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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Evidence slowly being leaked out in Trayvon Martin case

From CNN:

Surveillance video shows George Zimmerman arriving at the Sanford Police Department in handcuffs the night of the shooting. WATCH | OUTCRY | PUBLIC RECORDS

  • Answers few in Trayvon Martin case

  • Trayvon Martin: What witnesses say

  • Open Story: Trayvon rallies, opinions

  • And my favorite:

    It turns out you cannot wear a hat on the floor of Congress!

    And over at Fox News? Just this ...

    'Hoodie' protest gets rep booted from House
    - Palin: Obama should've kept quiet on Trayvon case

    (Palin is a paid Fox News consultant, thus her opinion is featured there).
    It is looking more and more like this is a standard manslaughter case, not self-defense. For example, in the video above, where is the bloody nose and cuts on the shooter that were supposedly present the night of the killing?

    But I do wish the media would wait for criminal justice officials to make this determination (and that those officials would do this a bit more quickly). 

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    An interesting take on race and the police

    So it looks like George Zimmerman might not have been a racist.


    And his shooting might have not been motivated specifically by race.


    I never said it was that simple. And anyone who did just does not know the reality of how race impacts perceptions of dangerousness for people like Zimmerman, a man who already had the mindset of a cop even though he was never going to be one.

    Police consider many factors as signs of potential dangerousness. Race is undeniably one of those factors.

    That is why I found this article about why African Americans don't trust the police to be so interesting. This perspective is consistent with the academic literature on the topic: Nationwide, blacks are far more likely to be stopped, questioned, detained, and searched, but only slightly more likely to be arrested. This is highly suggestive of racial profiling--using race as a warning sign of potential criminality.

    Even though it is not always found when scholars look for it, we know it exists some places at some times in policing. And regular citizens also do it, including George Zimmerman.

    On that night of Trayvon Martin's death, race clearly played a role in why Zimmerman followed Martin in the first place. A black kid with a hoodie is simply more suspicious than a white kid with a button up shirt, especially when the black kid is carrying something small and shiny in his hand (which was a can of iced tea).

    So, Zimmerman followed him. Even after being told not to by the police dispatcher.

    Ben Crump, a Martin family attorney, said this to NBC News: "Its real simple, if George Zimmerman had done what a neighborhood watchman is supposed to do -- watch -- Trayvon Martin would be alive today."

    "Trayvon Martin does not have to identify himself to a stranger," he noted. "George Zimmerman never identified who he was to Trayvon." "If he (Zimmerman) doesn't get out of the car ... if he doesn't act as if he's the police, none of this happens."

    So let's assume that Trayvon did beat Zimmerman up after he was confronted by him (police say Zimmerman had a broken nose and cut on the back of his head, inflicted by Trayvon). In that case, what Zimmerman did will likely be ruled self-defense. And Zimmerman will thus not be held accountable for Trayvon's death.

    But this does not mean that race did not play a role in the confrontation. Clearly it did. And that should remain the story in the news, even though it won't if Zimmerman is ultimately never arrested or charged for this heinous act.

    Friday, March 23, 2012

    Billionaire corporations behind RIGHT TO KILL laws

    Most of us choose to live our lives in the ideal world where law makers represent us and our representative of our interests.

    We think that laws are made because some act is immoral or harmful and thus needs to be legislated as a crime. We think legislators strive to protect us from crimes and thus make laws that do this very thing.

    And we are completely ignoring the reality of contemporary America.

    That reality is this:

    1) Laws are made by people who are in no way demographically representative of us. Specifically, lawmakers are older, whiter, richer, and "maler" than the average person. That is, the law is largely made by rich old white males.

    2) The people that vote for lawmakers are in most ways not demographically representative of us. Specifically, voters are are older, whiter, and richer than the average person.

    3) Most people do not regularly vote.

    4) Lawmakers spend a great portion of their time raising money to fund their political campaigns. In the case of winning US Senators this amounts to tens of thousands of dollars every day. And state legislators are also highly dependent on fundraising to win their seats.

    5) The candidate who raises and spends the most money almost always wins.

    6) Most of us do not give any substantial amount of money to political parties or candidates in any given year. Specifically, far less than 1% of American citizens give $200 or more in any given year.

    7) Money for political campaigns largely comes from the wealthy, corporations, Political Action Committees (PACs), and the Citizens United unleashed "Super PACs."

