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Federal Judge Rules Florida Drug Law Unconstitutional July 31, 2011

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , add a comment

A federal judge has struck down a Florida drug law that convicts suspects of a drug offense even if they are unaware that the controlled substance is illegal. 

U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven found the 9-year-old law unconstitutional in a decision Wednesday and called for the resentencing of Mackle Shelton, who had faced 18 years in prison.

The ruling could pave the way for drug cases currently in the courts to be thrown out.

“Obviously, we are immediately drafting motions and pursuing this line on behalf of our own clients’ (cases) that are pending, but we can’t do much retroactively since those cases are closed,” said Bob Wesley, public defender for Orange and Osceola counties. “I think it will be a robust line of litigation for all of us who appear in Florida criminal courts.”

Tampa attorney James Felman, who won the landmark case, says the Florida legislature went too far.

“What the legislature attempted to do was essentially presume guilt and then let you come in and prove your innocence if you wish to avoid being imprisoned,” Felman told MyFoxTampaBay.com.

When the law was passed in 2002, Florida became the only state not to require that a suspect have knowledge that a controlled substance is illegal to be convicted. The law shifted the burden from prosecutors having to prove that a suspect knew to the defendant having to assert ignorance about the illegality of the controlled substance. 

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office says they are currently reviewing the case. Many thing the state will appeal the decision.

Economy Grows at 1.3 Percent in 2nd Quarter, Below Forecasts July 29, 2011

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July 21, 2011: Donna Ciora, an employment specialist with Express Employment Professionals, right, talks with people attending the Pittsburgh Career Fair, in Pittsburgh.

The economy expanded at meager 1.3 percent annual rate in the spring after scarcely growing at all in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Friday.

The combined growth for the first six months of the year was the weakest since the recession ended two years ago. The government revised the January-March figures to show just 0.4 percent growth — down sharply from its previous estimate of 1.9 percent.

High gas prices and scant income gains have forced Americans to pull back sharply on spending in the spring. Consumer spending only increased 0.1 percent this spring, the smallest gain in two years. Government spending fell for the third straight quarter.

Stocks dropped in morning trading. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 100 points, and broader indexes also declined.

“These numbers are extremely bad,” said Nigel Gault, an economist at IHS Global Insight. “The momentum in the economy is clearly very weak.”

The sharp slowdown means the economy will likely grow this year at a weaker pace than last year. Economists don’t expect growth to pick up enough in the second half of the year to lower the unemployment rate, which rose to 9.2 percent last month.

The weaker data will also add pressure to already-tense negotiations between President Barack Obama and lawmakers over increasing the debt limit. Any deal will likely include deep cuts in government spending. That could slow growth further in the short term.

But if Congress fails to raise the debt limit and the government defaults, financial markets could fall and interest rates could rise.

“It is hard to see the economy getting much stronger,” Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said in a research note. “In fact, if the debt ceiling is not raised … we could well have another recession on our hands.”

Earlier this year, economists thought that a Social Security payroll tax cut would accelerate growth in 2011. But most of that money has gone to pay for higher gas prices.

Consumer spending on long-lasting manufactured goods, such as cars and appliances, fell 4.4 percent. Many auto dealers reported shortages of popular models after Japan’s March 11 earthquake, cutting into auto sales.

Employers have pulled back on hiring after seeing less spending by consumers. The economy added just 18,000 net jobs in June, the fewest in nine months and a steep drop from the average of 215,000 jobs per month added from February through April.

Those who have jobs are seeing little gain in their incomes. After-tax incomes, adjusted for inflation, rose only 0.7 percent, matching the previous quarter and the weakest since the recession ended.

The drop in government spending was driven by cuts at the state and local level. Those governments have slashed spending in seven of the eight quarters since the official end of the recession.

Business investment, which has been a driver of growth during the recovery, also faltered this spring. Spending on equipment and software grew 5.7 percent in the second quarter, down from the first quarter’s 8.7 percent pace and below the double-digit gains posted last year.

The government also revised data going back to 2003. The data show the recession was even worse than previously thought. The economy shrank 5.1 percent during the recession, which lasted from December 2007 through June 2009, compared to the earlier estimate of 4.1 percent. Both figures represent the worst downturn since World War II.

“The depth of the recession is now clearly so much deeper,” Gault said.

Friday’s report is the first of three estimates the government releases of the gross domestic product, which measures everything from restaurant meals to auto production to government spending.

Reid Moves Forward With Debt-Reduction Plan as Boehner Sweetens Deal for GOP July 29, 2011

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Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said Friday he plans to move ahead with a debt-limit bill to rival a House Republican proposal that had stalled earlier, as President Obama said it’s time to move forward with debt-reduction legislation that can be supported by both political parties.

With the U.S. moving perilously closer to default on its loans to cover years of deficit spending, the majority leader announced Friday his plan to cut $2.5 trillion from the deficit over a decade. At the same time, House Speaker John Boehner announced he would include a balanced budget amendment in his proposal in order to gain support from recalcitrant Republicans.
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Reid said he has invited his counterpart, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, to negotiate with him after House Republican leaders were unable to secure votes to pass the debt-reduction bill regrouped.

“I know the Senate compromise bill Democrats have offered is not perfect in Republican’ eyes. Nor is it perfect for Democrats,” Reid said. “But together, we must make it work for all of us. It is the only option.”

Obama said Reid has introduced cuts that can be supported by Republicans and Democrats, adding that he needs a plan he can sign by Tuesday, the deadline imposed by the administration as the drop-dead date for avoiding default.

