the ACA stays, somebody’s got to pick through the whole beast and revise the thing. The Court doesn’t want that job, but they appeared skeptical that Congress is up to it, either.

David Savage of the Los Angeles Times writes that the justices seem to be leaning toward striking down the whole law, but other writers are not that pessimistic, or optimistic as the case may be.

Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog writes,

The Supreme Court spent 91 minutes Wednesday operating on the assumption that it would strike down the key feature of the new health care law, but may have convinced itself in the end not to do that because of just how hard it would be to decide what to do after that. A common reaction, across the bench, was that the Justices themselves did not want the onerous task of going through the remainder of the entire 2,700 pages of the law and deciding what to keep and what to throw out, and most seemed to think that should be left to Congress. They could not come together, however, on just what task they would send across the street for the lawmakers to perform. The net effect may well have shored up support for the individual insurance mandate itself.

The dilemma could be captured perfectly in two separate comments by Justice Antonin Scalia — first, that it “just couldn’t be right” that all of the myriad provisions of the law unrelated to the mandate had to fall with it, but, later, that if the Court were to strike out the mandate, “then the statute’s gone.” Much of the lively argument focused on just what role the Court would more properly perform in trying to sort out the consequences of nullifying the requirement that virtually every American have health insurance by the year 2014.

There is widespread agreement that the decision could define the Roberts court. This has caused some people to speculate that Roberts may vote to uphold the act just so he can’t be accused of being a right-wing tool. But if he’s the right-wing tool many assume him to be, he won’t care what anyone thinks. You can’t beat being a Supreme Court Chief Justice for job security, after all.

I’m making no predictions. It could go either way.

James Carville argues that if the Supremes flush Obamacare, politically this could work out better for the Dems than for Republicans. Carville says,

“Just as a professional Democrat, there’s nothing better to me than overturning this thing 5-4 and then the Republican Party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future. And I really believe that. That is not spin,” Carville said.

David Frum agrees that a loss for Republicans in the Court would present a bigger political challenge to them than a win. And that’s because Republicans have nothing ready to replace the ACA. After all this time, they’re still hauling out the same loser arguments about tort reform and selling insurance across state lines.

My uninformed guess: the ACA prevails, and probably not by a narrow margin.

What then?

What then is that healthcare comes roaring back as a campaign issue, to which Republicans have failed to provide themselves an answer. Because of the prolonged economic downturn, more Americans than ever have lost—or are at risk of losing—their health coverage. Many of them will be voting in November. What do Republicans have to say to them?

Make no mistake: If Republicans lose in the Supreme Court, they’ll need an answer. “Repeal” may excite a Republican primary electorate that doesn’t need to worry about health insurance because it’s overwhelmingly over 65 and happily enjoying its government-mandated and taxpayer-subsidized single-payer Medicare system. But the general-election electorate doesn’t have the benefit of government medicine. It relies on the collapsing system of employer-directed care. It’s frightened, and it wants answers.

“Unconstitutional” was an answer of a kind. But if the ACA is not rejected as “unconstitutional,” the question will resurface: if you guys don’t want this, want do you want instead?

In that case, Republicans will need a Plan B. Unfortunately, they wasted the past three years that might have developed one. If the Supreme Court doesn’t rescue them from themselves, they’ll be heading into this election season arguing, in effect, Our plan is to take away the government-mandated insurance of millions of people under age 65, and replace it with nothing. And we’re doing this so as to better protect the government-mandated insurance of people over 65—until we begin to phase out that insurance, too, for everybody now under 55.

But if the ACA is struck down, won’t the Republicans still be under the gun to crank out an alternative? Well, maybe not until after the election.

See also The Rock Biter Theory Of Health Care Reform Legislation.

Update: See Steve Kornacki, “The Debate the GOP Can’t Have.”

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Sanford Cops Wanted to Arrest Zimmerman

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criminal justice, Trayvon Martin, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Here’s a new wrinkle in the Trayvon Martin killing, from the Miami Herald

Despite public claims that there wasn’t enough probable cause to make a criminal case in the Trayvon Martin killing, early in the investigation the Sanford Police Department requested an arrest warrant from the Seminole County State Attorney’s office, the special prosecutor in the case told The Miami Herald on Tuesday.

A Sanford Police incident report shows the case was categorized as “homicide/negligent manslaughter.”

The state attorney’s office held off pending further review, The Miami Herald has learned.

I don’t know what they were going to “review,” since there was a shocking inattention to collecting evidence at the scene.

The development is in stark contrast to the statements repeatedly made by Bill Lee, the Sanford police chief who has since stepped aside and was lambasted for his handling of the case. Lee publicly insisted that there was no probable cause to arrest Zimmerman, leading many critics to say he came across more like a defense attorney for the security buff.

“Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self defense which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony,” Lee wrote in a memo posted on the city’s website. “By Florida Statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based of the facts and circumstances they had at the time.”

Yesterday ABC News reported

The lead homicide investigator in the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin recommended that neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter the night of the shooting, multiple sources told ABC News.

But Sanford, Fla., Investigator Chris Serino was instructed to not press charges against Zimmerman because the state attorney’s office headed by Norman Wolfinger determined there wasn’t enough evidence to lead to a conviction, the sources told ABC News.

Police brought Zimmerman into the station for questioning for a few hours on the night of the shooting, said Zimmerman’s attorney, despite his request for medical attention first. Ultimately they had to accept Zimmerman’s claim of self defense. He was never charged with a crime.

Serino filed an affidavit on Feb. 26, the night that Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman, that stated he was unconvinced Zimmerman’s version of events.

Possibly the Sanford police department has entered the “every man for himself” ass-covering phase of the investigation. As in, “Hey, don’t look at me. I’m not the one who let the jerk go.”

The Right, which has been on a sickening “smear the dead kid” binge for the past several days, has now seized upon the information that George Zimmerman is a registered Democrat. Ed Kilgore: “aha! The whole thing was a Blue Team fragging of some sort, and nothing Real Americans should care about.”

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GOP for Individual Mandate Before They Were Against It

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Health Care, Republican Party, Supreme Court

Awesome segment by Rachel Maddow last nignt –

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Maddow documents that way back when Republicans were battling the evil “Hillarycare” instead of the evil “Obamacare,” Republicans pushed an individual mandate to purchase health insurance as a solution for soaring health care costs. And this includes some of the same Republicans who today declare that the individual mandate is the end of liberty as we know it. If you are short of time you can skip to the 5 minute mark, right before the juicy bits start.

Update:
Several news stories say that the justice’s questioning today suggests the conservatives on the Court are going to end the mandate. Steve Kornacki says ain’t necessarily so. Ezra Klein is less optimistic.

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