Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Getting away with rape

From the Houston Chronicle, a news report from the Los Angeles Daily News, Oct. 25, 2008, 8:29PM, written by Rachel Uranga:
Backlog of 7,000 untested rape kits swamps LAPD
Many cases are at risk because of a 10-year statute of limitations

...There is a backlog of more than 7,000 rape cases, and City Controller Laura Chick blasted the department in an audit for leaving thousands of victims without justice. More than 200 cases are in danger of reaching the statute of limitations for testing.

Takes longer than on TV
But ask any of the more than two dozen criminalists who work in the lab what the holdup is, and you'll get variations on the same answer: It's a lot harder to analyze DNA than it looks on TV.

"The public's perception of it is based on what they see in television or on the news," Blanton said last week. "That is not going to give you a full understanding of the complexity of it, of the legal requirements you have to follow, of the guidelines and protocols."
So it's the public's fault. M'yeah. Sure. Throw us another red herring. Who decides what funds go where?
Even though the number of reported rapes in Los Angeles has steadily declined over the past few years, the number of rape kits that have yet to be tested has grown from roughly 3,300 five years ago to more than 7,000 today.

After 10 years, if a kit is not tested, it's no longer admissible in court. But if it's tested within two years, there's no statute of limitations for when the evidence can be submitted.

The main problem is that the LAPD never staffed the lab to deal with so many cases. But there are other factors.

In about 2000, the department ordered analysts to keep every shred of cell evidence in rape cases, just in case they might need to test it. Before the change, rape kits were regularly purged from the property division, with the permission of an investigating officer.

And as DNA science became more exact, the criminalist's job grew not only harder but longer.

Winding route to DNA
LAPD Chief William Bratton has said there simply isn't enough money, and though the city has approved the addition of 16 criminalists, there is still no funding. As it is now, the division can't keep up with the current DNA case demand, 80 percent of which are rapes. [Italics mine.]
First, it's inexcusable. Heckuva job, LA! Second, is there a backlog due to a lesser priority in funding investigations into sexual violence against women? WTF is the mayor and the police chief going to do about the backlog? Ignore it?
Meanwhile, rapists go loose to rape again.

The LA Daily News blog added this detail:
At a City Hall news conference with women's-rights advocates, [City Controller Laura Chick] said the LAPD should find the money within its more-than-$2 billion budget to hire more criminalists and aim to clear the backlog within three years.

"Today, there are 7,000 women out there without a voice," Chick said. "There are 7,000 victims without justice."
Imagine if women who don't report their rapes, raised their hands. LA can't be the only major metro facing a rape-kit processing backlog. A few seconds googling proves they are not. Via WashPost in July:
The backlog of untested evidence gained national attention in 2001 when Debbie Smith, a rape victim, testified before Congress. The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program was started in 2004 with the goal of processing the nearly 400,000 untested rape kits nationwide. But the program has been expanded to allow states to test backlogged DNA evidence from any crime. Even as the proportion of rape victims who report their assaults is increasing, the processing of rape evidence is still backlogged -- and the arrest rate of rapists is decreasing....

...States had long claimed that money was the obstacle to processing more rape kits. Over the past four years, Congress has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for states to conduct DNA testing on evidence from rape crime scenes. Last year, 46 states, the District and Puerto Rico received grants totaling more than $43 million. But the backlog stems from more than a lack of money. The dynamics that contributed to the backlog, chiefly a failure to treat rape as seriously as other violent crimes, have been re-created in the way states spend the grants. [Emphasis added.]
More stats and disheartening news at the WashPost link, a story written by Sarah Tofte and buried on page A21. Not only is rape of lesser concern, but authorities have redirected tax dollars -- our tax dollars -- originally allocated to address rape-kit backlogs.

Don't overlook this factoid: of DNA evidence collected by LAPD, 80% involved rape!
My heart goes out to the women who have a high-probability of justice denied and those who may yet sadly experience rape because law enforcement let perps get away, our government reneges the pledge, "justice for all."

The institutions of law enforcement, the judicial system, Congress, and state governments provide four examples of the many ways that men get away with rape.
POSTSCRIPT: I have a breather from the death in my family to check in with favorite bloggers. If you haven't been following Anglachel's recent commentary focused on misogyny and all its forms, e.g, sexual violence, hate speech, the lack of attention to solving the problem, how racism deserves attention but misogyny is "excusable," plus more, and men's denial and ho-hum response, go read here and here and here for starters.

I'm a very time-starved individual (and insomniac) at the moment beyond the family emergency and can't add much depth. A few posts from my archive demonstrate that the war on women is real and personal to me (that's another tale). What I can do with relative ease and on a regular basis is cut and paste, point out newsworthy stories and white papers. It takes a few seconds to google.
All you awake men who love women are excused that's if you're helping us to solve misogyny in its variant manifestations. Options can range from activism to being a role model within your sphere of influence. Joseph at Cannonfire calls out lickspittle hate of the Blog Boyz as do our allies of the mighty Corrente building.

