Daily Archive: 08/12/2012

Aug 12 2012

Rant of the Week: Brent Wilkins, David Dayen and Cenk Uygur

Texas executes mentally retarded man

by Brett Wilkins

Ignoring its own ruling that prohibits the execution of mentally retarded individuals, the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the appeal of a Texas man with an IQ of 61 convicted of murdering a police drug informant.

Following the high court’s denial, 54-year-old Marvin Wilson was executed by lethal injection at the state prison in Huntsville, Texas. [..]

Wilson’s attorneys based their appeal on the fact that his IQ was determined to be 61, well below 70, the threshold for mental retardation. Wilson’s IQ places him in the very bottom 1% of individuals for intellectual capacity. His reading and writing level was determined to be that of a 7-year-old child’s, and he could not hold down a job or even properly dress himself.

In Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the US Supreme Court ruled that executing such individuals was a violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

But Texas simply redefined retardation, based in part on the fictional character Lennie Small from John Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men.”

In establishing what are known as the Briseno factors, which Texas uses to determine whether an individual is retarded or not, the state implicitly asserts that anyone less mentally impaired than Steinbeck’s Lennie is fit for execution.

Steinbeck’s son Thomas slammed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for using Lennie as a benchmark to determine who should be executed.

Scalia Denies Stay, Allows Execution of Mentally Retarded Man in Texas

by David Dayen

The Supreme Court justices have jurisdiction over various regions of the country when it comes to injunctions, particularly when it comes to stays of execution. In the case of Marvin Wilson, the mentally retarded man with an IQ of 61 and an intelligence level of a 6 year-old, set to die today in Texas in conjunction with a murder conviction, that appeal had to go through none other than Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia wrote a dissent (pdf) in the case of Atkins v. Virginia, which established the ban on executing the mentally retarded (Texas, like other states, got to set their own standards for what constitutes “retarded,” and as such plowed ahead with the execution of Wilson today). Scalia wrote that, because “Only the severely or profoundly mentally retarded, commonly known as idiots, enjoyed any special status under the law” in 1791, around the time of the establishment of the Eighth Amendment, he disagreed with the ruling. And so it should come as no surprise that he submitted this short response to the stay of Marvin Wilson today.

The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Scalia and by him referred to the Court is denied. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

This condemns a man with a 61 IQ to death. Scalia wrote in his Atkins dissent, “Seldom has an opinion of this Court rested so obviously upon nothing but the personal views of its members.” That’s my sentiment exactly. Scalia has a ruling which clearly states that executing the mentally retarded violates the Eighth Amendment. But Scalia doesn’t agree, so he decided to allow Texas to violate the ruling.

Why Do Some Americans Have Such Tremendous BLOOD LUST?

Aug 12 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

David Cay Johnston: The victims of low-interest locusts

Another financial crisis looms for U.S. taxpayers, a disaster likely to create even worse human misery than the mortgage fiasco that some of us warned about years before the Wall Street meltdown in 2008.

The crisis next time: collapsing investment incomes for older Americans as artificially reduced interest rates force them to use up their savings and drive more pension plans into failure.

Eviscerating the interest income of savers is the undeniable result of a long-running Federal Reserve policy to reduce interest rates, especially since December 2008. The Fed reiterated on Aug. 1 that it plans to keep interest rates low through late 2014. It says this helps to promote stronger economic growth and bring down the jobless rate.

As in the mortgage crisis, you can see this disaster building by examining the official data.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Attorney General to U.S.: Nothing to See On Wall Street, Folks, Just Move Along

Yesterday the Justice Department announced that once again it’s not going to pursue evidence of Wall Street crimes which has been sent its way. It has already failed to act on information sent to it by sources whose investigators are apparently more dogged than its own, including several other government agencies and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Now the bipartisan committee which was led by Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn can be added to the list of sources whose leads weren’t pursued by Attorney General Eric Holder and his staff.

Holder was on the defensive yesterday, a sign that the mounting criticism of his inaction is getting his attention. He was also scornful of that criticism, saying that it’s belied by “a troublesome little thing called facts.”

There’s something troublesome here, all right, but it isn’t the facts.

