Many people are still astonished by the fact that a man was able to stand next to President Obama at Nelson Mandela’s memorial and do fake sign language throughout this speech. What is equally astonishing that, even though the man was not really signing, no one seemed to catch on during the speech. This followed concern over the ability of South Africa to handle security for the President and other world leaders. South Africa failed miserably. It now turns out that it not only allowed a perfect stranger and fake sign interpreter to stand near Obama but Thamsanqa Jantjie has said that he becomes violent “a lot” and was hallucinating during the event.
Archive for the 'Politics' Category
Bad Sign: Fake Interpreter at Mandela Services Now Says That He Has A Violent Past And Was Hallucinating Next To ObamaPublished 1, December 12, 2013 International , Politics , Society 16 Comments
Italian author Costanza Miriano’s best-selling book Cásate y sé sumisa would normally be a cause of celebration for feminists as another successful female author who has soared in popularity. However, the book’s title is translated “Get Married and Be Submissive” and advocates a life of married women of “loyal obedience, generosity and submission.” While soaring in popularity in both Italy and Spain, feminists have publicly destroyed the book in protests and some have called for Miriano to have the book banned as promoting violence against women.
Chief Judge Writes Scathing Dissent Warning of “Epidemic Of Brady Violations” By The Justice DepartmentPublished 1, December 11, 2013 Constitutional Law , Courts , Criminal law , Lawyering , Politics , Society 62 Comments
I have long been a fan of the opinions of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. While we disagree on many cases, Kozinksi often defies predictions and more ideological colleagues in ruling against the government. Chief judge of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and considered a leading libertarian, Kozinski often rules in favor of individual rights — making him a refreshing voice on the federal courts which tend not only to be highly conservative on police powers but also populated by a disproportionate number of former prosecutors. Kozinski’s dissenting opinion this week in the case of Kenneth Olsen continues that legacy and further puts the bias of the federal court in favor of prosecutors into sharp relief. Kozinski opposed the denial of an en banc rehearing with four of this colleagues in the case of Kenneth Olsen, whose trial was marked by prosecutorial abuse. Kozinski began his decision with the chilling but true observation that “There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it.” They didn’t. The court voted overwhelmingly to deny a rehearing in United States v. Olsen,
704 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 2013), a case where the Justice Department failed to fully disclose exculpatory evidence. For those who have been objecting to the expansion and abuse of police powers, it is important to remember that these abuses only continue because federal judges turn a blind eye to them.
We have been following the lethal pollution gripping Chinese cities, including now cities like Shanghai, with stories of children developing lung cancer and other medical problems. One benefit is that the rising levels of pollution have actually made it harder for Chinese police to use the country’s extensive surveillance system to monitor citizens. That is not something that the authoritarian government is likely to celebrate however. Now, the official media has come up with one benefit to offer its choking readers: the thick blanket of unhealthy air could make it more difficult for countries to bomb Chinese cities if they have a hard time finding them.
Many of us on this blog have been advocates for years in favor of medical marijuana legalization. Frankly, as I have expressed before, I fail to understand the logic, let alone the humanity, that would sustain opposition to such drugs for people who are suffering. This woman however made a video that is simply remarkable. It shows the improvement, particularly in speech, that she experiences after using medical marijuana for her cerebal palsy.
By Mike Appleton, Guest Blogger
In 1955 my parents, having decided that their five children should experience a bit of what farm life is about, purchased a house with forty acres in a canyon near Alamogordo, New Mexico, a fairly short commute to my father’s job at Holloman Air Force Base. A previous owner had operated a commercial orchard on the property, and it still had a number of fruit bearing peach and apple trees. In the course of the following year we acquired a registered brand, two calves, two pigs, three horses, a half dozen turkeys-and a hundred New Hampshire Red chicks ordered through the Sears Roebuck farm catalog. My father built a chicken coop with roosts and brooding nests and enclosed an open area with a wire fence, although we quickly learned that the wings on chickens are fully operational. The wire fence was soon removed and the chickens wandered at will.
New Hampshires are great egg producers, and we regularly collected more than we could possibly eat. So my father bought generic egg cartons and began selling the surplus to the people he worked with. My parents were obviously pleased with their egg-selling experiment because my father announced at dinner one night that he was going to build another coop, this one large enough to house five hundred hens. We were going into commercial egg production.
Over the next few months my father and I worked evenings and weekends building the new structure. It was long and high-ceilinged, with windows all along the side walls. The original coop now looked like a tool shed by comparison. And then, one day, they arrived, not the five hundred New Hampshire Reds I had envisioned, but hundreds of shiny metal cages. They would be hung from the rafters. Troughs attached to the cages would provide food and water and the eggs would roll out the front of the cages for daily collection.
My little sister Carol, who was seven at the time, was the first to react. She was horrified. It was mean and cruel, she said. Animals cannot live in cages. In short order the rest of us voiced similar outrage. Even my mother was sympathetic to our feelings on the issue. It was hopeless, and my father knew it. There would be no chicken gulag. When my father was transferred and sold the property two years later, the cages still sat on the ground in the new coop, a mute testament to compassion over economics.
But if I were to share this story with Rep. Steve King, he would likely respond that my little sister was an incipient animal rights radical and my father a fool.
By The People For The Dollars: Washington Initiative Process Dominated By Out Of State Corporations.Published 1, December 8, 2013 Constitutional Law , Courts , Free Speech , Politics , Society 23 Comments
Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
The initiative process in Washington State is designed to allow individual citizens to participate in the law making process and collectively to work together to bring this cause to fruition. But is this century old tradition, rather uncommon in the various governments of the world, suffering from the effects of corporate interest and losing its original purpose?
Continue reading ‘By The People For The Dollars: Washington Initiative Process Dominated By Out Of State Corporations.’
“The Guardian” Reveals the State Policy Network’s Coordinated Effort for 2014—An Assault on Education, Taxes, Healthcare, and WorkersPublished 1, December 8, 2013 Politics , Uncategorized 58 Comments
Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger
In November, I wrote a post titled State Policy Network (SPN)—The “PR Firm” for ALEC and a Right-Wing Agenda. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, SPN “is funded largely by global corporations and by groups and foundations associated with conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch.” Journalist Jane Mayer provided a good description of SPN in her article Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?—which appeared in The New Yorker this past November.
In every state in the country, there is at least one ostensibly independent “free-market” think tank that is part of something called the State Policy Network— there are sixty-four in all, ranging from the Pelican Institute, in Louisiana, to the Freedom Foundation, in Washington State. According to a new investigative report by the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal watchdog group, however, the think tanks are less free actors than a coördinated collection of corporate front groups—branch stores, so to speak—funded and steered by cash from undisclosed conservative and corporate players. Although the think tanks have largely operated under the radar, the cumulative enterprise is impressively large, according to the report. In 2011, the network funnelled seventy-nine million dollars into promoting conservative policies at the state level.
The Guardian newspaper has dug up more information about the workings of SPN…and its plans for 2014. The paper published an article on the subject entitled State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax just last week. According to Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, the authors of the article, SPN and its affiliated conservative groups/”think tanks” are planning “a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment…”
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
This past week the main stream media made a big deal about the unemployment rate declining to the five-year low of 7%. While it was good news that over 200,000 jobs were added to the economy and that the unemployment rate decreased, the economy and main street are still lagging behind Wall Street. The Federal Reserve has been attempting monetary easing strategies in an effort to stimulate the economy. It may have worked for Wall Street, but the rest of us are still catching up.
“The Federal Reserve is the only central bank with a dual mandate. It is charged not only with maintaining low, stable inflation but with promoting maximum sustainable employment. Yet unemployment remains stubbornly high, despite four years of radical tinkering with interest rates and quantitative easing (creating money on the Fed’s books). After pushing interest rates as low as they can go, the Fed has admitted that it has run out of tools.” Ellen Brown Continue reading ‘Revamp the Federal Reserve’
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
Many blogs have been written here that deal with the phony “War on Drugs” and the negative effects it has on society, particularly those lacking resources, or being people of color. This piece is not about the “War on Drugs”, but this ridiculous “war” has actually driven the abuses of our criminal justice system that is my topic today. Because the “War on Drugs” provides context for this subject I’ve included links at the bottom that supply the context behind my opinions here. Human Rights Watch produced a report this week about how most defendants in Federal drug cases are forced to plead guilty under the threat of the imposition of a mandatory sentence. I read an article in Huffington Post referencing this study and it immediately brought to mind two aspects of law enforcement and prosecution today that raise my ire.
The first is the process of plea bargaining, which I believe makes a mockery of our Criminal Justice System. The second is the concept of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing (MMS) which in my opinion leads inevitably to miscarriages of what we would like to call justice. The idea of negotiation, bargaining if you will, is that each of the two sides has the ability to provide enough of value to be able to establish a mutually beneficial contract. Clearly though when it comes to a Prosecutor bargaining with a defendant there is, except in the case of the wealthy/powerful, an unequal negotiation. The Prosecution has the authority and resources of the State backing it up. Most defendants and indeed most people in prisons, have little resources. In the public’s (thus jury’s) mind, most defendants are really guilty until proven innocent, despite the “presumption of innocence” that is supposedly a hallmark of our legal system. Adding immeasurably to the Prosecution’s resources are “Mandatory Minimum” sentences (MMS). They were instituted by legislators who wanted to appear “tough on crime” and so represent drastic solutions to punishment needs, in order to appear as “tough” as possible. With the trump card of MMS prosecutors are in a position to threaten a defendant to “cop a plea” to avoid a more draconian prison sentence. The Human Rights Watch study shows how these two procedures have become a feature of American Criminal Justice that in my opinion makes a mockery of it. Continue reading ‘Cheap Justice, Bad Law = Broken System’
New York Police Respond To Unarmed Disoriented Man in Traffic By Shooting Two Innocent Women . . . Prosecutors Charge Man With The Police ShootingsPublished 1, December 6, 2013 Bizarre , Criminal law , Politics , Society 48 Comments
On September 14, Glenn Broadnax, 35, allegedly jumped in front of cars in New York’s Time Square. He was reportedly disoriented and, according to his counsel, was communicating with dead relatives in his mind. However, two police officials feared that the unarmed Broadnax was reaching for a weapon. They responded with a barrage of gunfire that cut down two bystanders. Now, prosecutors have charged Broadnax with assault for the shootings by the police officers on the theory that “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death.”
