Posts Tagged ‘Legal Issues’

I heard a story on NPR yesterday about a recent Bloomberg poll that asked:

Do you support banning Muslims from the United States for a while?

65% of Republican voters said yes and a surprising 18% of Democratic voters said yes.  They did not interview any Independents so it’s safe to assume that more than 37% of American likely voters support what is essentially an unconstitutional and unethical policy.  If that doesn’t worry you maybe their answer to the follow-up question should.  They asked a second question that states it even more clearly…something like “even if it’s unconstitutional and goes against everything that America stands for and it makes us less safe” do you still support it and they STILL answered yes.

They then talked to a focus group of Trump supporters.  Most of them were college educated (so claiming their ignorant isn’t an answer to this conundrum). When asked why they supported the ban it was VERY clear there were two main reasons:  1) fear and 2) spite. The spite is something many online have speculated about.  Essentially they think Trump challenges the status quo and the “elites”, which they define as the media.  They believe the media elites are looking down on them (and they are and rightly so) calling them bigots.  Well if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…But instead of shaming them, it only makes them madder and makes them support Trump more.  So that’s why we’re seeing his numbers go higher every time he says something awful–so the online and media speculation was correct.

What it all boils down to is these two important points.  First, they are SO afraid of more terrorist attacks that they will trade long term safety (and scoff at rational policy as presented by Pres. Obama and any Democratic nominee) for short term safety (as offerred by Trump).  I.e., they know it’s wrong they just don’t give a f*ck.  Second, the left and the Media telling them it is wrong, makes them so angry that they are willing to cut their nose off to spite their face.  It’s like telling your 4 year old, ‘if you do that one more time I’m going to spank you’ so, of course, they do the forbidden thing out of defiance.

When you really understand the dynamic here and you look at how many Americans probably feel this way, it is incredibly disturbing.  Maybe we should be concerned about the Democratic Party’s nominees chances in the general election.  Fear is contagious and so is anger.  These two emotions have been the main impetus behind some pretty ugly things in our history like the Internment of the Japanese during WWII.   This could be another one of those defining moments.  Unfortunately this decision will most likely be made by people with the mentality of 4 year olds.

You know those hideous plastic bags that we use at the grocery store–the ones that take a gazillion years to deteriorate and float like leaves across the Arizona landscape?  Well the State Legislature passed a bill that would forbid local governments from banning them.  And of course, Gov. Douchey signed it.  There’s a warning on most plastic bags that say don’t put this over your head because suffocation….duh!  Too bad we can’t ignore that and put it over the head of the legislators who voted for it and the governor who signed it.  Some day Arizona (if it’s not under water) will be a mountain of trash with tornadoes of dust and plastic bags and the most advanced life form will be cockroaches and conservatives basking in their land of unadulterated freedumb.  Good luck with that.

Okay, I can’t stand it any more.  I HAVE to say something about Ferguson and the cop shootings that America is now FINALLY paying attention to.  The tipping point came for me yesterday when I finally watched the video of the Tamir Rice shooting and read an article on the audio evidence that proves Officer Darren Wilson was not telling the truth in his accounts of the Michael Brown shooting.

The U.S. is like a drug addict that refuses to acknowledge they have a problem.  All the signs are there.  The data is VERY clear.    Here’s some examples of what I’m talking about.

Some thoughts that are just pinging around in my brain that I have to get out.  Keep in mind, I’m not some uninformed liberal spouting off–I have a Masters in Criminal Justice and I’ve worked in the system.

  • The Prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, in the Brown shooting did not WANT an indictment therefore there wasn’t one.  A typical prosecutor could indict a comatose 90-year old grandmother if he/she wanted to.
    • He dumped a ton of data on the jury without providing any guidance into what was exculpatory, degree of trustworthiness, interpreting (because the forensic stuff can be really tough to understand), etc.  To expect a lay person to be able to sort through, prioritize and understand all of that data is absurd and no real prosecutor would do that.
    • He engaged in victim blaming by telling them that Brown was on drugs when there was no evidence of that
    • He improperly instructed the jury on the law — this is HUGE and if this had been a trial, it would have been excellent grounds for an appeal
    • He should have recused himself.  His father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty by, you guessed it, a black man.
    • He failed to perform his duty as a Prosecutor–they are supposed to advocate for indictment. In fact the vast majority of grand juries in this country return with an indictment.

