Monday, November 30, 2015
One of the most troubling recent scenes from Sacramento came as the California state legislature reached the end of its session. A simple bill that would rein in abuses of the civil-asset forfeiture process—i.e., when police agencies take property from people, even if they’ve never been accused of a crime—came far short of passage after the law-enforcement lobby pulled out all the stops. The final vote was about money, not justice.
Police organizations argued they would lose a significant amount of funding if a law passed requiring that they secure a conviction before taking property. They often take homes, cars and cash from people after claiming the property was used in the commission of a crime. They need only prove the low standard of “probable cause.” (For instance, one Anaheim couple almost lost a $1.5 million commercial building after an undercover cop bought $37 in marijuana from a tenant, but the feds dropped that case after bad publicity.)
Created in the early days of the nation’s war on drugs, asset forfeiture was designed to grab the proceeds from drug kingpins. But most of the money now is grabbed from ordinary citizens. According to a study last year, about 80 percent of the time, seized property is taken from people who have never been charged with anything. That same study, by the Drug Policy Alliance, found wanton abuses in California cities. Police are not supposed to budget forfeiture proceeds, but they increasingly depend on the revenues to fund their operations.
The study also found “multiple instances of cash grabs by law enforcement being incentivized over deterring drug sales, wherein police wait until a drug sale concludes and then seize the cash proceeds of the sale rather than the drugs, as drugs must be destroyed and are of no monetary value to law enforcement.” It also found that some Los Angeles County cities “were found to be prioritizing asset forfeiture over general public safety concerns … .” In other words, police skew their policing strategies around these lucrative takings.
California’s law actually requires, in property seizures of more than $25,000, that the police agency gain a conviction and the legal standard requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. California law-enforcement agencies don’t like that higher standard, so they circumvent the state law. They participate in something called “equitable sharing”—i.e., they invite the feds into their operation, take the property using the lower federal standard, and then split the loot.
A new national study by the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based civil-liberties group, gave California a “C+” in its civil-forfeiture laws. That leads to an obvious question: Given the terrible problems documented in California, how bad must things be in other states? Only seven states had better protections than California and the preponderance of states received “D” grades.
The British public is increasingly sceptical that human activity is to blame for climate change, a poll for Sky News suggests.
Almost one in five people believes that natural processes rather than man-made carbon dioxide emissions are causing global warming, according to the survey by Sky Data.
In a similar poll by YouGov two years ago, just one in 14 people said humans were not responsible for the problem.
The Sky News poll comes ahead of the United Nations summit in Paris that is likely to result in big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
Prime Minister David Cameron will be among almost 150 world leaders attending the talks.
The survey suggests he could struggle to sell a climate deal if it increases household bills.
It shows 54% of the public oppose green taxes on petrol, electricity and imported food.
Just over a third would back extra taxes on products with a high carbon footprint.
The UN wants world leaders to agree a deal that would limit the rise in average global temperature to 2C, regarded by the overwhelming majority of scientists as the danger point for the world’s climate.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Friday, November 20, 2015
UnitedHealthGroup Inc. said it expects major losses on its business through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges and will consider withdrawing from them, in the most prominent signal so far of health insurers’ struggles with the health law’s marketplaces.
The disclosure by the biggest U.S. health insurer, which had just last month sounded optimistic notes about the segment’s prospects, will sharply boost worries about the sustainability of the law’s signature marketplaces, amid signs that many insurers’ losses on the business continue to mount.
UnitedHealth Group’s chief executive, Stephen J. Hemsley, said it made the move, which included a downgrade of its earnings projections for 2015, amid reduced growth expectations, the expected shutdowns of the majority of the health law’s nonprofit cooperative insurers, and signs that its own enrollees continue to increase their use of medical services, raising costs.
As a result, UnitedHealth said it is pulling back on marketing its exchange products, as open enrollment is currently under way for plans that will take effect in 2016. And the insurer said it is “evaluating the viability of the insurance exchange product segment and will determine during the first half of 2016 to what extent it can continue to serve the public exchange markets in 2017.” UnitedHealthhad previously expanded its exchange offerings to 11 new states for 2016, and said in October it had around 550,000 people enrolled.
