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Showing posts from January, 2009

You're Grounded!

How do you qualify for house arrest?

By Juliet Lapidos

Marc Dreier, the New York lawyer charged with defrauding his investors out of $400 million, failed to make bail last Thursday. He will await trial in prison rather than at home, because he could not meet the conditions set by Judge Douglas Eaton—namely, a $20 million bond and at least four "responsible" co-signers. By contrast, Bernie Madoff, who confessed to a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, was released on $10 million bail and has been living under house arrest in his Manhattan penthouse since December. Who qualifies for house arrest?

Those unlikely to break the terms of their confinement. Judges may impose house arrest in lieu of incarceration before trial (as a condition of bail) or as a sentence. Prior to sentencing, judges are chiefly concerned with the risk of flight—determined based on criminal record, a person's ties to the community (does he have a family to support?), and his visibility (will someone notice if he t…

Police force reports massive reduction in gang crime

By Kim Pilling, Press Association Thursday, 29 January 2009

A targeted operation has led to a massive reduction in gang crime, a police force said today.

The number of gang-related shootings in the Great Manchester region fell 92 per cent over the past year since the introduction of the force's Operation Cougar.

For the first time in a decade there was not a single firearms murder, Greater Manchester Police added.

Read on...

The Definition of A "Two-Tiered Justice System"

by Glenn Greenwald

Aside from the intrinsic dangers and injustices of arguing for immunity for high-level government officials who commit felonies (such as illegal eavesdropping, obstruction of justice, torture and other war crimes), it's the total selectivity of the rationale underlying that case which makes it so corrupt. Defenders of Bush officials sing in unison: We shouldn't get caught up in the past. We shouldn't be driven by vengeance and retribution. We shouldn't punish people whose motives in committing crimes weren't really that bad.

There are countries in the world which actually embrace those premises for all of their citizens, and whose justice system consequently reflects a lenient approach to crime and punishment. The United States is not one of those countries. In fact, for ordinary citizens (the ones invisible and irrelevant to Ruth Marcus, Stuart Taylor, Jon Barry and David Broder), the exact opposite is true:

Read on...

If you're starting t…

The confusion over renditions

By Richard Clarke January 29, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S order to close the Guantanamo prison provoked comments from the right about the risks of bringing terrorist prisoners to the United States. His order banning torture, but not outlawing "extraordinary renditions," caused some on the left to complain. Both groups of critics, though, either overlook relevant parts of recent history or simply get that history wrong.

Before George W. Bush, there was no real question about what the United States should do with people who broke American anti-terror laws. It did not matter whether they were arrested in the United States or overseas. In the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, for example, one suspect, Muhammad Salameh, was caught in New Jersey. Another, Ramzi Yousef, was caught in Pakistan. Upon arrest, both were given their Miranda rights, arraigned before a US magistrate, given a free lawyer appointed by the court, tried and convicted before a jury, and sentenced to the "Supe…

Coming Chaos? Maybe Not

Posted by Jason Bradford

This essay was written by Michael W. Foley (TOD user greenuprising), a former professor in the social sciences at an eastern U.S. university who I now know as a local farmer. At a recent Farmers' Market, I suggested that we needed a more empirical and scholarly discussion of the potential for social breakdown, especially violence, during energy descent. Thankfully, he agreed to write the following for The Oil Drum.

A sizable subset of what some on this site call “doomers” are convinced that the demise of the petroleum economy will bring social breakdown and a violent struggle of all against all. Some are even preparing for the chaos to come. I'm convinced we have to take end-of-affluence scenarios, including the scarier ones, seriously. But it can help everyone confront these possibilities if we try to think more intricately about how people might respond. In particular, we need to face head-on the question whether social breakdown and violence are inevi…

Vera Institute Releases Final Report on Foster Children's Experiences in HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials

In 2005, in response to allegations that New York City foster children had been inappropriately and harmfully enrolled in clinical trials related to HIV and AIDS beginning in the1980s, the NYC Administration for Children’s Services asked the Vera Institute of Justice to conduct a thorough review of its past policies and the children’s experiences and outcomes in trials. After reviewing thousands of child welfare files, interviewing key stakeholders, and reviewing voluminous policy materials, Vera is releasing its final report, The Experiences of New York City Foster Children in HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials. The review found that no children were removed from their families to participate in trials and that no children died because of medications they took in trials. But it also identified many serious concerns, including violations of Children’s Services’ policies and federal regulations designed to protect people in research studies. The report also includes recommendations intended to g…

Blame the Enablers

I couldn’t agree with this article more: Madoff Enablers Winked at Suspected Front-Running. I look at Madoff as a Sociopath — he is a sick individual. The enablers, on the other hand, were simply greedy hacks who didn’t, (and probably couldn’t) do the suitable investigation and due diligence into Madoff’s asset management business.

Were they Corrupt? Incompetant? Both? Who is to say. The bottom line is they lost all of their clients’ monies, and need to be held accountable.


If the 70-year-old money manager was running a con, then his marketers like Access International, wittingly or not, were part of the scam.

Read on...

And still Madoff is the only one under arrest. Anyone get the idea that the whole system is corrupt? Tom

The Gitmo Court

by digby

We are fortunate to have a president who is not going to continue the torture and indefinite imprisonment of detainees in the GWOT. But Bush's cruel legacy will live on in hundreds of decisions coming down from the Roberts court. Jeralyn at Talk Left reports on today's sad rulings:

The Supreme Court issued opinions and orders today. Among them:

Ruled that a man wrongly convicted and sent to prison for 24 years cannot sue the former Los Angeles district attorney and his chief deputy for violating his civil rights. The court said unanimously that decisions of supervising prosecutors, like the actions of prosecutors at trial, are shielded from civil lawsuits.

Ruled that police officers have leeway to frisk a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic violation even if nothing indicates the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so.

Read on...

Yes the U.S. supreme court with a bunch of wingnuts on it, all approved by the democrats by the way, will be making law for a l…

Torture Shock

by digby

Apparently, a lot of people find this to be really hilarious:

There's no doubt the guy was non-compliant. And there's no doubt he was drunk. But there's also no doubt that he wasn't presenting any danger to the officer or that the officer had many other options besides knocking the man off of a moving lawnmower with 50,000 volts. But hey, there's nothing funnier that seeing a drunk man screaming in agony and fouling his trousers because he's just been shot full of electricity, so it's all good. I laughed so hard I cried.

Actually I just cried.

Read on....

You have to follow the link to see a couple of videos. Tom

Are We Civilized Enough to Hold Our Leaders Accountable for War Crimes? The World Is Watching

By John W. Dean, Posted January 24, 2009.

Other countries are likely to take action against officials who condoned torture, even if the United States fails to do so.

Remarkably, the confirmation of President Obama's Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, is being held up by Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who apparently is unhappy that Holder might actually investigate and prosecute Bush Administration officials who engaged in torture. Aside from this repugnant new Republican embrace of torture (which might be a winning issue for the lunatic fringe of the party and a nice way to further marginalize the GOP), any effort to protect Bush officials from legal responsibility for war crimes, in the long run, will not work.

It is difficult to believe that Eric Holder would agree not to enforce the law, like his recent Republican predecessors. Indeed, if he were to do so, President Obama should withdraw his nomination. But as MSNBC "Countdown" anchor Keith Olberm…

Justice demands that we now repatriate Omar Khadr

January 26, 2009

President Barack Obama extended America's hand to the world last week, affirming his nation's commitment to returning to multilateralism and co-operation. He also spoke of "our common defence" and rejected "as false, the choice between our safety and our ideals." He declared, in a subtle rebuke of George Bush's anti-terrorism policies, that "our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper may wish to consider these words carefully as he ponders the troubling case of Omar Khadr, who is accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama has clearly signalled that national security imperatives will not justify breaches of international and domestic law. In one of his first executive actions, he obtained a stay of the trials of five Guantanamo Bay detainees, including Mr. Kh…

Bush's 'War' On Terror Comes to a Sudden End

By Dana PriestWashington Post Staff Writer Friday, January 23, 2009; Page A01

President Obama yesterday eliminated the most controversial tools employed by his predecessor against terrorism suspects. With the stroke of his pen, he effectively declared an end to the "war on terror," as President George W. Bush had defined it, signaling to the world that the reach of the U.S. government in battling its enemies will not be limitless.

