Category Archives: Media incompetence/bias

As An Aside…

Relevant statistics are not kept. Why should we? That would only help the rabble.

But sometimes you can put two and two together from different sources. Most of the time it’s not very good information – and that’s true of what we are about to note here – but then again it’s some indication. Better than nothing, we think.

So the NYPD has an annual budget considerably north of $900 million, and we’ll just round that up to $1 billion per year for simplicity’s sake. Then, according to this article, in seven years New York City paid out $630 million to resolve police misconduct claims.

That works out to 9% of the police budget. And to us, based on what we just wrote the other day, that seems about right. About what we would expect.

But compare and contrast. The information here is not as good because no one is really keeping the information. But in any event looking at the closer to home example of Rochester, New York it seems that with an annual police department budget of $90 million, the city is paying out about $300,000 per year to resolve police misconduct claims.

That works out to less than .4% of the police budget. Not 4%. Point 4%.

Isn’t that interesting? New York City pays out about 25 times more, proportionately, than Rochester does for police misconduct claims. What would explain that?

Also very interesting: Rochester has a population of about 200,000. New York City has a population of about 9 million, 45 times greater than Rochester. Yet the New York City police annual budget is only 10-12 times higher.

Is New York City under-policed? Is Rochester over-policed? We’d be interested to hear opinions.

Suggestion: As the visibility and prominence of the relevant city rises, police accountability increases owing to increased media and official scrutiny. And vice versa.

CORRECTION: Actually, for the City of Rochester it appears the linked article is referring to only two fiscal years, not four calendar years; that is, 2015-16 and 2017-17 is two years. So we have averaged the two years of $909,000 and $392,000 to $650,000 per year contrasted with a police department budget of $90 million and come up with a rate of .7%, still and proportionately about 1/13th of the NYC payout. We’re still looking for an explanation. RPD is more than 10 times better than NYPD at avoiding misconduct that injures someone? That seems doubtful.

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Casey Anthony And ‘Wrongful Acquittals’

It’s been almost nine years since Casey Anthony’s “wrongful acquittal”.  The partisans are still so ginned up that when she gets a speeding ticket it’s national news.

Why does she still live in Florida?  Or in the United States at all?  She probably doesn’t have the money to move away.  Our advice at the time still holds, though.  Obviously.

We did a lot of posting about Ms. Anthony back in the day.  Such as here.

The case is still yielding its lessons.




Filed under epistemology, Media incompetence/bias

The Denouement Of Roe v. Wade (Updated)

At this point, it’s a matter of vote counting.  And, looking at the Ramos v. Louisiana opinions, which we just reviewed.  Our judgment that Ramos represented a sign of hope may have been premature.

Ramos is about two things.  The first and foremost is….stare decisis.  Ramos overruled a previous SCOTUS decision, Apodaca v. Oregon.

For present purposes it doesn’t matter what either case was about or what the cases held.  What is important are things like this:  Justice Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to I, II-A, III, and IV-B-1.  Ugh.  Notably absent from that list is Part IV-A of Justice Gorsuch’s opinion.

What is part IV-A about?  The second thing:  the Marks rule.  And most especially the implication of that case – or the arguable implication, at any rate – that the opinion of a single SCOTUS Justice can bind the whole SCOTUS and thus the whole country, which Gorsuch’s Part IV-A rejects.

Only Justices Ginsburg and Breyer joined that part of the Gorsuch opinion, though.  That is, it got three votes out of the nine.  Justice Kavanaugh makes sure to point that out in a footnote in his concurring opinion.

And what is Kavanaugh up to, anyway?  He goes on and on about when a precedent can be overruled, or in other words when stare decisis will not be determinative.

Our guess?  Justice Kavanaugh is outlining a rationale for voting NOT to overrule Roe v. Wade.  We think he probably believes this will discourage future debacles at confirmation hearings like he had, where boorish behavior even as far back as high school can come back to haunt you.  The idea being:  “Hey, you did all this stuff to discredit me because you were protecting Roe v. Wade and look, I voted to uphold it anyway!”

There are institutional concerns at stake.  There are always institutional concerns at stake in the SCOTUS.  Sometimes we think that’s all that is ever at stake in the SCOTUS.

