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Wednesday :: April 09, 2014

Freedom of Speech: Freedom of Protest

With the resignation of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla after protests, both within and without the Mozilla organization, led, yet again, to mass confusion about the most basic principles of free speech rights. Today, a new shunning, this time of anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was to receive an honorary degree from Brandeis University, will no doubt add to the confusion.

It so happens I agree with the "shunning" of Eich but disagree with the shunning of Hirsi Ali (I am pretty strongly anti-organized religion.) But my personal views on the relative merits of these actions is really not to the point -- free speech rights include the right to criticize and yes, shun.

Let me give the most obvious example that in fact everyone agrees with this conception (that non-state actors can shun, boycott, protest, etc. anyone for their speech) - imagine an accomplished person in any field espousing the view that interracial marriage should be outlawed. Who do you suppose would protest in defense against calls for removal of such a person from a position of public leadership? No one, that's who. And therein lies the point - we all agree that lines can be drawn. We often disagree with where the lines are drawn.

Let's discuss the line drawing on the flip.

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Tuesday :: April 08, 2014

Tuesday Open Thread

I've got a busy work day today. Here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Monday :: April 07, 2014

Oscar Pistorius Takes the Stand

After a week of recess due to the illness of of one of the judge's fact-finders, the Oscar Pistorius trial resumed today, with the defense calling Dr. Botha The topics ranged from the angle of the bullets to when Reeva last ate and emptied her bladder. When he was done, Oscar took the stand.

From the reporters in the courtroom I follow via Twitter: [More...]

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Australia TV to Air Paid Interview with Inmate on Schapelle Corby

Jailhouse snitches are notoriously unreliable. In this country, they are a major contributor to wrongful convictions.

That isn't stopping 10 News in Australia. It's about to air a paid interview with Bali 9 inmate Renae Lawrence, doing 20 years (after narrowly avoiding the death penalty) for smuggling heroin into Bali with 8 other people. She had 2.5 kilos strapped to her body. Two of the nine are waiting for the executioner, and six are doing life.

Reportedly, Renae will claim that during a period when she and Schapelle shared a cell (with several other women), Schapelle confessed to her that she knew the drugs were in her boogie-bag. I don't buy that for a second. [More....]

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Saturday :: April 05, 2014

March Madness, Final 4

My picks: UConn +6 1/2 over Florida, Kentucky -1 over Wisconsin.

Go Gators!

Open Thread.

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Friday :: April 04, 2014

House Hearing on Cartels and Extraditing El Chapo

The House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on "Taking Down the Cartels" this week. Predictably, several committee members called for the quick extradition of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

There were four witnesses at the hearing: James Dinkins, a director of Homeland Security Investigations for ICE; John Feeley, a deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Dept; Alan Bersin, an assistant secretary of international affairs and diplomatic officer at Homeland Security; and Christopher Wilson, from the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

I just read the transcript of the hearing (available on Lexis.com). A Republican from Georgia named Paul Broun really stood out -- and not in a positive way -- repeatedly referring to El Chapo as "an animal." Here are some of his remarks:[More...]

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Thursday :: April 03, 2014

Thursday Open Thread: Longest Outage Ever

TalkLeft was down for 9 hours. There was an outage at the facility that hosts our server. No explanation yet from the company.

We do have a backup site where I post notices of outages (thankfully, they are rare.) You can also post comments there.

Here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Wednesday :: April 02, 2014

Wednesday Night Open Thread

I've been offline today. Here's an open thread while I get caught up with the news. All topics welcome.

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Tuesday :: April 01, 2014

Pew Report: Support for Death Penalty Decreases to Lowest Level

A new Pew Report shows support for the death penalty for convicted murderers has dropped to 55%, the lowest level since the 1970's. Among the reasons:

...a steep drop in the incidence of violent crime, and greater attention to wrongful convictions, which has led to more than 1,300 convicts being exonerated through DNA evidence, revelations of faulty forensic work, or other means. (Recent reports of prolonged executions and the difficulties many states have had in procuring drugs for lethal injections also may be factors in shifting public opinion.)

Since 1973, the U.S. has executed 1,373 people. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 1,339 people have been exonerated since 1989, 106 of whom were sentenced to death. Only 1/3 of the exonerations involved DNA evidence.

All but two of the executions were at the state level. The highest number of executions: Texas, with 512. After that: Virginia and Oklahoma (110 each), and then Florida, Missouri and Alabama.

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Can We Call It Torture Now?


The House Intelligence Committee's 6,300 page report remains classified, but the Washington Post has details.

1. The CIA lied to Congress
2. More "enhanced interrogation techniques" were used than previously disclosed
3. The torture techniques did not result in valuable information

Via NY Magazine:

One previously undisclosed technique involved the the CIA dunking detainees in tubs of ice water in a method similar to waterboarding. Khalid Sheik Mohammed's nephew, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali [aka Ammar al-Baluchi] was subjected to it at a CIA black site near Kabul in 2003. According to the Post, "CIA interrogators forcibly kept his head under the water while he struggled to breathe and beat him repeatedly, hitting him with a truncheon-like object and smashing his head against a wall, officials said." He is still in Guantanamo Bay.

[More...]

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Monday :: March 31, 2014

Monday Open Thread

A busy day. Here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Sunday :: March 30, 2014

March Madness! Elite 8, Day 2

My picks: Connecticut +6 over Michigan State, Kentucky -2 over Michigan.

Open Thread.

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Saturday :: March 29, 2014

March Madness! Elite 8, Day 1

My picks: Dayton +10 over Florida, Arizona -2 over Wisconsin.

Go Gators!

Open Thread.

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Tsarnaev Defense Seeks Discovery on FBI Visits to Tamerlan

Defense lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev filed a 23 page motion for discovery Friday. You can read it here.

The motion, which seeks a lot of information about Tamerlan and the family's history, is an attempt to get the Government to turn over documents that could be used as mitigation evidence in the death penalty phase to show Dzhokhar fell under the spell of his over-powering brother. The defense says it is asking for:

...any evidence tending to show that Tamerlan (Tsarnaev) supplied the motivation, planning, and ideology behind the Boston Marathon attack, and that his young brother acted under his domination and control … .”

The motion doesn't claim the FBI tried to get Tamerlan to be an informant. It says it has information from its interviews of family members that the FBI met with Tamerlan before his trip to Russia on more than one occasion and that the family said the FBI tried to get Tamerlan to be an informant. It's trying to find out if the the Government is in possession of information that supports the family's statements. [More...]

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Friday :: March 28, 2014

March Madness! Sweet Sixteen, Night 2

My picks: Connecticut +2 over Iowa State, Louisville -4 over Kentucky, Michigan -3 over Tennessee, Michigan State -2 over Virginia.

Open Thread.

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