Wednesday Reads: Nothing Changes

26529085274468460_7SooAxXc_cGood Morning

Another day under the belt for 2013, and it seems like things are never going to change.

I caught a quick interview on CNN Tuesday, Dana Bash was interviewing some Congressman…I don’t remember who…but he was a Republican from Colorado. She asked him point-blank if he was going to do anything in his power to stop Obama from passing new gun control laws. Of course, he hedged and then said the usual.

(I just updated this post, I found the segment I was watching on CNN:  CNN: Not Enough Support For New Gun Laws In Democratic-Controlled Senate

It was Cory Gardner, the GOP Rep from Colorado that Dana Bash was interviewing.)

At the same time this CNN interview was going on, I was engaged in a heated conversation with my husband over the government control of bullets. He was against it, flatly. His loyalty to the GOP is really something to see. After everything he has been through and all the personal miseries we have endured because of the Republicans’ ridiculous positions on everything that would help us, he still will agree with them.

Why be against controls on ammunition? If we must show our drivers license, have it recorded in a database to keep track of our purchases and even place our signature…swearing we are who we are….just to buy the over-the-counter cold medicine Sudafed, why not make folks do the same for bullets?

Well, the response I got was typical.  It would be inconvenient, take too long, etc. WTF?

After that comment, and listening to some asshole from a state who has had more than their share of mass shootings give Dana Bash the typical GOP answer to any reasonable question about changing gun laws that do not follow the powerful gun lobby’s agenda, I lost it.  I turned the TV off and have not looked at any of news since.

The reason I am going on about this is simple, PAD…political affective disorder strikes again.

So, if these links are repeats, I apologize.

Nothing ever changes.

NRA airs new TV ad criticizing Obama on eve of White House gun announcement

Rand Paul: Obama acting ‘like a king’ on guns, vows to fight executive actions

Edwin Meese: Obama Can Be Impeached Over Guns

Rep. Steve Stockman threatens to impeach Obama over guns

Little-known laws shed light on NRA influence

Want more crazy?

Louisiana Governor’s New Plan Would Raise Taxes On Bottom 80 Percent Of Residents

This man helped save six children, is now getting harassed for it

Former Aide: Michele Bachmann Had “Unnatural Relationship” With Debate Coach

I’ve got a headache, and two sick kids to deal with…this is an open thread.


SDB Evening News Reads for 080211: Done Deal, Super Committee and Fake Twitters

Okay, I have an OPM (Other People’s Munchkin) at our house today, so this evening news reads will be on the short side. A few of the links at the end hopefully will add a lighter note to this crappy news day.  We’ll just get to it.

Y’all know the deal is done…Obama signs debt bill into law – David Rogers – POLITICO.com

The bipartisan 74-26 roll call followed a 269-161 vote in the House Monday evening and the bill was quickly signed by President Barack Obama, ending an unprecedented, hard-edged political struggle that pushed the nation to the brink of default.

For a quick rundown on who voted Yea or Nay:  Senate passes debt bill: How they voted – CNN Political Ticker – CNN.com Blogs

And if you are mad about this, perhaps this will make you even more angry.  I linked to it on the comments of the live blog post today, but I think it should get front page notice.  REPORT: Debt Ceiling Deal Will Cost 1.8 Million Jobs In 2012 | ThinkProgress

According to EPI, the plan “not only erodes funding for public investments and safety-net spending, but also misses an important opportunity to address the lack of jobs.” In particular, the immediate spending cuts and the “failure to continue two key supports to the economy (the payroll tax holiday and emergency unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed) could lead to roughly 1.8 million fewer jobs in 2012.”

Top economists and CEO’s have also weighed in against the deal and said that GOP concessions to the Tea Party will cost our economy dearly. Pimco CEO Mohamed El-Erian warned that the deal will lead to less growth, more unemployment, and more inequality. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called the plan “a disaster” and “an abject surrender” that will “depress the economy even further.”

And what about that Super Congress or should I say Super Committee?  I saw a post over at The Weekly Standard talking about conservative republicans being part of the 12 members.  I won’t link to it obviously. But, there is this over at ThinkProgress.  Will Interest Groups Ride To The Rescue? | ThinkProgress

Now what I’m hearing (see Douthat and Scherer but most explicitly Chait) a new version of this “lobbyists to the rescue” story:

But imagine Democrats insist on higher revenue, and they decide, sensibly enough, that failure to cut a bipartisan deal is better than $1.8 trillion in cuts. (Which is probably is.) Then what? Well, then the entire defense lobby plus the entire medical and insurance lobbies turn fiercely against the very people with whom they had marched shoulder-to-shoulder under Bush. If the Democrats hold the line and insist on more revenue, the committee has the potential to split the GOP coalition wide open.

Or how about this scenario. First, Republicans refuse to agree to more revenue. Second, Democrats refuse to agree to a no-revenue deal. Third, lobbyists for the defense and health care industries get nervous. Fourth, lobbyists for the defense and health care industries remember that they are high-income people who don’t want to pay taxes. Fifth, executives at defense and health care industries remember that they are high-income people who don’t want to pay taxes. Sixth, executives at defense and health care industries start lobbying Democrats in swing districts, red states, or in which key weapons manufacturing or certain hospitals are major industries. Seventh, Democrats fold.

Labor unions, environmental groups, anti-poverty advocates, etc. all have some clout in the Democratic coalition. But rich businessmen also have clout in the Democratic coalition. And all that needs to happen for the Democrats to fold is for rich businessmen to persuade a relatively small group of congressional Democrats to start taking their side. Then a unified anti-tax GOP will roll the Democrats. What’s more, recall that it’s not as if non-business groups will be united in lockstep against surrender. Defense contractors and health care providers are firms with rich executives, but they’re also firms with working class employees who can be mobilized to beg Democrats to save them by surrendering on revenue and agreeing to modify the trigger to reduce defense and health care cuts and increase cuts to anti-poverty programs.

Well, I honestly cannot express how mad this entire thing makes me…and the helplessness I feel only makes it worse.  No one is representing me in Washington, and with the new super committee, a precedent is going to be set.  Whenever there is an important vote or issue up for debate, Congress will pull this shitty Super Congress of 12 out again, and the accountability will be held to just those dozen politicians.  No chance for anyone to stand up for the people who voted them into office.  They will only stand up for the big money donors who got them there.

Now for a bit of humor, because we sure as hell need it!

Newt is in the news again, and damn it is funny…in a pathetic way.  Most of Newt Gingrich’s Twitter Followers Are Fake

Yesterday Newt Gingrich laid out a new argument for why he should be the GOP presidential nominee: He’s got the most Twitter followers. But according to a former Gingrich staffer, he bought them.

Gingrich complained yesterday that the press is ignoring his prodigious Twitter audience: “I have six times as many Twitter followers as all the other candidates combined, but it didn’t count because if it counted I’d still be a candidate; since I can’t be a candidate that can’t count.” Which is true! Gingrich currently boasts 1,325,842 followers, whereas competitors Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann have yet to crack 100,000.

But if Newt is winning the Twitter primary, it’s because of voter fraud. A former staffer tells us that his campaign hired a firm to boost his follower count, in part by creating fake accounts en masse.

I know that Newt is pretty much out of the picture, but it is little bits of news like this that makes me laugh to myself…what an idiot.

On to The Word from Colbert…it is a good one!

With the proposed Super Congress, only 12 lawmakers will have to make unpopular recommendations, and the rest of Congress can avoid blame.

And for your last bit of laughable news bits, this latest from Joe Lieberman.   Joe Lieberman Says U.S. Should Cut Social Security To Pay For Fighting ‘The Islamist Extremists’ | ThinkProgress

This past April, right-wing war hawk John Bolton suggested during an interview on Fox News that the United States should cut Social Security and Medicare to finance the defense budget.

During debate over the debt deal today on the Senate floor, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) appeared to endorse this call. Lieberman explained that he is working with Coburn on a Social Security spending reduction plan and that “we can’t protect these entitlements and also have the national defense…to protect us…with Islamist extremists”:

LIEBERMAN: I want to indicate today to my colleagues that Senator Coburn and I are working again on a bipartisan proposal to secure Social Security over the long term, we hope to have that done in time. To also forward to the special committee for their consideration. So, bottom line, we can’t protect these entitlements and also have the national defense we need to protect us in a dangerous world while we’re at war with Islamist extremists who attacked us on 9/11 and will be for a long time to come.

Ah, to think of what this guy used to be…he was my Senator when I lived in Connecticut, and I voted for this man.  Now it is statements like this that make me snicker the same phrase I do with Newt…what an idiot.

I am sure you have seen lots of other news items, please share the links with us.


Weiner Agrees to Seek Treatment

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY)

The New York Times is reporting that Rep. Anthony Weiner is going to go into rehab for his alleged Twitter/Facebook/texting compulsion.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Weiner said he would request a leave of absence from the House and seek treatment, but provided no further details.

“Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” said the spokeswoman, Risa Heller. “In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well.

“Congressman Weiner takes the views of his colleagues very seriously and has determined that he needs this time to get healthy and make the best decision possible for himself, his family and his constituents.”

I’m sure Weiner could use some therapy, but I still don’t get why he is being singled out for this kind of public outrage when David Vitter wasn’t. As far as we know Weiner didn’t act out any of his fantasies with these women. I would think that hiring prostitutes to spank you when you’re wearing diapers would elicit more calls for “treatment” than Twitter and Facebook flirtations. But what do I know? Maybe a lot of Congressman like to wear diapers and have sex with prostitutes.

Apparently, the final straw for Democrats was the revelation that Weiner tweeted a 17-year-old Delaware girl, even though the girl’s mother said Weiner had not said anything inappropriate in these Twitter messages.

