Man Without Qualities

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Associated Press Botches Execution, Morality, Journalism (So What Else Is New?)

Do reporters and editors have to go to some special school, or have some exotic surgery performed on their brains to remove the moral center, to run an article about a "botched" execution without a single mention of the name of the killer's victim or the circumstances of the murder, and without any mention of any attempt on the reporter's part to obtain the views of the victim's family?

Does it matter that the killer is fully named in the article, described by his named relatives in the most sentimental terms possible ("God chose my uncle to change history!") and that his irrelevant ethnicity is specified, while his victim is dismissed as a nameless "manager of a Miami topless bar 27 years ago?" Does it matter that the article is without any mention of the hideous aggravating circumstances of the victim's murder that warranted imposition of the death penalty?

Here is an entire article from the Associated Press - a very sick place:

Family denounces botched Fla. execution

Fri Dec 22, 11:54 PM ET

A Puerto Rican man whose botched execution in Florida renewed opposition to the death penalty in the United States and this island territory was buried Friday in a ceremony attended by about 100 people.

Angel Nieves Diaz, a career criminal condemned for killing a manager of a Miami topless bar 27 years ago, was given a second dose of deadly chemicals as he took more than half an hour to die on Dec. 13.

At the funeral in suburban Rio Piedras, family members said they hoped the notoriety of Diaz's case would boost the international campaign against capital punishment.

"God chose my uncle to change history," said Jackeline Nieves. "Now the death penalty isn't seen as something normal. It's seen as the worst, most inhumane method."

Medical experts said the 55-year-old convict could have experienced severe pain as needles that were supposed to inject drugs into his veins were instead pushed all the way through the blood vessels into surrounding soft tissue.

The case prompted Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to suspend all executions in the state as a commission examines its lethal injection process.

The U.S. Caribbean territory abolished capital punishment in 1929. However, federal prosecutors can seek the death penalty in some cases because Puerto Rico is subject to U.S. federal law.

The Associated Press doesn't think the victim is worth his name, but I'll publish it here: Joseph Nagy. I never heard of Mr. Nagy before, but I have known some Hungarians by that name - and since the AP saw fit to belabor his killer's ethnicity, I'll mention this groat of evidence concerning his victim's possible heritage. The AP tells us that about 100 people attended the killer's funeral (but no mention as to how many attended for larger political purposes). But neither the AP nor the public court records available online provide a clue as to how many people showed up to see Mr. Nagy off this earth - or what his family had to say at the time or now.

Even in the flush of advancing its political agenda in an article like this, the AP has an obligation to remember that the life of a long-dead manager of a Florida topless bar had value, the man who harbored that extinguished life had a name, and the circumstances of his death have meaning. So here - reproduced from an Eleventh Circuit opinion rejecting one of the killer's appeals - are the aggravating circumstances of the murder on which the death penalty was imposed:

The four ... aggravating circumstances were "Diaz was under sentence of imprisonment, had previously been convicted of another capital felony, ... committed the murder during a kidnapping, and committed the murder for pecuniary gain.
It's also worth noting the Florida Supreme Court's direct-appeal opinion had noted that the killer's "prior record in this instance includes an armed robbery, two escapes, the assault and battering of correctional officers, and a conviction for murdering the director of a drug rehabilitation center by stabbing him nineteen times while he slept."

I wouldn't wish unnecessary pain on anyone, even a killer in the course of his execution. But unnecessary pain sometimes happens. And if it has to happen to someone, it couldn't happen to a more appropriate person that someone like the killer described in this AP article.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mr. Rago Dissents

Is it odd that having run an article subtitled "Wow, Time magazine really is out of touch with the Internet age" (reproduced from American Spectator) only yesterday, Opinion Journal today carries an article by the Journal's editorial staffer Joseph Rago proving that Wall Street's own can at least match Time magazine on that particular out-of-touch front?

