PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
An Open Letter to Speaker John Boehner
Dear Speaker Boehner:
In the wake of a year teeming with incidents of heartbreaking gun violence, it came as quite a shock to see Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX) announce yesterday that he is “excited to have a patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber” for President Obama’s State of the Union address.
This so-called “patriot” has repeatedly threatened the life of the president.
With a gun in each hand, Ted Nugent once publicly called Obama a “piece of shit,” saying he “told him [Obama] to suck on my machine gun” and suggested that Hillary Clinton “might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.” In the same incident, he also threatened Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein with gun violence.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Dismantling Rights in the Name of Security
In a stunning violation of the Fourth Amendment, as reported by Wired.com, the right of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees to search and possibly seize all hi-tech equipment – including laptops, cellphones and androids – in the possession of US citizens and others as they cross into the US has been upheld by the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (yes, that is the oxymoronic name of the department justifying the denial of Fourth Amendment rights.)
According to Wired.com,
The DHS, which secures the nation’s border, in 2009 announced that it would conduct a “Civil Liberties Impact Assessment” of its suspicionless search-and-seizure policy pertaining to electronic devices “within 120 days.” More than three years later, the DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties published a two-page executive summary of its findings.
“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summary said….
According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along the border. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has another perspective on this latest evidence of the growing erosion of Fourth Amendment rights, which began under the Bush administration in the name of protecting the so-called homeland against terrorism. Unfortunately, the assault on individual rights guaranteed under the Constitution has continued on a fast track under President Obama, including the most lethal dismantling of Constitutional rights: the "legal finding" by the Department of Justice that the executive branch can choose to assassinate US citizens abroad without due process.
NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As the underlying rationale for the war on drugs falls apart, some may wonder whether Latin America is really prepared to push back against Washington’s militaristic approach toward marijuana trafficking. While such a prospect would have been unheard of just a few scant years ago, recent developments in the U.S. suggest that change could come fast at the hemispheric level. Indeed, successful pushes for marijuana legalization in Washington state and Colorado brought together some unusual political constituencies, and that is putting it mildly.
As I discussed in a recent article, pro-legalization advocates managed to cultivate support from women and even mothers by stressing family-friendly values like public safety. As they looked north, Mexicans were probably surprised to find that a wide social spectrum supported marijuana legalization in Colorado including the NAACP, labor unions, physicians and even clergymen. Perhaps most surprisingly, however, Colorado campaigners also garnered significant support from the socially conservative Latino community which voted 70 percent in favor of legalizing cannabis.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Overestimate the deleterious effect the latest Civil War will have on the Republican Party at your own peril. But for now, Democrats should enjoy the heck out of the dust-up Karl Rove initiated last week with the launch of his Conservative Victory Project. However, do not misunderestimate Karl Rove.
Whatever else you may think of Rove, you certainly have to admire the way he has deftly turned the conversation away from his embarrassing Election night tantrum on Fox, and the abject failure that American Crossroads and the allied Crossroads GPS had in the November elections.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Taxpayers Foot the Bill for Police Abuse
In December, I wrote an article for Truthout, "Federal Jury Finds City of Chicago Responsible for 'Code of Silence' in Chicago Police Department (CPD)."
"The jury for the first time in anyone's memory specifically found there is a policy of employing a code of silence," Locke Bowman, Professor of Law and Director of the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law told Truthout. "It's terribly important."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed to the $850,000 jury award to the plaintiff, a petite female bartender who had been pummeled and kicked by a drunken off-duty cop, but – in an unusual move – asked Federal Judge Amy St. Eve to vacate the finding of the existence of a "blue curtain" in the CPD.
The city lost its effort to make the finding of a "code of silence" disappear from the court record, in large part because Judge St. Eve had earlier found compelling evidence that the jury had acted with due prudence:
St. Eve also noted testimony from Steven Whitman, a statistician hired as an expert by Obrycka’s attorneys. Whitman found the rate of complaints of police brutality sustained by the police department was far lower in Chicago than in other cities.
Whitman found Chicago sustained as few as 0.5 percent of complaints in 2004, compared to a national average of 8 percent, according to a 2006 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In the Grand-Central District, where the incident took place, not one of the 147 excessive force complaints filed between January 2005 and February 2007 was upheld.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Yes, you've caused people to suffer. You've taken from the poor and the middle class for thirty years, from Reagan to Obama, using a variety of strategies to redistribute wealth to the top. Yet you insist that the middle class should accept cuts in Social Security to pay off the deficit.
Here is the effect of your funds transfer:
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT No Criminal Prosecutions of Wall Street
The Department of Justice is doing it again, going after another financial institution for cratering the US economy by trying to fine them, without holding anyone criminally responsible. This time, according to a New York Times (NYT) editorial, it is Standard & Poors, who is blamed for giving inflated credit ratings to financial companies that were on extremely shaky footing leading up to the 2008 crash.
According to the NYT editorial board:
The financial crisis could never have happened without the credit-ratings agencies issuing stellar ratings on toxic mortgage securities that inflated the bubble. Before the Justice Department filed civil fraud charges this week against Standard & Poor’s, the nation’s largest credit-ratings agency, it seemed as if the entire ratings industry — which reaped record profits in the boom years — was going to escape, unrepentant and unpunished. That may now change.
