Rick Perry Likes the Death Penalty But Doesn’t Care Much for Science or “Experts” – Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for a fire that killed his three daughters. Prosecutors argued that Willingham deliberately set the 1991 blaze — but three reviews of the evidence by outside experts have found the fire should not have been ruled arson.
According to an August 2009 investigative report by an expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, the original claims of arson were not sustainable. Since Willingham’s execution, persistent questions have been raised as to the accuracy of the forensic evidence used in the conviction. Fire investigator Gerald L. Hurst reviewed the case documents, including the trial transcriptions and an hour-long videotape of the aftermath of the fire scene. Hurst said in December 2004 that “There’s nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire.” An August 2009 Chicago Tribune investigative article concluded: “Over the past five years, the Willingham case has been reviewed by nine of the nation’s top fire scientists—first for the Tribune, then for the Innocence Project, and now for the commission. All concluded that the original investigators relied on outdated theories and folklore to justify the determination of arson.
Texas Governor Rick Perry refused to grant a stay of execution for Willingham, saying that the “supposed experts” (using finger quotes) were wrong. Willingham was executed. Death-penalty opponents and Willingham’s family say that an impartial review of Willingham’s case could lead to the unprecedented admission that Texas executed an innocent man.
The Texas Forensic Science Commission was scheduled to discuss the report by fire science expert Dr. Beyler at a meeting on October 2, 2009, but two days before the meeting Texas Governor Rick Perry replaced the chair of the commission and two other members. The new chair appointed by Perry canceled the meeting. The commission’s new chairman has ordered a review of its operating rules. The panel meets again today in Houston, and one of the items on its agenda is a legal opinion arguing that the panel has “relatively narrow investigative jurisdiction.” The unsigned memorandum argues that the commission’s mandate covers only cases on which a state-accredited forensic laboratory worked. In other words, seeing that the evidence not support them, they are trying to wash their hands of the whole thing.
Rick Perry’s ideological belief in the death penalty may have sent an innocent man to his death, and a cover-up of the facts appears to be in progress.
Rick Perry is 21 Years Late and Several Thoughts Short – Last Thursday, Rick Perry got an idea without even thinking. He said that students who drop out of school shouldn’t be able to get a driver’s license and he called for new legislation to enforce his plan.
However, such a law has been on the books since 1989:
Texas Transportation Code, Title 7, Subtitle B, § 521.204: RESTRICTIONS ON MINOR
(a) The department may issue a Class C driver’s license to an applicant under 18 years of age only if the applicant: …
(3) has obtained a high school diploma or its equivalent or is a student …
The Bill White Campaign, upon hearing of Rick Perry’s half-baked plan, issued this statement:
“Unfortunately for Rick Perry, this law has been on the books since 1989 and he’s been responsible for enforcing it. Only a career politician would try to sell a law already in existence as his own slick new idea,’ said Katy Bacon, campaign spokesperson. ‘We need a governor who’s actually going to work on the dropout crisis instead of dredging up election year sound bites.”
What is truly tragic is that this has been the law of the land for over 20 years now, and it is abundantly clear that it has done nothing to curb the dropout rate. A rate that has risen since the bill became law. Rick Perry not only has no new ideas, but he also has no knowledge of things that have been tried, and failed. In short, Rick Perry exhibits, in this proposal, a shocking display of ignorance.
Republican Candidate is Proud of His Bullsh*t – Republican Candidate Ken Buck in Colorado, who is running against a woman, said last week, “Why should you vote for me? Because I do not wear high heels. I have cowboy boots. They have real bullsh*t on them.”
Buck may not be too bright. The electorate in the district is mostly female.
The One Republican Idea: Return to the Bush Policies – The only problem Republicans ever had with George W. Bush was his low approval rating. They always loved his policies and his governing style — and now they want them back. In recent weeks, Republican leaders have come out for a complete return to the Bush agenda, including tax breaks for the rich and financial deregulation. They’ve even resurrected the plan to cut future Social Security benefits.
Mr. Bush’s two signature initiatives were tax cuts and the invasion of Iraq were abject failures. Tax cuts never yielded the promised prosperity, but along with other policies — especially the unfunded war in Iraq — they converted a budget surplus into a persistent deficit.
So, now the Republican leadership is betting that your memory is short, and they have begun spewing talking points about how well Bush did. Here’s an example of their trickery:
Mitch McConnell recently said, “The last year of the Bush administration, the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product was 3.2 percent, well within the range of what most economists think is manageable.” But that 3.2 percent figure, it turns out, is for fiscal 2008 — which was not the last year of the Bush administration, because it ended in September of 2008. In other words, it ended just as the failure of Lehman Brothers — on Mr. Bush’s watch — was triggering a broad financial and economic collapse. This collapse caused the deficit to soar: By the first quarter of 2009, when Bush left office — with only a trickle of stimulus funds flowing — federal borrowing had already reached almost 9 percent of G.D.P.
