MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/sites/all/modules/patched/service_links/images/facebook.png/favicon.ico http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Report: Most Sunscreens Are Bad, But These 7 Brands Are the Worst http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/05/sunscreen-best-uva-skin-cancer-protection-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Memorial Day is the unofficial kick off to summer, when our calendars fill up with beach days and we begin the obligatory slopping on of sunscreen.</p> <p>Whether you're putting it on&nbsp;yourself or someone else, the importance of sunscreen has been drilled into most of us from an early age. But choosing a bottle to throw in your beach bag can be pretty overwhelming. We have more products to choose from, each with different claims such as "broad spectrum"or "UVB protection." For ten years, the Environmental Working Group has published a list of the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/2016sunscreen/report/executive-summary/" target="_blank">best and worst products</a> for shielding against the sun's harsh rays. Here are some key takeaways, followed by the 2016 list.</p> <p><strong>Many products offer poor protection.</strong> This year, the group looked at more than 750 products and concluded that nearly 75 percent of them offered poor protection or had ingredients the group found "worrisome." For example, oxybenzone is a sunscreen additive that the working group says is a hormone disrupter and allergen.</p> <p>Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, says it's a good thing that the number of mineral-only products has doubled since 2007, rising from 17 percent of products to 34 percent in 2016. These sunscreens, which offer protection against both UVA and UVB,&nbsp; generally don't contain harmful additives.</p> <p><strong>We are still waiting for those SPF 50+ rules. </strong>While we no longer see claims like "sweat proof" and "water proof" on sunscreen (the FDA said they were too far-reaching), the agency's <a href="http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm258416.htm">proposed</a> regulation that would cap SPF numbers at 50+ hasn't kicked in yet. In 2011, the FDA stated that anything higher than that number is "inherently misleading." In this year's report, the Environmental Working Group found that 61 sunscreen products had an SPF higher than 50, as opposed to just 10 products in 2007. (We've <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/1993/05/melanoma-sunscreen-use">reported</a> about&nbsp;sunscreen companies' misleading claims in the past, and my colleague Kiera Butler wrote about some ingredients that may actually <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2010/05/common-sunscreen-ingredient-cancer">speed up</a> the development of skin cancer.)</p> <p><strong>Spray-on sunscreen may offer less protection.</strong> Because&nbsp; spray-on sunscreens evaporate quickly, Lunder said, it's hard to tell if you've covered your whole body.</p> <p>"We think, 'I can get it on my kids faster,'" she said. "But that really doesn't hold up in the real world, there's evidence that they aren't using as much and aren't getting that thickness on their skin."&nbsp;</p> <p>The important thing to remember, the group says, is that <a href="https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/8-little-known-facts-about-sunscreens/" target="_blank">sunscreen alone</a> won't do the job, and that we tend to give it more importance than we should. Hats, sunglasses, time in the shade and other essentials are also key for protecting against sun damage.</p> <p>Here's is the group's list of the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/best-sunscreens/best-beach-sport-sunscreens/" target="_blank">best and worst sunscreens</a> of 2016:</p> <p>(<em>In no particular order)</em></p> <p><strong>The Best for Adults*</strong></p> <p>The organization rated sunscreens from 1 to 10 (products with 1's were excellent and ones with 10's were the worst). Just over 60 brands received a score of 1 or 2. These were designated "low hazard" for their ingredient list and because they had a good balance of SPF and UVA protection. Find the full list <a href="https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/best-kids-sunscreens/" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> <ul><li>All Good Sunscreen and Sunstick, SPF 30 and 50</li> <li>All Terrain Aqua and TerraSport Sunscreens, SPF 30</li> <li>Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen, SPF 30</li> <li>Badger Sunscreen Cream and Lotion, SPF 25, 30, and 35</li> <li>Bare Belly Organics, SPF 34</li> <li>Beauty Without Cruelty, SPF 30</li> <li>Kiss My Face Organics Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30</li> <li>Nature's Gate Face Sunscreen, SPF 25</li> <li>Tropical Sands Sunscreen and Facestick, SPF 30</li> <li>Releve Organic Skincare, SPF 20</li> <li>Star Naturals Sunscreen Stick, SPF 25</li> </ul><p>(*The group did not release a list of the worst sunscreens for adults.)&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The Best for Kids</strong></p> <ul><li>Adorable Baby Sunscreen lotion, SPF 30</li> <li>All Good Kid's Sunscreen, SPF 33</li> <li>All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30</li> <li>ATTITUDE Little Ones 100% Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30</li> <li>BabyHampton Beach Bum Sunscreen, SPF 30</li> <li>COOLA Suncare Baby Mineral Sunscreen, unscented moisturizer, SPF 50.</li> <li>Belly Button &amp; Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30.</li> <li>Blue Lizard Austrailian Sunscreen, SPF 35.</li> <li>BurnOut Kids Physical Sunscreen, SPF 35</li> <li>California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30</li> <li>Goddess Garden Kids Sport Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30</li> <li>Jersey Kids Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30</li> <li>Kiss My Face Organics Kids Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30</li> <li>Nurture My Body Baby Organic Sunscreen, SPF 32</li> <li>Substance Baby Natural Sun Care Creme, SPF 30</li> <li>Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Kids, SPF 50</li> <li>Sunumbra Sunkids Natural Sunscreen, SPF 40</li> <li>Thinksport for Kids Sunscreen, SPF 50</li> <li>TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30</li> </ul><p><strong>The Worst for Kids</strong></p> <p>On the 1 to 10 scale, the below products scored a 7 or higher (with 10 being the worst) because they made high SPF claims or had higher amounts of the additives oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.</p> <ul><li>Banana Boat Kids Max Protect &amp; Play Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100**</li> <li>Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Stick, Wacky Foam, and Sunscreen lotion, SPF 55</li> <li>CVS Baby Sunstick Sunscreen and Spray, SPF 55</li> <li>Equate Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55</li> <li>Hampton Sun Continuous Mist Sunscreen For Kids, SPF 70</li> <li>Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray and Stick products, SPF 70</li> <li>Up &amp; Up Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55</li> </ul><p>**This was the only product that got a 10.</p></body></html> Environment Health Top Stories Tue, 24 May 2016 04:46:10 +0000 Jenny Luna 304686 at http://www.motherjones.com Trumpapalooza for May 23, 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/trumpapalooza-may-23-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A while back I asked how to handle the fire hose of Donald Trump news, and one suggestion was to ignore it during the day and then put all of it into a single end-of-the-day roundup. I'm not sure this is a viable long-term solution, but let's give it a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trumpapalooza.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">try. Here's the Trumpapalooza for May 23, 2016:</p> <p><u><strong>Global Warming</strong></u></p> <p>Publicly, Trump has made it clear that he thinks global warming is a hoax. But when it comes to building a sea wall to protect one of his golf courses, <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/donald-trump-climate-change-golf-course-223436" target="_blank">it turns out he's a true believer:</a> "If the predictions of an increase in sea level rise as a result of global warming prove correct," his company says in a letter, "it could reasonably be expected that the rate of sea level rise might become twice of that presently occurring....As a result, we would expect the rate of dune recession to increase."</p> <p><u><strong>Wall Street</strong></u></p> <p>Trump apparently isn't quite as plugged into the world of the rich and powerful <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/24/business/dealbook/donald-trump-relationship-bankers.html?smid=tw-share&amp;_r=1" target="_blank">as he thinks:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If there were any prevailing doubts of his stature on Wall Street, Mr. Trump said the chief executive at Deutsche Bank could easily allay it. &ldquo;Why don&rsquo;t you call the head of Deutsche Bank? Her name is Rosemary Vrablic,&rdquo; he said in the recent interview. &ldquo;She is the boss.