Dec 032011



By Jonathan Turley

In one of the greatest attacks on civil liberties in this country’s history, Democratic and Republican Senators voted yesterday to approve a measure as part of the $662 billion defense bill that would allow for the military to hold both citizens and non-citizens indefinitely without trial — even those arrested on U.S. soil. In a welcomed change, President Obama has committed his Administration to fighting the measure as inimical to the rule of law. The measure was pushed by Carl Levin (D – Michigan) and John McCain (R – Arizona). While some members of Congress like Ron Paul (R., Texas) have denounced the bill, the measure passed at the same time that Administration lawyers publicly declared that the military and intelligence agencies alone should decide whether a citizen should be killed without a charge or hearing (including killing citizens on U.S. soil) — a position supported by President Obama who has ordered the killing of U.S. citizens under his claim of inherent authority.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, tried to pass an amendment that would have limited it to suspects captured “abroad” — a measure that still raised constitutional and international law problems. However, even that modest amendment failed on a vote of 45 to 55. Here is the voting roster, which includes Democrats Begich (D-AK), Casey (D-PA), Levin (D-MI), Inouye (D-HI), Landrieu (D-LA), Manchin (D-WV), McCaskill (D-MO), Pryor (D-AR), as well as independent Lieberman (ID-CT). A watered down amendment was then passed 99-1 that left the matter (it would appear) to the Administration. The provision merely states that nothing in the provisions could be construed to alter Americans’ legal rights. Since the Senate clearly views citizens are not just subject to indefinite detention but even execution without a trial, the change offers nothing but rhetoric to hide the harsh reality.

Virtually all Democrats and Republicans voted to strip citizens of their rights in a vote of 93-7. […]




By Yasha Levine, The Exiled Online

Yasha Levine was forced to surrender his freedom, as well as his shoe laces…for his own protection

I finally got home Thursday afternoon after spending two nights in jail, and have had a hard time getting my bearings. On top of severe dehydration and sleep deprivation, I’ve got one hell of pounding migraine. So I’ll have to keep this brief for now. But I wanted to write down a few things that I witnessed and heard while locked up by LA’s finest…

First off, don’t believe the PR bullshit. There was nothing peaceful or professional about the LAPD’s attack on Occupy LA–not unless you think that people peacefully protesting against the power of the financial oligarchy deserve to be treated the way I saw Russian cops treating the protesters in Moscow and St. Petersburg who were demonstrating against the oligarchy under Putin and Yeltsin, before we at The eXiled all got tossed out in 2008. Back then, everyone in the West protested and criticized the way the Russian cops brutally snuffed out dissent, myself included. Now I’m in America, at a demonstration, watching exactly the same brutal crackdown…

While people are now beginning to learn that the police attack on Occupy LA was much more violent than previously reported, few actually realize that much—if not most—of the abuse happened while the protesters were in police custody, completely outside the range of the press and news media. And the disgraceful truth is that a lot of the abuse was police sadism, pure and simple:

* I heard from two different sources that at least one busload of protesters (around 40 people) was forced to spend seven excruciating hours locked in tiny cages on a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. prison bus, denied food, water and access to bathroom facilities. Both men and women were forced to urinate in their seats. Meanwhile, the cops in charge of the bus took an extended Starbucks coffee break.

* The bus that I was shoved into didn’t move for at least an hour. The whole time we listened to the screams and crying from a young woman whom the cops locked into a tiny cage at the front of the bus. She was in agony, begging and pleading for one of the policemen to loosen her plastic handcuffs. A police officer sat a couple of feet away the entire time that she screamed–but wouldn’t lift a finger.

* Everyone on my bus felt her pain–literally felt it. That’s because the zip-tie handcuffs they use—like the ones you see on Iraq prisoners in Abu Ghraib—cut off your circulation and wedge deep through your skin, where they can do some serious nerve damage, if that’s the point. And it did seem to be the point. A couple of guys around me were writhing in agony in their hard plastic seats, hands handcuffed behind their back.

* The 100 protesters in my detainee group were kept handcuffed with their hands behind their backs for 7 hours, denied food and water and forced to sit/sleep on a concrete floor. Some were so tired they passed out face down on the cold and dirty concrete, hands tied behind their back. As a result of the tight cuffs, I wound up losing sensation in my left palm/thumb and still haven’t recovered it now, a day and a half after they finally took them off.

* One seriously injured protester, who had been shot with a shotgun beanbag round and had an oozing bloody welt the size of a grapefruit just above his elbow, was denied medical attention for five hours. Another young guy, who complained that he thought his arm had been broken, was not given medical attention for at least as long. Instead, he spent the entire pre-booking procedure handcuffed to a wall, completely spaced out and staring blankly into space like he was in shock. […]




Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning with Brad Friedman, BradBlog

Arrestees kept on buses for hours, forced to urinate self, deprived of water, medical aid or legal assistance…

Much of the good will and plaudits earned by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck for their “minimal use of force” tactics employed to clear OccupyLA demonstrators from City Hall Park earlier this week has been quickly squandered in the hours and days since. The BRAD BLOG has learned that hundreds of peaceful arrestees were kept in often deplorable conditions in the hours following their apprehension.

According to new interviews with some of the arrestees following their release, men and women alike were held without charges for hours on end, forced to urinate in their seats on a holding bus while handcuffed, cut off from attorneys, medical supplies and drinking water, and locked away with punitively high bails while being deprived of both humane and Constitutional rights.

At this hour, almost three full days since their arrest at the OccupyLA encampment in front of Los Angeles City Hall, more than 200 of the peaceful demonstrators detained by LAPD in the evening on Tuesday and early morning hours on Wednesday — many of them who were not even participating in the Occupation — are still being held in jail pending $5,000 bail for their misdemeanor detentions, as detailed by radio station KPCC. Approximately fifty people have been released, some after posting bail, others for medical reasons.

KPCC went on to report that on Thursday, only 19 of those people had yet to be charged. The City Attorney’s office said that, depending on the charge, some would face bail as high as $20,000.

This morning, Los Angeles Times reported that most of the 19 who were allowed to appear in L.A. County Superior Court Thursday, were released without bail, but on the “condition that they not return to the City Hall area, where the protesters had camped.” The Times went on to note that most of those still held without being charged have no criminal record… […]




By Digby, Hullabaloo

According to this AEI scholar, income inequality has absolutely nothing to do with the wealthy rigging the system to their advantage. It’s pretty much all the fault of immigrants and poor people. In fact, the only role the wealthy play in this apparently, is just being so damned good at what they do — financial services and technology — that their rewards are just naturally hundreds of times more than the average worker. (This is because of globalization. Or something.)

Anyway, if you tax them something really bad will happen which he says is made obvious by the way California and New York have “bumped up against the limits of economic reality.” I would assume that means there’s been a huge exodus of their billionaires — except that hasn’t happened. In fact, the economic reality we are facing in California is the total destruction of the state’s infrastructure and educational systems, which would be helped by having the billionaires pay more but is made impossible by the political constraints created by people who insist on starving the beast. In the end we are going to be a state where doing business is very difficult, but that won’t be because the upper 1% are taxed too much. It will be because the whole place is falling apart like an ancient ruin.

In any case, that’s not really his point. What’s really causing income inequality is all these immigrants who he seems to think are keeping wages low. But it’s not entirely obvious to me how this would affect the huge income disparities between the middle class and the upper 1%. (If you’re a nurse, how does it follow that the low wages of a day laborer are pushing your wages down?) Anyway, it sounds as though he thinks that if we open up all those low wage jobs to real Americans we’ll all be making a lot more money. (I guess he figures that we will be making so much more that we will also be able to pay ten dollars for a tomato, so that’s good.)

The other major problem — the real problem I’d guess — is that in recent years the nuclear family has fallen apart and Wally and Beav are all screwed up on drugs and sex so they don’t know how to hold down a decent job. You see, once we dismantled the American family with all that dysfunctional single motherhood and subsequent crappy parenting, we ruined the workforce.

I’m guessing he believes this would all disappear if we went back to the day when America was truly a great country where everyone lived in lovely little suburbs and was raised in nice two parent families so they learned what it was to work hard. Except, you know, that was something that existed (to the extent it actually did exist) for a couple of decades after World War II.

I’m sure he’s be shocked to learn the truth: this country was actually built by poor, illiterate immigrants, most of whom were separated from their families for long stretches of time — or forever. The extended families that all lived together in cities and on farms were as filled with dysfunction and violence as anything you see today.

The absurd notion that poor people with bad character who are incapable of working hard is as old as the hills. (See: Dickens, Charles) It’s always been a very convenient rationale for the inbred aristocracy to explain why it deserves its ill-gotten gains. And it’s always been bullshit.

We know what’s causing income inequality and it has everything to do with the greed and avarice of the top 1% and nothing to do with the poor dragging down the middle class. But there are always people out there ready to spin that tale and, unfortunately, many people who are willing to believe it. After all, it’s a lot scarier to take on powerful interests than it is to step on poor people. But they’re chumps if they do.




By Sarah Jones, Politicususa

Oh, Governor Walker. Does your hubris know no end?

The destroyer of Luntz’s Orwellian meme “shared sacrifices” wants to charge protesters for police and clean up of the Capitol. Now, aside from the larger issue of charging for first amendment rights, there are several other layers of crap piled onto this Walkerstan Freedum Policy.

