Archive for February, 2013

Criminal Justice: Plea Bargaining

February 28, 2013

The Economist January 26th 2013

Criminal Justice and the Courts

Thumb on the scale

How mandatory minimum sentences distort plea bargaining:

“…Plea bargains…have long been part of the American legal system.  In theory they work to the benefit of all parties.  The defendant admits his guilt and gets a lighter sentence;  the prosecutor notches up a win; and the curt is spared the time and cost of holding a trial.    The reality is far murkier.”

One of the problems for this kind of bargaining is the legacy of the “drug war”: mandatory minimum sentences.  “From 1990 to 2010 the number of federal defendants whose conviction carries at least one mandatory minimum sentence has more than tripled, from 6,685 to 19,896.  Intended to ensure fairness and reduce variation in sentencing between jurisdictions, mandatory minimums have instead, in effect, transferred discretion from judges to prosecutors…

“Prosecutors will always wield a great deal of power in the American criminal system; but before a defendant agrees to plead guilty, he ought to know whether the state holds four aces or a busted flush.”

Four aces is the highest hand in poker.  A flush is five cards of the same suit, but not necessarily in sequence. If in sequence the player has a straight flush.  A busted flush is one in which the player expects to get a flush, but isn’t dealt the right card.  

From Wikipedia:

  1. (UK, poker) A potential flush which ultimately was not filled.
    I thought I’d draw another spade, but I ended up with a busted flush.
  2. (UK, idiomatic) Anything which ends up worthless despite great potential [quotations ▼]

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Critics of Offshore Tax Havens Have “The Wind in Their Sails”

February 23, 2013

The Economist, February 16, 2013

Special Report: Offshore Finance

According to this article, offshore tax havens have considerable support as the: “Havens serve clean as well as dirty money.”  However, their critics, for the moment “have the wind in their sails.” 

We have  been watching Oracle’s 72 foot masted catamaran sailboat practicing for the America’s Cup to be held in San Francisco Bay in August and September.  It practically flies with the wind in its huge sails, hoping to win the cup again for the U.S.

Appointee to a Washington Agency is “Rowing in the Right Direction”

February 23, 2013

DealBook, The New York Times Business, Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Revolving Door in Washington With Spin, but Less Visibility, by Jesse Eisinger

This article is about changes in staffing of the S.E.C. (Security and Exchanges Commission) and the O.C.C. (Office of the Controller of the Currency), thus “the revolving door.” 

The person replacing Julie Williams, former counsel for the O.C.C., is Amy Friend.   A U. S. Senate staff member, who worked on efforts to push for stronger financial regulation, said Ms. Friend “is absolutely rowing in the right direction.”   

The author of the article “spoke with people who said she was a smart and dedicated public servant, and expert on the Dodd-Frank Act who can help complete the scandalously long list of unfinished rules and expedite its adoption.” 

The sport of rowing in shells has been going on for decades.  Just yesterday I saw a high school “eights” practice on a course near San Francisco Bay.  They were steaming.  The Redwood High School teams have been winning titles for years.  We have seen persons in single and double scull shells on the Bay.

The G.O.P. Scored a Touchdown In The Third Quarter, But Lost the Game

February 22, 2013

The New York Times Magazine, February 17, 2013

THE LATE ADOPTERS: Can Young, Tech-Savvy Republicans Overthrow Their Party’s Disconnected Old Guard?

by Richard Draper

…”Back in August 2011, (Bert) Jacobson wrote an op-ed (opinion editorial) in Forbes alerting Republicans to Obama’s lead in the digital front.  His warnings were disregarded…”

“Equally galling to younger Republicans was the op-ed Stuart Stevens wrote in The Washington Post on Nov.28.  In it, Romney’s top strategist struck an unrepentant tone, proudly noting that the candidate ‘carried the majority of middle-class voters’ and that therefore ‘must be doing something right.’  From her office near the Capitol, Kristen Soltis Anderson, a 28 year-old G.O.P. pollster, tried not to come unglued. ‘But you didn’t win the election,’ she told me she thought at the time.  ‘I’m really glad you scored that touchdown in the third quarter, I am–but you lost the game!”

Confirmation Goal Posts: Moved Off the Field

February 17, 2013

The New York Times OP-ED Saturday, February 16, 2013

Senators Overboard! by Gail Collins

“We seem to be short one secretary of defense.”  Leon Panetta has had his farewell ceremony, but will stay on until a new secretary of defense is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  Chuck Hagel has been nominated buy not yet confirmed by the Senate.  

“Both (Senators) McCain and Graham have changed their tune repeatedly over what the critical, central problem is about making Chuck Hagel the secretary of defense.  The goal posts have not just been moved; they have been put on a tractor-trailer and driven down every highway exit in the continental United States.”

Carpe Diem Nation or Nation of Futurity?

February 12, 2013

The New York Times OP-ED Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Carpe Diem Nation, by David Brooks

Are we “seizing the day”  now and not looking to the future as we did?  David Brooks thinks so in his interesting column:  

“Europeans who settled in America gave their lives a slingshot shape.  They pulled back so they could shoot forward.  They volunteered to live in harsh conditions today so their descendants could live well in for centuries.  The pioneers who traveled West did the same thing  So has each generation of immigrants–sacrificing the present for the sake of the future.  

This slingshot manner of life led to one of those true national cliche’s:  that America is the nation of futurity, that Americans organize their lives around romantic visions of what is to be…

This future-oriented mentality had practical effects.  For decades, governments invested heavily in long-rage projects like railroads and canals.  Today, Americans have inverted this way of thinking.  instead of sacrificing the present for the sake of the future, Americans now sacrifice the future of he sake of the present.”

The use of “slingshot” in this way is very interesting. Using slingshots in battle, hunting and games goes back a long way.  The basic slingshot has a “Y” shape with the piece across the “Y” a rubber or some kind of elastic matter in which the projectile or ammunition is held.   One pulls back and then releases to let the piece fly.

Who is Kicking the Can Down the Road?

February 10, 2013

New York Times OP-ED Friday, February 8, 2013

Kick That Can, by Paul Krugman

“John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, claims to be exasperated.  ‘ At some point, Washington has to deal with its spending problem’, he said Wednesday. ‘I’ve watched them kick the can down the road for 22 years since I’ve been here.  I’ve had enough.  It’s time to act.” 

Mr. Krugman believes that it would be “irresponsible and destructive not to kick the can down the road” …that fiscal austerity should wait until the economy has recovered, and the Fed can once again cushion the impact.”   

Kicking the can, for me, was a child’s game we played in San Francisco on a flat street with drains, our goals for the cans. “This was a team sport with the greatest degree of chaos–a combination of soccer and general mayhem.  A team would attempt to cross the other’s goal, body contact was not unknown and tripping was endemic.”  The Argonaut: Journal of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society,” Ken Sproul

It seems that Mr. Boehner has used the term a couple of times, as reported in newspapers.  Who is going to kick what can into what Democratic or Republican goal?  Who will be on the offense?  Who on the defense?