&rdquo;</p> <p>Ms. Vrablic is a private wealth manager at Deutsche Bank in New York. <strong>She is not the company&rsquo;s chief executive;</strong> John Cryan holds that role. Both declined to comment on Mr. Trump.</p> </blockquote> <p><u><strong>Energy Policy</strong></u></p> <p>Trump recently met with Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, <a href="https://www.snl.com/InteractiveX/Article.aspx?cdid=A-36595275-11050" target="_blank">and had a question for him:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>During the meeting, Murray said Trump had asked him about numerous facets of U.S. energy policy. At one point, Murray said he would suggest lifting obstacles to opening liquefied natural gas, or LNG, export facilities to reduce the supply glut of natural gas in the country.</p> <p>He said that Trump was agreeable with the idea, but then had a question. <strong>"What's LNG?"</strong> Murray said Trump asked.</p> </blockquote> <p><u><strong>Rape</strong></u></p> <p>Josh Marshall says that if Trump is going to dredge up groundless old rape accusations against Bill Clinton, it's time to ask him some questions about <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/time-to-press-donald-on-raping-his-wife" target="_blank">his own past sexual conduct:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Trump's former wife Ivana said Trump raped her in a sworn deposition. Given how central a role rape accusations have played in Trump's campaign&nbsp;&mdash; against Mexicans, political opponents, etc. it is clearly a highly germane question, as frankly it would be for any presidential candidate.</p> <p>The details surrounding the alleged rape are bizarrely novelistic even by Trumpian standards. <strong>According to Ivana, Trump was driven to freakish rage by a failed anti-baldness surgery&nbsp;&mdash; a so-called 'scalp reduction'.</strong> But the actions are very clear cut. According to her deposition, Trump flew into a rage, attacked her, held her down and began pulling hair out of her head to mimic his pain and then forcibly penetrated her....This was a pretty concrete and specific [accusation]. And the author of the book that first surfaced the deposition said he'd found numerous friends of Ivana's who she had confided the incident to at the time.</p> </blockquote> <p><u><strong>Vince Foster</strong></u></p> <p>The right-wing fever swamp has long believed that Vince Foster, a deputy White House counsel in the Clinton administration, didn't commit suicide on July 20, 1993. Rather, Hillary Clinton had him murdered and then ordered his body dragged to Fort Marcy Park, where he was found the next day. Even by conservative standards this is both fantastical and repulsive (Foster was a good friend of Hillary's). Naturally, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-escalates-attack-on-bill-clinton/2016/05/23/ed109acc-2100-11e6-8690-f14ca9de2972_story.html" target="_blank">that didn't stop Trump:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When asked in an interview last week about the Foster case, Trump dealt with it as he has with many edgy topics &mdash; raising doubts about the official version of events even as he says he does not plan to talk about it on the campaign trail. <strong>He called theories of possible foul play &ldquo;very serious&rdquo; and the circumstances of Foster&rsquo;s death &ldquo;very fishy.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;He had intimate knowledge of what was going on,&rdquo; Trump said, speaking of Foster&rsquo;s relationship with the Clintons at the time. &ldquo;He knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide.&rdquo; He added, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t bring [Foster&rsquo;s death] up because I don&rsquo;t know enough to really discuss it. I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don&rsquo;t do that because I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s fair.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>There was also some polling news, but who cares about polls in May?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 24 May 2016 03:29:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 304711 at http://www.motherjones.com Conservatives Win Pyrrhic Victory in Facebook War http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/conservatives-win-pyrrhic-victory-facebook-war <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Facebook has caved in to conservative demands that it revamp its Trending Topics feed. Brian Fung describes <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/05/23/facebook-is-making-some-big-changes-to-trending-topics-responding-to-conservatives/?hpid=hp_no-name_switch-fbtrending730p_1%3Ahomepage%2Fstory" target="_blank">how the algorithm works:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>To be considered for a place in the Trending Topics portion of the site, a topic must generally be mentioned 80 times per hour or more. Facebook takes steps to exclude repeated events that don&rsquo;t constitute news, such as the hashtag &ldquo;lunch,&rdquo; <strong>which usually produces more activity during lunchtime,</strong> the company said in its letter.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm glad to see that Facebook is on top of this. However, I suspect that conservatives are going to be disappointed in the results. Facebook has agreed to stop using external news sites to help it decide which topics are truly trending, and this is likely to have two effects: It will make the Trending Topics feed (a) stupider and (b) more liberal. After all, if you rely entirely on Facebook users, you're relying on an audience that skews young and college educated. How likely is it that this will favor stories about Agenda 21 and Benghazi?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 24 May 2016 01:47:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 304706 at http://www.motherjones.com Bernie Sanders Officially Admits He Lost http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/bernie-sanders-officially-admits-he-lost <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Bernie Sanders <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/280941-sanders-names-cornel-west-keith-ellison-to-platform" target="_blank">gets tossed a bone today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Top Bernie Sanders supporters Dr. Cornel West and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) will be among those on the Democratic Party's important Platform Drafting Committee after the Vermont senator won a key concession as he looks to leave his mark on the party's platform. The roster of the drafting committee, released by the Democratic National Committee on Monday, <strong>reflects the party's agreement that Sanders would have five supporters on the committee, compared to six for Hillary Clinton.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>First off: If Bernie has officially agreed to accept five out of 11 members on the Platform Committee, isn't that a tacit admission that he's already lost the nomination?</p> <p>But also: Does anyone care about the platform? Seriously. I know it's a big fight every four years, but does either party platform ever have any effect at all on the election?</p> <p>And as long as we're talking about Bernie, Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels write today that his supporters <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/23/opinion/campaign-stops/do-sanders-supporters-favor-his-policies.html?src=me&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">don't actually support his lefty politics:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a survey conducted for the American National Election Studies in late January, supporters of Mr. Sanders...were less likely than Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s supporters to favor concrete policies that Mr. Sanders has offered...<strong>including a higher minimum wage, increasing government spending on health care and an expansion of government services financed by higher taxes.</strong></p> <p>....Mr. Sanders has drawn enthusiastic support from young people, a common pattern for outsider candidates. But here, too...the generational difference in ideology seems not to have translated into more liberal positions on concrete policy issues &mdash; even on the specific issues championed by Mr. Sanders. For example, <strong>young Democrats were less likely than older Democrats to support increased government funding of health care, substantially less likely to favor a higher minimum wage and less likely to support expanding government services.</strong> Their distinctive liberalism is mostly a matter of adopting campaign labels, not policy preferences.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's interesting, if not especially surprising. We're all basically tribalists at our cores. Except for you and me, of course.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 24 May 2016 00:03:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 304701 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: The Conservative Fight to Become First Gnat http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/quote-day-conservative-fight-become-first-gnat <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/435723/conservative-facebook-wars-are-depressing-and-familiar" target="_blank">From conservative Jim Geraghty</a> on the ongoing spat between right-wingers about who's selling out to whom in the great Facebook War of 2016:</p> <blockquote> <p>I&rsquo;m pretty darn sure that throwing around accusations of gutlessness and useful idiocy are far more about deciding who should be deemed First Gnat than they are about actually changing behavior in Silicon Valley.</p> </blockquote> <p>The ostensible subject of this war is whether Facebook is deliberately suppressing conservative stories in its Trending Topics feed. A bunch of conservatives met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about this, and when it was all over Glenn Beck praised Zuckerberg for listening while Tucker Carlson insisted that Beck was a Zuckerberg toady. It went downhill from there.</p> <p>But here's what gets me. Unless I've missed something, this entire squabble is based on the claims of one (1) anonymous former member of the team responsible for Trending Topics. That's it. Am I wrong about this? Has there been any other serious evidence one way or the other about Facebook's alleged bias? Are conservatives really rending their garments over something so thin?</p> <p>Of course, we liberals are going through the same thing on a larger scale in the current war between Hillarybots and Berniebros (or whatever we call them these days). But at least that's tediously normal, since it happens every time Democrats are competing for the White House. I recommend that conservatives go back to fighting over Donald Trump. At least that matters.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 23 May 2016 21:30:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 304691 at http://www.motherjones.com The Legal System Uses an Algorithm to Predict If People Might Be Future Criminals. It's Biased Against Blacks. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/05/machine-police-future-crime-algorithm-bias <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><head><script type="text/javascript" src="https://pixel.propublica.org/pixel.js" async="true"></script></head><body><p><span class="section-lead">On a spring afternoon</span> in 2014, Brisha Borden was running late to pick up her god-sister from school when she spotted an unlocked kid's blue Huffy bicycle and a silver Razor scooter. Borden and a friend grabbed the bike and scooter and tried to ride them down the street in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Coral Springs.</p> <p>Just as the 18-year-old girls were realizing they were too big for the tiny conveyances&mdash;which belonged to a 6-year-old boy&mdash;a woman came running after them saying, "That's my kid's stuff." Borden and her friend immediately dropped the bike and scooter and walked away.</p> <p>But it was too late&mdash;a neighbor who witnessed the heist had already called the police. Borden and her friend were arrested and charged with burglary and petty theft for the items, which were valued at a total of $80.</p> <p>Compare their crime with a similar one: The previous summer, 41-year-old Vernon Prater was picked up for shoplifting $86.35 worth of tools from a nearby Home Depot store.</p> <p>Prater was the more seasoned criminal. He had already been convicted of armed robbery and attempted armed robbery, for which he served five years in prison, in addition to another armed robbery charge. Borden had a record, too, but it was for misdemeanors committed when she was a juvenile.</p> <p>Yet something odd happened when Borden and Prater were booked into jail: A computer program spat out a score predicting the likelihood of each committing a future crime. Borden&mdash;who is black&mdash;was rated a high risk. Prater&mdash;who is white&mdash;was rated a low risk.</p> <p>Two years later, we know the computer algorithm got it exactly backward. Borden has not been charged with any new crimes. Prater is serving an eight-year prison term for subsequently breaking into a warehouse and stealing thousands of dollars' worth of electronics.</p> <p>Scores like this&mdash;known as risk assessments&mdash;are increasingly common in courtrooms across the nation. They are used to inform decisions about who can be set free at every stage of the criminal justice system, from assigning bond amounts&mdash;as is the case in Fort Lauderdale&mdash;to even more fundamental decisions about defendants' freedom. In Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, the results of such assessments are given to judges during criminal sentencing.</p> <p>Rating a defendant's risk of future crime is often done in conjunction with an evaluation of a defendant's rehabilitation needs. The Justice Department's National Institute of Corrections now encourages the use of such combined assessments at every stage of the criminal justice process. And a landmark sentencing <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/2123/text" target="_blank">reform bill</a> currently pending in Congress would mandate the use of such assessments in federal prisons.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202016-05-23%20at%2011.40.49%20AM_0.png"><div class="caption"><strong>Borden was rated high risk for future crime after she and a friend took a kid&rsquo;s bike and scooter that were sitting outside. She did not reoffend. </strong>Courtesy of ProPublica</div> </div> <p>In 2014, then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder warned that the risk scores might be injecting bias into the courts. He called for the U.S. Sentencing Commission to study their use. "Although these measures were crafted with the best of intentions, I am concerned that they inadvertently undermine our efforts to ensure individualized and equal justice," he said, adding, "they may exacerbate unwarranted and unjust disparities that are already far too common in our criminal justice system and in our society."</p> <p>The sentencing commission did not, however, launch a study of risk scores. So ProPublica did, as part of a larger examination of the powerful, largely hidden effect of algorithms in American life.</p> <p>We obtained the risk scores assigned to more than 7,000 people arrested in Broward County, Florida, in 2013 and 2014 and checked to see how many were charged with new crimes over the next two years, the <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2840784-Practitioner-s-Guide-to-COMPAS-Core.html#document/p30/a296482" target="_blank">same benchmark</a> used by the creators of the algorithm.</p> <p>The score proved remarkably unreliable in forecasting violent crime: Only 20 percent of the people predicted to commit violent crimes actually went on to do so.</p> <p>When a full range of crimes were taken into account&mdash;including misdemeanors such as driving with an expired license&mdash;the algorithm was somewhat more accurate than a coin flip. Of those deemed likely to re-offend, 61 percent were arrested for any subsequent crimes within two years.</p> <p>We also turned up significant racial disparities, just as Holder feared. In forecasting who would re-offend, the algorithm made mistakes with black and white defendants at roughly the same rate but in very different ways.</p> <ul><li>The formula was particularly likely to falsely flag black defendants as future criminals, wrongly labeling them this way at almost twice the rate as white defendants.</li> <li>White defendants were mislabeled as low risk more often than black defendants.</li> </ul><p>Could this disparity be explained by defendants' prior crimes or the type of crimes they were arrested for? No. We ran a statistical test that isolated the effect of race from criminal history and recidivism, as well as from defendants' age and gender. Black defendants were still 77 percent more likely to be pegged as at higher risk of committing a future violent crime and 45 percent more likely to be predicted to commit a future crime of any kind. (<a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/how-we-analyzed-the-compas-recidivism-algorithm/" target="_blank">Read our analysis</a>.)</p> <p>The algorithm used to create the Florida risk scores is a product of a for-profit company, Northpointe. The company disputes our analysis.</p> <p>In a letter, it criticized ProPublica's methodology and defended the accuracy of its test: "Northpointe does not agree that the results of your analysis, or the claims being made based upon that analysis, are correct or that they accurately reflect the outcomes from the application of the model.