    So what does all this have to do with crime and criminal justice?

    It means the law will often represent the interests of the wealthy and powerful rather than us.

    Just ask the family of young Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead by wanna-be cop George Zimmerman three weeks ago in Sanford, Florida.

    Zimmerman told the police he acted in self-defense under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law (so he was not arrested and remains free as of today).

    The law allows a person to use deadly force when “he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.” Thus, if you think you or someone else is in danger, you can shoot to kill, regardless of whether the shooter is the one who initiated the hostile confrontation. You can also use deadly force to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony, thus meaning you are authorized to pursue and confront others (including a black kid wearing a hoodie walking in the rain with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea).

    Interestingly, now at least 21 states have passed these laws. Given that crime and even violent crime have declined for decades, one might wonder why such laws are needed in the first place?

    Here is the shocking truth. The laws were written and promoted by a largely unknown group of rich people called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). As show in this article, the legislation was adopted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as model legislation and promoted across the country with the help of their allies in the National Rifle Association.

    According to the article:

    "Florida's statute on the use of force in self-defense is virtually identical to Section 1 of ALEC's Castle Doctrine Act model legislation as posted on the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). According to CMD, the model bill was adopted by ALEC's Civil Justice Task in August 2005 -- just a few short months after it passed the Florida legislature -- and approved by its board of directors the following month.
    Since the 2005 passage of Florida's law, similar statutes have been passed in 16 other states. This was no accident. In a 2008 interview with NRA News, ALEC resident fellow Michael Hough explained how his organization works with the NRA to push similar legislation through its network of conservative state legislators:
    "HOUGH: We are a very pro-Second Amendment organization. In fact, last session, I'll get off-topic here real quick, but some of the things that we were pushing in states was the Castle Doctrine. We worked with the NRA on that, that's one of our model bills that we have states introduce."

    What has been the impact of these new laws? Since these laws were enacted, the number of justifiable homicides recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation has increased from about 200 per year to almost 300 per year, just as predicted by critics of the laws.

    In other words, more people are killing each other, the very opposite of what was expected by its promoters. In case you think the only people being killed are violent criminals, think of Trayvon Martin, whose only crime was "walking while black." Or any of these people.

    Amazingly, this is the same group--ALEC--that adopted, promoted, and wrote Arizona's tough "show me your papers" anti-illegal immigration law, a law that clearly will not end illegal immigration since it is supported by the private prison industry (who only makes money if it locks up people who enter the country illegally!). If immigration stops, they lose money, meaning the law clearly is not aimed at stopping immigration! PS, I blogged about this before.

    So what does all this mean?

    It is clear evidence that the criminal law often does not represent us or our interests. In the case of the laws promoted by groups like ALEC and passed by state legislatures--often with little or no debate and with little or no public support or influence--the laws often end up up literally killing us.

    Would you kindly take this money and consider this law for us? Thanks!

    So you think the mainstream media would be all over it, right?

    Nope. Silence.

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Trayvon Martin case blowing up in the media

    Everywhere you look, there is the Trayvon Martin case. (I am sure the Law & Order franchise will make an episode about it ASAP).

    This is from the New York Times:

    even though he was unarmed and on foot and his killer was in a car and armed (and had been advised by the police dispatched to not follow Trayvon)?
    Which one is the bad guy? Who needs self-defense? Duh.
    Talk about disgusting. I really wish the news media would reach out to experts who study this for a living so that the most important issues would be covered and the uniformed idiots would go away. As criminal justice scholars it is our duty to insert ourselves into these discussions. I am trying. But it is also the responsibility of the media to  reach out to us for interviews and appearances.
    Look me up. I'm in the book!


    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    Media coverage of the Trayvon Martin case

    Oh Fox News, you've done it again.

    Although the whole nation seems to be talking about the ethics of shooting an unarmed black teenager and its implications for justice, this is actually not true. After all, the most watched news station on TV in the United States is simply not covering it.

    From Think Progress:

    Since his tragic death on February 26, Trayvon Martin — an unarmed 17-year-old African-American shot by “neighborhood watch volunteer” George Zimmerman — has become national news. Martin, a good student with no criminal record, was killed by Zimmerman on his way home from the 7-11.

