"The way Sarah Koenig tells it, Serial is a story about our system of justice working pretty much as it should, and failing miserably at providing anything that looks like justice. I think in the last episode, she's going to point out that Adnan Syed was convicted in a few hours — beyond a reasonable doubt — for the murder of Hae-Min Lee. I think she's going to say that if the concept of 'beyond a reasonable doubt' meant anything, this podcast wouldn't exist, there wouldn't be a subreddit devoted to analyzing every shred of available evidence, and Adnan Syed wouldn't be in jail right now."
"Among other appalling details, the report states that at least seven of the tortured detainees provided no intelligence at all. Many of those tortured unsurprisingly provided faulty intelligence, and none provided any intelligence that could not have been obtained through other methods. It prevented no terrorist attacks, and didn't contribute to finding any terrorists. Even when judged on its supporters' own terms, the program was a total failure. Dozens of people were tortured over a period of several years for nothing. In addition to being evil and illegal, it was all completely useless."
"This fundamental bias marks the central thread that runs through the coverage of everything from Bill Cosby to Ferguson to the US drone strike program. Stripping away each of those storylines’ unique details reveals the same flawed core: a media that grants the benefit of the doubt to the establishment and that saves its cynicism for the voiceless. In a way, this bias acts as a kind broad enabler of all prejudice, allowing whatever latent inequalities exist in the status quo to go unchallenged, if not outright defended. Thus, institutionalized sexism, racism and militarism enjoy a sympathetic ear in the press precisely because they are institutionalized."
"The Dark Power of Fraternities": the hold that fraternities hold over colleges, the history of how they got it, and the crimes that are being covered up.
"I've just spent nearly a week back home in exurban Atlanta, and I regret to report that the events in and in reaction to Ferguson have brought back (at least in some of the older white folks I talked with) nasty and openly racist attitudes I haven't heard expressed in so unguarded a manner since the 1970s. The polling we've all seen about divergent perceptions of Ferguson doesn't even begin to reflect the intensity of the hostility I heard towards 'the blacks' (an inhibition against free use of the n-word, at least in semi-public, seems to be the only post-civil-rights taboo left), who have the outrageous temerity to protest an obvious act of self-defense by a police officer."
"After six months of declining oil prices, we suddenly got plunging oil prices. Why? Not so much because of the shale oil revolution in the US. For all the attention it gets, fracking has increased global oil production by only a few percent and would normally have only a moderate effect on prices. Unfortunately, these aren't normal times: in addition to a small increase in the oil supply, the global economic slowdown has depressed demand. That's a bigger factor than fracking, and with European and Asian economies looking increasingly fragile, not one that seems likely to be corrected anytime soon."
"The goal of criminal law is to be fair — to treat similarly situated people similarly — as well as to reach just results. McCulloch gave Wilson's case special treatment. He turned it over to the grand jury, a rarity itself, and then used the investigation as a document dump, an approach that is virtually without precedent in the law of Missouri or anywhere else. Buried underneath every scrap of evidence McCulloch could find, the grand jury threw up its hands and said that a crime could not be proved. This is the opposite of the customary ham-sandwich approach, in which the jurors are explicitly steered to the prosecutor's preferred conclusion. Some might suggest that all cases should be treated the way McCulloch handled Wilson before the grand jury, with a full-fledged mini-trial of all the incriminating and exculpatory evidence presented at this preliminary stage. Of course, the cost of such an approach, in both time and money, would be prohibitive, and there is no guarantee that the ultimate resolutions of most cases would be any more just. In any event, reserving this kind of special treatment for white police officers charged with killing black suspects cannot be an appropriate resolution."
"These big-picture reforms are fundamentally political solutions that will require long-term effort, coalition politics that spans race, ethnicity and political affiliation — a challenge, but also a necessity. As police and prosecutors assume more and more power in the United States — regulating immigration (formerly a matter of administrative law), meting out school discipline, and other spheres of everyday life where criminal law was almost unknown even a generation ago — getting law enforcement on a tight leash is a national imperative. In the meantime, the constant stream of news reports of unarmed, mostly black and Latino civilians killed by police demands bigger, bolder approaches. They are the only available paths to getting the police under control."
Zen Pencils takes on "Ozymandis."