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by Peter Moskos

April 2, 2012

The Gray Lady Shines

Nobody said it was perfect, but New York Times is a damn good newspaper. (I hear the conservatives' wincing response already. But, dear reader, how can you complain about the Times if you don't read the Times? Stop believing whatever AM blowhards say.)

First the Times has a nice intereactive map about the scene of the Trayvon killing.

Second, there's a great fair and balanced account of Martin and Zimmerman and what happened. No hype. Just the facts and clearly labeled speculation. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the best and least biased and most informative account of the characters and scene to date.

[The only troubling error I see is in Zimmerman's favor. Zimmerman did not say he would meet the cops by the mail boxes. He tells the cops to call him when they arrive, since Zimmerman was not expected to be by his car. And he wasn't]

And tangentially related, Bill Keller writes a nice proper op-ed attacking the concept of the "hate crime." I agree; I don't like the criminalization of thought one bit:
The fact that [the hate crimes law] is constitutional and commonplace does not quiet the nagging sense that hate crime legislation resembles something from an Orwell dystopia.... The government is authorized to punish you for thinking those vile things, if you think them in the course of committing a crime.
It’s not a great reach to say that Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison for being a jerk.
This is the kind of demagoguery that could prejudice a prosecution, or mobilize a mob. Is it not creepy, by the way, that Spike Lee was tweeting the suspected home address of George Zimmerman? As if to say, “Go get him!” (Lee sent apologies and a check to the elderly couple who were scared from their home because, oops, the tweet gave the wrong address. But apparently it’s O.K. to terrorize Zimmerman.)
In most cases, hate crime laws take offenses that would carry more modest sentences — assault, vandalism — and ratchet up the penalty two or three times because we know, or think we know, what evil disposition lurked in the offender’s mind. Then we pat ourselves on the back. As if none of us, pure and righteous citizens, ever entertained a racist thought or laughed at a homophobic slur.

Bias laws are widely accepted. They are understandable. They are probably here to stay. But they seem to me a costly form of sanctimony.


Anonymous said...
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PCM said...

I don't know if 10 calls a year makes you well know to dispatchers.

And "likely well known" wouldn't cut journalistic mustard. Why do you say that? Do you have any proof? You can't go assuming such things. And the operator is not supposed to judge the credibility of a call. That is the job of police. The operator is paid (not very much) to answer phones and relay info to the appropriate dispatcher.

And Sanford ain't that small.

I only mentioned the unbiased part because what those who bitch about the "lamestream media" don't understand is that the Times and NPR and many of the other so-called liberal outlets may not be perfect, but they *strive* to be unbiased. Often (not always) they succeed. I'd like to see anything Fox (or some conservative website) has ever done that resembles this Times coverage terms of quality or unbiased objectivity.

It's damn good journalism. It's also the best single article to date on the shooting. I just want to give credit where credit is due.

Anonymous said...
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PCM said...

Aren't you not supposed to be posting here? Why do you always go where you're not wanted? It's an unbecoming quality. I don't waste your time calling your home. Please stop appearing in my blog.

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Jim Jordan said...

Peter: Your reputation precedes you and I have a great deal of respect for your policing practice. I disagree with you and Mr.Keller about bias laws.

In Boston in the 1970's white individuals committed brazen crimes of hate against blacks. A small network of courageous cops, court clerks, clergy and prosecutors applied the state's 1980 felony civil rights law a rigor and prudence. They tamed a reign of terror with that law. All laws express the ethical choices of the societies that make them. State bias laws address acts of hatred not thoughts. I am reassured that I live in an American society that expresses in civil rights law its rejection of hate behavior.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully Zimmerman will ask to be admitted to the jail for his own safety. He can be protected there, and it is where he belongs, at least for the time being until his trial on the merits of his selfdefense claim.

Not defending Lee. Guy is a putz and he made a couple move. I know what it is like to be forced to move because you fear for your safety. It is a major drag.

