Florida

Florida Man Requests To Marry 'Porn Filled Apple Computer' In Super-Clever Marriage Equality Protest

Many anti-gay activists are strangely obsessed with the idea that marriage equality might someday lead to legalized human-object marriage, whether that object is a car, a turtle, or the Eiffel Tower.

A Florida man has taken this obsession to a new level, filing a motion to intervene in the case challenging the state’s marriage equality ban, purporting to seek the right to marry his “porn filled Apple computer.”

The Broward/Palm Beach New Times provides this quote from the motion of Chris Sevier, which it notes is “Short on sound legal grounding (and even shorter on wit)”:

Recently, I purchased an Apple computer. The computer was sold to me without filters to block out pornography. I was not provided with any warning by Apple that pornography was highly addictive and could alter my reward cycle by the manufacturer. Over time, I began preferring sex with my computer over sex with real women. Naturally, I 'fell in love' with my computer and preferred having sex with it over all other persons or things, as a result of classic conditioning upon orgasm.

Unsurprisingly, Sevier’s motion was rejected last week by the clearly unamused Judge Robert L. Hinkle:

Chris Sevier has moved to intervene, apparently asserting he wishes to marry his computer. Perhaps the motion is satirical. Or perhaps it is only removed from reality. Either way, the motion has no place in this lawsuit. Mr. Sevier has alleged nothing that would support intervention.

The New Times notes that Sevier has tried this sort of thing before:

A Chris Sevier sued Apple because it sold him a computer without telling him about the evils of porn. A Chris Sevier sued A&E after it fired Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson after he was caught spewing antigay talk. And just recently, a Chris Sevier tried to butt his way into Utah's gay marriage legal case . In a 50-page motion, he claimed he was there to make the court "put up or shut up" on the gay marriage issue.

In his motion in the Utah case, Sevier laid out his totally air-tight argument, warning that marriage equality and the “slippery slope” he warns will ensue will result in Americans “becoming salves of our glands, not slaves of virtue”:

Either (1) we will be reduced to a Nation that hypocritically enforces the equal protection and due process clause to suit the interest of the largest minority, which yields discrimination against the true minority classes of sexual orientation, causing hypocrisy to undermine foundation laws, yielding instability; (2) we will remain a Christian Nation that protects traditional marriage, as a relationship set apart because it has the potential of bearing life between two people, who are in a legally binding relationship, who have naturally corresponding sexual organs with the exclusive potential to produce children with DNA that matches theirs; which, of course, makes that relationship both scientifically and factually distinct from all others-religious aside; or (3) we will progress into a Nation that gives equal protection to all classes of sexual orientation allowing everyone to marrying anyone and anything to suit their appetite in the name of tolerance, equality, and love -becoming slaves of ourglands, not slaves of virtue. There is no other possible alternative.

Marco Rubio Fails Florida, Doesn't Help Florida Judicial Nominees

Rubio lets his party delay the filling of four emergency judicial vacancies with consensus nominees who he recommended.
PFAW

Obstruction 2.0: How Republican Senators Continue to Block Judicial Nominations Post-“Filibuster Reform”

Tuesday afternoon, PFAW hosted a special member telebriefing on the continued GOP obstruction of judicial nominees. The briefing featured PFAW’s Executive Vice President Marge Baker and Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon. They discussed how Republicans’ obstruction has reached staggering levels, despite changes in Senate filibuster rules.

Marge gave a brief background on the issue of GOP obstruction of judicial nominations, explaining how important federal judgeships are for deciding many issues that affect everyday Americans and defining why Republicans are determined to continue obstruction confirmations of judicial nominees. Their underlying goal is to keep as many seats empty as possible so a President Cruz or Rubio can fill them with right-wing ideologues.

She addressed the current narrative that President Obama has had more confirmations at this time than Bush had, and explained that these numbers need to be put in the context of the fact that Obama has had around 70 more vacancies to fill than his predecessor. That means for Obama’s confirmation results to be seen as equivalent to those of President Bush, he would have had to have many more nominees confirmed at this point in his presidency.

Paul began a discussion of some of the choke methods Republicans are employing to block the confirmation of President Obama's nominees to the bench. Paul delineated how all too often, GOP senators do not cooperate with the White House to suggest candidates for nomination, delaying the process from the very beginning. Once nominees are made and are sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, we have seen GOP Senators delay the hearing by not submitting their blue slips, an unofficial tradition that gives home state Senators an opportunity to express their support for the nominee.

Marge explained ways in which Republicans are delaying the process once nominees are in committee, where the minority is allowed to request one-week delays. To express the magnitude of the obstruction, Marge explained how of the 270 nominees who have had a vote during President Obama's term, only 11 have had their votes held on time.

Once on the Senate floor, the situation doesn't get better as senators are able to filibuster nominees by refusing to give unanimous consent to the simple act of holding a yes-or-no confirmation vote. To offset these delays, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been forced to file for cloture. Since the rules change in November, there have been cloture votes on all the nominees, adding hours of senate time in post-cloture debates (30 hours per circuit court nominee).

Marge highlighted that if all 30 nominees on the floor were voted on today, which is possible, then the number of current vacancies would drop precipitously, down to the level at this point in George W. Bush’s presidency. It is essential that these be voted on now, and that confirmation votes for nominations coming out of committee be voted on expeditiously.

Fielding questions from PFAW members, Marge and Paul discussed particular cases of obstruction like that of William Thomas's nomination in Florida, where Senator Marco Rubio withheld his blue slip in support of the nominee-–one that he himself had recommended in the first place. Members also made the connection between the effect of big money in politics and the motivations for GOP senators to obstruct confirmations, and attempted to find ways in which everyday Americans can make their voices heard to their senators regarding the issues of obstruction in judicial nominations. Paul used the example of the DC Circuit Court fight, where with the activism from people across the country rallying together helped get all the court's vacancies filled.

Marge and Paul, along with PFAW members, emphasized how as activists, we can intervene in the fight to take back our democracy by letting Senators know that average Americans are paying attention, watching how they respond and vote on judicial nominations, and considering who may be pulling their strings. For instance, a caller in Florida wanting to influence Marco Rubio could call his office and ask him to prevent a delay in a committee vote for nominees to fill four emergency vacancies. And everyone, regardless of whether there are vacancies in their state, can call their senators and call for the quick confirmation of the large number of nominees awaiting a floor vote. She also highlighted what is at stake in this mid-term election since the officials we elect today will help confirm the judges that will decide important cases that affect average Americans. For this reason, it is important to have demographic and experiential diversity in the courts so judges making decisions understand the impact of the law on regular Americans.

Click here more information on our Fair and Just Courts campaign.

PFAW

The Never-Ending Tale Of The Little Girl Who Could Not Pray

Last week, we wrote a post about the fact that the story at the center of a recent column by Todd Starnes claiming that a young girl had supposedly been told that she was not allow to pray before eating her lunch at school had been definitively debunked after the shool in question conducted an investigation and "found zero evidence an incident ever occurred."

In a gesture of goodwill, the school offered an apology to the family nonetheless and it was seemingly accepted through their attorney, Jeremy Dys of the Liberty Institute, who issued a statement saying:

"We are grateful for the apology offered by Seminole County Schools. The Perez family gladly accepts this apology, along with the assurances to the community by the School Board that students in Seminole County School are free to exercise their First Amendment freedoms while at school."

That should have been the end of the entire saga, but apparently Dys and the family are intent on keeping it going (presumably to benefit Todd Starnes forthcoming book) a little longer and have now reversed course by rejecting the school's apology, accusing the school of never having done an investigation in the first place, and threatening legal action:

Two days after stating that Gabriella Perez's family had accepted the apology, lawyer Jeremy Dys said their position changed after reading the comments of district spokesman Michael Lawrence in the Orlando Sentinel.

Dys said it is clear now the district's response wasn't "a real apology." In addition, "we're not really confident the investigation actually took place," he said.

He sent a letter to Seminole schools on Friday requesting video footage from the school, emails to or about the family and phone logs relating to the case, including documentation of harassing or negative phone calls.

Gabriella, a 5-year-old kindergartner, told her parents that a staffer at Carillon Elementary said she could not pray over her lunch sometime in March. Lawrence, the district spokesman, said Wednesday an investigation had turned up "zero evidence" the incident occurred.

The girl's father, Marcos Perez, is vice president of sales for a Christian book publisher promoting a book about "the attack on traditional values" in America. The family began homeschooling Gabriella after she described the cafeteria incident.

Dys' letter also claims Lawrence made "false and defamatory statements publicly and intentionally" about Gabriella and her family, and requested that he be disciplined.

"Mr. Lawrence went out and essentially called our client a liar," Dys said Friday.

The school district did an investigation into the alleged incident and concluded that "there's no proof whatsoever" that it even occurred and that the person identified by the young girl as having told her not to pray was nowhere near the lunchroom at the time it supposedly happened ... and now the very people who brought these allegations are threatening legal action, claiming that they are the victims of "false and defamatory statements" because their claims turned out to be bogus.

Will Marco Rubio Let His Colleagues Delay Four Florida Judicial Nominees?

With a dire need to fill emergency vacancies in Florida, will Rubio ask the GOP not to delay a committee vote on four Florida judicial nominees?
PFAW

Todd Starnes Gets Definitively Debunked

A few weeks ago, we wrote a post about the amazing coincidence that was at the center of one of Todd Starnes' recent columns about a young girl who had allegedly been told that she was not allowed to pray before eating her lunch in her elementary school lunch room.

As it turned out, the young girl just so happened to be the daughter of the man who is the Vice President of Sales at the Christian publishing house that is publishing Starnes' next book, which just so happens to be all about how religious liberty is under attack in America.

Even after this rather curious connection was pointed out and the school said there was no evidence that the incident had even happened, the parents and their lawyers at the Liberty Institute continued to demand an investigation and an apology from the school; at one point even arranging a line-up of school employees so the girl could identify just which teacher had allegedly told her that she was not allowed to pray.

The school at the center of this "controversy" bent over backwards to satisfy the parents and conducted a full investigation into the incident. Yesterday, the school district announced its findings and, as expected, found the allegations to be completely bogus:

School officials said Wednesday that they can't find any evidence to suggest that a kindergartner was told not to pray in a Seminole County elementary lunchroom.

But the school district apologized anyway, and a lawyer for the girl's parents said they are satisfied with the outcome.

"We found zero evidence an incident ever occurred," said district spokesman Mike Lawrence. "There's no proof whatsoever."

...

As for the identified staffer, a school-district investigator has concluded that "there is no way possible that person was anywhere near the lunchroom" that kindergartners and first-graders use. In addition to the student and her family, the district has interviewed staffers, the accused adult and Gabriella's classmates, Lawrence said.

Predictably, the parents and their right-wing attorney are trying to use the fact that the school issued a perfunctory apology to spin this as a victory:

In a statement, Jeremy Dys, the family's attorney, said, "We are grateful for the apology offered by Seminole County Schools. The Perez family gladly accepts this apology, along with the assurances to the community by the School Board that students in Seminole County School are free to exercise their First Amendment freedoms while at school."

Voting Rights Advocates Rack Up More Wins

Earlier this month, PFAW reported on what has gone right for voting rights at the state level in 2014. While there is much more work to be done to enact needed reforms and to step up and counter threats when the right to vote is under attack, states like Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina have shown that we can win. Now we've uncovered even more evidence of why we can and should keep fighting the challenges that lay before us.
PFAW

Florida & Oregon Drop Out Of Kris Kobach's Faulty Voter Roll Crosscheck Program

The Miami Herald reported Friday that Florida and Oregon have dropped out of Interstate Crosscheck, the disputed voter-fraud detection service run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, with Oregon election officials citing "unreliable" data from the program.

Interstate Crosscheck’s reports in 2013 include Florida data based on the 2012 election. However, Florida is absent from the 2014 report.

We asked a spokeswoman for Republican Secretary of State Ken Detzner why Florida dropped out.

“The Department of State and Supervisors of Elections currently work with elections officials in other states to update registrations regarding residency, and we are always exploring options to improve the elections process,” Brittany Lesser said.

Oregon is another state that changed its mind about sharing its voter data with the Kansas project. Its explanation was more blunt than the one we got from Florida.

“We left because the data we received was unreliable and we felt joining the ERIC project would better meet our needs, said Tony Green, spokesman for Oregon Secretary of State.

ERIC is a project of the Pew Charitable Trust  to improve the accuracy and efficiency of state voter registration systems. States must pay to participate in ERIC while the Kansas project is free.

