Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ouch. Backlash.

It's always nice to wake up on a crisp, cool Sunday morning to a little criticism. I got an e-mail from "Anonymous" stating the following:

"This isn't much of a blog. You delete comments you don't agree with or deem inflammatory. What use is it having a blog on Harris County CJ if you don't discuss this subject. I mean, has there ever been a worst media interview or denial than that given by Trent a few weeks ago? Really now, Trent has a very lame excuse for the use of the word canadian. Very sad, really, and a black eye to all fair Texas prosecutors."

I cleared up a couple of issues in Anonymous' statement during the comments portion of the article he posted to, but I would like to make sure that if you are reading and posting, then I'm going to post your comment. The only case that I've come up with where I wouldn't do it is if it is naming folks that you think are the author of this blog. As I stated in my last post, I don't want anybody getting an open-records request put on them just because they are wrongly associated with being me.

That being said, I'm not responsible for the Internet. I tried to be responsible for it when it was in it's early teens, but it's just too damn rebellious.

Sometimes comments disappear in cyber-space. I've had it happen to me on a website when I tried to post to Mark Bennett's website. They just disappeared. That's why it's always good to save your comments before sending. If you are having problems, please let me know.

Now, that being said, my Anonymous poster would like to discuss the Mike Trent response to the Canadian e-mail scandal, so let's discuss it.

For those of us who have dealt with Mike at the courthouse, well, he's can be a bit different. One of the things he certainly isn't, however, is stupid. He wrote a very lengthy explanation to the e-mail on Mark's website under the title of "A Prosecutor's Reply", which (if I did this hyper-link thingy correctly) you can read here. It obviously is more in depth than anything seen on TV, and I think it's worth discussing.


Murray Newman said...

Thanks, Mark. I tried to link it, but clearly screwed it up.

Anonymous said...

I find Mark Trent's explanation entirely reasonable and believable. If I understand it correctly, Trent was using the term "Canadians" to mean "soft-on-crime liberals reluctant to convict."

In all my years, I have *never* heard the term "Canadian" used as a stand-in for the ever dreaded "N-word." Until Lisa Falkenberg's column in the Houston Chronicle on 24 January 2008, I was unaware that "Canadian" even had such a connotation. Why would it? Canada is a mostly white country known for hockey, beer and universal health care. Using “Canadian” as a euphemism “nigger” just doesn’t make sense.

Likewise it makes no sense that Trent would knowingly use a racist codeword in an email sent out to 250 lawyers.

This is just another non-event trumped up by the PC cultural police, the same kind of people who consider the use of the word “niggardly” to be a slur.

Mark Bennett said...


"PC cultural police"? What is this, 1990? (In college, when political correctness seemed like a threat, it always amused me that the proudly-PC would complain that slurs "denigrated" (from the latin: to blacken) others, as though being blackened was a bad thing.)

What Mike (not Mark) Trent did was simply to pass the buck to the guy who described the jurors as "Canadians". We haven't heard from that guy, who I think has the good sense (lacking in some other prosecutors) to keep his mouth shut and let it blow over.

Anonymous said...


Trent did not just "pass the buck" to some other guy. His explanation is that he didn't know that some people use the words "Canadian" as a substitute for "N-word." Neither did I until I read Lisa Falkenberg's column this morning. Apparently this connotation is well known to viewers of "South Park."

I could be wrong, but imputing racist sentiments to Trent for the email just doesn't make sense to me.

Rosenthal's passing along in email an off-color joke to a friend that compares Bill Clinton to a black man....yeah, I can believe that, especially since that ground was already broken by Toni Morrison. (I was going to say that Morrison had "already done the spadework" but thought better of it.)

Sending out an email to 250 lawyers in which an ADA knowingly drops in a racial slur? At this point I just don't buy it, especially after Imus and Dawg the Bounty Hunter were so recently sacrificed on the altar correctness. Use the wrong word - even in a private conversation with your son - and you can lose your job.

And yes, I do mean PC cultural police. An honest discussion of race in public in the United States is impossible without inviting a PC inquisition from the Lisa Falkenbergs of the world. Just ask James Watson, or Jensen, or Shockley.



Mark Bennett said...


Having read (and published) Mike's statement on the matter, I credit his explanation. But I'm a defense lawyer, so I'm a sucker for tales of innocence.

Mike didn't say that the word "Canadian" wasn't used with racist intent. He just said that he was passing on the word that someone else had given him, without knowing its meaning. I think it's fair to call that "passing the buck".

Personally, I don't think it matters -- or should matter -- to the public's perception of the Office whether Mike meant "niggers" or someone else meant "niggers" and Mike thought that someone else meant "liberals".


Anonymous said...

What an unusual situation these days...prosecutors like Trent and Wisner posting statements of how innocent they are. And they may indeed be innocent of what they are accused of, but unfortunately, in the current light of day, these denials speak louder than words.

Me think thou doth protest too much.

And Marky, you ain't no Pat McCann either. Do yourself and the criminal defense bar a favor: Hang out with Pat McCann as much as you can between now and when you take office. Hope that some major osmosis occurs.

Mark Bennett said...

Thanks for pointing out my shortcomings. It's a brave man that offers his criticism anonymously. As it turns out, you're not telling me anything I don't already know -- I'm working on that.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to me that Trent's friend in the hallway felt it necessary to speak in code in the first place. He couldn't just come out and say "well, Trent, I'm concerned that we might not get a guilty verdict even though the case is a slam-dunk because there are some blacks on the jury, the defendant is black, and as you know some blacks are reluctant to convict one of their own when feelings of racial solidarity outweigh sober analysis of the evidence."

He felt he couldn't say that, those he uses "Canadians" as a code word for "blacks."

Honest discussion of race in America is taboo.

Murray Newman said...

Couple of things here.

#1 - I agree that honest discussion of race in America is taboo, because I think that the average white male is uncomfortable saying anything for fear of saying the wrong thing. God knows that there have been some things that I have said on this blog in the short time that I've been running that has drawn outrage, when I certainly didn't mean to cause a stir. In discussion of about race, a person can often find themselves in hot water not just for what they say, but for what they don't say, as well.

#2 - Mark Bennett has been drawing some bashing on this website that I don't think is deserved. He is posting his opinion, just like I'm posting mine and you all are posting yours. Unlike me, Mark has the balls to attach his name (and picture) with what he says. There are some things that he says that I disagree with all my heart and soul, but he has a right to say them and he signs his name when he does. He's certainly not a dumb ass and his points are well thought out and well reasoned.

No matter how wrong they are.

Its fine to tell him that he's wrong, but I think that personally attacking him and name-calling are more appropriate on the Chronicle blogs than on here.

Episode Seven: The Voters Awaken - A One Act -Sci-Fi Play

SCENE:  The Death Star orbits over Downtown Houston. [INTERIOR] The Imperial Council Chambers. EMPRESS OGG sits at the head of a long table ...