January 26, 2012
Banners on the walls warned the 120,000 employees: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”
Sound familiar? The is the wedge that is used to destroy the middle class here. Over there it makes them accept 12-14 hours, 6-7 days a week, sometimes standing the whole time.
The unions here were weakened... Over there they can't have unions.
October 31, 2011
Please forward this to friends, relatives, "centrists" and conservatives you know. You may have heard about the "Occupy" protests that are occurring in cities around the country. They aren't what you are hearing. Please come to one and see for yourself. If you are young, old, white, black, brown, poor, rich, left, right, centrist, even Tea Party you will find people just like you. You might agree, you might disagree, you might love it, you might hate it, but you owe it to yourself to come and see for yourself.
A lot of people feel frustration with the huge and increasing gap between the rich and the poor and the effect this is having on our country, culture, politics and the way we relate to each other as Americans. It seems like everything in the country is now geared toward the top 1%, and the rest of us are divided and supposed to keep quiet and accept this. Somehow the Occupy movement started at just the right time, when just the right number of people were fed up with the way things are going and the lack of solutions coming from our political leaders. It grew quickly, because people were tired of keeping quiet while our government seems to operate only for the benefit of the top few and expects the rest of us to sacrifice to pay for that.
This all brings us a chance to restore democracy not just in our communities, but within ourselves. By attending and participating, we are exercising the "muscles" of democracy, of speaking up and being part of something. The thing is, you won’t just see it, you’ll feel it. You'll feel what it is like to have so many people around you who agree with you. You'll feel what it is like to be part of something important.
How To Find One Near You
The "Occupy" movement has now been going on for just over six weeks, and has spread to hundreds of towns across the country. You can probably find one near you. Start at Occupy Together which is at http://www.occupytogether.org/. Take a look at the page where they show you what is happening in your area, using a map. Also, try typing 'Occupy' and the name of your town into Google just to see what pops up.
So now that you know where one is, come on down, and see for yourself. If you need a ride ask your niece or your aunt. If your aunt needs a ride, give her a ride.
What To Expect
Warning, there might be some people with beards, and God forbid, drum circles.
People are out there speaking for themselves, and learning how to be citizens again, instead of just consumers. This will have a lot of interesting outcomes, most of them good, some of them won't work out. But it will be people who want to be involved again.
Depending on your community, there will likely be a turnout of some people with signs and leaflets, maybe some people set up with tables to do things like register people to vote, organizations with literature, groups that know each other, people who don't know each other standing around, etc. There will be a diversity people people.
These events are self-organizing, no one is "running" these events, but volunteers will be helping to organize them. The character of the event completely depends on who shows up, who volunteers to help run it, and how much the people speak up. So it's up to you to do your part.
Occupy events have a "General Assembly" meeting once or twice every day. In New York the meeting is at 7pm. At the recent Redwood City, CA Occupy event it was at about 6pm. As I said above, volunteers run things, which means that after you get to know the ropes you might want to volunteer.
The occupations around the world are being organized using a non-binding consensus based collective decision making tool known as a "people's assembly". To learn more about how to use this process to organize your local community to fight back against social injustice, please read this quick guide on group dynamics in people's assemblies.
These meetings are the heart of the movement. Please come attend one, even if it is just to watch. You'll feel what it is like to be say what is on your mind. (And you'll feel what it is like to sit there while so many other people say what is on their minds. ;-) Don't worry, it works, and people keep comments short.) This is what democracy looks like.
Occupy Redwood City
Friday I attended Occupy Redwood City (California), and took some pictures. It was the first Redwood City event, maybe 50 people showed up, and the General Assembly lasted a couple of hours. They'll meet again next Friday, and probably should expect a lot more people now that it is up and in operation and people are telling each other about it. If 50 people doesn't seem like a lot, this is not a huge city, and there are more than a hundred events like it going on, some with thousands of people turning out.
Scary, no? Especially the guy (me) with the little white dog. Was that a beard? Of, that first one is a short video, click here in case it doesn't work in this post.
Don't Let Them Scare You Away
Speaking of being scary: There will not be violence. This is a non-violent movement. The media outlets, talk show hosts, columnists, etc. that tell you there is violence are trying to keep you from showing up. They are trying to scare you. When they send large numbers of police to shoot tear gas into these events, it is an attempt to intimidate people, not just there but people who are thinking of showing up.
Another way they are trying to keep people from showing up is with humiliation. This is a remarkably effective technique. Make people ashamed to show up, tell them they will be laughed at, or shunned, and people will stay away. They tell you the "protesters" are "dirty," even "urine-soaked." They tell you they are "hippies" and thinkthis will make you ashamed to show up and speak your mind.
This is about what speech is "permissible" and what is not. The corporate-conservatives on the Supreme Court say that corporations are people who “speak” and can use all of their money to swamp our elections. But when people show up to complain about the 1% running everything, they are met with force. The big banks can crash the economy and commit crimes and are offered modest “settlements,” but when people show up to complain they are beaten, maced, tear-gassed and arrested.
Don’t let them make you feel scared or ashamed to stand up for your rights.
Show Up & See For Yourself
If you want democracy you have to fight for democracy. You have to stand up for your rights or they will go away. Please visit at least on Occupy event in your area, and see for yourself.
April 5, 2011
Silicon Valley’s crown jewel, Palo Alto just got mowed down last evening by AT&T. To be specific AT&T effectively tied the hands of many of the City policymakers, and then plowed through the City Council and over 35 residents leaving their bodies scattered on the sidewalks in their wake. Using the big stick approach, they bullied and threatened action in the Federal court system if their addendum to their existing site permit was not approved; and the Council caved to the mighty sword sacrificing many of their downtown rental residents. Most troubling is that with these actions of passing this addendum for the mounting of two AT&T antennas on this residential building, this City Council may have set a precedent to severely limit tenants’ rights going forward in this particular city and longer term in the state. Commercial building owners may now have enlarged rights that grant them the ability to railroad their tenants with whatever side businesses they choose. If this decision by Palo Alto holds, California may be able to rewrite the Civil Codes that govern the rights granted to landlords by allowiing them to enter the premises far beyond the scope of maintenance and/or emergency. You see the only way to get to this balcony is by gaining access through the bedrooms of the residents.
Effectively this City Council has opened a hornet’s nest that may continue to sting them as this decision raises questions of social justice for over 40% of the City’s residents, of which over 70% are management or other professionals in the tech industry. We all know that we live in a society that is fraught with corporate collusion, fraud and bad behavior. Yet it is troubling to see this kind of reprehensible behavior in our own backyard without tacit consideration for the privacy, health and/or safety of the rental residents. Palo Alto is a city that is full of bright entrepreneurs willing to risk it all to create technologies that can change the world. Sadly, none of them signed up to give away their rights. Who would have thought that liberal Palo Alto, the place of big dreams, would sink to this level! Most importantly, what is to prevent other such activities that suggest some degree of collusion between the private and public sectors? Not much with this precedent setting action, huh? Will Palo Alto become a city that only protects their landed gentry? With this decision, they are certainly well on their way to solely protecting property owners over the serfs that rent.
Taking this further, can building owners throughout the City now run either brothels or daycare centers while residents are working during the day or evening? After all given this recently enacted City precedent – building owners now have the right to discount the objections of their tenants to cut whatever side deal that want. This means that building owners can engage in mixed use and side deals regardless of the vocal protests of their tenants. As outrageous as this may seem, this is the box that has been pried open with last evening’s decision and it may prove to a gift that keeps on giving. The young, the bright and the able may now choose to take their start-ups elsewhere and be treated far better in the short and longer term. Maybe there were bigger reasons that Facebook, the symbol of all that is good in Palo Alto, has chosen to jump ship and move to a neighboring city.
Note: This post will appear in other blogs.
December 15, 2010
WikiLeaks raises some of the most poignant questions of our time about the power of cyber warfare, the role of hackers, and the future of the Internet. It is not a coincidence that Madame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has created a whole new effort to explore and fight cyber terrorism. In fact, WikiLeaks and Assange may represent the first of the wholesale anarchists using today's information highway to do battle. Consider that instead of taking to the streets in protest, this generation may take to the Internet to wage their battles and carry their message. We are living a time represented by the power of Facebook that links over 500 million people together. And if this is true, we may have unleashed a whole new generation of cyber warlords on the world's information centers.
Many of our brethren are writing about democracy, liberty and the freedom of information pivoting off what they believe WikiLeaks stands for. Julian Assange has been elevated to the "Man of the People" as filmmaker Michael Moore contributes to his bail fund, and the Huffington Post sets up a whole section devoted to whistleblower Fantasy Land. You know, we all need something valiant to believe in during the difficult days of Obama. The obnoxious wealthy are dancing on the heads of US lawmakers. The banks are still doing the Texas two-step, and the Middle Class continues to suffer in silence with simmering rage. There are two deeply divisive wars. China is rising and scaring the heck out of us. The liberals of the Democratic Party continue to act like toddlers, and Sarah Palin is making hay laughing all the way to her off-shore accounts. So Julian Assange, or whoever is backing him, could not have picked a better moment of discontent. They are evoking new archetypes of good and bad in a world that is increasing grey.
Assange is the anti-hero. He has been personified as a man with no country who is a metrosexual kind of guy willing to risk it all to uncover the truth. Yet, we don't really know much about this man, or what makes him tick. Is he really the wizard behind or the curtain, or there really someone or something else pulling the strings. Is he a hacker extraordinaire, or just a man that is a brilliant online community organizer? In fact and most importantly, what does it mean to be a hacker? Are hackers by definition anarchists, or is it just Julian that wants to topple the establishment at any cost. Or are there droves of these cyber-sleuths trolling the black lands of the Internet looking for back doors into silos of information? Remember Assange was a cryptologist of sorts which is the super duper folks that develop the ways to tunnel into software code. And it may be fair to assume that these same hackers were probably responsible for the DOS (Denial of Service) attacks on Visa, Master Card and others. And if this is true then who is really pulling the strings since these were very, targeted attacks on specific corporations that shut out the money flow for WikiLeaks? The bottom line is that we still don't know how the WikiLeaks information is gathered and/or obtained. Does it come from this new breed of whistleblowers, such as Private Manning that had a rare blend of tech talents and access? If so; does this new breed even resemble our beloved archetypical whistleblowers circa Daniel Ellsberg, or even Erin Brockovich? And I ask again, have we grappled with the ramifications of an Internet that is locked down in response to WikiLeaks? Are we ready to usher in a new age of restrictions? This sadly will make the debate around net neutrality seem like child's play if cyber war erupts.
Please note that this post appeared earlier in the day in the Huffington Post.
September 20, 2010
April 27, 2009
Earlier I commented on the case of Rep. Harman. Anyone else caught with this appearance of a crime would be investigated by the Justice Department, and maybe prosecuted if the investigation showed reason to do so. I can understand that the Bush admin, the way they operated, may have discovered an opportunity to exchange letting her off the hook for getting her help (also known as blackmail) but is the Obama Justice Dept. investigating these allegations against Harman? (As well as the allegation that the Bush Justice Dept didn't?) If not, why not?
The other day the story in the press was that President decided not to let the Justice Dept. investigate and maybe prosecute people in the CIA. I hope this is not the case, because this would be inappropriate political interference with the Justice Dept. If a crime is committed it must be investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted - no matter who is involved and no matter whether the President likes it or not. That is how rule of law works.
It is my hope that we are returning to rule of law, and the Justice Dept is back to properly doing its job without political interference, and is investigating the allegations that the Bush admin tortured people, and is investigating whether to prosecute Rep. Harman.
If not, we have just swapped one politicized Justice Dept. for another. And we continue to have a country where some people are above the law and the rest of us are beneath it.
March 11, 2009
Yesterday Bob Barr was in my local paper with, Movie industry's shortsighted fight,
There is now unfolding in a federal court in San Francisco a lawsuit in which several major Hollywood movie studios are suing RealNetworks - a relatively small but successful company that develops and markets Internet communications technology - in an effort to prevent the company from selling a software product that simply enables consumers to copy their DVDs to their personal computers. If the studios are successful in this Goliath-against-David legal action, [Thomas] Edison's lesson in hard work will have been effectively reduced to, "genius is one percent inspiration, 99 percent permission."The movie industry is suing to keep RealDVD off the market, claiming it violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In my opinion the DMCA was a bought-and-paid-for law in the first place, requiring computer and other consumer electronics companies to implement hardware controls that keep you from being able to do all kinds of things with digital media. (It's the law that lets RIAA sue kids and deceased grandmothers.) But, not satisfied with those restrictions, the movie industry is now trying to control technology that is clearly not covered by DMCA. RealDVD lets you copy a DVD onto your computer. You can't even make a copy of that. It think maybe this is all about the movie industry wanting to force the company to pay them royalties.
I wrote before about copyright protections, "Of course within reason this is necessary and proper." But that's within reason, this isn't. Barr writes, "the sky would not fall on the movie industry were it to back away from its unfortunate legal action against RealDVD." Amen.
January 9, 2009
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
An error was found in Proposition 8 that may have broad implications for many Californians. It is hoped that the error is corrected before this weekend's full moon.