Delaware police said Friday they were investigating the reported communications, had interviewed the teen, and that “she has made no disclosure of criminal activity nor inappropriate contact by the Congressman.”

Neverthless Weiner’s colleagues in Congress are horrified and outraged. Here is what DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz had to say:

“It is with great disappointment that I call on Representative Anthony Weiner to resign,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement issued by the Democratic National Committee, which she has led since the beginning of May. She’s President Barack Obama’s representative as DNC chairwoman.

“The behavior he has exhibited is indefensible and Representative Weiner’s continued service in Congress is untenable.

“This sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction for Representative Weiner, his family, his constituents and the House – and for the good of all, he should step aside and address those things that should be most important: his and his family’s well-being.”

According to Fox News, the police in Delaware are still investigating. The girls parents have turned her laptop over for inspection, but their attorney says there’s nothing to find.

“The Tweets in question between the student in question and the congressman were not salacious or in any manner inappropriate, said Daniel McElhatton, the attorney representing the girl’s family. “No photographs were ever sent to her or from her.”

Weiner spokeswoman Risa Heller also said that Weiner’s interactions with the girl “were neither explicit nor indecent.”

The police are trying to verify that, McElhatton said.

Fox News claims to have been told by “sources” that much of the interchange between the girl and Weiner had been deleted from her computer. Fox is obviously hoping the police can find something salacious on the girl’s hard drive. I sure hope Weiner didn’t send anything sexual or suggestive to her.

The girl’s high school posted on her now defunct Tumblr blog a quote that appears to be from her direct messages with Weiner.

“I came back strong. Large. In charge. Tights and cape s—… My favorite congressman,” she wrote, adding a heart emoticon after “congressman.”

Seven days earlier, she posted a YouTube video of Weiner giving a speech and wrote, “My true love.”

Poor kid. It’s a shame she had to get dragged into this.

As an antidote to having to watch politicians call for their smelling salts and fainting couches, I recommend this story from NPR’s Weekend Edition: Zombies Walk the Halls of Congress.

NPR can now confirm that there are zombies in the U.S. Capitol.

OK, not the kind that pop out of graves and eat brains, but a different kind of undead — the undead political career. This week New York Rep. Anthony Weiner said he is staying put, even though some top Democrats have publicly called for him to resign.

He’s not the first one to stay in politics after serious ethics violations, trying to revive a seemingly lifeless career.

In this contrived scenario, there are three categories of Congressional Zombies:

— those who survived a scandal to live again,
— those who are wounded by scandal but stay in Congress (the real zombies),
— and those who hung on for a while but eventually got buried.

According to NPR, both Charlie Rangel and David Vitter are real zombies.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who was a client of a Washington prostitution ring. He was never charged because the news came out after the statute of limitations had expired. Two of Vitter’s calls to the madam were made during votes on the floor.

He apologized in 2007 — “I want to again offer my deep sincere apologies to all those who I’ve let down and disappointed with these actions from my past” — and neatly won a second term in the Senate.

Good grief! Vitter called the DC Madam from the Senate floor? Did he get a sudden urge for punishment? Please explain to me why he didn’t need to enter a treatment facility after his colleagues learned about his illegal behavior?

I’m pretty disgusted by Weiner’s behavior at this point, but I still wish I never had had to find out about it. I still don’t see any reason why it needed to be revealed either. Sure the guy acted like a silly adolescent, but how many of us would look dignified if our sexual fantasies were spread all over the internet and the media? I think this kind of scandal-mongering has gone way too far, and I’d like to see a lot more approbation about Andrew Breitbart’s repulsive behavior. I’d also like to see similar outrage against Congresspeople who take money from lobbyists and vote accordingly.

This scandal appears to be setting a whole new precedent for the kinds of activities that can get a politician in trouble. As far as we know, Weiner’s activities were all in cyberspace. Now if it turns out he behaved inappropriately with an underage girl, I’ll have to revise my opinion.


SDB Evening News Reads for 051811

Good Evening, hope everyone has had a good Wednesday. Here are your news updates for this late afternoon. A quick round-up of a few things that caught my eye…

Finally, the White House has taken action on the terrifying state of affairs in Syria.  US to freeze assets of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and senior officials | World news | guardian.co.uk

File picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad attending the Arab League summit in Sirte

Bashar al-Assad is to have his personal assets in the US frozen as part of sanctions against his regime. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

The US is to impose sanctions on the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for human rights abuses in an escalation of international pressure on his regime.

The penalties announced by the US treasury mark the first time that Assad has been targeted personally by the international community for his government’s crackdown on protesters.

The move freezes any assets of Assad and six senior Syrian officials that are in the United States or otherwise fall within US jurisdiction, and generally bars US citizens and companies from dealing with them.

“The actions the administration has taken today send an unequivocal message to President Assad, the Syrian leadership, and regime insiders that they will be held accountable for the ongoing violence and repression in Syria,” said David S Cohen, the acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

What took them so long? (I felt the same way about Libya as well…it took long enough to get involved.)

