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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

State of NC repeals the Racial Justice Act

So does this mean we don't stand for racial justice?

My thoughts on the matter, sent to the state's Governor:

This is Dr. Matthew Robinson, Professor of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.

I am contacting you to urge you to VETO the recently passed bill that repeals the Racial Justice Act. I know you signed the Racial Justice Act into law, so I am asking you to now protect it from repeal.

I recently analyzed publicly available data as well as every study conducted on North Carolina’s death penalty system in order to provide an evaluation of capital punishment in our state. The result is my recently released report—“The Death Penalty in North Carolina: A Summary of the Data and Scientific Studies.” In the report, I summarize all that we know about the death penalty as it is actually practiced in our state. The report is available online:

One of the five major findings of all this research is:

* Capital punishment in North Carolina is characterized by serious disparities based on extra-legal factors such as race and gender. Specifically, numerous studies illustrate that killers of whites are three or more times more likely to be sentenced to death than killers of blacks, even after controlling for legally-relevant variables. Further, killers of white females are most likely to be sentenced to death and executed, especially when the offenders are African American males. *

This finding, along with all the others, is explained in great detail in the report.

Capital punishment is a state-created and implemented public policy. Analysis and evaluation of capital punishment policy, like all policies, is part of the normal policy process. My analysis and evaluation of the death penalty in North Carolina, paid for by taxpayers who fund my position, calls for action. I ask that you to read the report and take appropriate action.

APPROPRIATE ACTION in today's case means protecting the state's Racial Justice Act, which is the primary mechanism to assure that racial bias does not persist in the death penalty. I call on you to protect this law by vetoing the bill just passed by the General Assembly!

I am available to talk with you or meet with you at your convenience. If you want to discuss the findings of my research or meet in person to discuss appropriate actions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Matthew Robinson, PhD

Hi again from Dr. Matthew Robinson, Professor of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.

I wanted to explain to you the major problem with repealing the Racial Justice Act and replacing it with the new bill that just passed the Senate yesterday.

That bill reverts back to the standard set by the US Supreme Court in McCleskey v. Kemp (1987), one of the worst decision ever reached by the Court. In that case, the Court recognized the validity of a study showing clear racial bias in the application of the death penalty in Georgia (the very same problem we see in North Carolina today--bias in the death penalty based on race of victims generally AND against minority defendants in inter-racial cases).

Yet, the Court held that an individual defendant must demonstrate discrimination in his or her specific case in order for the case to be considered unconstitutional. That is, he or she must be able to demonstrate that the prosecutor acted in a discriminatory fashion in the individual case or that the legislature intended to make discriminatory law. This is simply impossible in almost every case for it basically requires a defendant to get inside the head of an individual prosecutor (or legislator or juror).

McCleskey was a 5-4 decision that violated previous Court precedent as well as the way statistical evidence of race discrimination is treated in other areas of law including workplace discrimination and even using peremptory challenges to exclude potential jurors from service! How to address the latter issue was decided by the SAME COURT in Batson v. Kentucky (1986) when the Court held that prosecutors must prove that race did NOT play a role in dismissal of potential jurors if the defendant alleges that race played a role in jury selection.

So, you see the contradiction? Under Batson, if a defendant thinks a prosecutor is using race to excuse jurors, the Court requires prosecutors to prove they are NOT being discriminatory. But under McCleskey, if a defendant thinks he or she is being discriminated against in a capital case, the Court requires defendants to show that officials have discriminatory intent. This is inconsistent.

More importantly, it is also impossible to do. We know, based on careful studies in our state, that prosecutors use race to discriminate in jury selection. We know, based on careful studies in our state, that jurors use race in determining who lives and who dies. My review of these studies shows these facts: “The Death Penalty in North Carolina: A Summary of the Data and Scientific Studies.” In the report, I summarize all that we know about the death penalty as it is actually practiced in our state. The report is available online:

Thus, I am contacting you again to urge you to VETO the recently passed bill that repeals the Racial Justice Act. I know you signed the Racial Justice Act into law, so I am asking you to now protect it from repeal.

