Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Occupy movement challenging belief in propaganda model of media

The propaganda model of the media says certain kinds of stories will be unlikely to be covered if they are not profitable for powerful media companies, that may be upsetting to advertisers, that threaten the status quo, and so forth.

So what explains the widespread coverage of the occupy movement on CNN? This is just from today ...

Defiant but festive, Occupy DC protesters hunkered down early Tuesday as a deadline passed for U.S. Park Police to begin enforcing a ban on camping in two Washington parks. FULL STORY | OPEN STORY

 Meanwhile, over at Fox News, this is the ONLY story on Occupy.

Cops enforce sleeping ban for Occupy protesters

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm .....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Arguments about the President

Recently Newsweek magazine ran two opinion pieces about President Obama.

The first by "conservative-minded Independent" Andrew Sullivan (here) argued that much of the criticism Barack Obama has received has been unfair and ignorant of the President's actual record as well as his long-term view of politics. It also outlined Obama's major accomplishments. Sullivan concludes:

"If I sound biased, that’s because I am. Biased toward the actual record, not the spin; biased toward a president who has conducted himself with grace and calm under incredible pressure, who has had to manage crises not seen since the Second World War and the Depression, and who as yet has not had a single significant scandal to his name."

So this author admits his bias and thus his subjectivity. But he also offers facts that can be checked and/or refuted.

Newsweek got some criticism for the title on its cover--something like, "Why are the President's Critics So Dumb?" (the title of the article was: "Andrew Sullivan: How Obama's Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics.")

To make up for it, in this week's edition, there is an article titled: "David Frum Strikes Back at Andrew Sullivan on Barack Obama." In this article, David Frum (here) argues that Sullivan is wrong, that President Obama is wrong for America, and that Obama must be defeated in order to save the country.

He argues: "You don’t have to succumb to ideological fever or paranoid fantasy to see that the Obama administration is dragging America to the wrong future: a future of higher taxes and reduced freedom, a future in which entrepreneurs will innovate less and lobbyists will influence more, a future in which individuals and communities will make fewer choices for themselves and remote bureaucracies will dictate more answers to us all."

You can (and should) read both arguments to decide the truth for yourself. But when you do this, you should be looking for those facts to refute the original argument.

What I noticed very early on in the second piece by Frum a serious problem. On the first page of the article, Frum writes:

"Employment at the Social Security Administration is up by more than 6,000 since 2007, or 10 percent. In fact, hiring is up across the federal government, by 15 percent since 2007." Frum is using
these data to argue that Obama is thus BIG GOVERNMENT (ruuuuuuuuuuuuuun!).

One major problem with these data? Obama did not take the oath of office of President until January 21, 2009 (if you forgot you can see that here).

When a person starts an argument using data (from 2007) to smear a man that did not become President until 2009), it calls into question his motivation and even his entire argument. And this is a nice example of subjective bias in the media.



Friday, January 27, 2012

More on media propaganda

Since we are talking about media and propaganda from Chapter 1 of the book, I thought you'd like to see more on the issue. And of course there is a lot more!

Just google it and poof! Millions of readable bits of information including, of course, a wikipedia article on the media propaganda model.

As stated in class, I think the propaganda model overstates it, but the truth is closer to that than it is the democratic postulate. We are simply not being informed of the key facts we need to function as a democracy.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stories that you just will not believe!

First, I get to campus this morning and this is the message with which I am greeted:

Campus Crime Alert
On Tuesday January 24, 2012 at approximately 8:46 PM, two female students reported to the ASU Police Department that they had been physically assaulted by the same known male acquaintance within the past week.
My response? So arrest the guy! Then if he is convicted, tell us all about him. Until then, why are you bothering me with it? I mean, you're not telling us his name or anything so that we can protect ourselves if we see him. 

Second, there is this, which leaves me breathless:
A convicted murderer on death row in North Carolina wrote a taunting letter to his hometown newspaper about his life of "leisure" in prison and making a mockery of the legal system.
Danny Robbie Hembree Jr. was found guilty of murdering 17-year-old Heather Catterton in 2009 and was sentenced to death on Nov. 18, 2011.

Hembree, 50, is on death row at Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C., but he's not looking for any pity in the letter he sent to The Gaston Gazette.

