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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Important news on two major criminal justice policy arenas

First, the drug war is slowly but surely being dismantled, ending, whatever.

For example, see this.

The Smarter Sentencing Act is the biggest overhaul in federal drug sentencing in decades. It would:
  • Cut federal mandatory minimums for drug law violations, so that nonviolent offenders serve less time behind bars.
  • Make the reform to the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity that Congress passed in 2010 retroactive, so that thousands of people sentenced under the old draconian and racially unjust policy can leave prison early.
  • Expand the ability of judges to use their own discretion when sentencing defendants, so that judges can consider the unique facts of each case and each individual before them.

Second, states are very desperate, in the face of evidence that lethal injection has serious consequences, to maintain the death penalty, even if it means turning back to old (and seriously flawed execution methods).

Hanging anyone?

Firing squad?


Wow, all this is happening now, in our lifetime.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bieber fever

Seriously, this is news?

Bieber faces music Bieber faces music
It's been a bad week for Justin Bieber, who is currently in Toronto to face an assault charge. The pop star reportedly got into a scuffle with a limo driver. FULL STORY

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What is in the top newspapers right now?

According to Pew Center, here are your top newspapers for 2013 (as in most read newspapers):

These are the top stories in those newspapers right now:

Wall Street Journal:

Suspect Emerges in Trading Hiccups

The business of filling stock orders has grown increasingly complex, a factor some on Wall Street link to trading glitches of recent years and one that is partly due to rules called Regulation NMS.
USA Today:
President Obama working Monday on the State of the Union speech.

 New York Times:

Backing Among Republicans for Legal Status for Immigrants

The House Republican leadership’s ideas for the nation’s immigration laws include a path to legal status — but not citizenship — for many of the 11 million adult immigrants who are in the country illegally.
LA Times:
 Pete Seeger dies at 94; balladeer was America's conscience
Hans Pennink / AP Photo
An advocate for peace and civil rights, Pete Seeger helped spark the folk music revival with his five-string banjo and songs calling for justice.

New York Daily News:

So, other than the last paper of the top five, there is nothing about crime and criminal justice, nothing trivial or fluffy. But then comes the New York Daily News, which must be owned by the same organization that runs NBC News, and its story on ... I am not sure.

Trivial, stupid, fluffy story it is.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Random, violent crime in the news (surprise!)

Investigators combing journal belonging to Maryland mall shooter in search for motive
Teen suspected of killing sister over laundry

20 children hospitalized for gun injuries every day in US
Woman mysteriously vanishes  Woman mysteriously vanishes
Penn State student charged with building WMDs
Officials: SC State Univ. shooting victim has died 

So now I understand why people think crime is getting worse even though it is not, as shown in this figure from Gallup:

Now, the crime rate has in fact increased for the past two years, so technically these people are not incorrect. But the fact remains that fear does not match reality: People THINK they are likely to be victimized by serious, violent street crime when in fact the odds are highly in their favor that they will not.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What is BREAKING news?

Imagine talking to a member of Congress about NSA spying, and interrupting her for ...

Now you know what is wrong with the news in America.

Honestly, who cares about such "trivial news?"

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Experimental execution in the news

We live in an era where, in spite of overwhelming evidence that the death penalty is unnecessary to reduce crime, ineffective at providing justice, and fundamentally flawed because it is racially biased and a serious threat to the innocent, some states continue to cling to it. This is true, in spite of the national (and international) move away from capital punishment.

Facing shortages of lethal injection drugs, as well as serious legal challenges to the Constitutionality of the traditional three-drug protocol used to kill death row inmates, states are beginning to experiment--yes, EXPERIMENT--with new methods of death (as in by trying them out on living human beings).

Here is one witnesses description of a recent experimental execution in Ohio:


At about 10.31am, his stomach swelled up in an unusual way, as though he had a hernia or something like that. Between 10.33am and 10.44am – I could see a clock on the wall of the death house – he struggled and gasped audibly for air.

I was aghast. Over those 11 minutes or more he was fighting for breath, and I could see both of his fists were clenched the entire time. His gasps could be heard through the glass wall that separated us. Towards the end, the gasping faded into small puffs of his mouth. It was much like a fish lying along the shore puffing for that one gasp of air that would allow it to breathe. Time dragged on and I was helpless to do anything, sitting helplessly by as he struggled for breath. I desperately wanted out of that room.

For the next four minutes or so a medical tech listened for a heart beat on both sides of his chest. That seemed to drag on too, like some final cruel ritual, preventing us from leaving. Then, at 10.53am, the warden called the time of death, they closed the curtains, and that was it.

