We’re treating soil like dirt. It’s a fatal mistake, because all human life depends on it | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian feedly

More imper­a­tive than cli­mate change.

We’re treat­ing soil like dirt. It’s a fatal mis­take, because all human life depends on it | George Mon­biot | Com­ment is free | The Guardian
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Always remember, the NYTimes pushed, hard, for war in Iraq feedly

The Times makes the world a more dan­ger­ous place by lying about it. It’s just that sim­ple. Every time jour­nal­ists lie to mil­lions about the actual state of the world, they degrade those people’s abil­ity to make good deci­sions about the world, espe­cially polit­i­cal deci­sions about vot­ing. Democ­racy, which puts power in ordi­nary people’s hands, requires a media that does not know­ingly dis­tort facts nor con­ceal unfor­tu­nate truths.

Always remem­ber, the NYTimes pushed, hard, for war in Iraq
// Ian Welsh

The New York Times is beloved by many lib­er­als, but I despise them. Part of it is their role in mak­ing the Iraq war hap­pen, because I was fol­low­ing it in real time, and I remem­ber how they pushed admin­is­tra­tion lies: the head­line of their arti­cles on Iraq were almost always alarmist, the lead para­graphs were as well, and often enough the truth would be buried in the equiv­a­lent of para­graph twelve.

Here’s the rule for those not in the busi­ness: most peo­ple only read the head­lines, and you lose half the peo­ple read­ing the arti­cle per para­graph. Maybe the Times num­bers are slightly bet­ter than that (prob­a­bly because their head­lines are truly atro­cious and unin­for­ma­tive), but the rule is broadly true, and few peo­ple are able to write long-form with­out los­ing their readers.

The Times is essen­tially reac­tionary, a look at their colum­nists and who they have cho­sen to be new colum­nists makes the point: Ross Douthat, the reac­tionary Catholic? David Brooks, mas­ter of the inane right wing observation?

I was reminded of this in the last few days because of the two arti­cles put at the very top of the NYT’s daily emails:

Saudi Jus­tice, Harsh but Able to Spare the Sword

…Such rul­ings have prompted com­par­isons to the Islamic State, which reg­u­larly beheads its foes and also claims to apply Shariah law.

But Mr. Yehiya was saved because of checks in the Saudi sys­tem on the use of harsh punishments.


Rebukes From White House Risk Buoy­ing Netanyahu

… Israeli ana­lysts are now sug­gest­ing that Mr. Obama and his aides might be over­play­ing their hand, invit­ing a back­lash of sym­pa­thy for Mr. Netanyahu, and that they may not have clearly defined what they expected to gain diplo­mat­i­cally by con­tin­u­ing to pres­sure the Israeli leader.

Cer­tain coun­tries are apol­o­gized for because they are US allies. Remem­ber the orgy of praise for the “cau­tious reformer” King Abdul­lah of Saudi Ara­bia when he died?

Read­ing this sort of hagiog­ra­phy of evil men and nations is like tak­ing a swig of sour milk: it induces a gag reflex.

A lot of peo­ple think the Times is in some way left wing because they have a lot of excel­lent long form arts and cul­ture cov­er­age, but they are also the news­pa­per which knew the US, under Bush II, was spy­ing on its own cit­i­zens in a wide­spread way, and buried the story because it might influ­ence the election.

Sand jour­nal­ists with­out any pref­er­ence for right or left wing, might think that infor­ma­tion about what the gov­ern­ment is actu­ally doing should influ­ence the elec­tion. They might even think it was their job to reveal such infor­ma­tion. Not the Times, however.

I sup­pose I’m slightly unfair to sin­gle out the Times: almost all Amer­i­can media is right wing and supine before power. But the NYT is the most impor­tant news­pa­per in the world, a news­pa­per with reach, power and influ­ence and a paper which has the clout to make other choices.

It doesn’t. Instead it chooses to kneel before power; to be a courtier to power, and in so doing, show to other jour­nal­ists that this is what jour­nal­ism is.

Enjoy the Times long form cul­tural pieces, by all means. But remem­ber that they are past mas­ters of pro­pa­ganda, will­ing to spew out half-truths that con­ceal fun­da­men­tal truths, such as ISIS being the spawn of Saudi Ara­bia and hav­ing a jus­tice sys­tem which is very close to them; and will­ing to spew out­right lies like King Abdul­lah being some sort of reformer.