The Journal Sentinel reports:

The policy says:

Groups of four or more people must obtain permits for all activity and displays in state buildings and apply for those permits at least 72 hours in advance. The policy requires permits for 100 or more people outside the Capitol. The policy does provide some leeway for spontaneous gatherings triggered by unforeseen events.

Groups holding demonstrations could be charged for the costs of having extra police on hand for the event. Costs associated with a counter protest could be charged to that second group. The costs would be $50 per hour per Capitol Police officer – costs for police officers from outside agencies would depend on the costs billed to the state. The police could require an advance payment as a requirement for getting a permit and also could require liability insurance or a bond.

Demonstrators may not tape or stick signs to Capitol walls not intended for signs. During the protests hundreds of signs were posted at the Capitol.

Any damage or cleanup after a demonstration could be charged to organizers. During the court fight earlier this year over access to the Capitol, Walker’s administration said the demonstrators had done $7.5 million in damage to the building with the signs and other wear and tear. But almost immediately the administration sharply backpedaled from that claim, conceding the damage was significantly less. […]




By Kenneth Quinnell, Crooks and Liars

AMR, the parent company for American Airlines filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday, despite a history of paying massive bonuses to top executives. Most talk about the filing has centered around the idea that it was done in order to bring down labor costs. In other words, it would seem, the company is looking to get out of its collective bargaining agreement with workers in order to cut jobs, salaries and benefits.

While American has some financial troubles, the idea that workers are primarily responsible for it doesn’t pass basic scrutiny. Flight attendants protested against American earlier this year in response to the big bonuses given to top executives despite the company having troubles and while workers earned less than $40,000 a year on average while working schedules of over 70 hours a week:

>>>>The top five execs have reaped $100 million in bonuses since 2005, while the carrier lost more than $4.2 billion. In 2003, the flight attendants agreed to cuts in pay and benefits worth $340 million annually, which they say kept American out of bankruptcy. […]




By Ben Pershing, WaPo

The House voted along party lines Thursday to abolish public funding for presidential campaigns and eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, the latest salvo in separate battles over deficit reduction and alleged voter suppression.

The chamber approved Rep. Gregg Harper’s (R-Miss.) bill on a 235-190 vote, with no Democrats voting for it and just one Republican opposed. The measure seems unlikely to come up for a stand-alone vote soon in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The bill would end the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account and transfer the roughly $200 million contained in those funds to the U.S. Treasury to reduce the deficit. The measure would also abolish the EAC, which was created by the 2002 Help America Vote Act as an independent commission that would create election guidelines and give grants to states to update their voting equipment.

Supporters of Harper’s bill note that the presidential public financing system has been in trouble for years. President Obama declined to take funding for his general election campaign in 2008, and he and several previous candidates have refused money for their primaries. And the percentage of Americans voluntarily choosing to contribute $3 to the fund via their tax returns has dropped to just 7 percent, according to the IRS.

“We have no problem funding presidential campaigns in the United States,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who sponsored a similar bill that passed in January. “There’s plenty of money around – probably too much money. … Let’s just prove we can get rid of outmoded programs.”

But Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), the author of a competing bill to strengthen the public funding system, called it “one of the few remaining safeguards we have against the influence of the special interests.” […]




By Washington’s Blog

[…] Instead, of course, Americans were led to believe that Al Qaeda was going to get us unless we took the fight to the Middle East and North Africa.  The administration pretended that Saddam Hussein had a hand in 9/11 – one of the main justifications for that war.

Had a real 9/11 investigation been conducted before we launched the Iraq war, it would have taken away one of the two main rationales for that war. (The FBI was also instructed to blame the anthrax attacks on Al Qaeda, and high-level government officials pointed towards Iraq as the source of the anthrax, even though there was absolutely no basis for those claims. But that’s another story.)

Dan Rather was right when he wrote last week:

We have been so afraid; so hell bent on destroying enemies … both foreign and domestic … we have hurt ourselves and our democracy.

Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser also told the Senate in 2007 that the war on terror is so overblown that it is “a mythical historical narrative”.

And as I noted in 2008:

Former deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats, a 23-year senior CIA analyst, who “drafted or was involved in many of the government’s most senior assessments of the threats facing our country [and who] devoted years to understanding and combating the jihadist threat”, writes today in the Washington Post that the neocons have whipped us into an irrational fear of the terrorism. In reality, “Osama bin Laden and his disciples are small men and secondary threats whose shadows are made large by our fears” and our leaders.

This is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. The BBC produced a documentary called The Power of Nightmares in 2005 that showed that politicians were greatly exaggerating the terrorist threat for political ends.

And unfortunately, many in government have intentionally whipped up fear in the American public for their own political purposes. For example, FBI agents and CIA intelligence officials, constitutional law expert professor Jonathan Turley, Time Magazine, Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post have all said that U.S. government officials “were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power”.

And former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge admits that he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection. Fear sells.

