Oct 252015
 

This essay comes from a friend of a friend.  I do not know who she is.  However, I have heard many stories from people who believed in the criminal justice system in this country, until they or a member of their family learned first hand that their experience was the polar opposite of what they had believed.  This is one mother’s reaction to such an experience.

July 26, 2015

0816thematrixWhat I want people to know is what I’ve learned over the past two years – how my life is upside down both philosophically and emotionally. Philosophically, because what I learned, believed about our justice system is just thrown under the bus. I am angry. Angry at people who are charged with our wonderful, ideal system and have perverted it and made us all accomplices in torture and harm. We were standing shoulder to shoulder with prison guards who abuse prisoners; DAs and police who lie, who give up honesty and integrity to convict.

We became part of the problem. Only we didn’t even realize there was a problem. They lie. They suck us in to be their accomplices. We asked no questions. We believed them. No. We believed the idea of a system. We believed they were the embodiment of truth. They kept us safe from people who would harm us, who were really terrible people.

But what do they do? “Lose” evidence, lie to protect themselves, serve as judge and jury to convict whom they have decided is guilty. Screw looking at evidence. How did they get to the place where they are in such a hallowed system of our country, protecting our country’s ideals, being the keeper for those ideals and now corrupting those ideals.

Am I naïve? Not now. Was I? Yes. But I’m in the company of the majority of our country. I listen over and over and OVER again to “I had no idea how this system works! I was shocked to learn how it really works.” Problem is – no one does know until it happens. No one believes until it does happen.

I’m angry that I was blindsided. Is it my fault? Should I have known better? WHY SHOULD I!?!! Where’s the disconnect here? That our system as taught to high-schoolers is just too much of a fairy tale? I should know better than to believe such a fairy tale could actually work? Are the people in the justice system just laughing at me for being so naive?

Or is the disconnect in how people have subverted the ideal? The people who have gotten used to having it their way? People who have decide they are smarter than tedious “truth and justice” and will improve a hopelessly naïve system?

Are we in The Matrix*? They have created this fake world that they’ve sold us on that every thing is right in our world, that they have the knowledge and expertise to keep it the ideal it is.

But behind their words and assurances that create the perfect illusion is a world of crumbling, moldy, derelict laws. A blighted world wildly out of control with more and more laws, penalties, and incarcerations for longer and longer times. A world destroyed with smoking embers, blown out, burned down buildings, haunted people. Out of sight behind the illusion they create with their paternalistic, mesmerizing lies! Do we choose to believe their lies because it’s just easier? No! I think we believe because we truly believe that they are the pillars of our justice system. We hear their excuses—which they call “reasons”—and that reinforces what we already instinctively believe.

But now pieces of their façade may be cracking. Can they hold it together and continue to make us believe their fake world? We know what is really behind their world of “safety, justice and truth”. We’ve seen and heard the destroyed lives, the money taken from society and spent to warehouse people and then return wasted people with wasted lives and difficult options. The LIES – The harm – The self-supporting arguments.

What will it take to bring down the phony façade of a tough on crime, retribution, vengeance model of justice and return us to where most people already think we are: convicting wrong-doers but with consideration of mitigating or extenuating circumstances, incarcerating only people who are a threat and then rehabilitating them so they can live as successful citizens. Giving people a chance to pay for their crime and then re-joining society. Being humans helping humans.

My passion. I want people to know what I’ve learned. I want to shock them awake to what our criminal justice system has become. No, ladies and gentlemen, it is not what you believe it is.

Unfortunately, most of you will never really find that out. No, it’s not fortunate that you will never have a loved one, or yourself, caught up in this horrible system. It’s not fortunate that you’ll never have an accusation made at you of something you never did. It’s not fortunate that you get to keep living oblivious to how our criminal justice system has lost its way in mandatory sentencing. Because unless you are unfortunate enough to have personal contact with this devastating system, you won’t try to do something about it.

(From Wikipedia: The Matrix movie depicts a dystopian [an imaginary community or society that is undesirable or frightening] future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called “the Matrix”, created by sentient machines to subdue the human population,)

Personally, I find what she has to say believable and compelling.

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Aug 282015
 

This anonymous essay comes from a friend of a friend with whom I do volunteer work.  I do not know who she is.  However, I have heard many stories from people who believed in the criminal justice system in this country, until they or a member of their family learned first hand that their experience was the polar opposite of what they had believed.  This is one mother’s reaction to such an experience.

