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7 Ways The Obama Administration Has Accelerated Police Militarization There were signs that President Barack Obama might rein in the mass militarization of America's police forces after he won the White House. Policing is primarily a local issue, overseen by local authorities. But beginning in the late 1960s with President Richard Nixon, the federal government began instituting policies that gave federal authorities more power to fight the drug trade, and to lure state and local policymakers into the anti-crime agenda of the administration in charge. These policies got a boost during Ronald Reagan's presidency, and then another during President Bill Clinton's years. Under President George W. Bush, all of those anti-drug policies continued, but were supplemented by new war on terrorism endeavors -- yet more efforts to make America's cops look, act and fight like soldiers.
But Obama might have been different. This, after all, was the man who, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004, declared the war on drugs an utter failure. As Reason magazine's Jacob Sullum wrote in a 2011 critique of Obama's drug policy:
Obama stood apart from hard-line prohibitionists even when he began running for president. In 2007 and 2008, he bemoaned America’s high incarceration rate, warned that the racially disproportionate impact of drug prohibition undermines legal equality, advocated a “public health” approach to drugs emphasizing treatment and training instead of prison, repeatedly indicated that he would take a more tolerant position regarding medical marijuana than George W. Bush, and criticized the Bush administration for twisting science to support policy -- a tendency that is nowhere more blatant than in the government’s arbitrary distinctions among psychoactive substances.
Indeed, in his first interview after taking office, Obama's drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, said that the administration would be toning down the martial rhetoric that had dominated federal drug policy since the Nixon years. "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," Kerlikowske told The Wall Street Journal. "We're not at war with people in this country."
This was an notable break from previous administrations. Rhetoric does matter, and for a generation in the U.S., cops had incessantly been told that they were in a war with drug offenders -- this, in a country where about half the adult population admits to having smoked marijuana.
Unfortunately, while not insignificant, the change in rhetoric has largely been only that. The Obama administration may no longer call it a "war," but there's no question that the White House is continuing to fight one. Here's a quick rundown of where and how Obama's policies have perpetuated the garrison state: (Huffington Post)
Indisputable Torture (By The Editorial Board) A dozen years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an independent, nonpartisan panel’s examination of the interrogation and detention programs carried out in their aftermath by the Bush administration may seem to be musty old business. But the sweeping report issued on Tuesday by an 11-member task force convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, provides a valuable, even necessary reckoning.
The work of the task force, led by two former congressmen — Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, who served in the Bush administration as under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and James Jones, a Democrat, who was an ambassador to Mexico during the Clinton years — is informed by interviews with dozens of former American and foreign officials, as well as with former prisoners.
It is the fullest independent effort so far to assess the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A.’s secret prisons. Those who sanctioned the use of brutal methods, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, will continue to defend their use. But the report’s authoritative conclusion that “the United States engaged in the practice of torture” is impossible to dismiss by a public that needs to know what was committed in the nation’s name. (New York Times)
Op-ed: A Chuck Hagel for Our Time -- The nation’s first openly gay ambassador, James Hormel, explains why he now supports the Senate confirmation of a man who helped block his own confirmation. In 1997, when Chuck Hagel took his seat as a newly elected member of the United States Senate, our country was a less friendly place.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick, which held that private, consensual homosexual acts violated sodomy laws, was still in effect. The malevolent "don't ask, don't tell" military regulations had been in force for three years. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act, a 20th-century variation on the Dred Scott case, had just been enacted by Congress and signed by President Clinton. Many states still applied criminal laws to homosexual acts.
What a difference 16 years can make! In 2003, Lawrence v. Texas overturned the Hardwick ruling and invalidated all state sodomy statutes. That same year, the Massachusetts Supreme Court acknowledged the right of same-sex couples to marry. In 2011, "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed. (Advocate.com)
Marijuana Class I Appeal Rejected By Federal Court, Still Dangerous With No Accepted Medical Use A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected a petition to reclassify marijuana from its current federal status as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use.
The appeals court panel denied the bid from three medical marijuana groups, including Americans for Safe Access, and several individuals. In 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration had rejected a petition by medical marijuana advocates to change the classification.
