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Friday, July 29, 2011

Pres. Bush says that look on 9/11 was "calm"

A lot has been said and written about President Bush's slow reaction on 9/11.

Most famous is probably the film maker Michael Moore making fun of Bush sitting in the classroom after being told a second plane had hit the World Trade Center for continuing to read "My Pet Goat."

"Mr. President, a second plane has hit the World Trade Center."

So, now he knows it is not an accident, as he thought when he was told about the first plane.

"What a terrible pilot," Bush remembers thinking.

No, now this is a terrorist attack.

And what did the President do? Sit there, looking stunned and the children continued to read a silly book.

"... I made the decision not to jump up immediately and leave the classroom. I didn't want to rattle the kids. I wanted to project a sense of calm ... I had been in enough crises to know that the first thing a leader has to do is to project calm" are his words.

As someone who has carefully studied the 9/11 attacks, I've reached my own conclusions about what really happened.

And of one thing I am pretty certain. President Bush's actions that day do NOT suggest calm.
His is one account (note all the media sources on this one):

Descriptions vary greatly as to how Bush responded to the news. It is said he "blanched" [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/1/02], "the color drained from the president's face" [AP, 9/12/01 (D)], he "wore a bemused smile" [Orlando Sentinel, 9/12/01], "because visibly tense and serious" [Time, 9/12/01], and so on.

Watch the video and draw your own conclusions (the 11-minute video can be viewed at the Center for Cooperative Research, Buzzflash, Global Free Press, The Emperor's New Clothes, or Liberty DYNU).

Bush later recalled his own reaction: "I am very aware of the cameras. I'm trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to. I'm sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children's story and I realize I'm the Commander in Chief and the country has just come under attack." [Telegraph, 12/16/01, CBS, 11/1/02]

Asked again what he thought after he heard the news, Bush said, "We're at war and somebody has dared attack us and we're going to do something about it. I realized I was in a unique setting to receive a message that somebody attacked us … [I]t became evident that we were, you know, that the world had changed." [CBS, 9/11/02]

So what did the Commander in Chief do with the knowledge that the United States was under attack?

He did nothing.

Bush did not say one word. He did not ask Card any questions. He did not give any orders. He did not know who (or which country) was attacking, whether there would be more attacks, what military plans had been taken, what military actions should be taken - indeed, he knew virtually nothing about what was going on outside the room. He just sat there.

Bush later recalled: "There was no time for discussion or anything." [Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism - From Inside the Bush White House, by Bill Sammon, 10/02, pp. 83-84] Even stranger, as one newspaper put it, although the nation was under terrorist attack, "for some reason, Secret Service agents [did] not bustle him away." [Globe and Mail, 9/12/01]

Military pilots must have "permission from the White House because only the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down." [CNN, 10/26/99] But if retaliatory strikes needed to the authorized, Bush was not available. If one of the planes had to be shot down to save more lives on the ground, Bush was not available. Although several fighters had been dispatched to defend New York City, the pilot of one of the planes flying to catch Flight 175 later noted that it wouldn't have mattered if he caught up with it, because only Bush could order a shootdown, and Bush could not be reached in the classroom. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02]

The story in the link below and Bush's comments are revisionist history. Plain and simple. Yet, the media simply broadcasts his claims with no critical coverage whatsoever.

Don't believe me? Here is a complete and accurate account of his entire day. Read it and make up your own mind.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Norway shooter may end up living in luxury

So here it goes.

I just talked about this in a guest lecture yesterday.

I said that when people around the world learn how the alleged mass murderer in Norway will live his life behind bars (they do not have the death penalty, like the vast majority of the civilized world), American media would broadcast it loudly, and Americans would call for harsher punishment.

It has started. In this article, the writer asks, "Could accused Norway killer land in luxurious prison?"

From the article:

The documentary photographer Alex Masi writes that the cells in Halden are equipped "with an en-suite bathroom, a flat-screen TV and various comforts. They measure 12 [square meters--about 129 square feet] and are divided up into units (10 to 12) which share a living room and kitchen," much like a college dorm.

Time Magazine described the cells as resembling an Ikea showroom, complete with "stainless-steel countertops, wraparound sofas and birch-colored coffee tables."