July 26, 2015

0828thematrix5What I want people to know is what I’ve learned over the past two years – how my life is upside down both philosophically and emotionally. Philosophically, because what I learned, believed about our justice system is just thrown under the bus. I am angry. Angry at people who are charged with our wonderful, ideal system and have perverted it and made us all accomplices in torture and harm. We were standing shoulder to shoulder with prison guards who abuse prisoners; DAs and police who lie, who give up honesty and integrity to convict.

We became part of the problem. Only we didn’t even realize there was a problem. They lie. They suck us in to be their accomplices. We asked no questions. We believed them. No. We believed the idea of a system. We believed they were the embodiment of truth. They kept us safe from people who would harm us, who were really terrible people.

But what do they do? “Lose” evidence, lie to protect themselves, serve as judge and jury to convict whom they have decided is guilty. Screw looking at evidence. How did they get to the place where they are in such a hallowed system of our country, protecting our country’s ideals, being the keeper for those ideals and now corrupting those ideals.

Am I naïve? Not now. Was I? Yes. But I’m in the company of the majority of our country. I listen over and over and OVER again to “I had no idea how this system works! I was shocked to learn how it really works.” Problem is – no one does know until it happens. No one believes until it does happen.

I’m angry that I was blindsided. Is it my fault? Should I have known better? WHY SHOULD I!?!! Where’s the disconnect here? That our system as taught to high-schoolers is just too much of a fairy tale? I should know better than to believe such a fairy tale could actually work? Are the people in the justice system just laughing at me for being so naive?

Or is the disconnect in how people have subverted the ideal? The people who have gotten used to having it their way? People who have decide they are smarter than tedious “truth and justice” and will improve a hopelessly naïve system?

Are we in The Matrix*? They have created this fake world that they’ve sold us on that every thing is right in our world, that they have the knowledge and expertise to keep it the ideal it is.

But behind their words and assurances that create the perfect illusion is a world of crumbling, moldy, derelict laws. A blighted world wildly out of control with more and more laws, penalties, and incarcerations for longer and longer times. A world destroyed with smoking embers, blown out, burned down buildings, haunted people. Out of sight behind the illusion they create with their paternalistic, mesmerizing lies! Do we choose to believe their lies because it’s just easier? No! I think we believe because we truly believe that they are the pillars of our justice system. We hear their excuses—which they call “reasons”—and that reinforces what we already instinctively believe.

But now pieces of their façade may be cracking. Can they hold it together and continue to make us believe their fake world? We know what is really behind their world of “safety, justice and truth”. We’ve seen and heard the destroyed lives, the money taken from society and spent to warehouse people and then return wasted people with wasted lives and difficult options. The LIES – The harm – The self-supporting arguments.

What will it take to bring down the phony façade of a tough on crime, retribution, vengeance model of justice and return us to where most people already think we are: convicting wrong-doers but with consideration of mitigating or extenuating circumstances, incarcerating only people who are a threat and then rehabilitating them so they can live as successful citizens. Giving people a chance to pay for their crime and then re-joining society. Being humans helping humans.

My passion. I want people to know what I’ve learned. I want to shock them awake to what our criminal justice system has become. No, ladies and gentlemen, it is not what you believe it is.

Unfortunately, most of you will never really find that out. No, it’s not fortunate that you will never have a loved one, or yourself, caught up in this horrible system. It’s not fortunate that you’ll never have an accusation made at you of something you never did. It’s not fortunate that you get to keep living oblivious to how our criminal justice system has lost its way in mandatory sentencing. Because unless you are unfortunate enough to have personal contact with this devastating system, you won’t try to do something about it.

(From Wikipedia: The Matrix movie depicts a dystopian [an imaginary community or society that is undesirable or frightening] future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called "the Matrix", created by sentient machines to subdue the human population,)

Personally, I find what she has to say both believable and compelling.