"Is the public aware that I am a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV in the A.C., reading, taking naps at will, eating three well balanced hot meals a day," Hembree asked in the letter. "I'm housed in a building that connects to the new 55 million dollar hospital with round the clock free medical care 24/7."

He also asks if the public knows that the chances of his "lawful murder" taking place in the next 20 years, if ever, are "very slim."

His words:

"I am a man who is ready to except [sic] his unjustful punishment and face God almighty with a clean conscience unlike you cowards and your cowardly system," Hembree wrote. "Kill me if you can suckers. Ha! Ha! Ha!"

This above story is NATIONAL news out of my state. And predictably, supporters of the death penalty are calling for his execution and saying, "See, told you we need the death penalty!"

My response, then kill him. But then again, do we really let people like this decide for us how we will behave? Do you let killers decide our fate?

The fact is that this guy is sadly right. The death penalty is a joke. And he will likely live on death row forever. So why have it in the first place? Study after study after study in our state shows it is not a workable punishment. It is not good policy.

And third, there is this! About our failing drug war.

After 40 years of defeat and failure, America's "war on drugs" is being buried in the same fashion as it was born – amid bloodshed, confusion, corruption and scandal. US agents are being pulled from South America; Washington is putting its narcotics policy under review, and a newly confident region is no longer prepared to swallow its fatal Prohibition error. Indeed, after the expenditure of billions of dollars and the violent deaths of tens of thousands of people, a suitable epitaph for America's longest "war" may well be the plan, in Bolivia, for every family to be given the right to grow coca in its own backyard.

The "war", declared unilaterally throughout the world by Richard Nixon in 1969, is expiring as its strategists start discarding plans that have proved futile over four decades: they are preparing to withdraw their agents from narcotics battlefields from Colombia to Afghanistan and beginning to coach them in the art of trumpeting victory and melting away into anonymous defeat. Not surprisingly, the new strategy is being gingerly aired in the media of the US establishment, from The Wall Street Journal to the Miami Herald.

Prospects in the new decade are thus opening up for vast amounts of useless government expenditure being reassigned to the treatment of addicts instead of their capture and imprisonment. And, no less important, the ever-expanding balloon of corruption that the "war" has brought to heads of government, armies and police forces wherever it has been waged may slowly start to deflate.

Prepare to shed a tear over the loss of revenue that eventual decriminalisation of narcotics could bring to the traffickers, large and small, and to the contractors who have been making good money building and running the new prisons that help to bankrupt governments – in the US in particular, where drug offenders – principally small retailers and seldom the rich and important wholesalers – have helped to push the prison population to 1,600,000; their imprisonment is already straining federal and state budgets. In Mississippi, where drug offenders once had to serve 85 per cent of their sentences, they are now being required to serve less than a quarter. California has been ordered to release 40,000 inmates because its prisons are hugely overcrowded.


That is, this story is being ignored in the US press. And why is that?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

President Obama calls for investigation into criminals who caused economic collapse


Did you watch the State of the Union last night?

President Obama did exactly what hundreds of thousands of us have been calling on him to do—he announced a federal investigation into Wall Street. Here's what he said:

"I am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans."

The best part is, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is co-chairing the investigation and will make sure it stays on track.


All that is left is for them to be arrested and for us to finally get some justice.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Group saying NO to more consolidated media

The Writer's Guild of America, East (WGAE) yesterday urged lawmakers to resist further media consolidation, which it said undermines the quality of broadcast news and reduces the diversity of perspectives on TV.

It submitted the comments to the Federal Communications Commission as part of the public comment process now ongoing while the commission undertakes its latest quadrennial review of broadcast ownership regulations.

According to WGAE: "Simply permitting television, radio, internet, or newspaper outlets to combine will inevitably result in less substance, in the absence of clearly defined requirements that specific levels of resources be devoted to journalism."

The FCC is looking at a number of rules, including TV and radio station ownership caps in individual markets, cross-ownership regulations that forbid one company's owning a TV station and a newspaper in the same market without a waiver (horizontal organization), and the dual network rule that prohibits common ownership of any of the top four broadcast nets. Media companies have argued that the proliferation of new media outlets has heightened competition and make the current rules outdated.


Monday, January 23, 2012

A great example of why media ownership matters

This is from 2005. But it is just as true today as it was then.

