December 2010 Archives

Signs of Distopia

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Do you need anymore proof that we are heading to "total information" police state than this?

"No refusal" DUI stops soon to expand nationwide

Steve Watson & Paul Watson

In a shocking, but not unprecedented, turn of events drivers in Florida will be mandated to allow police to jab a needle in their arm and extract blood at DUI checkpoints should they refuse to submit to breath tests.

At what have been described as "no refusal" checkpoints, judges will be on hand to issue a warrant allowing police to demand blood.

DUI defense attorney Kevin Hayslett told 10 News WTSP that the mandatory blood tests are a clear violation of constitutional rights:

"It's a slippery slope and it's got to stop somewhere," Hayslett explained, "what other misdemeanor offense do we have in the United States where the government can forcefully put a needle into your arm?"

The program is gathering pace and has already been instituted in other States. As we have previously highlighted, police in Texas and Idaho are already forcibly jabbing needles into people's arms and taking their blood at DUI checkpoints, even if they are merely "suspected" of being drunk.

The Associated Press reported last year that officers in Texas and Idaho are training to withdraw blood from "suspects" as a replacement for the standard breathalyzer test, primarily because police can't make anyone breathe into a tube but apparently, in the "land of the free," they can forcibly hold someone down and jab a needle into their arm and take their blood, "a practice that's been upheld by Idaho's Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court,".

Nicole Watson, the College of Western Idaho phlebotomy instructor teaching the Idaho officers, described how the process would unfold.

"Once they're back on patrol, they will draw blood of any suspected drunk driver who refuses a breath test. They'll use force if they need to, such as getting help from another officer to pin down a suspect and potentially strap them down, Watson said."

The practice of cops drawing blood at the side of the road has been in place in some areas since 1995 but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has indicated that the program is ultimately intended to be introduced nationwide.

As Alex Jones exposed over a decade ago, the eventual plan, under a 1993 executive order signed by Bill Clinton, is to institute mandatory blood and urine testing at the DMV:

In October of this year, Washington DC introduced a voluntary program offering free HIV testing at the Department of Motor of Vehicles office in Penn Branch in Southeast Washington for those renewing their licenses. Participants received up to $15 to help defray their DMV costs.

The program was clearly intended to acclimatize drivers to the idea of providing blood samples when applying for a new license.

Of course, once Americans are trained to accept authority figures jabbing them with needles against their will on a whim, programs for mandatory mass vaccination will be all the more easier to implement.

As we covered earlier this year, the government is harvesting samples of DNA from every newborn child in the country, storing them in monolithic bio banks and providing them to outside researchers and other agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, all without the consent or knowledge of parents.

In April 2008, President Bush signed into law a bill which formerly announced the process that the federal government has been engaged in for years, screening the DNA of all newborn babies in the U.S. within six months of birth.

Described as a "national contingency plan" the justification for the law S. 1858, known as The Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act of 2007, is that it represents preparation for any sort of "public health emergency."

The bill states that the federal government should "continue to carry out, coordinate, and expand research in newborn screening" and "maintain a central clearinghouse of current information on newborn screening... ensuring that the clearinghouse is available on the internet and is updated at least quarterly".

Sections of the bill also make it clear that DNA may be used in genetic experiments and tests, both by the government and by researchers chosen to handle the DNA samples and the information that goes with them.

Allowing the government to illegally obtain and store Americans' blood is a total invasion of privacy and completely unconstitutional.

Kill Them Now, Kill Them All

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How do we hold lawmakers accountable who believe they have a divine right to rule?

The "Family" - Who Really Is Behind This Secret Organization?

by Yana Kunichoff

What if someone were to tell you that your Congressman routinely bandies around phrases such as "Jesus plus nothing,"  used to mean the complete rule of Jesus, and compares the desired reach to that of Hitler or Ho Chi Minh? If this makes you at all apprehensive, then Jeff Sharlet's "C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy"  is a must-read.

CSTREET_0.jpeg"Jesus plus nothing" is the mantra of the Fellowship, also known as the Family, a secret, fundamentalist Christian organization peopled primarily by devout policy makers and high-ranking individuals. Though the nonbeliever's view of religion can often be dismissive when faced with such catchphrases, in "C Street," a nonfiction account of the extended reach of the Family, these phrases fuel moral crusades with real, and terrifying, impact.

Sharlet first introduced the world to the unseen hand of the Fellowship in "The Family" in 2008, in which he reported on the organization's beginnings in the 18th century, uncovered the role of the Family in America's legislative system and uncovered the role of religious fundamentalism in our supposedly secular nation.

In his latest book, Sharlet traces the powerful orthodoxy's chilling influence on governments both inside and outside of the United States as well as the devastating effects of fundamentalism within the military. He uses the Fellowship's Capitol Hill boarding house, C Street, as a passageway to a broader discussion of the Family's influences, which range from mediating the marital disputes of Congressmen to increased military aid for countries whose prominent politicians have connections (spiritual or otherwise) with the Family.

"C Street" is thoroughly researched; in addition to his travels and interviews, Sharlet says he spent weeks photocopying documents from archives all over the country. In particular, he went through nearly 600 boxes of documents at the Billy Graham archives in Wheaton, Illinois, where he stayed in a rented room furnished only with an air mattress and a card table.

Sharlet begins his story at the C Street Center Inc., a nonprofit offshoot of the Family in a red brick house on Capitol Hill to "assist [congressmen] in better understandings of the teachings of Christ, and applying it to their jobs."

Members of C Street, "the underground network of Christ's men in Washington," include Sens. Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico), John Ensign (R-Nevada), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Bill Nelson (D-Florida) , as well as Reps. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), Frank Wolf (R-Virginia.), Joseph Pitts (R Pennsylvania), Zach Wamp (R-Tennessee) and Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), and believe they have been appointed by God.

The Crumbling Facade

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2011: A Brave New Dystopia

by Chris Hedges

The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from "Brave New World" to "1984." The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley's feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake," Orwell wrote in "1984." "We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."

