CBS Unfair to Ray Lewis

After watching cover all week long and for interminable hours on Sunday, I think the media in general, and CBS in particular, were extremely unfair to Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis. While Lewis certainly deserved his share of moral censure, CBS seemed intent on building up his role in last year’s post-Super Bowl murder to a point that the facts don’t support. Specifically several CBS commentators said before the game that two men were tragically murdered after last year’s Super Bowl, but that Lewis has never told the truth about the incident. The first claim is certainly true, but the latter claim is an outright lie.

Lewis, in fact, testified in court in early June about the events that transpired after the Super Bowl. According to Lewis, he went with friends Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting to an Atlanta nightclub. While hanging around outside the nightclub, Oakley was hit in the face with a champagne bottle and as Lewis testified, “all hell broke loose.” Oakley and Sweeting were eventually charged with murdering Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar in the ensuing brawl (Baker, according to testimony at the trial, was responsible for throwing the champagne bottle at Oakley).

Lewis testified that he had seen Oakley and Sweeting each brandishing knives the day before the fight. During the fight Lewis testified that he saw Oakley vigorously kicking one of the victims while a second person held the victim down.

Furthermore, Lewis testified about an extremely incriminating conversation he had with Sweeting after the brawl. Lewis said he asked Sweeting what happened. Sweeting, while making slashing motions with a knife he was holding in his fist, said, “Everytime they hit me, I hit them.”

Was Lewis actively involve in the brawl? Possibly, but certainly not to level of murder. Although the prosecution had promised that it would call witnesses to testify that they had seen Lewis throwing punches, when placed on the stand those witnesses said that in fact they had not directly seen Lewis hitting anyone. The only prosecution witness who testified to seeing Lewis actively hitting and kicking people turned out to be a convicted felon who was in jail for identity theft at the time of Lewis’ trial. The most damning point of the trial for the prosecution was when a witness prosecutors had claimed would testify that Lewis punched one of the dead men in fact testified that he heard Lewis screaming numerous times for everyone involved to stop fighting.

The case against Lewis was so weak, that it’s hard not to believe that the point of prosecutor’s including him in the indictment was to rattle him enough to strike a deal as he eventually did, pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.

On that count, Lewis’ behavior was extremely shameful. Lewis may not have murdered the two defendants, but he instructed several witnesses not to talk to police about what they had seen that night. If that had been the focus of the media scrutiny — Lewis’ abject irresponsibility in the immediate aftermath of the brawl — that would have been fair enough, but in fact many in the media seemed intent on intimating the Lewis himself might have had a direct role in the murders, which was completely contradicted by every bit of evidence at his trial.

Finally, media commentators intimated that it was Ray Lewis’ fault that to date nobody has been jailed for the two brutal murders. In fact the responsibility there rests largely with prosecutors. Even with Lewis’ extremely incriminating testimony, a jury found both Oakley and Sweeting not guilty on all charges. Why?

Because the prosecutors vastly overplayed their hand. Even though the evidence against Oakley and Sweeting was compelling to most observers, the prosecutor had walked in on day one and said this was an open and shut case. Then they had to drop Ray Lewis as a defendant, most of the witnesses recanted or modified their stories substantially, and in a few cases prosecutors misrepresented exactly what some witnesses had told police.

On top of that, prosecutors never managed to locate a witness who would testify they saw Oakley and Sweeting stab the victims. The resulting lack of eye witnesses to the murder itself combined with the prosecutors’s lack of credibility in the eyes of the jury resulted in the likely murders going free. Although it was a very self serving comment, in many ways Lewis wasn’t too far off the mark when he said earlier in the week that prosecutors were so intent on bringing down Lewis as a celebrity that they forgot about the case in front of them.

We Represent the Lullaby League

I don’t think it’s the best movie ever made (probably not even in the top 10), but there’s no movie I’d personally rather watch than The Wizard of Oz. A few weeks ago I bought a copy of the movie on DVD and watched it with my daughter. And watched it and watched it and watched it some more. I think we’ve watched the film at least 30 times this month.

She’s become a complete Oz addict, the depths of which struck me only this morning. While deeply slumbering this morning after staying up too late watching post-Super Bowl coverage, I felt a little hand patting on my back and a soft voice asking to watch “the movie with the dog in it,” which is code for the Wizard of Oz. As long as she gets dressed first, my wife and I let her watch a little TV before going to her pre-school. Usually she gets to watch up until “Over the Rainbow” before it’s time to head out.

Not on this day, however — I glanced at the clock and realized to my horror that it was only a 4:45 a.m. Oy! Right, I’m thinking even Barney is preferable if that’s what it will take for a break from the Wizard of Oz.

Trust the Government to Protect Your Privacy

The other day a news story hit the media that a Drug Enforcement Agency agent had taken confidential DEA records and was peddling them to a private investigation firm. The DEA agent now faces prosecution.

But according to ZDNet’s David Coursey, nobody ever really gets hurt by government misuse of information and so those of us who point and yell at such government manipulation need to look at the real problem — corporations.

agree. The most serious danger to our privacy doesn’t come from law enforcement, the rest of government, or even from hackers. It comes from companies and the potential for them to misuse the data they gather for other reasons — especially of they can assemble the data from multiple sources into complete consumer profiles.

