Friday, March 20, 2009

Commitment to Excellence? A Suggestion for Ambassadorial Appointments

As you may have read, President Obama has nominated Dan Rooney, owner of the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, to serve as United States Ambassador to Ireland. The story is here:

Rooney was a relentless advocate for Obama during the election, visiting steel mills to help the Democratic ticket carry Pennsylvania. In return, the President admitted, in a television interview aired just before the game, that he was pulling for the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

In appointing Rooney, President Obama said:

"I am honored and grateful that such a dedicated and accomplished individual has agreed to serve as the representative of the United States to the Irish people. Dan Rooney is an unwavering supporter of Irish peace, culture, and education, and I have every confidence that he and Secretary Clinton will ensure America's continued close and unique partnership with Ireland in the years ahead."

Now, according to DemConWatch, very few ambassadorial appointments have been made. They keep a list here:

The Rooney appointment is a coup, and it should be the model for future appointments. Who, for example, should be ambassador to Russia, a nation that has once again bared its brutal, bearish, imperial teeth, threatening the smaller countries around it and meddling in Middle East politics?

I have the perfect answer: Al Davis, Managing General Partner of the Oakland Raiders. (Fair Disclosure: in My World the Raiders are the Jedi Knights of football.)

You might be surprised to learn that Mr. Davis is keenly interested in foreign policy. Bryan Curtis of The New York Times, in an in-depth story in 2007, recounts Davis' ruminations about the topic. Curtis reports:

I told Davis I had no idea he was interested in foreign affairs. “No, I know foreign affairs,” he said. “From a strategic standpoint dating back to World War II, and maybe a little before that, to the growth of the Third Reich.”

This was an interesting place to take things. In 1981, in a conversation with the sportswriter Gary Smith, Davis confessed he was “captivated” by Hitler. Coming from a Jewish man who had grown up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the remark invited all sorts of inquiries.

Davis chuckled when I reminded him of the article. “I didn’t tell him that,” he said. Davis paused. “He had to be stopped, you know?”

Gary Smith?

“No, Hitler. Now, was there some admiration for what they were doing? If you were connected with football, you had to have some admiration. You know, quick strike.”

The whole story is here:

Can it get any better than this? We know the Russians still think they got the worst of the damage in WWII. What will make them cower more than Ambassador Davis suggesting a "quick strike" in Georgia or Chechnya to the President?

And that's just the tip of the iceberg:

Davis’s football intelligence was never so much a matter of x’s and o’s as a cultural consciousness that Davis has called his “gestalt.” The Raiders were a peculiar mixture of Davis’s desires. Well into the 1960s and ’70s, pro football retained a militaristic snap. George Plimpton, the journalist and erstwhile quarterback, wrote that the ’60s were “so violent that it is impossible to accept the metaphor of football, and its popularity, without wondering whether it reflects some of the country’s excesses.”

As a student of foreign affairs going back to the Third Reich, Davis plundered the association with gusto. For years, the game-day schedule he distributed to the team listed 1 o’clock — game time — as “We go to war!” Military metaphors abounded: the N.F.L.-A.F.L. merger of 1970, which Davis initially opposed, reminded him of the agreement at Yalta; he issued statements like “The guerrilla wins if he doesn’t lose.” Howie Long, a defensive end who studied history at Villanova, found that after his indoctrination with Davis he began imagining the team’s practice center in Alameda as a fortress city in the hills of Cortona, something to be defended at all costs.

And Davis is good at turning a phrase, which is useful in diplomacy. Curtis reminds us that "he minted the team’s muscular catchphrases — “just win, baby,” “pride and poise,” “commitment to excellence.”

And best of all? Davis is color-blind. That's why the Raiders' uniforms are Silver and Black. (Really, that's a fact: check the NYT piece). And that's just the beginning. Again, the NYT piece:

The mix the Raiders achieved was revolutionary, and Davis managed a number of historic firsts. He became the first owner to draft an African-American quarterback in the first round, Eldridge Dickey, way back in 1968. He made Art Shell the first African-American head coach in the modern era; he made Tom Flores the first Hispanic coach. Amy Trask is the first woman to serve as chief executive of an N.F.L. team. In the 1960s, Davis moved two games out of segregated cities in the deep South when he learned the stands and local hotels would be segregated. “I just think he is absolutely unencumbered by prejudice of any type,” Trask says.

A perfect man to represent the new America.

There you have it. That's my advice, Mr. President: Just win, baby.

Mississippi Republicans: Thanks for the Stimulus, Mr. President!

The Associated Press is running an interesting story today:

The AP reports that two influential Mississippi Legislators -- both Republicans -- are grateful for President Obama's stimulus package.

Yes, you read that correctly. The AP reports:

Mississippi is set to receive from about $2.5 billion to $2.8 billion in federal stimulus cash between October 2008 and December 2010. Barbour said some federal agencies are still setting regulations for the money.

Some lawmakers say the federal money will pad the state budget and could help head off the possibility of deep cuts in services or layoffs of workers.

"Without the stimulus, we'd be in one heck of a bind," said Rep. Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville.

* * * *
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, said some of the federal stimulus money will be used to restore budget cuts Barbour made this year to public education.

With the infusion of federal money and the use of some — but not all — of the state's financial reserves, Nunnelee said, "we will be able to limp through the fiscal years that we have in front of us."

Makes you proud to have supported the President, doesn't it?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stabbed in the Brain, Again . . .

Here's an interesting little story in today's Clarion-Ledger:

(AP) A bill that would require capital murder convicts to register as sex offenders if found guilty of an underlying sexual offense is headed to the governor. It was one of three bills pushed by Attorney General Jim Hood. All three are headed to Gov. Haley Barbour.

Hood says the sex offenders bill contains retroactive language that would require Douglas Hodgkin and others convicted in similar cases to register as sex offenders upon release. Hodgkin, who will be released next week on parole, was convicted in 1987 of capital murder in the rape and slaying of Jean Elizabeth Gillies.

But wait . . . take a look at

Miss. Code Ann. Section 97-3-21: Every person who shall be convicted of capital murder shall be sentenced (a) to death; (b) to imprisonment for life in the State Penitentiary without parole; or (c) to imprisonment for life in the State Penitentiary with eligibility for parole as provided in Section 47-7-3(1)(f).

Miss. Code Ann. Section 47-7-3 (1)(f): No person shall be eligible for parole who is charged, tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment under the provisions of Section 99-19-101.

Miss. Code Ann. Section 99-19-101 is the sentencing statute that applies to all convictions for capital murder sentencing statute.

So, under existing law, nobody who is convicted of capital murder is ever eligible for parole, unless they were convicted before August 1994, when Section 47-7-3 was amended. I guess that's why it was so important for the new law to be retroactive.

But as you legal eagles know, the registration requirement is probably a component of the punishment that cannot be imposed on people who have already been convicted. That's what the U.S. Constitution's Ex Post Facto clause is about.

It's just another example of how legislators and public officials make a lot of noise passing laws that they know can't be enforced. Oh, you think I mean laws banning abortion? Yep, you're right.

Maybe someday the voters will respond: "We're not that stupid, folks, and we resent that you think we are. Go solve our real problems or we'll throw you out."

President Obama: The Buck Stops Here

Although he almost surely did not have input into the language that allowed companies receiving recovery money to pay six and seven figure bonuses to executives (if they were based on pre-Recovery Act contracts), President Barack Obama took responsibility for the problem. The Wall Street Journal reports:

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- President Barack Obama said he will take the blame for bonuses being paid at American International Group Inc. if it will settle an intense finger pointing under way over how such payments were possible at a company that has received tremendous taxpayer aid.

Washington is all in a tizzy and everybody is pointing fingers at each other and saying it's their fault, the Democrats' fault, the Republicans' fault," he said at a town hall meeting Wednesday. "Listen, I'll take responsibility. I'm the President."

He also make clear that it isn't really his fault. "We didn't grant these contracts," he said.
But he added: "So for everybody in Washington who's busy scrambling, trying to figure out how to blame somebody else, just go ahead and talk to me, because it's my job to make sure that we fix these messes, even if I don't make them."

Memo to Republican Senators and Representatives: this is called leadership.

House of Hypocrisy, Part 3

The blog Facing South ( has spotted yet another example of rank hypocrisy on the part of Congressional Republicans.

