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September 30, 2007

Quit The Party?

Lots of people are really upset that the House and Senate voted to censure MoveOn. Me, too. There is a LOT of talk about "quitting the party" to "send a message."

There is a problem with that thinking. Ralph Nader ran in 2000 to "send a message" to "the Democrats." It didn't send a message and got maybe half a million Iraqis killed. Maybe more.

The reason it did not "send a message" was that the Democratic Party is not a top-down organization. It is a bottom-up organization. IT IS US. You don't "send a message" to yourself, you ACT. The way to act on this is to show up at party meetings, vote, run for office and take over the party. It is also to fund outside organizations like Commonweal Institute so they can reach the public, create popular understanding and appreciation of, and demand for, progressive values and ideas, and turn them around from this nightmare we're living under.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:42 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

September 28, 2007

I Sent The Wrong Man To Jail

by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino

March of 1995 began like any other month for me. The days were filled with chasing soon to be five year-old triplets, washing hundreds of pounds of laundry, kissing skinned knees and picking up toys, until the phone rang. Captain Mike Gauldin, the detective who worked my case after a man broke into my apartment when I was a twenty-two year-old college student and raped me at knifepoint in Burlington, N.C. wanted to come see me with Rob Johnson, then the assistant D.A. of Alamance County.

They arrived before lunch and we sat on the deck enjoying the spring sunshine. We talked about the weather, the kids, current events, and then quickly the topic changed. Ronald Cotton, the man sent away for life for attacking me, wanted a DNA test. They needed new blood drawn because my sample from the eleven year-old rape kit had deteriorated.

I had already sat through two trials and I was furious, but I didn’t hesitate. “Let’s go to the lab right now,” I responded. Within hours Mike Gauldin and Rob Johnson were headed to the SBI labs with my vial of blood. I knew the tests would show what I had known all along: that Ronald Cotton was a monster. It was Ronald Cotton who threatened to kill me, who had chased me through the rain that night while I fled for my life. And it was Ronald Cotton who I saw every night in my nightmares, who I prayed God would have killed, and who I hated each and every day of the last eleven years.

But when Mike Gauldin and Rob Johnson stood in my kitchen in June of 1995, they told me we were wrong. It was not Ronald’s DNA found in the rape kit, in fact, it was a man named Bobby Poole, a serial rapist who had attacked and raped over a half dozen other women that summer of 1984.

With the delivery of the DNA results came an overwhelming shame and guilt. My mind began to question everything I had believed in. I pulled away from the world as I knew it; I had no answers. Over four thousand days of a man’s life were gone and nothing I could do would ever change that. Eleven birthdays, eleven Christmas mornings—gone. I placed the burden on my shoulders and began the slow process of moving through my days.

By the spring of 1997, the psychological toll forced me to act. In a small church no more then a few miles from where I had been brutally raped, I met Ronald and struggled for words I could say to him. How completely inadequate “I’m sorry” seemed. As Ronald and his new wife, Robbin, came into the room I began to cry and shake. “Ronald, if I spent the rest of my life telling you how sorry I am it wouldn’t be enough,” I said. Ronald immediately took my hands and replied, “I forgive you. I want you to be happy and live a good life. Don’t look over your shoulders thinking I will be there because I won’t.”

For the first time, I looked into Ronald Cotton’s eyes and saw a compassionate man who gave me a gift of healing by forgiving me. I also saw a victim of a flawed system. If California’s Senate Bill 756 can help fix that system by putting better practices and procedures into place for eyewitness identification, we reduce the risk of wrongful convictions and mistakes like the one I made. A mistake I never saw coming.

Jennifer Thompson-Cannino lives in Winston-Salem, N.C. She is currently working on PICKING COTTON with Ronald Cotton and writer Erin Torneo. It will be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2008.

Posted by Guest at 7:25 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


If you are following the situation in Burma/Myanmar, go see the stories at or, most important, leave a story at the brand-new Burma Newsladder

Try the What's Up and What's New tabs.

The newsladder is a new project that I am involved in.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:18 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

September 27, 2007

Rush Says Iraq Troops Are "Phony Soldiers"

In recent days the Senate and then the House voted to condemn MoveOn for an ad that questioned General Petraeus' statistics on improvements in Iraq. Many Democrats joined in the condemnation.

Yesterday Rush Limbaugh said that troops serving in Iraq are "phony soldiers." From Media Matters - Limbaugh: Service members who support U.S. withdrawal are "phony soldiers"

Where are the Democrats who voted to condemn MoveOn? Why are they not demanding a vote to condemn Limbaugh for this? The Carpetbagger Report also wants to know.

Update - Considering that the Congress JUST voted to condemn MoveOn, there are a LOT of upset people. New additions, Crooks and Liars, Down With Tyranny, Cliff Schecter, TalkLeft, AmericaBlog, Digby (with a list of similar comments from Rush - all as yet not condemned by the Congress)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - New-Home Sales And Prices Plunge (Again)

New-home sales plunge 8.3% to seven-year low,

Median sales price down 7.5% in past year, biggest drop in 37 years

Sales of new homes dropped 8.3% in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 795,000, the slowest sales pace since June 2000, the Commerce Department estimated Thursday.
Sales are now down 21.2% in the past year, with no sign of a bottom in the crippled housing market.

... The median sales price fell 7.5% to $225,700 compared with a year earlier, the largest year-over-year decline in 37 years.

The worst is yet to come. Maybe a year from now is the time to start thinking about loking for a bottom.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:26 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

September 26, 2007

Angelina Jolie at CGI

I just attended a press conference where Angelina Jolie announced a significant initiative to help educate children in conflict areas.  This will be discussed at the afternoon plenary session that begins soon.  The project was founded by Jolie and Gene Sperling.

The announcement is the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict.  It brings together eighteen commitments to reach a total of one million "children in conflict, post-conflict refugee and emergency situations."  This includes placing 350,000 out-of-school chindren in schools, and "improving the learning environment, safety, materials and teacher quality for another 650,000 students-including 200,000 Iraqi refugees and 300,000 children affected by the crisis in Darfur." 

The dollar amount of this project is $148 million.  I'll post more information and links to details as it becomes available.

A couple of photos from the press conference:



Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:14 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Where I Am

I am in New York blogging for Social Edge from the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Biggest Price Drop in 16 Years

Imissed this yesterday because I was traveling... S&P: US Home Price Decline Accelerates,

U.S. Homes Post Steepest Price Drop in 16 Years

The decline in U.S. home prices accelerated nationwide in July, posting the steepest drop in 16 years, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday.

So the situation: a huge wave of "ARM resets" - steep rises in monthly payments for holders of adjustable mortgages - is only beginning. Then it takes several months before they get into enough trouble to be forced into foreclosure. At the same time, it is hard to get a mortgage now, the largest number of homes for sale in history, and everyone aware that prices are falling and it is just stupid to buy a house now. So prices are going to be dropping, maybe a lot, for some time. There is no way around it.

(Feel free to add other "doom and gloom" factors in the comments.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:22 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

September 25, 2007

Governor Schwarzenegger's Chance to Lead

By John Van de Kamp

Health care reform hasn’t made it to the Governor’s desk this year, but 3 crucial public safety bills have. Governor Schwarzenegger has the opportunity to sign landmark legislation that would help prevent wrongful convictions in California, and make this state a leader in addressing a serious nationwide problem.

How serious is the problem? When the innocent go to prison, the guilty go free. That is a very serious public safety problem. And it happens more often then most people think.

Just recently, Stephen Colbert interviewed the 200th DNA exoneree, Jerry Miller. Colbert gave him a card on behalf of “society” saying “Sorry.” Here in California, Herman Atkins spent 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Here is Herman Atkins' story:

Harold Hall spent more than 19 years in prison, and was nearly sentenced to death. Over 200 other wrongfully convicted men and women have been exonerated by DNA evidence, but all too often these errors could have been avoided. Now Governor Schwarzenegger has a chance to show Colbert and the nation what we can do: California can do more than saying

Commentators from both sides of the aisle are supporting these bills for just the same reasons: they address glaring problems that need repair, and they protect public safety. By signing these bills, Governor Schwarzenegger will help law enforcement solve and prosecute crimes, while also protecting the innocent from wrongful conviction.

The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, a group established by the Senate to study the most serious problems with the criminal justice system, recommended all three of the reform measures now before the Governor.

In 2006 I was asked by the Senate to Chair the Commission, no doubt because of my curriculum vitae, which included terms as California’s Attorney General, L.A. County D.A. and as California’s Central District’s first Federal Public Defender. So I have some perspective from both sides of the court room. I agreed to take on the assignment with the stipulation that I would receive support to balance the Commission so that all sides of the criminal justice systems had strong and fair representation. The result is a Commission whose members include law enforcement officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys (public and private), a victim advocate and public members.

The Commission has issued a series of reports dealing with Eyewitness Identification, False Confessions, Jail House Informants Testimony, DNA Evidence Processing, and Forensic Evidence. Now we’re looking at Prosecutorial and Defense Misconduct and Incompetence.

The Legislature has passed three bills dealing with the Commission’s early
recommendations: SB 511, 609 and 756 represent the most basic and most urgently needed changes.

  • Senate Bill 511 (Alquist) will require the electronic recording of police interrogation in cases involving homicides and other violent felonies.

  • Senate Bill 756 (Ridley-Thomas) will require the appointment of a task force to draft voluntary guidelines for the conduct of police line-ups and photo arrays to increase the accuracy of eyewitness identifications.

  • Senate Bill 609 (Romero) will require the corroboration of testimony by jailhouse informants.

    Some states and jurisdictions already have similar laws in response to the notorious Duke Lacrosse scandal, North Carolina’s Governor (and former Attorney General) Easley signed bills similar to SB 511 and 756. However, Governor Schwarzenegger would be the first to enact all 3 reforms at once.

    He chose to veto bills similar to SB 511 and 756 last year, but made it clear in his veto message that he appreciates the need for reform. Now that the bills have been rewritten to address last year’s concerns, there is no reason to put public safety and the lives of innocent men and women on hold. This is Governor Schwarzenegger’s chance to sign landmark legislation this year, to protect the public, protect the innocent and be the reformer California, and the country, needs.

    John Van de Kamp is the chair of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice and formerly served as California Attorney General, Los Angeles District Attorney, and as the first Federal Public Defender for the Central District.

    Posted by Guest at 1:16 PM | Comments (8) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    2007 Clinton Global Initiative

    I am in New York where I will be blogging, beginning tomorrow, from the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative. I will be blogging for Social Edge, and you can read my posts there. I have an introductory post up already - and last year's posts are still up. I'll be cross-posting some of my posts here, but visit the Social Edge blog for the rest.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:09 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 23, 2007

    Chris Thomas Is Not Silenced

    Chris Thomas getting arrested in DC last weekend:

    As you can see, Chris wasn't going to be silenced. I think toward the end there the cops arresting him were chanting too.

    Quiz: What does Chris want, and when?

    He writes,

    There were a lot of arrests in DC last week. By my count there were at least 230 in 4 different actions. I thought my blogging friends might like to hear about them.

    As far as my arrest, I actually only decided to cross the police line after I saw Colonel Ann Wright go over the wall and get arrested first (that was after many Vets from Iraq Veterans Against the War first crossed the line).

    As you probably know, Colonel Wright was a career military woman (30 years) and was one of three State Department officials who resigned after the Iraq invasion. It actually was really inspiring and humbling to be in a DC "jail" with people who have been arrested many, many times. Probably 70% of the group were women, 15% Veterans (mostly men), and 15% other men. Many of the women were grandmothers. One of them, Maddie, was 84. 90% of the Capitol police were nice. They are on our side, but their superiors seem to be cracking down on activists. (One Codepinker was arrested on Friday for having "No War" pinned to her shirt while walking into the Jefferson Memorial. She was released 24 hours later with paper work that indicated that they "declined to proceed with prosecution" (huh?). They kept us in cuffs on a bus for five hours, then uncuffed us and put us on metal chairs for four more hours. They finally began processing us out at 3 AM (11 hours after our arrest) and finally fed us - get this - bologna, mayo and white bread sandwiches at 5 AM. I got out at 6:30 AM

    I went to a teach-in on Thursday where Daniel Ellsberg spoke. He said an action in Iran in the next 15 months is "likely" and stopping that action should be our highest priority. If we take action on this Muslim country, we will do that much more to recruit a generation of people who hate the US.

    Another video from last weekend:

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Go Visit MoveOn.org

    Have you visited MoveOn's website lately? MoveOn.org: Democracy in Action

    MoveOn is run by its members - you and me. Completely. They only have 17 employees. MoveOn is about what YOU want the organization to do.

    From their About page:

    With over 3.3 million members across America – from carpenters to stay-at-home moms to business leaders – we work together to realize the progressive promise of our country. MoveOn is a service – a way for busy but concerned citizens to find their political voice in a system dominated by big money and big media.

    ... Every member has a voice in choosing the direction for both MoveOn.org Political Action and MoveOn.org Civic Action. Using our ActionForum software, you can propose priorities and strategies. Both organizations also take the initiative to organize quick action on other timely issues that our members care about.

    If you are not a MoveOn member this is a good time to sign up.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 22, 2007

    Republicans Deny Health Care To Children To Protect Insurance Companies

    It comes down to who you think the government should protect - citizens or corporations. It's as simple as that.

    Republicans voted against a health plan for kids, and Bush promises a veto, and they say this is because it doesn't protect private health insurance companies. So the kids don't get health care coverage.

    Bush: Kids' health care will get vetoed,

    But Bush has promised a veto, saying the measure is too costly, unacceptably raises taxes, extends government-covered insurance to children in families who can afford private coverage, and smacks of a move toward completely federalized health care....

    "Our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage — not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage," Bush said.

    Newt Gingrich elaborates on this philosophical divide,
    Fundamental questions over which direction our country takes on health care are at the heart of the discussion over SCHIP: Will we as a nation embrace a consumer-centered, market-driven health system or a government-run, European-style approach?
    It isn't about the kids, it's about protecting corporations.

    Should decisions like this be public (us, you and me, the people deciding together what is best) or private (corporate and one-dollar-one-vote systems)?