In any event, counting the votes:  Thomas and Gorsuch are sure votes to overturn Roe. Alito and Chief Roberts are likely the same, but not “sure”.  That’s four.  We need one more.

Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor are sure votes to retain Roe.  It should be noted, though, that even Ginsburg has conceded that Roe was wrongly decided.  But as Kavanaugh explains at great length, there are reasons to keep even a wrongly decided precedent.

For our part we are more interested, at this stage, in the split of opinion on section IV-A of the Gorsuch opinion.

UpdateSlate has noted the odd grouping of the votes here, opining that it’s a larger part of Justice Kagan’s strategy for keeping the SCOTUS from tilting too far to the right.  We’ll see.


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The Ugly Harvey Weinstein Moment

We think it’s probably a Good Thing that the casting couch has finally been explicitly criminalized. It always tended that way.  Take a look at coercion in the second degree – a class E felony in New York – and tell us what you think.  Come to think of it, why wasn’t this also charged in the whole Weinstein thing?  Was it?

But – and we’re so defense minded here at LoS that there’s always a “but” – we’re disturbed by at least one aspect of the treatment of Mr. Weinstein: ridiculing his physical characteristics, such as Weinstein being “ugly” and a “monster” and even possessing a “disgusting penis“.

Why disturbed?  There have to be limits on just how much scorn and obloquy we can heap upon the designated criminal of the day.  The man has been felled from a very high perch, his life ruined and he’s off to prison, because he did terrible things and we agree they were terrible.

But that’s enough.  Piling on in the fashion that so many already have is uncivilized.  Our collective judgment of his guilt is not a license for cruelty.

And we should not be so easy on ourselves.  Who among us has not seen a Miramax film, or any other movie for that matter, without being at least dimly aware that the “industry” producing the films had this sordid side?  There have been a lot of Harvey Weinsteins.  And to a significant degree that’s on us.

And episode like this should prompt some circumspection, some self-searching, not an orgy of shockingly cruel abuse heaped upon such an easy target.



Filed under Media incompetence/bias

SCOTUS Dust-Up (Updated)

Justice Sotomayor complains that the SCOTUS is favoring the government.

But see here.  SCOTUS has been heavily favoring the government for many years. We pointed this out in some detail – gosh – more than six years ago.  Called it an “open secret”.

What’s the truth here?  We don’t mind Justice Sotomayor especially, but she’s being more than a little disingenuous.  The Justices CNN labels “conservative” have it right.  Trump Derangement Syndrome is rampant in the federal judiciary and there have been a slew of judicial injunctions against the government which is totally fucking unheard of a tad rare in historical terms, and the SCOTUS is undoing them a lot, pretty much on request whenever the Solicitor General wants.

There’s nothing unusual about the Solicitor General getting what he wants from the SCOTUS.  There’s nothing unusual about the little guy – Justice Sotomayor cites death row inmates – getting roundly screwed over by comparison, or let’s face it just in absolute terms either.  It’s business as usual at the SCOTUS.

If CNN an other news outlets are going to tout a SCOTUS opinion as being significant, they should tell the story in a balanced way.


UpdateAnother one.  The SG’s office can get a reversal here any time it’s of a mind to. This kind of thing is the reason for the oft cited statistic that this is happening more in Trump’s America. It’s not Trump’s doing; it’s the judiciary’s susceptibility to Trump Derangement Syndrome.



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The Search For Political Validation

Some high profile criminal trials and/or cases are driven by that search.  It’s improper, and that’s on the prosecution, but never mind that for now.  The reality is clear enough.

So there are two such cases dominating the “news” cycle this week:  the trial of Harvey Weinstein and the post trial proceedings of Roger Stone.

It’s a strange drive, if you ask us.  Convictions and stiff sentences will constitute highly emotional validation for the partisans on one side.  Will they feel rebuked by acquittals or leniency?  Of course not.  Will the partisans on the other side feel the same, only going the other way?  Of course not.

That’s why it’s an improper and wasteful exercise bringing a criminal case for political validation, as a proxy for some political controversy or other.  It has no chance of resolving the controversy.  That’s one reason anyway.  There are others more serious.

In any event, there is one interesting practitioners’ aspect to the latest development in the Harvey Weinstein trial, where the jury asked a question towards the end of the business day on Friday, implying that they had reached a verdict on three “lesser” charges but were hung on the remaining two more serious counts.

