Good News Friday

Spring starts today, which is the best news yet! And here are a few other items from around the internet. Enjoy.

• Target says it will raise its minimum wage to “at least” $9/hour amid a tightening labor market:

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, garnered much attention when it said it would raise entry-level wages to $9 an hour in April and then to $10 an hour by February 2016. The move was expected to have a domino effect among other companies and soon after it spurred TJX Cos., the parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, to follow suit.

Analysts have said that Target would have to match those wages in order to hang on to employees amid a tightening labor market. After all, retailers are not duking it out just on price and the specific products they sell, but also on the customer service inside their stores.

Not even close to a living wage in a lot of places but it’s a start.

• The California Dietetic Assn. told McDonald’s to take its sponsorship and stuff it.

• Check out this amazing photo of a bobcat in Griffith Park, with the lights of Los Angeles in the background. Still can’t believe this isn’t a hoax.

• Presbyterians (PC-USA) approved marriages for same-sex couples in the first ever nationwide, grassroots vote on marriage equality by a faith tradition:

The 171 regional presbyteries (local leadership bodies within the PCUSA) have been voting on whether to change the wording to call marriage a contract “between a woman and a man” to being “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” On Tuesday, the denomination reached its needed majority of “yes” votes from at least 86 presbyteries to take effect. The change will be included in the church’s “Book of Order,” part of its constitution, taking effect on June 21.

• Ashley Judd, a feminist who won’t take shit off of anyone, even anonymous Twitter trolls, is my new hero. Here’s her column on being harassed for a simple sports-related Tweet.

• A stray pit bull was found nursing a two-day-old kitten by the side of the road. Both have been saved by animal rescuers but when a vet took the kitten home at night to bottle-feed it, the pit bull started howling. Let’s hope the two can find a home together. They’re in the Dallas area:

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• In Hawaii, firearm applications and registrations are down for the first time in eight years.

• “Gun rights” activist and 2nd Amendment Hero Jon Holzwarth will face criminal charges in the November self-inflicted shooting of his 3-year-old son. With rights come responsibilities, people.

• Gay couple who met at the University of Alabama in 1972 and have been together ever since decide not to leave millions to their alma mater over the state’s anti-gay stance.

• After a Christian college canceled a bake sale that was supposed to help homeless GLBT youth, students held an online fundraiser and raised $10,000 — five times more than they had planned.

Good News, Tennessee Edition:

• A bill from Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker would create the first new Tennessee wilderness area in nearly 30 years. That’s the good news. The bad news is, they’ve introduced this bill four times since 2010. Let’s hope the Tennessee Wilderness Act passes this time.

Watch the video that has the gun loons losing their shit:

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The Man Who Killed Cameron Todd Willingham

An update on this story which I wrote about back in 2009.

Can we call it murder when a corrupt prosecutor uses an unjust system to do it?

On Wednesday it was reported that John H. Jackson has been formally accused of misconduct by the State Bar of Texas in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. You may remember the Willingham story from David Grann’s epic and groundbreaking 2009 New Yorker article on the Corsicana father who was convicted in 1991 of murdering his three children by setting his home on fire. It turned out that the forensic evidence used to convict Willingham was completely bogus, but when this exculpatory information was presented to then-Gov. Rick Perry, he went ahead with the execution anyways. Willingham died at 6:20 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2004.

What’s perhaps more sickening than the neglected forensic evidence in this case is the other work that Jackson, the prosecuting attorney, did to win a conviction and see that Willingham’s every appeal was denied. These efforts include allegedly coercing and paying off a jailhouse informant to testify that Willingham had confessed to him, lying to the jury about whether the informant had been offered any benefits in exchange for his testimony, and withholding the informant’s recantation while Willingham sat on death row. Or, as the Marshall Project, which has been reporting on Jackson’s alleged misdeeds for the past year, described the state bar’s accusations: “obstruction of justice, making false statements and concealing evidence favorable to Willingham’s defense.”

“Before, during, and after the 1992 trial, [Jackson] knew of the existence of evidence that tended to negate the guilt of Willingham and failed to disclose that evidence to defense counsel,” the state bar alleged in its formal complaint.

This case makes me want to scream and cry all over again. Remember the applause by Republican primary voters when Rick Perry defended Texas’ use of the death penalty? Remember this?

“I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place,” Perry said. “When someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States if that’s required.”

Perry said the death penalty should be dealt with on a state-by-state basis but supports the decision of Texas to uphold the death penalty, calling it the “ultimate justice.”

“In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed.”

Does that apply to a corrupt prosecutor who made sure an innocent man was killed by a broken state system? Just wondering.

Remember this from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in 2006, voted with a majority to uphold the death penalty in a Kansas case. In his opinion, Scalia declared that, in the modern judicial system, there has not been “a single case—not one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops.”

Again, I repeat: here ya go, Justice Scalia. Here’s your single case. There are undoubtedly numerous others. But of course, Scalia already knows about this case, eeing as how SCOTUS refused to hear Willingham’s appeal.

Useless idiots, every single one of them. It’s just too hard to admit that you’ve been making serious mistakes all this years and try to fix it. Instead, let’s pretend everything is awesome. What a joke.

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I Don’t Think Human Rights Means What They Think It Means

I hate to tromp all over my last post but this just crossed my desk and I’m just … dumfounded:

A former Metro councilman known for spearheading Nashville’s failed English-only referendum is set to serve on the board of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission after receiving an appointment from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.

Eric Crafton, long ridiculed by Democrats for his unsuccessful push in 2009 to make English the official language of Metro government, will begin his service on the nine-member volunteer board Friday after getting the nod from Ramsey last month.

I’m sure Sheila Butt was unavailable.

Here’s a medley of Eric Crafton’s hits.

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Filed under English Only, Eric Crafton, Nashville, Tennessee

When Is A Meeting Not A Meeting?

Well now, isn’t this special? It appears that Tennessee House committees are routinely meeting in secret to discuss pending legislation, but it’s not a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law because, the Tennessee General Assembly says,

… it does not come under the state’s Open Meetings Act or Sunshine Law because one legislature cannot bind a future legislature …

… and also, as House Speaker Beth Harwell explains,

… “they’re not having meetings as you think of meetings.”

Ooooookaaaay. Let’s see, the dictionary defines “meeting” as:

: a gathering of people for a particular purpose (such as to talk about business)

: a gathering of people for religious worship

: a situation or occasion when two people see and talk to each other

Follow the dang link and find out what happened in “meetings” in Speaker Harwell’s conference room. Or, hell, I know y’all are too lazy. Here ya go:

Later, at Harwell’s prompting, Lundberg opened the meeting where a thorough, often-free wheeling discussion of various bills expected to come up in committee or subcommittee was underway.

One bill under discussion involved taking some discretion away from judges on a particular issue.

“By what authority do we tell that branch of government what they can and cannot do?” asked Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, an attorney and former Hamilton County General Sessions Court judge.

No actual votes were taken. But each bill was thoroughly reviewed in a way not always done in subcommittees, which are now tasked with vetting, and committees.

Sounds like it’s a meeting to me! And you know, I don’t see what difference it makes whether actual votes are being taken. It’s the debate that’s important. The media and general public should be notified and allowed to listen in on this debate. I mean I’d looooove to have heard the “pre-meeting” discussion on these gun bills the legislature is voting on this week. And I shouldn’t have needed to be a fly on the wall, either.

Also, I love how the news media was originally refused entry to the House Civil Justice Committee’s “pre-meeting” by Republican Rep. John Lundberg of Bristol because,

…. Lundberg said he “never had anyone come” before …

Yeah, y’know, if you don’t tell anyone there is a meeting, not to mention the where’s or when’s, that’s gonna happen.

FAIL.

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Congratulations, Jon Holzwarth! You Are Our 2nd Amendment Hero Du Jour

[UPDATE] 2:

In answer to my question at the bottom of this item, which was originally posted back in November:

Holzwarth’s mother in-law told investigators that a couple of days before the shooting she dropped off several trigger locks and encouraged him to secure his guns. Holzwarth allegedly told the woman that he was not going to lock up his Ruger .380 because he needed it for protection, court papers said. Detectives found the locks still in packaging when they searched the scene after the shooting.

This irresponsible idiot has now been charged with reckless endangerment. I certainly hope so.

[UPDATE]:

Jon Holzwarth, serial offender:

LAKE STEVENS, Wash. — The parents of a 3-year-old boy who was accidentally shot in the face by a 4-year-old neighbor had argued about access to guns at their home, court records show.

[….]

The boy’s mother had filed a protection order against the father in January 2013, saying he left a gun in a nightstand and in a car with children. In a divorce filing, he accused her of leaving a handgun in her purse. Both denied the accusations and said they were responsible gun owners, The Seattle Times reported Monday.

The protection order was dismissed a few weeks later due to insufficient evidence of domestic violence, the newspaper reported.

—————————————-

Responsible gun owner/prominent 2nd Amendment “gun rights” advocate Jon Holzwarth was babysitting his three-year-old son and his neighbor’s four-year-old grandson when a totally responsible thing happened: his son somehow was shot in the mouth. Imagine that:

According to Snohomish County deputies, the shooting happened in a bedroom that was locked.

Holzwarth told them he heard a loud boom and ran to the bedroom where his son, Michael, and his neighbor’s 4-year-old grandson were playing.

He forced the locked door open and initially thought his son had gotten hurt that way.

At Providence Everett Medical Center, doctors discovered the boy had been shot in the mouth.

He was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

No one answered at Holzwarth’s door where a sign reads: “We don’t dial 9-1-1″ with a metal cutout of a pistol dangling below.

There were also emblems about guns on his Jeep.

On Saturday, his son was struggling to survive from a gunshot wound — a tragic irony not lost on his neighbor.

Oh, yes. The irony. I’m sure Holzwarth’s guns protected his family dozens and dozens of times before this tragic incident, though.

Here’s Holzwarth in happier times, protesting a ban on guns in parks in Snohomish County:

“When seconds count and police are minutes away, you need people like me who are mentally stable and know how to handle a gun,” said John Holzwarth, of Lake Stevens. “We need to be out there, in your park, in your theater, in your stadium.”

Yeah, I’m thinking …. no. This is indeed a sad story, and I hope young Michael recovers and dad learns a lesson or two about “responsible gun ownership”: namely, that there is no such thing. Guns in the home are an accident waiting to happen:

According to a report filed by the Washington State Department of Social Health Services, a child or teen is killed once every seven and a half hours with a gun, either by accident or by suicide. In 72 percent of these cases, the firearm used was housed in the victim’s own residence. Many of these weapons were locked away in a secure place, yet 48 percent of those who own guns do not equip them with child safety and trigger locks.

I’d just love to know if Holzwarth believes in trigger locks and other modern technology designed to prevent what happened to his son?

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Priorities, Tennessee-Style

Here’s a good reality check from Democratic State Senator Jeff Yarbro, whose district is in Nashville. He makes the point that I’ve been making for years: Tennessee is so gun-friendly, arms manufacturers like Beretta are actually moving their operations here! So what the heck is everyone whining about with this rash of unnecessary gun bills currently before our legislature? Why are we taking up valuable time, energy and oxygen on stuff that really isn’t that important? The gun people already think we’re wonderful, we’re so awesome we’ve got the dang NRA coming here by the tens of thousands in three weeks. Guys, they got the message. We love guns. ’nuff said.

Meanwhile, we’re at the bottom of nearly every national list you want to be at the top of: education, healthcare, etc. This makes no sense but it’s awfully reminiscent of when the Republicans took over our legislature and immediately began focusing like a laser on lady parts and rooting out Sharia Law in public bathrooms. Tennessee Republicans clearly want to work on the easy stuff while letting the real challenges people here face go unaddressed.

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Good News For The World, Bad News For Republicans

This story says so much about the changing global dynamic and the GOP’s participation in the defining issue of our day:

Carbon dioxide emissions from the world’s energy producers stalled in 2014, the first time in 40 years of measurement that the level did not increase during a period of economic expansion, according to preliminary estimates from the International Energy Agency.

The research suggests that efforts to counteract climate change by reducing carbon emissions and promoting energy efficiency could be working, said Fatih Birol, the agency’s chief economist and incoming executive director. “This is definitely good news,” he said.

Dr. Birol noted that many nations have promoted energy efficiency and low-carbon energy sources like hydroelectric, solar, wind and nuclear power. China, he noted, has worked to reduce carbon emissions as part of an intensive effort to limit environmental damage from economic development. That China appears to be successfully moving down that path, he said, portends well for the deal struck with the United States in November. China committed in that agreement to turning around its growth in carbon emissions by 2030, or earlier if possible, while increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in energy production to 20 percent of its menu.

The agency has been collecting data on carbon dioxide emissions for 40 years, and in that time emissions have stalled or dropped only three times; each of those coincided with weakness in the global economy. The last instance was in 2009, during a global economic slump. In 2014, however, the economy expanded by about 3 percent.

The Republican Party has basically checked out of this issue. They’ve obstructed and denied and propagandized and in pretty much every way imaginable said, “no, we won’t do anything about it. In fact, we don’t even believe in it.” So everyone else said fine, we’ll do it without you. And I mean really, on every important issue of the day — healthcare reform, GLBT equality, pulling ourselves out of an economic quagmire — haven’t conservatives always checked out and left it to everyone else to fix? Yes, they have. Useless idiots, every single one. “Takers” who benefit from the hard work the rest of us have done. Ironic, that.

True, one year’s CO2 emissions may be an anomaly. We aren’t out of the woods yet. But I’m encouraged, and I really think it says something ominous about the GOP. Nothing screams political fail louder than refusing to participate in solving our generation’s biggest threat.

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Filed under climate change, environment, Republican Party