Monday, March 30, 2009

Barack, I want you

Police identify 200 children as potential terrorists

Drastic new tactics to prevent school pupils as young as 13 falling into extremism

by Mark Hughes

Two hundred schoolchildren in Britain, some as young as 13, have been identified as potential terrorists by a police scheme that aims to spot youngsters who are "vulnerable" to Islamic radicalisation.

The number was revealed to The Independent by Sir Norman Bettison, the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police and Britain's most senior officer in charge of terror prevention.

He said the "Channel project" had intervened in the cases of at least 200 children who were thought to be at risk of extremism, since it began 18 months ago. The number has leapt from 10 children identified by June 2008.

The programme, run by the Association of Chief Police Officers, asks teachers, parents and other community figures to be vigilant for signs that may indicate an attraction to extreme views or susceptibility to being "groomed" by radicalisers. Sir Norman, whose force covers the area in which all four 7 July 2005 bombers grew up, said: "What will often manifest itself is what might be regarded as racism and the adoption of bad attitudes towards 'the West'.

"One of the four bombers of 7 July was, on the face of it, a model student. He had never been in trouble with the police, was the son of a well-established family and was employed and integrated into society.

"But when we went back to his teachers they remarked on the things he used to write. In his exercise books he had written comments praising al-Qa'ida. That was not seen at the time as being substantive. Now we would hope that teachers might intervene, speak to the child's family or perhaps the local imam who could then speak to the young man."

The Channel project was originally piloted in Lancashire and the Metropolitan Police borough of Lambeth in 2007, but in February last year it was extended to West Yorkshire, the Midlands, Bedfordshire and South Wales. Due to its success there are now plans to roll it out to the rest of London, Thames Valley, South Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and West Sussex.

The scheme, funded by the Home Office, involves officers working alongside Muslim communities to identify impressionable children who are at risk of radicalisation or who have shown an interest in extremist material – on the internet or in books.

Once identified the children are subject to a "programme of intervention tailored to the needs of the individual". Sir Norman said this could involve discussions with family, outreach workers or the local imam, but he added that "a handful have had intervention directly by the police".

Three videos against LADWP Green Path North

Dee Zeller
On-Site Manager of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
Jim Harvey
Alliance for Responsible Energy Policy
Robin Maxwell & Max Thomas,
Pipes Canyon Residents


London Braces For Massive Protests Of G-20

Posted By: Intellpuke


London is bracing itself for the G-20 meeting next week, as thousands of demonstrators prepare to descend upon the British capital. While most protesters will be peaceful, those working in the financial industry are being advised not to wear suits to work or even to stay at home to avoid potential violence.

Mirina Pepper has just been panhandled by a homeless man near London's Liverpool Street Station. She reaches into her handbag and grabs a bundle of £20 notes. "Here, you can give them out," she says. The homeless man looks perplexed at the notes, not knowing whether he should take this as a good or bad thing.

It's funny money with the words "G-20 Meltdown" printed on it. They're flyers for a "Party in the City." Pepper gets the homeless man to agree to come the event next Wednesday and to bring along as many of his buddies as he can. Another homeless man just a few meters away experiences the same fate.

Pepper, 41, is responsible for organizing "G-20 Meltdown," a coalition of groups that plan to protest against the London financial summit next week that has even earned the respect of Scotland Yard. "They have some very clever people and their intention on April 1 is to stop the City," Commander Bob Broadhurst of the Metropolitan Police said last week. "They are innovative and we have to be innovative, too."

The policeman's concerns put a smile on Pepper's face. She's delighted by the idea of a cat and mouse chase through this city of more than 7.5 million people. "It's all a question of numbers," she says. Five-thousand police officers will be deployed, many in combat gear. It's the largest police operation the city has seen in 10 years. But there are doubts about whether that will be enough. Police will have to provide security for 22 world leaders, including the United States president, and 40 motorcades will have to be directed through the streets of London. In addition, dozens of embassies and hotels will have to be guarded, the conference center has to be sealed off from the public and the banks in the city's financial district will also have to be guarded from potentially violent anarchist protesters.

It's a mission with an incalculable outcome - after all, nobody knows how many people will actually turn up. Current estimates put the figure at about 3,000. That may not be a huge figure, but with technologies like Twitter and mobile phone text messaging, the demonstrators have become dangerously mobile. For weeks, protesters have been discussing possible locations for their actions in Internet forums and they have also leaked out names to the public. The idea is to send out decoys to throw police off, so that they focus their efforts on the wrong people.