The art budget for the facility came in at more than a million dollars, Masi says, while the cells are brightly painted and lack bars on the windows. Inmates take specialty cooking classes or choose from many other courses at an in-prison high school. They can jog around the 75-acre wooded facility or even climb on the prison's rock walls.

Clearly this would not fly in the US. But then, our prisons are massive failures. Norweigian prisons are not.

Plus, we send people to prison as punishment, not for it. That is, the punishment is the loss of freedom; we don't send them there to be raped, abused, or to "make them break rocks."

This guy deserves whatever is coming to him. But that is up to Norway to decide. We need to stay out of it.

Mountaintop removal=60,000 cancers

... making it more deadly than murder.

Yet, it remains perfectly legal, in spite of the immense damage it does to the environment and the inhabitants of an area.

The companies behind this basically have said, "Hey, there is West Virginia, they don't need those mountains."

And although citizens have been fighting it for decades, it continues, mostly because law-makers remain in the pockets of the companies.

But you rarely hear about this from the mainstream media.

This is the beauty of independent media, such as Common Dreams, free from the stranglehold of corporations.

Use these media if you want to learn about what is really dangerous. You won't learn it from Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, or CNN.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Yep, she is still here. And so is she.

Amazingly, stories about Sarah Palin still make the news. She is still here.

But even more amazing is that her daughter, Bristol, also remains in the news. Like on the front page of

In some ways, I can understand the focus on Sarah Palin. She was after all, the vice presidential candidate for a major political party. And the Governor of Alaska (at least until she quit!).

Her repeated gaffes alone show she is not smart enough to be a major office holder. She's like George W. Bush in a skirt. And look at the mess he left us.

But at least her presence in the news can be justified.

Explain to me how we are focused on her daughter?

What has she done?

* Got pregnant as a teenager in spite of being raised in a household that preached abstinence.
*Had a baby out of wedlock.

* Appeared on popular TV show (Dancing with the Stars) showing she could not really dance (You don't disagree, do you?)

Now she has a book out about her life, short and uneventful as it is. Making hundreds of thousands of dollars there.

And she's been traveling the country, getting paid tens of thousands of dollars per speech, talking about the importance of abstinence (Oh come on now, surely you can see how ridiculous that is!).

This is one of the major stories on, right behind the debt crisis and the mass murder in Norway. Even during times like this, trivial news makes an appearance.

From CNN. com:

Bristol Palin says she's optimistic about her mother's chances if the former Alaska governor decides to run for president.

"I think she's so smart and I think she could debate anyone and do very well," Palin said in an interview with HLN's "Dr. Drew" that aired Thursday night.

"I think that people will be talking about my family and her and everyone else, no matter what we're doing," she added.

When the show's host, Dr. Drew Pinsky, asked whether she liked the attention, Palin said she had mixed feelings.

"I don't know how to feel about it. I think there's awesome opportunities that come with it, but then I also think there's lots of drawbacks and lots of negatives towards it," she said. "But I think whatever she (Sarah Palin) does will be right for our family and right for herself."

Palin's life changed dramatically when her mother, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, became John McCain's vice presidential running mate in 2008.

Shortly afterward, the revelation that Bristol Palin was 17 and pregnant put a national spotlight on her personal life.
Bristol Palin: I was on birth control
Bristol's message: Don't skip your pill
Bristol: I'm not accusing Levi of rape
In her new memoir, "Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far," Bristol Palin -- now 20 --writes about lying to her parents so she could go on a camping trip with friends -- a night that ended with the teenager losing her virginity to her boyfriend, Levi Johnston, while getting drunk off wine coolers.

Later in the book, Bristol walks readers through her unwanted pregnancy with Johnston, revealing details on their shaky relationship over the years.

On Thursday, she told Pinsky that being a teen mom to her son, Trip, was tough.

"My life, my teenage years were cut completely short. I was on the fast track to adulthood just in an instant because of that one decision," she said. "And Trip is just the love of my life. He is everything to me. But do I wish that he had a dad that was involved in his life? Absolutely. And do I wish that I had an education and a real career path? Absolutely."

Even after the 2008 election, Bristol didn't shy away from the spotlight. She competed on "Dancing With the Stars" last year, drawing support from fans but also sharp criticism; one man reportedly shot his television when she made it to another week of the competition.

