Halloween is just one week and a day away and I can’t wait. That is a big day for us because that afternoon Bebe gets her cast off, hopefully, and she can start to move on to physical therapy. Yeah!
First thing this morning, it is the 100th day since the Atlanta Panda Twins have been born, so today is their naming celebration. Be sure to click the link and see what the cute little guys are called.
- Mei Lun (may loon) and Mei Hua (may hwaa), meaning “Lun Lun’s twin cubs born in the U.S.”
- Mei Lun (may loon) and Mei Huan (may hwaan), originating from a Chinese idiom that means “something indescribably beautiful and magnificent”
- Tian Lun (tee-an loon) and Tian Le (tee-an luh), a modified version of a Chinese idiom meaning “joy of family life” or “family happiness”
- Lan Tian (lan tee-an) and Bi Shui (bee shway), meaning “blue sky and clear water”
- Da Lan (dah lan) and Xiao Lan (sheow lan), meaning “bigger one (Cub B) and smaller one (Cub A) of Atlanta-born twins”
I voted for the “bigger one and smaller one” names myself.
Anyway, sticking with Georgia a bit longer…there was a very interesting blog post over at The Volokh Conspiracy written by Nita Farahany: Bias in the Northern District of Georgia?
It is unfortunate that the paywall is up for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, because the article is something important indeed. But here take a look at the blog article:
On Sunday, the Atlanta Journal of Constitution published a front-page story: Workers Who Cry Foul Seldom Get a Day in Court. The story focuses on an empirical study on summary dismissal of employment discrimination claims brought in the Northern District of Georgia in 2011 and 2012. That study reveals that it is “nearly impossible to get trial in an employment discrimination case” in the Northern District of Georgia. [The study was commissioned by the law firm of Barrett and Farahany in Atlanta, GA, and authored by Tanya McAdams and Amanda Farahany (full disclosure: my sister)]. The Northern District of Georgia (and Atlanta, in particular) appears to be an outlier, in that “70 percent of cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are dismissed before trial [nationwide],” while in the Northern District of Georgia, “judges toss more than 80 percent of all cases.” In Atlanta, they toss 94% of employment discrimination claims. In 2011 and 2012, 100% percent of racial harassment cases and all but one sexual harassment case were dismissed. By comparison, when the firm compared the results from the Northern District of Alabama (also within the 11th Circuit, and also a state with no state laws concerning employment discrimination (like Georgia)), they found that 66% instead of 80% of employment discrimination claims were dismissed in full.
Then Ms. Farahany asks a loaded question…
How should we interpret these results? Could the Northern District of Georgia be facing far more frivolous suits than other jurisdictions?
You know why I say loaded? Because I guess I have seen the kind of shit that goes on in within the judicial system here in the mountains of Georgia…and it is scary as hell!
Yeah, I know that I may be talking about different courts here (Superior vs Federal) but take into account our Superior court judges.
We have had one judge, Chief Judge David Barrett, pull a gun on a sexual assault victim. A short time later another judge, Lynn Akeley-Alderman, resigns before ethics charges were brought against her. That left only one judge left in our district alone….in fact, check out this AJC article from 2012: Rash judges bring disorder to court
You might think the exits, less than a month apart, of Barrett and Akeley-Alderman from the same judicial circuit would be unusual. They’re not.
In a span of just one week in April 2010, the Griffin Judicial Circuit, which includes Fayette County, lost two of its four judges to scandals, including one in which the chief judge was caught having sex with a public defender who had cases before him.
In just four months’ time in 2010, both of the Mountain Judicial Circuit’s judges left the bench in disgrace, including one after he was accused of going to Las Vegas with a woman whose divorce he’d signed.
Georgia has 49 judicial circuits and each has its own chief Superior Court judge. Since the beginning of 2010, six chief judges have stepped down while under investigation for ethical lapses. A seventh was reprimanded for a drunken-driving charge.
“Some people who should not be judges get in judicial office and think they can do anything,” said Stephen Bright, senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights and a Yale Law School professor. “This does not say anything good about these judges or the process that put them on the bench.”
On the other hand, he said, “It does indicate that the Judicial Qualifications Commission continues to do an outstanding job protecting Georgia from unethical, dishonest judges.”
The state needs a less-political, merit-based selection process of judges to ensure that more people appointed to the bench have the integrity and ethical standards to sit as a judge, Bright said.
In Georgia, a lawyer can become a Superior Court judge by defeating an incumbent in an election, winning an election for an open seat or being appointed by the governor when a vacancy becomes available. Georgia’s governor picks the members of the panel that screens candidates for judicial vacancies and sends him a short list of recommendations.
Although other states do not give the governor such control over the selection process, there have been no legislative proposals in recent years to change the way Georgia goes about appointing judges.
Atlanta lawyer Kenneth Shigley, president of the State Bar of Georgia, acknowledged that the steady stream of judges leaving the state’s bench doesn’t look good.
But back to Ms. Farahany’s question…
How should we interpret these results? Could the Northern District of Georgia be facing far more frivolous suits than other jurisdictions? Perhaps, although it’s hard to believe that’s a complete answer. I, for one, would like to know how these results compare to summary dismissal of other types of claims in the same jurisdiction. Assuming that the rate of summary dismissal for employment discrimination claims differs from dismissal of other civil claims, should we infer some implicit (or explicit) bias is happening here.? [Other studies suggest implicit bias in the adjudication of employment discrimination cases – see e.g. pp. 1154-63 of Implicit Bias in the Courtroom)]. If so, plenty of neuropsychological studies show that merely presenting judges with the facts may help to de-bias them and enable them to better address meritorious (assuming there are some) claims.
I think she should take a look at the examples shown in the state superior courts, and investigate the lack of cases being prosecuted by North Georgia District Attorneys. There is a huge amount of good old boy back and forth going around. I know first hand of bank embezzlement and theft of tax funds that did not get prosecuted by our DA. There is a big stink going on now in my county about possible millions in missing SPLOST monies and questions regarding the county commissioner, the judges that Governor Deal appointed to replace the two who “resigned” and who is greasing who. But…all that is just speculation. Anyway, take a look at that study, y’all may find it interesting.
In other rape culture news….UConn Failed To Investigate Sexual Assault Reports And Protect Victims, Complaint Claims You can go and read the article at the link. It is pretty much the same story…
This next article is a bit of sad news for those of us who suffer from insomnia: Poor sleep tied to Alzheimer’s-like brain changes
Oh, and then there is this Hitchhiking virus confirms saga of ancient human migration
A study of the full genetic code of a common human virus offers a dramatic confirmation of the “out-of-Africa” pattern of human migration, which had previously been documented by anthropologists and studies of the human genome.
The virus under study, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), usually causes nothing more severe than cold sores around the mouth, says Curtis Brandt, a professor of medical microbiology and ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Brandt is senior author of the study, now online in the journal PLOS ONE.
When Brandt and co-authors Aaron Kolb and Cécile Ané compared 31 strains of HSV-1 collected in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia, “the result was fairly stunning,” says Brandt.
“The viral strains sort exactly as you would predict based on sequencing of human genomes. We found that all of the African isolates cluster together, all the virus from the Far East, Korea, Japan, China clustered together, all the viruses in Europe and America, with one exception, clustered together,” he says.
“What we found follows exactly what the anthropologists have told us, and the molecular geneticists who have analyzed the human genome have told us, about where humans originated and how they spread across the planet.”
Whenever I hear the words “herpes simplex ‘ten‘” I think of that scene in Beverly Hills Cop:
Hey, are you ready for this? It is another link from AJC…New underwear filters flatulence | News To Me with George Mathis
Nothing spoils romance quite like flatulence.
An article by The New York Daily News that was likely written by someone in marketing says the “award-winning healthcare product is particularly useful for sufferers of digestive disorders such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Crohn’s disease, Colitis and food intolerances.”
But a photo of a beautiful woman shoving her scentless derriere into a happy man’s face illustrates the true purpose of the nigh-magical undergarments — it’s finally safe for humans to socialize like dogs.
As might be expected, the military-industrial complex has created a product as potent as any bomb dropped by a chili dog-eating husband who has given up on anything more emotionally complex than fantasy football. The aforementioned press release … I mean article … says Shreddies (that’s the name of these things) can effectively blunt the assault of a gas “200 times the strength of the average flatus emission.”
Here is the picture from the NYDN article:
The thin and flexible cloth, which contains Zorflex — the same activated carbon material used in chemical warfare suits — is reactivated simply by washing the pants…
Seriously? WTF!!!!! So underwear made of the same stuff they make hazmat suits out of…go figure.
And if those anti-fart knickers don’t get you going, maybe this will…just in time for Halloween, a sort of ghost story…haunted houses: Who died in your house? Here’s how to find out – The Washington Post
At least five people have died in my house. Three of them were children.
One of them was a Union soldier who had lost the hearing in his right ear to a musket ball he took in the head during the Battle of Sailor’s Creek, years after a career as a Capitol Hill police officer and Navy Yard clerk.
Was his Irish wake in our living room? Or in the dining room? Did he die in the master bedroom? Or the room that’s now our home office?
These are the joys and sorrows of an old house. And in the nation’s capital, where various degrees of stupid and scandalous always bookend the inspiring and historic, lots of people wish their old walls could talk.
This story goes on, give it a quick read…but I want to get down to the point.
USA Today did a story just this weekend on DiedInHouse.com , a Web site that compiles public records to help you decide whether those noises you’re hearing at night may actually be the guy who died in the basement.
“Yeah, that’s the kind of information we do find,” said the next very important person on the home-history research tour, Bruce Yarnall, operations and grants manager for the city’s Historic Preservation Office. “Doing historical research is like lifting up a rock.”
He remembered guiding one owner “who was horrified” when the paper trail led to a death in the home. “And we had another patron who was absolutely thrilled to learn that there were suicides in the basement and the attic of the house.”
Yarnall is better than a Ouija board for finding out whether that creak you hear in the hallway at night is a restless spirit.
I am so tempted to see if our old, old house in New Preston, CT has any hits on DiedInHouse.com. I bet it does! That house was built in 1823, but the foundation had hand hewn logs with a date of 1750 scratched into them. That house was haunted. I know it.
Well, you have a good day…and tell me, what are you reading about, and let’s hear what you’re thinking about too.
How did y’all spend your first day of 2013?
Were you watching the fiscal “parley” of enemies down in the swamp?
After seeing what as become Obama’s calling card, his apparent need for approval and for people to “like” him…that makes Obama a shitty negotiator, I could not stand the constant cliff talk on all the news channels.
If, you avoided the news frenzy over the fiscal bunny slope, as Dakinikat calls it, you can read the updates as it happened here. Boston Boomer also posted this link in the comments, you should not miss it:
Otherwise, you can take a look at the following two articles:
(Check out Biden’s grin at that NYT link…he sure is pleased with himself.)
Yesterday was the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade . The still make those floats out of all natural flowers and plants, and even though the Rose Parade commentary can be annoying as hell, I still like to see the pictures of the floats and performers.
This year Dole won the top trophy, the third time in a row…The colors are wonderful and brilliant, way much nicer than the other tropical color we have seen a lot of lately. You know, that tangerine orange skin tone of the big man on the hill.
Blossoming with lush tropical flowers and fresh fruits grown by Dole just for the Rose Parade, the award-winning float “Dreaming of Paradise” honored the independent family farmers from around the world that Dole partners with, and paid tribute to the beauty and bounty of Latin America’s tropical paradise.
The float, which heralded Dole’s mission of being actively involved in the communities of independent family farmers, also served as a reminder that with responsible, sustainable growing and operating practices the dream of paradise can remain alive.
To capture the essence of a tropical landscape, the Dole float featured a 26-foot erupting volcano complete with smoke and real fire shooting 20 feet into the sky over prowling tigers, fluttering butterflies, chimpanzees, parrots, dragonflies and three life-like waterfalls cascading more than 1,000 gallons of recycled water. Fully completing the spirit of Latin America, twenty Costa Rican dancers dressed in traditional costumes performed alongside the exotic and rare flowers from around the world.
This image is also from the parade, you can click that photo of the Korean dancers to see more Rose parade pictures.
Of course, New Year’s Day does not only bring floats of flowers, it also brings plenty of college football. One state university that was nowhere to be seen on any bowl game field was Penn State. Their football program was punished by the NCAA for ignoring the obvious child abuse that was taking place within their “winning” football machine. A punishment that I thought lacked enough oomph in relation to the level of pain and trauma Penn States non-action caused. Well, guess what? The State of Pennsylvania is suing the NCAA. Money is honey and it is all that matters. State of Pennsylvania to file lawsuit against NCAA
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett will announce a federal lawsuit against the NCAA tied to the historic sanctions levied against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Corbett will hold a press conference on Wednesday morning in State College, Pa., to announce the suit, which will be filed by the state.
Penn State, which has been working in concert with the NCAA since the scandal, is not involved in preparing the suit. It is being handled solely by the state.
Corbett’s office has been vague in regard to the specific aim of the suit, but it appears to be dedicated to the overall sanctions issued by the NCAA in July. Corbett referred to them on Tuesday as “illegal sanctions.”
A wholesale suit against the NCAA by a third party as powerful as the state of Pennsylvania could loom as an important case in testing the ultimate power of the NCAA.
This suit against the NCAA could also have repercussions with any civil cases yet to be brought against Penn State University, as well as, the State of Pennsylvania because PSU is a state-run university.
Another possible suit that floated about news headlines this past week was proposed by the parents of a surviving victim of the Sandy Hook Shooting. However, it required prior approval by the state’s claims commissioner for the lawyer to even file a lawsuit against the state. Though the child’s attorney has withdrawn the request, I still feel it is an important issue that needs to be addressed.
The State of Connecticut has some of the most wealthiest residents in the nation, it also has a law that gives the state sovereign immunity against lawsuits…the only one in the country were only one person has the power to approve a suit brought against the state. Check this out…for an Attorney to seek permission to sue the State they must first get one man to sign off on it. For a…
…lawsuit to proceed…(you) need a single man in an obscure agency in Hartford to agree — J. Paul Vance Jr., the state’s claims commissioner.
Vance’s power is unparalleled. Connecticut’s system, experts say, is unlike that of any other state.
Seems like this one man is the all powerful Oz when it comes to “who” can hold the state accountable for their actions.
The position, which dates back to the 1970s and is appointed every four years by the governor and Legislature, determines whether many types of claims of damages or injury lodged against state government are “just.”
The commissioner, after reviewing evidence and if necessary, scheduling hearings, can: Approve immediate payment of claims worth $7,500 and under; recommend the General Assembly pay or reject claims over $7,500; and allow lawsuits against Connecticut to proceed.
His decisions can only be appealed to the Legislature.
According to a decade’s worth of reports, the fewest number of claims submitted were 288 in fiscal year 2006-07, with the most — 586 — in 2004-05. Since 2004, an average of two dozen lawsuits have been allowed to proceed each year.
Hey, the state’s claims commissioner is an important and influential post. I’d imagine this dude has many ethical decisions to make every day…not just whether lawsuits are justified to move forward, but also addressing any conflicts that arise from who or what company this commissioner associates with…I mean, this is a sensitive position to hold.
The role of the claims commissioner originates with the principle of sovereign immunity: Governments should be protected from paying damages private citizens can be held liable for.
