Wednesday, March 11, 2009

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Reverend Billy Versus Your Friendly Neighborhood Detention Center

By Thomas Good

Reverend Billy Talen outside the Varick Street Special Processing Center
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — "The building is a detention center of the ICE, Immigration Correction Enforcement, an Orwellian development from 9/11 and the torture years of Bush and Cheney. But here it is in our special city, New York," said Reverend Billy, describing the Varick Street "Special Processing Center" in an after action report. According to Talen, what is special about the center is that a for-profit prison, designed to hold immigrant detainees who have not been charged with a crime, is located in the heart of "the ultimate immigrant city."

On Saturday, March 7, actor / activist "Reverend" Billy Talen and his Life After Shopping Choir visited the Varick Street Special Processing Center (SPC) on the lower west side of Manhattan. With bullhorn in hand, the Reverend, who is running for mayor on the Green Party line, shouted up to the unknown detainees, "you are free already…you are free in us, Amen." It was unclear if the immigrant detainees locked inside were able to hear the words.

Members of the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

As Talen reached out to the uncharged occupants of the for-profit prison his choir donned emerald green gowns and prepared to sing. From around the corner, two brown uniformed Wackenhut private security guards, armed with handguns, appeared. They were looking for the person in charge.

Reverend Billy helps the Wackenhut Security guards with a procedural matter
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Reverend Billy, wearing a bright blue suit ("it's vintage") rather than his familiar "full chicken" — the all white suit of a southern baptist preacher — spoke with the security guards. He assured them, "we'll be done in twenty minutes." The guards asked Talen to sign some sort of document and he agreed. "Sure, I'll sign anything you want," he said.

As Reverend Billy signed the papers, the choir sang an a capella piece entitled: "We Dance The Day You Are Free." Their paperwork completed, the guards retreated from view, huddling in front of the building's main entrance.

Reverend Billy preaching human rights
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Reverend Billy gave a brief but memorable sermon, offering an indictment of the policies of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch of the Department of Homeland Security: "Warrantless invasion of homes…this is not the United States, this is not defending us against some bogeyman that's supposed to kill us after 911…there's another kind of safety besides at the end of a gun, besides false incarceration," he said.

After urging the assembled to take care of each other in a "healthy community", Talen yielded the bullhorn to Amy Gottlieb of the American Friends Service Committee.

Gottlieb said that, during a period of historic stock market losses, "private prison industries are seeing their stocks go up…because they are contracting with the federal government to house detainees." Gottlieb added that 33,000 inmates are being held in private prisons, without any charges being filed — at a cost of $90 a day to U.S. taxpayers.

"It is a crime that we are locking people up indefinitely," Gottlieb said.

Why Did The New York Times Kill This Image of Henry Kissinger? (Not for His Naked Butt Cheeks!)

By Steve Brown

The Kissinger image below (by David Levine) is one of 320 illustrations – by 142 of the world's most acclaimed contemporary artists – that The New York Times itself originally commissioned for its Op-Ed Pages, but then got cold feet about running, and eventually paid more than $1 million in "kill fees" to hide from public view (sometimes for as long as 38 years).

What didn't the Times want you to see?

Can you imagine illustrations so "blasphemous," so "politically embarrassing," so sexually "over the line" that The New York Times gladly paid a fortune just to protect your delicate eyes from being exposed to them?

You'll find hundreds of such allegedly "not-fit-to-print" illustrations – together with the bizarre and often ludicrous reasons for suppressing them – in a sly and deliciously funny new book called All The Art That's Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn't), by Jerelle Kraus, former Art Editor of the Times Op-Ed and Editorial Pages, who reluctantly quit her "dream job" at the Times after 13 years in order to publish it.

And we're fortunate she did. Her book (published by Columbia University Press) rescues 320 eye-stopping illustrations by 142 of the world's most provocative graphic artists, including David Levine, Jules Feiffer, Ronald Searle, Milton Glaser, Charles Addams, Maurice Sendak, Edward Gorey, Ralph Steadman, Larry Rivers, Saul Steinberg, Ben Shahn, Art Speigelman, Andy Warhol, Garry Trudeau, and many more.

