The coaches and artists pay tribute to the Connecticut shooting victims with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Christina Aguilera , Adam Levine & more ... December 17 , 2012.
Three days after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., The Voice kicked off its third season finale with a tribute performance for the 20 schoolchildren and 6 adult staff members killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Then there were—many more, in fact—and when the latest and worst one happened, in Aurora, I (and many others) said, this time in a tone of despair, that nothing had changed. And I (and many others) predicted that it would happen again, soon. And that once again, the same twisted voices would say, Oh, this had nothing to do with gun laws or the misuse of the Second Amendment or anything except some singular madman, of whom America for some reason seems to have a particularly dense sample.
And now it has happened again, bang, like clockwork, one might say: Twenty dead children—babies, really—in a kindergarten in a prosperous town in Connecticut. And a mother screaming. And twenty families told that their grade-schooler had died. After the Aurora killings, I did a few debates with advocates for the child-killing lobby—sorry, the gun lobby—and, without exception and with a mad vehemence, they told the same old lies: it doesn’t happen here more often than elsewhere (yes, it does); more people are protected by guns than killed by them (no, they aren’t—that’s a flat-out fabrication); guns don’t kill people, people do; and all the other perverted lies that people who can only be called knowing accessories to murder continue to repeat, people who are in their own way every bit as twisted and crazy as the killers whom they defend. (That they are often the same people who pretend outrage at the loss of a single embryo only makes the craziness still crazier.)
For more than five years, Brandon Bryant worked in an oblong, windowless container about the size of a trailer, where the air-conditioning was kept at 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit) and, for security reasons, the door couldn't be opened. Bryant and his coworkers sat in front of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. When Bryant pressed a button in New Mexico, someone died on the other side of the world.
The container is filled with the humming of computers. It's the brain of a drone, known as a cockpit in Air Force parlance. But the pilots in the container aren't flying through the air. They're just sitting at the controls.
Bryant was one of them, and he remembers one incident very clearly when a Predator drone was circling in a figure-eight pattern in the sky above Afghanistan, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) away. There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.
[ why ]
The next big issue in the national debate over guns , whether people have a right to be armed in public , is moving closer to Supreme Court review.
A provocative ruling by a panel of federal appeals court judges in Chicago struck down the only statewide ban on carrying concealed weapons, in Illinois. The ruling is somewhat at odds with those of other federal courts that have largely upheld state and local gun laws, including restrictions on concealed weapons, since the Supreme Court's landmark ruling declaring that people have a right to have a gun for self-defense.
In, 2008, the court voted 5-4 in District of Columbia v. Heller to strike down Washington's ban on handgun ownership and focused mainly on the right to defend one's own home. The court left for another day how broadly the Second Amendment may protect gun rights in other settings.
Legal scholars say the competing appellate rulings mean that day is drawing near for a new high court case on gun rights...
The appeals court ruling in Chicago came early in a week that ended with the mass shooting in Connecticut that left 28 people dead, including 20 children at an elementary school and the presumed gunman.
Laurie Levenson, a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said that along with thorny legal issues, "we have the overlay of these tragedies hitting us on a somewhat regular basis."
The author of a book that traces the battle over gun control in the U.S. said he thinks Supreme Court intervention is likely in the short-term. "Since the Heller case, the next great question for the Supreme Court to decide was whether there is a right to carry guns in public," said UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, whose book "Gunfight" was published last year.
Changing Universities, Wednesday, December 12, 2012
"Close to fifty years ago, Herbert Marcuse wrote One-Dimensional Man [full text], a radical criticism of contemporary society that has much to say about the current world around us. Marcuse’s central claim was that technological automation extends science’s domination over nature to a social domination over individuals.
This domination occurs through a “total administration,” where managers oversee the rationalization of the social status quo through the elimination of all criticism and the provision of desired social goods.
Perhaps, what we are seeing at the University of California is only the logical extension of Marcuse’s insightful analysis...