And because 9/11 was never really investigated, the government – instead of doing the things which could actually make us safer – are doing things which increase the risk of terrorism.

As such, the threats from terrorism form even more of a “justification” for a suspension of our Constitutional rights.

The failure to investigate 9/11 has bankrupted America financially and morally, and has allowed us to stand idly by while our liberty has been destroyed.




By John Kelley, OpEdNews

Mexico has a long history of collective ownership; in fact it predates the formation of the nation state of Mexico, tracing at least back to the Aztecs. The ejido (pronounced e-hee-th’aw) are communal lands shared and governed by a community. Porfiro Diaz, who ruled Mexico as a dictator from 1876 until 1911, promoted industrialization of the country; or, in other words, he presided over the conversion of the population from subsistence indigenous communities into a labor commodity used to create wealth for the elite (primarily of European descent) and foreign investors.

One of the main tools to compel privatization of property was a land law in 1883 that required the traditional communal owners to provide official title to the land or have it sold by the government, usually at bargain prices to the rich. The government pocketed the money, and the people were forced to become land-bound serfs, required to farm their own former lands for the new owners of vast haciendas. In addition, more than 27.5 million hectares of land were sold to foreign companies. This was the primary factor in rallying the Mexican peasantry to take up arms in the Mexican Revolution. It began in 1910, ending Diaz’s reign, and then descended into civil war, which finally ended with the election of Lazaro Cardenas in 1934.

Both Pancho Villa in the north and Emiliano Zapata in the south fought specifically for land reform and continued the revolution against a series of new governments until land rights were secured in the Mexican Constitution. Zapata based his rebellion in the philosophical traditions of indigenous communal society, which were clearly in line with aspects of collectivist-anarchist, socialist and communist thought of consensus-based self-government.

Zapatismo became the philosophy that expressed the collective control of peoples’ own lives and the land to which they were attached economically, culturally and socially. Unheard of at the time, women were treated as equals and fought in the ranks of the Zapatistas. In the 1917 Constitution, Article 27 gave indigenous groups the right to reclaim and recreate the ejidos taken under Diaz, and restore their traditional culture. Continued civil war, corruption and opposition by the haciendas and foreign investors delayed the process until 1934, when Cardenas was elected.

Cardenas is regarded as the most radical and most honest President in the history of Mexico. He cleaned up corruption in government, including arresting his predecessor Calles and having him and his top deputies deported to the United States.    Cardenas brought about what can only be called a socialist indigenous revolution in policy. His three pronged approach on behalf of the campesino population was to 1) Push implementation of Article 27 claims reducing the power of the Haciendas and restoring the ejidos, 2) establish a free public education system to oppose the control of the church, and 3) support worker cooperatives and unions to oppose the worst excesses of industrialization. Cardenas also ended capital punishment, frequently used on political rivals during the revolution.   And, in a move that enraged the elites in the UNITED STATES and Mexico, he nationalized Mexico’s oil.

The program was so successful that by 1992 half of all farmland in Mexico was under the control of ejidos. But that didn’t stop elites’ continued efforts to force the indigenous population into the labor market. Resistance to the ejidos by the elite had begun to rise after joint efforts of UNITED STATES and Mexican investors spawned the maquiladora industry in the 1970’s which required cheap labor. Mexican farmers with strong social and economic ties to their communities had no desire to uproot to border towns to furnish it. The ruling class then killed support for rural programs, forcing many campesinos to abandon their subsistence autonomy and become wage laborers, migrating to the border cities.

What was really at stake was the age old fight between cooperative sustainable cultures and a capitalist extractive economy. NAFTA now upped the ante, with billions to be made by offshoring American manufacturing jobs just across the border. Again the problem was that the ejido was an economic and social model that indigenous people saw no need to abandon. That is why Article 27 had to go. When President Carlos Salinas de Gortari rescinded Article 27 in 1992 because of “low productivity”, thousands of applications for restoration of other ejidos that communities had fought to advance for generations were summarily rejected. […]




TOKYO, Dec. 2 (UPI) — Fuel rods in one Fukushima nuclear power plant reactor in Japan may have melted and bored most of the way through a concrete floor, the plant’s operator said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said fuel inside reactor No. 1 appeared to have dropped through its inner pressure vessel and into the outer containment vessel, whose steel outer casing is the reactor’s last line of defense.

Tepco revised its estimate of the damage inside the reactor, one of three damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster, after running a new simulation of the accident, the British newspaper The Guardian reported Friday.

The fact that the fuel rods may have melted most of the way through the reactor’s concrete floor indicated the accident was more severe than first thought.

“Almost no fuel remains at its original position,” Tepco said.

The simulation showed the fuel may have penetrated the concrete floor by up to 26 inches, just 15 inches from the reactor’s outer steel wall, Tepco said.


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