Wednesday, September 21, 2011

For Troy Davis

Tonight, the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis for the murder of Mark McPhail.  From the start, Davis's case was plagued by issues of police misconduct. When the police came to the home of Davis's mother searching for Davis, they had no warrant. They threatened to break down the door if Davis's mother would not allow them inside. As a result, the evidence procured by the police in their search, consisting of a pair of blue shorts in a dryer, was excluded from the trial by the judge.  The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the trial judge's decision to exclude the forensic evidence from the shorts.

Witness Darrell Collins, who implicated Davis in an earlier shooting the same night and who connected Davis to the shooting of McPhail by saying he had seen Davis approaching McPhail, recanted his earlier police statement under cross examination, alleging that the police had threatened him with prison time in order to get him to make his earlier statement.  Collins denied seeing Davis in possession of a gun under oath in court.  Collins was sixteen years old at the time, and the police interrogated him for hours, telling him that he could "kiss his life goodbye" if he didn't implicate Davis.  Collins alleged that his original statement to the police implicated Sylvester "Redd" Coles, who accused Davis of being the shooter.

Coles admitted under cross examination to owning a .38 caliber pistol, which just so happened to be the exact caliber of pistol involved in the shooting of both McPhail and Michael Cooper, a man who had been shot in the face earlier that night.  Coles claimed he had given his pistol to another man earlier that night, and conveniently managed to claim that he had seen Davis with a .38 caliber pistol which Davis had used to kill McPhail.  Moreover, Coles admitted to having worn a yellow shirt at the time of the shooting, a fact that is significant because minutes before, a man in a yellow shirt had threatened to shoot Larry Young, who was being pistol-whipped when McPhail tried to intervene in his capacity as a security guard at the Greyhound bus terminal.  Additionally, Coles admitted that he had given his yellow shirt to Troy Davis to wear after changing out of it at his sister's apartment.

One of the witnesses who testified that Davis had confessed to him, Jeffrey Sapp, recanted and alleged that the police had threatened to take him to jail for withholding evidence if he didn't implicate Davis.  The fellow inmate who testified that Davis had confessed to him, a man by the name of Kevin McQueen, would later recant his testimony and say that he made up the story.  No fewer than four prosecution witnesses would later recant their testimony and allege that the police had coerced them into implicating Davis.

On Thursday, June 24, 2010, Coles' own relative Benjamin Gordon testified that he had seen Coles shoot McPhail.  Savannah resident Quianna Glover alleged in an affidavit that Coles had confessed to the killing, and in total three individuals would allege that Coles had confessed to the shooting.

There was no physical evidence to connect to Davis to the shooting. No murder weapon has ever been located.  Of the two witnesses who did not recant their testimony, one is Coles, a man who allegedly confessed to the shooting to three separate people and whose own relative claims to have seen him kill Mark McPhail. There are two witnesses who have stated that Coles was in possession of a pistol after the shooting, in direct contradiction to what Coles testified to during Davis's trial.  In all, nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Coles as the shooter.

At every phase of the appeal process, courts used procedural wrangling to hamstring Davis's attempts to get this evidence admitted. U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. blocked the testimony of three witnesses who were prepared to testify to Coles' confession of guilt, on the grounds that the confessions were inadmissible hearsay.  Though the hearsay rule contains an exception for statements against one's own interest, Moore blocked the testimony because Davis's attorneys were unsuccessful in serving a subpoena on Coles.  Because Coles wasn't given a chance to rebut the testimony due to the inability of Davis's attorneys to serve Coles with a subpoena as a witness, testimony by three witnesses Coles confessed his guilt to was blocked.

At early junctures, appeals courts ruled variously that Davis's claims of improper law enforcement behavior should have been raised earlier in the appeals process and that he could not introduce exculpatory evidence at a given stage in the appeals process.  The absurdity of this argument becomes even more apparent when you consider that the reason Davis couldn't have introduced evidence at an earlier date was the elimination of federal funding for his counsel, the Georgia Resource Center, which faced a 70% cut in federal funding in 1995.  At every stage, Davis didn't have the resources to introduce evidence in a timely fashion to satiate the procedural fetishes of appellate courts.