The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin uses the term "inverted totalitarianism" in his book "Democracy Incorporated" to describe our political system. It is a term that would make sense to Huxley. In inverted totalitarianism, the sophisticated technologies of corporate control, intimidation and mass manipulation, which far surpass those employed by previous totalitarian states, are effectively masked by the glitter, noise and abundance of a consumer society. Political participation and civil liberties are gradually surrendered. The corporation state, hiding behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass.

So How Was Your Xmas?

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Re-Connecting to Who We Are

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Dan Phillips is a designer and builder in Huntsville, Texas. In 1998, he and his wife, Marsha, started The Phoenix Commotion, a construction company that builds affordable houses from reclaimed and recycled materials. Their mission is to divert landfill waste while creating sustainable housing for single mothers, artists, and families with low incomes. The Phoenix Commotion keeps labor costs low while reclaiming human potential. They use an apprentice program to teach sustainable building skills to individuals that volunteer or intern on the Phoenix Commotion Crew.

The houses are energy-efficient, cheap and satisfying to build -- and wildly, effervescently creative. To the Phillipses, any material used in enough multiples creates a beautiful pattern -- so Phoenix Commotion homes are covered and decorated with salvaged materials of many stripes. Homes are built in concert with their eventual owner, who contributes sweat equity and their own artistic flair.

A Malawi Christmas

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You can learn more and find out how to donate by clicking right here (or call 1-800-FOR-KIDS).

The Man Box

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Educational Myths

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Perspective

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DADT Finally Repealed

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A big step to be sure, but a lot of the ugliness of the central bigotry toward gays is still smoldering. There's likely a decade or more to go before the topic of gay rights is not a burning issue for the country at large.

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Obama signs repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'

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By Mark S. Smith AP

Fulfilling a campaign pledge, cheering his party's downcast liberals and striking a blow for what he sees as basic human rights, President Barack Obama signed a landmark law Wednesday that tells America's armed services to let homosexuals serve openly for the first time.

The president said in remarks preceding the signing that the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" will strengthen security and uphold ideals. He also said the government will not be "dragging its feet" to enforce the repeal and encouraged those discharged under the ban to rejoin the military.

So many gay rights and Democratic activists were expected at the signing ceremony that the White House booked a large auditorium at the Interior Department.

"This day has come!" said an elated Mike Almy, an Air Force major discharged four years ago when his sexual orientation became known. "'Don't ask, don't tell' is over, and you no longer have to sacrifice your integrity."

While the elation is real, Pentagon officials caution it could be premature, since the bill requires service chiefs to complete implementation plans before lifting the old policy -- and certify to lawmakers that it won't damage combat readiness, as critics charge.

Also, guidelines must be finalized that cover a host of practical questions, from how to educate troops to how sexual orientation should be handled in making barracks assignments.

New Message From Google Voice Mail

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It was from sister Sue and transcribed as:

"Liberal Eric, lenaro Eric, beginning at 2:08 AM For the first time and over 400 years. There will be a Paul. Well, Lou very corrupt all. That won't happen again for another 400 years which I don't think we'll be around, catch it. If you can bye."

Huh?

The audio file revealed what Sue had actually said:

"Lunar alert! Lunar alert! Beginning @ 2:00 AM there will be a full...a FULL lunar eclipse that won't happen again for another 400 years. Since I don't think we'll be around then ...catch it if you can. Bye".

Thank god the launch codes haven't been outsourced to some voice recognition program assigned to take those Presidential 3:00AM phone calls.

Even Sue the quite bright human managed to get a few things garbled.


Total Lunar Eclipse Visible From North America Tonight

And it's the first lunar eclipse to fall on the winter solstice in 372 years

By Dan Nosowitz

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For the first time since 1638, a total lunar eclipse will be visible from North America on the longest night of the year. That night just happens to be tonight, starting at 1:32 AM, so all you moon-oglers will have to stay up awfully late (or wake up perversely early) to catch it.

The eclipse, in which the Earth's shadow completely blocks out the moon, will last for a particularly long time tonight--it will start at 1:32 AM (Eastern Time), with the total eclipse beginning at 2:41 AM. (West coasters can do the time zone math themselves, and watch the eclipse in shorts with their movie star neighbors on the beach, or whatever they do out there.)

The total eclipse will last for a whopping 72 minutes, until 3:53 AM, during which the moon will appear to change colors, most noticeably to bright orange-red. But do not be alarmed! The moon is not on fire, functioning as some kind of pagan punishment to celebrate the winter solstice. It'll be changing colors due to the light filtering through Earth's atmosphere and reflecting on the moon's dull surface.

For their part, NASA will be hosting a live chat with Marshall Center astronomer Rob Suggs and researcher Mitzi Adams, and will also host a live feed, in case you live in a dungeon or something and can't see the moon (in which case, you should really look into moving once your dungeon's lease is up).

Clinton-Obama: Different Economies

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Why Bill Clinton's Favorable View of Obama's Tax Deal Should Be Disregarded

by Robert Reich

Bill Clinton seems the perfect validator for Barack Obama -- which is why the president is utilizing the former president for selling his tax deal. After all, the economy boomed when Clinton was president and 22 million net new jobs were created. From a more narrow political perspective -- and this is important to Democrats in Washington -- Bill Clinton was reelected, even though he lost both houses of Congress in the 1994 midterms.

But the analogy falls apart as soon as you realize Clinton's economy was vastly different from Obama's. The recession Clinton inherited was relatively small, and caused by the Fed raising interest rates too high to ward off inflation. So it could be reversed by the Fed lowering interest rates -- as the Fed did in 1994. By 1995, the so-called "jobless recovery" had morphed into a full-blown jobs recovery. By 1996, at pollster Dick Morris's urging, Clinton could proclaim to the American people "you've never had it so good, and you ain't seen nothing yet."

The Great Recession has been far larger, caused not by the Fed raising interest rates but by the bursting of a giant housing bubble. In 2008, the biggest asset of most middle-class people, upon which they borrowed and that they assumed would be their nest eggs for retirement, collapsed. Housing prices continue to fall in most parts of the country. The Fed has lowered interest rates all it can, and unemployment remains sky high.

Bill Clinton presided over an economic boom engineered by Fed chair Alan Greenspan, who felt confident he could drop interest rates far lower than anyone expected without risking inflation. The result was 4 percent unemployment in many parts of America, as well as the best jobs recovery in history.