I came out of that room feeling that I had witnessed something ghastly. I was relieved to be out in the fresh air. There is no question in my mind that Dennis McGuire suffered greatly over many minutes. I'd been told that a "normal" execution lasted five minutes – this experimental two-drug concoction had taken 26 minutes. I consider that inhumane.


My state, North Carolina, has declared, by law, that lethal injection is not a medical procedure and thus doctors do not need to be present for an execution. Further, the General Assembly has replaced the three-drug protocol with a one-drug protocol (with an unnamed drug) so that it can resume executions by getting around pending lawsuits about the Constitutionality of lethal injection. In essence, the state wants to EXPERIMENT on a living human being.

Is this in the news? No, it is not.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What if al-Qaeda was poisoning our drinking water?

Wouldn't that be news? Like the top story in all news organizations?

So why is it not more newsworthy that private, for profit companies are doing it, especially when it is being done intentionally?

The recent "spill" of chemical into a West Virginia waterway--incredibly, just UPSTREAM from a water treatment plant that serves hundreds of thousands of people!--made news.

But the fact that companies do this stuff regularly, on purpose, is not newsworthy, as illustrated in this Business Insider report;

Read the words of a former Massey Energy company employee, a man who was part of the intentional pollution of the Earth for profit, working for a company that killed many people on many occasions.

The truth is there is news about it but it is not front page news anywhere, and that has meaning.

And as usual, it takes a comedian to speak the truth.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Quick, go to the mainstream news ...

... pick any source:

whatever ...

Think mainstream, like

NY Times, Washington Post
Yahoo News/Google News
NPR/Talk radio
whatever ...

Now, how many of these stories do you see there?


Six Drugs Whose Dangerous Risks Were Buried So Big Pharma Could Make Money

By Martha Rosenberg, AlterNet | Report    

The Toxic Chemical Spill Crisis in West Virginia Will Happen Again. Here's Why

By Dennis Trainor Jr, Popular Resistance | Video Report    

Five Criticisms of Obama's NSA Speech

By Kevin Mathews, Care2 | News Analysis    

BP Employees, Outraged by Lack of Compensation, Warn Oil Spill Victims

By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report    

Children Burned With Cigarettes by Israeli Soldiers in Illegal Settlement

By Nora Barrows-Friedman , The Electronic Intifada | Report    
Go ahead, check. Seriously, do it.
I bet you won't find any.
Why not?
Read the material on corporate ownership of the media. If they don't want you to know it or don't feel it is profitable to show it, it will not be there. It is that simple.

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Martin Luther King day but ...

... if you watch TV you STILL won't know why.

Incredibly, this article was written in 1995--1995!--yet nothing has changed in terms of how the media cover the man.

It's become a TV ritual: Every year in mid-January, around the time of Martin Luther King's birthday, we get perfunctory network news reports about "the slain civil rights leader."

The remarkable thing about this annual review of King's life is that several years — his last years — are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

What TV viewers see is a closed loop of familiar file footage: King battling desegregation in Birmingham (1963); reciting his dream of racial harmony at the rally in Washington (1963); marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama (1965); and finally, lying dead on the motel balcony in Memphis (1968).

An alert viewer might notice that the chronology jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn't take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever.
Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they're not shown today on TV.


It's because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.


So, what did he stand for?

Things too radical to appear on TV apparently.

Yet, he still has a national holiday and a monument on the mall in Washington, DC. Even as our actions as a nation dishonor what he stood for as a man, especially in those last two years of his life.

Read the rest to see what you are missing. Warning, you won't see this in the news today! Human rights ... economic justice ... redistribution of wealth ... anti-war ...


Here is how he is being covered:


His lesser-known gems
There are the iconic speeches and writings: "I Have a Dream" and "Letter From Birmingham Jail." But MLK's "overlooked gems" spotlight his hidden side. FULL STORY


Nothing. Literally nothing!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

More random, violent crime ...

... more shootings ...

The 12-year-old student who opened fire inside a crowded middle school gym with a shotgun may have warned some students not to go to school before the attack, police in New Mexico said. FULL STORY

Notice that in this story, CNN is again talking about "heroes," in line with that narrative commonly used in the media to frame these kinds of stories.

Just like CNN did in its story yesterday of the movie theater shooting, which is again on the front page:

Watch this video

Woman: He glared at me for texting

A few weeks before a texting dispute turned deadly at a Florida theater, the suspect had a run-in with another moviegoer, prosecutors say. FULL STORY
Again, "heroes..."