While Obama says he has no plans to diminish counterterrorism operations abroad, the notion that a president can circumvent long-standing U.S. laws simply by declaring war was halted by executive order in the Oval Office.

Read on...

It will be interesting to see if Obama's new take on the war on terror can survive a terrorist attack. A recent Rand study recommended fighting the war on terror as a police action, not as a war. Obama's first steps,including shutting down the military tribunals are encouraging. Tom

Correction Officers Accused of Letting Inmates Run Rikers Island Jail

Guards reputedly sent inmates to intimidate, threaten and silence uncooperative prisoners with brute force. Inmates were ordered to turn over money, and their every move, including when they could use the bathroom, was controlled. If word of an assault got out, the guards would allegedly orchestrate a cover-up.

In fact, prosecutors said, a unit for teenagers on Rikers Island was run much like an organized-crime family — and two correction officers were the bosses.

Those accusations were made on Thursday in State Supreme Court in the Bronx, where three Rikers Island correction officers were charged in connection with the ring, whose crimes, prosecutors said, reached a climax with the beating death of an 18-year-old inmate.

Read on...

Taser Weapons Marketing Takes Aim at Consumers

NEW YORK ( -- Taser International, which has long armed law enforcement agencies and military organizations with stun guns, is rapidly expanding its marketing to consumers. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, the Arizona-based weapons maker unveiled a line of color-coordinated stun-gun products for fashion-minded female shoppers. Exec VP of Strategic Communications Nick Pappas noted that crime rises during times of economic crisis and that Taser saw great opportunity in the consumer market.

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This is all we need. Tom

Crime in England and Wales down 3%, figures show

Owen Bowcott, Thursday 22 January 2009 11.30 GMT

Overall crime in England and Wales fell by 3% in the third quarter of last year despite a sharp rise in the number of robberies involving knives, Home Office statistics published today showed.

The figures showed a continuing decline in the levels of vehicle-related theft, criminal damage, violent crime and sexual offences between July and September last year compared with a year earlier.

But they revealed that the number of domestic burglaries recorded by police rose by 4% in the same period, the number of robberies involving knives leapt by 18%, drug offences were up by 9% and the level of fraud and forgery shot up by 16%.

Read on...

Merrill Lynch pays out $4 bn in bonuses covered by TARP funds

by Uncle Bob Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 08:21:37 AM PST

After all the abuses of law, morals and ethics by the Bush administration over the last 8 years, I never thought that my outrage meter could get pegged again. Wrong.

The Financial Times reported that Merrill Lynch accelerated its normal time schedule for awarding bonuses and distributed $ 4 billion dollars on Dec 29, just 3 days before its takeover by Bank of America. At the same time Merrill posted $15 billion in losses for the fourth quarter. The total compensation for Merrill Lynch employees in 2008 was $15 billion.

That’s way more than just an outsized sense of entitlement, that’s flat-out stealing. And the money for this comes from, you guessed it, the US government. The Bank of America was prepared to back out of the deal once the size of the Merrill Lynch loss became apparent. The deal was completed only after guarantees of government money by the US Treasury.

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Any finanical types been arrested yet? Other than Madoff? Tom

On Roe v. Wade's Anniversary, Obama to Begin Mopping Up Bush's Misogynistic Mess

By Emily Douglas, RH Reality Check. Posted January 22, 2009.

The Obama administration has women's reproductive rights and health high on its agenda.

President Obama took office just 48 hours ago, and the world is already a very different place for women and their reproductive health.

Global Gag Rule, Conscience Rule, and Ban on Stem Cell Funding on the Chopping Block

Word is that the administration will repeal the global gag rule today, on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. "This is a big victory for women overseas," said Tod Preston, vice president for government relations at Population Action International, told the LA Times. "We know their health has been severely impacted by the cutoff. If you want to reduce unintended pregnancies, abortion and women dying from high-risk pregnancies because they don't have access to family planning, you don't do it by cutting off U.S. assistance."

The LA Times reportsthat the new administration also plans to "fre…

A Silver Lining to the Economic Crisis: Less Money for Prisons

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted January 22, 2009.

As states grapple with record budget deficits, more politicians are looking toward criminal justice reform to cut costs.

If you're seeking a silver lining to the current economic crisis, this may well be it: As states across the country confront historic budget shortfalls, more and more politicians are looking toward long-overdue criminal justice reform as a way to cut spending. Suddenly, the money local governments stand to save by slowing down incarceration rates is trumping the political costs traditionally associated with it.

Good news, perhaps, this evolution in thinking, but it's hardly a burst of innovation (let alone political courage). The nation's prisons have been dysfunctional and overcrowded for ages, reaching emergency levels in recent years. Around this time last year, a study released by the Pew Center found that 1 in 100 Americans was behind bars, a sobering statistic that spurred calls for reform, from ne…

Bush Booed At Inauguration (VIDEO)

Former President Bush was welcomed to the inaugural podium with boos from the million-person plus crowd. The video below picks up some of the dissenting crowd. If you were watching the ceremony live, the boos were loud and clear throughout the mass of people. Former President Bush was welcomed to the inaugural podium with boos from the million-person plus crowd. The video below picks up some of the dissenting crowd. If you were watching the ceremony live, the boos were loud and clear throughout the mass of people.

Check out the video. Tom

Is America's Love Affair with Stupidity Finally Over?

By Liz Langley, AlterNet. Posted January 14, 2009.

Americans' embrace of the Obamas and other intelligent public figures may be part of a much-needed cultural shift.

"There was a time in this country when smart people were considered cool -- well not cool, but they did things like build ships and pyramids and they even went in the moon ... I believe that time can come again."

That's an abridged quote from Idiocracy, the 2006 scarily spot-on parody film about what life will be like on Earth in 500 years if we don't throw a Stop Stick under the tires of the dumbing-down process. Written and directed by Mike Judge ("Beavis and Butthead," "King of the Hill") in Judge's world of tomorrow, the top TV show is "Ow! My Balls!" on the Violence Channel, and the U.S. president is an ex-porn star and pro-wrestler.

Idiocracy is supposed to be a comedy, but it's hard not to get a little chill after you see it and realize that this world is clos…

Canada bars '60s radical

Weather Underground co-founder William Ayers had been scheduled to give a lecture
at U of T

Jan 20, 2009 04:30 AM

Debra Black

Weather Underground co-founder William Ayers, who made headlines last year during the U.S. presidential race for his controversial links to Barack Obama, was turned back at the Canadian border Sunday night.

The Weather Underground, a radical 1960s anti-Vietnam War group, was responsible for a number of bombings in the United States in the early 1970s.

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For crying out loud. This kind of dampens all the good vibes coming from the Obama inauguration. Who made the decision? Anyone want to hazard a guess. Tom

Inauguration - Timeline

9:00 AM VIPs begin arriving
Former Presidents
Members of the House of Representatives
United States Senators
Cabinet designees
9:45 AM Platform seating begins
11:03 AM Former Presidents announced and seated
11:12AM Biden family announced and seated
11:14AM Obama family announced and seated
11:16AM Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Cheney announced and seated
11:18AM Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden announced and seated
11:20AM President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney announced and seated
11:22AM Vice President-elect Joe Biden announced and seated
11:25AM President-elect Barack Obama is announced and seated
11:30 AM Senator Feinstein delivers opening remarks
11:34 AM Senator Feinstein introduces Pastor Rick Warren
11:35 AM Invocation by Pastor Rick Warren
11:37 AM Senator Feinstein introduces Aretha Franklin
11:38 AM Aretha Franklin – ―My Country Tis of Thee‖
11:42 AM Senator Feinstein introduces Senator Bennett
11:44 AM Senator Bennett introduces Associate Justice Stevens
11:46AM Vice Presidential Oath a…

10 Bush pardons to watch for

As the clock ticks down on his presidency, George W. Bush has shown few signs he plans to indulge in the frenzy of last-minute pardons that marked Bill Clinton’s final hours in the Oval Office.

But Bush could quickly leap back into the spotlight in the next two days if he issues a blanket pardon immunizing CIA and military interrogators, as well as their bosses, from criminal prosecution over harsh treatment of prisoners from the war on terror.

“I’m sure he’s under pressure from some people to issue blanket pardons,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) told Politico. “I don’t think it’s fevered imagination. I think it’s reasonable speculation.”

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His own name should be number one on the list. It will be curious to see if there are some last minute pardons. Didn't see Conrad Blacks name on the list. Tom

D.C. Prostitutes and Coke Dealers on Business Spiking for the Inauguration

A brief phone survey yesterday of D.C.-area hookers found on Craigslist revealed that Barack Obama's inauguration is inspiring great hopes — for their business. A pair who work together expect 30 clients before Wednesday, all paying $200 a pop. Meeka, 21, a “sexy southern belle, new to town,” has come into the city specially for the festivities. “I'm busy over the weekend,” she told us. “I could make time for you, though.” Karina, 26, traveled five hours to get here, and was already “pretty booked up.”

Read on...

Madoff's fund may not have made a single trade

Fri Jan 16, 2009 6:55am EST
By Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) - Bernie Madoff's investment fund may never have executed a single trade, industry officials say, suggesting detailed statements mailed to investors each month may have been an elaborate mirage in a $50 billion fraud.

An industry-run regulator for brokerage firms said on Thursday there was no record of Madoff's investment fund placing trades through his brokerage operation.

That means Madoff either placed trades through other brokerage firms, a move industry officials consider unlikely, or he was not executing trades at all.

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And of course the pundits on CNBC are still warning against having too much regulation. Not only was there not enough regulation under Bush, there was zero enforcement. Total financial collapse and how many people have been arrested? Tom

Forgive and Forget?

Published: January 15, 2009

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

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

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Obviously I agree with Krugman on this. Tom

Holder: Waterboarding Is Torture

Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder faced often aggressive grilling from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. But one of the first statements made by President-elect Barack Obama's designee to head the Department of Justice during the confirmation hearing was perhaps the most important.

Under oath, with not just senators but the world watching, Holder declared that "waterboarding is torture."

Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, referred to waterboarding -- which is broadly recognized as torture but which President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their legal aides defended, at times obliquely, at times overtly -- in his opening round of questions for Holder.

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Wow. That this is considered news shows how depraved the U.S. justice system has become. Will anything change? Will anyone be prosecuted? Tom

Justice for Oscar Grant

Peter Rothberg

From Rodney King to Sean Bell, recent American history has seen far too many examples of police brutality directed against people (usually men) of color. Rarely though, has there been a more chilling, outrageous, seemingly unnecessary instance of abuse than that of Oscar Grant's killing at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, California on New Year's Day.

This video is kind of long and the quality is pretty shoddy but by the end you see an unarmed man lying on the ground being shot at point blank range for absolutely no apparent reason.

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Check out the video. This killing has caused riots in Oakland. One excuse offered was that the police officer mixed up his taser with his gun. Tom

The Lesser of Two Evils? A Qualitative Study of Offenders' Preferences for Prison Compared to Alternatives

by Alisha Williams, David C. May, and Peter B. Wood

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

Recent work has demonstrated that many offenders will choose to serve prison rather than any amount of a community-based sanction. This primarily quantitative research has found that offender-generated exchange rates are influenced by a wide variety of experiences and characteristics. Missing from this literature is a qualitative evaluation of why offenders might make this choice. We present qualitative data from 618 probationers and parolees to explain why those who have experienced imprisonment are less willing to serve community sanctions than their counterparts, and more willing to serve prison. Results hold implications for deterrence, recidivism, rehabilitation, and correctional policy issues.

Questions of Justice

Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general, is scheduled to appear today at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Op-Ed page asked five legal experts to pose the questions they would like to hear the nominee answer.