The spectrum of participation is broad, so c'mon! Join in, fellas! We females need your help and you can impact your male peers and family members in ways we can't to nip the toxic bud before it blooms. As I write this invitation, I'm skeptical that but a very few men will heed the call, that I'm naive to how most men won't acknowledge their privileged status or relinquish share it. Maybe wasting pixels.

Prove me wrong.

UPDATE: CLD of SoapBoxBlog kindly informed me that Jeff Fecke, whom I had mentioned, no longer blogs at Shakesville. Obviously, I need to get out more often. Revised text accordingly, added links, in a hurried rush to deal with family stuff.

Comments captured below:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Death in the family

Just as life happens, so does death. I'll be away for some time dealing with this unexpected family emergency that has preoccupied my time and will for the rest of the week.

Comments captured below:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Culture of inanity

Previously in the Dumbing down of our political discourse, I had observed Ezra Klein's swan dive into the "Politico sewer," its headline gurgling, RNC shells out $150K for Palin fashion. Ezra got in a twit over the money spent on Sarah Palin's new wardrobe as if this item deserved Serious Outrage. My reaction can be summed up with an impersonation of one of the other Blog Boyz... So stupid!

Yesterday, Bob Somerby dissected the same Politico article, but unlike Ezra who joined the Village carnival, the astute Daily Howler laureate "darkly chuckled" at author Jeanne Cummings' disingenuous attempt to use voters to hide her whipped-up insipid froth stewed over "primping and dressing on the campaign trail." Truth is: hasn’t been the voters who have focused on the kinds of trivia seized upon in Cummings’ piece. It wasn’t the voters who focused on Gore’s “clothing hues,” or on Edwards’ vile haircuts. It was the mainstream press corps—people like Cummings, who is lying here, right in your faces. It has been the mainstream press which has pushed this inanity. And in doing so, they have served power.

Please remember the basic rule, the rule we’ve discussed for so many years: It’s never the press corps which pushes these topics, if you let the press corps tell it. Inevitably, the press corps attributes its conduct to others—to “late-night comedians,” to “political rivals,” or, in this case, to the voters themselves. But people like Cummings are never truthful about where the inanity comes from. The inanity comes from people like Cummings. They pimp it, then lie about that fact, thus hiding their reasons for acting.

Whose interest does inanity serve? Let’s review the past dozen years. When it comes to candidates’ clothing, which party have these idiots flayed? Duh! Gore was savaged for his clothes—and Edwards for his haircuts. (John McCain’s shoes? Nice try!) And of course, Cummings is lying by omission when she so sweetly types this:

CUMMINGS: In 2000, Democrat Al Gore took heat for changing his clothing hues.

Actually, that took place in 1999, when Cummings’ cohort—helped by Cummings herself—was staging its twenty-month War Against Gore, the war which sent George Bush to the White House. About this war, Cummings lies by omission. She remembers the months-long attack on “clothing hues” (November 1999 was the cruelest month.) But she has somehow forgotten the other attacks on Gore’s deeply vile, troubling clothing...

Somerby ticked off some of the fashionista attacks against Gore: his three-button suits (or four-button suits, darhleeng, Arianna quibbled with a sniff and "not the way most American males dress."), his polo shirts allegedly worn to attract female voters, and hemmed up trousers to show off his shining bright cowboy boots.

Honest to goodness! This was newsworthy because why? Well, of course, it wasn't then like the kerfuffle now over Palin's wardrobe, a convenient segue to rehash the sins of major Dems. In Bob's incomparable truth-telling style, he lets us know whassup with the nonsense (with emphasis):

Cummings forgets to tell the whole truth, citing what you’re allowed to know. And of course, she forgets to mention the flip side of her cohort’s inanity: The way Bill Bradley’s old neckties and shabby shoes proved that he was authentic, unlike Gore. (Bradley said he hadn’t bought shoes in 25 years—and they pretended that they believed him!)

She forgets the war her own cohort waged. And of course, by Hard Pundit Law, she pretends it was done by “the voters!”

Let’s be frank. Inane complaints about clothing and grooming have killed your interests in the past dozen years—and now, they engage their inanity once again. At the Times, the inane Patrick Healy is on the front page; inside, Eric Wilson has a companion piece! (At the Post, they had the decency to restrict Givhan’s musings to page one of “Style.”) But make no mistake: Inanity exists to serve power. If progressives let inanity continue as part of press culture, it will be used to defeat them again.

Today, power has fled from Saint McCain; it’s time for a Dem to clean up the messes, as Clinton was allowed to do, long ago. (The attacks began as soon as he started.) That’s right! Things are so bad in DC today that power has fled the GOP! But don’t worry! Power will turn back against your tribe—and they will defeat you once again, through the uses of their inanity.

