For Shame

6:59 am - Jason G. - Rant

In recent news, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong has asked to be recused in the Duke Lacrosse scandal… err… case. He has also retained counsel to represent him before the N.C. Bar in an investigation into prosecutorial misconduct which accuses him of making improper, inflammatory and misleading comments about the case.

Now, if Mike Nifong was innocent, he certainly wouldn’t need to retain counsel, now would he?

Of course he would retain counsel, as anyone accused of a serious crime or indiscretion would do. But, somehow Mr. Nifong made the same statement about the Lacrosse players back when the situation was first surfacing back in April of last year. A direct quote from March: “And one would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong.” (To be fair, the team members had been questioned, searched, issued subpoenas, implicitly accused of a crime, but not officially charged yet.)

Now it’s one thing for me to say that innocent people don’t need lawyers (especially since I don’t believe it), but it’s a completely different thing for a Prosecuting District Attorney to claim that the suspects that he intends to prosecute don’t need a lawyer. In fact, that’s almost the definition for prosecutorial misconduct. It’s not the D.A.’s job to get a conviction. It’s the D.A.’s job to make sure justice is done.

And it’s for that very reason that I say shame on you Mr. Nifong.

I also have to give credit to the attempts of the State Bar to investigate Mike Nifong’s errant behavior and restore confidence to the judicial system. While it would have been nice if they had acted in a more timely manner, they are at least broadcasting the message that we no longer live in that South where a District Attorney is untouchable and can prosecute whomever he wishes.


BusWeek’s Dubious Statistic Award

7:19 am - Jason G. - Rant

Here’s a great graphic from Business Week’s just-out b-school rankings:

Note that the chart on the left is the “Percentage of full-time MBA programs reporting application growth”. What, the actual number of applications, the number of students, etc. weren’t straight-forward enough, you had to go with something as indirect as the number of programs reporting application growth?

This is an unfortunate example of using statistics to mislead… of course Business Week sells more copy and more ads when the b-school market is hot, so it’s in their best interest to find whatever metric they can to make it look hot. And they certainly grasped a bit to get this one…

I’m pretty sure demand this year is up in normal terms, so why use a questionable stat to show a big gain when you could show an honest, smaller gain?


Outmatched in Durham

7:22 am - Jason G. - Rant

The number of well written blogs supporting Duke’s Lacross Players or simply attacking Durham DA Mike Nifong and the Durham PD is impressive. Some of the blogs: Recall Nifong, Durham in Wonderland, Lie Stoppers, Friends of Duke University, John in Carolina, the Duke Basketball Report, and even a fairly prominent Libertarian (ok, that last one isn’t a blog). I’m sure you could uncover many more if you tried.

They all have (mostly) valid points, but seem to be missing one undeniable truth. The Durham police and city government is just like any other place — there are some shady goings on, some inappropriate behavior, and even political grandstanding. This isn’t anything new. (Note, there are also plenty of people trying to do the right thing.)

What is new is that the PD, DA, et al, in Durham are having a hard time going toe to toe with some very smart, well educated, well informed, well funded Duke Alumni and friends of Duke. The spotlight shines a lot brighter when confronted by really smart people who are used to playing on a much bigger playing field than the local political scene in Durham. (more…)


White Space

7:16 am - Jason G. - Rant

I’ve always been a fan of the constructive use of white space, and am frustrated when people don’t even break up their emails into separate paragraphs.

If there’s a natural breaking point in your narrative or prose — start a new paragraph people!


The Timing is Political

7:46 am - Jason G. - Rant

I know this happened over three weeks ago, but here is some great commentary on the recent arrests in Britain of suspected airline terrorists.

We also have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing arrests the weekend before they were made. Why? Both in domestic trouble, they longed for a chance to change the story.

