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Showing posts from February, 2010

Team Canada apologizes for post-game behaviour

Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press

VANCOUVER - Hockey Canada apologized Thursday for an impromptu party the Olympic women's hockey team threw for itself on the Canada Hockey Place ice after winning the gold medal. Canadian players, still wearing their uniforms and with gold medals draped around their necks, celebrated their victory by drinking champagne and beer at centre ice following a 2-0 win over the United States. The International Olympic Committee said it will investigate the celebration, which included drinking by one of Canada's underage players.
Read on...Who cares? Go Canada Go. Tom

Drinking While Brown (or Gay) in Texas Will Get You Arrested

The nation's broadest public intoxication law gives TX cops virtually free range to arrest anyone for drunkenness -- even if they're quietly nursing a beer in a bar.

Creative Commons

Late on a balmy Saturday night last June, six Fort Worth cops and two officers from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission went looking for trouble. They had just raided two Hispanic bars in an industrial stretch of town and nine detainees now sat in the paddy wagon (pdf), hands bound with plastic ties. The rest of the city's bars would soon shut down. It seemed like the night was over, except for the paperwork. Then Sergeant Richard Morris had an idea. "Hey," he said. "Let's go to the Rainbow Lounge."A half-dozen police cruisers, an unmarked sedan, and the prisoner van slid to a stop in front of the Rainbow Lounge, Fort Worth's newest gay club, at about 1:30 a.m. on June 28, 2009 -- 40 years, almost down to the minute, after New York City police raided the St…

Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer

Her works treated as gospel by right-wing powerhouses like Alan Greenspan and Clarence Thomas, Ayn Rand found early inspiration 1920s murderer William Hickman.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

here's something deeply unsettling about living in a country where millions of people froth at the mouth at the idea of giving health care to the tens of millions of Americans who don't have it, or who take pleasure at the thought of privatizing and slashing bedrock social programs like Social Security or Medicare. It might not be as hard to stomach if other Western countries also had a large, vocal chunk of the population who thought like this, but the US is seemingly the only place where right-wing elites can openly share their distaste for the working poor. Where do they find their philosophical justification for this kind of attitude?

It turns out, you can trace much of this thinking back to Ayn Rand, a popular cult-philosopher who exerts a huge influence over much of the right-wing and l…

$100,000 Per Year to Lock up a Cheese Thief? The Perverse Logic of "Three Strikes"

That a man with unpaid-for cheese in his underwear could ever have faced essentially the same sentence as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is an absurdity.

In an era of savage budget cuts to the most basic of public services, does it make sense for a state to spend $50,000-$100,000 a year to lock up a cheese thief for the rest of his natural life?

The obvious answer to that question would be "no." After all, $100,000 could keep one or two teachers employed; could pay the home-health care costs of disabled low-income Americans; or could keep an after-school program afloat. And yet, that is precisely what a grandstanding California district attorney's office earlier this month suggested was an appropriate solution for the problem that is Robert Ferguson: a mentally ill, drug-addicted 53-year-old habitual offender who has cycled in and out of prison for most of his adult life and found himself on the wrong end of a three strikes prosecution for the monstrous crime of stuffing a $3.9…

Terrorists in South Carolina Must Register Before Overthrowing Government

(ChattahBox)—The State of South Carolina, home to Appalachian Trial hiker Governor Mark Sanford, and “You Lie” Joe Wilson wants to keep track of terrorists and subversives residing in the Palmetto state. And in a stroke of bureaucratic Orwellian genius, lawmakers have found a way to monitor terrorist activity. It’s called the “Subversive Activities Registration Act,” and requires that subversives pay a $5.00 filing fee and register with the Secretary of State, before overthrowing the government. Genius, right?The South Carolina blog FitsNews, was right on top of this latest development in a bible-thumping state that has its share of colorful characters and right-wing political blockheads. Just recently, Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who is making a run for governor, compared hungry poor people in his state to stray cats and dogs who breed when fed.Read on...Here's the link to the law. Hat tip Tony Doob. Tom

Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks

A Quick Guide

By: Lynn E. Davis, Tom LaTourrette, David E. Mosher, Lois M. Davis, David R. Howell Individuals may have to rely on themselves to protect their own health and safety — perhaps even their own lives — in the event of a terrorist attack. Even those who know how to take care of themselves in the event of a fire, tornado, or earthquake might not know what to do in case of a chemical, radiological, nuclear, or biological attack. This quick guide attempts to fill in some of these gaps by offering specific actions to take during each of these situations, as well as preparations that can be taken. These actions are appropriate regardless of the likelihood of an attack, its scale, or the current government alert level; are designed to be sensitive to potential variations; and have been defined in terms of simple rules that should be easy to follow. A reference card included at the back of the guide encapsulates the key points and can be removed for display in a prominent p…

UN Watchdog Issues Warning About Date-Rape Drugs

VIENNA (AP) -- Governments around the world must step up their efforts to limit access to ''date-rape drugs,'' sedatives that are secretly added to a person's drink to reduce their ability to resist sexual assault and remember it later, a watchdog said Wednesday.Sexual predators can easily procure such date-rape drugs, despite existing efforts to curb their misuse, the International Narcotics Control Board said in its annual report.Governments should quickly adopt measures to limit illegal access to such drugs, and increase public awareness about the risks of leaving food and drinks unattended at public events such as parties, the board said. They also must do a better job of analyzing urine samples in suspected cases and be consistent about compiling and sharing statistics.''The 'date-rape drug' phenomenon, although fairly new, is evolving rapidly as sexual abusers attempt to circumvent stricter drug controls by using substances not restricted by i…

New York Crime Statistics: What the Researchers Say

To the Editor:Re “Crime by the Numbers,” by William Bratton (Op-Ed, Feb. 17):Mr. Bratton refers to a survey conducted by us. After reading the article, which disparages our research, we feel it necessary to respond. The New York City Police Department, which has led the nation in producing historical and very real reductions in crime, is in a cramped statistical box. When precincts are under pressure to continue to reduce crime, the message radiates down to all levels. Combating their own success, the police imaginatively redouble efforts to achieve further reductions. Compstat serves as a mechanism to ensure these reductions.Our previous writings explored how the Police Department’s Compstat system for tracking crime contributed to the city’s sharp drop in crime. We still believe that there has been a significant drop in crime and that the fundamentals of Compstat are sound. But like the retired police commanders we surveyed and numerous other scientific studies, we also see the unde…

The New McCarthyism: Today, Speaking With the Wrong Group Can Get You 15 Years In Prison

The Patriot Act goes even further than the Hollywood blacklists that forced a generation of artists, intellectuals, and activists into unemployment and exiled abroad.

Photo Credit: Mike Licht, Notion

At the beginning of the McCarthy Era, my great uncle Adrian Scott -- an acclaimed Hollywood producer and screenwriter -- was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to account for his political affiliations. Now sixty years later, when most of us want to believe that that kind of suppression is long behind us, the Supreme Court is about to consider how far we've really come. I believe we are retracing our most dangerous steps.

Adrian was one of the so-called "Hollywood Ten," a group of high-profile artists and entertainers who were the first of many called before Congress to explain their association with the Communist Party. He and nine colleagues chose to invoke their rights of freedom of speech and association. He stood up to HUAC, saying, "I do not bel…

Fact Sheet on The Obama Administration’s 2011 Budget: More Policing, Prisons, and Punitive Policies

Author(s): Justice Policy Institute

The President’s proposed FY2011 Department of Justice (DOJ) budget asks for $29.2 billion. This is on top of $4 billion provided to DOJ through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), much of which will continue to fund activities through 2011 and beyond. Although the budget has some specific allocations for juvenile justice that it had removed last year, it still reduces spending on juvenile justice programs, while allocating hundreds of millions to hire or retain police officers through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants or Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and increasing federal prison spending.

