Connecticut State

Connecticut Abolishes Death Penalty

On Wednesday, the Connecticut legislature voted to repeal the states death penalty. After a 10 hour debate, the Connecticut House voted 86-62 in favor of the repeal. Lawmakers have been working for years to get rid of the death penalty in the state. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is expected to sign the legislation into law. Connecticut will become the 17th state to outlaw the death penalty.

Prisoners will face life in prison without the possibility of release in place of the death penalty. The death penalty has long been a controversial topic. It brings up several moral and economical conundrums. Those who oppose the method claim it is inhumane. They try to argue that it should be unconstitutional since the documents outlaws cruel and unusual punishment.

The bigger problem is that sometimes innocent people are executed. This was a major problem in the middle of the last century, especially for minorities who did not get a fair shake in the legal system. DNA testing has helped drastically reduce this problem. However, even with this new technology we cant be sure that we always get it right.

There are major economic implications to the death penalty discussion as well. If you abolish the death penalty and choose to imprison the guilty party for the rest of their life it comes at a great monetary cost to society. Housing prisoners is not cheap. The United States already imprisons more of its population than any other industrialized nation. Adding more members to the club is not going to help the countries debt problems.

I believe the death penalty is necessary in some cases. There should be no argument against the punishment when a murderer admits to committing the crime in cold blood. Those who commit premeditated murder do not belong in our society. Why should be pay to house, feed, and give them healthcare for the rest of their lives?

In my personal opinion, life in prison is a more cruel punishment than the death penalty. You do not have to watch to many episodes of Oz or Lockup to know prison is a bad place. People almost always come out of prison worse off than they went in. Ive never understood why people think life in prison is more humane than the death penalty.

Given the imperfections that are inherent in our legal system, I do believe the death penalty should only be used in cases where there is no doubt about a prisoners guilt. If there is doubt, then a prison sentence is the correct punishment. Further evidence down the line could clear a prisoners name. We should not be executing people that could be innocent. Those that are admittedly guilty should pay the ultimate price.

clint eastwood

Clint Eastwood Revealed As Surprise Guest At Republican Convention

Republicans have been touting a surprise guest to be revealed at tonights convention, and we now know who it will be. Famed actor and director Clint Eastwood will be stopping by the Tampa Bay Times Forum to share a few words. Considered by many to be one of the greatest actors of all time, Eastwood is a registered Republican, but his political views spread all over the spectrum.

Eastwood once described himself as a mix between Noam Chomsky and Milton Friedman. In general, the actor is fiscally conservative but socially liberal, having supported same sex marriage and carrying a pro-choice philosophy on abortion. He has supported candidates from across the political landscape on both the left and the right. In 2008 he endorsed John McCain, and he is behind Mitt Romney this year.

The appearance is a stark turnaround from earlier in the year, when Eastwood invoked the anger of conservatives with an appearance in a commercial touting the US auto industrys comeback. Conservative media outlets criticized the commercial as almost being a campaign spot for President Obama. Eastwoods decision to appear at the Republican National Convention proves that was not the case. The actor was merely supporting an American industry, regardless of which party it was seen as benefiting. That is true patriotism.

net neutrality

Where the Candidates Stand on Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is one of the biggest issues with regards to the internet today. At the heart of the issues is how much control ISPs will be allowed to have over their networks. Each candidate has come out with a strong position on the matter, and whoever wins will have a drastic affect on the future of the internet.

Companies like ATT, Verizon, and Comcast want the power to determine the bandwidth speed of websites on their networks. As of now most data is treated equally in terms of bandwidth speed. The companies wish to be able to charge websites money for faster speeds, creating a new revenue stream. This would allow bigger websites to have a crucial advantage over start ups, and it would kill the level playing field we have today.

Net neutrality at its core is about treating all data equally. It essentially means that data discrimination should not be tolerated. The beauty of the internet is that anyone could start up a website that could become the next Google, or Amazon. If the big telecoms are able to pick winners and losers based on who has more money, then the internet will lose that competitive nature.

Barack Obama has been a propenent of Net Neutrality. Under his watch, the FCC has implemented Net Neutrality rules. These restrictions did not apply to wireless networks, though, a gaping loophole that in the future will be problematic as mobile internet is exploding in popularity. The issue is one that needs to be addressed in the future. Until it is, Obama can only be given a barely passing grade in regards to net neutrality.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has come down on the other side of the issue. The former Massachusetts governor strongly opposes net neutrality. According to Politico, Romney believes net neutrality will restrict ISPs, and that they alone should govern their networks. The governor has stated that he wants as little regulation of the internet as possible.

Romneys position falls into the general stereotype that Republicans are pro-business. This is a stance he states outright, as he sides with ATT and Verizon on the issues, and is in fact working with lobbyists from both companies on the issue.

In general it is a good idea to give businesses freedom to innovate and expand as much as possible. However, regulation also has a place in the market. We have the FDA to make sure the medicine made by drug companies does not harm us, and the EPA to make sure factories are not pumping toxic chemicals into the environment.

While the internet needs to be left as free as possible, it too is in need of some regulation, particularly when it comes to the principle of net neutrality. In this rare case, it is the industry itself that will be the cause of stifled innovation if data discrimination is not stopped. The important thing to remember is that net neutrality has been the way the internet has operated since the beginning, it is not a new concept. The big telecoms are only now trying to change that. Net neutrality aims to keep things as they are, and that should be something every internet user pushes for.

Racial

Forum to be Held on Hate Crimes and Racial Profiling

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have organized a forum to be held on Capitol Hill on racial profiling and hate crimes. The forum is in response to the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. At 2:00 PM today a news conference will be held with all of the participants. A briefing will then be held at 3:00 PM. The purpose of this forum is to discuss the role of the federal government in dealing with hate crimes and racial profiling.

The Congressional Black Caucus wants all Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee to attend. The forum is open to all, but it is doubtful that any Republican members will show up. According to the Huffington Post Trayvon Martins parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, will be in attendance. They will not be speaking at the forum, but their attorney, Benjamin Crump, will be testifying.

Others scheduled to testify are Daniel Gross (President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence), Rebecca Monroe (acting director of the Community Relations Service at the Justice Department), Ben Jealous (President and CEO of the NAACP), Robert Parker (former director of the Miami-Dade Police Department), Albert E. Dotson, Jr. (Chairman of 100 Black Men of America Inc), and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (Congressional Black Caucus Chairman).

The forum comes as the incident does not appear to be going away. Hundred turned out for a candle light vigil for Trayvon Martin in Pensacola, Florida on Monday. A CNN poll shows that a majority of American believe George Zimmerman should be arrested for shooting the 17 year old. The poll showed that 73% of Americans believe the man should be put on trial for the act. This super majority crosses racial and political lines. As news of Zimmermans minor criminal past have appeared, the outrage has grown.

Zimmerman has claimed self defense in the case, and Floridas Stand Your Ground law makes it legal to kill someone who you feel is threatening your well being. Stand Your Ground was signed into law in 2005 in Florida, with several other states having similar laws. Prior to its signing, when faced with a dangerous situation you were required to attempt to flee before using deadly force. The CNN polling indicated that 55% of Americans still support Stand Your Ground type laws, but support was divided along the gender line. Roughly 64% of males supported the law, while 52% of females opposed it.

The case is getting ugly down in Sanford, Florida where the shooting happened. At a rally attended by Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson, Martins father claims that Florida authorities are attempting to demonize his son and bolster George Zimmermans self defense case. It has been revealed that Trayvon was suspended for school the day he was shot for having trace amounts of marijuana in his backpack. The familys lawyer stated that the suspension was irrelevant to the murder case.

George Zimmermans

George Zimmermans Myspace Page Stirs Controversy

The Miami Herald has dug up some information from George Zimmermans Myspace page circa 2005. The paper found some derogatory statements about Mexicans in some of the 28 year olds postings. Zimmerman listed himself as Latino in the About Me section of the social networking site. You can read the statements he made below:

I dont miss driving around scared to hit mexicans walkin on the side of the street, soft ass wanna be thugs messin with peoples cars when they aint around (what are you provin, that you can dent a car when no ones watchin) dont make you a man in my book. Workin 96 hours to get a decent pay check, gettin knifes pulled on you by every mexican you run into!

Other postings made reference to his other legal troubles in the year 2005. He made a comment about the domestic violence charges against him being dropped. He also mentioned the assault charge on a police officer being downgrades.

These revelations come as his new attorney, Mark OMara, has taken control of his online presence. He had planned to wipe out all of his online data, including a website he had set up to raise money for his defense, but he changed his mind after he saw that Zimmermans website had raised over $200,000. The attorney has now set up a new site where people can donate to Zimmermans defense fund.

These latest revelations are only going to fuel the fire of those who believe the killing of Trayvon Martin was racially motivated. Zimmerman followed the boy through his neighborhood because he thought he looked suspicious. Given his statements on Myspace it would appear he had a history of racial profiling. While this does not make him guilty it will certainly be used against him in court.

Britney Woods Disappearance

Twist In Britney Woods Disappearance

The mystery surrounding Brittney Woods disappearance continues to deepen. She was last seen heading towards an uncles house who later committed suicide. Now, two other family members have been arrested for sex crimes. Officers said the crimes were horrific, and involved a female juvenile, according to Fox 10 News. Authorities are not yet sure these crimes have anything to do with Brittneys disappearance.

On Tuesday, deputies arrested Randall Scott Wood, another uncle of Brittneys. He is charged with sex abuse, sodomy, and incest. Dustin Alton Kent was the other relative arrested. More arrests are expected.

Brittneys cell phone was last detected in the Grand Bay area. Search crews began going door to door on Thursday passing out fliers in an attempt to locate the missing teen.

Authorities are looking into the possibility that the arrests could be connected with Brittneys disappearance. Her brother mentioned her possibly being scared and in hiding when he was interviewed earlier this month. If the charges against her family members turn out to be true, this could be the motivation she has to be in hiding.

In 2010, nearly 700,000 missing person reports were filed with the NCIC (National Crime Information Center). That was a decrease from the nearly 720,000 reports filed in 2009. Children and teenagers make up roughly half of all people reported missing.

budget pie

More Budget Woes For Alabama

Governor Robert Bentley is seeking to cut the Alabama budget by 25%. The Legislative Fiscal Office projects a $170 million shortfall in the Fiscal Year 2012 general fund and a $23 million deficit in the education fund. The two largest line items in the general fund are Corrections and Medicaid. Governor Bentley has promised not to cut any money from Corrections. Local school administrators have been warned to expect 3-5% cuts for Fiscal Year 2012.

Cuts in education and social programs are not going to help the budget long term. Cutting education spending is perhaps the worst way to handle long term budget problems. Alabama is perennially in the bottom ten states in the nation when it comes to graduation rate. Governor Bentley’s solution is to give more control on the local level. While this has worked well in our area, this is not the solution to the entire state’s problem.

The best way to fix the state budget is through a stronger economy. More jobs and more businesses mean more tax revenue for the state. Alabama’s unemployment rate has been dropping like the rest of the nation’s lately, but a nearly $200 million budget deficit means there is still some work to be done on the revenue side. Local governments could be of use here as we need more business friendly city councils spurring on entrepreneurs and not getting in the way. Local governments are far more likely to get in the way of small business than the federal government.

As reported in an earlier story, the Alabama Sentencing Commission is consider rule changes that would mean longer sentences and thus more prisoners. At a time when we are cutting our education budget we should not be growing our Corrections budget. Education may be the best crime fighting tool we have as multiple studies show the more education a person receives the less likely they are to commit a crime. By cutting education spending and upping Corrections spending it is as if the state is giving up on its own people.

It is important to be fiscally responsible, but we must not lose sight of our long term goals. We can not sacrifice the down payment on our future that is the education of our children. A better society is being built everyday across the country, and it is being built in the classroom.

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