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Good To Occasionally See That One's Articles Really Are Relevant:

The L.A. Times ran my op-ed about how little a Nobel Peace Prize nomination means -- the piece was based on a blog post of mine that the Times people read and asked me to adapt -- and what should I see in the piece immediately above it on the page?

[Tookie Williams] has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize multiple times.

Bill R:
The op-ed was also timely because in the same issue there was a full page ad on page A15 asking people to contact Governor Schwarzenegger and urge him to grant clemency to Stanley Williams.

The "lead" on this ad (some in inch high letters) was "CLEMENCY FOR NOBEL PEACE PRIZE NOMINEE STANLEY TOOKIE WILLIAMS". The body of the ad "above the fold" points out, as if it is relevant, that Williams "has been nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize and four times for the Nobel Prize for Literature".

Finally below the fold, there is actually an argument (IMHO, unpersuasive) of WHY Williams should be granted clemency.

Hopefully at least a few people who read the ad also read Professor Volokh's op-ed piece.
12.5.2005 1:01pm
JohnAnnArbor:
The guy who wrote the pro-Tookie piece should be forced to look at the coroner photos of Tookie's victims with the victims' relatives, and explain to them why Tookie's really a great guy.

Here's the LA prosecutor's account of why he shouldn't get clemency. Note the redacted photos. Someone with better computer skills than me might be able to reveal them, and make a little handout for the pro-Tookie forces.
12.5.2005 1:13pm
Brett A. Thomas (mail) (www):
A thought that ocurred to me on the ethics of a Professor nominating someone who clearly was underserving in an attempt to show how little a Nobel Peace Prize Nomination actually means. In an article linked to recently, you noted that Nobel Nominations are "kept secret for 50 years." Presumably, then, we know that Tookie Williams was nominated because the nominator issued a press release of some sort. Would it be more ethical for a professor to issue a press release claiming she nominated someone terrible, but not actually do so? This avoids the issue of poisoning the real Nobel Peace Prize nomination committee, while criticizing the media. The Professor could come clean basically as soon as any media coverage dies down.

This, of course, leaves aside the question of damage to professional reputation and whether it would be wise to do. But it would seem to attack the system that has flaws (the media reporting every nomination as if it were important) and not the system that doesn't (an open Nobel nomination system).
12.5.2005 1:53pm
Cornellian (mail):
I find this interesting quite apart from the specific issue involved. What I mean by that is that we have a mainstream newspaper spotting something on a blog, finding it newsworthy, and having the blogger put something in the paper about it. In a way we have a blogger acting as an independent reporter and his blog is a sort of buffet from which the paper may choose items it thinks will be of interest to its readers. What are the implications for how a newspaper reports the news and how it employs traditional reporters to discover the news? Could it fire most of its reporters, recommend they all become bloggers, and say "we'll get back to you on an article by article basis if we see anything we like?"

I remember watching some Sunday political talking head show some years ago and some guy was always described as an "independent journalist", unlike the other people on the show who were always introduced by their name and then by the name of the news organization that employed them. I always wondered exactly what "independent journalist" meant.
12.5.2005 1:56pm
Wintermute (www):
Congratulations and good work, EV.
12.5.2005 1:56pm
Abdul (mail):
Maybe Gov. Schwarzenegger will commute the death sentence to life in the same apartment with the folks who nominated Tookie. I hope they have a weight bench.
12.5.2005 2:03pm
tefta (mail):
And thereby proving your point. Good work.
12.5.2005 2:48pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I think it's good that they ran your piece right next to someone making that argument. One of the things that infuriates me about reading Op-Eds is that there is a lot of deliberate distortions and even lies in many pieces, and yet you very rarely see any sort of correction or rebuttal. (For instance, I have seen many a pro-Iraq war column or opinion piece that recites, as a fact, that 9/11 hijacker Muhammed Atta met with an Iraq intelligence official in Prague before the attacks, without any attempt by the newspaper to indicate that the government concluded that this meeting probably never happened.)

At most, newspapers run another piece next to it that makes the counter-argument but does not directly respond, or someone points out the distortions and inaccuracies in a letter to the editor several days later.