The Times makes the world a more dan­ger­ous place by lying about it. It’s just that sim­ple. Every time jour­nal­ists lie to mil­lions about the actual state of the world, they degrade those people’s abil­ity to make good deci­sions about the world, espe­cially polit­i­cal deci­sions about vot­ing. Democ­racy, which puts power in ordi­nary people’s hands, requires a media that does not know­ingly dis­tort facts nor con­ceal unfor­tu­nate truths.

The Amer­i­can media, lead by the New York Times, has failed in that task, grossly, for decades. The blood of mil­lions stains their hands, and when the blame is appor­tioned for America’s decline, they shall have plenty to answer for.


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Journalists: Truth Is Our Country

Reprinted from Trends in the News|

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, a man I greatly admire for his courage, intel­li­gence and deep insights was recently hon­ored in Mex­ico at the annual awards con­fer­ence of the Club De Peri­odis­tas De Mex­ico with the Inter­na­tional Award For Excel­lence In Jour­nal­ism. His bril­liant speech, empha­siz­ing the fad­ing role of truth in con­tem­po­rary jour­nal­ism, is reprinted here with his permission.


Thank you for this recog­ni­tion, for this honor. As Jesus told the peo­ple of Nazareth, a prophet is with­out honor in his own coun­try. In the United States, this is also true of journalists.

In the United States, jour­nal­ists receive awards for lying for the gov­ern­ment and cor­po­ra­tions. Any­one who tells the truth, whether jour­nal­ist or whistle­blower, is fired or pros­e­cuted or has to hide out in the Ecuado­ran Embassy in Lon­don, like Julian Assange; or in Moscow, like Edward Snow­den; or is tor­tured and impris­oned, like Bradley Manning.

Mex­i­can jour­nal­ists pay an even higher price. Those who report on gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion and on drug car­tels pay with their lives.

The Inter­net ency­clo­pe­dia, Wikipedia, has, as an entry, a list by name of jour­nal­ists mur­dered in Mex­ico. This is the List of Honor. Wikipedia reports more than 100 Mex­i­can jour­nal­ists have been killed or dis­ap­peared in the 21st century.

Despite intim­i­da­tion, the Mex­i­can press has not aban­doned its job. Because of your courage, I regard this award bestowed on me as the great­est of honors.

In the United States, real jour­nal­ists are scarce and are becom­ing more scarce. Jour­nal­ists have mor­phed into a new crea­ture. Ger­ald Celente calls US jour­nal­ists “pressti­tutes,” a word formed from “press pros­ti­tute.”  In other words, jour­nal­ists in the United States are whores for the gov­ern­ment and corporations.

The few real jour­nal­ists that remain are resign­ing. Last year, Sharyl Attkisson, a 21-year vet­eran reporter with CBS, resigned on the grounds that it had become too much of a fight to get truth reported. She was frus­trated that CBS saw its pur­pose to be a pro­tec­tor of the pow­er­ful, not a critic.

Recently, Peter Oborne, the UK Telegraph’s chief polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor, explained why he resigned. His sto­ries about the wrong­do­ings of the bank­ing giant, HSBC, were spiked, because HSBC is an impor­tant adver­tiser for the Tele­graph. Osborne says: “The cov­er­age of HSBC in Britain’s Tele­graph is a fraud on its read­ers. If major news­pa­pers allow cor­po­ra­tions to influ­ence their con­tent for fear of los­ing adver­tis­ing rev­enue, democ­racy itself is in peril.”  http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-i-have-resigned-from-the-telegraph/5432659

Last sum­mer, for­mer New York Times edi­tor Jill Abram­son, in a speech at the Chau­tauqua Insti­tu­tion, said The New York Times with­held infor­ma­tion at the request of the White House. She said that for a num­ber of years, the press in gen­eral did not pub­lish any sto­ries that upset the White House. She jus­ti­fied this com­plete fail­ure of jour­nal­ism on the grounds that “jour­nal­ists are Amer­i­cans, too. I con­sider myself to be a patriot.”

So, in the United States, jour­nal­ists lie for the gov­ern­ment because they are patri­otic, and their read­ers and lis­ten­ers believe the lies because they are patriotic.