    According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. 

  • The audio from the Brown shooting proves that Wilson did not tell the truth.
  • White people riot all the fucking time for the stupidest shit and no one blames it on their “culture of lawlessness”.  But let some black people riot and the media and the majority of white people will shake their heads and question why.  Why would they riot when there’s no history of racial discrimination in policing in the U.S. (ht to Bob Cesca)? Why would they riot when they only have themselves to blame?  All of the Fox News coverage has been in this vein, but the best examples are interviews with Rudy Giulani.
  • The Tamir Rice video is horrifying.  The video shows the police lied about many crucial issues.  If you only listen to the police version (as is too often the case), then it sounds like Tamir was a serious threat .  If you watch the video you will be stunned.
    • They said there were multiple people in the park.  The video shows the 12 year old boy was alone.
    • They said they told him to  put his hands up three times.  The video shows less than 2 seconds passed between the car pulling up, the officers got out of the vehicle and when the shots occurred.  So either the officer gave the fastest and clearest commands in the history of human language (award that man a Guinness World Record!) or he didn’t give them at all.
    • Tamir was already down on the ground when they shot him…he reacted immediately to their presence by making himself non-threatening.
    • After they shot him and the boy was clearly no longer a threat they watched him suffer and provided no first aid until a detective and FBI agent showed up.   Although they’re under no obligation to provide first aid IF they felt the situation is unsafe.  But the boy was no longer a threat.  Actually he wasn’t even a threat when they shot him, but why quibble, amiright?  Ironic that the failure to render aid, made sure their version will be the only one we hear (other than the pure luck of the surveillance video from across the street which can’t really tell us the whole story).
  •  The Rice shooting is very scary to me personally.  My stepson is 12 years old, loves guns, and is very familiar with them.   He is also brown–decidedly not white.   We’ve taught him to be safe with them.  He knows not to handle real guns without an adult being present.  BUT he doesn’t know that it’s probably not a good idea to handle fake one’s either.    I am going to make damn sure he never has a fake gun in any public place and when his family is not with him.
  • There was a shooting just reported in AZ of a black man by a white cop.  I’m still waiting for more details to come in.  Cop thought the guy had a gun in his pocket–it was a bottle of pills.

If you listen to what is being said in the media (not just on Fox but on CNN and local stations too), there is a lot of victim blaming and officer excuse making.  White America’s attitude is coming across like this.

‘Don’t black folk know they should never ever carry anything in their pockets AND should always keep their hands in the air AND always have a pleasant or at least non-demonic look on their face.  AND they can’t be too large or physically intimidating because a big black many is very scary, even to really big white men, even when they’re 25+ feet away**.  So if you’re a big black guy, hunch your shoulders.  And whatever you do, don’t be sullen or angry.’

In other words, don’t give the white cops an excuse to kill you and this message is loud and clear to the black community.  Most of their parents have already told them not to do such things.  Not that doing any of that will actually keep black men safe in this country.  When an entire race of people in our society have to raise their sons to live in fear and act more passive and non-threatening with the police than white people do, then something is terribly, terribly wrong.  The sooner white people acknowledge this, the sooner we can address the problem.  But I don’t think white people in general are capable of acknowledging our complicity in this problem because that would mean acknowledging that we’re wrong about something.  As we’ve seen time and time again, too many Americans think that if we’re not exceptional and right all the time, we’re nothing at all.

Notes:

*I totally understand why the police want bigger and better guns.  When I was a probation officer I always felt like I was outgunned.  I had a Speed 6 Ruger, a “brick” cell phone with a dead battery, no partner or back-up and my crappy little car (VW Fox).  I would go into the field armed with these items.  Here are just some examples of what I faced with those “weapons:

  • walking into crack houses where I was surrounded by dozens of male drug addicts and/or dealers
  • interviewing a probationers with serious anger control issues (child abuser/molester/wife beater) in their dark and dingy homes
  • explaining to VERY angry probationers and their family members why I had to talk to their boss at work about his/her probation and why they lost their job and would soon probably be homeless.  (I took no joy in this task.  I was legally obligated to verify employment with a supervisor a few times a year.  Talk about the system shooting itself in the foot.  The minute they lost their job their risk of recidivism would skyrocket)  

I guess if I couldn’t draw my weapon in time or if I lost it, I could have used the cell phone to brain them.