Relatives of Malissa Williams, including, from left, cousins Gabrylle Jeffries, Trina Williams, and Tanicka Hill, attend a rally Monday, Dec. 3 in East Cleveland to protest the what they said was excessive force from Cleveland police officers in the killing of Williams and Timothy Russell last Thursday. Trina said, "I'm not afraid. I would die for my children. I'm not just fighting for my cousin. I'm fighting for everyone who dies by police." She said she and Malissa grew up together and were like sisters. Lynn Ischay, The Plain Dealer
This is hardly news ... "The federal prison system is growing at an unsustainable rate, according to a new study from the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, which reports that the federal inmate population has ballooned by almost ten times since 1980..."
The Crime Report @ http://www.thecrimereport.org/archive/2012-12-urb-inst-on-fed-prisons
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Macedonia violated the rights of Khaled el-Masri when it arrested him and turned him over to the United States.
In a unanimous ruling, the 17-judge panel, based in Strasbourg, France, found that Macedonia had violated the European Convention on Human Rights’ prohibition on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and ordered it to pay the man about $78,000 in damages. It was the first time a court had ruled in favor of the man, Khaled el-Masri, 49, in a case that focused attention on the C.I.A.’s clandestine rendition program, in which terrorism suspects were transported to third countries for interrogation.
The decision, which Amnesty International hailed as “a historic moment and a milestone in the fight against impunity,” is final and cannot be appealed. The C.I.A. declined to comment. A lawsuit against the United States filed on Mr. Masri’s behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union was dismissed in 2006 on the grounds that it would expose state secrets. The group filed a petition in 2008 at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2008; the United States government has yet to respond.
[ extraordinary or business as usual ]
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice — 2013 Calendar. This calendar represents the start of EJI's newest initiative addressing race and poverty in America. The history of racial inequality and economic injustice in the United States has created continuing challenges for all Americans and we believe more must be done to advance our collective goal of equal justice for all. This first calendar focuses on African American history and is part of an EJI series of forthcoming reports and documents that explore the legacy of racial bias in the United States and its continuing impact on contemporary policies and practices.
This calendar is just the beginning. Coming soon will be an interactive timeline, allowing you to further explore the history of racial injustice. Please join our mailing list to be notified when this timeline launches.
Read about the legacy of racial bias in A History of Racial Injustice. Download the calendar below (pdf, 3mb). Interactive timeline is coming soon.
[ this is an amazing resource -- thx be to the EJI ]
State v. Lawson (CF080348; CA A140544; SC S059306)
" ... The Oregon Supreme Court broke the misconduct/exclusion spell by facing up to the modern scientific findings that indicate that suggestion itself is not the real issue; the problem is the fundamental nature of human memory.
The Oregon court formally accepted contemporary scientific problems and abandoned the convenient legal fiction that memory is a stable, permanent video recording, and recognized that memory is malleable and reconstructive..."
The Crime Report @ http://bit.ly/XYPolK
December 13, 2012 10:52:37 am
By James M. Doyle
Many scholars say mandatory sentencing policies lock up nonviolent, low-level offenders for too long and are no longer a cost-effective way to reduce crime in the United States.
But the defendant and the judge fully agreed about the fairness of the sentence he imposed in federal court.
“Even though you have been involved in drugs and drug dealing,” Judge Vinson told Ms. George, “your role has basically been as a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder but not actively involved in the drug dealing, so certainly in my judgment it does not warrant a life sentence.”
Breaking the Taboo was directed by Cosmo Feilding Mellen and Fernando Grostein Andrade, and is Narrated by Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman
Featuring interviews with current and former presidents from around the world, such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, the film follows The Global Commission on Drug Policy on a mission to break the political taboo over the United States led War on Drugs and expose what it calls the biggest failure of global policy in the last 40 years.
