Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tasers and Torture

Like Glenn, I write a lot about civil liberties, which have been at the heart of the national conversation since the beginning of the War On Terror and the expansion of the national security state. But my interest in civil liberties predates 9/11 and until then was usually pointed at the far more prosaic issues of police and prosecutorial misconduct (and the inevitable conclusions any study of those things brings to the issue of the death penalty). Nowadays, the theme of civil liberties seem to be a sub-plot to a James Bond flick rather than "To Kill A Mockingbird." And yet, I think the two are intertwined much more closely that we think. In our apparent acceptance of torture as a legal method of interrogation, the bar of civilized official behavior has been lowered to the point where we are accepting torture in everyday life as if it's nothing. Indeed, we are using it as a form of entertainment.

I'm speaking of the ever more common use of the Taser, an electrical device used by police and other authorities to drop its victims to the ground and coerce instant compliance. The videos of various incidents make the rounds on the internet and you can see by the comments at the YouTube site that a large number of Americans find tasering to be a sort of slapstick comedy, the equivalent of someone slipping on a banana peel, with a touch of that authoritarian cruelty that always seems to amuse a certain kind of person. "Don't tase me bro" is a national catch phrase.

Tasers aren't benign however. They kill people. Nobody knows exactly why some people die from being tasered, and they certainly don't know how to tell in advance which ones are at risk. But there have been hundreds of deaths similar to the one below, which nobody can adequately explain:

A Detroit teenager who police say fled a traffic stop Friday died after being subdued with a Taser. He is the second Michigan teen to die following a Taser stun in less than a month. Warren Police say they don't know why the 15-year-old bailed out of a Dodge Stratus he was riding in during the stop on Eight Mile near Schoenherr, leading officers on a half-block chase that ended in an abandoned house on Pelkey in Detroit. The car was stopped for having an expired license plate. In the scuffle, officers shocked the teen one time with a Taser, police said. Shortly after, he became unresponsive and died.

Taser International has successfully defended themselves in lawsuits by attributing the deaths to drug use and if that doesn't work do to the fact that drugs were not present in the victim, they rely on an unrecognized medical condition called "excited delirium", a disease that only afflicts people who die in police custody. Juries apparently find this convincing. Taser has only lost one case.

But that isn't the real problem, although it may eventually be the path by which tasers are banned for use in civilized countries. As awful as the possibility of death is, tasers would be a blight on any free people even if they weren't so often deadly. Tasers were sold to the public as a tool for law enforcement to be used in lieu of deadly force. Presumably, this means situations in which officers would have previously had to use their firearms. It's hard to argue with that, and I can't think of a single civil libertarian who would say that this would be a truly civilized advance in policing. Nobody wants to see more death and if police have a weapon they can employ instead of a gun, in self defense or to stop someone from hurting others, I think we all can agree that's a good thing.

But that's not what's happening. Tasers are routinely used by police to torture innocent people who have not broken any law and whose only crime is being disrespectful toward their authority or failing to understand their "orders." There is ample evidence that police often take no more than 30 seconds to talk to citizens before employing the taser, they use them while people are already handcuffed and thus present no danger, and are used often against the mentally ill and handicapped. It is becoming a barbaric tool of authoritarian, social control.

Last week there were three taser episodes that made the rounds on the internet. (There may have been more, but these were the three most discussed.) The first was of a drunken, belligerent man at a baseball game who after 41 seconds of discussion was tasered while sitting in his seat. Indeed, the video shows that the taser threw him down onto the cement steps where he rolled down several. Since this scene must have happened literally thousands of times over the years, you have to wonder what they must have done in the past. Somehow I doubt they pulled out a gun and shot them.

The second incident was this sad tale of a man who allegedly refused to come out of a store restroom. Police blew pepper spray under the door, kicked it open and instantly tasered the man. It was only afterward that they discovered he was deaf. Police tried to book the man anyway, but the magistrate refused to accept the charges.

It was the third incident, however, that should get civil libertarians' serious attention. It featured an Idaho man on a bicycle who happened to ride past a police stop in progress on the side of the road. He had nothing to do with the stop, but was pulled over by the police and told to produce his ID. He said, correctly, that he had no legal obligation to produce ID and the police insisted he must. The situation escalated and he demanded that they call a supervisor to the scene when the police said they were going to arrest him. He ended up being tasered seven times -- you can hear him moaning in pain on the tape at the end. (In an especially creepy moment, the police try to confiscate the tape of the incident.)

Now, many people will say that he should have just showed his ID, that it's stupid to confront police, that like Henry Louis Gates you get what you deserve if you mouth off to the cops. And on a pragmatic level this is certainly true (although I would reiterate what I wrote here about a free people not being required to view the police in the same way they view a criminal street gang, which is to say in fear.) But the fact remains that there is no law against riding a bicycle without ID, and there is no law against mouthing off to the police. Certainly, there can be no rationale behind using a weapon designed to replace deadly force seven times against someone under these circumstances.

These are just three incidents that happened last week. There's nothing special about them. They happen every day. Even this horrific scene, which is so shockingly authoritarian (excuse the pun) that it makes you feel sick, is not unusual:

A former Southern Virginia University and Brigham Young University adjunct professor of political philosophy and jurisprudence, Dr. Lowery entered the Utah Third District courtroom alone on November 22, 2004, to make oral argument before Judge Anthony Quinn. Two Salt Lake County Deputy Sheriffs sat at the back of the courtroom, one on each side of the door. Other deputies were in the foyer of the courtroom. No members of the public were present.

Dr. Lowery suffered from major depression, bipolar disorder, paranoia disorder, delusional disorder, and psychotic disorder. Judge Quinn granted one of Dr. Lowery's motions made under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title II, which allowed for reasonable modifications of court rules, policies, or practices in order to accommodate Dr. Lowery's multiple mental disabilities.

