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Thursday, August 30, 2012

An example of political INJUSTICE

Justice is typically defined as doing the right thing.

And injustice is its opposite.

We know justice when we see it, just as we know injustice when we see it.

Oftentimes it is in politics where it is most clear. Like last night:

Paul Ryan is a smart man with a very bright future. He also comes across to me as a very likeable person. But it is arrogant, ignorant, and just plain foolish to stand up in front of the American people and blame one person--President Obama--for an economic recession that was caused by policies of another President (and Congress) while simultaneously doing all he can to stand in the way of a full recovery, and to blame him for a deficit that continues to balloon due to policies that he himself (Paul Ryan) voted for! And besides that, last night he simply lied to us all several times. The least I can do is call him out on it.

And at least the media are doing their job, too, as members of the Fourth Estate:
The most dishonest convention speech ever? At least five times, Ryan twisted truth beyond recognition. Here they are. 
Even Fox News is on to him!
Paul Ryan's speech was three things: dazzling, deceiving and distracting. 
And Yahoo News too!
And NPR and the AP and Fact checkers all over the place!
On Medicare, the stimulus and a story about the GM plant in his hometown, the GO
P vice presidential nominee got some facts wrong, according to the news outlets and nonpartisan watchdogs that parse politicians' words.

You've perhaps heard that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. This is a great example of that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Yes that went well!

Wanna' know the facts of the drug war?

Here you go:

The news today!

This is from Yahoo News:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Who covers the war on drugs?

I was going to blog today about the story in New York City where the police shot 9 unarmed people in their effort to shoot and kill one armed man. The New York Times even ran it as a front page story, featuring a version of this shocking photo on their paper's first page:

There is so much here to discuss, touching upon many issues in the book.

But then I got a call today from the Huffington Post, and they are devoting coverage to the Republican National Convention starting tomorrow. One angle they are taking is policies that Republicans are not talking about (the "Shadow Convention" or something like that).

One of those policies is the drug war.

And guess who is being interviewed LIVE (web interview of course) alongside others including Mr. Michael Steele (former RNC Chairman)??? Yep, me!

Wow, live at 12:30pm tomorrow on

So tune in and you'll hear some serious people discussing a serious issue that is NOT being covered by most mainstream media outlets!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is this really my lovely little mountain town?

So says the news it is:

UPDATE: Man Injured in Watauga Shooting
The Watauga Sheriff’s Office has identified the gunshot victim from an incident reported last night in far western Watauga County, an incident described to responding law enforcement as accidental.  The call came in at 9pm Full Story

Watauga Commission Issues Proclamation for Fallen Deputy
The Watauga Commissioners formerly thanked the family of Deputy William Mast Jr. for his giving of his life in service to his county—commission chair Nathan Miller, “Whereas on the morning of July 26th, 2012, deputies from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office Full Story

UPDATE: Man Airlifted After Found Bleeding from Neck Wound
The man stabbed and airlifted from a landing zone set up in the middle of US 421 at the Blue Ridge Parkway overpass at about noon yesterday is still not identified, but Parkway Rangers say the man is stable today at Carolinas Medical Center. (video at: ) Full Story

Ashe Meth House Busted; Two Children Inside
A meth lab—and children exposed to the dangerous chemicals—that’s what Narcotics Detectives of the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by Jefferson Police Department, discovered early this morning.  The discovery led to the arrest of Full Story

Arrest Made in Meat Camp Stabbing
The Watauga Sheriff’s Office released the name of the woman charged and the man stabbed in an incident early last Thursday morning in Meat Camp. Wendy Melissa Miller, 38, was originally held without bond after being charged Full Story

Crimestoppers, Avery SO Nab SuspectsCrimestoppers helped find another man wanted in a number of area counties. July 28th Avery County Sheriff’s Officers received information about the location of twenty one year old Calvin Cook.  Officers relayed the information Full Story
UPDATE: 108 Arrests, 258 Charges at Gnarnia FestThe North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement office out of Conover released information about arrests made over the weekend at the Gnarnia Festival in Beech Mountain. A total of 108 individuals face 258 charges, including cocaine,
Full Story

Crimestoppers Seeks Two Suspects
Crimestoppers is helping the Avery Sheriff’s Office in looking for two suspects. Forty two year old Douglas Ray Turbyfill is wanted in Guilford and Avery County on outstanding warrants, and also has outstanding charges in Carter County Tennessee. Full Story

 See, nothing good ever happens here, or at least so says the news.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Another "bad cop" caught on camera

... his own camera, his own dashboard camera!

I find this ironic, for I am just finishing up a paper on media coverage of policing.

The literature is clear that the great bulk of images of police in the media are actually positive in nature. This is because the police maintain close relationships with the media to help control how they are depicted, also using press releases and press conferences, careful training and so on to help portray the "good side" of police officers and policing.