UnitedHealth said it was revising its 2015 earnings projection to $6 a share, from a previous range of $6.25 to $6.35. The move reflected “pressure” of $425 million, or 26 cents a share, tied to individual plans sold under the health law, it said. The $425 million includes $275 million related to the “advance recognition” of losses it expects to incur in 2016. UnitedHealthalso said it expects its 2016 earnings to be between $7.10 and $7.30 per share in 2016; previously, the company said it thought next year’s earnings would be within the range of analysts’ projections, then around $7.09 to $7.55.
Chris Rigg, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, wrote that it was likely “this is more of an industry issue,” and if the exchanges don’t stabilize, he would expect UnitedHealth to “exit this business line.
UnitedHealth’s announcement comes as other insurers have been sounding alarms about their exchange business, but the big insurer went considerably farther than its peers in flagging the recent rapid deterioration of its performance and raising concerns about future viability. UnitedHealthalso changed its own tone markedly from its Oct. 15 earnings call, when it said it expected “strikingly better” results on the exchanges in 2016, due partly to price increases that it said averaged in the double digits.
The impact of the insurance industry’s struggles is already clear in the products currently on offer in the marketplaces, many of which are aimed at stanching a flood of red ink. For these plans, which will take effect in 2016, many insurers have raised premiums in order to cover the medical costs of enrollees, which have run higher than many companies originally projected, fueling this year’s losses. Insurers have also shifted to offering more limited choices of health-care providers. The majority of the startup cooperative insurers created under the health law are slated to shut down.
Some of the suspects in the Paris attacks took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to “slip in” unnoticed, the French premier said Thursday, warning the EU needed to “take responsibility” over border controls.
Manuel Valls said the EU’s cherished passport-free Schengen zone would be in danger if the bloc did not improve border controls, after it emerged the ringleader of the Paris attacks had managed to enter Europe unnoticed.
It was confirmed on Thursday that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin linked to a series of extremist plots in Europe over the past two years, had died in a police raid on an apartment in northern Paris on Wednesday.
As debate raged about the failings that had let Abaaoud slip through the net, Valls urged France’s neighbours to “play their role properly”, saying the whole Schengen system would be “called into question… if Europe does not take responsibility” for its borders.
The Schengen system allows passport-free travel between 26 countries but it has come under severe strain this year as the continent struggles with its biggest migration crisis since World War II.
More than 800,000 migrants and refugees have arrived this year and Valls said some of the Paris attackers had turned the chaos to their advantage.
GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump believes that the war on terror will require unprecedented surveillance of America’s Muslims.
“We’re going to have to do thing that we never did before,” he said during a Yahoo interview.
“Some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” Trump said.
“Certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy,” he added. “We’re going to have to do things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
Trump would not rule out warrantless searches in his plans for increased surveillance of the nation’s Muslims, Yahoo reported Thursday.
He also remained open toward registering U.S. Muslims in a database or giving them special identification identifying their faith, the news outlet added.
“We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump continued. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”
Trump additionally floated former New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly for a position in his potential presidential administration.
“Ray’s a great guy,” he said of the former NYPD chief. “Ray did a fab job as commissioner, and sure, Ray would be somebody I’d certainly consider.”
Kelly notably spearheaded the NYPD’s controversial surveillance program of New York City’s Muslim population following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Associated Press reported in November 2011 that the NYPD built extensive databases detailing life in Islamic communities.
The department monitored grocery sales, social life and even worship among New York’s Muslims, the AP added.
Trump has repeatedly called for increased surveillance of Islamic mosques following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
“You’re going to have to watch and study the mosques, because a lot of talk is going on in the mosques,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” early Monday.
“And from what I heard, in the old days — meaning a while ago — we had a great surveillance going on in and around the mosques of New York City,” the outspoken billionaire added.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
A complete reference manual to the MIPS RISC architecture, this book describes the user Instruction Set Architecture (ISA), by the R2000, R3000, R4000, and R6000 (collectively known as the R-Series) processors, together with an extension to this ISA. Focusing on the new R4000 and R6000 chips, this book is organized into two major sections: Chapters 1 through 6 describe the characteristics of the CPU, while Chapter 7 through 9 describe the Floating Point Unit (FPU). This book describes the general characteristics and capabilities of each RISC processor, along with a description of the programming model, memory management unit (MMU), and the registers associated with each processor. Also included is an overview of the underlying concepts that distinguish RISC architecture from Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) architecture.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Rand Paul says Hillary Clinton is a “neoconservative” — just like Marco Rubio.