Senator proposes nonprofit status for newspapers


WASHINGTON (AP) — Struggling newspapers should be allowed to operate as nonprofits similar to public broadcasting stations, Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., proposed Tuesday.

Cardin introduced a bill that would allow newspapers to choose tax-exempt status. They would no longer be able to make political endorsements, but could report on all issues including political campaigns.

Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt, and contributions to support coverage could be tax deductible.

Cardin said in a statement that the bill is aimed at preserving local newspapers, not large newspaper conglomerates.

"We are losing our newspaper industry," said Cardin. "The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy."

Cardin said his proposal may not be the best choice for some major newspapers, but "should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat."

Speaking on the Senate floor, Cardin added, "As local papers are closing, we're losing a valuable tradition in America — critically important to our communities, critically important to our democracy."

The head of the newspaper industry's trade group called the bill a positive step.

Drew Carey Responds to Obama About Marijuana

Addiction is not a crime; it's a health issue

LEAP logo
"Help send a strong message that drug policy is a health - not a crime - issue."
Jack Cole pic
Jack Cole
26-year veteran cop
New Jersey State Police
Take Action

I'm writing to you from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition about an unprecedented opportunity to get our nation's lawmakers to finally realize that drug abuse and addiction is a public health - and not a criminal justice - issue.

As you probably know, President Barack Obama recently appointed Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske as his White House "drug czar," more formally known as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

That means that the U.S. Senate will soon hold a hearing to question and confirm Chief Kerlikowske. Historically, the drug czar confirmation hearings are held in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that handles crime and courts issues.

But, since many observers - including the president himself - have said that drug abuse is primarily a health concern, don't you think that the drug czar confirmation should be handled by the lawmakers who oversee such issues?

That's why I'm writing you today.

Please take one minute to visit and send a letter to your two U.S. senators, asking them to support moving the drug czar confirmation hearing to the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, a much more appropriate forum.

We've made it really easy for you to take action. All you have to do is enter your contact information and click "send." If you have an extra minute, you can edit our pre-written letter to personalize it for added impact.

With the new Obama administration, we are cautiously optimistic that there will be a humane shift in drug policy: from the current punitive and forceful model, to a more compassionate one founded in public health.

Indeed, President Obama has repeatedly called for a new health-based approach to drug policy, including when he told Rolling Stone magazine that he believes in "shifting the paradigm, shifting the model, so that we focus more on a public-health approach."

Now, we have a brief window of time to get the message to our elected officials that we want to turn this rhetoric into reality.

Please take one minute to visit to do your part by taking action. Then, use the simple follow-up form to let your friends know about this opportunity, too.

Thanks so much for all that you do,
Jack Cole
Executive Director
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Not Insane

On "Hardball" the other night, David Frum was complaining about the Republican Party—a popular activity at MSNBC, a cable news network whose prime-time hosts are non-Republicans, including "Hardball" 's Chris Matthews. Frum, however, is a non-non-Republican, and an overdetermined one: 1980 Reagan volunteer, Federalist Society activist, Wall Street Journal editorial-page editor, George W. Bush speechwriter ("axis of evil"), National Review contributing editor, American Enterprise Institute resident fellow. What conservatives are saying, he told Matthews, is increasingly not only counterproductive economically but also politically. We look like we don't care. We look like we're indifferent. We don't offer solutions. We're talking about a spending freeze in the middle of a 1929-30-style meltdown!

On ABC's "This Week," David Brooks, the Times columnist, was even more aghast. Brooks—whose conservative credentials (William F. Buckley, Jr., protégé, Wall Street Journal op-ed editor, Weekly Standard senior editor) aren't too shabby, either—said wonderingly, "There are a lot of Republicans up on Capitol Hill right now who are calling for a spending freeze in the middle of a recession slash depression. That is insane." Quite a lot of Republicans, actually, and they weren't just talking about it: On March 6th, John Boehner, the House Republican leader, made a motion on the floor for just such a freeze. His charges voted for it, a hundred and fifty-two to nothing.

The theory that preventing the United States government from spending more money will halt the cascading crisis of demand that threatens the world with recession slash depression is indeed crazy. And many Republicans, even as they rail against "government spending," at least understand that the government must cause more money to be spent, and that the fiscal deficit must rise in the process. They just want the government to do the job indirectly, by cutting taxes—especially taxes paid by the well-off, such as inheritance taxes, capital-gains taxes, corporate taxes, and high-bracket income taxes—in the hope that the money left untaxed will be spent. It is useless to point out to them that this approach was tried for eight years and found wanting, that in this economy the comfortable are less likely than the strapped to spend any extra cash that comes their way, that government spending often serves socially useful purposes, that "wasteful spending" is not a government monopoly (see corporate jets, golf-course "conferences," premium vodkas), and that the only way to insure that money is spent is, precisely, to spend it.