In his majority opinion Tuesday, Judge Harry T. Edwards wrote that the question wasn't whether marijuana could have some medical benefits, but rather whether the DEA's decision was "arbitrary and capricious." The court concluded that the DEA action survived a review under that standard. (Associated Press)
Sweeping new gun laws proposed by influential liberal think tank With President Obama readying an overhaul of the nation’s gun laws, a liberal think tank with singular influence throughout his administration is pushing for a sweeping agenda of strict new restrictions on and federal oversight of gun and ammunition sales.
The Center for American Progress is recommending 13 new gun policies to the White House — some of them executive actions that would not require the approval of Congress — in what amounts to the progressive community’s wish list.
CAP’s proposals — which include requiring universal background checks, banning military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and modernizing data systems to track gun sales and enforce existing laws — are all but certain to face stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association and its many allies in Congress. (Washington Post)
Obama's picks for defense, CIA signal new security era Obama's nominations of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the CIA signal second-term course adjustments at institutions that have been dominated by their lethal assignments during more than a decade of war. - President Obama is assembling a national-security team designed for an era of downsized but enduring conflict, a team that will be asked to preside over the return of exhausted American troops and wield power through the targeted use of sanctions, Special Operations forces and drone strikes.
Obama's nominations of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the CIA signal second-term course adjustments at institutions that have been dominated by their lethal assignments during more than a decade of war.
Those adjustments could include returning the CIA's focus to its core mission of gathering intelligence, even though it is expected to maintain its fleet of armed drones for years. The Pentagon faces an even more aggressive restructuring to balance budget cuts against threats, including China's ascendant military and emerging al-Qaida affiliates in North Africa and the Middle East.
The nominations also set the stage for confirmation fights driven not only by criticism of Hagel and Brennan but by the foreign-policy approach they represent.
Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, shares Obama's aversion to military intervention. White House officials described him as ideally suited to managing the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the shrinking Pentagon budget. But he has attracted fierce criticism from groups that question his support for Israel. (Washington Post)
Sandy Hook School Massacre Timeline The following timeline of the December 14 mass killing of 20 children and 8 adults in Newtown Connecticut attempts to demonstrate how the event was presented to the public by corporate news media. The chronological assemblage of coverage is not comprehensive of all reports published on the incident but rather seeks to verify how the storyline was to a substantial degree constructed by federal and state law enforcement authorities and major media around the theory that 20-year-old Adam Lanza was the sole agent in the massacre.
This scenario became an established reality through the news media’s pronounced repetition of the lone gunman narrative and meme. This proposed scenario significantly obscured the fact that police encountered and apprehended two additional shooting suspects on the school’s grounds within minutes of the crime. These suspects remain unaccounted for by authorities but the roles they may have played arguably correlate with the shifting information presented by authorities and major news media on injuries and weapons vis-à-vis the mass carnage meted out in the school. While the certain detainment of additional suspects was pointed to by alternative news media, including Natural News, Infowars, Veterans Today and Global Research in the days following the tragedy, the untenable lone gunman narrative has become firmly established in the public psyche via an overwhelming chorus of corporate media reports and interpretations. (Memory Hole Blog)
In Colombia, David Cameron's stance on drugs looks cynical -- The prime minister's belief that the war on drugs is working ignores Britain's complicity in the trade Twenty-six years ago, on 17 December 1986, my uncle, Guillermo Cano Isaza, editor of the Colombian daily newspaper, El Espectador, was killed by gunmen paid by Pablo Escobar and his drug trafficking cartel. He had led a journalistic crusade to denounce the corruptive and violent power of drug trafficking. He paid with his life. The newspaper he edited was bombed and became a target as we lived through the bloody years of the so-called "war on drugs".
Back then, and every year since, I've asked myself the same question: was it inevitable? Was there another way to fight the perverse effects of the illegal trade in drugs?
With few positive results to show from the "war", another way now seems possible. Throughout the world, a serious debate is gaining momentum on the inefficacy of prohibition. Prosecuting growers, distributors and consumers leaves a trail of violence and does nothing to curb the sky-high profits of the cartels from corrupting the body politic and police. We need to look at different ways of managing the terrible social effects of drug abuse, while also eliminating the enormous profits of the illegal drug traffic. (London Guardian)
Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke If you've ever been arrested on a drug charge, if you've ever spent even a day in jail for having a stem of marijuana in your pocket or "drug paraphernalia" in your gym bag, Assistant Attorney General and longtime Bill Clinton pal Lanny Breuer has a message for you: Bite me.
Breuer this week signed off on a settlement deal with the British banking giant HSBC that is the ultimate insult to every ordinary person who's ever had his life altered by a narcotics charge. Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a "record" financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank.
The banks' laundering transactions were so brazen that the NSA probably could have spotted them from space. Breuer admitted that drug dealers would sometimes come to HSBC's Mexican branches and "deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows."
This bears repeating: in order to more efficiently move as much illegal money as possible into the "legitimate" banking institution HSBC, drug dealers specifically designed boxes to fit through the bank's teller windows. Tony Montana's henchmen marching dufflebags of cash into the fictional "American City Bank" in Miami was actually more subtle than what the cartels were doing when they washed their cash through one of Britain's most storied financial institutions. (Rolling Stone)
Senator Dianne Feinstein Moves To Ban ALL Assault Rifles, High Capacity Magazines, and Pistol Grips The agenda no longer needs to be hidden from public view. With President Obama winning another term and democrats taking control of the Senate, the move to fundamentally change America from within has begun – with a vengeance.
We're all aware of the restrictive gun laws in the State of California which require low capacity magazines for handguns, fixed magazines for "assault" rifles, and a whole lot of running around just to be granted the right to carry a concealed firearm.
Now, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has championed gun control in her state for decades and co-wrote the original assault weapons ban enacted by the federal government in the 1990's, wishes to bring even more stringent federal mandates to the land of the free. (Market Daily News)
FEMA wins praise, responds to anger about gas supply Seven years after a disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is winning praise for how it's dealing with Superstorm Sandy.
"This is the all-new FEMA, and the leadership is very, very good, very focused," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "They're doing an excellent job."
Score one for FEMA's attempts to come back from its infamous failure after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005.
But the post-Sandy reviews for FEMA aren't all moonlight and roses.
Photos: New York recovers from Sandy Photos: New York recovers from Sandy
As Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano -- whose department oversees FEMA -- is expected to visit the region Friday, many survivors in hard-hit places are angry. (CNN)
Will Iran Weather the Economic Storm? -- The depreciation of the rial is unlikely to change Iran's foreign-policy calculations. The conventional wisdom that the collapse of the Iranian rial will have disastrous consequences for the Islamic Republic has it wrong: On the contrary, it could be the best thing that has happened to the Iranian economy in years.
Iran is a classic case of the resource curse. OPEC founder Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso, who served as Venezuela's oil minister, called oil "the devil's excrement" for the pernicious impact petroleum revenues had on his country's economy. The same is true for Iran, which faces the challenge of becoming a country that produces goods, not merely consumes them. Unfortunately, the current Iranian government shows few indications it will meet this challenge. Rather, history suggests that Tehran will instead persist in its populist policies, including its confrontation with the international community about its nuclear program. (Foreign Policy)
Is Bilderberg a conference on world affairs or a powerful global cabal? Depends on who you ask. A dull office park near Dulles International Airport took on the sheen of a Hollywood thriller this week, when an invitation-only cadre of global leaders gathered for a secretive meeting known as the Bilderberg conference.
Henry Kissinger and Bill Gates were chauffeured in. Fairfax County police established a security perimeter around the Westfields Marriott and prohibited a Washington Post photographer from snapping pictures from a public street. (Washington Post)
Ron Paul Will Win In The End Ron Paul will win in the end. That’s right. It doesn’t matter anymore how the criminals in charge try to change the vote, or how they conjure lies and attack him and his ideas. None of that is going to work anymore.
Don’t get me wrong. There is no way in hell that Ron Paul will win his quest for the Presidency. The corporate criminals and their toadies in the media will never let that happen. They will do everything they can to squash Ron Paul and his ideas.
Who has the uncanny ability to unite Rush Limbaugh, Rachel Maddow, Dick Morris, Bill Clinton, Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, The New York Times, Move On, Media Matters?
Answer: Ron Paul. Why does he unite everyone on the left and right? What is it about Ron Paul that unites the media?