"[President] George Bush must have been delighted to learn from a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that 56 percent of Americans still think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the start of the war, while six in 10 said they believe Iraq provided direct support to the al-Qaida terrorist network — notions that have long since been thoroughly debunked by everyone from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee to both of Bush's handpicked weapons inspectors, Charles Duelfer and David Kay.

"Americans believe these lies not because they are stupid, but because they are good media consumers. Our media have become an echo chamber for those in power. Rather than challenge the fraudulent claims of the Bush administration, we've had a media acting as a conveyor belt for the government's lies.

"As the Pentagon has learned, deploying the American media is more powerful than any bomb. The explosive effect is amplified as a few pro-war, pro-government media moguls consolidate their grip over the majority of news outlets. Media monopoly and militarism go hand in hand.

"When it comes to issues of war and peace, the results of having a compliant media are as deadly to our democracy as they are to our soldiers. Why do the corporate media cheerlead for war? One answer lies in the corporations themselves — the ones that own the major news outlets.

"At the time of the first Persian Gulf War, CBS was owned by Westinghouse and NBC by General Electric. Two of the major nuclear weapons manufacturers owned two of the major networks. Westinghouse and GE made most of the parts for many of the weapons in the Persian Gulf War. It was no surprise, then, that much of the coverage on those networks looked like a military hardware show."

.... the article continues here>


It is quite literally the case that the war in Iraq would not have even been possible without the lack of critical coverage by the mainstream media, those sources owned and controlled by the mainstream press.

And yet, maybe you still don't care:

* About the more than 4,500 dead soldiers (and far more dead contractors and troops from other countries).
* About the more than 300,000 Americans who now suffer from long-term disabilities like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries
* About the million dead Iraqis
* Or even the one trillion dollars we have already spent there.

But whether you like it or not, you will be paying for it. And so will your kids. And theirs.

So perhaps you can at least try to understand why media scholars and reformers are so concerned about the state of the mainstream media?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

So you wanna' know who owns the media?

As a citizen dedicated to staying aware and NOT being taken advantage of, of course you want to know where your information comes from, especially your news. Right?

Find out here:

Find out what they own and control, how much they make, and why it matters.

And of course there is more.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Get a flu shot!

You've seen some controversy in the media, created by mostly uniformed people including even some politicians, claiming that public health shots are not safe.

Rarely does this deal with the flu, but some have even questioned the logic of getting flu shots.

I did not get one this year. I don't know why. I just never got around to it. The rest of my family did. Just not me.

So instead I got the flu.

It was much much much much worse than this!

I will never make that mistake again. For the first time in my 18 year teaching career, I missed two consecutive days of work due to being sick. Moreover, I was the sickest I've been probably ever as an adult.

103.8 degree fever. Intense chills for an hour at a time while unable to get warm no matter what I did, followed by being drenched in sweat and unable to get cooled off no matter what I did.

I was literally stuck to the couch for days. I was unable to get up except for emergencies. I was unable to stomach much in the way of food or drink.

My humble advice to you? Get a flu shot. I will never miss another year.

Don't be a baby! Get the shot.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Gunman" on campus = everyone loses their mind!

At 9:25 a.m. yesterday morning on a college campus in Hickory, North Carolina, a staff member on the east campus saw a man walking through the parking lot with handgun. She made eye contact with him. He ran. She ran. Then she notified deputies who contacted the Hickory Police Department.

"It was really scary. The guy came in and just ran through the classroom and the went to another classroom. We didn't know what happened. Next thing we know swat team members are searching everything," said student Cody Calderon.

The suspect was described as a white male, with stringy hair, mid-30s and carrying a backpack, Hickory Police chief Tom Atkins said.

There are about 1,000 students on east campus, 4,000 on the main campus and 28 children in a daycare facility on east campus.

CVCC nursing student Rose Martindale said she was sitting in her 10 a.m. anatomy class when she heard sirens.

"We all thought, 'Ugh, another drill,'" Martindale said.

The students quickly realized it was real.

"My teachers locked the doors, said Martindale. "They had to get everybody in from the halls."

So, what could possibly go wrong here?

Police put the east campus, the Appalachian State University Hickory branch next door and the nearby Catawba Valley Community College campus on lockdown.