This next link made me cringe…but then I caught myself and realized my frustration is pointless.  We’re all f’d anyway…

ThinkProgress » EXCLUSIVE: Eric Cantor Promises Oil Speculators That Republicans Will Block Financial Regulations

Yesterday morning, House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) visited the Chicago headquarters of the CME Group, “the world’s largest owner and operator” of private exchanges for derivatives products. CME Group specializes in a number of markets, including trading futures contracts for various blends of crude oil and food commodities. Cantor met with executives, and at one point, gave brief remarks before CME Group employees and various commodity speculators.

Cantor told the audience of speculators that his Republican caucus would “do our part” to block the implementation of financial reforms passed last year as part of the sweeping Dodd-Frank law. He even called out the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the regulators in charge of overseeing derivatives and energy speculation, and promised to stop regulations from going online:

Click that link to ThinkProgress if you want to read and watch the video of Cantor’s speech.  I don’t know if it is my incredibly stuffed up allergy head, but damn I just don’t understand why there aren’t massive riots in the streets.

If there were riots, with the cuts that have been imposed on many hospitals, the emergency rooms you once could count on…aren’t necessarily there. Emergency departments are closing their doors: Why? – HealthPop – CBS News

A new study shows that from 1990 to 2009, the number of emergency rooms in the U.S. plummeted from 2,446 to 1,779 – a 27-percent decline. That number includes only ERs in non-rural areas, since rural ERs typically receive federal funding that keeps them open.

What’s killing off America’s emergency rooms? Tight money and a changing marketplace.

For-profit hospitals that aren’t making enough cash and serve patients below the poverty line – with less generous forms of insurance like Medicaid – were the ones most likely to shut their doors, the study showed.

But the poor aren’t the only ones at risk. When emergency rooms close, experts say, it’s a problem for everyone.

Oh…okay. Let’s get vocal about these particular cuts because the poor aren’t the only ones at risk. If you want to read the report about this in JAMA, click here

.

Mike Luckovich on Newt Gingrich

Well this next link is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, that Gingrich is again walking back to appease the extreme right-wing sect that is the GOP. Two, that Gingrich actually thinks he can say, don’t use my own words against me in this political climate.  Hell, if the Dems don’t use the gifts that Newt bestows on them…then there is something wrong in swampland.

Schumer: You’re damn right we’ll use Gingrich’s criticism of Ryan against the GOP – The Plum Line – The Washington Post

On a conference call just now, Dem messaging chief Chuck Schumer vowed that Dems would aggressively highlight Gingrich’s attacks on the Ryan proposal — and the subsequent backlash it provoked from Republicans — to paint the GOP as hostage to extremists and ideologically hell bent on ending Medicare.

“Newt and I are considered political opposites, but I couldn’t agree more with what he said Sunday about the plan to end Medicare,” Schumer said. “He acknowledged that it is right wing social engineering.”

“It was refreshing to hear such candor from a top Republican,” Schumer continued. “Gingrich was saying what everyone knows to be true: The plan is extreme.”

Schumer added that the fact that Republicans turned so aggressively on Gingrich proves that they have become far more extreme than they were in Gingrich’s heyday — and vowed that Dems would continue pounding away at this theme.

Schumer called Newt a “Republican canary in a coal mine.” Further saying that when a “canary speaks truth, he is snuffed out.” Well, that goes for the left Democrat canaries as well. Just ask Cornel West.

The next opinion piece is from Politico:  Opinion: Cancer cuts save money, cost lives – Nancy G. Brinker –

For the past two decades, since the launch of the National Breast and Cervical Early Detection Program, a federal/state partnership to provide screening for working-class, poor and minority women who are uninsured or lack adequate insurance, we have made a real impact on detecting cancers early — which means increasing survival rates. Unfortunately, much of that progress is now at risk.

The struggling economy has created two unfortunate trends that directly affect the women we fight for every day. First, because of high unemployment, many women are now without insurance and must rely on government programs for cancer screenings and other care.

Second, large budget deficits are forcing state and federal policymakers to cut numerous programs — reducing access to critical services when they are needed most.

And third (my addition to this opinion link) the outright attack against women by the PLUBs and Religious Right, Brinker didn’t mention that one.

She goes on to say that many states are cutting funding for screening services offered to women. Her response:

While we may not be in a position to add funds to this vital program, at the very least we must protect and maintain our current commitment. How can we possibly ask the women in our lives to accept anything less?

Accept anything less? WTF…get a bit more pissed off already. Why take this crap with an attitude of “we aren’t in a position to demand it,” I think it is this mindset that is making all these laws against women’s health and women’s rights even more maddening to me. If I could get out and physically organize a group of women to stand up and fight for themselves I would.  I would pluck these oppressed women from the population and set them up on the steps of the Capitol and make the assholes who are waging this war against women realize we aren’t going to take it. But when the head of organizations like Susan G. Komen are this cowardly, what the hell kind of message does that send to all those women that are willing to take this protest to the next level.

