January 2009 Archives

Be A Squatter

|

A great legal loophole for those who face foreclosure.

Rep: Foreclosed owners should squat in their own homes

If you're poor and the bank is coming for your home, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur has a plan for you.

Just squat, she says.

Yes, this Ohio Democrat is actually encouraging her financially distressed constituents whose homes have been foreclosed upon, to simply stay put.

In a Friday report, CNN's Drew Griffin explored the case of Ohioan Andrea Geiss, whose home was foreclosed upon in April.

"Behind in payments, out of work, a husband sick, she had nowhere to go," said Griffin. "So, she decided to follow the advice of her Congresswoman and go nowhere."

In Lucas County, Ohio, over 4,000 properties were foreclosed upon in 2008, reports CNN.

"So I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes," said Congresswoman Kaptur before the House of Representatives. "Don't you leave."

She's called on all of her foreclosed-upon constituents to stay in their homes and refuse to leave without "an attorney and a fight," said CNN.

"If they've had no legal representation of a high quality, I tell them stay in their homes," Kaptur told Griffin.

Kaptur is a high-profile advocate of an increasingly popular mode of fighting foreclosures best known for it's key phrase: "Produce the note."

By telling a bank to "produce the note," a homeowner can delay foreclosure by forcing the lender to prove the suing institution is actually the same which owns the debt.

"During the lending boom, most mortgages were flipped and sold to another lender or servicer or sliced up and sold to investors as securitized packages on Wall Street," explains the Consumer Warning Network. "In the rush to turn these over as fast as possible to make the most money, many of the new lenders did not get the proper paperwork to show they own the note and mortgage. This is the key to the produce the note strategy."

Whadda You care?

|

Hiding the Homeless: Super Bowl Edition

arrest_2.jpg

With the country abuzz about this weekend's Super Bowl, Tampa Bay is busy cleaning up the streets to host out-of-towners for the big game. That is, by conducting homeless sweeps and "aggressively" jailing unhoused people.

Shame on Tampa Bay... seems we've got another case of "hiding the homeless" on our hands.

According to the St. Petersburg Times:

"It's happened during other big events when there are a lot of out-of-town visitors," said Rayme Nuckles, chief executive officer of the county's Homeless Coalition. "But we know it's occurring now because some of our providers heard from a (police) captain at a meeting that they were arresting homeless people and holding them in jail."

Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said there is no such mandate.

"Our primary mission is the safety of our visitors," she said. "So the homeless wouldn't rank high on that. We arrest people for breaking the law, not for being homeless."

The sheriff's office, of course, vehemently denies the targeting of homeless people. And the mayor backs him up. But advocates on the ground have seen an increase in arrests of homeless people for petty crimes, like loitering and trespassing.

McCaskill did good

| | Comments (2)

And according to a CNN quick poll a huge percentage of people agree with her diatribe.

caps.jpg

Angry senator wants pay cap on Wall Street 'idiots'

One day after President Obama ripped Wall Street executives for their "shameful" decision to hand out $18 billion in bonuses in 2008, Congress may finally have had enough.

An angry U.S. senator introduced legislation Friday to cap compensation for employees of any company that accepts federal bailout money.

Under the terms of a bill introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, no employee would be allowed to make more than the president of the United States.

Obama's current annual salary is $400,000.

"We have a bunch of idiots on Wall Street that are kicking sand in the face of the American taxpayer," an enraged McCaskill said on the floor of the Senate. "They don't get it. These people are idiots. You can't use taxpayer money to pay out $18 billion in bonuses."

The vid:

Today's Quote

|
"We must respect the other fellow's religion,but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."
~ Henry Louis Mencken

Nationalize Now

|


I've been saying this for weeks. There is no other solution.


Stop Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic and Nationalize the Damn Banks

by Joshua Holland

titanic.jpg

The painful but unavoidable reality of the financial crisis is that every dollar spent trying to prop up a failing bank is just good money thrown after bad; a taxpayer rip-off, short and sweet.  

But in Washington, many are trying to avoid that fact nonetheless. Economist Paul Krugman wrote that the political establishment has "become devotees of a new kind of voodoo [economics]: the belief that by performing elaborate financial rituals we can keep dead banks walking." Goldman Sachs' economists estimate that those rituals might cost up to $4 trillion to perform.

It's time that the government stops flailing around with piecemeal bailouts and loan guarantees, takes over these institutions -- takes them out of private ownership -- sells off their good assets in an orderly way, trashes the toxic stuff and then resells them to the private sector down the road as leaner institutions that are dedicated to the primary purpose of banking: making loans and holding deposits.  

In economic circles, that's the "N-word" -- it isn't a racial epithet, it's "nationalization," and it was unheard of in mainstream discourse just a few short months ago. But it's remarkable how a crisis as deep as the one we face today can change which ideas are considered mainstream.  

In a way, nationalization is the approach that most closely adheres to "free market" principles, which dictate that poorly managed firms should go under, freeing up their human and other capital to be absorbed by well-managed businesses. 

Sometimes, the market works. Wall Street's titans lobbied like hell to get regulators off their backs, they figured out elaborate ways to "launder the risk" out of high-risk debt, and then they engaged in a furious push to get lenders to make more and ever-shakier loans -- the raw materials of those "innovative investment vehicles" that are now known as "toxic securities."  

They did that based on an entirely irrational idea that the housing market would continue to grow dramatically forever, and they did it while ignoring voices of sanity which warned that they were steering those fancy "investment vehicles" right off a cliff. Now, many are teetering on the brink of collapse, and classical economic theory says they should crash and burn. 

But with financial giants like Citi or AIG, the common argument against that course is that regardless of their complicity in creating the global economic meltdown, they're simply "too big to fail" because their collapse would have a ripple effect through the economy.

This is probably accurate; a sudden crash of an institution with hundreds of billions of dollars -- or even trillions -- on its balance sheets would have far-reaching effects. When Lehman Brothers went belly-up last fall, it came close to bringing down the entire global financial system with it. 

But a major problem with all of the approaches tried so far -- and those being discussed in connection with the future of the dubious Troubled Assets Relief Program -- is they're all premised on the idea that these faltering institutions can, and should be propped up and remain in the private sector. Their investors' stakes, while worth a fraction of what they were a year ago, are being protected (and many ailing institutions are still paying out dividends).

Step One Into a Better Future

|

And what a great step it is.

Now this is what I'm talkin' about...

Obama Signs Equal-Pay Legislation

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg

President Obama signed his first bill into law on Thursday, approving equal-pay legislation that he said would "send a clear message that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody."

Mr. Obama was surrounded by a group of beaming lawmakers, most but not all of them Democrats, in the East Room of the White House as he affixed his signature to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law named for an Alabama woman who at the end of a 19-year career as a supervisor in a tire factory complained that she had been paid less than men.

ledbetter.jpgAfter a Supreme Court ruling against her, Congress approved the legislation that expands workers' rights to sue in this kind of case, relaxing the statute of limitations.

"It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- we are upholding one of this nation's first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness," the president said.

He said was signing the bill not only in honor of Ms. Ledbetter -- who stood behind him, shaking her head and clasping her hands in seeming disbelief -- but in honor of his own grandmother, "who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up again" and for his daughters, "because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams."

The ceremony, and a reception afterward in the State Dining Room of the White House, had a celebratory feel. The East Room was packed with advocates for civil rights and workers rights; the legislators, who included House and Senate leaders and two moderate Republicans -- Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine -- shook Mr. Obama's hand effusively (some, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, received presidential pecks on the cheek) as he took the stage. They looked over his shoulder, practically glowing, as Mr. Obama signed his name to the bill, using one pen for each letter.

"I've been practicing signing my name very slowly," Mr. Obama said wryly, looking at a bank of pens before him. He handed the first pen to the bill's chief sponsor, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland, and the last to Ms. Ledbetter.

The ceremony also marked First Lady Michelle Obama's policy debut; she spoke afterward in a reception in the State Dining Room, where she called Ms. Ledbetter "one of my favorite people."

Mr. Obama told Ms. Ledbetter's story over and over again during his campaign for the White House; she spoke frequently as an advocate for him during his campaign, and made an appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Now 70, Ms. Ledbetter discovered when she was nearing retirement that her male colleagues were earning much more than she was. A jury found her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Gadsden, Ala., guilty of pay discrimination. But in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court threw out the case, ruling that she should have filed her suit within 180 days of the date that Goodyear first paid her less than her peers.

Congress tried to pass a law that would have effectively overturned the decision while President George W. Bush was still in office, but the White House opposed the bill; opponents contended it would encourage lawsuits and argued that employees could delay filing their claims in the hope of reaping bigger rewards. But the new Congress passed the bill, which restarts the six-month clock every time the worker receives a paycheck .

Ms. Ledbetter will not see any money as a result of the legislation Mr. Obama signed into law. But what she has gotten, aside from celebrity, is personal satisfaction, as she said in the State Dining Room after the signing ceremony.

"Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of," she said. "In fact, I will never see a cent. But with the president's signature today I have an even richer reward."

The Final Frontier

|

Perfect.


Roddenberrys' Ashes Headed For Deep Space


roddenburys.gifLOS ANGELES -- The creator of "Star Trek" and his wife will spend eternity together in space.

Celestis Inc., a company that specializes in "memorial spaceflights," says it will ship the remains of Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett Roddenberry into space next year.

The couple's cremated remains will be sealed into specially made capsules designed to withstand the rigors of space travel.

A rocket-launched spacecraft will carry the capsules, along with digitized tributes from fans.

The Roddenberrys' remains -- and the spacecraft -- will travel ever deeper into space and will not return to earth, company spokeswoman Susan Schonfeld said.

After Gene Roddenberry died in 1991, his wife commissioned Celestis to launch a part of his remains into space in 1997. She died Dec. 18, 2008.
On the Net:

* http://www.celestis.com

Clawback Time

|

So what's the story on all that bailout money we gave the banks?

It goes like this...

Money for Nothing

By Dave Krasne

MERRILL LYNCH lost $27 billion last year, and yet still managed to rush through $4 billion worth of year-end bonuses in the days before it was taken over by Bank of America.

Because both companies have been the beneficiaries of the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program, news of these bonuses was met with predictable uproar: Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of New York threatened to investigate; any elected official with access to a microphone joined in a chorus of "shame on you"; and around every water cooler and on every cable channel, pundits offered up scathing commentaries of Wall Street greed.

Merrill Lynch is not the only irresponsible institution out there. Despite a year of record losses, despite all the taxpayer money being injected into our financial institutions, bonuses for 2008 were, in some cases, down less than 50 percent from those the previous year.

This is shocking, of course, but what's been missed in these discussions is how completely the culture of executive compensation has permeated the financial industry. One need not even be an executive to receive a bonus far in excess of the yearly salary of people in most other professions.

Bonuses, which typically consist of some multiple of an employee's base salary, are doled out to everyone from the 22-year-olds just out of college (these are called analysts) to managing directors (banker parlance for the most senior rank attainable).

I spent much of my early career at Merrill Lynch, and I can still remember how I yearned for the holiday season, because it signified bonus time. And by "bonus time," I mean that brilliant 10-minute conversation during which you learned how many zeros would be on that year's check.

The euphoria that followed justified the days on end of working into the wee hours, the months on end without a single day off, the never-ending "fire drills" -- when a client wanted something and wanted it now, whether it was 7 p.m. or 7 a.m. -- that kept the stress and adrenaline levels high.

For some, euphoria quickly gave way to anger and envy upon hearing what their colleagues got paid. Luckily for management and shareholders, that anger twisted itself into motivation to work even harder, get even less sleep and put up with even more in order to get a better bonus next year. For others, the days after bonus distribution were the perfect time to jump to another firm for more responsibility, authority and, no surprise, more money.

That's not to say that bonuses are always bad. When I graduated from business school in early 2000 and returned to Wall Street, there was a war for talent raging. Without those bonuses, firms simply couldn't attract the best and brightest and certainly couldn't get 100-hour work weeks out of them. And when profit is created through ingenuity and hard work, it deserves to be rewarded handsomely -- that is the American way.

Wheezing Old Fascists Unite!

|

Oh brother.

Smoking Ban Hits Home. Truly.