And officers saturated the campuses with guns drawn. The SWAT team evacuated 5,000 students and staff from the buildings one room at a time, including a daycare. Students in Martindale’s classroom had to sit for five hours before they were allowed to leave.

So one "gunman" produced dozens of "gunmen?" And there will be 10 more "gunmen" today, patrolling the campus looking for this one "gunman." (CVCC President Dr. Garrett Hinshaw said 10 deputies would patrol both campuses Thursday. Normally, there would be three).

Martindale is glad for the extra protection, but still nervous that the gunman was never found.

"You don’t know if he’s still out there, if he’s going to come back," Martindale said.

Before the evacuation, school officials told students, faculty and staff through a loudspeaker system to stay in their classrooms. Inside the building, 1,000 students and faculty locked themselves in classrooms and offices.

"We had to get up against the wall farthest from the door and cut out the lights and stuff," said student Tiffany Bostian.

Carla Black, an employee at CVCC said she hid in her office. "I shut my door locked it, cut the lights off, cut the computer off and got under my desk," she said.

Was this a real "gunman?" That is, was this someone who intended to shoot people on campus?
Or was it just a guy who happened to have a gun on campus who just got spooked and thus ran when someone saw him carrying his gun?

In today's society, it does not seem to matter. We've gone "school shooting" crazy and will do whatever it takes to prevent a "school shooting" even if it means ramping up security, locking down buildings and classrooms, setting up elaborate warning systems with sirens and loudspeakers, even pointing guns in the faces of innocent bystanders, thereby causing great fear in thousands of people.

So are school shootings a real threat? Are they inreasing? Decreasing? Likely to happen here?

These are the types of questions you rarely see the media ask.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Wikipedia? The INTERNET today will be different

Imagine a government controlled Internet. That is the potential of two proposed laws in Congress. The issue is so serious that several notable websites, including Wikipedia, are shutting down today in protest.
So what is the law about and why does it matter for you? Get informed by reading the following stories from CNN, FoxNews, and Truthout.
Websites go dark to highlight protest

Websites go dark to highlight protest

Wikipedia and several websites shut down at midnight in protest of anti-piracy bills that critics say could amount to censorship. FULL STORY | BEHIND THE BLACKOUT | D.C. REACTION | WHAT IS SOPA?


Wikipedia Goes Dark to Protest Web Piracy Bills

The online encyclopedia joins other websites in 24 hour blackout to protest anti-piracy legislation in Congress

Wikipedia, Reddit to Shut Down Sites Wednesday to Protest Proposed Stop Online Piracy Act

Amy Goodman, Democracy NOW!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Unusual disaster at sea? Yep, that will be news!

... especially given that there was allegedly a crime involved.

CNN reports numerous illegal and unethical actions by the captain, for example:

The grim discoveries bring to at least 11 the number of people killed after the Concordia ran aground off Giglio, Italy. FULL STORY

The story is also being covered on Fox, along with this one:

Police: Mom Shot Kids, Dad After Making Drug Video

Police say woman videotaped herself smoking meth before killing her two kids, their father, a cousin and herself

You see the pattern? Random. Violent. Deadly. Unusual.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Browsing the news this morning and this jumped out at me.

Girl taunted by neighbor dies at age 9

Kathleen Edward was thrust into the national spotlight over startling images posted online. » Succumbs to disease
See what the news media did here?

They took one story about a young girl who died after being taunted or bullied. Then they found another, unrelated story about a teen who died, a different bully victim, and something about a principal, AND THEY CONNECTED THEM ALL TOGETHER even though are in no way connected.

That is linkage and it is how we come to see problems in society as bigger than they really are.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The stories about a woman, her dog, and a man with another dog

So I was reading a nearby newspaper yesterday and two, side-by side stories caught my eye.

The first was about a woman who, while walking her dog, was accosted by a man who ran up and tried to grope her from behind.

The woman told police she was walking her dog when a man approached her from behind and tried to grab her genital area with both hands. However, the suspect was not successful and ran away, eventually heading south on Melrose Street, police said.

This is a "serial groper" as he has done this numerous times in the area.

The second, far more disgusting than even the first, was about a woman who saw a man having sex with a dog. This is a "crime against nature," a felony. The woman went to speak with the man and when she opened the door to his mobile home, she saw him attacking the dog.