Suzie Madrak has a quick post that you should check out here:  Suburban Guerrilla » Blog Archive » Glenzilla

As many of you know, Sky Dancing is not one to blow off any criticism of Obama just because he is who he is. So with that in mind this next link bothered me.  White House shuts out Herald scribe – BostonHerald.com

The White House Press Office has refused to give the Boston Herald full access to President Obama’s Boston fund-raiser today, in e-mails objecting to the newspaper’s front page placement of a Mitt Romney op-ed, saying pool reporters are chosen based on whether they cover the news “fairly.”

“I tend to consider the degree to which papers have demonstrated to covering the White House regularly and fairly in determining local pool reporters,” White House spokesman Matt Lehrich wrote in response to a Herald request for full access to the presidential visit.

“My point about the op-ed was not that you ran it but that it was the full front page, which excluded any coverage of the visit of a sitting US President to Boston. I think that raises a fair question about whether the paper is unbiased in its coverage of the President’s visits,” Lehrich wrote.

You know, the actions of this administration are really disgusting. And I know that this issue is lighting up the right-wing blogs, but dammit. You can’t ridicule Newt for asking not to quote his statements, and then keep the press that is critical of you out of the press pool.

Which leads me to my last link. A big H/T to pdgrey for this link in the comments section of today’s morning reads. It is written by Ted Rall, and I think it is marvelous. Mr. Rall states that he was optimistic when Obama took office, being a liberal cartoonist, he figured he would be able to get a regular gig, like he had before 9/11. However, as he puts it:

I didn’t count on the cult of personality around Barack Obama.

If I could reprint the entire article I would. Just go and read the whole thing…go on, do it!

RISE OF THE OBAMABOTS – Yahoo! News

Rall is my new hero! And if I could say one thing to him, it would be this phrase, said with a large dose of approval…Que cojones!


All Three Branches of Government are Broken

Over the past 2-1/2 years, we’ve seen how broken the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government are. We have a president who refused to stand up to the minority party while his party had historic majorities in both houses of Congress. Thanks to this president’s weak-kneed fealty to “bi-partisanship” and his predictable willingness to cave to the Republicans on just about any issue, he no longer has a supermajority in Congress.

Blue Texan at FDL makes a very good case for why Obama and the Democrats lost in 2010.

Democrats lost because they lost independents by 15 points, and independents don’t care what liberals think.

So why did Democrats lose independents?

Because the economy hadn’t improved enough because the stimulus bill was inadequate. It didn’t help matters that the Affordable Care Act was stripped of its most popular feature [a public option] or that HAMP was a total failure or that the Democrats punted on immigration and host of other progressive goals — but it was mostly about the economy.

The lesson, then, is…that Democrats need to deliver — especially when they promised CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN — and when they don’t, they lose elections.

For the past few weeks, we’ve seen the House Republicans and the White House bicker over cutting the budget when what we really need to do is raise taxes on the richest Americans. If Obama had any guts at all, he would have refused to extend the Bush tax cuts period. But, because he’s a lily livered wimp, he caved.

Today, Nicholas Kristof said the Congresspeople are acting like junior high school children.

It’s unclear where the adults are, but they don’t seem to be in Washington. Beyond the malice of the threat to shut down the federal government, averted only at the last minute on Friday night, it’s painful how vapid the discourse is and how incompetent and cowardly our leaders have proved to be.

Kristof doesn’t specifically chide Obama, but come on. If he weren’t so focused on getting “bipartisan support” for every initiative, he could have accomplished much more and gotten more respect from the Republicans at the same time. He was and is still simply too inexperienced to do the job of POTUS.

Tonight I want to put the spotlight on the third branch of government. Our judicial system is broken too. We have an epidemic of wrongful convictions in our justice system, and we have an ultra-right wing majority in the Supreme Court that refuses to do anything about it.

As of February 4, 2011, 250 wrongly convicted people had been exonerated by DNA testing, according to The Innocence Project,

There have been 268 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history. These stories are becoming more familiar as more innocent people gain their freedom through postconviction testing. They are not proof, however, that our system is righting itself.

The common themes that run through these cases — from global problems like poverty and racial issues to criminal justice issues like eyewitness misidentification, invalid or improper forensic science, overzealous police and prosecutors and inept defense counsel — cannot be ignored and continue to plague our criminal justice system.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, more than 130 people have been released from death row because they were exonerated based on evidence that proved they were innocent. The chart below shows those exonerations state by state. The chart comes from a fact sheet (PDF) produced by the Death Penalty Information Center.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that about 70% of the people who have been exonerated are members of minority groups–mostly African Americans. One of the most frequent causes of false convictions is prosecutorial misconduct. For more information on this problem, see this report (PDF) by the Innocence Project. In late March, the Supreme Court basically gave carte blanche to dishonest prosecutors by deciding that a wrongfully convicted man who had spent 14 years on death row has no right to sue for damages. From the LA Times:

John Thompson

A bitterly divided Supreme Court on Tuesday tossed out a jury verdict won by a New Orleans man who spent 14 years on death row and came within weeks of execution because prosecutors had hidden a blood test and other evidence that would have proven his innocence.

