Short Takes on Judges Who Talk First, Think Later

By Daily Editorials

February 11, 2019 6 min read

Red-Faced Blackface

Gucci has pulled from shelves its "blackface sweater," which was pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The question is what was it doing there in the first place? Catalogue photos of the clothing show a black turtleneck sweater, with the neck long enough that it can be pulled up to cover the bottom half of the face. There's a hole around the mouth, rimmed in bright red, giving a minstrel or blackface look.

In a Twitter post, Gucci said it "deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper."

The context, of course, is the controversy surrounding Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat whose page in his medical school yearbook sports a picture of someone in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. Northam has offered evolving explanations.

It's one thing for a company to get inadvertently caught up in a rolling controversy with an innocent product that wouldn't otherwise have attracted attention. But pictures of the sweater on a model leave no doubt about what this was. If Gucci is now red-faced, good.

Captain Obvious' Bench Wisdom

Technically, judges should wait until the end of a case, not the beginning, to opine on the subject matter before them. But some pronouncements qualify more as common sense than statements of opinion. Associate Circuit Judge David Roither's statement at a bond hearing for St. Louis police officer Nathaniel Hendren is a case in point.

After Hendren was charged in the Jan. 24 Russian roulette-style killing of fellow officer Katlyn Alix, Hendren appeared before Roither. The judge spoke of his own experience as a hunter and noted the importance of never pointing a muzzle "at anything you don't intend to shoot."

Hendren's lawyers cried foul and requested a new judge, which was going to happen anyway as part of the normal flow of cases through the court system. There's no bias in stating the obvious.

Fortune Favors the Foolish

A would-be St. Louis carjacking victim got a lucky break. Very lucky. As the Post-Dispatch's Kim Bell reported, a man with a gun tapped on the window of a car in the Lafayette Square neighborhood Monday night. The driver stepped out — but refused to relinquish his keys.

The assailant pointed his gun at the driver's feet and pulled the trigger, but the gun failed to fire. A struggle ensued. The gunman got the keys but dropped his cellphone, which the driver picked up.

Then, according to police, the flustered gunman negotiated a deal: the keys for the phone. The driver agreed, and the gunman fled.

But for the remarkable piece of luck that the assailant was both apparently incompetent and armed with a malfunctioning gun, there could easily have been a tragic outcome. No one should argue with a carjacker, ever; no car is worth dying for.

Aggressive Injustice

A Kansas judge gave a reduced sentence to a 67-year-old man convicted of soliciting sex from two sisters, aged 13 and 14. His explanation for the reduced sentence was that the sisters were the "aggressor."

Raymond Soden was arrested and convicted last year for using social media to solicit sex from the minors. But District Judge Michael Gibbens sentenced Soden to fewer than six years in prison — eight years less than Kansas sentencing guidelines called for.

Gibbens questioned whether the girls were actually victims, since they went to Soden's house voluntarily. "I do find that the victims in this case, in particular, were more an aggressor than a participant in the criminal conduct," said Gibbens.

The judge's comments, first reported by The Kansas City Star, have sparked public outrage and calls for his removal. They're right. How is it possible in 2019 that a sitting judge doesn't understand that children cannot legally consent to sex?

Sailing on Sunlight?

A scientist says an object recently spotted streaking past the sun may be an interstellar alien probe riding on a stream of light. This might be easy to dismiss as a crackpot theory, except that the purveyor is Harvard's top astronomer. Some are dismissing it anyway. But the debate is fascinating.

Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard University's astronomy department, has shaken up the field with his theory that a long thin Empire State Building-sized object dubbed Oumuamua — thought by most to be the first detected asteroid to have come into our solar system from outside — is instead an alien structure, perhaps a "sail" that rides on particles from stars. He points to its high speed as evidence it is being "pushed" by the pressure of sunlight.

Wow.

Many of Loeb's colleagues assert his theory, presented in a controversial paper, is an attention-getting ploy. Still, even the doubters admit the object is from beyond our solar system and unlike anything seen before. Which in itself is enough to light up the imagination.

Already Asked and Answered

We don't know what the question is, but "The Answer" is definitely not Jamie Allman. The caustic TV and radio political talk show host was unceremoniously booted off the air last year for disparaging remarks about a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, school shootings. The resulting flood of tears over Allman's loss nearly caused the Mississippi to overflow its banks. Not.

Sadly, he's back, this time on KXFN, an AM and FM radio station that dubs itself "The Answer." Allman lost his jobs on both KFTK-FM and ABC television affiliate KDNL after tweeting a not-so-funny commentary proposing the use of a "hot poker" to sexually abuse Parkland high school shooting survivor David Hogg.

REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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