Voting rights opponents went into full-blown panic mode last week when North Carolina elections officials, citing data from Kobach's program, announced that 35,000 people who voted in North Carolina could have also voted in another state. That this number turned out to be completely overblown -- and that the state's top elections official urged caution in jumping to conclusions  -- did not stop Dick Morris and the Tea Party Nation from claiming that as many as a million Democrats voted twice in the 2012 elections.

via Rick Hasen​

The Amazing Coincidence Behind Todd Starnes' Latest Christian Victimization Column

Earlier today we wrote a post about a new Religious Right tale of supposed victimization emerging out of Florida involving a young girl who was allegedly told that she was not allowed to pray in the lunchroom before eating her lunch.

The whole thing seemed rather suspect, as these tales usually are, since it emerged from a video posted on YouTube by the girl's parents and was then immediately turned into a column by Todd Starnes, who is notorious for ginning up these sorts of one-sided, fake controversies:

A Florida school district is giving teachers a refresher course on religious liberty after the parents of a five-year-old kindergarten student said a teacher told their daughter that she was not allowed to pray before eating her lunch time meal.

Marcos Perez, of Oviedo, Fla., said the incident occurred earlier this month in the lunch room at Carillon Elementary School.

He said his daughter  was sitting at a table about to eat when she bowed her head and began to pray.

“A teacher saw her and told her, ‘you’re not allowed to do that,’” he said.

Perez said his little girl replied, “But it’s good to pray.” The teacher alleged replied, “It’s not good.”

He said his daughter tried to pray once more but was admonished by the teacher. The child was not formally punished, he said.

“She’s a really good girl and if there are rules, she follows them,” he said. “She knows the biblical values we are raising her with. She was really conflicted but she wanted to submit to the authority.”

Perez said he and his wife were so upset over the incident they sat down with a video camera and had their daughter recount what happened. They posted the video to YouTube. And they also tried to reassure their daughter that she had done nothing wrong.

As we noted this morning, school officials are denying the incident took place, but now that the story is gaining some national attention, local media outlets have begun reporting on it and revealing interesting things ... such as the fact that this young girl's father, Marcos Perez, just so happens to be the Vice President of Sales at the Christian publishing house that is publishing Todd Starnes' next book:

School officials have not interviewed the girl, who has been pulled from kindergarten at Carillon by her parents, who said they intend to home school her.

Her father is vice president of sales at Charisma House, a Lake Mary-based Christian book publisher. The company is currently promoting the book "God Less America: Real Stories from the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values," by Todd Starnes.

Just last month, Charisma House issued a press release that featured none other than Perez promoting Starnes' forthcoming book:

“We are highly anticipating the release of God Less America,” said Marcos Perez, vice president of sales at Charisma House. “From a sales standpoint, we believe this contest will engage our partnering bookstores and add to the momentum that is already building for this book release.”

FOX News commentator Todd Starnes’s highly anticipated book God Less America(FrontLine/Charisma House) uses both recent news stories and compelling interviews with today’s top conservative leaders to bring to light what is happening across our country. In his award-winning, satire-meets-serious writing style he strikes an important blow in today’s culture wars.

What are the chances that one month before Starnes' book, in which he seeks to catalog just how religious liberty is being squashed in America, is released, an incident like this takes place that perfectly exemplifies the very thing that Starnes' book claims to chronicle? 

Even more amazingly, it just happens to involve the daughter of the very man responsible for promoting Starnes' book!

What an amazing coincidence!

The Religious Right's Never-Ending Campaign To Gin Up Tales Of Victimization Rolls On

Last week, a video was posted on YouTube featuring a five year-old girl telling her parents that she was told by a "lunchroom teacher" at Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo, Florida that she was not allowed to pray before eating her lunch.

When the little girl responded that "it's good to pray," she claims that she was told "it's not good" and was prevented from praying.

Naturally, after the video was posted on-line, serial fabricator Todd Starnes picked it up and turned it into a column while the Family Research Council featured the story in its daily email. On top of that, attorneys from the Religious Right legal group Liberty Institute are now representing the parents and will hold a press conference today:

Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys invites all working media to attend a press availability with Mr. Perez, Tuesday, April 1, at 3:30 PM ET on the sidewalk by the sign outside of Carillon Elementary School, 3200 Lockwood Blvd., Oviedo, FL. 

"Of course, students can pray at school!" said Dys.  "As the Supreme Court held over half a century ago: Students do not 'shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.'  The school is in violation of Department of Education guidelines that specifically protect this type of prayer, and thus could jeopardize its federal funding."

The Perez Family cited this offense to their daughter's religious liberty as the most immediate reason to remove their daughter from the public education system. "Mainly because of this incident, we have exercised our option as parents to teach our daughter at home," said Marcos Perez.  "We live in a very good school district, but we cannot, in good conscience, send our daughter to a school where her religious liberty has been compromised."

All the attention is now generating some local media coverage and, as usually happens in these sorts of cases where Religious Right activists gin up some tale of supposed anti-Christian persecution, school officials are saying the incident never happened:

Michael Lawrence told Local 6 that the principal spoke with staff members in the cafeteria at the time of the incident and said no one recalled having any contact with the child.

"The situation as stated by the parent has not occurred according to the school's investigation," said Michael Lawrence, communications officer for Seminole County Schools. "We're dealing with very young children here so there's quite a bit of an opportunity for miscommunication to occur. The timing and the issues were very odd considering that the first thing that happened was that a video was done, it was on YouTube."

...

Lawrence said the lunchroom is not under video surveillance and the alleged incident was not recorded. Lawrence also added that the school district allows children to pray on campus anytime.

"If a student wishes to pray at lunch to herself we do not have a policy against that," said Lawrence. He said the principal will remind staff members that prayer in school is OK.

...

School board member Amy Lockhart told Local 6 the incident cannot be confirmed.

"However, that being said I would be greatly disturbed to find that any Seminole County Public School student had their individual liberties infringed upon in this manner by one of our staff members," said Lockhart. "The freedom to pray when, where and how one chooses is a foundational freedom of our great nation."

If this seems familiar, that is probably because it sounds a lot like the tale of Raymond Raines, a two decade-old myth about a young boy who had supposedly been sentenced to a week of detention for simply praying before eating his lunch in the cafeteria of an elementary school in St. Louis that Religious Right activists still cite today even though it is totally false.

Update: In a totally unsurprising development, The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the girl's father, Marcos Perez, just so happens to be the VP of sales at the Christian publishing house that is publishing Todd Starnes' forthcoming book:

School officials have not interviewed the girl, who has been pulled from kindergarten at Carillon by her parents, who said they intend to home school her.

Her father is vice president of sales at Charisma House, a Lake Mary-based Christian book publisher. The company is currently promoting the book "God Less America: Real Stories from the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values," by Todd Starnes.

Florida Puts Hold on Voter Purge, North Carolina Lifts the Veil on Voter ID Law

When we last checked in with the controversial Florida voter purge, advocates and media alike were speculating over what route Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner would take in 2014, with Detzner's office considering comparing its voter records with the US Department of Homeland Security's federal citizenship database known as Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE). Now we know: the purge is off for 2014. Also this week, in North Carolina US Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake ruled that lawmakers must release correspondence related to the formation of the state's new voter ID law, saying that though some records might be shielded, many are considered public.
PFAW

Rubio's Delay Increases Urgency of Florida Judicial Nominations

Early this year, President Obama nominated Judge Beth Bloom, Judge Darrin P. Gayles, Judge Carlos Eduardo Mendoza, and Paul G. Byron to the Southern and Middle District Courts of Florida. Of the four vacancies in the Southern District, three have been declared judicial emergencies. The situation in Florida is so dire that even if every vacancy were to be filled tomorrow, it would not be enough to take care of the courts’ growing workloads. In fact, the Judicial Conference has requested a number of new judgeships for the state, including:

• 5 new judgeships for the Middle District, plus a temporary judgeship; and
• 3 new judgeships for the Southern District, plus the conversion of a temporary judgeship to a permanent position.

It is imperative that these nominations be confirmed swiftly; the Senate’s delays in confirming nominees translate to delays for Floridians waiting for their day in court.

Sen. Marco Rubio stated on NPR last month that he did “not anticipate having any objection to moving forward on any of [President Obama’s] nominees” for the district courts in Florida. In fact, the nominees were recommended by Sen. Rubio, along with Sen. Bill Nelson, based upon the recommendations of a bipartisan committee the two senators put together. Yet to date Sen. Rubio –unlike Sen. Nelson—has not signed the “blue slips” the Senate Judiciary Committee customarily requires before nominees are given a committee hearing. This is cause for some concern in light of Sen. Rubio’s refusal last year to sign off on other Florida nominees to seats that he himself had recommended.

Rubio’s slow-walking of his “blue slips” comes in the context of the GOP obstruction that has needlessly delayed the confirmation of most Obama nominees. After committee approval, President Obama’s district court nominees have been forced to wait an average of three times longer for a confirmation vote than President George W. Bush’s at this point in his presidency. Obama’s circuit court nominees are forced to wait nearly two months longer than Bush’s. This slowing down of the process seems completely gratuitous and politically motivated since the overwhelming majority of Obama’s judicial nominees have been confirmed unanimously or near-unanimously.

The current nominees are also important because they represent much-needed diversity in the federal courts. Gayles, for example, would be the first openly gay African-American man on the federal bench. However, with Rubio’s history of unfavorable treatment of previous nominees he has recommended, there is little expectation that he will help move this nomination process forward any faster. Gayles is up for the same seat to which William Thomas, also an openly gay African American man, was nominated in November 2012, a nomination that Rubio sabotaged.

Some were expecting these four Florida nominees (who were nominated in early February) to have their committee hearings this week, but because Rubio has not submitted his blue slips, that will not happen.

We join advocacy groups in Florida in urging Rubio to help get the state’s nominees confirmed as soon as possible.
 

PFAW

Florida Senate Committee Takes Up Voting Rights Bill

SPB 7068 – which cleared a procedural hurdle on March 10 and is expected to come back before the Committee later this month – addresses a number of issues, including the use of certain drop-off locations for the submission of absentee ballots. Last year, Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued a directive against the use of some drop-off sites, such as tax collector offices and county library branches, despite their use in Pinellas County since 2008.
PFAW

Rubio and Sessions Can Prevent Delay of Critical 11th Circuit Vote

Get ready. There’s more Republican obstruction on the way.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on 11th Circuit nominee Robin S. Rosenbaum for this Thursday, which is an important step forward in the fight to address our judicial vacancy crisis. Fully a third of the 11th Circuit’s twelve active judgeships are currently vacant, and all four of its empty slots have been declared judicial emergencies by the Administrative Offices of U.S. Courts.

The vacancy crisis in the 11th Circuit is so bad that the court’s chief judge, Edward Carnes, issued an order in December temporarily suspending the standard rule that at least two judges on a three-judge 11th Circuit panel must be members of that court. That means that going forward, two of three judges on these panels could be visiting from someplace else, potentially outvoting the one 11th Circuit judge. It is vital that Judge Rosenbaum be confirmed in a timely manner. And that starts with a timely committee vote.

But it’s unlikely that’s enough reason for GOP Senators to drop their campaign of endless delays for judicial nominations.

Republicans are expected to delay that committee vote using a procedural tactic that they have deployed against all but five of President Obama’s judicial nominees.

That is, unless Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Jeff Sessions steps in.

Rosenbaum is from Florida, which gives Rubio a special responsibility to urge Republican senators on the committee not to delay the vote. It is a chance for him to prioritize his constituents over politics. Similarly, Sessions, who represents a state (Alabama) covered by the 11th Circuit, also has a unique responsibility, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, to avoid such needless delay.

Will either Rubio or Sessions step up and help move the process in a more functional direction? We’ll learn on Thursday, but if past events are a predictor of future behavior, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
 

PFAW

Public Turning Against the Private Prison Racket

PFAW’s 2012 report, “Predatory Privatization: Exploiting Financial Hardship, Enriching the One Percent, Undermining Democracy,” included a section titled, “The Pernicious Private Prison Industry.” We reported that across the country, private prisons were often violent, poorly run facilities that put prisoners, employees and communities at risk even while failing to deliver on promised savings to taxpayers. But state legislators, encouraged by ALEC and by private prison interests’ lobbying and campaign expenditures, continued to turn prisons over to private corporations, often with contract provisions that acted as incentives for mass incarceration.

A new story in Politico Magazine, “The Private Prison Racket” comes to the same conclusions. “Companies that manage prisons on our behalf have abysmal records,” says author Matt Stroud. “So why do we keep giving them our business?”

The Politico story slams “bed mandates” – guarantees given by states to private companies to keep prisons full.  Contracts like that build in incentives for governments to lock people up – and punish states financially when they try to reduce prison populations.

Politicians are taking notice. Last month, In the Public Interest reported that reality has turned the tide against private prisons: “Coast-to-coast, governments are realizing that outsourcing corrections to for-profit corporations is a bad deal for taxpayers, and for public safety.” The dispatch cited problems with private prisons in states as diverse as Arizona, Vermont, Texas, Florida, and Idaho, where Gov. Butch Otter, a “small government” conservative, announced last month that the state would take control of the Idaho Correctional Center back from private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America due to rampant violence, understaffing, gang activity, and contract fraud.