BELMONT, Calif. -- During her 50 years of smoking, Edith Frederickson says, she has lit up in restaurants and bars, airplanes and trains, and indoors and out, all as part of a two-pack-a-day habit that she regrets not a bit. But as of two weeks ago, Ms. Frederickson can no longer smoke in the one place she loves the most: her home.

Ms. Frederickson lives in an apartment in Belmont, Calif., a quiet Silicon Valley city that is now home to perhaps the nation's strictest antismoking law, effectively outlawing lighting up in all apartment buildings.

"I'm absolutely outraged," said Ms. Frederickson, 72, pulling on a Winston as she sat on a concrete slab outside her single-room apartment. "They're telling you how to live and what to do, and they're doing it right here in America."

And that the ban should have originated in her very building -- a sleepy government-subsidized retirement complex called Bonnie Brae Terrace -- is even more galling. Indeed, according to city officials, a driving force behind the passage of the law was a group of retirees from the complex who lobbied the city to stop secondhand smoke from drifting into their apartments from the neighbors' places.

A comment from Boosta

|

We have yet another case of video evidence that gives the public a peek into tragic events such as this Bart shooting. I have to wonder if it's simply time to make video a part of life for officers.

I have to wonder if each and every officer who is able to stop, question and arrest someone, is required to wear some kind of video/audio device while on the clock....if we might see a higher level of professionalism from every officer.

Of course there are so many that are fantastic, this would just shed more light on the ones that we never hear about....our quiet uspoken hero's at work every day....as well as the few bad apples we do hear about in the news...wouldn't it just make sense to have a steady video of all activities to be monitored by an outside agency to view for misconduct and imporve our current system?

I think this is a cost the general public would support a tax raise for, I'm certain there has been enough question over the years to cause us all to want a greater level of accountability for our officers as well as the actions of the people in question, the ones getting arrested, questioned or stopped. We all might behave differently if we knew we were being watched.

I think it's just time to get the full story and stop with all of the video's taken from people who are on lookers or a piece of video caught by a camera somewhere. Why not move to have the whole story told, 100% of the time.....wire up and head out.....pretty simple answer, cuts the questions out and makes things cut and dry from beginning to end.

Ignore the Republican Whiners

|

And that's all they are at this point. They lost big time and they can't even come up with valid arguing points against Obama's economic game plan, just rehashes of their stale and unthinking tax cut good - government bad mantras. And that's partially why they were sent out the door...they got nothing original to add to the mix except new ways of making matters worse. If they can't come up with something novel and helpful, they should just shut up, sit down and get out the way.


Bad Faith Economics

by Paul Krugman

As the debate over President Obama's economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan's opponents aren't arguing in good faith. Conservatives really, really don't want to see a second New Deal, and they certainly don't want to see government activism vindicated. So they are reaching for any stick they can find with which to beat proposals for increased government spending.

Some of these arguments are obvious cheap shots. John Boehner, the House minority leader, has already made headlines with one such shot: looking at an $825 billion plan to rebuild infrastructure, sustain essential services and more, he derided a minor provision that would expand Medicaid family-planning services -- and called it a plan to "spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives."

But the obvious cheap shots don't pose as much danger to the Obama administration's efforts to get a plan through as arguments and assertions that are equally fraudulent but can seem superficially plausible to those who don't know their way around economic concepts and numbers. So as a public service, let me try to debunk some of the major antistimulus arguments that have already surfaced. Any time you hear someone reciting one of these arguments, write him or her off as a dishonest flack.

First, there's the bogus talking point that the Obama plan will cost $275,000 per job created. Why is it bogus? Because it involves taking the cost of a plan that will extend over several years, creating millions of jobs each year, and dividing it by the jobs created in just one of those years.

It's as if an opponent of the school lunch program were to take an estimate of the cost of that program over the next five years, then divide it by the number of lunches provided in just one of those years, and assert that the program was hugely wasteful, because it cost $13 per lunch. (The actual cost of a free school lunch, by the way, is $2.57.)

The true cost per job of the Obama plan will probably be closer to $100,000 than $275,000 -- and the net cost will be as little as $60,000 once you take into account the fact that a stronger economy means higher tax receipts.

Next, write off anyone who asserts that it's always better to cut taxes than to increase government spending because taxpayers, not bureaucrats, are the best judges of how to spend their money.

Here's how to think about this argument: it implies that we should shut down the air traffic control system. After all, that system is paid for with fees on air tickets -- and surely it would be better to let the flying public keep its money rather than hand it over to government bureaucrats. If that would mean lots of midair collisions, hey, stuff happens.

K'Naan

|

This guy is great and cuts through it.

So what's hardcore?
Really
Are you hardcore?
Hmmm


Verse 1
I put a pen to the paper
This time as visual as possible
Guns blast at the hospital
The walls are whitewashed with tin roof tops to show love
You lick two shots, it's dangerous man
Journalists hire gunmen that's violent with me,
Kids trust no one cuz fire burn them
Refugees die in boats headed for peace
Is anyone scared of death here? not in the least
I walk by the old lady selling coconuts under the tree
Life is cheap here but wisdom is free
The beach boy's hang on the side, leanin with pride
Scam artists and gangsta's, fiendin to fight
I walk with three kids, that cant wait to meet God lately
That's bucktooth, Mohamed and cry baby,
What they do everyday just to eat lord of mercy
Strapped with an ak and they blood thirsty

Chorus 2x
So what's hardcore?
Really
Are you hardcore?
Hmmm

Verse 2
We begin our day by the way of the gun
Rocket propelled grenade blow you away if you front
We got no police, ambulance, or firefighters
We start riots by burning car tires
They looting and everybody start shooting
Bullshit politicians talk about solutions
But it's all talk
You can't go half a block without a roadblock
You don't pay at the roadblock, you get your throat shot
And each roadblock is set up by these gangsters
And different gangsters go by different standards
For example, the evening is a no go
Unless you wanna wear a bullet like a logo
In the day you should never take the alley way
The only thing that validates you is the AK
They chew on chad...
It's sort of like kokanees, and there ain't no police

Chorus

Verse 3
Ima spit these verses cuz I feel annoyed
And I'm not gonna quit, til I fill the void
If I rhyme about home, and got descriptive
I'd make 50 cent look like Limp Bizkit
It's true, and dont make me rhyme about you
I'm from where the kids are addicted to glue
Get ready, u got a good grip on the machete
Make rappers say they do it for love, like R Kelly
It's hard, harder than Harlem and Compton intertwined
Harder than harbouring Bin laden in rewind
To that earlier part, when I was kinda like
We begin our day by the way of the gun
Rocket propelled grenades blow you away if you front
We got no police, ambulance or firefighters
We start riots by burning car tires
They looting, and everybody start shooting

Repeat Chorus 2x

Are you hardcore?

© K'Naan

The Fog of Propaganda

|

Rummy claimed those held at Gitmo were the "worst of the worst" in an effort to deflect criticism about the treatment of prisoners held there, including the fact that they were being held for years without charges being laid. Like most of Rumsfeld's utterances, the exact opposite is the truth; in fact, very very few of those detained at Gitmo were ever guilty of being enemy combatants. Most were simply handed over as such by people wanting the $5000 bounty the US set up in Afghanistan and other places where the US was busy in its hysteria to find terrorists... any terrorists...somebody we can publicly hold up and torture so that the people of the US might taste some sweet revenge and feel safer. Ugly ugly ugly.

Below, a more detailed demonstration of the horror that fear hath wrought in our name:

The worst of the worst?


By Ken Ballen, Terror Free Tomorrow and
-- Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Expert

Controversy over the Bush Administration's policy to detain "enemy combatants" at the military's Guantanamo Bay prison has raged since the facility first opened in 2002. The controversy has been fueled primarily by the lack of legal protections afforded the detainees and allegations of their mistreatment, much of which was subsequently confirmed by the FBI.

Now that President Obama has ordered the prison camp to be closed, additional new controversy swirls around the claim made earlier this month by the Pentagon that 61 Guantanamo detainees are believed to have returned to terrorism.

But that number became a little less alarming when the Pentagon clarified that only 18 of the 61 have been confirmed to be engaging in terrorism, while 43 are "suspected of returning to the fight."

In other words, according to the Pentagon's own assessment, of the 520 detainees who have been released, less than 4% have engaged in terrorism. That percentage is quite low, especially contrasted to the more than two-thirds of American prisoners who return to crime within three years of their release from prison.

The Department of Defense has supplied no substantiation for any of its recent assertions about the numbers of detainees engaging in terrorism, and in the past has rather broadly defined what "returning to the fight means" to include acts such as former detainees criticizing the United States after their release from Guantanamo; a not unnatural reaction to years of confinement in a prison camp without charge.

Some detainees released from Guantanamo have undoubtedly engaged in terrorist activists such as Said Ali Al Shiri, a Saudi who was released in September 2007. Like all other Guantanamo detainees released to Saudi custody, he entered a comprehensive reeducation program managed by the Saudi Ministry of the Interior. Of the 75 or so Guantanamo detainees that have gone through this program and have subsequently been released, al Shiri is the first one known to have returned to terrorism. After al Shiri was released last year, he left Saudi Arabia for Yemen and is now allegedly a leader of al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate.

Similarly, Abdulalh Salih al Ajimi, a Kuwaiti held in Guantanamo for three years, conducted a suicide attack on April 26 2008 in the Iraqi city of Mosul killing six, including two Iraqi police officers.

And Abdulalh Mehsud, a Pashtun from Pakistan's tribal areas spent two years in Guantanamo. He was released in March 2004 and promptly kidnapped two Chinese engineers working in the tribal region. Mehsud subsequently rose to become a leader of the Pakistani Taliban and was eventually killed by Pakistani forces on July 24 2007.

But these are exceptional cases because the overwhelming majority of Guantanamo detainees were never really "enemy combatants" in the first place.


Related: Security experts skeptical on Gitmo detainee report

Heaven...I'm in Heaven

|

I swoon not for the particular science here, but for the whole idea that actual science is being allowed back into view. How desperate is your position when your faith demands that you refute fact? The faith based paradigm has given way to the reality based one.
Somehow its not appropriate to say "Thank God" - but I will anyway. You know what I mean.

I'm really getting perturbed over the Gitmo machinations though. Its simple. Charge and try them or let them go - state secrets can be covered in camera - and if we screwed up the evidence by illegal and abusive interrogation techniques, well we blew it and what must stand is our own standards of equal justice. That's the damn price for going overboard and succumbing to fear. Sorry no do overs. Their release will not add any more threat to the equation and the moral credit we would get for it is more damaging to their cause than anything our use of force can provide. If they're so dangerous then prove it in a court...that's what courts are for. What's always on trial is our ability to judge by law, not hysteria.

Now onto the glad tidings.

Human embryonic stem cell study gets green light

(CNN) -- Federal regulators have cleared the way for the first human trials of human embryonic stem-cell research, authorizing researchers to test whether the cells are safe to use in spinal injury patients, the company behind the trials announced Friday.

The tests could begin by summer, said Dr. Thomas Okarma, president and CEO of the Geron Corporation. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the trials, which will use human stem cells authorized for research by then-President George W. Bush in 2001.

The patients will be those with the most severe spinal cord injuries, called complete spinal cord injuries.

"A complete spinal cord injury has no hope of recovery below the injury," Okarma told CNN. "This is significant because it's the first clinical trial of a human embryonic-based product."

The primary purpose of the trial will be to see whether injecting these cells into patients is safe, but Okarma said researchers will also look for any signs of recovery. Scientists will monitor the patients for a year after the injections to see if they are regaining any function below the injured point....

And this:

Amid protests, Obama backs 'right to choose' on Roe anniversary

That Note Left by Bush

|

preznote.jpg

hat tip to Mr Baker

Gitmo Going... Going...

| | Comments (3)

Obama Issues Directive to Shut Guantánamo

by Mark Mazzettie and William Glaberson

obamashutsdowngitmo.jpgPresident Obama signed executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.

The orders, which are the first steps in undoing detention policies of former President George W. Bush, rewrite American rules for the detention of terrorism suspects. They require an immediate review of the 245 detainees still held at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine if they should be transferred, released or prosecuted.

And the orders bring to an end a Central Intelligence Agency program that kept terrorism suspects in secret custody for months or years, a practice that has brought fierce criticism from foreign governments and human rights activists. They will also prohibit the C.I.A. from using coercive interrogation methods, requiring the agency to follow the same rules used by the military in interrogating terrorism suspects, government officials said.

Cheny Does Dr Strangelove

|

I thought exactly that when I saw him in the wheel chair the first time.

And Orange? Screw orange. You'll see.

ROTFLMAO

|

rotfl.gifcrabman.jpg

The Crabman is innocent of all charges

 AMSTERDAM, N.Y. (AP) - After he finished his lobster dinner, an upstate New York man apparently was still hungry for seafood so he swapped the lobster shell for crab legs _ and now he faces a petit larceny charge.

Montgomery County Sheriff's deputies said a 57-year-old man brought back a reassembled lobster shell to his local Price Chopper store and claimed the crustacean was spoiled.

The store manager was about to let him trade the lobster for a $27 bag of king crab legs when he discovered the lobster was just a shell. Deputies said the man ran from the store clutching the crab legs when he was confronted.

Deputies said the man had already devoured the crab legs when they caught up with him at home. He was given an appearance ticket to answer the larceny charge in court.

---------------

Burp!

--------------

and this just in from Mr Z:


WASHINGTON (ZnewZ) - George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States of America, passed away painlessly in his sleep Monday night, White House sources confirmed. The 62-year-old Bush was reportedly discovered lying unresponsive in his bed by first lady Laura Bush, a gentle smile still on his lips. "It was as though he knew it was his time to go," said longtime family physician Dr. Harold Ditmas, who pronounced the president dead of natural causes at 7:24 a.m. Plans for Bush's
funeral have been postponed indefinitely following an unexpected incident in which the president's corpse was sucked through an Air Force One jet engine.

Does Obama sleep?

|

2nd_oath.jpgDancing til 3:00. Up ordering the closure of Guantanamo, retaking the oath of office ( with Robert's in full Supreme Court Justice drag in order to quell the stupid rumors from right wing loons feeling emasculated and all), signing two executive orders and three Presidential memoranda, shoring up the understanding of ethical commitment among his crew, freezing his top people's pay, speaking with 4 foreign leaders and other small tasks such as ordering :

"As of today, lobbyists will be subject to stricter limits than under any other administration in history. If you are lobbyist entering my administration you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on or the agencies you lobbied during the previous two years. When you leave government you will not be able to lobby my administration as long as I am president."


...like most of us do that sort of thing before coffee, right?



Maybe he is something more than human.

All I know is that I want a great big heaping teaspoon of what ever he's having, Nurse....but ah, leave out the stuff that makes him dance like that, ok? I kept seeing Elaine of Seinfeld. Ok that's cruel and uncalled for...but you've to admit he dances more like a geek than a b-boy. So do I I guess. but hey I'm not President trying to be cool.

I am astounded at the vigor he's bringing to our image of government, so strong its contagious, even the right sees this and spins it as Kool-Aid. Sometimes Kool-Aid is just a drink, sometimes its free of poison.

I think the real poison left in a helicopter yesterday.

Sometimes things do actually change for the better.

Scrub.Rinse.Repeat.

Digital TV Monster

|

tvloss.jpg

Attack of the Mold People

|

This overhead view of the inauguration apparently shows clusters of people who look rather like a black mold. No?

And are we to suppose from this evidence that that many people who attended the inauguration were brunettes? (Though there seems to be an occasional smattering of giants with huge blond mullets, indicated by the yellow dots).

Still, we're an awfully dull looking piece of organism from so far overhead, aren't we?
I mean I look at the picture knowing full well how incredible it is that so many folks from so many places have gathered to celebrate a positive shift in paradigm, but I still can't help wanting to spray us with a tile cleaner. I mean take a look. Would you want to get into the shower with that?

Did I mention that Barak H Obama is actually President? Its weird to think that he's somewhere in that photo being brunette and inspirational at the same time. Go figure.

washingtonoverhead2.jpg

As above, so below.



.

Another comment ranks 1st

| | Comments (2)

A comment I left at the NY Times on an editorial called Government's Promise :


nyt_comment01.jpg


I should have added a 4th; education.

The New White House Web Site

| | Comments (1)

The web presence of the White House has certainly changed under the Obama administration. As of 12:01 today the highly interactive site was published. Check it out.


whouse.jpg


Change has come to WhiteHouse.gov


Welcome to the new WhiteHouse.gov. I'm Macon Phillips, the Director of New Media for the White House and one of the people who will be contributing to the blog.

A short time ago, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and his new administration officially came to life. One of the first changes is the White House's new website, which will serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world.

Millions of Americans have powered President Obama's journey to the White House, many taking advantage of the internet to play a role in shaping our country's future. WhiteHouse.gov is just the beginning of the new administration's efforts to expand and deepen this online engagement.

Just like your new government, WhiteHouse.gov and the rest of the Administration's online programs will put citizens first. Our initial new media efforts will center around three priorities:

At Last At Last

|

futurenow.jpg

O Happy Day

|

I Wish You Were Here


by Bob Herbert

bherbert.jpgAnd so it has happened, this very strange convergence. The holiday celebrating the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became, in the midnight hour, the day that America inaugurates its first black president.

It's a day on which smiles will give way to tears and then return quickly to smiles again, a day of celebration and reflection.

Dr. King would have been 80 years old now. He came to national prominence not trying to elect an African-American president, but just trying to get us past the depraved practice of blacks being forced to endure the humiliation of standing up and giving their seat on a bus to a white person, some man or woman or child.

Get up, girl. Get up, boy.

Dr. King was just 26 at the time, a national treasure in a stylish, broad-brimmed hat. He was only 39 when he was killed, eight years younger than Mr. Obama is now.

There are so many, like Dr. King, who I wish could have stayed around to see this day. Some were famous. Most were not.

I remember talking several years ago with James Farmer, one of the big four civil rights leaders of the mid-20th century. (The others were Dr. King, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young.) Farmer enraged authorities in Plaquemine, La., in 1963 by organizing demonstrations demanding that blacks be allowed to vote. Tired of this affront, a mob of state troopers began hunting Farmer door to door.

The southern night trembled once again with the cries of abused blacks. As Farmer described it: "I was meant to die that night. They were kicking open doors, beating up blacks in the streets, interrogating them with electric cattle prods."

A funeral director saved Farmer by having him "play dead" in the back of a hearse, which carried him along back roads and out of town.

Farmer died in 1999. Imagine if he could somehow be seated in a place of honor at the inauguration alongside Dr. King and Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Young. Imagine the stories and the mutual teasing and the laughter, and the deep emotion that would accompany their attempts to rise above their collective disbelief at the astonishing changes they did so much to bring about.

And then imagine a tall white man being ushered into their presence, and the warm smiles of recognition from the big four -- and probably tears -- for someone who has been shamefully neglected by his nation and his party, Lyndon Johnson.

Johnson's contributions to the betterment of American life were nothing short of monumental. For blacks, he opened the door to the American mainstream with a herculean effort that resulted in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He followed up that bit of mastery with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Florida Fauna

|

thecummings.jpg

The Speech

|

For Israel the Honeymoon Is Over

|


The Boss Has Gone Mad


by Uri Avnery


"In Israel, all the talk is about the "picture of victory" - not victory itself, but the "picture". That is essential, in order to convince the Israeli public that the whole business has been worthwhile. At this moment, all the thousands of media people, to the very last one, have been mobilized to paint such a "picture". The other side, of course, will paint a different one."

169 YEARS before the Gaza War, Heinrich Heine wrote a premonitory poem of 12 lines, under the title "To Edom". The German-Jewish poet was talking about Germany, or perhaps all the nations of Christian Europe. This is what he wrote (in my rough translation):

"For a thousand years and more
We have had an understanding
You allow me to breathe
I accept your crazy raging

Sometimes, when the days get darker
Strange moods come upon you
Till you decorate your claws
With the lifeblood from my veins

Now our friendship is firmer
Getting stronger by the day
Since the raging started in me
Daily more and more like you."


Zionism, which arose some 50 years after this was written, is fully realizing this prophesy. We Israelis have become a nation like all nations, and the memory of the Holocaust causes us, from time to time, to behave like the worst of them. Only a few of us know this poem, but Israel as a whole lives it out.

In this war, politicians and generals have repeatedly quoted the words: "The boss has gone mad!" originally shouted by vegetable vendors in the market, in the sense of "The boss has gone crazy and is selling the tomatoes at a loss!" But in the course of time the jest has turned into a deadly doctrine that often appears in Israeli public discourse: in order to deter our enemies, we must behave like madmen, go on the rampage, kill and destroy mercilessly.

In this war, this has become political and military dogma: only if we kill "them" disproportionately, killing a thousand of "them" for ten of "ours", will they understand that it's not worth it to mess with us. It will be "seared into their consciousness" (a favorite Israeli phrase these days). After this, they will think twice before launching another Qassam rocket against us, even in response to what we do, whatever that may be.

It is impossible to understand the viciousness of this war without taking into account the historical background: the feeling of victimhood after all that has been done to the Jews throughout the ages, and the conviction that after the Holocaust, we have the right to do anything, absolutely anything, to defend ourselves, without any inhibitions due to law or morality.


Sermonette #415

|

Can Warren be any scarier?

And to think this man is going to incant on Obama's presidential moment.



hat tip to libhomo

Will the green energy dream come to fruition? This week NOW on PBS explores obstacles to the promise of renewables--energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, and rain.

powerstruggle.jpgAs America looks to dramatically increase its use of renewable energy, an inconvenient reality stands in the way: the need to upgrade the country's antiquated electricity grid. Part of that overhaul involves the construction of gigantic and expensive long-distance transmission lines to carry clean energy from remote sites to population centers.

NOW travels to California, which has the most ambitious clean energy plan in the nation. But the state's efforts face stiff opposition from property owners and conservationists who prefer renewable energy from "local sources," such as photovoltaic rooftop solar panels. Complicating the matter are claims that the transmission lines are not actually carrying renewable energy at all, but represent a thinly-disguised strategy to stick to old energy practices.

It occurs to me that for the green revolution to work, Obama is going to have to create an oversight entity with the authority cut through these predictable pockets of resistance in order to avoid getting bogged down.

Ah, Change

|

db090119.gif

That's so gay

|

Caught a young friend saying that at school and made him watch this :

Thanks, Wanda Sykes.


hat tip to libhomo

Fire every one of these school authorities

|

What a bunch of fools.

Court to hear case of teen strip-searched for ibuprofen

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A 13-year-old Arizona girl who was strip-searched by school officials looking for ibuprofen pain reliever will have her case heard at the Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether school officials were right to strip-search a student over ibuprofen.

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether school officials were right to strip-search a student over ibuprofen.

The justices accepted the case Friday for review. They will decide whether a campus setting gives school administrators greater discretion to control students suspected of illegal activity than police are allowed in cases involving adults in public spaces.

Arguments are expected to be heard in April. At issue is whether school administrators are constitutionally barred from conducting searches of students investigated for possessing or dealing drugs that are banned on campus. A federal appeals court found the search "traumatizing" and illegal.

Some parents say older children deserve the same constitutional rights as adults, but educators counter that a school setting always has been treated differently by the courts. They say a ruling against them could jeopardize campus safety.

The case involves Savana Redding, who in 2003 was an eighth-grade honor student at Safford Middle School, about 127 miles from Tucson, Arizona. Earlier that day the vice principal had discovered prescription-strength ibuprofen pills in the possession of one of Redding's classmates. That student, facing punishment, accused Redding of providing her with the 400-milligram pills.

The school has a zero-tolerance policy for all prescription and over-the-counter medication, including the ibuprofen, without prior written permission.

Redding was pulled from class by a male vice principal, Kerry Wilson, escorted to an office and confronted with the evidence. She denied the accusations.

A search of Redding's backpack found nothing. Then, although she had never had prior disciplinary problems, a strip-search was conducted with the help of a school nurse and Wilson's assistant, both females. According to court records, she was ordered to strip to her underwear and her bra was pulled out. Again, no drugs were found.

In an affidavit, Redding said, "The strip-search was the most humiliating experience I have ever had. I held my head down so that they could not see that I was about to cry."

With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Redding and her family sued, and a federal appeals court in San Francisco, California, ruled against the school.

The court wrote: "Common sense informs us that directing a 13-year-old girl to remove her clothes, partially revealing her breasts and pelvic area, for allegedly possessing ibuprofen ... was excessively intrusive."

