Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Testimony of Pete Seeger before the House Un-American Activities Committee, August 18, 1955

This is how you stand up to abuse of power.
. . . Mr. TAVENNER: The Committee has information obtained in part from the Daily Worker indicating that, over a period of time, especially since December of 1945, you took part in numerous entertainment features. I have before me a photostatic copy of the June 20, 1947, issue of the Daily Worker. In a column entitled “What’s On” appears this advertisement: “Tonight—Bronx, hear Peter Seeger and his guitar, at Allerton Section housewarming.” May I ask you whether or not the Allerton Section was a section of the Communist Party? Mr. SEEGER: Sir, I refuse to answer that question whether it was a quote from the New York Times or the Vegetarian Journal.
Mr. TAVENNER: I don’t believe there is any more authoritative document in regard to the Communist Party than its official organ, the Daily Worker.
Mr. SCHERER: He hasn’t answered the question, and he merely said he wouldn’t answer whether the article appeared in the New York Times or some other magazine. I ask you to direct the witness to answer the question.
Chairman WALTER: I direct you to answer.
Mr. SEEGER: Sir, the whole line of questioning—

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Legislators Urge Firing Squads, Electrocutions, And Gas Chamber To Thwart Delayed Executions

For some lawmakers, nothing will stop their commitment to the death penalty. International drug companies have refused to provide their drugs for U.S. executions over moral opposition. Courts have held up executions as litigation moves forward over alternative injection drugs to skirt those restrictions. And states like Ohio that are moving forward with the death penalty using a new untried drug that left an inmate gasping for 25 minutes are sure to face more legal challenges going forward.

So they have other ideas, even as the death penalty is falling out of favor nationwide. In Missouri, the state whose attorney general has already proposed the revival of gas chambers and secured court approval of secret lethal cocktail manufacturing, lawmakers are now proposing a bill to bring back firing squads. Wyoming is also floating a firing squads measure, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. And a Virginia bill that would bring back electrocution passed the Virginia House this week. Virginia is one of several states that now permit death by electric chair only by inmate request.

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Acknowledge That Rape Is Rape and 5 Other Steps to Combat Sexual Violence

President Obama commendably convened a task force to address the rampant rape and sexual assault incidents that are "an affront to our basic decency and humanity. And it's about all of us -- the safety of those we love most: our moms, our wives, our daughters and our sons."

Herewith from my 20 years in advocacy for women and children are my suggestions for the council:

1. Acknowledge That Rape is Rape
One would think this would be obvious -- but one would be wrong.
A minority of people with a grasp on power believes that only a "legitimate" rape results in pregnancy. We know why some conservatives say this -- they want to deny birth control, morning after pills/emergency contraception and abortion options to women, so minimizing the effects of rape means minimizing those women's health options. We heard this from Todd Akin, Paul Ryan and Mike Huckabee, who defended Akin then and attacks Democrats now for (falsely) believing that women are "victims of their gender" who need to get contraception from "Uncle Sugar" to control our "libidos."

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AG Eric Holder Against Clemency For Snowden, For It For Marc Rich

US Attorney General Eric Holder has an interesting standard for clemency. Last week Holder said he was open to having a discussion on giving the whistleblower Edward Snowden a reduced sentence but that full clemency was “going too far.” And to some degree it would be inconsistent given the Obama Administration’s wild and outrageous attack on whistleblowers and journalists for Holder to say anything different.

But while Holder has become notorious for going soft on Wall Street as Attorney General, as Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration he was part of one of the most controversial pardons in American history. A pardon so odious many thought it would disqualify Holder from becoming AG in the first place.

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Congressman’s U.S. Senate Campaign Is Giving Away An Assault Rifle

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) has made a career out of appealing to a certain sense of conservative grievance. He once labeled the Civil War the “War of Yankee Aggression.” He offered legislation to defund a key prong of the Voting Rights Act (a goal that the Roberts Court was happy to achieve for him). And he’s warned that a “socialistic elite” that includes President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders are looking for an excuse to declare martial law — “[t]hey’re trying to develop an environment where they can take over,” in Broun’s words.

