Who IS this guy?!

'Niceguy' Eddie

Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, aired on RainbowRadio from 2015-2017.

Feel free to contact me at niceguy9418@usa.com. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and Tumblr, and support my Patreon. Also, if you don't mind the stench, you can find my unofficial "fan club" over HERE. ;)

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Teh Stupid Debt / Deficit debate

Did you know that Clinton never had a budget surplus?


It’s true. That confused the shit out of me, because at one point I had numbers that said otherwise, but it’s true. This article, while conservatively biased BIG TIME, explains why and I have since found National Debt Numbers from other sites that back that up. So, it’s right. We’ll just have to accept it.

Now… I told you that because I want to show [the following.] Basically? Republicans and specifically their supply-side econonsense still pretty much suck it fiscally, big time. Now… I’ve done pieces on the debt before, mostly making the same mistake (focusing only on PUBLICLY held debt) this is criticized in the above article. But I want to destroy one of the lies you are hearing from Tea Partiers, John Boehner, Harry Reid (yes, him too!), the Laffer Curve and Reaganomists. The idea that we can UNDER NO CIRCUMSATANCES raise taxes to fix the deficit. Laffer said that the markets will turn down and you’ll lose revenue. Reagan (and later Bush) insisted that the market would boom and the tax cuts would pay for themselves. And even HARRY REID’s current deficit reduction plan includes NO TAX INCREASES.

What. The. Fuck?!

So check this out – and if you want to skip the fancy explanation, just scroll down to the graph and keep reading. I got the followg debt numbers from THIS SITE. Now, based on his comments, I would interpret his ideology as fairly balanced, yet slightly right-leaning. He’s pretty fair with criticism and credit for both sides, acknowledging the realities facing Presidents of ALL parties, but there’s a little more poo-pooing of Democrats and a little more apologism for Republicans; at least it seems that way to me. In any case, I’m only pointing all of this out to show that my information and the data used here doesn’t come from some "Liberal Propaganda" site. It comes for two conservatives (one moderate, one hard) and the U.S. Treasury.

So, to test the theory that, as republican’s put it, we have a “spending problem” and not a “revenue problem,” I thought I do a fairly simple analysis: I’d plot each president’s deficit against their top-tier tax rate and see how they all faned out. (Yeah: I knew how it would look ahead of time, but play along OK? *wink*) For simplicity and legitimacy’s sake, I’m only looking at post WWII numbers – big wars, great depressions, etc… Are bound to have a greater impact on the budget AND the tax rate than anything else, and pretty much ANY partisan will acknowlegde that. (And uh... those ALL happen to work against Democrats, BTW!) Also, while deregulation and lesse-faire economics may have helped create the "roaring twenties," which would boost Republican numbers, all but the most brain-dead partisans realize that those practices were unsustainable.  And history bore that out in the 1930's. Also note – for some reason, these deficits are in 1983 dollars. I'm not sure why he did that, I would have preferred 2010 or 2011 dollars, but I think most of you know that while the absolute values might shift the TRENDS will always remain the same regardless of what year you decide to normalize to. So these are in 1983 dollars, and in Millions. (With no further conversion on my part.)

Federal Deficits in Millions of 1983 Dollars vs. Top Tier Tax Rate the same year:



Wow! Would you look at that! Deficits and top-tier tax rates, in fact, have a negative correlation!

And go figure: The more you take in, the more you can pay off! Wow! What a freaking concept!

And where are we now? Well: Do you see all those REALLY HUGE deficits? Yeah, those are all Bush’43’s and Obama’s. And you see that cluster around 30%? Between $200,000M and $400,000M? Yeah: Those are Reagan’s and Bush’41’s. (Incidentally, those LOW deficits, just below that cluster are all Clinton’s. So while he didn’t have a true SURPLUS, he still did MUCH better than any of the Republicans of the past 30 years!) And I think it's fair to call any top –tier rate under 40% “Reaganesque.” After all, those big deficits at 50%? Were all Reagan’s! So anything UNDER that? IS ABSOLUTLEY Reaganesque – including all current proposals being put forth but Harry Reid and Barack Obama. And it’s time to stop this nonsense. This country, and its Rich, were doing just fine with top tier rates of 50, 70 and even 90%. And the deficits were basically nil’ compared to ANYTHING that we’ve seen in the past 30 years of continuous Reaganomics.

So once again, I’m going to go back to my simple mantras:

Republican philosophy in eight words:

I’VE GOT MINE, SCREW THE REST OF YOU.

[What SHOULD BE] the Democratic philosophy in nine:

TAX THE RICH. TAX THE RICH. TAX THE RICH.

Now… Both of those are parodies, of course, but I find it rather telling that, even in satire, the Liberal position is a solution to the problem, while the Conservative position IS the problem!

So WTF Barrack? WTF Harry?

TAX. THE. RICH!

This will:

1) Fix everything. Seriously.

2) Harm nothing. Seriously!

3) Render the Republicans and Tea-Baggers and RW Libertarians permanently irrelevant.

4) Put the final nail in the coffin of the myth of Supply-Side Economics and its urine-soaked, mentally retarded cousin, trickle-down Reaganomics, and put us back on the path of being a country of opportunity for ALL people and not just the top 2%.

And if that’s “class warfare?” Then SO FUCKING BE IT. The Right has been waging war on the Middle Class, The Working Class, the Unions and the Poor for THIRTY FUCKING YEARS NOW and it has resulted in fiscal disaster. We need jobs. And if the rich won’t provide them, then the Government should TAX THE SHIT OUT OF THEM and provide them. And you know what? After all the money is spent, it will end up right back in the hands of the rich! Because after all, they own the Companies and the Stores and the Services providers where all of that money will be spent! And that’s fine! That’s as it SHOULD BE! That’s why this will do NO HARM! That’s why “trickle down” is a MYTH and “percolate up,” as Obama put it on the ’08 campaign trail, is ECONOMIC REALITY! The only money that the wealthy WON’T get given right back to them? Interest payments on the National Debt – which should be an ever-shrinking number, if we’re running surpluses and paying down the debt! And whatever the Poor, Working and Middle Class manage to keep a hold of, in the form of savings and investments for themselves. And you know what? That will STILL end up going to the CHILDREN of the current-day rich, pretty much fort the same reason.

We need not cry for the Rich in America, folks. They will still be rich. They will still keep all their money. And that’s fine. I don’t want to take it away from them. I just want them to share it a little, since it will all end up going right back them anyway. But it can support a much more comfortable and secure lifestyle (and therefore a much more robust economy) if it passes through a few more hands before ending up back in their wallets.

But no, they’d rather take their toys and say, in the word’s Eric Cartman:

SCREW YOU GUYS, I’M GOING HOME!



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BTW… In case anyone was wondering, you CAN do the same analysis with all of the data going back to 1913, and the negative correlation between top-tier tax rate and deficits still holds:



So, bottom line?

John Boehner and company are full of shit, and Harry Reid and Barrack Obama should stop listening to them!

--- TAX THE RICH. TAX THE RICH. TAX THE RICH.  ---

Monday, July 25, 2011

Silver Star Awards, July, 2010, and some maintainaence...

I serioulsy hope no reads this. And I really hope that no one checks out this month's Silver Star Winner, representing the lone Vet's committee pick from 1965. And WHATEVER YOU DO, I hope no one gets any ideas about searching for a certain liberal blogger's contribution to the site.

Pud Galvin's SILVER STAR #36: SingSnap

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I LOVE Karaoke. I've done in on Caribean Cruises, I've done it in Japan, I'll do it any chance I get.  It is SO MUCH FUN!  So... If you ever wanted to take a shot at it, but were too chicken to get in front of a LIVE audience, here's your chance. They've got lots of free songs, and a SHIT-TON of songs if you subscribe. (Plus some reverb & audio software that makes you sound a whole lot better - again, for subscribers only.) In any case, it's a LOT of fun. And no, I've never done it. No way. So don't even TRY looking for "NiceguyEddie" on there, because you'll be VERY disappointed!

;)

(Hey: As Randle Patrick Murphy said to Chief Bromden in Ken Kesey's classic novel and film staring Jack Nicholson: At least I tried!)

In all seriousness? There's a lot of UTTER CRAP on there. (Look who's talkin', right?) And don't get me wrong: that's still fun to listen to on occasion.  But I have also discovered some TRULY AMAZING singers there as well. So please DO poke around a bit, becuase there are some real gems there as well.

...
Anyway, that's all for the Month of July, 2010.  There will be some heavy hitting Gold winners coming in the months ahead, but at the moment I'm constrained by the format I chose. Sorry!

But there is also soem long overdue housekeeping that is needed, so I'm making the following changed to my personal HoF:

The Walter John Gold Star Winner, Armchair Subversive, is, as of today and for the past few months, now completely defunct.  So as I have linked to them so many times in the past and because I truly believe that they transcend mere entertainment and have proven themselves top be a site of truly profound Political, Social and Academic value, I hereby promote Cracked.Com from it's former honor of a Silver Star to the NEW WALTER JOHNSON, GOLD STAR #4. That's a pretty coveted spot,  BTW, but it is an honor well deserved.

Taking it's place, as the new ED WALSH, SILVER STAR #18 is: Kawaii Not, the web-comic for cute gone bad. What can I say? It's twisted. I love it.

Also, since the gifted and lovely Julia Wertz has decided to end Fartparty, but pick up where it left off ovetr on Museum of Mistakes, I'm addoing that site to the KID NICHOLS SILVER STAR award.

In other fronts, since JESSE BUIRKETT'S and JOHNNY EVERS' SILVER STAR Winners Ugliest Tatoos and Very Demotivational are both actually part of a larger site, related to FailBlog's "Cheezeburger Network," they are being changed to I Can Has Cheezburger and Memebase respectively.  These are still all part of FAILBlog/Cheezburger network site, but at least this way, I recognize the rest of the content as well, and only stay about a year behind the times. (Hey: In the immortal words of Daniel Lawrence Whitney, "I don't care who you are, that's funny right there!")

Finally, Seanbaby's Superfriends site, is being changed to Seanbaby's main site, which still includes the Superfriends material... Which is still the funniest thing I've ever read... and so much more. But then: What else would I expect form the man who "invented being funny on the internet?"

Cheers, my friends!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Republicans to a supermajority of America: Screw you!

