Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One Down, Six To Go

Goodwin Liu at his confirmation hearing
The California Supreme Court has affirmed 43 death penalty appeals in a row in 2010-2011.  In 2009, they affirmed 24 out of 25.  When I have the pleasure of appearing before them in a capital case next week, the six justices appointed by Republican governors will be joined by Goodwin Liu, who was confirmed today by the California Commission on Judicial Appointments.

Here's the piece I wrote in July when Liu was nominated by Gov. Jerry Brown..

Federal Court Loss Is California's Gain

The last time Jerry Brown was Governor he nominated Rose Bird, Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso to the California Supreme Court. These three smart, principled, liberal-minded justices were recalled by the voters in November 1986, in a nasty campaign exploiting their votes reversing death sentences, funded by business interests who disagreed with their pro-labor, pro-consumer decisions.  The Court has never been the same.  A liberal court became a conservative one overnight.

A string of conservative Governors appointed a string of conservative justices. There is not one justice on the current Court appointed by a Democrat. (Carlos Moreno, appointed by Democrat Gray Davis recently stepped down, leaving a vacancy on the bench.)  At least with regard to criminal justice, the Court's near unanimity favoring the prosecution over the rights of criminal defendants in virtually every case, particularly in death penalty cases, has cemented their reputation as the most reactionary state court in the country.

Jerry Brown has just nominated Goodwin Liu to replace Moreno and thus, begin the process of providing some badly needed balance to the Court.  Liu was nominated by President Obama to sit on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, but he was successfully filibustered by Senate Republicans.  I've previously written about what a wonderful addition Liu would have been to the federal bench and how infuriating it was that he couldn't get past the Senate. (See Tit for Tat; Courting Failure.) 

By all accounts Goodwin Liu has a brilliant legal mind.  He is a law professor at Berkeley, a Yale Law School graduate and a Rhodes Scholar.  The American Bar Association gave Liu its highest possible rating.  He also has been endorsed by liberals and conservative legal alike.

Liu will be the one bright spot on a very dismal Court.  Hopefully he can disrupt the echo chamber effect caused by having a Court that has consisted solely of like-minded conservatives.  And hopefully Jerry Brown will get the opportunity for more judicial appointments.

Belated Happy Birthday To Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker, born on August 29, 1920, was the greatest saxophone player of all time.  "Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker," was how Miles Davis summarized the history of jazz.  And he was not far off.  As Gary Giddins wrote in Visions of Jazz, "Parker was the only musician after Armstrong to influence all of jazz and almost every aspect of American music -- its instrumentalists and singers, composers and arrangers."

Here is some remarkable video from 1950 of Charlie Parker playing with Coleman Hawkins, the man who essentially invented the jazz saxophone.  (Hank Jones is on piano, Ray Brown on bass and Buddy Rich on drums.)

Justice Ginsburg: In Current Political Climate, I Might Never Have Been Confirmed to High Court

By Nicole Flatow, cross-posted from American Constitution Society

Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the ACLU
If her judicial nomination had been considered by today’s Senate, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she might never have been confirmed, The Associated Press reports.

"Today, my ACLU connection would probably disqualify me," said Ginsburg, who served as general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and helped launch the organization’s Women’s Rights Project.

Ginsburg was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by a vote of 96-3. She had also been confirmed in 1980 to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Ginsburg also spoke out about Senate obstruction of judicial nominations last August, calling for greater Senate cooperation in confirming judicial nominees to our lower federal courts.

“With ABA encouragement, may the U.S. Senate someday return to the collegial, bipartisan spirit that Justice Breyer and I had the good fortune to experience," she said during the American Bar Association’s annual meeting.

At ThinkProgress, the Center for American Progress’s Ian Millhiser notes, “It is possible that modern doctrines preventing gender discrimination would simply not exist if Ruth Bader Ginsburg hadn’t done the work she did for the ACLU. And yet, in today’s era of rampant right-wing filibusters, that alone would disqualify her for a seat on the federal bench.”

To learn more about judicial nominations and the vacancy crisis on our federal courts, visit

Author Of "In My Time" Should Be Doing Time

It is unfortunate, indeed unforgivable, that the current administration is so determined to look forward, not backward, that we have to endure yet another self-congratulatory account of the criminal conspiracy known as the Bush Administration.  (See previously, Bush Rehab; Known Knowns.)

Dick Cheney, like the other members of the cabal, is not only free to write a memoir that admits torture, wiretapping and other high crimes, without any fear of investigation, much less prosecution, but he has the temerity to promote sales by insisting that it would have been "unethical and immoral" not to have done these things, and to insist that he would unhesitatingly do it again.  Instead of a meaningful reckoning that would have quashed such arrogant, offensive and dangerous claptrap, we get a book tour.

Glenn Greenwald sums it up well:
Less than three years ago, Dick Cheney was presiding over policies that left hundreds of thousands of innocent people dead from a war of aggression, constructed a worldwide torture regime, and spied on thousands of Americans without the warrants required by law, all of which resulted in his leaving office as one of the most reviled political figures in decades. But thanks to the decision to block all legal investigations into his chronic criminality, those matters have been relegated to mere pedestrian partisan disputes, and Cheney is thus now preparing to be feted -- and further enriched -- as a Wise and Serious Statesman with the release of his memoirs this week: one in which he proudly boasts (yet again) of the very crimes for which he was immunized.  As he embarks on his massive publicity-generating media tour of interviews, Cheney faces no indictments or criminal juries, but rather reverent, rehabilitative tributes.

Rick Perry's Plan To Save Blue States From Red States

By Robert Reich, cross-posted from his website

Of all the nonsense Texas Governor Rick Perry spews about state’s rights and the tenth amendment, his dumbest is the notion that states should go it alone. “We’ve got a great Union,” he said at a Tea Party rally in Austin in April 2009. “There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

The core of his message isn’t outright secession, though. It’s that the locus of governmental action ought to be at the state rather than the federal level. “It is essential to our liberty,” he writes in his book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, “that we be allowed to live as we see fit through the democratic process at the local and state level.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Republicans Are The Disaster

Republican responses to natural disasters provide us with a perfect snapshot of their crabbed, mean-spirited, and ultimately unpatriotic view of our country.  

