The picture you see above is of me and our eight-year-old daughter, Bianca. Now, even though we bothlookserious in this photo, it is far from it. She came up with a silly idea to do a “sideways staring contest,” basically to see how long we could sit there like that. Despite how we look, after my wife snapped the picture, we both cracked up.
Another reason I like this picture is because some folks believe she gets her stubbornness from me. Many have told me that this totally shows how similar we are. Don’t get me wrong; she is the sweetest person and she’s smiling and laughing all the time. This is a rare picture where she isn’t.
I still remember the day she was born like it was yesterday. Like many other males, I’ve always wanted children, but especially a daughter, because I had…
Eeer, yet another self serving piece of crap journalism by Chrisseee!
Everywhere where you wrote politicians you should’ve written Republicans, because reasons.
Your utter unwillingness to make a distinction between the basically functioning Democrats and the entirely dysfunctional Republicans is what creates all this crap.
You are the MOST vicious Both-Siderist of the WaPo, you get totally excited about the tiniest inconsistencies Clinton says (“we know now that Clinton LIED about the emails “) but doesn’t give a hoot about Trump saying one thing now and the opposite 5 minutes later. Or even in the same sentence.
Look at the WaPo interview with Trump where they chose NOT to go after him on his big flip flops on the substance but talked extensively about superficial stuff like about his penis size.
A typical interview with Trump goes like this:
Journalist: “Yesterday you said you were against the minimum wage, now you are for it”
Trump: “yes, the minWage is very low, it should be higher – gobble de gook nonsense in order to confuse the both the journalist and the issue – so yes I am against a minimum wage but for it at the same time”
Trump: “Glad you see my point!”
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A few months later Jackson was convicted of shoplifting and sent to Angola prison in Louisiana. That was 16 years ago. Today he is still incarcerated in Angola, and will stay there for the rest of his natural life having been condemned to die in jail. All for the theft of a jacket, worth $159.
Jackson, 53, is one of 3,281 prisoners in America serving life sentences with no chance of parole for non-violent crimes. Some, like him, were given the most extreme punishment short of execution for shoplifting; one was condemned to die in prison for siphoning petrol from a truck; another for stealing tools from a tool shed; yet another for attempting to cash a stolen cheque.
“It has been very hard for me,” Jackson wrote to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as part of its new report on life without parole for non-violent offenders. “I know that for my crime I had to do some time, but a life sentence for a jacket value at $159. I have met people here whose crimes are a lot badder with way less time.”
Senior officials at Angola prison refused to allow the Guardian to speak to Jackson, on grounds that it might upset his victims – even though his crime was victim-less. But his sister Loretta Lumar did speak to the Guardian. She said that the last time she talked by phone with her brother he had expressed despair. “He told me, ‘Sister, this has really broke my back. I’m ready to come out.’”
Lumar said that she found her brother’s sentence incomprehensible. “This doesn’t make sense to me. I know people who have killed people, and they get a lesser sentence. That doesn’t make sense to me right there. You can take a life and get 15 or 16 years. He takes a jacket worth $159 and will stay in jail forever. He didn’t kill the jacket!”
The ACLU’s report, A Living Death, chronicles the thousands of lives ruined and families destroyed by the modern phenomenon of sentencing people to die behind bars for non-violent offences. It notes that contrary to the expectation that such a harsh penalty would be meted out only to the most serious offenders, people have been caught in this brutal trap for sometimes the most petty causes.
Ronald Washington, 48, is also serving life without parole in Angola, in his case for shoplifting two Michael Jordan jerseys from a Foot Action sportswear store in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2004. Washington insisted at trial that the jerseys were reduced in a sale to $45 each – which meant that their combined value was below the $100 needed to classify the theft as a felony; the prosecution disagreed, claiming they were on sale for $60 each, thus surpassing the $100 felony minimum and opening him up to a sentence of life without parole.
“I felt as though somebody had just taken the life out of my body,” Washington wrote to the ACLU about the moment he learnt his fate. “I seriously felt rejected, neglected, stabbed right through my heart.”
He added: “It’s a very lonely world, seems that nobody cares. You’re never ever returning back into society. And whatever you had or established, its now useless, because you’re being buried alive at slow pace.”
Louisiana, where both Washington and Jackson are held, is one of nine states where prisoners are serving life without parole sentences for non-violent offences (other states with high numbers are Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina). An overwhelming proportion of those sentences – as many as 98% in Louisiana – were mandatory: in other words judges had no discretion but to impose the swingeing penalties.
The warden of Angola prison, Burl Cain, has spoken out in forthright terms against a system that mandates punishment without any chance of rehabilitation. He told the ACLU: “It’s ridiculous, because the name of our business is ‘corrections’ – to correct deviant behaviour. If I’m a successful warden and I do my job and we correct the deviant behaviour, then we should have a parole hearing. I need to keep predators in these big old prisons, not dying old men.”
The toll is not confined to the state level: most of those non-violent inmates held on life without parole sentences were given their punishments by the federal government. More than 2,000 of the 3,281 individuals tracked down on these sentences by the ACLU are being held in the federal system. Overall, the ACLU has calculated that taxpayers pay an additional $1.8bn to keep the prisoners locked up for the rest of their lives.
‘It doesn’t have to be this way’
Until the early 1970s, life without parole sentences were virtually unknown. But they exploded as part of what the ACLU calls America’s “late-twentieth-century obsession with mass incarceration and extreme, inhumane penalties.”
The report’s author Jennifer Turner states that today, the US is “virtually alone in its willingness to sentence non-violent offenders to die behind bars.” Life without parole for non-violent sentences has been ruled a violation of human rights by the European Court of Human Rights. The UK is one of only two countries in Europe that still metes out the penalty at all, and even then only in 49 cases of murder.
Even within America’s starkly racially-charged penal system, the disparities in non-violent life without parole are stunning. About 65% of the prisoners identified nationwide by the ACLU are African American. In Louisiana, that proportion rises to 91%, including Jackson and Washington who are both black.
The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 2.3 million people now in custody, with the war on drugs acting as the overriding push-factor. Of the prisoners serving life without parole for non-violent offences nationwide, the ACLU estimates that almost 80% were for drug-related crimes.
Again, the offences involved can be startlingly petty. Drug cases itemised in the report include a man sentenced to die in prison for having been found in possession of a crack pipe; an offender with a bottle cap that contained a trace of heroin that was too small to measure; a prisoner arrested with a trace amount of cocaine in their pocket too tiny to see with the naked eye; a man who acted as a go-between in a sale to an undercover police officer of marijuana – street value $10.
Drugs are present in the background of Timothy Jackson’s case too. He was high when he went to the Maison Blanche store, and he says that as a result he shoplifted “without thinking”. Paradoxically, like many of the other prisoners on similar penalties, the first time he was offered drug treatment was after he had already been condemned to spend the rest of his life in jail.
The theft of the $159 jacket, taken in isolation, carries today a six-month jail term. It was combined at Jackson’s sentencing hearing with his previous convictions – all for non-violent crimes including a robbery in which he took $216 – that brought him under Louisiana’s brutal “four-strikes” law by which it became mandatory for him to be locked up and the key thrown away.
The ACLU concludes that it does not have to be this way – suitable alternatives are readily at hand, including shorter prison terms and the provision of drug treatment and mental health services. The organisation calls on Congress, the Obama administration and state legislatures to end the imposition of mandatory life without parole for non-violent offenders and to require re-sentencing hearings for all those already caught in this judicial black hole.
A few months after Timothy Jackson was put away for life, a Louisiana appeals court reviewed the case and found it “excessive”, “inappropriate” and “a prime example of an unjust result”. Describing Jackson as a “petty thief”, the court threw out the sentence.
The following year, in 1998, the state’s supreme court gave a final ruling. “This sentence is constitutionally excessive in that it is grossly out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence,” concluded Judge Bernette Johnson. However, she found that the state’s four strikes law that mandates life without parole could only be overturned in rare instances, and as a result she reinstated the sentence – putting Jackson back inside his cell until the day he dies.
“I am much older and I have learned a lot about myself,” Jackson wrote to the ACLU from that cell. “I am sorry for the crime that I did, and I am a changed man.”
Jackson expressed a hope that he would be granted his freedom when he was still young enough to make something of his life and “help others”. But, barring a reform of the law, the day of his release will never come.
While there are some mistakes in this article, due to it’s rightwing slant, the comments are far, FAR worse, due to their typical KKKonservative, RepubliKKKan ignorant arrogance.
The mistakes in the article are that:
 it paints too rosy a picture of the West.
 it uses a strawman argument, to distorts openness into “let everybody come, no questions asked”
1: Japan is a male dominated society??? ORLY??? Have you tried running for president as a woman in the West? and especially America? Of course that’s not the most determining factor of how male dominated a society is, but men control 85% of all wealth, 60% income, but 75% of all toplevel managerial positions in army, business and goverment and 99% of those in religion.
Let’s, once and for all, dispell with the notion that women in the West are equal to men. We may have equal rights, but despite trying, there are no equal outcomes.
We can’t copy Japan, because basic nature of both societies are very different. Americans first outlook is tribal, this means in practice that whites (and/or the rich) have been bending the law so that blacks (and/or the poor) would not get ahead. This is sold as “FREEDOM” which means in practice that the rich have the freedom to do whatever they want. Think back to the 1930s-1960s expression: “I am free, over 21 and WHITE” meaning that everyone like that could do whatever they want. Others were NOT FREE like that.
Japan by contrast, is for historic reasons, geared towards solidarity, which Americans juveniley mock as groupthink, but which they rampantly practice in their “hailed” red states, like Utah. Utah is the Western society that resembles the Soviet Union the most closely, including Cuba.
2: Of course we can’t emulate ALL of Japan but parts of it, SURE! No-one on the left is saying that we should open the borders, that is just the rightwing smear by both the WSJ and Fox. Canada has stringent conditions towards its immigrants. That’s legitimate.
But the suggestion here is that “openness” (whatever that maybe) is a major cause for problems in the West, which is ridiculous. The West is heavily complicit to the instability in the Middle East. It propped up dictators and thwarted democracy.
But for many in the West, the war only begins if the other persons FIGHT BACK. (likewise, Repubs only begin screeching “Class warfare” when the poor start to demand a better deal. Whatever the rich do to the poor, is NEVER war. Warren Buffett said about this: there was a class war and my class has won it decisively. I digress)
This article is a treasure trove of Ye Olde Classic Conservative distortions of the Tax Question. Williamsons starter question is, OF COURSE, NOT straight forward.
How do we raise the revenue needed to meet government spending requirements in a way that is minimally disruptive to the productive economic activity that sustains public and private sectors alike?
Both spending requirements and minimally disruptive are not neutral things. Reps want SRs to be low and geared towards defense, Dems want them high for the poor and lower middle class and low for the rich and upper middle class. There’s no neutral, technocratic solution here. It’s value laden, fraught with subjective opinion
Likewise what constitutes minimally disruptive. To whom? For Reps,minimally disruptive towards the wealthy, for Dems minimally disruptive for the poor. Given how incredibly disruptive Reps are around Voter ID is a good indication.
Everyone outside Republicania thinks that Reps help the wealthy, not the middle class, and the poor are LOL to them.
All the fiscal plans of all the candidates running. Without exception, they are ALL lowering taxes for the rich and increasing them for the poor and middle class.
(Especially poor Rubio, who is so arithmetically challenged that he seems to think that doubling the amount of breadcrumbs a poor person gets is, while giving a wealthy person $80,000, means that is some sort of redistribution DOWNWARDS instead of upwards.)
Why are fairy tales written? Because in reality, life sucks monkey bolls. Super heroes (Cruz) are invented, because in real life the villains win. This article is exactly the same. What is conveniently forgotten is that both Trump and Cruz are monster of their own party’s creation.
GOPe(stablishmentarian) Republicans always think that elections are about personalities, this is why they prop up their fake “hero“, “messianic” image of Obama: it’s not their flawed proposals that made Romney and McCain lose, but oh wow, Obama was just a freak of Natural Charisma??? Liberals everywhere are always scratches their heads when they see a characterization like because, for ONE thing, OBAMA STUTTERED LIKE A MANIAC IN 2008!!!. This became painfully clear when he’s seen next to his wife, who ACTUALLY IS a naturally gifted speaker. Obama is not that. Public of the cuff speaking is hard for him. Clinton is in some ways better at this, but by no means a natural. Rubio would have made minced meat out of her, because he IS TOO a very naturally gifted and likeable person. As long as you don’t listen to WHAT he says. Gays love him, he would take at least take 33% of the gay vote instead of the usual 25. That’s 500,000 votes. Romney lost by 37,000 in swing states. Don’t forget that conservatives only have to win FL, PA and OH to win by 271. They also win the WH if its 269-269
Cruz will have the good fortune to face a woman most Americans dislike.
Hillary will have the good fortune to face a man most Republicans hate.….. with a vengeance!!! The man lost EVANGELICALS to a lefty Republican like Trump, will they really stand behind him now? Why? What has Cruz ever done for them?
But the fatal flaw in this piece and the whole “true” conservative movement, is that they offer Americans this deal:
You give your tax dollars to billionaires and we will say that you belong with us, the good guys. And you can substitute “good guys” with anything you like, from patriots to Christians to High Moral People to Those People That will Make it Big Any Day Now
The Trump voters have woken up and rejected that deal. Until they get a better deal offered, they will stay home.
Oh my GAWD! Serena Williams got one call in her favor, while playing a white blonde non-American girl!!! I wonder, would that compensate for the 257 times the calls went AGAINST her? Who cares? Because the great outrage is that Miss Generic Blond&Blue got a call against her, making that Elitist Angry Black Woman go all Uppity on her! We gotta stop this! This, of course has got NOTHING to do with race. Just like all the calls that went against Serena and Venus, Zina Garrison, Althea Gibson, Rodney Harmon, Levar Harper-Griffith, Angela Haynes, Tally Holmes, Chip Hooper, Liezel Huber, Jamea Jackson, Jarmere Jenkins, Scoville Jenkins, Madison Keys, Raquel Kops-Jones, John Lucas II, Lori McNeil, Nicholas Monroe, Megan Moulton-Levy, Asia Muhammad, Todd Nelson, Shenay Perry, Ahsha Rolle, Chanda Rubin, Bryan Shelton, Phillip Simmonds, Lucy Diggs Slowe, Sloane Stephens, Alexandra Stevenson, Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Townsend. You know.
A really great blog. What we would need is to condense this into good soundbites, since that is what progressives sorely lack, and why they seem to me at least, to convoluted and professorial in debates.
Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because somestupid commieliberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.
All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance – now Joe gets it too.
He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because somegirly-manliberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.
In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because somecrybabyliberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.
Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because someenvironmentalist wackoliberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.
He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because somefancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.
Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because somelazyliberal union membersfought and DIEDfor these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union.
If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because somestupidliberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.
It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because somegodlessliberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.
Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because someelitistliberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that his in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state funded university.
Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because someAmerica-hatingliberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the tax-payer funded roads.
He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make RURAL loans.
The house didn’t have electricity until somebig-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded RURAL electrification.
He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because somewine-drinking, cheese-eatingliberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.
Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have.”