Jul 282015
 

I’m hurrying to get today’s articles up as early as I can, as later I’m going to prison to do volunteer work.  Tomorrow is a grocery delivery day.  Portland us under a heat advisory.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:20 (average 4:56).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From PRWatch: At the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) 2015 annual meeting in San Diego, California, dirty energy companies and their supporters–including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Duke Energy–continue to dominate the funding of activities, according to a list of conference sponsors obtained jointly by the Center for Media and Democracy and Greenpeace. At the top of the agenda, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker spoke to ALEC delegates over breakfast on Thursday. Walker is now campaigning on a promise to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if elected President in 2016, a plan which was earlier debated by ALEC at its December 2014 conference and is in line with ALEC’s long-term legislative agenda. At ALEC conferences and meetings, rhetoric against the EPA–and in particular the Obama administration’s proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution–is frequently extreme.

Click through for more, including a list of sponsors to boycott.

From Daily Kos: Spot the difference

Last year, a Nevada rancher who boasts that he doesn’t “recognize the United States government as even existing” become a hero of Fox News pundits and other conservative commentators for refusing to pay grazing fees he owes the government.

But when a black woman named Sandra Bland was forced out of her car and to the ground by a Texas police officer after she reportedly failed to signal during a lane switch and declined to put out a cigarette, Fox News thinks this is a time to lecture viewers on how to be respectful to law enforcement. Bland later died in police custody in what investigators ruled was a suicide. –

White men defending a criminal, facing down gubbmint agencies with many, many guns, good.

African American Woman armed with a cigarette, bad. The policeman was being exposed to second hand smoke for crissakes!

The contrast is absurd, intolerable, and Republican.

From NY Times: His family called him unstable and violent, so John R. Houser was ordered by a judge to be taken against his will to a mental hospital in 2008. Despite that sign that Mr. Houser was mentally troubled, he passed a background check and was able to legally purchase the gun he used last week to kill two people in a Louisiana movie theater, because that hospital stay was not defined by officials as an involuntary commitment.

Dylann Roof, who is charged with shooting nine people to death in a Charleston, S.C., church last month, was also able to buy the gun he used in the massacre. He should have failed a background check, federal officials said, because he had previously admitted to illegal drug possession. Yet because of a clerical error in South Carolina and the confusion that caused the federal authorities who examined his record, he was not stopped from his making his purchase.

As these two cases show, the one system that gun rights and gun control advocates both agree on, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is supposed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, is riddled with problems. While the system, in operation since 1998, has prevented more than 2.4 million sales, it still has major gaps, with spotty cooperation from the states and a narrow definition of who is considered too mentally ill to own a gun.

Republicans work overtime to keep the system ridden with loopholes, because enabling criminal gun purchases maximizes gun industry profits.

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Jul 272015
 

I’m trying to take advantage of the last relatively temperate day, before the new heat wave begins in earnest.  I got up early and cooked a 3-day spaghetti with hot Italian sausage dinner.  Then I made a big breakfast of fried eggs and potatoes.  Because my friend with cancer is taking a rare trip to the prison tomorrow, I get to take a volunteer day with a small group of my guys for a CoDA meeting.  Then on Friday, I have to go out into the extreme heat for the routine quarterly surgery on my foot, so please expect me to be somewhat scarce for the rest of the week.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:06 (average 5:20).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Fantasy Football Tips:

Our season opens on Thursday, September 10, but there’s a lot to do between now and then.  Get to know your players.  Check for Bye week conflicts.  Keep track of injuries.  Follow your players’ progress during preseasons. Use Add/Drop to make needed changes from unclaimed players or propose trades with competitors.  If you have any questions ask.

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos (classic 6/2014): America’s gun death rates — both nationwide and in the states — dwarf those of most other Western industrialized nations. The gun death rate in the United Kingdom in 2011 was 0.23 per 100,000 while in Australia it was 0.86 per 100,000.

States with the Five Highest Gun Death Rates 

(Rank State Household Gun Ownership Gun Death Rate Per 100,000)

1 Louisiana 45.6 percent 18.91

2 Mississippi 54.3 percent 17.80

3 Alaska 60.6 percent 17.41

4 Wyoming 62.8 percent 16.92

5 Montana 61.4 percent 16.74

States with the Five Lowest Gun Death Rates

(Rank State Household Gun Ownership Gun Death Rate Per 100,000)

50 Rhode Island 13.3 percent 3.14

49 Hawaii 9.7 percent 3.56

48 Massachusetts 12.8 percent 3.84

47 New York 18.1 percent 5.11

46 New Jersey 11.3 percent 5.46

For a list of gun death rates in all 50 states, Visit Here.