Publishing these illustrations should have been an occasion for pride and rejoicing at the Times. Instead, many were killed by panicky editors – often just minutes before press time.

What spooked these worldly Times editors?

Ms Kraus, who is the longest serving art director of the Times Op-Ed Page (there have been 27), says that Times editors were convinced that illustrators were always trying to put something over on them, forever conspiring to sneak in hidden sexual or political statements. So they frequently watered down editorial art to near vacuity – even though, ironically, the articles they illustrated were often fearless and hard-hitting.!)/

Report: Slain US Nazi hated Obama, had parts for 'dirty bomb'

Claim: Depleted uranium purchased over the Internet from an American company

by Stephen C. Webster

Trust fund millionaire James G. Cummings, an American Nazi sympathizer from Maine who was slain by his wife Amber in December, allegedly had the radioactive components necessary to construct a "dirty bomb," a newly released threat analysis report states.

The man, allegedly furious over the election of President Obama, purchased depleted uranium over the Internet from an American company.

"According to an FBI field intelligence report from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center posted online by WikiLeaks, an organization that posts leaked documents, an investigation into the case revealed that radioactive materials were removed from Cummings' home after his shooting death on Dec. 9," reported the Bangor Daily News.

"Amber (Cummings) indicated James was very upset with Barack Obama being elected President," reported the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center (PDF link). "She indicated James had been in contact with 'white supremacist group(s).' Amber also indicated James mixed chemicals in the kitchen sink at their residence and had mentioned 'dirty bombs.'"

"Also found was literature on how to build 'dirty bombs' and information about cesium-137, strontium-90 and cobalt-60, radioactive materials," said the Bangor Daily. "The FBI report also stated there was evidence linking James Cummings to white supremacist groups. This would seem to confirm observations by local tradesmen who worked at the Cummings home that he was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler and had a collection of Nazi memorabilia around the house, including a prominently displayed flag with swastika. Cummings claimed to have pieces of Hitler's personal silverware and place settings, painter Mike Robbins said a few days after the shooting."


HR 875 The food police, criminalizing organic farming and the backyard gardener, and violation of the 10th amendment

Posted by LydiaScott

HR 875  

This bill is sitting in committee and I am not sure when it is going to hit the floor.  One thing I do know is that very few of the Representatives have read it.  As usual they will vote on this based on what someone else is saying.  Urge your members to read the legislation and ask for opposition to this devastating legislation.  Devastating for everyday folks but great for factory farming ops like Monsanto, ADM, Sodexo and Tyson to name a few.

I have no doubt that this legislation was heavily influenced by lobbyists from huge food producers.  This legislation is so broad based that technically someone with a little backyard garden could get fined and have their property siezed.   It will effect anyone who produces food even if they do not sell but only consume it.  It will literally put all independent farmers and food producers out of business due to the huge amounts of money it will take to conform to factory farming methods.  If people choose to farm without industry standards such as chemical pesticides and fertilizers they will be subject to a vareity of harassment from this completely new agency that has never before existed.  That's right, a whole new government agency is being created just to police food, for our own protection of course.  

 DO NOT TAKE MY WORD FOR IT, READ THIS LEGISLATION FOR YOURSELF.  The more people who read this legislation the more insight we are going to get and be able to share.  Post your observations and insights below.  Urge your members to read this legislation and to oppose the passage of this legislation.

Pay special attention to

  • Section 3 which is the definitions portion of the bill-read in it's entirety.
  • section 103, 206 and 207- read in it's entirety.

Red flags I found and I am sure there are more...........

  • Legally binds state agriculture depts to enforcing federal guidelines effectively taking away the states power to do anything other than being food police for the federal dept.
  • Effectively criminalizes organic farming but doesn't actually use the word organic.
  • Effects anyone growing food even if they are not selling it but consuming it.
  • Effects anyone producing meat of any kind including wild game. 
  • Legislation is so broad based that every aspect of growing or producing food can be made illegal.  There are no specifics which is bizarre considering how long the legislation is.  
  • Section 103 is almost entirely about the administrative aspect of the legislation.  It will allow the appointing of officials from the factory farming corporations and lobbyists and classify them as experts and allow them to determine and interpret the legislation.  Who do you think they are going to side with?  
  • Section 206 defines what will be considered a food production facility and what will be enforced up all food production facilities.  The wording is so broad based that a backyard gardener could be fined and more.
  • Section 207 requires that the state's agriculture dept act as the food police and enforce the federal requirements.  This takes away the states power and is in violation of the 10th amendment.
  • There are many more but by the time I got this far in the legislation I was so alarmed that I wanted to bring someone's attention to it. (to the one person who reads my blog)

Didn't Stalin nationalize farming methods that enabled his administration to gain control over the food supply?  Didn't Stalin use the food to control the people?

Last word...... Legislate religion and enforce gag orders on ministers on what can and can't be said in the pulpit, instituting regulations forcing people to rely soley on the government, control the money and the food. What is that called?  It is on the tip of my tongue..........

Open Letter to the Republican Traitors (From a Former Republican)

Frank Schaeffer

by Frank Schaeffer

You Republicans are the arsonists who burned down our national home. You combined the failed ideologies of the Religious Right, so-called free market deregulation and the Neoconservative love of war to light a fire that has consumed America. Now you have the nerve to criticize the "architect" America just hired -- President Obama -- to rebuild from the ashes. You do nothing constructive, just try to hinder the one person willing and able to fix the mess you created.

I used to be one of you. As recently as 2000 I worked to get Senator McCain elected in that year's primary. (McCain and Gen. Tommy Franks wrote glowing endorsements regarding my book about military service, AWOL.). I have a file of handwritten thank you notes from Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush I and II. In the 1970s and early 80s I hung out with Jack Kemp and bought into his "supply side" myth and even wrote a book he endorsed pushing his ideas.) There's more, but take it from me; my parents (evangelical leaders Francis and Edith Schaeffer) and I were about as tight with -- and useful to -- the Republican Party as anyone. We played a big part creating the Religious Right.

In the mid 1980s I left the Religious Right, after I realized just how very anti-American they are, (the theme I explore in my book Crazy For God). They wanted America to fail in order to prove they were right about America's "moral decline." Soon after McCain lost in 2000 I re-registered as an independent in disgust with W. Bush. But I still respected many Republicans. Not today.

How can anyone who loves our country support the Republicans now? Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan defined the modern conservatism that used to be what the Republican Party I belonged to was about. Today no actual conservative can be a Republican. Reagan would despise today's wholly negative Republican Party. And can you picture the gentlemanly and always polite Ronald Reagan, endorsing a radio hate-jock slob who crudely mocked a man with Parkinson's and who now says he wants an American president to fail?!

With people like Limbaugh as the loudmouth image of the Republican Party -- you need no enemies.

Wingnut Violence: A View from the FBI

by jedley

I was taught not to tattle, but when I read noweasel's recent top o' the rec list diary, citing threats of violence against Obama at Free Republic, I promptly forwarded it to my cousin at the FBI.

Here is his response.

My cousin got his first rifle when he was 10, played high school football, fought in XXXXXX with the Marines and then became a state cop in one of America's reddest states. He's been with the FBI for about XX years now, working counterterrorism until he was recently promoted to an executive position beyond his years.

Not exactly the resume' of someone you'd expect to give the time of day, much less sympathize with us pinko lefties. Yet when I sent him noweasel's diary, this is how he replied:

I will certainly forward this to a friend who works this stuff up in NYC. I fear, however, that he will not be at all surprised. The number of threats to Obama as an individual, not the office, since election day is unprecedented. The Secret Service typically handles this stuff exclusively, but has had to look elsewhere for help.