Our view dif­fers from the view of The New York Times edi­tor. The view of those of us here today is that our coun­try is not the United States. It is not Mex­ico. Our coun­try is Truth. Once a jour­nal­ist sac­ri­fices Truth to loy­alty to a gov­ern­ment, he ceases to be a jour­nal­ist and becomes a propagandist.

Recently, Brian Williams, the tele­vi­sion news anchor at NBC, destroyed his career because he mis­re­mem­bered an episode of more than a decade ago when he was cov­er­ing the Iraq War. He told his audi­ence that a heli­copter in which he was with troops in a war zone as a war cor­re­spon­dent was hit by ground fire and had to land.

But the heli­copter had not been hit by ground fire. His fel­low jour­nal­ists turned on him, accus­ing him of lying in order to enhance his sta­tus as a war correspondent.

On Feb­ru­ary 10, NBC sus­pended Brian Williams for six months from his job as man­ag­ing edi­tor and anchor of NBC Nightly News.

Think about this for a moment. It makes no dif­fer­ence what­so­ever whether the heli­copter had to land because it had been hit by gun­fire, or for some other rea­son, or whether it had to land at all. If it was an inten­tional lie, it was one of no con­se­quence. If it was a mis­take, an episode of “false mem­ory,” why the exces­sive reac­tion? Psy­chol­o­gists say that false mem­o­ries are common.

The same NBC that sus­pended Brian Williams and the jour­nal­ists who accused him of lying are all guilty of telling mas­sive lies for the entirety of the 21st cen­tury that have had vast con­se­quences. The United States gov­ern­ment has been, and still is, invad­ing, bomb­ing and dron­ing seven or eight coun­tries on the basis of lies told by Wash­ing­ton and end­lessly repeated by the media. Mil­lions of peo­ple have been killed, maimed and dis­placed by vio­lence based entirely on lies spew­ing out of the mouths of Wash­ing­ton and its presstitutes.

We know what these lies are: Sad­dam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruc­tion. Assad of Syria’s use of chem­i­cal weapons. Iran­ian nukes. Pak­istani and Yemeni ter­ror­ists. Ter­ror­ists in Soma­lia. The end­less lies about Gaddafi in Libya, about the Tal­iban in Afghanistan. And now the alleged Russ­ian inva­sion and annex­a­tion of Ukraine.

All of these trans­par­ent lies are repeated end­lessly, and no one is held account­able. But one jour­nal­ist mis­re­mem­bers one insignif­i­cant detail about a heli­copter ride and his career is destroyed.

We can safely con­clude that the only hon­est jour­nal­ism that exists in the United States is pro­vided by alter­na­tive media on the Internet.

Con­se­quently, the Inter­net is now under US gov­ern­ment attack. “Truth is the enemy of the state,” and Wash­ing­ton intends to shut down truth everywhere.

Wash­ing­ton appointed Andrew Lack, the for­mer pres­i­dent of NBC News, to be the chief exec­u­tive of the Broad­cast­ing Board of Gov­er­nors (Lack resigned in early March to return to NBC). His first offi­cial state­ment com­pared RT, Rus­sia Today, the Russian-based news agency, with the Islamic State and Boko Haram. In other words, Mr. Lack brands RT as a ter­ror­ist organization.

The pur­pose of Lack’s absurd com­par­i­son is to strike fear at RT that the news orga­ni­za­tion will be expelled from US media mar­kets. Lack’s mes­sage to RT is: “Lie for us or we are going to expel you from our airwaves.”

The British already did this to Iran’s Press TV.

In the United States, the attack on Inter­net inde­pen­dent media is pro­ceed­ing on sev­eral fronts. One is known as the issue of “net neutrality.”

There is an effort by Wash­ing­ton, joined by Inter­net providers, to charge sites for speedy access. Band­width would be sold for fees. Large media cor­po­ra­tions, such as CNN and The New York Times, would be able to pay the prices for a quickly open­ing web­site. Smaller inde­pen­dent sites such as mine would be ham­pered with the slow­ness of the old “dial-up”-type band­width. Click on CNN and the site imme­di­ately opens. Click on paulcraigroberts.org and wait five minutes.

You get the pic­ture. This is Washington’s plan and the cor­po­ra­tions’ plan for the Internet.

But it gets worse. The Elec­tronic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, which attempts to defend our dig­i­tal rights, reports that so-called “free trade agree­ments,” such as the Trans Pacific Part­ner­ship (and the Trans Atlantic Part­ner­ship) impose prison sen­tences, mas­sive fines and prop­erty seizures on Inter­net users who inno­cently vio­late vague lan­guage in the so-called trade agreements.

Recently, a young Amer­i­can, Bar­rett Brown, was sen­tenced to five years in prison and a fine of $890,000 for link­ing to allegedly hacked doc­u­ments posted on the Inter­net. Bar­rett Brown did not hack the doc­u­ments. He merely linked to an Inter­net post­ing, and he has no prospect of earn­ing $890,000 over the course of his life.

The pur­pose of the US government’s pros­e­cu­tion, indeed, per­se­cu­tion, of this young per­son is to estab­lish the prece­dent that any­one who uses Inter­net infor­ma­tion in ways that Wash­ing­ton dis­ap­proves, or for pur­poses that Wash­ing­ton dis­ap­proves, is a crim­i­nal whose life will be ruined. The pur­pose of Bar­rett Brown’s show trial is to intim­i­date. It is Washington’s equiv­a­lent to the mur­der of Mex­i­can journalists.

But this is pro­logue. Now we turn to the chal­lenge that Wash­ing­ton presents to the entire world.

It is the nature of gov­ern­ment and tech­nol­ogy to estab­lish con­trol. Peo­ple every­where face the threat of con­trol by gov­ern­ment and tech­nol­ogy. But the threat from Wash­ing­ton is much greater. Wash­ing­ton is not con­tent with only con­trol­ling the cit­i­zens of the United States. Wash­ing­ton intends to con­trol the world.

Mikhail Gor­bachev is cor­rect when he says that the col­lapse of the Soviet Union was the worst thing that has hap­pened to human­ity, because the Soviet col­lapse removed the only con­straint on Washington’s power.

The Soviet col­lapse released a ter­ri­ble evil upon the world. The neo­con­ser­v­a­tives in Wash­ing­ton con­cluded that the fail­ure of com­mu­nism meant that His­tory has cho­sen Amer­i­can “demo­c­ra­tic cap­i­tal­ism,” which is nei­ther demo­c­ra­tic nor cap­i­tal­ist, to rule the world. The Soviet col­lapse sig­naled “the End of His­tory,” by which is meant the end of com­pe­ti­tion between social, polit­i­cal and eco­nomic systems.

The choice made by His­tory ele­vated the United States to the pre-eminent posi­tion of being the “indis­pens­able and excep­tional” coun­try, a claim of supe­ri­or­ity. If the United States is “indis­pens­able,” then oth­ers are dis­pens­able. If the United States is excep­tional, then oth­ers are unex­cep­tional. We have seen the con­se­quences of Washington’s ide­ol­ogy in Washington’s destruc­tion of life and sta­bil­ity in the Mid­dle East.

Washington’s drive for World Hege­mony, based as it is on a lie, makes nec­es­sary the oblit­er­a­tion of Truth. As Washington’s agenda of supremacy is all encom­pass­ing, Wash­ing­ton regards truth as a greater enemy than Rus­sians, Mus­lim ter­ror­ists and the Islamic State.

As truth is Washington’s worst enemy, every­one asso­ci­ated with the truth is Washington’s enemy.

Latin Amer­ica can have no illu­sions about Wash­ing­ton. The first act of the Obama Regime was to over­throw the demo­c­ra­tic reformist gov­ern­ment of Hon­duras. Cur­rently, the Obama Regime is try­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina.

As Mex­i­cans know, in the 19th cen­tury, Wash­ing­ton stole half of Mex­ico. Today, Wash­ing­ton is steal­ing the rest of Mex­ico. The United States is steal­ing Mex­ico via finan­cial impe­ri­al­ism; by sub­or­di­nat­ing Mex­i­can agri­cul­ture and self-sustaining peas­ant agri­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties to foreign-owned mono­cul­ture; and by infect­ing Mex­ico with Monsanto’s GMOs — genet­i­cally mod­i­fied organ­isms, seeds that do not repro­duce, chem­i­cals that destroy the soil and nature’s nutri­ents, seeds that leave Mex­ico depen­dent on Mon­santo for food crops with reduced nutri­tional value.

It is easy for gov­ern­ments to sell out their coun­tries to Wash­ing­ton and North Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tions. Wash­ing­ton and US cor­po­ra­tions pay high prices for sub­servience to their con­trol. It is dif­fi­cult for coun­tries, small in eco­nomic and polit­i­cal influ­ence, to stand against such power. All sorts of masks are used behind which Wash­ing­ton hides US exploita­tion — glob­al­ism, free trade treaties…

But the world is chang­ing. Putin has revived Rus­sia, and Rus­sia has proved its abil­ity to stand up to Washington.

On a pur­chas­ing power basis, China now has the largest econ­omy in the world.

As China and Rus­sia are now strate­gic allies, Wash­ing­ton can­not act against one with­out act­ing against the other. The two com­bined exceed Washington’s capabilities.

The United States gov­ern­ment has proven to the entire world that it is law­less. A coun­try that flaunts its dis­re­spect of law can­not pro­vide trusted leadership.

My con­clu­sion is that Washington’s power has peaked.

Another rea­son Washington’s power has peaked is that Wash­ing­ton has used its power to serve only itself and US cor­po­ra­tions. The Rest of the World is dis­pens­able and has been left out.

Washington’s power grew out of World War II. All other economies and cur­ren­cies were dev­as­tated.  This allowed Wash­ing­ton to seize the world reserve cur­rency role from Great Britain.

The advan­tage of being the world reserve cur­rency is that you can pay your bills by print­ing money. In other words, you can’t go broke as long as other coun­tries are will­ing to hold your fiat cur­rency as their reserves.

But if other coun­tries were to decide not to hold US cur­rency as reserves, the US could go broke suddenly.

Since 2008, the sup­ply of US dol­lars has increased dra­mat­i­cally in rela­tion to the abil­ity of the real econ­omy to pro­duce goods and ser­vices. When­ever the growth of money out­paces the growth of real out­put, trou­ble lies ahead. More­over, Washington’s pol­icy of impos­ing sanc­tions in an effort to force other coun­tries to do its will is caus­ing a large part of the world known as the BRICS to develop an alter­na­tive inter­na­tional pay­ments system.

Washington’s arro­gance and hubris have caused Wash­ing­ton to ignore the inter­ests of other coun­tries, includ­ing those of its allies. Even Washington’s Euro­pean vas­sal states show signs of devel­op­ing an inde­pen­dent for­eign pol­icy in their approach to Rus­sia and Ukraine. Oppor­tu­ni­ties will arise for gov­ern­ments to escape from Washington’s con­trol and to pur­sue the inter­ests of their own peoples.

The US media have never per­formed the func­tion assigned to it by the Found­ing Fathers. The media are sup­posed to be diverse and inde­pen­dent. It is sup­posed to con­front both gov­ern­ment and private-interest groups with the facts and the truth.  At times, the US media par­tially ful­filled this role, but not since the final years of the Clin­ton Regime, when the gov­ern­ment allowed six mega-media com­pa­nies to con­sol­i­date 90 per­cent of the media in their hands.

The mega-media com­pa­nies that con­trol the US media are GE, News Corp., Dis­ney, Via­com, Time Warner and CBS. (GE owns NBC, for­merly an inde­pen­dent net­work. News Corp. owns Fox News, The Wall Street Jour­nal and British news­pa­pers. Dis­ney owns ABC. Time Warner owns CNN.)

The US media is no longer run by jour­nal­ists. It is run by for­mer gov­ern­ment offi­cials and cor­po­rate adver­tis­ing exec­u­tives. The val­ues of the mega-media com­pa­nies depend on their fed­eral broad­cast licenses. If the com­pa­nies go against the gov­ern­ment, the com­pa­nies take a risk that their licenses will not be renewed and, thus, the multi-billion-dollar val­ues of the com­pa­nies fall to zero. If media orga­ni­za­tions inves­ti­gate wrong­ful activ­i­ties by cor­po­ra­tions, they risk the loss of adver­tis­ing rev­enues and become less viable.