"I just think that it's so strange that they could have so much hate over a dance show," she said.
In July 2010, Bristol announced her engagement to Johnston on the front page of US Weekly magazine.

That -- Bristol told Pinsky -- was "the biggest regret of my life."

"The day (the magazine) came out, he (Johnston) comes to me and he says, 'Hey this girl's pregnant and it might be my baby.' ... So then from that day forward I was like, I'm just done with that. Trip doesn't deserve this (from) his dad and I don't deserve that (from) a potential husband," she said.

In Thursday's interview, Bristol also addressed a more recent controversy -- whether she had plastic surgery. She reiterated previous denials of that accusation, saying an oral surgeon operated on her jaw in December to correct a longstanding problem.

"I'm so sick of people talking about it and I'm so sick of appearance being an issue," she said.
But despite the increased scrutiny, Bristol says she's grateful her celebrity has given her a chance to speak about important topics, like teen pregnancy prevention.

"With this book, I really do hope that other young girls will see all the foolish decisions ... and they can learn something from the mistakes that I made," she said.

"I'm just so passionate about it, just warning other girls that it's not an accessory on your hip," she added.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Our nation is now more at risk from attacks by right-wing domestic terrorists

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is one of the nation's premiere entities fighting discrimination, ethnic and racial discrimination, and hate crimes in the country.

Their magazine, The Intelligence Report, is always a fascinating look into hate groups and hate crimes happening across the country. But it is chilling, scary stuff. We are, quite literally, surrounded by "crazy people"--people so filled with hate, often based on misconceptions and myths--that they join one of the nearly 1,000 hate groups now identified by SPLC. Check out their hate map, which identifies the groups by state.

In the current edition of the Intelligence Report, SPLC features an interview with Daryl Johnson, the man behind the now infamous report Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment

The report was written by Johnson, who has twenty years in intelligence working on domestic terrorism, while he worked for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the article, the report "pointed out that some domestic extremists focused on single issues like immigration and abortion and also noted that extremists were interested in recruiting military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Its analysis of the causes of the surge of right-wing radicalism — the election of the nation's first black president and the economy."

The report was intended for use by local and state law enforcement agencies but was leaked to the press by someone with a political agenda who did not like the fact that far-right conservative groups were potentially being targeted by DHS or police because of the threat they pose to the nation's security. For many years, police have targeted far-left groups like ALF (Animal Liberation Front) and ELF (Earth Liberation Front) due to violent acts they've committed and threatened. So why not also focus on far-right groups due to the violent acts they've committed and threatened?

Well, when conservative bloggers and commentators (who I will not call journalists even though some work for agencies like Fox News--think Michelle Malkin and her ilk) saw the document, they used it to launch attacks against President Obama (claiming he was using DHS to target Republicans just because they were conservative!) and against DHS (claiming its report was politically motivated).

What happened as a result?

According to Johnson:

"When the right-wing report was leaked and people politicized it, my management got scared and thought DHS would be scaled back. It created an environment where my analysts and I couldn't get our work done. DHS stopped all of our work and instituted restrictive policies. Eventually, they ended up gutting my unit. All of this happened within six to nine months after the furor over the report. Analysts then began leaving DHS. One analyst went to ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], another to the FBI, a third went to the U.S. Marshals, and so on. There is just one person there today who is still a 'domestic terrorism' analyst.
Since our report was leaked, DHS has not released a single report of its own on this topic. Not anything dealing with non-Islamic domestic extremism—whether it's anti-abortion extremists, white supremacists, 'sovereign citizens,' eco-terrorists, the whole gamut."

Right after the report was pulled by DHS, the following happened.

"In late May 2009, abortion provider George Tiller was shot and killed by an anti-abortion fanatic — just the kind of person the DHS report had warned of in one section. In June 2009, neo-Nazi James von Brunn killed a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., while trying to storm into the building. Many similar attacks and planned attacks by the radical right have followed, right up to the present day."