The Kentucky senator and GOP presidential candidate lumped Clinton, the Democratic 2016 front-runner, and Rubio, a surging Republican candidate, together on foreign policy — criticizing them for being too willing to intervene in Middle Eastern conflicts in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday on “State of the Union.”
Asked about Clinton, Paul said: “I see her as a neoconservative.”
“I see her and Rubio as being the same person,” he said. “They both wanted a no-fly zone. They both have supported activity in Libya — the war in Libya that toppled Gadhafi, an intervention that made us less safe.
“They both have supported pouring arms into the Syrian civil war, a mistake that I think allowed ISIS to grow stronger. And they both have supported the Iraq War. So I mean, what’s the difference?”
He was particularly critical of both Clinton and Rubio over Libya, saying the two had advocated an intervention that led to instability and turned the country into fertile territory for ISIS.
“I fault Hillary Clinton. I fault President Obama. But I also fault the neoconservatives within my party like Rubio who have been eager for war in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq, and they want a no-fly zone in an airspace where Russia is already flying,” Paul said.
A federal appeals court dealt a potentially fatal blow Monday to President Obama’s immigration plan, leaving more than 4 million undocumented immigrants in legal limbo and setting up a possible Supreme Court battle at the sunset of his administration.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld a challenge to the deferred deportation program brought by Texas and 25 other states with Republican governors, who argued that Obama lacked the authority to protect about one-third of the nation’s undocumented immigrants by executive fiat.
The authority that the administration claimed, the court said in a 2-1 ruling, would allow it “to grant lawful presence and work authorization to any illegal alien in the United States.”
The White House said in a statement that it strongly disagreed with the court and that the departments of Justice and Homeland Security will review the ruling to determine the “next steps” in the case.
“The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws,” the statement read. “This lawsuit is preventing people who have been part of our communities for years from working on the books, contributing to our economy by paying taxes on that work, and being held accountable.”
The decision had been anticipated by the administration and immigration rights groups, who have hung their hopes on the Supreme Court rather than the conservative appeals court with jurisdiction over Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. But the four-month wait for a ruling, since oral arguments were held before the three-judge panel, could mean that the justices won’t get the case during their current term — and won’t decide it before Obama leaves office.
Under that scenario, the 4.3 million undocumented immigrants deemed eligible for the program would be at the mercy of the next president — either a Democrat who favors giving them temporary protection from deportation, or a Republican who most likely would have campaigned against it.
That makes the panel’s decision a major blow to Obama, who has hoped to overhaul the nation’s immigration system before leaving office even if Congress won’t go along
Love him or hate him, few people until recently would deny that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has a unique brand as an independent, libertarian-leaning Republican, which he has successfully leveraged to national fame.
For a variety of reasons, Paul has failed to gain traction as a Republican presidential candidate. And his peevish and lackluster performances in the first three GOP debates did him no favors.
At the Republican debate in Milwaukee on Tuesday night, though, the old Paul was back: the guy who is steadfast and combative in his libertarianism, but in a likable way. The crowd ate it up.
On foreign policy, Paul stood by his insistence that the United States should engage Russian President Vladimir Putin to seek a resolution to the war in Syria. He dismissed a no-fly zone in Syria as a reckless move that could lead to war with Russia. And playing to anti-interventionists in both parties, he noted that the proposal has the support of Hillary Clinton, as well as his Republican rivals.
“If you’re ready for [a no-fly zone], be ready to send your sons and daughters to another war in Iraq,” Paul warned.
“I don’t want to see that happen. I think the first war in Iraq was a mistake,” Paul added, before being cut off by applause.
On fiscal policy, Paul was unapologetic about his plans shrink the government by starving it of revenue — and unforgiving in his attacks on his rivals for deviating from conservative fiscal orthodoxy.
He called Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) proposed child care tax credit a “welfare transfer payment.
A little more than an hour into Tuesday night’s G.O.P. presidential primary debate, most of the Republican hopefuls were ready for a commercial break. Most of the moderators were, too. So were the majority of viewers, and certainly, the advertisers who paid a pretty penny for their spots to air.
But Rand Paul and debate moderator and Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker had another idea.
Just before the planned break on Fox Business Network, Baker asked Donald Trump about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the full text of which was released last week. Trump gave a long-winded reply, in which he referred to it as “a horrible bill” several times, and spent the bulk of time bringing up how China is leaving America in the dust.