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There Has Been An Average Of One School Shooting Every Other School Day So Far This Year

The tragic pace of school shootings continues unabated for another week. On January 28, authorities responded to reports of shots being fired at Roosevelt High School in Honolulu Hawaii at around 8:30am HST (1:30pm EST). One student was shot in the wrist and transported to a local hospital and is listed in serious condition, and police say they have a suspect in custody. The school was placed on lockdown immediately, and students were sent home shortly after the situation had been resolved.
This brings the total number of school shootings to nine in just 18 school days so far this year.

Last year was supposed to be a year of action to curb gun violence in our schools. But three weeks into the new year, statistics suggest that the problem could actually be worsening.

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Do hard times spark more crime?

As concern about economic inequality rises to the top of the issue agenda, it is instructive to note that the upturn in poverty of recent years has not been accompanied by a rise in violent crime. To the contrary, since 2008, unemployment and homicides have been inversely related.

Is this a puzzling anomaly? Most people assume that hard times cause crime spikes. They reason, plausibly enough, that financial pressures — as a consequence of, say, becoming unemployed — lead to stress, anger and violence.

Many criminologists agree. The "strain theory" of crime holds that high or rising unemployment and poverty rates may be indicators of increasingly unequal opportunities, and that periods of sharply unequal opportunity are likely to produce more crime.

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This is an op-ed from the LATimes.  Tom

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Friday, January 17, 2014

4 Charts That Illustrate The Bleak State Of Abortion Rights In The U.S.

On Tuesday, NARAL Pro-Choice America released its annual report, “Who Decides?“, to provide an overview of the status of abortion rights across the country. The group didn’t give the U.S. very high marks. Twenty five states scored a failing grade on NARAL’s reproductive rights report card, giving the country an average score of just a “D.” The new scorecard comes on the heels of a separate report that awarded the U.S. an only slightly more generous “C-” grade on similar measures of reproductive health.

“In 2013, once again, we saw a litany of attacks against reproductive freedom in state legislatures across the country,” the group’s president, Ilyse Hogue, writes in a preface to the report. “In an environment of constant attacks on reproductive freedom, we play a lot of defense.”

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Why Abortion Clinics Need Buffer Zones

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in a case that could ultimately determine whether women across the country can maintain safe access to abortion clinics. Depending how the justices rule on McCullen v. Coakley, cities and states may no longer be allowed to enact buffer zones around reproductive health care facilities — a policy that abortion providers say is critical for ensuring the safety of their patients and staff, since protests outside of clinics often turn violent.

Earlier this week, the New York Times and the Associated Press both profiled Eleanor McCullen, the 77-year-old plaintiff in the legal challenge who has become the face of the current Supreme Court battle. McCullen says that buffer zones violate her free speech rights, and points out that she’s hardly a threat to women entering health facilities. “I am 5 feet 1 inch tall,” McCullen said in a filed statement for the case. “My body type can be described as ‘plump.’ I am a mother and grandmother.”

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The Convention and the Damage Done

The Republican National Convention came to New York City in 2004. The event was mostly unmarred by chaos or violence, unless you count the damage inflicted by the New York Police Department to the constitutional rights of innocent people swept up in mass arrests.

Videos from a protest on Fulton Street show marchers being peaceable and orderly. Some hold signs as they shuffle along a Lower Manhattan sidewalk while officers scream and scold and threaten arrest. The main reaction from the crowd is bafflement, then dismay. The police cast a wide net — literally in some cases, with orange netting — and indiscriminately swept up demonstrators, bystanders, reporters and photographers. Many were held for hours at a makeshift prison on Pier 57, which was given the nickname “Guantánamo on the Hudson.”

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New Execution Methods Can’t Disguise Same Old Death Penalty Problems

Ohio made history today by becoming the first state to use the two-drug combination of midazolam and hydromorphone in the execution of Dennis McGuire. State officials decided to use this experimental combination of powerful sedatives and painkillers after supplies of approved execution drugs ran dry. These shortages have caused other states to begin using experimental and downright dangerous methods to carry out executions.

One of the most popular alternatives has been for states to seek out drugs from compounding pharmacies. These drugs are made to order and have no accountability measures or oversight from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the drugs work as they are intended. The result—some, if not all, batches of drugs from compounding pharmacies may be ineffective and would not have passed traditional FDA approval. This greatly increases the risk that the condemned will experience torturous pain while they are executed. Even those who may strongly agree with the death penalty must admit that conducting state business in secret without accountability is no way for government to run. Even if execution itself has not (yet) been found a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s ban on “cruel” and unusual punishment, certainly a torturous death using experimental drug combinations is.

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How The Criminal Justice System Is Racializing Our Democracy

The United States imprisons a higher percentage of its black population than apartheid South Africa did. Black men have a one-in-three chance of being incarcerated at one point in their lives, and receive sentences 20 percent longer than whites on-average when they are.

That this state of affairs is manifestly unfair should be obvious. But the unfairnesses may be deeper and more devastating than you think: the criminal justice system may well be undermining black Americans’ access to political power and life altogether.

At least, that’s what Vesla Weaver believes. A professor of political science at Yale, Weaver and her colleague, philosopher Jason Stanley, argued that the disproportionate targeting of black Americans by police is undermining their faith in the democratic system, turning our nation into a “racial democracy” where only some groups of people feel free to engage in political life. For instance, Weaver’s research finds that Americans who were incarcerated even for a short spell are a whopping 22 percent less likely to vote, even after accounting for the millions of people barred from voting after a felony conviction. The high rate of black incarceration, then, directly undermines the ability of black communities to elect leaders willing to fight for racial equality.

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Contempt of cop, America's defiance revolution

Increasingly, and openly, ordinary Americans are committing a legal act that some police nonetheless regard as among the most heinous of all offences: it's called contempt of cop.
 
It's otherwise known as asserting your constitutional rights.

Citizens, feeling empowered, are pointing smartphones, rather than just an accusing finger, at abusive authorities.

Civil libertarians with hidden cameras are challenging the so-called "suspicion-less" roadblocks that police set up to catch lawbreakers. Motorists and others are fighting back in the courts and online against police shakedown rackets on U.S. highways and elsewhere.

Everywhere, it seems, Americans are openly challenging arbitrary behaviour by those in authority.

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Growing up behind bars

"It could have been anyone in this courtroom. Your mother. Your lawyer. It could have been me." The judge drilled down on the random murder of a woman for her car. Edel Gonzalez, a diminutive 38-year-old man, sat shackled in a prison jumpsuit before the bench and nodded in agreement. "It was brutal," the judge repeated with force.

This was not your typical sentencing hearing. It was a historic moment. As the judge talked to the defendant, whispering in the courtroom stopped. The attorneys didn't move, and the guard faded back against the wall. This was a conversation between two people: a judge and a man convicted of murder.

But that man was a boy when the murder was committed in 1991. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. The United States is the only country that imposes life without parole on people under 18, and in California more than 330 such offenders have received this sentence. Edel was 16 at the time of his crime, and in December, he was back in court as the first case under a new California law.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Marijuana Legalization May Win the West

One week after the nation's first recreational marijuana stores opened in Colorado, Alaska activists submitted what appear to be enough signatures to put marijuana legalization before voters. The measure – which would go up for a vote Aug. 19 – is one of several 2014 efforts that could yield a good year for pot supporters, particularly in the West.

So far, voters have been at the vanguard of legalization, blowing past state legislatures. In November 2012, more than 55 percent of Colorado and Washington voters approved initiatives to legalize the drug and open state-licensed stores – and polls suggest those successes may be replicated elsewhere.

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Will Chris Christie’s Former Aide Be Convicted Of A Crime For Refusing To Testify?

Aiming to get to the bottom of the developing bridge scandal emanating from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), the New Jersey State Assembly called Christie appointee David Wildstein to testify Thursday. Wildstein, a high school classmate of Christie’s who stepped down as director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in December, invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, prompting the the legislature to hold him in contempt.

Wildstein’s silence on even the most basic questions has led many to conclude that he has something to hide. But guilt or innocence notwithstanding, what of Wildstein’s constitutional rights? Can he be held in contempt for staying silent? In all likelihood, Wildstein will not ultimately be convicted, given the extensive protection of the Fifth Amendment.

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A Judicial Nominee Rejected Due To Racial Insensitivity Has A Veto Over All Alabama Federal Judges

Nearly 30 years ago, the sitting United States Attorney for the state of Alabama lost his chance to become a federal judge due to concerns about his views on race. Among other things, he’d labeled the NAACP an “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” organization that “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” He’d conducted a tenuous criminal investigation into voting rights advocates, culminating in an unsuccessful prosecution against a former aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And an African American attorney who once worked for him testified that the nominee said that he “used to think [the KKK] were OK” until he found out some of them were “pot smokers,” that the nominee referred to his black subordinate as “boy,” and that the nominee had told the black attorney to “be careful what you say to white folks” after the nominee heard the attorney chastising a white secretary.

We’re talking, of course, about United States Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-AL).

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American Privacy Is Vanishing as the Government and Corporations Raid Our Online Lives

 Was 2013 the year online privacy died? Or was it the year that people paying attention realized that their online lives—and all their data and communications—was low-hanging fruit that was being picked and parsed by big government and big business.
  
Edward Snowden’s theft of what’s now said to be 1.7 million files showed the world that America’s spymasters were grabbing everything that passed between smart phones, Wi-Fi signals, laptops, and those devices’ contents: account log-ins, passwords, etc. As 2014 began, The Washington Post reported that the National Security Agency was building “a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world.”

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Californians Rally Today to Denounce Plan to Spend a Half a Billion Dollars to Build and Maintain More Prisons


 
On Friday, Californians across the state will gather in key regions to rally and condemn California Governor Jerry Brown’s newly released 2014-15 budget proposal, which will increase the amount the state spends on prisons. Brown’s proposal would raise the Corrections Department budget from $9.2 billion to $9.8 billion, nearly 10 percent of the entire state budget, and allocate $500 million to building more county jails.

Part of Brown’s motivation to expand prisons throughout the state is to meet a 2009 order to lower the inmate population to 137.5 percent of the prisons’ designed capacities to reduce overcrowding. Brown has failed to meet the 2013 deadline for this prisoner reduction and has asked the court for a two-year extension. But instead of focusing on reducing the state’s number of prisoners, Brown has plans to build nearly 6,000 new prison beds. Diana Zuñiga, statewide field organizer of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), said that there are also talks of building three new prison facilities that would cost $810 million to construct, which would then be double due to interest payments as well as cost $100,000 each year to upkeep.

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It’s Time to End ‘Broken Windows’ Policing

One of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first acts after being elected this past November was to reappoint William Bratton as commissioner of New York City’s police department. Bratton’s reputation rests on his work, in New York and Los Angeles, as a proponent of so-called “broken windows” policing. He asserts that aggressively going after very minor offenses—not merely misdemeanors but infractions like littering, sitting on stoops and carrying open beer cans—will bring the overall rate of violent crime down as well. It is this program that has led to the stopping, frisking and general harassing of millions of New Yorkers, the overwhelming majority without probable cause.

There were 4.4 million stops by the NYPD between 2004 and 2012. Ten percent of those stops were of whites, 84 percent were of blacks and Latinos. Of those 4.4 million stops, only 6 percent led to an arrest, 6 percent to a summons. The remaining 88 percent resulted in no other action—in other words, they involved unequivocally innocent people.

