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Friday, August 30, 2013

US getting ready to go to war again?

.... according to mainstream media accounts of it, it seems that way.

"War" again ... but not declared.

Gotta' problem with that?

Some people do, including many members of Congress ...

From Truthout:

... "at least 162 Members of the House of Representatives, including 64 Democrats, have done at least one of the following things in the last few days: 1) signed a letter initiated by California Democrat Barbara Lee saying that there must be Congressional debate and vote before war with Syria; 2) signed a letter initiated by Virginia Republican Scott Rigell saying that there must be Congressional debate and vote before war with Syria 3) issued a statement calling for a Congressional debate and vote before war with Syria. I don’t claim that this count is exhaustive. If you know of other examples, please share them in the comments."

What are the mainstream media outlets saying about this?

Not much. Instead:

White House making case on Syria

U.N. inspectors start leaving Syria

AS SUPPORT FOR a missile strike on Syria wanes, President Obama has other options under his 'red line' doctrine — options that his top advisers put on the table months ago.
  • BREAKING NEWS: Kerry Says Clear Evidence Chemical Weapons Used
  • CLASH OF CONVICTIONS: In Face of Failure to Rally Allies on Syria, Obama Pursues Policy He Once Staunchly Opposed
  • FOX NEWS FIRST: Solo Stand on Syria | HOWARD KURTZ: Media Launch Preemptive Strike on Obama
  • Delay in Strike Giving Assad Time to Move Military Hardware, Sources Say

  • The inspectors collected samples at the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, a U.N. spokesman says. Secretary of State Kerry is speaking about Syria now.FULL STORY

    Thursday, August 29, 2013

    The grand drug policy experiment!

    As someone who's been teaching and research drug policy for years, along with my great friend and colleague Renee Scherlen, I am pretty sure we've both said that no one knows for sure what would happen under a full legalization regime.

    That is, if a drug like marijuana were to be legalized, we would not really be able to accurately predict what would happen to rates of drug use, drug abuse, illness, death, etc. But we suspect that use might go up in the short-term (as the drug is suddenly more available and thus easier to get), drug abuse would remain unchanged (because, in spite of government claims to the contrary, a drug like marijuana does not generally lead to abuse), and illness and death would decline (because people would be using a less dangerous drug than say, alcohol). We'd also expect use to eventually level off once the "newness" of legalization fades (but if it does not yet rates of alcohol use go down as people switch to pot, this would be a net gain since the former is much safer than the latter).

    But the truth is, it would be an experiment. Call it the grand drug policy experiment.

    We don't know what will happen.

    And we told our students that this would probably not happen in the United States. And likely not in our lifetimes.

    But now, finally, we're going to find out. In the United States, and in our lifetimes!

    Because two states recently legalized marijuana. And now, finally, in spite of their claims that they oppose legalization of marijuana, ONDCP, President Obama, and the Justice Department will not interfere with this policy change.

    Now legal and soon to be regulated and available to responsible adults ...

    Just as you'd expect from a conservative president who respects states' rights as long as they don't deny people their Constitutional rights, Obama's Justice Department will only enforce federal law within the states that aim to reduce harm (including serious crime).

    For example, DOJ will still prosecute individuals or entities to prevent:
    • the distribution of marijuana to minors;
    • revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
    • the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
    • state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
    • violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
    • drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
    • growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
    • preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
    But not for mere possession or use.

    Just as it should be if you believe in liberty.

    Now, let's see what happens in this grand experiment.

    PS, it's all over the news!

    Tuesday, August 27, 2013

    Stories NOT in the news today

    Here are some important news stories and serious media analyses that are NOT in the mainstream news today.

    The first is about the shift from a social welfare state (where we aim to help our fellow citizens by providing for their general welfare, as noted in our nation's founding documents) to a social control state (where we aim to control everything people do in order to protect them from serious threats
    (both imagined or manufactured and real).

    The second is about the growing and impressive power of large banks (the very actors who were found to be responsible for crashing the US economy in 2008).

