Friday, September 2, 2016

Pay Attention to the Monkey

When Shrub was elected was appointed anointed became President, lots of people said he was stupid. Not so, I argued.  Dumb as post in some ways, perhaps, but you don't accomplish what he did (and yeah, I know, but still) without some smarts.  Thing is, he was by many admired for a kind of thoughtlessness.   

Introspection?  Serious investigation to learn stuff?  Actual and careful consideration of opposing views?  Nah.

Is that a good thing in a President?  Shrub claimed to be The Decider.  Replaced by Kenyan Muslim America-hating former constitutional-law professor (whatever you think of how he understands the document or adheres to its strictures).

Enter the Trumpster who simply disdains the truth claiming whatever and refusing to back down when he is demonstrably wrong on the facts.  (No comment on Hillary, this is a set up, not a political diatribe, and yes, I know all politicians dissemble lie.)

Anyhow, back in 2009, the National Academy of Sciences issued a major report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.  The short of it is that pretty much all of forensics, the whole CSI thing, was hocus pocus.  

  • Fingerprints?  Nah.  
  • Ballistics?  Nope.  
  • Bite mark comparisons?  You gotta be kidding.  

And so on.
Cops and prosecutors and judges and juries (and god help us far too many criminal defense lawyers) had been buying into this bullshit for years, decades.  And it had all the scientific validity of phlogiston.

It's not that every so-called match was wrong, of course.  Hell a stopped clock is right twice a day (once in military time).  But which two times?  Aye, there's the rub (which is from Hamlet, which given enough time and enough monkeys and typewriters would get written out).  But you know, random chance isn't - or at least shouldn't - be proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

So now we know it's junk and worthless and nobody relies on it anymore cops and prosecutors and judges and juries (and god help us far too many criminal defense lawyers) still buy into this bullshit. Because, well, what's the point of actually knowing shit?  

I mean, scientists with their little experiments and fancy laboratories and they think they know better than the rest of us.  Nobody cares about that.  Or believes in it.  Hell, we had a snowstorm in January, so you know global warming is bullshit.
Much of the forensic analysis used in criminal trials isn’t scientifically valid, according to a draft report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
That's the opening of an article in the Wall Street Journal (which, unfortunately, is hidden behind a paywall).  

And the report ?
"It has become increasingly clear in recent years that lack of rigor in the assessment of the scientific validity of forensic evidence is not just a hypothetical problem but a real and significant weakness in the judicial system,” said the draft review by the advisory council of scientists and engineers.
Which means?
“What they’ve done is turn the accepted reliability of expert witnesses and their evidence on their heads,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. “As a result there will be people who are not going to go to jail who should be incarcerated and some who are currently incarcerated will be released. The effect will be a threat to the public safety of American citizens.”
Because of course, all that worthless stuff is really really accurate.  On those random and unidentifiable occasions.  Don't believe Pasco?  How about "Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, which does law enforcement-related research"?
“Just because there is a lack of science does not mean the analysis is inaccurate or done wrong or is not worthwhile,” he said.
Sure.  I mean, nobody actually knows if it's meaningful.  But it snowed one day in January.

And the cops and prosecutors and judges and juries (and god help us far too many criminal defense lawyers) . . . .

Aye, there's the rub. 


  1. Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six - until you realize that the 12 people judging you are too dumb to get out of jury duty.

    This particular missive has given me a major WTF?! moment, along with the tedious task of reading and trying to comprehend a publication written without people like me in mind. I suppose I could ignore the entire business, but I'm feeling a bit civic minded about it.

  2. non-paywall...