The mixed-breed female was taken to a veterinarian, who recovered a DNA sample. The man was arrested after his DNA profile matched the sample recovered from the dog.

Yes, seriously, straight out of CSI.

So this leads me back to the first case of the woman groped while walking her dog. Turns out it could have been worse, at least for the dog she was walking!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

US prison population is FALLING! Yes, this is news!

The number of Americans living under the correctional system fell to 1.6 million in 2010, according to recent government data. And yes, this is DOWN from 2009!

Check out the story on NPR:

Why is this news?

Because it NEVER happens in the US. In the US, imprisonment just goes up!

Monday, January 9, 2012

I see the top stories in the news and I simply sigh ...


From CNN:

American Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, on trial in Iran for espionage, has been sentenced to death, Iran's Fars news agency reports. FULL STORY
 From CNN US:
 From Fox:

First, there are LOTS of crime stories there.

Second, there are some seriously trivial or relatively unimportant stories there (remember, these are their top stories).

These two findings should not be surprising given the evidence discussed in the book.

Third, there are several important international stories being discussed. Given the relative lack of focus on these issues (as shown in the book), at least this is refreshing!

Friday, January 6, 2012

An interesting argument about the role of the media in capital punishment

I was searching Google news today and found this argument, posted only a couple of days ago, about our current system of capital punishment.

Interestingly, while this writer supports the death penalty, he agrees with me that the system of capital punishment is a "farce" (the very word I use to describe it, along with other "F" words). His problem is that he wants to kill them all and believes that institutions including the media interfere so that it is not possible.

If only we could push a button to kill them all!

 Here is the introduction:

In common parlance, "getting away with murder" is a metaphor for doing something wrong without suffering deserved adverse consequences.  Getting away with actual murder has meant that the killer did not get caught, or else he avoided conviction or appropriate punishment thanks to a good lawyer (often taking advantage of judge-concocted rules favoring guilty defendants).

In recent decades, however, getting away with murder has been infused with new meaning: purposeful government policy now grants murderers immunity from punishment for new crimes.
Out of thin air, a right has been officially and surreptitiously created exclusively for select previously convicted murderers: the right to commit, cost-free, further violence, and even further murders.  When judges, legislators, and governors make capital punishment impossible in willful defiance of great public support, they liberate those already serving life sentences to fearlessly perpetrate as many additional vicious crimes as they can because they face no greater penalty. 

This shocking reality, known to those few immersed in what passes for the criminal "justice" system, is covered up by our murderer-protective media.


So, see he blames the media for this. Read it, it's worth it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Look at all the crime in the news today

Los Angeles Arson Suspect Needs Deputies' Help to Stand in Court

BusinessWeek -
By Christopher Palmeri, Edvard Pettersson and Karin Matussek Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- A man accused of setting a series of fires that terrorized Los Angeles over New Year's weekend needed the help of deputies to stand at his first court appearance as new ...

1 officer dead, suspect wounded after Utah shooting

OGDEN, Utah (AP) - Gunfire erupted as anti-drug police served a search warrant in an Ogden neighborhood, fatally wounding one officer and injuring five other police and a suspect, authorities said.

Casey Anthony speaks out for the first time in video diary -
By Michael Inbar While Casey Anthony sightings have been scarce in the six months since she was cleared of killing her toddler daughter Caylee, the 25-year-old has resurfaced in a video that she apparently recorded herself in October.
And of course there is this!

Woman Shoots Intruder During 911 Call

 (CBS)  Oklahoma resident Donna Jackson faced a life or death situation when an intruder tried to break into her rural-area home last Friday.

Home alone, but armed with a shotgun, 57-year-old Jackson called 911 and begged for help, but police couldn't get there before the man was able to break through a glass door with a chair and patio table.

Jackson, who stayed on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, can be heard in the call saying, "I don't want to have to kill this man, but I'll kill him graveyard dead, ma'am."

When the intruder broke through the door, Jackson dropped the phone. A minute later, Jackson was forced to shoot, and the suspect, Billy Riley, 53, was killed. According to the local district attorney's office, Jackson won't be charged with a crime. During the call, the 911 operator told Jackson it was legal for her to defend her home.