If you want to know about these cases I have mentioned, please read my assessment of them here: Robinson, Matthew B., and Kathleen M. Simon (2006), Logical and Consistent? An Analysis of Supreme Court Opinions Regarding the Death Penalty.  Justice Policy Journal 3(1): 1-59.


Matthew Robinson, PhD

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shoppers gone WILD

Twenty people, including children, were injured when a woman at a San Fernando Valley Walmart store used mace against other customers in what authorities referred to as a "competitive shopping" incident.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a scuffle broke out shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday night, just before shopping was to begin, among customers waiting to buy Xbox gaming consoles and Wii video games.

Just more proof that so many people have lost their way, right? So THIS is what Christmas is about? So THIS is what the day after Thanksgiving is about? So THIS is what people value, give thanks for, and teach their kids to value and give thanks for?

Competitive shopping for video games?

Guess so.

See? When told later of what happened, Nakeasha Contreras, who arrived at midnight, said she wouldn't have been bothered: "I don't care. I'm still getting my TV," she told the Times. "I've never seen Wal-Mart so crazy, but I guess it could have been worse."

Still getting her TV? Could have been worse? Wow!

And then there is this! Joseph Poulose was hit with the pepper spray near the DVD and video games display. He blamed Wamart for failing in crowd control: "There were way too many people in a building that size. Every aisle was full," he told the Times.

Wal Mart is to blame because there were TOO MANY PEOPLE IN A BUILDING THAT SIZE?

Wow. Just wow.

YAY! We're first in line to get our cheap plastic crap made in China!

Oh, and there is one more thing to this story, of course: LINKAGE.

Examples from CNN:

* Black Friday shopping was marked by violence in at least seven states, including California.

* In 2008, crowds of frantic Black Friday shoppers trampled a Walmart employee in New York as he and other workers tried to unlock the door at 5 a.m.

Yet another type of ELITE crime

Thanks to my mom for sending this story to me.

It is yet another type of ELITE crime, this time dealing with pensions for workers:

"As companies have been moving away from traditional pension plans, they have been shifting employees to new retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, that transfer the cost — and the risk — to workers."

They know what they are doing. They know it is harmful. And they know it is wrong. Yet they keep doing it.

At least NPR is covering it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More alternative news on Occupy!

I am glad some media are covering this incredible movement.

David Krieger, Truthout | Op-Ed
The Occupy movement is demonstrating its durability and perseverance. Like a Daruma doll, each time it is knocked off balance it serenely pops back up. The movement has been seeking justice for the 99 percent, and justice is an essential element of peace. »

Public Intellectual»
  • Report»

  • Opinion»


    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Here is what Truthout and Common Cause are saying about it all

    Police pepper spray students at a UC Davis demonstration on Friday, November 18. (Screengrab: OperationLeakS - Click here for video)
    William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
    In the aftermath of September 11, there was a big push to create a national surveillance system in the name of national security. Cameras were installed at traffic lights, ostensibly to catch people running red lights and stop signs, but those cameras came with a nifty side benefit: they recorded everyone within reach of the lens in their comings and goings. Cameras were installed at street corners, ostensibly to provide security against crime, but again, you were recorded wherever you went. Bank machines all come with security cameras, and those added to the ever-broadening web of national surveillance. Finally, almost every cell phone now comes with...

    Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch | News Analysis
    Last Tuesday, I awoke in lower Manhattan to the whirring of helicopters overhead, a war-zone sound that persisted all day and then started up again that Thursday morning, the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and a big day of demonstrations in New York City. It was one of the dozens of ways you could tell that the authorities take Occupy Wall Street seriously, even if they profoundly mistake what kind of danger it poses. If you ever doubted whether you were powerful or you mattered, just look at the reaction to people like you (or your children) camped out in parks from Oakland to Portland, Tucson to Manhattan.»


    Monday, November 21, 2011

    "We've got death. We've got drama. We've got a situation basically no one could ever imagine,"

    Not to mention murder and suicide.

    So obviously, it will be in the news.

    As shown in the book, random and unusual violent crimes make the news. This is no exception.