Facing South links to a Human Events post:, which says:

Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and David Vitter (R-La.) will later this morning send a letter to Senate Banking Committee leaders demanding that they subpoena all records of bailed-out insurance giant AIG to find out how AIG executive bonuses were given unique and privileged treatment in the Obama stimulus bill. . . . . [the letter is] aimed at the Banking Committee Chairman, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) who authored the provision under which the AIG bonuses were exempted from the “stimulus” bill’s limits on executive compensation.

The New York Times reports that:

Republicans have seized on possible shortcomings in bills passed to combat the crisis, noting that the Democrats control Congress . . . . Some Republicans have also been offering reminders that not one of them in the House voted for President Obama’s stimulus program.

But wait! As Facing South points out (via link to the Huffington Post), here's what the Republicans said just last month, in opposing any limits on executive compensation:

President Obama has proposed capping compensation for executives at banks that take taxpayer bailout money at $500,000. Republicans hate the idea -- a position that puts them uncomfortably on the side of people currently about as popular as child-porn producers and subprime mortgage brokers.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) blamed the "tone deaf" bankers for creating the political environment that allows Obama to call for a cap.

"Because of their excesses, very bad things begin to happen, like the United States government telling a company what it can pay its employees. That's not a good thing in America," Kyl told the Huffington Post.

"What executives have done is troubling, but it's equally troubling to have government telling shareholders how much they can pay the executives," said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL).

* * * *

The GOP is also concerned that setting compensation limits could put the country on the road to serfdom. "This is just a symptom of what happens when the government intervenes and we start controlling all aspects of the economy. This is just the first piece," said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). "If you accept the fact that the government should be setting pay scales in America, then it's hard not to go after these exorbitant salaries. But I think it's a sad day in America when the government starts setting pay, no matter how outlandish they are."

So, I suppose Senator DeMint was against limiting executive bonuses, before he was for them? Hmmmmm . . .

Another One Bites The Dust -- New Mexico Abolishes Capital Punishment

Kudos to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who signed the bill repealing the state's death penalty late yesterday. Here's his statement:

Today marks the end of a long, personal journey for me and the issue of the death penalty. Throughout my adult life, I have been a firm believer in the death penalty as a just punishment – in very rare instances, and only for the most heinous crimes. I still believe that. But six years ago, when I took office as Governor of the State of New Mexico, I started to challenge my own thinking on the death penalty.

The issue became more real to me because I knew the day would come when one of two things might happen: I would either have to take action on legislation to repeal the death penalty, or more daunting, I might have to sign someone’s death warrant. I’ll be honest. The prospect of either decision was extremely troubling. But I was elected by the people of New Mexico to make just this type of decision.

So, like many of the supporters who took the time to meet with me this week, I have believed the death penalty can serve as a deterrent to some who might consider murdering a law enforcement officer, a corrections officer, a witness to a crime or kidnapping and murdering a child.

However, people continue to commit terrible crimes even in the face of the death penalty and responsible people on both sides of the debate disagree – strongly – on this issue. But what we cannot disagree on is the finality of this ultimate punishment. Once a conclusive decision has been made and executed, it cannot be reversed. And it is in consideration of this, that I have made my decision.

I have decided to sign legislation that repeals the death penalty in the state of New Mexico. Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime. If the State is going to undertake this awesome responsibility, the system to impose this ultimate penalty must be perfect and can never be wrong. But the reality is the system is not perfect – far from it. The system is inherently defective. DNA testing has proven that. Innocent people have been put on death row all across the country. Even with advances in DNA and other forensic evidence technologies, we can’t be 100-percent sure that only the truly guilty are convicted of capital crimes. Evidence, including DNA evidence, can be manipulated. Prosecutors can still abuse their powers. We cannot ensure competent defense counsel for all defendants. The sad truth is the wrong person can still be convicted in this day and age, and in cases where that conviction carries with it the ultimate sanction, we must have ultimate confidence – I would say certitude – that the system is without flaw or prejudice. Unfortunately, this is demonstrably not the case. And it bothers me greatly that minorities are overrepresented in the prison population and on death row.

