Archive for October 1st, 2014

by lizard

Two years ago I had a friend who was facing felony charges for aggravated assault. The incident happened on a Tuesday and the Missoulian had no problem turning his case into a story TWO DAYS LATER, on a Thursday. The article was based on the “charging documents” and included his name. The case fell apart, but you never hear about that in our local paper of record.

If you are poor and unable to afford good legal representation, you are at the mercy of prosecutorial intimidation. From listening to my friend’s experience, I got a little peek into how the system can steam roll over economically disempowered individuals. It was disturbing.

The abuse of prosecutorial discretion got major attention nearly two years ago when Aaron Swartz committed suicide. The post-mortem did not cast the Justice Department’s despicable foot soldier, Carmen Ortiz, in a very favorable light. Here’s a bit of context from a NYT opinion piece:

At the funeral for 26-year-old tech prodigy Aaron Swartz, who hanged himself last Friday, his grief-stricken father said that “Aaron did not commit suicide—he was killed by the government.” Legal bloggers have been debating a less literal version of that accusation: Did Mr. Swartz’s prosecutors go too far? Did their zeal border on bullying?

A programmer who helped create RSS, Mr. Swartz was also a charismatic leader in the movement to make information free online. His dedication to that movement led him to try to “liberate” the database of more than 1,000 academic journals gathered by JSTOR and sold to universities, libraries and publishers. Over the course of a month or two in 2010 and 2011, he downloaded 4.8 million articles. He was arrested before he could carry out his plan. He turned over his hard drives and JSTOR chose not to sue him.

But the Justice Department, through United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz in Boston, charged him with computer fraud, wire fraud and several of other crimes. Announcing his indictment in 2011, the U.S. attorney’s office said, “If convicted on these charges, Swartz faces up to 35 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and a fine of up to $1 million.”

As Emily Bazelon wrote in Slate, “the causes of suicide are almost always complex, and Swartz suffered from depression.” On Wednesday, Ms. Ortiz released a statement extending her sympathy to “everyone who knew and loved” Mr. Swartz. She also defended herself by emphasizing that she had planned to recommend a sentence of six months at a low-security prison in exchange for his guilty plea.

With my friend, it was just some poor guy to be bullied into a plea agreement—an easy mark to add to the win column of an aspiring attorney. For Aaron Swartz, it was a higher profile legal war of choice to add to the win column of an aspiring attorney.

I’m juxtaposing these two examples of prosecutorial discretion (and media attention) because Christopher Hymel was shot and killed on September 1st. The young man who killed him still has yet to be named. The Missoula County Attorney’s Office has been examining the evidence for over a week.

And crickets.

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by lizard

CNN poses a question: after the first Ebola diagnosis in the United States, should we worry?

An additional question for Missoulians could be added, considering St. Pats in Missoula is one of four places in the United States set up to handle a patient sickened by the Ebola virus:

There are four places in the United States set up to handle a patient sickened by the Ebola virus, and Missoula is one of those.

It has been since 2007, in fact.

St. Patrick Hospital administrators have no notice about when or if they will be asked to care for someone stricken with the disease that’s killed more than 3,000 people in Africa in 2014. But the hospital has a special wing of its intensive care unit with three rooms modified to safely handle infectious diseases like Ebola.

“We may never get a patient, but we may someday,” said Carol Bensen, St. Patrick’s senior director for critical care. “We want to help alleviate the rumor mill by making people aware of what we offer. We deal with tuberculosis patients fairly often and nobody expects a press release. We care for lots of different diseases here.”

The potential for panic in America is high, mostly because we are constantly fed fear-based reporting by our corporate media. Fear of ISIS is one explicit example of how our fears are manipulated and exploited.

Hundreds of thousands of people die every year from heart disease and diabetes, a direct result of the crap food peddled to us by the corporate food-industrial complex, but fear over those medical conditions aren’t stoked because there is money to be made.

I’m not afraid of Ebola. I’m afraid of how Ebola will be used. I’m also a bit worried by the fact Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years:

The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, according to a new analysis. Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found.

“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.

“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.

Nope, not going to worry about that, right America? Instead the concern isn’t what we are doing to the planet, it’s about the Agenda 21 Communist plot lurking behind the measures necessary to keep our species from joining the ranks of the Dodo bird.




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