On the death of Nelson Mandela, the case of Williamson County State’s Attorney Charles Garnati before the the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission would seem to confirm just how much work has yet to be done. Garnati has been called to account to an argument in a murder trial that contrasted the black defendant with people “in our white world.”
While politicians continue to push for wars in places like Syria to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, they tend to ignore the much greater amounts of radioactive material available in this and neighboring countries at hospitals and other institutions. This week we saw just how easy it is to acquire such material capable of being used as a weapon. Thieves simply hijacked a truck with medical waste that would have allowed them to create a potent radioactive dirty bomb. It was a mistake and they likely paid for the mistake with their lives.
Hearing Or Elephant? Washington Post Portrays Republicans At Presidential Abuse Hearing As Impeachment ObsessedPublished 1, December 4, 2013 Bizarre , Congress , Constitutional Law , Media , Politics 166 Comments
The Washington Post has a controversial take on yesterday’s hearing in its coverage by Dana Milbank. The hearing raised the serious question of a pattern of allegedly unconstitutional actions by President Obama in either barring enforcement of federal law or directly violating those laws. However, the Washington Post only reported on the fact that impeachment was raised in the hearing in the discussion of the constitutional means left to Congress to address presidential abuse. Republicans object that the Post piece misses 99 percent of the hearing detailing the rise of an imperial presidency under Obama and four hours of discussion of the dangerous shift of power in the tripartite system. Impeachment or presidential abuse. It seems that two hearings occurred simultaneously. Both sides appear to be claiming the other is blinded by bias. The Milbank and Republican accounts appear a modern version of the parable of the elephant and the six blind men.
You Have The Duty To Remain Silent . . . : Dallas Police Officers Barred From Making Statements For 72 Hours After Shootings To Review Videotapes and Other EvidencePublished 1, December 4, 2013 Bizarre , Criminal law , Politics , Society 31 Comments
There is an astonishing story out of Texas where the Dallas Police Chief David Brown quietly changed a rule that would require officers involved in a shooting to wait 72 hours before making a statement. There is no cognizable public interest behind such a rule, but it comes after a scandal where a surveillance video showed one of Brown’s officers shooting a mentally ill suspect for no apparent reason. The video contradicted the officer’s testimony and undermined the charge against the victim. Brown’s solution was not greater disciplining and monitoring of officers but to impose a delay to allow officers to craft their statements.
House Judiciary Committee To Hear Testimony On President Obama’s Authority To Suspend Or Change Federal LawsPublished 1, December 3, 2013 Academics , Congress , Constitutional Law , Courts , Politics , Society , Supreme Court , Testimony 60 Comments
This morning I will testifying in Congress before the House Judiciary Committee on “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.” The hearing will address areas where President Obama has ordered the delay or nonenforcement of federal laws. While I happen to agree with some of these policies, I have great reservations about this record and its implications for the separation of powers.
By Mike Appleton, Guest Blogger
“Despite suggestions by the President, various Senators, and numerous commentators that the Senate has a constitutional obligation to act on judicial nominations, the text of the Constitution contains no such obligation.“
-Adam J. White, “Toward The Framers’ Understanding of ‘Advice and Consent’: A Historical And Textual Inquiry,” 29 Harvard J. Law & Pub. Pol. 103, 147 (2005)
“… [T]he constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent in the judicial appointment process should be seen as a nondiscretionary duty constitutionally imposed upon the Senate and enforceable by the judiciary.”
-Lee Renzin, “Advice, Consent, and Senate Inaction-Is Judicial Resolution Possible?”, 73 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1739, 1751 (1998)
The Constitution requires no more than a bare majority of the Senate to approve a judicial nominee. How do we know this? First, there are only five situations in which the Constitution mandates super-majority approval: conviction of an impeachable offense (Article I, Section 3); expulsion of a member of Congress (Article I, Section 5); overriding a presidential veto (Article I, Section 7); approval of a treaty (Article II, Section 2); and the convening of a constitutional convention (Article V). Second, under a familiar rule of statutory construction known as “expressio unius est exclusio alterius,” the failure to include a super-majority vote requirement in the Appointments Clause means that no such requirement exists.
Nevertheless, the Senate has been able to transform its “advice and consent” function under the Appointments Clause into a sixth super-majority approval standard through its power under Article I, Section 5 to establish “the Rules of its Proceedings.” And the consequences have been more strongly felt during the current administration than at any other time in our history, Continue reading ‘Judicial Appointments and Bad Faith’
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
The five alleged 9/11 defendants currently being held at Guantanamo Bay where they have been detained since 2006, are currently preparing their defenses for trials that are scheduled for September 2014. All five defendants have been subjected to what the United States government called enhanced interrogation techniques at CIA black sites even before they got to Gitmo. Continue reading ‘Kangaroo Commissions and Torture’
We have often discussed the lack of separation of temple and state in Israel as well as the control of religious figures on aspects of public life. A story this week vividly illustrates the problem. A rabbinical court has fined a woman hundreds of dollars for refusing to circumcise her baby son and thereby endangering her child. Many doctors are questioning the necessity and value of circumcision, which is generally left up to the parents. However, this is an issue with both religious and medical importance in Israel. The mother was fine $150 dollars every day that the boy was left uncircumcised.
We have previously discussed how Barack Obama has become the president that Richard Nixon always wanted to be. From his Administration’s comprehensive attack on privacy and civil liberties, investigation of journalists, to his claim of unilateral authority to kill citizens, Obama has created an Imperial Presidency that could haunt this nation for generations. He has succeeded with the silent acquiescence of many liberals and Democrats who have embraced personality over principle in continuing to support his Administration. Now, a new report documents how the National Security Agency under Obama has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites to be used as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of people consider radicals. The obvious comparison to Nixon is only dwarfed by the comparison to J. Edgar Hoover, but again the silence is deafening from the Democrats. In the meantime, the so-called “reforms” of the NSA as expected would preserve the massive data-gathering programs of the agency — as guaranteed by such “reformers” as Dianne Feinstein.
TSA Spends Roughly $1 Billion On Program That Resulted In One-Half Of One Percent Of Arrests For Identified PassengersPublished 1, November 27, 2013 Bizarre , Politics , Society 19 Comments
We have been discussing how, while cutting educational, environmental, and scientific programs, Congress continues to spend wildly on defense and national security regardless of documented waste or failures. Even titanic failures do not result in discipline or termination for officials. Given this record, the behavior detection program of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) must be viewed as a relatively success. TSA has spent roughly $900 million over the last 5 years for behavior detection officers to identify high-risk passengers. The result? One-half of one percent of flagged travelers were arrested and the number of terrorists was zero.
The White House has caught Hunger Game fever with a competition of which Turkey will become the White House Thanksgiving Turkey: Caramel or Popcorn. To assist the President, we have our own poll below on who is the biggest Turkey this year.
I am very happy to report that our blog has been inducted into the ABA Journal’s Hall of Fame for legal blogs around the world. We just received word this afternoon with the start of this year’s competition for the top News/Analysis blog. This is also our sixth year in being selected as one of the top 100 legal blogs in the world. Of course, this is the closest that an endomorphic law professor can get to any Hall of Fame. I am grateful to the ABA Journal staff not just for this distinction but for holding this competition each year to feature the wide variety of legal blogs. For all of us who were the last to be selected on sports teams growing up, this is our pudgy, wheezing victory lap. While people like Pete Rose may be a hundred times more athletic, we made it into the Hall of Fame (pending any last minute gambling scandals).
The selection for the Hall of Fame is latest distinction given this site which has strived to offer an alternative forum for those interested in passionate but civil discourse over the legal cases and issues of our day. Special thanks go to our talented and popular weekend team of guest bloggers: Mike Appleton, David Drumm, Mark Esposito, Gene Howington, Elaine Magliaro, Larry Rafferty, Darren Smith, Mike Spindell, and Charlton Stanley. I owe them a great debt for their insightful and gifted postings. The greatest thanks however goes to our readers and commenters who have placed this blog in the top ten most visited legal blogs in the world according to AVVO. We have strived to maintain a civility rule while discussing issues that may divide us. We do not want to be another echo chamber for one ideology or viewpoint. There are ample conservative and liberal sites that cater to that desire for reaffirmation. We value dialogue and different views. While we occasionally have some who stray into personal remarks, we have been remarkably successful in maintaining a high level of discourse. We even have some fun with the more bizarre legal and social stories.
We hope that all of our regulars will take the time to go and vote for the blog in the heavily competitive News/Analysis category. You only have to do a quick registration (used only to prevent vote stuffing) and then you can VOTE HERE.
Texas Judge Publicly Denounces Jurors For Acquitting Defendant And Acting Like The O.J. Simpson JuryPublished 1, November 25, 2013 Bizarre , Courts , Lawyering , Politics 48 Comments
We previously discussed an Ohio judge who chastised a jury and threatened a defendant that his acquittal would not end the matter for her. Now Texas visiting Judge Jerry Ray has joined the ranks of judges who express their anger at juries for not ruling as they expect. Ray told a jury that it violated its oath and acted like the jury in the O.J. Simpson case.
