Patterico's Pontifications

3/19/2007

Think Progress: “They All Look the Same to Us!”

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 11:13 pm

Think Progress says:

The media reports this morning that among Lam’s politically powerful targets were former CIA official Kyle “Dusty” Foggo and then-House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA).

Actually, Jerry Lewis was being investigated by Debra Yang, not Carol Lam. But that’s just, you know, a fact. And Think Progress isn’t one to let “facts” stand in the way of a good story.

P.S. I’m having a little fun with Think Progress, but in reality, I can hardly blame them for being taken in by the slippery way that the L.A. Times has reported this story.

Banned Patterico Commenter Appears in Pages of LAT

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 10:39 pm

David Ehrenstein: banned from Patterico, but not from the L.A. Times.

P.S. But what about the substance? Let’s take a look at it:

AS EVERY CARBON-BASED life form on this planet surely knows, Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, is running for president. Since making his announcement, there has been no end of commentary about him in all quarters — musing over his charisma and the prospect he offers of being the first African American to be elected to the White House.

But it’s clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the “Magic Negro.”

The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. “He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist,” reads the description on Wikipedia http://en.-wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Negro .

He’s there to assuage white “guilt” (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.

I’ll take Allah’s observations over David E.’s any day:

The reason the “Magic Negro” meme has purchase in Hollywood has less to do with racism, I suspect, than sensitivity to the accusation of racism, for which they overcompensate by assigning the most cartoonishly noble and good-natured roles to black actors.

That sounds about right.

Supreme Court Question of the Day

Filed under: Humor,Judiciary — Patterico @ 9:54 pm

Note that this category is distinct from “Courthouse Quote of the Week.” But it comes from the same case: the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case, in which some young punk held up a banner with that slogan, in front of a high school where they were running the Olympic torch. And now, without further ado . . . Patterico’s “Supreme Court Question of the Day”:

JUSTICE GINSBURG: So if the sign had been “Bong Stinks for Jesus,” that would be, and Morse had the same reaction, that this was demeaning to the Olympics and it was unruly conduct, that there would be a protected right under Tinker because the message was not promoting drugs?

The question, by the way, was posed to Kenneth Starr, who quickly set Justice Ginsburg straight on the whole concept of bong hits.

Not.

Too bad we didn’t have that other Justice Ginsburg there. He could have explained it to her.

Read the transcript here.

R.I.P. DDA Jeff Semow

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 pm

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office lost a great lawyer this weekend: Jeff Semow.

I worked with Jeff downtown, and he was a very bright guy with a forceful personality. I got along well with Jeff, and admired his strong opinions and his detailed knowledge of the law.

Jeff was also the secret source behind this story I told you about Dan Rather and his dishonesty on “60 Minutes.”

Rest in peace, Jeff.

The Bush Administration: A Problem Client I Don’t Have to Keep

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:51 pm

I often hear defense attorneys bemoan counterproductive actions by their clients. For example, the attorney might do a tremendous job raising potential reasonable doubts during the People’s case — but then the defendant will ruin everything by insisting on testifying to a story so ridiculous that a conviction is certain.

These attorneys’ attitudes towards their clients can be summed up as follows: I’d like to defend you, but you’re making it very difficult for me.

This is the way I am starting to feel about the folks in the Bush Administration, on the issue of the U.S. Attorney firings. They have unquestionably been the victims of some smears by Democrats and Big Media (but I repeat myself). As a result, I’d like to defend them.

But they’re making it really, really hard for me to do so.

In several instances, I have made valid points in defense of the Administration, only to see the left make an equally valid counterpoint — often based on actions by the very Administration I am defending.

For example:

I made the valid point that Carol Lam had been very weak on prosecuting illegal immigration cases — a critical priority in the border district where her office was located. And I was right about that. But then the left made the valid counterpoint that the Justice Department had later defended her on that very issue in a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

I made the valid point that the “real problem” Carol Lam presented for the Administration could not have been the Jerry Lewis investigation, because it was handled in L.A. by Debra Yang, not in San Diego by Carol Lam. And I was right about that. But then the left made the valid counterpoint that, the day before Kyle Sampson described Lam as a “real problem” that the Administration was facing “right now,” Lam had “notified the Justice Department that she intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe.”

I made the valid point that Carol Lam was on a working list of targeted prosecutors as early as February or March 2005 — meaning she wasn’t initially targeted due to the “Duke” Cunningham investigation. And I’m right about that. But then the left made the valid counterpoint that David Iglesias was deemed a “strong” prosecutor on that working list — and was added only after Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson called him to complain about the slow pace of his investigation into Democrat corruption.

I made the valid point that David Iglesias failed to vigorously investigate claims of voter fraud, citing the wholly inadequate excuse that he lacked sufficient resources — even as he assigned only one prosecutor to public corruption cases. And I’m right about that. But then the left made the valid counterpoint that David Iglesias

had been heralded for his expertise in that area by the Justice Department, which twice selected him to train other federal prosecutors to pursue election crimes.