When you consider that 270 death penalty convictions have been overturned as a result of the work of the Innocence Project, and the totality of exculpatory evidence in the form of recanted testimony, eyewitness evidence linking Coles to the shooting, Troy Davis had reasonable doubt.  He is dead tonight because of a system that demands that someone die for the crime of murder, and their actual guilt is incidental.  What we know of law enforcement and prosecutors is that they routinely abuse the awesome power they are vested with to secure justice.

In Chatham County, where Troy Davis was convicted of the murder of Mark McPhail, the county had to pay millions to Earl Charles after it became apparent that a detective had falsified testimony to implicate Charles in the murder of two furniture store owners.  Despite the fact that Charles' employers presented a time card indicating that Charles was at work in Tampa, Florida on the day of the murders, the detective claimed in pretrial testimony that he had gotten Charles's manager to recant his testimony that Charles had been present at work on the day of the murder.  However, there was one problem: a Tampa sheriff's detective had Charles under observation the day of the murders and his written records clearly showed that Charles was at work in Tampa the day the murders were taking place in Savannah.

It's simple enough to say that the detective would be guilty of getting an innocent man killed by the state of Georgia had his false testimony not been discredited by the written records of another detective from Tampa.  However, law enforcement officers who commit murder in such a manner are rarely if ever prosecuted for their acts as murderers or even as attempted murderers.  The taxpayer gets to foot the bill for their malfeasance, but the officers evade meaningful culpability even though their misconduct could get another human being killed.

Chatham County also handled the prosecution and conviction of one Gary Nelson, and the Savannah crime lab's director testified that hair from the scene of the rape and murder of a six year old was linked to Gary Nelson.  The truth was that the lab had never examined the hair, and that the FBI report on the hair found no link between Nelson and the hair, which had been found on the body of the victim.  A detective lied about Nelson's brother linking Nelson to the murder weapon, a fact that became blazingly apparent when tape surfaced of Nelson's brother strenuously denying knowledge of the murder weapon.

This is the county that sent Troy Davis to death row, and this is the sort of misconduct that is documented.  This is just what we know of, and there is every reason to believe that there are other cases we don't know about.

Given this information, it's highly likely that Troy Davis was executed tonight for a crime committed by the very man who initially pointed the finger at him as a result of police misconduct.  Every detective who twisted arms and pressed witnesses to falsely implicate Davis for the murder of McPhail should face charges of murder, if in fact it becomes apparent that Davis was innocent.  The existing evidence is sufficient to raise reasonable doubt, and reasonable doubt is innocence in our justice system.  If we are ever going to get serious about combatting the misuse of the death penalty in this country, holding detectives and prosecutors who get innocent men and women killed for crimes they don't commit would be a start.  Those who engage in such behavior are no better than murderers themselves.  They should face the same justice they so readily recommend for their victims.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Anarcho-Misogyny: How Men Can Meet Their Need for Family without Women

Many of the objections to anarcho-misogyny's line of thinking stem from the misreading of anarcho-misogyny as being anti-family or anti-child.  Anarcho-misogny has no issue whatsoever with the idea of family as made up of a man and his child; it simply denies that a man needs to have a woman as part of the equation.  A man can be as nurturing and caring and protective of a child as any woman, and if he is so inclined to do so, he should without hesitation seek to either adopt or to have a surrogate.  In any event, he should have a family on his own terms with minimal risk to his assets or his interests.

A woman within the contemporary context of the family unit is nothing more than a potential drain on a man's resources.  A man should find something higher than himself to give his time and energy to, and if that is a child, so be it.  But to allow a woman capable of sufficiency on her own to draw off of the resources and energies that would otherwise go to the raising of one's progeny is deeply immoral. Doing so places a higher priority on placating a woman's needs than it does giving one's own child the full measure of one's resources as a man.

The child should reap the reward of your efforts until such time as he or she has reached adulthood; the woman should be responsible for her own sustenance.   Women are necessary for heterosexual men from a companionship or even a purely sexual standpoint.  But they are not necessary for a man to have a family.  In point of fact, they are detrimental to that calling, if we are to be honest.  In our time, we know that the courts have enabled women to rip a child from his or her father with ease in the event of divorces or separations.  Should a man choose to have a child, he should do so in a way that enables him to have exclusive dominion and parenthood over the child.  His autonomy as a parent should be unchallenged.

At no point should any man who claims to love his child cede to a woman such power over that child which would enable the woman to claim custodial rights.  Men need to re-define what they consider a family to be for their own interests.  Our typical view of a man's role within a family is that of a provider not just for the child, but for the woman as well.  It's time to reconsider that role and excise our responsibility to provide for women, who have gained for themselves the ability to provide for their own lot in life, so much so that their parasitization of resources that would otherwise go towards a child can only be seen as a despicable act.  

It is in our interest as men to redefine what our roles as fathers are according to our own interests.  Since the dissolution of my own marriage began, I have embraced my polygynous nature and enjoyed myself fully on my own terms.  I no longer view myself as yoked to a paradigm I did not choose for myself and my life.  This new outlook on life encompasses my views on family, and my outlook as a potential father in the future.

I tend towards the view that in a world full of parentless children, there are ample opportunities for a man of means and will to adopt and provide a loving home for a child.  He can devote the entirety of his resources and means to that child, rather than allowing a woman to take a portion of those resources for her own purposes.  Simply put, mothers are no longer necessary from anything other than a biological standpoint.  We should not as men seek to conform ourselves and our view of family to an outdated paradigm that says we must be husbands before we can be fathers, or that the ideal view of a family is one in which a man has a woman to pair with in the upbringing of a child.  In point of fact, the ideal is quite the opposite, as any child who has suffered the trauma of a divorce can tell you.

Let men make their own decisions on their own terms for their own rational interests, and come to the inexorable conclusion that women are good for sex and social companionship if we are heterosexual or bisexual, but let us never give them the ability to take our role as fathers from us or to reduce that role. Custody should never be shared, and men should stop breeding with women in the context of marriage altogether to reduce the risk of a traumatic split by the parents with all the ramifications such splits hold for children. Either adopt or take on a surrogate for the purposes of conceiving your own biological child.

Cease being a slave to a societally ordained role that is unfair to men and rooted in stereotypical notions of what we ought to do.  Do not give a woman the ability to take your own child from you, as she most certainly has if you share custody through a joint adoption or a marriage.  Insist upon the exclusivity of your parentage as a man, and redefine what it is to have a family in accordance with your own interests and desires.  In doing so, men can deny women the input or ability that they have used and abused to split fathers from their sons and daughters.

A man has the responsibility for his own reproductive freedom, so as to eliminate unwanted pregnancies or entanglements with women who seek only to take what they have not earned through support arrangements that are unfairly slanted towards women.  A man also has the ability and the freedom to determine for himself what his family will be.  Those men who choose to eliminate a woman from the equation commit both a selfless and a selfish act.  They selflessly give themselves to their child, and selfishly refuse to share that child with a woman.  It is the ultimate act of love and responsibility, and it eliminates any power a woman might exert in the context of a traditional arrangement.

Anarcho-misogyny articulates a view of family that is pro-man and pro-child, a view that does not compromise with feminine ideals and does not enable a woman to divide a father and his progeny.  In an ideal world, strong men would cede no rights to their children to any woman.  If she would have children of her own, let her go to a sperm bank and assume full responsibility and autonomy as we assume it.

Healthcare Reform and Conventional Wisdom

Much has been made of healthcare reform and the need to expand coverage for the uninsured, but the fact remains that much of the conventional wisdom about the uninsured is completely wrong.  Those who advocated for the individual mandate or for universal single payer did so under the completely disingenuous guise of eliminating uncompensated care, while on the Republican side tort reform was bandied about as a solution to exploding costs.  Neither of these solutions addresses the fundamental underlying problem of our healthcare system, because both focus on areas where costs are negligible in comparison to the overall healthcare market.

According to the 2005 study The Growth Of Physician Medical Malpractice Payments: Evidence From The National Practitioner Data Bank, the per capita cost of medical malpractice is $12 per capita. That means that every person in the United States bears a cost of a mere $12 in increased costs as a result of medical malpractice and the resulting lawsuits, and this is in a market nearly $3 trillion in size.  The total cost of defensive medicine associated with malpractice costs was pegged at $55.6 billion in 2008 in the article National Costs Of The Medical Liability System, which is far less than the industry sponsored study total of over $650 billion touted by the Republicans in the lead up to the healthcare debate.  Simply put, even in states with malpractice caps, healthcare costs are rising at the same rate as in states without malpractice caps.  This would seem to imply that there is a far different explanation for the rising healthcare costs we've seen over the past 30 years.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office put it best in 2004:

Proponents of limiting malpractice liability have argued that much greater savings in health care costs would be possible through reductions in the practice of defensive medicine. However, some so-called defensive medicine may be motivated less by liability concerns than by the income it generates for physicians or by the positive (albeit small) benefits to patients. On the basis of existing studies and its own research, CBO believes that savings from reducing defensive medicine would be very small.

