The U.S. military is a national security threat

The U.S. military is a national security threat

(Credit: AP/Hasan Jamali)


America’s armed forces are a massive drain on resources that could otherwise strengthen the country

The American military budget is massive.

At $610 billion, it dwarfs the combined military budgets of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the UK, India and Germany (see chart below). Put another way, one third of all military spending the world comes from the United States. The problem is, however, that the American military budget may be crowding out other crucial investments.

As the era of American hegemony winds down, it’s more important than ever for America to be able to demonstrate soft power. That means first, an American model that works, for other countries to emulate. But further, it means a highly educated population, long-term investment in infrastructure, adequate healthcare, an society based, above all else, on opportunity. However, it’s likely that the military budget precludes these important services.

The most important cost of our bloated military budget is investment in other important government functions. As the chart below from CBO shows, defense spending has historically consumed more than half of the entire U.S. government discretionary budget (spending on veterans eats up mandatory spending as well). In 2014, discretionary defense spending was double Medicaid spending, and about equal to Medicare spending.

Given that the U.S. is already a relatively low-spending country, the military only further diminishes our meager  safety net.

The chart below shows that not only does the U.S. spend comparatively less of its GDP on government than other developed countries, military spending (the white/grey bar) takes up far more of it. That means America spends less on general public services, environmental protection and education than otherwise. But these services are key to America’s ability to remain a global leader. Further, it means that American women are more likely to die in childbirth than women in China and our infrastructure pulls down global competitiveness. America spends far less than other rich countries on foreign aid, and dedicatesonly 1 billion dollars, a sliver of its budget to international affairs. In 2011, the Brookings Institution worried, “the United States is following an unfortunate path that other big countries, such as the former Soviet Union, have already taken in history, wasting too many resources and too much national wealth on military expansion, wars, and foreign interference.”

The effect of our outsized budget is felt in other ways. Surplus goods are often sent to local police offices, who end up with grenade launchers, weaponized aircraft and “tank-like armoured vehicles.” Concomitantly, police killings have increased (according to the best data available) and the police have begun to seem like an occupying force. This has a profound effect on trust in civic institutions and the police. As trust in police officers decreases, they find it harder to do their job and the community grows even more skeptical. There’s also the likely possibility that the availability of military force makes it more likely, by making non-military means less attractive.

The current conception of national security is far too limited. As violent deaths from war and terrorism decline, the greater threat to Americans is their failing infrastructure, costly healthcare system and incoherent environmental policy. The Obama White House has warned on numerous occasions that climate change and shoddy infrastructure are a deep threat to American national security. In 2007 a report by numerous high-ranking military leadersfound, “Global climate change presents a serious national security threat which could impact Americans at home, impact United States military operations and heighten global tensions.” The Pentagon has been worried that climate change is a national security threat since even earlier, releasing a report in 2003 discussing the implications of global warming. The Department of Homeland Security has consistently warned that aging infrastructure is a national security risk. Worryingly, however, the United States has devoted increasingly less money to infrastructure, and in the future, this will only grow worse. Josh Bivens of EPI finds that every proposed budget in 2013 except the Progressive Caucus budget, would dramatically decrease public investment as a share of GDP.

In addition, our ability to lead by example is threatened by poverty, homeless and rampant inequality. A recent survey found that internally, the view that America’s economy is the leading one has declined dramatically.

The American model looks increasingly unappealing to emerging economies, who have seen the American middle class become less vibrant and more straddled with debt. The New York Times recently reported that the American middle class was no longer the world’s richest.  Matt Bruenig notes thatfurther down the income distribution, America does even worse: the poorest 5th of Americans have less disposable income than those in 14 other countries. Finally, without a highly educated population and an innovative economy, America will no longer be able to exert the soft-power necessary as our hard-power advantage declines. Even Americans are increasingly skeptical of the American model, with a 2012 survey finding that 63% believe the American economic model is broken.

Our bloated defense budget is taking away money that could go to more important things. As I’ve noted, just two years funding for the massive, $1.5 trillion F-35 fighter jet could fund free community college for all students for a decade. Americans need to realize that today, the larger threat they face is their own fear leading them to underinvest in vital services. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously warned, “the only thing we have to fear is… fear itself.”


Republicans Have Passed 0 Jobs Bills During Their First 138 Days Running Congress




In their first 138 days in control of Congress, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have passed zero jobs bill. Instead, Republicans passed budgets that would give big tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

The numbers, as compiled by Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, reveal the truth about the Republican Party.

0: GOP jobs bills passed in the 114th Congress.

5: Additional times the House GOP has voted in the past 135 days to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act (2015 Vote #14, 2015 Vote #45, 2015 Vote #58, 2015 Vote #142, 2015 Vote #183).

58: Times so far House Republicans have voted to repeal or undermine the ACA since 2011.

100: Percent of House Republicans who voted against bringing up the student loan refinancing bill.

2.9 million: Number of jobs that would be destroyed under the House GOP FY 2016 Budget.

$2,000: More in taxes for middle-class American families with children greenlighted by the final FY 2016 Republican Budget.

$200,000: Average tax break for the wealthiest Americans making $1,000,000 or more greenlighted by the final FY 2016 Republican Budget.

99: Percent of House Republicans who voted against allowing a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act – a bill to ensure equal pay for equal work.

The only Republican attempt at a “jobs” bill was the Keystone XL legislation, which won’t create more than a handful of permanent jobs, and it isn’t a jobs bill. The Republican-run Congress has lived down to expectations. If you are a corporation in need of some regulatory rollback, or a wealthy person who wants a tax cut, the Republican Congress is your new best friend.

For working people, women, the poor, the disabled, veterans, and everyone else, Republicans are only interested in cutting what you have to give more to the wealthy.

The Republican Congress does not represent the majority of the American people. The congressional majority is being controlled by corporations and billionaires. Republicans are more interested in taking away your health care than creating an economic environment where people have good paying jobs.

The numbers don’t lie. Republicans are working against the interests of the majority in this country, which is why the American people must stand up and take their Congress back.

~Jason Easley

10 things you need to know today: May 24, 2015

Charles McQuillan / Getty Images


1.Ireland legalizes same-sex marriage by popular vote
Irish voters overwhelmingly said “yes” to same-sex marriage on Saturday, with 62.1 percent in support of amending the constitution to legalize gay marriage. The results make Ireland the first nation in the world to legalize gay marriage with a popular vote. John Lyons, one of just four openly gay members of the country’s 166-member parliament, credited young voters with shifting Ireland’s historically conservative constitution in a more liberal direction. “This says something about modern Ireland,” Lyons said. “Let’s never underestimate the electorate or what they think.”

Source: The Washington Post

2.Cleveland cop acquitted in 2012 killing of unarmed black couple
An Ohio judge on Saturday acquitted a white Cleveland police officer in the 2012 killing of two unarmed black people following a high-speed chase. Officer Michael Brelo was one of more than a dozen officers who fired 137 rounds into the vehicle — Brelo himself fired at least 15 times through the windshield after climbing onto the car’s hood — after receiving reports of gunfire during a 20-mile chase. The shooting left driver Timothy Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams, dead. However, Judge John P. O’Donnell ruled prosecutors did not “prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Brelo fired the fatal shots and “knowingly caused the deaths.” Protesters likening the deaths to other recent police killings of unarmed black people took to the streets of Cleveland following the verdict for nonviolent demonstrations.

Source: The New York Times

3.ISIS kills at least 400 in captured Syrian city
The Islamic State has killed at least 400 people — most of them women and children — since taking control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, according to state television. ISIS seized control of Palmyra last week, and reports suggested the militant group was sweeping through the city and leaving behind a trail of decapitated bodies. The city’s capture raised fears ISIS would soon destroy and loot Palmyra’s 2,000-year-old ruins.

Source: Reuters, The Guardian

4.Gloria Steinem leads activists across Korean border
An international coalition of female activists led by feminist Gloria Steinem on Sunday crossed the highly militarized border between North and South Korea in an effort to spotlight the need for reconciliation between the two nations. The group, WomenCrossDMZ, consisted of about 30 participants including Steinem and two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee. “We feel very celebratory and positive that we have created a voyage across the DMZ in peace and reconciliation that was said to be impossible,” Steinem said.