</p> <p>Northpointe's software is among the most widely used assessment tools in the country. The company does not publicly disclose the calculations used to arrive at defendants' risk scores, so it is not possible for either defendants or the public to see what might be driving the disparity. (On Sunday, Northpointe gave ProPublica the basics of its future-crime formula&mdash;which includes factors such as education levels, and whether a defendant has a job. It did not share the specific calculations, which it said are proprietary.)</p> <p>Northpointe's core product is a set of scores derived from <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2702103-Sample-Risk-Assessment-COMPAS-CORE.html" target="_blank">137 questions</a> that are either answered by defendants or pulled from criminal records. Race is not one of the questions. The survey asks defendants such things as: "Was one of your parents ever sent to jail or prison?" "How many of your friends/acquaintances are taking drugs illegally?" and "How often did you get in fights while at school?" The questionnaire also asks people to agree or disagree with statements such as "A hungry person has a right to steal" and "If people make me angry or lose my temper, I can be dangerous."</p> <p>The appeal of risk scores is obvious: The United States locks up far more people than any other country, a disproportionate number of them black. For more than two centuries, the key decisions in the legal process, from pretrial release to sentencing to parole, have been in the hands of human beings guided by their instincts and personal biases.</p> <p>If computers could accurately predict which defendants were likely to commit new crimes, the criminal justice system could be fairer and more selective about who is incarcerated and for how long. The trick, of course, is to make sure the computer gets it right. If it's wrong in one direction, a dangerous criminal could go free. If it's wrong in another direction, it could result in someone unfairly receiving a harsher sentence or waiting longer for parole than is appropriate.</p> <p>The first time Paul Zilly heard of his score&mdash;and realized how much was riding on it&mdash;was during his sentencing hearing on Feb. 15, 2013, in court in Barron County, Wisconsin. Zilly had been convicted of stealing a push lawnmower and some tools. The prosecutor recommended a year in county jail and follow-up supervision that could help Zilly with "staying on the right path." His lawyer agreed to a plea deal.</p> <p>But Judge James Babler had seen Zilly's scores. Northpointe's software had rated Zilly as a high risk for future violent crime and a medium risk for general recidivism. "When I look at the risk assessment," Babler said in court, "it is about as bad as it could be."</p> <p>Then Babler overturned the plea deal that had been agreed on by the prosecution and defense and imposed two years in state prison and three years of supervision.</p> <p><span class="section-lead">Criminologists have long tried</span> to predict which criminals are more dangerous before deciding whether they should be released. Race, nationality and skin color were often used in making such predictions until about the 1970s, when it became politically unacceptable, according to a <a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1677654" target="_blank">survey of risk assessment tools</a> by Columbia University law professor Bernard Harcourt.</p> <p>In the 1980s, as a crime wave engulfed the nation, lawmakers made it much harder for judges and parole boards to exercise discretion in making such decisions. States and the federal government began instituting mandatory sentences and, in some cases, abolished parole, making it less important to evaluate individual offenders.</p> <p>But as states struggle to pay for swelling prison and jail populations, forecasting criminal risk has made a comeback.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202016-05-23%20at%2011.32.50%20AM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>Fugett was rated low risk after being arrested with cocaine and marijuana. He was arrested three times on drug charges after that. </strong>Courtesy of ProPublica</div> </div> <p>Dozens of risk assessments are being used across the nation&mdash;some created by for-profit companies such as Northpointe and others by nonprofit organizations. (One tool being used in states including Kentucky and Arizona, called the Public Safety Assessment, was developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which also is a funder of ProPublica.)</p> <p>There have been few independent studies of these criminal risk assessments. In 2013, researchers Sarah Desmarais and Jay Singh examined <a href="http://jpo.wrlc.org/handle/11204/4006?show=full" target="_blank">19 different risk methodologies</a> used in the United States and found that "in most cases, validity had only been examined in one or two studies" and that "frequently, those investigations were completed by the same people who developed the instrument."</p> <p>Their analysis of the research through 2012 found that the tools "were moderate at best in terms of predictive validity," Desmarais said in an interview. And she could not find any substantial set of studies conducted in the United States that examined whether risk scores were racially biased. "The data do not exist," she said.</p> <p>Since then, there have been some attempts to explore racial disparities in risk scores. One <a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2687339" target="_blank">2016 study</a> examined the validity of a risk assessment tool, not Northpointe's, used to make probation decisions for about 35,000 federal convicts. The researchers, Jennifer Skeem at University of California, Berkeley, and Christopher T. Lowenkamp from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, found that blacks did get a higher average score but concluded the differences were not attributable to bias.</p> <p>The increasing use of risk scores is controversial and has garnered media coverage, including articles by the <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/027a00d70782476eb7cd07fbcca40fc2/states-predict-inmates-future-crimes-secretive-surveys" target="_blank">Associated Press</a>, and the <a href="https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/08/04/the-new-science-of-sentencing" target="_blank">Marshall Project and FiveThirtyEight</a> last year.</p> <p>Most modern risk tools were originally designed to provide judges with insight into the types of treatment that an individual might need&mdash;from drug treatment to mental health counseling.</p> <p>"What it tells the judge is that if I put you on probation, I'm going to need to give you a lot of services or you're probably going to fail," said Edward Latessa, a University of Cincinnati professor who is the author of a risk assessment tool that is used in Ohio and several other states.</p> <p>But being judged ineligible for alternative treatment&mdash;particularly during a sentencing hearing&mdash;can translate into incarceration. Defendants rarely have an opportunity to challenge their assessments. The results are usually shared with the defendant's attorney, but the calculations that transformed the underlying data into a score are rarely revealed.</p> <p>"Risk assessments should be impermissible unless both parties get to see all the data that go into them," said Christopher Slobogin, director of the criminal justice program at Vanderbilt Law School. "It should be an open, full-court adversarial proceeding."</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202016-05-23%20at%2011.43.19%20AM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>These charts show that scores for white defendants were skewed toward lower-risk categories. Scores for black defendants were not. </strong>ProPublica analysis of data from Broward County, Florida</div> </div> <p>Proponents of risk scores argue they can be used to reduce the rate of incarceration. In 2002, Virginia became one of the first states to begin using a risk assessment tool in the sentencing of nonviolent felony offenders statewide. In 2014, Virginia judges using the tool sent nearly half of those defendants to alternatives to prison, according to a state sentencing commission report. Since 2005, the state's prison population growth has slowed to 5 percent from a rate of 31 percent the previous decade.</p> <p>In some jurisdictions, such as Napa County, California, the probation department uses risk assessments to suggest to the judge an appropriate probation or treatment plan for individuals being sentenced. Napa County Superior Court Judge Mark Boessenecker said he finds the recommendations helpful. "We have a dearth of good treatment programs, so filling a slot in a program with someone who doesn't need it is foolish," he said.