Thursday, June 30, 2011

A History of US Military Involvement Around The World

I am posting this link purely as a further outlet for this information resource, not as a reflection on US military intervention, hegemony or morality.

Given the time period that is covered, 1798-2010, disallows me as a Brit, from taking any moral stance on the issue. For a hundred and fifty of the two hundred years in question, I don't think Britain would have passed any kind of morality test regarding its foreign policy.

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2010
Richard F. Grimmett
Specialist in International Security
March 10, 2011
Link PDF

The structure in the background is Blackpool's North Pier, something I habitually fished off as a kid. It was then quite a bit longer, being possessed of a jetty, built originally to facilitate the many pleasure steamers that used to ply their trade from the then ever increasingly popular resort.

Below, colour or sepia.

Unfortunately, in the 1960s, this masterpiece of Victorian ironwork, was subjected to a cultural and architectural assault that can never be forgiven. Turning an enchanting piece of our heritage into the worst example of twentieth century modern. (shite)

The only photograph I could find, that records the villainous act of vandalism perpetrated on the old girl. Perhaps not a bad thing.

Completed in 1863 at a cost of about £12,000, (hard to believe) the pier is now a grade two listed structure. Brief history.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mississippi: Lose Your Baby Face a Murder Charge

I had hoped to say a few words about this, but in truth, I just don't know what to say.

Outcry in America as pregnant women who lose babies face murder charges

Women's rights campaigners see the creeping criminalisation of pregnant women as a new front in the culture wars over abortion

Rennie Gibbs is accused of murder, but the crime she is alleged to have committed does not sound like an ordinary killing. Yet she faces life in prison in Mississippi over the death of her unborn child.

Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in a stillbirth when she was 36 weeks into the pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered that she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse had anything to do with the baby's death – they charged her with the "depraved-heart murder" of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

Gibbs is the first woman in Mississippi to be charged with murder relating to the loss of her unborn baby. But her case is by no means isolated. Across the US more and more prosecutions are being brought that seek to turn pregnant women into criminals.

"Women are being stripped of their constitutional personhood and subjected to truly cruel laws," said Lynn Paltrow of the campaign National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW). "It's turning pregnant women into a different class of person and removing them of their rights."

Bei Bei Shuai, 34, has spent the past three months in a prison cell in Indianapolis charged with murdering her baby. On 23 December she tried to commit suicide by taking rat poison after her boyfriend abandoned her.

Shuai was rushed to hospital and survived, but she was 33 weeks pregnant and her baby, to whom she gave birth a week after the suicide attempt and whom she called Angel, died after four days. In March Shuai was charged with murder and attempted foeticide and she has been in custody since without the offer of bail.

In Alabama at least 40 cases have been brought under the state's "chemical endangerment" law. Introduced in 2006, the statute was designed to protect children whose parents were cooking methamphetamine in the home and thus putting their children at risk from inhaling the fumes.

Amanda Kimbrough is one of the women who have been ensnared as a result of the law being applied in a wholly different way. During her pregnancy her foetus was diagnosed with possible Down's syndrome and doctors suggested she consider a termination, which Kimbrough declined as she is not in favour of abortion.

The baby was delivered by caesarean section prematurely in April 2008 and died 19 minutes after birth.

Six months later Kimbrough was arrested at home and charged with "chemical endangerment" of her unborn child on the grounds that she had taken drugs during the pregnancy – a claim she has denied.

"That shocked me, it really did," Kimbrough said. "I had lost a child, that was enough."

She now awaits an appeal ruling from the higher courts in Alabama, which if she loses will see her begin a 10-year sentence behind bars. "I'm just living one day at a time, looking after my three other kids," she said. "They say I'm a criminal, how do I answer that? I'm a good mother."

Women's rights campaigners see the creeping criminalisation of pregnant women as a new front in the culture wars over abortion, in which conservative prosecutors are chipping away at hard-won freedoms by stretching protection laws to include foetuses, in some cases from the day of conception. In Gibbs' case defence lawyers have argued before Mississippi's highest court that her prosecution makes no sense. Under Mississippi law it is a crime for any person except the mother to try to cause an abortion.

"If it's not a crime for a mother to intentionally end her pregnancy, how can it be a crime for her to do it unintentionally, whether by taking drugs or smoking or whatever it is," Robert McDuff, a civil rights lawyer asked the state supreme court.

McDuff told the Guardian that he hoped the Gibbs prosecution was an isolated example. "I hope it's not a trend that's going to catch on. To charge a woman with murder because of something she did during pregnancy is really unprecedented and quite extreme."

He pointed out that anti-abortion groups were trying to amend the Mississippi constitution by setting up a state referendum, or ballot initiative, that would widen the definition of a person under the state's bill of rights to include a foetus from the day of conception.

Some 70 organisations across America have come together to file testimonies, known as amicus briefs, in support of Gibbs that protest against her treatment on several levels. One says that to treat "as a murderer a girl who has experienced a stillbirth serves only to increase her suffering".

Another, from a group of psychologists, laments the misunderstanding of addiction that lies behind the indictment. Gibbs did not take cocaine because she had a "depraved heart" or to "harm the foetus but to satisfy an acute psychological and physical need for that particular substance", says the brief.

Perhaps the most persuasive argument put forward in the amicus briefs is that if such prosecutions were designed to protect the unborn child, then they would be utterly counter-productive: "Prosecuting women and girls for continuing [a pregnancy] to term despite a drug addiction encourages them to terminate wanted pregnancies to avoid criminal penalties. The state could not have intended this result when it adopted the homicide statute."

Paltrow sees what is happening to Gibbs as a small taste of what would be unleashed were the constitutional right to an abortion ever overturned. "In Mississippi the use of the murder statute is creating a whole new legal standard that makes women accountable for the outcome of their pregnancies and threatens them with life imprisonment for murder."

From protection to punishment

At least 38 of the 50 states across America have introduced foetal homicide laws that were intended to protect pregnant women and their unborn children from violent attacks by third parties – usually abusive male partners – but are increasingly being turned by renegade prosecutors against the women themselves.

South Carolina was one of the first states to introduce such a foetal homicide law. National Advocates for Pregnant Women has found only one case of a South Carolina man who assaulted a pregnant woman having been charged under its terms, and his conviction was eventually overturned. Yet the group estimates there have been up to 300 women arrested for their actions during pregnancy.

In other states laws designed to protect children against the damaging effects of drugs have similarly been twisted to punish childbearers. Guardian

Michele Batshit Bachmann

Before moving on to the main article, here are a couple of other Bachmann links for your perusal. This I remind you, from a woman that wishes to be the next President of the United States of America.

Bachmann: Schools should teach intelligent design

But President of which America? one where poor people become poorer, (but she would still like your vote) and rich people become richer, seems to be Bachmann's ideal for the future one Nation Under God. Doesn't strike me as a terribly Christian ethos to say the least.