But obviously, negativity also sells in the media. So stories like this showing excessive use of force against a civilian tend to get a lot of press.

When you read the story and see other stories like this in the future, keep in mind how difficult of a job these people have, and how little they get paid to do it. This is not to justify such outrageous behavior, because clearly it is not justifiable. But for those of us who want to understand why it happens, it is not really that hard when you sit down and think about it.

Police officers see the ugly side of humanity every day. They deal with the crud of the Earth every day. And they are paid very little, respected very little, and often treated horribly by citizens who the officers are usually trying to help.

When they are doing all this, officers are expected not to take things personally. See?

But sometimes they do. And this is a clear case of that.

The good news is excessive use of force is actually very very rare. And the number one complaint for excessive use of force is simply that an officer touched someone when he or she did not need to ("He put his hand on me!"). So let's not lose that important real piece of information when we see such stories.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Right here is why need independent media

Every day, while checking on and reading from the mainstream news, I do my best to see what non-profit, consumer driven news organizations are talking about.

Here is a great example of why these organizations are so important. In the book, the issues of who writes the law and who the law serves are examined. The main argument is that the mainstream media rarely raise these issues because they are vested in the same status quo as lawmakers.

In the article, the authors show how one area of big business controls the law to its own advantage. This is not a controversial claim that powerful interests impact the law through their donations. After all, we as humans are not into throwing away our money for nothing.
So consider this, from the article:
How much is democracy worth to you?
If you’re like most people, it’s priceless. But for the hedge funds and insurance companies on Wall Street, it does have a price tag. And now, thanks to a new report by Global Exchange, we know the number on it: approximately $4.2 billion. That’s how much the Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (F.I.R.E.) sector has invested in political influence through campaign contributions and lobbying since 2006. That comes to $1,331 a minute spent on political power.

The new report is called “Meet the F.I.R.E. Sector: How Wall Street Is Burning Democracy.” It was developed by Elect Democracy, a nonpartisan effort by Global Exchange to expose and challenge the impact of corporate money in U.S. politics. The report contains extensive research tracking Wall Street’s investment in political power, and analyzes exactly how Wall Street has secured what Global Exchange calls “industry-loyal voting practices” in Congress: by shoveling stacks of campaign cash in the direction of Congressional hopefuls from both major political parties.
That money lets these industries get what they want in Washington. The F.I.R.E. sector contributed $879 million to members of Congress since 2006, and took positions on 383 bills during the 112th Congress. For instance, they supported Free Trade Agreements with Korea, Panama, and Colombia in 2007, and backed the bailout in 2008. Bills they opposed include the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009, the Limited Homeowner and Investor Loss in Foreclosure Act of 2010, and the Stop Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2011.

Got it? They give lots of money. They get laws that benefit them.
And you can make a call, send an email or fax, sign a petition, and vote. Of course you can also give a sizeable amount of money to political parties or candidates, but if you're like moer than 99% of Americans, you don't.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lose a finger, lose ...

... the ability to blog for a bit.

It's been a rough couple of weeks as I lost a finger mowing the grass (don't ask).

But at least I have not lost my mind. Like this guy. Wow.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I saw this once. It actually happens.

We were driving on the Interstate, probably about 70 miles per hour, in the right lane of traffic. Alongside us on the left side of the car a young woman flew by us. In the short amount of time we had to see her as she sped past, this is what we saw:

* a young woman
* driving way too fast
* with a young baby in the front, passenger seat of the car (presumably there is an airbag and whether there is or there isn't, the baby is supposed to be in the backseat!)
* the baby was facing forward instead of backward (major mistake since a baby's head can literally fly right off in a high speed crash)


* while driving, the young mother was pouring a can of Coke into the baby's bottle. Yes, Coke.

Should anything of this be a crime?

We make behaviors "crimes" because we think they are wrong and/or harmful to other, innocent people.

Does anything above thus make these behaviors worthy of being "crimes?"

Before you answer, consider this story from Salon:

Turns out lots of people do this sort of thing. And it's not just because they are uninformed about children's health.

It's also because they are poor and don't have access to quality health care, including routine dental care.

Still think it should be a crime? Or what else can we do about it?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Run, Hide, Fight"

"If you ever find yourself in the middle of an active shooter event ..."

So begins a video that offers advice about what you should do if find yourself at school, work, or any public place when someone starts shooting it up.

The advice boils down to this.

Have a plan. A simple plan.

And the plan is:




So let me get this straight, we are being advised to have a plan (which means in advance of a shooting) and that plan is to follow what comes naturally to us as humans due to our autonomic nervous system (ANS)? The ANS controls the fight, flight, or freeze response that emerges when we face a stressful situation.

Here it is:

Know what is amazing about this video?