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Dirty Tricks, Traffic Studies, And Why Sociopaths Flourish In Politics

“Is it wrong that I’m smiling?” one Chris Christie staffer asked another after closing a major bridge to a punish town whose Mayor didn’t endorse the New Jersey Governor’s reelection bid. “No,” the other aide wrote back. This is what passes for a “traffic study” in the Christie administration, apparently.

If the aides’ discussion strikes you as a horrifying way to talk about a decision that hurts thousands of people, you’re not alone: that’s one of the reasons this scandal seems to be so devastating for Chris Christie’s political future. It plays into the House of Cards stereotype about politicians and political operatives, that they care about power above all else, including the welfare of their constituents.

As it turns out, this stereotype has some basis in fact. According to solid psychological research and theory, politicians often end up possessing qualities common in sociopaths — or simply are sociopaths themselves. And while it’s not possible to identify the psychology behind the actions of Christie or his staff, the sheer callousness of their rhetoric presents a good opportunity to examine whether political leaders and operatives more broadly have an empathy problem. The answer appears to be yes.

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

What Justice Nadon’s appointment says about the Supreme Court’s future

At 62, Justice Marc Nadon of Ottawa had reached the magic number.
His age plus his 18 years in the Federal Court’s trial and appeal divisions added up to 80 – allowing him the option to work about half his usual hours and still receive his full pay of $288,100. An option he took. To mark the transition, he took four weeks off for a southern holiday, then returned to a lightened workload.

But his break wasn’t to last. This fall, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Justice Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada – not only ending his career’s twilight but putting him into what is turning out to be a glaring spotlight. Instead of the usual praise for such appointments, the legal community reponded with shock, and vocal displeasure.

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NSA Statement - No denial they are spying on Congress

Whenever you're ready, dear Congressional members. We're all waiting for you to show some balls here. Just wondering how much more it's going to take:
The National Security Agency on Saturday released a statement in answer to questions from a senator about whether it “has spied, or is … currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials”, in which it did not deny collecting communications from legislators of the US Congress to whom it says it is accountable.
Yes, Congress, they're spying on you too:

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In 2013, Death Penalty Rarely Doled Out To Those Whose Crimes Include Minority Victims

Of the 39 executions performed in 2013, the overwhelming majority involved a crime with a white victim. The statistics from the Death Penalty Information Center show the continued racial bias of death penalty imposition, even as it becomes a decreasingly common punishment. While 32 of the 39 executions involved a white victim, just one white person was executed for killing only a black man. This defendant, Robert Gleason, was one of just four people who “volunteered” to be executed by waiving his appeals. Here’s how it breaks down:

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Mass Shootings Are Becoming More Frequent

After a man opened fire at Los Angeles’s airport a few months ago, friends and coworkers undoubtedly turned to each other shaking their heads: Could this really be happening again, so soon? Are these things getting more frequent, or am I imagining it?

You’re not imagining it, according to a new study obtained by Yahoo! News on Thursday. The report, which is set for release in a Federal Bureau of Investigations bulletin next week, finds that mass shootings have indeed become more common. They have spiked from five a year between 2000 and 2008 to 16 a year from 2009 to 2012.

The report also sheds some light on who is committing mass shootings, and how: 94 percent of gunmen are men, though they range significantly in age. Forty percent of mass shootings happen at businesses, while 29 percent take place at schools. Fifty-nine percent of the time, the gunmen use handguns, and 26 percent of the time rifles.

They claim, on average, two lives.

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Need-Blind Justice

FIFTY years ago, in Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court ruled that poor people accused of serious crimes were entitled to lawyers paid for by the government. But the court did not say how the lawyers should be chosen, how much they should be paid or how to make sure they defended their clients with vigor and care.

This created a simple problem and a complicated one. The simple one is that many appointed lawyers are not paid enough to allow them to do their jobs. The solution to that problem is money. 

