The Spectacle Blog

The Times Weeps for Tookie

By on 12.13.05 | 7:22AM

This odd piece is linked on the L.A. Times' main page, just below the main news story about Stanley "Tookie" Williams' execution. Apparently penned by a news staff writer, Steve Lopez, it's marked neither as news nor op-ed. So does it speak for the Times? Perhaps:

His anti-violence books and speeches were too little, too late, and the methodologizing of him was as unconvincing as the Nobel nominations.

But his execution was a macabre spectacle in a nation that preaches godly virtue to the world while resisting a global march away from the Medieval practice of capital punishment.

I would have had no problem leaving Williams locked up with his regrets and haunted by his deeds for the rest of his natural life.

I watched a man die today, killed by the state of California with institutional resolve, and wondered what we gained.

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Speaking of Children’s Books

By on 12.12.05 | 4:20PM

What ever happened to Roald Dahl? A copy of Kenneth C. Davis's book, Don't Know Much About Martin Luther King Jr. found its way to my desk, and it's amusing in the worst of ways. If you don't know, the "Don't Know Much About" series is an introduction to a topic for kids 8-12, in question and answer format. Here's an excerpt:

Who called King "the most notorious liar in the country"?

The director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover did, soon after hearing that King would receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Hoover did not say what King was lying about, but hinted that he had done terrible things.

Hoover had hated King for years. He didn't like blacks and especially didn't like King, who fought for social change. He had gotten permission from Robert Kennedy to wiretap King's phone by saying that King associated with communists and was a national danger. (Many Americans in the 1950s and early 1960s feared communism, which was associated with the Soviet Union and the fight for world power.) It was true that King's friend Stanley Levison had given money to the communist party many years earlier, but King was not a communist.

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Re: The End for Tookie?

By on 12.12.05 | 3:38PM

From the article you linked:

Williams has maintained that he is innocent. His plea for clemency was based on his transformation while in prison for almost a quarter-century. He and his supporters argue that he has changed his life since his gang days, writing children's books and warning youths about the perils of the gangster life.

If he's maintaining his innocence, what is it he claims to have transformed? Was the transformation just something he felt he needed to go through since he was in prison anyway?

The presence of Jamie Foxx and company hardly lend legitimacy to his claims, but it's upsetting to know that in the next few months, during which a screenplay doubtless will be written, Tookie will undergo yet another false transformation into a messianic figure. Yet what makes heroic deaths poignant is the higher principle being preserved. What on earth is Tookie's higher principle?

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The End for Tookie?

By on 12.12.05 | 3:01PM

His chances for appeal appeared to run out today, as the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected his appeal and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would not stay the execution. He's due to be executed at 12:01 a.m. PST. The 9th Circuit en banc or the U.S. Supreme Court could still stop the execution.

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Ugly in New York

By on 12.12.05 | 2:18PM

New York Republican county leaders are strongly urging Jeanine Pirro to drop out of the Senate race. Time's a-wastin' for a serious challenge to Hillary there, since it appears that Pirro's not that candidate.

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China Mix

By on 12.12.05 | 2:06PM

Here's one more reason to read John Tabin's article, which sheds light on how we can remain competitive with China. Remember that it wasn't long ago that the U.S. was particularly reluctant to share its super-computer technology with certain states, such as China, who is now rising rapidly in tech exports. The market has room for China's participation, certainly, but meditate on a combination of their growing technological prowess with military applications, and recent Pentagon reports critical of how they have obscured their defense spending -- this is certainly mixed news, at best.

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Re: Wicked-Pedia

By on 12.12.05 | 1:40PM

Wikipedia is definitely worth using -- as I said, it has plenty of arguments on its side. But it is alarming that there is no governing authority on content. Factual information can disputed, or just tagged as disputable. I'm more than happy to abide by it, but when a friend was compiling an article for Wikipedia, he found too many people offering arbitrary criticism without concern for the information presented. That's not just anecdotal. Type in controversial issues, and see for yourself. (Try "Violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict 2004.")

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Re: Wicked-Pedia

By on 12.12.05 | 1:12PM

I'm of the anarchy-with-results crowd on this. So there was a bad bio. Big deal. It's been corrected. Most information sources get big stories wrong on a much more frequent basis. Ask anyone who deals with reporters: the majority of stories have at least one detail wrong. The Wikipedia model, if not abused for propaganda, allows folks with more knowledge to contribute to the project, usually producing a more complete entry that would require hours of searching by the lone web surfer. And when there is incorrect information, it's usually quickly fixed. Millions of readers means millions of editors. Granted, the risks are high. But the users should take Wikipedia for what it is: a highly accurate committee product. All readers should use it with a sense of caveat emptor -- and double-check sources and claims. To that end, nearly every Wikipedia claim is backed by a footnote.

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