1. Do you believe the president has authorities under the Constitution’s executive power and commander in chief clauses on which Congress cannot impinge? What are they?

2. Will you give legal approval to covert counterterrorism actions that you believe are lawful but which you know will engender legal and political controversy if made public? What factors other than your best legal judgment will you consider?

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The New York Times has 5 questions for Obama's nominee for attorney general. Tom

Senator Whitehouse to investigate BushCo even if Obama doesn’t

by markthshark
Thu Jan 15, 2009 at 03:25:30 AM PST

As diaries go, this isn’t much of one but the information herein is, I believe, both newsworthy, and (for many of us progressives) very heartening. It certainly made me smile this mornin'
It seems hope does spring eternal.

Over the past week or so, President-elect Obama, Vice President-elect Biden, various cable news pundits, and a slew of progressive bloggers have all weighed in on whether the outgoing Bush administration should/will be investigated for ordering the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and other U.S. run detainee facilities around the world.

Read on...

This sounds good but the Senate and the House hasn't even been able to enforce subpoenas against the Bush Whitehouse. And its entirely possible the the Supreme Court will side with the Unitary Executive and say Bush and his pals don't have to respond to the Subpoenas. Tom

Supremes gut 4th Amndmt. Sorry for the inconvenience. Have a nice day!

by occams hatchet Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 04:28:19 PM PST

My brother e-mailed me:

Remember 1-14-2009.

That's the day we officially became a Banana Republic.

By a 5-4 ruling the Supreme Court voted today to effectively gut the 4th Amendment as a meaningful limitation on police power.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today (PDF file) that evidence gathered illegally by police as the result of defective search warrants is admissible in court.

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Obama's got to replace Stevens in a hurry, and maybe hope one of the fascists resigns. Tom


by digby

I've long worried about the gradual open acceptance of torture and have written a lot about the expanding police apparatus and what that means to our civil liberties. ("If you build it, they will use it.")

In a post questioning the usefulness of creating yest another alternate legal system to deal with the Guantanamo prisoners, Hilzoy puts her finger exactly on why it is a very dangerous idea, and cites what I consider to be a chilling example of how it's likely to be abused:

One of the ways in which we protect ourselves from torture is by making it clear that evidence gained through torture is inadmissible in court. Creating an alternative legal system in which such evidence was admissible would create horrible incentives for law enforcement. This is particularly true since many terrorism statutes are broadly written. Consider this case:

Read on...

This is an interesting post about civil liberties, torture and terrorism. Obama still has to take a stand on tortu…

The Final Press Conference: Portrait of a Narcissistic Psychopath

by Jesselyn RadackTue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:37:14 AM PST

Biggest mistake of his presidency, according to Bush:
the "Mission Accomplished" banner.

Biggest disappointments of Bush's presidency:
the revelation of torture at Abu Ghraib.
the failure to find WMD in Iraq.

President Bush is incapable of self-reflection, let alone guilt or regret -- a common trait of psychopaths, as is glib and superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, lack of remorse, shallow affect, callousness and lack of empathy, early behavioral problems, lack of realistic long-term goals, and failure to accept responsibility for one's actions. Bush identifies the failure to find WMD in Iraq as "a significant disappointment," but not his decision to invade Iraq in the first place? Seriously?

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Meet Lady Subprime

By Richard CohenTuesday, January 13, 2009; Page A15

The French have the comely Marianne, the British have the fetching Britannia, and we have the welcoming Lady Liberty. May I now suggest, at least for the duration of the current recession, a new feminine emblem of our times: Marvene Halterman of Avondale, Ariz. At age 61, after 13 years of uninterrupted unemployment and at least as many years of living on welfare, she got a mortgage.

She got that mortgage less than two years ago. She got it even though at one time she had 23 people living in the house (576 square feet, one bath) and some ramshackle outbuildings. She got it for $103,000, an amount that far exceeded the value of the house. The place has since been condemned.

Read on...