Bachmann Says She Would Eliminate Minimum Wage to Spur Growth

Abortion, birth control, women's rights, church and state? I don't even need to offer links, because you know exactly what her position is going to be on all these issues.

But if you wish you can read/watch as Democracy Now looks a little deeper into Bachmann's past; lies included. Far too professional a broadcaster to do it herself, Amy Goodman leaves it to her two guests to pick apart Michele Bachmann.

''A perfect Product of the Religious Right'' Deconstructing Michele Bachmann's GOP Presidential Bid.

And so to our featured article courtesy of Rolling Stone.

I suppose there are many things that make for a good article. Primarily it must hold your interest. Being informative certainly does no harm, even less harm to the message on offer, is that the thing is well written. Dependant on one's viewpoint I suppose, as to what constitutes well written that is, personally speaking I have always been an advocate for a good term of phrase.

Being a great fan, and reasonably read of the works of the master himself, the darling Oscar, might in someway explain my appreciation of the aforementioned well rounded phrase. Whereas sadly, we are unlikely ever again to be treated to words comparable or as sophisticated as those uttered by the inimitable old dear, that doesn't mean we can't still appreciate the contributions of twenty first century others.

Nor for that matter, do we even need such Oscaresque sophistication; Oscar was indeed a man of the world, but we could never label him a man of the common people. That I suppose, is the difference between now and then, Wilde was a man of his time, playing to a contemporary gallery, just as our writer in question is equally a man of his time, and his own style contemporaneous with his own gallery, to wit, the readers of Rolling Stone.

So what can we look forward to in this offering, interesting and informative apart? Scattered throughout, like seeds at a tennis match, such delights as this:

Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions.

Not to shabby for an opener, you'll try a little more?

...when she turns her head toward the cameras and brandishes her pearls and her ageless, unblemished neckline and her perfect suburban orthodontics in an attempt to reassure the unbeliever of her non-threateningness, is one of the scariest sights in the entire American cultural tableau

And still barely past halfway on the title page: a rare breed of political psychopath, equal parts crazed Divine Wind kamikaze-for-Jesus and calculating, six-faced Machiavellian prevaricator

Do drive on, do enjoy.

Michele Bachmann's Holy War
The Tea Party contender may seem like a goofball, but be warned: Her presidential campaign is no laughing matter
By Matt Taibbi
June 22, 2011

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and, as you consider the career and future presidential prospects of an incredible American phenomenon named Michele Bachmann, do one more thing. Don't laugh.

It may be the hardest thing you ever do, for Michele Bachmann is almost certainly the funniest thing that has ever happened to American presidential politics. Fans of obscure 1970s television may remember a short-lived children's show called Far Out Space Nuts, in which a pair of dimwitted NASA repairmen, one of whom is played by Bob (Gilligan) Denver, accidentally send themselves into space by pressing "launch" instead of "lunch" inside a capsule they were fixing at Cape Canaveral. This plot device roughly approximates the political and cultural mechanism that is sending Michele Bachmann hurtling in the direction of the Oval Office.

Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions. She believes that the Chinese are plotting to replace the dollar bill, that light bulbs are killing our dogs and cats, and that God personally chose her to become both an IRS attorney who would spend years hounding taxpayers and a raging anti-tax Tea Party crusader against big government. She kicked off her unofficial presidential campaign in New Hampshire, by mistakenly declaring it the birthplace of the American Revolution. "It's your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world!" she gushed. "You are the state of Lexington and Concord, you started the battle for liberty right here in your backyard."

Videos: Michele Bachmann's Craziest Moments

I said lunch, not launch! But don't laugh. Don't do it. And don't look her in the eyes; don't let her smile at you. Michele Bachmann, when she turns her head toward the cameras and brandishes her pearls and her ageless, unblemished neckline and her perfect suburban orthodontics in an attempt to reassure the unbeliever of her non-threateningness, is one of the scariest sights in the entire American cultural tableau. She's trying to look like June Cleaver, but she actually looks like the T2 skeleton posing for a passport photo. You will want to laugh, but don't, because the secret of Bachmann's success is that every time you laugh at her, she gets stronger.

In modern American politics, being the right kind of ignorant and entertainingly crazy is like having a big right hand in boxing; you've always got a puncher's chance. And Bachmann is exactly the right kind of completely batshit crazy. Not medically crazy, not talking-to-herself-on-the-subway crazy, but grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy — crazy in the sense that she's living completely inside her own mind, frenetically pacing the hallways of a vast sand castle she's built in there, unable to meaningfully communicate with the human beings on the other side of the moat, who are all presumed to be enemies.

Bachmann's story, to hear her tell it, is about a suburban homemaker who is chosen by God to become a politician who will restore faith and family values to public life and do battle with secular humanism. But by the time you've finished reviewing her record of lies and embellishments and contradictions, you'll have no idea if she actually believes in her own divine inspiration, or whether it's a big con job. Or maybe both are true — in which case this hard-charging challenger for the GOP nomination is a rare breed of political psychopath, equal parts crazed Divine Wind kamikaze-for-Jesus and calculating, six-faced Machiavellian prevaricator. Whatever she is, she's no joke.

Matt Taibbi's 'The Truth About the Tea Party'

Bachmann was born Michele Amble in Waterloo, Iowa, to a pair of lifelong Democrats, but grew up in tiny Anoka, Minnesota. By her teen years, her parents had divorced; her mother remarried and brought step-siblings into the home, creating a Brady Bunchian group of nine kids. One of Bachmann's step-siblings, Helen LaFave, would later come out as a lesbian, a fact that Michele, who became famous opposing gay marriage, never mentions on the campaign trail. For the most part, though, Bachmann's upbringing seems like pure Americana, a typical Midwestern girl who was "in a couple of beauty pageants" and "not overtly political," according to her stepbrother Michael LaFave.

Young Michele found Jesus at age 16, not long before she went away to Winona State University and met a doltish, like-minded believer named Marcus Bachmann. After finishing college, the two committed young Christians moved to Oklahoma, where Michele entered one of the most ridiculous learning institutions in the Western Hemisphere, a sort of highway rest area with legal accreditation called the O.W. Coburn School of Law; Michele was a member of its inaugural class in 1979.

Originally a division of Oral Roberts University, this august academy, dedicated to the teaching of "the law from a biblical worldview," has gone through no fewer than three names — including the Christian Broadcasting Network School of Law. Those familiar with the darker chapters in George W. Bush's presidency might recognize the school's current name, the Regent University School of Law. Yes, this was the tiny educational outhouse that, despite being the 136th-ranked law school in the country, where 60 percent of graduates flunked the bar, produced a flood of entrants into the Bush Justice Department.

Regent was unabashed in its desire that its graduates enter government and become "change agents" who would help bring the law more in line with "eternal principles of justice," i.e., biblical morality. To that end, Bachmann was mentored by a crackpot Christian extremist professor named John Eidsmoe, a frequent contributor to John Birch Society publications who once opined that he could imagine Jesus carrying an M16 and who spent considerable space in one of his books musing about the feasibility of criminalizing blasphemy.