Source: CNN

5.Flooding forces evacuations in Texas, Oklahoma
At least one person died and dozens of states of emergency were declared following widespread flooding across Oklahoma and Texas over the weekend. A firefighter in Claremore, Oklahoma, died while trying to rescue a colleague who became trapped in a storm drain, though the trapped firefighter was able to make it out safely. Flooding in the region forced more than 1,000 evacuations, with officials warning that even more rain on Sunday could trigger potentially “historic” flooding.

Source: USA Today, NBC

6.Burundi opposition leader killed in drive-by
The leader of a Burundian opposition party on Saturday was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in the capital of Bujumbura. Zedi Feruzi, the leader of the party Union for Peace and Development-Zigamibanga, and a bodyguard were shot dead by unidentified gunmen, just one day after a grenade attack killed at least two civilians in the same city. Burundi has been rocked by unrest — including a failed coup — for weeks since President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would run for a third term.

Source: Al Jazeera

7.Malaysia uncovers mass graves of suspected migrants
Malaysia has uncovered around 30 mass graves believed to hold the bodies of hundreds of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh. The graves were discovered near the border with Thailand along a route typically used for human smuggling. Malaysian Home Minister Zahid Hamidi told reporters authorities were working to verify the remains, adding that police also discovered 17 abandoned camps they believe smugglers used.

Source: BBC

8.Warriors rout Rockets, move one game from NBA Finals
The Golden State Warriors on Saturday trounced the Houston Rockets 115-80 to take a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals and move within one win of the championship round. Along the way, guard Stephen Curry set an NBA record by nailing his 59th three-pointer of the postseason to move one ahead of Reggie Miller’s former all-time mark of 58 triples in one postseason. On the other side of the playoff bracket, the Cleveland Cavaliers will on Sunday host the Atlanta Hawks with a chance to take a commanding 3-0 lead in that series.

Source: Yahoo Sports

9. Indy 500 gets underway Sunday
The Greatest Spectacle in Racing is set to get underway Sunday with the 99th annual Indianapolis 500. A field of 33 drivers, led by New Zealander and race favorite Scott Dixon, will zip around 200 laps for a total of 500 miles. The race’s qualifying was marred by a handful of violent crashes, though there were no fatalities.

Source: Sports Illustrated

10.Olsen twins won’t return for Full House reboot
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen will not take part in Netflix’s ballyhooed reboot of the classic sitcom Full House. Known for taking turns in the role of Michelle Tanner, the youngest daughter in the titular house, the Olsens will sit out Fuller House to focus on their careers outside acting, a rep for the twins told Variety. “It has been exciting to see how they have built their professional careers, and I support their choice to focus on their fashion brands and various business endeavors,” executive producer Robert L. Boyett said, adding that the two “are still very much considered family.”

Source: Variety

Mike Huckabee Makes Excuses For Duggar Family Hiding Years Of Sexual Abuse

Mike Huckabee



Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee made a statement on Facebook Friday addressing the revelations that eldest son Josh Duggar admitted to sexually molesting “girls,” presumably his own sisters, as a teenager.

The former Arkansas governor largely defended the actions of the family since the abuse and said he wanted to “affirm” support for the family. “Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable,’” Huckabee’s statement said. The Duggar family endorsed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the 2012 election, but have backed Huckabee for the Republican presidential nomination this time around.

Huckabee continued, “No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things. The reason that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of a minor is that the society has traditionally understood something that today’s blood-thirsty media does not understand—that being a minor means that one’s judgement is not mature.”

Read Huckabee’s post here

But many experts disagree that it’s not worth addressing abuses that happened a long time ago. Though it’s certainly uncomfortable for Josh Duggar to confront, it’s likely also uncomfortable for the alleged victims. But talking about what happened openly is part of the process of restorative justice, in which the perpetrator and the victim both discuss the crime and the harm it has caused. Even if it is no longer possible to pursue crimes in the legal justice system, many have found restorative justice to be effective at dealing with the trauma of abuse. This method of dealing with past abuse or assault has been deemed so effective the United Nations endorsed it as a way of dealing with childhood sexual abuse around the world. Some victims of abuse within the Catholic Church, have also found restorative justice to be effective. Addressing crimes committed by high-profile people can also empower other victims to speak out against their abusers.