This is what I’d expect except for one thing. NJ hadn’t caught up to PIGnocchio’s policies yet.

From The New Yorker: The Republican National Committee has released the format for its first 2016 Presidential debate, to be broadcast by Fox News on August 6th:

1. Question from moderator to Donald Trump;

2. Ignoring of question by Donald Trump, followed by personal attack on Jeb Bush;

3. Feeble attempt at rebuttal by Jeb Bush;

4. Interruption by Donald Trump, followed by attack on other eight candidates on stage;

Andy has it pegged. Click through for the rest.

From NY Times: Rick Perry’s voice softens when he talks about the joy he gets from looking at his iPad and seeing “that 20-week picture of my first grandbaby.” Marco Rubio says ultrasounds of his sons and daughters reinforced how “they were children — and they were our children.” Rand Paul recalls watching fetuses suck their thumbs. And Chris Christie says the ultrasound of his first daughter changed his views on abortion.

If they seem to be reading from the same script, they are.

With help from a well-funded, well-researched and invigorated anti-abortion movement, Republican politicians have refined how they are talking about pregnancy and abortion rights, choosing their words in a way they hope puts Democrats on the defensive.

The goal, social conservatives say, is to shift the debate away from the “war on women” paradigm that has proved so harmful to their party’s image.

The Republican war on women has changed little, as barefoot and pregnant is still the objective. They are just using an even less honest tactic.

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Apologies to the snake.

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Jul 192015
 

Most of you are aware that I do volunteer work in Oregon State Penitentiary working with a group of around 100 prisoners that I affectionately call ‘my guys’, as I have often shared some of the things I have done with them, while maintaining their privacy.  I came across an article that asks some of the same questions and shares the same concerns that I have had for some time now: that all the effort toward prison reform is directed at nonviolent offenses.

0719mass_incarceration

For the most part, President Obama’s address to the N.A.A.C.P. annual convention on Tuesday was a remarkably honest appraisal of the American criminal-justice system. In an emphatic and sometimes moving speech, the President laid out some of the outrageous statistics that reformers have been citing for years: our prison population of 2.2 million has more than quadrupled since 1980, even though crime has been declining for two decades; the U.S. has five per cent of the world’s population but houses nearly a quarter of its prisoners; blacks and Latinos represent about thirty per cent of the nation’s population but almost sixty per cent of its prisoners. The result, Obama said, is a system that wastes billions of dollars a year and prevents too many people, especially minority men, from contributing to society, the economy, and their children’s lives. “Mass incarceration makes our country worse off,” he said. “And we need to do something about it.”

Obama’s bluntness was bracing, but as he made these statements he also repeated one of the most enduring myths of criminal-justice reform. “Over the last few decades, we’ve also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before,” the President said. “And that is the real reason our prison population is so high.”

It is simply not true that the growth of the prison population is mainly due to the sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders. About half of federal inmates are serving sentences for drug crimes, but the federal system only accounts for about two hundred thousand prisoners. In state prisons, which house about 1.3 million, only sixteen per cent of inmates are serving a sentence for nonviolent drug offenses, according to the latest Department of Justice statistics. About fifty-four per cent, by far the largest number, are there for violent crimes, and about nineteen per cent for property offenses, like burglary. There is less data on the breakdown of the more than seven hundred thousand people in local jails; the most recent D.O.J. survey, in 2002, found that people with drug charges and violent-crime charges each made up about a quarter of jail inmates. Assuming that’s still the case, even if every single nonviolent drug offender were released tomorrow, the incarcerated population would stand at around 1.7 million—still nearly a fifth of the world total.

As Leon Neyfakh wrote for Slate in March, the distinction between “nonviolent” and “violent” is not always clear-cut. Some “violent” crimes, like illegal gun possession, in many states, don’t require an actual violent act, while some offenders who did commit violence may plead guilty to a less serious, nonviolent charge. But it’s clear that the vast majority of inmates are imprisoned for something other than nonviolent drug offenses. There is, in short, no way to make a meaningful dent in mass incarceration without lowering the number of people locked up for violent crimes

…It’s comforting to think that we can undo the moral and economic failures of the criminal-justice system without relinquishing any of our desire to punish people who commit acts of violence. But, as the President said, we need to be honest. Having a fifth of the world’s prison population would be better than having a fourth, but not by much. We can end mass incarceration, or we can maintain current policies toward violent crime, but we can’t do both. [emphasis added]

Inserted from <The New Yorker>

For most of our history, America has followed a correctional policy of lex talionis, the notion that the purpose of prisons is to punish evildoers.  While this is no longer acknowledged, officials saying instead that the purpose is to protect the public from evildoers, it is still practiced, especially in sentencing and release.  The biggest contributors to US violent prison populations are mandatory minimum sentences and three strikes laws that take sentencing out of the hands of judges.  With such sentencing laws, prisoners have less incentive to reform.