    2013 0821rob sf

    2013 0827aa1

    The Leveraged Buyout of America

    Now you won't see these stories in the mainstream news (since they are owned and operated by large corporations. But you will see them in and hear about them in TruthOut, PBS, NPR, ProPublica, etc.

    So use those sources as much as you can.

    Monday, August 26, 2013

    An example of media negativity

    In the book I show how negative the media tend to be.

    That is, the news media tend to be attracted to the worst in us. And the worst of events. This includes crime.

    But it is so much bigger than that.

    On Friday I was driving around here and there while listening to NPR (recall from the book that NPR does a much better job of keeping people informed of objective facts than say mainstream TV news stations).

    One story caught my ear. It was about Tiger Woods.

    Yes, that Tiger Woods.

    The question was, what's wrong with Tiger? As in, how come he has not won a major tournament in years?

    How come he seemed poised to take the title of "most major championships" away from Jack Nicklaus and then suddenly, he cannot buy a win at a major?

    My first reaction was, did the media forget about the Tiger Woods scandal--the story about a man clearly out of control in his private life--kept alive for so long in the media itself? Because, yeah, that is what explains it.

    Incredibly, the reporter on NPR pointed out that Tiger Woods leads all professional golfers with the most victories this year on tour--five. Next best? Two.

    And he tops the money list.

    And he leads the points standings for overall best golfer.

    And he is ranked #1 in the world.

    Oh yeah, and he is not playing bad at majors either. He has come close, finishing in the top 5.

    Sure, he wants to win. And the fans want him to win. But there is nothing wrong with him. He's just human after all.

    You think NPR would be smart enough to know that.

    How about a story about how he has gotten his life back together? How he has a stable girlfriend, a civil relationship with his ex-wife, and is still being a father to his kids?

    Is that too positive a story for even NPR?

    Thursday, August 22, 2013

    What reporters are supposed to do

    In the book I make the point that the number of reporters nationwide has declined along with the number of newspapers, newspaper readers, and diversity of news ownership.

    So, serious journalism has taken a hit and "fluff" or lifestyle news has taken off. It is the dumbing down of America.

    ... which has serious consequences for democracy.

    In some places, our leaders--both elected but especially appointed--now think they can do whatever they want.

    This is where the news business comes in. Part of their job is to fact check statements of our leaders and to call them out when they lie, cheat, steal, mislead, or even try to whitewash their own actions.

    Luckily, in some places, brave reporters still exist. And they are doing their jobs.

    Like with the Winston Salem Journal, where reporter Bertrand M. Gutierrez showed that the Watauga County Board of Elections (appointed and thus not accountable to the people) drafted three different versions of the minutes of a meeting where two members rammed through bizarre and undemocratic changes to our voting procedures, over the strenuous objections of the other board member as well as citizens in attendance. To add insult to injury, then they tried to cover it all up by changing the minutes of what transpired at the meeting, even though it's all on tape (because it was filmed and even aired on a national cable news-talk program). Their apparent motive is to hide what happened by literally taking out of the minutes any reference to what actually happened at that meeting.

    Gutierrez's story can be found here:

    Rachel Maddow shows the absurdity of it all on her show, which can be viewed here:

    This is a great local example of how important the media are as watchdogs of the powerful.

    Unfortunately, this is all happening in my own town!

    Wednesday, August 21, 2013

    Top stories in USA Today right now

    So how many of the top stories in the USA Today newspaper--the most widely read newspaper in America--do you think deal with crime?

    Here the top five stories on the website this morning:
    Report: Family of DiMaggio wants paternity tests

    Other Top News

    So the top story is about the family of kidnapping and murder suspect James Dimaggio, who want paternity tests conducted to see if he is the father of the teenage girl he abducted and her slain 8-year-old brother.

    And of the next four top stories, all of them are about crime and criminal justice.

    Incredible, no?

    Yes, this is good for job security, but not for one's state of mind. Nor does it help one be informed in today's world.

    Our fixation on crime and the worst in people is not good for us. It's that simple.

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    What's in the news, whats' not

    First, what is in the news?

    Violent teens kill someone "just because." Yep, that is news.