You have the religious Republicans who claim to believe that God is sending a message that miraculously conforms to their political goals.  Although she later said she was only joking, Presidential candidate and Congresswoman, Michele Bachmann (R-MN), claimed that Hurricane Irene was God's message to politicians to cut spending.  (Think Progress notes the irony of God using a hurricane for a divine message about cutting government spending considering that the damage it causes is likely going to increase government spending.)

You have the libertarian Republicans who claim that the federal government has no role at all to play in safeguarding its citizens lives, either to help prepare for disasters or provide relief in their  aftermath.   Ron Paul, another candidate for president, does not see any need for a federal response to Hurricane Irene.  As proof he cited the pre-FEMA hurricane of 1900, in Galveston, Texas (which lies within Paul's district).  Interesting example.  The city of Galveston was destroyed by that hurricane and 6000 people were killed within hours.

Finally, you have the more run-of-the-mill Republicans who see the dire need for disaster relief as an opportunity to gut social programs.  Thus, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) insisted that no further funds be allocated for disaster relief unless it is offset by spending cuts elsewhere.

Early assessment of the cost of recovery from Hurricane Irene ranges from $7 to $10 billion.  Approximately forty people have died and countless others have lost homes or are without power, water and other necessities.  The Republicans don't believe this is the federal government's problem.  In essence, they don't believe the federal government should come to the aid of its people in times of great need. 

Talk about a disaster.

What That Exposé of the Fed's Secret Bailout Told Us... And What It Didn't

By Richard (RJ) Eskow, cross-posted from Huffington Post

We've just learned about the Federal Reserve's extraordinary secret bailout of the country's big banks. We now know that the TARP bailout program was only the tip of the iceberg, and that financial institutions received a total of $1.2 trillion in loans and other funds while the rest of the country was left to struggle for economic survival.

We also know that, despite all that "we got our money back" rhetoric, these loans represent a cash giveaway to the banks that totals up to tens of billions of dollars -- while homeowners and student loan borrowers continue to struggle.

Here's what we now know about this secret bailout, thanks to a Bloomberg report, along with what we already knew -- and what we still don't know:

Monday, August 29, 2011

California Voters Can Abolish The Death Penalty

California's death penalty needs to be abolished.  Putting aside the philosophical and spiritual questions about the immorality of the death penalty, it is costly, arbitrary, discriminatory, and unworkable.  It serves no useful purpose while diverting needed resources from true public safety programs.  (See, e.g., Death Rattle For California, California's Unusually Cruel Death Penalty, California's Dysfunctional Death Penalty, Just Say No; State of Barbarism.) 

A study released in June by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Arthur L. Alarcon found that California's death penalty system is currently costing the state about $184 million per year.  Further, "since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, California taxpayers have spent roughly $4 billion to fund a dysfunctional death penalty system that has carried out no more than 13 executions."

Abolishing capital punishment in California can only be done by popular referendum.  To put a referendum on the ballot requires legislation or a petition signed by the  voters. Given the dysfunction and inherent conservatism on criminal justice issues of California's legislature, a petition drive, while expensive, seemed like the only realistic route to go.  Loni Hancock, the well-meaning but misguided state senator from Berkeley, instead authored a bill for a ballot measure to repeal the death penalty.  Hancock finally realized last week what should have been obvious earlier.  The votes weren't there in the legislature and she withdrew the bill.

The California Taxpayers for Justice, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to the death penalty, including over 100 law enforcement professionals, as well as crime victim advocates and individuals exonerated from wrongful convictions, announced today its push for a petition drive to get SAFE California Act on the ballot for the November 2012 general election.  If it passed, this ballot initiative would "replace California's multi-billion dollar death penalty with life imprisonment without parole."

SAFE, an acronym for "Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement," would also "draw $100 million from the state's General Fund over the next four fiscal years -- the projected savings from ditching death row -- for a special fund that the Attorney General would disburse to local police to help solve more homicides and rapes."

According to the organizers, more than 500,000 valid signatures are needed to get the matter on the November 2012 ballot and the initiative will cost up to $1.5 million.  Let's get to work.  Click here to help, join, support.

The Infamous Powell Memo: 40 Years Later

Mitt Romney recently claimed that corporations are people too, but it was Lewis Powell, the courtly gentleman from Virginia, who devised a plan 40 years ago to put the rights of corporations above those of the people.   Powell was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Nixon in 1971, where he developed a reputation as a moderate on an increasingly conservative court (although he generally voted in favor of big business and against criminal defendants).  Before his tenure on the Supreme Court, Powell was a long time corporate lawyer who represented the tobacco industry among other business interests.  Shortly before he ascended to the high court, Powell drafted what has become known as the Powell Memo, which mapped out a strategy to aggressively fight criticism of and challenges to corporate America from the media, liberal activists and the burgeoning consumer and environmental movements.  Charlie Cray explores the legacy of this influential document.

The Lewis Powell Memo -- Corporate Blueprint To Dominate Democracy

By Charlie Cray, cross-posted from Greenpeace's website

Forty years ago today, on August 23, 1971, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., an attorney from Richmond, Virginia, drafted a confidential memorandum for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that describes a strategy for the corporate takeover of the dominant public institutions of American society.

Powell and his friend Eugene Sydnor, then-chairman of the Chamber’s education committee, believed the Chamber had to transform itself from a passive business group into a powerful political force capable of taking on what Powell described as a major ongoing “attack on the American free enterprise system.”

An astute observer of the business community and broader social trends, Powell was a former president of the American Bar Association and a board member of tobacco giant Philip Morris and other companies. In his memo, he detailed a series of possible “avenues of action” that the Chamber and the broader business community should take in response to fierce criticism in the media, campus-based protests, and new consumer and environmental laws.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Great Jazz Albums (IMO) #48

Mel Torme.  Mel Torme Swings Shubert Alley (1960).  The Velvet Fog was grossly under-appreciated as a jazz singer.  Perhaps because he sang with such unalloyed joy, he was often lumped into the same category as more saccharine pop singers of his generation when, in fact, he was one of the greatest interpreters of the Great American Songbook, far closer to Sinatra -- or perhaps Ella Fitzgerald -- when it came to pure skill and musicianship than to Perry Como and Andy Williams.  His work with the late George Shearing is well worthwhile, but my favorite album is Mel Torme Swings Shubert Alley.  With this collection of Broadway standards wonderfully arranged and backed by the Marty Paich Orchestra, Torme brilliantly shows off his virtuosity that one reviewer describes as "unrestrained enthusiasm." 