    Who is our economy for, anyway?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 21, 2007

    Genius Move, Democrats

    "A Democratic-controlled Senate, and the ONLY thing that passes is a condemnation of a group that s trying to help you. Genius move, Democrats."

    More at DownWithTyranny!

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Dems "Failing?"

    The Republicans have a strategy of using the filibuster to block everything the Democrats try to do, and then telling the public that the Democrats are letting them down. As a result of this strategy there have never in history been as many filibusters. Is this news? Apparently not.

    So what IS the news from this? AP: Democrats failing to pass anti-war bill, ABCDemocrats failing to pass anti-war bill, Google News shows this echoed this morning at 1,422 outlets.

    Some days it seems like the major media is complicit in Republican political strategies.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 20, 2007

    Senate Dems Afraid Rush Limbaugh Will Say Something Bad About Them

    Half of the "Democrats" in the Senate voted to condemn MoveOn today. They are afraid that Rush Limbaugh might say something bad about them.

    I'm a member of MoveOn, so they were voting to condemn ME.

    Election Central | Talking Points Memo | Reso Condemning MoveOn Passes Overwhelmingly, With Lots Of Dems,

    The GOP-introduced resolution condemning MoveOn just passed by a huge margin, 72-25. Roughly half the Democrats in the Senate supported it.

    A couple of the more interesting votes: Jim Webb, who just yesterday was a Netroots hero, voted for it, even though the last thing he needs as a military guy is cover on something like this.

    Meanwhile, Hillary -- who's been under assault by Rudy for refusing to condemn MoveOn but who's also locked in a tough Dem primary -- stood her ground and voted No.

    The list of "Democrats" requiring progressive primary opponents the next time they are up for re-election follows:

    Dems voting for the reso:


















    Bill Nelson

    Ben Nelson





    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:57 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    I Took A False Confession – So Don't Tell Me It Doesn't Happen!

    (As I mentioned yesterday, I am helping ACLU of Northern California and The Justice Project to get three very important bills signed. Right now there are three bills that the California legislature has passed and are ready for Governor Schwarzenegger to sign. But he might not sign them. These bills will help stop wrongful convictions. So we are trying to get some public awareness that these bills are waiting to be signed. These bills are SB 511, SB 609 and SB 756.

    Today I am guest-posting a piece by a police officer who took a false confession and knows that it really can happen. -- Dave J.)

    As I write this, the post-arrest recorded interview of Senator Larry Craig has hit the press, circulated around the blogosphere, and produced heated discussion among the public. The recording includes a confession to a crime that Senator Craig now says he did not commit. No doubt that tape will prove central to the consideration of Senator Craig’s claim, since it will provide incontrovertible evidence of what both he and law enforcement said.

    Coincidentally, just last week the California legislature passed a bill, SB 511, which would mandate the recording of custodial interrogations to prevent wrongful convictions based upon false confessions. The bill has now been sent to Governor Schwarzenegger.

    To most, falsely confessing to a crime seems counterintuitive. It is hard to understand -- barring outright torture – why a sane and intelligent person would admit to a crime that he did not commit, especially if the confession could yield a lifetime prison term or even a death sentence.

    As a law enforcement officer with 24 years of experience with the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. (13 of those as a homicide detective), the phenomenon always eluded me too. Until someone provided a false confession to me.

    It was a homicide case. I used nothing but standard, approved interrogation techniques and did not act maliciously. There was no yelling, no physical abuse and no cursing. We went into the interrogation room with the belief that we had evidence linking the suspect to the crime and we came out many hours later with a confession. Thankfully, we started the video early on and chose to keep it on for the duration of the interrogation.

    On the basis of the confession, the case progressed. Even the defendant’s defense attorney believed that she was guilty because of her confession. We hit a wall when, during our follow-up work, we discovered her alibi. It was ironclad. Even though the case was dismissed, we all still believed that she was guilty. Why else would she confess? How did she know the details that she did?

    Years later, during a review of the videotapes, we discovered our mistake. We had fallen into a classic trap. We believed so much in our suspect’s guilt that we ignored all evidence to the contrary. To demonstrate the strength of our case, we showed the suspect our evidence, and unintentionally fed her details that she was able to parrot back to us at a later time. Contrary to our operating procedures at the time, my colleagues and I chose to videotape the interrogation. This is what saved me from making a horrible mistake in the long run. It was a classic false confession case and without the video we would never have known.

    Now I teach a class on interrogations and false confessions. In my ongoing discussions with law enforcement nationally, I find that investigators fall into one of two camps – those who do not record and oppose it; and those who do record and endorse the practice.

    Those investigators whose departments do not record interrogations say that mandating the practice will be the end of the world. We have found in D.C., though, that many of these issues were overcome by working with lawmakers. California SB 511, for instance, mandates recording only in police facilities for specific – and not all – crimes, just like we have in D.C.

    And unlike our D.C. law, the California bill is friendlier to law enforcement, making allowances for situations where videotaping is impractical. In D.C., if a detective fails to record for whatever reason, the prosecutor must overcome the presumption that the confession was coerced. The California bill, on the other hand, still allows the confession to be used. The California bill also allows audio recording, while in D.C., videotaping is mandatory.

    Law enforcement officers that record interrogations love it. They have found that they still get confessions, but that those confessions are much easier to defend in court. They also mention unexpected benefits: detectives are made better interviewers; suppression hearings are almost eliminated; large civil settlement payouts to the wrongly convicted are avoided; and public confidence in law enforcement increases.

    Recording of interrogations from start to finish as directed by California's SB 511 is the right thing to do. Failure to use cheap and available technology to build strong cases against the guilty and to protect the innocent is wrong. Recording interrogations needs to be mandatory, with rules and sanctions. If sanctions are not in place then public confidence is undermined by the few unscrupulous among us. When videotaping was first forced upon us by the D.C. City Council, we fought it tooth and nail. Now, in the words of a top commander, we would not do it any other way.

    Regardless of whether the public is considering a Senator’s political future or a judge or jury is debating the guilt or innocence of a person facing serious charges, opinions should be shaped by the best available evidence. Recorded interrogations are simply a critical source of truth.

    Governor Schwarzenegger, please sign SB 511.

    Please visit the ACLU of Northern California's action alert and help end wrongful convictions. Also, please visit http://www.facesofwrongfulconviction.org/.

    Jim Trainum is a detective with the Metropolitan Police Department in the District of Columbia and currently runs a cold case homicide review project. He also lectures on Interrogation and False Confessions as well as Avoiding Investigative Pitfalls.

    Posted by Guest at 5:01 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 19, 2007


    A great post by Susie, Suburban Guerrilla: Greenspan Shrugged in which she points out that Greenspan was a nut case libertarian who believed things like the following,

    "In an article published in 1963 as part of Ayn Rand’s book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Greenspan declared that protection of the consumer against “dishonest and unscrupulous business was the cardinal ingredient of welfare statism.”

    “Regulation which is based on force and fear undermines the moral base of business dealings,” he wrote. “Protection of the consumer by regulation … is illusory.”

    Got that? Protecting consumers from "dishonest and unscrupulous business" is a bad thing.

    Go read.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Dan Rather Sues CBS

    Don Imus calls black women "nappy-headed hos," gets fired, sues, and CBS settles for $20million.