Near the end of his oral argument, the traumatic content of the argument moved Dr. Lowery into moderate mania, and he characterized a previous crabbed ruling by Quinn as "bullshit."

Impatient for the speech to end, Judge Quinn took that as an opportunity to order the bailiffs to take the professor into custody and cool him off.

The plaintiff's state of agitation was caused by his mental disabilities. The deputy sheriffs' approach only caused the situation to escalate. As five or more Salt Lake County deputy sheriffs/bailiffs seized Lowery from behind, he shouted, "I am cooled off; I deserve to be heard. I deserve to be heard, your Honor, and you are violating my access to due process at this very moment. I am not violent and --"

Judge Quinn interrupted him with ordering the bailiffs to take Dr. Lowery to a holding cell. A split second later -- unclear whether following the judge's orders or acting on his own accord, a bailiff sent 50,000 volts of incapacitating electricity into the lower back of the unsuspecting professor. As the courtroom video shows, nothing in Dr. Lowery's behavior suggests that the bailiffs had any reasonable motive to believe they or the judge were in physical danger.

Yet the taser gun fired more than once.

The repeated electric shocks blew Dr. Lowery over the podium, and he landed face down on the floor, with two bailiffs on his back. The electric blasts caused Dr. Lowery's bowels to empty twice. He screamed, "Help me!" while he complied with a bailiff's order to stay on his belly, neither capable nor willing to offer resistance. Then, suddenly, he went unconscious.

Remembering they were still on camera, the bailiffs shouted at Dr. Lowery to not resist again (though his resistance was only instinctive) and threatened him with more electrocution. When they realized that he could no longer hear them, they dragged the man across the floor, put him in a chair, and massaged his heart. One bailiff called for paramedics. [...]

Since no one but the victim and the abusers were in the courtroom, this crime remained unknown to the public until recently.

(Read on if you can stomach it.)

Here's the Youtube of the event. You can see for yourself if there was justification for the reaction of the judge or the police.

Representatives of the government torture innocent citizens into unconsciousness, on camera, in United States courtrooms with tasers. They use them on prisoners and on motorists and on political protesters and bicycle riders, on mentally ill and handicapped people and on children And it's happening with nary a peep of protest.

America's torture problem is much bigger than Gitmo or the CIA or the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The government is torturing people every day and killing some of them. Then videos of the torture wind up on Youtube where sadists laugh and jeer at the victims. It's the sign of profound cultural illness.

Source: Salon

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Paranoid, suspicion, obsessive surveillance : ht- and a land of liberty destroyed by stealth

Returning to Britain from a summer holiday abroad, you begin to notice things that perhaps escaped your attention before - the huge number of CCTV cameras that infest our public spaces and, much less obviously, the atmosphere of watchfulness and control that has now become a way of life.

This is the regime that 12 years of New Labour have imposed on Britain, a place of unwavering suspicion, paranoia - and obsessive surveillance.

We have become the sort of society that we would unhesitatingly have railed against a few years ago. But, because the change has been brought about with such stealth, we are the very last to see it.

The latest figures, in a report by the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy, are truly terrifying. They reveal that a request is made every minute to snoop on someone's phone records or email accounts.

Last year alone, there were 504,073 new cases of state-sanctioned surveillance, the equivalent of one adult in 78 being watched - and a rise of 44 per cent over two years. Whatever happened to our centuries- old traditions of freedom?

Voltaire called England 'the land of liberty'. Until New Labour materialised, with its intrusive and 'character improving' agenda, that description rang true. The English preferred freedom and tolerance to ideological and religious fanaticism. The currency of our society was common sense.

No longer. Common sense has been replaced by officially sanctioned mistrust, mistrust that allows anyone invested with the tiniest bit of authority - often in the form of a high-visibility jacket - to throw their weight around.

Britain is now a place where terror laws have been used by councils to spy on people breaching smoking bans, making a fraudulent application for a

Police routinely stop anyone who photographs a public building, in one instance deleting the pictures taken by a 69-year-old Austrian tourist who admired the architecture of Vauxhall bus station.

And if the authorities are behaving like this today, what will they subject us to in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics?

Wardens in Brighton already habitually seize drink from people on the mere suspicion that they plan to consume it in a public place. And in Edinburgh, a swimming pool attendant stopped the 85-year-old mother of TV presenter Nicky Campbell from taking pictures of her grandchildren.

These stories have become part of our national life - and there are thousands of them each year. I know this because my researcher trawls local and national newspapers for examples every morning. What they add up to is a depressing account of a nation infantilised by micro-management and fear.

We are losing something essential to our national identity. Foreigners who know what is going on here cannot believe that the British show such little regard for their freedoms. Even Americans, the most jumpy people in the world, are unsettled by Britain's paranoia.

Government policy is largely to blame. Labour has instilled an endemic culture of suspicion in Britain, which is manifest in the 3,500 new criminal offences brought in over its 12 years in office.

Labour is also behind a flurry of new databases that either leech personal information from each one of us or require innocent members of the public to go through an endless rigmarole of proving themselves to the state.

Surveillance officer

Surveillance: One in 78 adults is being watched

The scale of this project is vast. 'The state and its agencies are amassing increasing quantities of data about its citizens,' writes Jill Kirby, the director of the Centre for Policy Studies, in a recent pamphlet.

She lists them as including the DNA database, centralised medical records and the children's database Contact-Point. This data, she says, has 'proliferated to levels previously unseen in peacetime Britain'.

An institutionalised pessimism has taken over. The clear message of Government is that we are incapable of managing our lives and must be watched and regulated by ministers and civil servants from dawn to dusk.

More sinister is the assumption that we are all in some way guilty of harbouring the worst intentions. Up to 11 million people who work with children - music tutors, babysitters, football coaches and even parents who have exchange students to stay - will now have to join a new database at the cost of £64 and undergo criminal checks.

Writers such as Philip Pullman and Anthony Horowitz, who regularly visit schools, are among those who have roundly condemned the scheme.

You can see why - the other day I heard of a retired canon who was told that he could only baptise his grandson in his local cathedral if the church authorities first saw proof of his criminal records check. But it is the Government's obsession with surveillance that poses the greatest threat to our liberty.

Earlier this year, I calculated from published figures that Britain's expenditure on databases and surveillance systems would amount to a staggering £32 billion.

Thanks to the economic crisis, some projects have been scaled back. But plans still include a £1 billion system that will give the Government access to data from all emails, text messages, phone calls and internet usage - a proposal that has even been savaged by companies expected to collect the information.

Additionally, the e-Borders scheme, which will take 53 pieces of personal information from anyone travelling abroad - including phone and credit card numbers, details of an onward journey and history of cancelled journeys - will cost over £1.2 billion.

But the absurd amounts spent on these schemes are not the only concern. The threat they pose to our privacy - and the incompetent way in which the Government handles our personal data - are even more worrying.

We know, for example, that more than 30 million separate personal files have been lost by government agencies. Recently, a Freedom of Information request by Computer Weekly magazine revealed that nine local authority staff have been sacked for accessing the personal records of celebrities and acquaintances.

This largely unpublicised breach should warn us that a government obsessed with hoarding our information and watching us cannot be trusted to keep our details safely.

A similar security lapse in ContactPoint could be disastrous. But even this doesn't compare to the real possibility of the systems that watch our movements, monitor our behaviour and tap into the communications data linking up into one great apparatus of surveillance.

This would allow the authorities more or less to monitor our every movement and transaction in real time. Nothing would remain private.

If this happens, we can kiss goodbye to a functioning free society in the United Kingdom. We are not there yet - but we can see the seeds everywhere, from the spread of CCTV, and the flood of government regulations to the expropriation of our personal information.

We have to consider the distinct possibility that the obituary for the 'land of liberty' is being composed at this very moment.

Source: Mail Online

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The CHRC is ethically challenged

Recently, Canadian Human Rights Commission chief Jennifer Lynch criticized me for relying on "one source that is full of misinformation," in my parliamentary study of the CHRC ( "Canadians 'misinformed' on hate speech," June 22). It may surprise Ms. Lynch to learn that the source of my "misinformation" is her own commission and its companion body, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Every question I raised in committee about the lack of due process and an ethics code for commission employees, and the absence of rules of evidence, came from commission and tribunal documents, many of which are currently available on the commission's own website ( transcripts of tribunal hearings provide telling evidence of the wayward approach the commission's investigators take in prosecuting their cases. Recent hearings, such as the Marc Lemire case, have revealed that current CHRC investigator Dean Steacy and former CHRC investigator Richard Warman regularly posted neo-Nazi diatribes under assumed names on white supremacist web-sites. Further, uncontradicted expert evidence presented before the hearing demonstrated that investigator Steacy illegitimately used an unsuspecting private citizen's wireless Internet service to post his offensive comments.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the commission asked the tribunal to exclude the media from the hearing that day. Fortunately, for the sake of accountability, a secret hearing was rejected and we know more about the CHRC's inner workings.

However, other hearings have been held in secret, as Ms. Lynch has admitted, supposedly for the "safety" of a witness but contrary to the ancient right of being able to face one's accuser in court. Indeed, in the ongoing case of beachesboy@aol.comvs.,the commission hasn't even revealed the identity of the complainant. Interestingly, the commission's website does name the complainant for 12 of the 14 hate speech cases that have come before the tribunal in the last eight years: Richard Warman. Ms. Lynch's deputy appeared before my committee in Parliament recently and admitted that the commission does not have to follow rules of evidence or legal procedure, but merely has "operating procedures" that identify the timelines for addressing complaints. To put that in plain English: defendants have no guarantee of a fair hearing.

A 2003 internal government review of the CHRC found that the commission scored only 2.5 out of five on an ethics test. The review recommended the commission adopt an ethics code, which it has still not done. Given the questionable activities of its investigators, perhaps it is time for Ms. Lynch to revisit this recommendation.

I'll let the readers decide who is "misinformed." - Russ Hiebert is the Conservative Member of Parliament for South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale.

Source: The National post

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The tyranny of the bigoted

An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.” - Mahatma Gandhi

As Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. recently discovered, one of the greatest threats to the free exercise of civil rights in America is the promulgation of catch-all offenses such as “disturbing the peace” or “disorderly conduct.

With no clear definition of what constitutes behavior that is “disturbing” or “disorderly”, many in law enforcement use such laws as a way to control and punish citizens for otherwise legal and constitutionally protected behavior.

In Professor Gates’ case, the charges were quickly dropped, but the story doesn’t end there. Hundreds or even thousands of less-prominent citizens, lacking the resources and media presence to fight the charges, allow their rights to be infringed and their behavior to be extra-legally restricted out of fear of repeated prosecution.

And while many law enforcement agencies across the country have taken steps to insure that their officers understand the proper limits of such charges in the wake of the Gates arrest, not everyone has benefited from what the media deemed a “teachable moment.”

The Madison Wisconsin Police Department appears to be one such agency that just doesn’t “get it.” On Saturday, August 8th, Madison police received a call from a “concerned citizen” who reported a “man walking … with a holstered gun on his hip.

Police responded to find 28 year-old UW-Madison graduate student Travis F. Yates legally and peacefully wearing a properly holstered sidearm. After Yates stated that he was wearing the sidearm as a political statement in support of the open carry and self defense rights recently documented in an advisory opinion by Wisconsin Attorney General Van Hollen, Yates was informed that he was being cited for disorderly conduct because “his actions disturbed other citizens.