    Teens charged as adults in shooting

    Cops: Man slain by teens, just because

    A random act of violence has left a promising 23-year-old college baseball player dead, a family devastated and two countries rattled. FULL STORYFULL STORY
    Random violence and dangerous street criminals? Yep, that is news.
    What about widespread corporate crime? The links between corporate offenders and our own government? The policies they created that allow it to occur? The people they hire to "regulate" (cough cough) the offenders?
    Nope, not in the news. Unless you look at alternative sources such as Truthout. For example:

    Not Too Big to Jail: Why Eliot Spitzer Is Wall Street's Worst Nightmare

    By Ellen Brown, Web of Debt | News Analysis
    Eliot Spitzer in Union Square, New York, July 8, 2013. Eliot Spitzer in Union Square, New York, July 8, 2013. (Photo: Timothy Krause)Before Eliot Spitzer’s infamous resignation as governor of New York in March 2008, he was one of our fiercest champions against Wall Street corruption, in a state that had some of the toughest legislation for controlling the banks. It may not be a coincidence that the revelation of his indiscretions with a high-priced call girl came less than a month after he published a bold editorial in the Washington Post titled “Predatory Lenders’ Partner in Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States from Stepping in to Help Consumers.” The editorial exposed the collusion between the Treasury, the Federal Reserve and Wall Street in deregulating the banks in the guise of regulating them, by taking regulatory power away from the states.
    Just more evidence for the importance of independent media!

    Monday, August 19, 2013

    Comparing the top stories from TV stations with newspapers! ...

    I guess you can still find it in the newspapers....

    Washington Post's top stories:

    Divided on Egypt, Arab leaders vie for influence
    Saudi Arabia is leading an effort by Persian Gulf monarchies to back the country’s new military leaders, putting the kingdom at odds with the United States.
    The possibility of the former Egyptian dictator’s release injects a volatile new element into the political crisis.
    New York Times' top stories:
    Secret Memo to Chinese Party Warns Against Western Ideas

    A document released to Communist Party cadres enumerated what it called subversive social currents, including Western-inspired notions of human rights, that must be fought.
    Hosni Mubarak faces allegations of corruption and a retrial on charges of complicity in the murder of protesters.

    While the authorities could find a way to keep former President Hosni Mubarak in detention and his release did not appear imminent, the development risked adding a volatile new element to Egypt’s crisis.   
    Meanwhile, over at CNN:

    Photos of Prince George released

    Four-legged friends featured

    Kensington Palace released two photos of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their newborn son, Prince George. FULL STORY
    And over at Fox:

    ObamaCare Launch Triggers Scams

    Never before in my life have I seen clearer evidence of the problem with mainstream television (and their websites) news organizations.

    Friday, August 16, 2013

    Washington Post identifies death of 4th Amendment

    You know that the National Security Agency is spying on you, right?

    It's been all over the news, consistent with the media's role as the Fourth Estate (watchdog of the powerful).

    Now we're starting to get a sense of how big this problem is. See here:

    But this is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, the NSA is capturing every single phone call and email from the US overseas. Every single one! Including content!

    Given that the 4th Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure and requires that the government demonstrate in court that it has probably cause to search a person or place or property--and since the government is NOT doing this in its national security spying programs--we can thus conclude the 4th Amendment no longer exists (at least in these cases).

    And think of all those people out there scared to death that the 2nd Amendment is being threatened because "the government is coming to get our guns" (even when there is literally no law or program in place that does this).

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    Rarely is the political ideology of a news organization more clear

    ... than this:


    Al Qaeda on Egypt: 'I told you so'

    Al-Zawahiri has seen it before, Bergen writes

    Al Qaeda's Egyptian-born leader is surely seeing the unrest there as a chance to exploit, writes CNN's Peter Bergen.FULL STORY

    Obama Under Fire as Egypt Erupts

    Now, read the stories and compare and contrast the "hook" used to grab your attention, the context provided (or not provided), and especially the main point each is trying to make.

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

    Oh no, not the po po!

    This is not typical behavior by police officers.

    Which is precisely why it is news.

    And of course, it is news because it is negative in nature.

    But it should be news, because it is so outrageous that it demands our attention.

