Saturday, October 06, 2007
Misleading Headline of the Day
Assault Suspect Maintains Innocence —headline to a story in The Hoya by Andrew Dwulet and Michele Hong
You may have heard by now of the charge brought against Philip Anderton Cooney—of assaulting a fellow Georgetown University student after harrassing him with "faggot" remarks and then stalking him. It has been classified as a hate crime, which increases the possible penalties by half.
Mr. Cooney may have acquired a sense of invulnerability to the law from his father, Philip Sr. As chief of staff of the Council on Environmental Quality, Dad busied himself rewriting scientific reports on global warming despite having no known expertise in the area other than being a former oil lobbyist. By way of reward he left the government in 2005 for a job with ExxonMobil, which "could not say exactly when, or what his job would be."
But I digress. The headline from The Hoya states that Cooney "maintains his innocence." And the report from nbc4.com, a Washington DC affiliate, also leads with "Police say they've made a break in a recent hate crime but his lawyer says they have the wrong man."
What interested me was that neither the story in The Hoya nor the video account, which includes an interview with Cooney's attorney, supports the notion that Cooney claims to be innocent. In fact, I searched through all the news stories and could not find a single instance of such a claim.
Instead, his lawyer says that the police did a poor investigation, which is true—the victim was the one who ferreted out Cooney. And on video the attorney issues a stern warning to "remember the Duke lacrosse case." But the only parallel to the Duke lacrosse case is that both cases involve an accusation by a member of a minority against well-to-do white collegians. There the parallel ends. The Duke lacrosse players protested their innocence long and loud.
What Cooney did was enter a plea of "not guilty." That is his right, since it's the government's responsibility to prove him guilty. But how uninformed do journalists have to be to convert a not-guilty plea into a claim of innocence?
Pleas of "guilty" or "not guilty" have never had much to do with actual guilt or innocence. And these days the relationship is even more tenuous.
Just as a "not guilty" plea doesn't imply innocence, a "guilty" plea may not necessarily imply guilt. It may mean that the prosecutor has made you an offer through your public defender to reduce the charges if only you'll plead guilty. And since the only witness for your defense has developed Alzheimer's and the cops hate you anyway, you decide a year or two in the pen is better than risking a sentence of 20-to-life. As President Bush is fond of saying, "The government does not torture people." You made your decision to plead guilty quite voluntarily, didn't you?
Just remember: When arrested talk to no one and plead "not guilty" up to the last moment. A guilty plea is almost never reversible, as Senator Larry Craig found out Thursday when a Minnesota judge refused to allow him to reverse his guilty plea to a charge of disorderly conduct.
Because of the unfortunate media coverage, which has not been nearly so kind to Senator Craig as it has been to gay-basher Tooney, many now mistakenly believe that Senator Craig's constituents can be found in the Minnesota Airport men's room. Not so. He actually represents the good people of Idaho, who are putting on the bravest face possible. Craig will be inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame come October 13, and he intends to attend. But one Idaho Republican leader is urging the ceremony be postponed until "maybe in 10 or 15 years." I hope not. I want to be around for the fun.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Dates to watch
As I read the news I often come on interesting dates and deadlines, such as the deadline that an investigating committee may give some corrupt agency of the Bush administration to produce documents. So I thought I'd run an ongoing column of dates that catch my eye. Here goes—
- Oct 7 - Sun: Costa Rican referendum on CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement). Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic have ratified it without a referendum, but popular opposition in Costa Rica, the most democratic country of Latin America, forced the vote. A big rally was held last Saturday in San Jose where "A government official told Reuters that more than 100,000 people turned out for the demonstration, a huge protest in a country of 4 million."
This is the country's first referendum since its independence from Spain in 1821, and it is the first popular referendum on a free-trade agreement anywhere. The government has been embarrassed by the disclosure of its game plan for the "Yes" campaign that included plans to manipulate the media. Among them: "Stimulate fear. This fear is of four categories: 1. Fear of the loss of jobs... 2. Fear of the attacks on democratic institutions... 3. Fear of foreign intervention... and 4.Fear of the effect of a no triumph [on governability]."
You can bet your bippy that some American funds are involved here (Foreign funds in a referendum are of course illegal under Costa Rican law.)
Pelosi, Harry Reid and other Democrats have been reassuring Costa Ricans that they're not about to lose their current trade status if they reject CAFTA. For more on this and Republican counter-efforts, see "Devil worshippers taking over anti-fair trade campaign in Costa Rica."
Thursday, October 04, 2007
An explanation of Obama's polite behavior
P.M. Carpenter, a Buzzflash columnist, has proffered an explanation of Barack Obama's polite behavior whenever Hillary is involved. Since she long ago pulled ahead of him in the national polls and now has finally bested him in fundraising, many of his supporters think he should be a touch more aggressive.
Carpenter believes that Obama long ago conceded the nomination to Hillary and is in fact running for Vice President. And of course, to run for Vice President you only have one constituent—the Presidential nominee. Carpenter writes—
Obama, more than anyone, has always believed in Hillary's inevitability. Obama has been running for the second slot. Obama has demurred, and will continue to demur, from irritating his potential boss and saying something irremediable that would nix his vice-presidential chances. Obama, simply put, has had his eyes nearly all along not on the Oval Office -- just that of the v.p.'s in the West Wing.
Well, really. How cynical can you get! Vice Presidents don't actually do anything, do they? Whatever he is, Barack Obama is no Dick Cheney—and whatever she is, Hillary Clinton is no George Bush. Should Obama get to be Vice President, I hope he's learned how to play computer solitaire.
I believe he may just as well be running for Secretary of State. Since most of the functional roles of the once-powerful State Department have been taken over by the Pentagon, "Secretary of State" is primarily an honorary title that can be safely relegated to "people of color," as Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice have amply demonstrated. Being Secretary of State is just one step above being the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq where the ambassador will oversee the world's largest embassy, though the finer points of criminal business enterprise will still be left in the hands of the military. And if you work for the State Department in Iraq, even the U.S. military won't protect you. Now what does that say about the job?
Or maybe Obama could be appointed to head the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) where Michael Powell, son of Colin, has already poked some headroom in the brownish-colored ceiling. A black person there can really make a difference so long as the difference is what "the man" wants anyway—more consolidation of media ownership in the hands of the right-wing media moguls.
Of course there are other roles in government now for people of color. The only requirement of the applicant is that he or she feel constrained not to act up and make a difference. Anyone who might is usually caught during Senate confirmation hearings. But if the candidate manages to slip through, the person still serves "at the pleasure of the President," and Presidents seldom take much pleasure in appointees who go against corporate interests.
Yes, I can see Obama in some role in a Clinton administration. After all, the only qualification is that he remain polite.