Feed on


Matt Damon:

What is this thing called love

Delco Nightingale — and that’s our Brendan on bass!


Big Star:

Bed peace

A new documentary about John and Yoko’s bed-in for peace is up on YouTube for another week:

Curb your enthusiasm

Instant Larry David classic from last night’s show:

I write from Philadelphia, possibly the most stupidly governed major city in the country. If you don’t believe it, take a look at the Inquirer story about our delinquent-property-tax-collection system.

ALEC and immigration laws

Guess what? They’re working to fill up private prisons with undocumented immigrants:

Big ideas

Jared Bernstein points out something interesting about economic theories:

Deregulated markets, “rational market” theories, eroded labor standards, the retreat of unions, regressive taxation, financial engineering, global arbitrage, low rates of job growth, growth that eluded the middle-class and the poor… all have contributed to almost unprecedented levels of wealth concentration.

Such dynamics are self-reinforcing. The narrow slice of winners, enriched beyond imagination by these forces, use their wealth to insulate themselves from new ideas that threaten their position by purchasing not just political power but even “ideas,” through bogus think tanks and media operations.

They and their representatives ensured that when history provided a unique, crystallized moment of clarity as to their fundamentally corrupt paradigm, too few would see it clearly and when those who did sounded the alarm, no one would listen.

And now we’re arguing about debt ceilings, budget cuts, and super-committees, not to mention whether evolution and climate change are real or conspiratorial notions of the left.

I know this is a dark vision of reality but before you get too deeply bummed out by it, let me say that I’m by no means alone in this analysis of the problem, and I’ve begun to see some hints that more and more of us are getting the picture. And that has the potential to create a welcoming climate for new ideas that challenge this paradigm, ideas that have been sorely missing for too long.

Juan Cole

On Rick Perry and the hucksterism of the rich.

In keeping

With a fine political tradition, Gov. Rick Perry blocked attempts to investigate expert testimony and allowed the execution of a innocent man:

The Innocence Project obtained, through the Freedom of Information Act, all the records from the governor’s office and the board pertaining to Hurst’s report. “The documents show that they received the report, but neither office has any record of anyone acknowledging it, taking note of its significance, responding to it, or calling any attention to it within the government,” Barry Scheck said. “The only reasonable conclusion is that the governor’s office and the Board of Pardons and Paroles ignored scientific evidence.”

LaFayette Collins, who was a member of the board at the time, told me of the process, “You don’t vote guilt or innocence. You don’t retry the trial. You just make sure everything is in order and there are no glaring errors.” He noted that although the rules allowed for a hearing to consider important new evidence, “in my time there had never been one called.” When I asked him why Hurst’s report didn’t constitute evidence of “glaring errors,” he said, “We get all kinds of reports, but we don’t have the mechanisms to vet them.” Alvin Shaw, another board member at the time, said that the case didn’t “ring a bell,” adding, angrily, “Why would I want to talk about it?” Hurst calls the board’s actions “unconscionable.”

[…] In 2005, Texas established a government commission to investigate allegations of error and misconduct by forensic scientists. The first cases that are being reviewed by the commission are those of Willingham and Willis. In mid-August, the noted fire scientist Craig Beyler, who was hired by the commission, completed his investigation. In a scathing report, he concluded that investigators in the Willingham case had no scientific basis for claiming that the fire was arson, ignored evidence that contradicted their theory, had no comprehension of flashover and fire dynamics, relied on discredited folklore, and failed to eliminate potential accidental or alternative causes of the fire. He said that Vasquez’s approach seemed to deny “rational reasoning” and was more “characteristic of mystics or psychics.”

What’s more, Beyler determined that the investigation violated, as he put it to me, “not only the standards of today but even of the time period.” The commission is reviewing his findings, and plans to release its own report next year. Some legal scholars believe that the commission may narrowly assess the reliability of the scientific evidence. There is a chance, however, that Texas could become the first state to acknowledge officially that, since the advent of the modern judicial system, it had carried out the “execution of a legally and factually innocent person.”

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