So perhaps Johnson is right when he maintains our nation is now more at risk from terrorist attacks because of all this:

"We are more vulnerable. I mean, we lost five good analysts, four of them, including myself, very well-seasoned, considered experts in their topics. We obviously have this serious threat coming from Al Qaeda, or some other international terrorist group, which can result in a mass casualty-producing attack. But I feel that the government has a lot of good intelligence analysts focused on Al Qaeda and similar threats.
What worries me is the fact that our country is under attack from within, from our own radical citizenry. There have been a lot of small-scale attacks lately, whether it's three mail bombs sent to U.S. government facilities in Maryland and D.C., or a backpack bomb placed near a [Martin Luther King Jr. Day] parade in Spokane, Wash., or two police officers gunned down at a traffic stop in West Memphis, Ark., [by antigovernment extremists in May 2010].

"These incidents are starting to add up. Yet our legislators, politicians and national leaders don't appear too concerned about this. So, my greatest fear is that domestic extremists in this country will somehow become emboldened to the point of carrying out a mass-casualty attack, because they perceive that no one is being vigilant about the threat from within. That is what keeps me up at night."

FYI -- Johnson, the author of the report that caused the firestorm, is a conservative Republican. He is not part of some Obama conspiracy to use DHS and police agencies to target Republicans just because there is a Democrat in the White House.He says the report was "not politically motivated." Yet, many of the attacks against him and the report surely were.

So here is the irony people. Because of concerns expressed by conservatives in the media about this report, our nation is now more at risk from attacks by right-wing domestic terrorists (who have committed more terrorist attacks in the US since 9/11 than Muslims!). Should the next big terrorist attack come -- something like what happened in Norway perhaps (by a right-wing terrorist) -- who do you think will get blamed? Obama and DHS.

"Obama cannot keep us safe!"

"Democrats are soft on terrorism!"

And more conservative Republicans will come to power.

Ironic, no?

Monday, July 25, 2011

At least this murderous rampage did NOT occur in the US

You know as well as I do.

When a man loses it, he loses it in the US.

It is here that people tend to go on shooting sprees.

Sure, it happens elsewhere, but not like in the good ole, US of A.

Until now.

Anders Behring Breivikma may have killed 100 people in his bombing and shooting rampage in Norway. And so clearly, this has made the news.

Make no mistake about it: This man to the left is a terrorist. Why? Because he committed an act of violence in order to achieve a political result. That's the textbook definition of terrorism.

Imagine if al-Qaeda was as effective against soft targets as this man. Think of the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber and the Times Square truck bomber. None of their bombs went off or else hundreds would have been killed. Be thankful that al-Qaeda has not chosen a mall for a simple shooting spree. Imagine how many people three or four of them could kill at different entrances of a mall, moving inward.

Surely, Anders Behring Breivikma will help change American perspectives on terrorism, right?

Don't hold your breath. We seem convinced that the only terrorists are Arabs and Muslims and dark-skinned foreigners.

I ask that you tell your far-right friends--who talk about the evils of terrorism and religious tolerance, and how Christianity is under attack, and how Marxism and socialism threaten our freedom, and how we must rid the US of such forces--tell them about this man. In his own words, this is what motivated him to shoot unarmed and innocent children in the face.

His words:

"I have spent several years writing, researching and compiling the information and I have spent most of my hard earned funds in this process (in excess of 300 000 Euros). I do not want any compensation for it as it is a gift to you, as a fellow patriot."

"Multi-culturalism (cultural Marxism/political correctness), as you might know, is the root cause of the ongoing Islamisation of Europe which has resulted in the ongoing Islamic colonisation of Europe through demographic warfare (facilitated by our own leaders)."

"In order to successfully penetrate the cultural Marxist/multiculturalist media censorship we are forced to employ significantly more brutal and breath taking operations which will result in casualties. In order for the attack to gain an influential effect, assassinations and the use of weapons of mass destruction must be embraced."

"The ideology that has taken over Western Europe goes most commonly by the name of "Political Correctness." Some people see it as a joke. It is not. It is deadly serious. It seeks to alter virtually all the rules, formal and informal, that govern relations among people and institutions. It wants to change behaviour, thought, even the words we use."

"Christendom is gradually being deconstructed. It is time that the Pope and his cardinals begin to resist the deliberate deconstruction of European Christendom. The process would, however, be quite challenging, but worth the effort as all Justiciar Knights who dies for their faith will be a great source of inspiration for generations to come. They will be role models. Certain, exceptionally brave and selfless, Justiciar Knights in the coming decades should even be considered as candidates for official veneration."