[Related posts:  Great Jazz Albums  #1 (Hank Mobley), #2 (Horace Silver), #3 (Sonny Rollins), #4 (Sonny Clark), #5 (Dexter Gordon), #6 (Cannonball Adderley); #7 (Bill Evans), #8 (McCoy Tyner), #9 (Clifford Brown), #10 (Sinatra), #11 (Monk), #12 (Kenny Dorham), #13 (Coltrane), #14 (Duke Ellington), #15 (Miles Davis), #16 (Wayne Shorter), #17 (Dinah Washington); #18 (Sarah Vaughan); #19 (Stan Getz); #20 (Blue Mitchell); #21 (Gene Ammons); #22 (Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers); #23 (Red Garland); #24 (Ella Fitzgerald); #25 (Charlie Parker); #26 (Art Pepper); #27 (Bud Powell); #28 (John Hicks); #29 (Kenny Barron); #30 (Coleman Hawkins); #31 (Count Basie) #32 (Benny Carter w/ Ben Webster and Barney Bigard); #33 (Chet Baker); #34 (Thad  Jones); #35 (The Great Jazz Trio); #36 (Ahmad Jamal); #37 (Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond); #38 (Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis); #39 (Charles McPherson)#40 (Harold Land); #41 Booker Little); #42 (Elis Regina & Antonio Carlos Jobim); #43 (Art Farmer & Benny Golson); #44 (Wynton Kelly); #45 (Tony Bennett/Bill Evans; # 46 (Barry Harris); #47 (Elmo Hope)]

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How Washington Lost Faith In America's Courts

By Karen J. Greenberg, cross-posted from Tom Dispatch

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the unexpected extent of the damage Americans have done to themselves and their institutions is coming into better focus.  The event that “changed everything” did turn out to change Washington in ways more startling than most people realize.  On terrorism and national security, to take an obvious (if seldom commented upon) example, the confidence of the U.S. government seems to have been severely, perhaps irreparably, shaken when it comes to that basic and essential American institution: the courts.

If, in fact, we are a “nation of laws,” you wouldn’t know it from Washington’s actions over the past few years. Nothing spoke more strikingly to that loss of faith, to our country’s increasing incapacity for meeting violence with the law, than the widely hailed decision to kill rather than capture Osama bin Laden.

Clearly, a key factor in that decision was a growing belief, widely shared within the national-security establishment, that none of our traditional or even newly created tribunals, civilian or military, could have handled a bin Laden trial.  Washington’s faith went solely to Navy SEALs zooming into another country’s sovereign airspace on a moonless night on a mission to assassinate bin Laden, whether he offered the slightest resistance or not.  It evidently seemed so much easier to the top officials overseeing the operation -- and so much less messy -- than bringing a confessed mass murderer into a courtroom in, or even anywhere near, the United States.

The decision to kill bin Laden on sight rather than capture him and bring him to trial followed hard on the heels of an ignominious Obama administration climb-down on its plan to try the “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or KSM, in a federal court in New York City.  Captured in Pakistan in May 2003 and transferred to Guantanamo in 2006, his proposed trial was, under political pressure, returned to a military venue earlier this year.

Given the extraordinary record of underperformance by the military commissions system -- only six convictions in 10 years -- it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the United States has little faith in its ability to put on trial a man assumedly responsible for murdering thousands.

And don’t assume that these high-level examples of avoiding the court system are just knotty exceptions that prove the rule.  There is evidence that the administration’s skepticism and faint-heartedness when it comes to using the judicial system risks becoming pervasive.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jazz Interlude: Cedar Walton

Body and Soul performed by Cedar Walton and his trio (David Williams on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums)from 2005.

Libyan Buzz Kill

There is no question that Qaddafi is a very bad man and we should all rejoice at the crumbling of his regime and his imminent removal from power.  And it is hard not be moved by the genuine and justifiable joy and relief expressed by the Libyan people celebrating the demise of a despot. 

And it is endlessly amusing to watch the Republicans trying to cope with what appears for the moment to be a foreign policy success by President Obama.  Particularly noteworthy are the clownish antics of Senators McCain and Graham who have the audacity to criticize the President for not intervening sooner (conveniently ignoring their trip to Libya two years ago when they cozied up to Qaddafi). 

But it is far too early to claim vindication for Obama's strategy, and many aspects of our involvement in Libya should be deeply troubling.  To recap, authorization for action by NATO was based on a United Nations resolution with the ostensible goal to protect civilians who it was claimed, with little in the way of proof, were being massacred by Qaddafi.  This objective quickly morphed into support for the rebels and regime change, with more increasingly intensified attacks that undoubtedly killed many civilians.

Obama, with an optimism that echoed the Bush Administration contended that hostilities would last mere weeks.  More disturbing, if not illegal, was his administration's refusal to consult with Congress as required by the War Powers Act, based on a transparently untenable justification -- the lack of  any serious threat of U.S. casualties. 

And while Obama has tried to downplay our role in Libya, as Amy Davidson states, the United States and NATO "have also increased their coordination, and quite a bit."  She notes an AP report that refers to our involvement as an “open secret”:  "Covert forces, private contractors and U.S. intelligence assets were thrown into the fight in an undercover campaign operating separately from the NATO command structure."

Even if Obama has been reluctant to admit that we have been involved in "hostilities," Davidson argues, "we have been conducting military activities that aim to overthrow a government; our troops are flying and dropping bombs that kill people—and just because they may be bad people does not make this operation something it isn’t."

And thus we have achieved what Conor Friedersdorf has called a "Pyrrhic victory" for America:
Obama has violated the Constitution; he willfully broke a law that he believes to be constitutional; he undermined his own professed beliefs about executive power, and made it more likely that future presidents will undermine convictions that he purports to hold; in all this, he undermined the rule of law and the balance of powers as set forth by the framers; and he did it all needlessly, because had he gone to Congress at the beginning and asked for permission to wage war they almost certainly would've granted it.
I agree with Glenn Greenwald who is "genuinely astounded at the pervasive willingness to view what has happened in Libya as some sort of grand triumph even though virtually none of the information needed to make that assessment is known yet, including:  how many civilians have died, how much more bloodshed will there be, what will be needed to stabilize that country and, most of all, what type of regime will replace Qadaffi?"

As Davidson concludes: 
if we are not honest about our role, then how will we assess our responsibility for whatever regime takes Qaddafi’s place? Our vagueness about what we are doing encourages a certain incuriousness about whom we are doing it for. The impolite fiction about “no hostilities” might have been sustainable, in a public-relations sense, when the Libyan war was in a stalemate. Now, with armies on the move and cities falling, it has to be reckoned with.

This Labor Day We Need Protest Marches Not Parades

By Robert Reich, cross-posted from his website.

Labor Day is traditionally a time for picnics and parades. But this year is no picnic for American workers, and a protest march would be more appropriate than a parade.

Not only are 25 million unemployed or underemployed, but American companies continue to cut wages and benefits. The median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation. High unemployment has given employers extra bargaining leverage to wring out wage concessions.

All told, it’s been the worst decade for American workers in a century. According to Commerce Department data, private-sector wage gains over the last decade have even lagged behind wage gains during the decade of the Great Depression (4 percent over the last ten years, adjusted for inflation, versus 5 percent from 1929 to 1939).

Big American corporations are making more money, and creating more jobs, outside the United States than in it. If corporations are people, as the Supreme Court’s twisted logic now insists, most of the big ones headquartered here are rapidly losing their American identity.

CEO pay, meanwhile, has soared. The median value of salaries, bonuses and long-term incentive awards for CEOs at 350 big American companies surged 11 percent last year to $9.3 million (according to a study of proxy statements conducted for The Wall Street Journal by the management consultancy Hay Group.). Bonuses have surged 19.7 percent.

This doesn’t even include all those stock options rewarded to CEOs at rock-bottom prices in 2008 and 2009. Stock prices have ballooned since then, the current downdraft notwithstanding. In March, 2009, for example, Ford CEO Alan Mulally received a grant of options and restricted shares worth an estimated $16 million at the time. But Ford is now showing large profits – in part because the UAW agreed to allow Ford to give its new hires roughly half the wages of older Ford workers – and its share prices have responded. Mulally’s 2009 grant is now worth over $200 million.

The ratio of corporate profits to wages is now higher than at any time since just before the Great Depression.
Meanwhile, the American economy has all but stopped growing – in large part because consumers (whose spending is 70 percent of GDP) are also workers whose jobs and wages are under assault.

Perhaps there would still be something to celebrate on Labor Day if government was coming to the rescue. But Washington is paralyzed, the President seems unwilling or unable to take on labor-bashing Republicans, and several Republican governors are mounting direct assaults on organized labor (see Indiana, Ohio, Maine, and Wisconsin, for example).

So let’s bag the picnics and parades this Labor Day. American workers should march in protest. They’re getting the worst deal they’ve had since before Labor Day was invented – and the economy is suffering as a result.

Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley.  He writes a blog at  His most recent book is Aftershock.

What's Next For Wisconsin?

The Badger State's Bloody Stalemate

By Andy Kroll, cross-posted from Tom Dispatch.

Stephanie Haw needed a good cry.

On the night of August 9th, the rowdy crowd inside Hawk's bar in downtown Madison grew ever quieter as the election results trickled in. Earlier that day, with the nation watching, voters statewide cast their ballots in Wisconsin's eagerly awaited recall elections that threatened the seats of six Republican state senators. Democrats needed to win three of them to regain control of the state senate and block Republican Governor Scott Walker's hard-line agenda. But it wasn't to be.  Deep into the night, an MSNBC anchor announced that a fourth GOP senator, Alberta Darling of north Milwaukee and the nearby suburbs, had clinched a narrow victory.

Haw slipped outside. It wasn't supposed to turn out like this, she thought. Progressives had mobilized damn near every possible supporter they could, phone banking and door knocking and Facebooking and Tweeting, and in the end, it still wasn't enough. She thought of all the energy poured into the recall effort, and of her two-year-old daughter running around the house shouting "Recall Walker! Recall Walker!" Standing on the sidewalk, she burst into tears.

I met Haw and her mother later that night at Hawk's. We sat around chewing over the election results till the bar emptied. Haw, who was wearing a red t-shirt with SOLIDARITY emblazoned on the front, said simply, "I feel terrible that we lost." I reminded her what the Democrats had been up against: with one exception, the six districts in play leaned to the right, and all six of those Republicans had won in 2008 despite the Obama frenzy that gripped the state. (He won it by nearly 14 percentage points.) She nodded along with me and then summed her feelings up this way: "I guess it's the best of times and the worst of times."

That ambivalence seemed to carry through Wisconsin's historic summer of recalls, which ended on August 16th when a pair of Democratic state senators easily defended their seats from a Republican recall effort. Which is to say, when the dust settled in the Badger State, there was no clear winner.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Starbucks CEO's Misguided Grande Political Stunt

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz might mean well.  He is known for contributing heavily to Democratic candidates and supporting progressive causes.  But, his latest stunt to halt campaign contributions until lawmakers “strike a bipartisan, balanced long-term debt deal that addresses both entitlements and revenues,” is misguided and counterproductive, to say the least.

Politico reports that "more than 100 business leaders have signed on to [his] pledge to stop making donations to incumbents until Washington gridlock eases, sending a message to lawmakers that they must make real progress in reining in deficit spending."  The pledge also demands an economic package that includes long-term debt-reduction, entitlement “reforms,” additional revenue, and measures intended to boost short-term economic growth.  According to Schultz, his initiative has “triggered a national dialogue and a groundswell of support” since he launched it last week.

Whatever national dialogue Schultz claims to have generated has not moved the Republicans towards any reasonable position and only reinforces the false notion that both parties are equally at fault.  We know that there is only one party responsible for the gridlock these business leaders decry, while the other party has been seeking the very policies this group says they want.  