And yet, lurking underneath the anti-spending, pro-tax-cutting cant is one idea that might truly have merit. Frum mentioned it on that "Hardball" broadcast, touching off this rather cryptic exchange:

FRUM: I'm for a big payroll-tax holiday that would go into effect immediately.
MATTHEWS: I know about the payroll, uh—in other words, it gets money back in the hands of people who are working people, right?
FRUM: Up to a hundred and twenty dollars per week per worker, starting last month.
MATTHEWS: But it sounds like a liberal argument. The funny thing is, the liberals haven't pushed it. And I don't know why, because working people pay a very regressive tax when they go to work, right?

Right. The payroll tax—a.k.a. the Social Security tax, the Social Security and Medicare tax, or the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax— skims around fifteen per cent from the payroll of every business and the paycheck of every worker, from minimum-wage burger-flippers on up, with no deductions. No exemptions, either—except that everything above a hundred grand or so a year is untouched, which means that as salaries climb into the stratosphere the tax, as a percentage, shrinks to a speck far below. This is one reason that Warren Buffett's secretary (as her boss has unproudly noted) pays Uncle Sam a higher share of her income than he does. In fact, three-quarters of American households pay more in payroll tax than in income tax.

Where income taxes are concerned, even Republicans seldom argue that taxing added income over a quarter million dollars at, say, thirty-six per cent rather than thirty-three per cent is wrong because the affluent need more stuff. They argue that making the rich richer enables them to create jobs for the non-rich. More jobs: that's a big argument for capital-gains and inheritance-tax cuts, too. But the payroll tax is a direct tax on work and workers—on jobs per se. If the power to tax is the power to destroy, then the payroll tax is, well, insane.

Frum is not the only Republican on the case. "If you want a quick answer to the question what would I do," Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said recently, "I'd have a payroll-tax holiday for a year or two. That would put taxes in the hands of everybody who has a job, whether they pay income taxes or not." Other Republican politicians and conservative publicists have made similar noises. They haven't made it a rallying point, though; it would, after all, shape the over-all tax system in a progressive direction. Anyhow, their sincerity may be doubted: when President Obama proposed a much more modest cut along similar lines—a refundable payroll-tax credit of four hundred dollars—they denounced it as a welfare giveaway.

Liberals have been reticent, too. The payroll tax now provides a third of federal revenues. And, because it nominally funds Social Security and Medicare, some liberals regard its continuance as essential to the survival of those programs. That's almost certainly wrong. Public pensions and medical care for the aged have become fixed, integral parts of American life. Their political support no longer depends on analogizing them to private insurance. Besides, the aging of the population, the collapse of defined-benefit private pensions, the volatility of 401(k)s, and pricey advances in medical technology mean that, no matter what efficiencies may be achieved, Social Security and Medicare will—and should—grow. Holding them hostage to ever-rising, job-killing payroll taxes is perverse.

If the economic crisis necessitates a second stimulus—and it probably will—then a payroll-tax holiday deserves a look. But it's only half a good idea. A whole good idea would be to make a payroll-tax holiday the first step in an orderly transition to scrapping the payroll tax altogether and replacing the lost revenue with a package of levies on things that, unlike jobs, we want less rather than more of—things like pollution, carbon emissions, oil imports, inefficient use of energy and natural resources, and excessive consumption. The net tax burden on the economy would be unchanged, but the shift in relative price signals would nudge investment from resource-intensive enterprises toward labor-intensive ones. This wouldn't be just a tax adjustment. It would be an environmental program, an anti-global-warming program, a youth-employment (and anti-crime) program, and an energy program.

Impossible? A politically heterogeneous little group with the unfortunately punctuated name of Get America Working! has been quietly pushing this combination for twenty years.

Artist paints herself having sex with each president of the USA

Artist Justine Lai's new project is a set of oil paintings of her having sex with every president of the USA, in order.
In Join Or Die, I paint myself having sex with the Presidents of the United States in chronological order. I am interested in humanizing and demythologizing the Presidents by addressing their public legacies and private lives. The presidency itself is a seemingly immortal and impenetrable institution; by inserting myself in its timeline, I attempt to locate something intimate and mortal. I use this intimacy to subvert authority, but it demands that I make myself vulnerable along with the Presidents. A power lies in rendering these patriarchal figures the possible object of shame, ridicule and desire, but it is a power that is constantly negotiated.

I approach the spectacle of sex and politics with a certain playfulness. It would be easy to let the images slide into territory that's strictly pornographic—the lurid and hardcore, the predictably "controversial." One could also imagine a series preoccupied with wearing its "Fuck the Man" symbolism on its sleeve. But I wish to move beyond these things and make something playful and tender and maybe a little ambiguous, but exuberantly so. This, I feel, is the most humanizing act I can do.


Do the Secret Bush Memos Amount to Treason? Top Constitutional Scholar Says Yes

Rights and Liberties

By Naomi Wolf

Legal expert Michael Ratner calls the legal arguments made in the infamous Yoo memos, "Fuhrer's law."
In early March, more shocking details emerged about George W. Bush legal counsel John Yoo's memos outlining the destruction of the republic.

The memos lay the legal groundwork for the president to send the military to wage war against U.S. citizens; take them from their homes to Navy brigs without trial and keep them forever; close down the First Amendment; and invade whatever country he chooses without regard to any treaty or objection by Congress.

It was as if Milton's Satan had a law degree and was establishing within the borders of the United States the architecture of hell.

I thought this was -- and is -- certainly one of the biggest stories of our lifetime, making the petty burglary of Watergate -- which scandalized the nation -- seem like playground antics. It is newsworthy too with the groundswell of support for prosecutions of Bush/Cheney crimes and recent actions such as Canadian attorneys mobilizing to arrest Bush if he visits their country.

The memos are a confession. The memos could not be clearer: This was the legal groundwork of an attempted coup. I expected massive front page headlines from the revelation that these memos exited. Almost nothing. I was shocked.

As a non-lawyer, was I completely off base in my reading of what this meant, I wondered? Was I hallucinating?

Astonished, I sought a reality check -- and a formal legal read -- from one of the nation's top constitutional scholars (and most steadfast patriots), Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has been at the forefront of defending the detainees and our own liberties.

Here is our conversation:

Naomi Wolf: Michael, can you explain to a layperson what the Yoo memos actually mean?'

Michael Ratner: What they mean is that your book looks moderate in respect to those issues now. This -- what is in the memos -- is law by fiat.

I call it "Fuhrer's law." What those memos lay out means the end of the system of checks and balances in this country. It means the end of the system in which the courts, legislature and executive each had a function and they could check each other.

What the memos set out is a system in which the president's word is law, and Yoo is very clear about that: the president's word is not only law according to these memos, but no law or constitutional right or treaty can restrict the president's authority.

What Yoo says is that the president's authority as commander in chief in the so-called war on terror is not bound by any law passed by Congress, any treaty, or the protections of free speech, due process and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The First, Fourth and Fifth amendments -- gone.

What this actually means is that the president can order the military to operate in the U.S. and to operate without constitutional restrictions. They -- the military --  can pick you or me up in the U.S. for any reason and without any legal process. They would not have any restrictions on entering your house to search it, or to seize you. They can put you into a brig without any due process or going to court. (That's the Fourth and Fifth amendments.)

The military can disregard the Posse Comitatus law, which restricts the military from acting as police in the the United States. And the president can, in the name of wartime restrictions, limit free speech. There it is in black and white: we are looking at one-person rule without any checks and balances -- a lawless state. Law by fiat.

Who has suspended the law this way in the past? It is like a Caesar's law in Rome; a Mussolini's law in Italy; a Fuhrer's law in Germany; a Stalin's law in the Soviet Union. It is right down the line. It is enforcing the will of the dictator through the military.

History lesson from hell

New York Times warns that new financial rules could "wreak havoc" -- 1999

''Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century,'' Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. ''This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy.''

The decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 provoked dire warnings from a handful of dissenters that the deregulation of Wall Street would someday wreak havoc on the nation's financial system


History repeats itself

AIG Bonuses Could Be Closer to $450 Million

AIG: The company that keeps giving and giving.

Conn lawmakers said AIG is slated to award more bonuses in 2010


AIG employees might be taking home $450 million in bonuses, rather than the $185 and $232 million figures tossed around last week, according to the co-chairs of the Connecticut banking committee and the state's Attorney General.

This chart from AIG shows that more bonuses could be awarded for a total of $450 million.

The anger in the threats against AIG executives is palpable in threats that were obtained from Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Here are...

The discrepancy lies in similar payments that could be made in 2010, to the tune of $230 million or so.

The findings come the day after a contentious public hearing on the issue before the banking committee with Stephen Blake, who heads human resources for AIG, and attorney Patrick Shea, who wrote the memo that led AIG to believe a Connecticut law required the bonus payments. 

The committee received the documents, a whopping 465 pages, from AIG late Wednesday, the night before the hearing, which did not give them a whole lot of time. The lawmakers pointed to an AIG-created chart included in the documents the company handed over.

The bonuses could have amounted to more than $1.2 billion had the Financial Products division's performance remained strong, shows a chart included in the paperwork.  Instead, 64 percent of the awards were eliminated.

"Through their testimony, and through review of the documents provided to the committee, we have identified several key findings that were not previously apparent," according to a statement released by state Senator Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) and Representative Ryan Barry (D-Manchester), the committee co-chairs.

The two also point fingers at the company executives, who they say "put on a personal life vest … when they knew the ship was starting to sink."

At the hearing, they said, Shea suggested that the payouts would be due even without the Connecticut law on payment of wages. 

"He suggested that double payments plus legal fees could be awarded, although the law allows for an employer's refusal on a 'good-faith' basis," the statement said.

Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is urging Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to halt the $230 million in bonuses slated for payment next year.

Dear Ex-AIG Guy:

The Rude Pundit responds to the resignation letter from Jake DeSantis, AIG's executive vice president of the financial products unit, published in yesterday's New York Times:

"Dear (soon-to-be) ex-AIG Guy,

"I read your letter with a great deal of interest. See, even though I'm just a member of the middle of the middle class who generally believes that vast sums of accumulated wealth are demonstrable proof of the corruption of the people who hold the wealth, I had your back, at least as far as your right to privacy and even, to an extent, as regards your contracted compensation. I believed that contracts could be renegotiated, sure, but barring that or anything actually illegal shown, that we just had to suck it up. And while I still believe that, lemme just say that your self-aggrandizing, whiny little bitch moan of a letter makes me wish whatever ill that comes your way is compounded by the number of times you lapped the average American worker in yearly compensation. If it's your karmic punishment to have to shovel shit in a stable for eternity, I hope it's got a hundred times as many animals shitting a hundred times as many turds for you to toss. In other words, and since my job is not to obfuscate to the point of denying comprehension, fuck you, you cockgobbling bag of fuck.

"Taking you down point by point would be a waste of time, especially since it's been done quite well by others. You want to come out of this clean. You want to be blameless. But even if you were the guy who filed food requisitions for the guards at Dachau, you still worked for the Nazis. Actually, to be more precise and only slightly hyperbolic, you're like the guy who cleaned floors for SPECTRE, the evil organization that James Bond was fighting. At the end of the day, you could look at where you mopped and say, 'Goddamn, that's one shiny motherfucker of a floor,' while behind you Ernst Blofeld is watching a giant fucking screen showing the launch of a nuke at London. When the British agents arrived, your ass would still get mowed down.

"Your life has been a lie. You have worked for a corporation that, when all is said and done, will have been responsible for as much harm to the average worker in this nation as those closed steel mills in the places you were raised. You're a glorified gambler. No, fuck that. Gamblers are more honest about what they are than you. You made bets in order for rich fucks to get richer, and you tried to convince yourself that it was a noble pursuit.

"You sanctimonious bastard. You want to pat yourself on the back because you took only a dollar in salary? The only fuckers who do that are the ones who can afford to. It's not like it caused you any suffering at all - did your kids have to go to public school? Did you have to give up the summer house in the Hamptons? Seriously, AIG guy, unless you're sucking Teamster cock for quarters to make ends meet, just don't talk in public about your sacrifices.

"I'll bet everyone you know is so fucking proud of you for saying what you said. I'll bet your lover fucked you so hard last night that you thought your balls were gonna send you their resignation. I'll bet your schoolteacher parents thought, 'What a good son' over your announcement that you were giving your 'payment from AIG amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes' to 'charity.' If you're so fucking right about being owed the money, then why are you giving it away? Because you can. And that was the problem to begin with. Hell, I'm guessing that along with your resignation will be a nice severance package, a golden parachute, and an antique umbrella stand to make sure your refinished floors don't get wet on rainy days. It's gonna make that three-quarter mill seem like a drop in a piss bucket.

Republican family values