Archive for courts

7 Dem. Redcoats Join All GOP Senators Turning Their Backs On The Constitution

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GOP

GOP

Its was a sad day in Congress yesterday. As I reported, Darrell Issa demonstrated his immature and perhaps disqualifying behavior in a showdown with fellow committee member, Rep. Elijah Cummings. Issa's behavior has him now mocked and ridiculed everywhere except of course, with his main "employer," Fox News.

Elsewhere on the Capitol Hill, the GOP celebrated in infamy a 50th vote to repeal Obamacare. While there hasn't been enough time to vote on a jobs bill, immigration reform or an extension to jobless benefits, Speaker Boehner was able to squeeze in a futile symbolic vote which came up exactly like the last 49 attempts -- without any chance of forward movement. The cost of this clown show of votes in manpower? Millions of dollars in staff hours alone.

Hard as it may be to conceive, there was a greater affront to justice and our Constitution which took place yesterday. It happened in the Senate. The upper house voted on the president's nomination of Debo Adegbile to lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

As Chris Hayes on All In points out, the precedent has been set now. If you have been a practicing attorney and been dealt a high profile case -- and won -- you're not viable for Senate approval as a presidential nominee. By doing your job, and doing it well, you're disqualified.

Our constitution has made clear that as Americans, we have certain rights, though the interpretations vary and that's what drives the religious right and the ultra-right Republicans. They love to hide behind, twist and turn their interpretations of these, especially the right to bear arms,  to freedom of speech and religious beliefs. What they did yesterday was abridge the Bill of Rights -- the sixth amendment. The part of that amendment that I'm referring to "... to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence [sic]."

HuffPo:

All Republicans and a handful of Democrats voted to sink Debo Adegbile’s nomination to lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. The overriding reason for their opposition was that he once represented Mumia Abu-Jamal, a death row inmate convicted 30 years ago of killing a Philadelphia police officer.

Adegbile did not make the decision to take on the case. When he became the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in 2012, the group was already representing Abu-Jamal, and Adegbile continued to do so on a narrow constitutional issue. In other words, he was just doing his job by advocating for his client.

Using this litmus test to disqualify people from high government office, we'd have to veto Conservative hero Chief Justice John Roberts and the late President John Adams. They both defended and successfully gained acquittal for their clients accused of heinous or treasonous crimes. All Adegbile did was seek justice as was his obligation under the law. And he didn't get a guilty man freed, he got the sentence moved from death to life -- both would keep him off the streets. I pause to wonder if this victim of this murder was a black carpenter instead of a white cop if we'd even be having this discussion.

As Chris Hayes commented on the Republicans and Democrats who voted down this nomination based on providing adequate legal defense (and by the way, winning) to a defendant in court, "Shame on you, senators!"

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If Corporations Are People, Too, So Are Chimpanzees. New Scopes Monkey Trial

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Scopes Money Trial plaque

A lot lately has been made over the slippery slope quickly approaching the Supreme Court. In the first quarter of next year, they will hear arguments over religious freedoms guaranteed "we the people" and now seemingly "we the corporations" of America as it relates to healthcare. That is surely to be a wonderful case to watch and their June decision will be landmark level.

But before SCOTUS takes up that battle which will help define corporations status as "people", there's some other monkey business to be heading to the courts. Did I say monkey? I meant to say, "chimp." And now that I think about it, what follows might give the true meaning of a monkey court.

In a string of landmark cases to be filed this week, four chimpanzees will fight for the right to retire to humane sanctuaries. Stop snickering. This is real.

It seems chimps are people too, my friend. And if that's the case, it must mean that evolution is real as well. Think about it. Is this the next Scopes Monkey Trial?

Chimpanzee client

Here's the story of the law suits that are being waged.

A man named Pat Lavery and his wife had first came across Tommy the chimpanzee ten years ago. At the time he was believed to be around 16 years old and was a long time veteran of the entertainment business. Who doesn't like a show biz vet? So the Laverys took Tommy in along with other members of the Chimpanzee family. They sheltered them, fed them, and took care of them.

That was going smoothly until last Monday when Lavery discovered that Tommy, the chimpanzee to whom he has extended his hospitality and an endless supply of bananas for the last decade, had sued him in New York’s Supreme Court.

The Daily Beast picks up here:

The first-of-its-kind lawsuit seeks a writ of habeas corpus, a legal tool used to challenge a person’s imprisonment or detention. It demands Tommy’s immediate release from “illegal detention” and transfer to any of the seven refuges that form the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance—making the 26-year-old chimp the first non-human animal to demand legal rights under common law.

Look, as I prefaced, if a corporation that can't breath, eat, give birth, swing on a vine or peel a banana can be considered a person, why not a chimp?

Acting on Tommy’s behalf is The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), an organization on a mission to have animals recognized in law not just as “things,” but as “persons” with the right—among others—to “bodily liberty.”

Lest you think Tommy's alone in feeling his rights have been infringed upon,

Tommy’s lawsuit, in which the animal is named as a petitioner represented by the NhRP, is the first of three such cases being filed in New York county courts on behalf of four chimps.

The lawsuit claims:

“Chimps are autonomous, they self-determine their own lives, they are extraordinarily social, self-aware beings—behaviors and characteristics that qualify them as persons with a fundamental right to freedom.”

This really boils down to what does a chimp know, feel, smell, sense and experience. If you subscribe to Darwin's theory, they are endowed with all those abilities. We know that Corporations don't contain any of those. Their inanimate. But with a chimp, there seems to be some recognized qualities to their existence which makes you want to give out a Tarzan yell.

Chimpanzees possess a sense of self that developmentally emerges in a manner similar to humans and is highly stable over time. They recognize themselves in mirrors and on television and can use a flashlight to examine the interiors of their own throats in a mirror. Adult chimpanzees recognize photos of themselves as youngsters,” the papers state, citing affidavits from multiple scientists.

Like humans, chimpanzees have a concept of their personal past and future and suffer the pain of not being able to fulfill their needs or move around as they wish,” the court papers state, adding: “Like humans, they experience the pain of anticipating never-ending confinement.

Show me one corporation that experiences those feelings.

I'm not going so far as the suggest chimps qualify for Obamacare, but they do qualify to be treated humanely. And that's what this is all about.

So Mitt Romney and SCOTUS with your Citizen's United finding, you might want to pay special attention to these upcoming chimp cases. As you approach hearing the corporations arguments for religious freedoms, consider Tommy's case could ultimately be kicked up to your court on appeal, or a banana peel. If you give corporations religious rights, what's next? Will you determine whether Tommy's eligible to demand Kosher only foods. Oh, and let's not forget these show biz chimps were paid when employed. Maybe they qualify for social security and unemployment benefits.

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Parents & Courts Condone and Encourage Child Bullying And Harassment

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Levi Null

So this is what society has  come down to. Encourage bullying and terror.

Say you're blessed enough to become a parent. Sadly, your child is born different -- with a disability. Perhaps autism, Asperger Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Tourettes or one of many other afflictions.  Wish, will and pray as you might, you hope that by the time they reach school age, they'll be well enough to attend. To be as much like one of the other kids as possible.

You get to the point that you believe this will be a solution. Perhaps integration into a social environment of school peers will be the panacea. At least, you figure your child will be protected, be kept safe.

But what happens when you realize your prayer isn't answer and hope is not a viable option? You find yourself up sh**s creek without a paddle. You've been deserted. And not just by the kids (who we know can be cruel) but by the teachers and the school officials as well.

How do you stand by when you report your child's abuse to the school and they side with the bullies? How about when they even blame your abused child as bringing it on himself?

Then you, as the heartbroken parent find you're faced with public ostracism over Facebook, blaming you for your child's behavior. Does this seem fair? Just? Right? How do you think you feel when you find the bully kids posting videos on the Internet of  their abuse which also shows teachers in the background witnessing this harassment and just turning their backs?

The cherry on this disgusting sundae comes when the parents of the bullies defend their kid's offensive actions on TV news, and they get hundreds of responses, applauding their support of their bullying kids.

Watch this story of 13 year old Levi Null, from the Melcher-Dallas school district in Texas.

The message here is that sadly, ignorance and inhumanity is passed down from generation to generation. What we do as parents matters. As the parent of both a boy and a girl, I know how hard it was to reprimand them, and I did it sparingly but judiciously. I did it to make them better children. But not doing anything or worse, condoning such bad behavior leads to a total deterioration of society.

Just over a month ago I reported on a 12 year old girl, Rebecca Sedwick in a post on how cyber bullying led her to climb up a grain silo and jump to her death.

HERE'S AN UPDATE on this related story. The two kids who drove Sedwick to her suicide were suspended from school but just yesterday, the court made their determination on any charges, reported by the New York Daily News:

Charges against two Florida girls accused of bullying a 12-year-old former classmate to her eventual suicide will be dropped, local authorities announced Wednesday.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd confirmed Wednesday evening that two of Rebecca Sedwick's accused cyberbullies, 14-year-old Guadalupe Shaw and a 13-year-old girl, will have their charges of aggravated stalking dropped.

Is this the fair signal to send in addressing an epidemic of harassment and bullying?

Parents condone it. Courts refuse to condemn it? Buckle your seat belts. We're in for the proverbial bumpy ride.

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What Rock Has The GOP Been Living Under?

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can't have it both ways

Try as you might, you can't have it both ways. I've learned that over the years, and maybe the Republicans need a remedial course in Arguing 101.

Pick a side. Argue that angle and if you believe you're right, your going to have a better chance at winning the discussion. Try taking both sides, and you're sure to lose at least one.

From The Hill:

Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.) accused President Obama of "betrayal" with the healthcare law in the weekly Republican address, outlining issues his constituents have had with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and urging the president to "take steps to right this wrong."

In his address, Young outlines four Indianans (hardly a huge number) that have either lost their coverage due to the implementation of ObamaCare or have had trouble signing up for health care on the enrollment website

Let's just take a look at this. Breakdown -- Rep. Young is unhappy with the law so he should be thrilled with this news. People, despite the President's assurances, aren't able to keep their plan and they're not able to sign up for the new one. That's a perfect scenario for the dissolution of the law. You stop there. You win.

But, here's where the GOP and Rep Young go astray. They want the plan fixed. Well, if it gets fixed, and the promises the President made are delivered, then you lose. If the ACA fails, the GOP wins. If ACA succeeds, the GOP fails.

Let it flounder, blame the Democrats and have the people turn against it. If it gets fixed, there's no chance of removing it from the books. Just look at Social Security and Medicare.

home improvement before and after

Let's say you're the GOP and your partner is the Democrats. Together you purchase a house (ACA) and you start suffering from buyer's remorse. You feel your partner pushed you into it. Unless you can find some valid issues, you're contractually stuck. What do you do? You start picking apart some of the issues you have with it. The seller (Obama) and your partner (the Dems) actually agree there're some problems which the seller sets out to correct.

The owner calls in his contractors (Sebelius and the IT group) to fix the loose boards on the porch, slaps on a new coat of paint, replaces the leaky faucet in the kitchen and he's even willing to put in a new, low-volume flush toilet in the master bath. You still want out but contractually you can't because it's the law and all of your issues have been fixed. Besides that, your partner is happy and loves the new place.

You still don't want to give up. There's one last chance. You go to court of public opinion who you hope will rule in your favor. The jury visits the newly renovated house and they love it. They think it's great. So there's only one verdict they can render. They vote against you and find for the seller. To add insult to injury, a few of them that are interested in buying a house inquire if the seller has any other properties for sale.

So perhaps the GOP and the Tea Party might learn from that. If they want Obamacare repealed, they first have to convince the jury. So stop pointing out the flaws and hope that on it's own, the house will tumble. Because the more items you point out need fixing, the more the seller (Obama) and your partner (the Democrats) will repair them and it'll succeed. You'll lose for sure.

GOP, maybe it's time accept for you to stake out a claim in what is sure to be a success story and add a few flowers to the front yard. Put out the for sale sign and maybe even make a profit by selling it and moving on. People then might even start to give you credit for the improvement you made to the neighborhood and say "lets see where those Republicans are going next. They know how to fix things up and make a profit. They might be good for the economy."

Right now, you GOP are looking like potential losers.

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ENDA: Times Have Changed, So Have The Votes

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enda

WaPo:

The Senate passed historic gay rights legislation Thursday to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace, another victory for the gay rights movement that has been gaining favor in the courts and electoral politics.

Senators voted 64 to 32 to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

One could ask, "What took so long?" Then again, it's better late than never.

Back in 1996 there was a bill brought to the Senate floor, very similar to ENDA. Two senators, Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) who were both serving back then, voted no. Today they voted yes.

In the words of Bob Dylan, "Times they are a changin'." At least they are for some people.

The largest battle is yet to come, the House of Representatives. Their consternation boils down to one man, Speaker and anti-gay rights activist, John Boehner. If he brings it up for a vote, it's most likely to pass. But he has already said he won't allow a vote on this issue.

Why?

Well, when you're looking for bogus excuses, John Boehner's America's man. He's never met a lie or dissemination of inaccurate information that didn't please the Boehner. The government shut down was all his doing because of his ignorance and obstinance. I'm not sure of the exact proportions of each, but they were his two major ingredients.

Boehner's pre-offered protestation number one was that giving protection to the LGBT community would cause a rush of frivolous lawsuits at a huge expense to the business community. Isn't that for the courts to decide? So Boehner's now assuming the role of Chief Justice, not just Speaker of the House.

His next foray into dissing the bill is that it's already covered under the law. Well, that's not true.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in many more aspects of the employment relationship. It applies to most employers engaged in interstate commerce with more than 15 employees, labor organizations, and employment agencies.The Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Sex includes pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.

It DOES NOT PROHIBIT DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION. Therein lies the rub and the reason for this bill. When this was pointed out to Boehner, he went to his next excuse.

He postures this law affects employment by churches and other religious organizations. Well, first off Boehner, they shouldn't be discriminating under any circumstances -- but let's give you that one. But just for a second.  Okay, your second is up.

The senate added an amendment to their bill authored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).  It was approved with the bill and prevents state and local governments from taking legal action against religious groups that take advantage of the bill’s religious exemption clause.

So now, it's going to be your turn, Mr. Speaker. Let's see what kind of American you are. Are you one who believes that all men are created equal and should have equal protections under the law, or are you a GOP hypocrite?

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What The Hell Is Net Neutrality?

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Net-Neutrality-all-bits

Wired:

Net neutrality is a dead man walking. The execution date isn't set, but it could be days, or months (at best). And since net neutrality is the principle forbidding huge telecommunications companies from treating users, websites, or apps differently — say, by letting some work better than others over their pipes — the dead man walking isn't some abstract or far-removed principle just for wonks: It affects the internet as we all know it.

Okay, so how does that affect me? Are we facing a shutdown or what?

Not a shutdown -- but the Internet super highway is about to erect toll booths.

toll booths

We obviously have net neutrality at the moment. Because of it I don't have to wait longer for one site to download than another. Competition as to the fastest provider, Google, FireFox, Yahoo, AOL -- it's pretty much the same. I have choices, but I don't have to pay more or less to use one over the other.

But for how long?

Not much, if the court goes the way it's leaning. And that's going to mean big changes -- subtle at first, but costly over the long run for we, the consumers. At the same time, it'll ring up obscene profits for the telecoms.

First, this opens the door to fees charged you for data uploads, downloads and speed of access. We had those once and net neutrality pretty much did away with those.

Then let's say you like to visit your favorite site. If they don't pay a fee, it may take longer to download them than another similar site and you might go away to their competition. Or our carriers may instill a surcharge on us to be downloaded at a faster speed or more available to some search engines than others.

This is a real threat. Let's say you like to get your up to the minute sports scores from ESPN.com. They may be deep pocketed enough to pay a large fee not to speed up their delivery, but to slow down full access for other sports reporting outlets by making usury demands for their accessibility and availability.

And don't forget the door this opens to advertising revenues. If you're already tired of the ads embedded in many video clips, how about having to watch one before you can open every one of your emails? Texts. Tweets. Instagrams.

Also, telecom providers will, if this law changes, make it harder for reuse and access to news and information. That might hurt Rand Paul in his speech stealing endeavors, but it also hurts small independents who need to rely on major news gathering outlets to bring you timely and complete stories. Rebroadcast of clips and even some YouTube entries may become impossible.

We're not talking about copyrights, though they are affected. We're talking about the potential for locations like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram and YouTube to charge fees for numbers of tweets sent or received, messages posted or even accessed. They can start institution of levels - The Gold level allows unlimited access while Silver allows less posts or comments and the most costly, ala carte pricing.

be scaredA huge commercial door is about to be opened and it's frightening.

...companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and others declared a war on the internet’s foundational principle: that its networks should be “neutral” and users don’t need anyone’s permission to invent, create, communicate, broadcast, or share online. The neutral and level playing field provided by permissionless innovation has empowered all of us with the freedom to express ourselves and innovate online without having to seek the permission of a remote telecom executive.

But today, that freedom won’t survive much longer if a federal court — the second most powerful court in the nation behind the Supreme Court, the DC Circuit — is set to strike down the nation’s net neutrality law, a rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010.

This is something  that we all need to watch. We've been blessed with net neutrality for some time now. And we can't afford to lose it. It's a freedom that should be as dear to us as the first amendment -- freedom of speech.

As we saw with the striking down of the Citizens United case, individuals rights are being trumped by big business and political committees fronting for specific special interests. This could soon hit us all. Our favorite sites could be forced into financial hardship or even worse, extinction.

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Why Are Prisons Burgeoning And Who's Profiting?

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Federal Prisons

This past week, I met a Latino fellow who had done some time, about three months in jail, for a non-violent drug related crime. He had been caught with three ounces of marijuana, twenty Vicodin pills and an ounce of cocaine. He didn't have the resources for a private attorney so his public defender represented him. In a plea bargain, he got six months in country lockup for a felony possession of narcotics charge and he served his time.

It turns out he was very interesting to talk to, because until then, he had been a law abiding citizen. And if you saw him on the street, you'd never know this man was a felon. I always thought these guys were seedy, easy to pick out of a crowd types of people. He was an engineer. And he really poses no threat to us. But his "crime" did cost a lot of tax payer money to keep him behind bars. It got me to thinking, especially when I read this article in Friday's HuffPo.

Chris Kirkham reports:

Because of punitive drug laws, drug offenders still make up more than 46 percent of the federal prison system, according to the Department of Justice. Immigrants are the third-highest category of offenders, at 11 percent. But this year, more than 60 percent of all federal criminal convictions have been for immigration-related crimes, federal data show.

So, with a little help from the National Association of State Budget Officers, I found this interesting bit of information:

In 2007, around $74 billion was spent on corrections. The total number of inmates in 2007 in federal, state, and local lockups was 2,419,241. That comes to around $30,600 per inmate.

Let's put that in perspective:

In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education. In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons, versus $5.7 billion on higher education..... The state spends $8,667 per student per year. It spends about $50,000 per inmate per year.

I understand the need for incarceration, especially for violent crimes. The guy or gal who embezzled money, received child pornography or sold some marijuana doesn't quite rank up there as the same risk as armed thieves, rapists, and killers.

Here are some numbers from the Office of National Drug Control Policy:

Violent crime was not responsible for the quadrupling of the incarcerated population in the United States from 1980 to 2003. Violent crime rates had been relatively constant or declining over those decades. The prison population was increased primarily by public policy changes causing more prison sentences and lengthening time served, e.g. through mandatory minimum sentencing, "three strikes" laws, and reductions in the availability of parole or early release.

Maybe there's some logic there -- book  more of them and keep them longer. Well, we do need to be protected.

These policies were championed as protecting the public from serious and violent offenders, but instead yielded high rates of confinement for nonviolent offenders. Nearly three quarters of new admissions to state prison were convicted of nonviolent crimes. 49 percent of sentenced state inmates were held for violent offenses.

Huh? Our policies are increasing the number of non-violent offenders? At $50K per prisoner, per year? I'm not so sure I like that. The huge increase in what we tax payers are coughing up and seeing spent is money to incarcerate mostly drug users, sellers, and undocumented men and women.  In many cases, people who've committed one of two crimes -- a drug offense or crossing the border without the proper papers. These non-violent discretions hardly call for multi-year incarcerations. I'm getting a whiff of scam here -- and I'm feeling like the victim.

Again, from Chris Kirkham's expose:

The Federal government is embarking on an unprecedented campaign to criminally prosecute undocumented immigrants crossing the border. The result: A new wave of non-violent offenders are flooding the nation's prisons.

"This is the crime du jour," said Judith Greene, director of the nonprofit Justice Strategies, which has focused on the private prison industry's growing reliance on incarcerating undocumented immigrants. "It's the drug war all over again. It's what's driving the market in federal prisons."

Damn, that translates to a lot of money. My money. Your money. Smells like someone's making big bucks here. But whom?

Immigration offenders represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the federal prison population, providing a lucrative market for private prison corporations that largely control these inmates in the system. Over the last decade, revenue from the federal prison system has more than tripled for the GEO Group and nearly doubled for Corrections Corp. of America -- the two companies that dominate the private prison industry.

This is outrageous. We're supporting private prisons? For undocumented entrants to our country? Isn't it cheaper to  just deport them -- which the Obama administration is doing at a record pace? I'm not a big fan of deportation, but I do realize that a "crime" has been committed. But do I have to overpay for their discretion? I think not.

Let's consider some alternatives, and more money for education and less for rounding up undocumented people who are not costing us nearly what the US government is charging us to incarcerate and deport them.

lady_justice

Some common sense here -- Prisons in California (alone) are allocated $9.6 billion. Education in California receives $5.7 billion. I'm for tipping the scales the other way.

Yes, by all  means incarcerate violent criminals, and probably recidivists of non-violent crimes. But let's not put drug users and undocumented visitors in the same cages or categories. We all expect protection. Not subsidies for private prisons. With a sane justice code, we wouldn't be building more prisons, we'd be building more schools.

Ask yourself this, do we need more prisoners of non-violent crimes or more teachers and schools which lower the numbers of violent crimes? Prevention, not overpriced incarceration, is my suggestion.

Speak up and speak out. Revise justice. Improve education.

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