Never mind the fact that this is EXACTLY the type of open carry that Attorney General Van Hollen stated was constitutionally protected and NOT grounds for a disorderly conduct charge.

In his advisory opinion, he stated "The state constitutional right to bear arms extends to openly carrying a handgun for lawful purposes [and t]he Wisconsin Department of Justice believes that the mere open carrying of a firearm by a person, absent additional facts and circumstances, should not result in a disorderly conduct charge from a prosecutor."

Attorney General Van Hollen went on to provide strong guidance to law enforcement as to what additional facts and circumstances would need to be present to justify a disorderly conduct charge against an open carrier. He stated that the totality of the circumstance would need to be such that the actions of the open carrier were "likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest."

Attorney General Van Hollen has done an excellent job of summarizing just how disruptive a person’s behavior needs to be before the public good outweighs the significant interest of a constitutional right. Applied to this incident, the test shows that the Madison Police Department clearly over-stepped their bounds. In fact, given the recent release and significant media coverage of the Van Hollen opinion, this arrest seems to be a willful act of defiance. I expect that should Mr Yates choose to pursue a federal civil rights action under U.S.C. § 1983, this will be an argument raised by his counsel.

But wait. Maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves in our criticism. Could it be that this is an isolated incident based upon a single officer making a misstep?

That is what I had hoped when I first learned of this incident. But no …

As reported by WKOW TV, Madison Police Captain Victor Wahl wrote about the issue in a department newsletter in which he stated that despite the clear guidance in Van Hollen’s opinion, Madison police procedure will likely not change. He went on to describe the considerations HE wanted his officers to use when considering a disorderly conduct charge: "To support a disorderly conduct charge it will be necessary to show that the carrying of the firearm -- under those particular circumstances -- was the type of behavior that caused, or tends to cause, a disturbance. The location of the incident, the behavior of the suspect and the reactions of witnesses will all be relevant (sic) to this determination."

Tends to cause a disturbance” is very different than "likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest." Additionally, by including the “reactions of witnesses” Captain Wahl has insured that any anti-gun person who sees someone exercising their right to self-defense can have that open carrier arrested by simply reacting in a frightened manner.

Clearly, the Madison police are willing to press disorderly conduct charges against a person exercising constitutionally protected rights based upon the unreasonable fear or bigotry of just one witness. As Mr Yates noted in his WKOW interview, this reduces the Wisconsin constitutional right to defend oneself to nothing more than a theoretical right which can never be exercised.

One complaint and otherwise legal behavior becomes “disorderly conduct.” Welcome to the tyranny of the bigoted.

Source: The Examiner

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The Tyranny of Democracy

Whenever I hear someone call America a democracy, I inform that person that we are actually living in a republic. I usually get a blank stare in return. Sometimes that person will ask what the difference is between a republic and a democracy. I explain that a republic is an indirect form of democracy where elective representatives vote on certain legislation. Most of the time I get another blank stare, but there are occasions where that person asks "why aren't we a direct democracy, where everybody in the United States gets a vote?'' These questions make me feel like I was the only one who paid attention in social studies. For starters, America is too massive to include everybody in the legislative process. There are towns that practice direct democracy, but they usually take place in areas with small populations. We also have to make sure that our rights are never compromised by the majority. To paraphrase Mel Gibson's character in the Patriot, "An elected legislator can trample on a man's rights just easy as any king."

This has proven to be the case in San Francisco. About two years ago, the residents voted for two of the worst bills ever conceived. One of them was a ban on handguns within the city limits. The other bill barred military recruiters from setting foot on college campuses. Keeping military recruiters off of college campuses seemed more absurd then oppressive. The banning of pistols on the other hand, was a blatant violation of the Second Amendment. People who defend these laws say that they are legit because they represent the will of the majority. Whether it was a majority that brought about these laws or just a select few is irrelevant. Bad laws are never legit, especially when they violate constitutional rights. The right to keep and bear arms is a god given right (natural right if you're an atheist) and cannot be overruled by a majority vote.

On the other side of the coin, conservatives try to justify the bans on gay marriage by claiming that it is the will of the people. In California, the opponents of gay marriage would have the masses vote a bill into the state constitution that would permanently ban gay marriage. Personally, I believe that the government should stay out of the issue of marriage. They shouldn't have the power to decide the legality of any union between consenting adults. I had a constitutional law professor who said that if you allow the government to define marriage, then it can define almost any other aspect of your life. That is why the government shouldn't be allowed to define any union between consenting adults, even if it is following the will of the majority.

There was another instance where people tried to use democracy to impose their will on others. In Riviera Beach, Florida, the people voted for a ban on saggy pants. This law would be tested when a seventeen-year-old kid was jailed overnight for wearing jeans that exposed the top of his underwear. This prompted a Circuit Judge to overturn the law. Many people in the town were outraged by the judge's decision. I would hate to be the one to break it to these people, but the judge was right. It was a bad law.

I don't like saggy pants myself. I hated that style even when it was considered fashionable back when I was in high school. I always hoped that style would die out. To my dismay, there are people who still like to wear saggy pants. There is one thing I hate more then saggy pants. It is the idea of any government telling me what I can or can't wear. What else would they ban? Piercings? Tattoos? Thong underwear? Miniskirts? Cleavage shirts? I wouldn't be surprised if the prudish people of Riviera Beach decided to ban the wearing of white after Labor Day. While they are at it, why don't they create a special task force and call it the "Fashion Police?" One of the main problems of this law is that it falls under the same flawed logic as speech codes on college campuses. They are based on the premise that people have a right not to be offended. I hate to be the one to burst their bubble, but that right doesn't really exist.