The timing is political

I would probably argue that the timing is political…  why else would Bush and Blair be discussing it.  Do you think they get on the phone every time the FBI is going to take action?  Shouldn’t the law enforcement officials be in charge of deciding when to actually nab suspects and not leave it up to the politicians?
I would respectfully disagree with the author on a few points though…  our police are drastically under-prepared to deal with the threat from terrorist militants.  They have to stop suspects when they find out about them — it is very likely that they wouldn’t be able to maintain surveilance successfully for very long.  Al-Qaeda’s primary successful tactic in the past has been its ability to keep itself out of the view of the Western Intelligence and Police forces.  Until this arrest, they were soundly winning on operational security and westerners need to understand this.  Striking at half-formed plots is often the only course of action.

I emphatically agree with the author on several other points, specifically on the infringements of personal liberties.  We do have to recognize though that there is a tradeoff — if we choose to uphold personal liberties, we do run a higher risk of attack.  I am willing to take that risk, but I know most poeple are not.


The Power of a Name

12:07 pm - Jason G. - Rant

I remember way back in High School, one of my slightly batty English teachers liked to say, “when we name things, we have power over them.” Like I said, slightly batty.

But the statement actually has a lot of truth, if you think about it the right way. First up, what do we mean when we use the word “power”? Put simply, power is the ability to act. A full definition might yield “the ability or capacity to perform or act effectively.” Same thing. (more…)


Stop Social Security!

7:23 am - Jason G. - Rant

The St. Louis Fed recently released a study on the financial position of the US Government. The short answer? Bankrupt, or at least careening towards bankruptcy.

The projected difference between the obligations and the tax receipts of the US is a staggering US$65.9 trillion. The reason for all of this is Social Security as the politicians in this country can’t stand up to the AARP and all the other special interests and admit that they’ve promised more than can be delivered on.

Social Security was originally created so that our elderly wouldn’t die in poverty. It was not created so that every man and women over the age of 65 could retire and vacation with a Winnebago.
Demographically, we have a real issue if all baby boomers try to take their claim on retirement… Other people have discussed it better than I can, but suffice it to say it’s not going to be pretty if/when people try.

Lets face facts and admit that Social Security will destroy the US if we don’t address it. Dump it completely, and create a new agency/program to help those in real need — the elderly that are in poverty or than can’t continue to work. Everyone else has to fend for themselves, no matter how much they contributed to Social Security over their working years.

Too many people are lined up to receive benefits that don’t really need them. We do not have a right to retirement, or an entitlement to leisure.
So, what will happen? Nothing… politicians are certainly predictable on that front. They will wait until there is enough of a political crisis to actually be able to do something. There’s no point in trying to act rationally now — any politician who tries to act rationally will get sacraficed by all the special interest groups and those benefiting from the boondoggle.
Politics is nothing if not irrational. Predictibly irrational at that.


Hezbollah Fighting from Suburbs

2:42 pm - Jason G. - Rant

Take a look at this article by the Australian Herald Sun (found at digg.com). Hezbollah is fighting their side of the war from the suburbs. All the outcry about the war should keep this in mind — Hezbollah doesn’t care about making targets out of civilians on their own side. They want the Israelis to strike at them and then cry out in the international media about how Israel is attacking civilian areas.

This is yet another reminder that Hezbollah is in fact a terrorist organization. Israel is not at war with Lebanon, they’re at war with the terrorists who are occupying Lebanon. As such, I certainly understand why they feel the need to fight them. Is it justified? I’m not sure, but we do need to remember that Hezbollah embodies a culture of violence and has very little values for human life (on their side or on their enemies’ side).


Amazon vs. Audible – Who Can Charge You More?

9:42 am - Jason G. - Rant

I just looked at a book on Amazon.com and noticed that it had an “audio download” version available for $9. When I clicked on the link, the price of the audio download jumped to $19.95?!?! What up with that?

Ahhh… the curse of e-commerce partnerships. I am a subscriber to Audible and was currently logged in. If I weren’t logged in, I would see the $9 price. But, since I dutifully give Audible money every month as part of my subscription, I am subjected to a higher price.

Nice job Audible and Amazon. You both appear shady as hell when you pull stunts like this.