Wednesday, December 17, 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 help leaders in government and civil society improve the systems people rely on for justice and safety.

To learn more about the Vera Institute of Justice, visit www.vera.org.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

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 4,200 U.S. troops, and 5 million displaced Iraqis," says Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK. "The one who should be in jail is George Bush, and he should be charged with war crimes."

Read on...

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 press conferences, while pre-selected reporters played along and pretended to get his attention so they could ask questions which had been submitted and vetted in advance, I have felt like throwing my shoes at the television set.

Read on...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

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 deemed, like Iqbal, to be of "high interest" were detained under a "hold until cleared" policy at a high-security facility in Brooklyn. Iqbal claims that during 150 days of detention based solely on his religion and national origin, he was subject to solitary confinement, repeated cavity searches, denied medical care, and brutally beaten. He pleaded guilty to immigration charges (unrelated to terrorism) and was sent back to Pakistan in 2003. He then sued 34 current and former government officials, right up the chain of command from the prison staff to John Ashcroft and Robert Mueller. Ashcroft and Mueller moved to get themselves out of the case, claiming, among other things, that any connections between themselves and the Brooklyn detention policies were based on mere "conclusory allegations." A federal district court and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, allowing the suit to go forward against the two men based on the "likelihood that these senior officials would have concerned themselves with the formulation and implementation" of these policies.

Read on...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

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 expand the right to carry a concealed weapon onto college campuses.

Read on...

The NRA is nuts. Tom

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 ending the sentence of life without parole for offenders under age 18.

Read on...

Michigan has 321 young offenders sentenced to die in prison. Michigan has 321 young offenders sentenced to die in prison. Tom

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Supreme Court set to consider privacy rights

Growing chasm between civil libertarians and interests of law enforcement agencies

KIRK MAKIN
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 court recognized, the government cannot bar Professor Habib from speaking in the U.S. without any explanation or substantiation whatsoever. Today's decision is a major victory for judicial review and a significant blow to the administration's failed attempt at stifling debate by banning a prominent critic of U.S. policy." Judge George A. O'Toole, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled that the First Amendment requires the government to provide a valid, substantiated reason for excluding a scholar invited to speak to U.S. audiences. Writing that "the government has not given a reason for the denial," Judge O'Toole allowed the ACLU's challenge to move forward. In late 2007, the State Department refused Habib a visa after months of inaction, claiming that he is barred because he has "engaged in terrorist activities," but the government failed to explain the basis for its accusation, let alone provide any evidence to prove it.

Read on...

It is funny how suddenly a lot of court decisions are starting to go against the Bush administration. Makes you wonder why the courts were more Bush-friendly for the last 8 years. Tom

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

Monday, December 8, 2008

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, and who are setting fire to buildings in Greece, are not "angry students" - they're violent thugs. I've done a lot of pretty hard-hitting political activism in my years, and never resorted to violence.

Read on...

Interesting question. Obama supports the workers' occupation of a factory in Chicago right now. Management probably thinks the occupation is "violent". I'm a bit suprised by John Aravois' opinion here. There is already too much "use of force" by the police. I"d hate to see an open season against protesters along the lines of Richard Daly's infamous "shoot to kill" order in Chicago. What do you think? Tom

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 RallyCongress.com, and you can be the 126,000th-odd American to demand "proof of citizenship" from the president-elect. Follow the instructions at WeMustBeHeard.com, 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 throughout the American public," writes WND Editor Joseph Farah, "that this constitutional requirement is being overlooked and enforcement neglected by state and federal election authorities."

Read on...

Chuck Norris is a great American. Tom

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 "right of conscience" of American health care workers. Under a new midnight regulation crammed through by the Bush Department of Health and Human Services and poised to become law any day now, any health care worker may refuse to perform procedures, offer advice, or dispense prescriptions if doing so would offend his or her "religious beliefs or moral convictions." Congress has protected the right of physicians and nurses to opt out of providing abortions for decades. But this new rule, which President-elect Obama can overturn (although it may take months for him to do so), is far, far broader. It allows your access to birth control, emergency contraception, and even artificial insemination to turn on the moral preferences of your pharmacist, nurse, or ambulance driver.

Read on...

Friday, December 5, 2008

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 confidence vote on the Throne Speech, which will begin the next parliamentary session, or on the budget, but, in the meantime, both sides will campaign aggressively to woo public opinion – the Conservatives even more so given the fact that they have more money than the other parties. In other words, we're about to be sucked into an election campaign but without the election.

Read on...

Enquiring minds want to know what Crimbrary thinks about the Harper/Coalition catfight. Crimbrary was an early and ardent supporter of the Coalition. Crimbrary recognizes that the Conservatives have won the first round of spin. Harper's conflating the Coalition with Separatism seems to have succeeded. And Dion's pathetic appearance on tv failed. The Coalition cannot let Dion anywhere near a tv or microphone again. His voice alone grates on Crimbrary's nerves. The Liberals need an interim leader. This will void the major rallying cry of the Conservatives. Then there can be a rational debate on the issues. Harper has walked away as jobs are swirling down the toilet. By the time Harper comes back from his vacation thousands and thousands more jobs will have disappeared. Crimbrary saw the true face of Harper and the ideologues. The Coalition, minus the albatross of Dion, should be able to make their case. The rednecks, now screaming about the separatists and Dion attempting to steal the election, will be unemployed by January. Let a rested and tanned Harper face parliament then. Who you gonna blame?

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...

Didn't Harper just try to take away bargaining rights of federal civil servants. Lockstep with Bush to the end. Tom

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

Thursday, December 4, 2008

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 nuisance suit that Justice Thomas has, at the very least, kept alive for no obvious reason. Here is some more info on the case. Tom

Disgraced ex-New York governor Eliot Spitzer to write for Slate.com

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 Slate.com 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 guardian.co.uk, 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...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

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 undo the damage Bush has done to the Justice Department? Tom

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, Christian society. Family life, sexual relations, education, scientific knowledge and popular entertainment became battlegrounds of the culture wars.

Read on...

Obama is setting himself up to be a big disappointment in foreign and economic policy. Maybe he can do something right in the culture war. Tom

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...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

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

ROMINA MAURINO
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.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

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 over to the National Archives twelve years after their terms ended for eventual public release. Ronald Reagan was the first chief executive to whom the Presidential Records Act applied, and his papers were due to be turned over to Carlin at the beginning of Bush's term.

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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 and provide a legal reason for his continued imprisonment.

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