"I have never in my life felt that I have done anything more meaningful than what I am doing now regardless of the lack of moral support from my founding brothers or other armed resistance fighters."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Obama is #1!

In case you did not know it, now you do.

Huge increases in deportations of people after they were arrested for breaking traffic or immigration laws or driving drunk helped the Obama administration set a record last year for the number of criminal immigrants forced to leave the country, documents show.

Californians prefer financial savings to public safety

Funny what a budget crisis does to people.

A state that has made its name being one of the toughest on the planet (e.g., it has the largest death row population in the US and passed the toughest three-strikes law in the US) is now inhabited by people who "would rather ease penalties than pay more for prisons."

It's not the unjust nature of their criminal justice apparatus that bothers them.

Not the racial disparities and racial biases.

Not the inefficacy of the punishments.

Not that they are loathed around the world for how they've have more people on death row than any other state.

Not that they have sentenced relatively minor offenders to life in prison--FOREVER--with no chance of parole (including a man who stole a set of golf clubs and a man who stole some videotapes from KMart as Christmas gifts for his kids).

It's just that they cannot afford it.

The funny thing is they never could.

From the poll:

— More than 60% of respondents, including majorities among Democrats, Republicans and those who declined to state a party preference, said they would support reducing life sentences for third strike offenders convicted of property crimes such as burglary, auto theft and

— Nearly 70% said they would sanction the early release of some low-level offenders whose crimes did not involve violence.

— About 80% said they approve of keeping low-level, nonviolent offenders in county custody — including jails, home detention or parole — instead of sending them to state prisons. The same percentage favors paroling inmates who are paralyzed, in comas or so debilitated by advanced disease that they no longer pose a threat to public safety.

The pollsters noted that people don't generally favor the release of convicted criminals. But "when it comes to prisons," said Linda DiVall of American Viewpoint, "voters are looking for solutions that don't raise taxes or take money from other priorities like education.",0,531177.story

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Top stories on Yahoo News

Yahoo News, like most sites nowadays, will specialize the news stories they share with you based on where you live.

These are the top stories near me (Boone, NC):

How many of them deal with crime?

Prostitution for rich people? Check.
Executions? Check.
Jury verdict? Check.
Mom tries to kill her kids? Check.
Taser death? Check.

Go check the Yahoo news for your area, and you will see that it is the same story.

No matter where you live, crime dominates the news. Anyone TASERed, err, I mean, shocked?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Liberal media" loving the downfall of Rupert Murdoch

Clearly, Rupert Murdoch has problems.

But most of them are overseas, specifically in the UK.

Yet, the "liberal media" are falling over themselves, probably in hope that Fox News will fall from its place as the leader of the news in the United States.

The Talking Points Memo provides a primer with lots of background information on the scandal here.

William Rivers Pitt, founder of Truthout (an independent media group discussed in the book), provides a minute by minute analysis of Murdoch's questioning by the British Parliament here.

And yet, this will NOT be the end of Fox News. As long as Americans are dumb enough to fall for their slogans of "Fair and Balanced" and "We Report: You Decide" there is no hope for an end to this media monstrosity.

It may be the end of Murdoch, but then he is 80 years old anyways and his family is well prepared to take over once he is gone from the scene. Here, take a look at what Murdoch owns:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Life in prison is good for black men?

That is surely how some legislators will spin this story, from a study of inmates in North Carolina.

From the article:

"Black men are half as likely to die at any given time if they're in prison than if they aren't, suggests a new study of North Carolina inmates.

"The black prisoners seemed to be especially protected against alcohol- and drug-related deaths, as well as lethal accidents and certain chronic diseases."

But why? Here is the kicker:

"Ironically, prisons are often the only provider of medical care accessible by these underserved and vulnerable Americans," said Hung-En Sung of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

"Typically, prison-based care is more comprehensive than what inmates have received prior to their admission," Sung, who wasn't involved in the new study, told Reuters Health by email.