“Sovereign immunity is something we got from England,” said Richard Kay, a University of Connecticut law professor. “It originates in the phrase, `The king can do no wrong.’ Nonetheless, in modern times, given all the things a state does … you want the state accountable for its wrongs.”
So, Kay explained, processes were established for states to grant the right to be sued. Initially in Connecticut, claims were filed with the General Assembly, then a commission was created and whittled down in the 1970s to one person.
Michael Tardif, a Washington-based lawyer who in 2005 helped author a report on sovereign immunity, said many states have decided to waive that protection, instead setting damage caps to protect finances.
“In most you can go to court and file a lawsuit,” Tardif said.
Other states may also have commissions or boards that must approve lawsuits against the state, but they have several members who must vote on whether the suit can go forward or not. In Connecticut, only one man holds ALL the cards.
“It’s a bizarre, convoluted and arcane system,” said state Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, a senior member of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, the first stop for claims appeals. “Hopefully it weeds out bad claims. The risk is it also weeds out legitimate claims.”
Cooney, who has handled around two dozen claims cases, argued, “You have one person who has the complete discretion to say either you can file a lawsuit or not … I don’t see any reason why the state should have this mechanism in place to make it incredibly difficult to sue the state when no other corporate entity or individual has the same shield.
“If a judge hears it and there’s no legal basis for a claim, the judge will render a judgement for the state,” Cooney said. “Our clients would feel they’re getting a fairer shake because they get their day in court.”
And just who is this man? Well, his name is J. Paul Vance Jr., and he gave up his Waterbury mayoral bid when he was first appointed to the position by Gov. Daniel Malloy in the Fall of 2011. (You can read about the politics of this appointment here.)
Vance, Jr’s comments have caused some concerns from litigation lawyers in Connecticut. When he was given the claims commission job, Vance’s comments to the Waterbury Republican American were:
“I’ve always been a litigator, primarily defense, so this is the perfect fit for me.”
According to Bridgeport Attorney Charles Willinger, who represents the victim of a chimp attack and has been waiting for Vance’s decision on their request to sue the state.
“The claims commissioner has been described by the Connecticut Supreme Court as `the conscience of the state.’ What he is supposed to be doing is not defending the state against claims.”
Vance declined to discuss pending matters, but he said he knows his responsibilities.
“My job is not to protect the state,” Vance said. “It’s to make sure it’s a fair process for people.”
“There is that (sovereign) immunity, and there are situations where that immunity should be yanked.”
That is a huge responsibility for Paul Vance Jr. to hold, and if the claims commissioner’s name sounds familiar, it should. His father is J. Paul Vance, Sr., the official “spokesman” for the state police in charge of the Sandy Hook investigation.
We have seen Vance Sr. in action during the past few weeks giving information, or should I say…not giving information, during press conferences about the Newtown shooting.
I’ve stated repeatedly that I have a gut feeling about the peculiar attitude of Lt. Vance Sr. at these press conferences. There is something strange about the lack of information coming forward too. As Dak mentioned in a comment a few weeks ago:
….people are trying to understand what caused this to happen or at least what factors contributed to it. The only thing that I’ve noticed about this particular shooting is that the police haven’t been very forthcoming with anything. In some of the other shootings, we had all kinds of people coming forward and the police offered up a lot of different bits and pieces of information. The Head of the State troopers hasn’t been saying anything which leads to all kinds of rumors and speculation as people try to understand how something this horrible could happen. I think it’s just people looking for answers when no information has been forthcoming from the traditional sources. Think of how we knew immediately from the Aurora Mall shooter’s school and the Tuscon Mall shooter’s school and parents about their issues. They both had to even go through the criminal justice system so it’s rather odd that the Connecticut State Police seem so tight about whatever it is they have. Again, I think it’s just rampant speculation because no has come forward with anything concrete. Probably doing the community a lot of injustice and likely the shooter and his mom who both are the sources of all kinds of media rumors.
I got the impression Lt. Vance was very defensive about giving information on the investigation. You can click this link below to review the press conference I am talking about:
Lt. Vance has a defensive attitude about his position as the singular voice of authority for all the various agencies investigating the shootings.
Maybe that has something to with Lt. Vance’s immediate family connection to the man who must approve any lawsuits the shooting victim’s families bring against the state.
Sounds like a conflict of interest to me…
And there is a difference in the tone and substance of the information they are releasing. Take the Columbine shooting, and how that was handled in the press:
In setting himself up as the sole source of reliable information, the state police spokesman was following a well-worn script for getting control of a big, growing story, says Steve Davis, who experienced similar challenges as the official liaison to the media covering the 1999 mass shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.
‘Brutally Honest’ When Needed
On the day of the Columbine shootings, Davis was on the phone and first realized something was wrong when officers rushed out of the office. Within minutes, he was in a car on his way to the high school, trying to make sense of dozens of early and contradictory reports.
“I know it’s hard to imagine now that it could have been any worse, but there were reports that day that we had as many as eight gunmen in the school. Some were [reportedly] hiding in ductwork,” remembers Davis, who is now the spokesman for the police department in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.
Davis said he told reporters at Columbine, “Look, let’s try to understand that there’s going to be a lot of misinformation here. I will try to confirm it and reconfirm it before I give it to you.”
But Davis said he also was “brutally honest” when needed. “Sometimes I had to tell them, ‘You know what? I do know the answer to your question, but … I can’t release it quite yet.’ “
He set up on-the-hour news conferences to keep reporters informed and control the flow of information.
“A big part of each news conference was just rumor control,” Davis says. But he took all questions and did his best to get timely answers for reporters, he says.
Davis seems to have been genuinely concerned with relaying information to the public, more forthcoming with information and less arrogant with his attitude.
Considering the state has also decided to keep affidavits and warrants sealed, is there something the state wants to keep out of the press? Sandy Hook affidavits remain sealed
A state Superior Court judge said Thursday that search warrant affidavits for the cars and home of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza and his mother would stay sealed for another 90 days.
Judge John Blawie granted motions filed Wednesday by Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky to extend the statutory sealing period for the five warrants, including three for the Yogonanda Street home where the 20-year-old Lanza fatally shot his mother, Nancy, four times in the face on the morning of Dec. 14, before embarking on the rampage that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.
The judge’s order also covers the two other search warrants, for the 2010 Honda Civic Adam Lanza drove to the school and for Nancy Lanza‘s 2009 silver BMW, which was parked in the garage attached to the home.
“The court finds that due to the nature and circumstances of this case and the ongoing investigation, the state’s interest in continuing nondisclosure substantially outweighs any right to public disclosure at this time,” Blawie wrote.
Those warrants and affidavits would have been made pubic 14 days after the being filed with the court. Danbury’s State Attorney Sedensky said…
…his applications that the affidavits contained information “not known to the general public” and that premature disclosure would “seriously jeopardize the outcome and success of the investigation” by “divulging sensitive and confidential information” known only to investigators.
Although no arrests have been made and “none are contemplated,” Sedensky also said the possibility has not been ruled out, and that releasing the information would make it difficult to solve crimes that others might have committed.
I understand the need to control the information coming out, and keep rumors and false media reports at bay, however much of the information first given by Lt. Lance was incorrect. (Like the name of the shooter, the weapons used to kill the students and faculty, etc.)
We have heard absolutely nothing new from Lt. Lance, in fact the only recent update to the investigation is reported by The Hartford Courant: Police To Re-Create Scene Outside Sandy Hook School
State police are considering partially re-creating the scene outside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14 as the first police officers responded to the mass shooting to try and answer a nagging question: Did Adam Lanza fire at police officers?