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Aug 242015
 

I spoke with the prison’s head of Volunteer Services this morning and learned that the demand to pull my volunteer card dis not come from them.  It came from Security.  The problem is this.  Because of my COPD, I am more likely to suffer a medical emergency while climbing the stairs to the Activities floor than other people.  Were that to happen, they would have to call an ambulance and lock down the entire prison for my extraction.  Lockdowns are costly.  So there’s no way I could have gotten her to budge, as she was being overruled.  However, I did get one concession from her.  I will be able to enter the prison as a guest, not a volunteer (who can go to any venue), when my group’s events are boing held in the Visiting Room instead of the Activities Floor, as it is on the main level.  It’s still a huge loss.  I’ll be going from 2 to 3 times a month to 3 to 4 times a year and will have little opportunity for working on issues with them in depth.  But at least I got the most I could have gotten.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:07 (average 5:14).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker:

Short TakesA rally featuring a racist speaker Friday night in Mobile attracted a crowd of just twenty thousand people, widely considered a disappointing turnout for a racist event in Alabama.

According to racist event planners in the state, a crowd of twenty thousand would rank the event as one of the smaller racist rallies in Alabama this year.

Organizers of the rally were quick to defend the size of the turnout. “There is always a lot of competition for the racist audience in Alabama,” an aide to the speaker said. “There were other racists speaking at other venues in the state Friday night. Plus, a lot of racists now prefer to stay at home and stream racist content on the Internet. Given all the options available to racists, I think twenty thousand is a solid number.”

Andy knows that Hairball picked AL for his rally because AL Republicans passed a Latino-hate law even worse than the infamous "papers please" law in AZ.

From Daily Kos (classic 2/2012): It is now the common wisdom of millions of interested parties that ALEC does not work for the vast majority of citizens, that it is a vicious corporate lobby and that it is thee main force behind the deterioration of personal liberties and workers’ rights in the United States.

Arguing against ALEC’s influence over state legislation has become more difficult thanks to efforts such as ALEC Exposed which display how similar bills advancing in GOP-controlled states are and from whence they originate.  Now, Florida Rep. Rachel Burgin (R-56), a 29 year old former legislative aide and graduate of Moody Bible Institute, has made the task of indicting ALEC for undue influence in state politics that much easier by forgetting to remove ALEC’s mission statement from a bill (PDF) she suddenly "decided” to propose.  This bill calls on the federal government to reduce taxes for corporations (HM 685).

Burgin discovered her error, but not before Common Blog spotted it:

Let us not forget where the bills Republicans introduce and pass, especially at the state level, are written.

From NY Times: …Whatever the precise mix of causes, what’s important now is that policy makers take seriously the possibility, I’d say probability, that excess savings and persistent global weakness is the new normal.

My sense is that there’s a deep-seated unwillingness, even among sophisticated officials, to accept this reality. Partly this is about special interests: Wall Street doesn’t want to hear that an unstable world requires strong financial regulation, and politicians who want to kill the welfare state don’t want to hear that government spending and debt aren’t problems in the current environment.

But there’s also, I believe, a sort of emotional prejudice against the very notion of global glut. Politicians and technocrats alike want to view themselves as serious people making hard choices — choices like cutting popular programs and raising interest rates. They don’t like being told that we’re in a world where seemingly tough-minded policies will actually make things worse. But we are, and they will.

This is the conclusion of an excellent Paul Krugman editorial. Click through to see how he got there.

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0824Cartoon

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Aug 232015
 

First, I want to thank you all for your support regarding my volunteer work.  I have decided to take a low key approach.  First, getting certified as a volunteer, one gives them all the power.  Second, I could have avoided it by staying home.  Third, when the system has a problems with individuals, they tend to punish groups.  Any lawsuit from me would engender retaliation against my guys, even though the people running volunteer services would oppose such action.  That takes any disabled access complaint off the table.  I plan to contact the head of volunteer services, with support from my group,  and try to work out a compromise that keeps me in the saddle.  I’ll keep you posted.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:25 (average 8:58).  To do it click here.  How did you do?

Religious Ecstasy:

0822Broncos14-Texans10

Watching the Broncos win with less than 2:00 to go in the 4th quarter was far less exciting, because I already knew what happened the night before.

Short Takes:

From Upworthy: Wendy’s and Publix are the two biggest companies that haven’t signed on for ‘Fair Food.’ What is it?

 

I plan to call my local Wendy’s, where I have an occasional burger. Republicans have their own plan. Deport the workers.

From The New Yorker: Amid the growing debate over building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a new poll shows that voters who strongly favor building such a wall cannot successfully identify the border on a map.