Ron Paul and his movement are a direct result of the Internet. The Internet also showed the thinking people of the world that there is a corporate criminal mafia and it is in charge of everything. It owns the military, the media, the religions, the educational system the banks and most of the major corporations.
This revelation that we are ruled by a small group of corporate criminals is the real fuel behind Ron Paul. (Jay Weidner)
The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy: The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class's venality US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.
But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk." (London Guardian)
Why Voters Tune Out Democrats BARACK OBAMA can’t catch a break from the American public on the economy, even though he prevented a depression and saved global capitalism.
Perhaps the president finds solace in knowing he’s not alone. During this period of economic crisis and uncertainty, voters are generally turning to conservative and right-wing political parties, most notably in Europe and in Canada.
It’s perplexing. When unemployment is high, and the rich are getting richer, you would think that voters of average means would flock to progressives, who are supposed to have their interests in mind — and who historically have delivered for them.
During the last half-century or so, when a Democratic president has led the country, people have tended to experience lower unemployment, less inequality and rising income compared with periods of Republican governance. There is a reason, however, that many voters in the developed world are turning away from Democrats, Socialists, liberals and progressives.
My vantage point on voter behavior comes through my company, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and its work for center-left parties globally, starting with Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992. For the last decade, I have worked in partnership with James Carville conducting monthly polls digging into America’s mood and studying how progressives can develop successful electoral strategies. (I am also married to a Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut, Rosa L. DeLauro.) (New York Times)
Bohemian Grove: Where the rich and powerful go to misbehave Every July, some of the richest and most powerful men in the world gather at a 2,700 acre campground in Monte Rio, Calif., for two weeks of heavy drinking, super-secret talks, druid worship (the group insists they are simply “revering the Redwoods”), and other rituals.
Their purpose: to escape the “frontier culture,” or uncivilized interests, of common men.
The people that gather at Bohemian Grove — who have included prominent business leaders, former U.S. presidents, musicians, and oil barons — are told that “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here,” meaning business deals are to be left outside. One exception was in 1942, when a planning for the Manhattan Project took place at the grove, leading to the creation of the atom bomb.
A spokesperson for Bohemian Grove say the people that gather there “share a passion for the outdoors, music, and theater.”
The club is so hush-hush that little can be definitively said about it, but much of what we know today is from those who have infiltrated the camp, including Texas-based filmmaker Alex Jones. In 2000, Jones and his cameraman entered the camp with a hidden camera and were able to film a Bohemian Grove ceremony, Cremation of the Care. During the ceremony, members wear costumes and cremate a coffin effigy called “Care” before a 40-foot-owl, in deference to the surrounding Redwood trees. (Washington Post)
Boehner seeks to divert funds for gay marriage fight House Speaker John Boehner said he intends to divert funding from the Justice Department to the U.S. House so Congress can defend the federal law that bars recognition of same-sex marriage.
The Ohio Republican disclosed this in a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is strongly opposed to Congress going to court to defend the 1996 law. An estimate on court costs was not given.
Pelosi shot back, saying Boehner has not answered her central question about the costs to mounting a defense to the law. "The House of Representatives need not enter into this lengthy and costly litigation," she responded.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Obama administration would no longer defend the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a Clinton-era law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The law also says that states cannot be forced to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. (USA Today)
Obama's Off Base Maddow:
A Democratic President kicks his base in the teeth on something as fundamental as civil liberties—he puts the nail in the coffin of a civil liberties promise he made on his first full day in office—and he does it on the first day of his re-election effort. And Beltway reaction to that is... huh, good move. That's the difference between Republican politics and Democratic politics. The Republicans may not love their base, but they fear them and play to them. The Democratic Party institutional structures of D.C., and the Beltway press in particular, not only hate the Democratic base—they think it's good politics for Democratic politicians to kick that base publicly whenever possible. Only the base itself will ever change that.
One thing is for certain: right now, the Democratic Party is absolutely correct in its assessment that kicking its base is good politics. Why is that? Because they know that they have inculcated their base with sufficient levels of fear and hatred of the GOP, so that no matter how often the Party kicks its base, no matter how often Party leaders break their promises and betray their ostensible values, the base will loyally and dutifully support the Party and its leaders (at least in presidential elections; there is a good case that the Democrats got crushed in 2010 in large part because their base was so unenthusiastic).