If you're having trouble understanding how the world's finanical system got sucked into a black hole of derivative debt, this is a fairly readable explanation. This is why almost every financial institution in North America is bankrupt. This is the…

The Big Lie on Franken

CommentBy John Nichols
January 7, 2009

There is no one Republicans were more determined to keep out of the Senate than comedian Al Franken. It wasn't just that Franken had ridiculed their misrule over the past eight years with a stack of bestselling books and a three-year stint on Air America radio. GOP bosses who listened to what Franken was saying as he challenged Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman came to recognize that while the Saturday Night Live alum knew how to get a laugh, he was also a policy wonk with a "great communicator" flair for getting to the heart of economic matters. Ultimately, it was that skill that allowed Franken--a smart critic of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's initial schemes for bailing out Wall Street--to overcome the brutal assault from Coleman and his corporate cronies.

And overcome it he has. After one of the longest Senate recount fights in recent history, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party contender for the seat once held by his friend Pau…

Obama on Torture: Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

posted by Ari Melber on 01/12/2009 @ 11:22am

The Obama administration will not focus on prosecuting government officials who practiced illegal torture or war crimes, the president-elect said on Sunday, though he added that prosecutions and independent commission have not been completely ruled out. This was Obama's first major statement on the issue since April; over the past few weeks, Obama's aides have repeatedly ducked questions about what, if anything, the administration will do to enforce laws violated by officials under President Bush. The question topped the list of citizen concerns on last week, out of over 70,000 submissions, but Obama aide Robert Gibbs refused to respond, leading ABC's George Stephanopoulos to press the question during an interview on his Sunday show.

"My orientation's going to be to move forward," Obama said. The attorney general has to stay above politics and "uphold the Constitution," Obama added, but his admin…

Budget woes prompt states to rethink prison policy

By DAVID CRARYAP National WriterPosted: Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009

Their budgets in crisis, governors, legislators and prison officials across the nation are making or considering policy changes that will likely remove tens of thousands of offenders from prisons and parole supervision.

Collectively, the pending and proposed initiatives could add up to one of biggest shifts ever in corrections policy, putting into place cost-saving reforms that have struggled to win political support in the tough-on-crime climate of recent decades.

"Prior to this fiscal crisis, legislators could tinker around the edges - but we're now well past the tinkering stage," said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which advocates alternatives to incarceration.

Read on...

Five Key Areas for Reforming America's Idiotic War on Drugs

By Tony Newman, AlterNet. Posted January 12, 2009.

This is a time to put big ideas on the table. We have to learn how to coexist with drugs. They aren't going anywhere.

The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars waging its 40-year "war on drugs," responsible for the imprisonment of 500,000 of our fellow American citizens. Despite this enormous waste of money and lives, drugs are as easily available and cheap as ever. The drug-warmongers say it is all for the safety and protection of our children, yet high schoolers all over the country can easily obtain just about any illegal drug they are seeking in this unregulated market. Half of all high-school seniors will have tried marijuana before graduating. The government's latest Monitoring the Future report, released [when?], indicates that more young people are now choosing to smoke pot rather than cigarettes.

Despite these disheartening facts, there is reason for optimism and hope. More and more people ar…

A police state right here in the good ole USA....

by jewel33
Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 02:22:02 AM PST

and nothing is being done about it.
A bit of background:

Maricopa County, AZ has a hard-line sheriff whose name is Joe Arpaio. You may have heard a bit about him in the news ... he's the sheriff who has taken the immigration policy into his own hands - routinely targeting the large Latino population of his county for DWL (Driving While Latino). These traffic stops often result in rounding up "illegals" and placing them in his tent city (since there's not enough room in the jail for all of the people his deputies round up). He has been lauded and hailed by anti-immigration folk as "tough on crime". Many say that if someone is breaking the law by being in our country illegally, they deserve to be harassed and thrown into jail. Heck, the guy even has a new reality series of his very own!

