Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dropping The Hammer

Tom (The Hammer) DeLay won't forget Thanksgiving 2010. This guy, when he was the Dumbo Majority Leader in Congress, lit up a cigar in a DC restaurant. The waiter told The Hammer that federal regulations prohibited smoking in DC restaurants. The Hammer indignantly protested: "The hell I can't smoke! I am the federal government." On the day before the turkey was served, The Hammer heard a Travis County jury return a two-count guilty verdict for violating Texas law barring corporate political donations to candidates for public office. DeLay and his cronies (still awaiting trial themselves) engaged in "money laundering" to conceal the illegal corporate donations. Before he became the federal government, The Hammer operated a pest control business. It takes a rat to know a rat. If this is (fair & balanced) rejoicing, so be it.

[x Austin Fishwrap]
"Last Tango In Austin"
By Ben Sargent

Click on image to enlarge it.

[Ben Sargent drew editorial cartoons regularly for the Austin American-Statesman (1974-2009). Sargent now contributes a cartoon to the Sunday editorial page. His cartoons are also distributed nationally by Universal Press Syndicate. Sargent was born in Amarillo, Texas, into a newspaper family. He learned the printing trade from age twelve and started working for the local daily as a proof runner at fourteen. He attended Amarillo College and received a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1970. Sargent won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1982. He has also received awards from Women in Communications, Inc., Common Cause of Texas, and Cox Newspapers. He is the author of Texas Statehouse Blues (1980) and Big Brother Blues (1984).]

Copyright © 2010 Ben Sargent/Austin American-Statesman

[x Austin Fishwrap]
It's The Fair Trial That Really Grates On Tom DeLay
By Arnold Garcia Jr.

Tag Cloud of the following article

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In September of 2005, people who follow politics around here were wondering whether Tom DeLay, then the majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, could get a fair trial in Travis County.

Yes, he can, I replied when asked. On the day GOP powerhouse DeLay was indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy, I was at a downtown gathering when Ronnie Earle — then the district attorney — walked into the room. People broke into spontaneous applause.

"What now, genius?" I asked myself.

Predictably, DeLay's legal team presented a motion for a change of venue and backed it up with an impressive array of witnesses last August. Pat Priest, the visiting judge assigned to hear the case, denied their request to move the trial elsewhere.

Almost as soon as the guilty verdict been returned last Wednesday, DeLay's supporters jumped back to the question of whether Travis County jurors could be fair to their guy.

Republican partisans love to render Travis County residents and voters in caricature: liberal, bleeding-heart lefties, out of step with the rest of the state. And a segment of Travis County dwellers not only treasures but also cultivates that image.

Caricatures exaggerate reality, however.

Math is often touted as being "fair" — although anyone who ever struggled through algebra would dispute that — so let's take a numerical look at the fair trial question.

In the November 2 general election, GOP incumbent Gov. Rick Perry notched 38 percent of the Travis County vote to Democrat Bill White's 58 percent. Fairly lopsided, granted, but if you apply those percentages to the 12 members of the jury, the mathematical distribution should have been roughly four Republican jurors to eight Democrats.

Remember, one juror can keep the rest of the panel from reaching a verdict. Given that, any bookie worth the name would have laughed at anybody trying to bet a hung jury. Who in his right mind would bet against one given those odds?

If you really believe that the county's GOP/Demo split would insinuate itself into jury deliberations, then you have to believe that there would be at least four hard-core skeptics participating. Toss in another one or two who would question authority just on general principles, and the odds start to shift toward the defendant.

The trouble with trying to apply math to human behavior, however, is that people don't always react like you think they should. Jurors in Travis County or anywhere else don't fit into nice, neat stereotypical or numeric packages.

If the DeLay jurors fit the wild-eyed liberal stereotype being peddled now, they wouldn't have taken three days to reach a verdict. They might have hung around for the free lunch before returning a verdict of guilty.

That would have been the miscarriage of justice that DeLay was complaining about Wednesday.

These jurors took their time, and it's an insult to suggest they went into the case with their minds made up. From what we know now, DeLay got as fair a trial as anybody else gets in Travis County.

DeLay is a fellow who demanded deference, and before the fall, he got a lot of it. Maybe that's what the former majority leader is really complaining about: that he got treated just like anybody else. Ω

[Arnold Garcia, Jr., is the Editorial Page Editor of the Austin American-Statesman. A native of San Angelo, Garcia began his newspaper career as a general assignments reporter for the San Angelo Standard-Times. After two years in military service, he resumed his career at the Standard-Times where he remained until coming to the American-Statesman as a courthouse reporter in March of 1974. While at the Statesman, Garcia has been assigned to a variety of reporting and editing duties. He has covered state agencies, the prison system and the Austin school district as a reporter. He was appointed an assistant city editor in 1977 and has also been assignments editor and metro editor (responsible for the design and content of the local section). Immediately before becoming editorial page editor in 1991, he wrote a column on local politics. Garcia holds a bachelor¹s degree in history and government from Angelo State University and did graduate work in government at the University of Texas. In 2002, he served as a Pulitzer Prize juror in 2002 and chaired a Pulitzer Prize jury in 2003.]

Copyright © 2010 Austin American-Statesman

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Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

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