</p> <p>However, Boessenecker, who trains other judges around the state in evidence-based sentencing, cautions his colleagues that the score doesn't necessarily reveal whether a person is dangerous or if they should go to prison.</p> <p>"A guy who has molested a small child every day for a year could still come out as a low risk because he probably has a job," Boessenecker said.</p> <p>"Meanwhile, a drunk guy will look high risk because he's homeless. These risk factors don't tell you whether the guy ought to go to prison or not; the risk factors tell you more about what the probation conditions ought to be."</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/guy_275.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>"I'm surprised [my risk score] is so low. I spent five years in state prison in Massachusetts." </strong>Josh Ritchie for ProPublica</div> </div> <p>Sometimes, the scores make little sense even to defendants.</p> <p>James Rivelli, a 54-year old Hollywood, Florida, man, was arrested two years ago for shoplifting seven boxes of Crest Whitestrips from a CVS drugstore. Despite a criminal record that included aggravated assault, multiple thefts and felony drug trafficking, the Northpointe algorithm classified him as being at a low risk of reoffending.</p> <p>"I am surprised it is so low," Rivelli said when told by a reporter he had been rated a 3 out of a possible 10. "I spent five years in state prison in Massachusetts. But I guess they don't count that here in Broward County." In fact, criminal records from across the nation are supposed to be included in risk assessments.</p> <p>Less than a year later, he was charged with two felony counts for shoplifting about $1,000 worth of tools from Home Depot. He said his crimes were fueled by drug addiction and that he is now sober</p> <p><span class="section-lead">Northpointe was founded</span> in 1989 by Tim Brennan, then a professor of statistics at the University of Colorado, and Dave Wells, who was running a corrections program in Traverse City, Michigan.</p> <p>Wells had built a prisoner classification system for his jail. "It was a beautiful piece of work," Brennan said in an interview conducted before ProPublica had completed its analysis. Brennan and Wells shared a love for what Brennan called "quantitative taxonomy"&mdash;the measurement of personality traits such as intelligence, extroversion and introversion. The two decided to build a risk assessment score for the corrections industry.</p> <p>Brennan wanted to improve on a leading risk assessment score, the LSI, or Level of Service Inventory, which had been developed in Canada. "I found a fair amount of weakness in the LSI," Brennan said. He wanted a tool that addressed the major theories about the causes of crime.</p> <p>Brennan and Wells named their product the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions, or COMPAS. It assesses not just risk but also nearly two dozen so-called "criminogenic needs" that relate to the major theories of criminality, including "criminal personality," "social isolation," "substance abuse" and "residence/stability." Defendants are ranked low, medium or high risk in each category.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202016-05-23%20at%2011.46.31%20AM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>Lugo crashed his Lincoln Navigator into a Toyota Camry while drunk. He was rated as a low risk of reoffending despite the fact that it was at least his fourth DUI. </strong>Courtesy of ProPublica</div> </div> <p>As often happens with risk assessment tools, many jurisdictions have adopted Northpointe's software before rigorously testing whether it works. New York State, for instance, started using the tool to assess people on probation in a pilot project in 2001 and rolled it out to the rest of the state's probation departments&mdash;except New York City&mdash;by 2010. The state didn't publish a comprehensive <a href="http://www.northpointeinc.com/downloads/research/DCJS_OPCA_COMPAS_Probation_Validity.pdf" target="_blank">statistical evaluation</a> of the tool until 2012. The study of more than 16,000 probationers found the tool was 71 percent accurate, but it did not evaluate racial differences.</p> <p>A spokeswoman for the New York state division of criminal justice services said the study did not examine race because it only sought to test whether the tool had been properly calibrated to fit New York's probation population. She also said judges in nearly all New York counties are given defendants' Northpointe assessments during sentencing.</p> <p>In 2009, Brennan and two colleagues <a href="http://www.northpointeinc.com/files/publications/Criminal-Justice-Behavior-COMPAS.pdf" target="_blank">published a validation study</a> that found that Northpointe's risk of recidivism score had an accuracy rate of 68 percent in a sample of 2,328 people. Their study also found that the score was slightly less predictive for black men than white men&mdash;67 percent versus 69 percent. It did not examine racial disparities beyond that, including whether some groups were more likely to be wrongly labeled higher risk.</p> <p>Brennan said it is difficult to construct a score that doesn't include items that can be correlated with race&mdash;such as poverty, joblessness and social marginalization. "If those are omitted from your risk assessment, accuracy goes down," he said.</p> <p>In 2011, Brennan and Wells sold Northpointe to Toronto-based conglomerate <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=CSU.TO" target="_blank">Constellation Software</a> for an undisclosed sum.</p> <p>Wisconsin has been among the most eager and expansive users of Northpointe's risk assessment tool in sentencing decisions. In 2012, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections launched the use of the software throughout the state. It is used at each step in the prison system, from sentencing to parole.</p> <p>In a 2012 presentation, corrections official Jared Hoy described the system as a "<a href="https://vimeo.com/60187317" target="_blank">giant correctional pinball machine</a>" in which correctional officers could use the scores at every "decision point."</p> <p>Wisconsin has not yet completed a statistical validation study of the tool and has not said when one might be released. State corrections officials declined repeated requests to comment for this article.</p> <p>Some Wisconsin counties use other risk assessment tools at arrest to determine if a defendant is too risky for pretrial release. Once a defendant is convicted of a felony anywhere in the state, the Department of Corrections attaches Northpointe's assessment to the confidential presentence report given to judges, according to Hoy's presentation.</p> <p>In theory, judges are not supposed to give longer sentences to defendants with higher risk scores. Rather, they are supposed to use the tests primarily to determine which defendants are eligible for probation or treatment programs.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202016-05-23%20at%2011.48.10%20AM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>Overall, Northpointe's assessment tool correctly predicts recidivism 61 percent of the time. But blacks are almost twice as likely as whites to be labeled a higher risk but not actually re-offend. It makes the opposite mistake among whites: They are much more likely than blacks to be labeled lower risk but go on to commit other crimes. </strong>ProPublica analysis of data from Broward County, Florida</div> </div> <p>But judges have cited scores in their sentencing decisions. In August 2013, Judge Scott Horne in La Crosse County, Wisconsin, declared that defendant Eric Loomis had been "identified, through the COMPAS assessment, as an individual who is at high risk to the community." The judge then imposed a sentence of eight years and six months in prison.</p> <p>Loomis, who was charged with driving a stolen vehicle and fleeing from police, is challenging the use of the score at sentencing as a violation of his due process rights. The state has defended Horne's use of the score with the argument that judges can consider the score in addition to other factors. It has also stopped including scores in presentencing reports until the state Supreme Court decides the case.</p> <p>"The risk score alone should not determine the sentence of an offender," Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Christine Remington said last month during state Supreme Court arguments in the Loomis case. "We don't want courts to say, this person in front of me is a 10 on COMPAS as far as risk, and therefore I'm going to give him the maximum sentence."</p> <p>That is almost exactly what happened to Zilly, the 48-year-old construction worker sent to prison for stealing a push lawnmower and some tools he intended to sell for parts. Zilly has long struggled with a meth habit. In 2012, he had been working toward recovery with the help of a Christian pastor when he relapsed and committed the thefts.