    Woman with gun. Unusual. Woman uses gun for violent crime. Even more unusual.

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    From Penn State to Syracuse to ...?

    ... what highway to you take to go from one sports program with an alleged sexual molester of children to another sports program with an alleged sexual molester of children?

    No, it does not require a car, just turn on the TV and they'll take you to both schools, linking the cases even though they are in no way linked!

    It's called "linkage," discussed in the book, and it is a technique the media use to discuss stories by connecting them to other stories even though they are not connected. Think school shooting. One happens. Connect it to Columbine, even though it is in no way connected. Then connect it to Virginia Tech, even though it is not connected.

    In this case (an alleged sexual molestation case involving an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse), i is being connected to the Penn State case (which involved an assistant football coach). See the connection? So, clearly, we have a major problem/epidemic of assistant coaches who are perverts (allegedly of course).

    Now the media will start looking to find it at all schools. Just watch.

    It's already happening at Fox. Check it out:

    See the last story? Now it is in high schools, too! So it must be everywhere!

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Keep school lunches UNHEALTHY!

    As a parent of two kids in public schools, I find this really interesting (and disturbing).

    I mean, who could STAND AGAINST healthier lunches for our kids, especially when they (like us) are getting fatter and fatter (and thus sicker and sicker and deader and deader)?

    Corporations of course. Food companies to be precise. And of course, Congress goes along (more evidence related to the material in the book about the power of elites to impact the law).

    According to the CDC:
    • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.
    • In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
    Ironically, the CDC points out the risk factors for childhood obesity, and at least two of them occur AT SCHOOLS!

    This story from the New York Times thus makes me sick:

    A slice of pizza still counts as a vegetable.

    In a victory for the makers of frozen pizzas, tomato paste and French fries, Congress on Monday blocked rules proposed by the Agriculture Department that would have overhauled the nation’s school lunch program. 

    The proposed changes — the first in 15 years to the $11 billion school lunch program — were meant to reduce childhood obesity by adding more fruits and green vegetables to lunch menus, Agriculture Department officials said.  

    The rules, proposed last January, would have cut the amount of potatoes served and would have changed the way schools received credit for serving vegetables by continuing to count tomato paste on a slice of pizza only if more than a quarter-cup of it was used. The rules would have also halved the amount of sodium in school meals over the next 10 years. 

    But late Monday, lawmakers drafting a House and Senate compromise for the agriculture spending bill blocked the department from using money to carry out any of the proposed rules. 

    In a statement, the Agriculture Department expressed its disappointment with the decision.

    “While it is unfortunate that some in Congress chose to bow to special interests, U.S.D.A. remains committed to practical, science-based standards for school meals that improve the health of our children,” the department said in the statement.

    Food companies including ConAgra, Coca-Cola, Del Monte Foods and makers of frozen pizza like Schwan argued that the proposed rules would raise the cost of meals and require food that many children would throw away.

    The companies called the Congressional response reasonable, adding that the Agriculture Department went too far in trying to improve nutrition in school lunches.

    “This is an important step for the school districts, parents and taxpayers who would shoulder the burden of U.S.D.A.’s proposed $6.8 billion school meal regulation that will not increase the delivery of key nutrients,” said John Keeling, executive vice president and chief executive of the National Potato Council.

    The Agriculture Department had estimated that the proposal would have cost about $6.8 billion over the next five years, adding about 14 cents a meal to the cost of a school lunch. 

    Corey Henry, a spokesman for the American Frozen Food Institute, said the proposed rules simply did not make sense, especially when it came to pizza.

    The industry backs the current rules which say that about a quarter-cup of tomato paste on a slice of pizza can count as a vegetable serving. The Agriculture Department proposal would have required that schools serve more tomato paste per piece of pizza to get a vegetable credit, an idea the industry thought would make pizza unappetizing.

    The department said the change would have simply brought tomato paste in line with the way other fruit pastes and purees were credited in school meals.

    Nutrition experts called the action by Congress a setback for improving the nutritional standards in school lunches and addressing childhood obesity.

    “It’s a shame that Congress seems more interested in protecting industry than protecting children’s health,” said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit research group.