The price Greenspan exacted from Clinton -- and a resurgent Republican congress demanded -- was a balanced budget. As a result, Clinton had to give up much of his "investment agenda" in education, infrastructure, and other long-neglected means of building the productivity of average working Americans. The economy enjoyed a huge cyclical recovery.

But the economy's underlying structure remained as it had been before, including stagnant wages for most Americans. Within a few years the middle and working class was treating their homes as ATMs, borrowing trillions of dollars in order to maintain their standard of living, and at the same time demand enough goods and services to keep almost everyone in jobs.

Those days are over. The Democratic Party can no longer ignore critical investments in the productivity of average workers. Nor can it ignore the increasing concentration of income and wealth at the very top, and the inability of America's middle and working class to get the economy moving again.

Why Holder is Full of It

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If the FBI is aware someone is mentally unstable enough to want blow up innocent people then they should be making sure that person is forced into counseling to divert and alter the mind set that is making the person in question want to pursue the violence. To string that individual along, supplying them with methods and materials that enhance and feed into the violent fantasy in order to arrest and eventually imprison that person, is nothing but entrapment at its worst. Its a lazy and ineffective short term manner of dealing with the larger problem of how someone comes to hold such violent thoughts.And like most police thinking, Its also reactive rather than proactive.

Holder Tells Muslim Group Stings Are 'Essential'

By Charlie Savage

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is defending the use of sting operations orchestrated by government informants, telling advocates for Muslim-American civil rights that the tactic is an "essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing terror attacks."

In remarks prepared for delivery late Friday in a suburb of San Francisco at the annual dinner of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and civil-rights organization, Mr. Holder rejected criticism by such groups that sting operations amount to improper "entrapment."

About 300 Muslim community leaders from around the United States were expected to attend the dinner near San Francisco. Having a United States attorney general speak at such an event was unprecedented, the group's president, Farhana Khera, said in an interview earlier on Friday.

Ms. Khera said the group had invited Mr. Holder several months ago. She portrayed the Muslim-American community as torn by a mistrust of law enforcement because of what it sees as intrusive surveillance and harassment -- like sending informants into mosques -- and by its concerns about anti-Muslim hate crimes.

In his remarks, Mr. Holder said the cooperation of Muslim-Americans had been essential in preventing terrorist attacks. He said that the Justice Department was focusing on "violence, threats, vandalism and arson against Muslims and Arab-Americans," and that in the last fiscal year federal prosecutors won convictions of more hate-crime defendants than any year but 2000.

"I believe that law enforcement has an obligation to ensure that members of every religious community enjoy the ability to worship and to practice their faith in peace, free from intimidation, violence or suspicion," Mr. Holder said.

But he also rejected criticism of some counterterrorism techniques used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including sending informants into mosques in search of would-be terrorists and creating elaborate sting operations enabling them to carry out fake attacks using dummy bombs.

Ms. Khera emphasized that Muslim Advocates recognized that "there are actual threats that do exist and as Americans who care about the country, we want law enforcement to be effective."

But the complex "entrapment operations," she contended, may be getting people involved in terrorism who otherwise would not have done anything. She also argued that the operations divert investigators from "actual threats" and stoke "anti-Muslim sentiment."

But Mr. Holder said that stings had been used for decades against many types of crimes. And he defended a sting investigation last month in Portland, Ore., in which a young Somali-American man, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested after law enforcement agents said he tried to trigger what he thought was a car bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.

"I make no apologies for the how the F.B.I. agents handled their work in executing the operation that led to Mr. Mohamud's arrest," Mr. Holder said. "Their efforts helped to identify a person who repeatedly expressed his desire and intention to kill innocent Americans."

He added: "But you also have my word that the Justice Department will -- just as vigorously -- continue to pursue anyone who would target Muslims, or their houses of worship."


The Pentatonic Scale is Universal

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Bobby McFerrin demonstrates at neural science symposium that audiences all around the world, no matter what their previous cultural music experience, understand the interval relationships of the pentatonic scale. For some reason it is hardwired into the human brain.

WikiLeaks in 3 Minutes

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Imagine Politicians Not Being Jackasses

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When People Should Be Killed Without Remorse

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times be a-changin'

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There's a potential sitcom in here somewhere - either really tacky or really hip

Here Come the Ultra-Gay Hotels

By David Kaufman

palmsresort.jpgWhen the Lords South Beach Hotel opened last month in Miami, its brightly hued decor, trio of plunge pools and Absolut Vodka-partnered bar looked much like any other higher-end Miami resort. But the 53-room Art Deco confection, which is located a block from South Beach's main gay beach, is billing itself as the country's first large-scale, design-driven gay hotel. Not just gay-friendly, but gay through and through. The hotel worked with Out magazine to develop a Concierge App listing top local LGBT hot spots, asked Levi's to custom-design its gray and white jean uniforms, and is preparing to launch its own social network so guests can check one another out.

Although the Lords may be the first, it's not the only LGBT-focused hotel brand opening its doors in the U.S. In January, Fort Lauderdale's Royal Palms will reopen after expanding from a 12-room gay-friendly guesthouse to a 62-room boutique hotel that caters to an all-male clientele who prefer a clothing-optional environment. With a spa, café, bar and gym, Florida's Royal Palms Resort and Spa is marketing itself as North America's biggest "full-service" gay retreat, but it won't retain that title for long. Later in 2011, Manhattan will usher in the Out NYC, a massive, 90,000-sq.-ft. (8,400 sq m) "urban resort" close to Times Square. (See pictures of the gay-rights movement.)

From W to Wynn, Marriott to Kimpton, major hotel chains have been targeting lesbian and gay travelers for more than a decade. But now it's gay hoteliers' turn to court their own community. And why not? The LGBT travel market is worth an annual $63 billion in the U.S. alone, according to consumer-research firm Community Marketing Inc. "There have always been gay inns and B&Bs," says Lords founder Brian Gorman. "This is the time to take this concept to a far larger scale."