Here, you had a piece spinning the Tookie Williams case, and then they ran your piece directly below it, debunking the spin. This is much better than the norm in Op-Ed pages.
12.5.2005 3:11pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Does anyone have a source or facts on how many Tookie books have been sold? I saw one source but I can't confirm it, that his top title had sold 300 copies. Not exactly Nobel material if true.
12.5.2005 3:41pm
keith_hilzendeger:
NPR's picked up on this too.
12.5.2005 8:48pm
Visitor Again:
Whether the merits of what one has to say, I find it very sad that Eugene should want to make a contribution to the effort to see that Stanley Williams is executed and, what's more, revel in it. That may not have been Eugene's intent, but it is the effect and he knew it was the effect. Be sure to include it in your C.V., Eugene.
12.6.2005 9:10am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Visitor:

I am opposed to the death penalty, and therefore don't want to see Tookie Williams executed. Nonetheless, I think your comment is way off. The "nominated for a Nobel Prize" argument is a bad argument. Bad arguments do not suddenly become good arguments just because they are deployed in a cause you agree with.

The fact is, the political system is filled with way too many bad arguments-- easily debunked distortions, ridiculous spin, etc. And people who don't bother to check things out then go around repeating the distortions and persuading themselves of things that aren't true. In the long run, this harms democracy quite a bit. Thus, there is good reason to oppose the deployment of bad arguments, even on behalf of good causes.

In this case, I oppose the execution because I don't support the death penalty. I could imagine others opposing the execution because, even though they support the death penalty in theory, they feel that Mr. Williams has redeemed himself or that letting him live will have some positive impact on the gang problem. (There are also, to be sure, arguments for killing him as well.) But sparing his life because he is a "Nobel Prize nominee" is ridiculous.
12.6.2005 4:30pm
Yi Ling:
Overview of the statistics of recent years of number of nominees for the six nobel prizes versus the number of nominators submitting their 6,000 nominations.

Gleaned from Brittanica linked below.

There are about 1140- 1490 nominees for the six prizes ranging about 150-300 nominees per prize as detailed below with about 6,000 nominators submitting these 1140- 1490 nominees as many nominators would have nominated the same nominee. This explains the discrepancy in number between number of nominators submitting the nominations of the nominees and the actual number of nominees.

It does not mean 1000 nominations for each category, given 6 categories and 6000 nominations received. Economics has 250 nominations with only 100+ nominees. Some categories could have more than 1000 nominators submitting then. Brittanica suggests that 1000 nominations for each category but the nobel prize organization reporting of 250 nominations with 100+ nominees appears to depart from the rule of thumb of 1000 nominations per category. It could be 1000 invitations are sent out for economics but 250 reply with a submission of a nominee and with over lapping, there are thus 100+ nominees from the 250 nominators.

The ratio of nominees to nominators is about 1,300: 6,000 or 1: 4 . It would be presumptuous to conclude that 4 nominators nominate the same nominee. Popular and serious nominees could have more nominations and the converse could be true.

From the nobel prize organization covering the six nobel prizes are the figures for the received number of nominees [ note , not the received number of nominations or number of nominations. These are about 6000 nominations from 6000 nominators for 1140- 1490 nominees]


(1) Physics: 250-350 nominees per recent year

The nominations reach the Academy of Sciences between September and February. Many candidates receive more than one nomination and therefore the number of candidates is fewer than the nominations submitted. In recent years, about 250-350 persons have been nominated annually. http://nobelprize.org/ physics/nomination/ index.html

(2) Chemistry : 250-350 nominees per recent year

The nominations reach the Academy of Sciences between September and February. Many candidates receive more than one nomination and therefore the number of candidates is fewer than the nominations submitted. In recent years, about 250-350 persons have been nominated annually. http://nobelprize.org /chemistry/nomination/ index.html

(3) Medicine or physiology : 200-300 nominees per recent year

The nominations reach the Nobel Assembly between September and February. Many suggest the same person, and therefore the total number of recommended candidates is usually about 200 to 300. http://nobelprize.org/ medicine/nomination /index.html

(4) Literature: 200 nominees per recent year

The nominations reach the Academy between September and February. The same names are usually listed as candidates. Around 200 names have been submitted yearly for consideration. http://nobelprize.org /literature/nomination/ index.html

(5) Peace: 140 nominees per recent year

The nominations reach the Nobel Committee between September and February. In recent years, the Committee has received well over 140 nominations. Like the other prizes, the number of candidates is usually fewer than the number of nominations submitted since the same names are usually proposed. http://nobelprize.org/ peace/nomination/ index.html

(6) Economics: 100+ nominees per recent year

The nominations reach the Economics Prize Selection Committee of the Academy between September and February. About 250 nominations are submitted covering a little more than a hundred nominees. http://nobelprize.org /economics/nomination /index.html

This is one [my] reading of the posted information on nobel prize organization and brittanica on number of nominators and number of nominees for each of the six category of nobel prize to reconcile the reported 6000 nominations in brittanica

Part of the Nobel Prizes's prestige stems from the serious research that goes into the selection of the prizewinners. The Nobel Prizes are awarded each year in the months of October and November. The selection of the prizewinners starts in the early autumn of the preceding year, when the prize-awarding institutions invite more than 6,000 people throughout the world to propose, or nominate, candidates for the prizes; about 1,000 people submit their nominations for each prize. Among those invited to nominate candidates are previous Nobel laureates; members of the prize-awarding institutions themselves; scholars active in the fields of physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine; and officials and members of diverse universities and learned academies. The recipients of the invitations are asked to supply a written proposal giving the reasons for their choice. Self-nomination automatically disqualifies the person. (For a graphic depiction of the selection process, see Figure.)

http://www.britannica. com/nobel/nobelprizes .html
12.6.2005 11:20pm
Yi Ling:
I briefly read Paterrico's link to http:// da.co.la. ca.us / swilliams. pdf the LA prosecutor's letter denying plea for clemency for Tookie Williams. The part that struck me most, was, Tookie did not want to debrief. He did not want to inform the government of the workings of the gang group. In ordinary parlance, he did not want to snitch on his former pals.

If he was prepared to debrief, denying death by state execution and enabling him to debrief the government of the gang, might have been a good reason to give clemency to enable him to really do good work on the debriefing.

While I sympathise with the loss of lifes, for which he was charged and convicted and probably more lifes affected adversely by the gang he co-founded; whether he recanted or not becomes a non issue if he agreed to debrief and showed concrete signs of providing invaluable debrief.

How does one ensure it would be a good debrief? It has to be before clemency is granted. As after, and if he does not give good invaluable debrief, it would be not possible to reverse the clemency. It cannot be a conditional clemency conditional on invaluable inputs of a good and reliable debrief.

As he has not agreed to debrief, the issue of clemency is easily settled for NO clemency. Had he agreed to debrief and had he provided really invaluable debriefing, clemency could have been practically and pragmatically considered for invaluable input which could not have been otherwise obtained easily except from a real insider.

On the other hand, had he debriefed and really provided invaluable information, that is, he is seen by his previous gang and others to have snitched; his life could be at stake, at risk, of gang members, whether outside his prison wall or inside his prison wall. Debriefing could or would cost him his life, as it could be a price exacted for snitching. It could also cost his family's members life or close friends' life. He would have risked a lot to debrief and had he provided real debrief, a clemency plea should in those circumstances be granted, well knowing that with his snitching, his days could already be numbered. Yet he did it for the greater good of society. Before the allowing of clemency, a fair report would have been made of the debriefing information by the best and most appropriate authorities and whether it is really invaluable input, and whether it really makes our society safer and protects vulnerable youths from street and gang life. If the report affirms the true and real value of the debriefing which really helps all those areas, then, a plea for clemency could be supported. If the report says the debriefing was nominal and did not provided any new invaluable helpful information that the authorities do not already know or could not have in the course of the routine investigation obtained it by themselves, then a plea for clemency should not be considered.

All other issues, like "against death penalty", authoring or co-authoring children's book against gang life, etc are side shows, thrilling but of no substance to this plea for clemency. Proponents of "against death penalty" require a different Trojan Horse. While I take the practice rule of not killing insects, animals, fish, I agree with [human] death penalty as set out by state or federal laws to protect society.
12.7.2005 1:02am