The 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas shielded the New Orleans district attorney’s office from being held liable for the mistakes of its prosecutors. The evidence of their misconduct did not prove “deliberate indifference” on the part of then-Dist. Atty. Harry Connick Sr., Thomas said.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphasized her disapproval by reading her dissent in the courtroom, saying the court was shielding a city and its prosecutors from “flagrant” misconduct that nearly cost an innocent man his life.

“John Thompson spent 14 years isolated on death row before the truth came to light,” she said. He was innocent of the crimes that sent him to prison and prosecutors had “dishonored” their obligation to present the true facts to the jury, she said.

Besides Justice Ginsburg, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan also dissented from the majority opinion.

The Supreme Court has consistently shielded prosecutors from accountability for misconduct in the past, but Thompson had sued the New Orleans District Attorney’s office, claiming the office had demonstrated a “pattern of wrongdoing” and had failed to ensure that its attorneys obeyed the law. Now the Supremes have eliminated another check against willful misconduct by prosecutors.

Here from NPR is a brief summary of the case against Thompson:

In December of 1984, Raymond Liuzza Jr., the son of a prominent New Orleans business executive, was shot to death in front of his home. Police, acting on a tip, picked up two men, Kevin Freeman and John Thompson.

Thompson denied knowing anything about the shooting, but Freeman, in exchange for a one-year prison sentence, agreed to testify that he saw Thompson commit the crime.

Prosecutors wanted to seek the death penalty, but Thompson had no record of violent felonies. Then, a citizen saw his photo in the newspaper and implicated him in an attempted carjacking — and prosecutors saw a way to solve their problem. John Hollway, who wrote a book about the case, said the solution was to try the carjacking case first.

A conviction in the carjacking case would yield additional benefits in the subsequent murder trial, Hollway observes. It would discredit Thompson if he took the stand in his own defense at the murder trial, so he didn’t. And the carjacking would be used against him during the punishment phase of the murder trial.

It all worked like a charm. Thompson was convicted of both crimes and sentenced to death for murder.

Harry Connick, Sr.

Ten years later, after Thompson’s appeals were exhausted and he was days from be executed, an investigator for his attorneys found that the blood of the perpetrator had been left at the scene of the murder. The lab report showed that Thompson had a different blood type than the person who committed the crime. The DA had deliberately concealed this information from the defense.

At a new trial, more exculpatory evidence that had been suppressed by the DA was presented–10 pieces of evidence in all–and the jury acquitted Thompson in half-an-hour. Thompson then sued and won a $14 million judgment against Connick and the NOLA DA’s office. But, now the right wingers on the Court have nullified that judgement.

On March 31, the editors of The New York Times wrote that a lack of empathy led to this injustice.

The important thing about empathy that gets overlooked is that it bolsters legal analysis. That is clear in the dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her empathy for Mr. Thompson as a defendant without means or power is affecting. But it is her understanding of the prosecutors’ brazen ambition to win the case, at all costs, that is key.

After detailing the “flagrant indifference” of the prosecutors to Mr. Thompson’s rights, she makes clear how critically they needed training in their duty to turn over evidence and why “the failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights” of defendants.

The district attorney, Harry Connick Sr., acknowledged the need for this training but said he had long since “stopped reading law books” so he didn’t understand the duty he was supposed to impart. The result, Justice Ginsburg writes, was an office with “one of the worst” records in America for failing to turn over evidence that “never disciplined or fired a single prosecutor” for a violation.

One thing about conservatives, they rarely show any empathy or compassion for anyone who isn’t just like them.

Today John Thompson himself contributed an op-ed to the NYT. Please read the whole thing, but here is just a bit.

I SPENT 18 years in prison for robbery and murder, 14 of them on death row. I’ve been free since 2003, exonerated after evidence covered up by prosecutors surfaced just weeks before my execution date. Those prosecutors were never punished. Last month, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to overturn a case I’d won against them and the district attorney who oversaw my case, ruling that they were not liable for the failure to turn over that evidence — which included proof that blood at the robbery scene wasn’t mine.

Because of that, prosecutors are free to do the same thing to someone else today.

[....]

The prosecutors involved in my two cases, from the office of the Orleans Parish district attorney, Harry Connick Sr., helped to cover up 10 separate pieces of evidence. And most of them are still able to practice law today.

Why weren’t they punished for what they did? When the hidden evidence first surfaced, Mr. Connick announced that his office would hold a grand jury investigation. But once it became clear how many people had been involved, he called it off.

According to NPR, former DA Harry Connick Sr. “feels vindicated” by the SCOTUS decision.