"What's very sad about this is that if we are able to all of a sudden equalize or diminish these health inequalities that you see by race inside a place like prison, it should also be that in places like a poor neighborhood we should be able to diminish these sort of inequities," said Evelyn Patterson, who studies correctional facilities at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

"If it can be done (in prison), then certainly it can happen outside of prison," Patterson, who wasn't linked to the new work, told Reuters Health.

Get that? Black men die more on the outside because they do not have access to quality health care. On the inside--in prison for committing crimes that we abhor--they get quality health care.

Conservatives will probably call for an elimination of quality health care in prisons, because after all, criminals don't deserve quality health care, paid for by taxpayers.

Liberals might say, let's just make sure we provide access to quality health care to all, since it is a human right.

Either way, it is a sad reality that, for many, quality of health care is better in prison than it is in the free world. That's a horrific indictment of our society and what its people find permissible.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What is happening to my town? Crime in Boone

We went out of town this weekend to the beach. Apparently it is a good thing we did, since Boone was struck by a crime spree of sorts.

Now Boone has always had crime. But things have gotten so much worse as the town has developed and grown, as would be predicted by anomie theory.

As a former Chief of Boone Police Department once told me, "Wal Mart is the worst thing that ever happened to Boone."

Wal Mart came to Boone about 15 years ago. That led to the further development of Boone, including the paving of a whole side of town. Gone are the local businesses and one of kind restaurants. Now present are the chain restaurants and hotels and miles and miles of hot pavement. Developers even flattened part of a mountain above all this to put in some apartments, so the pavement literally goes up to the sky.

Now that side of Boone--"NEW BOONE"-- is like "anywhere USA."

And now, you can find the same things in Boone that you can find anywhere else in the USA.

Guess what this includes? Crime.

Here is what happened in Boone while we were gone.

Robbery-Assault in BooneBoone Police yesterday investigated the robbery and assault of a man near Boone Mall.  The 6pm incident was near the bus stop that uses the mall lot for passengers.  Police found the victim near the front of the mall, suffering some injuries from the assault, reporting that he had his wallet and other good stolen, but that he struggled to keep his duffle bag,
Full Story
Man Slashed in AltercationWatauga Sheriff’s Office deputies are investigating a disturbance at an area mobile home park from in which a man was slashed in the arm by a knife.  The 9pm altercation was at an address on Hensel’s Lane, Full Story

Driver Darkens Perkinsville
Boone Police have arrested the driver of a pickup that slammed into a utility pole on Perkinsville Drive yesterday evening.  The suspect fled the scene, but was soon found by officers, who charged Charles Saffer of Boone with a number of counts. Full Story

Of course, the media here are as fascinated with crime as they are anywhere else. So this stuff makes the front page of the newspapers and the top stories of local news websites.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fox News seems to have no bottom

It just keeps getting darker and darker over at Fox News, like there is no bottom.

They apparently will stoop to whatever level is required to make news, to learn anything about whatever they choose, and even to generate false stories in support of their overriding ideology. I truly feel sad for the people that believe their slogans of "fair and balanced" and "we report you decide." Their own reporters and editors admit (on air) that this is not true.

And another embarrassing story about 9/11 victims potentially being hacked by the news organization as part of its hacking and bribery scandal is simply frightening.

Fox News may soon own nothing in Britain. I wonder whether we can also get them out of the USA?

And there is more!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top 20 trials of the past 20 years (and more from Newsweek)

From the Daily Beast.

The greatest shocker of all, given than 96% of accused felons now plead guilty and do not have a trial, is that we've even had 20 trials in the past 20 years!

I have to say, I find this list quite silly. The most recent trial of Casey Anthony did not even make the list, even though some that did many people will have a hard time remembering anything about.

By the way, The Daily Beast has now partnered up with Newsweek, and Newsweek has some important stories right now that deal with the media.

One is The Billion Dollar Bank Heist about how large banks are already eroding Obama's big regulatory reforms in Congress. Great, even reforms don't mean anything anymore.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Leading stories at Fox News

Fox News has taken a lot of heat lately for things like falsifying images during broadcasts, using outdated crowd shots to create the illusion of larger crowds than were really present at various events, employing various former government officials from only one political party, making financial donations to only one political party, and even hacking people's computers to learn more about them

Yet, they continue to have the most viewers each week, by far, of all television news sources. So I follow the lead stories over there to see what people are being exposed to.