I can't remember the last time that I wasn't offended. I get offended every time I see the Obama administration getting brown nosed by the mainstream media. I get offended whenever the TV networks pollute the airwaves with some lame reality show. I get offended every time I see a Will Ferrell movie on top at the box office. Most of all I get offended whenever I see some idiot wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. Every time I see this, I want to slap the fool over the head and ask him if he even knew who Che Guevara was. I am more offended by the notion that people are ignorant enough to walk around with the face of a mass murderer on their shirts, then I am of saggy jeans. As much as these things offend me, I still have to tolerate them. Like I have said before, part of living in a free society is tolerating the things that you don't like.

What people don't seem to understand is that our government was never meant to be a direct democracy. The founding fathers hated the idea of direct democracy because they knew that it could be used to oppress the minority. This can happen on any level of government. People seem to forget that Adolf Hitler was democratically elected. Venezuela's own little tyrant, Hugo Chavez was also brought to power through democracy. Without limitations, democracy can lead to oppression just as easy as any dictatorship.

Source: The Libertine Enterprise

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Anti-Defamation League Has Lost It's Way

An anonymous letter of July 16 [a reader's online comment printed in July 16 issue, click here for original] takes sharp issue with the opinions of UCSB Professor William Robinson regarding his comparison of Gaza to World War II's Warsaw, calling his comparison "malicious and deliberate slander," and regretting the failure of the university to "discipline" him.

Perhaps understandably, the mystery writer does not mention any of the following:

(1) Professor Robinson's written and (forwarded) photographic comparisons are part of an academic's usual and normal freedom to express an opinion as long as his students are free to disagree (they are);

(2) No student has the right not to be presented with opinions he finds objectionable;

(3) The attempt to "discipline" Professor Robinson was orchestrated by the Anti-Defamation League, partly in cooperation with university officials who had the responsibility to evaluate the charges against Robinson, but did not reveal the ADL connection;

(4) 100 UCSB professors and 20 department heads signed letters, and many UCSB students organized via a web site, all objecting to the charges against Robinson as an attack on academic freedom;

(5) UCSB Academic Senate Charges Officer Martin Sharlemann avoided the usual first step in such proceedings, i.e. having the two complaining students contact the Dean or Department Head to see if an informal resolution could be obtained. He also: violated the Faculty Code of Conduct by demanding Professor Robinson answer a set of general charges before the required convening of an Ad Hoc committee to authorize such action; refused repeated requests from Robinson to make these general charges - copied from the Faculty Code of Conduct - specific; then later, when he did make them specific, refused the professor's attempt to answer them, saying Robinson had had his "chance," thereby eliminating the professor's right to participate in the process in any meaningful way; violated the Faculty Code of Conduct by deleting one of the students' charges that could never have been sustained (antisemitism) and adding a charge ("coercion of conscience") the students did not make, thus acting as an agent for the complainants; and although having no authority to "investigate" anything, spied on distributed emails of the Sociology Department (to which Professor Robinson belongs) by subscribing to one of the departments listservs without revealing his own position as the charges officer.

(6) Professor Aaron Ettenberg, given a place on the Charges Advisory Committee which was convened to evaluate the complaints, violated the confidentiality provision of the Faculty Code of Conduct by discussing the matter with a person not authorized to participate, a Rabbi Gross-Schaefer, who then wrote letters to the Independent and the News-Press attacking Robinson; violated the conflict-of-interest provision of the Faculty Code of Conduct by not revealing his previous membership in Hillel, to which the ADL belonged.

Properly, the UCSB Academic Senate unanimously dismissed the students' frivolous complaints. Properly, it has voted to investigate possible improprieties by some of its members who were active in this matter.

In my opinion, shame accrues to the corrupt behavior of Professors Sharlemann and Ettenberg; to the Anti-Defamation League, once devoted to vigorous defense of persecuted persons, now devoted to scurrilous smear-mongering and attempts to silence those (especially elected officials and teachers) who oppose the despotic policies of the state of Israel; and to University of California Chancellor Henry Yang, whose failure immediately to provide Professor Robinson with an apology reeks of cowardice. William Smithers

Source: The Santa Barbara Independent

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kenny's sideshow: Israel's Fifth Column: The People in Between

kenny's sideshow: Israel's Fifth Column: The People in Between

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Is history starting to repeat itself? Are we not learning from the mistakes of the past?
Almost 55 years ago, the following took place….(from Wikipedia)
On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks, age 42, refused to obey bus driver James Blake’s order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Her action was not the first of its kind: Irene Morgan, in 1946, and Sarah Louise Keys, in 1955, had won rulings before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Interstate Commerce Commission respectively in the area of interstate bus travel. Nine months before Parks refused to give up her seat, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to move from her seat on the same bus system. But unlike these previous individual actions of civil disobedience, Parks’s action sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

A 23-year-old woman of Ethiopian descent claimed that the driver of an Egged No. 5 bus in Rishon Lezion refused to allow her to board his bus because of the color of her skin.

Speaking to Ynet, Yedno Verka recounted last Wednesday's incident: "As I prepared board the bus, the driver suddenly shut the door. I banged on the glass, but he ignored me. Then a young woman came running towards the bus, and he opened the door for her. I stayed close to her and boarded the bus.

"When the driver saw me he said, 'what, don’t you understand that I don't allow Kushim (derogatory term for black people) on board? Are you trying to smash my door in? Were there buses in Ethiopia? Why don't you walk? In Ethiopia you didn't even have shoes and here you do, so why don’t you walk?' I was shaking all over; I couldn't even speak," she said.

At this point Verka handed the driver the bus fair, but, according to her, he refused to accept it and said, "Kushit hold on, what's your hurry? Since you (Ethiopians) made aliyah you've become arrogant."

Verka said she responded by saying, "You can't treat me this way. Treat your mother this way."

