April 25, 2008

You're doin' a heckuva job, Saunders: Allison Hope Weiner lets the Federal Government have it with both barrels for its handling of the Pellicano Trial, here. Apparently, no one in the Bush Justice Department ever deigned to figure out whether one of the defendants had really filed bankruptcy (a copy of the forged petition can be found here), or if their star impeachment witness might herself be a scam artist:
And so, on Monday, the court noted that the witness will return and she will consider whether to declare a mistrial. It's really incredible that after six years of investigation, the government managed to call a witness to impeach a defendant's testimony without checking that witness' criminal history. Mr. Hummel has said repeatedly that his client denied having filed a fraudulent bankruptcy application. He said it five years ago when Mr. Arneson first spoke with the government and he said it before Mr. Saunders proceeded to seriously delve into the issue on cross-examination in his effort to prove to the jury that Mr. Arneson was a liar. And, despite all the times that Mr. Arneson insisted that the signature on the document was forged, the government refused to investigate his claims. Frankly, it makes one wonder what else they forgot or didn't bother to investigate.

Is it possible that there is all kinds of other evidence that the government overlooked in their desire to prosecute these few, rather insignificant Pellicano associates who were so down on the ladder that they scored truly pathetic financial benefits from their alleged criminal activity? Is it possible that in questioning Mr. Pellicano's clients, the government didn't bother to really ask them really hard questions because the government was focused on charging this truly bottom rung of Pellicano associates and not any of Mr. Pellicano's powerful and influential clients? And given what's happened with this prosecution, can you blame them? Did the government really even want to charge Mr. Pellicano's wealthy clients given their deep pockets and endless resources? Did they go after people like Mr. Arneson and Mr. Kachikian and even Mr. Turner because it was easier? And if so, can you even imagine what's going to happen in the courtroom when Mr. Saunders and Mr. Lally finally prosecute Mr. Christensen and they face off against a defendant with not only deep pockets, but an arsenal of attorneys ready and able to research any legal issue at a moment's notice? Even with over thirty tapes of Mr. Christensen chatting away with Mr. Pellicano about wiretapping Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, you've still got to wonder how that one is going to play out given what happened today.
Read the whole thing, and while you're at it, read some of Ms. Weiner's prior posts from the courtroom about the trial, which really should be placed in a time capsule for the way they account for the entire above-the-law mentality that exists in Hollywood.
Working Class Heroes: From this morning's local paper of record:
Some analysts question whether Democrats need to make big inroads among blue-collar voters. Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said that Clinton's focus on the working class is a distraction, because Republicans tend to win among such voters.

Democrats John F. Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000 lost with that group by more than 20 points, he said. Even former President Clinton did not win among white men. "Obama doesn't have to win the working class," said Richards, referring to white voters without college educations. "He just has to cut Democrats' losses."
And this, from a 2006 article in the liberal American Prospect:
The key weakness of the progressive coalition can be summarized easily: very weak support among white working class voters (defined here as whites without a four-year college degree). These voters, who are overwhelmingly of moderate to low income and, by definition, of modest credentials, should see their aspirations linked tightly to the political fate of the progressive movement. But they don't.
Leaving aside the truthiness of the above passages, I've noticed that definitions of "working class" or "blue collar" used by the punditocracy in this country have tended to be based not on what a person does (ie., "work") but on what they didn't do (ie., attend college, or earn a degree, for that matter). There are a few high-paying jobs (baseball player, supermodel, etc.) for which a college education is superfluous, while many union jobs either require a college degree (like teaching) or some amount of post-high school continuing education; in neither instance does this new definition of "working class" seem to fit. Are we to surmise that those terms have now become euphemisms of a sort, a way that the media and pols can condescend to the less-educated without actually calling them "stupid"?

April 22, 2008

Clinton Wins PA: By rounding off, an illusion of a ten-point win is created, but the real margin is 9.32%(54.66%-45.34%). The difference right now between a "double-digit", decisive victory for Clinton and a mere single-digit, superficially close moral victory for Obama (after rounding down) is less than 3,800 votes, out of more than 2.3 million votes cast.

UPDATE [4/24/]: With all the votes counted, the actual margin of victory ended up being 9.1%. Had a mere 1,200 votes switched, her margin would have sank below 9%, and after rounding down, the headlines would have been that she won by "8%."

April 21, 2008

I wonder if Hillary Clinton realizes that even if her rival for the nomination was to announce that he had engaged in a threesome on 9/11 with Louis Farrakhan and Bernardine Dohrn, and that henceforth he would refer to the white working class as the "potato-eating lumpenproletariat," she still isn't going to be the nominee. There's a slim chance the SuperDelegates might put the kibosh on Obama's bid for the nomination (after all, we tend to forget that Obama needs an actual majority; if enough Supers vote for George Clooney or Tiger Woods, they can tie the Convention up forever). But even if they screw Barack, Hillary isn't going to be the beneficiary. She's finished.
If we could all be so gracious when we err:
If you want to know if anyone is reading your stories, make sure you insert a mistake about George Washington.

Oh, if only I could claim it was all a ploy by Calendar editors to gauge readership. But when I
wrote in Saturday's story about HBO that George Washington stepped down from the presidency after serving only one term, it was just a stupid, blind error, the sort that leaves you smiting your forehead, literally and repeatedly, the moment it is pointed out to you.

For the six or seven people living in the Los Angeles Basin who did not e-mail to correct me, he served two terms, not one. And my daddy was a history teacher! Ever since the first e-mail hit my box (on Friday afternoon, about two seconds after the story went up on the website), I have been bathed in hot shame. But I want to thank you, well, most of you, for the gentle tone you took -- most clever subject line award goes to: Is a TV Critic Smarter Than a 5th Grader? -- though I certainly deserved all those incredulous exclamation marks as well. And yes, I did go to college. Graduated even.

Also, for the record, we entertainment writers are held just as accountable for flubbed historical references as any other journalist. The correction runs today online and in tomorrow's print edition, and I will try to comfort myself with the knowledge that a good, strong dose of humility is always good for the soul. Especially the soul of a critic.
My criticism Saturday was aimed more at the Times for letting that howler through than it was at poor Ms. McNamara. We all make mistakes, and, unlike President Bush, I certainly do not pretend omniscience about what I do not know. But a good newspaper (unlike a blog) is supposed to have people whose job it is to catch that sort of thing, and having a staff with diverse interests and backgrounds should mean that someone who knows how many terms Washington served is around to catch such mistakes.
Kaus goes the fanshen route, here, and admits that he might also have latent tendencies towards snobbery. From his argument, I don't see how any political advocacy could ever be separated from the tendencies he criticizes: we engage either in "Vulgar Marxism," where people only act in the political sphere based on their perceived self-interest; or "social inequality-based snobbery," where you attempt to convince others that you have a more refined view of what their actual self-interest is than they do.