Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Quick Hits

Jeez, you leave town for a few days and all this juicy news stuff piles up at the front door. Oh well, at the risk of ruining the spirit, if not the letter, of my “one post per day” limit, a few quick thoughts . . .

On Clemency & Huckabee
I am no fan of former Arkansas governor and failed GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. His approach to governance is so enmeshed with his religious beliefs that I’m never sure if he wants to be president, pope, or savior (maybe all three). That being said, I think he is being unfairly reamed over the clemency he showed Maurice Clemmons.

Clemmons, you’ll recall, is the nut who shot four cops in a Washington state coffee house for no apparent reason and was then himself killed by a cop a few days later. Years ago, Clemmons was sentenced to over 100 years in prison for crimes committed while he was 16. While Huckabee was governor, he reduced Clemmons’s sentence to the point that he was eligible for parole, which he received several months later.

Hindsight being 20/20, Huckabee is now getting slammed on the simplistic notion that had he not made that decision, those four cops would still be alive today. The problem, of course, is that neither Huckabee nor anyone else had perfect knowledge of what Clemmons might do once released from prison. As he explains (via TalkLeft):

Despite news reports, no objections were raised during the 30-day response period for this case. In fact, only letters of support for Clemmons' commutation were received, including one from the circuit judge.
On the one hand, the detractors have a point. To paraphrase an old semi-baddie on Law & Order, “I concede your point – if things were different, they wouldn’t be the same.” But that’s hardly a logical way to look at things like this.

The only logical endpoint of that kind of backwards looking decision is to completely do away with clemency, parole, pardons and the like. As underutilized as they are, they are still vital safety valves in our out of control criminal justice system. If Huckabee fucked up, make the case based on what he knew at the time, not what we know now.

On the Truth of a Person
Stanley Fish has an interesting take on Sarah Palin’s new book, Going Rogue, by making a key distinction between biographies and autobiographies:
My assessment of the book has nothing to do with the accuracy of its accounts. Some news agencies have fact-checkers poring over every sentence, which would be to the point if the book were a biography, a genre that is judged by the degree to which the factual claims being made can be verified down to the last assertion. 'Going Rogue,' however, is an autobiography, and while autobiographers certainly insist that they are telling the truth, the truth the genre promises is the truth about themselves — the kind of persons they are — and even when they are being mendacious or self-serving (and I don’t mean to imply that Palin is either), they are, necessarily, fleshing out that truth. As I remarked in a previous column, autobiographers cannot lie because anything they say will truthfully serve their project, which, again, is not to portray the facts, but to portray themselves.
That's a very good point that puts me in mind of Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, director Paul Schrader's magnificent meditation on the iconoclastic Japanese author/extremist. Most biopics are focused on detailing what happened in a person's life. Schrader's film, by contrast, makes an attempt to understand the man, rather than recite by rote the events of his life. It becomes, rather than a movie about a man's life, a movie about the man itself.

I don't know how well Fish's analysis plays with Palin's book, given that it's not really a true autobiography. Nevertheless, it certainly makes for an interesting reading of her.

On How That Must Hurt
A recent poll asked Americans who they would vote for in a party election among Democrats, Republicans, and a fictional and not very well defined “Tea Party” party. The Dems won. The GOPers came in last with only 18% of the vote. Damn, that must sting. It almost makes me feel sorry for them. Almost.

On Going Bowling
I'll concede that the Gator Bowl is a nice reward for WVU's season, one that but for a blown replay call at Cincinnati probably would have meant another BCS bowl birth. But I'm a little perplexed as to how we end up playing in a New Year's Day bowl against a team without a winning record. Yeah, I know, it's Bobby Bowden's last game and he coached here before he went to Florida State, but still. Stewart Mandel sorts it all out.

For the record, when 6-6 teams play in bowls, there are too many bowls. Plain and simple. A winning record should be a prerequisite (sorry, Herd fans).

On Paging Rosana-Rosana Dana
Remember those videos of a "pimp" and his "ho'" seeking services from various Acorn offices that caused such apoplexy on the right? Yeah, well, turns out they're mostly bullshit. As an independent review concluded:
The videos that have been released appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O'Keefe's and Ms. Giles's comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding. A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions.
Given the winger logic displayed in the climate scientist email dust up (a couple of out of context remarks = all evidence of global warming is a fraud!), the manipulation of the video means none of this ever happened. Acorn may be a figment of our imaginations, or something.

No comments: