Bill Maher takes on the racial divide oVER pot.
WHEN COMEDIAN Bill Maher talks about dope—using it, abusing it, legalizing it—most often he’s only half joking. And recently he made a very serious point indeed. Legalizing marijuana has become “the next civil-rights issue,” he said. Maher was riffing on a just-released report by the American Civil Liberties Union: “The War on Marijuana in Black and White.” Between 2001 and 2010, police made 8 million marijuana arrests, and 90 percent were for simple possession. Blacks were picked up at almost four times the rate of whites, and in some areas at eight times the rate, even though usage is about the same on each side of the racial divide. The ACLU deplored the billions of dollars wasted on a failed and racially biased policy that sucks otherwise innocent people into the criminal-justice system, crowds the jails, and has not reduced marijuana use or availability. But Maher went a step further. And, again, he was only half joking. He called this pattern of arrests “a subtle way to suppress the black vote,” because 48 states limit voting rights for convicted felons. “Only two states do not,” said Maher: “Maine and Vermont, and Maine’s black population consists of a bear.”
The scary contradictions of the NSA mess.
IN 2011, Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin stated that “as author of the Patriot Act,” he “applaud[ed] the House and Senate” for extending provisions of the controversial legislation, including Section 215 allowing investigators broad powers to monitor and seize “any tangible things” related to a terrorism investigation. Last week, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Sensenbrenner—now apparently surprised at how his legislation was used by the National Security Agency (NSA)—wrote that “as the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely disturbed by what appears to be an overbroad interpretation of the Act.”
Sensenbrenner was responding to documents leaked to The Guardian by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former contract worker at the NSA, that revealed a massive government data-mining program. The vague language of the Patriot Act, say the bill’s legion of critics, made the massive expansion of the surveillance state both possible and inevitable. Yet, as The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf noted, the congressman had previously shrugged off concerns that the law could be abused, arguing in 2006 that “congressional negotiators added more than 30 civil-liberty safeguards not included in current law to ensure that the Patriot Act’s authorities would not be abused in the future.”
Sensenbrenner isn’t alone in changing his tune. According to a new poll released by the Pew Research Center, Americans are remarkably fickle in their attitudes about domestic surveillance. During the Bush administration, only 37 percent of Democrats found NSA spying programs “acceptable,” while 75 percent of Republicans backed eavesdropping on “people suspected of involvement with terrorism ... without first getting court approval to do so.” The same question, asked days after Snowden’s revelations, saw 64 percent of Democrats now backing NSA snooping, with Republican support dropping to 53 percent.
Opinions of leaker Snowden and the NSA’s spying program are making strange bedfellows—when’s the last time Glenn Beck and Michael Moore agreed on something? Roll over to see who’s said what.
The iconic litigator, glorified by Julia Roberts in a 2000 movie, was arrested for drunkenly handling a boat this weekend. Eliza Shapiro on the unglamorous trouble behind the famous name.
The last time most of us heard about legal crusader Erin Brockovich, she was being glamorously portrayed by Julia Roberts in an Academy Award–winning film.
Erin Brockovich, following her arrest, 2013. (HOPD)
Thirteen years later, she’s a household name again—for drunkenly driving a boat around a Nevada lake, an act that earned her a DUI citation and a very unflattering mug shot. Brockovich was booked at the Clark County Detention Center and released after posting $1,000 bond.
These metro areas are sandboxes for ideas.
Did you know that the majority of U.S. patents—63 percent—are developed by people living in just 20 metro areas, home to only 34 percent of the U.S. population? While it’s no surprise to see Silicon Valley topping the list of where innovators and inventors choose to call home, other lesser-known cities are punching above their weight to meet the demands of a new economy. Ski-friendly Burlington, Vermont, and university town Ann Arbor, Michigan, have transformed into hubs of creativity by capitalizing on local assets—semiconductor devices and motor parts, respectively. Drawn from a Brookings Institution report, the list below is a snapshot of the 10 most patent-intensive metro areas in the country between 2007 and 2011. And the research bears out a correlation between patents filed and economic growth; innovation may just be the key to leveling the bicoastal playing field of important and influential metros.
MOST PATENT-INTENSIVE METRO AREAS
- San Jose–Sunnyvale–Santa Clara, CA
Avg. Patents*: 9,237
Patent Intensity**: 10.29
- Burlington–South Burlington, VT
Avg. Patents: 826
Patent Intensity: 6.86
- Rochester, MN
Avg. Patents: 606
Patent Intensity: 5.70
- Corvallis, OR
Avg. Patents: 194
Patent Intensity: 4.83
- Poughkeepsie–Newburgh–Middletown, N.Y.
Avg. Patents: 1,226
Patent Intensity: 4.70
- Boulder, CO
Avg. Patents: 666
Patent Intensity: 4.04
- San Francisco–Oakland–Fremont, CA
Avg. Patents: 7,003
Patent Intensity: 3.59
- Santa Cruz–Watsonville, CA
Avg. Patents: 310
Patent Intensity: 3.20
- Austin–Round Rock–San Marcos, TX
Avg. Patents: 2,497
Patent Intensity: 3.09
- Ann Arbor, MI
Avg. Patents: 590
Patent Intensity: 2.93
Will the jury’s racial makeup decide George Zimmerman’s fate?
WHEN THE jury voted to acquit O.J. Simpson on October 3, 1995, of the double murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, many blamed the racial makeup of the jury for the former football star walking free. After all, nine out of the 12 jurors were African-American.
Almost 18 years later, jury selection for George Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial began on Monday, a case that has race—and Americans’ attitudes toward it—at its very core. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, has confessed to shooting and killing the unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin in February of last year, at first avoiding arrest due to Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law. Public outrage over the lack of charges led to Zimmerman’s arrest nearly two months after Martin’s death. According to a Gallup Poll in April 2012—shortly before Zimmerman’s arrest—72 percent of African-Americans believed Zimmerman was definitely or probably guilty of a crime and just 1 percent believed he was not guilty. What’s more, 72 percent of African-Americans said racial bias was a major factor in the shooting, compared with only 31 percent of nonblacks.
In selecting a jury, both the prosecution and the defense have the right to a peremptory challenge, to reject a potential juror without stating a reason—although it’s illegal for attorneys on either side to automatically dismiss jurors due to race or gender. But as jury consultant Doug Keene said in an interview, “There are ways of avoiding that legal restriction for skilled lawyers.”
Thanks to NSA surveillance scandal.
It’s 29 years late, but has Big Brother finally arrived? Readers are flocking to buy George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, which describes a totalitarian surveillance state, since news of the National Security Administration scandal broke. The book has landed on Amazon’s list of “Movers and Shakers,” and sales of the novel have increased thousands of percent. “Throwing out such a broad net of surveillance is exactly the kind of threat Orwell feared,” Orwell biographer Michael Shelden told NPR. President Obama even referenced the novel, naming Big Brother, when he defended the program last Friday.
The consulting firm that employed leaker Edward Snowden still has the support of investors. Daniel Gross on why this isn’t surprising.
How much does it cost you if one of your employees goes rogue and screws over your business client? If you’re Booz Allen Hamilton, the government contractor that employed leaker Edward Snowden, about $60 million.
On Monday, investors in Booz Allen, which is publicly traded, had their first opportunity to react to the bombshell news that broke over the weekend. And the reaction was something close to a shrug. The stock closed at $17.54, down about 2.55 percent from Friday’s closing price of $18. Given the company’s market capitalization of $2.41 billion, it lost about $64 million in value. Through midday Tuesday, the stock was down less than 1 percent.
Booz Allen cyberfacility, September 25, 2012; floor of the NYSE, June 11, 2013. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Washington Post, via Getty; Andrew Burton/Getty)
Just look at the polls: everyone loves Big Brother when he’s got the right party affiliation. Nick Gillespie on how rank partisanship has trumped principles—and how to change that.
In the first flush of stories about how the National Security Agency is surveilling American citizens, one stomach-turning revelation hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves: we get the surveillance state we deserve because rank political partisanship trumps bedrock principle every goddamn time on just about every goddamn issue.
A man protests the Patriot Act during an anarchist rally on the final day of the Democratic National Convention in 2004. (Michael Springer/Getty Images)
The journalist Glenn Greenwald, who jump-started this overdue conversation on civil liberties and the war on terrorism, has promised that the revelations are just getting started. But nothing that comes out can be more dispiriting than the simple truth that Democrats and Republicans are both happy to love Big Brother as long as he’s got the right party affiliation.
The respected young journalist died Tuesday in a car accident at age 33. In his too-short but impressive career, Hastings was never shy about voicing his convictions or opinions. Here are some of his most incisive on-air moments.