Police are discussing bringing back some of the cars that were in the school lot as the first Newtown officers and state police troopers arrived following 911 calls that was a shooter was on the loose. The cars will be placed exactly where they parked that morning as will the police cruisers of the first responders. The plan is to receate the scene in the coming week.
Police have found numerous bullets outside the school that hit at least three cars, including the one owned by Lauren Rousseau, who was killed by Lanza in her classroom along with 14 of her students and a special-education aide. The three cars that were hit, belonging to Sandy Hook staffers, were near where at least one of the first group of officers parked before running into the school, sources said.
Why weren’t these bullet holes investigated earlier?
Sources said the bullets that hit cars outside probably were fired from teacher Victoria Soto’s room. That was the second room Lanza entered as he firing at teachers and students. Soto and her aide, Mary Ann Murphy, were killed there, as were six students. Six other children escaped because, police believe, Lanza stopped firing briefly either because his gun jammed or he had trouble reloading his gun. Seven other students survived because Soto hid them in a closet.
Investigators are trying to determine if the bullets fired into the parking lot were strays as Lanza fired in Soto’s classroom or if he saw officers arriving and fired through the window at them. Investigators have done trajectory work in the classroom but now want to line up the police cars and see if it is possible some of the bullets were aimed at them.
No cruisers were hit and none of the officers interviewed so far has indicated that they were shot at. But several of the officers involved in the initial response have not been interviewed yet because they are still traumatized and they may not have realized they were being shot at as they ran towards the school.
Now, that article was published on Dec. 29th…and it states several of the initial response officers have not been interviewed yet? That seems strange to me….what do you think?
The partial re-creation will likely be one of the last things state police do at the school before wrapping up that part of the investigation. There are no plans to recreate what happened inside the school or to interview any of the students who survived, police say.
Well, it seems like police should talk to the students who survived for possible information relative to the case, it would also help these kids talk through this violent shooting that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
There have been several shooting deaths since the Sandy Hook massacre, and we know more about those crimes than we do about this shooting in Newtown. Think back to the information that was released in the days and weeks after the Holmes shooting in Aurora. The press had plenty of reports about James Holmes and what evidence they had found.
I sound like one of those conspiracy nuts, but there is a nagging in the back of my mind, and I can’t quiet let it go.
So, that is what I have for you this morning, be sure to post links to what you are reading today…hope to catch up with you later in the comment section.
My daughter is still sick with the flu, but she is getting better…unfortunately I think she has passed it on to me. I am just hoping that my flu shot kicks in and the symptoms don’t get any worse.
Here’s the latest news out of Newtown. (And there is really nothing “new” in the way of information…and Philo Vance, I mean Paul Vance has been conspicuously absent, is his microphone packed away for good?)
From the Hartford Courant, we have our only bit of new information on the investigation. Sandy Hook Shooter’s Pause May Have Aided Students’ Escape
As many as a half-dozen first graders may have survived Adam Lanza‘s deadly shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School because he stopped firing briefly, perhaps either to reload his rifle or because it jammed, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the events.
A source said that the Bushmaster rifle that Lanza used in the shootings is at the state police forensic laboratory undergoing several tests, including tests to determine whether it was jammed.
The children escaped from the first-grade classroom of teacher Victoria Soto, one of the six educators Lanza killed in Newtown after shooting his way through a glass door with the .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle on the morning of Dec. 14.
On Friday, detectives obtained and began examining records related to psychiatric care Lanza had received in an attempt to determine a motive. Several friends of his mother have said that he suffered from Asperger’s syndrome but authorities have not confirmed that or indicated it had anything to do with the shootings.
Finally, some sort of words about Lanza and medical records. Damn, it has been like Adam Lanza just dropped out of nowhere, no records or “social networking” footprints have been found. (I still think it is all too strange, the silence…and the attitude of the various “authorities.” Something still feels fishy to me!)
Anyway, you can watch the Newtown police chief interview here, it is a quick few minutes at the start of the CBS Evening News: 12/22: Newtown police chief shares his story- CBS News Video
The chief also shares his opinion on armed patrol officers guarding schools. That should be enough of a tease for you to watch it.
Another thing to give a few minutes to is this report from All Things Considered: Near-Replica Of Sandy Hook Made Nearby For Students : NPR
I’d love to hear from Dr. Boomer about the new school being made into a “near-replica” of a place so many of these children survivors associate with unbelievable violence and horrible death.
On the subject of this carnage in the classroom, Roland Martin has this op/ed on CNN America should see the Newtown carnage
“One of these mothers from Connecticut should do an Emmett Till moment; show the picture of their child dead in the classroom.”
That’s a text I received earlier this week from my TV One show producer. When I got it, a chill immediately went through my body just thinking about the possibility of seeing the carnage in such a photo.
When taping this week’s edition of my show, “Washington Watch,” Sirius/XM Radio host Joe Madison somberly said the same thing. Joe remarked that Emmett’s mother, Mamie, insisted on an open casket for her son so the world could see what was done to him by racists in Mississippi.
Many Americans may not even remember Emmett Till, a precocious 14-year-old black teenager from Chicago who went to visit his family in Mississippi. He allegedly flirted with a white woman in a store, and the woman’s husband and his brother later went to the home where Till was staying, pulled him out of his bed, took him somewhere and beat him to a pulp, gouged out his eye, blew the back of his head away with a gun, attached a cotton gin with barbed wire around his neck and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River.
I think Martin may have a point. Look at the images from the Civil War, and how they shaped the mindset of the population. It brought the bloody war home to the people in a way that stories in the newspapers could not.
When Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender newspaper published his battered face on their covers, it sent shock waves throughout America, and especially in the black community. The brutality of lynchings were talked about and covered, yet for the world to witness with its own eyes the end result of vicious bigotry, it forced the nation to examine its conscience.
“There was just no way I could describe what was in that box,” Mamie said. “No way. And I just wanted the world to see.”
In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting, we have seen numerous photos of the beautiful, smiling faces of the 20 children and six adults slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The images we have become accustomed to include them singing at a piano, sporting the gear of a favorite sports team and others. When we think of them being memorialized it’s in the context of teddy bears, candles and flowers.
Americans want to remember them as vibrant and fun-loving children, but will that actually shake the conscience of America to do something about how they were gunned down in the classroom?
Please go read the rest, and let me know what you think about viewing the crime scene photos, and if that can make the horror more real to those people who seem bent on keeping gun control/legislation as is…and actually put more guns and assault weapons in the hands of the regular public, who don’t need these kind of semi-automatic military rifles to shoot a deer.
Speaking of those pro-gun lobbyist, take a look at this: Newtown’s firearms tradition clashes with gun control push
When the wind blows a certain way across the tree-topped hills, Gary Bennett can stand in his yard and hear echoes of gunfire from his hunting club five miles away. The sound comforts him.
“It’s a huge tradition here,” said Bennett, a retired electrician and former president of the club, which helped defeat a proposal to tighten Newtown, Conn.’s gun ordinances in September. “I’d rather see more gun clubs come to town, training people with the use of firearms so that everyone’s doing it safely.”
Anguished families are still burying the 20 children and six women who were shot to death by a lone gunman Dec. 14 just after the morning Pledge of Allegiance at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But a surprising local undercurrent has emerged: Many gun owners here say the slaughter has sharpened their view that guns alone aren’t the problem.
The article interviews folks who feel that there should be armed people at these schools. “Somebody…” to take out the shooter. But all I can say is go back and watch that interview with the Newtown Police Chief, who does not think that armed patrol is the answer.
I’ve got one story here about Walmart, funny in a way: Walmart Sells Assault Weapons But Bans Music With Swear Words
Yup, no sale of music that contains the words, “fuck you” but they will gladly sell assault weapons that are only good for “fucking someone up…” killing them and making the surviving family’s life a living hell.
The rest of the links are slightly connected…I mentioned photographs of the disfigured and bloated dead Civil War soldiers above, well this past week was the anniversary of one of the most deadliest series of battles fought. From the New York Times: ‘The Day the Stars Wept’
The majority of fighting at Fredericksburg had ground to a halt as the sun slipped below the horizon on Dec. 13, 1862. Ghastly piles of dead men and horses were scattered in the fields, and the woods were littered with abandoned equipment and debris. Sporadic gunfire continued as exhausted survivors on both sides ventured out into the war-blasted landscape to rescue wounded comrades.
In one sector of the battlefield, the men of the Fourth Vermont Infantry had endured a day of intense enemy artillery and infantry fire. The regiment suffered more than 50 casualties, including 18 killed and wounded when a spray of lead balls from single Confederate canister shot tore into one company.
Whether it is images of this American Civil War or photos of the other civil war, the war for civil rights, fought one hundred years later…or the war in Europe…being able to look at images of the dead, or smell the shoes of thousands of holocaust victims, can we learn from the violence. It is the only way to stay connected with the past, and make sure we do not forget it.
Library of Congress
The Vermonters occupied a skirmish line in the twilight. George Washington Quimby, the 27-year-old acting major of the regiment, stood conspicuously among the men. A peacetime high school principal, he cautioned his boys to “keep low to avoid danger” while random shots whizzed through the air. They obeyed the command and sat or lay down.
On the Confederate side, a soldier leveled his musket and squeezed the trigger. Hammer struck percussion cap and caused a spark that ignited gunpowder and propelled a conical shaped Minié bullet down the muzzle.
Quimby never saw it coming.
Read the rest of that NYT story at the link up top, and you can see images of the dead and read more about the battle here:
Photo via the Library of congress.
In other news, the White House has changed its “opinion” of those frankenfish… I mean, genetically engineered fish. White House Reverses Itself, Lifts Political Block on FDA Approval of GM Salmon
The Food and Drug Administration today released an electronic version of its Environmental Assessment for a genetically modified (GM) salmon developed by AquaBounty Technologies of Massachusetts—effectively giving its preliminary seal of approval on the first transgenic animal to be considered for federal approval.
According to sources within FDA, the EA had been approved by the all the relevant agencies on April 19, 2012, but had been blocked for release on orders from inside the executive branch—which has raised both legal and ethical issues of political interference with science and the independent work of federal agencies.
The decision by the White House to rescind its order to block the FDA from releasing the EA came Wednesday within hours after the publication of an investigative report by the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) last Wednesday documenting that the executive branch had been hold the EA for political reasons.
Well fuuuuuuuck…..that! And of course, this change of heart comes during a media filled frenzy of Fiscal Cliffs, dead children, Santa and Gun Control. Humph!
I’ve got another fish story for you, Megapiranha put T. rex’s bite to shame, says study
You ready for this?
Tyrannosaurus rex and megalodon, a gigantic shark that preceded the great white, have nothing on the black piranha and the extinct megapiranha when it comes to chomping power. Researchers at George Washington University report that, relative to its size, the megapiranha bite was more powerful than T. Rex and history’s largest shark. According to the study published in Scientific Reports, the black piranha was determined to have a biting force behind its powerful teeth of up to 320 Newtons.
“Comparisons of body size-scaled bite forces to other apex predators reveal S. rhombeus and M. paranensis have among the most powerful bites estimated in carnivorous vertebrates. Our results functionally demonstrate the extraordinary bite of serrasalmid piranhas and provide a mechanistic rationale for their predatory dominance among past and present Amazonian ichthyofaunas,” the authors write in their study.
Holy Ceviche! That is some powerful jaws…
…the piranhas’ aggressive nature, small body size and easy-to-access populations make them a great group of predatory vertebrates in which to examine the evolution of powerful chomping capabilities. Researchers believe that piranhas will attack and rip chunks of fins and flesh from prey regardless of size. Prior to this study, however, no data on the piranhas biting powers was available for researchers to use.
Researchers gathered the first bite-force measurements from wild specimens of the black piranha. Using these measurements, they were able to better understand the fundamental functional morphology of the jaws that gives the black piranha the ability to chomp down on its prey with a force that is more than 30 times greater than its weight. Researchers contend that this powerful biting force comes from the large muscle mass of the black piranha’s jaw and the deft transmission of its big contractile force through a modified jaw-closing lever.
Researchers believe that the ancient megapiranha shared a common trait with black piranhas: An extremely powerful bite. They reconstructed the bite force of the megapiranha and found that, despite its small body size, the chomping power of this extinct piranha was more powerful than that of megalodon.
Lots more at the link.
And finally, let’s end this post with a pretty picture, cold…sharp and clean: Frost Flowers…Suddenly There’s A Meadow In The Ocean With ‘Flowers’ Everywhere
…little protrusions of ice, delicate, like snowflakes. They began growing in the dry, cold air “like a meadow spreading off in all directions. Every available surface was covered with them.” What are they?
“Frost flowers,” he was told. “I’d never heard of them,” Jeff says, “but they were everywhere.”
Stay warm and enjoy the last Sunday before Christmas…see you later in the comment section!
Ah, and now for part two of today’s Sunday Reads, get ready for lots of links…
Let’s start with a couple of big news stories, and then work our way through the rest.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing above Scotland which killed 270 people, has died at his home in Libya.
Megrahi, 60, was convicted by a special court in the Netherlands in 2001.
He was freed from Scottish jail in 2009 on compassionate grounds because of cancer, stirring controversy when he outlived doctors’ expectations.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said it was a day to remember the 270 victims of “an appalling terrorist act”.
Mr Cameron, who is in Chicago for a Nato summit, said Megrahi should never have been freed, Reuters news agency reports.
No kidding…Well, at least the victims families can have some sense of closure. Although, I cannot see how his death, free and at home, would give those families a feeling of relief.
Boehner is talking crap again, this time on the TV show “This Week,” U.S. banking laws unable to stop JPMorgan loss: Republican Boehner –
U.S. banking reforms could not have prevented JPMorgan Chase & Co‘s trading losses, and those involved in the activities that went awry should be held accountable, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said in an interview aired on Sunday.
“I don’t believe there’s anything in Dodd-Frank (financial reform law) that would’ve prevented this activity at JPMorgan,” said Boehner, the top Republican U.S. officeholder. He made the comments Friday in an interview for ABC’s “This Week.”
Last week JPMorgan disclosed that it has suffered at least $2 billion in losses due to trades that went bad. The losses from derivatives trading could widen and have placed pressure on the bank to explain what happened as lawmakers and regulators tussle over rules for Dodd-Frank enacted two years ago.
“There’s no law against stupidity. No law against stupid trades,” said Boehner.
“And as long as depositors’ money wasn’t at risk and as long as there’s no risk of a taxpayer bailout, they should be held accountable by the market and their shareholders,” he said.
This hedge may have been considered an exemption according to Dodd-Frank, but with the amounts of the loss increasing daily, I wonder if there is something more sinister going on.
While on the subject of the GOP…this little post from Atlanta Journal Constitution caught my eye. You may remember that my state of Georgia was last in the nation when it came to laws that prevent or punish ethics infractions within the State’s government. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston had some words about ethics reform, and I think it illustrates the kind of partisan problems we are seeing these days. No, Speaker Ralston. Ethics reform is not a partisan issue | Jay Bookman
If you believe House Speaker David Ralston, ethics reform is a liberal cause backed by liberal groups and the liberal media, and conservatives who join the campaign for ethics reform are being played for suckers in an attempt to divide the Republican Party.
“In times of great majorities like we enjoy now, we must remember that there are those around us who seek nothing less than to divide us. There are those who would sow the seeds of dissension and discord in order to advance a self-absorbed agenda that’s not consistent with the best interests of our party.