You paid for it with your taxes through the US Department of Homeland Security.

So, now you can feel prepared to deal with a random shooting incident. But not the things that are actually likely to kill you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What exactly can be done about a "crazy" person with a gun?

In the past month, "crazy" people with guns have gone on shooting sprees, killing multiple people in each incident.

First was the movie theater shooting in Colorado that killed 12 people.

Then there was the massacre at the Sikh religious facility in Wisconsin that left seven dead.

In fact, in the past 30 years there have been at least 58 cases of mass murder with guns in the US. To be included in this list the event must meet these criteria:

  • The killings were carried out by a lone shooter. (Except in the case of the Columbine massacre and the Westside Middle School killings, both of which involved two shooters.)
  • The shootings happened during a single incident and in a public place. (Public, except in the case of a party at an apartment complex in Crandon, Wisconsin.) Crimes primarily related to armed robbery or gang activity are not included.
  • The shooter took the lives of at least four people. An FBI crime classification report identifies an individual as a mass murderer—as opposed to a spree killer or a serial killer—if he kills four or more people in a single incident (not including himself), and typically in a single location.
  • If the shooter died or was hurt from injuries sustained during the incident, he is included in the total victim count. (But we have excluded cases in which there were three fatalities and the shooter also died, per the previous criterion.)
  • We included six so-called "spree killings"—prominent cases that fit closely with our above criteria for mass murder, but in which the killings occurred in multiple locations over a short period of time.

In the Colorado shooting, the psychiatrist who treated the shooter James Holmes actually made contact with a University of Colorado police officer to express concerns about her patient's behavior several weeks before Holmes' alleged rampage, sources told ABC News.

The sources did not know what the officer approached by Dr. Lynne Fenton did with the information she passed along. They said, however, that the officer was recently interviewed, with an attorney present, by the Aurora Police Department as a part of the ongoing investigation of the shooting.

 Fenton would have had to have serious concerns to break confidentiality with her patient to reach out to the police officer or others, the sources said. Under Colorado law, a psychiatrist can legally breach a pledge of confidentiality with a patient if he or she becomes aware of a serious and imminent threat that their patient might cause harm to others. Psychiatrists can also breach confidentiality if a court has ordered them to do so. 

This raises an important question. If we have evidence that a person with a serious mental illness or brain disorder is talking about or even planning such a massacre, what can actually be done about it?

The answer is, it depends on the state. In some states, the police can take action and a person can be held against his or her will pending a mental health evaluation. In others, the person cannot be detained unless he or she is an immediate threat to himself or herself (or others) at that very moment.

This is a tough one. We'll always look back on cases like this one (and the Sikh shooting where the shooter was known to many groups and the US government as a threat and dangerous, hate-filled person ... and the Columbine killings where the shooters were known to be in serious trouble and the plot was known to many beforehand ... and ...) and we will speculate about what could have been done.

The news media will address the issue for weeks after every mass killing. And yet, nothing will ever be done. So get used to this happening again and again, year after year.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Army vet, white supremacist, domestic terrorist

The gunman who opened fire in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and killed six people has been identified as Army veteran Wade Michael Page.

Page, 40, opened fire outside the temple before entering around 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning and killed six people. He served in the Army from April 1992 through October 1998.

Page was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire with a police officer who sustained "eight or nine" gunshot wounds, authorities confirmed. Officials are treating it as a case of domestic terrorism.

Though police have not given any details on the motive of the shooter, but Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms Special Agent Thomas Ahern said Page had tattoos that suggested he had ties to white supremacists.

We've been warned about this. First, by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in fact more than once. Second, even by the US Department of Homeland Security.

Instead of listening, we buried our heads in the sand, or even worse, raised our voices and claimed these careful reports are biased or politically motivated. I recall folks like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck alleging that now that Obama is President, he was using the US government to target his opponents by calling them terrorists. Seriously.

But the facts are these: Angry people, oftentimes with military training and extensive firearms experience, are committing acts of violence motivated by political ends against innocent people in the United States. These people are thus rightly being called "domestic terrorists."

One then wonders why all those efforts were directed at "left-wing" peace groups during the run-up to the war in Iraq? You know, those people baking cookies and making posters to protest the war?

What about the "right-wing" anti-government folks that have guns and are filled with hate?

At least the media are calling it what it is. These people are terrorists.

And judging by at least this last shooter, they are not very smart. One assumes because this man saw people in his neighborhood wearing turbans, that he believed them to be Muslims, and thus, in his little imaginary world, they had to be a threat. In fact, they were Sikhs, who not only have no link to terrorism but also are a peace-loving people who believe strongly in equality.

Yet, Wade Michael Page killed them anyway. And so, just weeks after the massacre at a movie theater in Colorado, the news is all over this story, too.