Read the story here: Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between 'One Man And One Wolfman',
Activists on both sides of the gay marriage debate were shocked this November, when a typographical error in California's Proposition 8 changed the state constitution to restrict marriage to a union between "one man and one wolfman," instantly nullifying every marriage except those comprised of an adult male and his lycanthrope partner. "The people of California made their voices heard today, and reaffirmed our age-old belief that the only union sanctioned in God's eyes is the union between a man and another man possessed by an ungodly lupine curse," state Sen. Tim McClintock said at a hastily organized rally celebrating passage of the new law.
This is from The Onion, but it makes about as much sense as what Proposition 8 really says. Prop 8 wasn't a typo, it was one group of people deciding how another group of people they don't even know should live.
Click through to Speak Out California.
January 3, 2009
I think we should all report anyone who looks like Timothy McVeigh when they try to get on airplanes.
December 7, 2008
Looking back at the consequences of the 2000 Bush v Gore decision by the Supreme Court -- 9/11 "on his watch", Constitution shredded, end of rule of law, hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq, world's economy literally in ruins ... you know what I'm saying -- shouldn't we be talking about impeaching the Justices who put Bush in office even though Gore won?
Update - I really, really hope that the Supreme Court DOES take up the "Obama birth certificate" case. Really. I mean, imagine them trying to say Obama can't be President. HA! Talk about a trigger for rapid change in America, that would do it.
November 1, 2008
A 12-year-old boy was shot to death through a front door while trick-or-treating with his family, shocking residents of a South Carolina neighborhood where most people know each other well.
October 7, 2008
At their rallies McCain and Palin have been encouraging the worst from the Republican base. Accusations of "palling around with terrorists" and causing the financial crisis, and you-name-it they're accusing. Jack Turner says what needs to be said, at Jack & Jill Politics,
Everything we need to know about John McCain and Sarah Palin is summed up by their reaction to these incidents. Their positions on health care no longer matter. Their tax policies are irrelevant. Their talking points made moot. Not only do they bring out the worst in people, but they feed the worst in people. They are basing their campaign on painting Obama as a terrorist and monster. They are cultivating prejudice, racism, fear and ugliness.Go read the rest.
America has been down this path before, and it is the exact opposite of what this country needs right now.
History awaits moments like these. We are on the brink. When a society’s pent up frustration and anger searches for an outlet, it is a leader’s job to step up and focus those wild emotions away from destruction and toward something productive. At least that is what a good leader would do. [emphasis added]
July 18, 2008
Harold Ford and Markos held a discussion on stage at lunch here at Netroots Nation. I didn't catch all of it, but at one point Ford was talking about FISA and telecom immunity, along the lines of "If you have a company, and the government comes to you and says 'If you do this for us it will help national security' then what can you say?"
I'll tell you what you can say. You can say, "DO YOU HAVE A WARRANT?"
July 15, 2008
President Bush has the legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians captured in the United States, the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Tuesday in a fractured 5-to-4 decision.Naturally the Times gets it wrong, implying the last judge is a Democrat: "In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated Judge Traxler for a Federal trial judgeship, on the United States District Court for South Carolina."
[. . .] All of the judges who would have denied Mr. Marri any relief — Judges Wilkinson, Karen J. Williams, Paul V. Niemeyer and Allyson K. Duncan — were appointed by Republican presidents; all who would have granted him full relief were appointed by Democrats. Judge Traxler [the swing vote] was appointed to the appeals court by President Bill Clinton. [emphasis added]
July 13, 2008
"I no longer believe."
The issue of our Congress giving the big telecom companies immunity from being sued for illegally enabling the Republican Party to listen to our calls and read our emails is a very, very big deal to non-Republicans. Republicans, of course, are happy as clams about it. (They are also happy as clams that America now tortures people.)
I have talked to a number of friends who were major Obama supporters during the primaries, and not one of them is happy today because of Obama's reversal on telecom immunity in FISA. He had pledged, promised, sworn, committed to oppose telecom immunity -- then after securing the nomination reversed himself and voted for it.
So today I'm cruising the internets and come across Dave Winer, another Obama supporter. He articulates my own thoughts well. Obama's FISA screwup (Scripting News),
First, the conservative pundits who say that Obama turned his back on the extreme left by voting for the new FISA bill have it wrong. He turned his back on people of all persuasions who believe in our form of government.And go read the discussion as well. Some excerpts:
. . . He was right if he assumed he had our vote. I will not vote for McCain to prove this point. But I'm also not going to give him any more money. I'm going to save that for causes I believe in.
I no longer believe there is a cause to Obama other than getting Obama elected. It's up to him now to prove otherwise. The FISA vote can be undone, but he has to actually do the undoing.
This was about the Constitution, not politics. I think many of us are just sick of the kind of "Impeachment is off the table" political calculation that got us into this mess. I think Obama can turn this around but only if he commits to solid principals and demonstrates that he means it.
"I no longer have any confidence in my understanding of who Obama really is."
"I have never seen a lucid explanation of why Obama voted this way. What does he hope to gain?"
"I too lost a lot of (maybe all) respect for Obama when I heard about his FISA vote.. Even Hillary voted against it."
"If Obama loses his base, the steam will go out of his campaign with a great rush. There are strong indications that this has already happened."
"His campaign would have been elevated and energized by doing the right thing. Instead, now survey the ruin among his base and his declining contributions."
July 8, 2008
Click the ad/link on the left about the Strange Bedfellows Money Bomb August 8. This is a group of bloggers and organizations upset with the FISA bill giving retroactive immunity to telecom companies. When "little people" violate laws they are prosecuted. When big corporations violate laws they can purchase retroactive immunity.
August 8, 2008—this is the date for our Strangebedfellows MONEYBOMB on behalf of constitutional rights and civil liberties in America. Let's remove from power the key enablers of the tyrannical and lawless FISA 'compromise;' we can end the Patriot Act—and so much more. Join with us by pledging now—right here at AccountabilityNowPAC.com. Become a part of our transpartisan alliance of freedom lovers! Be a Strangebedfellow!
July 5, 2008
In the LA Times today, A good-enough spy law,
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the White House directed telecommunications carriers to cooperate with its efforts to bolster intelligence gathering and surveillance -- the administration's effort to do a better job of "connecting the dots" to prevent terrorist attacks.No, it started a few weeks after Bush took office - a time when the Bush administration was ignoring the terrorist threat. So it was about something else, and was a high enough priority to plan out during the transition. (Can you say "political spying?")
One telecom company, Qwest, refused because it was flat-out illegal. The Bush administration punished them, blocked federal contracts, and in an early indicator of what was to come from the politicized Bush Justice Department, they prosecuted Qwest's CEO on trumped-up charges.
The combination of the telecoms letting Bush illegally spy on us BEFORE September 11, and the politicized Bush Justice Department punishing the company that refused - refused because it was illegal - is the reason so many of us are so adamant that Democrats should not be passing a law giving these companies immunity. The President can't spy on people without warrants, and the telecoms knew that. They knew it was illegal to spy on us without warrants but they went along with it. Why? Why didn't they ask the Bush administration to just get warrants? And why would Democrats vote to let them off the hook?
Don't forget that Watergate was about Republicans illegally wiretapping Democrats. Don 't think they don't do it.
March 11, 2008
People do idiotic things. Not too long ago Republican Senator David Vitter turned up on a list of prostitution customers. How did the Justice Department respond? Well, it didn't. It helped keep his name secret. And good for them for doing that.
But this time it was a Democratic Governor who has been going after securities fraud cases. And the Republican Justice Department responded very differently. First of all, there are questions about how they found out about this at all -- questions that bring the letters FISA to my mind. Next, they organized a major prosecution of the Governor. Then, they gave his name to the press. Then they included details of wiretapped conversations intended to drive a press frenzy.
There is no question that this is another political prosecution. The Justice Department would not have gone full-steam into this if it were a Republican, and if it were not a Democratic Governor. A federal task force because a guy was seeing a prostitute?
Firedoglake has Some Questions About the Spitzer Incident. Please go read.
I have warned that political prosecutions are going to accelerate as election-time approaches. Watch your backs.
February 13, 2008
People take their queues from the top. A torture-accepting mentality trickles down. Over time America becomes more ruthless, less humane and people get used to it. It happens in little ways that add up. But add up they do...
Pam's House Blend:: The police state continues: quadriplegic dumped from wheelchair. Just go see for yourself.
Pam is sounding a warning, and she's right.
Watch your backs.
January 27, 2008
Never mind what I wrote Thursday, there has been a new announcement. See Firedoglake - Hillary Clinton To Vote “No” On Cloture Tomorrow UPDATE: Barack Obama Will Be There Too
Hillary Clinton will be in the Senate tomorrow to vote "no" on cloture on the Intel version of the FISA bill. The vote is scheduled to take place at 4:30 pm tomorrow.
I've also been trying to confirm whether Barack Obama will be there. His campaign people have not gotten back to me, but Obama does have a 4pm fundraiser scheduled in Washington DC.
Bravo, Senator Clinton. Well done.
UPDATE: The Obama campaign confirms that Senator Obama will be there too, and voting "no." Way to go, Senator.
January 24, 2008
Senator Clinton will not come to the Senate to help save the Constitution. At Firedoglake, FISA Debate In Senate, Part VII:
UPDATE: -- According to Howard Wolfson of the Clinton Campaign, Hillary Clinton will not be taking the 1 1/2 hour trip from South Carolina to Washington DC to join the Dodd filibusterEwards has already said he supports Dodd on keeping telecom immunity out of the FISA bill.
I am not aware of any statement from the Obama campaign. Obama so far is not even voting "present" on this one.
January 23, 2008
Please read this DKos diary: Daily Kos: Must Read: McConnell Ignores Navy Veteran, Then Gets Her Fired
If they can get away with denying jobs to people who oppose the Iraq war, people will be afraid to speak out.
January 6, 2008
Every American should read Why I Believe Bush Must Go byGeorge McGovern in today's Washington Post.
January 1, 2008
Senator Chris Dodd thanks the netroots for fighting for the Constitution:
December 26, 2007
I usually work at the polls on election day. When voters ask me why we don't require ID to vote I tell them that Americans are not required to "carry papers." We, the People are in charge here and we do not have to prove to anyone that we are citizens.
December 17, 2007
Governor Richardson said Friday if elected he will investigate and prosecute the torturers - all the way to the top. And Senator Dodd is filibustering right now against retroactive immunity for crimes committed at Bush administration request. Now we should ask the rest of the candidates if, once elected, they will also hold Bush administration officials accountable for crimes they committed in office.
We learned this week that the CIA destroyed tapes of American officials committing torture. The American people deserve to know whether laws were violated and whether the President was directly involved in illegal activities. Torture is a black and white moral issue. A failure to act decisively in this case will be an unacceptable failure of leadership.
Torture is un-American, it violates international law, and it is wrong. And when I am President, I will make sure that those who are responsible for torture are held accountable for their actions.
And yet, in the thirteen months since winning back the House and Senate, Democrats in Congress have done too little to force this administration to stop torturing.Go read the rest.
Perhaps one reason that Bush and Cheney have been so comfortable with torture is that they feel they will never be held accountable for their actions.
Indeed, despite consistently stating that they can't accomplish anything because they lack a filibuster-proof majority, Senate Democrats failed even to block an Attorney General who equivocated on torture.
They have taken no action on the International Criminal Court.
They have failed to appoint a Special Prosecutor to provide for high-level accountability.
They failed to restore habeas corpus.
They have done nothing to enforce the Constitution or any of our laws against torture.
This must change. If Congress won't act, then our next President must.
The next President must be clearly and unequivocally committed to changing our country's stand on torture, and that is exactly what I pledge to do. Strong leaders are not afraid to be held accountable, nor are they afraid to hold others accountable for acts that we all know are wrong.
As soon I am inaugurated, I will order investigations to find out who is responsible for torture -- those who allowed it, those who sanctioned it, and those who carried it out. We can and will find out who is responsible.
And, once we've completed those investigations -- and if we find cause for prosecution -- I will insist on criminal prosecutions of anyone we find responsible for torture in this current administration. No one will be given a pass. NO ONE is above the law.
Full disclosure - I have been doing some consulting with the Richardson campaign.
December 16, 2007
What Democrat Taylor Marsh says.
November 26, 2007
Senator Chris Dodd submits a YouTube question for the upcoming Republican YouTube Presidential Candidate Debate:
November 23, 2007
A list of all the way s the Republicans are keeping the public from knowing what their own government is doing:
Last year, we launched the insanely ambitious project of recording every significant instance of this administration stifling government information. As we said then, "they've discontinued annual reports, classified normally public data, de-funded studies, quieted underlings, and generally done whatever was necessary to keep bad information under wraps." To be sure, the list will continue to grow through January, 2008.
My wife likes to say, whenever I point out the things the Republicans are doing - So what? Who is going to do anything about it?
November 1, 2007
We are at a crossroads. Do we have rule of law or not?
The problem with Attorney General nominee Mukasey and waterboarding is that if he acknowledges that waterboarding is torture he will be confirmed as Attorney General - and will be forced to prosecute the waterboarders and the people who ordered it. So what is going to happen is that he won't be confirmed and we'll be left with no Attorney General until Bush leaves, or some Democrats will cave and he will be confirmed anyway. Being confirmed and then prosecuting for torture won't happen.
But one way or another the pressure is on now for prosecution. The only way our country can get past the stain of torture is to prosecute the people who did it. All of them - from top to bottom - in front of the world. You can't sweep this under the rug and you can't let "I was only following orders" hang there, waiting for the next opportunity.
This is the same problem as telecom immunity. Just after taking office the bush administration went to the phone companies and got htem to start wiretapping us. (Forget all this crap that it happened because of 9/11, it happened just after Bush took office.) And now they're trying to get out of being held accountable for breaking the law.
We either have law or we don't. This is a crossroads moment. I am not optimistic that this country is capable of going the right way.
How many TV shows in the last few years have been about pedophiles killing kids? Have you noticed the huge increase?
Sex offenders locked down, in the dark for Halloween,Scores of sex offenders in Anderson, South Carolina, will be corralled for Halloween tonight in a move authorities say is needed to keep kids safe as they trick or treat.
. . . Authorities in Roanoke, Virginia, will do the same.
. . . While there's a debate about the need for restrictions and authorities aren't imposing such stringent restrictions everywhere, special limits on sex offenders for the evening are widespread.
. . . Paroled offenders in California have a 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, cannot leave any outside lights on and may not answer their doors except for law enforcement. Illinois offenders face similar restrictions, including a ban on dressing in a costume.
. . . Sheriff's deputies in Harris County, Texas, have been checking homes of sex offenders for Halloween decorations and are ready to arrest violators.Even though:
"There has not been a single case of any child being molested by a convicted sex offender while trick-or-treating," writes columnist Benjamin Radford on LiveScience.com.Pump up the fear.
Rebecca Brunger, an Alaska probation officer, told the Anchorage Daily News her state doesn't put any extra restrictions on sex offenders on Halloween as there's never been a case there of a trick-or-treater being molested by a registered offender.
. . . He said in 20 years he'd never run across a case of a sex offender attacking a child on Halloween.
October 24, 2007
At the Dodd blog: Help Oppose Telecom Amnesty | Chris Dodd for President
October 19, 2007
In response to U.S. Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey's refusal to say
whether waterboarding is torture, the Governor this morning issued the following
statement:"Waterboarding is torture, and anyone who is unwilling to identify it as such is not qualified to be the chief legal officer of the United States of America. If I were in the U.S. Senate, I would vote against Mukasey unless he denounces such specific forms of torture.
"Torture does not work. Mistreatment backfires and destroys our international leadership, as we saw with Abu Ghraib. Torture also endangers our own troops. The standards we adopt may well be what our own troops are subjected to.
"Anytime one makes a person think he or she is being executed, the very nature of waterboarding, it obviously is a violation of the U.S. Constitution, international law, and basic human decency.
"ABC News has described waterboarding as follows: 'The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face, and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in, and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.'
"If another nation engaged in waterboarding against American citizens, we would denounce that country and call the practice barbaric, and rightly so.
"We must stand against torture without equivocation, without compromise, and without exception. Torture is a violation of everything we stand for as Americans and as human beings."
September 28, 2007
by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino
March of 1995 began like any other month for me. The days were filled with chasing soon to be five year-old triplets, washing hundreds of pounds of laundry, kissing skinned knees and picking up toys, until the phone rang. Captain Mike Gauldin, the detective who worked my case after a man broke into my apartment when I was a twenty-two year-old college student and raped me at knifepoint in Burlington, N.C. wanted to come see me with Rob Johnson, then the assistant D.A. of Alamance County.
They arrived before lunch and we sat on the deck enjoying the spring sunshine. We talked about the weather, the kids, current events, and then quickly the topic changed. Ronald Cotton, the man sent away for life for attacking me, wanted a DNA test. They needed new blood drawn because my sample from the eleven year-old rape kit had deteriorated.
I had already sat through two trials and I was furious, but I didn’t hesitate. “Let’s go to the lab right now,” I responded. Within hours Mike Gauldin and Rob Johnson were headed to the SBI labs with my vial of blood. I knew the tests would show what I had known all along: that Ronald Cotton was a monster. It was Ronald Cotton who threatened to kill me, who had chased me through the rain that night while I fled for my life. And it was Ronald Cotton who I saw every night in my nightmares, who I prayed God would have killed, and who I hated each and every day of the last eleven years.
But when Mike Gauldin and Rob Johnson stood in my kitchen in June of 1995, they told me we were wrong. It was not Ronald’s DNA found in the rape kit, in fact, it was a man named Bobby Poole, a serial rapist who had attacked and raped over a half dozen other women that summer of 1984.
With the delivery of the DNA results came an overwhelming shame and guilt. My mind began to question everything I had believed in. I pulled away from the world as I knew it; I had no answers. Over four thousand days of a man’s life were gone and nothing I could do would ever change that. Eleven birthdays, eleven Christmas mornings—gone. I placed the burden on my shoulders and began the slow process of moving through my days.
By the spring of 1997, the psychological toll forced me to act. In a small church no more then a few miles from where I had been brutally raped, I met Ronald and struggled for words I could say to him. How completely inadequate “I’m sorry” seemed. As Ronald and his new wife, Robbin, came into the room I began to cry and shake. “Ronald, if I spent the rest of my life telling you how sorry I am it wouldn’t be enough,” I said. Ronald immediately took my hands and replied, “I forgive you. I want you to be happy and live a good life. Don’t look over your shoulders thinking I will be there because I won’t.”
For the first time, I looked into Ronald Cotton’s eyes and saw a compassionate man who gave me a gift of healing by forgiving me. I also saw a victim of a flawed system. If California’s Senate Bill 756 can help fix that system by putting better practices and procedures into place for eyewitness identification, we reduce the risk of wrongful convictions and mistakes like the one I made. A mistake I never saw coming.
Jennifer Thompson-Cannino lives in Winston-Salem, N.C. She is currently working on PICKING COTTON with Ronald Cotton and writer Erin Torneo. It will be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2008.
September 25, 2007
By John Van de Kamp
Health care reform hasn’t made it to the Governor’s desk this year, but 3 crucial public safety bills have. Governor Schwarzenegger has the opportunity to sign landmark legislation that would help prevent wrongful convictions in California, and make this state a leader in addressing a serious nationwide problem.
How serious is the problem? When the innocent go to prison, the guilty go free. That is a very serious public safety problem. And it happens more often then most people think.
Just recently, Stephen Colbert interviewed the 200th DNA exoneree, Jerry Miller. Colbert gave him a card on behalf of “society” saying “Sorry.” Here in California, Herman Atkins spent 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Here is Herman Atkins' story:
Harold Hall spent more than 19 years in prison, and was nearly sentenced to death. Over 200 other wrongfully convicted men and women have been exonerated by DNA evidence, but all too often these errors could have been avoided. Now Governor Schwarzenegger has a chance to show Colbert and the nation what we can do: California can do more than saying
Commentators from both sides of the aisle are supporting these bills for just the same reasons: they address glaring problems that need repair, and they protect public safety. By signing these bills, Governor Schwarzenegger will help law enforcement solve and prosecute crimes, while also protecting the innocent from wrongful conviction.
The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, a group established by the Senate to study the most serious problems with the criminal justice system, recommended all three of the reform measures now before the Governor.
In 2006 I was asked by the Senate to Chair the Commission, no doubt because of my curriculum vitae, which included terms as California’s Attorney General, L.A. County D.A. and as California’s Central District’s first Federal Public Defender. So I have some perspective from both sides of the court room. I agreed to take on the assignment with the stipulation that I would receive support to balance the Commission so that all sides of the criminal justice systems had strong and fair representation. The result is a Commission whose members include law enforcement officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys (public and private), a victim advocate and public members.
The Commission has issued a series of reports dealing with Eyewitness Identification, False Confessions, Jail House Informants Testimony, DNA Evidence Processing, and Forensic Evidence. Now we’re looking at Prosecutorial and Defense Misconduct and Incompetence.
The Legislature has passed three bills dealing with the Commission’s early
recommendations: SB 511, 609 and 756 represent the most basic and most urgently needed changes.
Some states and jurisdictions already have similar laws in response to the notorious Duke Lacrosse scandal, North Carolina’s Governor (and former Attorney General) Easley signed bills similar to SB 511 and 756. However, Governor Schwarzenegger would be the first to enact all 3 reforms at once.
He chose to veto bills similar to SB 511 and 756 last year, but made it clear in his veto message that he appreciates the need for reform. Now that the bills have been rewritten to address last year’s concerns, there is no reason to put public safety and the lives of innocent men and women on hold. This is Governor Schwarzenegger’s chance to sign landmark legislation this year, to protect the public, protect the innocent and be the reformer California, and the country, needs.
John Van de Kamp is the chair of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice and formerly served as California Attorney General, Los Angeles District Attorney, and as the first Federal Public Defender for the Central District.
September 20, 2007
(As I mentioned yesterday, I am helping ACLU of Northern California and The Justice Project to get three very important bills signed. Right now there are three bills that the California legislature has passed and are ready for Governor Schwarzenegger to sign. But he might not sign them. These bills will help stop wrongful convictions. So we are trying to get some public awareness that these bills are waiting to be signed. These bills are SB 511, SB 609 and SB 756.
Today I am guest-posting a piece by a police officer who took a false confession and knows that it really can happen. -- Dave J.)
As I write this, the post-arrest recorded interview of Senator Larry Craig has hit the press, circulated around the blogosphere, and produced heated discussion among the public. The recording includes a confession to a crime that Senator Craig now says he did not commit. No doubt that tape will prove central to the consideration of Senator Craig’s claim, since it will provide incontrovertible evidence of what both he and law enforcement said.
Coincidentally, just last week the California legislature passed a bill, SB 511, which would mandate the recording of custodial interrogations to prevent wrongful convictions based upon false confessions. The bill has now been sent to Governor Schwarzenegger.
To most, falsely confessing to a crime seems counterintuitive. It is hard to understand -- barring outright torture – why a sane and intelligent person would admit to a crime that he did not commit, especially if the confession could yield a lifetime prison term or even a death sentence.
As a law enforcement officer with 24 years of experience with the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. (13 of those as a homicide detective), the phenomenon always eluded me too. Until someone provided a false confession to me.
It was a homicide case. I used nothing but standard, approved interrogation techniques and did not act maliciously. There was no yelling, no physical abuse and no cursing. We went into the interrogation room with the belief that we had evidence linking the suspect to the crime and we came out many hours later with a confession. Thankfully, we started the video early on and chose to keep it on for the duration of the interrogation.
On the basis of the confession, the case progressed. Even the defendant’s defense attorney believed that she was guilty because of her confession. We hit a wall when, during our follow-up work, we discovered her alibi. It was ironclad. Even though the case was dismissed, we all still believed that she was guilty. Why else would she confess? How did she know the details that she did?
Years later, during a review of the videotapes, we discovered our mistake. We had fallen into a classic trap. We believed so much in our suspect’s guilt that we ignored all evidence to the contrary. To demonstrate the strength of our case, we showed the suspect our evidence, and unintentionally fed her details that she was able to parrot back to us at a later time. Contrary to our operating procedures at the time, my colleagues and I chose to videotape the interrogation. This is what saved me from making a horrible mistake in the long run. It was a classic false confession case and without the video we would never have known.
Now I teach a class on interrogations and false confessions. In my ongoing discussions with law enforcement nationally, I find that investigators fall into one of two camps – those who do not record and oppose it; and those who do record and endorse the practice.
Those investigators whose departments do not record interrogations say that mandating the practice will be the end of the world. We have found in D.C., though, that many of these issues were overcome by working with lawmakers. California SB 511, for instance, mandates recording only in police facilities for specific – and not all – crimes, just like we have in D.C.
And unlike our D.C. law, the California bill is friendlier to law enforcement, making allowances for situations where videotaping is impractical. In D.C., if a detective fails to record for whatever reason, the prosecutor must overcome the presumption that the confession was coerced. The California bill, on the other hand, still allows the confession to be used. The California bill also allows audio recording, while in D.C., videotaping is mandatory.
Law enforcement officers that record interrogations love it. They have found that they still get confessions, but that those confessions are much easier to defend in court. They also mention unexpected benefits: detectives are made better interviewers; suppression hearings are almost eliminated; large civil settlement payouts to the wrongly convicted are avoided; and public confidence in law enforcement increases.
Recording of interrogations from start to finish as directed by California's SB 511 is the right thing to do. Failure to use cheap and available technology to build strong cases against the guilty and to protect the innocent is wrong. Recording interrogations needs to be mandatory, with rules and sanctions. If sanctions are not in place then public confidence is undermined by the few unscrupulous among us. When videotaping was first forced upon us by the D.C. City Council, we fought it tooth and nail. Now, in the words of a top commander, we would not do it any other way.
