Disparity

According to a May 6, 2013 report from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) that relies on data through January of this year, 30% of the executions in America take place as a result of death sentences imposed in just 15 of a total 3148 counties in the US. The study considers data from 1976 on, a period that is called the “modern era of capital punishment” (that is, post-Gregg v. Georgia).

To put it succinctly, one-third of all executions come from less than one-half of one percent of all of the counties in the United States. DPIC also reports that “Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 through to April 2013, almost 82% of the executions have been in the South.” Furthermore, even though death sentences are handed down as a result of convictions in only a handful of counties within a given state, the expense is shared by all of the taxpayers in that given state.

Each of the 37 states that still has capital punishment has only one death chamber, at the maximum security state prison. A state-by-state list is here. How much does it cost to kill someone in one of these chambers, and is it worth it, then? Consider the 2011 California study:

California

Assessment of Costs by Judge Arthur Alarcon and Prof. Paula Mitchell (2011, updated 2012)

The authors concluded that the cost of the death penalty in California has totaled over $4 billion since 1978:
$1.94 billion–Pre-Trial and Trial Costs
$925 million–Automatic Appeals and State Habeas Corpus Petitions
$775 million–Federal Habeas Corpus Appeals
$1 billion–Costs of Incarceration

The authors calculated that, if the Governor commuted the sentences of those remaining on death row to life without parole, it would result in an immediate savings of $170 million per year, with a savings of $5 billion over the next 20 years.

The 187-page California study begins by noting that California taxpayers have shelled out “roughly $4 billion” to fund “no more than 13 executions.” The study authors further point out that a severe backlog will delay more than 700 cases, for more than 20 years.

Since the money argument fails completely, what arguments are left? Surely, state-sanctioned homicide, given its immense expense, must be a deterrent, right? Actually, the data not only fails to support this theory, the opposite is true: murder rate decline occurs in regions where the death penalty is decreasing. According to a 2011 report released by the FBI:

On October 29, the U.S. Justice Department released the annual FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2011, indicating that the national murder rate dropped 1.5% from 2010. This decline occurred at a time when the use of the death penalty is also decreasing nationally. The Northeast region, which uses the death penalty the least, had the lowest murder rate of the 4 geographic regions, and saw a 6.4% further decrease in its murder rate in 2011, the largest decrease of any region. By contrast, the South, which carries out more executions than any other region, had the highest murder rate.

The top 15 counties for executions map is shown here.

Also, there have been 306 post-conviction DNA exonerations nationwide, and there is no question that innocent people have been executed in the US. Ray Krone is the 100th American to be sentenced to death and then later exonerated. To browse the profiles for DNA exonerations, go here.

Even though it is common knowledge that innocent people on death row have been exonerated through DNA test results, some prosecutors continue to try to deny access to this testing. Amazing, isn’t it, that prosecutors would push forward with a conviction and a death sentence, knowing that it may not only be wrongful, but that there is a likelihood that someone who did commit a violent crime remains free and will commit further violent crimes?

Related:

The Death Penalty in 2012: Year End Report

Defense argues against death penalty in shootings, claiming that the death penalty is arbitrary and unconstitutional.

Accused Aurora shooter James Holmes to plead not guilty by reason of insanity (Guardian)

Arkansas Republican endorses death penalty for children

Breaking News: Execution Stayed in Mississippi Willie Manning maintains his innocence. He was convicted on hair and ballistics testing. “This past week, the FBI notified the state that there were flaws in both the hair and ballistics evidence that was used to convict Manning. The FBI also agreed to do the DNA testing.”

[cross posted at Firedoglake.com MyFDL]

Here are some photos of a stop sign in Paducah, KY. The stop sign is on Hinkleville Road, in a busy area, across from a mall and adjacent to a school and a church:

Looking toward town:

Paducah stop sign 007

Up close:

Paducah stop sign 006

Looking across two roads where the stop sign is situated, you can see a church and then a school:

Paducah stop sign 005

Another view, such as it is:

Paducah stop sign 002

Paducah stop sign 001

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

You guys must wonder where I have been for the past several months. I have been researching and writing the Frog Gravy legal case! I will begin to blog that soon. Today’s essay is a continuation of a historical series about Missouri farm life history.

Cross-posted at Firedoglake MyFDL

Bertha: the Singer 201K

photo by Princess Froglips on flickr

This is a nonfiction account of sewing, materials and clothing and how they progressed, from the late 1920s on a small Missouri farm, to the years beyond the war, as told by Letty Owings, age 88.

