Another War of Jenkins' Ear

Resist The Pointless

Archive for October 2009

Why Are Private Prisons Bad, You Ask?

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Like many important topics, the rise in private prisons in the United States is grossly under-discussed.  There are many good arguments against private prisons – one of which is corruption.  The argument goes: if operating a prison is done for profit, then the nature of the ever-hunger profit beast could adversely impact the administration of justice.  This concern was recently brought to life in Pennsylvania, where the state Supreme Court just “vacated the convictions of all juveniles that appeared before former Judge Mark Ciavarella” between 2003 and 2008.

Why would the state Supreme Court do such a thing?  Well, you see Ciavarella accepted $2.8 million from the owner of two juvenile detention centers, where he sentenced youths.  Ciavarella is currently awaiting trial after being charged with accepting the money “in exchange for rulings that impacted the operation and construction of the two centers.  Regardless of how many juveniles were affected by this, this is pretty awful.  Worse yet is the staggering number of impacted cases – 6,500.

Of the nearly 1.7 million prisoners in the United States, a bit over 100,000 are currently held in private prisons.  For some bizarre reason, demand for private prisons continues to escalate and the industry is expected to continue growing.  The most common argument in favor of private prisons is that they’ll save costs.  However, a 2004 DOJ study debunked this claim.

So, to recap…private prisons don’t save money.  Instead, they increase risks of escape, are often poorly run, and inject new types of corruption into our criminal justice system.  Sigh.


Written by Angelo

October 31, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Law

Tagged with ,

CNN: We’re Not Paying Attention

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CNN: New website, same old ineptitude.


CNN thinks the race in the New York 23rd hold “little national interest” and that Palin is taking some strange tact by endorsing Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman over the GOP candidate.

Well, here’s a list of national figures who have endorsed in the NY 23rd: Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Tom Cole, Jim DeMint, Dana Rohrabacher, Tim Pawlenty, Fred Thompson, Rick Santorum, Steve Forbes, Michelle Bachmann, sort of Mike Huckabee, John Linder, the New York Post editorial page, Michael Barone, and Todd Tiahrt. And all but Gingrich endorsed Hoffman.

Moreover, Hoffman on his website has audio clips of him on three popular (unfortunately so, but still) conservative radio shows: Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh.

Yet, to CNN, there is “little national attention” on this race, and it is only a referendum on Palin. This makes literally no sense whatsoever if you pay more than 5 minutes attention to politics per day.

Written by John Whitehouse

October 28, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Posted in News Media, Politics

Tagged with , ,

FEC Decides Against Promulgating Regulations On Candidate Debates

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The FEC recently disposed of two (fairly old) petitions regarding regulations of candidate debates.

Both petitions concerned FEC debate regulation at 11 CFR 110.13(c), which states in part:

Criteria for candidate selection. For all debates, staging organization(s) must use pre-established objective criteria to determine which candidates may participate in a debate. (emphasis added)

A petition filed in 1999 by three individuals argued that the FEC should be the entity that creates the objective criteria – not the organization holding the debate.  Accordingly:

“the petition urges the Commission to revise section 110.13(c) to set forth mandatory criteria for participation in Presidential and Vice Presidential debates.”

Another petition filed in 2002 by several news organizations argued that 110.13(c) is unconstitutional.  Accordingly, they requested either a repeal of 110.13(c), or for it to be amended so that it:

“explicitly declare[s] that sponsorship of a candidate debate by a news organization or a related trade association is legal under the Act and to refrain from any further regulatory jurisdiction over such sponsorship.”

The FEC received about a 1000 comments on the 1999 petition; most of which were in favor of the FEC establishing the criteria for participation in the Presidential & Vice-Presidential debates.  By contrast, the FEC only received one comment in favor of the 2002 news organization petition.

The FEC rejected both petitions.  But, not on the merits.  Rather, the FEC rejected the petitions because, well, too much time has passed.  I’m not sure this is a good enough reason, it seems more like they’re just kicking the can, which is understandable given how overwhelmed the FEC is and how complicated this particular issue could become.

I’ll refrain from a detailed discussion of the legal merits of each petition.  But, for the record, I don’t subscribe fully to either petition.  On the one hand, I recognize the need for the FEC to regulate more in this particular arena.  On the other hand, I am sensitive to the constitutional issues that arise when the government regulates the press’ ability to host candidate debates and interviews.

That said, I certainly don’t have a problem with the FEC establishing some type of threshold that if satisfied by a third party presidential ticket would guarantee them a spot in the debates.  This position is based largely on the fact that the presidential debates are currently coordinated by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).  The CPD is a private organization jointly operated by the Republican and Democratic Parties.  Thus, I am concerned about allowing them full control over access to the debates.  If the CPD suddenly wasn’t running the debates, my aforementioned opinion might be different.

[N.B. The news organizations that filed the petition were ABC, CBS, NBC, Belo Corp, Cox Enterprises, Gannett, National Association of Broadcasters, News American Incorporated, The NY Times, Post-Newsweek Stations, Radion and Television News Directors Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, and Tribune Company.]

Written by Angelo

October 23, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Posted in Law, Politics

Tagged with ,

This is Minnesota Nice

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How funny is this story? Especially the picture below. Now I just need to see a serious news anchor cover it.


Written by John Whitehouse

October 22, 2009 at 1:08 pm

In Which I Blog About Barbies

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I promise you, this is worth m attention.

Anyways, CNN is tackling the response to Black Barbies:

It's Not About Black Enough, It's About Sending a Message

It's Not About Black Enough, It's About Sending a Message

They frame their story in terms of “filling a void for young African American girls” as if criticizing Mattel here will make the First Daughters sad. Please.

The problem with the old Barbie was not that it didn’t “fill enough voids” but that it was a ridiculous caricature of women and created a false ideal. Part of that was the white skin. Other parts were the ridiculous proportions, etc. I’m sure someone on the internet has done a better writeup on the problems of Barbie than I could.

The point is that there should be black dolls because a significant partof American girls and women are black. That’s it. That’s the reason. And for the same reason, there should be Hispanic dolls, Asian dolls, etc. This is not Hitler’s Germany. A multicultural approach is a fundamental part of America. And not just for marketing, though I think there is a convenient overlap in this instance. (By ways of comparison, if there was a niche doll shop in some really white area of the country that made white dolls, I don’t think anyone would complain about them. The sheer market presence of companies like Mattel imposes social responsibilities, whether they like it or not.

It’s curious, therefore, that we can all discuss the social responsibility of a company that makes dolls, but  if we discuss the social responsibility of companies actively dumping millions of pounds of pollutants into rivers in just a single state, then it’s just the creazy green people talking. There are similar instances in every field. Why aren’t banks held to account the way Mattel is? Why do we place a higher standard on the social norms of toymakers than we do of people and companies actively shaping the world we live in? It’s a question I hope to come back to, but I hope if you read this much, you ask it yourself. I don’t think there’s a good answer.

Written by John Whitehouse

October 21, 2009 at 3:14 pm

A Look Ahead…

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Couple posts on the horizon. Here’s a look ahead:

  • Glenn Beck continues to lose sponsors. Watch out for updates to the list of dropped/remaining sponsors as well as new action alerts. Done. You can see the updated list here.
  • In case you haven’t heard, electronic voting machine giant ES&S recently acquired Diebold’s electronic voting machine division.  This acquisition will give ES&S control of approximately 75% of voting machines in the United States.  Recently, the Senate Rules & Administration Committee announced an investigation into the merger.
  • A primer on Afghanistan.
  • A survey of 2009 ballot measures dealing with gay issues.

Written by Angelo

October 20, 2009 at 9:14 am

Posted in Random

Conservatives: No More Zero Tolerance!

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That seems to be the message here:


I don’t imagine they care to push back against zero tolerance in cases where there is an alleged crime that doesn’t hurt someone else that involves, say, drugs? Didn’t think so.

Written by John Whitehouse

October 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Posted in News Media

Tagged with , , ,