</p> <p>After Zilly was scored as a high risk for violent recidivism and sent to prison, a public defender appealed the sentence and called the score's creator, Brennan, as a witness.</p> <p>Brennan testified that he didn't design his software to be used in sentencing. "I wanted to stay away from the courts," Brennan said, explaining that his focus was on reducing crime rather than punishment. "But as time went on I started realizing that so many decisions are made, you know, in the courts. So I gradually softened on whether this could be used in the courts or not."</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/guy_2.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>"Not that I'm innocent, but I just believe people do change." </strong>Stephen Maturen for ProPublica</div> </div> <p>Still, Brennan testified, "I don't like the idea myself of COMPAS being the sole evidence that a decision would be based upon."</p> <p>After Brennan's testimony, Judge Babler reduced Zilly's sentence, from two years in prison to 18 months. "Had I not had the COMPAS, I believe it would likely be that I would have given one year, six months," the judge said at an appeals hearing on Nov. 14, 2013.</p> <p>Zilly said the score didn't take into account all the changes he was making in his life &mdash; his conversion to Christianity, his struggle to quit using drugs and his efforts to be more available for his son. "Not that I'm innocent, but I just believe people do change."</p> <p><span class="section-lead">Florida's Broward County</span>, where Brisha Borden stole the Huffy bike and was scored as high risk, does not use risk assessments in sentencing. "We don't think the [risk assessment] factors have any bearing on a sentence," said David Scharf, executive director of community programs for the Broward County Sheriff's Office in Fort Lauderdale.</p> <p>Broward County has, however, adopted the score in pretrial hearings, in the hope of addressing jail overcrowding. A court-appointed monitor has overseen Broward County's jails since 1994 as a result of the settlement of a lawsuit brought by inmates in the 1970s. Even now, years later, the Broward County jail system is often more than 85 percent full, Scharf said.</p> <p>In 2008, the sheriff's office decided that instead of building another jail, it would begin using Northpointe's risk scores to help identify which defendants were low risk enough to be released on bail pending trial. Since then, nearly everyone arrested in Broward has been scored soon after being booked. (People charged with murder and other capital crimes are not scored because they are not eligible for pretrial release.)</p> <p>The scores are provided to the judges who decide which defendants can be released from jail. "My feeling is that if they don't need them to be in jail, let's get them out of there," Scharf said.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202016-05-23%20at%2011.51.45%20AM.png"><div class="caption"><strong>After stealing Crest Whitestrips from a CVS, Rivelli was rated low risk. "I'm surprised it's so low," he said of his risk score. "I spent five years in state prison." </strong>Courtesy of ProPublica</div> </div> <p>Scharf said the county chose Northpointe's software over other tools because it was easy to use and produced "simple yet effective charts and graphs for judicial review." He said the system costs about $22,000 a year.</p> <p>In 2010, researchers at Florida State University examined the use of Northpointe's system in Broward County over a 12-month period and concluded that its predictive accuracy was "equivalent" in assessing defendants of different races. Like others, they did not examine whether different races were classified differently as low or high risk.</p> <p>Scharf said the county would review ProPublica's findings. "We'll really look at them up close," he said.</p> <p>Broward County Judge John Hurley, who oversees most of the pretrial release hearings, said the scores were helpful when he was a new judge, but now that he has experience he prefers to rely on his own judgment. "I haven't relied on COMPAS in a couple years," he said.</p> <p>Hurley said he relies on factors including a person's prior criminal record, the type of crime committed, ties to the community, and their history of failing to appear at court proceedings.</p> <p>ProPublica's analysis reveals that higher Northpointe scores are slightly correlated with longer pretrial incarceration in Broward County. But there are many reasons that could be true other than judges being swayed by the scores&mdash;people with higher risk scores may also be poorer and have difficulty paying bond, for example.</p> <p>Most crimes are presented to the judge with a recommended bond amount, but he or she can adjust the amount. Hurley said he often releases first-time or low-level offenders without any bond at all.</p> <p>However, in the case of Borden and her friend Sade Jones, the teenage girls who stole a kid's bike and scooter, Hurley raised the bond amount for each girl from the recommended $0 to $1,000 each.</p> <p>Hurley said he has no recollection of the case and cannot recall if the scores influenced his decision.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/sade-jones.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Sade Jones, who had never been arrested before, was rated a medium risk. </strong>Josh Ritchie for ProPublica</div> </div> <p>The girls spent two nights in jail before being released on bond.</p> <p>"We literally sat there and cried" the whole time they were in jail, Jones recalled. The girls were kept in the same cell. Otherwise, Jones said, "I would have gone crazy." Borden declined repeated requests to comment for this article.</p> <p>Jones, who had never been arrested before, was rated a medium risk. She completed probation and got the felony burglary charged reduced to misdemeanor trespassing, but she has still struggled to find work.</p> <p>"I went to McDonald's and a dollar store, and they all said no because of my background," she said. "It's all kind of difficult and unnecessary."</p></body></html> Politics Crime and Justice Mon, 23 May 2016 21:16:39 +0000 By Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu and Lauren Kirchner, ProPublica 304656 at http://www.motherjones.com Universal Health Care Is Probably No More Popular Now Than It's Ever Been http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/sadly-universal-health-care-probably-no-more-popular-now-its-ever-been <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Harold Pollack says that Bernie Sanders has <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/5/23/11703190/single-payer-questions" target="_blank">started a political revolution:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Not enough of one to win the Democratic presidential nomination, but enough to put the dream of single-payer health care back on the national political agenda in a way few would have expected five years ago....Just this week, <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/191504/majority-support-idea-fed-funded-healthcare-system.aspx?g_source=Politics&amp;g_medium=newsfeed&amp;g_campaign=tiles" target="_blank">Gallup released a poll</a> indicating that "58% of U.S. adults favor the idea of replacing [the Affordable Care Act] with a federally funded healthcare system that provides insurance for all Americans." <em>Politico Magazine</em> reports that <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sanders_medicare_for_all.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Sanders&rsquo;s health plan "is the most popular of the three remaining candidates."</p> </blockquote> <p>I'd be thrilled about this if it were true, but I have my doubts. The problem is that Americans have a long history of supporting things in the abstract but not so much when they become concrete partisan proposals. Take Obamacare. In 2013, a <a href="http://fm.cnbc.com/applications/cnbc.com/resources/editorialfiles/2013/09/26/FI10863c-release%209-25-13.pdf" target="_blank">CNBC poll</a> showed 37 percent unfavorability toward the "Affordable Care Act," but 46 percent toward "Obamacare." In 2014, a <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/119441/poll-obamacare-medicaid-expansion-responses-change-without-label" target="_blank">Morning Consult poll</a> showed 71 percent support for offering Medicaid to all adults under the poverty line, but only 62 percent support for expanding Medicaid "as encouraged under the Affordable Care Act." A <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/polling-obamacare-label-makes-big-difference-n102861" target="_blank">Marist poll</a> in Kentucky showed 57 percent disapproval of Obamacare but only 22 percent disapproval of kynect&mdash;Kentucky's version of Obamacare. And of course, we have <a href="http://kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-march-2014/" target="_blank">years of polling</a> showing that lots of people like nearly all the individual elements of Obamacare, but then turn around and insist that they hate Obamacare itself.