Take the Bachmann-Palin Challenge: Can You Tell Them Apart?

This background is significant considering Bachmann's leadership role in the Tea Party, a movement ostensibly founded on ideas of limited government. Bachmann says she believes in a limited state, but she was educated in an extremist Christian tradition that rejects the entire notion of a separate, secular legal authority and views earthly law as an instrument for interpreting biblical values. As a legislator, she not only worked to impose a ban on gay marriage, she also endorsed a report that proposed banning anyone who "espoused or supported Shariah law" from immigrating to the U.S. (Bachmann seems so unduly obsessed with Shariah law that, after listening to her frequent pronouncements on the subject, one begins to wonder if her crazed antipathy isn't born of professional jealousy.)

This discrepancy may account for why some Tea Party leaders don't buy Bachmann as a champion of small government. "Michele Bachmann is — what's the old-school term? — a poser," says Chris Littleton, an Ohio Tea Party leader troubled by her support of the Patriot Act and other big-government interventions. "Look at her record and see how 'Tea Party' she really is." Go to page two.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the workings of the Christian Right colleges, below is a Channel 4 documentary, God's Next Army, featuring not Michel Bachman's seat of learning, one of the most ridiculous learning institutions in the Western Hemisphere, a sort of highway rest area with legal accreditation called the O.W. Coburn School of Law previously part of Oral Roberts University, but that of another ''University'' that has the same curriculum employing the same single text book, Patrick Henry College.

This little quote by the principal Michael Farris seems to sum the whole thing up.

"We don't need the world's knowledge and information to guide us."

Something that always stuck with me after having watched the thing previously, was the reaction of one of these home schoolers (18 years old) on his first trip to Washington, was how awestruck he was when taking his first trip on the subway and that he was travelling by electricity!. One minute in on part four.

Prior to that, you might wish to watch four minutes of Bill Maher talking about such colleges. Not half as frivolous as you might imagine.

Part one of six.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Where Are Japan's Stocks of Prussian Blue?

I can't say but a few words on the subject, I have an appointment to keep this morning.

Given the lack of information, or more precisely, the misinformation that we have come to expect from the Japanese Government and the nuclear establishment, I think if I were a Japanese citizen/blogger I would want to know why there is a cloak of secrecy surrounding Japan's importation of Prussian Blue.

A more cynical fellow than myself might even think it was being distributed in secret to the chosen few.

.......Despite all this official encouragement only Heyl Chemisch-pharmazeutische Fabrik GmbH & Co,, a small family-owned drug firm in Berlin, responded. Heyl's tiny factory now produces all the world's drug grade PB, which it markets under the Radiogardase name. The de facto monopoly allows them to sell the drug for $100 for 30 grams even though the raw material is only $3,000/ton.

In October of last year, Heyl's exclusive Japanese distributor Nihon Medi-Physics received Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) approval to sell Radiogardase, but it has yet to reach the market anywhere.

Trying to source the drug for friends and family in Japan, I asked CEO Alexander Heyl about this dearth in early May, shortly after he visited Tokyo for "official talks." He said supplies are in fact being made available, but he was not at liberty to divulge how much he is shipping or to whom. He directed me to Kiyoshi Tatsuo, Nihon Medi-Physics' sales manager, but Tatsuo-san swore he had no stock at all for hospitals or the public and that anyone wishing to order it would have to wait at least five or six months.

Since whatever quantities Heyl is shipping seem to be vanishing quietly into government stockpiles, this route was evidently not going to help my friends or answer Japan's urgent needs.....

The article proper starts here.

Fukushima's Cesium Spew - Deadly Catch-22s in Japan Disaster Relief
27 June 2011
by: W. David Kubiak, Truthout

For those most focused on Fukushima's human toll, there are several main sources of concern: the continuing radiation menace in the region's fields, crops and seafood; and TEPCO's recent admission that its reactors won't be under control until 2012 at best. These offer critical reminders that radioactive cesium is now Japan's public enemy No. 1.

Behind the confusing fog of rad, rem, becquerel and milliseivert statistics lurks the basic fact that the spread of cesium 137 was the deadliest legacy of Chernobyl and is now the gravest health threat facing eastern Japan. Moving through strong radiation fields like chest x-rays, US airport scanners or Fukushima reactor rubble is obviously hazardous, but time limited. Carrying the radiation source around inside you 24/7, however, poses an exponentially greater threat, especially when it's an aggressive ionizing radionuclide like cesium 137 with a half-life of 30 years.

Despite its meager eight-day half-life, iodine 121 somehow became the rock star of radiation reporting and always gets top billing when things slip out of control. People in affected areas routinely dose themselves with potassium iodide to protect against I-121 exposure, but they hear little and do nothing about the cesium 137 they absorb. Cesium levels are usually reported second, if at all, even though they pose far greater risks for children, farm communities and the public at large.

Spawned profusely in fission reactions, cesium 137 decays slowly, bioaccumulates rapidly, spews intense gamma rays and hitchhikes easily in water, air and food. Imbibed, inhaled or eaten, even a few atoms can stir up mutagenic havoc in the organs where they land. The US National Academy of Sciences apparently had cesium in mind when it announced in 2005 that the only safe radiation level for young people is absolutely none at all.

As Kanto/Tohoku parents are becoming aware, their children are now surrounded by unnaturally high cesium levels in local neighborhoods and schoolyards, which translate into incessant exposure and countless youth at risk.

There is a common proven purge for cesium 137 called Prussian Blue (PB), but Japan blocks access to it with a tangle of catch-22s. Doctors abroad are counseled to use PB as quickly as possible for any "known or suspected radiocesium contamination" and can use a relatively simple urine test to assess cesium levels. In Japan, however, doctors can't prescribe PB without a ¥10 million "whole body radiation counter," but according to NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) there was only one such machine in all of Fukushima as of June 2 and it can only process ten patients a day.

Finally and most curiously, the only company that Japan licenses to sell PB has no stock for sale in any case and says it probably won't have any until the end of the year.

Technically, the drug is called ferric hexacyanoferrate (II), which is chemist speak for insoluble drug grade Prussian Blue. It is purified from the ancient dyestuff and has emerged as the most powerful cesium remedy discovered to date. more truthout

Monday, June 27, 2011

TSA: The Groping Gestapo

No comment, other than there is a video at the link, which I have no intention of watching.

On reflection, I shall let Paul Craig Roberts say a few words on my behalf. See second article.

TSA Pats Down Cancer-Stricken 95-Year-Old Woman, Removes Adult Diaper (video)

TSA security officers at Florida's Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport patted down a cancer-stricken, 95-year-old woman and forcibly removed her adult diaper during the search, CNN reports. Could this end up being yet another TSA PR nightmare?

Jean Weber was traveling with her ill mother on June 18 from Florida to Michigan to see relatives "in the final stages of her battle with leukemia" when the incident occurred.

Weber told CNN that while she thinks the officers may have been "procedurally correct...the procedure needs to be changed." Weber noted that her mother had had a blood transfusion the week before.

A Suspiciously "Wet and Firm" Diaper

While passing through security, TSA officials "felt something suspicious and they couldn't determine what it was," so they took Weber's mother to a private room.

A TSA agent told Weber that her mother's Depends underwear was "wet and firm and they couldn't check it thoroughly," so the mother-daughter duo left in search of a bathroom to remove the underwear. Weber did not have an extra pair of Depends with her.

Weber "burst into tears" but her mother was "very calm" even though she was forced to go through the airport without underwear. Her elderly mother was taken to the boarding gate without her as Weber was still going through security.

TSA Defends Search

In response to the incident, the TSA said on Sunday that "While every person and item must be screened before entering the secure boarding area, TSA works with passengers to resolve security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner. We have reviewed the circumstances involving this screening and determined that our officers acted professionally and according to proper procedure."

This isn't the first time the TSA has gotten into hot water over pat down procedures. In April, a video of a 6-year-old getting a pat down at the New Orleans airport went viral, while in May, a video of a baby getting a pat down caused quite a stir.

Last week, the TSA announced they would change the procedures for patting down children.
AOL Travel

.......In part because the Bush/Cheney/Obama regimes have made every American a suspect. The only civil liberty that has any force in the U.S. today is the law against racial discrimination. This law requires that every American citizen be treated as if he were a Muslim terrorist. The Transportation Security Administration rigorously enforces the refusal to discriminate between terrorist and citizen at airports and is now taking its gestapo violations of privacy into every form of travel and congregation: trucking, bus and train travel, sports events, and, without doubt, shopping centers and automobile traffic.

This despite the fact that there have been no terrorist incidents that could be used to justify such an expansive intrusion into privacy and freedom of movement.

The TSA has not caught a single terrorist. However, it has abused and inconvenienced several hundred thousand innocent American citizens.

The abuse happens, because people with authority are dying to use the authority. The absence of terrorists means that the TSA turns innocent Americans into terrorists. There have been so many absurd cases. One woman traveling with her ill and dying mother, who required special food, had contacted the TSA prior to the flight, explained the situation, and was given permission to take the special food onboard. But when she went through "security," the food was taken away, and when she protested she was arrested and hauled off, leaving the elderly mother in a wheelchair deserted. more

Lives Down The Tubes: The War on Drugs

I might have passed this over as just another, ''yes we know that already'' story, but for the numbers involved. I don't think I quite realised just how staggering the number arrests there have been since Nixon declared his war on drugs.

Forty Million arrests effectively equates to forty million lives on the scrapheap, see second article below.

And America wonders why it has the social problems that it does.

ACLU: 40 Years and Over 40 Million Arrests Later, War on Drugs Still Harming Our Communities
By: ACLU of Ohio
Posted by Mike Brickner, ACLU of Ohio, Jun 16th, 2011

June 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's declaration of a "war on drugs" — a war that has cost roughly a trillion dollars, has produced little to no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs in the United States, and has contributed to making America the world's largest incarcerator. Throughout the month, check back daily for posts about the drug war, its victims and what needs to be done to restore fairness and create effective policy.
Cleveland, Ohio, is known for many things: we have a world-class art museum, three professional sports franchises, and we're home to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

However, one fact you won't find in Cleveland's tourism brochure is that we are ground zero for the failed war on drugs. After 40 years and over 40 million arrests, the drug war has devastated many communities across the nation — and nowhere is that more evident than Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland.

That's why the ACLU of Ohio issued a report today on the effects of the war on drugs in Cleveland. Overcharging, Overspending, Overlooking: Cuyahoga County's Costly War on Drugs sheds new light on the vast racial in Cuyahoga County's justice system treats drug offenders.

Two factors have emerged as determining whether drug offenders in Cuyahoga County are sentenced to jail: geography and race. For instance:

White offenders from the suburbs or out-of-town are 77 percent more likely than African-American city residents to receive a misdemeanor charge rather than a felony.
Whites account for nearly three-quarters of the participants in jail diversion programs, such as treatment and job training, in the county. African-Americans only account for a quarter of participants, despite the fact they are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.
While African-Americans are only about a quarter of the county's total population, they make up nearly three-quarters of those sentenced to prison from Cuyahoga County.

The result has been far too many people, particularly African-Americans, incarcerated because of drugs. Locking up a person costs much more than a diversion program. The annual cost to house an Ohio prisoner is $25,097.40, while diversion costs $1,812. This has become a major drain on state resources, as the state prison system is at 133 percent of its capacity, with the sixth largest prison population nationally.

Those who are sentenced to prison for drug offenses emerge with little access to rehabilitation and educational programs, and struggle to find employment because of their felony convictions. As a result, many of those who serve time because of felony drug convictions end up back in the community with no resources, continued drug problems and little hope to turn their lives around.

The net result of 40 years of "lock 'em up politics" and the war on drugs has been the devastation of communities where people need a hand up, rather than a jail cell. If Cleveland, and the nation, wish to begin to rebuild these neighborhoods, we must put an end to the war on drugs. Prison Watch Ohio

The Conviction That Keeps On Hurting -- Drug Offenders and Federal Benefits

Some 15 to 20 million people have been arrested on drug charges and subjected to the tender mercies of the criminal justice system in the past two decades. But, thanks to congressional drug warriors, the punishments drug offenders face often extend far beyond the prison walls or the parole officer's office. A number of federal laws ostensibly aimed at reducing drug use block people with drug convictions from gaining access to federal benefits and services. These laws have a disproportionate impact on society's most vulnerable or marginalized members -- the poor, people of color, and women with children -- and in some cases, do not even require that a person actually be convicted of a drug offense to be punished.

A growing number of groups and individuals ranging from the American Bar Association to welfare rights organizations, public health and addiction groups, drug reform organizations, and elected officials have called for changes in these laws or their outright repeal, saying they are cruel, inhumane, counterproductive, and amount to "double jeopardy" for drug offenders trying to become productive members of society.

"We feel that these laws are discriminatory and tend to focus on an illness as opposed to a crime," said Alexa Eggleston of the Legal Action Center, one of the key groups in the movement to adjust those laws. "We also think that if you have a conviction, you should be able to serve your time and come out and resume your life. We say we want people to get sober, get treatment, get a job, get housing, but then we set up all these barriers and roadblocks that seem designed to stop them from moving forward. These lifetime bans are very destructive of people's ability to reintegrate into society and move forward with their lives as productive citizens."

"These discriminatory laws represent incredible barriers in terms of people getting on with their lives, which is why they are part of our platform for change," said Pat Taylor, director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national alliance of individuals and organizations committed to securing the rights of people with addictions. "If you can't get housing, can't get a job, it's really hard to get your life back on track."