“It’s a deal that was designed to lead to China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone,” he said.
When Trump finally concluded, Paul piped up: “Hey Gerard,” he said. “We might want to point out [that] China’s not part of this deal.” He was correct. The crowd began to cheer, and at the same time, the sweet, sweet music leading up to a commercial break started to play.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Welcome to Guards! Guards!, the eighth book in Terry Pratchett’s legendary Discworld series.
Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis ("noble dragon" for those who don't understand italics) has appeared in Discworld's greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all...). How did it get there? How is the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night involved? Can the Ankh-Morpork City Watch restore order – and the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork to power?
Magic, mayhem, and a marauding dragon...who could ask for anything more?
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Police and intelligence officers will be able to access suspects’ “internet connection records”.
But new safeguards, including allowing judges to block spying operations, will be introduced to prevent abuses.
The home secretary said the powers in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill were needed to fight crime and terror.
The large and complex draft bill also contains proposals covering how the state can hack devices and run operations to sweep up large amounts of data as it flows through the internet, enshrining in law the previously covert activities of GCHQ, as uncovered by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The draft bill’s measures include:
A new criminal offence of “knowingly or recklessly obtaining communications data from a telecommunications operator without lawful authority”, carrying a prison sentence of up to two years
Local councils to retain some investigatory powers, such as surveillance of benefit cheats, but they will not be able to access online data stored by internet firms
The Wilson doctrine – preventing surveillance of Parliamentarians’ communications – to be written into law
Police will not be able to access journalistic sources without the authorisation of a judge
A legal duty on British companies to help law enforcement agencies hack devices to acquire information if it is reasonably practical to do so
Mrs May told MPs the draft bill was a “significant departure” from previous plans, dubbed the “snooper’s charter” by critics, which were blocked by the Lib Dems, and will “provide some of the strongest protections and safeguards anywhere in the democratic world and an approach that sets new standards for openness, transparency and oversight”.
The legislation brings together a variety of existing powers that cover how the home secretary and other ministers can authorise operations to intercept communications – such as telephone taps and other surveillance.
But it also proposes to order communications companies, such as broadband firms, to hold basic details of the services that someone has accessed online – something that has been repeatedly proposed but never enacted.
This duty would include forcing firms to hold a schedule of which websites someone visits and the apps they connect to through computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices.
Police and other agencies would be then able to access these records in pursuit of criminals – but also seek to retrieve data in a wider range of inquiries, such as missing people.
New surveillance powers will be given to the police and security services, allowing them to access records tracking every UK citizen’s use of the internet without any need for any judicial check, under the provisions of the draft investigatory powers bill unveiled by Theresa May.
It includes new powers requiring internet and phone companies to keep “internet connection records” – tracking every website visited but not every page – for a maximum of 12 months but will not require a warrant for the police, security services or other bodies to access the data. Local authorities will be banned from accessing internet records.
The proposed legislation will also introduce a “double-lock” on the ministerial approval of interception warrants with a new panel of seven judicial commissioners – probably retired judges – given a veto before they can come into force.
But the details of the bill make clear that this new safeguard for the most intrusive powers to spy on the content of people’s conversations and messages will not apply in “urgent cases” – defined as up to five days – where judicial approval is not possible.
The draft investigatory powers bill published on Wednesday by the home secretary aims to provide a “comprehensive and comprehensible” overhaul of Britain’s fragmented surveillance laws. It comes two-and-a-half years after the disclosures by the whistleblower Edward Snowden of the scale of secret mass surveillance of the global traffic in confidential personal data carried out by Britain’s GCHQ and the US’s National Security Agency (NSA).
It will replace the current system of three separate commissioners with a senior judge as a single investigatory powers commissioner.
May told MPs that the introduction of the most controversial power – the storage of everyone’s internet connection records tracking the websites they have visited, which is banned as too intrusive in the US and every European country including Britain – was “simply the modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill”.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Over the Atlantic, an airliner's controls suddenly stop reacting. In Japan, an oil tanker runs aground when its navigational system fails. And in America, a nuclear power plant nearly becomes the next Chernobyl.
At first, these computer failures seem unrelated. But Jeff Aiken, a former government analyst who saw the mistakes made before 9/11, fears that there may be a more serious attack coming. And he soon realizes that there isn't much time if he hopes to stop an international disaster.