</p> <p>As for universal health care, a <a href="http://www.theharrispoll.com/politics/Health-Care-Moral-Issue.html" target="_blank">Harris poll</a> last September found 63 percent approval. A <a href="http://kff.org/uninsured/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-december-2015/" target="_blank">Kaiser poll</a> in December found 58 percent support for Medicare-for-all. <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/4708/healthcare-system.aspx" target="_blank">Gallup polls</a> going back 15 years show higher support for government guarantees of health care during the Bush years than they do now.</p> <p>So color me skeptical that Bernie Sanders has really had much effect on the health care debate. Gallup's poll last week didn't so much as breathe the word "taxes," and if it did, support for the universal health care option would sink like a stone. Americans have long had mixed feeling about universal health care, and those feelings are deeply tied up in partisan attitudes and willingness to pay. Unfortunately, Sanders doesn't seem to have moved the needle on this at all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 23 May 2016 19:08:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 304666 at http://www.motherjones.com The Supreme Court Just Sent a Strong Message About Racism in the Justice System http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/05/supreme-court-foster-chatman <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>"Nonsense." That's how Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. described the contention that Georgia prosecutors had not been motivated by race when they weeded out every potential black juror from a 1987 death penalty trial. Roberts penned the majority opinion in <a href="http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-8349_6k47.pdf" target="_blank"><em>Foster v. Chatman</em></a>, which reversed a decision by the Georgia Supreme Court that overlooked new evidence of racial discrimination in the trial of Timothy Foster, an African American man, which was a factor leading to his death sentence by an all-white jury.</p> <p>The case had been pending in the high court for an unusually long time, after being argued in November, suggesting that the justices were torn over how to decide it, particularly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. But in the end, the eight-member court ruled 7-1 that Georgia prosecutors had unconstitutionally rejected jurors from Foster's trial based on their race. The lone dissenter was the court's only African American justice, Clarence Thomas, who sided firmly with state of Georgia.</p> <p>The case had presented <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/11/sonia-sotomayor-invokes-jailed-relatives-jury-racism" target="_blank">stark evidence</a> of the kind of racial discrimination that pervades the criminal justice system. In 2006, defense lawyers for Foster, who was convicted of murdering a white woman in Butts County, Georgia, pried out of the prosecutors' office a remarkable file full of documents showing how they had gone about picking a jury for the case.</p> <p>In notes, prosecutors had highlighted the African Americans on several different lists of potential jurors. On one list, under the heading "Definite NOs," prosecutors listed six potential jurors, all but one of whom were black. The prosecutors ranked the prospective black jurors in case "it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors.&rdquo;</p> <p>As Foster's lawyer Stephen Bright said after the decision was released on Monday, "this discrimination became apparent only because we obtained the prosecution's notes which revealed their intent to discriminate. Usually that does not happen. The practice of discriminating in striking juries continues in courtrooms across the country. Usually courts ignore patterns of race discrimination and accept false reasons for the strikes. Even after the undeniable evidence of discrimination was presented in this case, the Georgia courts ignored it and upheld Foster's conviction and death sentence."&nbsp;</p> <p>Foster's 1987 conviction came just months after the US Supreme Court had issued a decision in <em>Batson v. Kentucky</em> that was supposed to ban racial discrimination in jury selection during what are known as "peremptory strikes." That's the mechanism for lawyers in a trial to exclude jurors for no reason. Such strikes have been used extensively to keep minority citizens off juries.</p> <p><em>Batson</em>, though, has failed to halt the cherry-picking of all-white juries in criminal cases against black men. That's largely because prosecutors, when challenged, have learned to justify a decision to kick someone off a jury in "race-neutral" terms, and courts have accepted them. Foster was no exception. Notes in the prosecutors' file indicated that they focused on the race of the jurors from the outset, as Roberts points out in his opinion. They justified excluding black jurors in his case for such nebulous reasons as "failure to make eye contact" or being defiant. (One of the rejected black jurors, Marilyn Garrett, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/11/black-woman-kicked-off-foster-jury-supreme-court" target="_blank">told me last year</a> that if she wasn't making eye contact or was defiant with the prosecutors while they were questioning her, it was because "they really were nasty to me." She said the prosecutors had treated her "like I was a criminal.")</p> <p>Roberts didn't buy the prosecutors' rationale for ejecting two black jurors in particular, and he methodically ripped holes in their arguments before sending the case back to the lower courts for further proceedings. "Two peremptory strikes on the basis of race are two more than the Constitution allows," he concluded.</p> <p>The decision is a forceful blow against racism in the courts, and somewhat unusual coming from the same chief justice who has made a name for himself for <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/10/5-supreme-court-cases-to-watch-this-term" target="_blank">helping to dismantle the Voting Rights Act </a>and affirmative action. The <em>Foster</em> decision isn't going to help Roberts' reputation among tea partiers, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who have decided the former conservative darling of a chief justice <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/john-roberts-now-officially-fourth-conservative-sellout-supreme-court" target="_blank">has become a liberal traitor</a>.</p> <p>Tea partiers should be much happier with the lone dissenter in the case, Thomas. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/clarence-thomas-brumfield-v-cain" target="_blank">As he often does in death penalty cases,</a> he opened his opinion by focusing from the outset on the victim&mdash;in this case, 79-year-old Queen Madge White, whom Thomas noted was sexually assaulted by Foster with a bottle of salad dressing. Far from acknowledging the racist motives in the jury selection, Thomas lambasted the majority ruling for perpetuating a criminal justice system in which "finality" means nothing, and any criminal case can be appealed ad nauseam.</p> <p>His opinion avoids any acknowledgement of the stark failures of the justice system in recent years, injustices that would have largely remained hidden if the courts had taken Thomas' strict view of unwavering procedural rules that until recently protected prosecutors in Georgia in Foster's case from any accountability for their racial discrimination.</p> <p>The decision in <em>Foster</em> won't put an end to racial discrimination in jury selection. But it is certainly vindication for the potential jurors, including Marilyn Garrett, who weren't allowed to fulfill their civic duty all those years ago because of their race. As for Foster, his future is still in limbo. Monday's decision entitles him to a new trial, with a jury of his peers that hasn't been tainted by racial discrimination. But that doesn't guarantee a different outcome. The new Georgia jury may come to the same conclusion as the old one. But if nothing else, his date with the death chamber has likely been put off for many years to come. In the world of death penalty litigation, that counts as a win.</p></body></html> Politics Supreme Court Mon, 23 May 2016 18:55:20 +0000 Stephanie Mencimer 304651 at http://www.motherjones.com Lindsey Graham Seems to Have Forgotten How Much He Hates Donald Trump http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/05/lindsey-graham-forgotten-how-much-he-hates-donald-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/22/politics/donald-trump-lindsey-graham-republican-party/" target="_blank">spent the weekend</a> urging big-money Republican donors to support presumptive nominee Donald Trump. It's a pretty shocking turnaround for a guy who was once the loudest&mdash;and sometimes only&mdash;critic of Trump in the GOP presidential field.