Daily Archives: October 12, 2009

Texas Governor Perry May Have Put a Lid on Arson Report

Posted by Libby Shaw

Republican Governor Rick Perry

Republican Governor Rick Perry

According to the Houston Chronicle Perry received an arson report from an expert in 2004 but he won’t reveal if he read it before Todd Willingham was executed.

In a letter sent Feb. 14, three days before Willingham was scheduled to die, Perry had been asked to postpone the execution. The condemned man’s attorney argued that the newly obtained expert evidence showed Willingham had not set the house fire that killed his daughters, 2-year-old Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron, two days before Christmas in 1991.

On Feb. 17, the day of the execution, Perry’s office got the five-page faxed report at 4:52 p.m., according to documents the Houston Chronicle obtained in response to a public records request.

But it’s unclear from the records whether he read it that day. Perry’s office has declined to release any of his or his staff’s comments or analysis of the reprieve request.

A statement from Perry spokesman Chris Cutrone, sent to the Chronicle late Friday, said that “given the brevity of (the) report and the general counsel’s familiarity with all the other facts in the case, there was ample time for the general counsel to read and analyze the report and to brief the governor on its content.”

A few minutes after 5 p.m., defense lawyer Walter M. Reaves Jr. said he received word that the governor would not intervene. At 6:20 p.m. Willingham was executed after declaring: “I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit.”

Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in Texas

Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in Texas

In the past, as recently as during George W. Bush’s term, gubernatorial reviews were made public. Rick Perry, however, does not believe any of his or his staff reviews should be.

A Forensic Science Commission was about to disclose a report that seriously questions the arson evidence in the Willingham case. But Perry had immediately fired three of the Commission’s members, including the Chairman. The meeting at which the report would have been revealed was canceled.

His 2004 execution gained renewed prominence this year after the newly formed Texas Forensic Science Commission, created by the Legislature to explore and fix forensic flaws, released a report that criticized the arson evidence. Two days before the panel was to review that report, Perry abruptly replaced three members, including the chairman, and the meeting was canceled. The governor also attacked the report, according to other media reports.

The report reveals that the investigators in Willingham’s case made serious errors and had relied on junk science.

The five-page opinion faxed to Perry’s office on Willingham’s execution day in 2004 was the first. It said investigators made “major errors” and relied on discredited techniques akin to an “old wives tale.”

It was authored by Dr. Gerald Hurst, an Austin-based arson expert who holds a doctorate in chemistry from Cambridge University.

By 2004, Hurst already had received national media coverage for helping to obtain a string of high-profile exonerations by debunking arson evidence in other criminal cases. Hurst said in an interview that his previous analysis of flaws in another Texas arson-murder case had helped prompt the Board of Pardons and Paroles in 1998 to free a woman convicted of setting a fire that killed her infant son. She had served six years of a 99-year sentence.

By his actions one can only assume that Governor Rick Perry is attempting to cover up his negligence. Otherwise, he would admit if he did nor or did not read the report. For a man with 20 executions on his watch, one would think Governor Perry should, at the very least, want to know if the state has executed an innocent man. A person’s life is far, far more important than an election outcome.

Please call Rick Perry’s office and demand that he release all reports at 512 463 1782. Please also check Scott Cobb’s post over at the The Burnt Orange Report and Daily Kos. He provides links to a petition and the site to send an email to Perry.

Texas must immediately declare a moratorium on all executions until a complete and thorough review of all procedures on all levels is done by an outside, non-partisan board of experts. One innocent death is one too many.

More @ houstonchroniclelogo

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Filed under Crime, Death Penalty, Elections, Law, Partisan Politics, Politics, Republicans, True Crime, Uncategorized, Violence

Rachel Maddow, Voice of America

By cutting across the grain of US cable news, the sober-minded liberal pundit has become the best talkshow host in America

The Rachel Maddow Show

The Rachel Maddow Show

guardian.co.uk/Amanda Marcotte—Rachel Maddow first came on my radar in the spring of 2004, when she, along with Lizz Winstead and Chuck D of Public Enemy hosted an early morning radio show called Unfiltered on the newly minted Air America, an attempt to counter rightwing talk radio with liberal programming.

Radio has this ability to make the listener feel like they share a secret with the hosts and the few, hard-to-know listeners out there. I hoped people tuned in to listen to the hosts trade jokes and talk about politics and music, and mostly I wanted other people to learn about this Maddow character, who brought to every episode a dynamic mix of sparkling good humour, intelligent analysis and a broad view of what issues should matter.

Unfiltered didn’t make the first round of reshuffling at Air America, but Maddow hung in, hosting her own eponymous radio show and eventually moving to television, first as a guest pundit and now as a host of her own night time political talkshow on MSNBC.

rachel maddowBefore it happened, most American liberals would have never imagined that Maddow could have her own programme on any cable network, much less the same network that had, just a few years before, tried to pull in a rightwing audience by giving hard right nut Michael Savage his own show (before pulling it after he told a gay caller to die from Aids).

It’s not just that Maddow is a liberal. After all, MSNBC had already given a spot to liberal commentator Keith Olbermann and his frequent, angry rants. It was mostly hard to imagine a cable news network rewarding a pundit for being sober-minded and nuanced in her analysis, as well as suspicion that homophobia would prevent it from promoting a lesbian who favours a more masculine way of dressing.

rachelMaddowAdvocateBut 2008 was a year for re-arranging American expectations about who gets to have a voice in public. The Democratic candidate was not only black, but also overtly professorial, and this didn’t diminish his popularity with the public. Hillary Clinton and, yes, even Sarah Palin normalised the idea of more female authority in politics. In a very short period of time, the unthinkable became the reality, and Maddow had her very own MSNBC programme.

More @ guardiancouklogo

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Filed under Culture, Democrats, Gay (LGBT) Rights, Humor, Media and Entertainment, Politics, Television, TV Shows, Women's Issues

Real Men Wear Pink– for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

posted by GeoT

pink2 The NFL and hundreds of other organizations are joining together to raise awareness about Breast Cancer and to raise money for research towards a cure….

The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) program is dedicated to increasing awareness about the importance of the early detection of breast cancer through a nationwide campaign held in October. NBCAM started as a weeklong campaign in 1985 with 2 founding members. Today the American Cancer Society is one of many national public service organizations, professional associations, and government agencies that form the NBCAM Board of Sponsors.

Tom Brady Pretty in Pink

Tom Brady Pretty in Pink


During NBCAM, the member organizations of the Board of Sponsors join forces to spread the message that early detection of breast cancer followed by prompt treatment saves lives.
More Life Saving Information Here: American Cancer Society

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Filed under Cancer, Charity, Health, Medicine, Uncategorized

HBO’s By The People: The Election of Barack Obama

bythepeopleelectionpremiere_novideoHBO—Nearly a year before Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency on Feb. 10, 2007, filmmakers Amy Rice and Alicia Sams began to roll cameras on the young senator. Over the next 19 months, they found themselves traveling all across the country, chronicling the daily ups and downs of the campaign trail as experienced by Obama, his family, his staff and volunteers. While Obama’s meteoric rise to the White House has been well documented in the press, few have witnessed the behind-the- scenes story of the passionate campaigners who helped a young African-American freshman senator attain the nation’s highest office.

Producer/Actor Edward Norton

Producer/Actor Edward Norton

Rice conceived the idea of making a documentary about Obama long before the Illinois Senator announced his decision to run for president. Inspired by his oratorical skills and star appeal at the 2004 Democratic Convention, she set out to film his political career in 2006. Rice approached documentary producer Sams, who joined to co-direct and actor Edward Norton’s production company, Class 5, agreed to produce the project. After Norton approached Obama’s team with the idea, the senator agreed to grant the filmmakers what turned out to be unprecedented and exclusive access.

Initially, it wasn’t even about a presidential campaign; the idea was simply to examine the political experience of a promising young politician of our generation,” says Norton, a two-time Oscar® nominee.

For Rice, the project had an even more personal dimension. She lost her older brother in the Sept. 11 attacks on the Twin Towers – an event that galvanized her political awakening. Then she saw Obama’s 2004 convention speech on TV. Rice recalls, “That’s when the idea of making a political documentary came into my mind.”

Notes Sams, “It was clear that Obama was inspiring people to think differently about politics. We wanted to explore his impact and see where it would take both him and the country.”

From this unique vantage point, By The People captures the boundless fervor of the campaign’s volunteers, as well as the extraordinary skill and technical sophistication of its organizers. “I think people will look back on this campaign as one that was conducted with a real understanding of communication and organizing tools that were singular to that moment,” says Norton. “It was an historic new read on how you could do an end run around conventional political methodology and strategies.”

More @ hbologosmall

Premieres November 3 at 9pm ET

By The People: The Election of Barack Obama is a moving record of the Obama campaign’s history-making odyssey to the White House. Interwoven with the drama of the campaign is never-before-seen footage of Obama behind the scenes, as well as interviews and candid moments with wife Michelle Obama, the couple’s young daughters, Malia and Sasha, and senior campaign staff, volunteers, reporters, supporters and opponents. Watch the trailer.

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Filed under Change, Culture, Democrats, History, Media and Entertainment, Movies, Partisan Politics, Politics, Republicans, TV Shows, Uncategorized

Book Review: Lustrum by Robert Harris

Posted by Audiegrl

Best-Selling Author Robert Harris

Best-Selling Author Robert Harris

Times Online–In recent years, ancient Rome has provided the setting for dozens of historical crime novels. In their pages, whole posses of classical private eyes prowl the city’s mean streets. Robert Harris’s Lustrum, the second, enthralling volume in what he promises will be a trilogy set in the last decades of the Roman republic, opens with a scene that suggests this might be just another one to add to the genre. A young slave has been found murdered and eviscerated, his body dumped in the Tiber. Consul-elect Marcus Tullius Cicero is called to the scene. When he learns that the boy has been killed as a human sacrifice, it seems that Cicero might be taking on the role of a toga-clad Philip Marlowe in tracking down the murderers.

Yet it soon becomes clear that Harris has no interest in that kind of story at all. His focus instead is firmly upon the dangers and temptations of politics. Over the course of the next 400 pages, the gritty and tortuous realities of power take precedence over the contrived puzzles of crime fiction.

lustrombookcoverIt is not difficult to see why Harris was so drawn to the years between 63BC and 58BC when the novel is set (Lustrum means “five-year period” in Latin). The stakes then, in a period when the Roman republic was perpetually at risk of disintegration, were so much higher than they are now. Plunge to catastrophic defeat in modern British politics and the worst that awaits you is an early elevation to the House of Lords; failure in Roman politics could result in exile, assassination or an inescapable invitation to open your veins in a warm bath.

It is against this background of the ever­present potential for violence and death that Harris’s gripping narrative unfolds. Within a few chapters, readers learn who killed the slave and why. He was the victim of Catilina, one of Cicero’s beaten rivals for the consulship, who offered the boy up as the sacrificial seal on an oath taken by a group of decadent aristocrats to murder Cicero and take control of the state.

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Other Best-sellers by Robert Harris

pompeiicoverPompeii: A Novel by Robert Harris

Harris’s historical novel begins in August, 79 B.C., two days before the eruption of Vesuvius. The hero is Marcus Attilius Primus, an aqueduct engineer who is investigating a mysterious blockage, apparently related to recent tremors, in the aqueduct that runs from Misenum to Pompeii. In addition

Ancient wall painting in Pompeii (Photo by Audiegrl)

Ancient wall painting in Pompeii (Photo by Audiegrl)

to landing this prestigious job—it’s the Empire’s longest aqueduct—he has met a young woman who has the “same darkness of hair” and the “same voluptuousness of figure” as his dear departed first wife. The only problem is her father, a corrupt and powerful millionaire who is stealing from the water supply. Although the plot seems to owe more to “Chinatown” than to Pliny, Harris garnishes the action with seductive period detail, and the novel comes alive in the main event, a cataclysmic explosion with a thermal energy equal to a hundred thousand Hiroshimas.~~The New Yorker

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imperiumbookcoverImperium : A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris

Bestselling British author Harris (Pompeii; Enigma) returns to ancient Rome for this entertaining and enlightening novel of Marcus Cicero’s rise to power. Narrated by a household slave named Tiro, who actually served as Cicero’s “confidential secretary” for 36 years, this fictional biography
Rome Coliseum            (Photo by Audiegrl)

Roman Coliseum (Photo by Audiegrl)

follows the statesman and orator from his early career as an outsider a “new man” from the provinces to his election to the consulship, Rome’s highest office, in 64 B.C. Loathed by the aristocrats, Cicero lived by his wits in a tireless quest for imperium the ultimate power of life and death and achieves “his life’s ambition” after uncovering a plot by Marcus Crassus and Julius Caesar to rig the elections and seize control of the government. Harris’s description of Rome’s labyrinthine, and sometimes deadly, political scene is fascinating and instructive. The action is relentless, and readers will be disappointed when Harris leaves Cicero at the moment of his greatest triumph. Given Cicero’s stormy consulship, his continuing opposition to Julius Caesar and his own assassination, readers can only hope a sequel is in the works. Until then, this serves as a superb first act.
~~Publishers Weekly

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Filed under Art, Culture, Europe, History, Media and Entertainment, Politics, Travel, Uncategorized

Think Progress Makes It’s Mark

Judged by the standard of influencing the conversation, Think Progress is flourishing.’~Politico

The 44D’s just wanted to take a moment and celebrate the blogger’s at ThinkProgress and the TP community. It’s not often that the MSM gives blogger’s recognition for all the hard work they do, even when they use blogger’s reporting in their own stories. Today, hopefully will mark a turning point in that behavior, and investigative blogger’s will earn the respect they so genuinely deserve.

Thank you TP for providing both excellent reporting and a place for honest political discussion.

thinkprogressmakesitmark

Politico/Daniel Libit—Can a liberal blog launched in the midst of the Bush era – a blog that once obsessed over Alberto Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove and the outing of Valerie Plame – still make its mark in the age of Obama?

In the case of Think Progress, the answer so far is yes.

Since January, the online arm of the Center for American Progress Action Fund has embraced its new role as the pin to prick the air out of Obama opposition — largely by offering up evidence that powerful Washington interests are fertilizing grassroots conservative anger.

In April, Think Progress was the first to highlight former House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s dual role as a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company at DLA Piper and as the chairman of FreedomWorks, which has helped organize grassroots attacks on health care reform.

In the media uproar that followed, Armey quit his DLA Piper job and Editor Faiz Shakir says the controversy called into question whether the movement against the president was astroturfed.

In the ensuing months, Think Progress’s trackers and bloggers have tried to make that point with videos and posts that undercut the opponents of President Barack Obama’s agenda.

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Filed under Blogging, Culture, Democrats, Elections, Media and Entertainment, Politics, Uncategorized

Washington Watch – Roland Martin’s Perspectives

Posted by Buellboy

rolandsitemartinrTV One political editor, CNN and Tom Joyner Morning Show analyst Roland Martin hosts a new weekly public affairs series on TV One that focuses on issues that are critical to African Americans, through interviews with officials from the Administration, Congress and other policymakers who represent black communities, as well as discussions with journalists and commentators, and a wide range of policy experts.

Each week Roland Martin and a rotating panel of journalists and experts, including American Urban Radio Networks White House Correspondent April Ryan and Comcast Network host and Philadelphia Tribune columnist Robert Traynham, will discuss the top stories in Washington. The show will also feature regular appearances by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. In addition, Martin will conduct a one-on-one interview with a key newsmaker each week.

The show, debuted on Sunday, Sept. 27 and will air weekly at 11 AM and 5 PM ET.

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More @ tvonelogo

The issue of gay marriage is coming to a head in the nation’s capital and DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is ready to fight — FOR gay marriage. Roland asks her how she thinks this controversial issue will play with strong voices on both sides speaking up and out.

Question: Do you think gay marriage will be legal in Washington, DC?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

While discussing the horrible beating death of a Chicago honor student, Roland asks a provocative question that gets everyone talking.

Question: Do you think that Pro-Life supporters should also get involved in matters of life beyond the womb?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Filed under Democrats, Media and Entertainment, Opinions, Partisan Politics, Politics, Republicans, Television, TV Shows, Uncategorized, Washington, DC