Boehner’s Recipe For Creating Jobs: Do Nothing – In a meeting with several reporters this afternoon, House Minority Leader John Boehner outlined the top three measures he’d pursue if he becomes Speaker of the House next Congress to create new jobs. But, those who thought he’d outline specific programs and how they would create jobs were disappointed with a familiar litany of wish-list items: repeal health care reform, eschew climate legislation, and renew the Bush tax cuts.
In other words, repeal a program that largely hasn’t yet taken effect yet; prevent new legislation that is has not even been passed; and keep a current Bush tax structure in place. Boehner somehow thinks that changing nothing will fix everything.
Republicans Push for Oligarchy – While the middle class disappears and poverty increases, the wealthiest people in our country are not only doing extremely well, they are using their wealth and political power to protect and expand their very privileged status at the expense of everyone else. This upper-crust of extremely wealthy families are hell-bent on destroying the democratic vision of a strong middle-class which has made the United States the envy of the world. In its place they are determined to create an oligarchy in which a small number of families control the economic and political life of our country.
The 400 richest families in America, who saw their wealth increase by some $400 billion during the Bush years, have now accumulated $1.27 trillion in wealth. Four hundred families! During the last 15 years, while these enormously rich people became much richer, their effective tax rates were slashed almost in half. While the highest paid 400 Americans had an average income of $345 million in 2007, as a result of Bush tax policy, they now pay an effective tax rate of 16.6 percent, the lowest on record.
Last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers made a combined $25 billion but because of tax policy their lobbyists helped write, they pay a lower effective tax rate than many teachers, nurses, and police officers. As a result of tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and elsewhere, the wealthy and large corporations are evading some $100 billion a year in U.S. taxes. Warren Buffett, one of the richest people on earth, has often commented that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.
But it’s not just wealthy individuals who grotesquely manipulate the system for their benefit. It’s the multi-national corporations they own and control. In 2009, Exxon Mobil, the most profitable corporation in history made $19 billion in profits and not only paid no federal income tax — they actually received a $156 million refund from the government. In 2005, one out of every four large corporations in the United States paid no federal income taxes while earning $1.1 trillion in revenue.
But, perhaps the most outrageous tax break given to multi-millionaires and billionaires happened this January when the estate tax, established in 1916, was repealed for one year as a result of President Bush’s 2001 tax legislation. This tax applies only to the wealthiest three-tenths of one percent of our population. We’ve had the estate tax for the last 95 years — until 2010. But today, not content with huge tax breaks on their income; not content with massive corporate tax loopholes; not content with trade laws enabling them to outsource the jobs of millions of American workers to low-wage countries and not content with tax havens around the world, the ruling elite and their lobbyists are working feverishly to either eliminate the estate tax or substantially lower it. If they are successful at wiping out the estate tax, as they came close to doing in 2006 with every Republican but two voting to do it, it would increase the national debt by over $1 trillion during a 10-year period.
Republican Mike Pence Lies About Tax Increases – Do Democrats want every tax bracket to rise, as Pence suggests? In a word, no. The Politifact Truth-O-Meter rates Pence’s statement as false.
For many months, Democratic officials have consistently said that they intend to let only the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals lapse. The cutoff they usually suggest is $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly. President Obama campaigned on just such a plan, and those promises are recorded in the Obameter campaign promises database.
Deepwater Horizon Alarm Had Been ‘Inhibited,’ Technician Testifies – An alarm system on the Deepwater Horizon had been “inhibited” for about a year before the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers and started the worst oil disaster in the nation’s history, the platform’s chief electronics technician testified to a federal panel Friday.
An inhibited mode means sensors for toxic or combustible gases or fire are active and will alert the platform’s computer system, but the computer does not trigger an audible or visual alarm, technician Mike Williams told the six-member panel.
Supervisors on the Transocean rig were aware that the alarm system had been inhibited, Williams said.
“When I discovered about a year ago it was inhibited, I inquired as to why it was inhibited, and the explanation I got is that … they did not want people woke up at 3 o’clock in the morning due to false alarms,” Williams said.
No alarms sounded or could be seen the night of the fire, he testified.
Why Factory Farms Threaten Your Health – According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, only about 30 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are administered to people to treat diseases. The other 70 percent, the vast majority, are administered to U.S. livestock, primarily to compensate for the unnatural and unhealthy conditions of factory farming. “Industrial livestock systems,” the organization concludes, “are hog heaven for resistant bacteria.”
Now Congress is considering a bill that would attempt to save the remaining viability of our antibiotics. It is H.R. 1549, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. Introduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), it would prohibit several types of antibiotics from being used routinely in animal feed.
The farm lobby and the drug industry are fighting H.R. 1549, because they know that it would take away a critical support for large scale intensive confinement animal agriculture. They want to retain the right to continue the widespread use of the drugs, even though this practice has repeatedly been proven to cause resistance among bacteria, jeopardizing human health and causing diseases that are difficult or impossible to cure.
China to Start Carbon Trading While U.S. Senate Fiddles as Earth Burns – The irony could hardly be stronger: amid reports that an obstructionist minority has blocked US Senate action from moving on clean energy and climate legislation that would create real incentives for clean energy, news reports from China indicate that top government officials met this week to discuss how China can start its own carbon trading program.