How does he know that the people he rounds up are illegal? Well, he asks them for their citizenship papers, birth certificate, …

Center on Youth Justice Releases Juvenile Justice Indicators Follow-up

A new report about how New York’s juvenile justice system has been operating for the past three years is now available from Vera’s Center on Youth Justice (CYJ). Widening the Lens 2008 [pdf] tracks four key areas of the system—court referrals, detention, court processing, and disposition—to offer insight into how county and state agencies are serving youth. The goal is to help officials monitor the youth justice system, alert managers to demographic shifts or policy changes, and allow stakeholders to identify promising trends and opportunities for reform.
Widening the Lens 2008 is a follow-up to the state’s first-ever set of juvenile justice indicators [pdf], which CYJ and the New York State Task Force on Juvenile Justice Indicators published in 2007.

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 o…

Austria’s ‘Woman on Wall St.’ and Madoff

By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ and JULIA WERDIGIERPublished: January 6, 2009 VIENNA —

With an aggressive style that stood out in the staid world of Austrian banking even more than her bouffant red wig, Sonja Kohn made few friends gathering billions for Bernard L. Madoff from wealthy investors in Russia and across Europe.

Now, she has even fewer. Mrs. Kohn has dropped out of sight, leaving the firm she founded, Bank Medici, in the hands of Austrian regulators, who took it over last week.

Embarrassment from investing heavily with Mr. Madoff could explain wanting to disappear from public view. But another theory widely repeated by those who know Mrs. Kohn is that she may be afraid of some particularly displeased investors: Russian oligarchs whose money made up a chunk of the $2.1 billion that Bank Medici invested with Mr. Madoff.

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Nice to know the good company the UofT pension plan was investing with.....Russian Oligarchs. I guess a piddling little $4 or $5 million investment doesn't re…

Jurists, Business Leaders, Reform Groups Join 'Justice for Sale' Case

High Court Urged to Require Judge’s Recusal in Suit Involving Campaign Supporter

WASHINGTON - January 6 - An unprecedented array of former state Supreme Court justices, business leaders and civic reform groups has called on the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm one of the most basic rights in any system of law: the right to a fair hearing before a neutral arbiter.

The groups filed briefs in Caperton v. Massey, which has emerged as a landmark case over the spiraling role of special-interest spending in judicial elections. The trend has troubled many, including former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and caused some to question whether justice is now “for sale.”

Separate briefs supporting the Petitioners were filed by:

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Coleman: I'm Going To Court

By Eric Kleefeld - January 6, 2009, 4:01PM

Norm Coleman has made it official: He is filing a lawsuit to challenge the election result in Minnesota, which he does not believe to be a valid count -- and he is making clear that for the sake of democracy, Al Franken should not be seated in the Senate.

Coleman went through the list of things his campaign says went wrong: For example, that absentee ballots for Al Franken were counted twice, and that there were no uniform standards in reviewing rejected absentee ballots.

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Sore loser. Tom

Taser Error

by digby

This is just unbelievable:

BART's police chief asked for patience from the public on Sunday after video footage surfaced showing one of his officers fatally shooting an unarmed man who was on the ground on a station platform on New Year's Day, and after an attorney for the dead man's family said he planned to sue the transit agency for $25 million.

Chief Gary Gee said he, too, had seen video images of the shooting of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old supermarket worker from Hayward. But Gee said he found the footage to be inconclusive, and he said his investigators still needed to interview a key witness - the officer himself.

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Does anyone really think police are adequately trained in the use of Tasers, or guns for that matter. Tom

Update: Here is video if you can stomach it. Tom

Madoff Scandal Threatens Country’s Criminal Justice Organizations

Posted by Dan Slater

Tallying the losers in the Madoff scandal has become somewhat of a parlor game. On the legal front, we’ve seen the New York Law School emerge as an alleged victim. But the criminal justice system is reeling, as well.

Earlier this month, the JEHT Foundation — a major financial supporter of the Innocence Project in Texas, among others — announced it would shut its doors in January because its prime donors invested with Madoff. JEHT, according to this Business Week article, is a six-year-old New York City-based philanthropy focused on juvenile and criminal justice, human rights, and election reform.

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The fallout from the Madoff Ponzi Scheme gets weirder and weirder. BTW the geniuses running UofT's pension plan just reported that the plan lost 4 or 5 million dollars that was invested with Madoff. Tom