I’m starting to feel like a volleyball player who makes amazing saves, time and time again — only to have the ball spiked back into his face . . . time and time again. And to make matters worse, he learns that the player who is setting up the spikes is supposed to be his own teammate.

So consider this my open letter to the Bush Administration:

Guys:

I think the press has distorted some of the aspects of this case against you. And, for that reason, at least, I want to defend you.

But you’re making it really, really hard for me to defend you.

And I’m not your defense attorney. If I think you’re full of crap, I don’t have to defend you.

And, given that 1) at least one of you gleefully boasted that you planned to deceive Congress, and 2) I keep making arguments that get shoved back in my face based on your own actions — I’m kind of tempted to tell you to screw yourselves.

Love and kisses,

Patterico

Understand: I don’t believe that the Democrats’ wildest allegations are true. I don’t believe that everything the press is saying about this is true. If I see further distortions, I will be tempted to point them out.

But if I do, it will be purely in the spirit of keeping the press (and the opposition) honest — not in the spirit of defending the Administration. I’m tired of defending people who make it impossible to argue in their defense.

UPDATE: Apparently, the guy who successfully prosecuted Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and who convicted Illinois Governor George Ryan of bribery, was considered a middling prosecutor by Kyle Sampson. I wonder if it had anything to do with that prosecutor’s pending prosecution of Scooter Libby (which also resulted in a conviction)?

But then, we already knew that Sampson was a dishonest bonehead, didn’t we?

UPDATE x2: I recently predicted that Gonzales would be gone by this coming Friday afternoon. I now think the only question is whether he will last that long.

The “Readers’ Representative” Responds — And So Do I

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:57 pm

Here is the response I received from the “Readers’ Representative” to my recent e-mail regarding the paper’s recent misleading article on the firing of Carol Lam:

Thanks for the note. The article does not make a reference, as you suggest, to when the administration “initially” targeted Lam. Earlier Times stories have made clear that the administration had plans to fire some, if not all, attorneys general; the L.A. Times front-page article on March 14, 2007 says that in January 2005 some in the administration had “settled on plan” to push out some, though they had initially discussed firing all of them. So, though you cite a “working list,” it is evident that the thoughts on whom to cut changed quite a bit between January 2005 and December 2006.

The March 15 Times article was not written in order to “suggest that the Bush Administration targeted Lam due to her investigation of Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham,” as you state. The article reports the links that the Democrats are raising between Lam’s being fired, and the investigations into both Lewis and Cunningham. Those links, according to what has been uncovered (including what was reported in today’s story), seemed to grow stronger after the Cunningham case began.

Jamie Gold
Readers’ Representative

And here is the response I just sent her:

Jamie,

The central issue in the article was whether Lam was targeted over the Cunningham investigation, and the investigations that grew out of it. The article tells readers that Lam was on a list of targeted U.S. Attorneys in April 2006, which is after Cunningham had pled guilty. Yet it completely fails to inform readers that Lam was initially targeted before the Cunningham investigation ever started.

An analogy illustrates the point. Mrs. Smith sues her boss, alleging that her boss fired her for becoming pregnant. At trial, it emerges that Mrs. Smith’s name appeared on two lists of people to be fired. List #1 was created well before Mrs. Smith even thought about becoming pregnant. List #2 was created after Mrs. Smith announced her pregnancy.

The L.A. Times reports: “it emerged today that Mrs. Smith’s boss put her on a list of people to be fired after she announced she was pregnant.”

An incensed Patterico writes complaining that the article omitted any mention of the first list. And Jamie Gold responds by saying: “Well, we didn’t specifically say that the list we mentioned was the initial list!”

The article in question would leave any reasonable reader with the impression that the Bush Administration had no problem with Lam until the Cunningham and Lewis investigations came along. And that’s just flatly wrong. I’m sorry you don’t see that.

Yours truly,

Patrick Frey

P.S. I also sent her a note about Bud Cummins’s claim that the paper misrepresented his statements in a recent interview. No word yet on that, but Ms. Gold does generally get back to me. When I hear something, you’ll hear something.

L.A. Weekly Investigates the Tennie Pierce Case — While the L.A. Times Snoozes and Loses

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Race — Patterico @ 6:54 pm

Here’s the summary:

In a three-month investigation, the Weekly has learned that the crew present when Pierce ate dog food was not “nine white members,” as Pierce claimed in an emotional plea to a packed City Council chamber on November 28; that a taunting incident cited by Pierce as proof of harassment and retaliation was actually led by a black firefighter; that leaders of a respected black firefighters’ organization refuse to call what happened to Pierce race-based; and that Pierce called it “water under the bridge” — before hiring an attorney.

There’s much, much more. Read it all. It’s what the L.A. Times would never tell you in a million years about this travesty of a “case.”