The findings of California Watch, an investigative group that surveys data from California hospitals, tend to correlate to this viewpoint, because a pregnant woman is 17% more likely to have a C-section in a for profit hospital in California as opposed to a non-profit hospital.  The reason is simple enough: a C-section is twice as profitable.  According to a study appearing in Health Services Research, when doctors own their own MRI scan, they become 32% more likely to order MRI scans for their patients as primary care doctors and 13% more likely to do so as orthopedists.  Patients of orthopedists who own their own MRI equipment are 34% more likely to receive lower back surgery within six months as they would have been before their orthopedist acquired his own MRI machine.  The authors of the study found no evidence between the increased scans or surgery and improved outcomes for patients.

A study by Christopher W. DiGiovanni, M.D. involving 221 patients, found that just 5.9% percent needed to have an MRI performed.  94.1% had no need whatsoever for the MRI.  The Chicago Tribune took note of two studies in an article written by Michael R. Millenson:

"According to a 1990 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors who have a financial interest in X-ray and other radiology facilities order four times as many exams as their colleagues and charge ``significantly higher prices.``

More recently, a Florida study found that physician ownership of expensive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners resulted in an extra $185 million of scans being ordered there in 1991."

There are two very simple explanations for the rise of healthcare costs in this country, and they are as follows:

1. Good old fashioned greed and corruption.
2. A minority of insured patients driving the majority of costs.

That's right, the problem with healthcare costs in this country is not the uninsured, whose uncompensated care comes in at a stunning $40.7 billion according to a 2004 Kaiser Family Foundation paper on the subject written by Hadley and Holahan.  As an annual percentage of overall healthcare spending, the costs of uncompensated care for the uninsured have never been more than 2% of the total we spend annually.  Rising healthcare costs are driven by demand among the uninsured and by over treatment by doctors and hospitals who are making a killing by ordering unnecessary tests, treatments, and procedures.  The evidence does not back any contention that the excessive treatment is due to a desire to avoid litigation.  It's pure, simple, unadulterated greed.

If you as a doctor own your own MRI scanning equipment, or a CAT scanner, you are more likely to order scans for your patient than a physician who does not own said equipment.  There's no correlation between your increased order for said scans and a better outcome for your patient.

Moreover, the top 25% of beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare were driving 85% of the costs within that program as of 2001, according to the CBO’s May 2005 paper High-Cost Medicare Beneficiaries.  That's the reality.  Five percent of the population accounts for almost half (49 percent) of total health care expenses, according to the Research In Action article The High Concentration of U.S. Health Care Expenditures by Stanton.

In short, the problems pointed to by advocates of comprehensive healthcare reform aren't problems at all.  They're negligible in terms of their overall cost and impact to the healthcare market and its stunning cost increases since 1980.  Tort costs, uncompensated care, and various other factors are absolutely inconsequential when compared to the real issue: the insured. The way our insurance market is structured is the problem: routine care and treatment for minor illnesses are paid for with insurance.  As a result of comprehensive insurance policies that cover every treatment and every visit, the costs go up because over-demand and over-supply are over-incentivized.

Moreover, when five percent of your population is driving half or more of your overall healthcare expenditures, the simple truth is that your problem is readily identifiable. The chronically ill tend to have obvious risk factors like obesity or smoking.  There is simply no reason that their insurance premiums should be the same as those afforded to individuals who aren't obese and don't smoke.  If you choose to assume the risk of a less-healthy and therefore higher-risk lifestyle, you should bear the cost, much as you would in other insurance markets like auto insurance, life insurance, and homeowner's insurance. If you build in a flood zone, you pay more. If you choose to be overweight and smoke a pack a day, you should pay more.  It's that simple.  Your increased volitional risk should not be spread out over the entire market with negligible cost to you as an individual.