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When Roger West first launched the progressive political blog "News From The Other Side" in May 2010, he could hardly have predicted the impact that his venture would have on the media and political debate. As the New Media emerged as a counterbalance to established media sources, Roger wrote his copious blogs about national politics, the tea party movement, mid-term elections, and the failings of the radical right to the vanguard of the New Media movement. Roger West's efforts as a leading blogger have tremendous reach. NFTOS has led the effort to bring accountability to mainstream media sources such as FOX NEWS,CNN and Andy Breitbart's "Big Journalism. Roger's breadth of experience, engaging style, and cultivation of loyal readership - over 49.7 million visitors - give him unique insight into the past, present, and future of the New Media and political rhetoric that exists in our society today. What we are against: Radical Right Wing Agendas Incompetent Establishment Public Coruption Corporate Malfeasence We are for: Global and Econmoic Security Social and Economic Justice Media Accountability Healthy Communities

Monday, May 4, 2015

THE AMOUNT OF BAIL SAYS IT ALL

An 18-year-old Baltimorean who participated in riots on Saturday now faces bail of $500,000, something his family cannot afford and a higher bail than the cops involved in the death of Freddie Gray Jr.

Allen Bullock, who was photographed in the act of smashing a police car, faces eight criminal charges — all misdemeanors — including rioting and malicious destruction of property. His stepfather, Maurice Hawkins, encouraged Bullock to turn himself in.

Now, he faces bail that far exceeds his family’s ability to pay. “By turning himself in he also let me know he was growing as a man and he recognized what he did was wrong,” his mother, Bobbi Smallwood, told The Guardian. “It is just so much money.”

The police officers who were charged on Friday by Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in the death of 25-year-old Gray posted bail bonds of $250,000 to $350,000 each.

Since Gray’s death, there have been protests, some becoming violent, over the lack of accountability regarding Gray’s death. During a press conference on Friday, Mosby reiterated that Gray had not committed any crime when the six police officers she charged apprehended him.




Bullock’s parents, who both hold criminal records, are part of a larger pattern of racial disparities in the cities. Blacks in Baltimore are less likely to be employed, more likely to face predatory lending, and even have a shorter life expectancy on average. The city of Baltimore has also settled more than $5.7 million in wrongful death cases with Baltimore citizens since 2011.

The problem of racial or ethnic minorities being hit with higher bail amounts than their white counterparts is also well documented. The Sentencing Project pointed out in a report released last year that “blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to be denied bail or to be imposed a bond that they cannot afford” and that they are more often considered “flight risks because of their lower socioeconomic status, criminal records, and because of their race.”

“As parents we wanted Allen to do the right thing,” Smallwood said. “He was dead wrong and he does need to be punished. But he wasn’t leading this riot. He hasn’t got that much power.”






NFTOS
STAFF WRITER

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"HUMAN SACRIFICE"

During a segment of Your World with Neil Cavuto on Fox News, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke compared the investigation of Freddie Gray’s homicide to human sacrifice and the Duke lacrosse case.

“This neophyte prosecutor stood up there and made a political statement, Neil. And I say that because she’s chanting or voicing some of the chants from this angry mob,” he said, before diving into his experience as a veteran homicide detective and calling Marilyn Mosby an inexperienced prosecutor. “I’m not going to silently stand by and watch my brother officers offered up as human sacrifices thrown like red meat to an angry mob, just to appease this angry mob.”
Clark continued, “she knows she’s not going to be able to prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt. This is George Zimmerman and the Duke lacrosse case all over again.”

Relatively unknown before Friday’s press conference, Mosby emerged a champion of reform. In stark contrast to a line of prosecutors who refused to publicly criticize law enforcement officials, Mosby said, “This is a moment. This is your moment. Let’s ensure that we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You’re at the forefront of this cause. As young people, our time is now.” Prior to announcing the criminal charges brought against the six officers, which included second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, many worried that her family ties to law enforcement would cloud the investigation into Gray’s death.



So let me get this straight - the "human sacrifice" is charging accused criminals with the crimes they've committed, giving them their day in court and letting the system work - not kidnapping a man off the street on bogus charges then killing him by bouncing him around in a steel box?

Sheriff David Clarke, you are today's world's worst person in the world. Congrats numb-nuts, you earned it!




NFTOS
Blogger-In-Chief
Roger West

Saturday, May 2, 2015

DON'T BEE - DO BEE

Bill Maher went after Republicans in his New Rule tonight for the “same empty tough guy talk from chickenhawks” that was going on in the lead-up to the Iraq War, indicating to him they’ve learned nothing.

Maher borrowed from a Romper Room bit contrast “Do Bee” Barack Obama with “Don’t Bee” George W. Bush. He said Obama’s basically done all the right things, whereas Bush was a “huge fuck-up.”

And what troubled Maher was that just like back then, the U.S. is being “baited” by ISIS into another “unnecessary war” and the Republicans falling for it all over again.


VIDEO COURTESY OF HBO





NFTOS
Blogger-In-Chief
Roger West

Friday, May 1, 2015

State's Attorney: Freddie Gray's Death A Homicide, Criminal Charges Will Be Brought Against All Six Cops

BREAKING NEWS: “GROSSLY NEGLIGENT”



Marilyn Mosby is throwing the book at the Baltimore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray with charges that include second-degree murder, manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence, misconduct, and assault in the 2nd degree.