    Zimmerman was carrying a 9 millimeter handgun. Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. (If you are unfamilar with the story, check out our primer on what everyone should know about Trayvon Martin.)

    Martin has merited coverage by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today. The story has been covered by all three broadcast networks and extensively on cable. But there is one outlet that has barely mentioned Trayvon Martin — Fox News.

    We can all speculate about what would motivate Fox News to ignore such a story (as well as try to answer why CNN would focus on it so much).

    In my humble opinion, the lack of coverage by Fox is just further evidence that they are only interested in certain kinds of stories -- basically anything that makes Democrats or Barack Obama look bad (this is not to say they don't deserve attention or blame for some things, just that this is the only issue Fox seems to be focused on).

    Interestingly, I could see Fox News spinning this story into a narrative that is critical of Obama and the Democrats -- some kind of gun control story perhaps. But their silence speaks volumes.

    An unarmed black teenagers was gunned down in cold blood by a man with an obsession about crime prevention and an overriding perception of crime as exclusively a black phenomenon. And Fox News wants nothing to do with it.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    White (Hispanic) man murders black teenager, is not arrested

    And at least it is in the news.

    The story?

    A young black male--teenager--is walking through a "gated community." He is visiting his dad's fiancee's house, and is thus there legitimately. He is walking with a bag of skittles in one hand and a paper cup of sweet iced tea in the other.

    An older Hispanic male--a man who wanted to be a cop but never made it and who is acting as a neighborhood watch captain--acts in violation of the neighborhood watch manual and the advice of the police dispatcher he called to alert of a "suspicious person" in the area by following the black teenager.

    The young black male runs from the older Hispanic man, who catches him and initiates a struggle. The older Hispanic man shoots the black teenager, killing him on the spot. Moments before this, the boy was on the phone with a friend and was overheard asking the older man, "Why are you following me?" He told him to leave him alone.

    The older male alleges the teenager was drinking, altough there is no evidence he was. The kid had just walked from a convenience store where he bought the candy and tea. Ironically, there is evidence the older male was the one drinking including his slurred speech, but police do not follow their own guidelines and test him for drinking.

    Amazingly, the shooter claims self-defense.

    This is because of a state law passed in 2005 that allows a person to "stand his ground" and meet force with force if necessary, including deadly force.

    The shooter's motivation can be understood by his call to police, where he describes the boy as a black kid with a hoodie on, jeans, and tennis shoes. This is what passes as menacing in American nowadays, at least to people living in gated communities.

    Interestingly, the "Stand Your Ground" law's legislative sponsor, Florida Rep. Dennis Baxley, said it wasn't written to give people the power to pursue and confront others.

    "That's not what this legislation does," said Baxley, a Republican. "Unfortunately, every time there is an unfortunate incident involving a firearm, they think it's about this law, and it's not."

    Sorry, sir, it is about this law. When you passed it, I remember saying in my classes that this kind of thing would undoubtedly happen. Now that it has, you have to take responsibility for it.

    When a man in a car is told by the police not to follow a boy on foot, and he follows that person anyway, and when the man has a gun and the boy does not, this is clearly not self-defense. It is murder, plain and simple.

    And the phone call that the victim--Trayvon Martin--made just before his death to a friend, will show that the man who killed him--George Zimmerman--had no reason to think Trayvon was a threat to him. He killed him because Trayvon was black and he thought Trayvon was up to no good. And Mr. Zimmerman did not want "these assholes" to get away, like they always do.

    This is the final result of being barraged with media coverage of black crime for decades. People like this Mr. Zimmerman see a black person, especially a young black male, and immediately assume he is up to no good. And some of these people, like those who want to be cops but can never be because of dangerous personality traits like his, end up taking the law into their own hands even when it is not warranted.

    This is murder. And the police must step up and do something about it. Now.

    Monday, March 19, 2012

    Va Tech was NEGLIGENT for mass murder on its campus?


    But it's not what you think...

    There is little a school can do to prevent a mass murderer from coming to its campus and killing people at will.

    But when a gunman kills people, then stops and goes back to his dorm room, and the university does not tell anyone about it!!!, that is negligence (failing to do something legally required of you).

    Here is the story:

    A jury found Virginia Tech negligent on Wednesday for waiting to warn students about a gunman during a 2007 campus massacre that left 33 dead.