</p> <p>Before caving in to Trump's now-inevitable victory in the GOP primaries, Graham insulted Trump, apologized to Muslims for him, called for him to be kicked out of the GOP, and endorsed <em>two</em> of his rivals in last-ditch attempts to block Trump from being nominated. Here's a reminder of Graham's greatest anti-Trump hits.</p> <p>While still a candidate, Graham was essentially the only member of the GOP field to go hard at Trump from the start. He started way back on <strong>July 20</strong> by calling Trump a "<a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/lindsey-graham-donald-trump-is-a-jackass-120386" target="_blank">jackass</a>" for insulting his BFF Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former POW, for getting captured after his fighter-bomber was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967.</p> <p>On <strong>December 8</strong>, Graham delivered <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/08/politics/lindsey-graham-donald-trump-go-to-hell-ted-cruz/" target="_blank">some advice</a> for his party on CNN: "You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell." Graham attacked Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from coming to the United States in particular. "He's a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot" and "the ISIL man of the year" for stirring hatred against Muslims, Graham said.</p> <p>During the <strong>December 15</strong> Republican undercard debate, Graham <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/12/lindsey-graham-apologizes-to-muslim-world-for-donald-trumps" target="_blank">even apologized to Muslims</a> for Trump's Islamophobic comments. "To all of our Muslim friends throughout the world&hellip;I am sorry," he said. "He does not represent us."</p> <p>Graham's finest performance probably came on <strong>February 25</strong>, when he <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/02/25/peak-lindsey-graham-trump-is-a-nut-job-loser-as-a-person-and-ill-suited-to-be-president/" target="_blank">went nuclear</a> on Trump while talking to reporters at the Capitol. "I think he's going to lose and he's going to lose badly," he said. "You can't nominate a nut job." He also called Trump "just generally a loser as a person and a candidate." Despite all that, Graham foreshadowed his pro-Trump turn, saying he'd work for the eventual GOP candidate even if it ended up being Trump.</p> <p>On <strong>March 7</strong>, Graham said Trump should have been <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-gop-primary-live-updates-and-results/2016/03/lindsey-graham-donald-trump-kicked-out-220402" target="_blank">kicked out</a> of the Republican Party over his anti-immigrant comments. "He took our problems in 2012 with Hispanics and made them far worse by espousing forced deportation," Graham said during a CNN interview. "Looking back, we should have basically kicked him out of the party&hellip;The more you know about Donald Trump, the less likely you are to vote for him."</p> <p>On <strong>March 24</strong>, Graham <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2016/03/lindsey-graham-daily-show-ted-cruz-donald-trump" target="_blank">told</a> <em>The Daily Show's</em> Trevor Noah, a mixed-race man from South Africa, that he might have to flee the country if Trump were elected. "If Trump wins, your days are numbered, pal," he said during an appearance on the show. "[A] young, black, liberal guy from Africa is not going to work with him." By this point, Graham had grudgingly endorsed Ted Cruz&mdash;after first throwing his backing to Jeb Bush&mdash;and literally could not stop himself from laughing at the thought of backing the Texas senator, whom he disliked so much he joked Cruz could be shot on the Senate floor without anyone trying to help. "It tells you everything you need to know about Donald Trump," he said in between giggling fits.</p> <p>On <strong>May 6</strong>, with Trump fully in command of the GOP race, Graham said he <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/279017-graham-i-wont-vote-for-trump" target="_blank">still wouldn't cast a vote</a> for Trump. "I&hellip;cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump because I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as commander in chief," Graham said in a statement.</p> <p>During <a href="http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2016/05/11/Lindsey-Graham-Trump-Crazy-Loses-Crooked" target="_blank">a speech</a> just two weeks ago, on <strong>May 11</strong>, Graham said "Crooked Hillary's going to beat Crazy Donald. If he's new and different, I think he could win. New and different is different from being crazy." That may have been his final jab: the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/05/12/donald-trump-and-lindsey-graham-agree-to-stop-insulting-each-other-but-still-no-endorsement/" target="_blank"> <em>Washington</em> <em>Post</em> reported</a> the next day that the two men spoke on the phone and agreed to stop trading insults. "He obviously can take a punch," Graham said, having thrown more of them than perhaps any other politician from either party.</p></body></html> Politics 2016 Elections Donald Trump Mon, 23 May 2016 18:32:22 +0000 Max J. Rosenthal 304626 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump's Latest Attack Ad Is Really Ugly http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/05/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-instagram-bill-women <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last week, Donald Trump <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/17/us/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">promised</a> he would soon go after Hillary Clinton by dredging up Bill Clinton's past affairs, and boy did he deliver Monday morning. Trump posted an ominous video on Instagram that starts with a black-and-white photo of the White House as various women describe allegations against the former president. "No woman should be subjected to it&mdash;it was an assault," one woman says. Then the image slowly fades into a cigar-smoking Bill Clinton.</p> <p>The video closes with a picture of Hillary and Bill sitting together, superimposed with text asking, "Here We Go Again?" There's audio of Hillary cackling.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="7" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"> <div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:28.125% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAABGdBTUEAALGPC/xhBQAAAAFzUkdCAK7OHOkAAAAMUExURczMzPf399fX1+bm5mzY9AMAAADiSURBVDjLvZXbEsMgCES5/P8/t9FuRVCRmU73JWlzosgSIIZURCjo/ad+EQJJB4Hv8BFt+IDpQoCx1wjOSBFhh2XssxEIYn3ulI/6MNReE07UIWJEv8UEOWDS88LY97kqyTliJKKtuYBbruAyVh5wOHiXmpi5we58Ek028czwyuQdLKPG1Bkb4NnM+VeAnfHqn1k4+GPT6uGQcvu2h2OVuIf/gWUFyy8OWEpdyZSa3aVCqpVoVvzZZ2VTnn2wU8qzVjDDetO90GSy9mVLqtgYSy231MxrY6I2gGqjrTY0L8fxCxfCBbhWrsYYAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;">&nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BFwTioiGhQj/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">Is Hillary really protecting women?</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on <time datetime="2016-05-23T15:27:31+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">May 23, 2016 at 8:27am PDT</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script><p>Trump has a troubling history with women, so this line of attack has a certain irony. As <em>The Daily Beast</em> <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/27/ex-wife-donald-trump-made-feel-violated-during-sex.html" target="_blank">reported</a> last year, Trump's ex-wife Ivana<a href="#correction">*</a> once said he had "raped" her while they were married&mdash;later distancing herself from that term, but still claiming that she had felt "violated" by her then-husband.</p> <p>His regular disparagement of women&mdash;and persistent need to critique them based on their appearance&mdash;has been an issue throughout the campaign. And an extensive <em>New York Times</em> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/us/politics/donald-trump-women.html" target="_blank">investigation</a> into Trump's behind-the-scenes conduct around women in his personal life and professional life concluded that his history is filled with "unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct."</p> <p>Clinton <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/19/politics/hillary-clinton-on-egyptair-shines-a-very-bright-light-on-threat-of-terror/index.html" target="_blank">told</a> CNN last week that she planned to avoid responding to Trump when he leveled attacks against her for Bill's affairs. "I know that's exactly what he's fishing for," she said, "and I'm not going to be responding."</p> <p id="correction"><em>Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to Ivanka Trump, who is Donald Trump's <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/donald-trump-ivanka-rolling-stone" target="_blank">daughter</a>.</em></p></body></html> Politics 2016 Elections Donald Trump Mon, 23 May 2016 16:49:56 +0000 Patrick Caldwell 304631 at http://www.motherjones.com