Additionally, the more enthusiastic voters are about building a wall, the less likely they are to know where the border is actually situated, the poll finds.

Voters who could not correctly identify the U.S.-Mexico border provided no fewer than fifteen alternative locations for it. Nearly twenty per cent of respondents located it along the United States’ border with Canada.

Being told that they had incorrectly identified the U.S.-Mexico border did not in any way dampen voters’ enthusiasm for building a wall there, however.

To the contrary, voters believed that it would be easier to locate the border once it had a twenty-foot wall.

From Daily Kos: On Thursday, Texas conservative Steven Hotze launched his "Faith, Family, Freedom Tour" with the aim of influencing Huston’s [sic] upcoming municipal elections and, of course, trying to fight their civil rights ordinance, which will be decided at the ballot box in November.

The launch was nothing short of disturbing and disgusting.

From the Texas Observer:

On Thursday, he launched a multi-city tour of Texas, “The Faith Family Freedom Tour,” at a nearly half-empty event at a hotel ballroom in Houston. Sponsored by Christian conservative notables such as Cathie Adams and Jonathan Saenz, speakers included former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who explained why he thought the judiciary could be effectively overruled by the people, a radio host named Terry Lowry who told the crowd that “Satan and his demons are seducing the people of Houston,” and a reparative therapist who warned the audience that the science of making kids un-gay could someday be banned.

But it was Hotze who stole the show. He began his time on stage by showing his audience a video that warned of the audacious plans of the gay rights movement. “Just like there was a communist manifesto, there’s a homosexual manifesto,” Hotze said. “The hackles will stand up on the back of your neck when you see what they have planned.”

The Gay Manifesto is, of course, a satirical essay from 1987, not an actual LGBT conspiracy. If someone said the same thing about Jews, they would rightly be condemned as anti-semitic. So, this is, in and of itself, homophobic.

Click through for more Republican Supply-side pseudo-Christian TEAbuggery, but even though there is no video, you’d better have a barf bag handy.  He openly calls for violence

Cartoon:

0823Cartoon

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Aug 222015
 

Yesterday, at about 8:00 PM, I received a call from my volunteer group’s staff advisor.  Apparently someone noticed my distress on my last trip when the temperature was 100°+.  She told me that the prison volunteer board has decided to cancel my authorization to come into the prison, out of what they say is concern for my health.  What they mean is fear that they could be held liable should I suffer a heart attack or a stroke while there.  I’ll appeal it to the head of volunteer services, but since my guys have already been informed that I won’t be coming back, I’m pretty sure it’s a done deal.  I feel completely devastated, because so much of my reason for being is wrapped up in my work with my guys.  I’ve been up all night, too upset to sleep.  So I need to take a day or two off, while I try to wrap my head around this most unwelcome change. Hugs to you all.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 5:20 (average 6:24).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Cartoon:

0822Cartoon

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Aug 122015
 

Yesterday I went into the prison to do volunteer work.  I had had almost no sleep, because the night before was so sticky.  The temperature was in the high 90°s and very humid.  The room in the Activities section, where we met, has no A/C and no ventilation.  It is directly above the prison bakery.  I suffered.  My guys were wonderful and most appreciative, even though my participation was moistly passive.  On the way home, my friend stopped at a branch of my bank for me to withdraw money.  I was so exhausted that I put my credit card in the ATM, when I intended to use my debit card,  I didn’t understand why the PIN for the debit card didn’t work, and when I tried again, the ATM ate and shredded my credit card.  Then I realized what I had done and used my debit card to withdraw funds.  I felt like a total idiot! Without my credit card, I am virtually home bound.  It will take 8 – 10 business days to get it replaced, so I have to reschedule three medical appointments I had set for next week.  I’m completely exhausted.  However, I do have one piece of good news, one of my guys, who is now in his 30s and has been in prison since he was 17, has given me permission to share some of his writing with you.  I consider him a far more talented writer than I am, so you guys are in for a treat.  But today, I just need to recover.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:03 (average 4:49).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Cartoon:

0815Cartoon-TCPooped

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Aug 112015
 

I’m in a huge rush to get my articles written and posted in time to take a nap before going to prison to do volunteer work.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:24 (average 4:38).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: Josten Bundy found himself before Judge Randall Rogers in an east Texas courtroom to face a misdemeanor charge stemming from a fight he got into with the ex-boyfriend of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Jaynes. With Elizabeth by his side, the judge asked Bundy if "she was worth it" and then put him on probation with bizarre stipulations:

“I said, well to be honest, sir, I was raised with four sisters and if any man was talking to a woman like that,” recalled Bundy,  “I’d probably do the same thing.”