Regardless of whether the public is considering a Senator’s political future or a judge or jury is debating the guilt or innocence of a person facing serious charges, opinions should be shaped by the best available evidence. Recorded interrogations are simply a critical source of truth.
Governor Schwarzenegger, please sign SB 511.
Please visit the ACLU of Northern California's action alert and help end wrongful convictions. Also, please visit http://www.facesofwrongfulconviction.org/.
Jim Trainum is a detective with the Metropolitan Police Department in the District of Columbia and currently runs a cold case homicide review project. He also lectures on Interrogation and False Confessions as well as Avoiding Investigative Pitfalls.
September 19, 2007
(I am helping ACLU of Northern California and The Justice Project to get three very important bills signed. Right now there are three bills that the California legislature has passed and are ready for Governor Schwarzenegger to sign. But he might not sign them. These bills will help stop wrongful convictions. So we are trying to get some public awareness that these bills are waiting to be signed. These bills are SB 511, SB 609 and SB 756. This is another guest post toward that end. -- Dave J.)
You Could Be Wrongfully Imprisoned If Governor Schwarzenegger Vetoes SB 511 and SB 609
By Harold Hall
Last month, I celebrated an untraditional anniversary. August 17, 2007 marked my third year of freedom from wrongful imprisonment. I spent nearly twenty years in prison for a crime I did not commit.
I think people want the assurance that something like this couldn’t happen to them. I wouldn’t wish the unique nightmare of wrongful conviction on my worst enemy, but I cannot provide this guarantee to anyone. That is because many of the methods and procedures that were used to secure my conviction are still allowable under California law.
In 1985, I was convicted of a double homicide. There wasn’t a smidgeon of forensic or biological evidence that could connect me to the two slayings. Still, police zeroed in on me. They brought me to an interrogation room, where I was handcuffed to a chair, denied food, water, and the use of a restroom. They told me they had evidence of my guilt, including fingerprints, blood and semen. The more I denied my involvement in these murders, the harder they pushed. Seventeen long hours later, I was mentally drained and told them the story they clearly wanted to hear.
By the end of this ordeal, I had technically “confessed” to the crime. It didn’t matter that the “confession” I provided contained many inaccuracies. It didn’t matter that the information that I provided to the police -- thinking at the time that it would end the traumatic interrogation process – didn’t line up with many of the details of the crime. They had their man, although I hardly felt like one. I was only eighteen years old!
I was carted off to jail. I was scared for my life. Every day was a living hell. I was told when to use the phone, when to shower, when to recreate. I was under constant watch. Often I was pulled from my freezing cold cell in handcuffs, wearing only boxer shorts so that they could conduct cell searches. I was forced to watch, defenseless, as Corrections Officers went through my belongings, pouring out the contents of bottles, ripping up family photos, destroying objects that sustained me during those endless years. During lockdowns, which could last months, we were forced to take “bird baths” in the cell sink because we were not allowed out of our cells.
But I knew I was innocent and that I would be vindicated at trial. I knew that my lawyer would be able to explain why I provided a false confession.
Then I learned that the prosecution was planning to use the testimony of Cornelius Lee, a jailhouse informant, at trial. Lee and I had passed two handwritten notes while in jail. Lee took those notes, erased the questions and re-wrote them so that I appeared to incriminate myself. Once I learned the prosecution planned to use the testimony of a liar, a man who was hoping to get better treatment at my expense, I was crushed and demoralized.
Despite all of this, I never gave up hope, even when I was convicted and they sought the death penalty. At the penalty phase, I told the jury I was innocent; they sentenced me to life without parole.
I am free today, but prime years of my life were stolen from me.
There are two bills on Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk right now. Senate Bill 511 would require the electronic recording of police interrogation in cases involving homicides and other violent felonies. Senate Bill 609 would require that testimony given by jailhouse informants be corroborated. If these laws were in place when I was facing those horrific charges, I would have been spared nearly two decades of suffering. And without these laws, this could happen to other innocent people.
California is primed to do the right thing. It can ensure that juries are exposed to the most reliable and accurate evidence available. That is why I urge the Governor to sign these bills. That way when people ask, how could this happen? I can reassure my fellow innocent Californians that we are doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
--Harold Hall lives in Los Angeles and works for the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
September 18, 2007The Justice Project
Health care reform may have stalled in California, but Governor Schwarzenegger still has a chance to make the state a leader in fixing a national problem: wrongful convictions. Three major criminal justice reform bills are now on the Governor's desk. The measures are designed to safeguard against wrongful convictions by making practical changes to eyewitness identification procedures, reforming the process by which confessions are attained, and regulating the use of jailhouse snitch testimony.
With more than 200 exonerations to date in California it is critical that measures are enacted before more mistakes are made. The governor has the ability to not only protect the innocent but enhance public safety and the integrity of California's law enforcement by signing these important bills into law, and setting a standard for the nation. The first in this trio of vital legislation-Senate Bill 756-addresses the development of new guidelines for statewide eyewitness identification procedures.
Eyewitness identification is notably unreliable. Study after study has shown that faulty eyewitness identification is one of the most common causes of wrongful conviction. In fact, it has played a pivotal role in 75% of the cases nationwide where DNA later exonerated the person convicted. See The Justice Project's policy review Improving Eyewitness Identification Procedures at http://www.thejusticeproject.org/solution/eyewitness-id.html for more information.
Practical changes to identification procedures like cautionary instructions to witnesses, effective use of fillers, full documentation of lineup procedures, witness statements of certainty, and double-blind administration can significantly improve the accuracy of eyewitness identifications.
In addition to this critical reform, recording custodial interrogations (Senate Bill 511) and corroborating jailhouse snitch testimony (Senate Bill 609) have been shown to help prevent wrongful convictions.
False confessions have played a significant role in wrongful convictions in California, and in approximately 20% of wrongful convictions nationwide. Because confessions are often viewed as the most powerful evidence at trial, other types of evidence that point to a defendant's innocence might be disregarded in lieu of a confession. Decades of psychological research have demonstrated how some traditional and aggressive interrogation techniques can lead to false confessions. Senate Bill 511 will require electronic recording of interrogations in both juvenile and adult cases and will protect law enforcement from false claims of coercion or abuse by providing an objective record. For more information see The Justice Project's policy review Electronic Recording of Custodial Interrogations at http://www.thejusticeproject.org/solution/interrogations.html
Senate Bill 609 would require corroboration for jailhouse snitch testimony, meeting one of the best practices for reforming the use of snitch testimony identified in The Justice Project's newest release, Jailhouse Snitch Testimony: A Policy Review at http://www.thejusticeproject.org/solution/snitch/. Jailhouse snitch testimony is widely regarded as the least reliable form of evidence in the criminal justice system. Higher standards for admitting snitch testimony at trial must be put in place to protect the innocent.
Law enforcement, prosecutors, and the community will all benefit from the adoption of these three reform measures. Implementation of these bills will result in stronger prosecutions, more efficient proceedings, and more reliable outcomes in criminal cases giving the public greater confidence in the criminal justice system.
Given the many documented cases of injustice in California and across the nation, the need for improvements within the criminal justice system is especially great. The time is now for Governor Schwarzenegger to take a step forward toward criminal justice reform. We hope that he will see the benefits of these bills to California and the nation and sign them into law.
John F. Terzano is the President of The Justice Project, a nonpartisan organization that works to address unfairness and inaccuracy in the criminal justice system, with a focus on the capital punishment system.
September 12, 2007
Go watch a recent Dan Rather Reports -- DID TEXAS EXECUTE INNOCENT MEN? DAN RATHER REPORTS INVESTIGATES SIGNIFICANT FLAWS IN TWO TEXAS DEATH PENALTY CASES
Dan Rather Reports reveals new details surrounding two capital murder cases in Texas - leading to the executions of two men that may have occurred as the result of flawed evidence.
In “Did Texas Execute Innocent Men?” Dan Rather speaks with key players in the cases of both Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna both of whom died by lethal injection in Texas where more than one-third of the nation’s executions take place.
September 5, 2007
I am at the Carter Center in Atlanta to observe the 2007 Human Rights Defenders Policy Forum. The Carter Center brings together leaders of the world’s human rights effort for discussions to try to find policy solutions that can help lessen the problem of human rights violations and atrocities that occur again and again in the world. In the next couple of days former President Jimmy Carter will be speaking, as will Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Karin Ryan, Director of the Carter Center’s Human Rights Program writes,
“Why does the international community fail again and again to respond to these crises before they take on catastrophic dimensions?”The ongoing Human Rights Defenders Policy Forums attempt to answer that question and find solutions.
This year’s conference brings together human rights defenders of different faiths, to discuss ways that the common traditions of faith in the struggle for human dignity can be utilized to provide new channels for approaching these problems. Karin again,
“What might be accomplished if the reawakening of faith that is taking place throughout the globe were accompanied by a heightened commitment to put a stop to human rights violations in many places where they are ignored?”
So I find myself in Atlanta to observe and write about this conference. Today's discussions are off the record as the participants work to find common areas to discuss in the public conference of the next two days. This gives me a chance to write about what it is like to be here.
What is it like? The Carter Center is a very nice facility, with excellent conference amenities. It includes the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum. (The museum includes a replica of the Oval Office and I hope I get a chance to sneak over and see it. I'll let you know.) The conference takes place in an auditorium, with a horseshoe-shaped table for the approx. twenty international Human Rights Defender participants and ten or so organizational representatives. (There will be more over the next couple of days.) There are two rows of observer tables at the edges of the room, which is where I am. I have an earpiece for translation as people speak if needed. During the coffee break I spoke to a man who showed me the places where agents of his government cut him with a machete.
And that is what my first day as an observer is like. I flew here from California and landed in a nice airport. I am staying in a nice hotel. I am typing on a computer in the hallway of a very nice conference center. I carry in my head what is probably a widely-shared image of an ideal modern, civil life. I might not live that life (or even want to or think it is sustainable) but I feel that many of us reading this probably do share the image, because you are probably reading it on a computer in a modern society. In this Ideal Modern Life we have our jobs. We drive around in cars and go to shops. We consume and have our brand attachments. We watch TV shows and are entertained. We have houses and gardens. And somewhere else in the world these things are happening.
It is the 21st century and these things are not only happening, but the world's ability to confront such problems seems to be diminishing. The forces of racial, religious, national, ethnic, ideological, economic and environmental division seem to be gaining the upper hand. This is a conference where Human Rights Defenders struggle to find ways to help keep them from continuing to happen. The people here come from places where these things happen, but part of their message is that these things can happen when the world does not make it enough of a priority to keep them from happening.
Over the next two days I will be blogging at the Skoll Foundation's Social Edge blog, and cross-posted at the conference's own blog. I invite you to drop in. I'll post summaries here as well, when I can, but mostly I'll be posting there.
Blogging is a conversation. It is interactive. So please join this discussion and leave comments here - or better, leave them over at the Social Edge blog as the conference unfolds.
September 4, 2007
I'm blogging from the airport because the plane to Atlanta is more than an hour late (imagine that.)
I can't check in online anymore, and can't use the machines at the airport. When I finally got through the line to the check-in counter I was told that "Dave Johnson' is "on a list" now.
Fortunately it is someone with a different birthday they are looking for, and I can get a boarding pass after showing my ID. But this is the second time this happened, and it s a major hassle having to wait in the line for the check-in counter. And it will,of course, happen every time I fly from now on. There are probably a LOT of people named Dave Johnson who have to go through this.
August 31, 2007
While writing today about what conservatives are saying, I came across this little gem -- The mortgage crisis is because we allowed black people to get mortgages. Townhall.com::The Subprime Mortgage Market In Perspective,
Scarcely a soul will recall that political pressure over red-lining was partially responsible for the subprime failures in the first place.And while on this subject, in my earlier post about conservative philosophy, I chose not to comment on the blatant racism of the conservative Townhall post but I will point it out now. That post wrote about the "shiftless people" of New Orleans and makes a point of calling the mayor, "Mr. "Chocolate City." And the readers "got it."
I don't usually fault bloggers for the comments they elicit, but this post was very clear in its point, and the number of readers leaving racist comments demonstrated that they got that point. Comment examples,
Yes, Katrina was different. It was different because of the huge fat women sitting on the kerb surrounded by their 12 year old daughters with their babies, chanting WE WANTS HEP! instad of getting up off their fat behinds and looking after themselves.Other comment examples:
Two weeks after 9/11 the news cameras had packed up and refused to show us any more video or film; months later in New Orleans we were still being treated to shots of wailing Black women and their fatherless babies sitting on their backsides and screaming for cash.
The difference between Katrina and New York City on 9/11 is five letters long. B L A C K.
You're very lucky you don't own a business because a Mr. Jackson and a Mr. Sharpton would be on your doorstep shaking you down for reparations payments.
...Presidents from now on will have to tell all the citizens down there, sitting on their fat, welfare fed butts, that we'll never forget and the checks are coming.
In a nation where many people think that they are entitled to reparations for slavery, it is unlikely we will get over Katrina anytime soon.
Time to get these 'welfare queens' off the government dole.