Today, the top four stories are:

  • 1) Deficit reduction

So the top stories are of politics, murder, an attempt by Fox to generate outrage, and triviality.

This is what Americans are being exposed to right now in the "news."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rachel Maddow explains recent death penalty decisions

... and there are some great clips from the news media in terms of how they are talking about the death penalty as well.

So what has happened? The state of Texas just executed a foreign citizen (Mexican) who was not given prior access to his own government. The US Supreme Court refused to stop it (in a 5-4 decision, surprise!). This violates international law and puts American citizens abroad at risk of being executed without access to their government first (the logic here is along the same lines as the torture issue--if we do it, it sends a message to our enemies that they can torture our troops, too).

The state of Texas killed an innocent man, Cameron Willingham.

And states are unable to find suitable drugs for the lethal injection concoction that is used in lethal injection.

It is all here. This is a wonderful summary of the issues in the news right now.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Casey Anthony Sentence: WHAT IT MEANS

Today, Casey Anthony was sentenced on the four counts for which she was convicted; each involved lying to the police during the investigation into the "missing persons" case of Anthony's daughter, Caylee.

Given that each count was a misdemeanor rather than a felony, the most time Anthony faced was one year on each count, or a total of four years in prison (a sentence of more than one year must be served in prison rather than jail).

Anthony's defense argued that each count should be treated as one crime; to treat the counts separately would equate to double jeopardy. The state argued each count was a separate action, each leading to wasted time and financial resources by the state.

The judge agreed with the state, thereby leading to the decision that Anthony must serve four years in prison for the four crimes.

However, Casey Anthony will receive credit for time served. Given that Anthony has already served about two and a half years in jail (she was held in preventive detention awaiting trial--this is not punishment but instead assured that Anthony would appear for her trial), the most time she could spend behind bars is about one year in jail. In fact, the judge also mentioned that Anthony will receive "good time" and "gain time" credit, meaning her sentence will be further reduced based on good behavior while she was in jail (I thought Florida had eliminated these from the law but I was obviously wrong).

The net effect of the sentence? Casey Anthony's sentence is reduced to one and a half years in prison. Further, she could be released in the next two months due to "good time" and "gain time" credits.

State law says a person incarcerated for a crime cannot benefit from his or her crimes while incarcerated. Thus you can expect a Casey Anthony book out in only one or two months, with proceeds going to the woman who was not convicted for her child's murder (even though she did it).

Ironically, Anthony's lies are why she was not convicted. The six months that went by while the police tracked down leads based on Anthony's lies allowed her daughter's remains to decompose so badly that the coroner could not determine the cause of death; without the cause of death, the state of Florida could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Caylee was even murdered.

Anthony's defense was that her daughter drown in the family pool. Had she told the state this during the original police interviews, they could have located the body and verified her story. Conversely, they would have likely discovered that the little girl was actually murdered, thereby assuring a conviction and a much longer prison sentence for Anthony.

So it appears crime does pay after all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Media frenzy around a single murder

In a country with about 16,000 murders every year, how can a single murder case become the main news story for not only one year, but three years? And how can a single murder trial of a mother for allegedly killing her two-year old daughter in 2008--when hundreds of children are murdered each year--become the dominant story in 2011?

Each day thousands of media stories were generated about this case. And millions of Americans read the stories, watched the trial live, and literally soaked up as much information as they could about the case until yesterday's "shocking" (or at least disappointing) jury verdict.

The BBC made an effort to explain our fascination with the case that "gripped the US." From the article:

"It's the biggest news event to have happened in Orlando in years, says Mike Boslet, editor of Orlando monthly magazine.

"'Life is going on as usual but people are glued to it in some fashion or another. Lots of people are watching it in their lunch hours. When you're going to get your car fixed or doctors' office, the Casey Anthony trial is on. Everybody is talking about it. It's good dinner-party conversation.'"

Except this was not only true in Orlando but also all of Florida and much of the US.

The BBC asks: "So why has this case, above other child deaths, grabbed such attention?

"Given the ingredients of the case, the question is not why is it so big but why wouldn't it be so big," says Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University in New York.