This continued funding pattern will likely result in increased costs to states for incarceration that will outweigh the increased revenue for law enforcement, with marginal public safety benefits. While “re-entry” programs such as the Second Chance Act will help reduce recidivism, too little funding is targeted towards “no-entry” progr…

The Last Thing We Need is More Money for Prisons, But That Is What Obama Wants

At the same time the Obama administration is talking about a dramatic "spending freeze," it's requesting more money to lock people up.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

At the same time the Obama administration is talking about a dramatic "spending freeze" on any and all projects unrelated to war-making, it is quietly increasing the federal budget for even more prisons.

On February 1, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the administration would request $2.9 billion for the Department of Justice 2011 budget -- "a 5.4 percent increase in budget authority," according to the DOJ. Approximately $527.5 million would go to the federal Bureau of Prisons, a chunk of which would provide “bed space” to house prisoners currently at Guantanamo Bay (and ostensibly slated for transfer to the supermax prison in Thomson, IL).

Read on...

Shocking Report Reveals Epidemic of Sexual Abuse in Juvenile Prisons

More than one out of every ten child prisoners in state custody is molested or raped, according to a new report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

An unprecedented report released last month by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has revealed some disturbing statistics about sexual abuse in U.S. juvenile detention facilities. Twelve percent of youth held in such facilities say that they have been sexually abused over the course of one year. Or, to put it another way, more than 1 in 10 of young people under state supervision are molested and/or raped. Nearly all of these incidents involve a staff member (about 85%), while the rest involve another incarcerated youth.

According to the study, male prisoners were more likely than females to report sexual activity with facility staff, but less likely than females to report forced sexual activity with other youth. Surprisingly, a whopping 95 percent of all youth reporting staff sexual misconduct said they had been victimized by femal…

Snowstorms Reduced City Crime, Stats Show

Baltimore Went 9 Days Without SlayingsOne big upside of the back-to-back snowstorms was their impact on crime.With the weather so nasty, police have needed no other help.As the storms gripped the city, crime plummeted. Comparing last week to the same week in 2009, the most serious crimes were down 71 percent, according to city statistics.The fatal shooting early Tuesday morning of a man in the Park Heights neighborhood ended a nine-day stretch in Baltimore that was free of killing. That stretch put the yearly homicide total at 18 -- significantly less than the 32 homicides recorded year-to-date in 2009.

Read on...

Crime by the Numbers


A RECENT survey of retired New York Police Department personnel strongly implies that the police’s reporting of crime statistics in New York City has been skewed for years, with precinct commanders and others downgrading crimes to make their results look better. According to the survey’s authors, criminologists John Eterno and Eli Silverman, and to spokesmen for the Captains Endowment Association, the pressures exerted by the department’s CompStat crime-tracking program forced commanders and their subordinates to manipulate statistics to protect themselves from abuse at CompStat meetings, where their results were discussed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

CompStat originated on my watch as police commissioner, from 1994 through early 1996, and I acknowledge that it was intended to be a tough system, using rigorous weekly reports to refocus commanders on combating crime. Nevertheless, I believe that very few precinct commanders would downgrade crimes under su…

Exchange: Katha Pollitt and Alexander Cockburn on the Hispanic Crime Rate

ByKatha Pollitt & Alexander CockburnEditor's Note: Nation columnist Katha Pollitt took issue with Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn's recent assertion that Ron Unz had published groundbreaking research on Hispanic crime rates. Cockburn's response to Pollitt's criticisms can be read here; Pollitt's initial response to Cockburn is reposted below and can also be found on her blog, And Another Thing.

ALEXANDER COCKBURN writes:Petrolia A couple of weeks ago I did a Nation column on Hispanic crime rates, citing a big piece by Ron Unz, publisher of the American Conservative, going through the statistical data and concluding on the basis of age-weighting and other considerations that contrary to popular belief, Hispanic crimes rates are at least the same as whites and--given the unknown number of illegal Hispanic immigrants in the country--could be considerably lower. Probably naívely, I thought it encouraging that a magazine founded by Pat Buchanan should devote it…

Hiring Death Squads Is Coming Back to Haunt U.S. Companies

Dole Foods and Chiquita may be on the verge of facing justice for "pacifying" their work force, suppressing labor unions and terrorizing peasant squatters in Colombia.

February 16, 2010 |
A federal judge recently refused to dismiss a civil suit filed against Chiquita which charges that the company paid leftist (FARC) guerrillas operating near its plantations in Columbia -- during a period when the FARC killed four American missionaries, according to CNN.

The company's position -- which it has held consistently since it voluntarily disclosed the payments to the Department of Justice -- has been that both left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries forced the company in an extortionate manner to make the payments "to protect the lives of its employees."

But that's become an increasingly untenable position -- especially since some of the same paramilitaries who took the payments have come in from the cold, disarming and submitting to Columbia's &quo…

Profiting From Immigration Injustice

By Max Blumenthal

AP / Laura RauchCaptured immigrants are herded onto a bus near the Arizona-Mexico border in this file photo.

When an architect named Norman Pfeiffer designed the Evo DeConcini Federal Courthouse in Tucson, Ariz., he claimed to have been inspired by its natural surroundings. “From afar,” Pfeiffer told Architecture Week, “the desert tells little of what it knows. ... But upon closer scrutiny it reveals its true self.” The 413,000-square-foot, $67.3 million monolith that Pfeiffer erected blends easily with the pale desert landscape flanking downtown Tucson. The earth-toned structure appears so bland a casual passer-by might not even take a second glance. Only a few observers have ventured inside to witness the spectacle that takes place on the third floor.
The show begins each day at 1 p.m., when about 75 undocumented immigrants just captured along the U.S.-Mexico border are marched into the room in leg irons and manacles and compelled all at once to plead guilty to ente…

More Than 25,000 Americans So Far Agree: No 'Room for Guns' in Coffeehouses

WASHINGTON - February 11 - A Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence petition drive with CREDO Mobile Company to urge the Starbucks Coffee Company to prohibit guns in its retail outlets is attracting substantial support, with more than 25,000 people signing. The petitions will be delivered to the coffee retailer soon. The petition is at "We urge Starbucks to respect the rights of the vast majority of its customers, who seek to take their families into its stores without facing the intimidating presence of openly carried guns," said Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign.
Read on...

Watering Torture Down

Why are the media so happy to use the T word in a child-abuse case?By Dahlia Lithwick

Dick Cheney

There's a good deal of towel-snapping going on in the blogosphere today over rampant use of the word water-boarding to describe the punishment an Iraq war veteran meted out to his 4-year-old daughter. What is not in dispute is that Joshua Tabor, a U.S. Army sergeant who served in Iraq for 15 months, was arrested on Jan. 31 and charged with assaulting a child for, among other things, holding his small daughter's head over a bathroom sink and dunking her for refusing to say her alphabet. Also not in dispute is that almost 200 media outlets, by recent count—including,, the New York Daily News, and the Daily Mail—used the word water-boarding in their Tabor story, often in the headline. Unwilling to go quite that far, other publications tried to make the same point a bit more subtly: AFP thus put quotation marks around water-boarding and USA Today's headline doubles d…

Prisons, Redistricting and the Census

The Census Bureau struck a blow for electoral fairness recently when it decided to speed up publication of its data on prison populations to ensure it is available for the next round of redistricting. We hope this new data, which will be released in the spring of 2011, will bolster the efforts of reformers who are trying to end prison-based gerrymandering — the cynical practice of drawing legislative districts with populations inflated by inmates who do not have the right to vote and whose actual residences are often far away.

Far too often, redistricting committees pad underpopulated districts by redrawing boundaries to include large prisons. This practice typically increases the political power of rural areas where prisons are built and diminishes the influence of the urban areas to which inmates eventually return. According to a study by the Prison Policy Initiative, a research group, in some counties the phantom prison constituents make up as much 20 percent of the population.

Read …

It Takes a Village to Raise a Racist

Researches have found that kids don't necessarily get their prejudice from their parents -- it is the community that fosters tolerance or prejudice.

Shortly after white supremacist James von Brunn's fatal shooting attack this spring at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., his 32-year-old son issued a statement to ABC News in which he denounced his father's ideology and described the devastating impact it had had on his family.

"My father's beliefs have been a constant source of verbal and mental abuse my family has had to suffer with for many years," he said. "His views consumed him, and in doing so, not only destroyed his life, but destroyed our family and ruined our lives as well." Erik von Brunn's repudiation of his father's bigotry runs counter to the conventional wisdom that virulent racists will produce children like themselves. Indeed, the movement has its share of parent-child notables, including neo-Nazi le…

Mall Riots: Why Are Some Americans Becoming Violent Shoppers?

Americans used to protest in the streets; now some have resorted to fighting each other in shopping malls. What happened?

On Dec. 23 of last year, police narrowly averted a consumer uprising in suburban Sacramento, California, where over 1,000 people had gathered at a shopping mall and nearly sparked a riot. The cause of all this unrest was a pair of shoes. Every member of the angry horde was after the latest line of Nike Air Jordans, complete with a $175 price tag.

What is turning Americans into such violent consumers?

Al Sandine's new book, The Taming of the American Crowd: From Stamp Riots to Shopping Sprees, unpacks some of the history and sociology embedded in these bizarre modern consumer gatherings. Sandine focuses on three factors that spawned the U.S. shopping craze: Cars, freeways and suburbs. None of these economic touchstones rose to prominence without the others, and together, they laid the foundation for the wild U.S. culture of consumption we know today. And what a uni…

ACLU Sues Over Unconstitutional Airport Detention And Interrogation Of College Student Carrying Arabic Flashcards

Incident At Philadelphia Airport Highlights Misdirected Security Efforts, Says ACLU

ACLU Sues Over Unconstitutional Airport Detention And Interrogation Of College Student Carrying Arabic FlashcardsPHILADELPHIA – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Pennsylvania today filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pomona College student Nicholas George, who was abusively interrogated, handcuffed and detained for nearly five hours at the Philadelphia International Airport because of a set of English-Arabic flashcards he was carrying in connection with his college language studies.

"Arresting and restraining passengers who pose no threat to flight safety and are not breaking any law not only violates people's rights, but it won't make us any safer. It may actually make us less safe, by diverting vital resources and attention away from true security threats," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "Nick George was handcuffed, locked in a …

Security, At What Cost?

Quantifying people’s trade-offs
across liberty, privacy
and security

Neil Robinson, Dimitris Potoglou, Chong Woo Kim,
Peter Burge, Richard Warnes

Sponsored by the RAND Europe Board of Trustees

The heightened security environment in the United Kingdom today is resplendent with examples of government policy that must strike a delicate balance between strengthening security without jeopardising public liberties and personal privacy. The introduction of national identity cards and biometric passports, the expansion of the DNA database, and cross-departmental sharing of information raise a number of privacy issues. Civil liberties may be suspended by the exercise of stop and search powers by the police or detention of suspects prior to a trial. Much of the current privacy vs. security debate occurs at an emotional level with little evidence informing the argument. This report outlines the results of a stated preference discrete choice modelling study that sought to objectively understand the rea…

Facing Our Future

Children in the Aftermath of Immigration EnforcementAjay Chaudry, Randolph Capps, Juan Pedroza, Rosa Maria Castaneda, Robert Santos, Molly M. Scott

AbstractThis report examines the consequences of parental arrest, detention, and deportation on 190 children in 85 families in six locations, providing in-depth details on parent-child separations, economic hardships, and children's well-being. The contentious immigration debates around the country mostly revolve around illegal immigration. Less visible have been the 5.5 million children with unauthorized parents, almost three-quarters of whom are U.S.-born citizens. Over several years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intensified enforcement activities through large-scale worksite arrests, home arrests, and arrests by local law enforcement. The report provides recommendations for stakeholders to mitigate the harmful effects of immigration enforcement on children.
Read on...This report is from the Urban Institute. Tom

Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges for Prisoners

SUMMARYEach year, hundreds of thousands of people are released from prison, many with health, substance abuse, economic and family problems that need to be addressed in order for them to become productive, law-abiding members of society.From 2001 to 2008, staff at the Urban Institute analyzed the characteristics and experiences of prisoners returning from prison to homes in Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland and Houston. The study, Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry, aimed to enhance understanding of former prisoners and improve policies promoting their successful reentry into society.Key FindingsTwo-thirds of prisoners reported more than weekly drug use or alcohol intoxication prior to incarceration.Some 80 percent of men and 90 percent of women had chronic health conditions requiring treatment or management.Many prisoners did not receive needed health services while incarcerated, and treatment rates were lower after release than before.Most recently released…

The Vancouver Experiment

Does It Work?By Matthew Power

One study of Vancouver's injection-drug users has taken harm reduction to a level even beyond Insite. In 2003, the same year that the supervised-injection site opened its doors, an epidemiologist named Martin Schecter began planning a trial that had never been conducted in North America: heroin maintenance. Would a daily course of heroin, administered in a clinical setting, release users from the destructive aspects of maintaining their addiction? Would it benefit society and allow users to stabilize their lives? Similar studies had been conducted in Europe with positive results. Switzerland alone has 38 heroin maintenance centers, and they are a fully integrated part of its national health system; Germany followed suit last year. Schecter, who has worked in Vancouver since the first signs of the AIDS epidemic in 1983, wanted to see whether such a program would make a difference in Canada.

For the neighborhood's recovering addicts, the ability to es…

Chapter 4 - A Ponzi Scheme of Torture

By Larry Siems Created 02/03/2010 - 11:48

This chapter connects the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, Jose Padilla, and Binyam Mohamed, three people who were allegedly involved in a ‘dirty bomb' plot that grew more fantastical the more the men were tortured. It traces how torture begat torture, first because bad information extracted through abusive interrogations led to more torture and more bad information, and finally because interrogations were being conducted not only, as the Bush administration has insisted, to produce new intelligence to thwart impending attacks but also to force confessions and extract information that it would use to justify its detention and torture of others. At the center of this Chapter's “Ponzi scheme of torture” is Binyam Mohamed, a UK-based Ethiopian émigré who was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002, abused, flown to Morocco and tortured for 18 months, then flown to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan , where he was again tortured, and finally deliv…

Rendition Victim Moves to Sue US

A Canadian man who was deported by US officials to Syria, where he was imprisoned and allegedly tortured, has appealed a court ruling preventing him from suing the US.

Arar was deported to Syria by US authorities where he was allegedly tortured. (Associated Press)

Maher Arar filed a lawsuit before the US supreme court on Monday, appealing a lower court ruling that rejected his case because it involved national security information. Arar was arrested by US authorities while transiting through New York's JFK International Airport in 2002, on his way home to Canada from a family vacation in Tunis.He was detained on information shared by Canadian police that suggested he had ties to "terrorist" groups.Read on...

Charges against top cop Fantino dropped

OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino, left, and activist Gary McHale.CAYUGA, ONT.— A criminal charge against Ontario’s top cop over allegations he tried to influence municipal officials was withdrawn Wednesday, a move that the activist who brought the private charge against provincial police Commissioner Julian Fantino vowed to fight.Gary McHale has been pushing to have Fantino charged after the commissioner allegedly sent an email in 2007 telling the mayor and councillors in Caledonia, Ont., not to attend McHale’s rallies. McHale led a number of rallies in the community to protest what he called two-tier justice in the policing of an aboriginal land occupation.Read on...