Obama Administration Pushes New Trade Agreement That Would Further Enrich Pharmaceutical Companies And Discourage Lower Priced Generic DrugsPublished 1, November 25, 2013 Congress , International , Politics , Society 101 Comments
The Obama Administration has been widely criticized for being captured by the pharmaceutical industry, which has gotten the White House to block efforts to guarantee lower cost drugs and increase profits for these companies. Pharmaceutical lobbyists have in turn given huge amounts of campaign money to President Obama and Democratic members as well as jobs to former members. Even with this record, however, many are shocked by the White House pushing of a trade agreement that would undermine international efforts to reduce the cost of drugs and extend the patents for these companies to further increase their profits. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) allows for techniques like “evergreening” to extend patents for the industry, which in turn has continued its own evergreen record of high-paying jobs for political allies and massive campaign contributions for the White House and Congress. Everyone wins . . . except the tens of millions who cannot afford medicine. While these companies have valid interests in recouping their investment and making profits on new drugs (which are expensive to develop), the secrecy and sweeping impact of the TPP deserves far greater attention in the media.
David Noel James, Baron of Blackheath, and his wife were horrified. The conservative Tory peer and his wife (who is a youth justice officer) were driving to Twickenham for a rugby game when they drove past a bus of children mooning them. Lord James wants the government to mete out punishment and not simply turn the other cheek at the little hoodlums.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger
We have all heard the cries that so-called entitlement programs like Social Security need to be cut in order to “save” them from extinction. Now that I am 62 years of age, I have become more interested in the issue of Social Security’s solvency.
CEO’s have gotten involved in the process through the now infamous Fix the Debt campaign initiated and funded by Billionaire Pete Peterson and the parallel campaign started by the Business Roundtable. Both of these campaigns are supported by big business and CEO’s of large corporations with no concern where their retirement funds are going to come from. Continue reading ‘Fix Social Security By Expansion’
Rotten to the Common Core?: On the Subject of Education Standards, Arne Duncan, “White Suburban Moms”…and Bad*ss TeachersPublished 1, November 24, 2013 Politics , Society 53 Comments
My attention turned toward public schools once again this week when I read reports about Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s apologizing for using “clumsy phrasing” when he made comments about some critics of the Common Core Standards—which he has championed. (Note: Common Core—a set of educational standards developed for public school students in kindergarten through twelfth grade—has been adopted by most of our states.) Duncan was speaking to a group of superintendents recently and just couldn’t help himself—it appears—when he said the following:
“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary. You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.”
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
The picture above really says it all. Walmart, our country’s largest retail operation is run by people who are so clueless that they’ve created a culture that doesn’t even understand the massive irony in running a Thanksgiving Food Pantry for its own employees. The photo comes from a Walmart in Canton, Ohio. The concept of food collections for the poor at retail establishments is widespread in America, even as many Americans deny that anyone in this country goes hungry. The irony of this food drive though is that it is asking Walmart employees, who are already low paid, to donate food to fellow employees who are even worse off than they are. It is also ironic that the food drive is for Thanksgiving Dinner, since almost all Walmart Stores have been open all day for Thanksgiving for many years, so one wonders what type of Thanksgiving Dinner Walmart associates will have at all? What is new this year is that “Black Friday” for Walmart customers will begin at 6:00pm on Thanksgiving Day and run through the night.
The average Walmart Associate makes $8.81 per hour which translates into a yearly income of $15,576 if the Associate works a full time schedule. Most Associates don’t work full time because working full time would entitle them to benefits that Walmart doesn’t want to pay. Interestingly, the current U.S. poverty level for a three person family in our country is $19,530. So we see that the rare Walmart full time employee, with two dependents, earns about $4,000 per year below the nation’s poverty level. Indeed, Walmart has made it a practice to inform its employees about benefits like Snap and Public Assistance. At the risk of being portrayed as a “bleeding heart” by some of our readers, let me state that I think this company is disgusting in its personnel policies and is an example of what is worst about our country. Let me explain further. Continue reading ‘To Walmart with Contempt’
There is renewed calls for the United States Supreme Court to end its ban on cameras in the courtroom. This clip might reinforce the opposition of members. Member of Parliament Gary Gray has discovered the perils of televised legislative sessions. The former resources minister appears to view things in his hair as a resource worth digesting. Of course, the image of justices grooming each other would be too much to take.
There is an interesting nuisance case in Detroit where Alan Markovitz has erected an art piece in his backyard. It so happens to be lighted at night and fully visible when his ex-wife looks out of her windows next door. It is a large piece giving a middle finger salute.
It may be a sign of the apocalypse but I find myself not only in agreement with Sarah Palin but angry at her treatment by a MSNBC host. Palin recently canceled a NBC interview with Matt Lauer over the failure of MSNBC to discipline host Martin Bashir for saying that someone should defecate in Palin’s mouth after she compared federal debt to slavery. While I once worked for MSNBC, I have been shocked by the effort of the network to be the Fox News of the left — with hosts often blindly supporting the President, seriously comparing Holder to Moses, and even defending the surveillance of journalists (which Bashir did) in defense of the Administration. For civil libertarians, it has been a blow to see MSNBC yield to a type of cult of personality around Obama while basic civil liberties are being denied by this Administration. However, Bashir was able to hit truly a new low and the lack of a serious response beyond an on-air apology sends the message that anything goes when the target is a conservative and critic of the President.
Spain is on the verge of passing a draconian measure that threatens fundamental values of free speech. Faced with ongoing protests over economic conditions, the Spanish government is about to make insulting police officers and protesting without permission crimes punishable by fine greater than dealing drugs or prostitution. Not since Franco has the country turned so decidedly against civil liberties and free speech.
The Palestinian Authority embraced a curious hero this week among those released as part of an agreement with Israel. Issa Abed Rabbo was the longest serving prisoner of the 104 released this week. Rabbo, 49, was heralded as a hero and given a pension and a large sum of money by the PA. However, Rabbo was convicted of taking two young hikers, binding them, putting bags over their heads, and then shooting them to death in 1984. That is not the makings of any freedom fighter that I know of.
Republican Florida Rep. Trey Radel has been charged with misdemeanor cocaine possession in Washington, D.C. A newly elected Tea Party Republican, Radel issued a contrite statement that he has struggled with alcohol and that his alcoholism led to “an extremely irresponsible choice.” UPDATE: Radel has pleaded guilty and received a one year probation sentence.
I previously wrote a column about how government officials waste billions or plow whole programs in the ground without nary a reprimand. If that column bothered you, you might want to sit down. A new report has detailed how the military has cooked the books to hide trillions, that’s right trillions, in missing money and equipment. The military calls them “plugs,” a curious term for fraud. These are knowingly fake figures used to hide the fact that there is no accurate record of the money. In one finding, a single office in Columbus, Ohio, made at least $1.59 trillion in errors with $538 billion in plugs. The study reveals that government accounting records are fraudulent but that congressional oversight has been equally illusory.
Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger
A recent report published by the Center for Media and Democracy has alleged that there is a network of think tanks across this country that has been “quietly pushing the agenda of right-wing groups with funding from Koch brothers-affiliated organizations.” The umbrella organization that these sixty-four think tanks are collaborating with is called the State Policy Network (SPN)—“a nonprofit that nurtures conservative think tanks in all fifty states.”
From SPN’s website:
Founded in 1992 by Tom Roe at the urging of Ronald Reagan, State Policy Network is the only group in the country dedicated solely to improving the practical effectiveness of independent, non-profit, market-oriented, state-focused think tanks. SPN’s programs enable these organizations to better educate local citizens, policy makers and opinion leaders about market-oriented alternatives to state and local policy challenges.
According to the Center for Media and Democracy’s report, SPN and its “member think tanks” promote an “extreme right-wing agenda” that is much the same as that of “David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, Charles Koch’s Cato Institute, and Koch’s Citizens for a Sound Economy spin-off FreedomWorks–all of which happen to be associate members of ALEC.”
Tags: Department of Homeland Security, The Electronic Infomation Privacy Center;
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
The Electronic Privacy Information Center recently won the first round of a court action asking that the Department of Homeland Security be required to disclose its plans to pull the plug on regional or national mobile telephone and internet communication systems pursuant to its Standard Operating Procedure 303.
“In the classicly-rendered case, DHS has argued that shutting down entire communication networks might be necessary in order to prevent the detonation of radio-controlled bomb or explosive device.
However, siding with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which brought a suit demanding more transparency for the DHS program known as “Standard Operating Procedure 303″ (or SOP303), the federal judge at the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that because the release of the protocol could not reasonably be seen as harming law enforcement “investigative techniques or prosecutions” it’s cited reasons for keeping the details of the program secret did not hold up.” Common Dreams
The so-called SOP 303 could allow DHS to cut-off all internet and mobile phone communications at a regional level or a national level if it determined that there was a national security concern. We have already seen this government tactic used in Oakland in 2011 and that alleged over reach by the Bay Area Rapid Transit authorities may be the reason for EPIC’s lawsuit. Continue reading ‘Internet Kill Switch Plan is Killed…For Now.’
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
In recent years many studies have come out that have made the case that a high proportion of CEO’s of major companies are sociopaths. At the end of this blog I’ll provide a number of links that discuss this, some from major conservative business magazines. We do know that from 1% to 3% of humans are sociopaths sharing all of these 10 characteristics:
#1) Sociopaths are charming. #2) Sociopaths are more spontaneous and intense than other people. #3) Sociopaths are incapable of feeling shame, guilt or remorse. #4) Sociopaths invent outrageous lies about their experiences. #5) Sociopaths seek to dominate others and “win” at all costs. #6) Sociopaths tend to be highly intelligent #7) Sociopaths are incapable of love #8) Sociopaths speak poetically. #9) Sociopaths never apologize. #10) Sociopaths are delusional and literally believe that what they say becomes truth.” http://www.naturalnews.com/036112_sociopaths_cults_influence.html
Now the problem with the definition of Sociopathy is that there can be a good deal of subjectivity in making the diagnosis, absent a clinician interviewing the subject. After all many people are charming, spontaneous, invent lies, try to dominate others and speak “poetically” and that doesn’t make them sociopaths. The subjectivity comes in trying to determine whether a given person is incapable of feeling guilt, shame, remorse and is delusional. A trained clinician may be able to do this via an intensive interview, but the nature of this disorder is such that even a trained clinician can be fooled by a sociopath. Rather than argue back and forth about the negative effects of CEO sociopaths on this society as the root of so much dysfunction, my readings this week suggest another theory that would provide a simpler explanation of why it seems that so many in this country have so little compassion and empathy for the less fortunate among us. We need not deem them sociopaths, but people who are simply removed from the misery that they inflict. The apocryphal story of Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” may well characterize those who control most of this country’s wealth. It may be why some are sincere philanthropists, yet show such disdain and lack a sense of responsibility for the suffering that they cause. Let’s explore this further. Continue reading ‘Selfish or Sociopath, Does It Make a Difference?’
The Fix Is In: Can President Obama Grant An Effective ACA Waiver To Millions Of Disgruntled Citizens?Published 1, November 15, 2013 Congress , Constitutional Law , Politics , Society 118 Comments
President Obama is taking a great deal of heat for the cancellations of millions of policies after he repeatedly told citizens that if you like your policy you could keep it. He recently apologized for what seems a classic bait and switch. However, Obama has now announced a fix that raises a more serious question in my mind. Most of us have become used to a relatively high level of dishonesty from our leaders in Congress as well as the White House. This blog has documented whoppers, even perjury, that results in little more than a shrug in today’s political system. However, the “fix” involves the President unilaterally changing that scope and timing of a law. This has been a recurring concern with this President and the rise of the “Imperial Presidency” that he has established within ever-expanding executive powers. I will be discussing this issue today on CNN.
Oops, Our Bad: Syrian Rebel Group Pulls Wounded Soldier From Hospital, Decapitates Him, And Prances Around With His Head . . . Only To Learn He Is A Rebel FighterPublished 1, November 15, 2013 Bizarre , Criminal law , International , Politics , Religion , Society 27 Comments
The problem with being a murderous religious extremist is when you behead your own allies in one of your blood-soaked celebrations of hate. That is the problem facing the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). The group held one of its signature beheadings with joyous killings and prancing around with body parts only to learn that the victim was a wounded anti-government soldier. Oops.
Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is warning people about Pope Francis. Palin told CNN that the Pope’s statements of tolerance and accommodation have “taken her aback” but that she hopes that it is just another misrepresentation by liberal mainstream media. We have discussed how inspiring Pope Francis has proven to Catholics and non-Catholics alike by shedding the trappings of the papacy and living a simple and humble life of a priest. More importantly, he has reached out to gays, atheists and others in a way that is truly historic. In this short time as Pope, he is credited with bringing large numbers of people back to churches in the West. However, Palin is uneasy with the Pope for the very same reasons that people are rallying around him.
The Obama Administration is in the midst of an open fight with the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Congress. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced negotiations viewed as historic between the United States and its allies with Iran over its nuclear program. The negotiations have attracted international support and are viewed as a rare opportunity after the change in leadership in Tehran. Netanyahu however has called upon the pro-Israel lobby to scuttle the diplomatic efforts by imposing new sanctions against Iran. Despite that fact that new sanctions would eliminate allies and be widely viewed as evidence of bad faith by the United States, AIPAC and AJC easily pushed through the sanctions in the House and they are viewed as making strides in the Senate despite the opposition of the White House.
Michigan School Forces Students To Remove Teeshirts Memorializing Schoolmate After Her Death From CancerPublished 1, November 13, 2013 Academics , Bizarre , Politics , Society 28 Comments
I often express bewilderment at the actions of public school administrators particularly in their enforcement of zero tolerance policies. However, what happened at Lakeview Middle School was not only wrong but a bit creepy in the defense of a senseless policy with Dr. Phil-like pseudo-pyschological rhetoric. When sixth-grader Caitlyn Jackson, 12, died on Saturday, her classmates came up with a wonderful idea of making teeshirts in her favorite colors to honor her on Monday. Students spent the weekend preparing the teeshirts. However, when they arrived, school administrators ordered them to take off the t-shirts or turn them inside out or put tape over Jackson’s name. The reason? After hearing about the preparation of the students over the weekend, they decided it violated a ban on “permanent memorials” and was not healthy of students to be reminded of the loss. Of course, they did not tell parents and waited to traumatize the students at school. Eventually, after an outcry and anger from parents, the students were allowed to take the tape off and wear their teeshirts.
There is growing tension in Israel between Orthodox Jews and the country’s gay community. As gays and lesbians have fought for the recognition of same-sex unions, Orthodox Jews have become equally vocal in fighting against such recognition. Into this volatile environment walked an Orthodox mayor who showed little evidence of intellect and even less judgment. Moshe Abutbul, the Haredi mayor of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, stated categorically in an interview that there are no gay people in his city and that such people should be left to health officials and the police. The comments by Abutbul, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, resulted in the filing of a criminal charge for incitement. While Abutbul appears a perfect moron, I do not believe that people should face criminal charges for expressing their views — even the absurd thoughts of a hateful religious bigot.