The industry trailblazer is Axel Hotels, a Spanish hospitality group with stylish, midrange LGBT-focused properties in Barcelona, Berlin and Buenos Aires. The chain is cheekily billed as "hetero-friendly," says Axel president Juan Julia, who notes that in the off-season, upward of 30% of the guests at its properties are straight. The five-year-old company is considering additional sites in London and Paris, but first it must tackle New York City -- where an estimated 7 million LGBT tourists pump $16.4 billion into the city each year. Axel will manage the 127-room hotel for the Out NYC, whose other components include an 11,000-sq.-ft. (1,000 sq m) disco, upscale restaurant and men's spa. (Watch a gay-marriage wedding video.)

The One Kind of Porn You Can't Find Online

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Recipe for Judicial Travesty

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Framer's Stew

1. 1 Murdered white family
2. 1 Black convict
3. 1 California police evidence plant

Mix ingredients in courtroom, season with racial bias.
Add death sentence to plate and refrigerate for 23 years.
Serves prosecutors and police and no one else.



Framed for Murder?

By Nicholas D. Kristoe

"California may be about to execute an innocent man."

That's the view of five federal judges in a case involving Kevin Cooper, a black man in California who faces lethal injection next year for supposedly murdering a white family. The judges argue compellingly that he was framed by police.

cooper.jpgMr. Cooper's impending execution is so outrageous that it has produced a mutiny among these federal circuit court judges, distinguished jurists just one notch below the United States Supreme Court. But the judicial process has run out for Mr. Cooper. Now it's up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to decide whether to commute Mr. Cooper's sentence before leaving office.

This case, an illuminating window into the pitfalls of capital punishment, dates to a horrific quadruple-murder in June 1983. Doug and Peggy Ryen were stabbed to death in their house, along with their 10-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old houseguest. The Ryens' 8-year-old son, Josh, was left for dead but survived. They were all white.

Josh initially told investigators that the crime had been committed by three people, all white, although by the trial he suggested that he had seen just one person with an Afro. The first version made sense because the weapons included a hatchet, an ice pick and one or two knives. Could one intruder juggling several weapons overpower five victims, including a 200-pound former Marine like Doug Ryen, who also had a loaded rifle nearby?

But the police learned that Mr. Cooper had walked away from the minimum security prison where he was serving a burglary sentence and had hidden in an empty home 125 yards away from the crime scene. The police decided that he had committed the crime alone.

William A. Fletcher, a federal circuit judge, explained his view of what happens in such cases in a law school lecture at Gonzaga University, in which he added that Mr. Cooper is "probably" innocent: "The police are under heavy pressure to solve a high-profile crime. They know, or think they know, who did the crime. And they plant evidence to help their case along."

Judge Fletcher wrote an extraordinary judicial opinion -- more than 100 pages when it was released -- dissenting from the refusal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case. The opinion is a 21st-century version of Émile Zola's famous "J'Accuse."

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The Better Half

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When my father, Al, and I went to Lakeland to meet and greet Elizabeth Edwards stumping for her husband, what immediately struck us both was how smart, dynamic and most of all, how human she was.

Later traumatic events in her life would also demonstrate to the public who grew to respect and admire her, how genuine compassion and humility would underscore her innate resilience and poise.

A rara avis took flight.

The Ninth

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Cultural Conflicts Indeed

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If an 11 year old can know this

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Why don't you?

11-year-old Birke Baehr presents his take on a major source of our food -- far-away and less-than-picturesque industrial farms. Keeping farms out of sight promotes a rosy, unreal picture of big-box agriculture, he argues, as he outlines the case to green and localize food production.


TEDxNextGenerationAsheville

...Not to mention those businesses like Amazon and PayPal being pressured by the government to find thinnest of reasons to boot WikiLeaks from their services.


The Shameful Attacks on Julian Assange

by David Samuels the Atlantic

Julian Assange and Pfc Bradley Manning have done a huge public service by making hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents available on Wikileaks -- and, predictably, no one is grateful. Manning, a former army intelligence analyst in Iraq, faces up to 52 years in prison. He is currently being held in solitary confinement at a military base in Quantico, Virginia, where he is not allowed to see his parents or other outside visitors.

Assange, the organizing brain of Wikileaks, enjoys a higher degree of freedom living as a hunted man in England under the close surveillance of domestic and foreign intelligence agencies -- but probably not for long. Not since President Richard Nixon directed his minions to go after Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg and New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan - "a vicious antiwar type," an enraged Nixon called him on the Watergate tapes -- has a working journalist and his source been subjected to the kind of official intimidation and threats that have been directed at Assange and Manning by high-ranking members of the Obama Administration.

Published reports suggest that a joint Justice Department-Pentagon team of investigators is exploring the possibility of charging Assange under the Espionage Act, which could lead to decades in jail. "This is not saber-rattling," said Attorney General Eric Holder, commenting on the possibility that Assange will be prosecuted by the government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Wikileaks disclosures "an attack on the international community" that endangered innocent people. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suggested in somewhat Orwellian fashion that "such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government."

It is dispiriting and upsetting for anyone who cares about the American tradition of a free press to see Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gibbs turn into H.R. Haldeman, John Erlichman and John Dean. We can only pray that we won't soon be hit with secret White House tapes of Obama drinking scotch and slurring his words while calling Assange bad names.

Unwilling to let the Democrats adopt Nixon's anti-democratic, press-hating legacy as their own, Republican Congressman Peter King asserted that the publication of classified diplomatic cables is "worse even than a physical attack on Americans" and that Wikileaks should be officially designed as a terrorist organization. Mike Huckabee followed such blather to its logical conclusion by suggesting that Bradley Manning should be executed.

But the truly scandalous and shocking response to the Wikileaks documents has been that of other journalists, who make the Obama Administration sound like the ACLU. In a recent article in The New Yorker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Steve Coll sniffed that "the archives that WikiLeaks has published are much less significant than the Pentagon Papers were in their day" while depicting Assange as a "self-aggrandizing control-freak" whose website "lacks an ethical culture that is consonant with the ideals of free media." Channeling Richard Nixon, Coll labeled Wikileaks' activities - formerly known as journalism - by his newly preferred terms of "vandalism" and "First Amendment-inspired subversion."

Coll's invective is hardly unique, In fact, it was only a pale echo of the language used earlier this year by a columnist at his former employer, The Washington Post. In a column titled "WikiLeaks Must Be Stopped," Mark Thiessen wrote that "WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise," and urged that the site should be shut down "and its leadership brought to justice." The dean of American foreign correspondents, John Burns of The New York Times, with two Pulitzer Prizes to his credit, contributed a profile of Assange which used terms like "nearly delusional grandeur" to describe Wikileaks' founder. The Times' normally mild-mannered David Brooks asserted in his column this week that "Assange seems to be an old-fashioned anarchist" and worried that Wikileaks will "damage the global conversation."

For his part, Assange has not been shy about expressing his contempt for the failure of traditional reporting to inform the public, and his belief in the utility of his own methods. "How is it that a team of five people has managed to release to the public more suppressed information, at that level, than the rest of the world press combined?" he told The Sydney Morning Herald. "It's disgraceful."


Tightening the Screws

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Two articles demonstrate the hysterical reactions from the US government over Assange and WikiLeaks, the first from Huffington Post reveals the State dept threatening students not to discuss Wikileaks in any way, the 2nd from Counter Punch talking about Assange's potential murder by government agents.


State Department To Columbia University Students: DO NOT Discuss WikiLeaks On Facebook, Twitter

Rob Fishman

Talking about WikiLeaks on Facebook or Twitter could endanger your job prospects, a State Department official warned students at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs this week.

An email from SIPA's Office of Career Services went out Tuesday afternoon with a caution from the official, an alumnus of the school. Students who will be applying for jobs in the federal government could jeopardize their prospects by posting links to WikiLeaks online, or even by discussing the leaked documents on social networking sites, the official was quoted as saying.

"[The alumnus] recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter," the Office of Career Services advised students. "Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government."

More at HuffingtonPost


Julian Assange: Wanted by the Empire, Dead or Alive

By Alexander Cockburn

The American airwaves quiver with the screams of parlor assassins howling for Julian Assange's head. Jonah Goldberg, contributor to the National Review, asks in his syndicated column, "Why wasn't Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?" Sarah Palin wants him hunted down and brought to justice, saying: "He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands."
Assange can survive these theatrical blusters. A tougher question is how he will fare at the hands of the US government, which is hopping mad. The US attorney general, Eric Holder, has announced that the Justice Department and Pentagon are conducting "an active, ongoing criminal investigation" into the latest Assange-facilitated leak under Washington's Espionage Act.
Asked how the US could prosecute Assange, a non-US citizen, Holder said, "Let me be clear. This is not saber-rattling," and vowed "to swiftly close the gaps in current US legislation..."

In other words the espionage statute is being rewritten to target Assange, and in short order, if not already, President Obama - who as a candidate pledged "transparency" in government - will sign an order okaying the seizing of Assange and his transport into the US jurisdiction. Render first, fight the habeas corpus lawsuits later.

Interpol, the investigative arm of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, has issued a fugitive notice for Assange. He's wanted in Sweden for questioning in two alleged sexual assaults, one of which seems to boil down to a charge of unsafe sex and failure to phone his date the following day.

This prime accuser, Anna Ardin has, according to Israel Shamir, writing on this CounterPunch site, "ties to the US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups. She published her anti-Castro diatribes in the Swedish-language publication Revista de Asignaturas Cubanas put out by Misceláneas de Cuba...Note that Ardin was deported from Cuba for subversive activities."
It's certainly not conspiracism to suspect that the CIA has been at work in fomenting these Swedish accusations. As Shamir reports, "The moment Julian sought the protection of Swedish media law, the CIA immediately threatened to discontinue intelligence sharing with SEPO, the Swedish Secret Service."

WHIRL TRADE

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found art

SFBG Why did you call your latest show "Whirl Trade"?

FP The theme came from the idea of cultural exchanges between Africans on the continent of Africa and the rest of the African diaspora around the world, and how a lot can be lost and misconstrued when taken out of the original cultural context. We look back and forth at each other, and we do what we think is our best impression of "the other." It comes out a twisted up and strange simulation.

I was in South Africa for residency on the Eastern Cape and spent some time in Capetown. I had a friend from Detroit with me, and a few friends from Capetown. We were coming out a restaurant and this homeless guy heard me and my homeboy talking. He said, "You guys are from America? You guys are the real niggas."

We were both like, "Naw man, we aren't niggers, we're brothers." And he said, "No. No, you guys are niggas, and I want to be a nigga too." He was going on and on about how being a nigga was a good thing, not like these guys who come in from Nigeria and other places thinking they're real niggas. We were the real deal. And here we are, trying to explain to him how being a nigga is not a good thing. Nobody wants to be a nigga. My Capetown friends were telling me that being a nigga is not a bad thing anymore. I started wondering, where did this come from? That's what "Whirl Trade" is about: the cultural export of hip-hop culture and the impact it has on the rest of the world. We have this great stage, this platform, where we have the ear of the world. What are we saying? A lot of what's being said and heard is a lot of nothing, especially when taken out of cultural context.

The response has been great and has sparked a lot of conversation around how we view ourselves and each other. What kind of impression we are making of ourselves to other cultures and, deeper still, what kind of impression do I have about African culture through this same context and my own experience? I couldn't ask one question without asking the other. I try to be cautious about this in my work. I'm not trying to accuse or ridicule any group so much as begin to ask questions and start a dialogue between groups who think they know each other but don't.

SFBG You do performances at your gallery shows. Costumes and everything. How does fashion play into your work?

FP In the beginning, it was more about capturing fashion that reflected a whole lifestyle. I patterned it after 50 Cent, who was the catalyst for my whole campaign. I was watching how he was packaged and wondering why a visual artist was never marketed that way. My whole fashion was based on that and Puff Daddy. Then I added my own touches with ascots and blazers and stuff like that.

With "Whirl Trade," I'm looking at contemporary African fashion. Right now, African street fashion is a mashup of textiles and patterns, colors that almost seem disparate but come together beautifully. That and photographs of Malik Sadibe inspired me to bring in many different patterns and contrasts. It wasn't that I was trying to copy a style as much as capture the cultural exchange between what Africans think African Americans dress like, and what African Americans think Africans dress like.

SFBG Though you reference hip-hop, I don't really see you as a hip-hop artist. I sense a cynicism in your approach. Are you disillusioned with hip-hop?

