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Monday, September 30, 2013

The LEAD story in the news right now is ...

... of course this ... a story about lawmakers:
Watch this video

Gov't shutdown coming at midnight

The Democratic-led Senate rejects a proposal by the GOP-led House to derail Obamacare, sharply raising the chances of a government shutdown. FULL STORY

DEJA VU? GOP crafts new ObamaCare delay after Senate snub

There is a lot of serious analysis of the issue of a government shutdown, what is behind it, who is to blame, who will take the blame, etc.

You can find this analysis on news websites, newspapers, magazines, even blogs.

As for me, all I have to say is, "Sweet Jesus, when will these people ever grow up and do their jobs?"

Let's remember these people are paid more than one hundred thousand dollars to do this "work" and many of them are multimillionaires. All of them are adults.

Isn't it time they finally grow up and do the people's business?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Global Warming in the News

Interesting times we live in, no?

Fox News and Rush Limbaugh talk almost every day about how global warming is a myth.

Yet, the lead story on CNN right now is this one:

Watch this video

5 things to know on climate change

The world's getting hotter, the seas are rising and the U.N. climate change report says humans are the likely cause. FULL STORY

You should know that, in spite of what any one person thinks or news organization suggests, 97% of studies drawing a conclusion of whether global warming is real and man made, find that it is.

So there is consensus.

Which is why you'd expect this to be news.

And it is. At least on CNN.

As for Fox? This was the lead story on Fox News yesterday for a bit:
Lost jobs? How about lost people? More fires? etc.
And Rush Limbaugh?

He routinely calls it a hoax.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Op-ed on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

To appear in the news soon?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—aka “Obamacare”—is now the law of the land. It was held to be Constitutional by the US Supreme Court, and it is set to be fully implemented this coming month.

Yet, some state legislatures have refused to develop insurance exchanges, a key part of Obamacare meant to drive down costs, forcing the federal government to do it for them. And House Republicans—led by the so-called “Tea Party”—have now voted to repeal the law a stunning 42 times. Most recently, they passed a bill funding the government but not funding Obamacare.

Incredibly, House Speaker John Boehner claimed the vote was motivated by a democratic sense of serving public sentiment: “The American people don't want the government shut down, and they don't want Obamacare. The House has listened to the American people. Now it's time for the United States Senate to listen to them as well.”

Sure enough, polls show that a majority of Americans say they oppose Obamacare. Some oppose it because they think it goes too far, but others oppose it because they think it does not go far enough. So, in reality, about two-thirds of the public want the government to either mandate that people pay for their own medical insurance (as required by Obamacare) or to actually do more (like implementing a single-payer system). That is, Americans are not actually opposed to government involvement in health care. Further, we overwhelmingly favor key provisions of the law.

My argument is that public opinion on matters of human rights is actually irrelevant anyway. We don’t put our rights up for a vote; that is why they are called rights. Whether you like it or not, health care is a human right, recognized not only in international law but also in our own founding documents.

For example, the Declaration of Independence states that humans are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We know that about 45,000 Americans die every year simply because they do not have access to affordable health care. This is a restriction of their right to life and clearly interferes with their (and our) happiness.

And the US Constitution was written to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Welfare means well-being, and we know from careful studies that not having medical insurance promotes illness and death and thus runs counter to well-being. Further, peace at home—domestic tranquility—is not realized when Americans get sick and die simply because they are too poor to afford to see a doctor.

Of course, there is at least one fair criticism of Obamacare that is also rooted in a strong American value—liberty. People ask, “How can the government force you to purchase medical insurance? Isn’t that a restriction of your freedom?” Of course it is, but so too is not being able to yell fire in a movie theater when there is no fire; not being able to own a tank or missile launcher in the interests of public safety; not having complete and total privacy from the government as it tries to protect us from terrorists who are using email and phone systems to organize their attacks; or even having to buy car insurance in order to drive!

And so too is having to pay taxes to provide education and roads, as well as police, firefighter, and military protection.

The point being lost by libertarians generally and Tea Party Republicans especially is that liberty is also not an absolute right. I am free to extend my arm as far as I like when in my own personal space, but this right ends at your nose; the minute my behavior harms you, my right to behave that way ends.