    Jurors deliberated for 3 ½ hours before siding with the parents of two students who were killed on April 16, 2007, in the most deadly mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Their wrongful death civil lawsuit argued that lives could have been spared if school officials had moved more quickly to alert the campus after the first two victims were shot in a dorm. The massacre ended later in the morning with the deaths 31 more people, including the gunman, at a classroom building.

    There it is, the key fact. The university did not warn people as it was required to do.

    The state was the lone defendant in the case and argued that the university did all that it could with the information available at the time. President Charles W. Steger and other university officials have said they initially believed the first two shootings were isolated instances of domestic violence.

    So perhaps this is why my university App State alerted people of a gunman on campus after a student supposedly walked in on a man stealing his TV (the whole thing was a hoax, making the lockdown look silly).

    Here is the rest of the story:

    The jury awarded $4 million each to the families of Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde, but the state immediately filed a motion to reduce the award. State law requires the award to be capped at $100,000.

    "The university's contention has been all along, to quote president Steger 'We did everything we could do,'" said Robert T. Hall, an attorney for the parents. "Obviously the jury didn't buy that."

    The verdict was met immediately by sobs from Peterson's mother, Celeste, while the Prydes didn't show much emotion.

    "Today we got what we wanted," Celeste Peterson said afterward. "The truth is out there, and that's all we ever wanted. We came here for the truth."

    Circuit Judge William Alexander said it was the hardest case he had been a part of.

    "My heart goes out to all of you," he said to the families of victims.

    Virginia Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski said after the verdict that the school would review the case with the attorney general before deciding on any further options.

    "We are disappointed with today's decision and stand by our long-held position that the administration and law enforcement at Virginia Tech did their absolute best with the information available on April 16, 2007," a statement from Owczarski said.

    One of the state's attorneys, Peter R. Messitt, said before the verdict that Tech officials could not be expected to anticipate the killing spree, calling the slaughter unprecedented "in the history of higher education" and "one of the most horrible days in America."

    "What happened at Norris Hall was not reasonably foreseeable," he told jurors during closing arguments.

    During the trial, the attorneys for the Prydes and Petersons portrayed campus police as leaping to the conclusion that the first two victims were shot by a jealous boyfriend, and that the gunman was not a threat to others.

    They presented evidence that campus leaders, including Steger, heeded the police conclusion without question, then waited 2 1/2 hours before sending a campus-wide warning that a "shooting incident" had occurred. It did not say a gunman was still at large.

    Police were pursuing the boyfriend of one of the dorm shooting victims as a "person of interest" at the expense of a campus-wide alert, the plaintiffs' attorneys said.

    Police stopped the boyfriend as he approached the Blacksburg campus and were questioning him as shots rang out at Norris Hall, where student Seung-Hui Cho chained shut the doors to the building and killed the students and faculty. He then killed himself.

    Tech officials issued a specific warning that a "gunman is loose on campus" through emails to 37,000 at 9:50 a.m., nearly 10 minutes after Cho began the Norris slaughter.

    The parents' attorneys also accused Steger and other administrators of trying to cover up their missteps by building official timelines that suggested they reacted more aggressively to the first shootings. Tech administrators said mistakes in the timelines were made in the fog of a horrific tragedy.

    The state presented witnesses, including experts in campus security, who said Tech police and administrators acted properly when they concluded the dorm shootings were domestic. The shootings occurred in an isolated area of the dorm, and the victims were a man and a woman clad in their undergarments and sleepwear.

    Steger testified that he delayed sending a specific warning to avoid a panic and to allow the university to notify the victims' parents. He said the advice to delay a specific warning came from a member of his Policy Group who has since died.

    The Prydes and the Petersons were the only eligible families who didn't accept their share of a previous settlement with the state worth $11 million.

    Hall said that the only way a cap on Wednesday's jury award could be lifted would be action by the attorney general or the state Legislature. Still, both sides are submitting briefs for the court to consider.

    A state panel that investigated the shootings concluded that officials erred in not sending an alert earlier. The lag in issuing a campus warning also brought Virginia Tech a $55,000 fine from the U.S. Education Department. The school is appealing.