But feel bad for Zimmerman? No way! He needs to be expected to answer everyone and anyone who asks him to state his business. Even if it is just a friendly knock and talk to make sure he doesn't have unresolved issues that he wants off his (most likely) guilt-ridden chest.

Remember police are allowed knock and talks PRECISELY BECAUSE regcits can do them. Not versa vice.

If anybody in this land of ours needs a good, sincere knock and talk from some anti-racists it is Zimmerman. Why would anyone not want that to happen to him 10 times a day until his trial?

Anonymous said...

Who's the crazy anonymous guy leaving the rants?

-Other Anonymous Poster (TM)

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

I'm closer to PCM than to Jim Jordan on hate crime laws. But I do want to point out that hate crime laws are unnecessary, even if you buy into the rationale for these laws.

Few hate crime laws don't have a predicate act that wouldn't be criminalized anyway. (Anti-cross-burning laws might be an exception.) Judges have sentencing discretion. Some crimes are mostly offenses against the victim; other crimes are also offenses against society. The latter crimes deservedly get the book thrown at them.

Hate crime proponents are arguing that a separate book should be thrown. I can't see the need for this, except to inflame the jury. Let the judge handle it in sentencing.

PCM said...

Crime is crime. I don't think we need hate crimes and I think it's a dangerous precedent to criminalize thought and specific types of internal motives.

I do think hate crimes are more reprehensible than non-hate crimes. If it's a hate crime, I don't mind pushing for the max punishment, for instance. But I still don't like hate crime laws.

I remember when I was a kid (or maybe a teenager), Sun-Times Columnist Mike Royko was pulled over by a cop for being drunk. He probably was. He called the cops a fag, or something like that. I guess now he could be charged with a hate crime. Royko took some heat for both the offense and for calling somebody a fag. (And also because it happened in Winnetka or nearby, where he lived... and not in some blue collar neighborhood, the kind of place he implied he lived in.)

Later, when sober, he didn't back down and his rational was. "Calling him a fag wasn't anti-gay... I called him a fag, because he was a macho cop and I was trying to insult him! I wasn't anti-gay. I was anti-cop!" Or at least that's how I remember it. I always liked Royko's response.

I suppose today a cop could charge him with a being disorderly and tack on a hate crime, to boot.

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

I think the biggest problem with hate crime laws is that the word "crime". Because it's misleading---hate crime laws don't make things crimes that weren't crimes before, they simply mean harsher sentences for crimes committed with a bias motive. And that's perfectly uncontroversial; it's a well-recognized legal principle that your motive for committing a crime can be factored into sentencing.

The court recognizes that someone who killed because, for example, they were enraged about how the victim had treated their son is less dangerous to society than someone who kills because it gives him sexual pleasure. Similarly, the court can recognize that someone who commits assault because they hate a person's sexual orientation is a greater threat to the social fabric than someone who commits assault because they want the cash in people's wallets.

IrishPirate said...


I remembered the ethnic slur Royko tossed out so it made it easy to find.

Batman said...

Seems like I missed out all the excitements. Let me guess, some insecure red necks from Florida was bitching like a kitten? Justice is on your side, Trayvon and his family, don't be afraid even the sky is falling in Florida. We will prevail ;)

PCM said...

Pirate, thanks for the link. My memory turned out to be pretty on the mark... but I couldn't find the part about him defending his comment for the purposes of insulting a cop. I thought that That was the vaguely clever part.

Batman, you couldn't be more wrong. Kind of the opposite. Somebody who thinks all cops are liars and won't stop bothering me and my blog until I admit Zimmerman is the devil himself and all police are in cahoots.

He's far too prolific and verbose for my tastes and I do not like engaging with him or having him dominate the comments on my blog. I've made that very clear. He takes the fun out of it for me, which is a big deal since I do not get paid for this. So I will continue to delete his comments (which are usually very easy to identify). Who knows, he might be a very nice person in real life; I just don't want to come to my blog.