In a homespun start to the movie American Violet, Dee Roberts (the exceptional Nicole Beharie), a young mother of four, lovingly waters her potted violets. Before the roots have drunk their share, a police task force has swooped into Dee's housing project in Melody, TX, and conducted a military-style raid. Dee's daughter, caught in the eye of the storm, holds her grandmother's heirloom pottery in the parking lot. There are gunmen on all sides. She is saved; the dish breaks. This overwrought metaphor of family ruin is realized when Dee is then arrested at the diner where she works, charged with distributing narcotics in a school zone.

Once in jail, Dee is assigned to a court-appointed lawyer who, the film suggests, is really there to represent the local DA's interests in furthering prosecutions. Claiming that the police have incriminating audio tapes, the lawyer urges Dee to accept a plea bargain that would spring her from jail. But Dee will have none of it. Innocent, she'd rather wait it out in jail than accept a guilty plea that would label her a felon and deny her future government assistance. Who will win, Dee or the slimy DA? Is the answer a surprise?

Back in 2005, when he was counselor to the secretary of state, Philip Zelikow wrote a memo suggesting that the legal basis for torturing terror suspects was pretty shaky.  It didn't go over well: "The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo," he wrote a few days ago over at FP's Shadow Government blog.

Fine.  But who tried to send Zelikow's memo down the memory hole?  Can you guess?

Zelikow tells Mother Jones that he doesn't know for sure who in the White House ordered the suppression of his memo, but he says that his "supposition at the time" was that the office of Vice President Dick Cheney was behind the cover-up. In an email exchange with Mother Jones, Zelikow notes that Cheney's office did not have the authority to request that his memo be deep-sixed: "They didn't run the interagency process. Such a request would more likely have come from the White House Counsel's office or from NSC staff." But that request did not reach him in written form. "It was conveyed to me, and I ignored it," Zelikow recalls. But he suspected that Team Cheney was probably behind it.

Democrats in Congress want to try to find a copy of Zelikow's memo, and they also want to try to find any record of who ordered the memo destroyed.  Stay tuned.

I've recently had to spend a great deal of time on the Web site of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The ONDCP is, frankly, fascinating. It's a source of an incredible amount of information. Of course, it is not always the information you're actually looking for, but it is thrilling all the same.

It contains, for instance, the office's official list of drug street names. Below, let's see what the least drug friendly institution on the planet has decided to let concerned citizens know about the "word on the street." What's today's lingo?

The Daily Beast is reporting on Barry Levinson's new documentary about the good and bad of celebrity political involvement, something most of us have probably been long of two minds about.

While I automatically dismiss the right wingers like Tom Selleck, Bo Derek and Pat Sajak, even the lefties often give me the heebie jeebies. I still get nauseous when I remember Susan Dey on some talk show in the 80s stage-weeping while talking about "looking into the eyes of the homeless." Puh-leez. Just another stage for their never-ending need for attention, their belief in their own press reports and the conviction that they hadn't really needed the educations they never got before heading to Hollywood. Still, it's undeniable that celebrity helps, even more so when it's a celebrity of substance, like Susan Sarandon or Oprah. If only there were more of them. Here's a good nugget supporting this point:

 

President Obama may be considering nominating the first openly gay Supreme Court justice, Marc Ambinder reports. "Two of the the most qualified center-left jurists in the country are gay," he writes, "and they've got friends in high places."

The nomination of a gay person to the Supreme Court would, needless to say, represent a watershed moment in American history. But it would be even more significant if Obama didn't reference the person's sexuality as a factor. By nominating a highly-qualified jurist who just happens to be gay, Obama would be forcing conservatives to confront how they really feel about gays in society. Most conservatives who oppose gay rights insist that they are not homophobic. Instead, they are fighting against "special privileges" for gay people and defending "traditional marriage" from attack. The Supreme Court vacancy presents an interesting opportunity for Obama to call their bluff.

Via Alex Tabarrok, this comes from Catherine Rampell over at Economix.  It's either (a) genuinely fascinating or (b) a horrible abuse of crude chartmaking based on minimal data.

I think I'll vote for (a).  Due to an intestinal ailment in my 20s, I used to have to eat very slowly.  The result was just what you'd expect: I'd feel full pretty quickly and therefore didn't eat very much.

Around age 25, however, some clever doctor finally figured out what was wrong with me, prescribed a proton pump inhibitor (which sounded pretty space agey until my high school chemistry came back to me and I realized that "proton" is just another word for "acid"), and I've been fine ever since.  I can wolf down food as fast as the next guy.  Result: I eat dinner in about 20 minutes and I'm 30 or 40 pounds overweight.

Of course, I'm also 25 years older, and you might think that has something to do with my weight gain too.  Probably so.  But it still makes sense to me that slower eating habits lead to lower food intake.  That doesn't mean I'm eager to adopt the Italian habit of spending four hours over dinner, a practice that drove me nuts whenever I visited Italy on business, but it might not hurt.

Still, what's with the Turks?  They make the French and Italians look like pikers.  Are they just congenitally bored over there, or what?

Last December, Rolling Stone published a profile of a Florida man who calls himself "Master Legend." Who is Master Legend? A man "hellbent on battling evil." RS's Joshua Bearman (whose name sounds like he's a superhero himself) explains:

When Master Legend bursts into a sprint, as he often does, his long, unruly hair flows behind him. His mane is also in motion when he's behind the wheel of the Battle Truck, a 1986 Nissan pickup with a missing rear window and "ML" spray-painted on the hood. He and the Ace head off to patrol their neighborhood on the outskirts of Orlando, scanning the street for evildoers. "I don't go looking for trouble," Master Legend shouts above the engine. "But if you want some, you'll get it!"

Then he hands me his business card, which says:

Master Legend
Real Life Super Hero
"At Your Service"

If there was a flaw in Bearman's awesome piece, it was that he didn't really grapple with the possibility that, as The Dark Knight and Watchmen taught us, the existence of real-life superheroes might lead to the emergence of real-life supervillains. Unfortunately for us mere mortals, I have some bad news: our worst fears have become reality. Mother Jones has learned (via io9) that a supervillain going only by the initial "E" has put a bounty on the real identity of Shadowhare, a Cincinatti, Ohio ally of Master Legend (that's him in the photo). There's not just one villain, either—"E" claims to be part of a Consortium of Evil. (Not to be confused with the Media Consortium, of which Mother Jones is a member.) The bounty is $10 so far (offered on Craigslist), but if we know anything about supervillains, it's that they have access to unlimited resources. This is probably just the beginning.

(Our extensive past coverage of superheroes includes this awesome photo essay. Check it out.)

I just got off the phone with Columbia Law School professor Michael Ratner, who is also the President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a human rights nonprofit. Ratner read our story this morning about Philip Zelikow's allegations that Dick Cheney's office may have "collected and destroyed" an anti-torture memo Zelikow wrote in 2005. Any such coverup could present a significant problem for the defense in any potential torture trial targeting Bush administration officials, Ratner says:

Sonia Sotomayor

For some reason, Sonia Sotomayor has become the early frontrunner to be Obama's nominee to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court.  I'm not quite sure how she became the consensus favorite so quickly, but in any case the all-too-familiar result has been an immediate outpouring of anguish that her choice would be little more than an act of craven obeisance to the PC crowd, who make it all but impossible for white guys to make it to the Supreme Court these days.  Considering that even Democrats have nominated four white guys out of six appointments in the past half century, this is a little rich, but that hasn't stopped the kvetching.

Over at TNR the other day, Jeffery Rosen piled on, pointing out that New York's senators, "in a burst of demographic enthusiasm," favored her appointment, and then retailing a long list of complaints from anonymous law clerks about how she wasn't really very bright and had a bad temper.  Just your typical affirmative action hire, in other words.

Now, unlike most of Rosen's critics, I didn't have a big problem with the fact that most of his sources were anonymous.  This is actually one of those cases where it's probably the only way to write the story, since former law clerks aren't likely to risk their careers by dishing publicly about their former colleagues, especially ones who might be sitting on the Supreme Court a couple of months from now.

No, the problem with Rosen's piece is that it was so relentlessly unfair: a long string of complaints despite the fact that Sotomayor's own clerks, who presumably know her best, had nothing but praise for her.  And they were speaking anonymously too.  Mark Kleiman, after noting that Sotomayor won the Pyne Prize as the top undergraduate in her senior year at Princeton and then reading a persuasive bit of praise for Sotomayor by one of her former clerks, Robin Kar, tries to push back:

I find Kar's piece utterly convincing. Not every judge attracts this sort of passion from her clerks. And Kar does more than gush: he makes a strongly-argued case that Sotomayor has exactly the sort of intelligence you'd like to see on the Supreme Bench. Better yet, in response to a question, he identifies two pieces of Sotomayor's legal writing as exemplifying her talents of analysis and legal writing her dissents (thus reflecting her views alone, not aided or burdened by those of her colleagues) in Croll v. Croll and Hankins v. Lyght.

I read the Croll case first....I'd give it very high marks; having read first the controlling opinion and then the dissent, I found the dissent compelling.

....Hankyns v. Light involves a bit of law I know something about: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act....My first-blush analysis was to liken a forced retirement to a job-site injury, something that involved secular questions only. But Sotomayor's argument made it clear to me that clergy hiring (as distinguished from the hiring of a math teacher in a religious school involved in one of the precedent cases) was inextricably a religious matter.

....So, insofar as a non-expert can judge, Kar's two examples are both on point: Sotomayor writes much more clearly and persuasively than the average appellate judge.

As plenty of people have already pointed out, for a job like Supreme Court justice there's no such thing as a "best qualified person."  There are, rather, maybe a hundred equally highly qualified people, and it's silly to pretend that white guys have a hard time getting considered.  Just the opposite, in fact, since every time a non-white guy gets nominated, they have to put up with a barrage of innuendo that they're not really very bright, not the best pick, just a sop to identity politics (unlike the Catholic white guys), and would basically be a taint to the good name of the court.  It's disgraceful.

BAC Watch

I give up.  Apparently Bank of America's need for $34 billion in new capital is somehow being spun as good news, and as of 11 am BAC is actually up a point or so.  WTF?