Ninety per­cent con­trol of the media gives gov­ern­ment a Min­istry of Pro­pa­ganda, and that is what exists in the United States. Noth­ing reported in the print or TV media can be trusted.

Today there is a mas­sive pro­pa­ganda cam­paign against the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. The inces­sant flow of dis­in­for­ma­tion from Wash­ing­ton and the media has destroyed the trust between nuclear pow­ers that Pres­i­dent Rea­gan and Pres­i­dent Gor­bachev worked so hard to cre­ate. Accord­ing to polls, 62 per­cent of the US pop­u­la­tion now regards Rus­sia as the main threat.

I con­clude my remarks with the obser­va­tion that there can be no greater media fail­ure than to bring back the specter of nuclear war. And that is what the US media have achieved.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts is a for­mer asso­ciate edi­tor of the Wall Street Jour­nal and colum­nist for Busi­ness Week. Dr. Roberts served on per­sonal and com­mit­tee staffs in the House and Sen­ate, and served as Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury for Eco­nomic Pol­icy dur­ing the Rea­gan Admin­is­tra­tion. Roberts also was Senior Research Fel­low, Hoover Insti­tu­tion, Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, and was appointed to the William E. Simon Chair in Polit­i­cal Econ­omy, Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tional Stud­ies, George­town University.

Justices Kennedy and Breyer urge Congress to reform “broken” federal criminal justice system feedly

Kennedy’s com­ments come just weeks after a fed­eral review of U.S. soli­tary con­fine­ment pol­icy also found that the United States holds more inmates in soli­tary con­fine­ment than any other devel­oped nation. Con­fine­ment typ­i­cally involves iso­la­tion in an often win­dow­less cell with a steel door for 23 hours a day, with almost no human con­tact. The treat­ment has been found to have a psy­cho­log­i­cal impact in as many as a few days, though, as Jus­tice Kennedy pointed out, many are held for decades. In the wake of the new report, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called upon the Fed­eral Bureau of Pris­ons to alter its practices.

Jus­tices Kennedy and Breyer urge Con­gress to reform “bro­ken” fed­eral crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem
// Sen­tenc­ing Law and Policy

BreyerKennedyHearing-638x362This new ThinkProgress piece, head­lined “Supreme Court Jus­tices Implore Con­gress To Reform The Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Sys­tem — ‘It’s Not Humane’,” effec­tively reports on the notable com­ments made about crim­i­nal jus­tice reform by two Jus­tices who were tes­ti­fy­ing before Con­gress on bud­get issues yes­ter­day. Here are some of the details:

The pris­ons are one of the most mis­un­der­stood insti­tu­tions of gov­ern­ment. Soli­tary con­fine­ment dri­ves indi­vid­u­als insane. And manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tences are a bad idea. These were the asser­tions of U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer in tes­ti­mony before a House Appro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee Mon­day afternoon.

Asked by Rep. Steve Wom­ack (R-AR) about United States “capac­ity to deal with peo­ple with our cur­rent prison and jail over­crowd­ing,” each jus­tice gave an impas­sioned response in turn, call­ing on Con­gress to make things bet­ter. “In many respects, I think it’s bro­ken,” Kennedy said of the cor­rec­tions sys­tem. He lamented lawyer igno­rance on this phase of the jus­tice system:

I think, Mr. Chair­man, that the cor­rec­tions sys­tem is one of the most over­looked, mis­un­der­stood insti­tu­tions we have in our entire gov­ern­ment. In law school, I never heard about cor­rec­tions. Lawyers are fas­ci­nated with the guilt/innocence adju­di­ca­tion process. Once the adju­di­ca­tion process is over, we have no inter­est in cor­rec­tions. doc­tors know more about the cor­rec­tions sys­tem and psy­chi­a­trists than we do. Nobody looks at it. Cal­i­for­nia, my home state, had 187,000 peo­ple in jail at a cost of over $30,000 a pris­oner. com­pare the amount they gave to school chil­dren, it was about $3,500 a year. Now, this is 24-hour care and so this is apples and oranges in a way. And this idea of total incar­cer­a­tion just isn’t work­ing. and it’s not humane.

Kennedy, tra­di­tion­ally con­sid­ered the swing vote among the cur­rent set of jus­tices, recalled a recent case before the U.S. Supreme Court in which the defen­dant had been in soli­tary con­fine­ment for 25 years, and “lost his mind.”