I have to say that all of the law enforcement officers, and especially the parents and spouses of murder victims, made compelling arguments to keep the death penalty. I respect their opinions and have taken their experiences to heart -- which is why I struggled – even today – before making my final decision. Yes, the death penalty is a tool for law enforcement. But it’s not the only tool. For some would-be criminals, the death penalty may be a deterrent. But it’s not, and never will be, for many, many others.

While today’s focus will be on the repeal of the death penalty, I want to make clear that this bill I’m signing actually makes New Mexico safer. With my signature, we now have the option of sentencing the worst criminals to life in prison without the possibility of parole. They will never get out of prison. Faced with the reality that our system for imposing the death penalty can never be perfect, my conscience compels me to replace the death penalty with a solution that keeps society safe.

The bill I am signing today, which was courageously carried for so many years by Representative Gail Chasey, replaces the death penalty with true life without the possibility of parole – a sentence that ensures violent criminals are locked away from society forever, yet can be undone if an innocent person is wrongfully convicted. More than 130 death row inmates have been exonerated in the past 10 years in this country, including four New Mexicans – a fact I cannot ignore.

From an international human rights perspective, there is no reason the United States should be behind the rest of the world on this issue. Many of the countries that continue to support and use the death penalty are also the most repressive nations in the world. That’s not something to be proud of. In a society which values individual life and liberty above all else, where justice and not vengeance is the singular guiding principle of our system of criminal law, the potential for wrongful conviction and, God forbid, execution of an innocent person stands as anathema to our very sensibilities as human beings. That is why I’m signing this bill into law.

New Mexico joins New Jersey as recent converts to abolitionism. Maryland isn't far behind. Could this be the beginning of the end for this barbaric practice?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

President: No Confidence in Bulldogs

The White House has posted President Obama's brackets for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. You can find the Pres' picks here:

I noticed that he predicts Mississippi State to be defeated by Washington in the first round. Perhaps the Ole Miss bag he's been carrying around has worked some osmosis on his thinking?

PS: He does pick Memphis to advance to the Elite Eight, but to lose to Louisville.

Return to Never-Neverland

Just back from a weekend in Berkeley, and the Bold New City aka City of Hospitality is abuzz with the news that Mayor Frank Melt-down does NOT live here! Wow. Maybe I dreamed the last four years??

This being the topic du jour, it gives me the opportunity to connect my World to the new home of NMC (former folo blogger), which is, appropriately,

NMC REALLY does NOT live in Jack-in-the-Box-Town. He has, nevertheless, collected a group of stories on the latest Melt-down drama here:

My two cents on the Case of the Non-Resident Mayor: If we don't watch out, there's going to be a backlash against the actions of the Feckless Federales and the "See No Melton, Hear No Melton, Speak No Melton" Democratic Committee. The crime-beleaguered citizens of West Jackson may decide that His Frankness is trying his best, and that they won't let The Man take their choices away from them.

Why not just let the Mayor run for re-election, make every effort to defeat him, and take care of business that way? The Federal trial can always be scheduled for after the election.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rep John Mayo at Millsaps, Monday March 9 at 6 pm

I thought you might want to know that Representative John Mayo will be our guest speaker at the March meeting of Mississippians Educating for Smart Justice. The meeting is Monday night, March 9th at 6:00 p.m., at Room 207 of Murrah Hall, Millsaps Campus. We expect Rep. Mayo to speak on legislative issues regarding capital punishment and criminal law; he has been very active in sponsoring bills on those subjects. He is one of the most accessible legislators in Mississippi, and we are expecting a small, intimate group, so if you have something else you'd like to discuss, I'm sure he'd be willing. Please join us!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Protecting America From Terrorists in the Kitchen

America's least honored ideal in our time is the one carved on the Statue of Liberty: "Bring me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." The anti-immigrant animus -- from Know-Nothingism until today -- is, and always has been, a racial/ethnic animus. You doubt it? Pay attention to how people respond to British accents. Almost always, we are charmed, curious, hospitable to British and other European visitors. Now contrast how people mock Latino or Asian accents. Not the same, is it?

Today's Clarion-Ledger reports the indictment of the former owner of Stix restaurant in Jackson. The story is here:

The article by Jimmie Gates explains the charges:

A federal grand jury indicted the defendants on Feb. 18 on charges of conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain. If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Judy Chen and Wong also were indicted for harboring illegal immigrants and encouraging illegal immigrants to reside in the United States for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain. The maximum sentence for that offense is also 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.

* * * *

In addition, the indictment also recounts the arrest of 15 illegal immigrant employees of Stix Restaurant from May 2006 through March 2008, when the restaurant was ultimately raided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where a total of nine additional illegal immigrants were arrested.

Now here's the part that stabbed me in the brain:

Acting U.S. Attorney Stan Harris underscored the U.S. attorney’s office will vigorously prosecute employers who violate federal immigration laws. “The U.S. attorney’s office recognizes that illegal immigration is no longer just an economic issue, but is a national security issue as well.”

Give me a break, Mr. Harris. You think 15 kitchen workers at a sushi-and-steak restaurant is a "national security issue?" What were you afraid they would do? It's not like they could undercook the sushi.

But that's not the only fallacy in his statement. Illegal immigration is NOT an economic issue. That is because, for the last 700+ years, those countries that have more open immigration policies have outperformed the rest by leaps and bounds. The reason is simple: immigrants, by definition, have initiative and a strong work ethic. They ADD value to any economy they join.

Don't take my word for it. The Economist published a comprehensive study on the issue in its January 3, 2008 issue. You can find it on-line (you have to register, but don't need to pay for the privilege) here:


Reason magazine adds its analysis here:

The closing of Stix illustrates the point. Once there were 15 immigrants at the restaurant, earning income which was spent on food, rent, and other necessities. Also, the increased staff made it possible for Stix to accommodate more customers, thereby increasing the restaurants' income, which was spent on supplies, food, gas and electricity, the mortgage on the building, etc, etc.

But now the restaurant is closed, and Lakeland Drive is safe from terrorism. Thank you, Mr. Harris.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dr. West Bites Back

When we last visited, I was astonished by the chutzpah of Dr. Stephen Hayne and Dr. Michael West, the Fabulous Forensic Fabricators who videotaped autopsies that, according to recognized experts in the field, committed "forensic fraud" by, among other things, pressing a defendant's bite mold into a deceased child's chin so as to make "bite marks."

You can see the video for yourself at:

And my previous post is:

Now Dr. West has surpassed himself. Dr. West gave a whining screed of an interview with the Clarion-Ledger's Jerry Mitchell published here:

Give the poor guy a shoulder to cry on, and who knows what you might learn:

I've exonerated three or four times as many people as I've convicted," he said. "I'm a little old dentist from Hattiesburg, and I've got the top lawyers in the country coming after me. The New York Times wrote an editorial on me. Why? They can't stand the evidence."

Yep, that's it. The Gray Lady bothered to write an article about a Hattiesburg dentist because they "couldn't stand the evidence." I'm sure the editors in Manhattan spend all day worrying about Mississippi defendants.

But in any event, which exonerations would you be talking about, Dr. West? Not Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks. After spending more than 15 years each in prison for crimes that they didn't commit, Mr. Brewer and Mr. Brooks were set free in hearings. The District Attorney personally apologized to them.

But Dr. West not only didn't exonerate them -- he still thinks they were involved in the crimes! Jerry Mitchell reports:

In each case, West testified he found those men's bite marks on the victims.

More than a year ago, DNA identified the real culprit, who told authorities he strangled, sexually assaulted and killed two, 3-year-old girls. He said he never bit them.

West - who said he hasn't practiced forensic dentistry in three years - stands by his testimony he gave in those trials, saying the two men must have bitten the girls before they were killed.

Oh, well. I guess we'll find those exonerated prisoners some other time. Or maybe we need to use Dr. West's famous blue light to find them. You know, the one he uses to see evidence nobody else can see. (Yes, he really says that).

But the most interesting thing about the West interview is that he revealed this stunning secret:

He said, "I'm personally opposed to the death penalty."

Shut my mouth. All this time the Periodontal Prevaricator has been sending prisoners to death row for crimes they didn't commit, he was really against capital punishment deep in his heart.

What's next? Dick Cheney is "personally opposed" to gun control? Rush Limbaugh is "personally opposed" to prescription drug abuse?

In the world where Michael West's blue light shines, anything is possible.