It is absolutely pathetic that the paper many think of as the “respectable” newspaper in L.A. hasn’t bothered to undertake an investigation like this. The editors of the L.A. Times should be profoundly embarrassed by the way the L.A. Weekly has beaten the pants off of them.

But it wouldn’t be the first time.

Cathy Seipp – In My Prayers

Filed under: General,Miscellaneous,Real Life — Justin Levine @ 4:14 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

Just wanted to add my name to the growing number of bloggers extending prayers and concerns over Cathy Seipp. Our thoughts are with you.

UPDATE FROM PATTERICO: Thank you for posting that, Justin. I assumed this terrible news was coming, but I didn’t realize it was quite yet upon us.

Courthouse Quote of the Week

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,Education,General — Justin Levine @ 2:45 pm

Courtesy of the Supreme Court oral arguments in the case of Morse v. Frederick (popularly known as the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case).

Before the quote, a quick background on the case -

In January 2002, the Olympic torch was being carried along Glacier Avenue in Juneau, Alaska, which runs in front of a high school. While the torch was passing by, school senior Joseph Frederick held up a large banner for the media that said “BONG HITS 4 JESUS.”  The school’s principal grabbed the sign away from Frederick and later suspended him for ten days. Frederick sued.

The 9th Circuit found a violation of Frederick’s First Amendment rights. It not only ruled that Frederick’s lawsuit could go forward – but that the law on the issue was clear enough such that the principal would not be entitled to qualified immunity from personal money damages.

Much of the court debate (at both the Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit) discusses 3 past cases involving student speech:

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) – Ruling that schools can’t prevent students from wearing black armbands signifying opposition to the Vietnam War.

Bethel School District v. Fraser (1986) – Holding that a high school student did not have a First Amendment right to give a sexually suggestive nominating speech for a student office candidate at a school assembly.

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988) – Holding that high school students did not have a First Amendment right to publish articles on pregnancy and divorce in a school newspaper when the newspaper was produced in a journalism class as part of the course curriculum and paid for with school money.

After the Supreme Court spent nearly an hour debating the notable tensions in its own past precedents listed above, it remained unclear how the Court might ultimately rule in Morse v. Frederick. However, it does seem clear that the Court will overturn the 9th Circuit on the side issue of qualified immunity for the school’s principal in the case. Which brings us now to the courthouse quote of the week -

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS:   Can we get back to what the case is about. You think the law was so clearly established when this happened that the principal, that the instant that the banner was unfurled, snowballs are flying around, the torch is coming, should have said oh, I remember under Tinker I can only take the sign down if it’s disruptive. But then under Frazier I can do something if it interferes with the basic mission, and under Kuhlmeier I’ve got this other thing. So she should have known at that point that she could not take the banner down, and it was so clear that she should have to pay out of her own pocket because of it.

MR. MERTZ:    Mr. Chief Justice, there are two different time points we have to talk about. There’s the heat of the moment out there on the street, but then later back in the office when she actually decided to levy the punishment after she had talked to him, after she heard why he did it and why he didn’t do it, after she had had a chance to consult with the school district’s counsel. At that point in the calmness of her office, then she should indeed have known it. And she did testify that she had taken a master’s degree course in school law in which she studied Kuhlmeier and Frazier and Tinker. So –

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS:   And so it should be perfectly clear to her exactly what she could and couldn’t do.

MR. MERTZ:   Yes.

JUSTICE SCALIA:   As it is to us, right?

(Laughter.)

Case closed. The school principal ain’t paying a dime on this one.

Iglesias: Bad Manager?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:27 am

In addition to his weakness on voter fraud, David Iglesias may have had problems as a manager. The Albuquerque Journal reports:

A letter addressed to [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales was being circulated among some federal prosecutors here last week. Some had signed it but were undecided whether to send it because of speculation Gonzales might lose his job. Others didn’t share the views expressed.

The letter address[es] the recent controversy, describing Iglesias as an absentee boss who was more interested in travel than in running the office.

It said he “abdicated his responsibility as United States Attorney, turning over virtually every important decision to his subordinates.”

The letter also said that Iglesias’ “lack of leadership” resulted in a decline in the quality of work produced by his office and that the reputation of the office had suffered during his tenure.

It further took him to task for his admission that he didn’t report the telephone calls and only went public after he felt betrayed.

“Disclosure of wrongdoing is not situational, nor does it depend on loyalty,” the letter said. “For Mr. Iglesias to state that he would have been happy to not disclose what he now claims was inappropriate and threatening behavior in exchange for keeping his federal job is appalling.”

Iglesias attributes the letter to “disgruntled” employees — and who knows? Maybe he’s right. Toss it in the mix, for what it’s worth — along with this report that the problems with Iglesias were long-standing. (H/t for both: Kevin R.)

P.S. The reference to not reporting the phone calls relates to the fact that Iglesias was required to report the phone calls from Wilson and Domenici to supervisors — but didn’t.

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