Let me be very clear. Regardless of the course that others may take, as for me and the people’s House of this state, we are going to stand united, working hard, standing Republican shoulder to Republican shoulder, to make Georgia a better state — and not align ourselves with media elites and liberal special interest groups. …”
That statement — uttered by Ralston at the state GOP convention in Columbus Friday — is the biggest load of baloney I have seen from a Georgia politician not named Newt Gingrich. It is also a two-fold insult to the base of his party, suggesting that ethics reform is not a conservative value and that Republican voters and activists who support such reform are being duped.
Democratic candidates and strategists would no doubt be pleased by Ralston’s confession that ethics reform is a liberal cause, and they are no doubt eager to campaign on that idea. The only problem is, it isn’t true.
Liberal Americans and conservative Americans don’t agree about a lot of things. But they do agree about the impropriety of elected public officials taking $17,000 family vacations to Europe on a lobbyist’s dollar, as Ralston has done. They do agree that lobbyists shouldn’t be plying public officials of either party with $250 rounds of golf and $300 dinners and $500-a-night resort hotel rooms. There is no partisan divide among the citizens of Georgia on that question, and Ralston knows it.
The statement is in response to a GOP committee meeting this weekend.
…At the urging of the GOP rank and file, the party’s executive committee has voted unanimously to put an advisory question on the GOP primary ballot this July, asking primary voters whether they support a $100 limit on gifts from lobbyists to legislators.
The people who supported that measure are not liberals and they are not liberal dupes, as Ralston seems to suggest. The same is true of Republican primary voters who will vote overwhelming in favor of that measure come July.
Ralston’s attempt to make this a test of party loyalty is ludicrous. He has clearly decided that preserving the privileges and entitlements that he and his fellow elected officials enjoy is more important than honoring the opinions of his party membership and the people of Georgia.
The divide, in other words, is not between Republican and Democrat or liberal and conservative. The divide is between the people of this state and those who believe that the title of senator or representative is an entitlement to the spoils of power
What Ralston is doing is perfectly in line with the hypocritical behavior of politicians as a whole…
As the AJC’s Jim Galloway reports, a group calling itself the Capitol Coalition of Conservative Government has responded to Ralston’s statement, and they have put their case well:
“We strongly condemn the comments made by Speaker Ralston regarding ethics reform. Strong ethics and accountability are not a matter of right versus left. They are a matter of right versus wrong.
His comments imply that voters and activists should hide our eyes from the realities of ethics violations and the need for reform, and stand by everyone no matter what they do, simply because they have an “R” behind their name.
Rather than open his heart to the cries from citizens that we have the right to call for accountability, his comments reflect those of someone who seeks to divide our party by falsely accusing those who stand for our values of being divisive. His comments were arrogant and pompous and show an attitude that is anything but a humble public servant.”
It is also amusing to see Ralston once again trying to perform an exquisite ethical two-step. On the one hand, he argues that as speaker he “represent(s) a caucus that are basically good people doing good jobs,” and he feigns surprise that Republican voters and activists might question their ethical purity.
He then turns around and warns that if gifts over $100 are outlawed, those very same “good people” would begin to accept those gifts under the table, in violation of the law. He seems to believe that members of his own caucus would rather break the law than give up their goodies, and he seems to believe that members of his own party have become dupes of “media elites and liberal special interest groups” because they dare demand clean government.
Anyway, I just thought that was a good article and made a good point about the partisan politics that are bringing the government to a stand still.
GOP need to be focused of fixing the economy, not turning to austerity measures to effectively put a death strangle on our country…we have talked about this over and over again. It all is just too damn frustrating to see this crap going on. Sigh…
There is some excitement in the world of horse racing, I’ll Have Another catches Bodemeister again -
Two weeks ago, J. Paul Reddam’s I’ll Have Another ran down pacesetter Bodemeister to take the Kentucky Derby under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. On Saturday, I’ll Have Another took on that pacesetting rival in the 137th running of the Preakness Stakes and gutted out a neck victory to take the second jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico.
I am not really into the sport of horse racing, but my brother-in-law is a professor at Cornell and works in the lab that test the horses for drugs.
“We wanted to be a little bit closer to Bodemeister this time because normally that horse runs a huge race,” Gutierrez said. “My horse has a tremendous kick in the end. He has been proving that in the last three races. He didn’t disappoint again today. He has proven a lot of people wrong. I just have to prepare because I want to be at the same level as him. He’s an amazing horse.”
The exciting rematch was witnessed by a record crowd of 121,309 at Pimlico, edging the 2005 Preakness when 121,263 packed Old Hilltop. The 13-race Thoroughbred card generated an all-sources handle of $80,463,005. The handle ranked as the sixth highest for Pimlico’s signature day.
“The numbers say it all. We had a tremendous event,” Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas stated.
It’s now on to the Belmont Stakes in New York for the Doug O’Neill-trained I’ll Have Another, who cost just $35,000 when purchased by O’Neill’s brother Dennis at the 2011 OBS Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training. The colt will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed swept all three races in 1978.
Now lets move on to another link that is making people talk, this time it is an op/ed in the New York Times. First we will look at the op/ed, written by Campbell Brown and then a post from Think Progress that comments on it.
WHEN I listen to President Obama speak to and about women, he sometimes sounds too paternalistic for my taste. In numerous appearances over the years — most recently at the Barnard graduation — he has made reference to how women are smarter than men. It’s all so tired, the kind of fake praise showered upon those one views as easy to impress. As I listen, I am always bracing for the old go-to cliché: “Behind every great man is a great woman.”Some women are smarter than men and some aren’t. But to suggest to women that they deserve dominance instead of equality is at best a cheap applause line.
In today’s New York Times, former cable news anchor Campbell Brown attacks President Obama for “condescending” to women with a “paternalistic,” “fake,” and “grating” attitude. In the 10th paragraph, she discloses that her husband Dan Senor is a top advisor to Mitt Romney.
Brown launches her assault based on Obama’s commencement address at Barnard College — the women’s college at Columbia University — and suggests that though “it’s a tough economy,” he shouldn’t have encouraged the young women there that they are “tougher” and that “things will get better” in the nation’s job market.
Brown’s primary contention is that Obama is ignoring economic issues related to women to focus on things like abortion rights and affordable access to contraception. To justify her attack, Brown cites a handful of stories from personal friends and relatives, then cites polling data:
The struggling women in my life all laughed when I asked them if contraception or abortion rights would be a major factor in their decision about this election. For them, and for most other women, the economy overwhelms everything else….
Another recent Pew Research Center survey found that voters, when thinking about whom to vote for in the fall, are most concerned about the economy (86 percent) and jobs (84 percent). Near the bottom of the list were some of the hot-button social issues.
She’s right: the economy and jobs are at the top of voters’ lists of issues. But it’s not at the expense of all other issues. Indeed, the same Pew poll Brown cites shows that more than a third of voters ranked “abortion” and “birth control” — 39 and 34 percent, respectively — as “very important” issues. And, according to the report, “Birth control is significantly more important to women (40% very important) than men (27%).”
Four pages past Brown’s essay in the Times’s Sunday Review, the Times editorial board takes Republicans to task and outlines their continuing assault on women’s issues. The problem with Romney — elided by Brown — is that he shares many of these extreme views. Brown writes:
Most women don’t want to be patted on the head or treated as wards of the state. They simply want to be given a chance to succeed based on their talent and skills. To borrow a phrase from our president’s favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, they want “an open field and a fair chance.”
When asked why Romney has repeatedly dodged the question about his “support” the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the Romney campaign had this to say.
The campaign quickly covered itself with the hedge that Romney “supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.” Republicans in Congress opposed the law when it was debated. Only two GOP senators — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who side with the President against their party on women’s issues — voted for it.