Imagine what someone would know about you if they could combine your credit card, banking, insurance, and utility bills along with all the UPC scan information from your grocery shopping.

Now let me see. When insurance companies misuse information they deny me that life insurance policy that I wanted. When the DEA misuses information they send 20 or 30 armed men in masks to my house with automatic weapons — and more than likely they’ll send their agents to your house instead, because their informer gave them the wrong information.

So Coursey doesn’t know any victims of government misuse of information? Maybe he should learn about people who have been maliciously victimized by Currency Transaction Reports.

A lot of people realize that anytime they withdraw more than $10,000 in cash from a bank account, by law the bank is required to report that transaction to the government. What very few people know is that it is a crime to take out more than $10,000 in cash over a short period of time in multiple withdrawals.

For example, if I go to my bank today and withdraw $6,000 and then go tomorrow and withdraw another $6,000 that will more than likely be reported as a suspicious transaction and unless I can prove that I had no intention of circumventing the Currency Transaction Reporting laws, I will be charged with attempting to evade them.

According to the Department of Justice, from 1987 to 1996 it charged more than 7,300 people with money laundering based on Currency Transaction Reports, but managed to garner only 580 convictions (though since the rule of law has been repealed, the Treasury Department went ahead and seized the assets of not only of most of those charged, but tens of thousands of more people who were never even charged with a crime).

Unlike Coursey, I’ll take my chances with the insurance company if somebody can just find a way to keep the government’s nose out of my business.

Fulfilling Terminally Ill Kids' Hunting Dreams

As of January 1, 2001, the Make-a-Wish Foundation — the group that fulfills terminally ill children’s last wishes — will no longer aid children who want to go on hunting trips as their final wish. Rock star and pro-hunting advocate Ted Nugent and the Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation are filling that gap, however, by fulfilling such dreams.

The Make-a-Wish Foundation is certainly free to set up whatever criteria it sees fit in helping terminally ill children’s last wishes, but at least it could be honest about why it no longer grants hunting wishes. According to the Phoenix-based group, it has nothing against hunting per se, but says that hunting is just too unsafe for terminally ill children to participate in. According to Make-a-Wish spokesman Jim Maggio,

When you take into consideration the fact that the child may have been weakened by the effects of that life-threatening illness, and all the treatment protocols and medications that may accompany that — it’s simply to great a risk to the safety of that child than we’re willing to assume.

This sort of half-hearted explanation actually makes Nugent look like a sage commentator when he notes that in the case of Zachary Martin, 16, who Nugent will be taking along with him for a big game hunt in South Africa, Martin’s parents and doctors have all given their blessing for the hunting trip. “Somebody at the Make-a-Wish foundation knows better than those people?” Nugent told Fox News. “I think not.”

Why not just come out and say that the group started feeling the heat of animal rights protests beginning in 1996 after it helped a young man fulfill his dream of hunting in Alaska’s wilderness? Hiding behind alleged medical reasons seems like an extremely transparent excuse.

The Make-a-Wish Foundation still will sponsor fishing trips, but its anti-hunting stance will certainly embolden animal rights activists to go after the group over helping terminally ill children kill fish. As Nugent told Fox,

Last time I checked your tuna salad is dead. Fishing, hunting and trapping are all the same and it is the proper and scientifically sound utilization of natural resources. Hunting is not only honorable and essential, but it’s probably the last pure function that a living being can be part of. It’s birth, life and death. Mankind knows all about killing. We have to eat. Meat is food.

It won’t be long until the activists start making the same argument to the Make-a-Wish Foundation urging an end to horribly cruel fishing trips.

Source:

Young hunters’ wishes can come true, after all. Robert Shaffer, Fox News, January 22, 2001.

SmallBall: America’s Pastime Meets Virtual Pets

Real.Com has a games division apparently, and has announced beta testing of a baseball strategy game it calls SmallBall. The kicker is the game combines baseball with virtual pet-like technology. According to a brief FAQ about the game,

The concept behind SmallBall games is to combine sports with Artificial Life (A-life) technology. When you sign up for SmallBall Baseball you get your own team, and each of the players are genetically unique. By training and interacting with them, you can improve their performance. You don’t do this by pitching and swinging as in a typical baseball video games – you win by getting to know your little players and caring for them to help them grow… kind of like Virtual Pets, only you can pit your pet ball players against others.

How exactly will this work,

Each player has his own set of genes. Each gene is expressed as a specific skill. Like running speed, Throwing power, Pitching skill, etc. Each player basically starts out the same, with low skills. But each gene in each player has an ‘elasticity’ value. This means the genes can change and change at different rates. Also, the ‘elasticity’ change changes over time. As a result each player is totally unique. And their differences become more extreme as they age and practice. So at first you may have a little rookie, but if you keep him fit and happy over time he may turn into a Babe Ruth!

Sounds like it might be worth a look.

Self-Serving Wired Story

I always have to laugh when I see stories like today’s Wired article, Microsoft: Silence of the Flaks. Hmmm. A news organization running a story berating a company for not being more willing to talk to news organizations. No, that’s not a self-serving story at all.

The irony, of course, is that news organizations such as Wired will scream to high heaven about companies and individuals not being forthcoming, but most newsrooms are extremely tightlipped about their own operations to a point that often borders on paranoia.