Facing annihilation at the hands of the warlike Vogons? Time for a cup of tea! Join the cosmically displaced Arthur Dent and his uncommon comrades in arms in their desperate search for a place to eat, as they hurtle across space powered by pure improbability.
Among Arthur’s motley shipmates are Ford Prefect, a long-time friend and expert contributer to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; Zaphod Beeblebrox, the three-armed, two-headed ex-president of the galaxy; Tricia McMillan, a fellow Earth refugee who’s gone native (her name is Trillian now); and Marvin, the moody android. Their destination? The ultimate hot spot for an evening of apocalyptic entertainment and fine dining, where the food speaks for itself (literally).
Will they make it? The answer: hard to say. But bear in mind that The Hitchhiker’s Guide deleted the term “Future Perfect” from its pages, since it was discovered not to be!
Monday, November 2, 2015
Larry Zottarelli, the last original Voyager engineer still on the project, is retiring after a long and storied history at JPL. While there are still a few hands around who worked on the original project, now the job of keeping this now-interstellar spacecraft going will fall to someone else. And that someone needs to have some very specific skills.
Yes, it’s going to require coding, but it won’t be in Ruby on Rails or Python. Not C or C++. Go a little further back, to the assembly languages used in early computing. Know Cobol? Can you breeze through Fortran? Remember your Algol? Those fancy new languages from the late 1950s? Then you might be the person for the job.
“It was state of the art in 1975, but that’s basically 40 years old if you want to think of it that way,” Suzanne Dodd, program manager for the Voyager program, said in a phone interview. “Although, some people can program in assembly language and understand the intricacy of the spacecraft, most younger people can’t or really don’t want to.”
As the new engineer, you have a few tasks ahead of you and about 64 kilobytes of memory to work with. The Voyager twins sport NASA’s earliest on-board computers, a step away from the sequencers used on projects like ISEE-3. A sequencer uses radio or audio tones to turn on an instrument but with an onboard computer, more functions can be automatic, which is especially helpful if your spacecraft is more than 12 billion miles away—17 hours by radio—and only certain antennas work with it. Voyager 2, now moving downward from the ecliptic of the solar system, can only be reached by the Canberra antenna of the Deep Space Network.
The last true software overhaul was in 1990, after the 1989 Neptune encounter and at the beginning of the interstellar mission. “The flight software was basically completely re-written in order to have a spacecraft that could be nearly autonomous and continue sending back data to us even if we lost communication with it,” Dodd said. “It has a looping routine of activities that it does automatically on board and then we augment that with sequences that we send up every three months.”
Both spacecrafts are “very healthy for senior citizens” Dodd says and they have enough power left to run for another decade, though beyond that the future is uncertain. To try and prolong their lives, a new engineer would have to help figure out a way to make a sort of “energy audit” from afar, check to see the energy requirements of remaining instruments, and help institute shutdown procedures that make the most of what’s left of the onboard energy.
“[The original engineers] said, ‘This subsystem takes 3.2 watts of power.’ Well, it really took 3 watts, but they wanted to be conservative when they built the spacecraft,” Dodd says. “Now, we are at the point in the mission where we are trying to get rid of the margins and get the actual numbers.”
That’s when it’s time to turn back to old documents to figure out the logic behind some of the engineering decisions. Dodd says it’s easy to find the engineering decisions, but harder to find the reasoning. This means combing through secondary documents and correspondence hoping to find the solution, trying to get in another engineer’s head.
When President Obama signs into law the new two-year budget deal Monday, his action will bring into sharper focus a part of his legacy that he doesn’t like to talk about: He is the $20 trillion man.
Mr. Obama’s spending agreement with Congress will suspend the nation’s debt limit and allow the Treasury to borrow another $1.5 trillion or so by the end of his presidency in 2017. Added to the current total national debt of more than $18.15 trillion, the red ink will likely be crowding the $20 trillion mark right around the time Mr. Obama leaves the White House.
When Mr. Obama took over in January 2009, the total national debt stood at $10.6 trillion. That means the debt will have very nearly doubled during his eight years in office, and there is much more debt ahead with the abandonment of “sequestration” spending caps enacted in 2011.
“Congress and the president have just agreed to undo one of the only successful fiscal restraint mechanisms in a generation,” said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union. “The progress on reducing spending and the deficit has just become much more problematic.”
