links for 2010-11-18

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

22 replies on “links for 2010-11-18”

  1. I have a question and was hoping you’d consider it.

    Where does the requirement come from to hold a public hearing?

    Why do some decisions absolutely require a public hearing before the decision can be made and others not?

    Is it Federal Law or State Law ? any ideas?


  2. re: Vick story – This part stood out in WTF?land:

    It has become a familiar cycle in sports. The N.B.A. star Kobe Bryant (rape allegations), the baseball player Alex Rodriguez (admitted use of steroids) and N.F.L. linebacker Ray Lewis (charged with murder, later dropped in a plea bargain) are among those who have partly covered the collective memory of their troubles with sustained, stellar athletic performances.

    One of these things is not like the others. Why is ARod even in this article? Did they just HAVE to have a baseball player, just to balance it out across all sports?

  3. I wouldn’t say that I’m ready to forgive Vick for torturing animals just because he put up some big numbers against the Redskins. But his case did go to trial, he was convicted, and he did serve his sentence in a federal penitentiary. And that was for a crimes against animals related to gambling. Meanwhile, the crime for which Ray Lewis received probation, by contrast, involved the death of a human being. Two different women have accused Ben Roethlisberger of sexual assault, and two different prosecutors in two different states have subsequently refused to press charges.

    Again, I’m not saying that being good at football makes dogfighting okay or anything ridiculous like that. But I am saying that whereas other professional athletes literally get away with rape or murder, Vick’s crimes were reprehensible but ultimately less-serious, and unlike those other athletes he’s at least paid his debt to society through the criminal justice system.

  4. Sam: I’m certainly not in a position to argue that homicide is less serious than dog-fighting, working as a homicide prosecutor myself. But I do have some problems with what you’re saying; I’m not sure I can articulate them with any particular elegance, though, so be forewarned. I’m trying to base this off my own prosecutions, experience with pleas, and my friend’s position as one of the heads of PA’s SPCA anti-dog fighting team.

    There are several problems here. One, Vick isn’t acting repentant–especially in his community service, talking to kids about dog-fighting. This is problematic because it belies the deterrent effect of his conviction, and spurs on the strong showing of dog-fighting amongst children we’re seeing in PA. Many kids really don’t understand that this is wrong–they are told that their dogs are fighting dogs, need something to do, and want to spend time with their dogs. Kids who dog fight grow up to seriously dog-fight, and dog-fighting almost always escalates into worse crimes against animals.

    Homicide can beget more homicide–the deterrence idea doesn’t work that well, people don’t repent, etc. I am not sure that one conviction deters another person from killing. However, arguably, people know that killing another person is wrong. Its kind of why people kill other people–you messed with me/did something to me, I kill you. There are exceptions, but generally the person knows what they did was wrong–that’s part of wh the insanity defense is typically phrased in the idea that the person did NOT know it was wrong to kill. Young children, those with mental disabilities, etc, ok, not so much–that’s why we have cases like Roper and Atkins.

    So there’s the lack of evidence of any type of repentance or education on Vick’s part, which, in part due to his community “service” efforts, may be spurring on dog-fighting. I think that belies your point that he’s served his time to society–if he didn’t think it was wrong to begin with, then where are we, if not back at square one? Now, is he the worst person ever? No. I’ve dealt with/seen/worked on far more gruesome, scummy, disgusting crimes and criminals. See, e.g. the Porchia Bennett case. But I don’t think throwing the jail time out as evidence is that solid, given other factors. It helps, but it’s not the end of the story.

    Secondly, I don’t think crimes comparison is a great way to go here. Admittedly, this is not just you, but the article. Without understanding the entirety of why a prosecutor declines to press charges, you can’t look to one case and to the declination to go forward, and say that one guy didn’t pay his debt to society–I’m as feminist as they come, but ultimately, I want to see the evidence. If star power was the only reason the case didn’t go forward, that’s one thing–if it wasn’t, then you can’t make the comparison.

    Same thing goes for Ray Lewis. Pleading out is incredibly common–our system would fail without it– and I would have been surprised if he didn’t–in fact, it’s great, because we don’t have to have a trial and the guy admits his guilt. That’s a huge deal in sentencing–admission of guilt, albeit not to the murder (obstruction of justice).

    He also testified against the other two defendants, and this case was, I think, decided pre-Booker, so the sentencing guidelines were mandatory–meaning that the only way this guy could not go to jail was to plead out and drop the murder charges in their entirety. Was it the right decision? I have no idea. I didn’t see the evidence. Maybe it wasn’t strong enough against him. Maybe they didn’t think they could win in front of a jury, given who he was. Maybe they just stunk as prosecutors. I guess what I’m driving at is, here, we aren’t seeing that Vick is repentant in any way, but we do know what he did and we do have the evidence. In the other two cases, we don’t necessarily have that evidence–in Lewis’ case, we have less, because there were three defendants and Lewis pled out, admitting he did something wrong, and the prosecutor secured testimony against the other two defendants. The only way he could do that, pre-booker, was to get rid of the murder charges, because otherwise, Lewis would have no incentive to testify–he’d go to jail either way, but they might not get the other two guys. This way, with the plea bargain, if Lewis went south on the stand or something, the bargain would have been tossed out and Lewis would have been back up on murder charges.

    I’m not sure that I really articulated why what you said doesn’t sit well with me, but I sure wrote a hell of a lot.

  5. Yes, Vick did the time for his crime. However, I cannot conceive of any circumstance in which I could cheer for him, or even care to watch a football game that he’s playing in.

    Anyone who describes Vick’s crimes as “dog fighting” and “gambling on dogs” is being dishonest. What he did was torture, and it was sick. I’m amazed that the NFL allowed him to come back. But, considering how the typical NFL fan thinks, I’m not surprised.

  6. Where does the requirement come from to hold a public hearing?

    Why do some decisions absolutely require a public hearing before the decision can be made and others not?

    Is it Federal Law or State Law ? any ideas?

    I’m afraid I don’t have any idea, Larry. I speculate that there are requirements that come from all different levels of law, and I imagine that they’re often a result of state sunshine laws, but I don’t know that for sure. Sorry!

  7. Genevieve,

    My point is not so much about the comparison of crimes or the dismissal of the relevance of his conviction. My point is simply that I dismiss the articles assertion that Vick’s story is one more anecdote on the mountain of anecdotal evidence about how professional athletes are given a pass on criminal behavior due to their professional athleticism and the derivative celebrity status. Vick wasn’t the beneficiary of anyone’s prosecutorial discretion the way other athletes have been. He wasn’t the beneficiary of a jury hung in its deliberations by an awestruck juror or two. He was arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced, and incarcerated.

    In other words, he didn’t get treated by the criminal justice system like he had preferred status as a celebrity. He got treated like a criminal. Which is exactly the way things are supposed to work, right?

    So basically, I’m not going to invite the guy over for dinner or write to him to ask for an autograph. I don’t want to be besties with Michael Vick. But I’m also not going to wring my hands about how he’s one more example of how professional athletes can get away with anything because he, at least, is one professional athlete who didn’t.

    Hope everything’s going well, btw.

  8. It’s sad that time and again, people are willing to cheer for someone on a playing field despite the fact that they are despicable off of it.

    He may have served his time, but that doesn’t negate the fact that Michael Vick was a thug before the dog fighting operation came to light and remains a thug today (check out what happened at his birthday party this summer).

  9. The problem is US. We tolerate all manner of thugs and felons in Sports because we idolize talent no matter the person.

    Professional and College Sports is ruining our country because it promotes that ethic to our young people in school.

    We NOW rank 15th and worse in the world in basic academics and yet the most important thing in many of our middle and high schools in not academics – we actually suck at it but sports and other non-academic activities.

    The countries that best us in academics are also besting us in good jobs in part because those schools emphasize intra-mural sports where ALL kids are taught the importance of competing and the value that few of us have mega-talent and the trick in life is to compete successfully by hard work persevering, and the talents you do have – without betting the farm on physical talent.

    Our infatuation with college and pro sports is undermining our schools and sending a message to kids that people like Vick – is a path to success.

    So we have kids who believe they can hurt others and as long as they are good in sports, it doesn’t matter.

    After all look at Vick and the dozens of other creeps in professional sports these days.

    We tell them – “spear the other guy with your helmet but make it look like you didn’t”.

  10. Would most employers want an employee who had been convicted of a felony involving the torture of animals?

    Would IBM or Microsoft or Walmart want you?