Huckabee also wrote, “No one needs to defend Josh’s actions as a teenager, but the fact that he confessed his sins to those he harmed, sought help, and has gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life as an adult is testament to his family’s authenticity and humility.”

Josh Duggar actually “confessed his sins” to People magazine only after a police report  surfaced by InTouch magazine made national news, suggesting that he may not have ever admitted to such abuse if the police report had never become public. Furthermore, his family and the church did not report the authorities for more than three months after the initial abuse occurred. The family’s patriarch, Jim Bob Duggar, came to church elders before he went to the police. The elders punished Josh Duggar with a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling.” Even after reporting it to the police, he refused to allow the police to interview Josh when they opened an investigation into the incident as a felony in 2006, more than three years after the report was filed. Instead, Jim Bob returned home with a State Trooper and gave Josh a “very stern talk.”

Even the message of treating abuse as a “sin” is wrongheaded, many argue. As feminist blogger Libby Anne writes on her blog, treating sexual abuse as a “sin” rather than a crime, sends the message that molestation is treated the same as other sexual behavior the parents or church may disapprove of, like masturbating or having sex before marriage. Such a message can leave children confused about what is actually harmful behavior and what is merely something of which his or her religion does not approve. There is also evidence that using accurate medical terms to educate children in an age-appropriate way can be effective at allowing children to report abuse when it happens to them.

Huckabee also berated those who have drawn attention to Josh Duggar’s alleged abuse: “Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims.”

Sending the message that raising awareness of abuse is merely an attempt to tarnish the abuser’s reputiation is an often-used strategy to discredit victims of sexual assault and abuse. It’s actually one employed by comedian Bill Cosby as more than two dozen women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault and abuse.

Hukabee concluded his statement with another iteration of support for the Duggar family. “Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends. Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support,” he wrote.

Sunday Talk: Not enough circuses

attribution: Silly Rabbit


Faced with the prospect of a GOP presidential field that rivals the Duggar family in size (as well as religiosity and sexual perversity/depravity), the TV networks hosting the primary debates are being forced to make a “Sophie’s choice” (#ThanksObama) about who gets to participate.

Mathematically speaking, fitting everyone in one clown car would be a logistical nightmare.

And so, this week, the Fox News Channel—which will be hosting the first debateannounced that they are limiting participation to the top ten (official) candidates.

Full Disclosure: News Corp., Fox Newsparent company, has made some (allegedly) “charitabledonations to the Clinton Foundation.

Meanwhile, CNN—which will be hosting the second debate—announced that they, too, will be limiting participation to the top ten; but, unlike Fox News, they will also provide a kiddie car for the rest of the clowns.

At this point, it’s unclear who will appear in the big tent, and who will be in the sideshow.

Stay tuned to find out.

Morning lineup:

Meet the Press:Pre-empted by coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix.Face the Nation: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Vietnam War Reporting Panel: Reporter Peter Arnett, Photographer David Hume Kennedy, Reporter Laura Palmer and Bill Plante (CBS News); Roundtable: David Rohde (Reuters) and Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Washington Post).

This Week: Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R); Roundtable: Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile, S.E. Cupp (CNN), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Bill Kristol (Weekly Standard).

Fox News Sunday: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R); Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton; Roundtable: Brit Hume (Fox News),Susan Page (USA Today), George Will (Washington Post) and Bob Woodward (Washington Post).

State of the Union: Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Julian Castro; Defense Secretary Ash Carter; Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: a special broadcast on war stories (preview).


Racist/misogynist Tucker Carson and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones agreed that President Obama is doing all kinds of “Nazi stuff.”

Carlson called into the show by phone and discussed what he described as the administration’s “ethnic politics.” On the video webcast version of the show, [Alex] Jones showed a giant graphic of Obama dressed as Hitler, complete with a mustache, and flanked by the words “DICTATOR” and “SCUM” in bold letters as Carlson spoke.The moment came after Jones asked Carlson what he thought of Obama’s approach to racial issues in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, which Jones said was bringing the country close to civil war.