As Steve Benen puts it:
The captains of industry surely realize that they’re on the same page as the president, but instead of rewarding their allies for agreeing with them, the business leaders are withholding support from everyone. Republicans have made it clear they reject nearly every aspect of this wish list — the GOP opposes compromise, a balanced approach to debt reduction, and short-term stimulus — but Howard Schultz and his partners don’t seem to care.
Wouldn't it make more sense, if these business leaders really cared about gridlock and the economy, to help elect more Democratic candidates?

The Jobs Question

By Robert L. Borosage, cross-posted from Campaign For America's Future

President Obama is, in the lingo of the day, “pivoting to jobs.”   His bus tour through the Midwest began the process, with the president recycling his current jobs-lite agenda: payroll tax cut extended, infrastructure bank, trade deals, tax cuts for companies that hire veterans, and patent reform—“things the Congress could do right now,” but nothing near the scope of the need.

Reports are that the president will unveil new proposals in September on jobs, and challenge the Congress to act. So what would a real jobs agenda look like? 

Get the Challenge Right

Twenty-five million Americans are in need of full time work. One in four teenagers not in college can’t find a job. Wages aren’t keeping up with prices. Our trade deficit is rising, as more and more good jobs get shipped abroad. It’s projected that a staggering 48 percent of homes with mortgages could be underwater – worth less than the mortgage – by the end of the year.

Moreover, there is no recovery to an old, healthy economy. The old economy didn’t work for most Americans even when it was growing. The cancer was spreading before it metastasized in the financial panic. In the so-called Bush recovery years before the collapse, the few captured all the rewards of growth. The average income of the bottom 90% dropped. That economy was built on debt and bubbles. We were hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs and borrowing $2 billion a day from abroad. And we were in complete denial about global warming and the catastrophic climate changes that have already begun. We can’t recover to that old economy – and we wouldn’t want to.

So the task is not simply to give the economy a stimulus, like a dead car battery that just needs a booster cable and a charge to get it going again. We need to rebuild the engine and modernize the wiring, creating a new strategy for America in the global economy even as we put people back to work.
No one has made this case better than Barack Obama, most notably in his “Economic Sermon on the Mount” at Georgetown University in April 2009.

But that was then. At his Cannon Falls, Minn., gathering yesterday, Obama offered a very different perspective. His jobs-lite agenda was needed because we weren’t “growing as fast as we need to.”  But his focus was not on a new foundation, but on deficits and debt, on cutting $4 trillion from projected deficits over the next 10 years.

“The key right now is to get a long-term plan for fiscal stability. And in the short term, we should actually make more investments that would put people to work and get the economy moving. (Applause.) And if you combine those two things, we can actually solve this problem and grow the economy at the same time.”  Gone is any notion that we need a new strategy to generate an economy that will work for working people. 

Engineering Food For Whom?

By Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, cross-posted from PAN's website

Warning! Nina Federoff — former “Science and Technology Advisor” to the U.S. State Department and well-known genetic engineering apologist — is back on her soapbox. In an Op Ed published in the New York Times last week, Federoff strings together one blazing falsehood after another, extolling the virtues of a technology that much of the rest of the world has rightly rejected. What is behind her evangelical commitment to this particular technology? Let’s take a look. 

Conflict of interest?

Thanks to Tom Philpott, we know that for the 5-year period before she joined the State Department, Federoff served on the scientific advisory board at Evogene. This Israeli agriculture-biotech firm works closely with Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and others. She also served on the board of Sigma-Aldrich, a transnational corporation that provides services and products — including transgenic animals — to agricultural biotech companies. And she herself was one of the early patent-holders on transgenic technologies, back in the 1980s.

Federoff was one of the early patent-holders on transgenic technologies, back in the 1980s.

These solid corporate credentials proved just the ticket into the G.W. Bush Administration’s State Department; tapped initially by Condoleeza Rice, she was kept on by Hillary Clinton. During the same period (2007-2010), Federoff also served as the Science and Technical Advisor to the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID works with Monsanto and other partners to develop and commercialize GE crops, advancing U.S. trade interests in opening new markets abroad for these products. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Palate Cleanser: Girls

Maybe a palate cleanser would be more appropriate after this song, but nevertheless, Vomit by Girls.

The U.S. Should Follow Benin's Lead

The West African nation of Benin has abolished the death penalty.  “Benin wants to promote human dignity and progressive development of human rights,” the president of the Parliament declared.  Thus, Benin will become the 74th country to join the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which calls for the death penalty to be abolished.  The last execution in Benin took place in 1987, and there are 14 people on Benin's death row.

There were 46 executions in the United States last year and 32 so far this year.  There are over 3000 men and women on death row in this country.    

Last year, 23 countries carried out executions.  The list of those with more than ten, in descending order:  China, Iran, North Korea, Yemen, THE UNITED STATES, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria.

Need I say more.

"Helpless President Lit" -- The Latest Trend In Political Tragedy

By Richard (RJ) Eskow, cross-posted from Huffington Post

[I'm with RJ Eskow on this one.  I've written and/or posted several items recently which take the President to task.  (See, e.g., Not Enough Change To Believe In; Obama Administration Fights Debate; Obama's Metaphorical Campaign; Obama=Hoover.)  Yes, the President was left quite a pile of crap by his predecessor.  He was required to confront multiple crises while dealing with a uniquely obstructionist opposition party and disunity in his own party.  However, there was still a lot more Obama could have done on health care, on financial reform, on the economy, and on climate change had he been more aggressive, more partisan, and used his office as a bully pulpit rather than ceding the debate(s) to Congress.  It isn't too late and it doesn't help matters to make Obama into a helpless victim of our political climate who is doing the best he can with the bad hand he has been dealt.  The point is not to gratuitously trash the President and undermine his chance at a second term.  It should go without saying that any Republican alternative would be devastating for the country.  (Just imagine the impact on the Supreme Court.)  What we need to do is to continue to prod and push the President to do the right things, both as a matter of good policy and good politics.  -- Lovechilde]

Call it "Helpless President Lit." A recent Ezra Klein column is the latest in a growing genre which celebrates our Commander-in-Chief, not as a powerful leader, but as a perennial victim. It portrays him as someone who's powerless over other people's actions, and sometimes even over his own. In this genre the President is forever at the whim of forces beyond his control, even when he has a supermajority in the Senate and a strong majority in the House.

Helpless President Lit is a form of melodrama. It's like an old-fashioned cliffhanger with the President replacing Little Nell, that noble young creature who's forever being tied to a train track or suspended over a gorge by some dastardly villain. Except the country's about to get hurt, not him - and nobody's coming to the rescue.

There'd be no point discussing this backward-looking and speculative genre if it didn't encourage the President and his supporters to continue on such a destructive course of action. I agree with Klein and other critics who say we focus too much attention on the Presidency. But this discussion affects our thinking and behavior at all levels of political engagement.

The only thing more destructive than expecting too much out of our leaders - or ourselves - is expecting too little.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Sheriff's Endorsement Of David Onek For D.A.

Sheriff Michael Hennessey
I have written often of my strong support for David Onek's candidacy for San Francisco District Attorney.  David is a leading expert on criminal and juvenile justice, with experience in policy-making, academia and government.  He would provide a thoughtful, progressive approach to criminal justice and public safety issues.  (See, e.g., Onek's the One, A True Criminal Justice Reformer.) 

It is not surprising that David has garnered a wide array of supporters, from law enforcement as well as the criminal defense bar, and from educators, current and former political leaders and unions.  Nor is it surprising, indeed it is quite telling, that his latest endorsement comes from Sheriff Michael Hennessey, the longest tenured Sheriff in the State of California, widely known and greatly respected for, among other things, his pioneering efforts in developing prisoner education and rehabilitation programs.

This is from the press release issued by David's campaign:
Sheriff Michael Hennessey today endorsed criminal justice reform expert and former Police Commissioner David Onek for San Francisco District Attorney. 
Hennessey, who was first elected from outside the sheriff’s office, made his office an acknowledged statewide and nationwide leader in implementing proven, data-driven reforms. He’s been widely recognized for championing innovative education and rehabilitation programs in the jails and in the community, and for dramatically increasing the number of women, minorities, and gays and lesbians in his office.

"David Onek has the skill and the will to make San Francisco safer," said Sheriff Hennessey. "As Sheriff, I was able to institute reforms because I had not spent my career as an insider maintaining the status quo. David will bring this same fresh perspective to the Office of District Attorney. As our next District Attorney, David Onek will work with law enforcement and the community to reduce crime in our city. Please join me in voting for David Onek as our next District Attorney."

"I am so humbled to receive Sheriff Hennessey’s endorsement," said Onek. "For over three decades, Sheriff Hennessey has been one of San Francisco’s most dedicated and respected public servants – and our city is safer today because of him. His record of engaging with the community and implementing innovative reforms is an inspiration for me and for our entire campaign." 

  (You can see the entire list of over 2,000 supporters by visiting

Martin Luther King, A Friend Of Labor

By Angelia Wade, cross-posted from American Constitution Society

This post is part of an ACSblog symposium in honor of the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. National MemorialThe author, Angelia Wade, is Associate General Counsel for the AFL-CIO.

The unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial this weekend provides a clear opportunity to reflect on the work of this icon. When he was assassinated in April 1968, Dr. King was in Memphis lending his support to striking garbage sanitation workers who were seeking to have their union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, (AFSCME) recognized so they could negotiate a contract that raised their standard of living.

Dr. King’s support of the labor movement as a pathway to better jobs and justice did not just begin in 1968. Throughout much of his life, he advocated as much for economic equality as he did for racial equality. He once stated that it did no good for a man to eat at an integrated lunch counter if that same man could not afford to buy a hamburger at the establishment.

Dr. King said the labor movement was a key vehicle for people of color to gain economic equality. He often extolled the benefits and successes of organized labor. In October 1965, in an address to the Illinois AFL-CIO, he said many forget that it was the labor movement that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress, for out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old age pensions, government relief for the destitute, and new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life.

Really, Really Time to Find the Exit in Afghanistan

By Fuzzyone

When this qualifies as good news, which seems to be the spin, you know it is time to get out. I mean seriously check this out:
Angry villagers stoned to death a local Taliban commander and his bodyguard in southern Afghanistan Sunday after the militants killed a 60-year-old man accused of aiding the government, Afghan officials said. It was a rare reversal of brutality aimed at the Taliban and, some Afghan officials believe, suggests a growing sense of security in an area where the insurgency has lost ground to NATO forces in the last two years.
So Americans are fighting and dying, not to mention spending billions, so that the people of Afghanistan can feel secure enough to stone one another. Fabulous.

Not Enough Change To Believe In

Barack Obama is no George W. Bush, and it is important to recognize how hamstrung his Administration has been by two wars, a financial meltdown, a recession, and a rigidly ideological opposition party that has put its partisan priorities above the country's.  At the same time, it is hard to ignore Obama's failure to repudiate so much of what was destructive and dispiriting about Bush's tenure.  Guantanamo and military tribunals, the Patriot Act, Iraq and Afghanistan, tax cuts for the wealthy.  There has been no real progress on climate change.  And tellingly, under Obama there has been no meaningful investigation of Bush-era torture or prosecution of those responsible for the financial crisis, while an an unprecedented attack on whistleblowers has been pursued. 

A harsh assessment is offered by David Bromwich, based on the key players upon whom Obama has relied and those he has discarded.  His conclusion:  not exactly change we can believe in.
Symptoms of the Bush-Obama Presidency
The Saved and the Sacked

By David Bromwich, cross-posted from Tom Dispatch

Is it too soon to speak of the Bush-Obama presidency?

The record shows impressive continuities between the two administrations, and nowhere more than in the policy of “force projection” in the Arab world. With one war half-ended in Iraq, but another doubled in size and stretching across borders in Afghanistan; with an expanded program of drone killings and black-ops assassinations, the latter glorified in special ceremonies of thanksgiving (as they never were under Bush); with the number of prisoners at Guantanamo having decreased, but some now slated for permanent detention; with the repeated invocation of “state secrets” to protect the government from charges of war crimes; with the Patriot Act renewed and its most dubious provisions left intact -- the Bush-Obama presidency has sufficient self-coherence to be considered a historical entity with a life of its own.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Damn Statistics: The Case Against Jim Thome

Part of the beauty of the game of baseball is how it has remained constant over time.  (Cue the Ken Burns' music.)  The rules are not much different from 100 years ago, the bases are still 90 feet apart, and the pitcher stands 60 feet, 6 inches from the hitter.  But each era has had its own unique issues and the game has changed in enough ways so that it is folly to hold out statistics as a meaningful way to compare players across generations.