As an alternative, I support restorative justice.  The purpose of prison is to return to the community individuals who have made the effort to understand their crimes, correct the thinking errors that justified their crimes, and developed intervention strategies to recognize problems early-on and break the cycle, before it spirals out of control to more crime.  This is the kind of work I do with my guys.

Among my guys, there may be a couple nonviolent drug offenders, but I can’t think of any.  They have committed violent crimes.  Nevertheless, I trust all the men with whom I have worked long enough to know well.  Of those that have been released since 2005, only two of over twenty five have returned to prison, and  both are out again.

So I am not suggesting leniency for violent criminals.  I am suggesting giving them an opportunity to earn their freedom by doing whatever it takes to change into a law-abiding citizens who are not a threat to their communities.

You should support restorative justice for one reason.  Since almost every prisoner is released eventually, you can be sure that someone, who has committed a violent crime will be moving into your neighborhood.  Would you prefer the embittered person warehoused under a mandatory minimum, whose only change is that he is better educated in criminal technique?  Or would you prefer the product of restorative justice, who did whatever it took to change?

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Jul 112015
 

I’m getting a late start today, because I’ve been busy talking to my friend with cancer, proofreading and editing a manual that another organization is preparing for prisoners on how to prepare for a parole board review, and planning an upcoming three day prison volunteer trip in September. I’m not fully well, but am still mending.  I hope you are having a fine weekend.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:46 (average 6:12).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Fantasy Football Recruiting:

We may still need one new player for Lefty Blog Friends, our fantasy football league.  Viv and her Hillbilly Lefties are now onboard. We may have found our last player. For more information, click here.

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: From Business Insider:

The national Democratic Party released a new video Thursday that connects the entire Republican presidential field to the immigration remarks made by real-estate magnate Donald Trump.

The Democratic National Committee’s video is titled, "Retrumplican Party."

Barf Bag Alert!!

 

I say again, the reason Hairball is leading in the polls is that that he represents the actual values of the Republican Party. The others are freaking out over him, because he says directly the things that they disguise with dog-whistle rhetoric.

From NY Times: The first detailed accounts of the brutal interrogation program the Central Intelligence Agency established after the Sept. 11 attacks noted that psychologists and other medical professionals played key roles in abetting the torture of terrorism suspects. However, much about their role and their degree of responsibility in one of the most macabre and shameful chapters of American history has remained shrouded in secrecy.

A new report by a former federal prosecutor, first disclosed by James Risen in The Times, contains astonishing, disturbing details. It found that top members of the American Psychological Association, the largest professional organization of psychologists, colluded with officials at the Pentagon and the C.I.A. to keep the group’s ethics policies in line with tactics that interrogators working for the agency and the military were employing.

At a time when intelligence and Department of Defense officials were desperate for intelligence that would help them foil new terror plots, they were willing to pay handsomely for experts who could give the torture program a veneer of legitimacy. Prominent psychologists were apparently happy to indulge them. “A.P.A. chose its ethics policy based on its goals of helping D.O.D., managing its P.R., and maximizing the growth of the profession,” the report said.

Every psychologist and medical professional of any kind that participated in the Republican Torture program should charged with war crimes. Those who merely abetted the Republican torture program should be stripped of their licenses to practice ever again for violating their professional ethics.

From Alternet: After suffering through weeks of white men complaining how political correctness is "ruining comedy" (read: "people have stopped laughing at my jokes"), the Key and Peele Show’s latest viral bit involving pirates singing a catchy feminist shanty offered a much-needed respite, showing that comedy can be both funny and inclusive.

 

HAR!!

