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Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Obamacare" and the Supreme Court: Today is the day!

Today, a bit after 10am EST, the US Supreme Court decides the fate of all or parts of the Affordable Care Act, referred to by many as "Obamacare."

The Court will either set the case aside and rule that it cannot decide a tax issue until the tax imposed on non-payers is actually paid (and this does not happen in 2012!) or the Court will simply rule on the individual mandate part of the law (can Congress require you to buy anything?).

Most observers expect the Court to rule on that issue alone, and leave the rest of the law intact (the Court may also rule on the Medicaid expanasion component). And most think the Court will strike down the mandate by a vote of 5-4 (I have predicted the Court will uphold it by a vote of 6-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion).

But the Court could also strike down the whole law, including parts that even a majority of Republicans agree with (like not being able to denied insurance due to having a pre-existing condition or being charged more because you are sick).

So today is an important day. Check back later to see how the media are covering the decision. The talking heads on the news this morning are already talking about how this case will "change the Presidential race" (like that is what matters here). Stay tuned for more ...

UPDATE: Supreme Court upholds the mandate 5-4!

But as I watched CNN and Fox News., each said the individual mandate was struck down! Then on MSNBC they were saying nothing, so I waited. Eventually they said it was upheld and a victory for Obama.

So I turned back to Fox and CNN and they had to correct themselves live!

Here is one example from CNN when they got it wrong:

And here is what Fox News had on their web site prior to the ruling and even a bit after (so much for Fair and Balanced, right?):

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fox News versus Fox News

So the President of the United States uses executive privilege to hide information from Congress and Fox News calls him out for it!

But when the previous President of the United States did the very same thing, the very same network did not call him out for it. In fact, they defended him relentlessly.

When the former President did it, it was necessary for national security and questioning it was akin to treason.

When the latter President did it, it was "worse than Watergate."

Only a person who is paying attention AND who is non-partisan AND who wants to see the truth would see it.

Or you could just go over to The Daily Show to watch Jon Stewart use internal criticism to clearly illustrate it for you.

Nothing like a little evidence of clear bias to prove clear bias.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Does the US torture its own citizens?

Yes, according to those being held in solitary confinement in US prisons.

But you rarely if ever hear about it on the mainstream news.

The other day NPR had a story about it, where guests claimed that since the states built so many "super-max" prisons, they filled them up, even with people who were not intended to be in those cells. As a result, there has been a form of blowback where some states are now closing these facilities, feeling they do more harm than good.

Now, Democracy Now takes on the issue of solitary confinement.

Torture in U.S. Prisons? Historic Senate Hearing Takes Up Solitary Confinement’s Devastating Toll

In the first-ever hearing of its kind, a Senate panel heard testimony this week on the psychological and human rights implications of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. While defenders of solitary confinement claim it is needed to control the most violent prisoners, many of the people called to testify at the hearing described how it can cause intense suffering and mental illness. We’re joined by Anthony Graves, a former Texas prisoner who was fully exonerated of a murder conviction after spending 18 years behind bars, the bulk of that time on death row and in solitary confinement, and by James Ridgeway, a veteran journalist and co-editor of Solitary Watch, a website that tracks solitary confinement and torture in American prisons. [includes rush transcript]

Anthony Graves, former Texas death row prisoner who testified Tuesday at the first-ever congressional hearing on solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. Graves was fully exonerated in 2010 after spending 18 years behind bars, the bulk of that time on death row and in solitary confinement. He is now an active member of the movement to abolish the death penalty.
James Ridgeway, veteran journalist and co-editor of Solitary Watch, a website that tracks solitary confinement and torture in American prisons. He writes regularly for Mother Jones and is a 2012 Soros Justice Fellow, along with his reporting partner, Jean Casella.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Supreme Court nixes another punishment option

The Supreme Court ruled today that the Eighth Amendment forbids sentencing that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile murderers.