Key differences include the quality of bats, gloves and balls, the advent of night baseball, expansion from 16 teams to 30 (diluting the caliber of play), going from 154 games to 162 per season, ballpark dimensions, medical advances, and the big one -- that no African Americans played in the majors until Jackie Robinson in 1947, and it took at least another decade until all teams were fully integrated.  And then there is the despicable designated hitter rule, which was added by the American League in 1972, allowing players to prolong their careers and pad their statistics when they would otherwise be forced to retire because they could no longer play effectively in the field.  (More about that in a moment.)  And finally, performance enhancers, which have helped to inflate offensive numbers in the last couple of decades.

Before the late 1980s, I used to be able to easily reel off the names of the top ten home run hitters of all time:  Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Willie McCovey, Ted Williams and Ernie Banks.  All ten were brilliant, legendary players.  No question that any of them were automatic Hall of Famers. (Mike Schmidt and Reggie Jackson bumped Williams and Banks off the top 10 by the time they retired and are also worthy of being in this esteemed group.)  I couldn't name the current top 10, so I had to look it up:  Bonds, Aaron, Ruth, Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome, Frank Robinson and Mark McGwire.

Griffey, Jr., was a wonderful player with a Hall of Fame career.  Bonds and A-Rod, although tainted by allegations of steroid use, are still bona fide Hall of Famers, whether the precious voters let them in or not.  McGwire is borderline, in my opinion, and Sosa doesn't come close to making the cut although he certainly created a stir in his prime.  And then there is Jim Thome, who quietly hit his 600th home run last week. 

When one thinks of the greatest sluggers of all time Jim Thome does not immediately come to mind.  He doesn't gradually come to mind either even with his 600 home runs.  And that is the point.  Although 600 home runs is undoubtedly a remarkable achievement, it does not automatically launch Thome into the pantheon of elite players worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Stark Picture Of Judicial Vacancy Crisis

By Nicole Flatow, cross-posted from American Constitution Society

Although many prominent legal leaders, editorial boards and commentators have long lamented the high number of judicial vacancies plaguing our courts, it is not easy for those removed from the process to understand how judicial nominations work, and what impact these empty seats  have on our justice system.

The White House has put together a new infographic that paints a powerful picture of the nature of Senate obstruction of judicial nominees, and highlights Obama’s efforts to diversify our federal courts.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Great Jazz Albums (IMO) #47

Elmo Hope.  The All Star Sessions (1956-61; released in 1976).  Elmo Hope is another unsung but brilliant jazz pianist.  (See also Sonny Clark, Kenny Barron, Wynton Kelly, Barry Harris.)  A boyhood friend of the great Bud Powell, Hope has been described as "one of the most gifted and original artists of the hard bop period."  Despite his drug problems and premature death at the age of 47 in 1967, Hope recorded with many of the jazz greats and "left a substantial legacy of intriguing and memorable compositions."  This is reflected on The All Star Sessions, which consists of Hope's playing in three different settings.  As another review describes, there is the "four-song jam session that has lengthy solos from trumpeter Donald Byrd and the contrasting tenors John Coltrane and Hank Mobley, along with fine support from bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Jones."  Next, are "the 1961 dates consisting of a sextet outing with trumpeter Blue Mitchell and the tenors of Jimmy Heath and Frank Foster" and "four numbers played with the trio," with bassist Percy Heath and drummer Philly Joe Jones.  Quite a group of All Stars, indeed, and an album aptly described as "excellent music from an underrated great."

[Related posts:  Great Jazz Albums  #1 (Hank Mobley), #2 (Horace Silver), #3 (Sonny Rollins), #4 (Sonny Clark), #5 (Dexter Gordon), #6 (Cannonball Adderley); #7 (Bill Evans), #8 (McCoy Tyner), #9 (Clifford Brown), #10 (Sinatra), #11 (Monk), #12 (Kenny Dorham), #13 (Coltrane), #14 (Duke Ellington), #15 (Miles Davis), #16 (Wayne Shorter), #17 (Dinah Washington); #18 (Sarah Vaughan); #19 (Stan Getz); #20 (Blue Mitchell); #21 (Gene Ammons); #22 (Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers); #23 (Red Garland); #24 (Ella Fitzgerald); #25 (Charlie Parker); #26 (Art Pepper); #27 (Bud Powell); #28 (John Hicks); #29 (Kenny Barron); #30 (Coleman Hawkins); #31 (Count Basie) #32 (Benny Carter w/ Ben Webster and Barney Bigard); #33 (Chet Baker); #34 (Thad  Jones); #35 (The Great Jazz Trio); #36 (Ahmad Jamal); #37 (Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond); #38 (Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis); #39 (Charles McPherson)#40 (Harold Land); #41 Booker Little); #42 (Elis Regina & Antonio Carlos Jobim); #43 (Art Farmer & Benny Golson); #44 (Wynton Kelly); #45 (Tony Bennett/Bill Evans; # 46 (Barry Harris)]

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Obama In Nixonland

It was heartening to hear that President Obama was reading Rick Perlstein's invaluable book Nixonland:  The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America.  As Rick describes, the book is about "the 'separate and irreconcilable fears' over the past 50 years that came to define the increasingly acrimonious cohabitation of Americans on the left and on the right."  But the book also provides key insights about "how the Democratic Party wins, why it loses and the good things that happen when the party gets the formula right."  Hopefully, Obama focused in on that part too.

