23 January 2009

People were not watching the Reagan inauguration on the internet

Nielsen puts Reagan Above Obama

Conservatives, sour over the fact that Barack Hussien Obama is now our 44th president, trumpet this Nielsen ratings report of Reagan's superior inauguration event viewer numbers back in 1981.

Completely oblivious to the media state circa 2009, where enlightened internet folk possess other means to whet our spectatorial desire to take in an epic event.

And traffic was so great, it simply overwhelmed network capacity to grant a decent viewing experience. Inauguration day numbers shattered traffic and usage records.

Of course, many internet denizens opted to experience the event vicariously through those in attendance, who chronicled their inauguration accounts via Tumblr or Twitter.

7 January 2009

Ramos and Compean Should NOT be Pardoned

Local radio conservative talk jocks are banging the POTUS pardon drums for the two Border Control agents convicted of shooting an unarmed fleeing illegal immigrant.

But here is a convincing argument on why they should not and addresses a legitimate gripe their supporters do possess.

Once Aldrete-Davila was down from Ramos’s shot to the backside, they decided, for a second time, not to grab him so he could face justice for his crimes. As they well knew, an arrest at that point — after 15 shots at a fleeing, unarmed man who had tried to surrender — would have shone a spotlight on their performance. So instead, they exacerbated the already shameful display.

Instead of arresting the wounded smuggler, they put their guns away and left him behind. But not before trying to conceal the improper discharge of their firearms. Compean picked up and hid his shell-casings rather than leaving the scene intact for investigators. Both agents filed false reports, failing to record the firing of their weapons though they were well aware of regulations requiring that they do so. Because the “heroes” put covering their tracks ahead of doing their duty, Aldrete-Davila was eventually able to limp off to a waiting car and escape into Mexico.

Whaaaat? But I thought this “drug smuggling illegal immigrant” was a threat to national security? If the agents’ actions were justified, why would they not arrest the suspect and why would they feel the need to cover-up their actions? Were they afraid that the “overzealous” Sutton had an axe to grind against the Border Patrol?

Ramos and Compean’s supporters do have at least a couple of somewhat legitimate gripes though. One being the length of the sentences (11 and 12 years) and the other being use of testimony on the part of a criminal who has something to gain (in this case, Aldrete-Davila himself). But these complaints should not be directed at Sutton or the trial judge.

The blame for the length of the sentence belongs properly to the mandatory minimum sentencing law passed by congress which requires a ten year sentence for unlawful discharge of a firearm while committing a crime (this ten year sentence is in addition to whatever other crimes the defendant is convicted of). While I believe that the sentences are appropriate in this case, I am opposed to mandatory minimum sentencing laws on principle. Judges should have the discretion to decide the appropriate punishment not a one-size-fits-all penalty regardless of any unique circumstances in a unique event.

And allowing Aldrete-Dalvia to testify against Ramos and Compean with full immunity? This is standard operating procedure. Prosecutors use informants who have a motive to testify against defendants every day in this country. Why should we be surprised that Sutton would use Aldrete-Dalvia as his star witness? If this approach is appropriate for the average defendant then it is certainly appropriate when those sworn to serve and protect abuse the public’s trust.

But don’t expect Conservatives to start demanding a repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing laws nor expect them to consider criminal justice reform. To them this case is not about two rogue law enforcement agents but about immigration and drug policy. The facts do not matter because the guys with the badges are always the good guys and their judgment is better than due process of law.

But see, to the conservative mindset, if you're carrying a badge, that gives one the right to be judge, jury and executioner. Those stinking criminals are just all scumbags anyway, and no harm is done if uniformed officers are a bit overzealous in firing their weapons.