But the huge private prison industry is not going away anytime soon. As In the Public Interest notes:

All of this momentum does not suggest the imminent death of the for-profit prison industry. Some states, including California and West Virginia, are currently gearing up to send millions more to these companies. But the past year has been a watershed moment, and we are heading in the right direction. In light of these developments, these states would be wise to look to sentencing reform to reduce populations, rather than signing reckless outsourcing contracts.

The arguments against private prisons are myriad and compelling. Promised savings end up as increased costs. Lockup quotas force taxpayers to guarantee profits for prison companies through lock up quotas hidden in contracts. They incentivize mass incarceration while discouraging sentencing reform in an era when crime rates are plummeting.

But more than anything else, the reality of the disastrous private prison experiment has turned the public against the industry.

 

PFAW

Liberty Counsel: Obama 'Destroying The Judiciary' With Black, 'Practicing Homosexual' Judicial Nominee

This week, President Obama nominated five people to federal judgeships in Florida and New Jersey. Three of these nominees are already judges; two are accomplished attorneys. But what is more relevant to the right-wing Liberty Counsel is that, according to the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow, “among the nominees are four African Americans, one of them homosexual.” (That's not actually true: one of the nominees is African American, one is Latino, and three are white).

Liberty Counsel head Mat Staver told OneNewsNow today that these judicial picks show “ideological bankruptcy” on the part of a president who is “destroying the judiciary.”

"So he gets a black man, who is a practicing homosexual, and now he wants to put this individual in an appointment for life on the federal bench," Staver lamented, referring apparently to Darrin P. Gayes, a state circuit judge in Florida who Obama nominated to a federal district court.

At no point in the article does Staver or OneNewsNow touch on the nominee’s qualifications, other than to note vaguely that “all five nominees are considered liberals.”

Among the nominees are four African Americans, one of them homosexual, and the final one is white.

Mat Staver, who heads Liberty Counsel, tells OneNewsNow the president is reaching out to two communities.

"So he gets a black man, who is a practicing homosexual, and now he wants to put this individual in an appointment for life on the federal bench," Staver advises.

He refers to the situation as "ideological bankruptcy."

Why?

President Obama is "destroying the judiciary because, when he leaves office in 2016, these judges will be around for 20 to 40 years," says the Liberty Counsel attorney. "That is going to be a bad legacy that Obama will leave behind that we'll all have to deal with in the aftermath."

Earlier this year, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio succeeded in torpedoing the nomination of William Thomas, a Florida state judge who was also openly gay and African-American. Rubio also blocked another African-American nominee, Brian Davis, for months before local activists pressured him to let the nomination go forward.

GOP Candidate Who Wants To Hang Obama Also Wants Democratic Congressmen Tried For Treason

Joshua Black, a Republican politician who hopes that President Obama will be hanged for treason, said in an interview with Renew America’s Sher Zieve today that all Democratic politicians should be prepared for such a fate after the second American Revolution.

Black said that Democrats hope to “make us their slaves” and “eagerly sought the death penalty for George W. Bush.”

He added that a bill backed by eight Democratic congressmen to end the death penalty in treason cases is proof that “they know that they could face these charges themselves – if there is a full revolution in America – and they want to leave an opening for them to return to power after people have forgotten their atrocities, ala Nelson Mandela.”

1) The president, when he was a candidate, fought hard for foreigners suspected of terrorism to have their day in court. But, when suspicions arose about the activities of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen living in Yemen at the time, the President merely authorized two separate drone strikes against him and his teenage son, a direct violation of the 14th Amendment.

2) When civil war began to engulf Libya, the President – along with the international community – sent arms and air strikes to assist the rebels on the ground. Little did the American people know that these rebels were flying the flag of al-Qaeda, our enemy in the War on Terror. This is exactly the definition of Treason that the Constitution describes in Article III, the penalty for which, as you well noted and every single politician knows, has been hanging since the Act of Congress, in accordance with the authority given in that same Article, established said penalty.

3) The president has supplied drug gangs with weapons, through Operation Fast and Furious, another direct act of treason (aren't we fighting a "War on Drugs"?) That resulted in the death of at least one American border patrol agent.

There are many more, but those should suffice.