The court said the school went too far in its effort to create a drug- and crime-free classroom. "The overzealousness of school administrators in efforts to protect students has the tragic impact of traumatizing those they claim to serve. And all this to find prescription-strength ibuprofen."

In its appeal to the high court, the school district said requiring a legal standard of "probable cause" to conduct student searches would cast a "roadblock to the kind of swift and effective response that is too often needed to protect the very safety of students, particularly from the threats posed by drugs and weapons."

The high court has had a mixed record over the years on students' rights. The court could now be asked to clarify the extent of student rights involving searches, and the discretion of officials over those for whom they have responsibility

8 years of Bush in 8 minutes

|

And you think Bush and Cheney should not be tried for their crimes?



I Hope So Too

|

An interactive by NY Times that allows you to add your two cents by voting on various topics you hope Obama's administration will pursue.

Below is a snapshot of where I left it. The order is interesting.


obamahopes.jpg

A War Crimes Commision is Crucial

| | Comments (1)

Are we a nation of laws or aren't we? That is the crux of the matter. To not prosecute members of the last administration for criminal activity both domestic and international would set the worst sort of precedent ever. It would give the green light to future political lawlessness because there would be no penalty for it.

And Krugman's final thought that the decision to prosecute is not Obama's to make is exactly right. Neither is it the prerogative of Congress to ignore any criminal activity by the last administration. It is their duty to proceed with such prosecutions in order to maintain the integrity of the constitution and that justice be seen to be done.


Forgive and Forget?


by Paul Krugman

Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. "I don't believe that anybody is above the law," he responded, but "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards."

I'm sorry, but if we don't have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years -- and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama's remarks to mean that we won't -- this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don't face any consequences if they abuse their power.

Let's be clear what we're talking about here. It's not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation's security. The fact is that the Bush administration's abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.

At the Justice Department, for example, political appointees illegally reserved nonpolitical positions for "right-thinking Americans" -- their term, not mine -- and there's strong evidence that officials used their positions both to undermine the protection of minority voting rights and to persecute Democratic politicians.

The hiring process at Justice echoed the hiring process during the occupation of Iraq -- an occupation whose success was supposedly essential to national security -- in which applicants were judged by their politics, their personal loyalty to President Bush and, according to some reports, by their views on Roe v. Wade, rather than by their ability to do the job.

Amazing

|

The pilot is a super trained genius. The well trained first responders and the infrastructure worked and that is why we need good government and regulations.
Be a good scout and check out ready.gov

All 155 Escape Jet's Plunge Into Hudson


jethudson.jpgjethudson2.jpg


The Way Back Machine

|

Way back in time that is. Here's an old post I ran across wherein I seem to nail what is commonly accepted these days...that Iraq was a distraction from the real mission in Afghanistan:

June 29, 2004

Dogsnot Bitch

Over at Dogsnot Diaries, one of my favorite cesspools of conservative whackos I like to wrestle with, I recently engaged in an exchange with Gordon the Magnificent in his post he titled Some Humble Pie in which he stated in the original post,

"I love hearing all the barking Moonbats blame the War on Terror on Bush. Morons. Anyone who plays by the reasonable man theory knows the storm was brewing long before he stepped in office."

Being a Moonbat of high rank, and prodded by the first comment to the post by the other hawk in the creatively fouled Dogsnot nest, Geoffery, who deigned to interrogatively squawk:

The moonbats are oddly quiet.

Maria? Cul?

I of course forsook my treasured pastime of naval gazing and feather smoothing long enough to quack back thusly:

Sorry, I was busy picking the lint out of my well considered naval. I personally have never blamed the War on Terror on Bush. I've always blamed Bush for not being capable of prosecuting the War on Terror in any rational manner. The War on Iraq is a prime example of that. At least my distractions don't tend to tear other people's flesh. Now, back to my naval.

Gordon the Magnificient challenged me to committ to greater detail:

So how would you have handled the shit sandwich Cul?

Ever the sort of moonbat eager to bat at the moon, (irrespective of the fact that I had no idea what I would have done), I spontaneously offered:

I would have focused resources of cash, intelligence gathering and small elite commando type military strikes (backed up by our most cutting edge military technologies) on the enemy at hand. And I definitely would have used the opportunity of world sympathy for the US to create a nearly universal political/diplomatic and military intelligence coalition.

I certainly wouldn't have divided and conquered my citizenry with hysterical fear mongering and spread my military forces so thinly across so many fronts that success in any of the arenas was tenuous and unlikely.

Using Dubyas techniques hasn't won us anything so far in terms of 9/11. In fact it has lost us a great deal in terms of world opinion and stature, economy, opportunity and most importantly lives. In terms of the primary goal of defeating the terrorism that created 9/11, BushCo's make-it-up-as-you-go policies have actually made things worse. We whacked a giant beehive and now we will have to deal with the swarm.

Jumping over a few comments from others which took my beehive analogy down a couple of odd avenues, we have this enthusiastic assertion, from Gordon the Magnificient again:

The way I see it, the "Terrorists Fucks" that bombed America on 9/11 whacked the giant beehive and now THEY have to deal with it.


If there is a threat to America - anywhere - it needs to be eliminated.

Ooh...What could I do at that juncture but increase my quack rate?:


Ok. Let's start with the biggest threat to America which is its own ignorant self absorbtion which prevents it from being able to see itself as others do. It is this blind ignorance which allows for the sort of "ugly American" policies which have fomented in the hatreds that blew up the twin towers. Americans are so unaware of the damage done in their name around the world that it seems plausible to a great many of them when George Bush says things like "They hate us because we are free and because of what we have." as he did right after the 9/11 attack trying to rationalize why anyone would do this.

First of all they don't hate the American people. They hate the American government's policies based on economic and tactical considerations over many years by supporting tyrannical governments that have oppressed, tortured and murdered them wholesale. They see the US government and the wealthy interests guiding it as the power defending and propping up those dictatorships they must endure.

We created the Shah in Iran and we created Saddam in Iraq. We created and maintain the middle east conflict between Israel and Palestine and we created the Tailban resistance against the Russians in Afghanstan. We have a long history of supporting dictatorships in Central America and all around the world who were convenient to our economic and strategic needs of the moment. That is what they hate and that is what they were attacking when they attacked the twin towers and the Pentagon. They were attacking the economic and military symbols of the US...not the people. The people were as incidental to them as the 15,000+ Iraqis who are seen as "collateral damage" in our so called attempt to "free" Iraq or the thousands upon thousands of people elsewhere who have been trampled in our other attempts at liberating people - like Viet Nam for instance.

Given that, I find it completely rational that these oppressed people hate the US and would strike out against us. If we seriously want to defeat terrorism, the biggest single move we could make would be for Americans to become aware of what is being done in their name around the world and to demand that their government proceed internationally in a way that is consistent with all those noble ideals we tell ourselves we believe in and assume ourselves to represent. It is not our freedom or what we have that is hated; it is our blatant hypocrisy and refusal to be as responsible as we are wealthy and powerful citizens of the world.

We, the American people hold the key.

So it goes.

Thanx for the prod, Gord. :)



Cute Cover

| | Comments (1)

spidey.obama.jpg

Pussies

| | Comments (4)

Try living in WinterWinnipeg for a decade. -40 is nothing. 20 below feels like spring.

How cold was it?

old man winter.jpgIt was so cold . . .
we had to chop up the piano for firewood - but we only got two chords.


It was so cold . . .the snowflakes froze in the air. Birds hopped from one snowflake to another to get into the trees.

It was so cold . . .the politicians had their hands in their OWN pockets!

It was so cold...my shadow froze to the ground - when I took a step it snapped right off!


Bitter cold to linger across U.S. through weekend

(CNN) -- Frigid air gripped cities from the Canadian border to Florida on Wednesday, with some cities posting record lows.

Snow in cities such as Indianapolis, Indiana, brought rush-hour traffic to a near-standstill.

Records were posted in the Michigan cities of Flint, at 19 below, and Saginaw, 10 below, and in parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley, where places like Hot Springs and Monticello, Arkansas, were in the low 20s, said Andrew Orrison, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

He was unable to immediately access the previous records.

Subzero temperatures were accompanied by wind chills as low as 40 degrees below zero. The wind chill factor describes the combined effect of the wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin, making the temperature feel colder than it is.

"The temperature outside is unbelievable," said Jennifer Flesher of Princeton, Illinois, where she said the temperature was 8 degrees with a wind chill of minus 12. "I went outside to use a snow blower, and my lungs actually started hurting. It catches your breath."

Minneapolis, Minnesota, posted a reading of 19 below zero, and it was 14 below in Fargo, North Dakota, where the wind chill made it feel like 31 below, said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

Orrison said most temperatures were below zero in the Upper Midwest through the Great Lakes and into the Northeast.

The worst is yet to come, he said.

Oakland BART Cop Arrested

|

Related post

Ex-cop charged in Calif. train platform death


mehserle.jpgA murder charge was filed against a white ex-transit cop accused of shooting an unarmed black man at California train platform.

Johannes Mehserle, 27, was arrested in Nevada on a warrant charging homicide, 12 days after the shooting that sparked violent street protests.

Mehserle waived extradition to California during a brief court appearance early Wednesday in Minden, Nev., and was being held without bail. Officials said he'll be returned to California no later than Friday.

Anti-Love Drug May Be Ticket to Bliss

anti.lovedrug.jpg


By John Tierney

In the new issue of Nature, the neuroscientist Larry Young offers a grand unified theory of love. After analyzing the brain chemistry of mammalian pair bonding -- and, not incidentally, explaining humans' peculiar erotic fascination with breasts -- Dr. Young predicts that it won't be long before an unscrupulous suitor could sneak a pharmaceutical love potion into your drink.

That's the bad news. The not-so-bad news is that you may enjoy this potion if you took it knowingly with the right person. But the really good news, as I see it, is that we might reverse-engineer an anti-love potion, a vaccine preventing you from making an infatuated ass of yourself. Although this love vaccine isn't mentioned in Dr. Young's essay, when I raised the prospect he agreed it could also be in the offing.

Could any discovery be more welcome? This is what humans have sought ever since Odysseus ordered his crew to tie him to the mast while sailing past the Sirens. Long before scientists identified neuroreceptors, long before Britney Spears' quickie Vegas wedding or any of Larry King's seven marriages, it was clear that love was a dangerous disease.

Love was correctly identified as a potentially fatal chemical imbalance in the medieval tale of Tristan and Isolde, who accidentally consumed a love potion and turned into hopeless addicts. Even though they realized that her husband, the king, would punish adultery with death, they had to have their love fix.

That rationale does not absolve them from the legal liabilities of their actions. The degree of hunger of a starving person who kills and cannibalizes another may well effect the sentencing and level of punishment meted out, but it does not preclude prosecuting for the homicide. This same idea should be applied to the question of whether or not members and enabling advisers of the Bush administration must be held accountable for war crimes and breaches of the US constitution.

Forgive Not


By Dahlia Lithwick

Instead of looking closely at what high-level officeholders in the Bush administration have done over the past eight years, and recognizing what we have tacitly permitted, we would rather turn our faces forward toward a better future, promising that 2009 and the inauguration of Barack Obama will mean ringing out Guantánamo Bay and ringing in due process; it will bring the end of waterboarding and the reinstatement of the Geneva Conventions.

Indeed, the almost universal response to the recent bipartisan report issued by the Senate Armed Services Committee -- finding former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other high-ranking officials directly responsible for detainee abuse that clearly rose to the level of torture -- has been a collective agreement that no one need be punished so long as we solemnly vow that such atrocities never happen again.

This hope that the election represents some kind of legal self-cleansing, a constitutional "rebooting" of the rule of law, is of course not the language of the law. It is the language of recovery, of religion, of political pragmatism.

Those who say that there should be no investigation or prosecution of senior officials who authorized torture and warrant-less surveillance rarely even bother offering legal justifications. They argue that the Obama administration has more urgent problems to contend with. They insist that any such process would devolve into partisan backbiting from which this country could never recover. And they insist, as did Attorney General Michael Mukasey in early December, that there is no basis on which to prosecute the architects of torture and wiretapping policies because each was acting to "protect the security in the country and in the belief that he or she was doing something lawful."

Others -- including unnamed officials on the Obama transition team -- have already claimed that there is simply no political will for criminal prosecutions, or even a truth commission.

Of course all this is not the language of the law either. It is the language of self-fulfilling prophecy. With each successive recitation that there is no political will, the political will dissipates. With each repetition of the mantra that Americans just want to turn the page on the past eight years, Americans feel ever better about turning the page.

And why wouldn't we? We aren't merely forgiving Mr. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney (who admitted in December to approving torture techniques) and others for their actions. We are also forgiving ourselves.

Death takes a walk at dusk through Gaza

|

deathwalksgaza.jpg

Some people deserve to be buried alive

|

Pwn3d by the Wealthy

|

and why we need much much higher tax rate ...for the wealthy.

Why You Should Be Screaming for Higher Taxes


Why are we so resistant to raising taxes?

It's our nature. Nobody likes to give up their personal money for the common good.

People with a lot of money have, over the past fifty years, spent a fortune on exploiting that instinct and pandering to that feeling. Eventually, with nobody willing to say publicly that taxes are good, they took over the dialogue. It is now routine to hear tax cuts refereed to as "pro-growth" policies, even though, in fact, that's not true. It is routine to hear tax hikes called "anti-growth" policies, when that's not true.

The rich, the Republicans, and the Right, have lost this last election, but they still own the mythology.


By Larry Beinhart

US economic growth has been strongest when our taxes have been high. During World War II, then under Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, our upper marginal tax rates were between 88-92%. Read those numbers again. They are astonishingly high. Those were our strongest growth years.

I never expected to say this. Pelosi's right, Obama's wrong.

Do keep in mind that we are talking about higher taxes on the richest members of society, the very richest. So, unless you're among that elite group, don't panic for personal reasons.

Keep in mind, also, that we are speaking only of income taxes.

You have certainly heard, several thousand times, that tax cuts lead to economic growth.

That's not true.

Moderate tax cuts lead to a flat economy. (The Johnson tax cuts, usually misnamed the Kennedy tax cuts, lead to 16 years of virtually no growth.)

Large tax cuts are followed by a boom in the financial sector, a bubble, and a crash. Then a recession or depression with massive bank failures. This has happened three times, in the 1920s, under Reagan, and under George W. Bush.

During a depression or recession, the point where taxes are increased marks the point when the economy begins its recovery: 1932 under Hoover, Roosevelt's second round of tax hikes in 1940, the first president Bush's tax hike, followed by the Clinton tax hike. (There's one exception. Roosevelt's tax hike of 1936, which was accompanied by cuts in government spending.)

US economic growth has been strongest when our taxes have been high. During World War II, then under Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, our upper marginal tax rates were between 88-92%. Read those numbers again. They are astonishingly high. Those were our strongest growth years.

The next time we experienced strong growth -- not just in the fiscal sector, across the entire economy -- was after the Clinton tax hikes.

Why do tax hikes lead to strong economic growth?

Tax hikes usually correspond to higher government spending.

Government spends money on things that the private sector does not spend money on: physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, market infrastructure, and defense. These are the things that create a world in which doing business is possible. The worse those things are, the worse business is. The better they are, the better business is.

Rich people can't be trusted with too much money. If they have too much easy cash around, they get conned into Ponzi schemes, they go for quick money deals, they get suckered into bubbles, and then the whole economy crashes.

Can we have increased government spending without tax hikes?

No.

We can spend more than the government takes in -- if, and only if -- the following is true.

This is Your Brain on Morality

|

That pesky old Japanese Problem

|

Not to mention the First People's plight under the thumb of US. What a sordid lot we still are.

'Concentration Camps on the Home Front'

by Jay Feldman

By now, the forced relocation and internment of between 110,000 and 120,000 West Coast Japanese-Americans by the War Relocation Authority during World War II have been well documented. This egregious violation of civil liberties has been grudgingly accorded a place in our schoolbooks, but there is much about the subject that is still not fully understood or even acknowledged.

concentration_homefront_cover182.jpgIn "Concentration Camps on the Home Front," a study of the two WRA camps in Arkansas, John Howard addresses a number of these misunderstandings and gaps. Using a methodology that combines "feminist scholarship, critical race studies, and socioeconomic analysis in a Marxist tradition" and further draws on "developments in queer theory," Howard--an openly gay expatriate Southerner who is now head of the American studies department at King's College London--shines a light on several heretofore unexplored areas of the Japanese-American experience during WWII.

First and foremost, of course, there is the profound irony, spelled out in the book's subtitle, of Japanese-Americans being interned in the Jim Crow South. "We are constantly striving to keep the people in this region from treating the evacuees as they treat Negroes," said one WRA official, it apparently never having occurred to this apparatchik that the government itself had already turned Japanese-Americans into second-class citizens.

Kicking Cheney in the shins

|

I wish she had really done it -- but this a good stab.

An Extremist Makeover?

by Maureen Dowd

In the past week, I've twice been close enough to Dick Cheney to kick him in the shins.

I didn't. It's probably a federal crime of some sort. But a girl can fantasize. I did, however, assume the Stay-away-from-me-you've-got-cooties stance that Jimmy Carter used when posing with Bill Clinton at the presidents' powwow in the Oval.

The first time was Tuesday, when Cheney left the ceremony where he gave the oath of office to senators. The senators seemed thrilled, especially Joe Biden, who was getting sworn in for just two weeks and was excitedly showing off a family Bible the size of a Buick. But I thought it gave the ceremony a satirical edge to have the lawless Vice presiding over lawmakers swearing to support and defend the Constitution that he soiled and defiled -- right in the heart of the legislative branch he worked to diminish.

The second time I crossed paths was Thursday night, at a glitzy party at Cafe Milano for Brit Hume, stepping down as a Fox anchor. It required extreme defensive maneuvers -- much zigging and zagging -- to avoid Cheney, Wolfie and Rummy, all three holding court and blissfully unrepentant about the chaos they've unleashed on the world.

"My conscience is clear," Rummy volunteered to Bob Woodward, talking about how he's interviewing people for his memoir.

Woodward was stunned. "I was as speechless as I was in July 2006 when I interviewed him and he said he was not a military commander, that he could make the case that he was 'by indirection, two or three steps removed,' " Woodward told me afterward.

At least Ernst Stavro Blofeld would have the decency just to leave the scene.

From Gaza to the unemployment figures to the $10.6 trillion debt, things keep spiraling while W. keeps fiddling. Just as when he was in the National Guard and didn't bother to show up, now, as the scabrous consequences of his missteps shake the economy and the world, he doesn't bother to show up. He's checked out -- spending his time on more than a dozen exit interviews that do nothing to change his image as a president who was over his head and under Cheney's spell.

Is this collection of shootings somehow connected to frustration over Obama's election? Just a thought.

Racial profiling charged after Texas man shot in own driveway

by David Edwards and Muriel Kane

The family of a young black Texas man who was shot in his own driveway by a white police officer believes that racial profiling was the cause and are asking for criminal charges to be filed against the officer.

robbietolan.jpgAccording to family members, Robbie Tolan and his cousin were returning to Tolan's home in the mostly white Houston suburb of Bellaire in the early hours of December 31, when they were approached by officers who suspected the SUV they had just gotten out of was stolen.

Tolan's parents, who own the SUV, came out of the house to explain the situation. An altercation ensued and Tolan's mother was thrown against the garage door by an officer. According to Tolan's uncle, "Her son was on his back at the time, and he raised up and asked, 'What are you doing to my mom?' and the officer shot him -- while he was on the ground."

The 23 year old Tolan is the son of former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Bobby Tolan, and he himself has played for minor-league teams. Now he lies in a hospital bed with a bullet lodged in his liver, perhaps permanently, his future sports career in question.

Althought the incident occurred a week ago, it is attracting fresh interest amid reports of riots in Oakland, CA over the fatal shooting by a transit officer there of an unarmed black suspect who was lying helpless on the ground.

The Tolans would like to see the officer who shot their son charged with a crime. They have hired a lawyer, who stated, "There's no doubt in my mind that if these had been two white kids, they never would have been shot."

Bellaire's assistant police chief told reporters, "As far as any allegations of racial profiling, I'd probably say that that's not really going to float." However, there has been no other explanation offered for why the officers might have thought the SUV was stolen.

There is now an internal police department investigation going on and the Harris County district attorney's office is also looking into whether to file charges.

Never mind why they thought the car was stolen, focus on why the cop thought it was ok to shoot an unarmed guy on the ground at his own house.

Wtf, again?

| | Comments (3)

Wtf is going on with the cops in this country? Here's another execution where a guy ends up with 12 bullets in his back for no reason. Maybe he was black? Maybe 22?


Family wants police charged in New Orleans killing


NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- As fireworks exploded over the Big Easy on New Year's Eve, 22-year-old Adolph Grimes III pulled up to his grandmother's home near the French Quarter after a five-hour drive from Houston, Texas.

Grimes, who relocated to Texas with his fiancée, Shae Whitfield, after Hurricane Katrina, couldn't wait to get home with their 17-month-old son, Chris, and ring in the new year with friends and family.

"He made it at 12 o'clock exact, with a second to spare," said his father, Adolph Grimes Jr.

Three hours later, Grimes lay dying on the sidewalk half a block from his grandmother's front door, with fireworks giving way to the hue of flashing police lights. The Orleans Parish coroner said Grimes was shot 14 times, including 12 times in the back.

Grimes had just walked out of the house and was in a car waiting for his cousin, according to family members, when nine plainclothes officers -- part of an undercover narcotics task force driving around New Orleans on New Year's Eve -- surrounded Grimes' vehicle. Shots rang out; New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley said Grimes shot at police first.

Not that I believe he shot first, but So what if he did?
Picture sitting in your car in the hood at 3am Jan 1st and 9 guys surround your car (remember they were plain clothed cops) probably with weapons drawn. You have a legal weapon what would you do? The guy has no record, has never been in trouble. This stinks.

here's comment from a local paper article:

Posted By: 901Smitty


People saying this people saying that. No one was there did you know the person NO!!!!. I knew him personally. He did not know those were police for the obvious reasons ie unmarked car plain clothed officers. STOP saying if you shot at the police you will get shot and die. And all these comments why did he have two extra clips. He was in the hood and he knew he was going to the hood. It's sad that he probably thought he was going to be robbed, shot or maybe even killed and his fear probably got him killed. They should have did a thorough CSI on this and gave the family details of everything that happen. There's still gaps in this story. Some of you on here have this O WELL philiosphy but if this was your family member, friend or loved one I don't think you would have that type of attitude. I'm not on here condeming the police but I think on a night like New Years Eve, being in a unmarked car and plain clothes wasn't to smart or safe for them or in this case Adolph. And another thing you think MONEY is going to give his family some comfort for losing him. Last thing if he was up to no good with all that firepower that they say he had. He would have at least used up one clip. He shot one time so they say. Who knows what happened. Talking bad about him and his family is uncalled for. Have some RESPECT!!!!!! IF YOU CAN'T RESPECT OTHERS HOW CAN YOU RESPECT YOURSELF

And another from a co-worker:

Posted by jazzman1120

grimes.jpgMy name is Bruce and I was a coworker of Adolphs in Houston. Adolph was a friendly very intelligent and caring person. He loved his family and was a proud father. The last time he and I got a chance to hang out was at my apartment for a Hurricane Ike party. Im from New Orleans also. My prayers go out to his family and God wants you all to keep your head up dont be bitter he has a plan in effect. He WILL bring out the truth. I promise you that some one saw it happen that has a concious and will deliver the truth. Its pretty sad that as bad as we want to come back home the system give us more reason not too. The unfortunate thing about it is we elected CLOWNS to office that till this day exploit us and insult our intelligence. R.I.P homeboy you and your family are in me and my families prayers.


Goodbye C'nelia

|
cornelia2.jpgFormer Alabama first lady Cornelia Wallace dies

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Former Alabama first lady Cornelia Wallace, who threw herself over Gov. George C. Wallace when he was shot in a 1972 assassination attempt, has died in Sebring, Fla. She was 69.

Wallace's cousin, Melissa Boyen, said the former first lady died Thursday from cancer.Cornelia Wallace was the niece of two-term Gov. James E. "Big Jim" Folsom. The dark-haired beauty, known simply as "C'nelia," married George Wallace on Jan. 4, 1971


I had the pleasure of meeting her back in 2004 and wrote this post on the original ratboy's blog:

Driving With Cornelia   May 03, 2004

by cul heath

Today I drove one of the residents of the large facility I work at, which provides assisted living to the elderly, to the emergency room of the local hospital. Somehow Cornelia (Missy Wallace to her familiars), had managed to slam a drawer on her left hand over the weekend and felt she needed to have a doctor look at it. I had planned on a run in that direction to pick some things from a Home Depot and so seeing her into the emergency ward was to be just part of the daily job.

My first impressions of Cornelia was that she was intelligent and strong willed. She seemed more lively somehow than most of the other residents in the facility and she somehow seemed to me to be a person who once was very much a part of that southern genteel society that has been so diluted (in Florida anyway) by the advance of so many retiring Yankees and the palette of strip mall modern era functionalism punctuated by Wal-Marts and the decline of general civility.

The first excursion out beyond the walls of the facility she was calling home was about a week ago when I drove her and few other residents for an brief outing to a local park. Cornelia was the navigator and had planned it so that she was taking us to a remote little park that most people would never know about. No one could figure out why she had taken us on such a round-about route to wind up in a relatively homely small area of scrub swamp carved out by the local Optimists Club or why she was offering us all Fruit Loops from those small boxes meant for individual servings that might get tucked into a kids lunch box... until she started chortling in a voice very defintely her own..."Kittykittykittykittykitty...

She kept this up until two cats came out of the bushes meowing back at her obviously recognizing her voice. She had secreted the Fruit Loops to feed them and had schemed to get the staff to bring to the park so she could feed her babies. Of course cats do not particulary like Fruit Loops so there a note of sadness about it. I wished I had had something cat-palatable to offer her so that she could consumate what was obviously a rare occasion to visit her cats. I planned at that moment to introduce her to my sister Sue who is an avid "cat lady" and lover of all animals. It was obvious to me that here were two peas in a pod and that Sue would love to attend to Cornelia's cats when Cornelia could not.

A few hours after I had dropped her off at the emergency ward today, she called to be picked up and so I went and retrieved her. She was standing in a light drizzle smoking a cigarette when I pulled up. She pushed the ash off the end and stowed the precious butt in her purse. Once she climbed in she asked me if I could spare $5 until we got back. I said "Sure." Then she asked if I could possibly detour to a Dollar Store to pick up some cat food and some cheap bowls that she could take to the park where her cats lived. What with the time crush the facility always seems be under due to one form of emergency or another, my immediate superiors would of course frown on the idea and go off on tangents about risks to residents and insurance and lawsuits should she trip on a stick or something in the park without a medical aide nearby and blah blah blah.

After all that went through my head in a second, I said, "Sure...why not?". Needless to say this pleased her immensely. So off Cornelia and I went on our rebellious shopping spree and dalliance in a small little park in the middle of nowhere to fill a drizzling afternoon hour with concern and affections for things outside of ourselves.

Once at the park she again chortled and the cats came. She laid out the food , they ate some and she hugged them and stroked their tails and talked to them in that silly innocent voice we all do when expressing love for our pets. Watching this simple pure moment I was suddenly aware of the planet turning and of why we exist. I will never be able to repay Cornelia for that moment of clarity.

After we left, somehow silently bonded by our little existential escape, a conversation slowly grew between us, with me asking about her past and so-on. At one juncture in the conversation she asked if she could correct me on a point of speech usage. I had used the term "preventative maintenance"; she politely pointed out that the correct phrase would be "preventive maintenance". Of course she was right and I cordially acepted the correction. This led to me asking if she had been a writer or somehow otherwise had been engaged in literature. Indeed she had, she said.

cornelia.jpgShe had written and published a book about her life called C'nelia in which she described the various effects of when her husband had been shot and how she had dealt with the after math. As she went on a bit more with the description, I was suddenly struck with the idea that I was riding along with the Cornelia Wallace, widow of George Wallace, the famed and infamous four-time Alabama governor who swore an oath of "segregation forever" and eventually was shot down and paralyzed for the rest of his life during a presidential campaign rally. Cornelia confirmed my thought and explained that she had been there at the shooting.

****

We had a few more excursions to the cats during the weeks that followed and I made sure she had a couple of bowls and cat food to put in them.

She was a grand lady and I will miss her.

So you think losing Prop 8 was a terrible thing for gays? Well, it was, but nothing compared to the problems facing their gay compatriots in Senegal.

9 in Senegal to Be Jailed for 8 Years

By Lydia Polgreen

DAKAR, Senegal -- Nine men were handed harsh sentences of eight years in prison after being tried on charges of conspiracy and "unnatural acts," a term used to criminalize homosexuality, according to their lawyers and gay rights groups here on Thursday.

The men were arrested on Dec. 19 at the home of Diadji Diouf, a prominent gay activist who works with AIDS organizations to prevent the spread of the disease in the largely clandestine gay community in Senegal, according to Jöel Nana, a program associate for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

Mr. Diouf, who was among those arrested and sentenced, runs an organization that provides condoms and counseling to gay men in Senegal, a largely Muslim country that has become increasingly intolerant of homosexuality in recent years despite its reputation for liberalism and openness. The arrests took place just a few weeks after a conference on AIDS in Africa was held in Dakar.

Antigay sentiment has been on the rise across Africa in recent years. Nigeria's Parliament tried to pass a law last year that would restrict the rights of homosexuals to even meet to discuss their rights. Gambia's president threatened to behead any homosexuals found in his country. And even in Senegal, one of the most liberal and tolerant countries in Islamic Africa, tensions over homosexuality have been on the rise.

Last year, a group of men were arrested after a magazine printed photographs of what purported to be a gay wedding. One of the men who was arrested, a popular singer, was forced to flee the country and seek asylum in the United States.

Mr. Nana, speaking in an interview from Cape Town, said that such episodes were extremely worrying and symptomatic of a growing problem.

"It is really sending the wrong message to a community that needs help and protection," he said.

Anti-Union Forces Rally

|

The Employee Free Choice Act is an essential tool for employees to regain the ability to unionize; a dastardly thing in the eyes of many employers who are stepping up their efforts to defeat the upcoming legislation at all costs.

Bill Easing Unionizing Is Under Heavy Attack

By Steven Greenhouse

Intent on blocking organized labor's top legislative goal, corporations are quietly contributing to lobbying groups with appealing names like the Workforce Fairness Institute and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.

These groups are planning a multimillion-dollar campaign in the hope of killing legislation that would give unions the right to win recognition at a workplace once a majority of employees sign cards saying they want a union. Business groups fear the bill will enable unions to quickly add millions of workers and drive up labor costs.

Bread and Water

| | Comments (5)

That what Alabama Sheriff Greg Bartlett should be fed for at least a year. It might help him get the fat out his thick head.

This anus is making $1360./wk on top of his regular $64,000. regular pay by skimming it off a $1.75 per day food cost allotment by underfeeding the inmates. And what's truly astounding is that by Alabama law, its been legal since the 1930's! What feeble minded bureaucrats originated this license to steal and how many inmates over the years have been starving?

This guy needs to stay in jail period.


As His Inmates Grew Thinner, a Sheriff's Wallet Grew Fatter

by Adam Nossiter

DECATUR, Ala. -- The prisoners in the Morgan County jail here were always hungry. The sheriff, meanwhile, was getting a little richer. Alabama law allowed it: the chief lawman could go light on prisoners' meals and pocket the leftover change.

sheriffbartlett.jpgAnd that is just what the sheriff, Greg Bartlett, did, to the tune of $212,000 over the last three years, despite a state food allowance of only $1.75 per prisoner per day.

In the view of a federal judge, who heard testimony from the hungry inmates, the sheriff was in "blatant" violation of past agreements that his prisoners be properly cared for.

"There was undisputed evidence that most of the inmates had lost significant weight," the judge, U. W. Clemon of Federal District Court in Birmingham, said Thursday in an interview. "I could not ignore them."

So this week, Judge Clemon ordered Sheriff Bartlett himself jailed until he came up with a plan to adequately feed prisoners more, anyway, than a few spoonfuls of grits, part of an egg and a piece of toast at breakfast, and bits of undercooked, bloody chicken at supper.

The shock in the courtroom on Wednesday was palpable: a sheriff was going to jail -- if, as it turns out, only for one night -- because his prisoners did not like the food. The world was upside down.

"You're never going to satisfy any incarcerated individual," grumbled the head of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, Bobby Timmons. Besides, Mr. Timmons said, "an inmate is not in jail for singing too loud in choir on Sunday."

Melanie Velez, a lawyer for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, which represents the inmates, took a different position. "Our clients, all they want is sustenance," Ms. Velez said. "They shouldn't be punished by not being given adequate nutrition. After every meal, they are hungry."

The sheriff's defenders, like Mr. Timmons, said Sheriff Bartlett, who told the court his salary was about $64,000, was merely following the law -- Alabama law.

"He has not violated any laws of the state of Alabama," Mr. Timmons said. "Everything he has done is by the rules, including the feeding allowance."

But that was the whole problem, in Judge Clemon's view. An unusual statute here dating from the early decades of the 20th century allows the state's sheriffs to keep for themselves whatever money is left over after they feed their prisoners. The money allotted by the state is little enough -- $1.75 a day per prisoner -- but the incentive to skimp is obvious.

Public Policy vs Free Markets

|

There's some important points raised in the article below about how the way we frame the concepts of free markets and regulations have been leading us astray from sound public policies.


Free Market Myth

Regulation is everywhere. Let's choose who benefits.

by Dean Baker

The extraordinary financial collapse of recent months has been commonly described as a testament to the failure of deregulation. The events are indeed testament to a failure--a failure of public policy. Blaming deregulation is misleading.

In general, political debates over regulation have been wrongly cast as disputes over the extent of regulation, with conservatives assumed to prefer less regulation, while liberals prefer more. In fact conservatives do not necessarily desire less regulation, nor do liberals necessarily desire more. Conservatives support regulatory structures that cause income to flow upward, while liberals support regulatory structures that promote equality. "Less" regulation does not imply greater inequality, nor is the reverse true.


Framing regulation debates in terms of more and less is not only inaccurate; it hugely biases the argument toward conservative positions by characterizing an extremely intrusive structure of, for example, patent and copyright rules, as the free market. In the realm of insurance and finance over the last two decades, calls for deregulation have been cover for rules tilted starkly toward corporate interests. And the recent change in bankruptcy law, hailed by conservatives, requires much greater government involvement in the economy.

False ideological claims have circumscribed the public debate over regulation and blinded us to the wide range of choices we can make. Without these claims, what would guide regulatory policy? What kinds of choices would we have?

How the Presidency Ages a Person

|

What gets me is how he's still wearing the same tie 8 years later.


oldobama.jpg

And so he should

|

Everytime I hear more about this incident I want to take an ax handle to the cop that shot the kid in the back while on the ground. There is so much wrong with the whole thing I just want to scream. Its so perverted and senseless and sad. Fuck, I hate untrained macho cops and guns and tasers and the whole bullshit racism that plagues this country.


Spokesman: Officer gets death threats after subway shooting

The officer involved in a New Year's Day shooting that left a passenger dead in a crowded Oakland, California, subway station has received numerous death threats, a transit spokesman said Wednesday.

BART.victim.jpgBay Area Rapid Transit spokesman Linton Johnson's remarks to CNN came shortly before the funeral for the passenger, 22-year-old Oscar Grant.

A BART officer fatally shot Grant in the back after he and some friends were pulled from a train car following a report of an altercation, according to a BART statement.

On Tuesday, attorney John Burris filed a $25 million claim with BART in which he identified the officer as Johannes Mehserle. Several local media outlets had already identified the officer.

Burris alleges in the claim, "Without so much as flinching the Officer Mehserle stood over Grant and mercilessly fired his weapon, mortally wounding Mr. Grant with a single gunshot wound to the back."

Johnson said Mehserle's attorney -- reportedly David E. Mastagni of Sacramento -- has advised the officer not to speak to investigators. Nor has Mehserle made any public statements. Calls and e-mails to Mastagni's office Tuesday and Wednesday were not returned.

Johnson also said the officer had been moved at least twice because of death threats to him and his family.

CNN affiliate KTVU-TV in Oakland obtained videos of the incident and its prelude. One video, which KTVU reported came from a train passenger who wished not to be identified, shows three young men against a wall in the Fruitvale station.

Burris told CNN on Tuesday that the young men had been celebrating the new year at a popular waterfront tourist spot, The Embarcadero. They were heading home when police pulled them from the train car about 2 a.m.

Some of the young men were handcuffed, but not 22-year-old Oscar Grant. The video from the anonymous passenger shows Grant seated on the floor with his back against the wall.

Grant holds up his hands, appearing to plead with police. Burris said Tuesday that Grant was asking police not to use a Taser.

"He said to them, 'Don't Tase me; I have a 4-year-old daughter,' " Burris said.

The interaction on the video is not audible.

Seconds later, police put Grant face-down on the ground. Grant appears to struggle. One of the officers kneels on Grant as another officer stands, tugs at his gun, unholsters it and fires a shot into Grant's back.

Burris said the bullet went through Grant's back and then ricocheted off the floor and through his lungs.

Grant died seven hours later at an area hospital, KTVU reported.


UPDATE: Riots erupt in Oakland after slain father laid to rest

I'm glad for the outrage!

Gupta: Surgeon General?

| | Comments (1)
sanjay-gupta.jpgAbsolutely. He's got government experience, media experience, has a broad range of health issues covered and thick portfolio of excellent public health projects. He's young, accessible and a practicing brain surgeon.


The fact that he's a son of immigrant parents adds to the quotient and makes him pretty much a perfect cup of tea for the Obama team.

Kudos on this one.


Beyond the Reefer Madness Crap

|


Its stunning how the government propaganda against marijuana is abetted by the likes of the NY Times and CNN. Here's some facts on the issue.

Study Finds No Cancer-Marijuana Connection

By Marc Kaufman Washington Post

The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer.

The new findings "were against our expectations," said Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years.

"We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use," he said. "What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect."

Federal health and drug enforcement officials have widely used Tashkin's previous work on marijuana to make the case that the drug is dangerous. Tashkin said that while he still believes marijuana is potentially harmful, its cancer-causing effects appear to be of less concern than previously thought.

Earlier work established that marijuana does contain cancer-causing chemicals as potentially harmful as those in tobacco, he said. However, marijuana also contains the chemical THC, which he said may kill aging cells and keep them from becoming cancerous.

Tashkin's study, funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse, involved 1,200 people in Los Angeles who had lung, neck or head cancer and an additional 1,040 people without cancer matched by age, sex and neighborhood.

They were all asked about their lifetime use of marijuana, tobacco and alcohol. The heaviest marijuana smokers had lighted up more than 22,000 times, while moderately heavy usage was defined as smoking 11,000 to 22,000 marijuana cigarettes. Tashkin found that even the very heavy marijuana smokers showed no increased incidence of the three cancers studied.

"This is the largest case-control study ever done, and everyone had to fill out a very extensive questionnaire about marijuana use," he said. "Bias can creep into any research, but we controlled for as many confounding factors as we could, and so I believe these results have real meaning."

Tashkin's group at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA had hypothesized that marijuana would raise the risk of cancer on the basis of earlier small human studies, lab studies of animals, and the fact that marijuana users inhale more deeply and generally hold smoke in their lungs longer than tobacco smokers -- exposing them to the dangerous chemicals for a longer time. In addition, Tashkin said, previous studies found that marijuana tar has 50 percent higher concentrations of chemicals linked to cancer than tobacco cigarette tar.

While no association between marijuana smoking and cancer was found, the study findings, presented to the American Thoracic Society International Conference this week, did find a 20-fold increase in lung cancer among people who smoked two or more packs of cigarettes a day.

The study was limited to people younger than 60 because those older than that were generally not exposed to marijuana in their youth, when it is most often tried.


Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 THC and other compounds in marijuana are extremely active anti-cancer agents. This was determined as far back as 1975 when Louis S. Harris, of the Medical College of Virginia, discovered that delta-9 THC increased cancer survival time by 36% without the weight loss caused by most standard anti-tumor agents. Delta-8 THC and cannabinol are also quite active in tumor suppression. Harris's research has been suppressed since 1975. (Analgesic & Anti-Tumor potential of The Cannabinoids
Louis S. Harris, Dept of Pharmacology US Dept Health & Ed. 1976)

Besides this evidence The TOXICOLOGY AND CARCINOGENESIS STUDIES OF TRANS-DELTA9-TETRAHYDROCANNIBINOL IN F344N AND B6C3F1 MICE study showed statistically significant lower cancer rates for pituitary, liver, pancreas, mammary, uterus and testis.


http://www.druglibrary.org/crl/proliferation

/NIH%2096%20Toxicology%20&%20Carcinogenesis.pdf

Extricate How? Palefghanistine?

|

Bob Herbert wants Obama to end the Afghanistan war ASAP after his inauguration and declare that the old 'era of mindless military misadventures' to be over. I agree with that sentiment, I just don't see how it can be done without first doing some permanent damage to the Taliban and Al Qaida.

Wait a minute here's an idea: Have the UN security council rename Afghanistan to Palefghanistine and by proclamation make it the official home of Palestinians to be relocated there. That way Hamas will have closer access to the Pakistani nukes they need to balance powers with Israel and take out their need for violence against the Taliban, who likely will hate the idea of Palestinians being dumped on them. Now there's a dogfight brew that could gambled on for a decade or two.

The Afghan Quagmire

By Bob Herbert

The economy is obviously issue No. 1 as Barack Obama prepares to take over the presidency. He's charged with no less a task than pulling the country out of a brutal recession. If the worst-case scenarios materialize, his job will be to stave off a depression.

That's enough to keep any president pretty well occupied. What Mr. Obama doesn't need, and what the U.S. cannot under any circumstances afford, is any more unnecessary warfare. And yet, while we haven't even figured out how to extricate ourselves from the disaster in Iraq, Mr. Obama is planning to commit thousands of additional American troops to the war in Afghanistan, which is already more than seven years old and which long ago turned into a quagmire.

Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who is now a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, wrote an important piece for Newsweek warning against the proposed buildup. "Afghanistan will be a sinkhole," he said, "consuming resources neither the U.S. military nor the U.S. government can afford to waste."

In an analysis in The Times last month, Michael Gordon noted that "Afghanistan presents a unique set of problems: a rural-based insurgency, an enemy sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan, the chronic weakness of the Afghan government, a thriving narcotics trade, poorly developed infrastructure, and forbidding terrain."

The U.S. military is worn out from years of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. The troops are stressed from multiple deployments. Equipment is in disrepair. Budgets are beyond strained. Sending thousands of additional men and women (some to die, some to be horribly wounded) on a fool's errand in the rural, mountainous guerrilla paradise of Afghanistan would be madness.

The time to go all out in Afghanistan was in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks. That time has passed.

With no personal military background and a reputation as a liberal, President-elect Obama may feel he has to demonstrate his toughness, and that Afghanistan is the place to do it. What would really show toughness would be an assertion by Mr. Obama as commander in chief that the era of mindless military misadventures is over.


Beautiful Boy

|

  Jett and John Travolta

jett_travolta.jpg

Democrat Solidarity to Believe In

|

Now you know Coleman is going to go to court about this. ASnd he has every right to...that's the process. If he prevails good for him, just not good for the rest of us.

Panel to declare Franken winner of Senate race

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- A state election board on Monday will announce Democrat Al Franken has defeated Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race, state officials told CNN Sunday.

alfranken.jpgThe canvassing board on Monday will say a recount determined Franken won by 225 votes, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie told CNN.

However, Coleman's campaign, which contends the recount should have included about 650 absentee ballots it says were improperly rejected in the initial count, has indicated it will challenge the certification.

Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan said his team believes the recount process was broken and that "the numbers being reported will not be accurate or valid."

"The effort by the Franken campaign, supported by the secretary of state, to exclude improperly rejected absentee ballots is indefensible and disenfranchises hundreds of Minnesota voters," Sheehan said.

After the results are certified, Coleman's campaign will have seven days to file a challenge.

Richardson Demonstrates Honor

| | Comments (2)

I hope Obama finds a place for Richardson once he has been cleared in the investigation. Its obvious that he understands the concept of selfless service.
Kudos to you, sir.


Bill Richardson bows out of commerce secretary job


New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is withdrawing his nomination to be commerce secretary, he and President-elect Barack Obama said in statements Sunday.

Richardson cited the distraction of a federal investigation into his ties to a California company that won municipal bond business in New Mexico after contributing money to various Richardson causes.

Richardson's statement explained that he asked Obama "not to move forward" with his nomination now.

"I do so with great sorrow. But a pending investigation of a company that has done business with New Mexico state government promises to extend for several weeks or, perhaps, even months," the statement reads. "Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact. But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process."

"Given the gravity of the economic situation the nation is facing, I could not in good conscience ask the President-elect and his Administration to delay for one day the important work that needs to be done."

Richardson, one of the best-known Hispanics in the Democratic Party, served as the energy secretary in the Clinton administration as well as ambassador to the United Nations. He said he will remain governor.

The Boobs of Wall Street

|

And how their ineptness screwed us all.

How does this happen? How can the person in charge of assessing Wall Street firms not have the tools to understand them? Is the S.E.C. that inept?


The End of the Financial World as We Know It

By Michael Lewis and David Einhorn

This is one reason the collapse of our financial system has inspired not merely a national but a global crisis of confidence. Good God, the world seems to be saying, if they don't know what they are doing with money, who does?

Incredibly, intelligent people the world over remain willing to lend us money and even listen to our advice; they appear not to have realized the full extent of our madness. We have at least a brief chance to cure ourselves. But first we need to ask: of what?

To that end consider the strange story of Harry Markopolos. Mr. Markopolos is the former investment officer with Rampart Investment Management in Boston who, for nine years, tried to explain to the Securities and Exchange Commission that Bernard L. Madoff couldn't be anything other than a fraud. Mr. Madoff's investment performance, given his stated strategy, was not merely improbable but mathematically impossible. And so, Mr. Markopolos reasoned, Bernard Madoff must be doing something other than what he said he was doing.

In his devastatingly persuasive 17-page letter to the S.E.C., Mr. Markopolos saw two possible scenarios. In the "Unlikely" scenario: Mr. Madoff, who acted as a broker as well as an investor, was "front-running" his brokerage customers. A customer might submit an order to Madoff Securities to buy shares in I.B.M. at a certain price, for example, and Madoff Securities instantly would buy I.B.M. shares for its own portfolio ahead of the customer order. If I.B.M.'s shares rose, Mr. Madoff kept them; if they fell he fobbed them off onto the poor customer.

In the "Highly Likely" scenario, wrote Mr. Markopolos, "Madoff Securities is the world's largest Ponzi Scheme." Which, as we now know, it was.

Harry Markopolos sent his report to the S.E.C. on Nov. 7, 2005 -- more than three years before Mr. Madoff was finally exposed -- but he had been trying to explain the fraud to them since 1999. He had no direct financial interest in exposing Mr. Madoff -- he wasn't an unhappy investor or a disgruntled employee. There was no way to short shares in Madoff Securities, and so Mr. Markopolos could not have made money directly from Mr. Madoff's failure. To judge from his letter, Harry Markopolos anticipated mainly downsides for himself: he declined to put his name on it for fear of what might happen to him and his family if anyone found out he had written it. And yet the S.E.C.'s cursory investigation of Mr. Madoff pronounced him free of fraud.

Pretty In Pink

| | Comments (2)


Its all death inside

gazapink.jpg

Too Much Choice

|

choices.jpg

inspiration 1 the Ron Clarke Academy


The quote

Aurthur C Clarke :"Any teacher who could be replaced by a machine, should be."


Suguta Mitra
inspiration 2


"Third-hand smoke". Can you believe it? Now the anti-smoking evangelists want you to believe that merely coming in contact with a smoker or just being around an environment where someone has smoked at some time in the past is cancer causing. So now smokers don't only stink, the stink is murderous! And of course its being sold via the hackneyed "save the children" clause. What a bunch claptrap.

If someone has the genetic sensitivity to get cancer from the smell of a smoker's hair or clothes, they are going to get cancer from any number of other things in the everyday environment. Even a majority of long time heavy smokers don't get cancer and the number of cancers from second hand smoke are far far less, because the reality is that genetic predisposition to cancer is the main causal component. "3rd hand smoke" is just the latest invention by anti-smoking zealots to rid the universe of their hate fetish; tobacco.

The actual intent of the study in the long run is to establish laws that would ban smoking in ANY environment including homes and cars where children may be exposed to even the smallest residuals of smoking tobacco.

A New Cigarette Hazard: 'Third-Hand Smoke'

By Roni Caryn Rabin

Parents who smoke often open a window or turn on a fan to clear the air of second-hand smoke, but experts now have identified another smoking-related threat to children's health that isn't as easy to get rid of: third-hand smoke.

That's the term being used to describe the invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles clinging to smokers' hair and clothing, not to mention cushions and carpeting, that lingers long after smoke has cleared from a room. The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they're crawling or playing on the floor.

Doctors from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston coined the term "third-hand smoke" to describe these chemicals in a new study that focused on the risks they pose to infants and children. The study was published in this month's issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Lithgow In Flight

|

hahahahahahaha

|


Bush advisers: Cheney didn't pull the strings

Bolten, Hadley decry 'mythologies', insist administration wasn't arrogant


Shovels full of it! Watch them spread it everywhere trying to rewrite their stink away...

EX: Likable boss

Bolten and Hadley have plainly loved their jobs -- and the man they have built their life around for the past eight years. "Something that is totally lost is what a blast it is to be around here," Bolten said. "Even the hard days, there's some element of humor, of being a big person, of affection that's just overwhelming."

Have they no shame?

Obviously not.

As sensible as it gets

|

Eugene Robinson is one of my favorite writer/commentators. Here he lays out the sensible path Obama should take regarding the 50 year old US/Cuban policies.


Our Cuba Policy: A Failure at 50

By Eugene Robinson

eugene.robinson.jpgIt was around 3 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1959, when Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista slipped away to the airport and fled his island nation, hauling as much loot as his aircraft could carry. Hours later, the audacious young man whose badly outnumbered guerrilla forces had defeated Batista's army stepped onto a balcony overlooking Cespedes Park in the eastern city of Santiago. It was the first time that Fidel Castro had faced a cheering crowd as Cuba's unquestioned leader. It would hardly be the last.
The turning of the year marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution--yet another reminder of wrongheaded U.S. policies that have unwittingly helped shield Castro's revolution from historical trends that long ago should have forced the regime to give way, or at least compelled it to evolve.

President-elect Barack Obama will have more urgent matters to deal with after he takes the oath of office. But somewhere on his long to-do list, he should make a note to finally bring five decades of counterproductive American policy toward Cuba to a definitive end.

Dwight Eisenhower was president when Castro assured Cubans in Cespedes Park that he and his fellow revolutionaries were "immune to ambition and vanity." U.S. officials were wary from the start. There had been a time when Batista was our man in Havana, although American policymakers had become disillusioned with him. No tears would have been shed in Washington if a more effective--and compliant--strongman had emerged, perhaps from the military, to take his place. But Castro was too much of a leftie, probably even a commie, and hardly seemed to be someone who could be counted on to play ball with the White House.

The first years of the relationship were the most eventful. Castro grew closer to the Soviets, the White House authorized the Bay of Pigs landing, the invasion failed, Cuba became a full-fledged Soviet client, the Cuban missile crisis took the world to the brink of Armageddon, and an uneasy standoff was established. Incomprehensibly, it persists to this day.

Nobody and Everybody Owns The Arctic

| | Comments (4)

Its like the moon or the open oceans, including the airspace above and below it.

The sizing up of which country owns what resources in the arctic should be limited to the present 200 mile jurisdictions and the rest should be considered held in common by the world, including countries that have no physical connection to the arctic itself. A world consortium managed through the UN should equally disperse resources found there, should any such projects come into being. All present day energy corporations should be made subject to the decisions and requirements of that world body.

arctic.jpgCountries in tug-of-war over Arctic resources

(CNN) -- One of the planet's most fragile and pristine ecosystems sits atop a bounty of untapped fossil fuels.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 90 billion barrels of oil, 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are recoverable in the frozen region north of the Arctic Circle.

And the fight over who owns those resources may turn out to be the most important territorial dispute of this century. Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland all have a stake in the Arctic's icy real estate.

But both the exploration, and the likely drilling at the top of the Earth, have scientists deeply concerned. One reason: Global warming has hit the Arctic's plant and animal life ferociously. The stresses and possible pollution caused by drilling only increase the risks.

"The ecosystem that is there has been protected by thousands of years of ice. Even if there was no territorial dispute, the ice is going away," said oceanographer David Carlson, director of the International Polar Year's Program Office.

Here's a law suit and a half

| | Comments (40)

There's just no excuse for the airline to deny these folks their flight. None.
There should also be a penalty for the two girls who started this whole thing.

'Safest' seat remarks gets Muslim family kicked off plane

A Muslim family removed from an airliner Thursday after passengers became concerned about their conversation say AirTran officials refused to rebook them, even after FBI investigators cleared them of wrongdoing.

Atif Irfan said federal authorities removed eight members of his extended family and a friend after passengers heard them discussing the safest place to sit and misconstrued the nature of the conversation.

Irfan, a U.S. citizen and tax attorney, said he was "impressed with the professionalism" of the FBI agents who questioned him, but said he felt mistreated when the airline refused to book the family for a later flight.

AirTran Airways late Thursday said they acted properly and that the family was offered full refunds and can fly with AirTran again.

"AirTran Airways complied with all TSA, law enforcement and Homeland Security directives and had no discretion in the matter," the company said in a prepared statement.

UPDATE: Airline apologizes for removing Muslims

What are the odds?

|


Drive safely, stay out of alleys and don't smoke in bed

death_chances.jpg


Compared to
poker_odds.jpg

Want It

| | Comments (1)


usbrolluppiano_small.jpgUSB Roll-up Piano.

Wait, wait, don't leave. It's USB. Yes, you need to carry your computer around with you...well, a laptop at least.
49 keys, 128 instruments, 100 pre-recorded rhythms. Boogie. $46.00. Cheap like borscht!



ULIFE005400_05_L.jpgFunctions Include:

  • Simultaneous 49 Key Activation
  • 49-note Velocity-sensitive Keyboard
  • Record Your Master-piece
  • Innovative Interface Allows All Programming And Sound Activated On Computer
  • 8 Percussion Instruments
  • 128 Non Percussion Instruments
    6 Tones, 100 Prerecorded Rhythms
  • Program Function To Record Your Own Rhythm And Beats
  • Prerecorded Songs
  • Tempo Adjustment (40-208 Beats)
  • Metronome Adjustment
  • Tone Effects (Vibrato and Portamento)
  • Learning Feature
  • Record/Playback And Program Option
  • MIDI output, NO - IDIOTS!!

Seriously Real Question

|

Chris Daughtry - What About Now?


Shadows fill an empty heart
As love is fading,
From all the things that we are
But are not saying.
Can we see beyond the scars
And make it to the dawn?

Change the colors of the sky.
And open up to
The ways you made me feel alive,
The ways I loved you.
For all the things that never died,
To make it through the night,
Love will find you.

What about now?
What about today?
What if you're making me all that I was meant to be?
What if our love never went away?
What if it's lost behind words we could never find?
Baby, before it's too late,
What about now?

The sun is breaking in your eyes
To start a new day.
This broken heart can still survive
With a touch of your grace.
Shadows fade into the light.
I am by your side,
Where love will find you.

What about now?
What about today?
What if you're making me all that I was meant to be?
What if our love, it never went away?
What if it's lost behind words we could never find?
Baby, before it's too late,
What about now?

Now that we're here,
Now that we've come this far,
Just hold on.
There is nothing to fear,
For I am right beside you.
For all my life,
I am yours.

What about now?
What about today?
What if you're making me all that I was meant to be?
What if our love never went away?
What if it's lost behind words we could never find?

What about now?
What about today?
What if you're making me all that I was meant to be?
What if our love never went away?
What if it's lost behind words we could never find?
Baby, before it's too late,
Baby, before it's too late,
Baby, before it's too late,
What about now?

Not a War, Murder

| | Comments (2)

I now see Israel in exactly the same light as I see G W Bush, as a self-deluded monster.

Party to Murder

By Chris Hedges

gazaofficer_300.jpgCan anyone who is following the Israeli air attacks on Gaza--the buildings blown to rubble, the children killed on their way to school, the long rows of mutilated corpses, the wailing mothers and wives, the crowds of terrified Palestinians not knowing where to flee, the hospitals so overburdened and out of supplies they cannot treat the wounded, and our studied, callous indifference to this widespread human suffering--wonder why we are hated?

Our self-righteous celebration of ourselves and our supposed virtue is as false as that of Israel. We have become monsters, militarized bullies, heartless and savage. We are a party to human slaughter, a flagrant war crime, and do nothing. We forget that the innocents who suffer and die in Gaza are a reflection of ourselves, of how we might have been should fate and time and geography have made the circumstances of our birth different. We forget that we are all absurd and vulnerable creatures. We all have the capacity to fear and hate and love. "Expose thyself to what wretches feel," King Lear said, entering the mud and straw hovel of Poor Tom, "and show the heavens more just."

Privilege and power, especially military power, is a dangerous narcotic. Violence destroys those who bear the brunt of its force, but also those who try to use it to become gods. Over 350 [at posting 400] Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians, and over 1,000 have been wounded since the air attacks began on Saturday. Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister, said Israel is engaged in a "war to the bitter end" against Hamas in Gaza. A war? Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely crowded refugee camps and slums, to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command and control, no army, and calls it a war. It is not a war. It is murder.

The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk, has labeled what Israel is doing to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza "a crime against humanity." Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as "a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention." He has asked for "the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law."

Falk's unflinching honesty has enraged Israel. He was banned from entering the country on Dec. 14 during his attempt to visit Gaza and the West Bank.

Juxaposed Headlines

|


  • Parties around the world ring in 2009

  • Gaza death toll hits 400

A Good Way to Begin 2009

|

One of the better steps that the US could make to improve the prison system would be to reverse the privatization of the prison system. Another would be to release prisoners incarcerated for low level, non violent crimes. But the biggest move toward improvement would be to shift the system away from retribution back toward rehabilitation, firstly by ending the policies in some States that labels people felons for life, even after having served their sentences.


Sen. Webb's Call for Prison Reform


This country puts too many people behind bars for too long. Most elected officials, afraid of being tarred as soft on crime, ignore these problems. Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat of Virginia, is now courageously stepping into the void, calling for a national commission to re-assess criminal justice policy. Other members of Congress should show the same courage and rally to the cause.

flag_bars.pngThe US has the world's highest reported incarceration rate. Having less than 5 percent of the world's population, it has almost one-quarter of the world's prisoners. And for the first time in history, more than 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars.

Sen. Webb has held hearings on the cost of mass incarceration and on the criminal justice system's response to the problems of illegal drugs while calling attention to the challenges of prisoner re-entry and of the need to provide released inmates, who have paid their debts to society, more help getting jobs and resuming productive lives.

Mr. Webb says he intends to introduce legislation to create a national commission to investigate these issues. With Barack Obama in the White House, and strong Democratic majorities in Congress, the political climate should be more favorable than it has been in years. And the economic downturn should make both federal and state lawmakers receptive to the idea of reforming a prison system that is as wasteful as it is inhumane.

Many inmates are serving long sentences for nonviolent crimes, including minor drug offenses. It also is extraordinarily expensive. Billions of dollars now being spent on prisons each year could be used in far more socially productive ways.

Senator Webb -- a former Marine and secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration -- is in many ways an unlikely person to champion criminal justice reform. But his background makes him an especially effective advocate for a cause that has often been associated with liberals and academics.

In his two years in the Senate, Mr. Webb has held hearings on the cost of mass incarceration and on the criminal justice system's response to the problems of illegal drugs. He also has called attention to the challenges of prisoner re-entry and of the need to provide released inmates, who have paid their debts to society, more help getting jobs and resuming productive lives.

Mr. Webb says he intends to introduce legislation to create a national commission to investigate these issues. With Barack Obama in the White House, and strong Democratic majorities in Congress, the political climate should be more favorable than it has been in years. And the economic downturn should make both federal and state lawmakers receptive to the idea of reforming a prison system that is as wasteful as it is inhumane.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.