Judging the Judges 2010

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Sharon Kyle: Studies have shown that the average voter goes to the polls with little to no information on judicial races.Every election cycle, we are asked to vote for people few of us have heard of for offices that few of us know very much about. Yet these offices carry tremendous power.

The Media & the Murder of Aiyanna Jones

Aiyanna Jones

Sikivu Hutchinson: When a little white girl goes missing, online news, supermarket tabloids and cable network stations bombard us with up-to-the-minute dispatches on the crime, the victim, her shattered family and anguished community. When a little black girl is murdered in cold blood by a big city police department it is up to the community and those who care about social justice to ensure that the case doesn’t fade into the national obscurity that is usually reserved for the lives of people of color.

Arizona Gov Outlaws Teaching Tombstone’s OK Corral Gunfight and Cowboy Pix

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Ed Rampell: In a press conference the unelected Governor also announced that as part of the legislation the Arizona public school system was prohibiting teaching about the shootout at the O.K. Corral. “Educating students about this purported gunfight at Tombstone in 1881 could inflame racial animosity against Caucasians,” contended Brewer, noting that all of the participants in the brief but bloody barrage of bullets were whites.

Kagan in Context: Shafting Progressive Values

Elena Kagan

Noman Solomon: If President Obama has his way, Elena Kagan will replace John Paul Stevens — and the Supreme Court will move rightward. The nomination is very disturbing, especially because it’s part of a pattern. The White House is in the grip of conventional centrist wisdom. Grim results stretch from Afghanistan to the Gulf of Mexico to communities across the USA.

Let Us Expand the Definition of Terrorism

Rabbi Michael Lerner

David A. Love: The terrorist-as-enemy-of-America is like the bogeyman of Red Scare fame, ubiquitous yet elusive, and you can’t quite put your finger on them because they’re tricky. The definition of terrorism itself can serve as a political weapon—a form of terrorism itself, dare I say. Call someone a terrorist, or a communist or socialist or supporter thereof, and you delegitimize everything that person has to say. You marginalize everything that person represents.

AB2727 – The Bradford/Bass Re-Entry Employment Opportunity Act: Addressing The Lifelong Challenges of Ex-Offenders (Not A Minute Too Soon)

Speaker Emeritus Karen Bass

Anthony Asadullah Samad: If California is serious at reducing its prison costs, ex-offenders will have to be re-trained and employers will have to be more tolerant of people trying to get their lives back on track. Is that even possible? One thing about American culture, as it relates to any offender, is that despite we profess to being a forgiving society, or want to redeem the best in those who have made mistakes, the truth of the matter is that it always lets the ex-offender know that they are just that, “ex-offenders.”

Robert Reich’s Ignored Warning on Chief Justice John Roberts

Chief Justice John Roberts Swearing In

Robert Reich: Viewed as a whole, the record suggests that Roberts is likely to place a higher value on property than on community, and is likely to view the Commerce Clause as hobbling the effective reach of the federal law and regulation. As such, John Roberts may have more in common with his namesake before Justice Roberts switched sides in 1937 than after that historic switch.

Voices of America: Enhancing Diversity on the Bench

Cynthia Loo: It is not only a historic time, it is a hopeful time. Change comes slowly, but with the inspiration of the recent appointments of Judge Jacqueline Nguyen, a recognition of the value that different voices bring to the judiciary and affirmative steps led by someone with vision – that what Jacqueline Nguyen’s parents know will become a reality – that anything is possible in America.

As Death Penalty Cases Fade, L.A. County Pays to Buck the Trend

Natasha Minsker and Ramona Ripston: Los Angeles County, home to California’s largest trial court system, has been feeling the pain of those court closures in more significant measure than most. It recently laid off more than 300 staff and is moving forward with shutting down 12 courtrooms. But meanwhile, a parallel trend is stalking the county that’s exacerbating the budget crisis. Astoundingly, Los Angeles County has become the leading death penalty county in the United States. In fact, in 2009 more people were sentenced to death in Los Angeles County than in any other state, including Texas, the longtime leader in this grim statistic.

Getting a Liberal on the Supreme Court

Tom Deegan: Fasten your seat belts and brace yourselves for the latest poop storm that is about to fall on Washington DC, folks. With the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens imminent, President Barack Obama is about to get his second appointee to the United States Supreme Court in a less than a year. And like last year’s Sonia Sotomayor confirmation travesty, you can expect the Republicans (and even some Democrats) to have a positive hissy fit. These people have moved so far to the extreme right in recent years, the wishiest washiest moderate is going to be perceived as too much of a radical, left wing ideologue for these nincompoops.

U.S. Gun Nuts Help Mexican Drug Gangs

Mexican Drug Wars

Jim Fuller: Obviously, the peddling of weapons to Mexican drug gangs is highly profitable. Remember, 40,000 recovered weapons in 2008 alone, and nobody knows how many still in the hands of gangsters, but certainly many times that 40,000 figure. And there are thousands of sales to drug peddlers every day along the border. Money, money, money. America’s gun makers are going to protect that highly profitable business every way they can, and that inevitably means stirring up the knuckle draggers who front for them in every battle in the stupidly mistaken belief that they are “protecting our Second Amendment rights.”