As for the Democrats, their move to lessen the penalty for treason is hypocritical, considering they have eagerly sought the death penalty for George W. Bush for war crimes, Bradley Manning for aiding the enemy, and Eric Snowden for espionage. I think that they know that they could face these charges themselves – if there is a full revolution in America – and they want to leave an opening for them to return to power after people have forgotten their atrocities, ala Nelson Mandela.



In fact, our founding fathers learned from history and the Bible, because they put into place ways of removing unjust officials and bringing them to justice with minimal blood shed [sic]. Impeachment (for the President and all unelected federal officials) and expulsion (for congress) allows us to correct errors and mitigate deceit and wrongdoing in government. Ultimately, though, the People are still in charge. This nation will only be as conservative, free, or just as its People want to be. That's why we all need to be more vigilant to protect ourselves from criminal politicians who would make us their slaves. We do not exist to make them comfortable. They exist to do the jobs that We the People created for them in the Constitution, nothing more, nothing less.

Zieve, for her part, commended Black and claimed he is being persecuted:

However, as the penalty for treason in the USA is still death by hanging for this highest of crimes against the US Republic, Joshua logically agreed with him. However, logic and its conclusions no longer appear to play much of a part – if any – in the now 'brave new world' of dumbed-down-by-the-media-and-government-school-system people who inhabit the United States of America. In November 2014, we shall see whether or not these individuals constitute a majority and whether or not conservatives opt – again – not to vote and, instead, hand our country lock, stock and barrel over to those who are salivating at the prospect of using brute force and violence to subjugate the American people as the Obama/New World Order Police State begins to grow exponentially.

In the meantime, after interviewing him, I found Joshua Black to be one of those intelligent and articulate Constitutional conservatives who made up the majority of our founders and one whom We-the-People need in order to wrest our country back from those who are leading us to abject ruin. I trust you will find him as capable and interesting as do I.

Rubio Unconvincingly Explains Why He Blocked Openly Gay African-American Judicial Nominee

Earlier this month, the White House returned to the Senate 54 federal judicial nominees who Senate Republicans had refused to vote on in the previous year. But one nominee was conspicuously absent from that list: Judge William Thomas, a Florida state judge who had been nominated to sit on a federal trial court.

At first, Thomas’ nomination seemed like a slam dunk: He is an experienced, respected judge who was nominated in 2012 with the support of both of Florida’s senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio. He also would have been the first openly gay black man to sit on the federal bench.

Then, mysteriously, Rubio changed his mind. Taking advantage of a Senate Judiciary Committee policy that allows any senator to block a committee hearing on any nominee from his or her home state, Rubio unilaterally refused to allow a hearing on Thomas. For months, the senator refused to explain why he was blocking Thomas’ nomination, until finally this summer a spokesperson cited “questions about [the nominee’s] judicial temperament and his willingness to impose appropriate criminal sentences.”

Rubio’s office provided two examples of instances in which they believed that Thomas didn’t impose “appropriate criminal sentences.” In both cases, Thomas imposed the highest sentence sought by the prosecution; in both cases, prosecutors praised his handling of the trials. Rubio's staff also claimed that in one of those cases, a grisly murder trial, Thomas “broke down in tears” when sentencing the defendant to death; news reports make clear that the judge's tears came when he was describing the brutal crime. As Chris Hayes put it, none of these complaints “pass the smell test.”

Now, finally, Rubio himself has gone on the record for the first time about why he blocked Thomas’ nomination. In an interview with Michael Putney, political reporter for the Miami-area Local 10 news, Rubio, looking visibly uncomfortable, repeats his office’s talking points about the two criminal cases they allege Judge Thomas imposed insufficiently harsh sentences in. “We are looking for judges that can accurately apply the law, particularly at the federal level,” Rubio said, never quite explaining how Thomas failed to do that.

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This isn’t the first time that Rubio has blocked a Florida judicial nominee for less than convincing reasons. Rubio similarly changed his mind about Florida nominee Brian Davis – who is also African-American – at the behest of Sen. Chuck Grassley . Under pressure from local activists, Rubio eventually changed his mind again and allowed Davis’ nomination to go forward.

As Hayes said, it seems like the most likely explanation is that Judge Thomas was merely an “innocent bystander” in Rubio’s desperate race to win back the right-wing support he lost during his short-lived advocacy for immigration reform – an effort that so far isn’t panning out so well.

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