FP I just found myself not so connected to what was being presented in early 2000s. A lot of media-made hip-hop stars came out. It stopped being so much about talent as it was marketing. It became about who was willing to come out and say they sold these drugs or did this killing. At one point that was legitimate, rappers came from the street, but then came these media guys who just said that shit to be famous, just for credibility and that's what started hurting the integrity of the form.

It stopped being how fresh, how clever or how innovative an artist could be. It became how violent, how misogynistic, how violent a person could be. Extremes of everything -- people ended being blaxploitation characters.

pop.jpg

I'm talking about that in my next work, called "Hard To Death" -- about the evolution of black manhood, and how there's a lack of visual representation of that evolution beyond a certain point. Most of the images we see are reflections of hip-hop culture, which captures the black male between the ages of 18-25, just when many young men are working things out. It has become one of the only representations of black masculinity, which is very frustrating. My next piece is devoted to accurately portraying the evolution of black men. I'm seeing more established artists like Common and Jay-Z who have grown beyond that dangerous time.

Since my son was born, I've been really driven to addressing these issues around black masculinity and black manhood. I feel a sense of responsibility there because my work crosses the lines between popular culture and hip-hop culture, and I see that there's a lack of responsible voices. My voice can work as a catalyst to start a conversation. I started a blog (passageofright.wordpress.com) to begin talking about creating systems for some kinds of rites of passage for young black boys. I didn't grow up with a father or a whole lot of role models, so most of what I've learned about being a man is from the school of hard knocks. I want to prevent the continuation of that kind of awakening.

American Soldiers Dying for What?

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WikiLeaks' Afghan Revelations: Way Too Familiar

massood.jpgOf the more than quarter-million American documents made public over the weekend, the one that is perhaps most likely cause a stir on the Afghan street describes how authorities in Dubai working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that Afghanistan's former vice president, Ahmed Zia Massood, was carrying $52 million in cash on a trip to the gulf city-state last year. The cable, from the U.S. embassy in Kabul, notes that Massood was allowed to keep the money without revealing its "origin or destination." But Dubai has become a byword for dirty dealings in Afghanistan, in part because of a banking scandal over the summer. Officials with close connections to the Karzai administration allegedly made toxic investments in Dubai using tens of millions of dollars of depositor money. That precipitated a days-long bank run....


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The Real Homosexual Agenda

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WikiLeaks has revealed the true Homsexual agenda

6:00 AM Gym and Tanning Bed

8:00 AM Breakfast (oatmeal and egg whites)

9:00 AM Hair Appointment

10:00 AM Shopping

12:00 PM Brunch (Salmon Benedict, roasted potatoes, mimosa)

2:00 PM
(1) Assume complete control of the US Federal, State, and Local Governments, as well as all other national governments;
(2) Recruit all straight youngsters to our debauched lifestyle;
(3) Destroy all healthy heterosexual marriages;
(4) Replace all school counselors in grades K-12 with agents of Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels;
(5) Establish planetary chain of "breeding gulags", where over-medicated imprisoned straight women are turned into artificially-impregnated baby factories to produce prepubescent love slaves for our devotedly pederastic gay leadership;
(6) Bulldoze all houses of worship; and,
(7) Secure total control of the Internet and all mass media for the exclusive use of child pornographers.

2:30 PM Get beauty rest to prevent facial wrinkles caused by the stress of world conquest.

3:30 PM Protein Shake

4:00 PM Tea Dance

6:00 PM Light Dinner (soup, salad, and skinless chicken breast, with a crisp Chardonnay)

8:00 PM Theatre

11:00 PM Bed du Jour

Of Course Birth Control Should Be Free

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Its preventative medicine, just like a a male contraceptive is!

Why is it women always have to battle for sensible social policies? In the case of access to birth control pills, its an argument but in the case of condoms, men have had free access on campuses for years. People who argue that access to either will encourage promiscuity or raise rates of disease are simply being moralistic and stupid.

Should Birth Control On Campus Be Free?

Experts are discussing whether the birth-control pill should be considered preventive care under Obama's health plan.

Every month George Washington University freshman Jessi Payton walks to the pharmacy on campus and pays $15 for her birth-control prescription. Her mother's insurance covers the bulk of the cost, and the rest comes from the money she saved waiting tables last summer. Since she doesn't have a steady income, Payton is grateful for her mom's assistance. "I know so many people who need to go on the pill, and they can't because it costs too much money or their parents won't pay for it with their insurance," she says. "It's scary because that doesn't mean they aren't having sex."

While college health centers have been handing out complimentary condoms to students for years, birth-control pills have always been held under lock and key (unless, you have a prescription and a way to pay). Under President Obama's new health-care plan, however, that could all change. A panel of experts got together last month to begin discussing which kind of preventive care for women should be covered for free. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who wrote the women's health amendment to the plan, has said the aim was always to include family planning. But whether the birth-control pill falls under that definition and whether it should be deemed preventive medicine--and hence, free--has sparked a debate from college campuses to Capitol Hill.

That's because, should the pill make the cut, college coeds across the country would be able to access it for free--something not all parents and educators think is a good idea. The Department of Health and Human Services is scheduled to make its decision by August, and in the meantime everyone from politicians to students to health-care providers is weighing in. "Everyone is talking about it," says Payton. "And everyone has an opinion." Robin Mills, a sexual health education program coordinator at the University of California, Berkeley, adds, "Students would definitely take advantage of the pill if it was being offered at no cost."

Supporters of offering birth-control pills on campus at no charge argue that it would give women more freedom over their sexual health and reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies at colleges each year. "I have heard from hundreds of college women," says Elaine Tyler May, professor of American studies and history at the University of Minnesota, who surveyed women about contraception in her book America and the Pill. "And they feel very strongly about birth control being both affordable and accessible on campus." She adds that birth control is a lifesaving drug and that offering it for free is "socially and economically responsible." But opponents say free pills will increase promiscuity and may even contribute to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases. And not everyone likes the idea of burdening taxpayers with the cost.

Where Has WikiLeaks Gone

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Bahnhof's computer facility, according to Talking Points Memo.