Mr. Rago's effort will doubtlessly attract lots of Blogosphere commentary, so I will indulge in but a few observations. I leave it to the reader to determine if she agrees that Mr. Rago comes dangerously close to ignoring many of the enormous differences among blogs - starting with the title of his article (which he may or may not have chosen): The Blog Mob. I also ask the reader to consider whether the best blogs have any of the characteristics Mr. Rago purports to identify.

For example, does Mickey Kaus's blog, Kausfiles, ever show serious signs of the mob mentality Mr. Rago conjures? Please. Is it true, as Mr. Rago insists, of even the better reaches of the Blogosphere - again keeping Kausfiles in mind as but one example - that "Every conceivable belief is on the scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion . . ." And if Mr. Rago's criticisms are to be limited to the less well done portions of the Blogosphere (taking that "by and large" escape hatch), they would amount to the nearly tautological observation that the not-well-done is not well done, on the Blogosphere as everywhere. Yes, indeed. And it is also true that a man is liked by his friends, Mr. Rago.

But it is with respect to the Blogosphere's relationship with the mainstream media that Mr. Rago's errors are most interesting - perhaps because he considers no examples at all (other than Henry James and his arthritis). He is certainly correct that the Blogosphere draws heavily on direct reporting of the mainstream media. But the mainstream media - in the past often working in far less than fully competitive environments - have developed many ways of distorting the products of their own reporting. One need look no further than Rathergate to see the valuable role played by the Blogosphere in blocking an election-distorting gambit practiced by CBS News repeatedly for many years. So is Mr. Rago correct that "The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. ... Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps." Perhaps that is a question best asked of now minimally employed "sharks" such as Dan Rather and Mary Mapes.

Mr. Rago apparently considers himself to be a "shark." My guess is that his own belly is bound to be nipped by lots of his "remoras." Somehow I think he's about to find out how insignificant their bites really are.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club? What's That?

This New York Times article by Elizabeth Jensen and Lia Miller purports to recount what the article calls the "short but contentious history of Air America." Many odd characters and twists are recounted in a history where "business and politics always mixed, and that was the problem, critics contend." Tart recriminations are now reportedly flying.

But none of those reported recriminations has anything whatsoever to do with the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club. Indeed, the Times article make no mention of that organization at all. Its name is not mentioned. Not even an allusion to this worthy organization made.

All of which is more than passing strange, because Air America has an extensive history and economic relationship with the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club, as the New York Post summarized:
Six officials of the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club stole $1.2 million from the group, money meant for needy kids and seniors, a city probe has found. Investigations Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn calls it "disgusting" - the worst case of wrongdoing by a non-profit contractor she's seen since taking office.
Thank goodness the thieves will be going to jail for a very long time - and paying back every cent, and then some.
Well, actually, that's not quite true.
In fact, nobody is going to jail.
Not even for a single day.
And the crooks get to keep most of the cash they stole. Four weren't even charged, and after a few brief years, the two who were charged can return to nonprofit work - to loot again, perhaps.
For that wrist tap, thank Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whose office prosecuted the case.
Something is wrong with this picture.
Hearn was right to label the shenanigans "disgusting." Her report said fraud "was an accepted way of doing business" for these execs. "Rather than reflecting actual events," the group's records "were made to say whatever suited the executives' purposes." Want details?
* Under their direction, the group improperly gave $875,000 to left-wing Air America radio (which features comedian Al Franken) while a Gloria Wise exec maintained a financial stake in it.
There's plenty more. For example, the New York City Department of Investigation has commented:

DOI asked Air America to repay the $875,000 to an escrow account controlled by DOI. Thereafter, Air America repaid only $50,000 to an escrow account that is not controlled by DOI. DOI is pleased that Piquant LLC, the current owner of Air America, has agreed to DOI's request that, in lieu of making $50,000 quarterly payments, Piquant transfer the full $875,000 to the escrow account.
And lots more.

But all of that escapes Elizabeth Jensen and Lia Miller. And apparently nobody at Air America cares enough to hurl any recriminations on this topic. But, then, if the ever-opportunistic, pseudo-crusading Mr. Sptizer doesn't care, why should the Times?

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