Tuesday, July 31, 2007

An Update Post and Guess How Much Coin Judge Judy Pulls?

For those of you who haven't heard of the Jena 6, please, please read the previous post. Thank you.

Jena 6 Update: Kelly and Diane have respectively mentioned (in the comments of the Jena 6 post) that NPR once again aired a news story on the Jena 6, and that the Jena 6 will finally see some prime time coverage on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. Also, the NAACP has joined to help defend the Jena 6. I believe today was supposed to be the day for an organized march in Jena in support of the Jena 6, but perhaps that got delayed or postponed because the sentencing of one of the Jena 6 has also been delayed. For more info check out this great piece from the Blogger News Network. Among the things it mentions is a recent forum in Jena organized by the DOJ. One would think the US Attorney for the region would be outraged, though diplomatically so. Unfortunately that's not the case. Check out the BNN piece, some of the quotes from the US Attorney are baffling.

Troy Davis Update: On the 4th of July I posted about Troy Davis who is on death row despite the strong case that he is innocent, and certainly deserves (at the very least) a new trial. For more info, check out that post. Once again I must state that I learned about the plight of Troy Davis thanks to the wonderful Yllwdaisies who blogged about it. Well, the supercool Yllwdaisies has posted an update. Less than 24 hours before his execution date, Troy Davis was granted a stay of execution. Unfortunately this stay lasts a maximum of 90 days. The stay was granted on July 16. For those of you who feel, as I do, that Troy Davis is living a nightmarish injustice, please take action asking the Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles to take further action on his behalf. Thank you. (Once again special thanks to Yllwdaisies for posting about this.)

I've mentioned wrongful convictions before and I truly feel it is an incredibly important issue. I really cannot under stress it. Anyway, I just wanted to link to a recent case in which 4 men were awarded $102 million dollars for being framed by the FBI and spending over 30 years in prison. Unfortunately, 2 of the men died in prison. While the award is a pittance compared to what the men endured, it does roughly come out to $1 million dollars for every year sentenced. Unfortunately this type of compensation is rare in wrongful convictions. Currently, only 22 states even have compensation statutes. Though even these vary from state to state. Some include stipulations invalidating compensation for those wrongfully convicted by coerced confessions. There is also no fixed sum or range of sum for compensation. Recently, Congress and the President recommended $50k for every year of false imprisonment, and an additional $50k (so $100k total) for every year on death row. Let me reiterate that this is only a recommendation and the 22 states that due have compensation statues vary in their sum/range numbers. I'm not sure about you, but if I was wrongfully incarcerated I'd be demanding a lot more than $50k a year, and way more than $100k a year for being on death row. There are also many other issues such as public acknowledgement of the wrongful conviction, some states have inmates waive their right to sue in order to take a DNA test or do not expunge their record, as well as job and life training to catch up for lost time. As you may have guessed, I summarized the above (regarding post-wrongful conviction issues) from the Innocence Project. They have a great section dedicated to such an important topic of the wrongful conviction issue. For those interested, please check it out (it's actually a quick read, though you might be dumbfounded by some of the facts presented).

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This is a bit random, but I had to share it. The other day Reuters posted a list of the top salaries on television. Before I begin, I must ask, how much do you think Judge Judy makes a year? The mighty Harpo of course took the top spot with a whopping $260 million. This might be a little bit out of context since she owns/produces the show, but yeah, this seems to be just her profit from the show (not including the parts of the empire: magazine, Dr. Phil, merchandise, radio, etc) -- scary. In second place is Simon Cowell from American Idol who brings in $45 million a year. Cowell also does some "producing" (music and otherwise) so I'm not sure if the entire sum is for his appearance as a judge, but it is probably safe to say much of it is. Once again pretty scary. And in third place we have, that's right people, Judge Judy herself. Believe it or not, Judge Judy takes down $30 million a year. I'm not sure what her off-camera duties are, if she owns the show like Oprah or what, but no matter how this is drawn up, it's still $30 freakin' million dollars. Wow, Judge Judy pulls down more than A-Rod.

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure which of the three is the most shocking.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Jena 6

I like to consider myself an informed individual. And yet I had never heard of the Jena 6 until a few days ago when I was lucky enough to receive an informative email from ColorOfChange.org. I'm not sure how many of you have heard of the Jena 6, but for those of you who have not, please brace yourself. Before I continue, I just have to state that it is an absolute travesty of justice, and an ignominious mark on this great nation that the story of the Jena 6 is not leading network and cable news. That a socialite's jail saga has received N times the media attention the Jena 6 have, is something beyond unfathomable.

I believe the best way to tell the story of the Jena 6 is by simply cutting and pasting the email I received from ColorOfChange.org. The email has links to other sources and I highly recommend reading them as well. I will also cut and paste a couple quotes from these other sources below the email.

Dear V.,

Last fall in Jena, Louisiana, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."1

A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in "their place"--but it's happening today. The families of these young men are fighting back, but the odds are stacked against them. Together, we can make sure their story is told, that this becomes an issue for the Governor of Louisiana, and that justice is provided for the Jena 6. It starts now. Please add your voice:


The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were arrested for the theft of the gun.2

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.3

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. Bail was set so high -- between $70,000 and $138,000 -- that the boys were left in prison for months as families went deep into debt to release them.4

The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.

Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31st, and could go to jail for 22 years.5 Theo Shaw's trial is next. He will finally make bail this week.

The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone, their sons will be a long time coming home. They will lose precious years to Jena's outrageous attempt to maintain a racist status quo. But if we act now, we can make a difference.

Please add your voice to the voices of these families in Jena, and help bring Mychal, Theo, Robert, Carwin, and Bryant home. By clicking below, you can demand that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the 5 boys who have not yet gone to trial.


Thank You and Peace,

-- James, Van, Gabriel, Clarissa, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
July 17th, 2007


1. "Injustice in Jena as Nooses Hang From the ‘White Tree,'" truthout, July 3, 2007

2. "Racial demons rear heads," Chicago Tribune, May 20, 2007

3. See reference #1.

4. See reference #1.

5. "'Jena Six' defendant convicted," Town Talk, June 29, 2007

Other resources:

NPR: Searching for Justice in Jena 6 Case (streaming audio)

Democracy Now! - The case of the Jena Six ...

Too Sense: Free The Jena Six Now

While Seated: Jena Six

Nooses, attacks and jail for black students in Jena Louisiana

Justice In Jena, by Jordan Flaherty

The Perpetrator becomes the Prosecutor (and other related entries)

'Stealth racism' stalks deep South

I also recommend reading the Chicago Tribune's report on the Jena 6.

Bill Quigley, a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, has written an insightful piece on the Jena 6 for truthout.org. It is a great piece with incredible quotes that illustrate the type of community Jena is:

Whites in the community were adamant that there is no racism. "We don't have a problem," according to one. Other locals told the media, "We all get along," and "most blacks are happy with the way things are." One person even said, "We don't have many problems with our blacks."

For those who like to listen to their news, check out NPR's report on the Jena 6. Another reminder that the best radio and tv news reporting is usually public broadcasting.

Illustrating that our network/cable tv news are not only lacking in international coverage but also in domestic coverage, the BBC aired a news program on the Jena 6. Here's a great quote from the article also illustrating the type of community:

Billy Doughty, the local barber, has never cut a black man's hair. But he does not think there is a racism problem in Jena.

Caseptla Bailey (her son Robert is one of the Jena 6) who is 56 and a former Air Force officer, has a degree in business management, but she cannot get a job as a bank teller. She lives in an area called Ward 10, which is where the majority of blacks live in trailers or wooden shacks. She says no whites live there at all.

That's right people. This incredible injustice is happening in our nation, in this day and age. But we can fight this injustice and help the true victims, the Jena 6. First, I highly recommend checking out the other resources linked above. Also, do an internet search on the Jena 6 if you like. Second, please take action through the ColorOfChange.org link. And finally, I believe the best way to fight this injustice is to simply publicize what is going on. Email others, blog about it, etc. I think I will email important news agencies (NYTimes, LATimes, The News Hour, WaPost, WSJ, Slate, Salon, etc) asking them to report on this enormously important story. In any case, we must spread the word.

Thank you for reading this.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More Vids

First, my apologies for not posting in the last 10 days. Things have been hectic. Plus I've just sprained a shoulder/back muscle. So I'll have to phone this post in by simply linking to more internet vids. I learned of the first two vids from Slate's new video site: Slate V.

Perhaps some of you have already seen this, but Obama Girl is back and this time she and her crew are throwing down (bubble pop style) against the Giuliani Girls.

Next we have the best impressionist on the web, Piotr. I must admit, this guy is pretty good. I believe he's really big on YouTube and has a few clips. In this clip he does Gandalf, Doc Brown, Han Solo, Stan Lee, Don Pardo, Patrick Stewart, Emperor Palpatine, and Jim Carrey. The cool twist is that he impersonates them as though they were answering for an advice column.

This last one is really more shocking than funny. I still don't want to believe it but if it is true, it really illustrates a major problem of our "modern" society. I'll say no more. The entire clip is John Krasinski's (From NBC's "The Office") interview on Conan. But what I'm specifically talking about is a story he tells that starts at 1:16.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Last Monday it was announced that Barack Obama raised a whopping $32.5 million dollars in the second quarter. I understand that Obama is a charismatic and engaging public speaker, but I think I know the real reason he raised so much money, he's the subject of a hit ballad:

(**Poster's Note: The following are internet vids which tend to be a little raunchier than regular tv. This is still basically PG-13, but for anyone who wouldn't watch a hip-hop video at work, perhaps it will be best to watch this at home.)

"I Got a Crush on Obama" by Obama Girl

The hot model in the video is actually lip-syncing and not the actual singer. If the singer's voice sounds familiar you probably heard it on the spoof music vid "My Box in a Box". Which is of course an internet vid reply/homage to the SNL "My D$%K in a Box" spoof vid.

Anyway, the singer's name is Leah Kauffman and she can really sing (which makes both spoof vids so great). For those curious, here's an interview of her (and lip-sync model from "My Box in a Box") on Keith Olberman's MSNBC show. Anyway, I hope Kauffman puts out an entire album.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July! I hope you saw some fireworks, heard some great songs and renditions of the Star Spangled Banner, and had some BBQ (maybe even a hotdog or two, though I hope not 66).

Now, sorry to bum everyone out, but I kind of must. We have a robust and working justice system. However, it is clearly far from perfect. Wrongful convictions are a major issue and problem, especially for the indigent and poor. The Innocence Project has been uncovering wrongful convictions for years and has helped exonerate 204 wrongfully convicted individuals (15 of which served time on death row). For additional info please check on this incisive and informative FRONTLINE documentary and website: The Case for Innocence.

The other day the wonderful Yllwdaisies posted about Troy Davis on her very cool blog Looking for Sunshine. I hope you take a gander at her post and read about Troy Davis. (And to add to the Amnesty Intl and Abolish the Death Penalty blog pieces, here's a great piece by TheHill.com which talks about Troy Davis and details how difficult it is to get media and congressional attention in troubling death penalty cases like this). Troy Davis' appeal to the US Supreme Court was recently denied. His execution date has been set for sometime between July 17 and July 24. I beg everyone to read about Troy Davis and for those of you that believe he deserves a new trial, that the evidence which convicted him is very suspect and troubling, please visit Amnesty International's take action page (use the fax option).

Thank you so very much for reading this. And mucho props and thanks to Yllwdaisies for posting about Troy Davis.