Has no one noticed that the middle class blacks left New Orleans? It was the ones who were poor that got left behind. And one of the main reasons they are poor are because of liberal policies that hurt family values and promote a general sense of irresponsibility - not just among blacks but among liberals in general.
The fat Blacks in New Orleans should take a note.
...they need a Guliani-esque type mayor to reshape i.e. clean out the inept police force and instill a tough clean up the streets type police chief who will dredge up the thugs that rule New Orleans and deposit them in the can.
Yes, they came here to Houston. Our crime rate is over the top. Between the "victims" and the illegals you can just imagine. ... They are still having regular Americans pay their rent. Of course, ACORN is involved as well as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. Go figure.
Before intergration, we dealt with MORE issues than waiting on a governement check
if the pictures from NOLA had shown fat WHITE women sitting on the kerbstone chanting WE WANTS HEP! instead of stirring their stumps on their own behalf, the answer would now be a yawn, just as it was when the Wal-Mart Looter Video showed that even the Black COPS were stealing. And remember how many of these same people said that the reason "Whitey" did not come with sedan chairs to carry them away to a Five Star Life of Ease was RACISM.
The dems have created, coddled and kept down an entire population for the past forty years. The "victims" have become the life blood of your party. The population of NO is a great example of what your party has done. There are people who literally can't do a darn thing for themselves. That's not being compassionate, that's being elitist and superior. Lastly, I find nothing progressive about your party. You have used the same ploys for decades, race baiting and class envy.
It is NOT katrina that wiped-out and ruined NO. It is a large segment of this citizenry that created the nightmare that is NO prior too, during and after. There is no amount of government money that will make these citizens change themselves or their behaviors.
Nagin's "Chocolate City" was a s*** hole before Katrina, and an even worse one now. I lost whatever sympathy I had for the NO "refugees" a few days after the storm, when so many of them wound up here in Houston, and prompty started scamming everyone in sight, from the Feds on down, for money. Never mind how much the crime rate here skyrocketed after they showed up, and even how the local school district was talking about setting up separate schools for the "refugee's" kids, since they could not seem to attend the regular schools without assaulting the locals right and left.
the theme of blacks on Welfare dominates because in New Orleans, blacks dominate. It is, as the Mayor said, a "chocolate city."
Did you forget to mention that blacks represent 13% of the population yet 47% of the welfare recipients are black? ...You're intellect is stellar. So.....what you meant is blacks are approx. 10 times more likely to be on welfare white people, nnless you "forget" to use poulation statistics.There is a lot more there but it's too sickening to continue...
August 22, 2007
This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project
Harold Hall was only 18 years old when he was sent to prison. He spent nearly two decades of his life in a California prison for crimes he did not commit.
Hall was wrongfully convicted of double murder in 1985 based in part on evidence provided by a jailhouse informant who fabricated a confession Hall allegedly made to him.
Jailhouse informant testimony is widely regarded as the least reliable form of testimony in the criminal justice system, but unfortunately in Mr. Hall’s case and numerous others, uncorroborated testimony from unscrupulous jailhouse informants, or “snitches,” is still used by prosecutors to obtain convictions.
According to a San Francisco Magazine study, unreliable testimony of informants was a factor in approximately 20% of all wrongful convictions in California. This problem extends nationwide as shown in a study by The Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, which identifies snitch testimony as the leading cause of wrongful convictions in U.S. capital cases.
Higher standards for admitting snitch testimony at trial must be put in place to protect innocent people like Mr. Hall from the consequences of unreliable, incentive-driven testimony. Best practices to safeguard against perjured testimony include:
- Mandatory, automatic pretrial disclosures of information related to jailhouse informant testimony
- Corroboration of the facts to which an informant testifies, special jury instructions
- Higher standards for the admissibility of snitch testimony at trial.
A vital piece of legislation for raising the standards of use for jailhouse informant testimony, is California Senate Bill 609, sponsored by Senator Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), which requires corroboration for jailhouse informants.
The bill has passed the State Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committee, and will soon be heading to the Assembly Floor for a final vote. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office has endorsed the bill and they are already applying informant corroboration as a rule. But if the bill passes the Assembly, Governor Schwarzenegger will have an opportunity to implement this important reform statewide.
In addition to corroborating jailhouse informant testimony, improving eyewitness identification and videotaping custodial interrogations have been shown to prevent wrongful convictions. Senate Bill 756, sponsored by Senator Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles, Culver City), addresses the development of new guidelines for eyewitness identification procedures, and Senate Bill 511, sponsored by Senator Elaine K. Alquist (D-Santa Clara), would require full electronic recording of interrogations in both juvenile and adult cases.
Wrongful convictions such as Mr. Hall’s plague our criminal justice system and can no longer be ignored. We hope that the legislature will support these three critical bills and that the Governor will ultimately sign them into law. California law enforcement, prosecutors, and the community will all benefit from more reliable outcomes in criminal cases.
John F. Terzano is the President of The Justice Project, a nonpartisan organization that works to address unfairness and inaccuracy in the criminal justice system, with a focus on the capital punishment system.
August 20, 2007
This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project
David Allen Jones spent 12 agonizing years in a California prison for a crime he did not commit. Then DNA exonerated him.
Mr. Jones was convicted of three murders he falsely confessed to after being interrogated by a team of detectives and taken to each of the crime scenes. During the intense interrogation, Jones was prodded by detectives and corrected when he gave statements that contradicted the evidence.
Jones was a mentally retarded, part-time janitor with an IQ in the low 60’s. There was no physical evidence or witnesses linking Jones to any of the killings and he was convicted almost entirely as a result of his false confession.
Unfortunately, Mr. Jones story is not unique. False confessions have played a role in wrongful convictions in California, and in approximately 20% of wrongful convictions nationwide. (Please visit The Justice Project’s website for information on reforms that will help prevent false confessions): http://www.thejusticeproject.org/solution/interrogations.html. Also the ACLU of Northern California has an effort underway to help end wrongful convictions.)
Confessions are often viewed as the most powerful evidence at trial, and can even overcome other types of evidence that points to the defendant’s innocence. For this reason, it is essential that reforms be put in place to ensure that confessions are reliable.
Decades of psychological research have demonstrated how some traditional and aggressive interrogation techniques can lead to false confessions. These include the use of false information, lengthy interrogation sessions. When paired with certain personality characteristics, these techniques can cause a person to falsely confess.
Reforms are needed to help judges and juries accurately assess the circumstances surrounding a confession. To this end, California must mandate the full electronic recording of custodial interrogations – from the Miranda warning until the end of the interview. These reforms will also help protect police officers from false claims of coercion or abuse by providing an objective record of the facts.
It is especially important to record interrogations involving juvenile suspects and those whom authorities have reason to believe are mentally retarded or mentally ill. As demonstrated in Mr. Jones’ case, these populations are particularly vulnerable to interrogation tactics and significantly more likely to falsely confess.
The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice has taken a major step in the prevention of wrongful convictions by sponsoring Senate Bill 511, authored by Senator Elaine K. Alquist (D-Santa Clara). This bill addresses the problem of false confessions by requiring full electronic recording of interrogations in both juvenile and adult cases.
The bill has already passed the State Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committee, and it will soon be heading to the Assembly Floor for a final vote. Last year, in a major setback in the prevention of wrongful convictions in the state, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed an earlier version of this bill. If the new interrogation reform bill passes the Assembly, the Governor will have an opportunity to sign into law this important reform that protects suspects and protects police officers.
Along with electronic recording of interrogations, improving eyewitness identification and raising standards for the use of jailhouse informant testimony has been shown to prevent wrongful convictions. Senate Bill 756, sponsored by Senator Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles, Culver City), addresses the development of new guidelines for eyewitness identification procedures and Senate Bill 609, sponsored by Senator Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), would require corroboration for jailhouse informants.
Cases of injustice in California, such as David Allen Jones, illustrate the need for improvements within the criminal justice system. But the mistakes leading to wrongful convictions can be prevented—we hope that Legislators will support these three essential bills, and that the Governor will ultimately sign them into law.
John F. Terzano is the President of The Justice Project, a nonpartisan organization that works to address unfairness and inaccuracy in the criminal justice system, with a focus on the capital punishment system.
August 15, 2007
This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project
Herman Atkins suffered for 12 years in a California prison – for crimes he did not commit. Then DNA exonerated him. Mr. Atkins was a victim of faulty eyewitness identification.
Mr. Atkins’ wrongful conviction for rape and robbery began when the victim and a witness identified him as the perpetrator after seeing his picture on a wanted poster for an unrelated crime. Then, the photo array used later by police also contained the wanted poster photo, which had already been viewed by the witnesses.
Watch three minutes of Herman’s story on YouTube:
What happened to Mr. Atkins is not as uncommon as it should be. Eyewitness identification is notably unreliable. According to a detailed 2004 analysis of California wrongful convictions by San Francisco Magazine, faulty eyewitness identification was a factor in 60% of the 200 cases of people proven to have been wrongly convicted in the state since 1989.
Indeed, study after study has shown that faulty eyewitness identification is one of the most common causes of wrongful convictions. Faulty eyewitness identification played a pivotal role in 75% of the cases nationwide where DNA later exonerated the person convicted.
We now know through decades of empirical research that practical changes to identification procedures such as
- cautionary instructions to witnesses,
- effective use of fillers,
- full documentation of the lineup procedures and a witness’s statement of certainty,
- and double-blind administration
In California, however, only the Santa Clara Sheriff and Police departments have voluntarily adopted these best practices.
The good news is that Senate Bill 756, sponsored by Senator Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles, Culver City), addresses the development of new guidelines for statewide eyewitness identification procedures.
The bill has already passed the State Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committee, and it will soon be heading to the Assembly Floor for a final vote. An earlier version of an eyewitness reform bill was taken up in the legislature last year, but it was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. If this new eyewitness reform bill passes the Assembly, the Governor will soon have an opportunity to sign into law this important reform.
It is also important to note that in addition to improving eyewitness identification, videotaping custodial interrogations and corroborating jailhouse informant testimony have been shown to help prevent wrongful convictions. Senate Bill 511, sponsored by Senator Elaine K. Alquist (D-Santa Clara), would require full electronic recording of interrogations in both juvenile and adult cases and Senate Bill 609, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), would require corroboration for jailhouse informants.
Given the documented cases of miscarriages of justice in California – and the research indicating that many of the errors leading to wrongful convictions can be prevented - we hope that Legislators will support these three essential bills, and that the Governor will ultimately sign them into law. Lawmakers have a duty, not only to the public safety, but also to the wrongly convicted like Herman Atkins, to take the necessary steps to ensure that the state’s criminal justice system is as fair and accurate as possible.
August 6, 2007
This is a guest post by Kirk Bloodsworth of The Justice Project
My name is Kirk Bloodsworth, and my case was the first capital conviction case in the United States to be overturned through DNA testing. I was exonerated in 1993 after spending almost nine years in prison, including two on death row, for a crime I did not commit.
Eyewitness misidentification played a pivotal role in my conviction and is now a major issue in the case of Georgia death row inmate, Troy Davis . In Davis’ case, seven of the nine eyewitnesses have recanted or contradicted their original testimony. The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles will review his case on August 9 but he faces execution.
My life changed dramatically when I was arrested for the rape and murder of 9-year-old Dawn Hamilton in August, 1984. I was arrested after an anonymous caller told police that I was seen with the victim the day of the crime and an identification made by a witness from a police sketch that was based on the recollections of five eyewitnesses.
Two little boys described the suspect as six feet five inches tall with a slim build and dirty blond hair – but at the time of my arrest, I was six feet tall, with a thick waist, fiery red hair, and long sideburns. Even so, I was identified in a line-up as the last man seen with the victim.
My family and friends swore that I was with them at the time of the murder, but the jury convicted me in less than three hours and I was sentenced to death for the crime.
I spent 8 years, 11 months, and 19 days behind bars before DNA testing proved my innocence. After years of urging, officials in Maryland finally ran the biological evidence that exonerated me through the state’s database, and it matched the DNA of the person who had committed the horrific crime.
In my case, five separate eyewitnesses who testified at trial were later shown to be mistaken. Although two of the witnesses were children, and the identification procedures proved to be highly suggestive, the eyewitness evidence carried immense weight with the jury and led to my conviction.
Eyewitness misidentification is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions in the United States. Since 1989, DNA evidence has been used to exonerate over 200 individuals who were wrongly convicted and of those, approximately 75 percent were convicted on evidence that included inaccurate and faulty eyewitness identifications.
Had DNA testing not been available, I would still be in prison today. In Troy Davis’ case, along with the vast majority of criminal cases in this country, DNA or other biological evidence is not available; hence eyewitness testimony holds tremendous importance in establishing guilt or innocence. Unfortunately, eyewitness testimony is highly subjective and susceptible to numerous forms of contamination from poorly conducted police lineups, to the lack of careful documentation of the identification, which increases possible manipulation of witness certainty.
While Troy Davis awaits execution mounting evidence casts a large shadow of doubt his conviction. The flaws of our broken criminal justice system in Georgia now threaten to take the life of a man based solely on highly suggestive, unreliable evidence.
I was a former United States Marine with no criminal record, who was never at the scene of the crime, but I was still convicted and sentenced to death for a crime I did not commit. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Until changes are made in Georgia and elsewhere to ensure that eyewitness identification procedures are accurate and reliable, great caution must be taken in using eyewitness testimony and evidence as the sole means in ascertaining guilt.
The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles should grant Troy Davis clemency to ensure that the horrific mistakes made in his case, my case, and numerous others are not repeated.
Kirk Bloodsworth is the program officer of The Justice Project, a nonpartisan organization that works to address unfairness and inaccuracy in the criminal justice system, with a focus on the capital punishment system.
July 6, 2007
An appeals court dismissed the ACLU lawsuit to stop illegal NSA spying on Americans - writing that even though the spying is illegal they can't sue because:
1) They can't prove they are being spied on personally, and
2) They aren't allowed to find out if they are being spied on.
The appeals court ruled that the plaintiffs could not sue because they can't prove they were affected by the program, and at the same time, ruled that details about the program, including who was targeted, are state secrets.
But according to a Reuters report,
The ACLU plaintiffs included lawyers who said they could not defend clients accused of terrorism because the government, under the wiretapping program, could listen into attorney-client conversations.And, of course, the ruling is another product of Republican politicization of the judicial system,
But the two judges in the majority opinion said the plaintiffs had failed to prove they were under surveillance.
The two judges in the majority, Julia Smith Gibbons and Batchelder, are Republican appointees, named by Bush and his father, respectively.
Judge Ronald Lee Gilman, appointed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, dissented. Gilman said he would uphold the ruling last year on the grounds that the program violated the 1978 law.
June 30, 2007
Mike Stark has posted a diary at DailyKos that includes a transcript of my "Rule of Law" questions for Speaker Pelosi. Daily Kos: I talked impeachment with Nancy Pelosi (audio),
[. . .] Dave Johnson (of Seeing the Forest): We seem to be at a historic time right now with an administration that is starting to frankly assert that they are above the rule of law, and I’m wondering if you as Speaker can give us a short statement on this issue and what Congress is prepared to do to re-assert the rule of law of the people of the country.And you have to go there to read the answer. (Remember to click the Recommend button while you are there.)
BONUS - My follow-up question, "Dave: Just a quick follow-up. What are you going to do about it?"
Update - More, with analysis, at BraveNewFilms Blog: Speaker Pelosi on The War, Impeachment and Accountability.
June 16, 2007
Lee Kaplan writes at David Horowitz's far-right, anti-Muslim FrontPageMag.com. A college student set up the blog Lee Kaplan Watch to expose what the guy is writing. He was sued by Kaplan in small claims court for "business interference," and Kaplan won $7500. because it was small claims court the judge was not required to explain his decision.
The blogger writes,
I hope that sufficient attention is paid to the great danger that what has happened to me poses to all of us. It is by all means a serious issue. My first amendment rights have been subverted with support from the courts, which only shows that everybody is in danger of facing these abusive small claims court defamation suits. My speech has been punished by a ruling with no opinion explaining why or advising me what not to do in the future. My credibility has been tarnished by a trial with incredibly low standards for admissible evidence and a messy, inconsistent court procedure. And, for me, worst of all: I will never know what element of Kaplan's claim, if any, the judge agreed with, though Kaplan will certainly continue to claim that all of them were accepted, though he knows well that this is not the case.This is a freedom of speech and right-to-blog issue. We must do something to reverse this because it will become a convenient way for right-wingers to harass all of us.
May 23, 2007
I saw Al Gore talk at a book signing for his book, The Assault On Reason, in Marin County (north of San Francisco) this evening. He was supposed to talk for a short time, take questions and sign books, but he just got going an gave one of the most inspired, intelligent and I think historically important articulations of the current threat to the American experiment and our democracy that I have heard. He was just on fire.
Gore says our country’s problems go beyond the manipulations and corruptions of Bush and Cheney. He talks about what has happened to this country that we could have ever allow a Bush and Cheney and their lies and evasions and incuriosity to take the reigns of our government – and allowed them to stay there after it became clear what they are about. And he has some very insightful things to say about the historical forces that brought us where we are, and how they might guide us through this.
At times he sounded like a guru, talking about “truthforce,” about how honesty enables us to see clearly without the distortions and distractions that come from constant TV exposure to trivia like gossip about Paris Hilton and Britney and work to push deadly situations like the Iraq war and global warming from our discourse. This is a man who has thought about what is happening to us, and who has the vision and experience to come up with some answers.
He asked how could not just the President, but the Congress, the media and the rest of our system of checks and balances and watchdogs have let Iraq – which he called the worst strategic blunder in our history – happen? How could he public have been fooled into thinking that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11? It’s not just Bush who did that – it’s all of us. Bush is just a symptom. We are ALL responsible for the decisions our country makes. So we all have to get involved and start fixing this broken system. Democracy is not a spectator sport.
I have only had time to read excerpts from Gore’s book, The Assault On Reason, but I predict that the conversation it fuels will be fundamentally and historically important. Buy this book! And listen for news of Gore coming to your area, or appearing on TV, to talk about this subject. The guy is just on fire and I think that fire could catch and spread and help bring about the changes we need.
It’s late or I would write more. I am inspired. (does it show?) I hope that a video of this evening’s talk surfaces soon. I'll post about it if I learn of one.
April 18, 2007
At Firedoglake: Don’t Reward Failure By Giving Money to NARAL,
And what did they do with all that cash? They sat it and didn't do a damn thing, didn't lift a finger to fight Samuel Alito. Worse yet, when the Gang of 14 decided to vote in favor of cloture, they said that they did not consider cloture votes "significant" and would not be considering them in their scorecard. They then went on to add insult to injury by asking their membership to thank Lincoln Chafee and Joe Lieberman for the beatings they delivered with their "aye" cloture vote by pretending that their "nay" floor votes were significant. They then poured salt into the wound by endorsing both "short ride" Lieberman and Chafee over their opponents who made it clear that they would not have voted for cloture for Alito, which gave us the 5-4 decision we have today.Go read.
Don't reward failure. Tell your friends. Don't give money to NARAL when they come knocking on your door to tell you that choice is going down the crapper unless you give them a lot of money, because what you'll be giving money for is Nancy Keenan's ability to point her little pinky over tea at Washington cocktail parties and tut-tut over the state of choice in this country at the hands of the fundamentalists. She'll take no responsibility for the fact that NARAL will not fight, will not back those that fight, and worse yet, that NARAL sucks up all the pro-choice money so nobody else can mount a meaningful fight, either.
April 14, 2007
This looks like it might be yet another political prosecution. This time it isn't a US Attorney engaging in a political prosecution in order to keep the job -- instead it involves one of those NEW, Rove-approved US Attorneys who replaced those US Attorneys fired for failing to engage in political prosecutions. This prosecution shows us what to expect from now on. This one is prosecuting a guy entirely for political and not legal reasons, AFTER the courts threw out the case AND after the judge said they should drop the charges.
This case is about medical marijuana. California voters passed an initiative allowing the use of marijuana for AIDS, cancer and other patients because it helps them to eat and reduces symptoms. The Christian Right doesn't like that so the Bush administration has been prosecuting people for Federal crimes - even though they are legally operating according to state law.
From the article, Prosecutors will retry Ed Rosenthal, known as the `guru of ganja',
Federal prosecutors said today they would retry marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal on cultivation charges, even after a federal judge urged them to drop the case and chastised the government for lodging charges solely to punish the self-proclaimed "guru of ganja."So here we go, another political prosecution from a Rove-connected prosecutor?
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer demanded to know who in the Department of Justice made the decision to continue pursuing Rosenthal, who had his original conviction overturned last year.
... Newly appointed U.S. Attorney Scott Schools made the decision, said Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan, but he was not sure if Department of Justice officials in Washington were involved. [all emphasis added]
December 15, 2006
he Dumbest Trial of the Century has been discharged with a hung jury. Now that I’m free to talk about it, I’m going to vent.Go read why.
December 14, 2006
Does Prison Harden Criminals ? - Christopher Hayes' blog talks about a study that shows "harsher prisons do make people more likely to commit crimes once they’re released."
September 29, 2006
Keep this in mind. If your neighbor's mean-ass pit bull comes into your yard and bites you, you don't get mad at your own dog for not protecting you. First order of business is to get rid of the god-damned pit bull. After all, he's the one that's really responsible for your wounds. Once that's done, then you can worry about giving your own sorry pooch some watch-dog training.Go see the whole list, then send EACH of their challengers in this election $1000. EACH ONE!
(And if you really do that, remember my tip jar, too!)
September 25, 2006
Arianna Huffington, in Bill Clinton's Bipartisan Love-In Blows Up in His Face writes,
Hooray! Good for Bill Clinton. He finally called Fox News and the right-wing on their BS, right? Well, sort of.There is a fundamental point here. I, and many others, think that the Democratic leadership has profoundly misjudged the nature and intentions of the conservative movement. John Dean, in his book Conservatives Without Conscience, warns that we are witnessing the rise of an authoritarian government, and Kevin Phillips, in American Theocracy, warns that the current Republican leadership is intent on bringing about a theocracy. This is not politics-as-usual. THIS is what the bloggers are so shrill about.
... I'm glad the Chris Wallace interview is flying all over the internet, but I really hope that one person who will watch it over and over again is Bill Clinton. And that on the fifth or sixth viewing it might occur to him that the more cover he gives Bush and his cronies, the more they're able to increase and entrench their power. Power they use to destroy everything that Clinton purports to stand for.
In March I wrote,
Maybe, just maybe, they mean the things they are saying. And I think this warning about the extreme things the Right is saying is a big part of what political blogging is about.
... So political bloggers are more likely than others to be visiting websites and forums where right-wingers more openly discuss their ideas, or are more likely to be listening to Limbaugh and others on the radio. And what we are reading and hearing is frightening. The things they are saying to each other are DIFFERENT from what they are saying to the public. The things they are writing and saying are extreme and violent and subversive. It is not like what we as Americans are used to reading and hearing.The signs are all around us -- take it seriously.
The things the Republicans are saying and doing are so extreme that regular people refuse to believe it when you try to warn them about what is happening.
... Bloggers are trying to warn the public that what is going on in America is DIFFERENT from politics-as-usual. The bloggers have been trying to get the Democratic leadership and the media to understand this. We are seeing something new to America forming, something dangerous to democracy. The "pendulum" is not swinging back.
... When will the Democratic leadership begin to realize that the extreme things the Republicans are saying might be what they mean to do?
Watch your backs.
September 17, 2006
Former Reagan Administration official Paul Craig Roberts, America Has Fallen to a Jacobin Coup,
The most important casualties of September 11 are respect for truth and American liberty. Propaganda has replaced deliberation based on objective assessment of fact. The resurrection of the Star Chamber has made moot the legal protections of liberty.
The US invasion of Iraq was based on the deliberate suppression of fact. The invasion was not the result of mistaken intelligence. It was based on deliberately concocted "intelligence" designed to deceive the US Congress, the American public, and the United Nations.
[. . .] There is an even greater cost of the war – the legal system that protects liberty, a human achievement for which countless numbers of people gave their lives over the centuries. The Bush administration used September 11 to whip up fear and hysteria and to employ these weapons against American liberty. The Orwellian-named Patriot Act has destroyed habeas corpus. The executive branch has gained the unaccountable power to detain American citizens on mere suspicion or accusation, without evidence, and to hold Americans indefinitely without a trial.This is just excerpts. Go read it.
Foolishly, many Americans believe this power can only be used against terrorists. Americans don’t realize that the government can declare anyone to be a terrorist suspect. As no evidence is required, it is entirely up to the government to decide who is a terrorist. Thus, the power is unaccountable. Unaccountable power is the source of tyranny.
[. . .] The collapse of the institutions that confine government to law and bind it with the Constitution was sudden. The president previous to Bush was impeached by the House for lying about a sexual affair. If we go back to the 1970s, President Richard Nixon had the decency to resign when it came to light that he had lied about when he first learned of a minor burglary. Bush’s failures are far more serious and numerous; yet, Bush has escaped accountability.
September 14, 2006
On a blogger call with Senator Reid today, I asked if there is any indiaction that the administration is using the NSA's powerful surveillance capabilities for political purposes. Senator Reid said that he is so disillusioned with the Bush admnistration, with how Cheney just comes out and lies, and Rice just lies - saying things on the news shows this weekend that they certainly know to be false, intending to mislead the public - that, "I don't know what they would do."
Watch your backs.
August 20, 2006
President Bush recently changed his definition of who "the enemy" is from bin Laden and the al Queda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 to "Islamic fascists" in general, sending the right after Islam in general and Middle Easterners in particular. The other day I wrote about how the Right's amplification machine was picking up the signal on this, calling for "racial profiling" of Middle-Easterners, even though not all Muslims are Middle Eastern. Of course, never mind about Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph and others of domestic origin.
Let's be clear what "profiling" means - it means singling out all people of a certain racial appearance for harassment and intimidation. And let's be clear about what complaints about "political correctness" and "multiculturalism" are - they are racist phrases demanding domination and privilege for those of European descent.