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    NYPD tracking Americans because they are MUSLIM

    1. NYPD Monitored Muslim Students All Over Northeast : NPR › NewsUS
      Feb 19, 2012 – The AP first reported in October that the NYPD had placed informants or undercover officers in the Muslim Student Associations at City College, ...
    2. NYPD Spies On Muslims, Stirs National Outcry : NPR › NewsUSAround the Nation
      Mar 1, 2012 – They report that the NYPD trawled websites and planted informants in chapters of the Muslim Students Association. The NYPD says all their ...
    3. NYPD Surveillance Of Students Called 'Disgusting' : NPR › NewsUS
      Feb 26, 2012 – Documents obtained by the AP show that the NYPD used undercover officers and informants to infiltrate Muslim student groups. An officer even ...
    4. With Cameras, Informants, NYPD Eyed Mosques : NPR › NewsUS
      Feb 23, 2012 – With cameras, informants, NYPD eyed mosques. ... criticized the department for infiltrating Muslim student groups and trawling their websites.
      They're not even trying to link it to crime or terrorism anymore. Hence the term "ethnic mapping."
      That's right, they're using crime mapping software to identify and track Muslims, based on nothing more than their faith (which is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution).
      At least NPR is on it.  
      1. Ethnic Mapping: Prophylactic Or Offensive? : NPR › NewsUSAround the Nation
        21 hours ago – We're talking about the recent reports that the New York police were mapping and doing surveillance on Muslim communities. An Associated ...
      2. NYPD Docs: 'Focus' Scrutiny On Muslim Americans : NPR › NewsUS
        8 hours ago – NYPD docs: 'Focus' scrutiny on Muslim Americans. ... NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Police Department kept secret files on businesses ... composition but police only photographed and mapped mosques for the report.
      3. Blog Of The Nation : NPR
        19 hours ago – The surveillance has caused a rift between police and some Muslims who welcome ethnic mapping as a useful approach to preventing ...
      4. Muslims At Rally: NYPD Surveillance Keeps Us Safe : NPR › NewsUS
        3 days ago – "Anyone who intimates that it is unlawful for the police department to search online, visit public places or map neighborhoods has either not ...

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    It just never ends ... crime in the High Country

    Ashe Board Pitched Drug Education ProgramThe Ashe County Board of Education heard a presentation by Mr. Roman Gabriel III on a program he has developed called, “Sold Out Drug and Alcohol Awareness Program”. During his presentation he shared that his program is designed to fill the void left due to reduced funding in programs such as DARE
    Full Story
    Suspect Caught After Boone High Speed ChaseA high speed chase came from a traffic stop this afternoon with speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour, followed by a rather slow speed ground search.  The incident began as police were told that a wanted suspect was in the area of Faculty Street in a white Chevy Aveo, and spotting that car, it was followed out onto NC 105 Full Story
    UPDATE: Armed Robber Sought in Robbery at Boone Wal-MartBoone Police are seeking a suspect who robbed the Wal-Mart store early this morning, brandishing a handgun. Employees told Boone Police that the man entered the store sometime just before 1 this morning, shopped for some 45 minutes to an hour, then walked to a checkout. Full Story
    Mitchell County Stolen Goods, Suspect In Avery CustodyOn February 27th, a breaking and entering occurred on at a McKinney residence on Ollis Lane in Spruce Pine, NC. The next day, the Avery County Sheriff's Office arrested James Adam Garland and charged him with the breaking and entering, larceny. The release from Sheriff Kevin Frye said Full Story
    John Richard Gray Takes Plea in Boone MurderIt took three years to come to trial, and three hours to hear, but now convicted murderer John Richard Gray will spend the next 27 to 34 years in prison for the murder of Jimmy Roberts.  Roberts was killed while working at the Gold and Closeout Connection on East King Street the night of December 22nd, 2008, Full Story

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    When due process died in America ...

    None other than the Colbert Report explains how why it's perfectly legal to execute an American citizen without trial in a time of war. So it is in "the news."

    Attorney General Eric Holder says we have a right to "due process" but not "judicial process."

    This needs repair!

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Can a US President kill an American citizen without trial?


    So says the Obama White House. And they did just that in the killing of Anwar al-Alawki, an American citizen living in Yemen.

    White House and Justice Department officials say they had strong evidence that he was involved in major terrorism against the US. Which makes me wonder why they did not find him, arrest him, and bring him to trial. If the issue is that he would have been killed in such an attempt, fine, and that would be perfectly legal under US and international law given the right to kill in self-defense as part of a legitimate military or law enforcement operation.