“I think that he committed … a murder, and I think that obviously we thought we had enough evidence to gain a conviction,” he says. “So I was delighted that the Supreme Court ruled in our favor.”

Never mind the ten pieces of exculpatory evidence that his prosecutor covered up in order to convict Thompson. And, by the way, the prosecutor confessed what he had done to a friend, so it was no accident. Relatives of the murdered man, Ray Liuzza, still believe Thompson is guilty. Liuzza’s sister

Maurine Liuzza said she has reviewed all of the evidence in the case and still believes that Thompson is guilty.

“Just because you are found not guilty does not make you innocent,” she said.

It’s time for radical change in all three branches of our broken government.


Indiana Democrats Flee to IL and KY to Avoid Voting on Right to Work Law

Indiana House with Empty Democratic Seats

Yes, folks, it’s going viral! Indiana House Democrats have emulated Wisconsin Democratic Senators and leave the state rather than vote on a draconian anti-union bill.

Seats on one side of the Indiana House were nearly empty today as House Democrats departed the the state rather than vote on anti-union legislation.

A source tells The Indianapolis Star that Democrats are headed to Illinois, though it was possible some also might go to Kentucky. They need to go to a state with a Democratic governor to avoid being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana.

The House came into session twice this morning, with only three of the 40 Democrats present. Those were needed to make a motion, and a seconding motion, for any procedural steps Democrats would want to take to ensure Republicans don’t do anything official without quorum.

With only 58 legislators present, there was no quorum present to do business. The House needs 67 of its members to be present.

Indiana Government Mitch Daniels, who has completely unrealistic presidential aspirations tried to laugh off the Democrats’ strategy.

downplayed the boycott and the labor protests and laughed off suggestions that he might send the state police to pick up Democrats, some of whom left the state to escape their jurisdiction.

[....]

The right-to-work bill would prohibit Hoosier companies from entering into contracts requiring employees either to join a union or pay union dues or fees.

The bill would have a dramatic impact on teachers.

Read the rest of this entry »


Wednesday Reads

Coffee Cup (photo by I New Idea)

Morning everyone, it’s Wednesday…only three more days to go till the weekend. So lets dig into this morning’s reads!

Patriot Act extension fails in the House by seven votes

House Republicans suffered an embarrassing setback Tuesday when they fell seven votes short of extending provisions of the Patriot Act, a vote that served as the first small uprising of the party’s tea-party bloc.

The bill to reauthorize key parts of the counter-terrorism surveillance law, which expire at the end of the month, required a super-majority to pass under special rules reserved for non-controversial measures.

It appears that 26 Republicans voted against the extension, 8 of them freshman. The White House put out a statement.

From The Hill:

The Obama administration said Tuesday it wants a three-year extension of Patriot Act surveillance authorities, far longer than the timeline proposed by House Republicans.The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy that says it “would strongly prefer enactment of reauthorizing legislation that would extend these authorities until December 2013.”

[...]

A longer extension, the administration’s statement said, “would ensure appropriate congressional oversight by maintaining a sunset, but the longer duration provides the necessary certainty and predictability that our Nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies require as they continue to protect our national security.”

At the same time, the statement said the White House does not object to the Republican proposal.

The Republican proposal will be taken up Tuesday under a suspension of House rules, and would extend the authority that allows U.S. agents to conduct “roving surveillance” of targets, collect business records and other tangible intelligence records, and surveil solo operators who are not tied to a specific terrorist group but may pose a threat to the United States.

For more analysis I will turn to FDL, which brings the irony of the days vote into the big picture.

Sometimes the irony of two news events that happen on the same day is almost surreal. Today, we have news that the Obama administration is pushing the Mubarak government to immediately end the Egypt’s “Emergency Law,” which gives the President sweeping powers to violate the rights of the country’s citizens.

On to other ironies, the recent purchase of Arianna’s Huffpo by AOL is causing a stir among other left-leaning political blogs. FT.com / Media – Huffington deal fires rivals’ hopes

This week’s $315m acquisition by AOL of the Huffington Post has set the blogs chattering not only because a notable peer is changing hands, but because it could also reflect a higher value on them.

There is scepticism the purchase by AOL of the left-leaning blog site will revive the media group’s fortunes, but some analysts think it could have opened the door to a wave of deals. Jeff Zucker, former chief executive of NBC Universal, said on Tuesday that he had tried to acquire the Huffington Post but could not settle on a price.

[...]

Blog networks including Gawker Media, Glam Media and the Business Insider sites are being discussed as potential targets. But it is unclear who might spend so richly on other blogs.

“I don’t know if there is going to be a buying spree,” John Blackledge, of Credit Suisse, said. “AOL has cash and they are trying to transform their business.”

The reason I mention the ironies is this tweet that Dakinikat posted in the comments on Monday:

@keachhagey: Talked to @AriannaHuff about what AOL deal means for ideology: “We don’t think of ourselves as left.” http://is.gd/mfffw4

So as I read about other “left leaning blogs” becoming the target of some larger news/network buying them out, I think…but wait,  Arianna says they don’t think of Huffpo as “left.”