People who can afford to carry medical insurance but don’t buy it actually harm others in the form of increased medical costs for all. This does not promote happiness. Or well-being. It even interferes with your liberty to spend your money on other things.

This is what motivated the conservative Heritage Foundation to call for the “individual mandate” that is now part of Obamacare. This is also how conservative Mitt Romney justified implementing the individual mandate at the state level as governor of Massachusetts. And this is what gives the government the right to implement a law forcing people to buy insurance if they can afford it (the law also gives people who cannot afford it financial assistance to pay for it).

Who pays for this? We do. Because it is in the public interest, for the public good. It will, when implemented, help assure life, happiness, and domestic tranquility, as well as provide for the common defence and the general Welfare.

Given these realities, it is time for state legislatures and House Republicans to end their childish behavior and fully implement the law.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Race, the war on drugs, and incarceration

Here are some undeniable facts about criminal justice in the United States:

1) The US leads the world in the rate of imprisonment, as well as the number of people it incarcerates.

2) This is not because we have more crime. US crime rates are average in comparison to other industrialized nations (although our murder rate is above average and our handgun murder rate is out of this world).

3) African Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately likely to be incarcerated and in fact now make up the majority of people imprisoned in the US.

4) This is in part due to their higher involvement with certain crimes, most notably robbery and murder. That greater involvement is not due to some genetic or even cultural difference between whites and people of color, but can largely be explained by social class differences--i.e., people of color are more likely to be poor, unemployed or underemployed, and facing significant and cumulative life disadvantages.

5) Yet, the main reason that people of color disproportionately likely to be incarcerated and make up the majority of people imprisoned in the US is because of bias in American institutions, most notably the law (which defines their harmful acts as crimes and especially serious crimes while simultaneously ignoring harmful acts of the wealthy) and the mainstream media (which intensely focuses its attention on crimes committed by people of color, especially poor people of color against "innocent" whites while simultaneously ignoring harmful acts of the powerful).

Yes, the criminal justice system is biased. Take the war on drugs as one example. Biased, biased, biased (even the White House now sees it!). And people are finally starting to see it, even in the media. Here is an example of a recent story from MSNBC that proves the point:

Criminal injustice: The percentage of African-Americans in prison
Inmates leave the exercise yard at San Quentin state prison in San Quentin, California June 8, 2012. (Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
One hundred and fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the progress made by African-Americans is undeniable–which is why statistics about incarceration in the black community can be so shocking. In 2011 there were more African-Americans in prison or “under the watch” of the justice system than were enslaved in the United States in 1850.

Michelle Alexander, the civil rights lawyer turned author, says this is in part because America’s criminal justice system perpetuates racial inequities.

“After years of representing victims of racial profiling and police brutality, and investigating patterns of drug law enforcement, and trying to help people who were released from prison face one barrier, one legal roadblock after another to get a job, getting access to housing, getting even food stamps–you know, I had an awakening that our criminal justice system now functions more like a system of racial and social control, than a system of crime prevention or control,” Alexander said on PoliticsNation Monday.

“Our nation’s prison population has more than quintupled,” she said. “And this is due largely to the war on drugs and the ‘get tough’ movement. The drug war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color even though studies have consistently shown now for decades that contrary to popular belief, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but by waging this drug war almost exclusively in poor communities of color, we’ve now created a vast new racial under-caste.”

Since 1971, when President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs, there has been a 700% increase in the U.S. prison population. Today, African-Americans are also more likely to spend time in prison for drug related offenses than their white counterparts. According to the Sentencing Project, African-Americans make up 12% of the nation’s drug users, but represent 34% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 45% of those in state prison for such offense as of 2005.
In her book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Alexander chronicled how black youth are less likely to be drug users. White students use cocaine and heroin at seven times the rate of black students, and use crack at eight times the rate, according to a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Eugene Jarecki, filmmaker behind the documentary “The House I Live in,” thinks that Americans have been swindled into believing these higher incarceration rates among minorities are justified by drug use.

“We lived for a very long time with the idea that crack is a black drug and powder is a white drug, and the actual facts that I discovered when I made the film is that crack was never a black drug,” he said. “The majority of crack users in the United States of America are and always have been white.”
“Once you know that fact, it reminds you how much propaganda has hoodwinked us for 40 years about these drugs,” he added. As of 2002, more than 80% of Americans sentenced under federal crack cocaine laws were African-Americans, according to the Sentencing Project, which also has found black drug offenders have a 20% greater chance of being sentenced to prison than white drug offenders, while Hispanics has a 40% greater chance.

Jarecki applauds the Obama administration for taking steps to help mend the program, referring to the Justice Department’s recent push to stop pursuing charges on low level drug offenders when mandatory minimum sentences could put them away for long stretches of time.

“The president and the attorney general have actually done something in Washington where nothing gets done, they have made a very serious move against the drug war for the first time in its history,” he said, But for Michelle Alexander and Rev. Sharpton, the concern is what happens in 2016. ”Much more can be done and its going to take an awakening in our communities, and a real movement must be built if we want to end this,” Alexander said.

“We must make sure there’s not a regression after this administration,” Sharpton said.

Monday, September 23, 2013

In the news today: Violence, crime, terrorism, mayhem

We live in an amazing time. A truly amazing time.

In most places in the world, violence is at an all-time low!

But you wouldn't know it from the news. Not most days. Certainly not today:
Watch this video

Army claims control of mall

  • 62 dead in Kenya mall attack
  • 2 terrorists believed killed today
  • Some posed as women
  • 3 attackers may be from U.S. FULL STORY

As if that is not bad enough, the mainstream news today continues to focus on the most random and obscure of violent acts. Like these:

2 adults, 3 kids found dead
Cops: Teens planned to eat mom's liver
Victim's family releases death video

These stories have consequences besides informing us about the world. They wear us down. They cause us grief. Fear. They make us retreat.

Most of all, they divert our attention from all the beauty that surrounds us, all the good that people are doing in our communities.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jon Stewart rips CNN for its news coverage ...

... and Fox News makes it a front page story.

This might be the funniest thing you've ever seen.

Because if you know Jon Stewart, you know that he shows how ridiculously biased Fox News is on a regular basis.

Yet, that is not on their website.

Check it out here:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wow ...

See realtime coverage

House passes bill funding government, defunding Obamacare

CBS News - ‎9 minutes ago‎
Updated at 3:01 p.m. ET. House Republicans advanced a bill on Friday that would continue funding the government at current spending levels for nearly three months but would strip money appropriated to fund Obamacare, following through on months of ...

Anyone who reads this blog is likely to have a vastly different opinion on the issue of Obamacare or American health care more generally than another person who reads this blog.

But there ARE facts on which we can agree.

First, it is a fact that household income started to fall in the US in 2000. Before Obamacare.
Second, it is a fact that household income fell even farther starting in the years 2007-2009 as the US dealt with a major economic recession caused by fraud on Wall Street and in the big banks. Before Obamacare.
Third, health care costs for the average American have been rising for more than a decade. Before Obamacare.

So why are members of Congress--supposedly educated lawmakers--blaming one law (Obamacare) on our economic problems and rising health care costs?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Everyday heroes etched in Supreme Court history

Today in the USA Today the back cover story is all about "everyday heroes etched in Supreme Court history."

It explains how normal people sometimes change history by insisting that their rights are protected, or by accidentally being in the right place at the right time.

One case, that of Clarence Earl Gideon, also stands as a great example of life course theory (criminology) and desistance from crime.

Check it out here:

But the story also has a dark side, telling about the case of Shaun McCutcheon, who could down in history as the man who put the final nail in the coffin of American democracy.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The human element of attacks

Tweleve people were murdered at a Navy Yard in Washington, DC.

And now we are learning about each and every one of them.

I learned today that one victim was a "really great man." About another I learned he had nine grandchildren!

Each victim is having his or her story told in the mainstream news.

A comment by an NBC "reporter" (on the Today Show, so is he more like a "commentator"?) was something like: "These people were killed at work. People don't expect their loved ones, when they go off to work, to die at work after doing nothing wrong."


So how about the 5,000 that die at work due to being injured so seriously that they die from their injuries?

Or the 50,000 that get sick enough at work that it eventually kills them?

Many of these deaths are due to negligence and recklessness of the corporations that employ them.

So what about their stories?

Here is yet another example of the news creating misconceptions about crime and what is dangerous.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

You think this is a post about that black guy that shot up the Washington Navy yard ...

... but it's not.

Not really.

Instead, it's about that black guy who was injured in a car accident, then sought help from a white woman at her house (she called 9 1 1 on him and said she thought he was breaking in), and then he was shot at 12 times by a police officer and hit 10 times (and killed).

Police: Cop shot unarmed man in Charlotte 10 times (blog)-2 hours ago
By Marti Maguire, Reuters. RALEIGH, N.C. — Civil rights leaders in North Carolina are calling for crime scene video evidence to be made ...

NC cop accused of shooting man 10 times due in court
CBS News-1 hour ago
Family of Man Shot by Charlotte Cop Wants Answers
ABC News-18 hours ago
Charlotte police kill ex-FAMU player who may have been running to ...
Highly Cited-CNN-Sep 15, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

The "crazies" are out

With all due respect to those actually suffering from brain disorders (mental illnesses), I turned on the news today and see that the "crazies" are out.

Shots fired in Navy Yard

Worshippers robbed during Mass. church service

English professor, woman stabbed after soccer game

And probably worse of all, is this gem from CNN. Don't racists on Twitter make you so proud to be American?

Miss America crowns 1st winner of Indian descent; racist tweets flow

Friday, September 13, 2013

In today's random crime and violence stories ...

... we see these gems in the mainstream news:

4 found dead in car on rural road
13-year-old girl bitten by shark  13-year-old girl bitten by shark
Synthetic drugs' scary reality  Synthetic drugs' scary reality
Teens zap kitty in microwave, post it  Teens zap kitty in microwave, post it
Man plotted to eat kids, feds say
Cops: Home had child-size coffin  Cops: Home had child-size coffin
Students flee district after teachers defend molester
You wonder what the point of these stories is, don't you?

I mean, what do you gain by knowing that these things occurred, especially if they occurred nowhere near you or your town.

Is the point simply to scare the heck out of you? To divert your attention away from other, far more serious issues and harms?

What do you think?

Please tell me you're not letting your kids watch this nonsense

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Criminal justice stories NOT in today's news

You read about corporate ownership of the news media.

And you thus know what is at stake.

Things like being informed about important issues.

Here are some stories from TODAY that are not in the mainstream news. These come from Truthout:

The Prison System Welcomes My Newborn Niece to This World

By Maya Schenwar, Truthout | News
Mother and Child.(Photo: Narith5 / Flickr)My niece - the first baby of my family's newest generation - was born last Wednesday morning at 10:52 AM. She is a superhero, although she probably doesn't realize it yet. Her path into this world was a rough, rough haul.
Here's how it went: At 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, my sister was called out of bed in the state prison where she's incarcerated with the news that she'd be heading to the hospital. Her water hadn't broken, and she hadn't started contractions. But this was the time slot in which she was scheduled to give birth. The labor would be induced.
During and after the birth, my sister was allowed no family or friends at her bedside, or even in the hospital. She endured labor alone, except for medical personnel and two prison guards, who rotated shifts, watching her at all times.

When the Police Become a Standing Army, Liberty is Sacrificed Without Security

When the Police Become a Standing Army, Liberty is Sacrificed Without Security

By Radley Balko, Truthout/PublicAffairs Books | Book Excerpt
There has been a generation-long shift to increasingly aggressive, militaristic, and arguably unconstitutional policing - one that would have shocked the conscience of America's founders, according to Balko Radley. Read an excerpt from his book "Rise Of The Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces."

Overruling the Judicial Amendments – What Is To Be Done?

Overruling the Judicial Amendments – What Is To Be Done?

By Ellen Dannin and Ann Hodges, Truthout | News
The conservative justices' refusal to be guided by the NLRA's policy statements is evidence of their lawlessness. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that the judicial amendments are in the NLRA that Congress enacted. That mistaken belief has led many to misdiagnose the problem. Rather than repealing the judicial amendments, some have urged repeal of the law. Some have said that workers would be better off with the law of the jungle than the NLRA.

Incredible, no?

The top three stories from Truthout are about criminal justice. Yet, NONE of them appear in the mainstream news.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Have you noticed anything about this 9/11 coverage?


Honoring individuals.

Focused on just that day.

Watch this video

2,977 died on 9/11. He was first

Twelve years ago terrorists attacked the U.S., killing hundreds at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. Danny Lewin was almost certainly the first to die. FULL STORY

But NOTHING--NOT A THING--about all the unanswered questions. Even those from the victims' families about all the warnings pouring into US officials about passenger airplanes being used as weapons. Google it. I dare you!

Nothing about that.

Except on Fox News.

Except their "We do not have answers" story is about Benghazi, not New York City. Wow.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

This is what is going on in criminal justice policy in the news at this time

Cory Booker Unveils Plan For Criminal Justice Reform: 'The Stakes ...

Huffington Post-Aug 28, 2013
Our next steps will determine whether our criminal justice system ... Mayor Booker's policy of classifying vandalism, shoplifting and other ...

Holder proposes changes in criminal justice system 12, 2013
Under the altered policy, the attorney general said defendants will instead ... However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually ...

AB 109: A Rare Opportunity for Thoughtful Criminal Justice

Fox and Hounds Daily-Sep 6, 2013
AB 109: A Rare Opportunity for Thoughtful Criminal Justice ... It is no longer acceptable public policy to merely postpone the next crime through ...

Questions Raised About Criminal Justice System

Memphis Daily News-20 hours ago
“While it's admirable and good that the justice system creates ... will begin to affect policy and practice in the local criminal justice system.

Two Powerful Signals of a Major Shift on Crime

New York Times-by Charlie Savage-Aug 12, 2013
... has swung away from the tough-on-crime policies of a generation ago. ... were “part of a national re-examination of criminal justice policy that ...

Justice Department to push criminal justice reforms, save taxpayers ...

United Liberty-by Jason Pye-Aug 12, 2013
In a major shift in criminal justice policy, the Obama administration will move on Monday to ease overcrowding in federal prisons by ordering ...

Congress Holding Hearing On Justice Department's Marijuana ...

Huffington Post-3 hours ago
The 20,000-member Marijuana Policy Project says it will support ..... kind of injustice undermined the legitimacy of our criminal justice system?
You gotta' love all this honest but critical coverage of how we "fight" crime in the United States! 

Friday, September 6, 2013

We're about to go to war but ...

THIS is still news:

13 may have fatal brain disease
Student goes into labor, dies in dorm
Snake found in Starbucks toilet 

Because, of course, it is important to know about and be afraid about things that are almost certainly not likely to kill or harm you.

This is one of the issues raised in the book: The media tend to focus on things more the least likely they are to occur, and less the more likely they are to occur.

Take the example of street crime and corporate crime. The former is relatively rare, especially with regard to the worst of the crimes (serious violent crime and murder, for example). The latter happens literally every day and causes more physical and financial harm than all street crimes combined.

And so it is the media that are largely responsible for the misconceptions about crime that we hold.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Checking in with Newsweek

We've been long-time subscribers to Newsweek magazine, but it is no longer in print.

It's all part of the news media's shrinking presence, well at least with regard to print sources.

But the "magazine" is still online.

Here are their current top stories:

Go Big or Stay Home

On Syria, there aren’t many good options. But the president has chosen the worst of them all.

Too Radical for the Taliban

A high-level fighter accuses his fellow militants of going soft—and engineers a schism that could have major consequences for Afghanistan.
It's interesting the the top stories are about Syria and Afghanistan. They never did this with their print version. I'd call it refreshing and important.
But I wonder how many, errrrr, few people even go to the Newsweek website anymore???

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

On the debasing coverage of street crime

I have finally figured it out ... how to express it.

The mainstream media's coverage of street crime debases us. It degrades us. It diminishes us.

Take this LEAD story from CNN:

Watch this video

Ohio kidnapper held 3 women for nearly 10 years

Ariel Castro, who was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years on charges of kidnap, rape and murder, was found dead, hanging from a bedsheet in his Ohio prison cell late Tuesday. FULL STORY

 Not to be outdone, this is also the LEAD story on Fox:

I ask, why is this news?

Who cares? Why should we care?

Of this I am convinced: Our focus on this kind of "news" is dangerous. It is bad for our health.

And it literally kills us.

It is stressful.

More importantly, it distorts our understanding of what crime is. It creates misconceptions of what is harmful and what is not, which allows very powerful people to continue to harm us with literally no consequences.