Continue reading ‘Israeli Mayor Facing Criminal Complaint For Anti-Homosexual Comments’
A Not-So “Good Catholic Fellow” Wins Appeal: Florida Court Orders New Sentencing After Judge Lectures On Catholic ValuesPublished 1, November 11, 2013 Bizarre , Constitutional Law , Courts , Criminal law , Lawyering , Politics , Religion , Society 26 Comments
A Florida appellate court has ordered a new sentencing for Percy Edgardo Torres, 44, of Jacksonville in light of a tongue-lashing that he received from Judge Russell Healey who used his sentencing to lecture him on his violation of Catholic principles.
We have previously discussed the inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai, who has captivated the world in her struggle after being shot in the head by Muslim extremists for her advocacy of female education. It is a story that appears destined to be read around the world but not in Pakistan where various organizations have banned it from private schools. One educator objected that she referred to the Prophet Muhammad without using the abbreviation PBUH — “peace be upon him.” For that, she is viewed as a dangerous heretic not a heroine.
From Mike Nifong’s mishandling of the Duke LaCrosse case (which led to his disbarment) to the Oklahoma Supreme Court refusing to disbar Robert Bradley Miller for withholding evidence in capital cases and issuing false subpoenas to Angela Corey’s questionable prosecution of the Trayvon Martin shooting (which seemingly had little or no consequences to Corey whatsoever), stories of prosecutorial misconduct are nothing new to this forum. As always, such malfeasance can be driven by a number of factors – political considerations, public and media pressure, laziness, incompetence, and blind professional ambition to name a few. Regardless of the reasons underlying these kind of cases, the salient point is that such bad behavior on the part of prosecutors undermines the credibility of and the faith of the public in the criminal justice system.
This brings us to the case currently in the news of former Texas prosecutor Ken Anderson.
The former Williamson County District Attorney and Judge (appointed by Rick Perry) agreed to a plea deal for criminal contempt of court for failing to turn over exculpatory evidence in the 1987 murder trial of Michael Morton, later exonerated when the conviction was overturned in 2011. Anderson will pay a $500 fine, perform 500 hours of community service work, spend 10 days in jail and lose his license to practice law. As part of the plea deal, charges of tampering with evidence – which carried a potential penalty of 10 years in prison – were dropped. Is this sufficient punishment for willfully and wrongly sending a man to prison for 24 years? Does this kind of plea further erode public faith in the accountability of those responsible for running the criminal justice system? While this case is being trumpeted as “precedent shattering”, is it really? What can we do about this kind of systemic error?
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
I have written some guest blogs in the past dealing with aspects of the issue of America becoming a Police State and will link to them at the end of this piece. There are so many issues that call for our concern and attention in this country today, that dealing with the entire dysfunctional state of our country becomes daunting due to the wealth of material. Finally, the stories on a given issue multiply in such a way that their effect is a realization across all political lines that enough is enough. The issue of our country’s continuing descent into a”Police State” equaling all we know of the vile systems in the USSR and the former East Germany is an issue that concerns me.. The situation is dire and the consequences have produced not only horrible injustices, but also the many unneeded maiming and deaths of innocent individuals. Our country imprisons more people per capita than any other country in the world by far. Part of the reason for that is the “War on Drugs” an abject failure that falls most heavily upon people with low incomes and people of color. One such incident caused Professor Turley to pen two blogs this week. They were about a man falsely suspected of drug possession who had all his bodily orifices and cavities checked in the local Arizona police’s vain attempt to find evidence of guilt. None was found and the procedures were not only traumatic, but invasive. Thus the “War on Drugs” is one major contributing force to turning our country into a Police State.
Another contributing Police State factor has been the Federal Government militarizing our local police forces. I’ve written about this as well and will link at those blogs at the end as well. Somewhere along the line, certainly hastened by 9/11 it appeared a necessity to some that are police should be turned from officers of the law into a paramilitary occupying army. There is a great distinction between an officer of the law and a paramilitary trooper. An officer of the law the way I see it, is empowered to enforce the criminal law in ways of lawful conduct that are deemed permissible via our Constitution and Statutes. Thus an officer of the law should be a citizen like the rest of us and in the performance of their jobs should respect the rights of the citizenry. A paramilitary trooper by definition perceives themselves operating in a hostile environment and so everyone in that environment that is not of their army is a potential “hostile”. This unerringly begets a certain level of brutality when dealing with the populace, because from a paramilitary perspective people are presumed guilty, until they are proven innocent. We have seen and I have documented in guest blogs that vast sums of money have come in from the Federal Government to help create paramilitary SWAT teams. Once created, the uses for these teams multiply far beyond their original purpose, because having a tool inevitably causes its usage. After the split I will discuss yet a third factor that adds to this police state mentality, but first I’d like to express the following. The issue of our country becoming a Police State should not be and is not a partisan issue. Just from the opinions of people who follow this blog and comment, we see general agreement that these police tactics violate our Constitution and our innate sense of propriety. We may not all agree on most aspects of government policy, but I would hope we can agree on the proper manner in which our law officers should enforce the peace. Continue reading ‘Police State America’