    Pro-Sports accepts all manner of creeps and convicted felons and no one should kid themselves, every kid in Middle and High School knows this.

    No only do you not have to get good academic grades but you can get convicted of carrying guns… bullying other kids…beating up people .. and the Colleges and the Pros will still want you.

    Every day, we teach our kids this lesson.

  11. RE: Hannibal Hamlin: That’s one thing that stood out to me after reading Team of Rivals. I was thinking that Hamlin was going to be included quite a bit. Goodwin was building up and building up to the 1860 Convention in Chicago and naturally talking a lot about Seward, Chase, and Bates… but I kept thinking, “where’s Hamlin in all of this?”

    After going through all of the balloting and backroom deals focusing on the aforementioned 3 (+Lincoln), Lincoln gets the nom, and then almost as an afterthought, she writes, “A man stationed on the roof of the Wigwam shouted the news of Lincoln’s nomination, along with that of Hannibal Hamlin of Maine for vice president, to the thousands waiting on the street.” And I think that was his first mention (a third way through the book).

    Very odd.

  12. Until lawyers like John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury along with high profile celebrities clients like Dick Cheney and George Bush are held accountable for torture, I’m inclined to dismiss the pious lecturing of legal professionals regarding torture. The fact that these thugs have seen no sanction surely sends a message “to the kids” that makes a mockery of the legal system.

    If ever there was a more brilliant example of the decline of the legal system and the notion that all are equal before the law, we have in these two cases a perfect example. So let me put a finer point on this: You prosecute the low-hanging thugs, but if the thug sits higher in the tree, you act like he isn’t there. Give me a break, and save us your self-righteousness. Your secret fears are true – you are the tool of a corrupt system trending downward, one cowering step after another. Congratulations, you make Michael Vick look like a man of character!

  13. naw.. that does not ring true. With terrorists there is a significant legitimate issue regarding torture that even reasonable people have conflicting views on.

    With sports – it’s entirely voluntary. We’re basically hiring thugs and convicted felons to perform and be role models for kids.

    no comparison in my opinion.

    by the way .. kids who grow up thinking it is okay to torture animals.. usually are the ones who think it has other uses also.

    torture is always despicable but especially so when our young folks think it is not a major deal…. that will keep others from idolizing you and paying you millions of dollars.

    these kids grow up – believing that torture is acceptable.

  14. Ugh. People. He went to prison. He served his time. He’s back at his job now. So what? There are “despicable” people in every profession, the just draw more attention in sport and entertainment because our society is so obsessed with them.
    And,whatever, you feel about Mike Vick as a person, there’s no doubt that he’s a unique talent on a football field.

  15. To Bubby’s point, I can’t help but feel like the Michael Vick thing smacks of Roman spectacle. I’m not condoning what he did, but if his punishment wasn’t enough (or wasn’t effective), maybe there are systemic problems to deal with.

    And as for this: “With terrorists there is a significant legitimate issue regarding torture that even reasonable people have conflicting views on” I simply have to shout, from the top of my lungs, BULLSHIT. Reasonable people do not torture, do not advocate torture, and do condone it. If institutionalized rape was politically popular, I’d feel the same way about that as well.

  16. This Just In (unrelated to the post):

    Robert Hurt drew number 85 out of 85 among the freshman congressmen. He’s got last pick of office, etc.


  17. The fact that these thugs have seen no sanction surely sends a message “to the kids” that makes a mockery of the legal system.
    Right. I don’t know if you’ve interacted with any real live “kids” recently, but they are not paying attention to the things you think they are.

    I do appreciate the attempt, if strained, to segue a Vick thread into a bash-the-Rethuglicans rant. Classic Hillbilly!

  18. re: “he went to prison and served his time”

    ha ha ha..

    how about a Priest Pedophile who has “served his time” or someone that raped a child who “served his time”?

    People who torture animals may serve their time but I’d not want them living next door to me or attending the same picnic I did and I certainly would not go watch them play football and cheer for them much less kids.

    The PROs and the colleges have a track record of late of hiring people who are not only felons but creeps because of the almighty dollar.

    This would be like Microsoft or GOOGLE hiring a “brilliant” talent – even though he was a convicted felon …

    Even the Feds would not hire Vick nor would he qualify for a SECRET Clearance with his background.

    No.. I take that back.. the CIA would certainly hire him as a “contractor” eh?

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