The FBI monitors and investigates all the white supremacist groups and websites and the guy I know in NY told me that Obama's election has turned into the best recruiting tool they have ever used. Membership is up for the first time in I don't know how long, and new hate websites are emerging every week. Some of the websites actually call for Obama's assassination in their title!

The only solace I can offer is that, typically, these assholes are usually just that: a bunch of bored blowhards, terrified by the pace of a world that is passing them by, who have nothing better to do than complain, blame others for their shitty lives and spew their hatred and pitifully ignorant views online.

This is not to say that Obama isn't in constant peril, as it takes only one idiot to get through and consider himself a hero. Timothy McVeigh, for Christ's sake, has a significant following of people in this country who consider him a martyr!

I'm preaching and this has all been said before. I guess I'm just venting because the level of ignorance in this country actually still astounds me. We act horrified and shocked at the uneducated peasant masses blindly following crazy Muslim clerics when we have essentially the same thing going on here.

When I wrote back to thank him for his reply, I also asked if I could cite excerpts in a DKos diary, withholding his name but indicating that he is a higher-up at the Bureau. I told him I thought his words would be a pleasant surprise that might help allay some of the mistrust that the Bush years have sown among progressives. I naturally expected him to say that these were his own personal views, and that he couldn't risk having them appear to reflect those of the FBI yada yada, which actually would have been quite understandable.

Instead, this is what he wrote:

I know that there is an inherent distrust of law enforcement, especially government, so have at it and help restore a little faith, and thanks for leaving my name out.  
As is often the case, one bad apple makes us all look bad, even though the percentage of boneheads working for us is really very small. Unfortunately, when they fuck up, everybody is watching.
This argument, of course, does not apply to the folks on Capitol Hill, far too many of whom are bad apples and far too few of whom are held accountable. In fact, if they're not careful they're going to end up facing down a mob of a million carrying pitchforks and torches (although this won't happen until everyone's HBO gets disconnected for non-payment)...
Anyway, I'll forward your mail to my friend in NY, and you use whatever you think might be helpful. Whether people know it or not, we're all on the same side. Meanwhile, let's keep our fingers crossed and expose these morons whenever we can.

Now, I don't know about you, but I am enormously comforted knowing that my cousin works for federal law enforcement, and that there are enough others like him that he is willing to let me cite his words here without fear of reprisal.

Economists Say Copyright and Patent Laws Are Killing Innovation; Hurting Economy

Washington University in St. Louis

Patent and copyright law are stifling innovation and threatening the global economy according to two economists at Washington University in St. Louis in a new book, Against Intellectual Monopoly. Professors Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine call for abolishing the current patent and copyright system in order to unleash innovations necessary to reverse the current recession and rescue the economy. The professors discuss their stand against intellectual property protections in a video and news release linked here.

Nick Roth
Intellectual property vs. innovation Economists Michele Boldrin and David Levine discuss their new book "Against Intellectual Monopoly" and their argument for abolishing current patent and copyright law.
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Download it here.

Abolishing patent and copyright law sounds radical, but two economists at Washington University in St. Louis say it's an idea whose time has come. Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine see innovation as a key to reviving the economy. They believe the current patent/copyright system discourages and prevents inventions from entering the marketplace. The two professors have published their views in a new book, Against Intellectual Monopoly, from Cambridge University Press.

"From a public policy view, we'd ideally like to eliminate patent and copyright laws altogether," says Levine, John H. Biggs Distinguished Professor of Economics. "There's plenty of protection for inventors and plenty of protection and opportunities to make money for creators. It's not that we see this as some sort of charitable act that people are going to invent and create things without earning money. Evidence shows very strongly there are lots of ways to make money without patents and copyright."

Levine and Boldrin point to students being sued for 'pirating' music on the internet and AIDS patients in Africa dying because they cannot afford expensive drugs produced by patent holders as examples of the failure of the current system. Boldrin, the Joseph Gibson Hoyt Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences and Chair of the economics department says, "Intellectual property is in fact an intellectual monopoly that hinders rather than helps the competitive free market regime that has delivered wealth and innovation to our doorsteps."

The authors argue that license fees, regulations and patents are now so misused that they drive up the cost of creation and slow down the rate of diffusion of new ideas. Levine explains, "Most patents are not acquired by innovators hoping to protect their innovations from competitors in order to get a short term edge over the rest of the market. Most patents are obtained by large corporations who have built portfolios of patents for defense purposes, to prevent other people from suing them over patent violations."

Boldrin and Levine promote a drastic reform of the patent system in their book. They propose the law should be restored to match the intent of the U.S. Constitution which states: Congress may "promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writing and discoveries."

They call on Congress to reverse the burden of the proof on patent seekers by granting patents only to those capable of proving that:

• their invention has social value

• a patent is not likely to block even more valuable innovations

• the innovation would not be cost-effective absent a patent

The authors acknowledge that such drastic reform is unlikely and outline an incremental approach for Congress to gradually reduce the scope of patents, regulation and licensing.

Justice for Darfur

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan for war crimes and crimes against humanity. His response: rally protection in Africa and the Middle East by calling the decision a western crusade and terrorise and punish Darfurians by banning humanitarian agencies.

Al Bashir has nothing to lose and is poised to unleash more horror unless regional leaders help the ICC bring him in. Regional public opinion holds the key to justice for Darfurians and to lasting peace in Sudan. Let's expose Al Bashir's atrocities in the media so that leaders feel morally obliged to help the ICC uphold international justice.

Avaaz will launch ads on regional cable TV to encourage leaders to end years of brutality and suffering.

Is the Future of Journalism Goop?

By Vanessa Richmond

Gwyneth Paltrow could be the future of journalism.

Not as the subject of articles or magazines, but the writer and publisher of them. Her weekly e-newsletter and blog, Goop, which offers earnest advice on how to improve our tasteless, unstylish, ignorant lives, has 150,000 subscribers (an astronomical number for a new blog) and climbing, and she's already been offered a book deal (and is opening a gym, and starring in a cooking series with Mario Batali of Iron Chef fame).

Goop, whose title is based on her initials and nickname, has the New-Agey tagline, "Nourish the Inner Aspect," and covers recipes, books, spirituality, style, travel, health and culture, through notes to readers, and high profile guest contributions. This foray into journalism, or whatever it might be called, is proving so captivating it's outshining Paltrow's work on the bigger screen: at the premiere of Two Lovers, co-starring actor-turned-hip-hop underachiever Joaquin Phoenix, media interest in Paltrow's role as the more stylish pretender to Martha Stewart's crown hogged the spotlight.

Perplexed and curious, I've been a subscriber since the first issue back in September, fascinated by the unfolding of her project, and its effect on the media and public. It's clearly well meaning, and Paltrow makes no pretense of being a Pulitzer-prize calibre writer, but its tone(-deafness) and purpose(lessness) have nonetheless ignited millions of vitriolic words from journalists, bloggers and commenters. But though many are justified, those criticisms alone don't account for the depth of passion felt by the "haters," as Paltrow herself calls them.

As a NYT article put it this week,, "In a culture that has given us Jane Fonda workout tapes, Paul Newman salad dressing, fashion and perfumes from J. Lo, Madonna children's books, and furniture and clothing by the Olsen twins, why is Ms. Paltrow the victim of such ridicule?"

Where's my disability check?

In my line of work, forgetting words should qualify me for a fat pension. You know who else ought to get one? Clueless Republicans paying homage to Rush.

By Garrison Keillor

In hard times a man must consider new options, and right now I'm thinking about going on disability. I read in the Washington Post about the wonderful deals that police in Montgomery County, Md., negotiated for themselves way back when, whereby after a few years on the force if you twist your back reaching for a jelly doughnut and are no longer able to dash down dark alleys and leap picket fences while firing your revolver with deadly accuracy, you apply for disability and a committee of gentlemen who report to nobody whomsoever and whose deliberations are highly confidential award you $50,000 per year tax-free. And then, though disabled, you pass the physical and are hired as a security guard at John F. Kennedy High School, named for the man who said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but on the other hand don't turn it down when it's easily available," and all this at a time when they are cutting music and art out of the schools and children must start classes at 7 a.m. due to a shortage of buses.

Meanwhile, in and around Long Island, N.Y., everyone who's been working on the railroad is collecting disability for paper cuts, motion sickness, acid reflux and halitosis.The Authors Guild, of which I am a member, has done zilch to secure disability protection for writers. In my line of work, disability comes down to two things: memory loss and something else, I forget what. You lose the vocabulary retrieval skills you had when you were 30 and interesting words such as "parietal lobe" and "sedimentary rocks" flocked to your brain, and now you sit inert at the laptop for a number of horrendous minutes trying to remember the word for the thing that if you picked it up and dropped it on your foot it would be very, very bad -- anvil! This is a disability, and a writer should be able to receive payments, and also for the other thing, whatever it is.

Jesus is everywhere

Tibetans Rally 50 Years After Uprising


Authorities in Tibet were on heightened alert Tuesday for possible unrest on the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule as the Dalai Lama said Tibet had become "hell on earth" under Beijing's control.
By Shaun Tandon

Tibetan exiles kicked off worldwide rallies Monday outside of the White House with two minutes of silence and cries of "Free Tibet!" 50 years after an uprising forced the Dalai Lama into exile.

As China poured troops into Tibet for the sensitive anniversary, a US lawmaker introduced a non-binding resolution before Congress that would urge China to end its "repression" of the Himalayan region.

Holding Tibetan and US flags, hundreds of exiles bowed their heads in Lafayette Park facing the White House at noon (1600 GMT) -- midnight in Tibet on March 10, the day 50 years ago that the Dalai Lama fled.

Similar rallies were expected around the globe including in the northern Indian town of Dharamshala where the Dalai Lama -- now 74 and boasting a passionate global following -- lives in exile.

"We are here to tell the world that 50 years of occupation, 50 years of persecution, 50 years of genocide is too long," said Tsering Palden, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress activist group's New York chapter.

"This struggle for Tibetan freedom will gain momentum until Tibet is free," he said to chants of "Free Tibet!"

The protesters marched to the Chinese embassy joined by one of China's most famous dissidents, Wei Jingsheng, who has questioned historical claims to Tibet put forward by his country's leaders.

Saudis order 40 lashes for elderly woman for mingling

A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a 75-year-old Syrian woman to 40 lashes, four months imprisonment and deportation from the kingdom for having two unrelated men in her house, according to local media reports.

According to the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Watan, troubles for the woman, Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, began last year when a member of the religious police entered her house in the city of Al-Chamli and found her with two unrelated men, "Fahd" and "Hadian."

Fahd told the policeman he had the right to be there, because Sawadi had breast-fed him as a baby and was therefore considered to be a son to her in Islam, according to Al-Watan. Fahd, 24, added that his friend Hadian was escorting him as he delivered bread for the elderly woman. The policeman then arrested both men.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism and punishes unrelated men and women who are caught mingling.

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, feared by many Saudis, is made up of several thousand religious policemen charged with duties such as enforcing dress codes, prayer times and segregation of the sexes. Under Saudi law, women face many restrictions, including a strict dress code and a ban on driving. Women also need to have a man's permission to travel.

Al Watan obtained the court's verdict and reported it was partly based on the testimony of the religious police. In his ruling, the judge said it was proved that Fahd is not Sawadi's son through breastfeeding.

The court also doled out punishment to the two men. Fahd was sentenced to four months in prison and 40 lashes; Hadian was sentenced to six months in prison and 60 lashes. In a phone call with Al Watan, the judge declined to comment and suggested the newspaper review the case with the Ministry of Justice. Sawadi told the newspaper that she will appeal, adding that Fahd is indeed her son through breastfeeding.

Jesus and the dinosaurs!