Category Archives: Media incompetence/bias

GREXIT*

It’s easier said than done. Here’s the nub of the problem:

Greek banks, which have been closed all week and rationing withdrawals from cash machines, are expected to run out of money within days unless the European Central Bank provides an emergency lifeline. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is due to meet top Greek bankers later on Sunday and State Minister Nikos Pappas, one of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s closest aides, said it was “absolutely necessary” to restore liquidity to the banking system now that the vote is over.

However the European Central Bank, which holds a conference call on Monday morning, may be reluctant to increase emergency lending to Greek banks after voters rejected the spending cuts and economic reforms which creditors consider essential to make Greek public finances viable, central bankers said.

If Tsipras wants to win this game of chicken he’d better be prepared to fully exit the Euro, for the simple reason that as long as Greeks need Euros to conduct business and transactions of all kinds, the European Central Bank can run his little rebellion into the ground.

This article sheds a little light on the difficulty:

Countries switching currencies must grapple with two major questions: how to introduce new notes and coins, and what to do with bank accounts, debts, and financial instruments denominated in the old currency.

Of course, Bloomberg is an arm of the cognoscenti and is hardly rooting for a successful Grexit, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong about everything.

One possible solution is to realize just how much the sovereign power can do in this situation as long as it follows natural law.  Assuming the Greek government has some quantity of gold or silver**, it could certainly re-institute a gold or silver based drachma at whatever exchange rate made sense given their ability to redeem their notes.

To give you an idea of how this might go, remember that on these pages we suggested that if the US returned to a gold standard the dollar price of an ounce of gold would have to be pegged somewhere north of $30,000 – at least at first.  And there’s no real reason to be afraid of that: people need to conduct business, buy and sell food clothing and shelter a lot more than they need to get their hands on gold or silver.

The problem – well, one problem anyway – is I suspect that neither Tsipras nor anyone else in a position of authority in the Greek government has a clue about any of this.  Which means if the German dominated ECB wants to turn the screws they can and the Greek people will suffer.

In any case, it’s a fascinating development.

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*   For those of you who are inexplicably puzzled by this title:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_withdrawal_from_the_eurozone

 

**   Of course, when Cyprus went down this road a little ways about 2 years ago, the “troika” confiscated all their precious metals, probably for the very reason that it could provide a viable way out.

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Nino Scalia And His Elites

Oh, the irony.  Turns out the defendant in Justice Scalia’s poster child case for the death penalty:

The death-by-injection which Justice Blackmun describes looks pretty desirable next to that. It looks even better next to some of the other cases currently before us which Justice Blackmun did not select as the vehicle for his announcement that the death penalty is always unconstitutional — for example, the case of the 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. See McCollum v. North Carolina, No. 93-7200, cert. now pending before the Court. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!

is – well – innocent.  Gamso’s all over it, of course.  As he should be.

Nino’s not our Bete Noire over here at Lawyers on Strike.  We often agree with Nino.  But then we have some serious disagreements, too.

A couple of large topics beyond that are in play here, though.

First is the death penalty.  We don’t care for it, but Nino happens to be correct – absolutely, unarguably correct – that there’s nothing unconstitutional about it.  At least not now.  The constitution could be amended to make the death penalty unconstitutional, of course, but the population at large has to do that, not justices of the Supreme Court.

So to that extent, we agree with Nino.

But there’s something else going on here that we find more troubling.  A few news outlets here and there have noted how Nino’s rhetorical flourishes went embarrassingly wide the mark here, but the reaction has been muted.

We’ll hazard a guess as to why that might be the case: Nino’s “credentials” are beyond reproach.  He went to the right law school, did well there academically, and pretty much followed the standard, approved, and privileged “career path” all the way to his current high perch.  He and other members of the elite may disagree about some things, but in the most important matter of all – who’s in the club – there is no disagreement whatsoever.

A lot rides on such credentials being revered, and nothing undermines the starry-eyed reverence for them more than an episode where the man who possesses them is shown to be flagrantly wrong.  Harvard sits on a $32 billion “endowment” that is grounded in its supposed ability to identify and produce the “best and the brightest”.  But a few examples of these best and brightest being flagrantly wrong could eat into the (over) confidence that is embodied in that over-sized nest egg.

Thus, trumpeting Nino’s flagrant error doesn’t harm just Nino’s reputation; it also harms Harvard’s reputation. So it’s not just about Nino.  He has his enemies among the elite, but they’re not in the habit of cutting off their noses to spite their faces.  If they could find some personal peccadillo to tar Nino with, I’m sure they would.  Pointing out a flagrant professional error, however, undermines the mythology that credentials assure brilliance, and every Harvard graduate’s livelihood – not to mention often overblown self image – depends on that mythology.

Of course Nino doesn’t make just flagrant factual errors; he makes flagrant legal errors, too.  We have been constrained to point this out before.

We don’t fault Nino terribly for this particular legal error even though a good argument can be made that it has personally cost us dearly.  Yet it is a fairly stupid – and fairly revealing – error, because it means that not only Nino but several generations of his law clerks, all of whom have credentials rivaling his own, have never read Pyle v. Kansas.  Or if they did, they did not understand it, which in itself is something because there’s nothing terribly difficult about understanding that case.

How vigilant and defensive the elites have to be to protect and preserve a credential mythology they must themselves believe to be quite fragile.  Otherwise, why be so defensive about it?

And our press persons are slaves to the same mythology.

Credentials don’t make truth, though.  Motto notwithstanding, Harvard gets no monopoly.  But so many have a vested interest in pretending otherwise that a great “gotcha” story about Nino gets little play in the Washington and New York media centers.

Ugh.

 

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Absolutely A Risk Of War? Meh.

Apparently, China is building a man-made island in the South China Sea, which is an engineering feat of some significance.

Who “owns” a man made (as opposed to God made, I presume) island?  If it’s within 200 miles of the constructing country’s coastline, it’s a territory of the constructing country.

But apparently this island is 600 miles from China’s coastline.  They can build it if they want, but it doesn’t become Chinese territory that far out.

Hmmm.

So the US is in the right as far as international law is concerned, and China can’t warn people away from the island they are building because it’s all international water and air space.  But then there’s a hitch: if the surrounding waters and air space are claimed and the claim is respected for a time, then the island would become legit Chinese territory.

Adverse possession, doncha know.

So, to prevent this from happening the US periodically engages in “freedom of navigation” operations, just to show that we don’t recognize any territorial, air space or restricted waters claims and in fact object.  There’s an acronym, because the US Navy loves acronyms:  “FON OPS”.

On the other hand, we don’t have to be obnoxious and overbearing about it:

China’s alarming creation of entirely new territory in the South China Sea is one part of a broader military push that some fear is intended to challenge U.S. dominance in the region.

We don’t know why the US should be entitled to be “dominant”, such that any “challenge” to our “dominance” is an affront entitling us to a round of sabre rattling.  Ugh.  But see here:

“China is a rising power. We’re a status quo power. We’re the big dog on the block … They want more influence,” he said. “Are we going to move a little bit? Are they going to push? How is that dance going to work out? This is a significant issue for the next President of the United States.”

War is “not in their interests, (and) it’s not in our interests,” Morell acknowledged.

“But absolutely, it’s a risk,” he said.

We don’t care for all the “power” talk, as if what matters who is the “Alpha Male“.  We think war talk is silly, but irresponsible at the same time.  We think we have little right to complain about China having a base outside China when we have bases all over the world, many of which appear to have no purpose other than as symbols of our “dominance”.  And while we’re on that subject, we would prefer to be regarded as just and decent rather than “dominant” and “the big dog on the block”.

And we wonder about CNN’s ethics, or even their awareness of ethics, when they publish an uncritical puff piece that actually openly touts their too close relationship with their subject:

A CNN team was given exclusive access to join in the surveillance flights over the contested waters, which the Pentagon allowed for the first time in order to raise awareness about the challenge posed by the islands and the growing U.S. response.

We know how cool it is to get rides in P-8’s, or F-18’s, but the prospect of such a thrill shouldn’t turn a reporter into a mouthpiece.  There’s a good argument to be made that this is really not a terribly important development, that if China wants to build islands hundreds of miles from their mainland:  a) there are precious few opportunities to do that, which makes this island more or less a one-off; and b) even if they could cobb together more than one or two, what’s the big deal?

But those arguments and others weren’t made because CNN explicitly agreed to toady.  It should be embarrassing for them, but apparently they’re shameless.

Ugh again.

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Death Threats. Harassment. Obsession. (Amanda Knox)(Updated)

So a British tabloid that has been fanning the flames of the frenzied mob for eight years now reports that the FBI is investigating some of its readers.  Pretending to be neutral at this late date, after years of smearing and base casuistry masquerading as ‘journalism’.

The FBI can investigate away, and contrary to the impression given by the article, not all the lunatics are in the UK; there are plenty of people in the US who are driven mad by high profile acquittals, especially when the beneficiary is a pretty young woman.

We suspect this will go on for quite some time.  Our standing recommendation to the exonerated is to live as obscurely and remotely as possible in a country other than the one that convicted you in the first place.  Of course this reasonably requires the exoneree to be independently wealthy.  And that is exactly what those responsible for the wrongful conviction are obligated to ensure:  that their victim be made independently wealthy.

Wealthy or not, the exoneree will live out a substantially diminished life.  There’s no fixing it.  But leaving an exoneree to fend for herself, defenseless, in a world in which so many want to see her suffering or dead is literally excruciating and utterly unconscionable.

If you let loose the dogs of war in error, there’s no going back.  Prosecutors should think hard about what they set in motion when they file charges.

Update:  Radley Balko points out that we’re very, very lousy at compensating those we have injured through major malfunctions of the criminal justice process.  That has to improve.

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The Sad Fate Of Amanda Knox (Updated)(x2)

How is it possible, in an age where human intelligence has produced wonder after wonder, to have a murder case where guilt is determined by the “reasoning” level of a moron?

I was reading an article recently about the legal profession and the appalling lack of quality in reasoning that prevails.  Often, court opinions are little more than screeds of heavy rheotric that ignore evidence that obviously – and often definitively – undercuts the desired result.  They are frequently comically disingenuous.  Or at least it would be comical is someone’s life didn’t hang in the balance.

So the “Nencini” report re-convicting Amanda Knox contains a discussion of 2 phone calls AK made to Meredith Kercher’s phone the day after her murder but before the body was discovered  that lasted only a few seconds.  Nencini then draws the inference that these phone calls were not genuine, that they were designed to deceive the investigators, that they were so short because Amanda Knox never expected Meredith Kercher to answer because Amanda Knox already knew Meredith Kercher was dead.  And the only reason she could know that was she had participated in the killing.  Let me quote here from the Nencini report as excerpted in a “guilter” blogger’s article:

“The telephone call made [by Knox] at 12:11:54 pm to the English service of the victim lasted 4 seconds. Perhaps not even the time to repeat the first ring.

Knox should have been affected by a certain anxiety in calling Kercher’s telephone services. Filomena Romanelli let the defendant’s telephone ring for 36 seconds the first time, and the second for a good 65 seconds; an insistence which appears normal. But that did not happen when Knox called… these are two calls that barely registered [and this] has only one plausible explanation:

There was no concern at all in the mind of Amanda Knox when she made the two calls to the young English woman, simply because she knew very well that Meredith Kercher could not have answered the calls; calls which had to be made because Filomena Romanelli insisted, but which the defendant knew were useless. Nobody would have been able to answer those calls; let alone poor Meredith Kercher whom the accused knew was lifeless, locked in her own bedroom.”

The problem is that there was a much longer phone call from Amanda Knox to Kercher’s phone earlier – at 12:07 PM – so long that Kercher’s phone – that had been tossed into some bushes and would otherwise have been lost – rang and rang until it was found.  And this phone call also occurred well after Kercher’s murder, but before the shorter calls.

To a sane and reasonably intelligent person, then, the earlier, longer phone call rules out making the incriminating inference from the later calls.  In other words, Nencini is either not sane or not intelligent.  Or, I suppose there is a third possibility:  he’s not honest.

So Amanda KNox’s fate at this point has rested with a man who is either crazy, or stupid, or corrupt and dishonest, and there’s no other alternative.

So appalling.

Update:  From CNN’s report this morning:

But the high-profile nature of the case and the controversial evidence prosecutors have built their argument on makes Knox’s extradition anything but certain.

“Controversial” evidence? That’s what stupid evidence and unfounded argument are to the media – as long as those are offered by police and prosecutors.  Judges aren’t the only apparently reason-challenged players in this drama.

Update 2:  After 9 PM in Italy and no word yet.  If this was a jury deliberating over here, might start thinking about whether they’re hung, but I don’t think that’s possible here.

Update 3:  An apparently unexpected acquittal.  Good on the Italians. Of course, if twitter traffic was any indication, there are millions who will never let go of it.  But for now, while the whole thing is still terribly sad, Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend can enjoy at least some peace.  And maybe Meredith Kercher’s survivors, too.

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Jodi Arias – A Few Questions (WARNING: GRAPHIC TO THE EXTENT IT CAN BE MADE SENSE OF)

Back when I was posting about this case, I noted one of the things that bothered me most:  how does Jodi Arias, all by herself, get the better of  Travis Alexander in a knife fight?

This seems all the more problematic when you look at what the prosecutor argued, according to Nancy Grace’s HLN:

GRACE: OK. Let`s go over the evidence. Beth Karas, what is the state`s theory as to how she could murder him? She`s a couple — a few inches shorter than him. She weighs less than him. What`s their theory?

KARAS: Their theory is that as she was taking photos with his consent, while he was showering, she got him to sit in the shower to take one last photo. And two minutes after that photo was taken, there he is, on his back with his neck slashed. And that`s an accidental photo that her camera took.

So the theory is she got him in a vulnerable position, started to stab him. He grabbed at the knife because he has defensive wounds of cuts on his hands. And then he stumbled around, hung his head over the sink, bleeding into the sink, spitting. That`s the spatter. He probably stumbled, and she`s stabbing him in the back nine, ten times.

As he`s stumbling down the hall, he falls at the entrance to his bedroom. She slashes his throat, three-and-a-half inches deep, severs the airway, turns his body around and starts to drag him back and stuffs him in the shower — shoots him in the head, though, before putting him in the shower.

If she doesn’t kill or incapacitate him immediately with the knife there will be a ferocious response, right?  I mean, she would certainly lose that.

Then there are these “accidental” photos.  One of the ceiling and this other very interesting one, below.  How does the camera take photos “accidentally”?  Wouldn’t someone have to be handling it, or at least touching it in some manner?  If there was no one else there, how can that be?

But let’s say the camera might go off and snap a picture if it’s bumped in the struggle.  That’s a stretch, I think, but let’s run with that.  How is the photo below taken?  How does the camera get in that position? Were there any other photos “accidentally” taken besides the one of the ceiling and this one?

And, what does this photo show?  I mean, really?

slide_273021_1985286_free

It’s taken at 5:32:16 and the killing is in progress, obviously. But what, exactly, are we looking at?  What did the prosecution argue?  What did the defense argue?

From my perspective:  a) I cannot tell what part of the victim’s body is in the photo; b) I see what appears to be a leg and foot clad in a black leotard or stocking, upper part about the middle of the photo at the top, and extending diagonally downward towards the right with the foot apparently on or near the tile floor; c) I have absolutely no idea what I am looking at in the left part of the photo or what the blue stripe at the far left of the photo is.

I would appreciate any input from someone with more knowledge about the case than I am.

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The NYPD Back Turning Backfire

You should read this article in full.  This situation is turning pretty ugly.

The subject of discussion is the police protest of the New York mayor by turning their backs on him as he gives a speech at the funerals of recently slain officers, and a directive from the police commissioner to the rank and file officers calling for this conduct to cease.  An officer who spoke on condition of anonymity:

“I did that because I feel Mayor de Blasio does not like cops, and I would never do anything to disrespect another cop or his family…“

“He cares about his boss more than the 35,000 cops he’s in charge of,” the cop complained.”

Then again, Sergeant’s Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins isn’t shy:

“If you’re the mayor and you have to direct the commissioner to respect you, it’s a total embarrassment for the office,” he said. “Are they going to order cops to go have dinner with him next?”

Then you have NYPD Captain’s Endowment Association President Richter*:

“We must work to honor Police Officer Wenjian Liu’s sacrifice at future services,” he said in a statement. “In this forum the appropriate protest is not a sign or turning away from mourners, or people the family has asked to speak, but rather cold, steely silence.”

So, the range of opinion among the New York police apparently goes from: a) protesting the mayor by turning your back; or b) protesting the mayor through “cold, steely silence”.  Because the mayor “doesn’t like cops”, which is pretty much a ludicrous assertion when you think about it.  It’s completely unnatural for a mayor not to like cops that are, after all, one of his most important political constituencies.  Liking cops is part of the mayor’s informal job description.

So, the real complaint could not be, and is not, that the mayor doesn’t like cops, but rather that he must not “like” cops enough.  How much is “enough”?  Apparently a whole lot.  Apparently it’s a very tough job to like cops as much as cops think you ought to like them when you are the mayor.  It may be an unattainable kind of like.  As in, a kind of worship.

I mean, I like cops.  I don’t worship them.

At this point, it’s hard to read this episode any other way than this:  the police commissioner and the mayor are seen as being insufficiently servile to collective police power and influence, and so the police collectively throw a hissy fit on the occasions of the funerals of of recently slain officers, using their deaths as an occasion to make a show of force against the mayor and commissioner.

And they are so convinced of their invincibility in all this.  It never seems to enter their mind that they are overplaying their hand, that they are coming to resemble spoiled children stamping their feet and holding their breath until they get their way.  They have gotten away with that too much to worry about it, and they are as yet unaware of the sea change that’s underway in much of the country.

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* What, do these guys have a separate “association” for every rank?

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