    Dan Rather is forced out over a true report about how George Bush evaded his military service commitment. So it makes sense that he should finally sue CBS.

    The right-wingers will tell you Rather used "forged" documents in the report. Except no one has ever shown they were forged, the person who typed the originals says this was what she typed, AND there is no question that the content of the documents and the story was accurate. Bush did evade his military service.

    Here is the story:
    Rather Sues CBS, Saying It Made Him a ‘Scapegoat’

    Dan Rather, whose career at CBS News ground to an inglorious end 15 months ago over his role in an unsubstantiated report questioning President Bush’s Vietnam-era National Guard service, filed a lawsuit this afternoon against the network, its corporate parent and three of his former superiors.

    ... He also contends that the network committed fraud by commissioning a “biased” and incomplete investigation of the flawed Guard broadcast and, in the process, “seriously damaged his reputation.”

    Posted by Guest at 4:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    You Could Be Wrongfully Imprisoned If Governor Schwarzenegger Vetoes SB 511 and SB 609

    (I am helping ACLU of Northern California and The Justice Project to get three very important bills signed. Right now there are three bills that the California legislature has passed and are ready for Governor Schwarzenegger to sign. But he might not sign them. These bills will help stop wrongful convictions. So we are trying to get some public awareness that these bills are waiting to be signed. These bills are SB 511, SB 609 and SB 756. This is another guest post toward that end. -- Dave J.)

    You Could Be Wrongfully Imprisoned If Governor Schwarzenegger Vetoes SB 511 and SB 609

    By Harold Hall

    Last month, I celebrated an untraditional anniversary. August 17, 2007 marked my third year of freedom from wrongful imprisonment. I spent nearly twenty years in prison for a crime I did not commit.

    I think people want the assurance that something like this couldn’t happen to them. I wouldn’t wish the unique nightmare of wrongful conviction on my worst enemy, but I cannot provide this guarantee to anyone. That is because many of the methods and procedures that were used to secure my conviction are still allowable under California law.

    In 1985, I was convicted of a double homicide. There wasn’t a smidgeon of forensic or biological evidence that could connect me to the two slayings. Still, police zeroed in on me. They brought me to an interrogation room, where I was handcuffed to a chair, denied food, water, and the use of a restroom. They told me they had evidence of my guilt, including fingerprints, blood and semen. The more I denied my involvement in these murders, the harder they pushed. Seventeen long hours later, I was mentally drained and told them the story they clearly wanted to hear.

    By the end of this ordeal, I had technically “confessed” to the crime. It didn’t matter that the “confession” I provided contained many inaccuracies. It didn’t matter that the information that I provided to the police -- thinking at the time that it would end the traumatic interrogation process – didn’t line up with many of the details of the crime. They had their man, although I hardly felt like one. I was only eighteen years old!

    I was carted off to jail. I was scared for my life. Every day was a living hell. I was told when to use the phone, when to shower, when to recreate. I was under constant watch. Often I was pulled from my freezing cold cell in handcuffs, wearing only boxer shorts so that they could conduct cell searches. I was forced to watch, defenseless, as Corrections Officers went through my belongings, pouring out the contents of bottles, ripping up family photos, destroying objects that sustained me during those endless years. During lockdowns, which could last months, we were forced to take “bird baths” in the cell sink because we were not allowed out of our cells.

    But I knew I was innocent and that I would be vindicated at trial. I knew that my lawyer would be able to explain why I provided a false confession.

    Then I learned that the prosecution was planning to use the testimony of Cornelius Lee, a jailhouse informant, at trial. Lee and I had passed two handwritten notes while in jail. Lee took those notes, erased the questions and re-wrote them so that I appeared to incriminate myself. Once I learned the prosecution planned to use the testimony of a liar, a man who was hoping to get better treatment at my expense, I was crushed and demoralized.

    Despite all of this, I never gave up hope, even when I was convicted and they sought the death penalty. At the penalty phase, I told the jury I was innocent; they sentenced me to life without parole.

    I am free today, but prime years of my life were stolen from me.

    There are two bills on Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk right now. Senate Bill 511 would require the electronic recording of police interrogation in cases involving homicides and other violent felonies. Senate Bill 609 would require that testimony given by jailhouse informants be corroborated. If these laws were in place when I was facing those horrific charges, I would have been spared nearly two decades of suffering. And without these laws, this could happen to other innocent people.

    California is primed to do the right thing. It can ensure that juries are exposed to the most reliable and accurate evidence available. That is why I urge the Governor to sign these bills. That way when people ask, how could this happen? I can reassure my fellow innocent Californians that we are doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    Please visit the ACLU of Northern California's action alert and help end wrongful convictions. Also, please visit http://www.facesofwrongfulconviction.org/.

    --Harold Hall lives in Los Angeles and works for the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

    Posted by Guest at 2:48 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Left Coaster on Hillary on MoveOn

    The Left Coaster: Hillary Stands In The Line Of Fire,

    It's no secret Hillary Clinton is often the target of the center/left netroots, who have accused her of not being an ally. Yet when Bill O'Reilly attacked Kos as being akin to a Nazi organization, it was Hillary who stood with the blog. And tonight, after Barack Obama threw MoveOn under the bus for their attack of Gen. Petraeus, following close on the heels of the Edwards campaign sending Elizabeth out to do the same, who's left standing, refusing, as Jane Hamsher writes, to help the right wing out by repeating their talking points against one of our own? Hillary.

    This speaks to character. She's continually attacked by the left, but by refusing to take the right wing bait and criticizing MoveOn, a mistake Democrats seem to make often, she refuses to splinter the base...

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 18, 2007

    Governor Schwarzenegger: Make California a Leader in Improving the Criminal Justice System

    This is a guest post by John Terzano, The Justice Project

    Health care reform may have stalled in California, but Governor Schwarzenegger still has a chance to make the state a leader in fixing a national problem: wrongful convictions. Three major criminal justice reform bills are now on the Governor's desk.  The measures are designed to safeguard against wrongful convictions by making practical changes to eyewitness identification procedures, reforming the process by which confessions are attained, and regulating the use of jailhouse snitch testimony. 

    With more than 200 exonerations to date in California it is critical that measures are enacted before more mistakes are made.  The governor has the ability to not only protect the innocent but enhance public safety and the integrity of California's law enforcement by signing these important bills into law, and setting a standard for the nation. The first in this trio of vital legislation-Senate Bill 756-addresses the development of new guidelines for statewide eyewitness identification procedures.

    Eyewitness identification is notably unreliable.  Study after study has shown that faulty eyewitness identification is one of the most common causes of wrongful conviction.  In fact, it has played a pivotal role in 75% of the cases nationwide where DNA later exonerated the person convicted.  See The Justice Project's policy review Improving Eyewitness Identification Procedures at http://www.thejusticeproject.org/solution/eyewitness-id.html for more information.

    Practical changes to identification procedures like cautionary instructions to witnesses, effective use of fillers, full documentation of lineup procedures, witness statements of certainty, and double-blind administration can significantly improve the accuracy of eyewitness identifications.

    In addition to this critical reform, recording custodial interrogations (Senate Bill 511) and corroborating jailhouse snitch testimony (Senate Bill 609) have been shown to help prevent wrongful convictions. 