The complicated problem is that the Gideon decision created attorney-client relationships barely worthy of the name, between lawyers with conflicting incentives and clients without choices. Now a judge in Washington State and a county in Texas are trying to address that deeper problem in ways that have never been tried in the United States. 

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Rampant Prosecutorial Misconduct

In the justice system, prosecutors have the power to decide what criminal charges to bring, and since 97 percent of cases are resolved without a trial, those decisions are almost always the most important factor in the outcome. That is why it is so important for prosecutors to play fair, not just to win. This obligation is embodied in the Supreme Court’s 1963 holding in Brady v. Maryland, which required prosecutors to provide the defense with any exculpatory evidence that could materially affect a verdict or sentence.

Yet far too often, state and federal prosecutors fail to fulfill that constitutional duty, and far too rarely do courts hold them accountable. Last month, Alex Kozinski, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, issued the most stinging indictment of this systemic failure in recent memory. “There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land,” Judge Kozinski wrote in dissent from a ruling against a man who argued that prosecutors had withheld crucial evidence in his case. “Only judges can put a stop to it.” 

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Checkpoint freedom

I wrote about this incident when it happened because of the malicious use of tasers, but this article discusses it in the context of "internal security checkpoints" and the growing civil disobedience against it:

During a routine trip from San Diego to Phoenix in 2009, Pastor Steven Anderson was stopped at an internal immigration checkpoint about 70 miles from the Mexican border. A stern-looking Border Patrol agent asked Anderson to provide proof of citizenship and requested permission to search his car.

The persistent pastor declined both, citing his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He then asked to be allowed to go on his way. The request was denied.

After a period of dithering, agents announced that a police dog had alerted to potential contraband in the vehicle. They instructed Anderson to pull over into a secondary inspection area. The pastor repeatedly refused, at which point a Border Patrol agent and a state police officer simultaneously broke both windows of his car and shot the pastor with Tasers from each side, delivering lengthy and repeated shocks while Anderson repeatedly screamed in agony.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

10 Disruptors: People Who Really Shook Up the System in 2013

Americans live in a country lorded over by corporate and banking power. Our big business culture is accompanied by a pervasive and extraordinarily expensive military dominating the globe, ensuring our economic hegemony and protecting our interests. Meanwhile, there is a steady push to privatize as much of the public sector for private profit as achievable, especially in the education sphere.
 
In addition, the intelligentsia, the hipsters and the most progressive people embrace the corrupt company that is Apple; we are seduced by the beautiful functionality and design of its products, ignoring the fact that Apple is a corporation that is not friendly to America. Despite its rank at the top of the most profitable corporations, Apple gives almost no money to charity—a legacy of Steve Jobs—and as  Business Insider describes: Apple avoids $17 million in taxes everyday "through a ballsy... tax avoidance scheme." 
 
As consumers we often shop and eat at huge companies like Walmart, Dardens and McDonald's—companies that don't pay their employees living wages, or remotely what they could, given the  historic profits they're earning

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14 Shocking Global Human Rights Violations of 2013


From rampant violence and sexual abuse against women, to the commission of crimes against humanity by dictators, 2013 was a year filled with pervasive human rights violations worldwide. Government response to the atrocities was disappointing, marked by lack of transparency and accountability, blatant malevolence and a disregard for human life. Yet, international human rights advocates remained tenacious, inciting massive protests and public condemnation in an effort to demand an end to the culture of impunity. Here are some of most outrageous travesties of justice that captured our attention and had us up in arms this year.

1. Unsafe labor conditions in Bangladesh led to world’s worst garment industry tragedy as thousands died in horrific building collapse.

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5 of 2013's Most Enraging Moments in Drug War Racism


The drug war is full of  racism and hypocrisy. It's hard to argue against that reality. People intoxicate themselves, both illegally and legally, at much the same rates across racial lines. Similarly, the drug trade is an equal opportunity employer and the demographic breakdown for sellers is more or less racially balanced. So, why do the vast majority of people who are arrested, punished and incarcerated for drugs happen to be black or Latino?
 