So, crime sells, right?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New laws for 2012

Every year brings new laws. Makes you wonder how we survived the previous year without them, doesn't it?

Here are some of the new laws in my state, North Carolina:

Starting Sunday, pharmacies will be required to enter customers into a national database when they want to buy cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in making methamphetamine. The database will block the sale if the person has gone on a buying spree for the drug.

Other new laws include one that means more criminals convicted of misdemeanors will be housed in county jails rather than in state prisons. It's part of a new policy approved by the Legislature with the goal of reducing correctional costs and recidivism.

New laws also mean changes to how teenagers in North Carolina get their licenses.
The law requires teenagers with a learner's permit will have to do a little more paperwork before moving on to the next step in the state's three-step graduated license program for adolescent drivers. The first log requires 60 hours of time behind the wheel under the supervision of a parent or other experienced driver. The second log, for Level 2 drivers, requires 12 additional hours. Signed copies of the logs have to be presented before moving to the next level. 

And then there is this one:

State tax collector will have fewer powers to force corporations to redo their tax returns if they're suspected of dodging taxes.

Nice! Who is in power again?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Death penalty in North Carolina

In the news ...

BOONE -- My hope for the New Year is that lawmakers in North Carolina will finally find the courage to abolish the death penalty, a punishment rooted in politics rather than science, and simultaneously get serious about reducing crime.

Research in the state, summarized in my report "The Death Penalty in North Carolina: A Summary of the Data and Scientific Studies," shows that capital punishment is rare, ineffective, expensive, biased and imperfect. The only thing left to do now is acknowledge this and put an end to it.

For decades North Carolina was one of the leading death penalty states. We were one of the top 10 states in terms of the number of people we sentenced to death and executed in any given year. And yet our murder rate was also always above the national average.

In the past decade, this all changed as the practice of capital punishment in the state has faced serious challenges. We've seen problems with the quality of representation offered to defendants. We've discovered that innocent people have been convicted and sentenced to death. And we've seen clear evidence of racial bias.

The good news is that the state has taken steps to address each of these problems.

First, the Office of Indigent Services was created in 2000 to reduce the representation of capital defendants by unqualified and inexperienced defense attorneys. Second, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission was established in 2006 to investigate and evaluate post-conviction claims of factual innocence. And in 2009, the state passed the Racial Justice Act, which bans racial discrimination in the death penalty and corrects for it by setting aside death sentences in cases where race "is shown to have been a significant factor" in seeking or imposing the death penalty.

The General Assembly recently repealed this law, but the governor vetoed the repeal; only a three-fifths vote by legislators will override the veto.

The bad news is that all our efforts to correct for the problems of the death penalty in our state amount to what former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun called "tinkering with the machinery of death." The result is a freakishly rare system of capital punishment that requires taxpayers to spend tens of millions of dollars to maintain but not actually use.

North Carolina courts now hand out only about three death sentences a year, and the state has not executed anyone since August 2006 because of unresolved disputes over the lethal injection process.

When Justice Blackmun said he would no longer tinker with the machinery of death in 1994, he added: "For more than 20 years I have endeavored ... to develop ... rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor ... I feel ... obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self-evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies."

Ironically, Blackmun was one of the jurists who dissented in the 1987 case, McCleskey v. Kemp, which rejected the appeal of Warren McCleskey, whose attorneys showed that killers of whites (and especially black killers of whites) were more likely to be sentenced to death in Georgia; this is the reality of capital punishment in North Carolina today.

That ruling gave us the impossible-to-prove standard that individuals must be able to show that state officials discriminated against them as individuals in order to overturn a death sentence; this is the standard Republican legislators want to return to by striking down the Racial Justice Act.

Whereas it's too late for Blackmun, it's not too late for North Carolina. Our own experience over the past decade proves that we can live without the death penalty.

As death sentences declined in North Carolina in what was the greatest overall reduction in death sentences in the country in the first decade of the 21st century, the murder rate also fell. In 2000, the state's murder rate ranked it eighth in the nation; by 2010, the state's murder rate was the lowest level in our recorded history and was down to 15th in the nation.

We now have all the facts.

The only thing standing in the way of abolition is a lack of courage. May this be the year we finally do the right thing and kill the death penalty. In its place, let's get serious about reducing crime by pursuing strategies rooted in science that are proven to work.