In that article, CNN reports:

"Sadly, theater violence is nothing new. Less than two years ago, an Aurora, Colorado, cineplex was the scene of a shooting massacre that left 12 people dead."

So there you have evidence of the process of linkage, where CNN links this shooting to that shooting, even though the two are not linked.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Random. Violent. Gun. Death. = News

Take a random act of violence with a gun that produces a death, and POOF!, you've got national news.

CNN has this story as its front page story today:

Watch this video

Texting man shot dead at movie

Witnesses say it started when Chad Oulsen, seen here with his wife in a Facebook photo, sent a text message to his daughter during previews at a Florida theater. It ended when another moviegoer, a retired police officer, shot him, police said. FULL STORY

Oh, and look, heroes, too!

Think of the major themes and narratives used by the media to depict these kinds of stories. This fits right in with them.

As for my reaction, well:

1) The movie company asks people NOT to text during movies ...
2) and the man who was murdered was texting during the movie ...
3) yet he did not deserve to die for that ...
4) although I've been in the same situation with a person texting in front of me ...
5) which is very distracting because of the flashing light that is created by this activity ...
6) and when you ask someone to stop he or she almost always ignores you or appears very put off by your request, as if you are the one doing something wrong.

And finally,

7) Who the hell brings a gun to a movie theater? ...
8) But then had there been a mass shooting there the very same man may have saved a lot of lives and been a hero ...
9) and states have created laws allowing people to carry guns pretty much anywhere they want so ...
10) this is the logical outcome of such laws.

Monday, January 13, 2014

What other world? Top 20 stories of the year

Americans are pretty exceptional. One way is that we are largely uniformed about the world. This is largely because we live in a society where our schools do not focus on the world, and where our media tend to ignore it as well.

So this report from Truthout will probably not surprise you:

If people outside the United States are looking for answers why Americans often seem so clueless about the world outside their borders, they could start with what the three major U.S. television networks offered their viewers in the way of news during 2013.

Syria and celebrities dominated foreign coverage by ABC, NBC, and CBS – whose combined evening news broadcasts are the single most important media source of information about national and international events for most Americans. Vast portions of the globe went almost entirely ignored, according to the latest annual review by the authoritative Tyndall Report.

Latin America, most of Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia apart from Afghanistan, and virtually all of East Asia – despite growing tensions between China and Washington’s closest regional ally, Japan – were virtually absent from weeknight news programmes of ABC, NBC, and CBS last year, according to the report, which has tracked the three networks’ evening news coverage continuously since 1988.

Out of nearly 15,000 minutes of Monday-through-Friday evening news coverage by the three networks, the Syrian civil war and the debate over possible U.S. intervention claimed 519 minutes, or about 3.5 percent of total air time, according to the report.

That made the Syrian conflict and the U.S. policy response the year’s single-most-covered event. It was followed by coverage of the terrorist bombing by two Chechnya-born brothers that killed three people at the finish line of last April’s Boston Marathon (432 minutes); the debate over the federal budget (405 minutes); and the flawed rollout of the healthcare reform law, or Obamacare (338 minutes).

The next biggest international story was the death in December of former South African President Nelson Mandela (186 minutes); the July ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and its aftermath; the coverage of Pope Francis I (157 minutes, not including an additional 121 minutes devoted to Pope Benedict’s retirement and the Cardinals’ conclave that resulted in Francis’ succession); and the birth of Prince George, the latest addition to the British royal family (131 minutes).

The continued fighting in Afghanistan came in just behind the new prince at 121 minutes for the entire year.

Here are your top 20 stories of the year. Notice that the number one story is one of violence. Surprised?

Boston Marathon bomb attack432119157156
Federal budget, spending debate40580176149
Healthcare reform law rollout3385616784
Syria civil war continues3106216484
Tornado season2958894113
Winter weather28111758107
Guns: firearms control debate2243512465
Wild forest fires in western states223577493
NSA collects data on citizens210449966
Syria chemical weapons arsenal209438780
S.Africa: Nelson Mandela dies186456674
Egypt: President Morsi ousted175398156
Fla neighborhood watch trial169764053
Pope Francis I takes office157395860
British royals: baby prince born131491962
Afghanistan fighting continues121205843
Cleveland captive trio of women117523035
Ct school shooting aftermath113196727
Superstorm Sandy aftermath96172554
NYSE-NASDAQ market action95234427

Total Top Twenty Stories4286107916891519

And here are the top crime stories of the year:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Blog will be up and running again on January 13th!

Been closed for the holiday break. Back up and running on January 13th when my new semester starts!