Not only that, she says there was no probable cause to arrest Freddie Gray in the first place:

BALTIMORE — The state attorney of Baltimore, in a unexpected announcement, said Friday that she had probable cause to file homicide charges against the police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, who was died after sustaining a spinal cord injury while in police custody.
In a news conference Friday, Ms. Mosby said that the death of Mr. Gray had been ruled a homicide.




Just fucking disgusting! Will Fox News and Megyn Kelly Approve?





NFTOS
Blogger-In-Chief
Roger West


Thursday, April 30, 2015

JON STEWART TALKS BALTIMORE RIOTS


Jon Stewart gives his take on what’s transpired in Baltimore.

“HONEY NO SCHOOL, ITS RIOT DAY”






NFTOS
STAFF WRITER

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

RBG BLISTERS THOSE AGAINST MARRIAGE EQUALITY

During Tuesday’s marriage equality arguments in the Supreme Court, several of the Court’s conservative members suggested that same-sex couples should not be given equal marriage rights because these couples have not enjoyed those rights for most of the past. As Justice Antonin Scalia summed up this argument, “for millennia, not a single society” supported marriage equality, and that somehow exempted same-sex couples from the Constitution’s promise of equal protection of the law.

Not long after her conservative colleagues raised this argument, however, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained exactly why marriage was long understood to be incompatible with homosexuality in just five sentences:

[Same-sex couples] wouldn't be asking for this relief if the law of marriage was what it was a millennium ago. I mean, it wasn't possible. Same-sex unions would not have opted into the pattern of marriage, which was a relationship, a dominant and a subordinate relationship. Yes, it was marriage between a man and a woman, but the man decided where the couple would be domiciled; it was her obligation to follow him. 
There was a change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian when it wasn’t egalitarian. And same-sex unions wouldn't — wouldn't fit into what marriage was once.

Justice Ginsburg’s point was that, until surprisingly recently, the legal institution of marriage was defined in terms of gender roles. According to Sir William Blackstone, an eighteenth century English jurist whose works are still frequently cited today to explain the common law principles we inherited from our former colonial rulers, “the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.” As late as 1887, fully one third of the states did not permit women to control their earnings. And married women could not even withhold consent to sex with their husband until shockingly recently.

Under the common law, “by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given herself up in this kind unto her husband,” and this consent was something “she cannot retract.” The first successful prosecution in the United States of a husband who raped his wife did not occur until the late 1970s.

So American marriage law, and the English law that it was derived from, presumed that the wife was both financially and sexual subservient to the husband. In a world where marriage is defined as a union between a dominant man and a submissive woman, each fulfilling unique gender roles, the case for marriage discrimination is clear. How can both the dominant male role and the submissive female role be carried out in a marital union if the union does not include one man and one woman? This, according to Justice Ginsburg, is why marriage was understood to exclude same-sex couples for so many centuries.

But marriage is no longer bound to antiquated gender roles. And when those gender roles are removed, the case for marriage discrimination breaks down.

Generally speaking, any argument based on "we've always done it this way" seldom works. If "we've always done it this way" – it was some sort of rule we had to follow - we'd still have slavery, women would still not be permitted to vote, businesses could still post "No Irish Need Apply" signs - and yet there would still be separate drinking fountains for different races of people. In fact, it would be difficult to get any new laws passed at all.




NFTOS
Blogger-In-Chief
Roger West

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

ONE BALTIMORE MOM GETTING IT RIGHT

Many of the rioters who set Baltimore on fire on Monday evening were teenagers, and city officials called on parents get their kids out of the streets and stem the wave of chaos. At least one mother listened.

THIS IS HOW IT’S DONE PARENTS




Earlier in the evening, Baltimore police, who were tweeting throughout the day, asked parents to find and bring home their children, many of whom collectively initiated the chaos as part of a "purge."







NFTOS
Blogger-In-Chief
Roger West

Monday, April 27, 2015

RIGHT WING MEDIA GETS PUNKED SEVERELY

In January, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was seriously injured while he was exercising with a resistance band. The band broke and Reid crashed into some cabinets. Reid broke a number of bones in his face and may lose sight in his right eye.

But the conservative media was certain that something more nefarious was afoot.

Enter Larry Pfeifer, a Las Vegas motivational speaker and life coach. In an interview Pfeifer said he initially called John Hinderaker of the conservative Powerline Blog using the pseudonym “Easton Elliot” to “bitch the guy out” for printing an article suggesting Harry Reid was beaten up by the mafia without any evidence whatsoever.

At the last minute, Pfeifer decided to make a up a story about how Reid was actually beaten up by his brother Larry. “I made up the story off the cuff. It was so outrageous I thought there was no way” he would print it, Pfeifer said.

But Hinderaker took the bait and quickly arranged a phone call between Pfeifer and Rush Limbaugh. On the call Hinderaker and Limbaugh repeatedly asked Pfeifer for evidence to corroborate his story. Each time, Pfeifer refused. It’s hard to corroborate a fake story, after all.

Pfeifer’s admission he was behind the hoax was first reported by the Las Vegas Sun. He said that he pulled off the stunt “to show the lack of credibility and journalist standards” among certain media outlets.

Hinderaker ran with the story, deeming it credible. “Someone attacked Harry Reid on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day; that much seems clear from photographs and from the nature of his injuries.” Hinderaker admitted he had not bothered to independently verify the story but said “the inferences [Elliot] draws seem reasonable.” That article was shared over 3,600 times on social media.

From there the story took off like wildfire. Hinderaker invited “Easton Elliott” as a guest a few days later when he was substitute host for Laura Ingraham’s radio show. A couple of weeks later, Rush Limbaugh repeated the rumor on air to millions of listeners. (Limbaugh did acknowledge that he hadn’t verified the story.)

The story was also picked up by a host of right-wing media outlets.

Pfeifer said that Michael Patrick Leahy of Breitbart initially refused to run the story without any backup. But once Limbaugh talked about it on air, he ran the story anyway. Pfeifer said other outlets he spoke to, including the Huffington Post, refused to move forward with the story once he admitted he could not provide corroboration.

Pfeifer spent time in jail “for financial crimes in the early 90s.” But he provided “dozens of emails and recordings” to the Las Vegas Sun to substantiate that he was the source of the hoax. In a follow-up post written Sunday night, Hinderaker essentially admitted he’d been had.

“I did check him out to the extent reasonably possible,” Hinderaker writes. He maintains that Reid’s claim that he was injured while exercising is “implausible at best.”
Pfeifer insists that none of this had anything to do with Harry Reid. “I don’t know Harry Reid… I’m not political. I don’t even vote.”

So why bother?

“Journalism is supposed to uplift society in a moral way. Not turn it to shit.”


[h/t thinkprogress]



NFTOS
Blogger-In-Chief
Roger West

Sunday, April 26, 2015

COPS IN DALLAS IN AN INSTANT KILL AND WILL NOT FACE CHARGES


Two Dallas officers who shot a schizophrenic, bipolar man holding a screwdriver within 20 seconds of arriving at his family’s doorstep last June will not be indicted.

Jason Harrison’s mother called 911 because her mentally ill son was off his medication and acting out. In a video captured by a body camera, she greets the officers outside the house, informing them that her son is “acting off the chain.” Harrison stands in the doorway holding a small screwdriver, and Officers John Rogers and Andrew Hutchins point their firearms in his direction and tell him to drop the object. Within a matter of seconds, the two officers shoot Harrison five times, as his mother screams “Oh, you killed my child!”

The grand jury made its decision on Thursday, but a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Harrison’s family is pending.




To indict a cop, a grand jury must believe there was probable cause to commit a crime. But police officers
rarely face criminal charges in cases involving deadly force, in part because prosecutors who work with the same officers every day have reason not to prosecute their colleagues.




NFTOS
Blogger-In-Chief
Roger West

Saturday, April 25, 2015

MISTAKES MAD IN FREDDIE GRAY MURDER

FREDDIE GRAY INABATED AFTER HIS SPINE IS SEVERED WHILE IN POLICE CUSTODY 



Baltimore protesters plan to shut down the city Saturday with their biggest rally yet over the death of Freddie Gray, who went into a coma and died of a spinal injury last Sunday after being arrested by police. After daily protests and growing public outrage, the Baltimore police department admitted Friday that the officers made mistakes in their treatment of 25-year-old Gray.

A video of the arrest shows Gray screaming as officers press him into the ground and handcuff him. A witness said police folded his body “like origami.” In the video, police drag Gray to the police vehicle with his legs limp.

In a press conference Friday, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said Gray should have received medical treatment immediately. He also said Gray was unbuckled in the transport wagon, which could mean officers took him for a rough ride,” when police deliberately drive erratically to injure unbuckled and handcuffed passengers.
“We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon as he should have been. No excuses for that, period,” Batts said. “We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.”
Though the police commissioner stressed he was taking the investigation seriously, the head of the police union seemed less contrite earlier this week, likening the Freddie Gray protests to a lynch mob.” The officers who arrested Gray are currently under internal investigation and suspended without pay.

An investigative series by the Baltimore Sun recently uncovered massive systemic abuses by Baltimore police. The report described frequent, sometimes fatal beatings by officers who almost always went unpunished. Meanwhile, the city of Baltimore paid out $5.7 million from 2011 to 2014 to settle lawsuits over police misconduct.

Protest organizers held their own press conference Friday, calling for criminal charges against the six officers involved in the arrest. Malik Z. Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice said they expect thousands at Saturday’s rally and plan to “shut down” the city.





NFTOS
Blogger-In-Chief
Roger West


Friday, April 24, 2015

JAMES INHOFE IS A SPECIAL KIND OF FUCKING STUPID!





The traditional definition of chutzpah involves a guy who kills his parents, then pleads for mercy because he is now an orphan. The modern definition of chutzpah involves - and now enters Sen. James Inhofe .

The chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has an Earth Day (!) op-ed arguing we should embrace carbon-free nuclear power because of the threat posed by global warming. You remember Inhofe, the guy who called global warming a hoax, the guy who for over a decade has trashed climate scientists, such as James Hansen, whom he called in 2006 a “NASA scientist and alarmist.”

Apparently, however, Inhofe no longer sees Hansen as radioactive. He writes, without a trace of irony:
James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in 2013 that ‘continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.’

How mind numbing is it that Inhofe is now apparently on board with top climatologist Hansen on the urgent need “to avoid dangerous climate change” by accelerated deployment of zero-carbon technologies? Presumably he’ll soon be on board with Hansen’s call for a high and rising carbon dioxide fee (returned to the public as a dividend), and a World War II scale effort to return CO2 levels back to 350 parts per million from their current level of 400 ppm (and rising 2+ ppm a year).

As an aside, what’s holding nuclear power back is its exorbitant price. Indeed, just this week a panel of experts unanimously agreed that nukes have all but priced themselves out of the market. Perhaps Inhofe should have supported the climate bill that came out of the House of Representatives in 2009, since its carbon pricing mechanism would have been nuclear power’s best chance at a resurgence.

As for Inhofe’s newly found love affair of Hansen, One could imagine it is unrequited, but then they say politics does make for strange bedfellows. Or at least for new definitions of chutzpah.


Congratulations James, you are this week's asshat of the week. Enjoy the recognition numbnutz!




NFTOS
Blogger-In-Chief
Roger West

Thursday, April 23, 2015

B-ROCK EXPECTED TO ENDORSE POT REFORM

President Barack Obama is expected to express his support for medical marijuana, and a drug policy that deviates from incarceration, in a CNN documentary to air on Sunday night.

In the television special, “Weed 3”, CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta will explore the politics of medical marijuana research. In an interview with Obama, Gupta probes the President about a bipartisan Senate bill that, if passed, will change marijuana’s classification from Schedule I — the most stringent category for regulating drugs — to Schedule II.

Obama, who admitted to smoking marijuana as a youth, reiterates a position that he took earlier his presidency, according to a Huffington Post preview of the show. He tells Gupta that he endorses a policy solution that has a foundation in science and focuses on treatment more than punishment of drug users.
“You know, I think I’d have to take a look at the details, but I’m on record as saying that not only do I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue, but I’m also on record as saying that the more we treat some of these issues related to drug abuse from a public health model and not just from an incarceration model, the better off we’re going to be,” Obama reportedly says during his interview with Gupta.
Nearly two dozen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and residents of 13 states can use extracts of the plant to treat certain medical conditions. The debate about the plant, specifically its healing properties, has intensified with the release of scientific research that confirms the plant’s ability to treat certain cancers, confirming what proponents of legalization have argued for years.

Since California legalized medical marijuana in the mid-1990s, public opinion about the issue has become more positive, with a recent survey showing that more than 70 percent of Americans favor medical marijuana. Support for legalization has increased among voters in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Some lawmakers in Illinois want to expand the disease list for the state’s medical marijuana program to include anxiety, migraines, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Congressional lawmakers are also mulling over policy that would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Earlier this month, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a government drug abuse and addiction organization, acknowledged research that showed medical marijuana’s potential to treat tumors.

However, some hurdles remain for those in the medical marijuana business. For example, dispensaries in California are fighting the efforts of U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, an employee of Obama’s Department of Justice, to shut down their operations, in a case that is still winding its way through the courts. Rather than arrest them, Haag has tried to seize properties. Across the United States, marijuana’s legal status has caused a dearth of federally regulated studies about the plant, ultimately impeding scientists’ efforts to understand its potential as a healing agent. Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged the government to downgrade marijuana to a Schedule II drug, which would allow for more research into its potential uses to treat sick children with seizures.

Despite the lack of policy changes, Obama has gradually expressed his support for a marijuana policy that’s rooted in science and doesn’t unfairly punish users. In February, he voiced his approval for the removal of criminal penalties for nonviolent drug offenders. In the past, the president predicted that more states would follow Washington and Colorado’s lead in legalizing recreational marijuana and said that though marijuana is legal on the federal level, the Justice Department will not interfere in state medical marijuana programs.

But Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, a marijuana advocacy organization, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that endorsing medical marijuana won’t suffice, saying that President Obama should use his executive powers to reschedule marijuana and protect dispensaries.

“If the president means what he says about following science, then there’s no question he should support legislation to move marijuana out of Schedule I, a category that’s supposed to be reserved for substances with no medical value,” Angell said. “And, since it’s so hard to get anything through Congress these days, he should even do more than that. He should exercise his power under the Controlled Substances Act to administratively reschedule marijuana right away. The only thing stopping him from doing that is his own reluctance to follow through on his stated principle of letting science dictate policy.”


[h/t thinkprogress]


NFTOS
STAFF WRITER

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

WHY THE KOCH’S WANT THE KOCH WHORE TO BE PRESIDENT

The billionaire Koch brothers indicated during an event on Monday that they will likely support the Koch whore Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to be the Republican presidential nominee. According to two New York Times sources who attended the New York State Republican Party fundraiser, David Koch told the crowd that Walker should be the Republican nominee.

David Koch’s statement was later disputed by his spokesperson who said the brothers plan to remain neutral during the primaries. “But Mr. Koch’s remark left little doubt among attendees of where his heart is, and could effectively end one of the most closely watched contests in the ‘invisible primary,’ a period where candidates crisscross the country seeking not the support of voters but the blessing of their party’s biggest donors and fund-raisers,” the Times reported.

The Koch brothers have said they plan to spend almost $1 billion in the 2016 campaign cycle, so their support could go a long way to helping a candidate like Walker to secure the Republican nomination. An endorsement would also follow the big-spending political donors’ history of lending support to Walker, even when the Republican governor’s policies sometimes contradict their intentions.

Walker has enjoyed the Kochs’ enthusiastic support for much of his political career. Koch Industries was one of the largest contributors to Walker’s first gubernatorial campaign, giving him $43,000, his largest out-of-state contribution. And Walker’s 2014 reelection campaign was one of the top recipients of Koch Industries cash. Tim Phillips, president of Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, has also heaped praise on Walker. “The difference Scott Walker has made with his policy achievements is as transformative as any governor anywhere in a generation,” Phillips said in an interview.

After Walker was elected governor and took office in 2011, he almost immediately set out his plan to cut pay and eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin — he claimed the cuts were necessary to close a budget gap he created by enacting tax cuts for businesses. As protests against Walker escalated, groups associated with Koch Industries including Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity helped to bus in Tea Party protesters to support Walker and his union-busting campaign.

Club For Growth also ran an attack ad against Wisconsin unions as a way to support Walker. “In the face of a grass roots labor movement, millionaires and billionaires are doing the governor’s dirty work for him,” MSNBC’s Ed Schultz reported in 2011. “This isn’t Governor Walker all by himself.”

During the heat of the protests, Americans For Prosperity went as far as launching a website, www.standwithwalker.com, which attacked collective bargaining and urged every state to adopt Walker’s “common sense reforms.”

The Koch brothers openly supported Walker during the 2012 recall election, which Walker eventually won. The financial backing from the Kochs led to reports that David Koch’s willingness to discuss his family’s efforts to support Walker may have crossed the line into illegally coordinating with a political campaign.

“We’re helping him, as we should,” David Koch told the Palm Beach Post in early 2012. “What Scott Walker is doing with the public unions in Wisconsin is critically important. He’s an impressive guy, and he’s very courageous.”
The governor also embodied the Kochs’ profit-driven goals when he began cutting environmental regulations when he took office, to the benefit of Koch businesses which are known to emit thousands of pounds of toxic pollutants in the state. Walker also quietly worked to allow Kochs’ many Georgia Pacific paper plants to pollute Wisconsin by pouring thousands of pounds of phosphorus into the water.

Yet there is one major policy area in which Walker and the Kochs disagree. The Koch brothers have said they support an overhaul of the country’s criminal justice system and have partnered with other organizations working toward criminal justice reform. But Walker is one of a number of candidates who continue to receive Koch money, despite his tough on crime record.

During his nine years in the Wisconsin state house, Walker sponsored dozens of bills to make more activities crimes, increase mandatory minimum sentences and curb the possibility of parole for many offenders, among other actions that contradict the Kochs’ criminal justice agenda. Under Walker’s governorship, spending on prisons eclipsed the dollars allocated for higher education for the first time in state history.



Cross posted from thinkprogress

NFTOS
STAFF WRITER


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

WHY DID THIS COP KILLER WALK SCOTT FREE?

Late Monday, a Cook County judge acquitted Chicago police officer Dante Servin of several homicide-related charges for the fatal shooting of an unarmed woman standing outside with some friends near his home. It was the first time in 15 years that a police officer had been charged in Chicago for a fatal shooting. And the courtroom attendees exploded in outrage as Judge Dennis Porter announced Servin was not guilty on all charges for killing 22-year-old Rekia Boyd.

But Porter’s ruling was particularly confounding because of bizarre reasoning that some legal experts are calling “incredible.” In an opinion that lamented Servin was never charged with the more severe crimes of first- and second-degree murder, Porter suggested he was acquitting Servin and sending him home without any punishment because the involuntary manslaughter charge against him was actually not severe enough.

Servin was off duty when he fired the shots. He encountered a group gathered in an alley while driving through in his Mercedes sedan. As he drove the wrong way down the alley after an altercation, he said he thought he saw one of the men reach for a gun and fired several shots over his shoulder at individuals who had their backs to Servin. Servin hit 22-year-old Rekia Boyd in the back of the head, killing her.
“He was constantly shooting,” Icka Beamon testified, who was in the alley that night and ran for cover. “He was trying to kill all of us.”
Porter, the Cook County judge presiding over the case, agreed that Servin was acting intentionally when he fired his gun. In fact, he said in his ruling, Illinois courts have long held that when a defendant “intends to fire a gun, points it in the general direction of his or her intended victim, and shoots, such conduct is not merely reckless,” but “intentional” and “the crime, if any there be, is first degree murder.”

In a bizarre turn of reasoning, Porter suggests that since the first-degree murder charge is not on the table, and the crimes with which he was charged — involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a gun — require that Servin was reckless, Servin cannot be convicted of any crime at all. Lamenting that both sides might “benefit from some closure on this question,” he nonetheless concludes that the law compels him to acquit Servin of all charges.

Porter’s reasoning doesn’t clearly square with several fundamental principles of criminal law, according to legal experts.

The concepts of “recklessness” and “intent” are criminal law concepts that describe what is an element of almost every criminal offense — state of mind. In homicide cases, for example, state of mind (known asmens rea) is directly correlated to the severity of the crime — offenses that require mere “recklessness,” or “consciously disregard[ing] a substantial and unjustifiable risk” — typically carries a lower punishment than murder crimes, which require the prosecutor to prove intent, because intentional acts assume a higher level of malice.

Porter asserts that a defendant who does something intentionally could not have also been reckless, and thus should not be convicted of anything at all. But this distinction between recklessness and intent “really doesn’t make any sense at all,” University of Illinois law professor Marareth Etienne told ThinkProgress. At least under the national criminal law standard known as the Model Penal Code that all first-year law students are taught in Criminal Law 101, a higher state of mind such as intent “always proves a lower level,” in this case, recklessness.

Recklessness “just means that you were aware of a risk and you didn’t take the proper precaution. So clearly if you shoot at somebody and you shot in a crowd you’re aware of a risk that they’re gonna die,” Etienne said.

“This is incredible!” University of Illinois Director of Trial Advocacy J. Steven Beckett said. “It appears to me that a lesser included offense was ignored because the proof of the greater offense was obvious. This put prosecutorial decision-making under scrutiny beyond anything imaginable.” In other words, the prosecutors were punished for not having charged Servin with a more severe crime. Even more remarkable, Porter came to this decision in what is known as a “directed verdict” before he even heard the defense’s arguments.
“When a motion for directed verdict is made by the defense, the evidence must be considered in the light most favorable to the prosecution,” Beckett points out. “What the judge did here appears to be just the opposite!”
Etienne points out several adverse consequences that would result if Porter’s understanding of the law prevailed. A defendant charged with involuntary manslaughter could get on the stand and make the very argument Porter now makes: I am not guilty of a crime of recklessness because I did this on purpose. “And by the way my trial has started so double jeopardy. You can’t go back and charge me with an intentional killing.”

Double jeopardy is the constitutional notion that an individual can’t be charged twice for the same offense, and legal experts seemed to agree that double jeopardy means Porter’s ruling can’t be appealed, and that prosecutors from the same jurisdiction can’t file charges a second time around.

The other adverse consequence is that most of the plea deals prosecutors now make with defendants wouldn’t make much sense: A defendant is charged with first-degree murder, for example, but pleads guilty to the lesser offense of involuntary manslaughter. “And that’s done all the time,” said Etienne.

Porter does cite several Illinois cases for his conclusion. These cases primarily deal with the issue of jury instructions in the reverse situation when someone charged with a more severe intent crime wants a jury to consider a lesser offense. A murder defendant, for example, wants the judge to also instruct the jury that they can find the defendant guilty of the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter rather than murder. The judge rejects the defendant’s argument, on the rationale that this is a crime of intent, and not a lesser crime of recklessness. But Etienne points out that this is a very different legal argument. “To dismiss a case where recklessness was charged because intent was proven. That’s a different question,” she said, while conceding the possibility that Illinois courts would come out a different way on this question.

Timothy P. O’Neill, a professor at John Marshall Law School in Chicago, questions Porter for another, different reason.

“I respect Judge Porter, but at the same time I think he maybe made the case a little bit more difficult than it had to be,” O’Neill said. Even if Servin intended to fire the gun, he seemingly didn’t intend to hit Boyd. He instead intended to hit the man whom he believed was pulling a gun out of his waistband.

“You can do intentional acts and still be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter based on results,” O’Neill said.

Both O’Neill and Etienne agreed that Servin could have, and perhaps should have, been charged this time around with murder — a crime that requires intent.

“But that does NOT mean that it is legally impossible to also find it could have been involuntary manslaughter: the defendant committed voluntary acts that recklessly killed an unintended victim,” O’Neill said. “That is involuntary manslaughter.”


cross-posted from thinkprogress


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STAFF WRITER


Monday, April 20, 2015

MARCH 2015 EASILY SMASHES RECORD FOR HOTTEST MARCH EVER





This was easily the hottest March — and hottest January-to-March — on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s latest monthly report makes clear Mother Nature is just getting warmed up:


· March 2015 was not only the hottest March in their 135-year of keeping records, it beat “the previous record of 2010 by 0.09°F (0.05°C).”
 
· January-to-March was not only the hottest start to any year on record, it also beat “the previous record of 2002 by 0.09°F.” 
· March was so warm that only two other months ever had a higher “departure from average” (i.e. temperature above the norm), February 1998 and January 2007, and they only beat March by “just 0.01°C (0.02°F).” 
· Arctic sea ice hit its smallest March extent since records began in 1979.

The human-caused global warming trend that made 2014 the hottest year on record is continuing. We may even be witnessing the start of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures.

Last week, NASA also reported this was the hottest three-month start of any year on record. In NASA’s database, though, this was the third warmest March on record. It was the warmest in the dataset of the Japan Meteorological Agency. These three agencies use slightly different methods for tracking global temperature, so their monthly and yearly rankings differ slightly, even as they all show the same long-term trend driven by carbon pollution.

It is increasingly likely that 2015 will be the hottest year on record. El Niños typically lead to global temperature records, as the short-term El Niño warming adds to the underlying long-term global warming trend. NOAA has predicted there’s a 60 percent chance the El Niño it declared last month will continue all year. If it does, 2015 may well top the 2014 record by a significant margin.

[h/t thinkprogress]


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STAFF WRITER


Sunday, April 19, 2015

STEWART EXPLAINS WHY ITS TIME TO GO





Two months after Jon Stewart announced his retirement from hosting The Daily Show, the Guardian released an extensive profile of the comedian that includes several quotes indicating why he decided to ride off into the sunset.

The piece itself is lengthy and thorough — highly recommended porch reading for this beautiful weekend weather. But if you’re looking for a distillation of the key quotes, look no further.

What seems to be the main reason for his departure? As yet another election rolls around, it’s time to find something new. “I’d covered an election four times, and it didn’t appear that there was going to be anything wildly different about this one,” he told the Guardian.

Much of the profile suggests Stewart has become increasingly wary of the absurdities of our daily news culture. For instance, the Hillary Clinton email scandal “is absolutely everything that it’s supposed to be about,” he said, reportedly with a groan. As the interviewer wrote of his attitude towards this and other political stories, “it managed to be at once depressing and completely unsurprising.”

Stewart also said that leaving right before a major election was the best way to ensure the show has a smooth transition. “You don’t want to leave when the cupboard’s bare,” he said. So I think it’s a better introduction when you have something providing you with assisted fuel, like a presidential campaign. But really, the value of this show is so much deeper than my contribution.”

As for whether the show will survive with him: “If Oprah can leave and the world still spins, I honestly think it will survive me.”

And whether he’ll miss the cable news networks he gets paid to skewer: “Watching these channels all day is incredibly depressing,” he said. “I live in a constant state of depression. I think of us as turd miners. I put on my helmet, I go and mine turds, hopefully I don’t get turd lung disease.”

The Guardian also asked whether he’d ever watch Fox News again: “All right, let’s say that it’s a nuclear winter, and I have been wandering, and there appears to be a flickering light through what appears to be a radioactive cloud and I think that light might be a food source that could help my family. I might glance at it for a moment until I realize, that’s Fox News, and then I shut it off. That’s the circumstance.”

Read the full profile here.




NFTOS
Blogger-In-chief
Roger West

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Climate Warming Is Just GOD Farting




Bill Maher ended his show tonight by going after Republican “zombie lies” on the environment and basically calling them “prostitutes” for denying climate change just to satisfy donors.

He ripped into candidates like Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz for raising serious questions about established science on climate change, before saying the whole thing was “never about facts to begin with.”

Maher said the donors are “making their money killing the planet” and as long as people like the Kochs.

VIDEO COURTESY OF HBO







Blogger-In-Chief
Roger West

Friday, April 17, 2015

CHRISTIE EYES DESTRUCTION OF SOCIAL SECURITY AFTER DEMOLISHING STATES RETIREMENT SYSTEM

Gov. Chris Christie proposed cutting Social Security benefits in a speech in New Hampshire on Tuesday, proposing a similar approach to national retirement systems as the one currently failing in his home state.

The likely 2016 White House candidate proposed trimming future payments to anyone earning over $80,000 a year, with anyone earning $200,000 or more per year getting nothing out of the system they paid into. Christie stressed that no one currently receiving benefits would face the cuts, but ignored proposals that would improve the program’s solvency without requiring any reduction in benefits.

Christie has a track record in New Jersey of making big promises to retirees and then walking away from them. And this newest, national promise isn’t even a particularly effective one. Opponents of benefit cuts denounced the governor’s approach as the first stage in a gradual assault on an immensely popular program.
“Christie has various proposals for our earned benefits, including raising the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare, making seniors pay more for their Medicare, and reducing the cost of living adjustment Americans receive each year. Each and every one of these is spelled the same way: C-U-T,” said Social Security Works executive director Alex Lawson. “Americans have earned their benefits, and I am confident that Governor Christie’s plan to take them away will be soundly rejected by the American people regardless of political affiliation.”

Groups like Lawson’s argue that means testing proposals like Christie’s are a bad idea both because the math doesn’t work – the savings from means testing are too small to close long-term funding holes program-wide, and increased administrative costs would wipe out much of the too-meager savings from the change – and because it “contradicts the essential nature and spirit of the program” as an earned benefit accessible to all working people.

The extreme popularity with voters that has traditionally prevented cuts to Social Security owes in large part to the basic fairness of a system that pays out what workers put in. Cutting the wealthy out of that bargain as Christie proposes would shrink the voting coalition that protects Social Security from politicians whose Wall Street backers would benefit if aging Americans had to depend on the investment houses instead of the government for their retirement security.

“It’s all part of a coordinated attack on Americans’ retirement security,” Lawson said, drawing connections between Christie’s proposals and the quieter work to derail pension systems that billionaire John Arnold funds around the country. “They’ve already destroyed private pensions. If they can get rid of public pensions as well, there will be nothing for people to do but put their money in Wall Street,” he said.

Christie’s handling of the public retirement system in New Jersey makes it hard to buy the straight-talking image he presented in Tuesday’s benefit-cuts speech. The governor agreed to make $3.8 billion in payments to the state pension funds as part of a compromise in which workers agreed to make higher contributions to the fund themselves. Barely a year later, Christie reneged on his end of the deal and declined to fork over $2.4 billion of the promised total. He claimed it was “the only decision we’re left with,” but his tax subsidies and decision to let hedge fund managers invest state retirement funding cost a combined $3.3 billion. In February, a state judge found that he is still obligated to fulfill his payments promise. But that same month, Christie proposed further cuts to the pension system.

The governor’s Social Security speech is similarly disingenuous about the choices America has for closing Social Security’s oft-exaggerated long-term funding gap. Current law caps payroll tax collections so that only the first $117,000 or so that a person earns each year is subject to the collections that fund Social Security. The cap means that the highest-paid Americans only pay Social Security taxes for about two days each year. Eliminating the payroll tax cap and making the best-paid American pay on all of their income in the same way that most workers do would raise almost all of the money required to make Social Security fully solvent for the next 75 years, up from about 20 years now.

Congress is headed for a showdown over Social Security spending in the coming years whether or not Christie becomes president. But the political landscape for those fights is changing rapidly. In recent years Democrats were so afraid to oppose spending cuts that they entertained GOP ideas about cutting Social Security and even proposed some of their own. Now, thanks to the leadership of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), large numbers of Democrats in both chambers are calling for expanding the program instead of cutting it.

On the first day of the current Congress, GOP leaders used a covert rules measure to ensure a manufactured funding crisis within the Social Security Disability Insurance program that is separate from Social Security retirement benefits.

The move will force a showdown over the disability program sometime next year, something Christie enthusiastically endorsed in Tuesday’s speech. “I believe we should use this moment to reform the system and incentivize getting back to work,” he said.






NFTOS
Blogger-In-Chief
Roger West

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT

Here’s what happened in Indiana when the media went away:


According to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who spoke to reporters on Tuesday, the “difficult time for the state is over. He was referring to the national backlash after he signed into law a piece of expansive legislation known as the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), which was intended to allow for discrimination against LGBT people. Despite his optimism, it’s clear the state is still in damage control mode — and still has damage to control.

Despite the “fix” passed to ensure the RFRA cannot be used to discriminate, Hoosiers still do not enjoy statewide LGBT protections. In other words, outside of the few municipalities with local protections, anti-LGBT discrimination is still legal throughout most of the state. This week, lawmakers made several attempts to begin the process of creating those protections, but Republican leadership quashed them, claiming there wasn’t enough time to tackle such a policy change.

One amendment to an unrelated House bill was defeated 66-24 because it wasn’t closely related enough to the original bill. Another proposal in the Senate simply would have created of a special committee to study the issue, but Republicans shot it down on a 40-10 party line vote, claiming it could have been better worded. With the legislative session winding down, there likely will not be another opportunity for nondiscrimination protections to come up. In other words, despite weeks of claiming that they don’t support discrimination, Indiana’s Republican leadership just rejected all attempts to protect against it.

Pence suggested Tuesday that Hoosiers have “a great story to tell,” adding, “I really do believe that we are through the storm, that now’s the time to heal.” That’s probably why the state has hired a public relations firm to try to convince the world that the state is a welcoming place. After amending the RFRA to appease businesses threatening the state, it is now investing $2 million of taxpayer money to try to reform Indiana’s image. With discrimination still legal in most parts of the state, the firm has its work cut out for it.


[h/t thinkprogress]





NFTOS
STAFF WRITER


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

NRA BECOMING VERY PARANOID

NASHVILLE, TN — Islamic extremists have seized control of cities across the United States and have enacted sharia law, according to a speaker at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting who spoke about current and emerging threats to American gun owners.

Author Steve Tarani said during a presentation in Nashville on Sunday that he has witnessed the alleged “no-go zones” — areas where police cannot enter — while shadowing a friend who serves on the Detroit Metro SWAT Police on a drive in Dearborn, MI. He described pulling up to one of the alleged Muslim-controlled areas:

The street signs suddenly went from English to Arabic. There wasn’t a single English word on any shop or any street sign. And in fact, these little yellow signs were posted all along the edges. Jeremy said to me, ‘this is it. We don’t go past this line.’ And I said to Jeremy, ‘what do you mean? You guys are Detroit Metro. You’re the SWAT team. You can go anywhere you want. What if you get a call over there?’ He said ‘this is it, it’s hazardous for our team if we go past this line.’

I have seen it with my own eyes, witnessed it in the backseat of a car and it is for real. No-go zones exist in the United States.

Dearborn, Michigan is not the only place that these settlements exist. They are spread out over the country in various cities. There’s an estimate of over 5,000 known terrorist cells in the United States. However our most persistent and significant threat, right now, to us here today this morning, is the homegrown violent extremists.

There is no factual basis to allegations that parts of the U.S. have turned into no-go zones that Muslim extremists had supposedly conquered — a myth that was spread by Fox News reports earlier this year.

Tarani’s comments were part of an hour-long seminar in which he discussed what he claims are the threats Americans face on a daily basis. The frequency and intensity of “mass murders, beheadings and suicide bombings” are increasing, he said. After detailing the events of a number of mass shootings and terrorist plots by an “endless supply” of militant groups around the world, Tarani told the audience they should be prepared to respond to all kinds of threats.

Tarani also warned that the country’s “porous borders” are letting extremists and terrorists into the United States. “It’s possible that at least 20 percent of what comes over that border — that’s a big number, guys — is Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ethiopian al shabaab, known gang members and supports of the cartel,” he said, warning people to arm themselves to respond to threats before law enforcement can.

The myth of no-go zones was also spread earlier this year by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who said in an interview that there are Muslim areas in Europe that are dominated by extremist Muslims where the police refuse to enter. Fox News previously made several mentions of no-go zones, prompting British Prime Minister David Cameron to publicly refute the claim and even call one pundit “a complete idiot.” Fox later issued several apologies and admitted that no-go zones do not actually exist.

An enclave of Muslim people do live in Dearborn, MI — more than 30 percent of the population is Muslim — but despite the rumors, the city is not governed by Sharia law. Residents of Dearborn are not exempt from state or local law, regardless of the religion to which they identify. According to the Daily Beast, the myth of no-go zones in the city is “a phenomenon that baffles Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly.”

“The people who perpetuate it use it for their own gain,” O’Reilly told the website. “There are certain sites and individuals who like to perpetuate fear of Muslims — the people who like to suggest Muslims shouldn’t remain in the U.S.”



cross posted from thinkprogress





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STAFF WRITER