In light of that fact, ask yourself this: if you were a Democratic Party official, wouldn't you also ignore—and, when desirable, step on—the people who you know will support you no matter what you do to them? (The Stranger)
Revolution U: What Egypt Learned From The Students Who Overthrew Milosevic Early in 2008, workers at a government-owned textile factory in the Egyptian mill town of El-Mahalla el-Kubra announced that they were going on strike on the first Sunday in April to protest high food prices and low wages. They caught the attention of a group of tech-savvy young people an hour's drive to the south in the capital city of Cairo, who started a Facebook group to organize protests and strikes on April 6 throughout Egypt in solidarity with the mill workers. To their shock, the page quickly acquired some 70,000 followers.
But what worked so smoothly online proved much more difficult on the street. Police occupied the factory in Mahalla and headed off the strike. The demonstrations there turned violent: Protesters set fire to buildings, and police started shooting, killing at least two people. The solidarity protests around Egypt, meanwhile, fizzled out, in most places blocked by police. The Facebook organizers had never agreed on tactics, whether Egyptians should stay home or fill the streets in protest. People knew they wanted to do something. But no one had a clear idea of what that something was.
The botched April 6 protests, the leaders realized in their aftermath, had been an object lesson in the limits of social networking as a tool of democratic revolution. Facebook could bring together tens of thousands of sympathizers online, but it couldn't organize them once they logged off. It was a useful communication tool to call people to -- well, to what? The April 6 leaders did not know the answer to this question. So they decided to learn from others who did. In the summer of 2009, Mohamed Adel, a 20-year-old blogger and April 6 activist, went to Belgrade, Serbia. (Foreign Policy)
What the Feds Can Do About Prop 19: The attorney general will have a tough decision to make if California legalizes marijuana. Assume for a moment that California voters approve Proposition 19 on Nov. 2. The state will have just enacted a process for legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana use that no one else in the world has ever attempted. But Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama’s top law-enforcement officer, has said the administration will “vigorously enforce” federal drug laws in the country’s most populous state regardless of the vote. For all the trails that approving Prop 19 would blaze, much of its impact would depend on the extent to which Holder follows through on that threat.
The attorney general has shown some willingness to scale back on marijuana enforcement; his Justice Department ended Bush-era crackdowns on medical pot dispensaries in California. Of course, the post–Prop 19 world would be different. California cities could license businesses that grow and sell marijuana on a large scale. Drug dealers in other states would surely head to California’s “coffee shops” (as weed retailers are called in Amsterdam), buy some California-grown product, and illegally transport it back home. It’s arguable that pot smokers and presumably some dealers can do that today, but they at least need a doctor’s permission and a state-issued ID card, which provides cover for authorities, however easily those cards may be obtainable. With that cover removed, Holder, whose department includes the Drug Enforcement Administration, could hardly ignore such a blatant violation of federal drug law. (Newsweek)
Campaign finance reform: R.I.P.? For four decades, advocates for stricter campaign finance rules have been on a long, slow march to make big money in politics less important and more transparent.
Now, in 2010, they are seeing the results: Never in modern political history has there been so much secret money gushing into an American election.
By Election Day, independent groups will have aired more than $200 million worth of campaign ads using cash that can’t be traced back to its original source, predicts Fred Wertheimer, president of the nonprofit group Democracy 21.
"And this is just the beginning," Wertheimer said. "Unless we get some changes here to mitigate this problem, I would expect we will see $500 million or more in 2012." (Politico)
Sooner or later, marijuana will be legal It's as predictable as the sun rising and setting. Even though police made more than 850,000 marijuana arrests last year, a recent government report shows youth marijuana use increased by about 9 percent.
Supporters of the failed war on drugs will no doubt argue this increase means policymakers should spend more taxpayer money next year arresting and incarcerating a greater number of Americans. In other words, their solution to failure is to do more of the same. Fortunately, the "reform nothing" club is getting mighty lonely these days -- 76 percent of Americans recognize the drug war has failed; millions are demanding change. (CNN)
How marijuana became legal: Medical marijuana is giving activists a chance to show how a legitimized pot business can work. Is the end of prohibition upon us? When Irvin Rosenfeld, 56, picks me up at the Fort Lauderdale airport, his SUV reeks of marijuana. The vice president for sales at a local brokerage firm, Rosenfeld has been smoking 10 to 12 marijuana cigarettes a day for 38 years, he says.
That's probably unusual in itself, but what makes Rosenfeld exceptional is that for the past 27 years, he has been copping his weed directly from the United States government.
Every 25 days Rosenfeld goes to a pharmacy and picks up a tin of 300 federally grown and rolled cigarettes that have been sent there for him by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), acting with approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Rosenfeld smokes the marijuana to relieve chronic pain and muscle spasms caused by a rare bone disease. When he was 10, doctors discovered that his skeleton was riddled with more than 200 tumors, due to a condition known as multiple congenital cartilaginous exostosis. Despite seven operations, he still lives with scores of tumors in his bones. (CNN)
Congress Mulls Stiff Crypto Laws The encryption wars have begun.
For nearly a decade, privacy mavens have been worrying that a terrorist attack could prompt Congress to ban communications-scrambling products that frustrate both police wiretaps and U.S. intelligence agencies.
Tuesday's catastrophe, which shed more blood on American soil than any event since the Civil War, appears to have started that process.
Some politicians and defense hawks are warning that extremists such as Osama bin Laden, who U.S. officials say is a crypto-aficionado and the top suspect in Tuesday's attacks, enjoy unfettered access to privacy-protecting software and hardware that render their communications unintelligible to eavesdroppers.
In a floor speech on Thursday, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) called for a global prohibition on encryption products without backdoors for government surveillance. (Wired)
COLUMN-In drug war, the beginning of the end? Bernd Debusmann Between 1971, when Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs, and 2008, the latest year for which official figures are available, American law enforcement officials made more than 40 million drug arrests. That number roughly equals the population of California, or of the 33 biggest U.S. cities.
Forty million arrests speak volumes about America's longest war, which was meant to throttle drug production at home and abroad, cut supplies across the borders, and keep people from using drugs. The marathon effort has boosted the prison industry but failed so obviously to meet its objectives that there is a growing chorus of calls for the legalization of illicit drugs.
In the United States, that brings together odd bedfellows. Libertarians in the tea party movement, for example, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of former police officers, narcotics agents, judges and prosecutors who favor legalizing all drugs, not only marijuana, the world's most widely-used illicit drug. - "Taking all this together, there is reason to believe that we are at the beginning of the end of the drug war as we know it," says Aaron Houston, a veteran Washington lobbyist for marijuana policy reform.
Far-fetched? Perhaps. But how many people in the late 1920s, at the height of the government's fight against the likes of Al Capone, would have foreseen that alcohol prohibition would end in just a few years? Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933 and is now considered a failed experiment in social engineering.
Alcohol and marijuana prohibition have much in common: both in effect handed production, sales and distribution of a commodity in high demand to criminal organizations, both filled the prisons (America's population behind bars is now the world's largest), both diverted the resources of law enforcement, and both created millions of scoff-laws. (Reuters)
Obama faces growing credibility crisis Robert Gibbs, Barack Obama’s chief spokesman, got into hot water this week for daring to speak the truth – that the Democrats could lose control of the House of Representatives in November. But it could be even worse than that.
Contrary to pretty much every projection until now, Democratic control of the Senate is also starting to coming into question. While Mr Obama’s approval ratings have continued to fall, and now hover at dangerously close to 40 per cent according an ABC-Washington Post poll published on Tuesday, the fate of his former colleagues in the Senate looks even worse. - “The bottom line here is that Americans don’t believe in President Obama’s leadership,” says Rob Shapiro, another former Clinton official and a supporter of Mr Obama. “He has to find some way between now and November of demonstrating that he is a leader who can command confidence and, short of a 9/11 event or an Oklahoma City bombing, I can’t think of how he could do that.”
In private, informal advisors to Mr Obama are almost as negative. According to one, the US public’s loss of confidence in Mr Obama’s leadership is a factor above and beyond their dissatisfaction over the state of the real economy, which continues to slow as last year’s $787bn stimulus starts to run dry. The adviser, who asked to remain anonymous, said the public did not know what Mr Obama really believed. Examples include his lukewarm support last year for a public option in the healthcare bill and his equally lukewarm support today for a Senate bill that would extend unemployment insurance and aid state governments to keep teachers in their jobs. (Financial Times)
Once a government pet, BP now a capitalist tool As BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig was sinking on April 22, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was on the phone with allies in his push for climate legislation, telling them he would soon roll out the Senate climate bill with the support of the utility industry and three oil companies -- including BP, according to the Washington Post. - Expect BP to be public enemy No. 1 in the climate debate. There’s a problem: BP was a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a lobby dedicated to passing a cap-and-trade bill. As the nation’s largest producer of natural gas, BP saw many ways to profit from climate legislation, notably by persuading Congress to provide subsidies to coal-fired power plants that switched to gas. (Washington Examiner)
The Bilderberg Group: fact and fantasy The Bilderberg Group is meeting in Spain this weekend. Iain Hollingshead tries to sort out fact from conspiracy theory. - As Viscount Davignon put it: “When people say this is a secret government of the world I say that if we were a secret government of the world, we should be bloody ashamed of ourselves.” (London Telegraph)
President Obama under fire for BP spill response President Barack Obama is on the defensive over his presidential multitasking, for refusing to scrub his schedule of events that seem peripheral — even trivial — compared with the unfolding catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.
As oozing oil fouls Louisiana’s marshes, Obama has committed to maintaining the semblance of a regular schedule, adhering to his walk-and-chew-gum style of crisis management even as criticism of his administration mounts. (Politico)
An Imperfect Improvement: Obama's New Drug War Strategy There's no question that it points in a different direction and embraces specific policy options counter to those of the past thirty years. But it differs little on the fundamental issues of budget and drug policy paradigm, retaining the overwhelming emphasis on law enforcement and supply control strategies that doomed the policies of its predecessors. (Huffington Post)
Justice Elena Kagan, and President Larry Summers Kagan's connections to Summers are interesting. She was a professor there when Summers arrived from his work at Treasury, under Bill Clinton, to deregulate banks and derivatives to get the gambling moving...guaranteed by the taxpayer. As President Summers of Harvard from 2001 to 2006, Kagan thrived. She was made a full professor, then Summers tapped her to be the Dean of Harvard Law. Her pet peeve there was to keep the American military and ROTC off campus because she disputes the "don't ask, don't tell" provisions put in place by Clinton. (NJ.com)
Global Governance Today Jean-Claude Trichet, President, European Central Bank, New York - It was an unexpected crisis -- largely unexpected in its dimension and in its global nature -- even if it was clear that a number of academics; a number of central banks, I have to say; and also, a number of at his own institution very, very clearly -- the BIS -- had signaled that we were living in a world of general under appreciation of risks in the financial markets. And I have to say I was, myself, on record for having said that quite a time before the first turbulences erupted. But that being said, what we have observed is really something which was very big -- bigger than was expected. And with a number of features that were really also unique. - “A set of rules, institutions, informal groupings and cooperation mechanisms that we call “global governance”. (Council on Foreign Relations)
What Clinton didn't say about OKC Just when Barack Obama was making us all wax nostalgic for the Clinton era, Bill Clinton goes and spoils it all by reminding us what a uniquely loathsome human being he can be.
On Monday, April 19, Clinton penned an impressively vile little op-ed for the New York Times, which memorialized not so much those who died at Oklahoma City, as those who exploited the hell out of it to save his presidency. - Clinton was a master of strategic grief counseling. He descended on Oklahoma City with an approval rating in the low 40s and left town with a rating well above 50 and the Republican revolution buried in the rubble. (World Net Daily)
Goldman Sachs: Master of the Universe The status applies to all Wall Street giants, none, however, the equal of Goldman, the Grand Master. Like the fabled comic book Superman hero, it's: * faster than its competitors, thanks to its proprietary software ability to front run markets (illegal, but no matter); * more powerful than the government it controls; and * able to leap past competitors, given its special status. (Baltimore Chronicle)
SPECIAL REPORT. Obama and Emanuel: members of same gay bath house club in Chicago President Obama and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel are
lifetime members of the same gay bath house in uptown Chicago,
according to informed sources in Chicago's gay community,
as well as veteran political sources in the city.
The bath house, Man's Country, caters to older white men
and it has been in business for some 30 years and is known as
one of uptown Chicago's "grand old bathhouses." WMR was told by
sources who are familiar with the bath house that it provides
lifetime memberships to paying customers and that the club's
computerized files, and pre-computer paper files, include
membership information for both Obama and Emanuel. However,
sources close to "Man's Country" believe the U.S. Secret Service
has purged the computer and filing cabinet files of the membership
data on Obama and Emanuel.
Members of Man's Country are also issued club identification cards.
WMR learned that Obama and Emanuel possessed the ID cards, which
were required for entry.
Obama began frequenting Man's Country in the mid-1990s, during the
time he transitioned from a lecturer at the University of Chicago
Law School to his election as an Illinois State Senator in 1996.
Emanuel, reportedly joined Man's Country after he left the Clinton
White House and moved back to Chicago in 1998, joining the
investment firm of Wasserstein Perella and maintaining his
membership during his 2002 campaign for the U.S. 5th District
House seat vacated by Rod Blagojevich, who was elected governor. (Wayne Madsen)
Obama Making Plans to Use Executive Power “We are reviewing a list of presidential executive orders and directives to get the job done across a front of issues,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. - The use of executive authority during times of legislative inertia is hardly new; former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush turned to such powers at various moments in their presidencies, and Mr. Emanuel was in the thick of carrying out the strategy during his days as a top official in the Clinton White House. (New York Times)
History of the Income Tax in the United States The nation had few taxes in its early history. From 1791 to 1802, the United States government was supported by internal taxes on distilled spirits, carriages, refined sugar, tobacco and snuff, property sold at auction, corporate bonds, and slaves. The high cost of the War of 1812 brought about the nation's first sales taxes on gold, silverware, jewelry, and watches. In 1817, however, Congress did away with all internal taxes, relying on tariffs on imported goods to provide sufficient funds for running the government. (Tax Foundation)
Robert Rubin Economic record and the 2008 global financial crisis - Rubin's assistance to Citigroup's lobbying efforts were successful in getting the Glass-Steagall Act repealed in October 1999. (Wikipedia)
Even the Part-Time Jobs are Disappearing -- The Economy is a Lie, Too Americans cannot get any truth out of their government about anything, the economy included. Americans are being driven into the ground economically, with one million school children now homeless, while Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke announces that the recession is over.
The spin that masquerades as news is becoming more delusional. Consumer spending is 70% of the US economy. It is the driving force, and it has been shut down. Except for the super rich, there has been no growth in consumer incomes in the 21st century. Statistician John Williams of shadowstats.com reports that real household income has never recovered its pre-2001 peak. - The unemployment rate, as reported, is a fiction and has been since the Clinton administration. The unemployment rate does not include jobless Americans who have been unemployed for more than a year and have given up on finding work. The reported 10% unemployment rate is understated by the millions of Americans who are suffering long-term unemployment and are no longer counted as unemployed. As each month passes, unemployed Americans drop off the unemployment role due to nothing except the passing of time.
The inflation rate, especially “core inflation,” is another fiction. “Core inflation” does not include food and energy, two of Americans’ biggest budget items. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) assumes, ever since the Boskin Commission during the Clinton administration, that if prices of items go up consumers substitute cheaper items. This is certainly the case, but this way of measuring inflation means that the CPI is no longer comparable to past years, because the basket of goods in the index is variable.
The Boskin Commission’s CPI, by lowering the measured rate of inflation, raises the real GDP growth rate. The result of the statistical manipulation is an understated inflation rate, thus eroding the real value of Social Security income, and an overstated growth rate. Statistical manipulation cloaks a declining standard of living. (Counter Punch)
ABC, NBC Won't Air Ad Critical of Obama's Health Care Plan The refusal by ABC and NBC to run a national ad critical of President Obama's health care reform plan is raising questions from the group behind the spot -- particularly in light of ABC's health care special aired in prime time last June hosted at the White House (FOX)
Obama vacations where the elite meet As the health care debate rages on, President Barack Obama will begin a weeklong vacation Sunday in Martha’s Vineyard, an enclave of liberal royalty far from middle America, where his approval numbers are starting to stall (Politico)
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