Your NC Republican legislature

Big day in NC politics– most notably, our incumbent governor, Bev Perdue, deciding not to run for re-election (she’s been considered among the most vulnerable Democratic governors) and re-districted 13th district Democrat Brad Miller, deciding he was not going to challenge 4th district incumbent (my rep, and former Duke PS Poli Sci professor) David Price.  And, the Lieutant Governor’s chief lawyer died today (quite unexpectedly at the age of 37).  A couple of my journalist friends called it their craziest day ever.

Probably a good thing for NC Republican legislator, Larry Pittman.  Laura Leslie was working on a story about his absurd call for medieval use of the death penalty when the Perdue story broke.  Matthew Burns finished it off, so here it is:

A Cabarrus County lawmaker wants to bring back public hangings in North Carolina as a deterrent to crime, and he says doctors who perform abortions should be in the line to the gallows.

Republican Rep. Larry Pittman, who was appointed to the District 82 House seat in October, expressed his views in an email sent Wednesday to every member of the General Assembly…

“We need to make the death penalty a real deterrent again by actually carrying it out. Every appeal that can be made should have to be made at one time, not in a serial manner,” Pittman wrote in the email. “If murderers (and I would include abortionists, rapists, and kidnappers, as well) are actually executed, it will at least have the deterrent effect upon them. For my money, we should go back to public hangings, which would be more of a deterrent to others, as well.”

Um, wow.  It’s one thing for the nutty, uninformed guy yelling at the tv to think so facilely about politics.  Now, that nutty guy is the sort of state legislator Republicans think should be deciding important issues in this state.  Yikes!  As we know, of course, everybody ever put on death row is obviously guilty.  Why waste time on even a single appeal?!  It’s not like anybody on death row has ever been exonerated.

Photo of the day

Great set from Alan Taylor of Australian Open Photos.   This one was actually my favorite (and quite appropriate today, to honor his semifinal victory over Nadal early this morning):

Rafael Nadal of Spain sits under a shade during a break in between games during his men’s singles match agianst Feliciano Lopez of Spain at the Australian Open, on January 22, 2012. (Reuters/Vivek Prakash) 

Should also mention, that for a long time, my post on “soft core tennis porn?” was far and away my most popular.  It’s long since been replaced by my post on Great Tits (the bird– get your mind out of the gutter).

Liberal photo of the day

Damn I love this (via FB):

Crime in America

Fabulous article about crime and prisons in modern America by Adam Gopnik in the latest New Yorker.  If you have any interest at all in criminal justice (and our horribly destructive policies towards drugs) you owe it to yourself to read it.   There’s a great part where Gopnik does a really nice run-down on the latest research for our recent decline in crime:

Crime is not the consequence of a set number of criminals; criminals are the consequence of a set number of opportunities to commit crimes. Close down the open drug market in Washington Square, and it does not automatically migrate to Tompkins Square Park. It just stops, or the dealers go indoors, where dealing goes on but violent crime does not.

And, in a virtuous cycle, the decreased prevalence of crime fuels a decrease in the prevalence of crime. When your friends are no longer doing street robberies, you’re less likely to do them. Zimring said, in a recent interview, “Remember, nobody ever made a living mugging. There’s no minimum wage in violent crime.” In a sense, he argues, it’s recreational, part of a life style: “Crime is a routine behavior; it’s a thing people do when they get used to doing it.” And therein lies its essential fragility. Crime ends as a result of “cyclical forces operating on situational and contingent things rather than from finding deeply motivated essential linkages.” Conservatives don’t like this view because it shows that being tough doesn’t help; liberals don’t like it because apparently being nice doesn’t help, either. Curbing crime does not depend on reversing social pathologies or alleviating social grievances; it depends on erecting small, annoying barriers to entry.

Now go read the whole thing!  (I’ll be checking my click-through stats– don’t let me down).

Supreme Court and GPS

I really do love the fact that all 9 Supreme Court justices said it was unconstitutional to attach a GPS to a car and track it without a warrant.  When even Clarence Thomas thinks the police are going too far, that’s really something.  I got a kick out of seeing an actual PS colleague complain about this on FB (“do they think the war on drugs is over?!”).  Not too many political scientists to the right of Clarence Thomas.  Anyway, the Post has a nice editorial arguing that the majority opinion does not go far enough:

“[S]ociety’s expectation has been that law enforcement agents and others would not — and indeed, in the main, simply could not — secretly monitor and catalogue every single movement of an individual’s car for a very long period,” Justice Alito wrote. “In this case, for four weeks, law enforcement agents tracked every movement that respondent made in the vehicle he was driving.” This breach of the “expectation of privacy,” Justice Alito suggested, exists whether the police attach a GPS device or use the car’s own technology. In either case, police would be wise to obtain a court order before beginning extended use of GPS to track a suspect, he concluded.

Justice Alito’s approach should be the law of the land, but the court will have to wait for another case before that becomes a possibility.

Not often I get to quote an Alito opinion approvingly.

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