But the underlying problem — a lack of proper regulation of the industry — remains unresolved. Nearly three years after the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, there is no sign that federal regulators are willing to propose, let alone finalize, tough rules to reform the agencies. Worse, regulators have repeatedly asserted legal positions that shield the agencies from investor lawsuits, despite questions of misrepresentation, negligence and fraud in the rating of mortgage investments.
Still, the suit against S.&P. and its parent, McGraw-Hill Companies, is a move toward accountability. It alleges that, from September 2004 through October 2007, S.&P. “knowingly and with the intent to defraud, devised, participated in, and executed a scheme to defraud investors” in certain mortgage-related securities, and that the agency falsely represented that its ratings “were objective, independent, uninfluenced by any conflicts of interest.”
What sets the case apart is that the government brought the case rather than water down a settlement to suit S.&P.’s demands. The government originally sought a penalty in excess of $1 billion and an admission to a least one count of fraud. When S.&P. balked, the government sued and now is seeking a $5 billion penalty. Too often, the government has accepted settlements with fines that are too small compared with the harm done and allowed the defendants to neither admit nor deny the charges.
As BuzzFlash at Truthout has pointed out again and again and again, the Department of Justice (DOJ), however, has not pursued any criminal charges (they prosecute using civil statutes) against Wall Street honchos, not a one. And, as we have repeatedly noted, the fines that they levy are nothing more than a federal street tax on likely criminal activity on a multi-trillion dollar scale.
JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Me and my son Joe and my granddaughter Mena finally got a chance to go see "Beasts of the Southern Wild" the other day. That whole freaking movie deserves an Oscar. It's definitely got my vote. Wow!
And the movie's main plot-line (which involved people idealistically working together to save their small town) reminded me strongly of my own housing co-op where I have lived for the past 33 years.
And this so-called housing "cooperative" once started off all idealistically too. Back then, we too had grand and idealistic intentions of working together for the common good -- sort of like how the framers of the U.S. Constitution back in 1776 or whenever had put forth their own dreams of what a more perfect union would look like.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT US War on Drugs Is About Hemispheric Hegemony
Readers of Truthout know that the site ran a ten part series last year: Truthout on the Mexican Border. The last installment of a very complicated journalistic journey into the dark underside of US Latin America policy concluded, "How the Militarized War on Drugs in Latin America Benefits Transnational Corporations and Undermines Democracy."
The Latin America-watch website "UpsideDownWorld" offers analysis of a recent report with this headline, "US Spends $20 Billion Over 10 Years on Increasingly Bloody Drug 'War' in Latin America; Rejects Drug Policy Reform." "UpsideDownWorld" describes the Associated Press investigation:
The article, authored by Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Martha Mendoza, describes how the U.S. has “spent more than $20 billion [BuzzFlash on Truthout believes $20 billion is on the extreme low end of actual expenditures] in the past decade” and deployed U.S. army, marine and navy troops to support a heavily militarized campaign to fight drug trafficking throughout the region. The fact that the efforts have been accompanied by soaring violence – with, for example, 70,000 Mexican lives lost in the last six years [actually it is likely to have exceeded a death toll of 120,000 under former President Calderon through the end of his term last November, as detailed in a Truthout article, "Fueled by War on Drugs, Mexican Death Toll Could Exceed 120,000 As Calderon Ends Six-Year Reign" – doesn’t seem to trouble the U.S. officials in charge of implementing U.S. drug policy internationally. In fact, they seem to consider spikes in violence to be a sign that the “strategy is working.”
William Brownfield who heads the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, told Mendoza that “the bloodshed tends to occur and increase when these trafficking organizations… come under some degree of pressure.”
In the "Truthout on the Mexican Border series," I described how Brownfield testified before Congress offering a whack-a-mole defense of the failed war on drugs south of the border. He never indicated that the drug war could be won, just that it could be moved around. (After Mexico, Brownfield predicted drugs would come through the Caribbean.) There is no indication that drug trafficking to the United States is decreasing. All the United States facilitates is moving the route around of how the drugs cross into the US.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There is an old saw of politics: “He [or she] who controls the agenda wins the election, or the political battle, or the legislative contest, or what have you” (1). And so, when during the Iraq War Cheney/Bush wanted to raise the hundreds of billions of dollars they needed to prosecute a war that Bush had already declared over, without raising taxes or making expenditure cuts elsewhere, the agenda became, not something like “an unfunded war, again --- why?” but “Support the Troops,” over and over again, from Fox”News” on up (or down, depending upon your perspective). If anyone, Democrat or Republican (and back in those days there was an occasional Republican like Chuck Hagel who questioned the War --- what already [as WFAN’s Steve Summers would say] you didn’t know why they are going after him with such a vengeance?), they were immediately accused of “not supporting the troops,” or worse, and that was that. No opponent, either of the war or of paying for it by borrowing money from China ever able to get the agenda on any substantive theme (2).