"One of the problems we constantly face is helping people who have been convicted of a drug crime," said Linda Walker of All of Us or None, a California-based initiative organizers prisoners, ex-prisoners, and felons to fight the discrimination they face because of their criminal convictions. "Why do they ask about that on the student loan applications? Why do they face lifetime bans on public housing? These are people did their time, paid their restitution, they've moved on and matured, and now, because of something they did in their twenties, they can't get into senior housing."

Walker knows a bit about the plight of the ex-con. She was convicted not a drug offense, but for a crime committed in an effort to get money to buy drugs. While Walker's status as a non-drug offender means she is not barred from receiving food stamps or public housing, she still wears the scarlet letter of the ex-con. "I currently work for a county office, and each time I go up for a position or promotion, this becomes a problem," she explained. "I've been out of the criminal justice system for 14 years now, but I'm still being told that because of my criminal history I can't be considered for this job or that."

These "double jeopardy" laws have been formulated in the last 20 years as part of the ratcheting-up of the war on drugs and include:

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, under which local housing agencies and others who supervise federally assisted housing have the discretion to deny housing when any household member uses alcohol in a way that interferes with the "health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment" of the premises by other tenants, illegally uses drugs, or is convicted of drug-related criminal activity. People who are evicted or denied housing under the law are cut off from federal housing assistance for three years.

According to a GAO report on the working of laws designed to deny benefits to drug offenders, some 500 individuals or families were evicted under the act in 13 large public housing agencies GAO surveyed in 2003 and about 1,500 were denied admission by 15 agencies in the same year. The agency reported that public housing agencies nationwide evicted about 9,000 people and denied admission to another 49,000 because of criminal convictions in 2003, with drug convictions consisting of some unknown but significant subset of those. While concrete numbers are hard to come by, it seems clear that tens of thousands of people are adversely affected by laws barring drug offenders from receiving public housing or Section 8 assistance.

Subsequent changes in federal laws and accompanying regulations have enshrined housing authorities' discretion and it was further solidified in a 2002 Supreme Court decision. In that case, the high court upheld an Oakland public housing authorities right to use its discretion to evict 64-year-old long-time tenant Pearlie Rucker, her mentally disabled teenage daughter, two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild after the daughter was caught with cocaine three blocks from the building.

Only one class of drug offender is specifically prohibited from obtaining public housing -- persons who have been convicted of manufacturing methamphetamines. They, along with society's other favorite demonized group, registered sex offenders, are the only groups of offenders singled out for prohibitions.

The 1990 Denial of Federal Benefits Program, which allows state and federal judges to deny drug offenders federal benefits such as grants, contracts, and licenses. According to the GAO, some 600 people a year are affected by this program in the federal courts.

Section 115 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (more familiarly known as the welfare reform act), under which persons convicted of a state or federal felony offense for selling or using drugs are subject to a lifetime ban on receiving cash assistance and food stamps. Convictions for other crimes, including murder, do not result in the loss of benefits. Section 115 affects an estimated 92,000 women and 135,000 children.

The welfare reform act contains a provision allowing states to opt out, although if they fail to act, the lifetime bans remain in effect. In 14 states where legislators have not acted, drug felons still face the federal ban, even though their sentences may be long-finished and their offenses decades old. But in 36 states, legislators have acted to limit the ban in some fashion, allowing drug offenders to get public assistance if they meet certain conditions, such as participating in drug or alcohol treatment, meeting a waiting period, if their conviction was for possession only, or other conditions.

Public Law 104-121, which blocks access to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) for people whose primary disability was alcohol or drug dependence. This 1996 law replaced a 1972 SSI "Drug Abuse and Alcoholism" program that allowed people in drug treatment, which was mandatory, to designate a payee to manage benefits to ensure they would not be used to purchase drugs or alcohol. The Social Security Administration estimates that more than 123,000 people lost benefits when this law went into effect, while another 86,000 managed to retain them by virtue of age or by being reclassified into a different primary care disability category.

The 1998 Higher Education Act's (HEA) drug provision (also known as the "Aid Elimination Penalty"), which states that people with drug convictions cannot receive federal financial aid for a period of time determined by the type and number of convictions. This law does not apply to others with convictions, including drunk-driving offenses, violent crimes, or other criminal offenses. Last year, the provision was reformed to limit its applicability to offenses committed while a student is enrolled in college and receiving federal aid. Since the law went into effect in 2000, some 200,000 have been denied student financial aid.

The Hope Scholarship Credit, which allows for income tax deductions for people paying college tuition and fees. The credit allows taxpayers to take up to a $1,000 credit for tuition and additional credits for related expenses. It specifically excludes the credit for students who were convicted of a drug offense during the tax year in question, or their parents paying the bills. more stop the drugwar

Georgia: Can We Have Our Wets Back Please?

Because we're fucked without them.

And if Georgia, like all the other southern states that have recently passed draconian anti-immigration laws, if you think illegals are what ails America, then I seriously have to question your judgement. Or your politics. Or your sincerity.

Georgia immigrant crackdown backfires
By Reid J Epstein
June 22 2011

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s program to replace fleeing migrant farmworkers with probationers backfired when some of the convicted criminals started walking off their jobs because field work was too strenuous, it was reported Wednesday.

And the state’s farms could lose up to $1 billion if crops continue to go unpicked and rot, the president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council warned.

In a story datelined Leslie, in rural south Georgia, The Associated Press writes of convicts calling it quits at 3:25 p.m. — more than 2½ hours before the crew of Mexicans and Guatemalans they replaced.

“Those guys out here weren’t out there 30 minutes and they got the bucket and just threw them in the air and say, `Bonk this. I ain’t with this. I can’t do this,’” said Jermond Powell, a 33-year-old probationer working at a farm in Leslie. “They just left, took off across the field walking.”

Georgia, which passed an Arizona-style immigration bill in April that is due to take effect next month, has seen thousands of undocumented immigrants flee the state. A state survey released last week found 11,080 vacant positions on state farms that needed to be filled to avoid losing crops.

At the same time as the survey’s release, Deal, a first-term Republican, announced a program to link the state’s 100,000 probationers with farmers looking to fill positions, the vast majority of which pay less than $15 per hour.

The AP reported the first group of probationers began working last week at an Americus farm owned by Dick Minor, president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

Minor’s farm was the second-largest recipient of federal farm subsidies in Georgia, receiving $11.4 million between 2000 and 2009, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The executive director of the fruit and vegetable growers group, Charles Hall, said the Minor farm is one of two participating in a pilot program to see if Deal’s proposal is operable.

Hall told POLITICO that as many as two-thirds of probationers who have tried working on the two farms in the last week have either walked off the job or not come back for a second day. more Politico

Bad enough huh? maybe they should consider bringing slavery back?

What's that you say! they already have?

But it seems slavery isn't without a few problems of its own. It's certainly not without its abuses; as ever it was.

Martori Farms: Abusive Conditions at a Key Wal-Mart Supplier
by Victoria Law,
24 June 2011

In 1954, an 18-year-old black woman named Eleanor Rush was incarcerated at the state women's prison. She was placed in solitary confinement for six days.
On the seventh day, Rush was not fed for over 16 hours. After 16 hours, she began yelling that she was hungry and wanted food. In response, the guards bound and gagged her, dislocating her neck in the process.
Half an hour later, Rush was dead.

The next morning, when the other women in the prison gathered in the yard, another woman in the solitary confinement unit yelled the news about Rush's death from her window. The women in the yard surrounded the staff members supervising their activities and demanded answers about Rush's death. When they didn't get them, the women - both the black and the white women - rioted.
The riot lasted three and a half hours, not stopping until Raleigh, North Carolina, police and guards from the men's Central Prison arrived.
The women's riot brought outside attention to Rush's death. As a result:
The State Bureau of Investigation ordered a probe into Rush's death rather than believing the prison's explanation that Rush had dislocated her own neck and committed suicide.

Until that point, nothing in the prison rules explicitly prohibited the use of improvised gags. After the riot and probe, the State Prisons director explicitly banned the use of gags and iron claws (metal handcuffs that can squeeze tightly).

The prison administration was required to pay $3,000 to Rush's mother. At that time, $3,000 was more than half the yearly salary of the prison warden.

The prison warden, who had allowed Rush to be bound and gagged, was replaced by Elizabeth McCubbin, the executive director of the Family and Children's Service Agency. Her hiring indicated a shift from a punitive model toward a more social service/social work orientation.

The women themselves testified that they had rioted to ensure that Rush's death was not dismissed and that the circumstances would not be repeated.

Fifty-five years after Rush was killed in solitary confinement, Marcia Powell, a mentally ill 48-year-old woman incarcerated at the Perryville Unit in Arizona, died. The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has more than 600 of these outdoor cages where prisoners are placed to confine or restrict their movement or to hold them while awaiting medical appointments, work, education, or treatment programs. On May 20, 2009, the temperature was 107 degrees. Powell was placed in an unshaded cage in the prison yard. Although prison policy states that "water shall be continuously available" to caged prisoners and that they should be in the cage for "no more than two consecutive hours," guards continually denied her water and kept her in the cage for four hours. Powell collapsed of heat stroke, was sent to West Valley Hospital where ADC Director Charles Ryan took her off life support hours later.

The ensuing media attention over Powell's death caused the ADC to temporarily suspend using these cages. Once the media attention faded, the ADC lifted the suspension.(1)

Abuses at Perryville have continued. The ADC has sent its prisoners to work for private agricultural businesses for almost 20 years.(2) The farm pays its imprisoned laborers two dollars per hour, not including the travel time to and from the farm. Women on the Perryville Unit are assigned to Martori Farms, an Arizona farm corporation that supplies fresh fruits and vegetables to vendors across the United States (Martori is the exclusive supplier to Wal-Mart's 2,470 Supercenter and Neighborhood Market stores).(3)

According to one woman who worked on the farm crews:

They wake us up between 2:30 and three AM and KICK US OUT of our housing unit by 3:30AM. We get fed at four AM. Our work supervisors show up between 5AM and 8AM. Then it's an hour to a one and a half hour drive to the job site. Then we work eight hours regardless of conditions .... We work in the fields hoeing weeds and thinning plants ... Currently we are forced to work in the blazing sun for eight hours. We run out of water several times a day. We ran out of sunscreen several times a week. They don't check medical backgrounds or ages before they pull women for these jobs. Many of us cannot do it! If we stop working and sit on the bus or even just take an unauthorized break we get a MAJOR ticket which takes away our "good time"!!! more Prison Watch for Imprisoned Women

But then what is the South if not a bunch of rednecks that never got over loosing the Confederacy?

Has the South won the Civil War nearly 150 years after its conclusion?

BuzzFlash doesn't ask that question in a technical sense. Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union forces at the Appomattox Court House in 1865.

But culturally and politically, in 2011, the Union of the United States more and more is reflecting the values of the Confederacy, minus the institution of slavery, of course.

Increasingly, states' rights are superseding the federal government, and many of the states are tilting toward the oligarchs (corporations and the rich). But, of course, even the federal government is siding with supporting the plutocracy and enacting policies that result in low-wage labor. Just replace the lack of accountability of corporations and Wall Street with the free hand of plantation owners.

Not that the South believed much in a centralized government that provided a safety net. The poor were poor; the sick were sick; and the wealthy were wealthy; that was the natural order of things.

The South wasn't just built on slavery, as BuzzFlash has pointed out before. Most whites were poor and worked as sharecroppers, indentured servants or plantation hands. Much of their belief in white supremacy came from the feeling that, although the majority of whites were economically poor, they were "superior" to black slaves. But the economy, overall, was built on cheap labor as compared to economic ingenuity and innovation.

Baptist Christianity was central to the South, a deeply religious section of the country. The authoritarian paternalistic hierarchy of the Confederacy was considered sanctioned by divine decree. Plantation owners and their extended "work forces" would be right at home with "creationism," because things didn't evolve in the South. The ultimate value was on preserving "the Southern way of life," not evolving. Progress was, thus, a threat.

If you see some common themes to the modern Republican Party and the conventional wisdom found in the corporate press, it began most recently with the development of the Nixon "Southern strategy" - and the merging of Southern "values" with a corporatist agenda, perfected in the Reagan presidency.

How would one expect the Southern agenda to value labor, when in the South labor was cheap or, in the form of slavery, literally free (except for the initial "cost" to buy a slave)?

So, in 2011, we find ourselves at a point when the Confederacy has risen from the ashes to dominate public policy and economic inertia. Buzzflash

Or for the real thing, try this.

Source of Missing Jobs in America Found: Forced Laborers
21 June 2011

With unemployment at a near historic high in the United States, could you imagine any American company bringing in foreign workers to work for them below the minimum wage and with no benefits? Most people would say no. But can you imagine those same Americans forcing foreign workers to stay here, with no pay, and constant abuse? That is actually happening in this country today.

Forced labor is a real phenomenon in the United States agriculture business. Without awareness and investigation into where our supplies come from and who businesses are hiring, the American people become unwitting complicit supporters of labor trafficking. more

Why Do Kansas Republicans Hate Women?

This lot won't be happy until they have middle America back in the stone-age.

I am sure there must be a better analogy, but for the moment the best I can come up with is to liken this legislation to that of non-tariff barriers.

New Law in Kansas Seen as a Threat to Abortions
By AG Sulzberger and Monica Davey
June 24, 2011

Overland Park, Kan. - One in a series of abortion limits approved in Kansas since Republicans took full control of the state government this year — a new license law — is raising uncertainty about the future of all abortion providers in the state.

Opponents of abortion say that the licenses — which newly dictate requirements for the size of rooms at abortion clinics, the stocking of emergency equipment, medications and blood supplies, and ties to nearby hospitals — will ensure at least a modicum of safety standards in a state that Troy Newman, the leader of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said “had been the Wild West for abortionists for as long as anyone can remember.”

But abortion rights supporters, here and nationally, say the rules, which take effect next week, are onerous, have been rushed into place too rapidly and are actually aimed at ending abortion services at the only three places in the state now providing them, perhaps as early as Friday.

“These requirements range from the impossible to the absurd,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “They’re not designed to protect patient safety; they’re designed to shut down abortion providers.”

For decades, Kansas has been a focal point for the national debate over abortion. Opponents saw openings for new restrictions this year, after eight years under Democrats who had vetoed such measures, when Sam Brownback, a Republican who has long opposed abortion rights, became governor.

This year, lawmakers here have limited abortion coverage in health care plans, required young people to get consent from both parents for abortions and banned providers from offering medical abortions to people in other locations, communicating instructions via computer.

“What this shows is there’s been incredible pent-up demand in Kansas to pass really thoroughgoing pro-life legislation,” said Lance Kinzer, a Republican state representative who helped spearhead the legislation.

Julie Burkhart, who leads Trust Women, an abortion rights group, said she believed that by the end of the year Kansas could be one of a handful of states with no abortion clinics. “The anti-choicers have figured out that we don’t need to overturn Roe v. Wade,” she said. “We can legislate abortion clinics to death so that women don’t have access.”

Three abortion facilities — all in the Kansas City area — remain open in Kansas since the killing in 2009 of Dr. George R. Tiller, the state’s best-known abortion provider, whose clinic had operated out of Wichita. Under the new licensing rules, officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said they were inspecting the remaining operations, including a Planned Parenthood clinic, this week and next week, and would then determine which ones receive licenses.

“These are common-sense regulations,” said Mr. Newman, who said that unsanitary conditions and a lack of preparation for complications had been a serious problem at some clinics nationally. “Do I want all abortion clinics to close? Absolutely. But if they can’t even comply with the basic minimum-safety standards, they certainly don’t deserve to be in business.”

Operators of the Kansas clinics were not optimistic about the licensing procedure.

M. Jeffrey Pederson, of Aid for Women in Kansas City, said there was no way he could meet the new standards. He said that his building was too small to meet the space standards and that he did not have visiting privileges with a nearby hospital — requirements he deemed unnecessary to run a safe clinic.

Peter B. Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said he believed the group’s clinic in Overland Park would be able to meet the new requirements but expected it to be denied a license anyway. “We believe without question that the intent is to shut down abortion clinics in Kansas, so we are preparing to be in court,” Mr. Brownlie said.

And Dr. Herbert Hodes, who has operated a practice in Overland Park for 34 years with a wide array of obstetric and gynecological services, called the new regulations — the latest versions of which were issued only a week ago — bizarre and “out of date with modern medicine.” Among the provisions for which he said he might be deemed out of compliance: a rule that procedure rooms be at least 150 square feet in size and that storage areas for “janitorial supplies and equipment” be at least 50 square feet per procedure room. NYT

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Brian Haw: A Tribute

It was not with a certain amount of sadness that I noticed the recent passing of peace activist and thorn in the side of the government, Brian Haw. Obituary from Wedgwood here, and another Guardian piece here. Or try your own search; Brian Haw+Gestapo brings a result or two if you're interested.

Recently raised in conversation, was the subject of patriotism. I can think of no better tribute to Brian Haw, than to republish this piece I wrote back in 2007.

Put Away The Flags

Thankfully we don't do much of it any more, wave the flag of empire that is.
Do I say thankfully, because I'm not nationalistic? probably, or do I say this because of what the Union Flag represents? definitely.

You see when you are a realist and you cut away the nationalistic fervour and all the bullshit that surrounds these bits of cloth and take a good look at what they have been built on and truly represent, well they're not something a fellow can take a great deal of pride in, and the last thing that any realist wants to be seen waving is this symbol of empire and repression.

I hardly need to give you chapter and verse on British hegemony and our glorious colonial past, suffice to say the Empire is unregrettably no more.

But as is all too apparent and undeniable, Americans have taken the flag culture to it's extreme, and as the two are inextricably intertwined, have also taken the concept of patriotism, wrapped it in the same flag, stuck it on a pedestal and viewed it as something noble.

The horrific history, and the resulting deaths of millions brought on by American nationalist super-patriotism is indeed well enough documented, but I fear not near well enough read, or, just as likely read and ignored or read and denied.
One only has to remember quite recently the thunder of beating war drums and the waving of flags as America set fort on yet another invasion of a foreign land.

Yet another example of this wonderful thing called patriotism is how it has become a cheap and shoddy tool in the political arsenal.
Seemingly the moment anybody, pol or otherwise starts to talk a bit of sense, out comes the cannon and the patriotism shell is fired across the bows of anybody who might have the audacity to suggest that America isn't the land of freedom and democracy but a rogue nation drenched in the blood of millions of innocents that this shining beacon of light, this Christian Nation, has murdered.

What does it say of a country when it's blood soaked nationalistic symbol is so revered as this, (link now dead) and this is not the exception other examples abound throughout the country.

So let us move on to how this super nationalism is viewed by a realist.

I cannot get out of my mind the recent news photos of ordinary Americans sitting on chairs, guns on laps, standing unofficial guard on the Arizona border, to make sure no Mexicans cross over into the United States. There was something horrifying in the realization.........

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy. That self-deception started early...........more

Filed under the Patriotism tag.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Clarence Thomas: ''I'll Serve Until I'm Full''

But therein lies the problem, I think his money box is missing its stopper.

Rep. Murphy Says Thomas’ Actions Call Into Question Whether He ‘Can Continue To Serve As A Justice’

By Ian Millhiser
June 24, 2011

In an exclusive interview with ThinkProgress, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) — the lead sponsor of a bill which would strip Supreme Court justices of their immunity from a code of ethical conduct that applies to other federal judges — suggests that an investigation may be necessary to determine whether Justice Clarence Thomas’ many ethics scandals rise to the level where Thomas is no longer fit to serve on the nation’s highest Court:
QUESTION: Do you think what Thomas has done is as serious as what forced [disgraced former Supreme Court Justice Abe] Fortas off the bench?

MURPHY: I think our problem is we don’t know the full extent of Justice Thomas’ connections to [leading GOP donor] Harlan Crow, or, frankly, to a further network of right-wing funders. What he’s done is incredibly serious. I think, at the very least, his actions should disqualify him from sitting on any cases in which Crow-affiliated organizations are parties to or have attempted to influence [the Court]. But this is starting to rise to the level where there should start to be some real investigations as to whether Clarence Thomas can continue to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court.

In an exclusive interview with Think Progress, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) — the lead sponsor of a bill which would strip Supreme Court justices of their immunity from a code of ethical conduct that applies to other federal judges — suggests that an investigation may be necessary to determine whether Justice Clarence Thomas’ many ethics scandals rise to the level where Thomas is no longer fit to serve on the nation’s highest Court:

Justice Thomas has sat on at least 11 cases where a Harlan Crow-affiliated group filed a brief — adopting the group’s preferred outcome in all but one case. Moreover, Thomas has yet to explain the full extent of his connections to Crow, despite news reports that Crow lavished gifts and other expensive favors on Thomas and his family. Nor has Thomas explained how his gifting scandal differs from the very similar gifting scandal that brought down Justice Abe Fortas. More exclusive and video Think Progress.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Clarence Thomas Must Go

Clarence Thomas must go! and no ''please'' about it.

I have decided to give Clarence Thomas his own tag, if there is any justice (geddit?) I think I might be needing one.

Clarence Thomas Must Go
23 June 2011
by: William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.

- Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart

For the sake of full disclosure, I will tell you that I do not like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In my opinion, he has no business sitting on the high court after the reprehensible treatment he forced Anita Hill to endure, and has been a disgrace to the bench lo these last twenty years. Anthony Weiner, one of Clarence Thomas' most ardent critics, was just run out of Washington DC on a rail for behavior far less offensive; Mr. Thomas is lucky there was no such thing as Twitter when he was sexually harassing Hill, or he'd be chasing ambulances outside of muni court like the hack he is. He sits up there like a lump, never speaking or offering questions to petitioners, and has not had an original thought since his shameful Senate approval.

But his vapid intellectual presence on the bench is only a small part of the story. Mr. Thomas has, by all appearances, turned his position on the court into a license to print money for himself, his family, and a few choice friends.

Conservative corruption is nothing new in Washington, but Mr. Thomas has taken the practice to bold new heights, and finally, people are beginning to sit up and take notice. Thomas has been playing fast and loose with judicial ethics for a long time now, and though Supreme Court Justices are not technically beholden to judicial rules of ethics, his behavior has become so egregious as to warrant deep attention, and in my opinion, removal from the high court.

Justice Thomas is in possession of a gorgeous bust of Abraham Lincoln, which was cast in 1914 by the noted sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman. The bust was given as a gift to Thomas in 2001 by Christopher DeMuth, president of the notoriously right-wing American Enterprise Institute. The value of the bust was $15,000. In the intervening years, AEI has filed briefs on three separate occasions regarding cases before the high court, and on each occasion, Thomas has ruled in their favor, often going beyond the scope they were seeking.

Thomas has attended fundraisers sponsored by the Koch Brothers in support of far-right media outlets, think tanks and groups. His habit of openly supporting right-wing causes has earned him an enormous amount of financial largesse from heavy-hitting right-wing donors, most notoriously Mr. Harlan Crow, who helped finance the "swift-boating" of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. Crow financed a library project dedicated to Thomas, and gave Thomas' wife $500,000 to create a Tea Party group that has since been throwing its weight all around the country. Crow, it should be noted, is a trustee of AEI, which gave Thomas that bust of Lincoln.

The list of his brazen improprieties runs long, but the real show centers around his wife, Ginni. Harlan Crow's massive donation allowed her to create Liberty Central (and later Liberty Consulting), an advocacy group dedicated to the overthrow of President Obama's health care reform legislation. The conflict of interest inherent in this - given that Mr. Obama's health care legislation will certainly appear in some form before the Supreme Court - is manifest. The high court's decision in Citizens United, which Thomas voted in favor of, has opened the financial floodgates for groups like Liberty Central, so Thomas' family appears to be reaping wonderful monetary gains from that decision. And there is the fact that Thomas failed to disclose nearly a million dollars of income earned by his wife, and brushed off that failure to disclose with an "Oops, didn't understand the paperwork" excuse. more

Rick Perry McJobs and Snake Oil

Perry Is Peddling Texas Snake Oil
22 June 2011
by: Jim Hightower, Truthout | Op-Ed

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and get your ticket to see "Rick the Wonder Worker!"

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is less than revered back home, where he is widely ridiculed as Gov. Good Hair. So he's now on the road with a traveling medicine show, billing himself as the "Texas Miracle Man." From New York to New Orleans, he's been wowing the Republican hard core by telling astounding tales of his job-creating prowess in our state, suggesting he can do for America what he's done for Texas.

Such GOP sparklies as Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are hailing the economic wunderkind, and his roadshow spiel has prompted some party stalwarts to tout him for the presidency, hoping he can do for America what he has done for Texas. As a giddy New Yorker put it, "We want a piece of that!"

Hold it right there. First, while the Texas unemployment rate of 8 percent is 1 percent lower than the national rate, 23 other states are doing even better -- including New York. Also, his self-touted record of job growth is essentially the same as Democratic Gov. Ann Richards produced and far lower than what Texas had under George W.'s governorship.

Most damning, however, is that Perry-jobs are really "jobettes," offering low pay, no benefits and no upward mobility. In fact, under Rickonomics, Texas has added more minimum wage jobs than all other states combined! After 10 years in office, Gov. Perry presides over a state that has more people in poverty and more without health coverage than any other.

Meanwhile, the Miracle Man has dug Texas into one of the deepest budget holes in the country -- $27 billion short of the money needed to cover the same miserly level of state services Texans now get. Although his party controls the state Senate and has a supermajority in the House, he was unable even to get a budget passed in the regular legislative session, forcing him to convene a costly special session. His plan is to cut $4 billion and as many as 100,000 teachers from our public education system, even as school enrollment is growing exponentially.

Do Republicans really want a piece of this kind of "leadership"? PR hype aside, Perry is so embarrassingly inept at governing that he has lately turned to prayer as his official solution for all problems. Interestingly, the 1836 Republic of Texas Constitution banned "ministers of the gospel" from holding office. Our problem these days, however, is not ministers in office, but politicians posing as ministers, literally seizing the pulpit to preach and proselytize.

Perry's praying is not quiet and contemplative, but garish public displays -- Elmer Gantryism in action. In April, with a biblical-level drought and some 800 wildfires ravaging the state, his gubernatorial response was to proclaim three "Days of Prayer for Rain." The days came and went, but no rain. Presumably, Rick was praying up a storm, but not a drop fell from the heavens.

Undeterred, the gubernatorial padre simply doubled down on prayer politics. Proclaiming Aug. 6 as a "Day of Prayer and Fasting," he has invited all other governors to join him in Houston for a seven-hour prayer-a-palooza, dubbed "The Response." It's billed as "a nondemoninational, apolitical, Christian" event to unify all Americans by calling upon Jesus "to guide us through unprecedented struggles." Wait ... Jesus? What about all those Americans who're Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or other faiths? No room at the inn for them?

Adding to this PR fiasco, Perry's co-sponsor for The Response is the American Family Association -- a Mississippi-based extremist outfit so infamous for bashing gays and Muslims that a watchdog group has characterized it as a hate group. So far, there's been no rush of governors RSVPing.

The governor's spokeswoman loudly insists that his Prayerfest "doesn't have anything to do with (Perry's presidential ambitions)" -- which, of course, means that it does. But if this political show is even too hokey for Republican governors, I doubt that God will be tuning in.

Toward the end of George W.'s right-wing presidency, national columnist and Texas icon Molly Ivins wrote, "Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be elected president of the United States, please pay attention." truthout