A Sundog Pictures and Spray Filmes production
The election-night headlines didn't seem cheerful for those dedicated to ending capital punishment in California. Proposition 34, the audacious attempt to use ballot initiatives to abolish the death penalty, was defeated. The narrowness of the final vote (52-48 percent) was some consolation, but this was in part the result of the lack of an energetic campaign by the state's district attorneys.
And isn't it folk wisdom that close calls only count in horseshoes? Don't the anti-death-penalty partisans belong in the ballot initiative loser's bracket for 2012 along with the food labelers and union busters?
I don't think so. A closer reading of both the 2012 election in California and of the current circumstances of the death penalty suggests that the endgame for capital punishment in the Golden State is well under way. And, in the future, a history of the end of California's death penalty will give substantial credit to the quixotic crusade of Prop. 34.
[ Out of loss, light ]
State Corrections Expenditures, FY 1982-2010
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
December 10, 2012 NCJ 239672
Presents data on state corrections expenditures from fiscal years 1982 to 2010. This bulletin examines trends in state corrections spending for building and operating institutions and for other corrections functions. The report also details institutional operating expenditures per inmate over the study period. It compares trends in state corrections expenditures with state spending for public welfare, education, health and hospitals, and highways. Data are drawn from the Census Bureau's State Government Finance Survey, which collects information on state expenditures and revenues, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Prisoner Statistics, which collects information on state prison populations.
Preliminary data from the Census Bureau's annual State Government Finance Census indicate states spent $48.5 billion on corrections in 2010, about 6% less than in 2009. By comparison, states spent $571.3 billion on education in 2010 and $462.7 billion on public welfare.
From 1999 to 2010, among 48 states, 11 states showed a linear decrease in current operations expenditures per inmate, with an average annual decline of $1,093; 5 states had a linear increase, with an average annual additional cost per inmate of $1,277.
The mean state corrections expenditure per inmate was $28,323 in 2010, although a quarter of states spent $40,175 or more.
By Nicole D. Porter, Director of Advocacy at The Sentencing Project.
"The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently reported that the overall state prison population declined for the third consecutive year in 2011. State sentencing reforms and changes in parole revocation policies have been contributing factors in these reductions. As a result, state officials are now beginning to close correctional facilities after several decades of record prison expansion. Continued declines in state prison populations advance the narrative that the nation’s reliance on incarceration is largely a function of policy choices.
In 2012, at least six states have closed 20 prison institutions or are contemplating doing so, potentially reducing prison capacity by over 14,100 beds and resulting in an estimated $337 million in savings. During 2012, Florida led the nation in prison closings with its closure of 10 correctional facilities; the state’s estimated cost savings for prison closings totals over $65 million. This year’s prison closures build on closures observed in 2011 when at least 13 states reported prison closures and reduced prison capacity by an estimated 15,500 beds..." [RESTOFSTORY]
[The Sentencing Project is a national non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy on criminal justice issues]
Two years ago, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics announced a small data point marking an inglorious milestone: In 2009, America’s prison population declined, and for the first time in decades. This meant, to frame the news another way, that until that year, dating all the way back to 1972, America had been in the business of constantly imprisoning more and more people. During that time, incarceration – and constructing sprawling complexes and boxy cellblocks to accommodate it – had become something of a great American growth industry.
Since then, the trend appears to be holding. In 2011, 13 states were closing prisons or in the process of it. Michigan has now closed 22 facilities since 2002. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans last year to close seven. And legislators in Texas – a state that had tripled its prison capacity since the late '80s – recently opted to close the 102-year-old Sugar Land prison. Last week, the BJS confirmed that prison populations are on the decline for the third year in a row, and an arc is beginning to take shape.
Prisons will be particularly difficult to re-purpose.
Maybe even a little before 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Washingtonians started celebrating — on sidewalks, in parks, outside bars and on their own comfy couches — a new marijuana law that is among the most liberal in the world.