The 5-4 decision is the latest in a series from the court limiting the penalties imposed on juvenile offenders who commit violent crimes. In 2005 –in a case called Roper v. Simmons--the court rejected the death penalty for juveniles, and in 2010—in Graham v. Florida, it said that juveniles who commit non-homicide offenses can no longer receive sentences of life without parole.

Those decisions were written by Justice Anthony Kennedy who relied on scientific evidence regarding the development of children's brains.

Experts say that even at ages 16 and 17, when compared to adults, juveniles on average are more:
  • impulsive.
  • aggressive.
  • emotionally volatile.
  • likely to take risks.
  • reactive to stress.
  • vulnerable to peer pressure.
  • prone to focus on and overestimate short-term payoffs and underplay longer-term consequences of what they do.
  • likely to overlook alternative courses of action.

And we know why. it is their brains. So here we are, the day where science actually matters for criminal justice issues. 

Also decided today was the case involving Arizona's immigration law.

In a 5-3 provision the Court struck down:

-- Authorizing police to arrest immigrants without warrant where "probable cause" exists that they committed any public offense making them removable from the country.

-- Making it a state crime for "unauthorized immigrants" to fail to carry registration papers and other government identification.

-- Forbidding those not authorized for employment in the United States to apply, solicit or perform work. That would include immigrants standing in a parking lot who "gesture or nod" their willingness to be employed.

Yet, the Court let stand a controversial provision that lets police check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.

A formula for the news ... here is what the news is every day

The news:

1) Bad events, including unusual or dramatic weather:

Tropical Storm Debby threatened to spawn more tornadoes Monday as the stationary cyclone pummeled the Gulf Coast with fierce winds and heavy rain. FULL STORY

2) Sports, especially when there is controversy:

Two women vying for a spot on the U.S. Olympic track team crossed the finish line simultaneously. Which runner gets to go to the Olympics could be decided by a coin toss. FULL STORY | SAUDI WOMEN TO COMPETE FOR 1ST TIME

3) Political controversy:

No matter how the Supreme Court rules on health care, attention will shift rapidly to Congress. FULL STORY | TOP 4 ISSUES | 5 SCENARIOS | TIMELINE

4) and of course, crime!

Police Officer Shot in Head Near Denver Park Concert

Police officer killed while trying to break up fight at park where hundreds of families had gathered for concert

And we wonder why Americans are so unable to discuss and understand important issues carefully. We're being flooded with nonsense 24 hours a day, every day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More on corporate control of our laws

From Truthout:

Exposed: The Other ALECs' Corporate Playbook

By Steve Horn and Sarah Blaskey, Truthout | News Analysis
Money in Washington(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Thomas Hawk, Rob Shenk)
How is it that no matter whom we elect as our state representatives - Democrat, Republican, or other - we most often end up with policies that privilege the corporate agenda over the public interest?
It's a simple question, raised by laws promoting charter schools, fracking, union-busting, privatization, deregulation, and countless other corporate-friendly policies that have spread like wildfire around the country, particularly in recent legislative sessions.

As it turns out, the answer is relatively simple. Big business in the United States has perfected a legislative "playbook" - a methodical strategy for turning the wish list of multinational corporations into a state-level policy agenda with bipartisan support.

You remember ALEC, featured here on this blog as sponsor of laws like Arizona's anti-immgration law (which turns a profit for private prisons but does not reduce immigration) and Florida's Stand Your Ground law (which results in dead innocent people, usually black).

In this article, the six-stage strategy is illustrated, showing how corporations get laws passed in their interests. And you can do is vote, write a letter or email, or make a phone call.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Obama presidency suddenly plagued by scandals


or so says the mainstream news.