From their inception, anti-drug laws were created and enforced in ways that deliberately targeted minorities and marginalized people.  Michelle Alexander has done an excellent job of breaking down racism and the drug war in her seminal book, "The New Jim Crow." 
 
 

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It’s Time to Close New York’s School-to-Prison Pipeline

Incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio does not lack for issues demanding his immediate attention. Among them are the historic levels of income inequality and homelessness, as well as the matter of a militarized police force and its abuse of power, particularly with regard to communities of color. So he certainly has his work cut out for him. But if he wishes to address many of these urgent issues at the same time while also tackling something of great importance in its own right, a major priority for his administration should be closing the school-to-prison pipeline—the name given to a set of regressive, “zero tolerance” policies that frequently end up pushing students into the criminal justice system instead of through school.

In May of last year, the New York Times editorial board described the situation as follows: “School officials across the country responded to a surge in juvenile crime during the 1980s and the Columbine High School shootings a decade later by tightening disciplinary policies and increasing the number of police patrolling public schools. One unfortunate result has been the creation of a repressive environment in which young people are suspended, expelled or even arrested over minor misbehaviors—like talking back or disrupting class—that would once have been handled by the principal.”

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Just Kids

When Stacey Torrance was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in a Philadelphia courtroom in 1988, the sentence seemed somewhat unusual. First of all, life in prison is typically reserved for perpetrators of violent crime. And while someone had been killed during the chain of events that landed Torrance in front of a judge, Torrance hadn’t planned or participated in the killing. Torrance had agreed to lure Alexander Porter, the brother of a friend, to an older acquaintance who planned to steal Porter’s keys and then burgle the home of Porter’s father. But instead of simply stealing Porter’s keys, the older acquaintance, along with an accomplice Torrance had never met, tied him up and threw him into the trunk of their car. Torrance, too, was tied up–something he had not agreed to. Torrance was then taken to his mother’s home and released. Porter was driven away and eventually killed by Torrance’s older acquaintances, who were later tried for first-degree murder and eventually sentenced to a lifetime in prison.

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Chief Justice Warns Sequestration Cuts Already Threatening Public Safety

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, in his annual Year-End Report on the State of the Federal Judiciary, blasted the 2011 Budget Control Act’s automatic “sequestration” federal spending cuts and warned that the cuts to the federal court system’s budget “pose a genuine threat to public safety.”

Roberts, appointed to the Supreme Court in 2005 by President George W. Bush, listed “adequate funding for the Judiciary” as the “single most important issue facing the courts” and offered a Dickensian look at the federal judiciary past, present, and future.

Conceding that balanced budgets are important, Roberts blasted the Draconian sequester — cuts that came after nearly a decade of belt-tightening by the judicial branch. Because they had previously reduced costs significantly, the $350 million in new across-the-board cuts have already made it difficult for justice to be protected, Roberts argued, noting that “because virtually all of their core functions are constitutionally and statutorily required,” the courts have little discretion over what they spend:

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Ten Travesties Of Justice In 2013

Every year, stories emerge that serve as a reminder that the American system of justice means injustice for too many, with some receiving little or no punishment for egregious offenses, while others receive harsh or faulty punishment for much less. Here are some of the worst injustices of 2013:

1. An Alabama blogger is still sitting in a jail cell for exercising his First Amendment rights

Blogger Roger Shuler drew the ire of the powers that be when he continued to write about the alleged extramarital affair of a prominent lawyer rumored to be running for Congress. The lawyer and son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley, Robert Riley, Jr., won a temporary restraining order that prohibited Shuler from writing anything about Riley’s alleged extramarital affair and other related stories. The order itself was almost certainly a violation of First Amendment law. But Alabama officials took the dispute a step further when they pursued him for a traffic stop and arrested him for contempt. In spite of advocacy from the ACLU and others, Shuler has now been in a jail cell for two months for his journalism.

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