    Instead of that, they found him and shot him dead from the sky using a Predator Drone missile. Without trial (thus without due process).

    Today on NPR I heard a Justice Department official--the Attorney General himself--say we are entitled to "due process" but not "judicial process." Yes, he actually said that.

    To the credit of NPR, at least they covered it!

    And the issue has generated some critical coverage in the past. Here are two examples:

    And today even Fox News has a story about it!

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Are we "war on terror" 'ing ourselves into financial ruin?

    Sure seems like it.

    "The ubiquitous fantasy of “homeland security,” pushed hard by the federal government in the wake of 9/11, has been widely embraced by the public.  It has also excited intense weapons- and techno-envy among police departments and municipalities vying for the latest in armor and spy equipment.

    "In such a world, deadly gadgetry is just a grant request away, so why shouldn’t the 14,000 at-risk souls in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, have a closed-circuit-digital-camera-and-monitor system (cost: $180,000, courtesy of the Homeland Security Department) identical to the one up and running in New York’s Times Square?

    "So much money has gone into armoring and arming local law-enforcement since 9/11 that the federal government could have rebuilt post-Katrina New Orleans five times over and had enough money left in the kitty to provide job training and housing for every one of the record 41,000-plus homeless people in New York City. It could have added in the growing population of 15,000 homeless in Philadelphia, my hometown, and still have had money to spare. Add disintegrating Detroit, Newark, and Camden to the list. Throw in some crumbling bridges and roads, too."

    Like everything else, it is all about priorities. I can see how, after 9/11, people genuinely thought a "war on terror" was necessary. But then, all it would have taken to confront such a thought was an examination of the term. How can you have a war -- violence for political purposes -- to defeat terrorism (also violence for political purposes)? 

    It is all due to the militarization of all levels of government, all very expensive.

    "Militarized thinking is made manifest through budgets, which daily reshape political and bureaucratic life in large and small ways. Not long after the 9/11 attacks, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, used this formula to define the new American environment and so the thinking that went with it: “Terrorist operatives infiltrate our communities -- plotting, planning, and waiting to kill again.”  To counter that, the government had urgently embarked on “a wartime reorganization,” he said, and was “forging new relationships of cooperation with state and local law enforcement.”

    "While such visionary Ashcroftian rhetoric has cooled in recent years, the relationships and funding he touted a decade ago have been institutionalized throughout government -- federal, state, and local -- as well as civil society. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security, with a total 2012 budget of about $57 billion, is the most obvious example of this.

    "That budget only hints at what’s being doled out for homeland security at the federal level. Such moneys flow not just from Homeland Security, but from the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commerce Department, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Defense.
    In 2010, the Office of Management and Budget reckoned that 31 separate federal agencies were involved in homeland security-related funding that year to the tune of more than $65 billion. The Census Bureau, which has itself been compromised by War on Terror activities -- mapping Middle Eastern and Muslim communities for counter-terrorism officials -- estimated that federal homeland security funding topped $70 billion in 2010. But government officials acknowledge that much funding is not included in that compilation. (To offer but one example, grants made through the $5.6 billion Project BioShield, to offer but one example, an exotic vaccination and medical program launched in 2004, are absent from the total.)

    "Even the estimate of more than $635 billion in such expenditures does not tell the full spending story. That figure does not include the national intelligence or military intelligence budgets for which the Obama Administration is seeking $52.6 billion and $19.6 billion respectively in 2013, or secret parts of the national security budget, the so-called black budget."

    And then there is the local level, not included in the above totals. And what is it for?

    "The chances of an American dying in a terrorist incident in a given year are 1 in 3.5 million. To reduce that risk, to make something minuscule even more minuscule, what has the nation spent? What has it cost us? Instead of rebuilding a ravaged American city in a timely fashion or making Americans more secure in their “underwater” homes and their disappearing jobs, we have created militarized police forces, visible evidence of police-state-style funding."

    I sure would like to know what the US debt would be without all this nonsense.

    What is most amazing to me is the lack of media coverage about it. At least some media organizations are on it.

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Rush Limbaugh: Ignorant, racist, misogynistic multi-millionaire

    I generally avoid partisan attacks on this blog.

    Not for this tool.

    Rush Limbaugh is not backing down after widespread condemnation over his misogynistic attack on Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University Law School student who testified before Congress recently about the problems caused when women lack access to contraception.