This from CNN:

updated 10:16 AM EDT, Wed June 20, 2012

Make CNN Your Homepage Make CNN Your Homepage

The Justice Department says President Obama has asserted executive privilege over the Fast and Furious-related documents the House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed from Attorney General Eric Holder. FULL STORY
There have been calls by Mitt Romney and others to investigate a series of recent security leaks in the Obama administration. But Peter Bergen says the leaks haven't put American interests or people at risk. FULL STORY

Not to be outdone, here is the take from Fox:

Obama Exerts Executive Privilege in
Showdown Over 'Fast & Furious' Docs

URGENT: President Obama has granted an eleventh-hour request by Attorney General Eric Holder to exert executive privilege over 'Fast and Furious' documents, a last-minute maneuver that appears unlikely to head off a contempt vote spearheaded by Rep. Darrell Issa against Holder by Republicans in the House.

Obama Camp Demands Crossroads Reveal Donors

Obama campaign files FEC complaint demanding that GOP advocacy group Crossroads GPS disclose donors

So I wonder what there really is to these stories and why, suddenly, the mainstream news organizations are making them their headline stories?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Race and North Carolina's death penalty system

If you don't live in North Carolina, you might not care about this story.

But you should, because what is true here is true in so many other states across the country.

In North Carolina, we have a serious problem of race and capital punishment. Specifically, studies show that race impacts the punishment in unallowable ways, meaning death sentences and executions cannot stand by law because race of defendant and race of victim helps determine who lives and who dies.

The Racial Justice Act, passed in 2009, allows inmates to challenge a death sentence based on a claim that race impacted the process; a judge can overturn death sentences and replace them with sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if he or she finds a race impact.

In 2011, the state's General Assembly (GA) overturned the law, yet the Governor vetoed that and the GA could not muster enough votes to overcome her appeal. You'd think that would be enough to dissuade them from trying again. But you'd be wrong, because just this week the Senate will vote on a new bill passed by the House to radically amend the law.

What motivates the GA to do this? I suppose it is an overriding desire to start killing people again, since the state has not had an execution since 2006. Oddly enough, just this month, in the first case challenging a death sentence under the Racial Justice Act, Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks issued a 167-page opinion finding that Marcus Robinson, a death row inmate, was the victim of clear discrimination in jury selection. The judge found “highly reliable” statistical evidence from a study by the Michigan State University College of Law showing racial discrimination in the removal of blacks from juries in all but four of the state’s 100 counties.

So the GA wants to do away with a law, even though a judge has already used it to overturn a death sentence based on clear evidence of racial bias in the death penalty in the state. And even though more than a hundred other appeals have already been filed under the law.

These efforts have generated enormous attention in the media, including outside the state. For example, here is the New York Times:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Closed for vacation!

I'll be back NEXT week!

Happy vacation to me!

While I am here, the media can kiss ... well you know the deal!

Friday, June 1, 2012

We Need to Talk about Kevin

That is the title of a new film that examines psychopathy and crime, crimes like school shootings.

According to this article, psychopathy affects 3 to 6 percent of the population and is genetically based. That is, only a handful of people will be psychopaths and some of their dangerous behavior is owed to their genes.

"It's biological and one of the most inherited human characteristics," said Dr. Igor Galynker, associate chair of psychiatry and director of the Family Center for Bipolar Disorder at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. But of course, environment matters, too.

About 50 percent of the neurological traits that comprise psychopathy are inherited and 50 percent are shaped by other influences. Having the genetic predisposition and growing up in an aggressive environment can be lethal.

Having carefully studied school shootings myself, I can say that not all school shooters are psychopaths; in fact, most are not. But some are clearly scary dangerous cold-blooded killers (think Columbine, for example).

Experts interviewed by on the 10th anniversary of the Columbine shootings in 2009, said that can't predict which teens will go on a suicide-driven rampage. That is true, although nearly all school shooters studied by the US Secret Service showed warning signs of violence serious enough to cause concern in friends, parents, teachers, and others.

"Not all psychotics or psychopaths are going to kill and most are not dangerous," said veteran FBI behavioral scientist Kenneth V. Lanning. That is the problem that makes prediction so difficult.

Check out the film, We Need to Talk about Kevin.

And here are some related videos:

Can Brain Damage Lead To Murder? Watch Video
Inside Chris Benoit's Brain Watch Video
Face-to-Face With a Psychopath Watch Video