“The problem with the administration’s position — which is, ‘yeah, you know, violence is bad but I kind of see their point’ — it is in effect making excuses for and therefore encouraging that kind of behavior,” Carlson said. “It’s scary.”

“They categorize people by race in a way that, you know, you can’t even imagine — 30 years ago you would have said, ‘Wait a second, that’s like Nazi stuff,'” Carlson said of the Obama administration and its “ethnic politics.”


“Morning” Joe Scarborough was shocked and dismayed by author Joe Conason’s reference to Winston Churchill.

The moment came, as many tirades do, in the middle of a debate about theClintons. Guest and author JoeConason made the case that [Joe] Scarborough, who has spoken several times at the Clinton Global Initiative, was hypocritical for going after the power couple for shady donations and Hillary Clinton’s email server.”I have a Churchill quote for you,” Conason said,

“Oh great, I love Churchill,” Scarborough said with a smile.

“It’s what he said about the Hun, which is: ‘They’re either at your feet or at your throat,'” Conason said, referencing Churchill’s remarks on Germany’s aggression in the lead up to war and its closeness to Europe afterward.

Scarborough’s smile began to fade.

“So you’re comparing me to Nazis now, that’s great,” he said.

~Silly Rabbit


Rainbows Are Forming Over Ireland After The Same-Sex Marriage Vote ~ BuzzFeed


10 things you need to know today: May 23, 2015

Charles McQuillan/Getty Images


1.Early vote count shows Ireland set to legalize same-sex marriage
With several hours left before official results are announced, Ireland already appears set to pass a historic referendum allowing same-sex marriage. The country would be the first in the world to legalize gay marriage by a popular vote; early ballot counts have found voters resoundingly in favor of the measure. And while no official announcement has been made, opposition leader David Quinn already tweeted his concession to the proposal’s supporters: “Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done.”

Source: The New York Times

2.State Department releases first round of emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server
The U.S. Department of State on Friday released 296 emails that Hillary Clinton sent and received from a private account during her time as secretary of state. The emails, which are available on the State Department’s Freedom of Information Act website, include information on Clinton’s response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which left four Americans dead. Clinton had come under criticism for her use of a private email server, but both the White House and State Department reiterated that the emails’ release did not “change the essential facts or our understanding of the events before, during or after the (Benghazi) attacks.”

Source: CNN, U.S. Department of State

3.Obama wins key trade victory as Senate approves fast-track legislation
President Barack Obama moved one step closer to completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal with 11 other countries, as the Senate voted in favor of fast-track legislation on the deal, on Friday night. The legislation would help Obama move more quickly toward a finalized agreement on the TPP, by letting Congress use quick up-or-down votes, sans amendments, on specific trade deal details. The bill now moves to the House, where it will likely face tougher passage.

Source: The Washington Post

4.More than 40 people killed in western Mexico gunfight
A gunfight between federal forces and suspected cartel members in the western Mexico state of Michoacán left at least 42 people dead on Friday. Most of those killed were suspected gang members; while federal officials did not name the cartel involved, Michoacán’s Governor Salvador Jara told a news station that the criminals were likely from the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which specializes in producing and trafficking methamphetamine. New Generation has orchestrated several police killings over the past few months, most notably on May 1, when its gang members targeted an army helicopter, while also setting fire to banks, gas stations, and cars in Guadalajara.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Reuters

5.Drought-stricken California accepts voluntary water cut deal from Delta farmers
California officials on Friday accepted a compromise offer from Delta farmers, who proposed forgoing a quarter of their water supplies due to the state’s “unprecedented drought.” California’s agricultural industry accounts for 80 percent of the state’s water consumption per year, but farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta own some of the state’s most senior water rights — and historically have held tight to those claims. Representatives for the Delta’s nearly 4,000 farmers said they expected most to participate in the cutbacks, either by farming less of their acreage or planting crops that require less water.