I have more world news after the jump…
Mark your calendars for this Tuesday, March 27th, 7:00 pm [EST]. Why? The Culture Project will be running another of its Town Hall discussions, a live stream production from Georgetown University. Stellar participants include: Eliot Spitzer, Matt Taibbi, Dylan Ratigan, Ron Suskind, Van Jones, Heather McGhee and Jessie LaGreca. See brief bio background here.
The discussion topic? It’s all in the title—accountability, the very essence of a sound democracy, yet sadly, an ingredient we’ve seen purposely, repeatedly ignored and shunned by government and corporate leaders alike.
Occupy Wall St. brought public attention to the problem—the yawning divide between the 1% and everyone else. Now, the hard work begins: how do we, public and private citizens alike, steer ourselves back to the premise that the Rule of Law is essential and applies to everyone. How do we make our demands felt inside a broken, corrupt system, where our vote is compromised by big money, our voices drowned in the sludge of corporate and financial interests?
The plan or blueprint needs fresh dialogue, new ideas.
What precisely is the Culture Project? you might be asking. From the site:
CULTURE PROJECT is dedicated to addressing critical human rights issues by creating and supporting artistic work that amplifies marginalized voices. By fostering innovative collaboration between human rights organizations and artists, we aim to inspire and impact public dialogue and policy, encouraging democratic participation in the most urgent matters of our time.
The Accountability series is a slight departure from what the group has done before—programs addressing human rights issues. But in a sense all of our rights are at peril, as is self-evident in the on-going Presidential campaign rhetoric.
The first of the series was launched with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in a discussion on torture and the War on Terror. Subsequent presentations featured Robert Kennedy, Jr. ,who spoke to the continuing diminishment of American values and Cornell West last September spoke on the 40th Anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion.
I wasn’t aware of these programs. Hattip to Alternet for bringing me up to speed and alerting readers about the program scheduled for Tuesday night
This is another example of networking getting the message out and a live stream presentation made available, reaching a far wider audience than would normally be the case.
Personally, I’m a great fan of Eliot Spitzer. Despite his past personal problems, I think he has a true gift in explaining the financial/legal shenanigans that Wall St. adopted and continues to practice as business as usual. All at the expense of the American public. Dylan Ratigan has his own MSNBC TV show, Monday through Friday. He’s a former financial guy himself and has a book out “Greedy Bastards,” which has spent weeks and weeks on the NY Best Seller’s List. He’s been screaming daily about the country’s breakdown, the systemic corruption and lawlessness pervading everything—the financial sector, education, healthcare, energy, etc. Matt Taibbi writes for the Rolling Stone and has been equally merciless in calling the TBTF’s out for the highway robbers they were and continue to be. Add the other voices on the panel and I suspect the conversation will be lively and worth the 2-hour investment of time.
Live stream program will be found here.
Should be an interesting, informative night. Let the brainstorming begin!
Yesterday I read an interesting essay by William Black over at New Economic Perspectives. In the essay, Black, who headed the forensic audit team during the S&L crisis, pulls forward the Broken Window Theory, a criminological model based on a simple and some have said simplistic idea. The theory was introduced by James Q. Wilson and received a fair amount of popularity during the 1990s, particularly in conservative circles.
Readers might remember Rudy Giuliani’s ‘war against graffiti,’ his zero-tolerance campaign in NYC. That effort, the elimination of the squeegee men and the crack down on street prostitution among other things were based on the broken window philosophy, which uses an abandoned building metaphor.
Imagine a building in any neighborhood [although Wilson focused exclusively on what he termed ‘blue-collar crime.’] The first broken window of our abandoned building if left unrepaired sends a clear message to antisocial types: no one cares about this building. So, it’s open season on all the other windows, on anything of value that’s been left behind. If the owner doesn’t care about the integrity of the building then the street tough is encouraged to vandalize and take whatever’s not nailed down.
The attitude feeds on itself or so the theory goes. Honest citizens are less likely to confront the petty thief, which only encourages others to act out in destructive, antisocial ways. Honest citizens begin to feel overwhelmed and outnumbered and stop safeguarding their own neighborhoods. What’s the point? they say. No one cares. Communities begin to self-destruct.
Now whether you buy into this crime theory or not, I think the metaphor holds when you consider what we’ve been witnessing in the degradation of our financial markets, our legal system, even the refusal to admit that ‘there’s trouble in River City.’
As Professor Black points out, if we were to take Wilson’s theory and apply it to the explosion of ‘white collar crime’ within our financial system, it would be a major step in restoring the integrity of our system and bolstering peer pressure against misconduct. As it stands now, Wall Street movers and shakers and their DC handmaidens have implemented business-as-usual policies that reward the thief and punish the whistleblower. As Black points out in the essay:
We have adopted executive and professional compensation systems that are exceptionally criminogenic. We have excused and ignored the endemic “earnings management” that is the inherent result of these compensation policies and the inherent degradation of professionalism that results from allowing CEOs to create a Gresham’s dynamic among appraisers, auditors, credit rating agencies, and stock analysts. The intellectual father of modern executive compensation, Michael Jensen, now warns about his Frankenstein creation. He argues that one of our problems is dishonesty about the results. Surveys indicate that the great bulk of CFOs claim that it is essential to manipulate earnings. Jensen explains that the manipulation inherently reduces shareholder value and insists that it be called “lying.” I have seen Mary Jo White, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who now defends senior managers, lecture that there is “good” “earnings management.”
My husband had some unsettling experience in this area. Early in his career, he worked as a CPA [the two companies will remain nameless]. But in each case, he was ‘asked’ to clean up the numbers, make them look better than they were. He refused and found himself on the street, looking for employment elsewhere. I remember him saying at the time, ‘Look, I’m a numbers guy. I’ve never been good at fiction writing.’ This was back in the late 70s early 80s, so this attitude has been a long time in the making. Now, we’re seeing accounting fraud that is literally off the charts. Is it any wonder the country’s financial system is on life support?
We can see the destructive results of this careless, corrupt posturing all around us. Professor Black continued:
Fiduciary duties are critical means of preventing broken windows from occurring and making it likely that any broken windows in corporate governance will soon be remedied, yet we have steadily weakened fiduciary duties. For example, Delaware now allows the elimination of the fiduciary duty of care as long as the shareholders approve. Court decisions have increasingly weakened the fiduciary duties of loyalty and care. The Chamber of Commerce’s most recent priorities have been to weaken Sarbanes-Oxley and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. We have made it exceptionally difficult for shareholders who are victims of securities fraud to bring civil suits against the officers and entities that led or aided and abetted the securities fraud. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) has achieved its true intended purpose – making it exceptionally difficult for shareholders who are the victims of securities fraud to bring even the most meritorious securities fraud action.
Reading this, I immediately sensed we could apply the metaphor just as easily to our legal predicament. Dak wrote to this yesterday—about the disheartening disrepair of our justice system, which was badly wounded during the Bush/Cheney years with the help of eager lawyers like John Yoo, stretching, reinterpreting, rewriting the parameters on the subjects of torture, indefinite detention, rendition, etc.
Not to be outdone, Eric Holder stood before Northwestern University’s Law School the other day and with the same twisted logic, explained away due process, otherwise known as ‘how to justify assassination.’ In this case, American citizens, those the President deems are a threat to the Nation, can be killed on native ground or foreign soil. Jonathon Turley, law professor at George Washington University and frequent legal commentator in the media, headed a recent blog post as follows: Holder Promises to Kill Citizens with Care.