Judge Rogers asked Bundy if he was married to Jaynes and then said, “You know, as a part of my probation, you’re going to have to marry her…within 30 days.”

That’s right. Judge Rogers forced the young couple to get married, which they did. Bundy was fearful the jail sentence would cost him his job and the couple had previously talked about getting married…..in the future. Judge Randall also forced Bundy to get counseling and write Bible verses.

Rogers should be defrocked and disbarred for 1st Amendment violations against Bundy and 8th Amendment violations against Janes.

From Alternet: Informed readers are well aware that US police have the dubious reputation of killing lots of civilians, compared to other countries. The War on Drugs provides much of the basis for this abomination…

…The Free Thought Project constantly reports on senseless, unjustified murders carried out by police, in the attempt to bring accountability to law enforcement run amok. Here are 10 of the most outrageous excuses police have used for killing unarmed people during the last year.

“He was walking with a purpose.” Officer Vanessa Miller killed Ryan Bollinger, 28, after witnessing him “dancing in the street” during a traffic stop. After a low-speed chase, Bollinger exited the vehicle and was “walking with a purpose” toward Miller, who then shot him from inside the car through the rolled-up window.

I’ve shared just one and ten examples of excuses made by police after they murdered innocent victims. Click through for the other nine.

From Democrats Unite: If I wrote that “Bernie Sanders admits to being a socialist,” nobody reading it would need an explanation of the word “admits.” “Socialist” is as dirty a word in US politics as “racist” or “bigot.” And for lots of voters, it’s probably even more of a deal-breaker. When a Republican really wants to insult President Obama, for example, he or she calls him a socialist.

The thing is — as the video below makes clear — America is already a socialist country, but just quietly, and only for the rich and for corporations. So the insult “socialist” only seems to really apply to things we ask the government to do for the rest of us.

 

In a word, Amen.

Cartoon:

0811Cartoon

This is humor.  It is NOT s suggestion to do violence against Republicans.

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Aug 102015
 

The good news is that I enjoyed the first glimmer of the Holy Ellipsoid Orb.  Viking fans should feel blessed.  The bad news is that a surprise heat wave has hit with temperatures in the 90°s for at least today and tomorrow.  Of course it has come just in time to coincide with  my voluntee3r day in prison.  While discretion might trump valor sufficiently for me to take the day off, my friend has her cancer surgery a week from tomorrow, so this is probably my last chance to work with my guys, until my three day volunteer trip late next month.  Discretion be dammed.  I’m going.  I’m also running late due to prep work for that, and  I got a late start too.  Thanks Lona.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:54 (average 5:46).  To do it click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker: Tempers flared in the aftermath of Thursday night’s Republican debate, as rival candidates accused the billionaire Donald Trump of failing to back up his misogynist slurs with concrete and workable anti-woman proposals.

Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker led the charge, as both of them asserted that Trump’s sexist rhetoric paled in comparison with their own strong records of opposition to women’s rights.

Andy is spot on again. Any Republican who would win the Presidency would put all of Hairball’s misogyny into practice, and then some.

From NY Times: A day of peaceful protest commemorating the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer one year ago ended in gunfire late Sunday as multiple shots rang out on West Florissant Avenue, the commercial district hit by rioting last summer.

A St. Louis County police officer was involved in the shooting, which occurred at about 11:15 p.m., after coming under heavy gunfire, the department said in a post on Twitter. Another department post said, “At least 2 unmarked cars took shots.”

First, I condemn this attack on police officers in the strongest possible terms. That said, I’m not at all surprised that it happened.

From Think Progress: After Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s State of the Union, asked Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina about Netflix’s announcement that it will offer a year of unlimited paid family leave, the former Hewlett Packard CEO said she opposes any requirement that employers offer their workers paid leave.