So I'm down at the gym and, because my headphones got run over in the parking lot a few weeks back, I'm listening to NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  Here's the video feed:



Now... What really struck about this were the statistics.  And these are from the WALL STREET JOURNAL, mind you: Ruppert Murdoch's own news rag!

In favor of Presdient Obama's Debt Reduction Proposals: 58%
In favor of Congressional Republican's Debt Reduction Proposals: 36%

Should Republicans compromise and agree to raise taxes?
YES: 62%
NO: 27%

Should Democrats compromise and allow cuts to Social Security and Medcicare?

YES: 38%
NO: 52%

To put those numbers in perspective...
% of people who voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984: 59%
% of people who voted for Walter Mondale in 1984: 41%


The Republicans are polling at least 3 points lower that Walter Fucking Mondale did in what ended up being one of the worst landslide losses in U.S. Electoral History.

The Democrats are polling within 1 point overall - and three points ahead on tax increases - of Raonlad Reagan, the Right's great hero, in his brightest hour.  (What's more? That lone 52% on the Entitlements issue? Is still over a full point higher than Reagan polled in 1980 against Carter!)

So... here's my question: Why do we even NEED a gang of six?  Why is ANYONE still listening, compromising, fucking PANDERING with ANY of these Right-Wing Ass-Hats?  The Republicans have a position which is unpopular on a Mondalian scale and they're STILL trying to (and our Democratic leaders are letting them) shove it down our throats! 

Mister President, Senate Majority Leader Reid, House Minority Leader Pelosi:

The way I see it, and according to Ruppert Murdoch's own Wall Street Journal about 200 MILLION AMERICANS agree with me, we can fix everything, keep all entitlemants intact, erase the deficit and render the Republican Party permanently irrelevant by following nine simple words:

Tax the rich.

Tax the rich.

Tax the rich.

That's it. Tax the rich. It will literally fix everything and harm nothing. And it will make you the party of the people once again.  Screw this "gang of six" crap.  Tax the rich and veto anything that doesn't. Leave Social Security and Mecdicare alone - or better: FIX THEM without cutting benefits - and veto anythign that doesn't.  It is time to LEAD.  You failed for two years to do this and you lost the house. So I implore you... It's time to grow a spine, step up, LISTEN THE AMERICAN PEOPLE and do what everyone (even the rich) know that you HAVE TO.  I already like your chances in 2012.  But if you stand firm and deliver what a SUPERMAJORITY OF AMERICA is askign you for?  I'll actually FEEL GOOD about liking your chances.

The Worst Kind of Research... UGH!

Some of you might be aware of a little writing project I'm doing.  That blog's serving as kind of a rough-draft.  Will it ever be anything else? Who knows.  In the meantime, it's a bit of personal and political indulgence that's been a fun creative excersise.

BUT I want to ground as much of the events, and the setting, in the real world as I can. (At least up until the end of the next two chapters, where the story will deviate, rather sharply with reality.) And RIGHT NOW, the story takes place in the weeks following the 2010 Mid-Term elections.  And in the chapter I'm currently working on, one of the charecters (Epiphany) is trying to convince the other (Edward) to act - to impliment his proposed plan - by bombarding him with Fox News, AM Talk Radio, etc... Almost as if to irritate him into doing that which goes against his better moral judgement.)

And I thought, rather than just making stuff up, (like Beck) why not use ACTUAL QUOTES from Fox, Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, etc... from shows that aired on some of the days in question? I thought it would be cooler to use some of the actual nonsense, and actual lies being told by these people. And with the power of the internet, it would be child's play to find and download transcripts. And it was...

...which lead to a problem...

Have you ever tried READING though a WEEK'S worth of transcripts of the RUSH LIMBAUGH program?  OMFG, I think it gave me a brain tumor!

Then there was SEAN HANNITY'S "interview" with SARAH PALIN that aired that week. (And I put interview in quotes, becuase it would be more accurate to say that he rhetorically went down on her.) Halfway though I think I threw up in my mouth a little.

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!

Oh my God!

The clips and snippets that get posted on MMFA are bad enough, but taken IN THEIR ENTIRITY?! Taken IN CONTEXT?! They get WORSE by an order of magnitude!

I'm just trying to find a handful of quotes that I can sprinkle into a humorous part of a story - the kind of scene where one person turns on the the TV and hears [Palin - I wouldn't be out there apologizing for us being a superpower!] and the other one turns it off. (Only to have that repeat it self several times.)

But finding the most outrageous five seconds of an hour-long RW lovest (even longer in Limbaugh's case) requires reading a hundered times more than you'd ever want to.

I give the folks at MMFA (FAIR, etc...) credit. Because good lord, reading this much RW trash is enough to make my eyes bleed.

/rant

:)

Capital Punnishment

NOTE: I've written this an re-written it, three times in total, and it's still a disjointed, disorganized mess.  What can I say? It's a complex issue with a LOT of considerations to balance.  BUT, I'm just going to post it as-is becuase there's other things I want to write about, and if I let it go too long, I'll never get around to putting this up.

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Although I did not intend for that one throwaway comment in my Casey Anthony post last week to turn into a death penalty discussion, many thoughtful, principled and pragmatic comments about the death penalty ended up in the comments section as a result of it. And, after reading them, I was motivated to do a little digging, a little exploring of the issue, and maybe clarifying both to you all and to myself where I really stand on it.


Although politically ironic, but from my own POV logically consistent, my position on the Death Penalty, as a general practice, is almost a perfect mirror to my position on abortion. With abortion, I feel that the practice is completely immoral in all cases (yes, you read that right) where the life of the mother is not in immediate jeopardy.  BUT, as this is just my opinion - and since I don’t share the Right’s mental illness that compels them to force everyone else to live according to their opinion - I have no desire to see abortion made ILLEGAL, just becuase I see it as IMMORAL. With Capital Punishment, it’s kind of the opposite: I do not oppose the practice on general moral grounds. BUT… as a PRACTICAL MATTER I do see much that is wrong with how we go about administering it. So I never cheer-lead for it, as some do. And I do see a reduction in executions as a good thing. But I stop short of a complete abolitionist stance, based on moral objection.

This puts me immediately at odds with posters such as jlarue, who feel it is simply an immoral practice. And you know what? You’re absolutely right. I’ll concede on all moral points right now: It’s wrong. And yet, I still feel the way I do. And, going back to the abortion parallel, I’ve never heard an argument, EVER, that convinced me that abortion was ever morally justifiable (in any case in which the life of the mother was not in imminent danger.) But again: What we believe to be moral and what we will support the legality of are not always the same. This happens to both Liberals and Conservatives, and hits me up from both sides of both of these two issues. The bottom line is that the execution of someone who has taken the life of another? Just does not bother me enough to change my opinion. If that makes me a bad person? Then so be it. For what it’s worth, I concede the moral high-ground to your admittedly more principled position. 

(Just an aside: In admitting that being “pro-death penalty” - one of a very few Conservative positions that I hold - is a moral failing on my part, it’s funny to me just how many Conservative positions in general (almost all of them, in fact) can be described that way.)

So… morally I concede, though that doesn’t change my position. What about those practical concerns? The administrative details?

Poster ClassicLiberal gave me a pretty good quote, about how “the government can’t even keep potholes filled” so he’d not going to trust them with such grave matters. That’s a nice sentiment, and while I have no intention of arguing that the practice is air-tight, I will point out that this is the same basic argument that Conservatives use to argue against a Nation Health Care system, so you’ll have to better than that. Fortunately, he did: The politicization of the Judiciary.

Now, I hear you when it comes to the ELECTION of judges. Hoo-boy, that’s a HUGE problem. And it affects so many aspects of our society. There’s just SO MUCH worng with that, in particular the very perversion of our Democracy that you describe the pro-industry and pro-corporatist groups doing. But, much as with our disagreement on filibusters, it still sounds to me (rigth or worng) like you are opposing a practice IN GENERAL because of how ONE GROUP has decided to abuse it. (And let’s please take up the filibuster/reform issue again another time, because I’ve been sitting on a counterargument for your loast post on that for like a year now,  but just haven’t felt like writing about it.) Anyway... IN THEORY, the election of judges shouldn’t be done on Political grounds. Of course, that’s gone completely by the wayside, but I’m not sure what else we should do. APPOINT them? To LIFETIME terms? NFW. And as counters I submit that Federally appointed Circuit and Supreme Court judges are every bit as politicized as local judges, and there’s an additional problem: WE CAN’T EVER GET RID OF THEM! What’s more, the judiciary is meant to act as a counter-balance to the Legislature and the Executive branch. But how will we get that when the judges are nominated, confirmed and appointed by the very bodies they’re meant to be opposing? I’ll see you and raise you two Scalia’s and a Thomas that this is a much worse way to go. This way, electing them? If a judge REALLY SUCKS? The will of the people, and the power of Democracy can be mustered to fix the problem. I just cannot belieev that because industry and corporations pervert Democracy, this is a reason to scrap the practice. Much as with terrorism, we must RESIST those forces, not allow them to trick us into dismantling our Democracy. If you have a third alternative, I really would like to hear it, but the immediate alternative, to me, seems like it can only be worse.

But it bring us to the crux of the matter, at least for me: Has this politicization, inefficiency, prosecutorial maleficence or any other factor actually led us to execute an innocent man?

Unlike Conchobhar, I have not served on a jury. In fact, I’ve only been in court three times in my life: Once when my parents finalized my sister’s adoption, once for a traffic ticket and once when I was being sued. (I won, if you’re wondering.) (OK, and I was called in for jury duty once, but I wasn't selected.) And our history, much like the UK’s, is rife with examples of officially administered injustice. And convictions are overturned ALL THE TIME when examination of the DNA evidence after the trial completely proves, beyond any doubt, that they had the wrong guy. (Remember: With a match, there’s STILL a 1 in 20 Million chance you’re wrong, but with a MISMATCH? Unless the lab-tech bled onto the sample, you KNOW the right answer. )

And you certainly have a good point, arguably THE point, when a verdict comes down to nothing more than which witnesses appear more credible: The guys who’s facing life or death and is on the stand for the first time in his life, facing a suspicious and skeptical jury; or the career law-enforcement officer (and trusted, heroic public servant) who’s in court every week, has testified hundreds of times and faces no personal or professional risk if should the case go one way or the other. And because “real-life” is never as neat and clear-cut as Television’s CSI shows, perception will thus determine reality. And that’s a huge problem, as matters of perception and personal feelings inevitably end up being given a weight disproportionate to their accuracy or value.

But there’s another side of that perception vs. objective evidence coin. It has been suggested that the preponderance of legal shows like CSI, Law and Order, etc… has had the effect of making us more skeptical as a people. That juries expect cases to look a lot neater and air tight before convicting. Now – I don’t KNOW if that’s true. Admittedly, I can’t find the original piece I had read. (I think it might have been a Slate piece.) And for all I know it could have been written by a disgruntled prosecutor who just came off of losing a big case. But as useless as anecdotal evidence is, case like Anthony (and O.J. Simpson and many others in between) do see, to suggest that there are juries out there for whom “erring on the side of caution” means an acquittal, when in doubt. Which… is exactly as it is supposed to be!

As I looked into this, I came accros a few other things, that can be interpreted in different ways…

For the years that I could find data for reasonably quickly (2006-2009) there were 186 executions in the U.S. In that same time period there were 65,642 murders. Now, committing the same error as when they calculate the divorce rate, that works out to a 0.3% execution rate for murderers. I find the size of that number – being so small – striking in a few different ways. If were trying to be a “tough-on-crime” Right Winger (never! LOL) I might cite this as evidence that we need to DO MORE to prevent violent crime. (NOTE: I’M not saying that. I’m just saying that you could imagine someone making that argument.) A death penalty opponent might use it to point out that very little would change if we DID eliminate the practice: It would result in an almost imperceptible uptick in prison populations, in exchange for KNOWING we NEVER executed an innocent person. Which is a pretty good trade off, I must admit! And a moderate supporter, like me, looks at it and is inclined to view it as a relatively small problem: 1 execution for every 357 murders? I don’t know. I guess I just thought it would be a LOT higher, by at least an order of magnitude. (BTW, my numbers were taken from a few different sources, which is why I haven’t linked them. If you have different figures, I’ll freely admit that I just grabbed the first set of data I could put together.)

I also found that, due to the (thankfully) small number of people we execute, trying to determine what kind of “deterrent” effect this has, if any, is impossible. One rather disturbing study showed that there’s only a discernable deterrent effect is places with very high execution rates. Meaning that, for this to work, we got to start executing MORE people. I might support the Death Penalty in theory, but putting that kind of reasoning into practice is just psychotic.

But putting aside any “benefits” we might see, no one should accept the possibility of executing an innocent man. So I did some poking around, looking first at overturned convictions. Of course, there are TONS of stories out there, and an interesting (though rather incomplete) list could be found on Wikipedia. I went through this list, trying to focus only on case where physical evidence exonerated the suspect, rather than them just being posthumously pardoned or something like that. (Where there was doubt of guilt, but not proof of innocence.) And there certainly is no shortage of cases where people sat on death row who were UNDENIABLY innocent. And one can certainly look at all of these MISTAKES and argue that such an imperfect system simply cannot be trusted. BUT… every conviction that gets overturned is also evidence that the system WORKS – that if someone is innocent, then the truth will come out. That may sound weak to some, and I’ll gladly admit that I’d feel better if we got it right the first time, every time, but it is significant that there ARE so many self-correcting mechanisms. The imperfection is mitigated by the fact that we recognize it.

BUT… Do they work? Was there ever a case where we KNEW we executed the wrong guy?

Well… A couple of names on that list jumped out at me.

First, there was Charles Hudspeth. He was hanged for the murder of her lover’s missing husband, who was found – ALIVE - a year later. Thing is? That was in 1892! And I have a hard time imagining a scenario like that happening today. So… it’s an EXAMPLE, but I’m not sure it’s still relevant. We’ve made SOME progress in the last 120 years.

There was also Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian Anarchists convicted in 1920 in what many considered to have been a show-trial, rife with anti-Italian prejudice that was more common then than it is now, and executed in 1927. But at this point it’s impossible to PROOVE that they were innocent. A bad conviction? Well, Governor Dukakis certainly thought so, when he pardoned them in 1977. And I AM inclined to agree with him. But a definite “execution of the innocent?” Impossible to say.

Going from there to the wrongful execution article, I found a few more examples. There were several from the U.K. and Australia, but nothing from the U.S. The closest was Ellis Wayne Felker, who’s DNA evidence was re-evaluted after his execution. Butthe results we’re found to have been “inconclusive.” And that’s too frustrating. It’s not that I’d celebrate an innocent man being put to death, but putting aside that absurd result from 1892, at least ONE BONA-FIDE example of the State executing an innocent man would pretty much change me over to the abolitionist camp. That’s it. Just one. There are many cases where there has been doubt of guilt – and I DO NOT support the Death Penalties use in case like that – but so far no indisputable examples where we can prove innocence. And that means that it cannot be PROOVEN that our system is so profoundly flawed.

There was a case like that that got my attention many years ago, and that became very emotionally involved with.

The suspect’s name was Roger Keith Coleman. He was a coal miner in Grundy, Virginia, not far from where I was going to college at the time. And based on what the media presented at the time, I was convinced was innocent. Oprah had him on her show, and I found him to be very persuasive. At a minimum, the questions he raised and the apparent incompetence of his lawyer suggested that a new trial was appropriate. And he might have gotten one: Had that very same, publicly appointed lawyer, not filed his appeal ONE DAY AFTER the deadline to file had expired. Which, IMHO, pretty much speaks right back to that Public Defenders own incompetence! In any case, I was convinced he was innocent and beyond that convinced beyond any doubt that his original trial was flawed. But Virginia’s piece of shit Governor at the time, Democrat Douglas Wilder, (sorry, I really HATE that guy, and so does DW) refused to grant clemency, a even stay to allow the appeal about the appeal to go though. Coleman was executed and on that day I was convinced we had executed an innocent man. 100% convinced.

So, a decade later when Republican Governor Mark Warner decided to re-open the case and examine the DNA evidence which had NOT been presented at trial, I followed the story in anticipation that Roger Keith Coleman would finally be exonerated. Instead, the DNA evidence put him at the scene of the crime. He was lying. FUCK. I was angry, not so much because I WANTED to have seen an innocent man put to death, but because I had become so emotionally involved with his story. I got “sucked in,” if you will, and he was nothing more than a liar, and a murderer.

Anyway, I realize that our system of justice is imperfect. All of those overturned convictions DO point to mistakes of ALL KINDS being made. (Though over-zealous, political-motivated prosecution seem to be at the heart of many of them.) But saying that something COULD happen, is different form saying that it HAS. Finding errors, and the potential for errors, and FIXING THEM when they are found suggests that we have to have safeguards in place. Are they adequate? It’s a hollow sentiment, but so far? In this country? They appear to be.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Yet another Bush era failure...

THIS, folks, is why you don't tie school funding to student performance.

Yet one more example of something that George W. Bush and the Republicans got their greedy little hands on that turned to absolute shit. Nice going, jack holes.

Given Rush Limbaugh's enlightened commentary on the matter, I would like to propose walking into his studio and beating him to death with his microphone stand. But then... I still need to post my bit about capital punnishment, so maybe that will have to wait.

(Hey Rush: Last time I checked those schools were in a pretty red state, kind of how you be if I'd had my 'druthers and society allowed it, you lying, hypocritical fuckwad.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Deathly Hallows, part 2

I'm about half way done with a death-penalty piece, but it's not ready yet. I can probably get it posted this weekend though. We'll see. You guys gave me a bit to think about in the comments of the last part.

In the meantime...

We just got back from seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2 and I've just got to say that it was absolutely amazing. I was completely blown away.  I can easily pay it the best compliment I can to a movie of this type:

It lived up to every bit of the hype, and exceeded my rather high expectations.

To compare it to some of its contemporaries, it was (much) better than Revenge of the Sith, better than The Dark Knight and on par with Return of the King.  Simply incredible.  Perfect, actually.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Is this really "the problem" with the system?

Unless you live under a rock, or your TV is broken you probably heard the news yesterday: Casey Anthony was found "not guilty" on all charges directly related to the death of her two year old daughter Calee in 2008, save only the four counts of providing false information to the police.

(Which, let's face it, is something that probably been done by every single human being ever accused of a crime since the beginning of human history.)

My boss actually had a news feed up on his computer, so we heard the verdict pretty much as it came out.  Several of us were "following" the case, so naturally there was a lot of interest. (No, we don't work in a law office.) And I should say that I haven't been "following" the case, so much as I was bombarded by it.  There were 16,442 people murdered in the United States in 2008, but I'll be damned if I can name a single other case off the top of my head.  But hey: An attractive white woman, acting strangely I might add, a cute white kid, weird circumstances and answered questions? That's NEWS (I guess.)

I'm not trying to say that Calee doesn't deserve justice, nor even that I don't think Casey did it. (I DO, but more on that in a minute.)  The thing is, those 16,442? Are based on CONVICTIONS. How many OTHER cases of dead people in 2008 went uncovered by the media? How many OTHER victims didn't get justice? How many OTHER people got away with it?  That's the first thing that annoys me about these kinds of stories.

Another is NANCY FUCKING GRACE.

Oh my Holy Lord in Heaven, is there any other human being anywhere on this big and beautiful planet MORE ANNOYING and MORE GRATING that Nancy Grace?!  Holy crap, I honestly think I'd rather have Ann Coulter on my jury!  And I AGREE WITH HER! I don't even really have a problem with he JUDGEMENT in this case! I think she's basically got  it right! I just can't stand listening to her!

Here's the thing...  A few weeks back, CNN had a prominent defense attorney on air to discuss the case and he basically said, "Here's what the prosecution will try to say. Here's what the defense will counter with. And here are the issues that the jury will need to sort out." There may have been something in there about the states burden of proof, but it was basically a balanced, objective summary of the case, for the benefit of those who've managed to otherwise avoid or miss the massive coverage of it. Then they turned to Nancy. Her response, and I'm paraphrasing here, was something like this:

"THAT'S A LOAD OF BULLSHIT, MARK.  THE BITCH IS GULITY AS HITLER, AND DESERVES TO DIE - AT LEAST TWICE - IN THE MOST INHUMANE WAY POSSIBLE. ACTING LIKE SHE DID PROVES BEYOND ANY DOUBT THAT SHE'S A LOUSY DAUGHTER, A LOUSY MOTHER, AND AN INHUMAN, MURDERING PUDDLE OF POND SCUM!"

...Which is what I guess passes for objective reporting on what Conservatives refer to as the "Communist News Network." (Or, as I call it, "Chicken Noodle News.")

And understandably, there were some pretty strong opinions being expressed around the office when the verdicts were announced.  A betting pool was immediately drawn up on Casey Anthony's life expectancy, and one of the more prominent opinions was: "THIS is what's wrong with our system."

Now… These were conservative guys. Not morons, professional people I respect, but conservatives. And what they were feeling was that (1) she was guilty and (2) she was let off. So (3) “the system” doesn’t work. We also got into a discussion about the 4th Amendment and how it’s bullshit that evidence obtained “illegally” was automatically inadmissible, particularly when it revealed the TRUTH of the matter. Now, I LOVE taking on Conservatives in these kinds of discussion, because I can do so from [their own] libertarian point of view, without having to wear my politics on my sleeve.

I simply asked them: How else can you protect our rights? You wouldn’t even know the person was guilty until AFTER you violated their rights! So what good is any protection of privacy and private property if there are no repercussions to the state for violating it? What else would you do? Punish the Cops?! Throw them in jail or sue them? Sure. And good luck getting any more cops to search shit from that point forward. It wouldn't work. So, flawed as it is, this the best you can do and not live in a police state.

And the whole reason we were even talking about that was that I said that I wanted to get an idea of the disparity between the case that was presented to the jury and the story that was told to us by the media. Sure: We’re all torqued up about this woman’s guilt because that’s how the media wants us. (And to anyone who thinks they always get it right, I have three words for: Jean Benoit Ramsey. And you and Nancy Grace owe her later-mother an engraved apology! Big time!) And who knows…? Maybe they even had some inkling as to where this case was heading. So by presenting one side, they might be able to milk this story even longer. Who knows? In any case, this case, for better or worse, is clear evidence trails are NOT tried in the media or the court of public opinion, and I for one think that’s a VERY GOOD THING.

Also… As you may know I like to think of things a little bit differently. I kind of have a “freakanomics” way of looking at the world, only with a progressive / liberal bias. And the one other Liberal in the office asked an interesting question to that end:

Do you think she might have been convicted, is she was being tried in a state that did NOT have the death penalty?

And honestly? I DON’T KNOW. It’s hypothetical, and there’s no way to prove it one way of the other, unless one of the jurors were to come right out and admit it, but it’s certainly one of the more effective, if somewhat more cynical, arguments against the death penalty that I’ve heard; A point that I never really considered: Could abolishing it end up in MORE convictions?

And just FYI: I SUPPORT the Death Penalty. Not blindly, of course, and not in all cases that it's been applied, and not the system that currently administers it. But the practice, in general? I’m basically OK with. And before anyone gives me the Liberal arguments against it, don’t bother. I’ve heard them before and I don’t care. But don't worry... I don’t get much love from Conservatives on the issue either. Because I don’t buy their bullshit about it anymore that I care about the far more fact-based arguments being presented by Liberals. I support it, yes, but I’ll happily admit: It’s a vice. It’s a vice that satisfies the sin of wrath, nothing more. Someone is dead, I’m angry about it, so someone must die. As long as it’s the RIGHT person? I’m basically OK with it.

Which brings me back to the case at hand: Did she do it?

Well, she certainly ain't winning any ‘mother of the year’ awards. She seems guilty of gross parental negligence at a minimum. (Something she wasn’t even CHARGED with!) If my kid were missing for three minutes I’m panicking. And after thirty? I’m calling the cops. But thirty DAYS?! Holy crap! So her first story was bullshit. I get that. So she’s also a liar. But there is an established burden of proof that the state MUST meet to convict someone of a Capital Crime. And in the absence of being able to establish either the CAUSE or the TIME of death? That burden gets very difficult to meet.

And so, unfortunately, since real life is not like CSI on TV, they had no case; just the least sympathetic defendant who didn’t yell “Allah Akbar!” at the time of the crime.

And here’s where my freakanomic thinking comes in… If you’re a Conservative, arguing with a Liberal about the Death Penalty, or tougher prison sentences, or anything else that falls under the “cruel and unusual punishment” venue, isn’t the fact that Casey Anthony got off PROOF that the system DOES in fact work? Doesn't it PROVE that we can’t possibly falsely convicting that many people if even a terrible, terrible person like her got off? Should this silence all of the Liberal critics of our legal system? If the Right wasn’t so blinded by their own anger, they might realize that this is actually a VICTORY for them! Kind of like how O.J. Simpson getting off (the first time) is proof that the system isn’t racist!

Even though... People are shown by DNA evidence to have been falsely convicted ALL THE TIME.

And Blacks are more likely to be executed, and receive tougher sentences than whites convicted of the exact same crimes.

But… I guess they’d still rather execute a couple more people than to be able to argue that the system works. See? I TOLD you it was a VICE!

BTW… If you ever have someone say something to the effect of “I’d rather send an innocent man to prison than risk letting a guilty man go free,” PLEASE hit them in the head with a brick that has the word “MORON!” engraved in it. And once they come to, ask them: If an INNOCENT MAN (AKA: NOT THE GUY WHO COMMITTED THE CRIME) went to prison, what happened to the guy who ACTUALLY COMMITTED THE CRIME?! (Um… I’m pretty sure he went free, FUCKWAD!) See… The guilty guy goes free either way! But these jack-holes would rather compound this legal cluster-fuck by sending THE WRONG GUY to prison on top of it! That’s how they want the system to “werk,” I guess.

The real problem here is how the media chooses to cover these things, and how they choose the cases they want to cover at all.  And this is compounded by the public's belief that they can draw any conclusions about our legal system from the media: An entity that focuses on one case at a time out of TEN THOUSAND (or more.) (16,442 in 2008!) By definition ANY case being given this kind of coverage the media can onlybe the exception: It's 1 out of 10,000+ after all!  You don't learn about significant trend with a NON-RANDOM sample size that small.
One last thing… There was a couple of great articles in Crack about bullshit the media thinks is news, and how the media makes bullshit look like fact. Worth a read. Oh, and here’s some GOOD NEWS that nobody’s talking about! (That last one has a little bit of conservative bias to it, at least the way I see it, but still: Good news is good news!)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gold Star Awards, June, 2011

Here we go, once a gain a day late: The Gold and Silver Star awards for June! The year is 1964, and there was one BWAA Inductee and a whopping five from the Veterans committee. So, here we go:



The Luke Appling Gold Star #37: AWOLBush / Who Served?

Are you tired of how the Right is always belly-aching about who supports the troops and who doesn’t? How Liberals, and by extension the Democrats, hate their country? And hate the military? And how they love to point out that Barack Obama or Bill Clinton or some other Democrat or Liberal never served in the Military? (Neither did Ronald W. Reagan, but they always seem to leave that one out!) Well, HERE’S a site that turns the tables on those Right-Wing jack-holes by showing that, in fact, there are rather a large number of prominent Democrats who did serve and quite a few Prominent Republincs (read: ALL OF THE LOUDEST AMONG THEM!) who did not. So keep the pressure up on these hypocritical, and at times downright un-American, neo-con chicken-hawks and, check this out!  (And as a side note, let's be honest here: When 50,000 men are dying in the jungles of Southeast Asia while you're fighting Communism in the skies over Texas? YOU'RE A DRAFT-DODGER!)


The Red Faber Silver Star #31: Five Second Films

The extended version of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy is over three hours long. It’s truly a masterpiece of modern American Cinema (and made in New Zealand, by a New Zealander no less!) but WHO HAS THAT KIND OF TIME! (If you do? Get a JOB you lazy bum!)  But THESE films? Are NOT Lord of the Rings. Most of them? Are merely funny. Some are hilarious. And some of them really suck. But at five seconds apiece? You can watch 12 of them in ONE MINUTE and have as many laughs as Peter Jackson gives you in 12 HOURS! Beat that!


The Burleigh Grimes Silver Star #32: Off Planet Films

This YouTube channel is just fucking twisted. And fucking hilarious. I can’t even BEGIN to describe them, other than to say that they produce animated shorts (~three-five minutes or less) with a bizarre, dark, and at times downright psychotic sense of humor about them.


The Tim Keefe Silver Star #33: On the Spectrum

The first of three web-comics I’d like to mention this month centers on an issue that's near and dear to me: Autsim. This comic is a series of strips about one family’s experiences raising autistic children. Although some of the humor is aimed at people who are familiar with Autism, and thus can understand the mind of an Autistic child, a lot of it is pretty general family-humor stuff that anyone (with kids) can be relate to. The artwork is not as professional like most of the web-comics I read (and share here) but it’s cute. You should check it out. Unfortunately, also like a few other comics that I’ve mentioned here, this one hasn’t been updated in a while, and I'm afraid it may be on hiatus permanently at this point. I hope not, because it’s definitely helped me see things in a different light with my own children.



The Heinie Manush Silver Star #34: Selkie

The next web-comic also deals with a personal issue for me: Adoption. And while I never spent time in an orphanage, I am adopted, and so relate to many of the things that the characters talk about and deal with. Similar to "On teh Specturm," it’s not the most polished comic art-wise, but he still manages to capture the charecters' facial expressions and emotions very well, and there are panels such as this, which gives a glimpse at both the soul and the potential of the series:

Its charecters have dpeth, and it's heroine is one of the most sympathetic you will find - just impossible not to absolutely fall in love with. It deals with issues of acceptance (Selkie is a sea-creature living amongst humans), discrimination and diversity, as well as what it means to be a good parent, good son or daughter and good friend. It worth checking out, and should be read from the beginning.

The Monte Ward Silver Star #35: Alone in a Crowd

Most people might initially find this comic to be silly. But keep an open mind. Like Selkie, it is about acceptance, both of yourself and others, and being true to yourself. These themes permeate all of the characters, for the hopelessly idealist Hope, to Grace, the Girls with Cat-Ears, to the Girl who’s taken advantage of at work, to the Aunt who manages a pornographic film studio to the geeky guy who collects action figures. It’s very cutely drawn, and reminds us that, at some point, we’ve all Alone in a Crowd at some point. So check it out! (From the Beginning!)