    If anything, Limbaugh has increased the vitriol, at one point asking Fluke: "Who bought your condoms in sixth grade?"

    Yesterday, Limbaugh called Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute."

    Those comments were quickly condemned. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) called on Republicans to denounce Limbaugh's attack on Fluke, calling out his "despicable attack," which Maloney identified as "a new low in a season of lows." Fluke also issued a statement saying this language is "an attack on all women" and declaring that those who speak out for comprehensive women's health care "will not be silenced."

    Limbaugh is not backing down.

    Opening his show Thursday, Limbaugh characterized the criticism of his comments as "a conniption fit," which he called "hilarious." He offered what he said was a "compromise" to contraception coverage: purchasing "all the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as possible."

    Limbaugh returned to the controversy later, claiming to have "run some numbers" on contraception costs and arguing that contraception coverage was "flat-out thievery" that would force taxpayers to pay to "satisfy the sexual habits of female law students at Georgetown."

    Limbaugh later dismissed concerns over lack of access to contraception coverage and mocked Fluke's congressional testimony, affecting a baby's voice and pretending to cry, saying: "I'm going broke having sex. I need government to provide me condoms and contraception. It's not fair."  

    Limbaugh later questioned why insurance should cover contraception and played a portion of Fluke's testimony laying out the problems many college-age women face paying for contraception. He asked, "Ms. Fluke, have you ever heard of not having sex? Have you ever heard of not having sex so often?"

    After saying that the Washington, D.C., Department of Health "will send you free condoms and lube," Limbaugh said: "So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

    After discussing outrage over his comments, Limbaugh again attacked Fluke, asking: "Who bought your condoms in junior high? Who bought your condoms in the sixth grade? Or your contraception. Who bought your contraceptive pills in high school?"

    Critics of Limbaugh's comments have pointed to the strength Fluke demonstrated by testifying before Congress, particularly given Limbaugh's attacks on her. Limbaugh responded to those critics by saying that Fluke is "having so much sex, it's amazing she can still walk." He also said Georgetown should establish a "Wilt Chamberlin scholarship ... exclusively for women."

    Limbaugh read from a Washington Post blog post that reported Fluke had been interested in contraceptive coverage even before she enrolled at Georgetown. Because of this, Limbaugh declared, "She's a plant -- an anti-Catholic plant from the get-go on this."

    Limbaugh also purported to explain the issue of contraceptive coverage in a "simple way" by saying: "It's just a new welfare program. And 'welfare' is a bad word, and they can't use it. They can't sell it. So now it's disguised -- welfare disguised as women's health. Or women's reproductive rights."

    Limbaugh went on to say that Fluke's testimony was part of a "Democrat plot" to "create a new welfare program and, at the same time, try to cast Republicans in an election year as anti-female." He described Fluke as "a woman who is happily presenting herself as an immoral, baseless, no-purpose-to-her life woman. She wants all the sex in the world whenever she wants it, all the time, no consequences. No responsibility for her behavior."

    And for stories like this, Rush Limbaugh is paid $30 million every year?

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    "Juvenile crime" in the news

    With the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in a case that could determine the constitutionality of life sentences without parole for juveniles, a new report looks at the lives of the more than 2,300 people currently serving life sentences for crimes they committed before they turned 18.

    The new report, “The Lives of Juvenile Lifers,” analyzes the findings of a first-ever national survey of this unique prison population.

    “The goal was to find out more about who these people are, their community and background,” Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which produced the report, said during a conference call Wednesday.

    Ashley Nellis, the report’s author and a research analyst at the Sentencing Project, said the intention was to highlight the individual stories of those serving sentences of life without parole.

    “A lot of times we hear solely about the offense for which they are serving,” she said. “They are more than just their crime.”

    Many came from troubled homes. According to the survey, nearly 80 percent of those serving juvenile life without parole sentences (JLWOP) experienced high levels of exposure to violence in their homes. More than half witnessed weekly violence in their neighborhoods.

    Given that 33 states currently allow JLWOP sentences, the US Supreme Court will likely uphold the sentences as NOT cruel and unusual because historically Justices make this determination based on state legislative activity and public opinion (if states do it and people support it, it is not an 8th Amendment violation). However, the Court already ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that JLWOP is unconstitutional in cases where a murder has not occurred.