As the chart below shows, in 2010, there were 46 executions in the United States. Texas imposed 37 percent of them (17). Since executions began again in 1976, 1,242 men and women have been executed. Three states?Texas, Virginia and Oklahoma?have put to death 54 percent of the total (670).As most readers here have no doubt heard, Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn made the 11-year moratorium on capital punishment in his state permanent Wednesday, joining the other 15 states that have no capital punishment. Yet one more jurisdiction has become part of the civilized world, replacing the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole.
The two largest mass executions in the nation's history were of Indians and African Americans. Those were long ago. But today capital punishment continues to be racist, as does the criminal-justice system overall. Blacks who kill whites are twice as likely to be executed as are whites who kill whites, five times as likely as are whites who kill blacks and eight times as likely as are blacks who kill blacks. Message: black lives are less valued than white ones.
And that, of course, is not the only travesty accompanying this barbaric punishment. The system is rife with prosecutorial misconduct, underfunded and under-trained public defenders, likely innocents being gassed or given the needle, narrow escapes via exonerations thanks to DNA or other belated evidence. In its editorial praising the ban yesterday, the Chicago Sun-Times mentioned one such case that combined a number of these problems:
Here?s where we stood just two decades ago, when the case of accused murderer Rolando Cruz came before the Illinois Supreme Court. Lawyers, investigators and journalists already had unearthed plenty of evidence pointing to Cruz?s innocence, but the court ruled he should be executed anyway. ...
?What we?ve learned since then is that the Cruz case was no anomaly. We?ve learned that the system makes too many mistakes to entrust it with the ultimate power of capital punishment. We?ve learned that legal safeguards can be pushed aside when emotions are high after a heinous crime. We?ve learned that political ambition sometimes blinds those in power to the weaknesses of a case. We?ve learned that evidence can disappear or be misrepresented, that witnesses seeking special deals may lie, that juries may be swayed by emotion instead of facts."
Cruz was conclusively exonerated by DNA testing after 10 years on death row. That case and many others in Illinois were what led Gov. Quinn to point out in his press conference announcing the ban that the imposition of the death penalty is "inherently flawed." That is something that former Gov. George Ryan, advocates like those at the Innocence Project and the Death Penalty Information Center, and the documentary filmmaker Errol Morris have known for a long time.
It is obviously easy to oppose the death penalty when the convict didn't actually do the crime. No sane person thinks innocents should be executed. The hard part is persuading a majority of state legislators that even the guilty should not be put to death.
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At Daily Kos on this date in 2008:
You've got to (half) hand it to John Boehner and the House Republicans. When they half-ass it, they really half-ass it.
On Sunday, I explained the Republicans' latest protest maneuver, the use of the motion to recommit as a weapon (sorta-kinda) in the FISA fight.
Today, though, the Republican weapon of choice is the motion to adjourn, which is just what it sounds like. Why the motion to adjourn? Because today's legislative business is being considered under suspension of the rules (definition), a procedure that doesn't allow for motions to recommit (but which requires a 2/3 majority to pass anything).
So instead, the protest move is this: Republicans take the floor and complain that the House ought to take up the FISA bill with all due speed. And so, of course, the only logical move is... to move that the House adjourn.
An activist blog like FDL is all about making a difference politically, and spends much of its times hammering politicians to lead on various important subjects. But Matt Yglesias writes today that … people focus too much on polls about what ?the[...]
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Most of the focus when the N.C.A.A. tournament bracket is revealed on Sunday will be on how teams are seeded and what sort of opponents they're due to face -- and which teams make the field of 68 at all. But there is another factor that can make just as much difference: where the games are played.
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Reps. Michael Capuano and Shelley Berkley, official portraits
It's a wonder that any kind of health reform passed at all last year, considering how Congress works. The key missing elements were strong reform on some of the major cost drivers?pharmaceuticals, devices, hospitals, and providers?precisely because those cost drivers are a powerful constituency in both the Congress and the White House. There's ample proof of that in the news that two House Dems have decided to cosponsor GOP legislation to repeal one of the few elements of the law that would keep health costs under control.
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) became a co-sponsor of legislation to repeal the Medicare payment board on Wednesday, one week after Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.). A spokesman for the congresswoman said she remains committed to the law's cost-cutting goals but wants Congress to be in charge.
"She believes that authority ought to remain with Congress," said David Cherry. "Everyone shares the goal of controlling costs, but how do you do it most effectively?"
The Independent Payment Advisory Board fast-tracks cuts to Medicare payments when spending reaches a pre-determined target. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that it would save $28 billion through 2019....
[C]ongressional Democrats have been under tremendous pressure from doctors and hospitals to try to nix an unelected board that directly threatens their bottom line. Over the years, the current Medicare Payment Advisory Board has seen millions of dollars worth of recommended Medicare cuts ignored by Congress.
The IPAB was created precisely because market forces alone obviously can't control healthcare costs, and because Congress is too likely to be compelled by special interests (as this repeal effort and its support from Democrats reflects) to make the tough decisions on cost control. The board is supposed to be comprised of 15 members appointed by the president for 6-year terms. It will include three officials from HHS, and "nationally recognized experts in health finance, payment, economics, actuarial science, or health facility and health plan management and to represent providers, consumers, and payers."
The IPAB wasn't and isn't the silver bullet to controlling healthcare costs. One doesn't exist in this law, but it is a start if it can survive this assault. But until there's a political will to take on the industry, and to take it on beyond the confines of just the Medicare program, healthcare costs are just going to keep rising.
Title: Kojo No TsukiArtist: Rentaro Taki
Tonight our thoughts are with the people of Japan and others affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
Looks like the payback has begun in Wisconsin - to help keep this ad on the air, click here...
...and good for Lawrence O'Donnell for giving Baby Newton Leroy another shot here...
...and you just knew the Repugs would find their 2012 presidential "dark horse," didn't you...
Man Becomes GOP Frontrunner After Showing No Interest In Government
...and it looks like another week is "in the books" - enjoy (let's hope this song is apropos on a couple of different levels at least).
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enlargeLos Angeles January 17, 1994 - nothing subtle here.
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With news of the 8.9 earthquake and Tsunami that hit Japan yesterday still unfolding, it's difficult to imagine what an earthquake of that magnitude is really like. When those of us in Los Angeles got ours in 1994, known as The Northridge Earthquake because the epicenter was in the suburb of Northridge, it was variously reported as between 6.8 and 7.1 (finally settling on 6.7) on the Richter Scale - and that to us was pretty horrific. If you've ever had the experience of going through one, it's unforgettable. The disorientation, the flashing lights (from exploding power lines), the non-stop sound of breaking glass and that unmistakable roar as the building you happen to be in shifts dramatically from side to side (or up and down) leave you shaking long after the earth has stopped.
The upside is usually an exodus of people moving back to places in the Mid-West, South or East, swearing up and down whatever horrors associated with weather and natural disasters back home were a piece of cake compared to the all-engrossing hysteria associated with "a good shaker". Maybe they're right, but it seems like Mother Nature has a few tricks up her sleeve no matter where you go. The downside is you never know when the next one will happen and if the one you're currently feeling is "the big one", the "aftershock", a "seismic correction" or "a pre-quake". The guessing game can get little unnerving especially when you hear about other earthquakes such as last month in New Zealand and yesterday in Japan and that regular reminder "we're long overdue for a big one in L.A." - comforting thoughts all around.
So as a reminder of just how vulnerable we all are, living in Earthquake Country, here are news reports from ABC Radio from January 17, 1994.
And . . .how is your battery supply?
© Alex Blythe | Dreamstime.com
The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday has been making the rounds of the blogosphere:
The poll found 51 percent of Americans support reducing defense spending, and only 28 percent want to cut Medicare and Medicaid health programs for the elderly and poor. A mere 18 percent back cuts in the Social Security retirement program.
The poll is getting less circulation among the Village commentators, who if they will address it will undoubtedly say something about those poor misguided Americans who really just don't understand the difficult things like big budgets, and just don't know what's good for them. What's good for them, obviously, is working until they're ready to drop and then subsisting on catfood and the knowledge that they sacrificed their share.
What you probably won't be hearing from the Villagers when it comes to spending cuts is this, from Christopher Hellman, a military spending analyst with progressive think tank the National Priorities Project.
Though Obama?s 2012 budget remains in legislative limbo, the figures offered within provide a meaningful glimpse into the sorts of costs government programs are expected to incur. Hellman?s breakdown sheds light on just how much money the U.S. really spends on national security.
Last week, Hellman wrote an article for political blog the Tom Dispatch in which he explained that the $558 billion Pentagon budget and the $118 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan don?t come close to depicting the whole picture of national security spending. Nuclear program maintenance, additional war and terrorism-related operational costs and homeland security all drive up defense expenses by nearly $90 billion. Intelligence, veterans programs, miscellaneous peacekeeping and counterterrorism efforts and military pensions push national security spending yet further, tipping total costs just over $1 trillion. Hellman caps that figure off with the $185 billion the U.S. must pay in 2012 in interest on standing defense debts and arrives at a sum total of $1.22 trillion. To put that number in perspective, Hellman says that a country with a gross domestic product that high would have the 15th largest economy in the world, ahead of Indonesia, Australia and Saudi Arabia.
So take out the $129.3 billion included in his calculations for veterans programs, because the nation sent these people to fight for us and they damned well deserve every meager penny spent on them. Take it out and you're still well over a trillion?trillion in one year of defense spending. Now, defense contractors aren't worrying about what they're going to subsist on in their dotage (though some of their shop floor workers in right to work states might be, now that austerity rules).
$700 billion for unending, pointless wars is bad enough?bring them home and spend the money taking care of them here. But $1.22 trillion?enough to fund a comfortably well-off country?when the social safety net for the country is being shredded is obscene.
(See Meteor Blades's Night Owls post from March 3, 2011, for much more on this.)
More than 560 other Lyle Lahey political cartoons here.
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On a day (and week) when the news has been less than fun, we want to take some time out to wish our own wonderful VlogFather, John Amato, a very happy birthday!!!
It's a running joke among the staff that John's main squeeze is Liz Cheney. Amato remarks: "Liz and I are going for some sushi and then I'll be taking a tour of the new Haliburton factory...That really gets her going..."
Happy Birthday, John!
You're all invited to leave well-wishing in comments below....