    An article by Dan Fastenberg describes what happened one morning in Dekalb County, Georgia:

    "According to CBS Atlanta, it all began late in the evening of Friday, June 26, when a group of eight officers from DeKalb County in Georgia reportedly appeared at Natania Griffin's house at 1:30 a.m., and threatened to break inside while banging on the door with the gusto of actual intruders.

    "Griffin's 23-year-old son Donovan Hall whipped out his cellphone and videotaped the incident, later posting the 19 minutes of footage to YouTube. On the video, men can be heard making statements like, 'I am going to kill you,' 'I am going to tase your a**,' and, 'I wish I could cane both of y'all' when the family resisted the men. Griffin can be heard breaking into hysterics while shrieking, 'If I'm dead in the morning, you'll know why. Do not trust DeKalb County police.'

    You can watch a short clip of the incident at the above link, and of course there is more on Youtube.

    So why did eight officers come banging on the door of a peaceful house in a peaceful neighborhood in the middle of the night when people were sleeping?

    According to the article, the police came to arrest Griffin for "not paying a $1,000 civil fine that was 15 days late."

    Wow, heck of a use of resources there, no? And why not arrest him, if need be, when he goes to the store or something?

    Unfortunately, the story will create the misconception that this is how police tend to behave (which they don't).

    But fortunately, it will shed light on the fact that there are police who, in violation of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, do take their job far too personally and take out their frustrations on innocent people like this family.

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    You know it's a slow news day when ...

    ... this is your LEAD story!

    Calif. Gender Law: Boys Are Boys,
    Girls Are Girls ... and Vice Versa?

    I don't know what Fox News is trying to do here, but I suspect it is merely trying to shake up its mostly conservative audience. That is, what is more of a challenge to a traditional, status quo audience than learning that a governor (of California no less) is supposedly letting boys go into the girls' bathroom at their choosing!
    Never mind the fact that the bill only covers transgender children--not all children.
    But seriously, is this really news? Like the top news story of the day?
    Here are their other top stories (voted ID law being challenged in North Carolina, will the federal government track our driving, and violent crime!):

    ACLU Lawsuit Challenges North Carolina Voting Law

    Monday, August 12, 2013

    BIG NEWS in criminal justice policy

    Every once in a while, there is a day like this:

    Holder calls for scaled-back mandatory minimum sentences

    Draconian. Excessive. Counterproductive.

    These are the words from the top law enforcement official in the United States about one facet of the drug war.

    The Justice Department will no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences for "certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders," Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday.

    Holder told the American Bar Association's House of Delegates in San Francisco that the United States should not stop being tough on crime, but he noted that while the nation is "coldly efficient" in jailing criminals, it "cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate" its way to becoming safer.
    Racially biased. Unreasonable. Unconstitutional.
    That is how a federal judge characterized New York City PD's stop and frisk policy.
    A federal judge ruled Monday that the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy violates the Constitution, in part by unlawfully targeting blacks and Latinos.
    Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, ruling on a class-action lawsuit, wrote that the policy violated plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights barring unreasonable searches, finding that police made at least 200,000
    stops from 2004 to June 2012 without reasonable suspicion.
    She also found evidence of racial profiling, violating plaintiffs' 14th Amendment rights guaranteeing equal protection.
    So today is an amazing day in criminal justice policy news.

    Friday, August 9, 2013

    Maybe they've earned it, but ...

    ... trust in the media is lower than the military?


    From a recent article:

    There isn’t a whole lot of trust to in the U.S. news media.

    Just 23 percent of Americans say they trust TV news a great deal or quite a lot, according to a recent Gallup poll, which is below other institutions such as banks (26 percent), public schools (32 percent) and the presidency (36 percent).

    Newspapers were no better off; 23 percent also said they trust them either a great deal or quite a lot.

    According to the poll, the nation’s most trustworthy institution is the military with 76 percent trusting it a great deal or quite a lot, followed by small businesses (65 percent).

    That said, Americans’ distrust of the news media is nothing new. Confidence in TV news peaked at 46 percent in 1993, the first year Gallup asked the question. And the only time trust in newspapers was above the 50 percent threshold was in 1979, when 51 percent of those surveyed said they trusted papers.