John Nichols: Paul Ryan Covers Romney’s Right Flank

Mitt Romney will announce his running-mate Saturday morning on the USS Wisconsin.

Wisconsin, it will be noted, is the home state of Congressman Paul Ryan.

And the campaign bling factories are gearing up to print “Romney-Ryan” pins.

That’s a significant shift.

Until just a few days ago, Ryan was considered an unlikely prospect for the No. 2 spot on the Republican ticket: too rigid in his budgetary obsessions, too whacky in his enthusiasm for Ayn Rand’s novels and Austrian economics, too enthusiastic about taking apart Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

But Romney has always liked Ryan.

And so has the Republican right.

Eugene Robinson; Heating up debate on climate change

Excuse me, folks, but the weather is trying to tell us something. Listen carefully, and you can almost hear a parched, raspy voice whispering: “What part of ‘hottest month ever’ do you people not understand?”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July was indeed the hottest month in the contiguous United States since record-keeping began more than a century ago. That distinction was previously held by July 1936, which came at the height of the Dust Bowl calamity that devastated the American heartland. [..]

We can’t do anything about the greenhouse gases we’ve already spewed into the atmosphere, but we can minimize the damage we do in the future. We can launch a serious initiative to develop and deploy alternative sources of energy. We can decide what kind of environment we leave to our grandchildren.

I’d like to hear President Obama and Mitt Romney talk about the future of the planet. What about you?

Dan Moran: NRA prevents funding for studies on gun violence

There was nothing unusual about the University of Colorado’s grant to its once-promising student, James E. Holmes.

If Holmes weren’t accused of killing a dozen people and wounding 58, we’d never know that he received $21,600 for living costs while he pursued his doctorate in neuroscience. Nor was there anything odd about how the university paid for the stipend. The money came from an annual grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health.

But if the National Institutes of Health had granted money to a researcher delving into the reasons for mass shootings, there might have been trouble. In an Orwellian use of power politics, the gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association has in many instances muzzled federal agencies’ ability to fund basic research into gun violence.

Robert Reich: Back From Three Weeks Vacation With a Bold Proposal

When I left the U.S. economy was in a stall, Greece was on the brink of defaulting, the euro-zone couldn’t get its act together, the Fed couldn’t decide on another round of quantitative easing, congressional Democrats and Republicans were in gridlock, much of the nation was broiling, and neither Obama nor Romney had put forward a bold proposal for boosting the economy, slowing climate change, or much of anything else.

What a difference three weeks makes.

Here’s a bold proposal I offer free of charge to Obama or Romney: Every American should get a mandatory minimum of three weeks paid vacation a year.

Most Americans only get two weeks off right now. But many don’t even take the full two weeks out of fear of losing their jobs. One in four gets no paid vacation at all, not even holidays. Overall, Americans have less vacation time than workers in any other advanced economy.

This is absurd. A mandatory three weeks off would be good for everyone — including employers.

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Aug 12 2012

On This Day In History August 12

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

August 12 is the 224th day of the year (225th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 141 days remaining until the end of the year.

It is the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. It is also known as the “Glorious Twelfth” in the UK, as it marks the traditional start of the grouse shooting season.

On this day in 1990, fossil hunter Susan Hendrickson discovers three huge bones jutting out of a cliff near Faith, South Dakota. They turn out to be part of the largest-ever Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered, a 65 million-year-old specimen dubbed Sue, after its discoverer.

Amazingly, Sue’s skeleton was over 90 percent complete, and the bones were extremely well-preserved. Hendrickson’s employer, the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, paid $5,000 to the land owner, Maurice Williams, for the right to excavate the dinosaur skeleton, which was cleaned and transported to the company headquarters in Hill City. The institute’s president, Peter Larson, announced plans to build a non-profit museum to display Sue along with other fossils of the Cretaceous period.