If we were smart, we’d try to stamp out this culture—the press corps’ culture of inanity. In the future, this culture will be used against you, as it has been used in the past. But your leaders on cable are being paid millions. To tell you the truth, they aren’t very smart—and they enjoy having fun.

We know, we know—you’re enjoying this too! That’s what the other side counts on.

And the Blog Boyz whiff the carrot dangling at the top of the media ladder and climb as quick as they can toward the "culture of inanity," visions of dollar signs gleam in their eyes. For others, the game is to convince you to pull ol' Uncle Buzzy's finger.

POSTSCRIPT: The title of my post was taken from Bob Somerby. But you know that, doncha?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Alegre said

For true:

[Hillary is] working her backside off to get BHO and down ticket Democrats elected and dammit - people need to understand just how hard she's working.
A few things that leapt out at me as I watched the video Alegre had posted of Hillary stumping for Obama (linked below). She is an amazingly accomplished stateswoman, an extraordinary human being committed to advancing equality for all of us. During one segment in the video filmed in Omaha, NE, Hillary Clinton spoke to the advocacy group, Girls Inc. She said:
As a nation, we do not yet fully and equally value women's work.
Later she remarked during an interview, "You know, I didn't set out to run as a woman for president but that's the only way I could run." What did she mean?
Well, I was really saying that, you know, I didn't consider myself the woman candidate although obviously I was. I mean, that's who I am.
But as I got into the campaign and realized that's how people were seeing me, for better or for worse in some situations, that there was this historical burden that I was carrying that I had not anticipated.
It became apparent that there's a lot of unfinished business in our country when it comes to gender.
And that's a fact.

I found this scene from the video especially poignant and touching. Who knows? Maybe a few of these young women aspire to being a U.S. senator, a governor, or the POTUS.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dumbing down

Good grief. Channeling a snark-booted inner fashionista, Ezra Klein linked to a Politico story about the high price tag of Sarah Palin's new wardrobe and expressed outrage over "$150,000 of other people's money" donated to the RNC that was spent on her clothes and make-up.

And this is important political discourse because of why?

Doesn't this tit-for-tat open the door to a gotcha rehash on the set designed by Britney Spears' concert team for Obama's "temple" at Invesco Field? Or the full-scale replica of Air Force One's fuselage that arrived at the stadium before Barack's appearance? And who, pray tell, paid for all that stagecraft? I've lost count of the voluminous direct mail and emails, emails, emails! soliciting donations for the DNC, Obama, Robert Wexler, Chris Dodd, Barbara Boxer's PAC, and on and on. So I'm unmoved by Ezra's ire except to get a bit peeved at what my contributions to Democrats may have funded.

What's next from the whirl of crap? Wasted energy sizing up Michelle Obama's wardrobe? Or Barack's? Or Cindy and John McCain's?

Last year, Glenn Greenwald (thank goodness, still sane) wrote about the Politico sewer into which Ezra jumped:

The Politico today is prominently touting on its front page another vapid, petty, and inane "news story" -- the type of story which has, in just a few short months, become its hallmark:
Romney spent $300 on makeup 'consulting'
Fast forward to (with emphasis):
One of the reasons why vapid petty-personality "journalism" of this sort has so disadvantaged liberals and so advantaged right-wing fanatics is because the latter are not only willing, but droolingly eager, to exploit these sorts of themes, while liberals in general are highly reluctant, almost embarrassed, to do so....
Not anymore.

When the right-wing attack machine joined by wacky doodle pundits mocked John Edwards $400 haircuts, didn't we (well, "some" of us) liberals realize the derision was a ridiculous diversion from important discussions about Edwards' policies married with the old GOP smear strategy: paint liberals as elitists and feminize Democratic men?

So now bloggers fight gasbags with gasbags? Lovely. I don't recognize the liberal wing of the blogosphere anymore.
Does a post-partisan landscape mean you can't tell liberals from conservatives? Because the piffle-whacked sludge one has to wade through to get to meaningful analysis has blurred the lines.

A few of my biggest disappointments this campaign season include:
  • the dumbing down of political discourse on liberal blogs
  • the destructive sexist, misogynistic attacks on Hillary Clinton and her supporters (and recently Sarah Palin)
  • the Democratic caucus system that disenfranchises most voters
  • the pledged delegate sham
  • plus the Malignant Absurdity™ howled to the four corners that the Clintons and Hillary voters are racists.
Biggest losers of 2008: liberal bloggers. Well, not all of them, but a heckuva lot particularly the Blog Boyz.

See super-duper smart Anglachel for more details and our most reliable witness, Bob Somerby, who recommended that Josh Marshall "pack his satchel and go."

I second Somerby's motion. All those in favor say, aye!
UPDATE: More on "dopey" Politico from Eric Boehlert at County Fair.

POSTSCRIPT: M'yeah, I haven't blogged much. Busy, busy. But I'll try to do better. Begging your patience.

Comments captured below: