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Showing posts from 2008

New Report Highlights Reforms in Status Offender Systems

When Vera staff began working to reform status offender systems almost a decade ago, chronically misbehaving youth were routinely referred to juvenile court and subject to the same punitive interventions as youth charged with criminal activity. Experience has shown that such interventions are costly and often exacerbate existing family challenges. Today, as jurisdictions evaluate and refine their status offender systems, a new paradigm is emerging that aims to provide immediate, individualized services to youth and their families outside of the juvenile court system. Making Court the Last Resort: A New Focus for Supporting Families in Crisis [pdf], a new report from Vera’s Center on Youth Justice, describes this new paradigm by highlighting successful status offender system reforms in Florida, New York, and Connecticut. The Vera Institute of Justice is an independent, nonprofit organization that combines expertise in research, demonstration projects, and technical assistance to he…

Bernie Madoff's Shady Schemes Should Have Set off Alarms Long Ago

By Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post. Posted December 15, 2008.

One ponzi scheme after another is exposed on Wall Street, and so far all we've heard is: "Who could have known?"

See if this sounds familiar:

An ambitious and risky undertaking carried out with hubris, and featuring the weeding out of anyone who raises alarm bells, little-to-no transparency, an oversight system in which no central authority is accountable, and the deliberate manufacturing of ambiguity and complexity so that if -- when -- it all falls to pieces, the excuse "who could have known?" can be used….

Is it Iraq? Fannie Mae? Citigroup? Bernie Madoff?

The correct answer is: all of the above.

Read on...

Tasers Are Sold as 'Non-Lethal' -- But They've Killed 400 So Far

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted December 13, 2008.

Taser's marketing coup has convinced consumers that there is such a thing as a gun that won't kill. Taser deaths prove otherwise.

On Sept. 24, in Brooklyn, N.Y., a 35-year-old man named Iman Morales fell to his death after a 22-minute standoff with New York Police. Morales, who was described as "emotionally disturbed," had climbed onto the fire escape of a building in Bedford-Stuyvesant, naked and waving a metal pole. Unable to talk him down, one officer, under order from his lieutenant, shot Morales with a Taser gun, at which point he fell to the sidewalk, head-first.

He was taken to the hospital, where he was declared dead.

One week later, the officer who gave the order, Lt. Michael W. Pigott, drove to Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field, a former air base used by the NYPD, took a 9mm Glock from a locker room, and shot himself in the head.

Read on...

Peace Activists Take Shoes to White House in Solidarity With Shoe-Throwing Iraqi Journalist

Call for his release and tribute to Iraqis who have suffered under US ccupation

WASHINGTON - December 15 -

In solidarity with an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George W. Bush at a Baghdad press conference Sunday, peace activists will gather outside the White House with bags of shoes representing Iraqis and U.S. soldiers who have died since the Bush Administration's illegal invasion of Iraq.

They aim to show support for Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi, who hurled his shoes at President Bush while he spoke at the conference on his "surprise" visit to discuss the war. Al-Zaidi is currently being held by Iraqi police and questioned on his actions. The peace activists are calling on the Iraqi government to release al-Zaidi without charges and have set up a fund to support him and his family."

"It's outrageous that al-Zaidi could get two years in prison for insulting George Bush, when Bush is directly responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqis and 4…

Muntadar al-Zaidi Did What We Journalists Should Have Done Long Ago

by Dave Lindorff

When Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi heaved his two shoes at the head of President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad, he did something that the White House press corps should have done years ago.

Al-Zaidi listened to Bush blather that the half-decade of war he had initiated with the illegal invasion of Iraq had been "necessary for US security, Iraqi stability (sic) and world peace" and something just snapped. The television correspondent, who had been kidnapped and held for a while last year by Shiite militants, pulled off a shoe and threw it at Bush-a serious insult in Iraqi culture-and shouted "This is a farewell kiss, you dog!" When the first shoe missed its target, he grabbed a second shoe and heaved it too, causing the president to duck a second time as al-Zaidi shouted, "This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq!"

I'll admit, listening to Bush lie his way through eight years of pre…

Adult and Youth Corrections: Key Indicators

Statistics Canada. The Daily

Canada's incarceration rate in 2007/2008 rose by 2% from the previous year, the third consecutive annual increase. The gain was driven by the growing number of adults being held in remand in provincial/territorial jails while awaiting trial or sentencing.

Recent increases in the incarceration rate follow a period of relatively steady decline from 1996/1997 to 2004/2005.

On any given day in 2007/2008, an average of 36,330 adults and 2,018 youth aged 12 to 17 years were in custody in Canada, for a total of 38,348 inmates. In terms of a rate, this was 117 people in custody for every 100,000 population.

Canada's incarceration rate tends to be higher than those in most Western European countries, yet far lower than that of the United States. For instance, in 2007, Sweden had a rate of 74 people in custody per 100,000 population. In contrast, the rate in the United States for adults alone was 762. (The United States excludes youth from its rate.)

Read on...

The Attorney General Is a Very Busy Man

The Supreme Court seems to think that also makes him immune from litigation.

By Dahlia LithwickPosted Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008, at 7:12 PM ET

Is the claim that former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller were involved in post-9/11 detention policies more or less plausible than the assertion that the CEO of Coca-Cola has intentionally slipped a mouse into your soda bottle? How busy do you have to be in order to evade a civil lawsuit? What is the plural form of mouse? These are the big questions the Supreme Court grapples with this morning as it sticks a toe into the waters of a raging national debate about legal accountability for high-level government actors for wrongs committed in pursuit of the war on terrorism.

Javaid Iqbal is a former cable installer and Pakistani citizen who was swept up along with more than 700 Muslim and Arab men in the massive post-9/11 terrorism dragnet. Not one of them was ever charged with terrorism-related crimes. Some of those deeme…

Gun Crazy: Firearms Proponents Want a World Where College Kids Carry Concealed Weapons

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted December 9, 2008.

The NRA and Co. have pushed campaigns to allow concealed-weapons permits on college campuses in 15 states this year and failed in all of them.

First the bad news: Despite its election day smackdown, the NRA and its pals soldier on in their mission to arm god-fearing Americans in ludicrous places. A flurry of news stories earlier this year reported a pioneering solution proposed to the rash of recent campus shootings: instead of redoubling efforts to enforce the whole "gun-free school zone" thing -- a quaint little notion from, like the 1980s -- why not change the rules to let students bring more guns onto college campuses?

A few answers leapt to mind -- binge drinking, drug use, close living quarters in a high-pressure environment -- but for awhile, it seemed like the idea was catching on. In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007, in which 32 people were killed, several states began considering legislation to …

US: Michigan Moves to End Life Without Parole for Juveniles

Senate Committee Should Approve Historic Bills Passed by House

WASHINGTON - December 9 - Michigan's Senate Judiciary Committee should approve four bills abolishing life sentences without parole for juveniles in the state, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the committee. The practice is cruel, inappropriate, discriminatory, and a violation of human rights, Human Rights Watch said.

"Michigan has 321 young offenders sentenced to die in prison," said Alison Parker, deputy director of the US Program of Human Rights Watch. "Last week, the House rejected the notion that juveniles are beyond redemption. If these bills pass the Senate, they may be able to earn a chance at freedom."

On December 4, Michigan's 110-seat House of Representatives voted to pass the bills, by margins ranging from 12 to 61 votes, and the bills now move to the Senate. Michigan joins California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, and the federal government in taking steps toward e…

Feds: Governor Tried to 'Auction' Obama's Seat

Blagojevich is accused of 'corruption crime spree' over Senate appointment

NBC News and news services

CHICAGO - Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich embarked on "political corruption crime spree" and tried to benefit from his ability to appoint President-elect Barack Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate, federal officials said Tuesday.

At a news conference in Chicago on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called it a sad day for the citizens of Illinois and alleged that the governor tried to "auction off" the Senate seat "to the highest bidder".

Read on...

Of course the media is going to work overtime to try and tie Obama to this. At this point it looks like Obama is in the clear. But watch the newly awakened media, that refused to investigate or question the Bush administration, turn this into another Whitewater. Check out the video in this post. Tom

Supreme Court set to consider privacy rights

Growing chasm between civil libertarians and interests of law enforcement agencies

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
December 9, 2008 at 5:02 AM EST

When Ontario Provincial Police Constable Brian Bertoncello spotted a rented SUV being driven sedately along a Northern Ontario highway at precisely the speed limit on Oct. 24, 2004, it immediately set off his internal radar.

Switching on his flashing lights, Constable Bertoncello brought the vehicle to a stop. "It's very rare that you get somebody driving directly on the speed limit," he explained later.

The officer's suspicions grew as he questioned the nervous-looking occupants of the vehicle, Bradley Harrison and Sean Friesen, who had driven non-stop from Vancouver.

Read on...

Personally if I'm driving the speed limit and obeying the law I would prefer to not be pulled over. I suspect almost any car in Northern Ontario sets off police internal radar. Its a boring stretch of highway to patrol. Tom

Federal Court Rules Bush Administration Must Justify Scholar’s Visa Denial

ACLU Hails Victory, Says U.S. Must End Censorship At The Bord

BOSTON - December 8 - A federal court today ruled that it has the power to review whether the Bush administration has a valid reason for denying a visa to respected South African scholar Adam Habib. The decision comes in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Massachusetts challenging the State Department's refusal to grant Professor Habib a visa based on unsubstantiated national security claims. Habib remains banned from the country and unable to attend speaking engagements in the United States.

"Today's ruling reaffirms that the Bush administration cannot manipulate immigration laws to silence critics of U.S. government policy and then shield their actions from scrutiny by the courts. The government cannot cherry pick whose voices we are allowed to hear," said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project who argued the case in court. "As the cour…

Study: Some Tasers Deliver Bigger Jolt Than Manufacturer Claims Raising Risk of Cardiac Arrest

A new study shows that some Taser stun guns can deliver a much bigger jolt of electricity than the manufacturer says is possible and could increase the risk of cardiac arrest by as much as half in some people.

The study done by researchers commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. also concluded that even stun guns firing at expected electrical levels carry some risk of inducing cardiac arrest in some people.

The study was done by a Montreal biomedical engineer and doctors working for a U.S. defense contractor and examined 44 Taser stun guns obtained from seven undisclosed U.S. police agencies.

Taser International Inc., based in Scottsdale, called the study flawed.

Read on...

The media seems to have a fairly steady drumbeat about how bad Tasers are, but police departments seem to be more and more enamoured of them. Now we find out they don't even work properly. Tom

Is it ever okay for the cops to shoot violent protesters?

John Aravosis (DC) · 12/07/2008 04:07:00 PM ET

Or to put it another way: Are violent protests ever justified?

I remember talking to my mom, a few years back, when the anti-globalization crowd was trashing Seattle, and, well, let's just say that mom and I had a different view on the use of force to stop people from turning over cars, looting stores, and more generally setting the city on fire. You might be surprised to know that mom was against the police using more force, I was for it.

I'm reading the news from Greece, and I just can't help but feel that when mobs are turning over private cars, and setting commercial buildings on fire (when hundreds of innocent families live above those buildings), that maybe the cops ought to use more than tear gas. If someone is setting fire to a building that houses hundreds of families, including children, you don't get into an argument about Marxist theory, you shoot them. My gut tells me that the people who were trashing Seattle, an…

Change They Can Litigate

The fringe movement to keep Barack Obama from becoming president.

By David WeigelPosted Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008, at 4:25 PM ET

If you want to stop Barack Obama from becoming president, there's still time. But you have to act right now. Go to, and you can be the 126,000th-odd American to demand "proof of citizenship" from the president-elect. Follow the instructions at, and you can join a sit-in outside the Supreme Court of the United States, starting at 8 a.m. Friday, as the justices decide whether to consider a suit filed by a professional poker player that challenges the presidential eligibility of Obama, John McCain, and Socialist Workers candidate Roger Calero.

Can't make it to Washington, D.C.? Too bad—you missed your chance to FedEx a letter to the justices for only $10, sponsored by the venerable right-wing site (and Chuck Norris column outlet) WorldNetDaily. "There is grave, widespread and rapidly growing concern throughou…

Nursing Grudges

Why do we protect the moral convictions of only some health workers?

By Dahlia LithwickPosted Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008, at 6:38 AM ET

What does it tell us about the state of the abortion wars today that battles once waged over the dignity and autonomy of pregnant women have morphed into disputes over the dignity and autonomy of their health care providers instead? Two of the most pitched battles over reproductive rights in America right now turn on whether health workers can be forced to provide medical services or information to which they ethically or professionally object. But as we learn from these fights, our solicitude for the beliefs of medical workers is selective: Abortion opponents will soon enjoy broader legal protections than ever. Those willing to provide abortions, on the other hand, seem to enjoy far fewer. And women seeking reproductive services? They will continue to be caught in the tangle between the two.

The first dispute concerns a new rule purporting to protect the &q…

A sad day for Canada

By agreeing to shut down parliament, the governor general saved the bacon of Stephen Harper's besieged Conservatives

Michael Stickings

The political situation in Canada – coup, crisis, call it what you want – continues to take new and dramatic turns. On Thursday morning, as expected, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seeking to avoid a confidence motion - which he would lose, given that his Conservative government only has a minority of the seats in the House of Commons - met with governor general Michaëlle Jean to ask her to prorogue, or end, the current session of Parliament. Instead of calling for another election or turning to the Liberal-New Democratic coalition (which, with support from the Bloc Québécois, holds the majority in Canada's House of Commons), Jean granted his request.

What this means is that there won't be another confidence motion until parliament resumes sitting late in January - seven weeks from now - at the earliest. The government may then lose a confiden…

Bush Signs Executive Order Barring Union Rights

Posted by Caitlin Price, Jurist Legal News and Research at 8:02 AM on December 4, 2008.

The order denies collective bargaining rights to about 8,600 federal employees who work in agencies responsible for national security.

U.S. President George W. Bush issued an executive order on Monday that defined the primary objective of some 8,600 federal agency employees to be national security-related, rendering them ineligible for Federal Labor-Management Relations Program coverage such as collective bargaining rights. The order says:

The subdivisions of the Departments of Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation, and the Treasury set forth in … this order are hereby determined to have as a primary function intelligence, counterintelligence, investigative, or national security work. It is further determined that chapter 71 of title 5, United States Code, cannot be applied to these subdivisions in a manner consistent with national security requirements and considerations.

Read on...


Report: Abortion does not lead to long-term depression.»

Via Bonnie Erbe, a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has shown that there is no scientific support to claims that “an abortion causes psychological distress, or a ‘post-abortion syndrome.’” The team reviewed 21 studies involving more than 150,000 women and found that there is “no significant differences in long-term mental health between women who choose to abort a pregnancy and others”:

The researchers reviewed all English-language, peer-reviewed publications between 1989 and 2008 that studied relationships between abortion and long-term mental health.

Read on...

Wonder which Supreme court justice cited "bad science". Here is more on this story. I'll try and find a link to the actual study. Tom

Minnesota Senate Recount: Pendulum Swings to Franken

by Mike Kaszuba and Curt Brown

The U.S. Senate recount took two abrupt turns Tuesday, both boosting the prospects of DFLer Al Franken.

Al Franken, above, is closing in on Norm Coleman in a Minnesota Senate recount. (AP Photo)Franken unexpectedly picked up 37 votes due to a combined machine malfunction and human error on Election Day that left 171 Maplewood ballots safe, secure but uncounted until Tuesday's final day of recounting in Ramsey County. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's office immediately asked county officials to explain what had happened, and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign said it sent its own experts to Ramsey County to review the situation and said it was "skeptical about [the ballots'] sudden appearance."

Read on...

I've been following the Franken recount fairly closely and in spite of this story I"m not sure Franken will prevail. Could a simple recount be any more complicated? Its crazy. Tom

SCOTUS Procedures and the "Citizenship Case"

by profmatt Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 08:05:17 AM PST

What with all the brouhaha about the (moronic) "Obama Citizenship" cases, time for a primer about how the Supreme Court and lawsuits work.

A federal case begins in a Federal District Court. The trial court hears the case and ultimately makes a final decision on it. Until there is a final decision, you cannot appeal (with very few exceptions). Common final decisions are:

A) A grant of a motion to dismiss, finding that the allegations in the complaint are not enough to state a cause of action. A subset of this is how the "Citizenship" cases were decided--in order to bring a case, you must have "standing"--this means you must show that you, personally, are being or will be harmed. If you lack standing, you can't pursue the case.

Read on...

In case you're wondering what this is about, someone is claiming Obama isn't a naturally born American and therefore can't be president of the United States. Its a…

Disgraced ex-New York governor Eliot Spitzer to write for

What next for the ambitious career politician who fell from the heady heights of New York governor after being linked with a prostitution ring? Journalism, apparently.

Maybe no-one else would take him, but Eliot Spitzer has re-emerged on the magazine site a modest nine-months after the scandal of his involvement in a $1,000-per-hour prostitution ring.

Read on...

Here is Spitzer's first article for Slate. Always interesting to see how some people just can't refrain from being in the public forum. You may also want to go back to an earlier Crimbrary post on censored media stories. One of them was about Spitzer. Tom

European court rules DNA database breaches human rights

Peter Walker, Thursday December 4 2008 10.55 GMT

Police forces in much of the UK could be forced to destroy the DNA details of hundreds of thousands of people with no criminal convictions, after a court ruled today that keeping them breaches human rights.

The European court of human rights in Strasbourg said that keeping innocent people's DNA records on a criminal register breached article eight of the Human Rights Convention, covering the right to respect for private and family life.

Keeping DNA material from those who were "entitled to the presumption of innocence" as they had never been convicted of an offence carried "the risk of stigmatisation", the ruling said.

Read on...

The Big Brother state – by stealth

Thousands of unaccountable civil servants given access to our most intimate personal information

By Robert Verkaik, Law EditorThursday, 4 December 2008

Personal information detailing intimate aspects of the lives of every British citizen is to be handed over to government agencies under sweeping new powers. The measure, which will give ministers the right to allow all public bodies to exchange sensitive data with each other, is expected to be rushed through Parliament in a Bill to be published tomorrow.

The new legislation would deny MPs a full vote on such data-sharing. Instead, ministers could authorise the swapping of information between councils, the police, NHS trusts, the Inland Revenue, education authorities, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, the Department for Work and Pensions and other ministries.

Read on...

The Next Attorney General

Published: December 2, 2008

If he is confirmed by the Senate as attorney general, Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for the job, will inherit a Justice Department that has been mired in scandal and that has seriously lost its way in critical areas. Under President Bush, the department has been used to defend the indefensible, like indefinite detention and torture of prisoners, and to undermine rather than protect Americans’ cherished rights. Mr. Holder could be an exemplary choice to face this daunting agenda, but he must answer serious questions before the Senate votes on his confirmation.

Mr. Holder, who would be the first African-American attorney general, has a particularly good record of public service for this job. He has been a United States attorney for the District of Columbia, a prosecutor in the Justice Department’s public integrity section and a deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton.

Read on...

Holder has baggage, but is it too much baggage to u…

9 Ways to Halt the Right Wing Culture Wars and Bring Sanity to Sexual Policy

By David Rosen, CounterPunch. Posted December 3, 2008.

We have a unique opportunity to overturn the perverse agenda of the Religious Right.
The recent electoral victory of Barack Obama and the Democratic party presents a unique opportunity to overturn the most perverse policy of the Bush administration and the religious right, the conservative repressive sexual agenda. The following nine proposals can help frame a new sexual agenda to be introduced in the first 100 days.

For the last three decades the religious right fought a take-no-prisoners war over popular morality. Taking power with Bush’s victory in 2000, Christian conservatives were finally in the position to impose their beliefs as public policy. And they did so with a vengeance. At the local, state and federal levels, religious zealots, working through the Republican party, took control of the apparatus of the State and aggressively implemented a diverse set of programs to further their goal of creating a morally upstanding, Chr…

B.C. man secretly taped in own home, then sued over comments

Private detective hired by plaintiff poses as would-be-neighbour

A retired justice of the peace from Vernon, B.C., was secretly recorded by a private detective during a casual conversation in his own home and his words were then successfully used against him in a B.C. court.

"We were tape-recorded in our own home expressing our own opinions," said Jack Aasen.

"[After that] we started whispering in our own home because we didn't know if the house was bugged," added his wife, Judy. "We would go out on the back deck to talk rather than stay in the house."

Read on...

Who's on the line? Policing and enforcing laws relating to mobile phone use while driving

by Glenn Jessop

This article is available online to the U. of T. community. It is also available in print in the Centre of Criminology Library

This article investigates how laws relating to mobile phone use in cars are written, interpreted and applied in real life. It explores how regulations are imposed, the difficulties that are encountered in terms of enforcement, and how laws have been policed and tested in court. By focusing on the sociolegal context in Victoria and drawing upon international comparisons, we see that stories ofenforcement highlight the unique and particular questions asked of existing legal systems by motorists using a mobile phone. Moreover, in describing the problematic process of developing and implementing legal regulations, we see that road rules are struggling to adapt to a transitional technology and that there are significant obstacles to enforcing the laws.

Texas: Indictments Are Dismissed

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESSPublished: December 2, 2008

A judge in Raymondville has dismissed indictments against Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. Administrative Judge Manuel Banales ruled that the indictments had been improperly returned by a Willacy County grand jury. The indictment against Mr. Cheney said his personal investment in the Vanguard Group, which invests in private prison companies, made him culpable in abuse of prisoners that had been reported at privately run federal detention centers.

Crimbrary reported the indictments of Cheney and Gonzales so I guess we should report that they were dismissed. Too bad. Tom

Report: Mass media harms kids

By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY

Parents and policymakers need to take action to protect children from being harmed by TV, the Internet and other types of media, a report says.

Researchers have done individual studies for years to learn how media affect children. A review released today, which analyzed 173 of the strongest papers over 28 years, finds that 80% agree that heavy media exposure increases the risk of harm, including obesity, smoking, sex, drug and alcohol use, attention problems and poor grades.

Read on...

Crimbrary will post a link to the report published by the National Institute of Health when it becomes available. Tom

Thousands more children at risk

Huge crackdown on children’s services after Baby P inquiry as 28 councils are named and shamed over failed care.

By Richard Garner Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Thousands of Britain's most vulnerable children are at risk because councils are failing to move swiftly enough to protect them from abuse, it emerged last night.

Dozens of local authorities are taking inadequate action to avoid repetition of serious abuse cases, warned the head of the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted).
As the Government announced an unprecedented crackdown on children's services in an attempt to avoid another tragedy like that involving Baby P, the watchdog published a list of 28 councils where internal inquiries into serious injuries or child deaths caused by abuse were judged "inadequate".

Read on...

Cops Get Their Kicks, Tasering

Posted by Digby, Hullabaloo at 10:28 AM on December 1, 2008.

The police have no right to shoot people with electricity for having a "bad attitude."

Torridjoe at Loaded Orygun is following the taser controversy and sees the same problem that I do with this weapon. He recounts this interesting story in the Portland Mercury about the city's use of tasers, which discusses at some length the data that shows the seemingly inevitable "mission creep" that overtakes police departments when they start using the weapon.

Torrid Joe writes:

Now, ordinarily I might not jump so quickly to allow Australia's empirical study to characterize the situation in Portland, especially without more precise data from our bureau on usage patterns. But the new head of the police union, Scott Westerman, does a bang-up job of reflecting exactly the kind of sentiment that would lead to a broader, more aggressive style of use:

Read on...

Ontario to launch review of shaken baby cases

The Canadian Press
December 1, 2008 at 6:10 PM EST

TORONTO — A formal review of shaken baby cases in which disgraced forensic pathologist Dr. Charles Smith played a role will be launched Tuesday along with a look at compensation for those wrongfully convicted, in part, by his expert evidence, The Canadian Press has learned.

Attorney General Chris Bentley will announce two teams have been struck to act on a damning report by Justice Stephen Goudge, who harshly criticized key players in a forensics scandal that saw innocent people branded as child killers.

“The McGuinty government will be acting on the Goudge report [Tuesday] by naming two teams to respond to Justice Goudge's recommendations,” said a government source.

Read on...

How to Find out the Hidden Secrets of the Bush Administration

By Charles Homans, Washington Monthly. Posted December 1, 2008.

Treat Cheney's offices like a crime scene, create a 9/12 Commission, and declassify the Bush papers -- the public deserves to know.

In March 2001, U.S. Archivist John W. Carlin received a letter from Alberto Gonzales, then counsel to the newly inaugurated president George W. Bush. It concerned an important deadline that was looming -- one that Bush owed to Richard Nixon.

In 1974, Congress ordered a lockdown on all records kept by the Nixon White House, afraid that the outgoing president would try to wipe out the paper trail of his disastrous second term and chastened by the recent destruction of decades' worth of FBI files by the late director J. Edgar Hoover's loyal secretary. That order was expanded four years later into a law requiring that all presidents' papers -- everything from briefings to personal notes and everyday communications between the president, vice president, and their staffers -- be handed…

The Great Writ of Habeas Corpus

by Christine Bremer Muggli

It is a basic ideal of justice: No person should be locked away in prison and not allowed to seek help to challenge the illegal imprisonment. The right to challenge an unjust imprisonment is so fundamental that it dates back over 800 years. At that time, kings and other royals could lock away political enemies. In England when the nobility faced King John in 1215, forcing him to sign the Magna Carta, it included a provision that no one could be imprisoned, have property taken or be exiled "except by lawful judgment." The right of habeas corpus was so well established and important that the framers of the U.S. Constitution included the right in the body of the Constitution, allowing suspensions only under narrow circumstances -- "in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

Habeas corpus literally means "You have the body" and means the government is required to bring a prisoner -- the body -- before a judge…

Faced With Setback, Franken Camp Vows To Fight On

By Eric Kleefeld - November 26, 2008, 2:36PM

The Franken camp, faced with a big setback today, is regrouping for the moment but vowing to fight on -- and may even contest the election result in court or the United States Senate itself later on.

The Franken campaign just held a briefing with reporters to respond to the news that the state canvassing board turned down their request to re-examine absentee ballots that may have been wrongly thrown out, and they announced they're not appealing the decision for now.

"We are not going to appeal today's decision. We believe it is important, as I have said over and over again, that this process be permitted to play out in an orderly fashion," said lead Franken recount lawyer Marc Elias.

Read on...

Franken's chances seem to be dwindling. Tom

Indian Crisis "Tests" Obama

by John Nichols

This transition period was supposed to be all about getting a grip on the financial crisis -- and it looked this week as if Barack Obama has succeeded sufficiently to take the Thanksgiving holiday off. But on Wednesday, the president-elect was reminded that he is inheriting messes far beyond Wall Street.

The devastating attacks in Mumbai -- which have left more than 100 dead and three times that number seriously wounded -- have put the war on terror back in competition for Obama's urgent attention. And the reported focus of the attackers in U.S. and European visitors to India makes this anything but a foreign affair.

Wednesday's developments do not quite qualify as the "test" famously anticipated during the fall campaign by Joe Biden, the outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair who will now serve as Obama's loose-lipped vice president. But Obama and his aides are scrambling to refocus after a key American ally suffered a devastating attack …

If Obama Doesn't Prosecute Bush's Torture Team, We'll Pay a Big Price Down the Road

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted November 28, 2008.

Obama isn't likely to pursue torture atrocities during the Bush era, but this is one problem you simply can't wish away.

How did it come about that American military personnel stripped detainees naked, put them in stress positions, used dogs to scare them, put leashes around their necks to humiliate them, hooded them, deprived them of sleep and blasted music at them? Were these actions the result of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own? It would be a lot easier to accept if it were. But that's not the case."

-- Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, June 17, 2008
It was a short but significant report in Newsweek last week, and it began like this:

Despite the hopes of many human rights advocates, the new Obama Justice Department is not likely to launch major new criminal probes of harsh interrogations and other alleged abuses by the Bush administration. But one idea that …

Ontario to place prosecutors in police stations

Idea one of several to streamline lengthy trials recommended in new report

From Friday's Globe and Mail
November 28, 2008 at 5:00 AM EST

Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney-General will combat a plague of sprawling mega-trials by installing on-site prosecutors in police stations and creating superjudges to deal with pretrial motions early and swiftly.

"We are going to have our major-case Crowns located right in with the police, so that we have a close-working collaborative relationship with the police very early on in these major cases," Attorney-General Chris Bentley said in an interview yesterday.

He said he has already begun to implement some of the 41 recommendations in a keenly awaited report on how to stop the spread of costly, runaway criminal trials - scheduled for release today and obtained by The Globe and Mail yesterday.

Read on...

Crimbrary will post a link to the report when it becomes available. Tom

Bush's Bizarre Pardon List

By Jenny Booth, The Times of London UK. Posted November 25, 2008.

A hip-hop artist and a former Detroit police sergeant are among 16 people to be pardoned or to have their prison sentences commuted by President Bush.

A Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist and a former Detroit police sergeant are among 16 individuals to be pardoned or to have their prison sentences commuted by President Bush.

The new round of White House pardons announced late last night are Mr. Bush's first since March, and come less than two months before the end of his presidency.

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I've read conflicting reports about whether Conrad Black has asked for clemency or not. I guess the Times of London should know and it looks like Conrad is asking. The pace of pardons and clemency has been slow but Crimbrary predicts an avalanche of both coming soon. Tom

Homophobic Hate Speech "More Than Offensive"

LGBT leaders respond to pattern of attacks across local and regional radio

WASHINGTON - November 25 - In response to Media Matters for America's recent report on "radioactive smears," which exposed the prevalence of hate speech on a wide variety of topics on local and regional radio stations nationwide, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (WI-02), co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, and Neil G. Giuliano, President of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), released the following statements:

"This kind of hateful speech is more than offensive," said Rep. Baldwin. "I applaud Media Matters for conducting the study 'Radioactive Smears' and exposing the homophobic comments that aim to divide our nation and deny equal rights for all Americans."

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Hate Crimes on Rise, Warn US Groups

by Alison Raphael

WASHINGTON - Leading civil rights groups today denounced the rise in hate crimes taking place in the United States, especially against Hispanics, and called for passage of a proposal that would ensure federal jurisdiction when local officials fail to act.

Hate crimes against Hispanics have risen steadily for the last four years, and crimes against African-American, Asian-American, and Jewish people, as well as gays and lesbians, all increased last year, according to FBI statistics gathered for its Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

In recent weeks alone several incidents have taken place, including the murder of 37-year-old Ecuadorian citizen Marcello Lucero by a group of Long Island teenagers, cross-burnings in New Jersey, and the timely arrest of skinheads planning to assassinate Barack Obama in Tennessee.

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Neither Violence Against Women Nor Poverty Are Inevitable

by Irene Khan

As women around the world come together to celebrate the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, violence against women remains endemic in many forms, in all societies.

Just last month, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was stoned to death by a group of 50 men in Somalia. The thirteen year-old was accused of adultery, though according to her father she was raped and had tried to report it. None of those accused of her rape nor murder have been arrested.

Violence against women and girls is a priority concern for Amnesty International and in 2004 a global campaign to Stop Violence against Women was launched. So far the campaign has contributed to successes that have brought a number of legislative and policy changes at national levels, as well as supported efforts in the international arena for the adoption of Resolutions 1325 and 1820 by the United Nations Security Council.

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Let police investigate hate speech, report says

Commission out of its depth online


November 25, 2008

The Canadian Human Rights Commission should get out of the business of trying to censor hate speech, says a much-anticipated report released yesterday.

Freedom of expression trumps overbroad minority-rights laws, argues its author, University of Windsor law professor Richard Moon.

In the Internet age, he writes, "any attempt to exclude all racial or other prejudice from the public discourse would require extraordinary intervention by the state."

"Because discriminatory attitudes and assumptions are so pervasive, it is vital that they be confronted, rather than censored."

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Here is the report this article is referring to. Tom

New era for human rights

Tipsheet for Obama

By William F. Schulz

November 25, 2008

THE WORLD has applauded the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States, and the delegates to a recent meeting of the Interparliamentary Union in Geneva, a group of legislators from 154 countries, were no different. "It will be wonderful to see someone other than George Bush as president, and a black man at that, but will Obama really do what is needed to restore America's credibility when it comes to human rights?" one asked.

There are many reasons the favorability rating of the United States has plummeted around the world in the past eight years, but one of the most telling has been our abandonment of human-rights leadership. Few Americans realize how much Guantanamo Bay, extraordinary renditions, and the refusal to renounce the use of torture continue to tarnish our reputation. Hopes are high that these policies will be reversed soon.

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As Obama assembles his right wing foreign policy team, an…

An Authoritative Word on Academic Freedom

by Stanley Fish

More than a few times in these columns I have tried to deflate the balloon of academic freedom by arguing that it was not an absolute right or a hallowed principle, but a practical and limited response to the particular nature of intellectual work.

Now, in a new book — “For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom,” to be published in 2009 — two distinguished scholars of constitutional law, Matthew W. Finkin and Robert C. Post, study the history and present shape of the concept and come to conclusions that support and deepen what I have been saying in these columns and elsewhere.

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Casting out the money-lenders

From The Economist print edition

Cities and states are cracking down on payday lending

IN 2007 the small city of Mesquite, a suburb of Dallas, was trying to overhaul its ageing infrastructure and faded industrial zones. City officials launched a renewal programme, but found their efforts marred by payday lenders. These are shops that offer small, short-term loans (in advance of payday) on unfavourable terms, and their neon signs hardly suggest a thriving and vital place. “They project an opposite kind of image,” says one city official. So Mesquite passed a strict zoning ordinance that will make it difficult for any new payday lenders to set up shop. The city cannot bar the practice, but it can try to elbow it out.

The payday lending industry has taken several hits this month. On November 6th the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that large fees for small loans violate the state constitution. In Arizona, voters rejected an industry-sponsored “reform” initiative that would have done away with a…

Can George W. Bush 'Self-Pardon' Himself?

By Stephen M Brown, AlterNet. Posted November 24, 2008.

There's no definitive legal consensus on whether a president can pardon himself. But Bush may well give the theorists an answer.

Charlotte Dennett promised that, if she won her race for attorney general of Vermont in the recent election, she would prosecute George W. Bush for the murder of 4,000 American soldiers and more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians after he left office.

Unfortunately, Dennett did not become Vermont's attorney general. But it is possible (perhaps very possible) that one or more of our other 49 state attorneys general will take up that case after Jan. 20. Hopefully, that AG will appoint -- as Dennett promised to do --famed criminal attorney Vincent Bugliosi (author of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder) as special prosecutor.

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Wonder how much weight a Bush pardon will carry at the Hague. Tom

Taser Tort

by digby

This report from the Las Vegas Sun about their police department's experience with tasers is fascinating. (Too bad the Brits didn't read it before deciding to arm their entire police force with these torture devices.) One of the most interesting thing about it is that nearly all the information police receive is from the Taser company itself.

Several cops got on their knees on a rubber gym mat. Kneeling in a line, they linked arms, interlaced hands, and looked up. All they knew of what comes next is this: It's going to smart.

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Check Crimbrary's archive for other Taser stories. This one is kind of off beat. Tom

Who profits from private prisons?

By: Julia Friday November 21, 2008 8:01 pm

The Wall Street Journal tells us that private prisons are expanding in very specific places.

Prison companies are preparing for a wave of new business as the economic downturn makes it increasingly difficult for federal and state government officials to build and operate their own jails.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons and several state governments have sent thousands of inmates in recent months to prisons and detention centers run by Corrections Corp. of America, Geo Group Inc. and other private operators, as a crackdown on illegal immigration, a lengthening of mandatory sentences for certain crimes and other factors have overcrowded many government facilities.

Prison-policy experts expect inmate populations in 10 states to have increased by 25% or more between 2006 and 2011, according to a report by the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Another example of how the prison industrial complex distorts the electoral process. Tom

Keeping Canadians Safe

In times of uncertainty as in times of prosperity, Canadians need to be assured that they are safe in their homes and communities.

Canadians look to governments to ensure that the justice system is working effectively and that Canadians are safe. Our Government will take tough action against crime and work with partners to improve the administration of justice. Serious offences will be met with serious penalties. Legal provisions will be strengthened in key areas, such as youth crime, organized crime and gang violence. Gun laws will be focused on ending smuggling and stronger penalties for gun crimes, not at criminalizing law-abiding firearms owners. More broadly, Canada’s criminal justice system will be made more efficient. Citizens need to know that justice is served, and that it is served swiftly.

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This is the section of the Speech from the Throne that deals with criminal justice. You can click on the link at the botton to read the whole speech. Needless to say the financi…

Police Spied on Activists Through '07

Protest groups say they haven't gotten the full story from state

by Liz F. Kay

Documents released yesterday show that state police spying of nonviolent protest groups took place in 2007, more than a year after law enforcement officials said much-criticized surveillance of death-penalty activists had ended.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the spying to light this year, also determined that some political activists who appear never to have set foot in Maryland were included in databases that list them as potential terrorists.

Activists say they still aren't getting complete information from state police about 53 people identified as possible terrorists during a covert operation in 2005 and 2006, despite pledges of cooperation from the O'Malley administration. They say they'll keep demanding documents and are considering legal action.

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Minnesota Senate Recount

Challenged ballots: You be the judge

by Than Tibbetts, Minnesota Public RadioNovember 20, 2008

Representatives from the campaigns of Sen. Norm Coleman and Al Franken have been challenging ballots across the state.

It's your turn to play election judge. Tell us how you would rule in the case of these challenged ballots. Use this Minnesota state statute as your guide.


Ballot #1: The Autograph
The Franken campaign challenged this ballot, arguing the voter left an identifying mark on the ballot. Minnesota law states: "If a ballot is marked by distinguishing characteristics in a manner making it evident that the voter intended to identify the ballot, the entire ballot is defective." (Caroline Yang for MPR)

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Go the to the article and check images of some of the actual ballots. When the recount began Franken trailed by more than 200 votes. As of this morning after 46% of the votes have been recounted Franken has closed the gap to 136 votes. If the rate of cha…

A Fresh Start for a New Administration: Reforming Law and Justice Policies

Now that the 2008 Presidential election is over, Americans can begin to focus on the policy changes the new administration can and should make. The inauguration of the Forty-Fourth President and installation of a new Administration will bring an opportunity for a fresh evaluation of federal law and policy in every area. It is therefore important and timely to offer ideas and recommendations for a new Administration to consider as it undertakes this important task.

On October 16th and October 30th, ACS released a package of proposals for a new Administration – of either party – and hosted a panel discussion on the topics they address. The proposals, contained in two dozen papers, cover a range of law and justice policy areas, including:

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Lots of links to interesting papers on how to undo the damage wrought by 8 years of Bush. Tom

25 Most Important Stories the Media Isn't Reporting (w/ poll)

by StanMO Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 09:00:37 PM PST

Need a break from talk of Joe and Hillary?

Project Censored conducts research on important national news stories that are underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored by the US corporate media. Each year, Project Censored publishes a ranking of the top 25 most censored nationally important news stories in the yearbook, Censored: Media Democracy in Action.

Here is this year's list:

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All these stories are important and dutifully ignored by the dying MSM. They are all major, interesting stories but I draw your attention to numbers 7, 18 and 20. I haven't read them all but number 25 also looks interesting. Tom

Dick Cheney indicted for organized crime by Texas grand jury

By John Amato Wednesday Nov 19, 2008 5:30am

More news coming out of TX...

Cheney is accused of investing some $85 million in the Vanguard Group that houses federal inmates. The grand jury accuses Cheney and Alberto Gonzalez of engaging in organized criminal activity.

Too bad he didn't have to do a perp walk for us.

Michael Froomkin has more:
CNN, Cheney, Gonzales indicted for alleged prisoner abuse: Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have been indicted on separate charges related to alleged prisoner abuse in federal detention centers, Willacy County, Texas, District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra told CNN Tuesday.

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Needless to say this story doesn't seem to be in the New York Times. Tom

Obama's Attorney General

Michael Isikoff

President-elect Obama has decided to tap Eric Holder as his attorney general, putting the veteran Washington lawyer in place to become the first African-American to head the Justice Department, according to two legal sources close to the presidential transition.

Holder, who served as deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration, still has to undergo a formal “vetting” review by the Obama transition team before the selection is final and is publicly announced, said one of the sources, who asked not to be identified talking about the transition process. But in the discussions over the past few days, Obama offered Holder the job and he accepted, the source said. The announcement is not likely until after Obama announces his choices to lead the Treasury and State departments.

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I can't say I'm thrilled with all the Clintonites rumoured to be in Obama's cabinet. I've read that Holder is a political hack, but like all of Obama's choices …

Poverty, Pension Fears Drive Japan's Elderly Citizens to Crime

By Stuart Biggs and Sachiko Sakamaki

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- More senior citizens are picking pockets and shoplifting in Japan to cope with cuts in government welfare spending and rising health-care costs in a fast-ageing society.

Criminal offences by people 65 or older doubled to 48,605 in the five years to 2008, the most since police began compiling national statistics in 1978, a Ministry of Justice report said.

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Watch out! The super predator senior citizen crime wave is coming to a neighbourhood near you. Tom

Fear and Punishment in Sweden: Exploring Penal Attitudes

Demker, M., A. Towns, G. Duus-Otterstrom, and J. Sebring. Punishment and Society 10, 3 (2008): 319-332.

Sweden is often portrayed as a hold out from ‘penal populism’, with a comparatively non-punitive population that prefers preventive and non-custodial sanctions to imprisonment. But while the Swedish public is still less punitive than many others, there is evidence that it has become more punitive, and less content with Swedish penal practice, over time. Trying to add to the understanding of the causes of toughening penal attitudes, we proceed to investigate the importance of media consumption for Swedish penal attitudes. We find a correlation between tabloid consumption and punitiveness. We end by a speculation that locates this finding in the wider context of an individualized, victim-centred discourse of crime.

Interesting article on the influence of the media on punitive attitudes. Available online to the U. of T. community, or in print at the Centre of Criminology Library

Vancouver's Radical Approach to Drugs: Let Junkies Be Junkies

By Vince Beiser, Miller-McCune Magazine. Posted November 18, 2008.

Welcome to North America's only officially sanctioned "supervised injection site."

Miller-McCune magazine and draw on academic research and other definitive sources to provide reasoned policy options and solutions for today's pressing issues.

On a chilly, overcast morning in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, a steady trickle of sallow-faced drug addicts shambles up to a storefront painted with flowers and the words "Welcome to Insite." One by one, they ring the doorbell and are buzzed into a tidy reception area staffed by smiling volunteers.

The junkies come here almost around the clock, seven days a week. Some just grab a fistful of clean syringes from one of the buckets by the door and head out again. But about 600 times a day, others walk in with pocketfuls of heroin, cocaine or speed that they've scored out on the street; sign in; go to a clean, well-lit room lined …

Record Numbers Seeking Bush Pardons

by Scott Michels

A record number of felons are seeking presidential pardons or commutations as President George W. Bush enters the final months of his term, creating one of the largest backlogs in clemency applications in recent history.

More than 2,300 people applied for a pardon or commutation in fiscal 2008, which ended Sept. 30, the largest number for any single year since at least 1900, according to Justice Department Statistics. The unprecedented number of applications and the lengthy time needed to make final decisions have led to a backlog of more than 2,000 pending clemency applications.

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It will be interesting to see if Conrad Black finds his way to the front of the pardon line. If I had to make a bet, I would say that Conrad will be pardoned along with Karl Rove and thousands of other administration officials who broke the law on behalf of Bush and the neo-cons. Tom

Report seeks $100-million for youth programs

Created after death of Jordan Manners, provincial review ends with requests for spending, creation of a youth commissioner, more central role for schools in community


From Friday's Globe and Mail

November 14, 2008 at 4:19 AM EST

Creation of a special youth commissioner, an enhanced role for schools and a $100-million allocation of funds will head the recommendations of a long-awaited provincial report on youth violence to be released today.

"This will mark a framework for the future of young people in this province," said a source familiar with the report by former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry and former Liberal MPP Alvin Curling.

Read on...

Report blames racism for rise in youth violence


With reports from Karen Howlett and Timothy Appleby

November 15, 2008

TORONTO -- Racism is "alive and well" in Ontario and shares the blame for the recent rise in youth violence, according to a long-awaited report that urges the province to gather racial data and provide anti-racism training to police.

The sweeping report, released yesterday, described a culture where some minority groups encounter systemic barriers, while others - in particular blacks and aboriginals - suffer from an entrenched and more "virulent form" of racism.

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Race stats confine black youths

Rosie Dimanno

Statistics are troubling. They carry a weight of certainty that is not always deserved.

Crime statistics are particularly misleading. The numbers, and what they purportedly reveal, are only as good as the data fed into a computer. Often that data is incomplete or deceptive. A single incident between suspect and police, for example, can result in a slew of charges – catch-all overcharging is routine – many of which are subsequently dropped because there was no reasonable substance to them and zero likelihood of conviction. But the record will still show X number of charges levelled, skewing annual totals in that particular column.

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Wall Street's Bailout is a Trillion-Dollar Crime Scene -- Why Aren't the Dems Doing Something About It?

By Naomi Klein, The Nation. Posted November 14, 2008.

Washington's handling of the bailout is not merely incompetent. It may well be illegal.

The more details emerge, the clearer it becomes that Washington's handling of the Wall Street bailout is not merely incompetent. It is borderline criminal.

In a moment of high panic in late September, the U.S. Treasury unilaterally pushed through a radical change in how bank mergers are taxed -- a change long sought by the industry. Despite the fact that this move will deprive the government of as much as $140 billion in tax revenue, lawmakers found out only after the fact. According to the Washington Post, more than a dozen tax attorneys agree that "Treasury had no authority to issue the [tax change] notice."

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The financial crisis was caused by fraud, committed by the very same people who are being bailed out. When is someone going to get arrested? Tom

What's the Best Way To Pack a Court?

The attack on merit selection for judges.

By Bert Brandenburg

Posted Friday, Nov. 14, 2008, at 7:13 AM ET

Michigan's voters delivered a small but telling electoral shock on Nov. 4. Chief Justice Cliff Taylor, a heavy favorite, got thumped by 100,000 votes by Circuit Judge Diane Hathaway, who was nominated just 59 days before the election. Taylor raised almost five times as much money as Hathaway and enjoyed at least $1.3 million more in supportive television ads from groups like the GOP and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Yet he was the first high-court justice to be voted out in Michigan in 24 years. The business sector acknowledges Taylor's loss as a stinging defeat. But some of its members still see electing judges, in general, as good for their bottom line. And now they're pushing for more of it.

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"Justifiable Homicides" Are on the Rise: Have Self-Defense Laws Gone Too Far?

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted November 14, 2008.

With shoot first/ask questions later legislation passing across the country, are more Americans getting away with murder?

One year ago today, a 61-year old Texan named Joe Horn looked out his window in Pasadena, just outside of Houston, and saw a pair of black men on his neighbor's property. It appeared to be a burglary in action, so he called 911. But as he described what he saw to the emergency dispatcher, he began to get agitated. The police would take too long to get there, he decided. Instead, he'd stop the crime himself.

"I've got a shotgun," Horn told the 911 dispatcher. "You want me to stop him?"

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Welcome to the wild west. Tom

Eight RNC Protesters Accused of 'Furthering Terrorism' Thanks To Statute

by Matt Snyders

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL - Eryn Trimmer sits in a Loring Park coffee shop and peers out the window to the street below. Dressed in a casual charcoal-colored sweater, with wispy blond hair, the gangly 23-year-old handyman resembles your typical coffeehouse regular. You'd hardly suspect he's an accused terrorist.

The Saturday before the Republican National Convention, Trimmer was sleeping upstairs in his two-story home in Minneapolis's Powderhorn neighborhood when he was awakened by a clatter. Within seconds, armed officers burst through his bedroom, guns drawn, and arrested Trimmer, his live-in girlfriend Monica Bicking, and their roommate Garrett Fitzgerald

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Given the crackdown on protest during the Bush years, its a wonder there are any protestors left. I doubt any of the RNC8 will be found guilty of the terrorism charges. Tom

Blanket Pardons

by digby

Evidently, there's talk of Bush issuing a blanket pardon to anyone involved in his torture regime before he leaves office and Salon is also reporting that there are some plans afoot in the Obama camp to initiate a broad congressional inquiry into the whole interrogation program, which would be even more amazing.

As to the pardons, there is precedent for a president to pardon whole categories of people --- Carter did it for draft resisters and George Washington did it for those involved in the Whiskey Rebellion. The article discusses some moral distinctions, but it seems clear to me that Bush could do this and there would be nothing anyone could do about it.

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It would be nice to see the U.S. return the the rule of law. And also nice to see a few Bushies frogmarched to jail. Not to be vengeful but I hope Obama does something. Tom

The mild-mannered Librarians who took on the Patriot Act... and WON!

by markthshark

Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 07:12:27 PM PST

Two men in black appeared in the doorway of the Library Connection in Windsor, Connecticut as though they just stepped off the film set of the old 1960’s action series "The F.B.I." starring Efram Zimbalist Jr.

With a quick flash of their badges, the agents shuffled past the assistant and walked straight over to the man nearest the Xerox machine behind the counter. After a short introduction, the library’s director George Christian ushered the two agents into his office and closed the door. In a voice barely rising above the din of the copier outside the door, the lead agent explained to the director that the bureau was requesting "... any and all subscriber information, billing information, and access logs of any person of entity" that had used computers between 4pm and 4:45pm on February 15, 2005, in any of the 27 libraries whose computer systems were managed by the Library Connection, a nonprofit co-op of library da…

Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in Case That Could Re-Arm Thousands of Convicted Domestic Violence Abusers

WASHINGTON - November 10 - The U.S.Supreme Court will hear arguments today at 11 a.m. in United States v. Hayes, a case that will determine whether thousands of convicted domestic violence abusers will be allowed to possess guns.

The Court will interpret the federal Lautenberg Amendment, which bans gun possession by convicted domestic violence abusers. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and law enforcement groups filed a brief in June urging the Court to reverse an appeals court ruling that, if allowed to stand, could re-arm convicted abusers in a majority of states.

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Time to Zap the Taser

The Vancouver Provice Editorial

Canada all but abolished the death penalty in 1976. It still exists for special cases in the military, though it is never used.

The last legal execution in this country was 1962 in Toronto's Don Jail, when two men, shall we say, dropped into history. Between 1867 and 1962, 710 people were executed in Canada.

It is a point of pride for millions of Canadians that we no longer hang our citizens.

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Finally a major paper makes the obvious point. Tom

Waiting to Die: The Cruel Phenomenon of "Death Row Syndrome"

By Michael J. Carter, IPS News. Posted November 7, 2008.

As prisoners across the country spend decades awaiting execution, the psychological effects are devastating.

SEATTLE, Washington, Nov 4 (IPS) — The length of time convicted murderers wait for their execution is steadily rising in the U.S., raising concerns that more will suffer from the mental illness known as "death row syndrome.”

The United States' 3,300 death row inmates can now expect to wait an average of 12 years from the day of their sentencing to death by lethal injection or electric chair, a doubling of the time gap in the mid-1980s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice.

This increase is mainly due to mandatory appeals introduced after capital punishment was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976 after a four-year suspension. These reforms have led to lengthier appeals, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.

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Shelf Life: A Criminally Insane System

Forget the sensational headlines about the mentally ill. The truth is in the alternative media.

by Danielle Maestretti

Based on what the mainstream media and an ever-growing spate of TV crime shows have to say about mental illness, one could easily sketch a sinister profile of the average specimen: He's a murder convict, schizophrenic or perhaps bipolar, who snapped after he went off his meds and brutally killed someone with a baseball bat or an apple corer. Oh, and don't forget the takeaway lesson: Why was he roaming the streets in the first place? He should have been in a hospital somewhere.

"The fact is that the mentally ill are rarely violent and contribute very little to overall violence in the United States," writes psychiatrist Richard A. Friedman in "The Politics of Mental Illness," an outstanding 24-page special report in the July-August issue of the American Prospect. But it's easy to see why this myth needs dispelling: Friedman points to a 2005…

Can Barack Obama Undo Bush's Tangled Legal Legacy?

by Marisa Taylor and Michael Doyle

WASHINGTON - When Barack Obama becomes president in January, he'll confront the controversial legal legacy of the Bush administration.

From expansive executive privilege to hard-line tactics in the war on terrorism, Obama must decide what he'll undo and what he'll embrace.

The stakes couldn't be higher.

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A nice overview but one of the craziest suggestions in this article is that John McCain should lead some kind of enquiry into torture policy. Did everyone just watch the same election I watched? Tom

Marital Discord: Why Prop 8 Won

by Richard Kim

Amid the honks and cheers of joy in the Castro and West Hollywood, there are quiet signs of anxiety and, as state election results come in, a growing sense of anguish. Something is not right in the Golden State. Even as Californians gave 61 percent of their vote to Barack Obama, a majority of them, 52 percent, voted to discriminate against another kind of minority--gays and lesbians. For a brief window that began in the bridal month of June, California queers had the right to marry, thanks to a state Supreme Court ruling, and some 18,000 same-sex couples said "I do." Proposition 8--a ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman--now says "You can't!"

As I write, the results for the second most expensive campaign in the country after the presidency are not official. According to the No on 8 campaign, as many as 3 million to 4 million absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted,…

Mercenary for Justice

Pro-life zealot James Kopp murdered an upstate abortion doctor in 1998. And he might well have escaped the FBI if not for an informant whose desire for the big reward money led him to betray a lifelong friend. In the following chronicle, the informant tells his story for the first time, offering the inside account of how the abortion war’s most notorious assassin was finally taken down.

by Robert Kolker

Dennis Malvasi was the kind of kid everyone else wanted to be—the funny one, the street-smart one, the handsome one with a natural swagger. The Brooklyn neighborhood he grew up in was one of the worst slums in the city; East New York in the mid-sixties was a gangland, perpetually on the brink of a race riot. But Dennis always seemed above it all, despite being worse off than most. He had eleven brothers and sisters, with three fathers between them. His mother was so poor she sent him for a time to an orphanage upstate. Maybe it was knowing so many unwanted children that explains what hap…

Suffering Souls: The Search for the Roots of Psychopathy

by John Seabrook

The Western New Mexico Correctional Facility sits in high-desert country about seventy miles west of Albuquerque. Grants, a former uranium boomtown that depends heavily on prison work, is a few miles down the road. There’s a glassed-in room at the top of the prison tower, with louvred windows and, on the ceiling, a big crank that operates a searchlight. In a box on the floor are some tear-gas shells that can be fired down into the yard should there be a riot. Below is the prison complex—a series of low six-sided buildings, divided by high hurricane fences topped with razor wire that glitters fiercely in the desert sun. To the east is the snow-covered peak of Mt. Taylor, the highest in the region; to the west, the Zuni Mountains are visible in the blue distance.

One bright morning last April, Dr. Kent Kiehl strode across the parking lot to the entrance, saying, “I guarantee that by the time we reach the gate the entire inmate population will know I’m here.” Kiehl—the Doc…

VIDEO: Palin Did NOT Know Africa a Continent (Fox!!) w/ juicy gossipy update!

by ksh01

I heard this live on the Fox Report, Shepard Smith's show. It was at the end of the show, a report done by Carl Cameron. But apparently the tensions and drama behind the scenes in the McCain Campaign were far, far worse than anyone in the media allowed us to believe.

According to Cameron,
Palin did NOT know Africa was a continent. She did NOT know who the parties to NAFTA were. She threw dramatic temper tantrums over bad press. She refused to prepare for the Gibson or Couric interviews.

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I couldn't resist this. Tom

Gay Marriage Ban Looks to Have Passed in California, but Is It Legal?

By Karen Ocamb, AlterNet. Posted November 6, 2008.

Lawyers and marriage equality proponents are calling Proposition 8 illegal, and they may have good legal ground to stand on.
Hundreds of gay people and their allies at the Music Box in Hollywood on Election Night thundered their approval when states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio were called for Barack Obama. Like so many others around the world, gay people, anxious for change, felt the pendulum of history about to make a huge sweep in a progressive direction.

In between the election results and foot-stomping music, a steady stream of elected officials -- including new hero Jack O'Connell, California's superintendent of education, who appeared in a No on Prop. 8 ad condemning the "lies" promulgated by the Yes on 8 campaign -- promised to "fight for equality" even if Proposition 8 passed. But for most, that was unthinkable. How could the people of California in 2008 vote to eliminate the existing fundamental rig…

The Man Behind Proposition 8

Posted by Max Blumenthal, The Daily Beast at 2:56 PM on November 4, 2008.

The reclusive billionaire, the mother of Blackwater's Erik Prince, and the drive to fund this year's most controversial referendum.

Among the local ballot measures to be decided on Election Day, California’s Proposition 8 is perhaps the most fiercely contested. Backers of the proposition to ban same-sex marriage in the state cast their campaign in apocalyptic terms. “This vote on whether we stop the gay-marriage juggernaut in California is Armageddon,” born-again Watergate felon and Prison Fellowship Ministries founder Chuck Colson told the New York Times. Tony Perkins, the president of the Christian right’s most powerful Beltway lobbying outfit, Family Research Council, echoed Colson’s language. “It’s more important than the presidential election,” Perkins said of Prop 8. “We will not survive [as a nation] if we lose the institution of marriage.”

The campaign for Prop 8 has reaped massive funding from cons…

Pot Wins in a Landslide: A Thundering Rejection of America's Longest War

By Rob Kampia, AlterNet. Posted November 5, 2008.

Voters dealt what may be a fatal blow to America's longest-running and least-discussed war -- the war on marijuana.

On Tuesday, largely under the radar of the pundits and political chattering classes, voters dealt what may be a fatal blow to America's longest-running and least-discussed war -- the war on marijuana.

Michigan voters made their state the 13th to allow the medical use of marijuana by a whopping 63 percent to 37 percent, the largest margin ever for a medical marijuana initiative. And by 65 percent to 35 percent, Massachusetts voters decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, replacing arrests, legal fees, court appearances, the possibility of jail and a lifelong criminal record with a $100 fine, much like a traffic ticket, that can be paid through the mail.

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Pot may have had some victories on Tuesday but the defeat of Proposition 5 in Californai was a setback. Tom

SCREW you California HOmophobes

by Visualarts101 On a night that I spent earlier, weeping for joy at the thought of seeing and experiencing something I never imagined possible, a black man as President of the United States of America, I end the night with a mix of dull shock and bitter fury.
The California Constitution has been amended to institutionalize discrimination against fellow citizens of the State of California, those who are gay and lesbian.
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Voters oppose Prop. 5, Prop. 6, support Prop. 9

(11-04) 23:04 PST SAN FRANCISCO --

California voters were trouncing a pair of contrasting anti-crime measures, one that aimed to shrink prisons and another that promised to grow them while boosting funding for law enforcement.
Proposition 5 would expand programs to divert drug addicts and nonviolent offenders from prison to rehabilitation. It was designed to keep them from cycling in and out of overcrowded prisons that cost taxpayers more than $10 million a year.
Opponents said the programs were ripe for abuse.
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I really don't know but it strikes me that this isn't the best way to make criminal justice policy. Tom

South Dakota Beats Abortion Ban, Homophobes Win in 4 States

by Meteor Blades Wed Nov 05, 2008 at 01:20:53 AM PST

Two terrible proposals were beaten Tuesday. In South Dakota, the effort to ban most abortions failed for the second time in two years. In Colorado, the effort to define a fertilized egg as a person also failed. But measures to ban gay marriage succeeded in Florida, Arizona and, most likely, California. Gay adoption was banned in Arkansas. Here are the results of these and other important ballot measures. The numbers in parentheses are the percentage of precincts counted
Arizona Proposition 102 defining marriage as between a man and a woman (92%) For: 1,009,693 - 57% Against: 777,359 - 43%
Arizona Proposition 202 revoking business licenses for hiring undocumented workers (92%) For: 702,839 – 41% Against: 1,020,204 - 59%
Arkansas: Ban Gay Adoption (90%) For: 549,074 – 57% Against: 418,648 - 43%
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Obama may have won but there is still a large hate vote in the states. Check out this list of results. Tom

Sarah Palin sounds like she knows she lost. She also refuses to say if she voted for Stevens.

John Aravosis (DC)

Can't get rid of "that one" fast enough. Watch the video, she and her husband both sound like they know they lost. And it's simply amazing that she may have voted for a convicted felon for Senator.
The woman did next to no real interviews, never held a press conference, and McCain hasn't held one in two and a half months. And the media did nothing about it. On that account, they let us down. Yes, there is something they could have done. How about not letting Palin and McCain go on SNL and Letterman and every other goofy fluffy show until they hold a real press conference? How about pulling your reporters off their bus and their plane? Our media allowed McCain to set a precedent where presidential candidates are no longer required to be publicly accountable. Yet another way in which the Republicans are continually watering down our democracy, and the media, the supposed watchdogs of that democracy, yet again are complicit.
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Yes the media f…