Speaking of the left, this article in Nate Silver’s blog Five Thirty Eight: Are Democrats Better Off Than They Were 25 Years Ago? – NYTimes.com

The Democratic Leadership Council, a proud and sometimes belligerent group that sought to steer Democratic policy toward the right, will reportedly cease its operations.

[...]

The D.L.C.’s influence waned some after Mr. Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore — who was then perceived as more moderate than he is now — failed to win the election of 2000, and then further after the group strongly supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In more recent years, the D.L.C. has teetered on the brink of irrelevancy, eclipsed on the one hand by other moderate groups like Third Way and the Blue Dog Democrats, and on the other by the Democratic blogosphere, which has provided an alternative infrastructure by which candidates, especially liberals, can gain money and support. In 2007, all major Democratic presidential candidates — including Mr. Clinton’s spouse, Hillary Rodham Clinton — skipped the D.L.C.’s convention, but participated in a debate sponsored by the blog Daily Kos.

Some very nifty graphs assist those of us who respond to visual aids.

The D.L.C., for instance, often cultivated wealthy and corporate donors, and from 1985 to 2008, the share of income earned by the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers increased to 20 percent from 10 percent at the same time their effective tax rates declined.

Read the entire article, I would like to hear what you think about it. Silver makes some comments about Obama’s liberal voting record while he was in the Senate…

Obama…generally did not run away from that record as a candidate in 2008, although one can debate the extent to which he has done so since.

Silver goes on to question if the D.L.C. in some way cause the rise in Conservative Republicans. Since it seems that since the Republican’s of today have gone way further to the Right then they were previously. He questions whether it was the D.L.C. that got the Big Dawg elected in 1992. His take is that the D.L.C. really was not all that important…that Democrats would have won in 1992 anyway.  I’m not sure, but I think that statement about exactly where the D.L.C. was drumming up support tells part of the tale as to why we are stuck with a Republican in a Democrat suit.

So put some of the pieces together. You got most of the support coming from wealthier contributors, a left blogosphere that did some real work during the 2008 election (as that link to FT discussed) and a President that reads Reagan biographies to gain wisdom, and move more to center. (Cough) What all this says to me, some 40 year old woman living in the center of the Religious Right, is that the Democratic Party has been replaced by what used to be Republicans…and the Republicans have gone way off the deep end toward a more radical religious right. Ugh…I realize this is nothing new to y’all…but those nifty graphs really do paint a sad picture of a declining party that once stood for something real.

Wonk the Vote had a post on Saturday about the a time for prayers. Within this post was a picture of a group of women outside of Tehran University participating in Friday prayer. What came to my mind almost immediately was just how much that picture of women grouped together looked like a weave structure that is very prevalent in the Middle East.

Photo: Iranian women participated in Friday prayer outside Tehran University (Behrouz Mehri/AFP-Getty)… [Link]

Photo: Encyclopædia Iranica

 

Above is an image of the weave structure, called a Warp Faced Weave. Below is a close up of the weave, woven by Bedouin women on ground looms, to make lengths of cloth to sew together for their tents. I am not going to go into the theory of weave structure, or discuss the historic and cultural significance of the amazing weavers that live their lives in the sandy desert, or in small groups of tribal homes where the women weave on the rooftops.

Photo by Picture Journey's

What I wanted to stress was the analogy of the women coming together for prayer, the image of the photograph, the connection to the people in Egypt…as they come together to weave a new government that represents the people.

When you start weaving something, you take an extremely strong yarn, which is made from many single yarns that are plyed together…and proceed to wind your warp, this is the backbone of the woven cloth. It must be able to withstand high tension. It must also be strong enough to bear the weight of the beater as you weave the weft thread between those stretched warp threads. In a warp face weave, those strong warp threads are the main visual representation of that particular weave structure. The weft threads are what give the warp support, so that warp can come forward in the cloth. These weft threads are not necessarily strong, they are mostly individual single threads that are spun rather loose and lofty.

Looking at that picture of those Iranian women at prayer, and watching the last two weeks of protest in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt…makes me think of a woven cloth in the making. The people of Egypt (the weft) are supporting the anti-government protesters in the Square  (the warp) and trying desperately to overcome the regime of Mubarak. They are coming together to try and create a government that represents them as a whole cloth…I know it is a bit of a stretch, and I guess the situation is much more than that. But to make that cloth takes a hell of a lot of work. It is not done alone, it is something  that involves the entire tribe from raising the goats they use as fiber for the yarn, to the time it takes to spin and ready the yarn for weaving, to the hard part of warping the loom, making sure the structure is sound and the warp is consistent…to weaving the soft threads into that warp with care and experience. And then, when all is said and done, the work of all those people create a shelter…a tent to protect them from the elements. A government to represent the people as a Democracy….it all is connected.

So what are you reading today?