Some budget analysts scoff at the claim made by the administration and by House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, that the budget agreement’s $112 billion in spending increases is fully funded by cuts elsewhere. Mr. Boehner left Congress last week.
“The Boehner-Obama spending agreement would allow for unlimited borrowing by the Treasury until March 2017,” said Paul Winfree, director of economic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation. “This deal piles on billions of dollars to the national debt by increasing spending over the next three years and then not paying for it for a decade — with half of the offsets not occurring until 2025.”
The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that only about half of the increased spending in the budget deal is paid for. Rather than a spending increase of $80 billion over two years, the nonprofit group said, the actual spending hike is $154 billion when interest costs and budget gimmicks are factored into the equation.
“Of this $154 billion, about $78 billion is paid for honestly” through Medicare reforms, reductions in farm subsidies, asset sales and other measures, the group said. “The remaining $56 billion of the legislation — mostly the war spending increase and interest costs — is not paid for at all.”
Of course, Congress bears equal responsibility for the high level of debt. A prime reason that Mr. Boehner left office was conservatives’ displeasure with his accommodation of the president’s budget requests, aside from three years of “sequestration” spending caps that helped limit annual deficits.
“We will be raising the debt ceiling in an unlimited fashion,” said Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who tried to filibuster the budget deal before the Senate approved it in the wee hours of Friday. “We will be giving President Obama a free pass to borrow as much money as he can borrow in the last year of his office. No limit, no dollar limit.
Sen. Rand Paul said the Republican Party needs “to become the party of the entire Bill of Rights” if it wants to take the White House next fall.
The Kentucky senator encouraged the audience at the Growth and Opportunity Party to defend all constitutional amendments “with the same furor and the same passion that we defend the Second Amendment.” He took a direct shot at Sen. John McCain, who has supported imprisoning people deemed dangerous without a trial — a right guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment.
In recalling a conversation with the Arizona senator, Paul said he couldn’t help but think of “all the times we got it wrong” and jailed the wrong person. “Trial by jury is slipping away,” he said.
Ashley Jorgensen was only seven days old when she died. Her mother, Jennifer Jorgensen was convicted of manslaughter for causing her death and sentenced to three to nine years in prison.
That should have been that.
But it wasn’t over. Jennifer appealed the case, arguing that she couldn’t have committed manslaughter because Ashley Jorgensen wasn’t a person when she was fatally injured.
The New York Court of Appeals overturned her ruling and Jorgensen is free.
She was in her third trimester with Ashley in 2008 when she was involved in a head-on collision in New York State. She had been indicted for DUI.
The baby was delivered by C-section and died six days later.
But the courts ruled that Jennifer is only guilty of a misdemeanor...
The new budget deal arranged by John Boehner and Democrats— approving $50 billion of additional spending in 2016 and $30 billion in 2017—will be split between domestic discretionary programs and defense. Cuts will supposedly take effect in 2025, by which time this deal is likely to be buried under a dozen budget debates and a trillion dollars of bad memories for fiscal conservatives.
We’re told the reason for GOP capitulation is that Boehner, acting selflessly, is about to “clean out the barn” for a Paul Ryan speakership. Implicit in this argument is the idea that this kind of budget agreement would normally be a no-brainer but the crazies must be appeased. Passing it now and avoiding the heat will allow Ryan to move forward with his own agenda.
If only it were that simple.
For one thing, the GOP will have to live with the precedent set by the terrible deal in future negotiations. Barack Obama, as The New York Times points out, is now going to be able to “break free of the spending shackles” of the imaginary reign of austerity that was brought on by the Budget Control Act of 2011. So are all Democrats.
For another thing, conservatives will almost surely see this as a betrayal. The administration came up with the idea of sequestration, and it turned out to be the only tangible victory Republicans could claim on spending.
You may remember the 2010 Pledge to America, in which congressional Republicans promised to roll back government spending to pre-stimulus/bailout levels, cutting at least $100 billion in the first year after taking power. They failed to achieve that improbable goal. And almost every year since, government spending has gone up, though the GOP keeps adding seats by promising to achieve the opposite.
Expecting the GOP to return Washington to 2008 spending levels—now, with a Democratic president in power, or probably ever—is unrealistic. Expecting Republicans at the very least not to piddle away the only leverage they have to keep the status quo is surely reasonable.