The festivities culminated with a big, hazy party Thursday night at Seattle Center, 79 years and a day after the 21st Amendment, repealing alcohol prohibition, was ratified.
Unlike that repeal, Washington's new law starts with a messy conflict with the federal ban on marijuana, sure to grow messier once the state begins licensing marijuana grow farms and retail stores next year.
A United States attorney known for taking on corruption is resigning amid revelations that senior prosecutors in his office had been anonymously commenting online about active cases.
In a brief but passionate statement, Mr. Letten, the longest-serving United States attorney in the nation and a popular crusader against the crooked traditions of Louisiana public servants, announced that he would be resigning effective next Tuesday.
He said it was his decision and gave few other details, but everyone knew why this was happening. Beginning last spring, a series of legal motions had revealed that Mr. Letten’s senior prosecutors had been making provocative, even pugnacious comments about active criminal matters and other subjects under aliases at nola.com, the Web site of The Times-Picayune newspaper.
[ Tag: Free Speech For The Dumb ]
Every reporter has a checklist of things to grab or arrange before heading out on an assignment. Paul Salopek’s is longer. Beyond a laptop and video camera, Salopek’s list includes a satellite phone, a GPS, and arranging for translators, guides, and camel transport. Also, really good shoes.
Next month, Salopek will begin a seven-year reporting assignment that will take him 22,000 miles (give or take) on foot, from Africa across Asia and the United States, ultimately ending up in Patagonia at the southern tip of South America. The route Salopek is following is the one anthropologists believe was the first path humans took out of Africa to populate the rest of the world. He’s calling it the Out of Eden, a narrative trek that will examine the current state of the cultures Salopek visits, while also writing about their history and connection to the greater world.
(He’ll will be will talking about his project here at Harvard tonight at 7 p.m., and you can follow along with a livestream of his presentation.)
[ An amazing agenda ... "I plan to ____ for seven years" ]
Voter initiatives allowing recreational use in Colorado and Washington State are a dilemma for the president.
Even as marijuana legalization supporters are celebrating their victories in the two states, the Obama administration has been holding high-level meetings since the election to debate the response of federal law enforcement agencies to the decriminalization efforts.
Marijuana use in both states continues to be illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. One option is to sue the states on the grounds that any effort to regulate marijuana is pre-empted by federal law. Should the Justice Department prevail, it would raise the possibility of striking down the entire initiatives on the theory that voters would not have approved legalizing the drug without tight regulations and licensing similar to controls on hard alcohol.
by Jeremy Leaming
The Obama administration may be on the verge of irking large swaths of its supporters by employing scarce Justice Department resources to go after users of small amounts of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, where voters, by comfortable margins, voted to legalize limited amounts of possession.
The New York Times’ Charlie Savage reports that senior officials in the administration “are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.” Savage goes on to describe some of the possibilities the administration could take – sue the states arguing that federal law trumps state action in this area. (The Controlled Substances Act prohibits sale and possession of marijuana.) The Justice Department wouldn’t talk to Savage about administration plans on the matter, but did highlight a statement issued recently by the U.S. Attorney in Seattle, stating that marijuana remained illegal pursuant to the CSA.
The Supreme Court announced Friday it will rule for the first time on same-sex marriage by deciding the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, the voter initiative that limited marriage to a man and a woman.
The justices also said they would decide whether legally married gay couples have a right to equal benefits under federal law.
The California case raises the broad question of whether gays and lesbians have an equal right to marry.
"The justices now will have at least three options before them: They could reverse the 9th Circuit and uphold Prop. 8, thereby making it clear that the definition of marriage will be left to the discretion of each state and its voters.
They could rule broadly that denying gays and lesbians the fundamental right to marry violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws. Such a decision would open the door to gay marriages nationwide.
Or as a third option, they could follow the approach set by the 9th Circuit and strike down Prop. 8 in a way that limits the ruling to California only..."