    False confessions have played a significant role in wrongful convictions in California, and in approximately 20% of wrongful convictions nationwide.  Because confessions are often viewed as the most powerful evidence at trial, other types of evidence that point to a defendant's innocence might be disregarded in lieu of a confession.  Decades of psychological research have demonstrated how some traditional and aggressive interrogation techniques can lead to false confessions.  Senate Bill 511 will require electronic recording of interrogations in both juvenile and adult cases and will protect law enforcement from false claims of coercion or abuse by providing an objective record.  For more information see The Justice Project's policy review Electronic Recording of Custodial Interrogations at http://www.thejusticeproject.org/solution/interrogations.html

    Senate Bill 609 would require corroboration for jailhouse snitch testimony, meeting one of the best practices for reforming the use of snitch testimony identified in The Justice Project's newest release, Jailhouse Snitch Testimony: A Policy Review at http://www.thejusticeproject.org/solution/snitch/. Jailhouse snitch testimony is widely regarded as the least reliable form of evidence in the criminal justice system.  Higher standards for admitting snitch testimony at trial must be put in place to protect the innocent. 

    Law enforcement, prosecutors, and the community will all benefit from the adoption of these three reform measures.  Implementation of these bills will result in stronger prosecutions, more efficient proceedings, and more reliable outcomes in criminal cases giving the public greater confidence in the criminal justice system.

    Given the many documented cases of injustice in California and across the nation, the need for improvements within the criminal justice system is especially great.  The time is now for Governor Schwarzenegger to take a step forward toward criminal justice reform.  We hope that he will see the benefits of these bills to California and the nation and sign them into law.

    The ACLU Action alert is at www.aclunc.org/justice

    John F. Terzano is the President of The Justice Project, a nonpartisan organization that works to address unfairness and inaccuracy in the criminal justice system, with a focus on the capital punishment system.

    Posted by Guest at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Today's Housing Bubble Post - Foreclosures Soar

    U.S. home foreclosures soar in August,

    The number of foreclosure filings reported in the U.S. last month more than doubled versus August 2006 and jumped 36 percent from July, a trend that signals many homeowners are increasingly unable to make timely payments on their mortgages or sell their homes amid a national housing slump.

    ... The national foreclosure rate last month was one filing for every 510 households, the company said.

    The BIG ARM Reset jump - increasing numbers of people with adjustable mortgages that adjust to much higher monthly payments - hasn't happened yet. And then it takes several months for them to fall behind on payments and eventually face foreclosure. So this is just the start of a wave - a tsunami.

    Nevada reported one foreclosure filing for every 165 households — more than three times the national average. The state had 6,197 filings in August, an increase of 21 percent from July and more than triple the year-ago figure.

    California's foreclosure rate was one filing for every 224 households. The state reported the most foreclosure filings of any single state with 57,875, up 48 percent from July and an increase of more than 300 percent from August 2006.

    Florida had one foreclosure filing for every 243 households. In all, the state reported 33,932 foreclosure filings, up 77 percent from July's total and more than twice the year-ago total.

    Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Indiana rounded out the 10 states with the highest foreclosure rates.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 14, 2007

    Today's Housing Bubble Post - What A Bank Run Looks Like

    This is filed under Housing Bubble, because this is more fallout from the bubble's bursting. Here's the deal: financial institutions loan out money to people (and companies and countries, etc.) who, because of the "credit crunch," might not be able to pay it back. That means that the financial institutions might not be able to pay back the money THEY owe, including to depositors.

    It's housing bubble burst time - do you know where YOUR money is?

    Calculated Risk: Northern Rock Bank Run, with photos:

    From Bloomberg: Northern Rock Customers Crowd London Branches, Withdraw Money
    Hundreds of Northern Rock Plc customers crowded into branches in London today to pull out their savings after the mortgage-loan provider sought emergency funding from the Bank of England ...
    A bank run happens when people feel that a bank might be having trouble, and realize they might not be able to get THEIR money out of the bank if they don't hurry. Everyone knows that a bank (money market, stockbroker, etc.) only keeps so much cash on hand. So they show up to withdraw their money before it is too late. It is a "run" because you have to run down to the bank to get your cash before other people get their cash. Only the first people in line are going to get their money.

    In the US bank deposits up to $100,000 are insured by the government, so if the worst happens you will eventually get your money (up to $100,000) -- after all the paperwork gets done. So if you feel like running down to the bank, you don't really need to take out more than you will need to pay you bills for a few months.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:55 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    UC - Criticize Bush, Lose Your Job

    Erwin Chemerinsky, a noted legal scholar, was offered a job as dean of the new University of California at Irvine law school. Then he wrote an op-ed criticizing the Bush administration - Alberto Gonzales in particular - so the university withdrew the job offer.

    Scholars Decry Law School's About-Face on New Dean,

    According to Chemerinsky, the UC-Irvine chancellor told him on Tuesday that he "knew I was liberal but didn't know how controversial I would be." The chancellor also said "some conservative opposition was developing," and the University of California regents would have "a bloody fight" over approving him, Chemerinsky said.
    The intimidation continues unabated.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:06 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 13, 2007

    Earth's Vital Signs

    Earth's "vital signs" in bad shape: report,

    He said of the 44 trends tracked by the report, 28 were "pronouncedly bad" and only six were positive.

    ...Some of the points highlighted in the report include:

    - Meat production hit a record 276 million metric tons (43 kilograms or 95 pounds per person) in 2006.

    - Meat consumption is one of several factors driving rising soybean demand. Rapid expansion of soybean plantations in South America could displace 22 million hectares (54 million acres) of tropical forest and savanna in the next 20 years.

    - The rise in global seafood consumption comes as many fish species become scarcer. In 2004, people ate 156 million metric tons of seafood, the equivalent of three times as much seafood per person than in 1950.

    - While U.S. carbon emissions continue to grow, the fastest rise is occurring in Asia, particularly China and India.

    I did some searching and found that the report can be ordered here.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:23 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 12, 2007

    Did Texas Execute Innocent Men?


    Dan Rather Reports reveals new details surrounding two capital murder cases in Texas - leading to the executions of two men that may have occurred as the result of flawed evidence.

    In “Did Texas Execute Innocent Men?” Dan Rather speaks with key players in the cases of both Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna both of whom died by lethal injection in Texas where more than one-third of the nation’s executions take place.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Stop Saying 'Single-Payer' PLEASE

    A letter-to-the-editor titled, "Single-payer plan is the way to go" in the San Jose Mercury News this morning reminded me to keep this drumbeat going. PLEASE stop saying "single-payer" and start saying "Medicare For All."

    NO ONE KNOWS WHAT "SINGLE-PAYER" MEANS!!! I was talking to someone last week who thought "single-payer" means you have to pay all your medical bills by yourself with no help. That's what it sounds like it means, and no one understands what it means otherwise, so why would anyone think it is a good thing? But everyone understands what Medicare is, and loves it, so why not just say "Medicare For All?" Sheesh!

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:56 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 11, 2007


    The stock market plunged Friday afer the terrible jobs report for August. Sometimes the market goes up on bad news , this time it went down. It turns out this might be an indicator of recession.

    Reaction to jobs report suggests we're in a recession,

    The researchers found that when the economy was in recession - as later determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the unofficial arbiter of when recessions begin and end - the stock market typically fell when the unemployment news was unexpectedly bad. But when the economy was in an NBER-declared expansion, more often than not the market rallied.
    The reason the market reacts differently during recessions than during expansions, according to the researchers: When the economy is growing, the positive effect of a strong jobs report is more than outweighed by the negative effect of the interest-rate increases that such a report makes more probable.
    Just the reverse is the case following a weaker-than-expected jobs report. Now the bad news of the jobs report is more than outweighed by the good news that the Fed will have less pressure on it to raise rates.
    During recessions, in contrast, interest rate hikes are less of a threat. So a strong jobs report is taken at face value as good news, and a weaker-than-expected report is considered to be bad news.

    ... The market's plunge Friday in the face of unexpectedly bad job news is yet another straw in the wind that the economy may be a lot weaker than previously had been thought.


    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    THIS Week's Rabid-Anti-Gay-Republicans-Exposed-As-Actually-Gay Scandal

    No NOT Sen. Craig. That one is so last week...

    Pam's House Blend:: Untangling the latest GOP gay scandal

    ... the convoluted latest, woefully under-reported GOP scandal -- the bizarre murder-suicide in Florida of a Republican consultant and two of his "friends".
    * the bodies of Republican political consultant Ralph Gonzalez, 39, president of The Strategum Group, his roommate David Abrami and "a friend," Jason Robert Drake, were found in an Orlando apartment.
    ... * BradBlog has shown the ties between Gonzalez and Florida's vote-tampering congressman, Tom Feeney.
    ...* Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry has ties to Gonzalez and Drake, the latter was determined to be the shooter in the murder-suicide.
    ... * McHenry's apparently a good friend of the former National Young Republican Chairman, Glenn Murphy. Yes, that Glenn Murphy -- the one arrested for sexually assaulting a sleeping man, performing oral sex on him...
    ... And if you thought that was all that was dogging Patrick McHenry, take a look at the latest bit of business passed on today -- at least $182,000 of McHenry's 2004 campaign funds ($923,975) came from an organization donating under fraudulent circumstances. That's almost 20% of McHenry's campaign war chest. Who is behind that? It just keeps on coming, folks.
    Go read, there's much more and you can click through the links.

    (Note, the first comment is great:

    I've been following politics and political scandals for more than 30 years and never have I witnessed ONE story with so much graft, corruption, sex, and murder. This one truly has it all with the possible exception of loose women, or any women at all. ,,,
    ... The murdered gay Republicans include Ralph Reed's purported ex-lover, Ralph Gonzalez (former head of the rabidly homophobic Georgia Republican Party), David Abrami and McHenry guy-pal Robert Drake, the shooter.

    ... More sordid GOP details are available. Meanwhile there are jailed Republicans, dead Republicans, outed Republicans... And McHenry's office... well, the press secretary is on vacation so they have no comment.

    There is much more there as well so go read.


    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Photos From Last Week

    Last week I was in in Atlanta, blogging from the Carter Center. I had an opportunity for an official photo, and they took a couple:



    (Carter Center Photo: Tom England)

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:57 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 10, 2007

    Tort Reform

    I came across some interesting "tort reform" laws in various states. It seems several state governments understand their job as protecting wealthy corporations from citizens, not the other way around. As I read this list:

    In several states it is illegal to sue fast food companies if their products harm your health, give you diabetes, etc.

    In Colorado it is against the law to sue a ski resort.

    In California it is illegal to sue a tobacco company.

    Florida you can’t sue a store if a powered shopping cart injures you.

    In Indiana medical malpractice awards are limited to $1.25 million even if the resulting required medical care costs more.

    In Kansas punitive damages when a corporation injures you are limited to your annual income, regardless of what the corporation did or how much money they made from the actions that harmed you.

    In Maryland, if a corporation kills a member of your family, they don’t have to pay more than $500,000. In Wisconsin it is $350,000 if an adult was killed.

    In Mississippi the amount you can claim in damages if a corporation harms a member of your family is limited to your net worth when injured.

    In South Carolina you can’t sue a skating rink operator.

    In Utah doctors can refuse to treat a patient unless the patient agrees in advance not to sue them.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:27 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 9, 2007

    Playing The Victim

    One of the right's core propaganda tactics is portraying themselves as victims. Today's example has The Weekly Standard saying MoveOn.org is calling General Pertaeus a "traitor." MoveOn.org Calls Petraeus a Traitor begins,

    Tomorrow--as General David Petraeus provides his Iraq assessment to Congress--the antiwar group MoveOn.org is running a full-page advertisement in the New York Times under the headline: "General Petraeus or General Betray us? Cooking the books for the White House."

    Let's be clear: MoveOn.org is suggesting that General Petraeus has 'betrayed' his country. This is disgusting. To attack as a traitor an American general commanding forces in war because his 'on the ground' experience does not align with MoveOn.org's political objectives is utterly shameful. It shows contempt for America's military leadership, as well as for the troops who have confidence in him, as our fellow soldiers in Iraq certainly do.

    How silly can you get? No one is calling Petraeus a traitor here. But the cult wingnuts will just eat it up, of course.

    But the strategic purpose is to marginalize MoveOn.org, and thereby try to make Democratic party leaders afraid to accept their support. The article is written by the Executive Director of the Republican Party front-group Vets for Freedom.

    Morning update - The right's echo chamber is picking up the drumbeat, with one site actually calling for an American civil war against the left:

    Wake Up America:


    Is it going to take an escalation of things into violence, again, within this nation for us to unite AS a nation? Let me warn you of this, those of you who are BUCKING for a second "Civil War" in the United States: the MINUTE lines are draw and ranks are formed for us to do battle against one another, do you HONESTLY THINK that the rest of the world is going to stand idly by and let us duke it out amongst ourselves may the best side win? HELL NO! Russia and China are watching this with baited breath, mark my words. The Taliban and al-Queda are CHEERING us on to continue to pull apart internally. Our ALLIES are watching us to see what happens. And we have MoveOn.org planning to run this add calling the top general in Iraq a traitor because they don't like the war.

    Right Wing News:
    It's really shameful that the Left is trying to do this to a decent, talented general, whose only crime is winning a war that the Democrats are heavily politically invested in losing.
    Blue Crab Blvd:
    If any Democrat thinks they have a shield because MoveOn did it - not them - it is time to disabuse them of that notion. The disgusting, sleazy level of slime that MoveOn has reached here is beyond contempt.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:39 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    skippy on the big bloggers

    skippy writes about "big blx blogs" linking to each others in skippy the bush kangaroo: paging mr. principle...mr. peter principle, you're wanted at the big box blogs

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    All You Need To Know About Petraeus' Report

    Featured today at the Drudge Report this morning:

    Following their testimony to Congress, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will appear exclusively on FOX News Channel on Monday at 9pm EDT for a one hour live interview with Brit Hume... Developing...
    That's really all you need to know about Petraeus and his report, don't you think? Drudge Report and Fox. Yup.

    Will they also give an exclusive interview to Rush Limbaugh this week?

    Update - Now the right is trying to change the narrative, claiming that MoveOn.org is calling Petraeus a traitor.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:58 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 8, 2007

    Government Job Statistics Seriously Out Of Whack?

    Go read Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis: Moonbats Active Again in Massive Jobs Disaster. The official, reported jobs numbers just do not match what the real data shows.

    The unemployment rates is based on the Household Survey. Notice how 340,000 civilian jobs were lost and total employment fell by 316,000 jobs, but magically unemployment fell by 24,000. Raise your hand if that makes sense to you.
    Is it possible the Bush people are either incompetent - or politicized?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    California's Next Governor

    I attended the Santa Clara County Annual Democratic Dinner tonite. One of the speakers was California Controller John Chiang. I did not know anything about Chiang before I saw him speak, and had never heard him speak. I don't know about the next governor's race here, and don't know who is thinking of running.

    But now I have head of John Chiang. This guy is one of us, and he was on fire. Everybody should start paying attention to this guy. He's great. He's there to protect the people of California - ALL of us. He talked about corporate domination, global warming and energy, gay rights, Asians, and everyone. This guy is GOOD.

    So keep an eye on John Chiang. I'm excited. I hope he runs for Governor.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    bin Laden's Statement and Vietnam

    From Osama bin Laden's recent statement,

    In the Vietnam War, the leaders of the White House claimed at the time that it was a necessary and crucial war, and during it Rumsfeld and his aides murdered two million villagers. And when Kennedy took over his presidency and deviated from the general line of policy drawn up for the White House and wanted to stop this unjust war, that angered the owners of major corporations who were benefiting from its continuation.

    And so Kennedy was killed...

    Actually, while Kennedy continued the military advisers that Eisenhower had sent to assist the South Vietnamese government, the Vietnam war got going after Kennedy was killed in November, 1963. The Gulf of Tonkin incident, which provided a pretense for for direct U.S. involvement, occurred in August, 1964. Rumsfeld was Gerald Ford's Secretary of Defense, beginning in 1975.

    But bin Laden justifies his attack on the U.S. by saying we allowed Bush to pick Rumsfeld and Cheney, "despite their horrific and blood history of murdering humans" in Vietnam.

    Later, bin Laden says,

    So in answer to the question about the causes of the Democrats' failure to stop the war, I say: they are the same as the reasons which led to the failure of former President Kennedy to stop the Vietnam war.
    The mind of a murderer.

    Update - On PBS' Newshour yesterday "conservative" David Brooks repeated the right's talking (smear) point that bin Laden sounds like leftist bloggers:

    You read this thing, and it’s like he’s been sitting around reading lefty blogs, and he’s one of these childish people posting rants at the bottom the page, you know, Noam Chomsky and all this stuff.
    Lefty bloggers don't get so many facts wrong.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:16 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Today's Housing Bubble Post - Big Houses Cost More To Heat And Cool, Bad For Environment

    Here is one more problem from the housing bubble - all those big houses they built cost much more to heat and cool than regular houses. As utility costs rise this will compound the monthly-payment problem. Then, on top of that there's the maintenance costs like eventually re-roofing them, watering the lawns, etc.

    And then there is the terrible environmental impact. Very few were built withing walking distance of stores and public transportation so cars are required. How many of the world's trees were cut down to build them?

    And, if the public somehow manages to regain their senses, these house monstrosities - like the huge, pre-oil-embargo land-barge cars of the 1970s - will become even harder to sell.

    AlterNet: Environment: Big Houses Are Not Green: America's McMansion Problem,

    The just-popped housing bubble has left behind a couple of million families in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. It has also spawned a new generation of big, deluxe, under-occupied houses bulked up on low-interest steroids.

    The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) estimates that 42 percent of newly built houses now have more than 2,400 square feet of floorspace, compared with only 10 percent in 1970. In 1970 there were so few three-bathroom houses that they didn't even to show up in NAHB statistics. By 2005, one out of every four new houses had at least three bathrooms.

    ...the manufacture and transportation of concrete to build a typical 2,500-square-foot house generates the equivalent of 36 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

    ... To make outsized suburban manors more interesting, builders tend to avoid boxy forms, loading up their product with multiple rooflines and gables, dormers, bay windows, and other protuberances. Such houses have more surface area than does a squared-off house of the same size, thus requiring more fossil-fuel to cool and heat them. Additional energy is wasted by the longer heating/cooling ducts and hot-water pipes in a big house.

    ... Square-footage fever emerges in a doubly wasteful form in cities where normal-sized, sound, comfortable houses are being demolished to make way for bigger, more luxurious ones.

    The whole article is worth reading.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:11 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 7, 2007

    Recession Now? Soon?

    Very bad news on jobs. The economy is shedding jobs. August jobs cut by 4,000, first drop in 4yrs

    U.S. employers cut 4,000 jobs in August, the first time in four years that monthly hiring contracted, the government said on Friday in a report certain to boost pressure on Federal Reserve policy makers to cut interest rates.

    ... In addition to the August job losses, the Labor Department revised down its estimates for hiring in June and July by a total of 81,000. It said 68,000 jobs were added in July rather than 92,000 and 69,000 in June instead of 126,000.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 6, 2007

    Responsibility To Get Bush Out Now

    Step back and think about this. A significant portion of the public thinks Bush is about to invade Iran. There are serious people who think Bush is even preparing to use nukes. In a representative democracy these are things that we the people are supposed to be deciding.

    I think that the fact that a significant portion of the public doesn't trust the government and understands that they don't know what the government is capable of doing all by itself -- just those facts alone -- means that this government is operating against the public interest and in violation of the rights of the public and we have a responsibility to get Bush and his crew out of office now.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:04 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Actually... The STF Rule

    This post gets is a bit wrong:

    OK, repeat after me: what is the first rule of White House spin? If they are accusing you of doing it, it doesn’t mean you are doing it, it means they are doing it.
    Actually that has a name. It's called the Seeing the Forest Rule, or The STF Rule. (Also, click the STF Rule archives in the right column.)

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Noon Comments from Atlanta

    Remember that I am posting more frequently over at the Social Edge blog.

    Some comments from the Carter Center Human Rights Conference:

    Earlier when UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour was just about to speak, her phone rang. So there she is sitting next to Jimmy Carter who just spoke, looks at her phone and it's Koffi Annan. She took the call, excused herself, and went out of the room with her phone to her ear. She came back a few minutes later and spoke.

    At lunch I asked her what he said, but she said she couldn't tell me.

    Advice to travelers: if you use your cell phone as a backup alarm clock, remember to turn the ringer back on. I had it on vibrate but somehow woke up fifteen minutes before the bus. I made it.

    Rosalyn Carter is still as beautiful as ever.

    If you ever have lunch with Jimmy Carter, be sure to try the peach cobbler.

    It isn't the famous Presidential White House coffee. Maybe I'll send down some Peet's when I get back.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Today's Housing Bubble Post - Foreclosures Set record

    New Mortgage Foreclosures Set Record,

    The number of homeowners receiving foreclosure notices hit a record high in the spring, driven up by problems with subprime mortgages.

    The Mortgage Bankers Association reported Thursday that mortgage-holders starting the foreclosure process in the April-June quarter reached 0.65 percent, marking the third consecutive quarter that this figure has set an all-time high.

    The delinquency rate, which tracks the number of people who are behind in their payments but have not yet entered the foreclosure process, was also up sharply during the spring, rising to 5.12 percent of all loans, up nearly three-fourths of a percentage point from the same period a year ago.

    And don't forget, NEXT year is when MOST adjustable mortgages reset upwards, greatly increasing monthly payments. This is just the very tip of what is coming.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:09 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    From The Human Rights Conference

    So I'm standing around in the lobby, drinking a coffee, waiting for things to start, and Jimmy Carter wanders over to say Hi...

    I always wanted to say that.

    I'm at the opening session of the 2007 Human Rights Defenders Forum, Faith and Freedom Conference, and President Carter is being introduced. I'll try to summarize what he is saying:


    The rest is over at the Social Edge Blog.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:05 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 5, 2007

    Blogging from the 2007 Human Rights Defenders Policy Forum

    I am at the Carter Center in Atlanta to observe the 2007 Human Rights Defenders Policy Forum. The Carter Center brings together leaders of the world’s human rights effort for discussions to try to find policy solutions that can help lessen the problem of human rights violations and atrocities that occur again and again in the world. In the next couple of days former President Jimmy Carter will be speaking, as will Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Karin Ryan, Director of the Carter Center’s Human Rights Program writes,

    “Why does the international community fail again and again to respond to these crises before they take on catastrophic dimensions?”
    The ongoing Human Rights Defenders Policy Forums attempt to answer that question and find solutions.

    This year’s conference brings together human rights defenders of different faiths, to discuss ways that the common traditions of faith in the struggle for human dignity can be utilized to provide new channels for approaching these problems. Karin again,

    “What might be accomplished if the reawakening of faith that is taking place throughout the globe were accompanied by a heightened commitment to put a stop to human rights violations in many places where they are ignored?”

    So I find myself in Atlanta to observe and write about this conference. Today's discussions are off the record as the participants work to find common areas to discuss in the public conference of the next two days. This gives me a chance to write about what it is like to be here.

    What is it like? The Carter Center is a very nice facility, with excellent conference amenities. It includes the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum. (The museum includes a replica of the Oval Office and I hope I get a chance to sneak over and see it. I'll let you know.) The conference takes place in an auditorium, with a horseshoe-shaped table for the approx. twenty international Human Rights Defender participants and ten or so organizational representatives. (There will be more over the next couple of days.) There are two rows of observer tables at the edges of the room, which is where I am. I have an earpiece for translation as people speak if needed. During the coffee break I spoke to a man who showed me the places where agents of his government cut him with a machete.

    And that is what my first day as an observer is like. I flew here from California and landed in a nice airport. I am staying in a nice hotel. I am typing on a computer in the hallway of a very nice conference center. I carry in my head what is probably a widely-shared image of an ideal modern, civil life. I might not live that life (or even want to or think it is sustainable) but I feel that many of us reading this probably do share the image, because you are probably reading it on a computer in a modern society. In this Ideal Modern Life we have our jobs. We drive around in cars and go to shops. We consume and have our brand attachments. We watch TV shows and are entertained. We have houses and gardens. And somewhere else in the world these things are happening.

    It is the 21st century and these things are not only happening, but the world's ability to confront such problems seems to be diminishing. The forces of racial, religious, national, ethnic, ideological, economic and environmental division seem to be gaining the upper hand. This is a conference where Human Rights Defenders struggle to find ways to help keep them from continuing to happen. The people here come from places where these things happen, but part of their message is that these things can happen when the world does not make it enough of a priority to keep them from happening.

    Over the next two days I will be blogging at the Skoll Foundation's Social Edge blog, and cross-posted at the conference's own blog. I invite you to drop in. I'll post summaries here as well, when I can, but mostly I'll be posting there.

    Blogging is a conversation. It is interactive. So please join this discussion and leave comments here - or better, leave them over at the Social Edge blog as the conference unfolds.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 4, 2007

    My Name Is On A List

    I'm blogging from the airport because the plane to Atlanta is more than an hour late (imagine that.)

    I can't check in online anymore, and can't use the machines at the airport. When I finally got through the line to the check-in counter I was told that "Dave Johnson' is "on a list" now.

    Fortunately it is someone with a different birthday they are looking for, and I can get a boarding pass after showing my ID. But this is the second time this happened, and it s a major hassle having to wait in the line for the check-in counter. And it will,of course, happen every time I fly from now on. There are probably a LOT of people named Dave Johnson who have to go through this.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:30 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    This Week From The Carter Center

    Today I am flying to Atlanta to blog this week from the Carter Center's 2007 Human Rights Defenders Policy Forum

    Human rights activists from all continents are meeting with leaders of faith communities and policymakers to discuss how we can overcome inaction in the face of human rights violations before they escalate into mass crimes.

    I will be blogging for Social Edge, at this link and occasional updates here.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:18 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 3, 2007

    Labor Day

    It's labor day. Bonus points for anyone who can find a single article in a corporate-owned paper or story on a corporate-owned TV or radio station about the benefits of belonging to a union.

    AlterNet: Blogs: PEEK: What Happened to Labor Day?

    A young person asked me not long ago -- only half in jest -- whether Labor Day was named in honor of natural childbirth.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:17 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 2, 2007

    A Musical Diversion

    Betty Boop Minnie the Moocher with Cab Calloway

    And a bonus: Reefer Man

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    September 1, 2007

    R. I. P. Alfred Peet

    "I came to the richest country in the world, so why are they drinking the lousiest coffee?"

    Alfred Peet, founder of Peet's Coffee & Tea, died Wednesday at 87. I have posted a roundup of stories at Smelling the Coffee.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    How People's Thinking Changed

    This is a great post on how people's attitudes were shaped in the last few decades. Daily Kos: My neighbor, John

    Read down the comments, as well, they're a good part of understanding the thinking.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

    Did Exxon Pay Bush To Kill Climate Sattelite?

    NASA spent over $100 million on a satellite to investigate climate change. It's all ready to launch. But NASA mothballed it instead. A DeSmogBlog exclusive investigation into NASA's DSCOVR climate station

    What happened? How could the US government possibly justify killing DSCOVR given the importance of climate change and after over 90% of the project expenses had already been incurred? What role did petty partisan politics play in this? Did the oil lobby have any influence on this decision?

    ... The Earth’s temperature is a delicate balance between the amount of energy retained by the atmosphere and the amount being reflected back into space. This second number is called “albedo” and it is vitally important to scientists trying to develop reliable computer models on our changing climate. DSCOVR would provide vastly improved measurements of the Earth’s albedo because from L1, it would be able to continuously observe the entire sunlit disc of our planet.

    Interestingly, a common complaint of climate change deniers has been that the satellite data used to develop climate models is unreliable. DSCOVR would go a long way to settling whatever honest debate remained about the reliability of those models.

    Considering that these climate models are now driving enormous public policy decisions, one would think that DSCOVR would be a top priority.

    ... The French were so alarmed by the foot dragging by NASA they offered to send DSCOVR into space themselves at a greatly reduced cost. The Ukranian government even offered to launch DSCOVR for free aboard a Tsyklon IV rocket – the most reliable launch vehicle in the world.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack