“HONEY NO SCHOOL, ITS RIOT DAY”
- News From The Other Side
- 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 92 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
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
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.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
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."
Monday, April 27, 2015
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.”
Sunday, April 26, 2015
Saturday, April 25, 2015
|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.
Friday, April 24, 2015
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!
Thursday, April 23, 2015
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.”
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
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.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
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.”
Monday, April 20, 2015
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.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
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.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
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
Friday, April 17, 2015
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.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
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.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
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
Monday, April 13, 2015
Video released by an Oklahoma sheriff’s department on Friday shows an unarmed black man named Eric Harris fleeing police as they exit their cars to chase him. After officers catch up to Harris and bring him to the ground, an officer calls out the word “Taser” twice, before firing a single shot at Harris. The shot, which was fired by Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, was fatal. Harris was pronounced dead an hour later.
The shooting appears to be a tragic accident. Bates did say “Taser” before shooting Harris, and immediately after pulling the trigger, Bates drops the gun and says “Oh! I shot him. I’m sorry.” At a press conference on Friday, a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson claimed that Bates was a “true victim” of something called “slips and capture” — a police term for when someone does one thing while believing they are doing something else in a high stress situation. They say that Bates believed he was holding his Taser and not his firearm when he fired the round that killed Harris.
Whatever Bates’s intentions, however, the other officers on the scene respond to Harris’s cries for help by forcefully pinning him to the ground and telling him to shut up in the video released by the sheriff’s department. As Harris lies face down on the ground bleeding and crying out “oh shit man, he shot me, he shot me! Oh, he shot me!” one officer puts his knee on Harris’s head in an apparent effort to subdue him. An officer tells Harris to “shut the fuck up” shortly thereafter.
When Harris tells one of the officers “I’m losing my breath,” the officer responds, “fuck your breath.”
At the press conference on Friday, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Capt. Billy McKelvey claimed that the officers who surrounded Harris immediately after Bates fired his gun were not aware that Harris had been shot. McKelvey also claimed that they radioed for paramedics as soon as they released that Harris was wounded.
An unusual twist in this story is that Bates, the reserve deputy who shot Harris, is not a full-time officer. He is a 73-year-old insurance executive and a wealthy donor to the sheriff’s department. The department includes 130 reserve deputies who are volunteers who donate their time to law enforcement. Bates is classified as “advanced reserve,” the highest level of reserve deputy, a position that permits him to “do anything a full-time deputy can do.”
Bates did serve as a full-time police officer for one year — in 1964 and 1965 — and he had to complete 800 hours of training to be classified as advanced reserve. Once they have completed this training, however, an advanced reserve deputy must only serve for 40 hours every six months in order to maintain their certification.
At the Friday press conference, Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark said the Tulsa County Sheriffs Office’s investigation concluded that Bates did not commit a crime and no policy violations occurred.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
|WING NUT GUN HUGGER LT.COL. DAVE GROSSMAN|
NASHVILLE, TN — “Sandy Hook is just the beginning. We’re raising a generation of mass killers.”
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman repeated those lines to a crowd of hundreds at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Nashville on Saturday, telling the gun owners to fear for themselves and their families and that the only solution is to arm all of our citizens.
“Can we take the lessons learned in Columbine and Jonesboro and Virginia Tech? Can we take the lessons learned on 9/11 and in Sandy Hook Elementary School? Or do we have to wait until our kids die?” Grossman asked the audience during a seminar called “Sheepdogs! The Bulletproof Mind for the Armed Citizen.”After detailing each mass shooting to occur at a school over the past few decades, tallying up the deaths with red marker in front of the audience, Grossman told the NRA members that “you’re going to see daycare massacres and school bus massacres.”
The two-hour long seminar focused on how having armed police officers in schools is just the first step to protecting the country from the inevitable mass violence. Grossman did not touch on the mental health issues that underlie school shootings. The “worst and the most” mass murders have occurred in Europe where there are stricter gun control laws, Grossman told the audience.
“Any politician who tells you we can solve this problem with gun laws is an idiot,” he said. “The politicians drag a red herring across the path — it’s all about the evil guns and if we make the evil guns go away, the bad men will go away.”Instead, Grossman said we have to put tens of thousands of armed cops, or “good guys with guns” in our schools and encourage all citizens to arm themselves to prepare for imminent disaster.
“Folks, we have raised a vicious, vicious generation of children,” he said. “They have given us crimes on children like nothing in human history. Sandy Hook is just the beginning. Our founding fathers knew there would be days like this… And they created the Second Amendment for just a time like this. And in the midst of all that, the politicians want to disarm our citizens. That is flat out treason.”Grossman is a retired Army sergeant and paratrooper who taught psychology at West Point. He says he has founded a new academic field which he calls “killology,” the study of killing in war and the “violent crime that is raging the world,” according to his biography.
While Grossman may claim the Second Amendment can help protect people from violent criminals, research shows that being armed does little to prevent shootings. A 2012 Mother Jones analysis of 61 mass murders over the last 30 years found that “in not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun.” As one leading expert explained, “given that civilian shooters are less likely to hit their targets than police in these circumstances,” arming civilians could often lead to more chaos and deaths.
Ten thousand kids are injured or killed by guns each year, according to a recent study. And despite Grossman’s claims, the United State’s rate of mortality from firearms is about the times higher than the rates in other wealthy nations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) estimates that firearms are one of the top three causes of death among children, killing twice as many kids as cancer does. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, many national gun control groups and others including the AAP stepped up their efforts to lobby for gun violence prevention, including expanded background checks and safe storage to ensure that guns aren’t falling into the wrong hands.
But members of the NRA used the Sandy Hook massacre to push for arming more civilians. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre famously said at a press conference.
“Why is the idea of a gun good when it’s used to protect the president of our country or our police, but bad when it’s used to protect our children in our schools?,” LaPierre said after Sandy Hook. “They’re our kids. They’re our responsibility. And it’s not just our duty to protect them, it’s our right to protect them.”Congratulations numbnuts, I mean Lt.Col, you are today's psychotic asshat of the day. What a freak of nature!
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Maher found it hilarious that the culture wars have progressed to the point where conservatives are fighting for the right not to serve wedding cakes to gay people. After all, he said, the Bible dictates “being gay is an abomination and we must destroy it by denying it pastry.”
But as nutty as America’s fundamentalists are, Maher said that Islam has “crazy scripture” too, and moderates need to “hijack it,” take the “crazy parts” out, and hope for a more peaceful time when, just like the U.S., their biggest fights are over gay cake.
VIDEO COURTESY OF HBO
Friday, April 10, 2015
The announcement came one day after video surfaced of Patrolman Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was running away. But South Carolina officers vocalized opposition to body camera legislation.
Bills regarding the use of body cameras have been introduced by multiple state lawmakers in the past few months. One authored by Gerald Malloy (D-Hartsville) and Marlon Kimpson (D-Charleston) last December would require all officers in South Carolina to wear body cameras. Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) filed a similar bill, in addition to one that would mandate a 60-day study of the costs of statewide body cam implementation. Gilliard’s bills are still in the committee hearing process. Malloy and Kimpson’s was heard by a Senate panel early last month.
But police officers throughout the state have spoken out about the cost of implementing body cameras in every department, and the logistics of having to record every encounter.
“I think what we’re going to have to wait for is some court decisions to come down to really tell us when and where to use these things,” said Dan Reynolds, president of the South Carolina Police Chiefs Association. “We developed a policy prior to implementing the system, but there are still some issues that relate to privacy and other things, whether people need to give their permission.”
“Every police officer, which would include me, sheriffs, and anybody that is a sworn law enforcement officer would have to wear a camera all day and record every encounter they have,” Police Chief Greg Mullen of Charleston explained to South Carolina Radio Network. “I’d have to record this interview that we’re having right now, which is really not the intent of what these particular devices are seeking.”