WikiLeaks now available at


http://wikileaks.de/

http://wikileaks.fi/

http://wikileaks.nl/"

'WikiLeaks WON'T be stopped': Founder reveals 100,000 encrypted versions of secret files have been sent out as insurance

The Attacks on Wikileaks Begin in Earnest

|
WikiLeaks Struggles to Stay Online After Cyberattacks

wikileaks.offline.jpg

WikiLeaks reacted to the domain name switch on its Twitter feed, writing just after midnight on Friday morning: "WikiLeaks.org domain killed by U.S. EveryDNS.net after claimed mass attacks."

From the John Turley Law Blog

Is the United States Engaging In Unlawful Cyber Attacks Against Carriers of Wikileaks?

A day after Amazon was forced to block Wikileaks, the site is again offline in an alleged campaign by the United States to prevent the public from seeing the whistleblower material. This includes a disclosure, discussed last night on Countdown, that the Obama Administration has been misleading the public and actually moved to force Spain to drop its prosecution of American officials for war crimes and torture.

This is the third time that the public has found itself cut off from Wikileaks material. The question is whether the United States is attacking carriers -- in this case, Everydns, which cut off Wikileaks at 3am GMT on Friday (10PM EST Thursday). Everydns complained that it did so to prevent its other 500,000 customers of being affected by the intense cyber attacks targeted at WikiLeaks. Wikileaks accuses the United States of the attacks.

The question is, if the allegation is true as many expects assume, what authority does the United States have in conducting dangerous attacks on private companies and endangering thousands of other sites? If the President can order such attacks without legal authority, the government could engage in an obvious form of restraint on free speech -- targeting critics and whistleblowers. It would be the equivalent of stopping newspapers from publishing.

The disclosures from Wikileaks have been embarrassing for both Republican and Democrats in Congress -- who have joined in calling for prosecution. The disclosures, once again, show the public has been intentionally misled on major policies and that Congress has continued to exercise no oversight in these areas. These disclosures constitute the most extensive record ever produced of how our government routinely misleads the public and engages in activities that conflict with our stated policies and values. It is an indictment of our political system -- perhaps the greatest in history. It has led many to question whether our democracy is based a carefully constructed illusion of half-facts and outright lies -- routinely denying citizens the true facts in major policy areas. The impression left by these documents is that we have a two-party monopoly that treats citizens as uneducated dolts who should be fed comforting and misleading information while the real actions of our government are confined to the power elite. On issues like torture, Obama has clearly misled the public in his blocking of any investigation into our torture program. He was first challenged before he actually took office when Bush officials revealed that (while campaigning against torture) he secretly promised Bush officials that no one would be prosecuted. We now know that, while claiming to be studying the issue, his Administration was threatening allies if they tried to enforce international law. Putting aside the merits of covering up for war crimes, the Wikileaks disclosure is the latest example of how our leaders now show little restraint in knowingly misleading the public like children who have little ability to understand or need to know the true facts behind U.S. policy. It is the modern version of bread-and-circus politics used by Roman emperors. This is a view that appears shared by leaders in both parties.

The result is that both Congress and the White House are embarrassed and eager to prevent public review of this material. However, there is little discussion of the legality of such cyber attacks directed against a whistleblower and claimed journalist.

What is equally striking is the relative mild reaction of mainstream media. If the New York Times had revealed the Obama Administration's secret efforts to pressure the Spanish courts to drop its prosecution, it would have been viewed as a major investigative breakthrough. However, there is a discernible hostility in some coverage of Wikileaks and a reluctance to accept the site as either a whistleblowing or journalistic enterprise.

Source: Guardian

Jonathan Turley

OK, I Give Up

| | Comments (2)

I've been working hard to keep some faith in Obama alive but now he's lost all credibility.

A WikiLeaks cable shows that when Spain considered a criminal
case against ex-Bush officials, the Obama White House and
Republicans got really bipartisan.

Obama and GOPers Worked Together to Kill Bush Torture Probe

by David Corn

In its first months in office, the Obama administration sought to protect Bush administration officials facing criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies the that governed interrogations of detained terrorist suspects. A "confidential" April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department--one of the 251,287 cables obtained by WikiLeaks--details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.

The previous month, a Spanish human rights group called the Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners had requested that Spain's National Court indict six former Bush officials for, as the cable describes it, "creating a legal framework that allegedly permitted torture." The six were former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, former chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon's former general counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Jay Bybee, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, a former official in the Office of Legal Counsel. The human rights group contended that Spain had a duty to open an investigation under the nation's "universal jurisdiction" law, which permits its legal system to prosecute overseas human rights crimes involving Spanish citizens and residents. Five Guantanamo detainees, the group maintained, fit that criteria.

Soon after the request was made, the US embassy in Madrid began tracking the matter. On April 1, embassy officials spoke with chief prosecutor Javier Zaragoza, who indicated that he was not pleased to have been handed this case, but he believed that the complaint appeared to be well-documented and he'd have to pursue it. Around that time, the acting deputy chief of the US embassy talked to the chief of staff for Spain's foreign minister and a senior official in the Spanish Ministry of Justice to convey, as the cable says, "that this was a very serious matter for the USG." The two Spaniards "expressed their concern at the case but stressed the independence of the Spanish judiciary."

Eminem's New Wrapper

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Eminem is glowing white hot.
Welcome to adulthood.