"'You've got this incredibly tragic story of a dead child and it doesn't get any more dramatic than that. Then the details - those mysterious [31] days, those imagined jobs and imagined friends. The pretty mother telling stories that don't seem to stack up. If you were writing it as a fictional crime story, no-one would believe it.'"

"As well as the genuine interest, there is also 'cultural equity' generated by the media coverage, he says. Once the decision is made that this story is worth investing in, then there is no going back.
"'It starts as a local story then the networks send satellite trucks and start spending money to build up equity of the story and it becomes like a TV show - the more details people get, the more they want. Viewers get sucked in like a soap opera.'" 

This is how local crime stories become national crime stories, just as explained in the book. 

"'It's a real-life soap opera, all the thrills you might expect to get from an episode of LA Law,' said Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times. So the question might be, how come soap operas are so popular?

Robin Simon, a professor of sociology at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, adds the issue of the archetypal offender and victim:

"'A beautiful woman accused of killing her sweet child and then accused of lying and her father has to take the stand and he's accused of having an affair. The fact it's a woman on trial has heightened interest' because the allegation breaks the maternal bond society expects women to have with their children.

"'The media attention this has generated would not be as significant if it was a father murdering a child.'"

That's the "evil woman" hypothesis discussed in the text.

Finally, Simon adds: "'A journalist was interviewing people in the line waiting to get into court. One woman said 'I can't wait to see it. This is the ultimate reality show. And then she giggled. She didn't even perceive this as a real case with real people. It was sick.'"

The ultimate reality show? And why do we like those shows?

A colleague and friend suggested to me that we like the things that we know probably won't happen to us. So instead of being interested in stories about the realities of corporate health care (which does impact us), mass layoffs (which do impact us), the unfair tax system (which does impact us), and similar stories, we tune those out in favor of stories like the Casey Anthony murder trial, because it is entertaining like a soap opera or reality TV show.

And some people are so outraged by the jury verdict, as if they know better than the jury who heard the evidence (rather than the talking heads on TV) and were instructed in how to apply the actual law to the case (which requires that Anthony's guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt) rather than who heard the tortured opinions of people like Nancy Grace.

Well, if that did not outrage followers of the trial who were convinced that Anthony was guilty, this story by Fox News that Anthony "can earn millions from media, Hollywood" surely will.

Oh brother.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fireworks, parades, cookouts, and LIVE MURDER TRIALS

Happy 4th of July!

Enjoy your fireworks. The parade. The cookout with family and friends.

And, in case you are interested, LIVE coverage of the closing arguments of a murder case in Florida.

Yep, three years after the murder and three months after the case began, it is STILL on. Even on the 4th of July.

Check out this coverage online.

Casey Anthony trial: State explains science behind case

Chicago Tribune -
Jose Baez talks with Casey Anthony at the start of court on Monday. (Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel) By Bianca Prieto, Orlando Sentinel Today the jury is expected to begin deliberating the fate of accused child-murderer Casey Anthony.

Friday, July 1, 2011

North Carolina killed eight possibly innocent people

An independent audit ordered by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper reported in August 2010 that negative or inconclusive results on suspected blood samples that were mishandled (in many cases intentionally) had been omitted from State Crime Lab reports in at least 190 cases that went to trial or resulted in a conviction.

Of those convicted, the audit found that 80 were still incarcerated, five died in prison and three were executed.

So that means the state possibly killed eight innocent people, three through the death penalty.

Another four remain on death row.

Now, one of the wrongly convicted, Greg Taylor, is has become the first prisoner to sue the crime lab (Taylor was also the first person freed after the revelations of tainted evidence).

The complaint charges a technician, Duane Deaver, with deliberately withholding evidence crucial for his defense, and accuses his supervisors (including the director) of sanctioning his behavior.

Lab results suggest blood was present on the bumper of Taylor's truck, found near the body of a dead prostitute that was brutally murdered. There was no blood in the truck, no blood on Taylor or his clothes, or any other evidence to connect Taylor to the crime.

But Taylor was convicted because of the blood found on his bumper.

Only it was NOT blood. And the lab knew this, but it did not share this with Taylor's defense because it was written policy not to.

That's justice in North Carolina. And it is, again, in the news.