Soli­tary con­fine­ment lit­er­ally dri­ves men mad,” he said. He pointed out that Euro­pean coun­tries group dif­fi­cult pris­on­ers in cells of three or four where they have human con­tact, which “seems to work much bet­ter.” He added that “we haven’t given nearly the study, nearly enough thought, nearly enough inves­tiga­tive resources to look­ing at our cor­rec­tion system.”

Kennedy’s com­ments come just weeks after a fed­eral review of U.S. soli­tary con­fine­ment pol­icy also found that the United States holds more inmates in soli­tary con­fine­ment than any other devel­oped nation. Con­fine­ment typ­i­cally involves iso­la­tion in an often win­dow­less cell with a steel door for 23 hours a day, with almost no human con­tact. The treat­ment has been found to have a psy­cho­log­i­cal impact in as many as a few days, though, as Jus­tice Kennedy pointed out, many are held for decades. In the wake of the new report, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called upon the Fed­eral Bureau of Pris­ons to alter its practices.

In his response, Breyer honed in on Womack’s use of the word “pri­or­i­ties” to sug­gest that pri­or­i­tiz­ing long prison sen­tences was not the best use of resources. “Do you want to have manda­tory min­i­mums? I’ve said pub­licly many times that i think that’s a ter­ri­ble idea,” Breyer said. “And I’ve given rea­sons, which I’ll spare you.”

Is it worth your time on earth, or mine, to try to work out ways of pri­or­i­tiz­ing? I think it is,” Breyer said. “I think it is a big prob­lem for the coun­try. and so I can’t do any­thing more in the next minute or 30 sec­onds other than say I like the word pri­or­i­tize. I hope you fol­low it up. And I hope do you exam­ine the vari­ety of ways that there of try­ing to pri­or­i­tize and then work out one that’s pretty good.”

As far back as 1998, Breyer has called for the abo­li­tion of manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tences, which man­date min­i­mum prison terms by law accord­ing to the crime, amount of drugs, or other fac­tors, and give judges no dis­cre­tion to lower those sen­tences. He has said they “set back the cause of jus­tice” because they don’t allow for excep­tions depend­ing on the cir­cum­stances of a given case. Par­tic­u­larly for drug crimes, they have sent low-level drug offend­ers to prison for sen­tences that start at 5 or 10 years and quickly ratchet up from there.


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GEMS: Four reasons why we don’t support the JVTA and why you should call your Senator today feedly

GEMS: Four rea­sons why we don’t sup­port the JVTA and why you should call your Sen­a­tor today
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Dissolving Illusions About the Measles Vaccine feedly

Even a casual review of the rel­e­vant lit­er­a­ture will reveal that pre­vent­ing measles mor­tal­ity is not pri­mar­ily related to vac­ci­na­tion but to nutri­tional sta­tus. Child mor­tal­ity due to measles is 200 to 400 times greater in mal­nour­ished chil­dren in less devel­oped coun­tries than those in devel­oped ones. It is crys­tal clear that as nutri­tion improves and vit­a­min A and D lev­els are opti­mized, the com­pli­ca­tions and deaths from measles rad­i­cally diminish.

Fur­ther­more, expe­ri­enc­ing measles infec­tion in child­hood itself may con­fer health ben­e­fits and even sur­vival advan­tage in pro­tect­ing against autoim­mune con­di­tions and chronic inflam­ma­tion, includ­ing can­cer, which means it may be a means through which our immune sys­tem is primed and gains self-tolerance.12 Expe­ri­enc­ing and recov­er­ing from nat­u­rally –acquired measles may actu­ally be, as our not so dis­tant ances­tors once com­monly acknowl­edged, a good thing, because it con­fers much longer last­ing supe­rior immu­nity and is pro­tec­tive against infec­tion that leads to com­pli­ca­tions later in life, when measles can be much more serious.