I'm not afraid Yeah, to take a stand It's been a ride...
Everybody I guess I had to come take my hand go to that place
to get to this one We'll walk this road together, Now some of you through the storm might still be in that place
Whatever weather, cold or warm If you're trying to get out,
Just let you know that, you're not alone just follow me
Holla if you feel I'll get you there that you've been down the same road


You can try and read my lyrics off of this paper before I lay 'em
But you won't take this thing out these words before I say 'em
Cause ain't no way I'm let you stop me from causing mayhem
When I say 'em or do something I do it, I don't give a damn
What you think, I'm doing this for me, so fuck the world
Feed it beans, it's gassed up, you think it's stopping me
I'mma be what I set out to be, without a doubt undoubtedly

And all those who look down on me I'm tearing down your balcony
No if ands or buts don't try to ask him why or how can he
From Infinite down to the last Relapse album he's still shit'n
Whether he's on salary, paid hourly
Until he bows out or he shit's his bowels out of him
Whichever comes first, for better or worse
He's married to the game, like a fuck you for christmas
His gift is a curse, forget the earth he's got the urge
To pull his dick from the dirt and fuck the whole universe

I'm not afraid to take a stand
Everybody come take my hand
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let you know that, you're not alone
Holla if you feel that you've been down the same road

Ok quit playin' with the scissors and shit, and cut the crap
I shouldn't have to rhyme these words in the rhythm for you to know it's a rap
You said you was king, you lied through your teeth
For that fuck your feelings, instead of getting crowned you're getting capped
And to the fans, I'll never let you down again, I'm back
I promise to never go back on that promise, in fact
Let's be honest, that last Relapse CD was "ehhhh"
Perhaps I ran them accents into the ground

Relax, I ain't going back to that now
All I'm tryna say is get back, click-clack BLAOW
Cause I ain't playin' around
There's a game called circle and I don't know how
I'm way too up to back down
But I think I'm still tryna figure this crap out
Thought I had it mapped out but I guess I didn't
This fucking black cloud still follow's me around
But it's time to exercise these demons
These motherfuckers are doing jumping jacks now!

I'm not afraid to take a stand
Everybody come take my hand
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let you know that, you're not alone
Holla if you feel that you've been down the same road

And I just can't keep living this way
So starting today, I'm breaking out of this cage
I'm standing up, Imma face my demons
I'm manning up, Imma hold my ground
I've had enough, now I'm so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now

It was my decision to get clean, I did it for me
Admittedly I probably did it subliminally for you
So I could come back a brand new me, you helped see me through
And don't even realise what you did, believe me you
I been through the ringer, but they can do little to the middle finger
I think I got a tear in my eye, I feel like the king of
My world, haters can make like bees with no stingers, and drop dead
No more beef flingers, no more drama from now on, I promise
To focus soley on handling my responsibility's as a father
So I solemnly swear to always treat this roof like my daughters and raise it
You couldn't lift a single shingle on it
Cause the way I feel, I'm strong enough to go to the club
Or the corner pub and lift the whole liquor counter up
Cause I'm raising the bar, I shoot for the moon
But I'm too busy gazing at stars, I feel amazing and

I'm not afraid to take a stand
Everybody come take my hand
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let you know that, you're not alone
Holla if you feel that you've been down the same road


It doesn't get any scarier than this

|

In the search for an adjective to replace stupid, I chose puerile.

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Make Mr Smith Hold the Floor

|

Calling the Republican bluff on filibustering would be a perfect solution.

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Avoiding the Obvious

|

No one disputes that American prisons are over dangerously overcrowded but, few governments seem to want to take the necessary steps to address the problem in the most obvious manner; reducing the overcrowding by releasing non-violent prisoners who have been incarcerated for petty, victimless crimes...especially those who have been given outrageously long terms because of the "3 strikes" sentencing rules. The other obvious way to alleviate the population crush is to stop jailing people for victimless crimes like personal drug use in the first place. But hey, imprisoning people is a multibillion dollar industry so just like everything else in this economic fetish culture the overcrowding issue is no where near as important as keeping the bucks flowing.

As far as California's claim that federal judges who ordered California to depopulate their prisons (on prisoner's constitutional rights infringement grounds) have no jurisdiction over states right to manage their prison system, that's complete garbage. The constitution trumps everything in terms of the bill of rights.

Keeping America's Prisons Overcrowded

by Sherrilyn A. Ifill

In a case before the Supreme Court, California Gov. Schwarzenegger is arguing that judges have no right to tell states to reduce their prison populations.

jailbars.jpgAmerica's prisons, like many of our public schools, reflect our country's most shameful and profound failings. This week the U.S. Supreme Court takes on one aspect of our nation's love affair with incarceration.

In Schwarzenegger v. Plata, the state of California has challenged an order issued by a three-judge federal court under the Prison Reform Litigation Act, which requires the state to reduce its prison population to deal with overcrowding. The court found that overpopulation is directly responsible for the failure of the California system to provide inmates with adequate physical and mental health services. California argues that the prison reduction order issued by the three-judge court under the PRLA goes beyond the scope of the statute and infringes on the state's power.

This case is likely to play out before the court and in the media as a battle over states' rights -- in this case, the right of the state of California to manage its own prison system -- and against the encroachment of federal judges supplanting the judgment of elected leaders with their own version of appropriate public policy. Indeed, 18 states have joined in a brief supporting the state of California and making this very argument.

But there's much more at stake in this case than the age-old "state sovereignty versus federal courts" story. In fact, the federal court's prison reduction order in this case is something of a last resort -- imposed only after eight years in which the state of California, while conceding the unconstitutional overcrowding in its prison system, has failed to reduce its prison population. The Plata suit stems from an action filed back in 2001. The state conceded in 2002 that prison overcrowding threatened the constitutional rights of prisoners.

Three years later, the state had failed to impose reforms it had agreed to in any of its prisons. As a result, Judge Thelton Henderson assigned a federal receiver in 2005 to oversee reforms to the California prison system after finding that although the court had given the state "every opportunity" to make reforms, the state department of corrections "lacked medical leadership" and had "a culture of non-accountability and non-professionalism," resulting in threats to the health of prisoners.

Built for 80,000 prisoners, the California corrections system houses twice that number of inmates. In 2006 the first receiver's report determined that "until the ... overpopulation experienced system-wide is effectively addressed," it would be impossible to remedy the inadequate delivery of health care services in the state's prisons. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself declared a Prison Overcrowding Emergency. Driven by the chronic overcrowding problem and by the pinch of the poor economy that has left many states short of funds to maintain bloated prison populations, Schwarzenegger even proposed a plan in 2009 that would have reduced the prison population by 36,000.

By then, the court's order was based on factual findings that prison overcrowding is a direct cause of the state's failure to provide adequate physical and mental health services to prisoners, resulting in the death of one prisoner every eight days. But the California Legislature failed to take up and enact a responsible plan that would have reduced the prison population. There's no political gain to enacting reforms that would release prisoners and create more-humane conditions for those who remain incarcerated.

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