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Jun 012015
 

Another month has arrived and it promises to be a very busy one.  I’ve decided not to do a Monthly Report for May.  Activity was a little down, which was not surprising between volunteer work and medical mayhem.  I’m still feeling very tired out.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:15 (average 4:19).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From NY Times: A mere 240 people live in the rural northeast Iowa town of Kensett, so when more than 300 crowded into the community center on Saturday night to hear Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, many driving 50 miles, the cellphones of Democratic leaders statewide began to buzz…

…The first evidence that Mrs. Clinton could face a credible challenge in the Iowa presidential caucuses appeared late last week in the form of overflow crowds at Mr. Sanders’s first swing through that state since declaring his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. He drew 700 people to an event on Thursday night in Davenport, for instance — the largest rally in the state for any single candidate this campaign season, and far more than the 50 people who attended a rally there on Saturday with former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland.

Considering Iowa’s record of picking losers, I’m not sure whether this is a good sign for Bernie or not.

From The New Yorker: The National Security Agency is compensating for the expiration of its power to collect the American people’s personal information by logging on to Facebook, the agency confirmed on Monday.

The director of the N.S.A., Admiral Michael S. Rogers, said that when parts of the Patriot Act expired at midnight on Sunday, intelligence analysts immediately stopped collecting mountains of phone metadata and started reading billions of Facebook updates instead.

“From a surveillance point of view, the transition has been seamless,” Rogers said.

While the N.S.A. has monitored Facebook in the past, it is now spending twenty-four hours a day sifting through billions of baby pictures, pet videos, and photographs of recently enjoyed food to detect possible threats to the United States.

“Those status updates contain everything we want to know,” Rogers said.  “In many cases, a good deal more than we want to know.”

Dang! Andy has documented the death of privacy!!

From Right Wing Watch: Former Pennsylvania senator and GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said yesterday at a campaign stop in Iowa that he worries “about anti-government rhetoric,” according to a local paper and to Washington Post reporter James Hohmann, who tweeted about the remark:

Really? The Santorum we know has spent the entire Obama presidency stoking mistrust of the federal government. Here are just fifteen examples, in no particular order, of Santorum’s anti-government rhetoric in the past few years.

Barf Bag Alert!! Santorum Bag Alert!

 

This article has a bunch of video and audio clips of Rich "Google my name" Santorum spewing anti-government froth. Click through, if you can stomach it.

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May 302015
 

After returning from my volunteer work in prison, I slept for more than my norm and am feeling a bit groggy still.  I have another bust month ahead, but for the weekend, it’s writing, snoozing and basking in the early summer weather.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:55 (average 5:10).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From MoveOn: 10 Ideas to Save the Economy: Strengthen Unions

Inequality has skyrocketed as unions have weakened. That is no accident.

 

The Reich on the left is right. The Reich on the right is worse than wrong. It is Republican. I have never been a union member. I have never crossed a picket line. I do not intend to do so ever. This is the seventh video in the series. Please click through to MoveOn and share it from there.

From The New Yorker: Calling the Obama Administration’s actions against the soccer organization “weak and ineffective,” Senator John McCain on Thursday proposed military action to “dismantle and destroy FIFA once and for all.”

“These are people who only understand one thing: force,” McCain said on the floor of the United States Senate. “We must make FIFA taste the vengeful might and fury of the United States military.”

McCain said that he was “completely unimpressed” by the Department of Justice’s arrests of several top FIFA lieutenants this week, calling the action “the kind of Band-Aid solution that this Administration, sadly, has become famous for.”

“Rounding up a few flunkies in a hotel is meaningless when the leader of FIFA remains at large,” he said. “I will follow Sepp Blatter to the gates of Hell.”…

When will Andy call for military action against McConJob?

From Upworthy: What’s happening to put a stop to plastic microbeads?

Right now, about 18 U.S. states including California, Canada, Australia, and several countries in Europe are considering banning products that contain plastic microbeads. Unfortunately, industry is pushing back with a bill that leaves loopholes for the microbeads to be replaced with other kinds of plastics. The Story of Stuff Project is leading a coalition of over 100 groups to get these tiny plastic beads out of commerce. Ban the beads!

 

I learned about this several months ago. I had no idea I had been using a body wash with microbeads. I stopped immediately. I fully support banning them.

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May 292015
 

I just returned home from my prison volunteer trip.  The banquet was most enjoyable, but tainted with some bad news.  The inside President of our group is in the bucket for a dirty UA.  That wi8ll translate to less cooperation from officials, as we try to implement additional services.  One of my guys is getting out in August,  His son committed suicide over issues completely unrelated to his release.  That will put him under major pressure.  I would greatly appreciate your thoughts, wishes and prayers for both, please.  I haven’t even unpacked yet, and I hear a bed calling my name.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:27 (average 4:43).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

TC on the bus:

TCBus

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