Attorney Michael Nunn, who provides legal counsel for Florence County Sheriff’s Department, lamented the $300,000 it would take to equip 234 officers.
North Charleston, where Scott was killed, is one city that has adopted a body camera policy. Local law enforcement committed to purchasing 115 cameras for $275,000, a scheme that hasn’t launched yet.
Raw video recorded by an anonymous source was ultimately responsible for exposing that Slager shot Scott in the back. Scott, who was pulled over for a broken tail light, was actually running away from the officer, who then fired eight shots. Even more damning, Slager appears to drop an object next to Scott’s body. He’s since been charged with murder.
But as many activists have pointed out in the past, police body cameras do not guarantee justice, as evidenced by the Eric Garner incident. Officers in possession of video footage control the narrative, leaving room for abuse. Without an oversight committee that monitors and responds to police misconduct, video can be useless. Many believe the fight over body cameras also detracts from conversations about specific practices, like rampant racial profiling.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Why is this bad idea? Ask Walter Scott who was recently shot in the back by law enforcement in South Carolina. Oh wait, we can’t, he’s dead. If not for this video, we’d have another Mike Brown tragedy on our hands.
If the police are indeed not doing anything wrong, then they don't have anything to fear. I guess in the police’s mind, personal responsibility only applies to the ones they are protecting and serving the shit out of.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
City Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager is seen here in this undated photo provided by the North Charleston Police Department. (Photo: AP/North Charleston Police Department)
This provides a unique opportunity to observe how one police officer sought to avoid accountability for his actions.
Between the time when he shot and killed Scott early Saturday morning and when charges were filed, Slager — using the both the police department and his attorney — was able to provide his “version” of the events. He appeared well on his way to avoiding charges and pinning the blame on Scott.
Then a video, shot by an anonymous bystander, revealed exactly what happened.
Actual raw footage of the shooting:
On Saturday the police released a statement alleging that Scott had attempted to gain control of a Taser from Slager and that he was shot in a struggle over the weapon. The Post And Courier reported the initial story:
Police in a matter of hours declared the occurrence at the corner of Remount and Craig roads a traffic stop gone wrong, alleging the dead man fought with an officer over his Taser before deadly force was employed.
A statement released by North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said a man ran on foot from the traffic stop and an officer deployed his department-issued Taser in an attempt to stop him.
That did not work, police said, and an altercation ensued as the men struggled over the device. Police allege that during the struggle the man gained control of the Taser and attempted to use it against the officer.
The officer then resorted to his service weapon and shot him, police alleged.The story clearly came from Slager but he was able to use the authoritative voice of the police department to bolster his narrative. Meanwhile, Scott could only be defended by friends who did not witness the incident. “Walter was a nice, good, honest person… He was a grown man working hard to take care of his family,” said Samuel Scott, the victim’s cousin.
By Sunday, the police department had clammed up and refused to release any additional information about the events. (It’s unclear when the department became aware of the existence of the video.)
On Monday, Slager sought to reinforce his narrative, this time releasing a statement through his attorney. From The Post And Courier:
Slager thinks he properly followed all procedures and policies before resorting to deadly force, lawyer David Aylor said in a statement.
“When confronted, Officer Slager reached for his Taser — as trained by the department — and then a struggle ensued,” Aylor said. “The driver tried to overpower Officer Slager in an effort to take his Taser.”
Seconds later, the report added, he radioed that the suspect wrested control of the device. Even with the Taser’s prongs deployed, the device can still be used as a stun gun to temporarily incapacitate someone.
Slager “felt threatened and reached for his department-issued firearm and fired his weapon,” his attorney added.If the video had not surfaced, that’s where the story might have ended. In nearly all cases where an officer fires a weapon, that is the end of the story. A study by The State found “police in South Carolina have fired their weapons at 209 suspects in the past five years” but none were convicted. “We ruled all the shootings were justified – and we looked at dozens and dozens of them,” one former prosecutor told The State.
In this case, the video revealed a very different scenario. Scott, who was unarmed and fleeing, was shot in the back by Slager from a distance of at least 15 feet. After Scott was fatally shot, the video appears to capture Slager planting an object next to Scott.
How many "justified" police shootings would have been ruled on differently if videos were available to corroborate or contradict the police officer's account. Based on what we've seen when videos are available, we'd have to assume that a lot of so-called justified shootings have been shown to be out and out murder by those sworn to uphold the law. It's way past time for a change in law enforcement.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
VIDEO COURTESY OF COMEDY CENTRAL
Perhaps the “fundy bigots” should move to Saudi Arabia, as they seem to agree on the really important things of life.
Monday, April 6, 2015
|THE TWO BUFFOONS|
Jeb Bush identified himself as Hispanic on a 2009 voter-registration form in Florida, according to a copy of the document obtained by The New York Times.
Needless to say, neither Bush nor his parents are Hispanic, though his wife, Columba, was born in Mexico. "It is unclear where the paperwork error was made," a spokesperson for Bush said Monday. Jeb later took to Twitter: "My mistake! Don’t think I’ve fooled anyone!"
Mr. Bush, a former Florida governor and likely presidential candidate, was born in Texas and hails from one of America’s most prominent political dynasties. But on at least one occasion, it appears he got carried away with his appeal to Spanish-speaking voters and claimed he actually was Hispanic.
In a 2009 voter-registration application, obtained from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, Mr. Bush marked Hispanic in the field labeled “race/ethnicity.”A Bush spokeswoman could offer no explanation for the characterization.
Carolina Lopez, deputy supervisor of elections for Miami-Dade, said voters must submit hard copies of applications with a signature before receiving a voter information card confirming their address and polling location. According to the Florida Division of Elections, the application requires an original signature because the voter is swearing or affirming an oath. Florida law requires that the signature, driver’s license number and social security number be redacted before being publicly released.
While Mr. Bush’s claiming to be Hispanic may have been a careless mistake, confusion over heritage is no laughing matter during a campaign season.
Obviously it’s most apparent that both Bush brothers suffer from learning disabilities. Is this a calculated move or a simple mistake of checking the wrong box? With the Bush brothers, who knows?
Sunday, April 5, 2015
Saturday, April 4, 2015
|MCAULIFFE SIGN XO FOR CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK|
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order Friday to remove all questions regarding criminal history from applications for state government jobs. Agencies can still conduct a criminal background check on a job candidate, but only after finding him or her otherwise qualified for the position.
Speaking at a local Goodwill store in Richmond, Virginia, McAuliffe tied his action to the upcoming Easter holiday and its focus on turning over a new leaf.
“We should not seal the fate of every man and woman with a criminal record based on a hasty verdict,” he said. “If they are eager to make a clean start and build new lives in their communities, they deserve a fair chance at employment.”
Though the Department Of Labor doesn’t track the unemployment rate among those returning from jail or prison, studies have found that it’s about 60 to 75 percent for individuals a year after their incarceration. Difficulty securing a job is a major reason so many returned citizens commit another crime and return to prison.
Before signing the order, McAuliffe also expressed concern that consequences of “checking the box” on a job application and disclosing a past criminal conviction has a disproportionate impact on the state’s workers of color.
“We all know that this box has an unequal impact on our minority families,” he said. “One study found that 34 percent of white job applicants without a record received a callback, while only 17 percent of those with a criminal record did. Among African Americans, 14 percent without a criminal record received a callback while only 5 percent of those with a record heard back from a potential employer.”The order encourages, but doesn't require, Virginia’s private employers to ‘ban the box’ as well — and praises those like Target, WalMart and Home Depot that have already done so.
Virginia’s move follows similar laws passed in Georgia, Nebraska and a handful of others states as well as the District of Columbia to combat hiring discrimination against workers with criminal records.
The National Employment Law Project estimates 70 million American adults have arrests or convictions in their past that can make it difficult for them to obtain employment.