Sorry, this does not make me feel better. What it does make me think is lawlessness simply breeds more lawlessness. The Broken Window theory writ large. As Turley explained:
The choice of a law school was a curious place for discussion of authoritarian powers. Obama has replaced the constitutional protections afforded to citizens with a “trust me” pledge that Holder repeated yesterday at Northwestern. The good news is that Holder promised not to hunt citizens for sport.
Holder proclaimed that “The president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war — even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen.” The use of the word “abroad” is interesting since senior Administration officials have asserted that the President may kill an American anywhere and anytime, including the United States. Holder’s speech does not materially limit that claimed authority. He merely assures citizens that Obama will only kill those of us he finds abroad and a significant threat. Notably, Holder added “Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan.”
Turley went on to comment that Holder was vague, to say the least, when it came to the use of these ‘new’ governmental/executive powers, claiming that the powers-that-be will only kill citizens when:
“the consent of the nation involved or after a determination that the nation is unable or unwilling to deal effectively with a threat to the United States.”
And as far as ‘due process?” Holder declared that:
“a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to ‘due process.’”
Chilling! As Turley grimly noted in an earlier post, this is no longer the land of the free.
Seemingly unrelated was this report from the New York Times: the heart of Dublin’s 12th-century patron saint was stolen earlier this week from Christ’s Church Cathedral. The heart of Laurence O’Toole had been housed in a heart-shaped box, safely secured [or so church authorities believed] within an iron cage. The relic’s disappearance was preceded by a rash of reliquary robberies from churches, monasteries and convents around Ireland. According to the article:
The small cage hosting the heart-shaped box containing the relic was tucked away in an innocuous alcove at the side of a small altar. Visitors to the cathedral on Monday stared at the twisted bars and the empty space behind. The bars themselves were sundered evenly.
According to Dermot Dunne, dean of Christ Church, the box had lain undisturbed for centuries. He had no idea why someone would take it.
Whether it’s the heart of a saint or the heart of a Nation, the theft is a grievous insult. The crime betrays the public trust and our basic sense of decency. But the thieves of O’Tooles’s heart performed a curious act before exiting.
The Irish culprits lit candles at two of the Cathedral’s altars. Which means the perpetrators possessed, at the very least, an ironic sense of tradition.
The same cannot be said of our homegrown hooligans. Crass greed and the lust for unlimited power have their own dark tradition. As Americans, we do not expect vice to be confused with virtue. In the past, we could not imagine a blatant disrespect for the Rule of Law–crimes ignored, excused, then openly declared necessary for whatever raison du moment.
Not here, we told ourselves repeatedly. Not in the United States.
Perhaps, we should light candles of our own. A small devotion for the lost and dying.
These are some images from my neck of the woods from this past weekend’s round of ‘weather.’
Now granted, I’m not a native of the southeast—South Jersey girl here. But the locals tell me that vertical winds are a hellva lot different than tornado touchdowns, particularly when you’re living in hill country, in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. Locally, this time we were fortunate—some downed branches and yard mess. The major damage was to the east and south of us. Last year? Not so much.
In fact, last year’s April storm front in the southeast produced 280+ tornadoes in 3 days. Historic, the headlines screamed.
If this were merely a local event, we could chalk it up to bad luck and Mother Nature in a cranky mood. But consider that earth-orbiting satellites have been gathering scientific data not previously available, giving us the ‘big picture’, data on a global scale. The following evidence has been accumulated:
- Sea levels are, in fact, rising, the rate of the last decade nearly double that of the last century.
- Global temperatures are on the rise, increasing since the 1970s with the 10 hottest recorded temperatures within the last 12 years.
- The oceans have been warming since 1969, measureable temperatures increasing in the top surfaces [2300 ft] and the acidification of the oceans has increased by 30% since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
- Glaciers are retreating, the Arctic sea ice is shrinking and the ice sheets of Greenland [36-60 cubic miles per year between 2002-2006] and the Antarctic [36 cubic miles per year between 2002-2005] have declined.
According to NASA data, there are certain facts beyond dispute:
The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century. Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many JPL-designed instruments, such as AIRS. Increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.
Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in solar output, in the Earth’s orbit, and in greenhouse gas levels. They also show that in the past, large changes in climate have happened very quickly, geologically-speaking: in tens of years, not in millions or even thousands.
We can take the facts and data of NASA, their orbiting satellites and sensors or we can fall back on the word of say . . . a Rick Santorum, who has proven himself such an expert on other subjects. According to Santorum in a speech in Colorado:
[Climate change is] an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life. … I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face. And yet we have politicians running to the ramparts — unfortunately politicians who happen to be running for the Republican nomination for president — who bought into man-made global warming and bought into cap-and-trade.
We can argue the merits of cap and trade but I find it comical that Santorum is running around talking about Satan on one hand—a Santorum absolute–while denying climate change on the other. This is a ‘don’t trust your lying eyes’ moment. And certainly don’t trust science. He continued with:
We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit … We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through that course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create.
Huh? I’m not sure what this rambling statement is intended to mean, other than we shouldn’t let nature clue us in that we’re skating on the edge, pushing the health of the planet and its inhabitants to the max. Full steam ahead with those extractions, boys!
Of course, Santorum is not alone in this type of denial. Rush Limbaugh, who has had his fair share of attention in the last few days [not of the good kind], had this to say after declaring climate change a ‘hoax’:
I happen to believe in God. I believe in a loving, brilliant – I know that this – there is no way, I don’t want to sound simpleton here, but there is not – it is not possible that we would be created by a creator in such a way that we would destroy by virtue of our created existence our own planet and environment. It just doesn’t compute and yet that’s what these people are trying to tell us. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/2/11
All righty then! God, a loving brilliant God, would not allow us to destroy ourselves. Scrap all that science and data, the fat man speaketh.
Beginning to see a pattern here? We can believe in myth—Satan’s going to getcha and/or a benevolent, personal God-creator, who would never allow Man to be stupid enough to destroy His/Her creation. No problem then. Keep spewing those toxins into the air, don’t worry about contaminating our water supply and . . . heat? What heat?
Despite the relentless war on climate data in particular and science in general, it turns out the public is beginning to catch on to all the corporate-friendly tap dancing. After a dip in public sentiment about Climate Change and the mass investment in misinformation, Americans are using their powers of observation and taking heed to the mounting evidence. According to the Brookings Institute National Survey, Fall 2011, a strong majority [62%] of the American public now believes that global warming is real and poses a threat to global security. Observation to local effects of warming temperatures and world-wide reports of floods, droughts, freakishly warm temperatures, melting ice sheets, ocean acidification and the effects on wildlife and fauna are slowly turning opinion.
We cannot wait for a benevolent God-spirit to save us. We’ll need to do that for ourselves, sooner rather than later. Because we won’t get a second chance. As Naomi Klien recently stated any real shift towards climate sustainability means a shift in the entire free-market ethos that depends on continual growth, massive extraction and profit-making over people.
. . . you can’t do it all with carbon markets and offsetting. You have to really seriously regulate corporations and invest in the public sector. And we need to build public transport systems and light rail and affordable housing along transit lines to lower emissions. The market is not going to step up to this challenge. We must do more: rebuild levees and bridges and the public sphere, because we saw in Katrina what happens when weak infrastructure clashes with heavy weather—it’s catastrophe. These climate deniers aren’t crazy—their worldview is under threat. If you take climate change seriously, you do have to throw out the free-market playbook.
In the end, so many of these pressing issues are related to a flawed economic and political model—the current corporate state. It will be up to us to reimagine a new system or as Peter Barnes suggested in ‘Capitalism 3.0,’ it’s time to upgrade.
Because there’s no place to run or hide. Earth is the only home we have. Reclaiming the commons isn’t optional; it’s a must. And personally? I’m just not into wicked tornadoes.
UPDATE: The Red Cross is now asking for donations for storm ravaged areas in the Southeast. Contact your local offices for information. Or go here.