The Right is also heavily promoting books like, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam,
When PC propagandists assure us that jihadist terror doesn't reflect "true," "peaceful" Islam, they're not only wrong, they're dangerous...and The Life and Religion of Mohammed, sold with
... reveals all the disturbing facts about Islam and its murderous hostility to the West that other books ignore, soft-pedal -- or simply lie about.
This book is a unique guide to the bloody teachings and history of Islam, and to the Crusades that still stand today as the Western world's most sustained and successful defense against the warrior hordes who were inspired by those teachings.
"Mohammed: the ugly truth about the founder of the world's most violent religion." and "With Islam on the march everywhere and Muslims streaming into the U.S. in record numbers, the candor, common sense, and solid Christian faith of this book are needed more than ever."Today the Right is promoting a story about a "mutiny" aboard a British flight in which fearful British passengers refused to let a plane take off because there were two dark-skinned, Arabic-speaking men aboard, encouraging people to follow this example and start taking matters into their own hands. As I write this the lead post at the "respectable" right-wing hub Towhhall has the very popular TV and radio celebrity Bill O'Reilly writing,
Of course, the sane way to protect Americans in the sky is to stop looking for nail files and begin profiling people who might actually cause terror damage. That is not "racial" profiling, that is "terror" profiling. Most of the recent terror activities have been perpetuated by young Muslim men.Now take a look at this right-wing blog post, British Air Passengers Mutiny and the comments it solicits, the post blaming "politically correct touchy-feely multiculturalism" for the passengers' reaction.
This one, like many others, make the appeal for people to take matters into their own hands.
It appears that if “we the flying public” are going to be safe, no one but ourselves is going to save us. The hell with political correctness! We need more mutinies of this nature. It’s our money paying for these trips and, ultimately, our lives that are in jeopardy. If the airlines and our “PC” brethren don’t like it, I say “Then follow your own rules!”Or take a look at this one that goes after those who resist "profiling," writing,
I now doubt that anything will bring the so-called “moderate Muslims” out from their hiding places, in order to speak against their suicidal and homicidal brethren. But, at least a few, or many, more of these mutinies might just get the airlines to step up and listen. Contrary to politically-correct opinion, profiling is a good thing—at least if you want to have your best chance of remaining alive.
One mustn’t risk offending anybody, after all, even if tippy-toeing around the obvious truth leads to hundreds or thousands of dead civilians.This one says "'Asians,' of course, is UK mediaspeak for Muslims." It goes on to make the typical victimized claim that there will now be
"calls by Muslim leaders and their willing Leftist stooges for some kind of institutionalized and nationwide "education" (i.e. propaganda) campaign to prevent this sort of thing."The comments at these MAINSTREAM hate sites talk about having the "guts" to go after "towel heads" and praising the "Second Amendment," asking for "Arab-free flights" and saying things like, "Arabs and Muslims need to feel the pain." "They [Muslims] Mshould all be banned from flying and have to pay for their own extremists directly by not flying, the extremists and moderates have caused all of this murder and chaos." "I have been reading the articles and comments for over a year and have to say they have woken me up to the reality of Islam."
Is this just a conservative build-up to the election -- or the beginnings of something worse?
Watch your backs.
August 17, 2006
A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.Keep in mind that all this means is they have to start getting warrants -- follow the law and Constitution just like how we have always done it in this country.
U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.
So, how will the right react? Will they have respect for the Constitution and the law? We'll see.
OK, we're seeing. It's the usual -- attack the judge. For example, comments promoted by a post at Ace of Spades HQ,
Not only is she a Carter appointee, she is Black. Want to bet she was admitted to Yale on a Minority set a side? Maybe she's related to Conners, the other Black nut from Mo Town.Similarly at RedState,
As said by Abraham Lincoln: The court has made thier decision. Now let's see them enforce it.
The judges and lawyers will doom this country.
The Justice Department should reply to this ruling by announcing that they are really busy monitoring the race and sex of all government employees to comply with "diversity" requrements. This task will render the DOJ unable to comply with this ruling for several....years.Remember, we're talking about requiring warrants, that's all.
Anna Diggs Taylor - appointed May 1979 by President Jimmy Carter
Confirmed by Democratically-controlled Senate in October 1979
One of Carter's last actions to destroy this country before he was booted from office. Ugh.
Strata-Sphere writes, (apparently not knowing that there WERE warrants for all the taps mentioned),
Remember how phone calls and money transfers from Pakistan to the UK helped expose the plot details and the fact we were days away from its implementation. Recall how all the lefties from Lamont on have claimed America cannot be allowed to monitor terrorist communications with their associates here in the US and monitor their financial transfers to detect and stop the next 9-11. Well hold on folks, but another unelected judge has decided Terrorists need protection because we may listen in on their calls to the Holiday Inn reservation line and that risk is more dire than 3,000 + people dying in an attack (more hear at WaPo).Which inspired comments:
... OK Al Qaeda - it is now open season on Americans. Go to it. We are disarming.
... Lamont supporters at Kosland are all ecstatic that we have been ordered to surrender to Al Qaeda...
You may believe all that nonsense about how we must uphold the constitution! How many times do you suicidal idiots have to be told that the constitution is NOT a suicide pact!This wingnut posts a picture of the judge and says,
However, even if the Supreme Court ruled against the President, he could tell them to go urinate up a rope.
Anna Diggs Taylor, Clinton appointee. Campaigned in 1979 for Jimmy Carter. Ruled in favor of the ACLU to have nativity scenes removed from public property in Dearborn (Islamonazi haven) and Birmingham in 1984. Married to S. Martin Taylor who, according to his U of Michigan bio, is a DEMOCRAT.
[judge] rule in favor of the ACLU and its raft of Islamist, America-hating plaintiffs. ... She seems to hate America and fairness almost as much as the Plaintiffs do. She certainly hates a fair, impartial Judiciary. It's not just that she's a shameless liberal who always allows her politics to enter into her decisions. It's that she's so shameless she improperly interferes with cases that are not even hers.And go read how this one cries and moans on and on about requring warrants.
August 11, 2006
And for Local Links to Terrorist Arrests
The activity seems to be more than just a coincidence. All three men are from Dearborn, MichiganAnd they had ... CELL PHONES!!!!!
"They are digital for detonating car bombs and they have a particular digital frequency and that's what they're using them for," said Sheriff Larry Mincks.Althought there were no car bombs involved... Just cell phones. But wait, there's MORE!
Wal-Mart places a limit on the number of cell phones that can be purchased at once, that number is three. The three men allegedly bought 80 by purchasing them three at time so that an alert wouldn't be triggered by the cash register. They also paid cash. An alert clerk grew suspicious and called Tuscola County central dispatch. The Caro Police Department sent a unit and stopped the rented van on M-81 just east of Caro. The suspects were headed towards Bad Axe on M-81 where there is another Super Wal-Mart.Headed toward ... BAD AXE! Where there is ANOTHER WAL-MART!!!!!
But wait, there's MORE!!!
The three men are described as being of Palestinian descent but live in Texas.Sigh...
... The men have been "cooperative, upfront, not hiding" anything according to police. They also told officers they get stopped frequently and say they buy the phones for $20 and sell them elsewhere for $38. They sell them without the packaging or charger.
Update - Even the FBI is rolling their eyes at this one.
July 28, 2006
The Bush administration is asking Congress to pass "protections" from prosecution of people who kill or torture prisoners. The specific law they want changed was passed by a Republican-controlled House, and unanimously by a Republican-controlled Senate in 1996.
Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.The Bush administration was predicted in one of the great tunes of all time (there is a sound clip sample at the end of the referenced page):
... Gonzales told the lawmakers that a shield is needed for actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire, the source said.
... Jones and other advocates intended the law for use against future abusers of captured U.S. troops in countries such as Bosnia, El Salvador and Somalia, but the Pentagon supported making its provisions applicable to U.S. personnel because doing so set a high standard for others to follow.
It's time to taste what you most fear
Right Guard will not help you here
Brace yourself, my dear
It's a holiday in Cambodia
It's tough kid, but it's life
It's a holiday in Cambodia
Don't forget to pack a wife
Your a star-belly sneech you suck like a leech
You want everyone to act like you
Kiss ass while you bitch so you can get rich
But your boss gets richer on you
Well you'll work harder with a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers til you starve
Then your head skewered on a stake
Now you can go where people are one
Now you can go where they get things done
What you need my son:
Is a holiday in Cambodia
Where people dress in black
A holiday in Cambodia
Where you'll kiss ass or crack
Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot
The law don't mean shit if you've got the right friends
That's how the country's run
Twinkies are the best friend I've ever had
I fought the law
And I won
July 27, 2006
I don't know if you have heard this pro-choice and pro-stem-cell-research riddle: Suppose there is a fire at a fertility clinic. In one room is a freezer with 100 embryos. In another room is a baby. Now, suppose you have only enough time to enter ONE room. Do you save the baby, or the freezer?
The Republican case is that you must save the freezer, not the baby, because there are 100 "babies" in the freezer and only one in the other room. Burn, baby, burn.
With Republican government in mind, I want to put this a different way. If someone goes in and saves the baby instead of the freezer, do you prosecute? Republicans would prosecute you for saving the baby.
Here's what I want you to do. There is an election coming. In your local Congressional districts, please show up at a "meet the candidate" event and ASK the Republican candidate if they would save the baby or the freezer. Demand a clear answer. Write letters to you local newspaper's "letters to the editor" asking the Republican candidate to put their answer on the record - baby or freezer?
July 5, 2006
Monday, in Prayer In Schools I echoed a story about a Jewish family forced to flee a Delaware school district.
The blogosphere is starting to pick this up. This Kos diary has a good summary of some of the activity. Crooks and Liars is on it. Jesus' General, Dispatches from Mike thethe Culture Wars, Talk to Action (and here), Bartholomew's notes on religion, Lawyers Guns and Money, The Green Knight, Mike the Mad Biologist, Pharyngula, Angry Astronomer, The Republic of T.
June 5, 2006
This is the study of interactions in groups, discovering who the key people are who hold the group together and get the group doing things. If you track this with sophisticated computer software you can learn some very interesting things. In politics, think of the value of knowing who are the key people for reaching and influencing large numbers of voters...
So read up, there WILL be a test.
May 20, 2006
Matthew Yglesias, writing at Talking Points Memo,
One of the most neglected aspects of the blogosphere, in my opinion, is that precisely because it's (mostly) composed of people who aren't professional journalists, it's composed of people who are professional doers of something else and know a great deal about what it is they "really" do. Consequently, the overall network of blogs contains a great deal of embedded knowledge. The consensus that emerges from that process can, of course, be mistaken but even though the most prominent people expressing that consensus may not be experts in the subject at hand (the most prominent bloggers tend to be generalists), the consensus will almost always be grounded in some kind of well-informed opinions.In another post, Matthew links to a blogger from 1775, who wrote,
Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death
Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
May 11, 2006
I've just GOT to QUIT reading the news. It is just too PAINFUL.
Congress targets social network sites, by Declan McCullagh
"When children leave the home and go to school or the public library and have access to social-networking sites, we have reason to be concerned," Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican, told CNET News.com in an interview.
Fitzpatrick and fellow Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, on Wednesday endorsed new legislation (click here for PDF) that would cordon off access to commercial Web sites that let users create public "Web pages or profiles" and also offer a discussion board, chat room, or e-mail service.
This is so wrong and stupid and pointless and out of contact with
reality, I don't even know where to start... I'm flabbergasted.
I could go on and on in great detail about the specifics of why this is
POINT ONE: wireless Internet access is sooner, rather than later, going
to be omnipresent; and an overwhelming majority of kids are going to
have devices that allow this. Many kids already have access to Instant
Messaging services via their cellphones (even low end phones often have
Yahoo Instant Messenger and/or AIM clients installed). This makes
location based restrictions of the type described essentially pointless.
This is going to become increasingly true, and the level of utility of
such access devices (and the software on them) is only going to increase
POINT TWO: the most essential features of today's Internet are
interactive two-way communication and content creation... you want a
prominent example of the "unintended side effects" of this legislation?
Wikipedia. More or less THE definitive reference work on the
Internet. Anyone can sign up for an account, which provides access to an
internal messaging system, and the ability to create "web pages" and a
"profile"... is Rep. Fitzpatrick proposing that we ban young people and
teenagers from accessing Wikipedia?!?
The future of the Internet IS interactivity, virtual presence, public /
private spaces... lets set aside the practicality of implementation and
enforcement of a regime which bans young people from participation in
online communities and content creation vehicles... here's a more
fundamental question: even if we could do it: should we? Take
every trend we see now, and project it twenty years into the future...
and then imagine the gap between the level of utility, and the quality
of the experience, provided to youth using a "crippled" interface, and
individuals with a fully functional one.
If you want a metaphor, think: Apple IIe vs. Windows XP Media Center
What kind of social and economic impact would this have on our nation's
productivity, vs. that of other, less paranoid nations?
The only saving grace of the situation is the utter futility of
attempting to limited access in this fashion... but the results, for
those kids dependent on public resources, are going to be extremely
Side note: would someone PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE sponsor a survey of
American children under the age of 13 in order to determine how many of
them have an account on MySpace or similar services (Gaia Online,
NeoPets, etc.) ... despite COPPA? Based on what I've seen, an
overwhelming majority of children in Middle or Junior High School with
access to a computer (or friends with such) have such accounts... and
every single one of them lies about their age, just enough to enable
them to access "advanced" features - AKA CHAT and MESSAGING!!! DOH!!!
Such a survey would provide definitive and devastating evidence of the
futility of measures of these sorts, and document the massive level of
informal civil disobedience being engaged in by American youth in
response to them.
May 2, 2006
How many remember the 1996 Telecom Bill? This was the "deregulation" bill that dramatically increased cable TV rates and increased concentration of owership of media outlets.
Well, they're at it again, this time going after your right to record radio and TV broadcasts: Net neutrality missing from sweeping telecom bill,
ncluded in the massive proposal is, however, one requirement sure to please the recording industry: authorization for the FCC to start the process of outlawing digital over-the-air radio and digital satellite receivers sold today that permit users to record broadcasts. Those would be supplanted with receivers that will treat as copy-protected anything with an "audio broadcast flag" in the future.Also in the bill, changes that would allow telecom companies to control what you see on the internet:
... His legislation would order the FCC to ban digital TV tuners, such as ElGato's EyeTV 500, that let users record over-the-air broadcasts and save them without copy protection.
Net neutrality, for instance, has become a rallying cry recently for Internet and software firms and liberal advocacy groups (and even one or two conservative ones) that say strict FCC regulations are necessary to protect the Internet. Net neutrality refers to the idea of the federal government preventing broadband providers from favoring some Web sites or video streams' connection speeds over others.
February 15, 2006
Just for fun: The American Enterprise: Clinton's Terrifying Response to Terror from 1995.
February 9, 2006
In Educators face blowback for protesting Iraq war in schools, Raw Story documents teachers around the country fired for opposing Bush's war.
February 8, 2006
Laura Berg, a nurse working for the Veterans Administration, had her work computer seized after writing a letter to the editor that stated, "We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit."
Apparently, the rationale for the seizure was that “government equipment was used inappropriately…during government time for drafting an editorial letter.” This, despite the fact that there was no basis to suspect this whatsoever (and no evidence emerged to support this conclusion after the computer was seized). To top that, Mel Hooker, Chief of Human Resource Management Service at the VA, actually used the word "sedition" in a memo to Berg justifying the action.
Needless to say, the ACLU is up in arms over this, and their press release regarding Laura Berg has gotten a fair amount of media coverage. The ACLU says, "From all appearances, the seizure of her work computer was an act of retaliation and a hardball attempt to scare Laura into silence." I've got to agree with them here. As Dave says: watch your back (especially if you're a federal employee who works with returning Iraq war veterans).
So, the question for me is, who gave the order to seize her computer? The results of the ACLU's FOIA request should be quite interesting. Has the Executive Branch of the Federal Government become so sensitized to criticism of the incumbent administration, that the folks working within it are taking initiative to suppress dissent on their own... or did these orders come from someone in the White House, pissed off that a federal employee would dare criticize the Bush Administration and advocate its removal from power? Either way, there's cause for concern.
February 6, 2006
I'm watching the NSA spying hearings. Senator Feinstein just asked Attorney General Gonzales if the President has authorized the use of covert domestic propaganda intended to influence domestic politics. Gonzales refused to answer. Said he is not comfortable answering that. Then he went on to say that the President has inherent constitutional authority...
"Can the President suspend in secret or otherwise the application of section 503 of the national security act which states that no covert action may be conducted with is intended to influence United State political processes, public opinion, policies or media. In other words can he engage in otherwise illegal propaganda."
February 5, 2006
When the NSA spying scandal first broke, I wrote that I suspected they were intercepting all calls and e-mails and running them through computers for analysis. My suspicions are now largely confirmed. Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects
The program has touched many more Americans than that. Surveillance takes place in several stages, officials said, the earliest by machine. Computer-controlled systems collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny by human eyes and ears.
Successive stages of filtering grow more intrusive as artificial intelligence systems rank voice and data traffic in order of likeliest interest to human analysts. But intelligence officers, who test the computer judgments by listening initially to brief fragments of conversation, "wash out" most of the leads within days or weeks.In other words, they were not just tapping into calls between Americans and members of al Queda, they were tapping into everything to see if anyone was calling al Queda. Or maybe to learn other things? No oversight - no warrants, no judges, no Congress - means there is just no way to know or trust what they are doing. That's what warrants are for. That's what our Constitution is for. These things came about because governmental powers are always abused unless checked. Bush has removed all checks on his power.
The scale of warrantless surveillance, and the high proportion of bystanders swept in, sheds new light on Bush's circumvention of the courts. National security lawyers, in and out of government, said the washout rate raised fresh doubts about the program's lawfulness under the Fourth Amendment, because a search cannot be judged "reasonable" if it is based on evidence that experience shows to be unreliable. Other officials said the disclosures might shift the terms of public debate, altering perceptions about the balance between privacy lost and security gained.
[. . .] Even with 38,000 employees, the NSA is incapable of translating, transcribing and analyzing more than a fraction of the conversations it intercepts. For years, including in public testimony by Hayden, the agency has acknowledged use of automated equipment to analyze the contents and guide analysts to the most important ones.
According to one knowledgeable source, the warrantless program also uses those methods. That is significant to the public debate because this kind of filtering intrudes into content, and machines "listen" to more Americans than humans do.
February 1, 2006
It gets worse every day. At AMERICABlog, Pentagon trying to censor top US political cartoonist. I'm not even going to quote from it, just go read it.
This is THE MILITARY DIRECTLY THREATENING A NEWSPAPER on behalf of the Republican Party. This is WAYYYY beyond unprecedented. This is past "find a safe refuge in Canada" time. This is a serious WATCH YOUR BACKS!!!!
Update - the threats keep-a-coming!
You are an enemy of this country. Your day will come.
January 27, 2006
Can anyone recommend good e-mail encryption software? I think maybe it is time to start encrypting.
I mean software that is usable by regular people - even bloggers - not "command-line." And can I trust it, or is it like the voting machines - made by companies owned by The Party.
Please leave suggestions - if the comments are working today.
Did I just get myself put on a watchlist? No fly list? Paranoid guy list?
January 26, 2006
Earlier this month I asked, Was Bush Wiretapping the Kerry Campaign? The problem is, we have no way to know.
Let's get serious for a minute about Bush's assertion that as Commander in Chief he has the "wartime" right to do anything he feels is necessary, without warrants and regardless of laws. Asking if they are wiretapping political opponents is not a far-fetched question because without warrants there is no check or balance on what they do. THAT is why our Constitution requires warrants - so a judge can look over what they are doing. It's like asking us to trust Nixon, and we know how that worked out, don't we? Or Reagan and we know about Iran/Contra, or Bush's father, and we know about how many he had to pardon to keep himself out of jail. We're not supposed to trust our politicians - that's why we require warrants.
In the previous post I wrote,
They say the Democrats are traitors. They say they are helping the terrorists, supporting the other side, working to undermine the troops, offering aid and comfort to al Queda, etc. They SAY all those things, and maybe they believe them. And if they really do believe these things they say they certainly would feel it is necessary to take action, wiretap, disrupt, and anything else they can do to stop us. So we certainly should associate the things they say with the idea that maybe it actually might be related to the things they do.Since then they have been ramping up the rhetoric, accusing Democrats of siding with the terrorists, "providing comfort" to the enemy, etc. Explain to me how they can say that - call US the enemy - and NOT feel justified in listening to our calls and reading our e-mails.
It's not about listening to terrorists - they already had the means to do that - it's about lying and following the law. Bush assured the country that they were getting warrants and then we found out they were not.
January 17, 2006
January 14, 2006
Now that everybody has a Salon day pass, read Sen. Byrd's Dec. 19, 2005 speech Never have the freedoms we cherish seemed so imperiled.
Next consider this commentary about The Scandal Unfolds.
The Left Coaster has a story about how Bush secretly authorized domestic spying by the NSA months before 9/11.
Finally, (hat tip to Steve Soto at The Left Coaster) according to a new Zogby poll commissioned by After Downing Street.org a Majority of Americans Support Impeaching Bush for Wiretapping, if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval.
January 5, 2006
We've got more important things to deal with - Bush is a figurehead... we're barking up the wrong tree by focusing our energy on him and impeachment, which would be nothing more than a symbolic beheading of the beast, and ultimately change nothing. Bush is not the problem, and centering attention on him distracts from the very real Constitutional crisis his presidency, and our Congress, have engendered via the war on (some) terror.
What is vastly more important, is to reverse the "use of force" authorization that Bush contends gives him (and just as importantly, when you're talking about impeachment, anyone who replaces him) carte blanche to ignore the Constitution's built in checks and balances, and declare non-operative any and all laws he finds inconvenient, as evidenced by today's headline in the Boston Globe (sourced via truthout.org): Bush Could Bypass New Torture Ban - the cynicism of his actions in this matter is appalling beyond measure, and should outrage Americans of all political persuasions, if it could only be brought to their notice.
The "use of force" authorization is the most Constitutionally dangerous cop-out that our Congress has ever passed. By permitting the President to act as if we "at war", without defining who the enemy is, what the terms of "victory" are, or putting any sunset date on the authorization for the use of force, Congress has basically put the nation on a permanent "wartime" footing (as far as I can tell, it will take exactly what I am advocating, an explicit repudiation by Congress, to end it), and decisively shifted the balance of power in our system of government in favor of the executive. Reversing this open-end and Constitutionally dangerous measure, and putting explicit constraints and defined limits on Presidential authority in its place (along with sunset provisions), is the single most pressing public policy initiative we face -- and it is one that should unite sane people of all political persuasions: right, left, center, libertarian, green, liberal and conservative.
... and yet, you hear almost nothing about action on this front, not from the pundits, not from the politicians, not from the blogosphere. Any complaints you hear from mainstream political circles regarding Bush's behavior in office pertain to "abuse" of the power granted him, rather than any fundamental questioning of the nature of the beast. In March of 2002, Michelle J. Kinnucan wrote an article entitled: Rethinking the 'Authorization for Use of Military Force' in which she quotes reservations about the open-ended nature of the resolution by several "reluctant" endorsees.
Where is the rising chorus of concern about the resolution itself? Bush's sole legal authority for his ever more clearly imperial presidency lies in his status as a commander-in-chief during wartime, and the "use of force" authorization. Eliminate that, and Bush's actions become vastly more legally tenuous, possibly to the point where even today's apparently somnolent judiciary might begin to take alarm.
If you're not outraged, then you're not paying attention, and if you don't think reversing the "use of force" authorization is more important than impeaching a puppet President who is nothing more than a proxy for the neo-conservative conspiracy to undermine the Constitution and put in place an imperial Presidency free of Constitutional, legislative, or judicial constraint, then you're REALLY not paying attention.
If anyone out there is listening, if anyone has influence with the 'net and the political sphere's movers and shakers, please do everything in your power to get them to take on this issue and move this meme into the national dialogue.
December 30, 2005
Well I always like to rile up Seeing the Forest's readers, and few subjects do that better than bringing up the whole "Clipper Chip" controversey from the Clinton years. But now, with the revelations about Bush initiating NSA spying on Americans without warrants, I feel there could be no better time than now to get everyone commenting.
You see, except in very, very rare cases our e-mail and phone calls are not encrypted, which lets anyone with the right equipment listen in. Because of this problem the Clinton Administration proposed a standardized encryption chip that would go into all computers and phones. The result of using this chip would be that every call and e-mail would be encrypted automatically so no one could eavesdrop. "Conservative movement' Republicans blocked Clinton's efforts, and now here we are with "conservative movement' Republicans listening to our phone calls and reading our e-mails. DUH!
Three years ago I wrote a post saying,
The Republicans intentionally spread the ridiculous lie that this was an attempt to listen in on our communications. Because of the cynical, suspicious anti-government environment that Republican messaging had created this lie caught on.So here we are.
The basis for the Republicans' smear was that the Administration had a plan to allow law enforcement officials to break the code if they obtained a warrant. (Nothing would stop people from using their own encryption if they wanted to.) Ironically, this was specifically so they could listen in on potential terrorists. This is what the Republicans claimed was Clinton planning to listen in! Now remember, without the chip the government theoretically could listen in on any communications, because no one was using encryption. Clinton's plan to keep people from being able to listen in was described as a plan to listen in, and people bought it.
And because they were able to block this chip, no one is encrypting now.
How well did the "conservative movement' push everyone's buttons back then, using anti-government inclinations to make people think Clinton was trying to bug their phones? Two birds with one stone - smear Clinton and leave us all vulnerable to wiretapping.
And, coming off of my last tin-foil-hat post, who benefitted most from America's communications being wide open? Who paid for all those articles and op-eds about how Clinton was trying to spy on us? And who the hell funds the Moonies and their Washington Times and their hundreds of front-organizations masquerading as "conservatives?"