    Even Rush Limbaugh got in on it. He mocked Michelle Obama for even taking on the issue of healthy eating, suggesting she herself is overweight (of course while also making racist comments and intentionally mispronouncing her name). Get that? Rush Limbaugh called Michelle Obama fat! Um, Rush, seriously?

    This is the corporate view of a happy kid.

    Are you gonna' eat that?

    Chalk this up as another victory for the powerful. But it is our kids who will suffer.[]

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    The State versus the People


    You gotta' love independent media for stories like these ... you won't see these stories in the mainstream press.

    Check out Propublica, Truthout, and Common Dreams for more, among other sources.


     Just How Much Can the State Restrict a Peaceful Protest?

    As protests supporting Occupy Wall Street have swelled in recent weeks, hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested across the U.S. This weekend, nearly 100 people were arrested in New York and 175 in Chicago. More than 100 protesters were arrested in Boston last week; a few weeks ago, 700 were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge.

    This Week's Occupy Evictions Were Systematically Plotted By The Nations Mayors

    Conspiracy theorists are going to love this one. In an interview with the BBC, Mayor Quan admitted that she discussed dismantling Occupy Oakland with Mayors from 18 other cities.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    About that claim that the police maintain current power structures in society

    A New York judge issued an order today allowing newly evicted Occupy Wall Street protesters to return to Zuccotti Park. FULL STORY | PHOTOS | PROTESTS ROUNDUP | OPEN STORY | OPINION: OCCUPY JUST GETTING STARTED
    Chapel Hill police sent a heavily armed swat team to evict and arrest a group of some 80 Occupy Chapel Hill protesters who'd taken over a long vacant used car dealership (they also arrested members of the press covering the action).

    Clean Sweep of 'Occupy' Squatters

    So, recall that argument by some scholars in the book that the police have historically been used to maintain the status quo in society? And that the media generally fail to report on it.

    Well, it's happening now! And it is in the news!

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    This is what happens when we use criminal justice to deal with the mentally ill

    You've probably heard the phrase, "A society is judged based on how it treats its (fill in the blank)."

    How about its most vulnerable, needy populations? Like the mentally ill.

    From the Raleigh News and Observer:

    Central Prison's new $155 million medical center replaces the prison infirmary, built in the 1960s, and the mental health facility, built in the 1970s.

    An internal review of conditions inside North Carolina's Central Prison found that inmates with serious mental illnesses were neglected by staff and locked away in fetid cells.

    That neglect, which included the failure to properly track anti-psychotic medications, may have contributed to the death of at least one inmate, a 2011 report says.

    The review, obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, found:
    Inmates inside the Raleigh prison were left isolated for weeks of "therapeutic seclusion," sometimes without clothing or a mattress, in cells described as roach-infested and with human waste puddled on the floor.

    Others were strapped to their bunks in an improper manner that allowed them to bang their heads against the concrete wall.

    Chronic understaffing led to situations where the sick went untreated and suicidal inmates sometimes went unmonitored.

    Jennie Lancaster, chief operating officer for the N.C. Department of Correction, said the agency is working to improve conditions, provide remedial staff training and fill long-vacant positions.

    No prison staff were fired or disciplined following the internal review.

    'Fixes' under way

    "This is a difficult population, and it presents safety challenges, it presents behavior challenges," Lancaster said. "When you've got an offender who you clean his cell and then two hours later he's taken feces and he's smeared it all over the cell again, and you've got someone down in another cell and they're acting out ... if you're limited in your staff, it's not the ideal thing, but you have to prioritize what you're doing."

    The review of conditions inside Central's mental unit was performed last spring by two prison system nurses.

    Lancaster said living conditions for inmates will improve when the state this month opens a new $155 million health care complex at Central.

    She said the agency long pushed to secure funding for the new building because of deficiencies with the current mental unit, a 144-bed facility dating to the 1970s.

    The new prison hospital will have 216 inpatient mental health beds. There is also increased funding to hire more staff.

    "These inmates are highly unpredictable and unstable," the report says, adding that they require the highest level of care and treatment because their mental illnesses and extreme behaviors can lead to "life-threatening situations."

    But the report says the state failed to provide such care to the inmates.

    There are MILLIONS of people with mentally illnesses in the nation's prisons and jails. Most of them are nameless, faceless, and unknown to those of us living in free society. But it is our duty, by law, to provide for their care and custody.

    Drugs poorly tracked

    Years of budget cuts, hiring freezes and high turnover led to staffing shortages in critical jobs, especially nurses and doctors. Staff failed to maintain up-to-date records, track medications or respond to calls for medical help.

    The report says that nurses acknowledged not knowing which inmates were which and that patients were given too much prescribed medication or none at all.

    On April 7, 2011, an inmate was listed as receiving nine doses of powerful psychiatric drugs that included lithium and Thorazine, even though he'd already been transferred to another prison the day before.

    The report also said there "have been a number of deaths due to medical conditions," including an inmate who died in October 2010 as the result of "complications of lithium toxicity."

    That information appears to match the case of Levon Wilson, a Winston-Salem man with bipolar disorder arrested on misdemeanor charges on Aug. 31, 2010, and sent to Central Prison for safe-keeping while awaiting trial.

    Dangers of lithium

    Lithium is often prescribed to treat manic symptoms common with bipolar disorder. However, taking too much lithium can be deadly. Those taking the drug must be carefully monitored with routine blood tests because of a long list of known side effects, including impaired kidney function and obstructed bowels.

    An autopsy report shows Wilson was transferred from the prison to WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh on Sept. 30, 2010, with "moderately high levels" of lithium in his bloodstream. He died 10 days later.

    The cause of death is listed as "complications of lithium therapy," which led to kidney and bowel problems. Still, the state doctor performing the autopsy declared Wilson's death as "natural."
    DOC officials refused to release a separate internal review of Wilson's death, citing federal medical privacy laws.

    Inmates often isolated

    The 2011 report also says understaffing led to patients going unsupervised, despite orders they be carefully watched because they had tried to harm themselves.

    Inmates cut themselves and swallowed nails, batteries and shards from plastic eating utensils. The review found numerous inconsistencies and contradictions in written records of observational rounds.
    The report also found that inmates in "therapeutic seclusion" were often locked in cells for extended periods without being let out for meals, recreation time or to shower. An officer stated that patients in "therapeutic seclusion" didn't get a shower because they're suicidal, but the review found most weren't suicidal but rather had "unpredictable behaviors."

    An inmate placed in isolation on Feb. 1, 2011, was ordered by a doctor to be allowed one hour per day alone in the unit's day room. A review of his records found no evidence he was let out of his cell before April 19, a stretch of 78 days.

    Prison system policy says no inmate can be kept in seclusion for more than a week without special approval from an internal review committee consisting of a doctor, a nurse and a prison administrator.
    Isolated inmates ate meals in their cells and sometimes hoarded food, leading to infestations of roaches and ants.

    Being alone is damaging

    Solitary confinement can be psychologically damaging even for healthy people, said Dr. Stuart Grassian, a Boston psychiatrist who studied the issue while on the faculty of Harvard Medical School.
    Grassian said the conditions described in the North Carolina report could cause permanent psychological harm for inmates suffering from chronic disorders such as schizophrenia.

    "When you take a person like that and put them in solitary confinement, obviously what happens is they become more and more paranoid," Grassian said. "Because these are progressive disorders, once they have deteriorated you really don't have much of an opportunity to get them back."

    Grassian said there is nothing therapeutic about long-term seclusion, which he said increases the risk of abnormal behavior and suicide.

    At Central, mentally ill inmates who attempted to harm themselves sometimes had their clothes, blanket and mattress removed, leaving them in an empty cell with only a "safety blanket or smock."

    "If given a safety blanket, the inmate would have to choose to cover either his body or rusty bunk and lie naked," the report says. "Staff stated that at times, the inmates prefer to lie on the floor."

    Report cites filthy cells

    The review also noted the strong smell of urine throughout the facility, with sick inmates left to live in their own filth.

    The report cites a March 16 incident where an inmate was reported as needing a bath and his cell cleaned.

    "They only had two officers for three floors and during the weekend they only had one officer," the report says. "The evening nurse stated she would 'try' to have it taken care of that evening."

    Nearly a week later, on March 22, the same patient appeared stiff and lethargic.

    "Upon inspection of the patient's cell, the floor was noted to be sticky; the room had a strong odor of urine and puddles of yellowish, light brown fluid on the floor," the report said.

    Nurses were also observed failing to wash their hands or change latex gloves between patients when providing injections, potentially helping to spread blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.

    Vicki Smith, executive director of the advocacy group Disability Rights North Carolina, doubted moving the mental unit to a new building would fix the systemic problems.

    She called for "big changes that really improve the care and treatment they are providing to these vulnerable and very ill prisoners."

    Mental health issue

    The report is not the first time North Carolina's prison system has faced questions about harsh treatment. It's been revealed in recent years that prison staff have used nylon straps similar to a dog leash to tether inmates; pepper-sprayed a nude, incapacitated inmate having a panic attack in his cell; and been convicted of felony charges for using billy clubs to severely beat a shackled inmate.

    As for the Central Prison problems, Lancaster said, it wouldn't be fair to point the finger at any single official. Several positions for doctors and key administrators were vacant, she said.

    Officials said they have addressed 57 of 84 issues identified in a corrective action plan.

    State Sen. Thom Goolsby, co-chairman of the Senate appropriations committee for Justice and Public Safety, said he first learned of the critical report after the AP sought its release.

    The Wilmington Republican wants to know why no one at the prison was held responsible.
    "I want some answers, because this can't be allowed to happen again," Goolsby said. "We punish people for their crimes, but when you have someone with a mental illness you have to treat the disease. Not helping people, not seeing that they get their medication and are treated like human beings, is just wrong in every sense of the word."

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    What is the top story in the news?

    Depends on where you get your news.

    Check out CNN:

    The mother of one of the alleged sex abuse victims in the Penn State scandal says she wants the perpetrator "to be put away for a long time." FULL STORY

    Now over at Fox the top two stories are outright criticisms of the Obama Adminstration.

    Panetta: Cuts Would Invite Aggression

    Parents of Slain Border Agent Lash Out at Holder

    Parents of agent killed by gun tied to 'Furious' call attorney general, ATF 'liars' over handling of failed operation


    Is it a coincidence that the most conservative, pro-Republican news organization uses it newscasts and website to constantly attack the Democratic president?

    Don't get me wrong, I think the news SHOULD critically cover the powerful, as is argued in the book. the problem is when that criticism is not productive but just political to serve a given ideology.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Did Penn State do the right thing in firing Joe Paterno?

    In a word, YES.

    He did not report known child rapes allegedly committed by one of his coaches to the police. As a result, more children were allegedly victimized.

    And just think, this college football crime story is now the top story in the nation.

    Can you explain that based on what you've learning in the book?

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Forced sterilization in North Carolina still in the news

    Major props to serious newspapers for keeping this story in our minds.

    The story is still shocking, even for those who know it well:

    Charlotte, N.C. - Janice Black's crooked signature crawls across the consent form. She didn't know what kind of paper she was signing. Her name was the only thing she knew how to write.
    It was 1971. She was 18. Janice's IQ had tested out at 44. Her estimated mental age was 7. Her family decided she wasn't fit to raise children.

    Her stepmother took her to Charlotte Memorial Hospital. Janice didn't know why. She didn't feel sick.
    She woke in a hospital bed. She tried to get up, and it hurt. She looked and saw an incision from her belly button on down.

    The state of North Carolina had sterilized her.

    Between 1929 and 1974, the state - through the N.C. Eugenics Board - authorized the sterilizations of some 7,600 North Carolinians who were classified as mentally ill, epileptic or "feebleminded."

    by Tommy Tomlinson and Ann Doss Helms, McClatchy Newspapers

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Regional media discussing immigration and crime

    And good for them! They actually got the story right.

    This is the kind of journalism we need to set the record straight.

    From the article:

    The way some people talk, illegal immigrants are inherently more dangerous to society than most law-abiding Americans.

    "You're dealing with a criminal culture that where they're from, no one ever gets charged," said William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee, based in Raleigh. "Many illegal immigrants have a rape and pillage mentality."

    Wait, how would he know? How many immigrant do you think this guy knows?

    The latest statistics from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, paint a different portrait in Forsyth County, according to Bill Schatzman, the county's Republican sheriff.
    "The undocumented population in our county does not present a significant law-enforcement issue," Schatzman said.

    In Forsyth County, more than 10,000 fingerprints were processed at the county jail during the 13 months ending Sept. 30 through a national program known as Secure Communities. The fingerprints represent all stripes, including U.S. citizens, immigrants who had legal permission to be in the United States, and immigrants who did not.

    Out of all those fingerprints, ICE identified a total of 258 immigrants, or about 2.5 percent. Out of those immigrants, 102 were "removed" from the U.S., including some who had legal permission to be in the country.

    Thirty-three of those who were removed had no prior criminal convictions. Seventeen people removed had prior criminal convictions of what ICE classifies as the most serious crimes, such as rape, murder and major drug offenses.

    As a segment of the 10,000-plus people fingerprinted, the 17 most serious offenders represented less than two-tenths of 1 percent.

    Schatzman was not surprised by the numbers.

    "Surely, there are some (immigrants) that break the law," he said. "But clearly, they're not the largest population in our jail, and they're not the largest population that goes through our court system. It would be my experience, based on facts, that this is a law-abiding community."


    Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, said in a letter dated Aug. 18 that her department and the U.S. Department of Justice are doing a case-by-case review of about 300,000 individuals currently in deportation proceedings, with the aim of giving criminal cases top priority.

    "This process will also allow additional federal enforcement resources to be focused on border security and the removal of public safety threats," Napolitano said.

    Gheen, the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC president, doesn't believe the government's numbers.

    "How do you know that the DHS is lying? They're talking," he said.

    Asked to guess how many immigrants convicted of the most serious crimes such as rape and murder made up the 10,000-plus fingerprints processed at the Forsyth County Jail in the 13-month period, he said: "a couple hundred."

    Told that the number was 17, Gheen responded, "I had hoped they had caught more."
    And there it is. Presented with the facts, this guy still will not face them. Which is precisely why we need more stories like this!

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    The news today: What happens when crime is so newsworthy?

    From CNN:

    Hillary Adams, whose whipping at age 16 by her father was recorded and recently circulated on the Internet, explains to CNN's Anderson Cooper why she went public after seven years. FULL STORY | FATHER'S STATEMENT (PDF)

    As well as:
    Cops crash car into smugglers' planeJury mulls fate of Jackson's doctor

    From Fox News:

    U.S. Reins in Drones in Pakistan

    So, yes, crime is still rampant in the news.

    Even though it is still at near record lows and has not increased recently.

    The result?

    People think crime is going up:

    Even though it is not:

    Thanks, news!

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    If corporations are people, they are in the 1%

    From Reuters:

    Thirty large and profitable U.S. corporations paid no income taxes in 2008 through 2010, said a study on Thursday that arrives as Congress faces rising demands for tax reform, but seems unable or unwilling to act.

    Pepco Holdings, a Washington, D.C.-area power company, had the lowest effective tax rate, at negative 57.6 percent, among the 280 Fortune 500 companies studied.

    The statutory U.S. corporate income tax rate is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, but over the 2008-2010 period, very few of the companies studied paid it, said the report.

    The average effective tax rate for the companies over the period was 18.5 percent, said Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, both think tanks.

    Their report also listed General Electric Co, Paccar Inc, PG&E Corp, Computer Sciences Corp and NiSource Inc as among the 30 that paid no taxes. All 280 corporations examined were profitable over the period.

    Corporations will say rightly that the loopholes that let them slash their taxes were perfectly legal, the report said.

    "But that does not mean that low-tax corporations bear no responsibility ... The laws were not enacted in a vacuum; they were adopted in response to relentless corporate lobbying, threats and campaign support," the report said.


    So, in spite of what leading candidates for the presidency say, corporations do NOT pay 35% in taxes.

    And every single corporation studied is making money.

    They're just not hiring. They're keeping the money for themselves, getting richer and richer while the rest of the 99% suffer.

    Oh, and then there is this, from the same article!



    The report referred back to the 1986 tax reform pushed through by President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, who approved the largest corporate tax increase in U.S. history, largely by ending tax breaks, while cutting individual tax rates.

    WTH? Reagan raised taxes? That's not what I heard from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity!?!?!?!


    "Reagan solved the problem by sweeping away corporate tax loopholes," said the report, which was co-authored by Citizens for Tax Justice chief Robert McIntyre. His research 25 years ago played a key role in convincing Reagan reform was needed.

    The average effective corporate tax rate, as calculated by McIntyre's group, was about 14 percent before the Reagan reforms; afterward it shot up to 26.5 percent in 1988.

    As companies found their way around the reforms, the effective rate fell back to about 17 percent by 2002-2003.

    Etiquette expert opinion on a celebrity wedding

    There are etiquette experts?

    And they have opinions about celebrity weddings?

    Even though they don't matter. At all.

    Not in the big scheme of things anyway.

    This is all distraction. But media outlets like PEOPLE are there to give it to us.

    So that we can NOT get informed about important issues that actually impact us. And I'm starting to think policy-makers count on this so that they can continue to make policies that do not serve us.

    Who is this woman anyway? Seriously, what has she ever done to justify caring about her wedding, her divorce, or the wedding gifts that she may or may not return?

    I don't care. :-),,20541930,00.html?xid=rss-topheadlines

    Now these books make even more sense:

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    The "Occupy" movement is a JUSTICE issue

    The "Occupy" movement is a justice issue.

    It is fundamentally about distribution of wealth, a topic addressed at length in my social justice class and briefly in the media book.

    More on that later.

    But it is also clearly impacting criminal justice. Just ask Marine and Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who was seriously injured by a police officer in Oakland while peacefully protesting IN A WHEELCHAIR! Watch how here.

    Talk about an inappropriate use of force. (I am not passing judgment here, I understand why it happened; but understanding why does not justify or excuse it. It is clearly an excessive use of force based on guidelines adopted by law enforcement agencies around the country).

    Back to the distribution issue. We live in society where the wealthiest Americans control a large share of the wealth. This is not necessarily unjust, for if it stems from differential claims on merit based on unique skills, harder work, etc., then social inequalities are justifiable.

    Only, the extreme level of wealth distribution in society is NOT often based on such claims of merit. If you are born on third base, that does not mean you hit a triple.

    And besides, Americans generally reject the level of income inequality in society. Stated simply, polls show Americans think the wealthy earn too much and the poor earn too little (people simultaneously say they support and strive for the American Dream, meaning they are not opposed to pursuing wealth itself, or the presence of a gap between the rich and poor ... just NOT a gap this big).

    However you feel about it, you know that most people in the country are suffering financially right now. At least the 99% of us are.

    * Not corporations which are making record profits.
    * Not the top 1% which have actually seen dramatic improvements in wealth during a time when the rest of us are falling farther and farther behind.
    * And, get this, not Congress.

    A story in Roll Call says the collective net worth of Congress in 2010 exceeded $2 billion, a 25% increase from a similar analysis done in 2008.

    Get that? Members of Congress are also getting richer. So they are clearly not part of the 99%.

    Thus you should not expect Congress to do anything to address the "Occupy" movement.

    Even though a majority of people support raising taxes on the 1% and eliminating corporate tax deductions to help create jobs.

    Even Republicans! See?

    I see "Even Republicans" because you wouldn't know it based on statements of Republicans members from Congress or the Republican candidates for President. Which of them says we should do these things to spur economic improvement for Americans, the 99%.

    As far as I can tell. None of them. Because they are playing a political game to defeat the guy in the White House. Their theory is that, if the economy improves, he gets re-elected; if not, he does not.

    Remember that as you continue to struggle with your bills and fall farther and farther behind. Maybe you'll remember that when you vote, too. Or maybe you'll even join the "Occupy" movement.