    In fact, trust in TV news is actually up this year from 21 percent in 2012. Trust in newspapers dipped, however, from 25 percent a year ago.

    First, I get that the people don't trust the media, what with allegations of bias from both sides of the political aisle and lead stories like this everyday:

    Florida man allegedly kills wife, posts photos to Facebook of dead body

    New York Daily News
    25 minutes ago
    Written by
    Michael Walsh
    Relationship Status: Dead. A Florida man apparently fatally shot his wife in their home - and then posted on his Facebook page Thursday a grisly photo of her contorted body, along with a bizarre confession

    What I don't get is the high trust in the military. Even with the confirmed accounts of torture, killing innocent civilians, burning Korans, urinating on dead bodies, widespread sexual assault, rampant racism, etc.?

    But then, stories of such occurrences come from ... yep ... the media!

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    Three key facts about drugs (in the news)

    1) Our current President is a self-admitted pot user and his druz czar Gil Kerlikowske says we cannot have a war on our own people (i.e., the drug war)

    2) Our top law enforcement official in the US, Attorney General Eric Holder, says the drug war is too costly and not effective enough

    3) Top scholarly experts across the political spectrum have concluded that the drug war is a massive failure.

    Given this, you'd expect this to be top news, no?

    And it is!

    In the next few weeks, major sentencing reforms will be announced with regard to drug policy. I cannot wait!

    Wednesday, August 7, 2013

    Fraud is a crime but ...

    ... but "but" should be in CAPS. Like this, "BUT"

    Because fraud is a crime BUT ...

    * it is worse than theft, because it is a form of theft that tends to be committed by people who already have money, and usually lots of it ...
    * it involves two wrongs rather than one (theft PLUS deceit or trickery)
    * yet, it is rarely prosecuted by the US government, especially when it is committed by the powerful.

    Case in point, from CNN today:

    "The Department of Justice announced a civil lawsuit on Tuesday alleging that Bank of America defrauded buyers of mortgage-backed securities by lying about the quality of the home loans involved. The Securities and Exchange Commission also announced a parallel case."

    Yes, Bank of America is alleged to have committed widespread fraud against the American people.

    The same Bank of America that played a large role in the collapse of the US economy.

    From the article:

    "Bank of America's reckless and fraudulent origination and securitization practices in the lead-up to the financial crisis caused significant losses to investors," Anne Tompkins, the U.S. Attorney in the Western District of North Carolina, said in a statement. "Now, Bank of America will have to face the consequences of its actions."

    Face the consequences? So people are going to prison, right?

    Nope, they are being sued, in a civil court. Which means the company will work out a deal, pay a fine, and admit no wrongdoing. Sound like facing the consequences of its actions?

    Which brings us back to the beginning of this post. Fraud is a crime. A violation of the criminal law. So how come no one is being arrested, prosecuted, and sent to prison?

    The alleged harm caused? $100 million!!!

    According to the FBI, the average bank robber, when successful (rarely), gains about $4,000.

    Bank of America thus caused the equivalent of 25,000 bank robberies. Twenty-five thousand bank robberies!

    And no one from the bank faces prison time. Even though the average bank robber will spend years in prison.

    Does the media report this? Nope. Not even on CNN, which to its credit, is covering the case.

    All this reminds me of a joke: How come rich people don't rob banks?

    They own the banks.

    Tuesday, August 6, 2013

    CNN v Fox News: Top Stories

    Check out the top stories on CNN and Fox News today:


    Court-martial panel hears from Fort Hood defendant

    The Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 comrades and wounding more than 30 delivered his own opening statement in his court-martial today, declaring: "I am the shooter." FULL STORY


    So on CNN it's terrorism, terrorism, crime, murder, baseball controvesry, an Amber Alert (crime?), political guesswork, crime, and porn.
    And on Fox, it is terrorism, terrorism, terrorism, and sports nonsense:

    Ft. Hood Gunman: 'Dead Bodies
    Will Show War Is an Ugly Thing'