Preparation and display

The Field Museum hired a specialized moving company, with experience in transporting delicate items, to move the bones to Chicago. The truck arrived at the museum in October 1997. Two new research laboratories funded by McDonalds were created and staffed by Field Museum preparators whose job was to slowly and carefully remove all the rock, or “matrix” from the bones. One preparation lab was at Field Museum itself, the other was at the newly opened Animal Kingdom in Disney World in Orlando. Millions of visitors observed the preparation of Sue’s bones through glass windows in both labs. Footage of the work was also put on the museum’s website. Several of the fossil’s bones had never been discovered, so preparators produced models of the missing bones from plastic to complete the exhibit. The modeled bones were colored in a reddish hue so that visitors could observe which bones were real and which bones were plastic. The preparators also poured molds of each bone. All the molds were sent to a company outside Toronto to be cast in hollow plastic. Field Museum kept one set of disarticulated casts in its research collection. The other sets were incorporated into mounted cast skeletons. One set of the casts was sent to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida to be presented for public display. Two other mounted casts were placed into a traveling tour that was sponsored by the McDonald’s Corporation.

Once the preparators finished removing the matrix from each bone, it was sent to the museum’s photographer who made high-quality photographs. From there, the museum’s paleontologists began the study of the skeleton. In addition to photographing and studying each bone, the research staff also arranged for CT scanning of select bones. The skull was too large to fit into a medical CT scanner, so Boeing’s Rocketdyne laboratory in California agreed to let the museum use their CT scanner that was normally used to inspect space shuttle parts.

Bone damage

Close examination of the bones revealed that Sue was 28 years old when she died, making her the oldest T. rex known. During her life this carnivore received several injuries and suffered from numerous pathologies. An injury to the right shoulder region of Sue resulted in a damaged shoulder blade, a torn tendon in the right arm, and three broken ribs. This damage subsequently healed (though one rib healed into two separate pieces), indicating Sue survived the incident. The left fibula is twice the diameter of the right one, likely a result of infection. Original reports of this bone being broken were contradicted by the CT scans which showed no fracture. Multiple holes in the front of the skull were originally thought to be bite marks by some, but subsequent study found these to be areas of infection instead, possibly from an infestation of an ancestral form of Trichomonas gallinae, a protozoan parasite that infests birds. Damage to the back end of the skull was interpreted early on as a fatal bite wound. Subsequent study by Field Museum paleontologists found no bite marks. The distortion and breakage seen in some of the bones in the back of the skull was likely caused by post-mortem trampling. Some of the tail vertebra are fused in a pattern typical of arthritis due to injury. The animal is also believed to have suffered from gout. In addition, there is extra bone in some of the tail vertebrae likely caused by the stresses brought on by Sue’s great size. Sue did not die as a result of any of these injuries; her cause of death is not known.

Display

After the bones were prepared, photographed and studied, they were sent to New Jersey where work began on making the mount. This work consists of bending steel to support each bone safely and to display the entire skeleton articulated as it was in life. The real skull was not incorporated into the mount as subsequent study would be difficult with the head 13 feet off the ground. Parts of the skull had been crushed and broken, and thus appeared distorted. The museum made a cast of the skull, and altered this cast to remove the distortions, thus approximating what the original undistorted skull may have looked like. The cast skull was also lighter, allowing it to be displayed on the mount without the use of a steel upright under the head. The original skull is exhibited in a case that can be opened to allow researchers access for study. When the whole skeleton was assembled, it was forty feet (twelve meters) long from nose to tail, and twelve feet (four meters) tall at the hips.

Aug 12 2012

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Chris Hayes: Up with Chris Hayes is preempted for NBC’s coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Chris will return next week.

This Week with George Stephanopolis: This Week’s gusts are  Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

The roundtable debates Romney’s vice presidential pick and all the week’s politics, with ABC News’ Cokie Roberts, former Vermont Governor and founder of Democracy for America Howard Dean, Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, host of Current TV’s “The Gavin Newsom Show,” and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffer’s guests are Senior Advisor to the Romney Campaign Eric Fehrnstrom and Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter; and Newt Gingrich.

Roundtable analysis from The Washington Post‘s Ruth Marcus, The Week‘s Bob Shrum, The Daily Beast‘s David Frum, The Washington Post‘s Michael Gerson and POLITICO‘s Roger Simon.