Our National Epidemic of Violence

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David Swanson: If you wanted to increase violence, he writes, you would take the following steps that the United States has taken: Punish more and more people more and more harshly; ban drugs that inhibit violence and legalize and advertise those that stimulate it; use taxes and economic policies to widen disparities in wealth and income; deny the poor education; perpetuate racism; produce entertainment that glorifies violence; make lethal weapons readily available; maximize the polarization of social roles of men and women; encourage prejudice against homosexuality; use violence to punish children in school and at home; and keep unemployment sufficiently high. And why would you do that? Possibly because most victims of violence are poor, and the poor can organize in rebellion against the rich when they aren’t terrorized by crime.

The Pope’s Pedophilic Church

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Rev. Irene Monroe: When you have a pope more invested in doctrinal debates than personal suffering, and more invested in exerting his ecclesiastical power in defrocking dissident theologians than his priestly flock of sex predators, then it’s easy to comprehend why the decades-long pleas and petitions from Catholic parishioners – worldwide – to Pope Benedict XVI to do something never made anything happen.

LA Youth vs. the Probation Department: Who Is More in Need of Intervention?

Probatoin

Diane Lefer: Problems in the department–the largest probation department in the world–are well known. Probation, with its $700-million budget, is monitored by the Department of Justice and sued by the ACLU. Young people are incarcerated for offenses no more serious than truancy and curfew violations. Probation officers known for physically abusing youth in their care remain on the job…

On Guantánamo, Symbolism Trumps Substance

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Ivan Eland: Although closing Guantánamo would be important symbolically, the law-free sanctuary that the Bush administration had achieved there has already been eroded by the Supreme Court’s demand that detainees have some legal rights. And even if the Obama administration closes Gitmo, some of Bush’s unconstitutional policies would continue in prisons around the United States—for example, the use of military tribunals for some detainees and the detention of some former Guantánamo detainees indefinitely without trial.

First Solve Prison Crisis, Then Fix California’s Budget

Gary Gilmore

Dick Price: To get a handle on the damage California’s current approach to incarceration is having on its citizens, consider this: In a recent 23-year period, California erected 23 prisons—one a year, each costing roughly $100 million dollars annually to operate, with both Democratic and Republican governors occupying the statehouse—at the same time that it added just one campus to its vaunted university system, UC Merced.

How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent American Undercaste

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Michelle Alexander: The uncomfortable truth, however, is that crime rates do not explain the sudden and dramatic mass incarceration of African Americans during the past 30 years. Crime rates have fluctuated over the last few decades — they are currently are at historical lows — but imprisonment rates have consistently soared. Quintupled, in fact. And the vast majority of that increase is due to the War on Drugs.

Disproportionality is Killing America

Rich-and-Poor

David A. Love: America’s criminal justice system certainly is disproportional. In the land of the free, 5 percent of the world’s population boasts 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Bad drug laws and sentencing guidelines fill the prison cells with nonviolent offenders. The vast majority of these prisoners are black and Latino, not to mention poor and uneducated. The vast majority of the judges and lawyers are white.

Balancing Altruism and Self-Interest in Government

Charles Kuralt

Ron Wolff: No doubt some of the “conservatives” (for lack of a better label — generally I dislike labels as oversimplifications) who read my articles feel that I spend too much energy denigrating our society. I can almost hear them say “If you love Denmark so much, why don’t you move there?”

Can Math and Science Help Solve Crime?

Andrea Bertozzi, Martin Short, and Jeffrey Brantingham

Stuart Wolpert: “Criminal offenders are essentially hunter-gatherers; they forage for opportunities to commit crimes,” said Brantingham, a UCLA associate professor of anthropology. “The behaviors that a hunter-gatherer uses to choose a wildebeest versus a gazelle are the same calculations a criminal uses to choose a Honda versus a Lexus.” Predicting crime and devising better crime-prevention strategies requires “a mechanistic explanation. . .” says Brantingham.

Schwarzenegger’s Prison Plan Ignores Racial History

Michelle Alexander: The skyrocketing incarceration rates of the past three decades have not affected all segments of California’s population equally. African Americans and Latinos have been hardest hit, thanks largely to the war on drugs — a war that has targeted people of color for drug crimes, even though studies show they are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites.

A Sick Society Normalizes Gun Violence

Murder

David A. Love: Based on the lack of an adequate public policy response to America’s gun problem, one must conclude that these firearm deaths are viewed as collateral damage, the price society is willing to pay for a so-called “free” society of gun ownership rights.

Supremes Murder the First Amendment: Whaddaya Gonna Do?

Supreme Court Decision

Gary Coseri: I hacked the computer of Barack Obama. “Mr. President,” I wrote, “this can’t be happening. This can’t be right. Didn’t you say something about ‘hope’ and ‘change’; no more politics as usual? Wasn’t that you?” He wrote back that he was always glad to hear from “the People.” And that the FBI would soon be knocking on my door. Which is what happened. And it was true: They wear bad shoes!

Perseverance

Corporate vote

Timothy V. Gatto: The pharmaceutical industry and the health insurance companies along with their Congressional minions stopped any real hope of true health reform. The current package is a windfall for health insurers, giving the 50,000,000 new clients who must take health insurance or pay a fine. That doesn’t sound very progressive to me.

Stop Wasting Money on the Death Penalty!

Death Penalty

Natasha Minsker: let’s consider something the governor can actually do right now to make a serious dent in the corrections budget: convert all 700 death sentences in California to permanent imprisonment saving the state $1 billion over the next five years.

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