Perlstein points out that when national elections are fought over "cultural and social anxieties ordinary Americans suffer" Republicans win, and when they are about "middle-class anxieties when the free market fails" Democrats win.
Consider 1960. Even with all that ­famous 1950s prosperity, 1959 saw a recession. Nixon blamed his defeat on Ike’s failure to use government to subdue it. Kennedy, meanwhile, enhanced New Deal programs like Social Security—and a promise to extend that legacy with ­Medicare-central to his appeal. People remember the U.S.’s first televised presidential debate for the contrast between JFK’s cool and a frantic and sweaty Nixon. What’s forgotten is what made Nixon so frantic: Kennedy’s unanswerable argument that Democrats created those programs and Republicans opposed them.
And why did the Democrats lose in 1968?  According to Perlstein, "Nixon effectively associated them with the protesters in the streets. But even then, Nixon almost lost, once his opponent Hubert Humphrey enlisted labor unions in a gargantuan last-minute push concerning which party created Social Security and Medicare and which seemed indifferent about preserving them."

In the 1970 mid-terms, Nixon "campaigned tirelessly for Republican candidates, then gave an ­election-eve TV speech blaming Democrats for the 'thugs and hoodlums' in the streets."  But he sounded "just as frantic and ugly as the forces he claimed the GOP would subdue," while the Democrats response came "from the calm, quiet Senator from Maine Edmund Muskie, who sat in an armchair and asked Americans to vote against a 'politics of fear' that insists 'you are encircled by monstrous dangers' and instead choose a 'politics of trust.'"

Perlstein is careful to note that Muskie's speech was not quite so Obama-like as it would appear, but was actually "overwhelmingly partisan," excoriating Republicans for cutting back on "health and education for the many … while expanding subsidies and special favors for the few.”  The GOP went "bust in the polls" that year.

And in 1972, George ­McGovern, "following a then fashionable theory that the middle class was prosperous enough to take care of itself and that unions were pretty much irrelevant, spoke to working-class concerns less than any Democrat had before. He lost 49 states."  McGovern failed to give LBJ-type speeches which talked about "which party gave the people Social Security, Medicare and the Tennessee Valley Authority and which one was willing to toss them over the side."
Here’s what LBJ knew that ­McGovern didn’t: There are few or no historical instances in which saying clearly what you are for and what you are against makes Americans less divided. But there is plenty of evidence that attacking the wealthy has not made them more divided. After all, the man who said of his own day’s plutocrats, “I welcome their hatred,” also assembled the most enduring political coalition in U.S. history.
Of course, "Republicans will call it “class warfare,” but as Perlstein says, "Let them."  As he concludes, "done right, economic populism cools the political climate. Just knowing that the people in power are willing to lie down on the tracks for them can make the middle much less frantic. Which makes America a better place. And incidentally makes Democrats win."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jazz Interlude: Benny Golson and Art Farmer

Benny Golson and Art Farmer perform together in 1982 for the first time in the U.S. in 20 years.  Well worth the wait.

R.I.P. Jerry Terrell Jackson

Roman Colosseum lit to protest an execution
On August 18, 2011, Virginia executed Jerry Terrell Jackson, who was convicted of the murder, rape and robbery of Ruth Phillips, an 88-year old woman.  Challenges to Jackson's execution focused on his trial lawyer's inadequate representation, which resulted in the jurors who determined whether Jackson should live or die never learning the details of the “depraved, daily and sadistic abuse” he suffered throughout his childhood.

This is the 32nd execution in the United States in 2011, the first in Virginia.

Freedom For West Memphis Three

Damien Echols was released from Arkansas' death row after 18 years, becoming, according to The New York Times, "the highest-profile death row inmate to be released in recent memory."  Echols, who was 18 years old at the time of his arrest, with an I.Q. in the low 70s, was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1993 murders of three young boys.  Two teenagers, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, were also convicted.  Known as the "West Memphis Three," Nichols, Baldwin and Misskelley always maintained there innocence.  There was no direct evidence linking them to the murders, and recent testing established no DNA from any of them at the murder scene. A deal was reached allowing all three to be released from prison after the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a ruling granting a hearing that would have allowed them to prove their innocence.

This is a great result that far from showing that the "system works," demonstrates its inherent flaws.  Echols was on death row for 18 years.  He and the other two men were released only through the dogged efforts of their lawyers, an incredibly powerful documentary, tireless activism, and the funds and publicity generated through a nationwide campaign fueled by the star power of Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines.  

Meanwhile, In Chicago . . .

Demanding Justice For The Still-Imprisoned Burge Victims

By Locke Bowman, cross-posted from Huffington Post

Chicago's political establishment must shudder each time Jon Burge garners another headline. This past week was a bad one for politicians who would like to forget that Burge ever commanded an elite unit of Chicago Police detectives; that beneath the cops' cop veneer, Burge was a sadistic racist who systematically tortured African-American suspects; that for decades the city's official line was a deceitful "no, it never happened"; that the city is still pouring millions into defending Burge in lawsuits filed by men Burge sent to prison for crimes they didn't commit.

The whole ugly mess was front page news again last week. Federal judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled former Mayor Richard Daley was potentially liable for helping to cover up the Burge scandal. Civil rights stalwart Flint Taylor announced on the 10 o'clock news that he would soon be taking Daley's deposition. The current mayor went so far as to intimate that the lawsuits should be settled, telling a reporter, "It's time we end" the defense of these indefensible cases.

Further down the page, attentive readers might have noticed a related news item about the 15 men, still in prison, who say Burge's detectives tortured them into confessing but who haven't yet had full and fair hearings on those claims. Talk about the desire to forget. It's been nearly impossible during the past decade to get anybody to remember the plight of these men. The Burge scandal comes into and out of public focus. The years go by and the still-incarcerated Burge victims languish in prison. The public hasn't noticed.

For years, advocates for the men (I'm in that number) have implored prosecutors -- Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Special Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Stuart Nudelman -- to do the right thing: identify every case in which an Illinois prisoner has a credible claim that Burge or his detectives tortured him into confessing to the crime for which he's locked up; agree to evidentiary hearings in every one of those cases; and acknowledge that there must be a new trial in every case where the evidence at the hearing shows it's more likely than not the prisoner was tortured or abused. Madigan and Nudelman have confessed error in a few individual cases. Ronald Kitchen and Michael Tillman are each free today because prosecutors bravely acknowledged they'd been tortured into confessing to crimes they didn't commit.

But prosecutors haven't wanted to acknowledge the larger truth: it is morally and legally repugnant for even one person to be imprisoned following a trial in which a confession obtained by torture was admitted into evidence against him.