“We are almost out of time. We need to reach a compromise by Tuesday so the country can afford to pay its bills on time, as it always have. … Keep in mind if we don’t do that, if we don’t come to an agreement, we could lose our credit rating, ” Obama said in the latest of several addresses to the nation, including a prime-time address at the beginning of the week.

“It’s clear now that any solution to avoid default must have the support of both parties,” he added, noting that if the nation’s credit rating were downgraded it would be because “we didn’t have a triple-A political system to match our triple-A credit rating.”

Boehner, R-Ohio, suffered a stinging setback Thursday when, for a second consecutive day, he had to postpone a vote on his proposal to extend the nation’s borrowing authority for six months while cutting federal spending by nearly $1 trillion.

Boehner’s new provision for a balanced budget amendment would appear to be the sweetener needed to win over as many as two-dozen holdout Republicans who want greater cuts in federal spending before agreeing to hike the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

Prior to Boehner’s announcement, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said he’s still a “no” on Boehner bill until something is added that is “trans-election cycle, trans-systemic, and transformative.” That would include something like a balanced budget amendment. he said, noting if that promise were included, then he “would embrace it.”

While such a move could motivate Republicans, it would not get any traction in the Senate, which wants a longer-term agreement that would raise the limit to pay for deficit spending through 2012.

On the opposite side of the Capitol, Reid passed on warnings by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner that the prospects of default are growing.

The international community is very worried, Reid said Geithner told him, adding that the ability to get loans will become more difficult. Credit ratings agencies have also warned that unless Congress gets on a serious path to debt reduction, it could reduce the country’s stellar AAA rating.

A vote on a Reid proposal could take place in the Senate on Sunday.

The Most Socialist States in America July 29, 2011

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Socialist Who?

When the Democratic party took over the presidency and both houses of Congress in 2008, conservatives were quick to warn their supporters of a coming era of socialism led by President Barack Obama.

Indeed that message was a constant in the debate over the health care reform bill as well as the Congressional midterm elections, when Tea Party conservatives made taxation a rallying cry for frustrated Americans.

As the narrative of the country’s purported move toward socialism persists,  how diverse is the country and how do states manage their finances?

What is a socialist Anyway?

To evaluate the degree to which different states manifest socialist principles, we started from the core definition of socialism as a form of government in which the state owns the means of production and allocates resources to its citizens at its discretion.

In other words, a purely socialist state is one in which the state is responsible for 100% of economic output and spends all of it on social programs.

Since no part of the U.S. can be considered purely socialist, we measured total expenditures as a proportion of total economic output to compare the size of the public sector in each state. Using recently released 2009 state gross domestic product figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and total state expenditures for fiscal year 2009 from the most recent report of the National Association of State Budget Officers, we have come up with the 10 least and the 10 most socialist states in America.

Read on – the results may surprise you.

10th Least Socialist State: Washington

Leading off our ranking of the LEAST socialist states is Washington, home to the beautiful Cascade mountains. Politically, Washington is quite liberal. It was the first state in the country to have elected women for governor and both of its Senate seats, and has gone Democrat in every presidential election since 1988.

Washington’s budget accounts for only 9.7% of the state’s total output, making it the 10th least socialist state in the union.

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $338,334,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $32,817,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 9.7%

10th Least Socialist State: Washington

Leading off our ranking of the LEAST socialist states is Washington, home to the beautiful Cascade mountains. Politically, Washington is quite liberal. It was the first state in the country to have elected women for governor and both of its Senate seats, and has gone Democrat in every presidential election since 1988.

Washington’s budget accounts for only 9.7% of the state’s total output, making it the 10th least socialist state in the union.

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $338,334,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $32,817,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 9.7%

10th Least Socialist State: Washington

Leading off our ranking of the LEAST socialist states is Washington, home to the beautiful Cascade mountains. Politically, Washington is quite liberal. It was the first state in the country to have elected women for governor and both of its Senate seats, and has gone Democrat in every presidential election since 1988.

Washington’s budget accounts for only 9.7% of the state’s total output, making it the 10th least socialist state in the union.

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $338,334,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $32,817,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 9.7%

10th Least Socialist State: Washington

Leading off our ranking of the LEAST socialist states is Washington, home to the beautiful Cascade mountains. Politically, Washington is quite liberal. It was the first state in the country to have elected women for governor and both of its Senate seats, and has gone Democrat in every presidential election since 1988.

Washington’s budget accounts for only 9.7% of the state’s total output, making it the 10th least socialist state in the union.

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $338,334,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $32,817,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 9.7%

10th Least Socialist State: Washington

Leading off our ranking of the LEAST socialist states is Washington, home to the beautiful Cascade mountains. Politically, Washington is quite liberal. It was the first state in the country to have elected women for governor and both of its Senate seats, and has gone Democrat in every presidential election since 1988.

Washington’s budget accounts for only 9.7% of the state’s total output, making it the 10th least socialist state in the union.

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $338,334,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $32,817,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 9.7%

EPA Offers Golf Clinic Whilst Complaining About Draconian…Slices? July 24, 2011

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , add a comment

Imagine the surprise to receive, within the span of minutes, both the following news story in Energy & Environment Daily — ” EPA: Jackson summons top aides for budget pow-wow as GOP sharpens knife: In the face of drastic funding cuts and a hostile political environment, U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has told her top deputies to rank which of their programs they deem to be essential and which could fall on the budgetary chopping block” — and the following invitation, just circulated around EPA headquarters.

Just keep this in mind when the results of this “pow-wow” — ritual demagoguery and a lot of talk about children, seniors and the poor — pop in the next few days.

Possibly EPA officials are worried that they might have to shelve golf clinics for the bureaucracy run wild.