Dis­solv­ing Illu­sions About the Measles Vac­cine
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Should prison terms end once criminals seem “too old” to recidivate? feedly

Should prison terms end once crim­i­nals seem “too old” to recidi­vate?
// Sen­tenc­ing Law and Policy

The ques­tion in the title of this post is prompted by this intrigu­ing recent New York Times piece head­lined “Too Old to Com­mit Crime?”. Here are excerpts:

Dzhokar Tsar­naevV is fac­ing the death penalty or life in prison for the Boston Marathon bomb­ing. But what if, instead, the max­i­mum prison sen­tence were just 21 years? That was the sen­tence that Anders Behring Breivik received in 2012 after killing 77 peo­ple, most of them teenagers attend­ing a sum­mer pro­gram, in Nor­way in 2011. It was the harsh­est sen­tence avail­able. That doesn’t mean Mr. Breivik will ever walk free. Judges will be able to sen­tence him to an unlim­ited num­ber of five­year exten­sions if he is still deemed a risk to the pub­lic in 2033, when he is 53.

The idea of a 21-­year sen­tence for mass mur­der and ter­ror­ism may seem rad­i­cally lenient in the United States, where life with­out parole is often pre­sented as a humane alter­na­tive to the death penalty. Yet in tes­ti­mony last week to a con­gres­sional task force on reform­ing the fed­eral prison sys­tem, Marc Mauer, the direc­tor of the Sen­tenc­ing Project, an advo­cacy group, sug­gested exactly that approach. He made the case for a 20­-year cap on fed­eral prison terms with an option for parole boards or judges to add more time if nec­es­sary to pro­tect the pub­lic. Such a pol­icy would “con­trol costs” in a sys­tem that is now 40 per­cent over capac­ity, Mr. Mauer told the task force, and would “bring the United States more in line with other indus­tri­al­ized nations.”

This pro­posal has lit­tle chance of becom­ing law. But a com­pelling case can be made for it nonethe­less. Research by Amer­i­can social sci­en­tists shows that all but the most excep­tional crim­i­nals, even vio­lent ones, mature out of law­break­ing before mid­dle age, mean­ing that long sen­tences do lit­tle to pre­vent crime.…

Some crimes are sim­ply too phys­i­cally tax­ing for an older per­son to com­mit. Regard­less of why offend­ers age out of trou­ble, Amer­i­can sen­tenc­ing prac­tices are out of whack with the research on crim­i­nal careers. Between 1981 and 2010, the aver­age time served for homi­cide and non­neg­li­gent manslaugh­ter increased three­fold, to almost 17 years from five years. Over 10 per­cent of fed­eral and state inmates, nearly 160,000 peo­ple, are serv­ing a life sen­tence, 10,000 of them con­victed of non­vi­o­lent offenses. Since 1990, the prison pop­u­la­tion over the age of 55 has increased by 550 per­cent, to 144,500 inmates. In part because of this aging pop­u­la­tion, the state and fed­eral prison sys­tems now spend some $4 bil­lion annu­ally on health care.… [A] sen­tence that out­lasts an offender’s desire or abil­ity to break the law is a drain on tax­pay­ers, with lit­tle upside in pro­tect­ing pub­lic safety or improv­ing an inmate’s chances for suc­cess after release. Mr. Mauer’s pro­posal for a 20­-year sen­tence cap, applied retroac­tively, would free 15 per­cent of fed­eral pris­on­ers — some 30,000, except for those few whom judges or parole boards might deem unfit to re-­enter society.

This is much more aggres­sive than the Smarter Sen­tenc­ing Act, a bipar­ti­san pro­posal in Con­gress which would lower manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tences only for non­vi­o­lent drug crimes. Both the House and Sen­ate ver­sions of the bill keep manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tences of 20 or 25 years for third­-time drug offend­ers, and most of the bill’s pro­vi­sions would not ben­e­fit cur­rent inmates. Of course, for many Amer­i­cans the prison sys­tem is not only about pre­vent­ing crime by get­ting crim­i­nals off the street, but also about pun­ish­ment. Long sen­tences send a clear mes­sage that cer­tain acts are unac­cept­able. Some con­ser­v­a­tives who sup­port sen­tenc­ing reform say that Mr. Mauer’s pro­posal goes too far, offer­ing a one­-size-­fits-­all leniency to even vio­lent offenders.

Mr. Mauer responds that given the immense scale and cost of incar­cer­a­tion, “mod­est reforms” would be insuf­fi­cient. “How much pun­ish­ment is enough?” he asked. “What are we try­ing to accom­plish, and where does redemp­tion come into the picture?”


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