The Chris Matthews Show: The Chris Matthews Show is preempted for NBC’s coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: A special edition of  MTP’s with guests: RNC Chairman and fellow Wisconsinite, Reince Priebus and Governor of Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin, Scott Walker. The discussion continues on the roundtable with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow; NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent and Political Director Chuck Todd; Editor of the National Review, Rich Lowry; the Washington Post‘s Dan Balz, and author and radio talk show host Bill Bennett, for whom Ryan was a speechwriter while Bennett was Secretary of Education.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Ms. Crowley’s guests are Senator John Thune (R-SD);  Senior Advisers to both campaigns – David Axelrod and Ed Gillespie.

Aug 12 2012

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Iran quakes death toll rises to 250, as search goes on

 Rescuers in Iran are searching through the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors from two strong earthquakes which left at least 250 people dead.

The BBC   12 August 2012

The 6.4 and 6.3 quakes struck near Tabriz and Ahar on Saturday afternoon, and more than 2,000 are believed injured, many in outlying villages.

Thousands spent the night in emergency shelters or in the open and there have been more than 55 aftershocks.

Relief agencies are providing survivors with tents, bread and drinking water.

The numbers of victims is expected to rise.

Reports say phone lines to many villages have been cut off, confining rescuers to radio contact.

“The quake has created huge panic among the people,” one resident of Tabriz told the BBC. “Everyone has rushed to the streets and the sirens of ambulances are everywhere.”




Sunday’s Headlines:

In Asia, a wave of escalating territorial disputes

Rio picks up torch for samba Games, but there are shadows in the sunshine

The terrible legacy of Agent Orange

Southern Europeans look for work in Germany

Tunisia activists braced to fight for women’s rights

Aug 12 2012

XXX Olympiad- Day 19

We close our final day of competition with the Men’s Volleyball Final.  We’ll be having a separate piece on the Closing Ceremony tonight.

Broadcast Schedule

Time Network Sport Competitors
6 am NBC Men’s Marathon (Medal) all
6 am Vs. Men’s Basketball (Bronze) (Medal) ARG v RUS
7 am MS Men’s Water Polo USA v AUS
7:30 am Vs. Men’s Handball (Bronze) (Medal) HUN v CRO
8:30 am MS Cycling (Men’s BMX Final) (Medal) all
8:30 am CNBC Boxing (Men’s Fly, Light, Welter, Light Heavy, Super Heavyweight Finals) (Medal) all
9 am Vs. Modern Pentathlon (Women’s Fencing and Swimming) all
9:30 am Vs. Men’s Water Polo (Bronze) (Medal) SRB v CRO
10 am NBC Men’s Basketball (Final) (Medal) USA v ESP
10 am MS Wrestling (Freestyle) all
10:30 am Vs. Men’s Handball (Final) (Medal) SWE v FRA
12:30 pm NBC Men’s Water Polo (Final) (Medal) CRO v ITA
12:30 pm Vs. Men’s Volleyball (Bronze) (Medal) BUL v ITA
2:30 pm NBC Wrestling (Freestyle 66kg, 96kg Final) (Medal) all
2:30 pm Vs. Modern Pentathlon (Women’s Riding and Combined) all
3:30 pm Vs. Men’s Basktball replay
4 pm NBC Men’s Volleyball (Final) (Medal) RUS v BRA
7 pm NBC Prime Time (Closing Ceremonies)

All this is sourced through the NBC Olympics broadcast schedule.

Competitions designated by (Medal) will award winners that day.  ‘all’ means not specified.  Sometimes NBC especially does mashups and doesn’t include event or competitor information.  Elimination means no round robin, one and done.

These schedules are a place for you to make sure you don’t miss a sport you like and share your observations.  Have fun today!

Aug 12 2012

What We Now Know

Up with Chris Hayes returned after a two week hiatus for NBC’s coverage of the 2012 Olympics and just in time for a major political announcement by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. It was leaked late last night and all over Twitter in seconds that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has selected Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-WI) for his running mate. So it isn’t at all surprising that this was the topic that dominated the discussion. Two segments that I felt were most important examined Rep. Ryan’s stance on Medicare and it impacts on the Romney campaign. In the second segment Chris and his guests reviewed Ryan’s voting record and the impact on tackling the deficit. Joining Chris on the panel were Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show; Avid Roy, health care policy adviser to Gov. Romney; Melissa Harris Perry, host of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry Show and Ezra Klein, political analyst for the Washington Post; and John Nichols, contributing editor at The Nation.