“I don’t think it’s the role of government to dictate to the private sector how to manage their businesses, especially when it’s pretty clear that the private sector, like Netflix…is doing the right thing because they know it helps them attract the right talent,” she said. “I’m not saying I oppose paid maternity leave. What I’m saying is I oppose the federal government mandating paid maternity leave to every company out there. [emphasis added]

First, Netflix does not offer family leave to employees in it’s DVD division. Second, the family leave (up to 12 months) Netflix offers other employees is NOT paid. Having exposed Carly’s Republican lie, let me point out that she stands in the forefront of the Republican War on Women.

Cartoon:

0810Cartoon

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Jul 292015
 

Last week I had a small but thoroughly enjoyable meeting with five of my guys.  The prison fouled-up the turnout, so ten were not released for it.  We discussed the importance of maintaining an ongoing personal inventory, and using it as a tool to recognize when we are wrong, admit it, make amends, and learn from it.  As always, I could not be more proud of them.  It was very hot, as the Activities section is over the kitchen.  I feel tired and sore, but I did get some good sleep last might.  Today is a grocery delivery day, so I have some cleaning to do in preparation.  The forecast high is 95° and will not dip below 90° until 8/3 at the earliest, so the next heat wave is officially here.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:22 (average 5/26).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Upworthy: Changing austerity measures starts with changing how we value our own work.

Like the frog in the pot that didn’t know it was boiling until it was too late, some of us have gotten used to these things. But some of us haven’t and aren’t willing to. Like Agnes Török, who filmed this moving poem that puts into words the frustrations so many of us have felt.

Her words are inspiration for those of us who’ve internalized economic disparities as our own character failures.

 

This hero truly understands Republican tinkle down policies. Kudos.

From The New Yorker: In what critics are calling a desperate attempt to draw the media’s attention away from Donald Trump, the other fifteen candidates for the Republican nomination have released a joint sex tape.

The tape, including such luminaries as former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Texas senator Ted Cruz, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, appeared briefly on major news Web sites before an avalanche of viewer revulsion demanded it be taken down.

According to Carol Foyler, a viewer who happened to catch the tape during its brief appearance on the CNN Web site, the video contained images “I may never be able to get out of my mind.”

“I couldn’t believe that these people would participate in such a thing,” she said. “Except maybe Santorum.”

Dang Andy! Lindsey Poo was a bottom.  I have no doubt that Frothy was the man on dog, but do we need to change a name from "Upchuck Huck" to "Buttf*** Huck"? Smile with tongue out

From Washington Post: Openly gay Americans can now legally marry, serve in the military (as long as you’re not transgender) and, as of Monday, lead a Boy Scout troop.

So what can’t they do? In fact, there are still several things gay Americans can’t do that straight Americans might take for granted.

We did some research and talked to the Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, to find out what openly gay Americans are still fighting for.

1. Give blood

This prohibition is specifically for gay and bisexual men, whom the federal government prohibited from donating blood in 1983, during the AIDS epidemic.

The Obama administration recently lifted the ban, but with one very important caveat: A man can only donate blood if he hasn’t had sexual relations with another man in the past year. The ruling was disappointing to LGBT rights groups.

"That’s really unrealistic to ask people," Warebelow said — "especially those who are in long-term relationships."

2. Be protected from housing discrimination in 28 states

In 28 states that don’t include sexual orientation in their housing discrimination laws, gay and lesbian Americans can be denied an apartment to rent, a home to buy or obtain a mortgage on the basis of their sexual orientation.

In the 30 states that don’t ban housing discrimination based on gender identity, transgender Americans face the same possibility.

3. Be protected from business discrimination in 28 states

In 28 states, gay and lesbian Americans can get kicked out of a restaurant, be refused services by a hairdresser or asked to leave a shopping mall. That number’s even higher for transgender people, who don’t have similar protections in 32 states.

The federal government also has no law prohibiting LGBT discrimination in public spaces and services.

In the states and cities that do have anti-discrimination laws — including about a dozen cities in Indiana — some conservatives have successfully pushed for a religious freedom bill to give extra legal protections to service providers who refuse LGBT Americans.

Click through for the other four. The battle against the Republican Reich for LGBT equality has just begun.

Cartoon:

0729Cartoon

Where InsaniTEA rules supreme.

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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.

Cartoon:

0728Cartoon

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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.

Cartoon:

0727Cartoon

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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