We take it back.  This is not just interesting, but fascinating.  Questions a jury asks are often revealing to the anxious litigants and their attorneys regarding the outcome.  In one of our first jury trials, we were summoned back the court from our office because the jury had asked a question.  By the time we got there, however, the jury had asked a second question that they said “superseded” the first:

Can we award the Plaintiff more money than he asked for?

This was, you know, a a pretty good clue into the minds of the jurors.

If the Weinstein trial were more normal, the latest question the jury asked could be reliably interpreted to mean that they had reached guilty verdicts on the lesser counts but were hung on the more serious ones.  Maybe not as reliably as the question we just recounted from our own trial, but still pretty reliable.

Alas, the Weinstein trial is not normal.  Because “propensity” evidence of similar but uncharged conduct was admitted, it is possible – not likely, but possible – that the jury might acquit on the lesser charges but convict on the more serious because those charges were bolstered by the propensity evidence but the lesser charges were not.

That would be quite an anomalous result, to convict Harvey Weinstein of the more serious charges after acquitting him of the lesser.  Indeed, it would arguably constitute an inconsistent verdict, which would be a basis for quite the post-verdict motion.

Not that such a motion, no matter how meritorious, will ever be granted, of course. Because judges.  They would have to grant such a motion, and they don’t want to.

When you bend the rules to get your political validation you may overlook the foreseeable problems you generate.  Be careful what you wish for, in other words.

Roger Stone?  Apparently he has moved to disqualify the judge.  Turley is right, of course, that such motions are never granted.  He should throw in – like we do – that they should be frequently granted, because for the most part judges are extremely biased in favor of the prosecution.

Here, the judge having already very publicly condemned Mr. Stone when she sentenced him, how can she impartially rule on the new trial motion?

But never mind.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, it is said.  It also makes for incoherent criminal prosecutions.



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Weinstein Redux

A very thoughtful article here, from a periodical that no doubt would like to see a conviction but acknowledges that it’s a “weak case”.

We here at LoS?  Not so sure.  We like this quote from The Nation article:

In bringing this case the way it did, however, the state has also invited jurors to contend with issues that criminal law is too blunt an instrument to resolve.

That’s insightful. The outcome of a criminal trial is guilty or not guilty. This leaves little room for nuance. In theory, at least, a lot of nuance should result in “not guilty”. But the practice is different.

Weinstein didn’t testify. That’s not supposed to count against him, but it does. Reliable accounts indicate his lawyer argued well on his behalf, but there’s just something about a defendant not testifying that leads many jurors – probably a majority – to incline towards a conviction.

One interesting thing about this trial, at least to us: it’s revealing about the prosecutor mindset.  As we have pointed out before on numerous occasions, prosecutors are normally very comfortable with witness credibility contests at a trial, because their witnesses – very often cops – overwhelmingly win such contests.  The question the prosecutors ask themselves about their case is whether their witness will “hold up” under cross-examination before the jury. They tend to under-appreciate the significance of documentary proof, and specifically contemporaneous records that undermine their witness’ testimony.

Here, the defense had some pretty devastating documentary proof in the form of contemporaneously generated records, often by the witnesses themselves, strongly suggesting that at the time the complained about events occurred the witnesses did not regard themselves as having been raped or assaulted.  So the argument the prosecution has to make from there is that the truth is being told on the witness stand, not in the contemporaneously generated records.

That’s a tough sell, and it should be. But the prosecution might sell it.

If the shoe’s on the other foot, and the defense has to make that argument? There is no possibility whatever that it could be sold.

The prosecution is apparently going out on this limb because #MeToo is just a slogan unless there’s a scalp at some point.  Another disturbing thing is that there are a lot of problems with the proof here, but Harvey Weinstein is an unappealing defendant – as in physically unappealing – and that has been made a factor in the trial.

We object to that as a tactic, both because it’s unfair and because there’s at least some chance it will work: pretty defendants are more often acquitted and ugly defendants are more often convicted.

Likely there will be a verdict by close of business today, or a communication to the court that the jury is hung. It’s Friday, after all.


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Filed under epistemology, Media incompetence/bias, wrongful convictions