**Brown was 6 ft 5 in and 290 lbs and Wilson was 6 ft 4 in and 210 lbs.  Wilson isn’t small by any means.  He also had at least two deadly weapons–his pistol and his police car.  Who knows what he had in the trunk–one can safely assume a shotgun.  Plus he had a radio so he could call in reinforcements.  In regards to the distance, the audio article clearly proves Wilson was either lying about the distance or lying about Brown charging him or both.

Some quickies for you:

  • Dinesh D’Souza, asshat extraordinaire, is a big whiny child.  Those evil prosecutors are doing their job and trying to put him in prison.  How dare they?!  He’ll get probation and we’ll probably still have to see his idiocy on Bill Maher.
  • Conservatives are freaking out because the President saluted with a coffee cup in his hand.  I would rather have a latte in the middle of my salute than a Scottish Terrier.  And never mind about the real problems this country has because the paranoid, desperate, white, male base eats up this shit up.
  • Can I just say how much I admire Gabby Giffords?  She is absolutely amazing to have come back from that horrible tragedy in Tucson AND launch a PAC to fight against NRA extremism.  What’s even better?  It’s working.
  • If I hear one more liberal complain that the President isn’t liberal enough, is ineffectual and that Congress sucks, I’m going to go nuclear and remind them that it’s probably because they didn’t vote in the f*%!ing 2010 mid-terms.  Here’s just one very good example of how that has hurt and will continue to hurt us for years to come.
  • How effed up is that Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame, gave a speech to the U.N. on feminism and as a result was threatened with sexual violence and having nude photos of her posted online. This kind of terrorizing online is getting worse, not better.  I don’t know the solution but I really feel for any woman who is harrassed and terrorized because she speaks her mind on the Intertoobs.
  • Love the fact that big tech companies are divesting themselves of ALEC.  If you don’t know who they are, they’re what’s wrong with America.  A group of corporate representatives and conservatives who draft “model” legislation that they then push using vast resources in multiple states.  Their laws which include gems like SB1070, Stand your Ground,  Voter ID, and many more are nightmares and they’re making headway in many state legislatures because people aren’t paying attention to what’s happening on the state level. They’re too busy hating the President (see “Coffeegate” above and Congress (lowest approval ratings ever) on the national level and worrying about things that aren’t immediate threats (Ebola, Isis, etc).
  • And speaking of ISIS, don’t you just love that we’ve gone to war and there was absolutely no debate in Congress?!  They’d rather have yet another vote on appealing Obamacare.  Never mind that the rising cost of healthcare has actually slowed down as a direct result of the law, which was one of the main points of it in the first damn place.  Who needs facts….right?

I’d better stop while I’m ahead.  Methinks I’m getting my mojo for political blogging back and it’s about damn time!

ht to John Cole over at Balloon Juice for writing about the modern practice of punishing people for crimes they haven’t yet committed

From the source article they cite at the NY Times:

“…risk scores are not based on the defendant’s crime. They are primarily or wholly based on prior characteristics: criminal history (a legitimate criterion), but also factors unrelated to conduct. Specifics vary across states, but common factors include unemployment, marital status, age, education, finances, neighborhood, and family background, including family members’ criminal history.”

In a way we’ve been doing this kind of things for decades but now they’re calling it “evidenced based sentencing”.  I’m gonna call BS on this and here’s why.

20+ years ago when I was a probation officer for the state of FL, I did both pre and post conviction sentencing reports–basically risk assessments. Back then the two biggest factors in recidivism for those on community supervision were known to be employment and positive family support. The inclusion of these things was actually a reform, meant to help offenders by putting them in the situation that would most likely lead to more positive results. Unfortunately, the “why” of it got lost in the implementation. It became a factor in how they were punished instead of how they were helped. And this came about during the Reagan and Clinton years with the resurgence of conservative politics and the “get tough on crime” wave of nonsense that swept the nation.

So judges would often sentence someone with a job and/or a stable home to live in to serve their sentence under community supervision and of course that meant that the poor would be more likely to go to jail. And the ability of a person who has been incarcerated to recover their lives was and still is infinitely more difficult than that of a person who was lucky enough to serve their sentence in the community. Basically it was always unfair.

It did get better over time in some jurisdictions but this was due only to 1) the progressive nature and quality of the judges 2) the quality and quantity of community resources (e.g., semi-independent living for the mentally ill, advocacy organizations that helped people coming out of the system to find jobs and homes, drug treatment programs with living spaces, etc) and 3) the progressive nature and quality of the officers doing the risk assessment. An officer could shade and characterize things to suit their own bias against the offender or they could choose to help.

For instance when we did a psi report one of the things we had to do was investigate the home address they proposed to live in.  We also had to interview family members.  If they didn’t have a home to live in or if the one they listed fell through, the officer was not required to but could contact family members–often people who cared about the offender but were not informed as to what was going on in their case would want to help. I don’t know how many times I was able to find a family member who was willing to take an offender into their homes but it was only because I put forth extra effort. Or if they were mentally ill and their family wouldn’t or couldn’t take them, I’d try to find a bed in a group home for them somewhere*. 99% of officers just left it at “they’ve got no place” so they aren’t suitable for community supervision.

That bias is now being given steroids by adding in things that the offender has no control over whatsoever. If their parents or siblings are assholes, how is that their fault? If you were born and raised in the ghetto and that’s where your family lives, how the hell are you supposed to be able to control that?  You’re in jail awaiting sentencing and you’re supposed to just pull a nice apartment in SoHo out of your ass?

As I mentioned earlier, the problem is that these things should never have been a part of the sentencing equation in the first place. The ONLY thing they should have EVER been considered for was in how to treat and help offenders. Unfortunately this country is so wed to being “tough on crime” that they’ve lost sight of the ultimate goal which is not only equality before the law but also reducing recidivism not just for society’s sake but for the individual’s sake as well.

Add on to this trend of incarcerating the poor and disadvantaged for simply being so, the use of blatantly biased drug laws, three strikes laws and the push to incarcerate non-violent offenders and voila you have the clusterfuck that is the American Correctional System.  We incarcerate more people than China, which has a population four times larger than ours.  Next time you hear a stupid bumper sticker talking point from a politician about being tough on crime.  Tell him to STFU because you’re not buying it any more.  Tell them you want to hear a detailed plan for reducing prison overcrowding, increasing the fairness in our justice system AND reducing recidivism.  I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it–You can’t reduce recidivism without treating the underlying causes and treating the underlying causes does not mean throwing everyone in prison.

___________

 

* Thanks again Ronnie Reagan for destroying the nation’s mental health institutions….you screwed the mentally ill for many generations……

Game of Thrones last episode, “First of His Name”, not only reached record levels of cable subscriber viewers surpassing even The Sopranos but it is also setting records for illegal downloads [ht for both links to WinterIsComing.net].  Well, I’m not crying any crocodile tears for cable providers because THIS  is how I feel about them:

I moved a couple of weeks ago. In my old house I had a bundled package through CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) for DSL internet (60Mbps download) and DirectTV for HBO (and a thousand other useless stations). We didn’t actually get 60, but we sure as hell paid for it. And their service dropped all the time. At the new house the max download speed that CenturyLink could offer was 5Mbps–this is in a newer neighborhood, built after fiber optic was being installed automatically. Forget about the kids using their Xbox while you watch a movie via Netflix…that ain’t gonna happen….hell I couldn’t work from home using that kind of download speed!

So we had to get rid of CenturyLink, which means we had to get rid of DirectTV–remember it’s a bundle–separate the things are impossibly expensive. Now DirectTv wants over $300 as a penalty for canceling with them which we wouldn’t have had to do if CenturyLink didn’t suck so much. DirectTV said ‘well you can keep us and use Cox for your Internet‘.    No, I can’t because it will cost me 3x’s as much per month if I go that route. I can’t afford over $300 a month–that truly is insane. To put it into perspective, that’s more than I pay for health insurance every month!!!

The ONLY other option for Internet connection at the new house (or anywhere else in central AZ for that matter) was Cox Communications–who has the absolute worst customer support I have ever had the misfortune to encounter in all my years of consumer spending (I used to have them when I lived in the Central Phoenix corridor). There was no other choice, so I signed up with Cox.

In order to get near the same speed I am now paying slightly more per month than before AND they forced us to get a phone line and sign a 2 year deal. I haven’t had a plug in phone in years and I still don’t. I refuse to put a phone in so telemarketers can bug me 24/7. Screw em. So now I’m paying for phone I don’t need AND a thousand channels I don’t watch so I can access the Internet and watch HBO.  In a year or so if I need to move again, what if the house to which I’m moving doesn’t have access to Cox Cable.  I was thinking about buying a house.  Do I have to restrict my house search to only ones that allow Cox Cable?  The whole thing is just absurd.

Why are these companies allowed to control every point of access we have to streaming content? They don’t allow monopolies in other industries but this one seems to be A-Okay with Congress. It boggles the mind.

The following news stories actually make me not only wonder if our species will survive for much longer but also if we deserve to survive our own stupidity and neglect.

  • The City of Detroit found 11,000 rape kits that were abandoned and never tested.  After testing less than 7% of them they identified 100 serial rapists and 10 convicted rapists.  So if that pattern holds and they test the rest of them, they can expect to discover several hundred more of these scumbag.  ht mistermix at Balloon Juice
  • The AZ legislature is pushing a bill that would allow people to carry guns into building even if it’s forbidden (if they don’t have lockers available you can ignore the ban).  They’ve also advanced the idea that some gun owners can carry even if there are lockers and ban.  And to make it truly impossible for local governments to forbid guns in their government buildings, they’ve approved and forwarded a bill that says any local government who enforces local ordinance over state law can be fined.  This is like the trifecta of stupid.  They’re begging for someone to go into government buildings and commit mass murder.  I certainly will be avoiding those buildings like the plague if this crap passes.  ht JM Ashby at Bob Cesca
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, back when he was a prosecutor, let a child slaver off easy so that he could take down a political rival.
  • Pat Robertson, TV Evangelist, told a woman that having cancer was her own fault for not forgiving her abusive father.  Okaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy
  • A new law went into effect in Michigan that says businesses and individuals who purchase private insurance must take out a separate rider to cover abortion care.  Essentially, if a woman needs an abortion for ANY reason and if she doesn’t have  a separate rider for it, she will have to pay out of pocket for the cost of that care.  So if I lived there, had a miscarriage and needed a D&C to shorten the process  and suffering so I could get back on my feet sooner, I would have to pay completely out of pocket for it.  Likewise for women who have become pregnant as a result of incest and rape.  That’s insane.  The real kicker is that there is not a single private insurance provider in the marketplace that provides this insurance.  This could not only bankrupt women and their families, it in effect nullifies Roe v. Wade, and will force women to seek out cheaper and more dangerous care for such things.  I hope the women in Michigan enjoy being second class citizens because it looks like the state is on target to vote the same politicians who’ve created these laws back into office.
  • Billionaires in the 1% are getting their panties in a twist and crying lots of salty tears because the rest of us are tired of having the economy manipulated while they gamble with our money and take what little wealth Americans have managed to accumulate over the last few decades.  The 99% have had the temerity to exercise their Freedom of Speech and the Right to Vote in more progressive candidates.  However, so far as I know there have been no lynch mobs or guillotine lines nor any proposed by anyone of significance in any “likely to happen” fashion.  The 99% are simply using the peaceful system of governance and the wonderful mechanisms given to us by the Founding Fathers.  However, reading some of the recent comments by the 1% (here’s a few examples here and here) might make one think that we are in the midst of a communist peasant uprising (or fascist style takeover depending on which historical example they erroneously choose).  Truth is, if we were in such a state, their heads would already be on pikes.  In reality nothing is happening to them and that’s the stupid thing.  We should be curtailing their almost godlike power over our economy and our elected officials. Their message gets broadcast loud and clear.  We hear about their perspective 24/7 on Fox News, read their whining on major websites and news sources (in addition to reading about their phenomenally ignorant take on history), and suffer under the vagaries of the worldwide economy which they essentially control.  As Jon Stewart said the other day, they make money regardless of how the economy fares.  So why should they give a crap about us? They don’t and the majority of Americans haven’t yet grasped this fact and what it will mean for this country, and indeed the world, in the long run.  Until Americans decide to stand up and pull up our pants, they’ll be back there having their way with us and complaining that its hard, nay dangerous, to be a billionaire.