Feed Sacks and Roses

Massive change came to sewing over the years from the Great Depression to the post-WWII era, due to fabric importation from countries like China and India as well as the introduction of stretch (synthetic) fabric. The first time I really remember seeing a Made in China symbol, Ceaușescu was trading with Mao.

Before stretch fabric and textile importation, every store had a section where they sold bolts of cloth, and they also had remnant tables where they sold fabric scraps. Any town of any size had an industry, whether it was a button factory, a textile manufacturer, a sewing machine manufacturer, a foundry, a machine shop, or a related industry.

I first started learning to sew in 1929 when I was five and lived on a small farm in Missouri. I was fortunate, because my mother let me use the treadle sewing machine as soon as I could get up to it. Since we were so isolated on the small farm, I lived in a world of imagination and dolls, so I made doll clothes. When I reached the upper grades of grade school I started making children’s clothes for my aunt’s children, taking real pride in my work, and my aunt acted like she was grateful.

We washed our clothes with a scrub board (a washboard) and homemade soap. Our cleaning was not mechanized for many years because seclusion placed us behind the the times, but our first ‘washer’ was a hand-cranked wringer that we used to wring clothes that we had washed in a tub. Electricity did not extend to that rural area, even by the end of WWII. Our ironing board was made of wood.

By this time, the chicken feed industry had figured out how popular the sacks were for clothing, and they put color prints on the hen scratch sacks. My mother made everything, even underwear and hats, from the sacks. She also dressed so that all of her skin was covered for picking corn, because a tan was considered ugly. My mother sewed the sacks and the remnant table scraps for many years. My prom dress was pink sharkskin with a black collar. We took the collar off, and the prom dress was my dressy dress after that.

People continued to sew from feed sacks even in later years. When I was first married and lived in Georgia, we had a visitor who asked for a bed sheet. We didn’t have a bed sheet, but I made one, by sewing four feed sacks together. A woman across the street in Georgia had figured out how to make money by sewing for rich people. She sewed for the Southern belles, and she taught me how to attach embroidered butterflies to a garment so the butterflies appeared to be flying. She also taught me smocking and other sewing tricks. Also, during this time, I would go to the fancy department stores and draw the patterns for kid’s clothes, then take the patterns to remnant places and use the drawings to make my kid’s clothes. Often, stores did not carry much variety in boy clothes, but I made boy and girl clothes.

No female ever wore pants in the years before the war. It was an absolute no-no, although when they started making wool pants for snow, my mother got me a pair for three dollars, to wear for bobsledding. During the Rosie-the-Riveter cultural icon era, where women wore slacks and heavy shoes to work in the war plants, wearing slacks never carried over to the home. Even boys sometimes wore little dresses. One permissible exception was that a female could wear pants to sled ride and ice skate. Incidentally, a fabric black market arose during the war effort, since fabric went to the 24/7 war plants.

I tore a hole in the butt of my three-dollar wool pants, bobsledding on the river bluffs with friends, but I never told my mother, because first of all, she would have known where I had been. When I taught in the tiny school I had attended, I once wore slacks in the snow during a one-hour break. The next day, a girl told me that her father had called together a family meeting and read a passage from the Bible to illustrate how unacceptable it really was, for me to wear pants.

In 1941, Ray, the man I would marry, was called to service in the war. He came to my house with a dozen roses, to let me know. I was wearing slacks, and I ran across the yard to greet him. My mother was horrified that I would even think to greet a man outside, wearing slacks, and she screamed at me. My mother was an artist in her heart, but the other side of being an artist is often a feeling of social displacement, and this description fit my mother.

end notes, author’s disclosure and updates:

Letty’s husband, Ray, who came to the house with a dozen roses, served in the Pacific Theater of Operations, Battle of Okinawa, on the attack cargo ship Artemis Class USS Lacerta (AKA-29), as a boat Commander. He turned 90 in January, 2013. This Friday, his son and grandson will accompany him on a visit to Pearl Harbor, and the Pearl Harbor museum.

Ray and Letty, who tell their story, are my parents. This essay is part of a series. Links to some other essays:

Public Health Hospital and Charity Hospital New Orleans Internship of 1958

The Lavender Ribbon

A Kernel of Wheat

Medicine in a Rural Farming Community in 1920s Missouri

Resources for people who own treadle sewing machines today (maintenance, conversion, restoration, repair):

The Sewing Machine Shop

The Wood Shop

TreadleOn.Net

An Off-Topic bald eagle update: The Decorah Eagles chose a nest that is off camera, but Raptor Resource reports that Mom Decorah is sitting on her first egg. They have observed the ‘Decorah Shimmy’ from the ground. Dad Decorah Eagle occasionally visits the Y-Branch that is still on-camera.

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s maiden flight from Boeing’s Everett, WA assembly plant.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a case study in what happens with outsourcing and what happens when corporate management takes the view that labor is a widget that can be replaced.

Reuters reports today that a Japan Airlines Boeing Dreamliner was grounded earlier this week in Boston, due to a faulty fuel valve. Fuel shifted from the center tank to the left tank, and when the left tank filled, fuel “overflowed into a surge tank and out through a vent.” Passengers deplaned, and then the jet broke out in flames, ABC reported on Tuesday. Flames on an airplane sounds more Nightmareliner than Dreamliner.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrival in Toronto

photo by EyeNo on flickr

“The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a long-range, mid-size wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner developed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Its variants seat 210 to 290 passengers. Boeing states that it is the company’s most fuel-efficient airliner and the world’s first major airliner to use composite materials for most of its construction.[4] According to Boeing, the 787 consumes 20% less fuel than the similarly-sized 767.[5] Its distinguishing features include a four-panel windshield, noise-reducing chevrons on its engine nacelles, and a smoother nose contour. The 787 shares a common type rating with the larger 777 twinjet, allowing qualified pilots to operate both models, due to related design features.[6]” Source.

The Boeing 787 heavy jet has been years in the making. Boeing was involved in contract negotiations with the union workers at the Everett plant several years ago, but the negotiations broke down. Boeing announced a decision to build a new assembly plant and relocate to another state. Everett and Boeing’s workers feared the worst: further economic depression and job loss for the town and community. The union workers responded with a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board NLRB, alleging that Boeing’s decision to move was in retaliation to the union workers and was outside the guidelines of labor relations. There was a hearing before the NLRB. The Boeing Company claimed otherwise, citing merely economic strategy, nothing more. The NLRB ruled against the Boeing Company, and foreclosed Boeing from the move.

Boeing continued to assemble the 787 at the Everett plant. The issue became political, with, to sum as a layperson observer, the Republicans predictably accusing Obama of ‘socialism:’ corporations have the right to tell their workers to go fuck themselves because workers’ work is a ‘widget,’ and a widget is a widget, anywhere in the world. The Boeing workers are not really human, they are a resource. The company has the right to maximize profits for shareholders and if labor costs must be reduced by moving jobs and productions elsewhere, this is an ‘ethical’ obligation for the corporation. By this time, Boeing had already outsourced the job of creating the parts for the plane to other countries, so there were already many worldwide subcontractors.

So, the stuff is being produced elsewhere, and in some cases partially assembled elsewhere, and shipped back to Everett, where some remaining workers assemble the parts into a plane. Meanwhile, the company is out trying to sell the plane, and (I feel sorry for the Boeing sales reps) the plane looks really good on paper. Light composite fuselage, fuel efficient, a technological leap forward.

Poor Boeing sales reps probably never guessed just how goddamn fuel efficient a heavy jet could be, especially when all the fuel gets dumped out a vent on the left side of the plane and catches on fire. Lightest heavy jet indeed.

Customers meanwhile placed orders: ANA, JAL, United, Air India, and others. Hundreds of orders were placed, but only a few planes have been delivered. Problems have been nonstop, the beat goes on, the public relations campaign tries to put a lid on the never-ending delays and pissed off customers.

The 787 situation goes right to the heart of the idea that predatory capitalism, while it represents enormous wealth to a small group of people, it does so at great risk to the people. To pull off the spin that we are all a lot better off with outsourcing, it is a war against labor. It is a war that must ignore, in particular, that labor involves hands, fingers, eyeballs and calipers.

The people who are creating wealth are the people who are actually doing the tedious work necessary for safety in the end product, and that is the worker. The worker creates and assembles the actual thing that has value. I wonder: Are the predatory capitalists willing to fly on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner today?

Boeing 787 Dreamliner glitches: How serious are the problems? (+video) Christain Science Monitor

This blog was initially posted at Firedoglake here.

Deep diving a dumpster in Seattle. (photo: sea turtle via Flickr)

This morning’s Over Easy is an addition to the first diary I ever posted at Firedoglake, with an update on our dumpster diving experiences during the holiday season.

WikiHow has an excellent article on dumpster diving technique, to which I only add: 1. Never dive a medical or hospital dumpster 2. Never dive a compacting or off-limits (ie, gated/not in the public domain) dumpster 3. Dive in quadrants. This way, you never have to throw anything outside of the dumpster in order to get at the contents at the bottom. 4. Double your configuration, like  a cave diver, and carry two of everything (flashlights, wire cutters, magnets), except your wallet or money, which you should not take with you, into a dumpster.

Scrap metal recycle prices vary a bit from one junkyard to the next. The money scrap metals are copper, brass, aluminum, and non-magnetic stainless steel; junkyards want your scrap load sorted prior to reaching the scale. January is the best month of the year for scrap metal divers (scrappers) because Christmas is now a disposable holiday. Post-holiday Christmas lights are abundant, for example.

I am a baby boomer, born in 1960. Christmas was sacred and magical for as many years as I can remember until recently. We hand-made many of our own ornaments (remember felt, glue, sequins and styrofoam?) and saved everything from year to year. My mother kept our precious ornaments in the same box, each carefully wrapped in newspaper and saved. We saved our bubble lights and ice cycles.

That doesn’t happen anymore. Christmas is manufactured overseas, sold in the Big-box, and disposable, including all ornaments, lights, fake trees, nativity sets, and gifts, toys and clothing. We are losing our craftsmanship and precise arts as quickly as the Arctic melts.

People begin shopping on Black Friday, and get a tree up shortly thereafter. Late November/early December dumpsters may deliver insulated copper in the form of last year’s lights that have been inexplicably replaced by this year’s model, a few fake trees and even Christmas wrap, tape, bows, ribbon, lace and tags, still new in packages as though people are actually afraid to use anything from last year, God forbid.

December 26 through the New Year are generally cardboard box days, and although cardboard brings $60.00/ton at recycle, cardboard transport is problematic without a modified truck bed.  After the first of the year, the land of dumpsters is most interesting and productive. Lights. Rejected presents,  New With Tags. Fully decorated trees. Appliances, if new gifts replace the old, and even furniture, again if old must be discarded to make way for new.  We have not been to the mall in years. Every appliance we have was retrieved, new, boxed, and never used, from dumpsters. Same with all of our furniture and all of our clothing. If you live in an area where people don’t take down their trees until February, you can vicariously celebrate the holidays for two or three straight months.

UPDATE:

The year after I wrote this, our local recycle center reduced the cash payment for all Christmas light strings and other plug-in cords by sixty percent, causing many scrappers to discontinue retrieving cords in lieu of collecting bulk magnetic scrap metal.

Last year we exchanged our truck for a motorcycle and quit scrapping. Our most lucrative scrap dumpster was related to infrastructure, and when the company itself began to recycle and disallow scrap dumpster divers, we made a decision to give up scrapping.

We are now entering our third consecutive year of eating from dumpsters. About 75% of our nutrition comes from dumpsters. We did observe what we believe to be an abundance of meat in the fall due to the sell-off of livestock during the exceptional drought season of the summer. We most often eat steamed vegetables and crock pot meals, with salads, abundant fresh fruit, and some sweets. We must purchase coffee and tea. We have been sick only one time, and that was after eating a fast-food meal inside a restaurant and not from a dumpster meal.

Our appliances, dishes, household items and many clothes now come from our own apartment complex dumpsters or curbs, during end-of-month move-outs. We are transitioning from diving due to great need to diving by choice, because we continue to believe strongly in the principles of reuse and living with less.

Years ago I began this strange, stigmatized hobby because of need, when I inadvertently discovered my real passion of looking for things that show sociological or historical trends and stories, so for me, the fun is in the urban archaeology. What media and social culture wants us to see is on the surface. If you want to know about the real world, look at what people throw away.

DUMPSTER DIVING IN THE NEWS:

Northwest Cook: New reality cooking show starts with Dumpster diving

From Trash to Table: Austrian Activists Launch Freegan Cooking Show

Dumpster divers swoop in to grab $40,000 worth of pricy fresh food

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tracks changes in the environment and has released the Arctic Report Card: Update for 2012. Based on multiple observations, the report finds “strong evidence of widespread, sustained change driving Arctic environmental system into new state,” and highlights the following:

“Record low snow extent and low sea ice extent occurred in June and September, respectively.”

“Growing season length is increasing along with tundra greenness and above-ground biomass. Below the tundra, record high permafrost temperatures occurred in northernmost Alaska. Duration of melting was the longest observed yet on the Greenland ice sheet, and a rare, nearly ice sheet-wide melt event occurred in July.”

“Massive phytoplankton blooms below summer sea ice suggest previous estimates of ocean primary productivity might be ten times too low. Arctic fox is close to extinction in Fennoscandia and vulnerable to further changes in the lemming cycle and the encroaching Red fox.”

“Severe weather events included extreme cold and snowfall in Eurasia, and two major storms with deep central pressure and strong winds offshore of western and northern Alaska.”

This year also marks the first time that there has been less than 4 million square kilometers (1.54 million square miles) of sea ice since satellite observations began in 1979. Visualization here.