Source: The New York Times, The Sacramento Bee

6.TLC pulls 19 Kids and Counting following molestation allegations against Josh Duggar
Following revelations earlier this week that 27-year-old Josh Duggar, one of the stars of TLC’s reality series 19 Kids and Counting, had admitted to sexually molesting multiple girls when he was a teenager, TLC pulled all episodes of the show on Friday, “effective immediately,” citing the “heartbreaking situation.” The network did not address whether it would continue with future seasons of the show, which aired its season 10 finale this week.

Source: The Washington Post, Variety

7.Iran reportedly sends troops to help retake ISIS holdings in Iraq
Two U.S. officials speaking anonymously on Friday said Iran has contributed troops to the Iraqi ground force operations against ISIS. The U.S. military has previously stated that Iran’s involvement would not be opposed, so long as its troops remain under the command of Iraqi government-led forces. Still, a U.S. statement released Friday detailing recent operations against ISIS made no mention of Iran’s involvement. The U.S. and its allies have staged a series of offensives over the past few days, in a bid to retake control of the Beiji refinery compound. U.S.-led airstrikes have also targeted the city of Ramadi, which was overtaken by ISIS earlier this week.

Source: The Guardian

8.Eiffel Tower closes while workers strike over pickpocket threats
The Eiffel Tower closed to the public for several hours on Friday, as its workers protested against petty crime at and around the landmark. Normally, the tower is open 365 days a year. Employees from the tower’s management company said the site has suffered from an increase in the number of pickpockets working the area, targeting tourists and threatening the workers. Staff members requested a permanent police presence at the site to deter the “gangs” of pickpocketers. The protest came just one day after Paris authorities said crimes against tourists have decreased thanks to heightened surveillance in the city.

Source: The Associated Press, BBC News

9. Harlem Globetrotters legend Marques Haynes dies at age 89
Marques Haynes, arguably one of the Harlem Globetrotters’ all-time best players, died on Friday in Plano, Texas, at age 89. Haynes first signed on with the Globetrotters in 1948, for $400 per season. He quite nearly became the NBA’s first black player, in 1950, but missed that opportunity due to disagreements with the Globetrotters’ owner. However, Haynes still became the first Globetrotter inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, in 1998. Considered one of the best ball handlers in history, Haynes played before fans in 97 countries, in more than 12,000 games.

Source: The Dallas Morning News

10.Michael Sam signs deal with CFL’s Montreal Alouettes
The Montreal Alouettes announced that they had signed 25-year-old Michael Sam to a one-year deal with a team option year on Friday. Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted into the National Football League — by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. But the Rams waived Sam in their final round of cuts, and a short stint on the Dallas Cowboy’s practice squad ended with him being released in October 2014. He participated in the NFL veterans combine in March, but no team chose to make him an offer then, either.

Forged Drug Lab Results Could Lead To Release Of Thousands Inmates (VIDEO)


Tens of thousands of Massachusetts inmates may have the chance to get their drug convictions overturned, thanks to a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling, earlier this month. The cases all involved defendants who plead guilty on the advise of council, after state crime lab tests reportedly showed the presence of drugs.

In 2013, former Massachusetts crime chemist Annie Dookhan plead guilty to 27 criminal counts, including tampering with evidence, violating the state witness intimidation statute, multiple counts of lying to a grand jury, falsely claiming to carrying a degree and others. Dookhan admitted to falsifying lab results in tens of thousands of drug related criminal cases. For her crimes, she received a three to five-year prison sentence, and an additional two years probation.

According to WCVB in Boston, Dookhan tampered with test results, forged documents and testified falsely in criminal cases over a 14 year period, while she was employed with the state crime lab.

Here’s video from WCVB.

While hundreds of convictions have already been overturned because of the tainted evidence, thousands of additional cases have yet to be brought forward. Many of those cases involved defendants who entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors, on advice of legal counsel.

According to Matthew Segal, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, while anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 cases were impacted by the evidence tampering, only about 1,200 defendants actually challenged their sentences in court. Segal told The New York Times that people were afraid that if they brought a legal challenge, the result could be an even harsher sentence than what was originally imposed.

On May 18, the Supreme Judicial Court paved the way for those cases to be brought forward, without the fear of additional punishment. The justices wrote:

“we now conclude that (1) a defendant who has been granted a new trial based on Dookhan’s misconduct at the Hinton drug lab cannot be charged with a more serious offense than that of which he or she initially was convicted under the terms of a plea agreement and, if convicted again, cannot be given a more severe sentence than that which originally was imposed.”

According to Segal, the justices decision will have a pronounced impact on individuals who have thus far been afraid to challenge their sentences.

“It clears a path for people to challenge — when I say people, I say thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people — to challenge their convictions without fear that prosecutors will respond by seeking to revive harsher charges or harsher sentences that were relinquished in a plea bargain.”

Following a 15-month-long investigation into Massachusetts’ Hinton Drug Lab, state inspectors found ‘a pattern of neglect, mismanagement, and poor standards.’ While claiming that Dookhan was the only ‘bad actor’ at the lab, the Inspector General told the Boston Globe that “a lack of uniform protocols and procedures at the lab led to deficient practices.” He went on to say that training for chemists was ‘wholly inadequate.’

Inspectors found improper weighing of drug evidence (in order to trump up charges), cases with no chain of command, and cases in which the test results were inconsistent, but prosecutors and defense attorneys were never informed of the discrepancies.

One of the most surprising revelations about the Hinton Drug Lab is that it was never accredited. Yet the lab was charged with testing evidence, providing documentation and even sending ‘expert witnesses’ to testify in court.

Following the state’s investigation, the Hinton Drug Lab was closed down. Besides Dookhan, no-one who worked at the lab was charged with a crime. Three years after the investigation first began, tens of thousands of citizens may still be in prison because of the conduct of Hinton Lab employees.

While the court’s recent decision will minimize some of the chilling effect of the Hinton Lab scandal, until there is real public oversight over every aspect of the criminal justice system, public confidence in that system will remain a long way off.


Gay Marriage Appears Headed for Approval in Ireland


When Same-Sex Marriages Became Legal

About 20 countries have already legalized same-sex marriages. Here is a list of when each did.

DUBLIN Ireland appeared poised on Saturday to become the world’s first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, with early vote counts showing strong and broad support for a measure that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago in what traditionally had been a Roman Catholic stronghold.

Not long after counting began at Dublin Castle, a government complex that was once the epicenter of British rule, the leader of the opposition, David Quinn, the director of the Iona Institute, conceded the outcome in a tweet: “Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done.”

Both proponents and opponents said the only remaining question was the size of the victory for approval. Ronan Mullen, an Irish senator and one of only a few politicians to oppose the measure, predicted the win would be “substantial.” The official results will be announced this afternoon.

The referendum changes Ireland’s Constitution so that marriages between two people would be legal “without distinction as to their sex.”

That the vote even came to pass barely two decades after Ireland decriminalized homosexuality, accentuated the cultural change afoot and the church’s declining influence after a series of scandals. But the vote is also the latest chapter in a sharpening global cultural clash. While marriage equality is surging in the West, gay rights are under renewed attack in Russia, in parts of Africa, and from Islamic extremists, most notably the Islamic State.

Though 84 percent of the Irish are Catholic, church attendance has faded, and the once-lockstep solidarity with church teachings has eroded, a result of rising secularism and reaction to the pedophile scandals that have rocked the church.

Continue reading here

DeNiro To NYU Grads: ‘You’re F-ked’

I can’t!  I’ve been a DeNiro fan since the 70’s.  In my view, the man is remarkable with his “I don’t give a crap” attitude.  I love this guy!


Robert DeNiro hit graduating NY students with a dose of reality.

“You discovered a talent, developed an ambition, and recognized your passion,” he said at the ceremony, which was held at Madison Square Garden.

“When you feel that you can’t fight it, you just go for it. When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. Yeah you’re f–ked. The good news is, that’s not a bad place to start,” he said.

Other NYU grads had brighter prospects, he added.

“The school of medicine graduates, each will get a job,” he said. Law school grads will too, he said, adding that if they don’t, “Who cares? They’re lawyers!”

But Tisch alums, he said, will be “opening a door to a lifetime of rejection.”