At this point, she said, "He grabbed my skirt and yelled: 'You don’t talk like that about my mother. A Kushit will not talk about my mother like that.' I was afraid he was going to hit me, and explained that I did not curse his mother. But he continued: 'Go back to Ethiopia! You are not even Jews; who brought you all here anyway? You're ruining our country; you are a stupid people.'

Only then did the other passengers intervene and call the driver out for his racist behavior, said the woman, adding that the driver continued his tirade even after she made her way to the back of the bus.

"I told myself that I would not cry in front of him. As we approached the college I rang the bell and got off. I couldn't hold it in anymore and began to weep.

"It was such a humiliating experience, and what scares me most is the thought that he'll continue to act this way. I would sue him had jotted down the names and numbers of some of the passengers, but I didn’t even think about it," said Verka.

Knesset Member Shlomo Molla (Kadima) turned to Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), who in turn instructed his office to demand that the Egged bus company investigate the incident and see to it that the driver is punished if it is found that he acted inappropriately.

Egged said in response that it "condemns any expression of racism and services all people, regardless of race, gender and creed. The details of the incident have been forwarded to Egged's control committee for an in-depth investigation. Should the allegations prove true, Egged will act accordingly."

Source: YNET News
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Fake Jewish tolerance vs. vile Israeli aggression

How many times have we heard about Islam, Muslims and Arabs being slammed for being reactionary on Gay Rights? How many times have we seen political lobbies mobilizing to address Gay Rights issues against Muslim and Arab states and institutions? Interestingly enough, it is actually in the Jewish state where Gays are murdered on the street.

Two days ago in Tel Aviv, the Jewish metropolis that insists upon regarding itself as an international Gay capital proved to be a pretty dangerous place for people who happen to be homosexuals.

In fact, the attack on the Gay community in Tel Aviv should not take us by surprise. The Jewish state, in spite of its relentless effort to prove otherwise, is one of the least tolerant places on this planet. It is fuelled by hatred towards others and Otherness. Its politicians are defined particularly by their level of cruelty towards Palestinians.

As much as the Israelis do love to see themselves as being ‘tolerant and liberal,’ they hate their neighbors and would implement the most murderous lethal tactics against them. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t take us by a complete surprise that in a country that pours white phosphorous on civilians and starves millions behind barbed wire, some people develop deadly inclinations.

The Jewish state is founded on negation. It hates everything that fails to be Jewish. It hates Arabs, it hates the Palestinians, it hates the Goyim, it hates criticism, it hates Islam, it hates the pope, it hates Christianity. You name it, they hate it. As it happens, all it takes to hate Gays is for someone out there to think that Gay is not Jewish enough. And, in fact, it isn’t. It is as non-Jewish as much as democracy and tolerance are totally foreign to the spirit of Jewishness.

A list of prominent Israeli leaders rushed yesterday to promote the fake notion of Jewish tolerance. Amongst them was opposition leader Tzipi Livni who just eight month ago flattened Gaza directly over its inhabitants. “We need to give strength to the child who comes to his parents and says: ‘I am gay,’ or ‘I am a lesbian;’ said Livni. Seemingly, just eight months ago, the same Livni didn’t care much about the hundreds of children that were slaughtered in a criminal war she was enthusiastically pushing for. She appeared to not care much about the thousands of kids who were severely injured and broken for life.

Another Israeli prominent War Criminal, the man who introduced WMD to the region is no other than President Shimon Peres. “The shocking murder in Tel Aviv last night,” he said, “is the kind of murder that an enlightened and cultured people cannot accept.” The man who prides himself as an enlightened and cultured Jewish ambassador is actually personally responsible for more Palestinian death and carnage than any other living politician.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the least tolerant leaders ever also had something to say about tolerance: “We are a democratic and tolerant country and we must respect every person as he is.” I can only wish the Israeli PM would find the courage to listen to his own words next time he evicts Palestinians from their soil and dwellings.

This is really the crux of the matter. Israel is only tolerant symbolically. It is engaged solely in pseudo manifestations of liberalism, it is a ‘kind of’ a democracy, it is ‘kind of’ an open society, it is ‘kind of’ a broadminded society. The more it praises itself for being tolerant and liberal, the more aggression is brewing within. The more open it pretends to be, the more murderous it becomes for real.

This may explain how it is that in such a ‘tolerant society,’ 94 percent of the population supported the slaughter of the Palestinians in the last Israeli campaign in Gaza. This may explain also how it is that in a ‘tolerant society,’ sightseers flocked to the Gaza border to watch their army spreading death en masse.

The repellent duality between fake ‘tolerance’ and vile aggression is the outcome of an unauthentic Jewish fictitious national fantasy. A fantasy that is grounded in mimicking some Western ideologies that are totally foreign to Jewish ideology (religious and secular). Tolerance, democracy and liberalism are foreign to Jewish political precepts which are all racially orientated and supremacist to the bone.

For those who cannot see it yet, Zionist aggression is turning against itself. Israel is imploding.

Source: Online Journal

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Bush tortured children, and America yawns

At an Amnesty International conference a few years ago, I had the honor of attending a talk by Clive Stafford Smith, a British attorney who represents some of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Smith shared some alarming details about the abuse that his clients received. Perhaps most shocking was Smith’s description of cigarette burns and other scars that covered the body of a teenage prisoner. This boy had been taken into custody when he was only 14 years old.

And this kid is allegedly not the only child who has been forced to experience the nightmare that is Gitmo.

In a forthcoming book, Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror, which was recently excerpted at, author Henry A. Giroux describes some of these cases in horrifying detail. He condemns the culture of cruelty in which this kind of thing is even possible, and the “resounding silence” on the part of the media, which keeps it off the public radar.

But, even if the corporate media did find the courage to cover these atrocities, would it make a difference?

It seems as though many Americans have become so desensitized by the right-wing spin machine that they see all Muslims as the enemy, in an overly simplistic “us vs. them” kind of mindset.

Influenced by haters like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity, they think every Middle Eastern person looks suspicious.

Influenced by those right-wing extremists, they see every Muslim as a jihadist who wants to finish the job that the alleged 9/11 hijackers started.

And, influenced by those right-wing extremists, they regard the perceived “enemy” as less than human. Like the “gooks” of World War II and Vietnam, the “towelheads” and “hajis” of Iraq and Afghanistan are painted with one big broad brush. Even the children. How else could they justify the killing and maiming of so many innocent civilian men, women, and children, and the torture of any human being, let alone a child?

This is what we have become, seduced by the misguided emotional appeasement of hate.

We attacked an unarmed nation that posed no threat to us or to its neighbors. Then we tortured human beings. We abused children. And we killed the innocent. All paid for with our tax dollars.

America has lost its conscience.

If we are ever to regain a moral standing in this world, Americans need to wake up and see these atrocities for what they truly are: War crimes, and crimes against humanity

And, if we are ever to regain a moral standing in this world, those who committed these crimes -- and those who authorized them -- must be held accountable.

And they must be held up as an example of a foreign policy gone terribly wrong, a foreign policy gone evil.

Because what is more evil than these things that have been done in our name in the past eight years?

There is no excuse.

No excuse at all.

Source: Online Journal

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President Barack Obama arrives at a town hall meeting on health insurance reform at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Tuesday. (J

Virulent meetings over healthcare reform lead some in Congress – especially Democrats – to seek less public ways to engage voters.

For a member of Congress, the only thing worse than a perp walk is a deer-in-the-headlights moment, as when attacked at a public meeting.

Given the virulence lawmakers have encountered lately at some town-hall-style meetings about health reform legislation, those on both sides of the aisle – Democrats especially – are devising new strategies for engaging voters. Even members who have yet to face confrontational protesters have seen video clips of colleagues who have, and they are adapting.

As a result, the face-to-face town meeting, once a staple of the August congressional recess, is on the outs. In its place is a new array of “virtual” meetings – free of protest signs, shouting, bad media moments, and (real or suspected) “outside agitators.”

These new platforms range from mass conference calls, or I-town hall meetings, to interactive Internet sites where voters register concerns and members, in their own time, respond.

A shift to ‘virtual’ meetings

Sen. Herb Kohl (D) of Wisconsin, who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging, set up a webcast on YouTube Thursday to explain to voters – no questions asked – the state of play on healthcare, especially the facts that there is yet no healthcare bill and that “no decisions have been made.”

Senator Kohl has scheduled healthcare-related events throughout the recess, but no rallies or town halls.

“People are calling by the hundreds every day. He knows how they are feeling on healthcare,” says Ashley Glacel, a spokeswoman for the Committee on Aging.

“But you can see from the other town halls,” she added, “that a lot of them don’t allow for constructive conversation. So, we’re trying to see how that flow of information and opinions can take place without all the chaos.”

Likewise for Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan. He “is holding a series of intense policy discussions over the August break with policy experts, healthcare providers, business leaders, benefits administrators and others,” says spokeswoman Tara Andringa. “He always welcomes input from Michiganders by e-mail or phone on any topic.”

A GOP tactic, too

Freshman Sen. Jim Risch (R) of Idaho is also punting on big public town hall meetings this August. Instead, he plans a series of I-town hall meetings, along the lines pioneered by Idaho’s senior Sen. Mike Crapo (R) in 2007. It’s a statewide conference call that contacts voters first with an invitation to join the call, and again when the call begins. He is also planning to put up a poll on his Senate website to solicit voter opinion once a Senate bill takes shape.

He’s not worried about confrontational protesters though.

“The vast majority of Idahoans are opposed to a government-sponsored healthcare plan, and they have been calling, writing and e-mailing their opposition,” especially to the idea of a government-run insurance option, says Brad Hoaglun, senior policy advisor for Senator Risch. “So, holding a town hall where a large majority of people agree on the major issue isn’t needed.”

For now, Sen. Mark Warner (D) of Virginia is postponing an in-the-flesh town hall on healthcare in favor of answering questions on multiple platforms – telephone town halls, a rolling poll, and video responses on his Senate website and through Twitter. On July 14, he held a telephone town hall with some 1,600 Virginians.

“We will do traditional town hall meetings, but hopefully the burner will be turned down,” says spokesman Kevin Hall, referring to disruptions in public meetings of other members of Congress. “In the meanwhile, we will use all the options we have.”

Senator Warner is also using his website and Google’s Moderator to allow people to submit questions that he will begin answering in video format as early as this week. In the past 60 days, Warner’s office reports some 60,000 contacts on healthcare. Nearly 500 questions on healthcare have been submitted.

Bawk, bawk, bawk?

Some critics say lawmakers who don’t meet voters in town hall-style settings are avoiding accountability. In a slam pegged to President Obama’s town hall meeting in Portsmouth, N.H., Tuesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) criticized Granite State Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) for avoiding similar venues.

“As the president touts his flawed healthcare agenda today, constituents should be wondering why their representative has yet to hold a town hall for them,” said Ken Spain, communications director for the NRCC, the House GOP campaign arm.

“Carol Shea-Porter had no problem with town halls when she was crashing them during her first campaign for Congress, but her noticeable lack of recent public appearances speaks volumes about the plummeting approval of her party’s government takeover of healthcare,” he added in a statement.

A spokesman for the freshman lawmaker says she held a town meeting most recently in March and is scheduling a “tele-town hall” this month. [Editor’s note: Shea-Porter’s staff amended the date of her most recent town hall after this story was published.]

“We’ll call about 90,000 constituents and they can decide to opt it,” says Jamike Radice. “She has done it before, because it reaches such a big audience, including seniors and parents with small children.”

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009



Condemnations are rolling in concerning the illegal evictions of Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem. Consensus seems to be that these actions ‘were totally unacceptable’
Slowly but surely the world seems to be waking up to to the reality of the ugliness and danger of zionism. Israel has literally gotten away with worse crimes since its inception as a state, most recently in Gaza earlier this year. The silence from the world is still deafening regarding the war crimes committed there.
Hopefully, these condemnations will be followed up by actions and not just filed away in the ‘circular file’ as too often happens. It is time for the world to finally put a stop to the destruction of the Palestinian people. It won’t happen on its own.
Here are reports from various news agencies…. they are followed by a report on the actual situation….
From Maan News Agency… The EU’s Swedish Presidency condemned on Monday Israel’s expulsion of two Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes the previous day as “illegal” and “unacceptable.”The Presidency “recalls that house demolitions, evictions and settlement activities in East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.”
From HaAretzThe United States and the United Nations sharply condemned the eviction of two Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and their replacement with Jewish families on Sunday.
From BBC News… “I deplore today’s totally unacceptable actions by Israel,” the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert H Serry said. “These actions are contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Conventions related to occupied territory.
Even Hillary Clinton, in what appeared to be a rare sober moment commented… U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday criticized Israel for the eviction two Palestinian families from an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem, calling the move “deeply regrettable”.
According to a CNN report … Israel moved to defend itself in the face of international criticism Monday over its eviction of dozens of Palestinian families from a neighborhood of Jerusalem they have lived in for generations.
Left-wing Israeli activists protest against the eviction of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem.

Left-wing Israeli activists protest against the eviction of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem.

“I think a lot of the criticism is simply not fair,” said Mark Regev, a government spokesman, who described the dispute as a legal one between two private parties over who had title to a property in East Jerusalem.

In the court action, a settler group sued claiming the Palestinians had violated an agreement under which they were allowed to live in the houses.

“As you know, the Israeli court system is independent and professional,” Regev said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision that paved the way for the evictions. “Many times it goes on the Palestinian side if they think that’s where the justice is and, in this case, they ruled in favor of the Jewish side.”


Ibn Ezra posted the following….

Palestinians out, Jews in

They are now living on the streets, homeless. Just a week ago they were living inside their home and now there are Jewish settlers inside, exhibiting not the least bit of remorse for the homeless family just outside. The Hanoun family’s furniture was seized by Israeli forces and they are now responsible for paying the storage and mover fees. Meanwhile, the Jewish settlers are living with round-the-clock security, not allowing anyone near. At one house, the police actually had the nerve to tell us not to film too close, as we should respect the privacy of the new residents.

This is just one of several plans by various real estate groups such as Nahalat Shimon International and American businessmen such as Irving Moskowitz, to populate the areas surrounding the Old City with Jewish strongholds that sever Palestinian territorial contiguity in East Jerusalem. This prejudices any final resolution in which East Jerusalem would be the Palestinian capital. It is also in clear breach of Israel’s commitment under the Road Map. But these operations are backed by the Israel Lands Administration, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli government, who are all working together to undermine any possibility for a two-state solution and are blatantly infringing on the basic human rights of the residents of what they deem to be the “united Jerusalem.”

Source: Dessert Peace

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The Fading American Dream: The Constitution Circumvented: There is no First Amendment in America: no right to free speech, no right to peaceably assemble

The Fading American Dream: The Constitution Circumvented: There is no First Amendment in America: no right to free speech, no right to peaceably assemble: "There is no First Amendment in America: no right to free speech, no right to peaceably assemble

Well, you want free speech? Go home, go into your closet, shut the door, and talk about whatever you want to! That is about the only place you will get away with it anymore.

WE DO NOT EVEN HAVE A RIGHT TO PEACEABLY ASSEMBLE AND SPEAK FREELY IN OUR NATION'S CAPITOL ANYMORE! Do you get it? How can we reign in our government when they gag us at their capital city limits?

This is outrageous! Why doesn't the American public wake up and realize they have lost their Constitution, their Bill of Rights, and the very country they THINK they live in?

Once again, let me inform you. YOU do NOT have free speech. YOU do NOT have the right to peaceably assemble. PERIOD.

Those rights have been rescinded, via some nonsense federal regulation that has somehow trumped the Constitution, just like every other piece of garbage, unAmerican and unConstitutional legislation that comes out of our government.

Brace for impact..."

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Sweden refuses assistance in priest's Holocaust denial inquiry

Regensburg,Germany - Sweden has refused to summon a journalist for questioning in a possible German prosecution of Richard Williamson, the fundamentalist Catholic clergyman who caused a furor by questioning the scale of the Holocaust. Prosecutors in the German city of Regensburg admitted Thursday the inquiry was effectively stalled. Williamson, a British leader of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), gave an interview last year to a Swedish TV journalist near the German city, where the SSPX, an advocate of old-style Catholicism, has a seminary. A re-broadcast of the interview this year, just after Pope Benedict XVI ended the excommunication of Williamson and three other SSPX leaders, triggered a storm worldwide. Regensburg prosecutors opened an inquiry to see if he could be charged with Holocaust denial, which is a crime under German law. They asked their Swedish counterparts to summon the journalist for questioning. But Sweden replied there was no legal basis to interrogate the journalist as requested. Prosecutor Guenther Ruckdaeschel said this was apparently because of journalistic privilege in Sweden, although he said, from a German point of view, the argument made no sense. "Legally, we can't see why. It wouldn't be any problem here to question a journalist," he said. "If we don't get anything from Sweden, we'll just have to see how we can get on without this testimony."Population studies show that 5 million to 6 million European Jews were killed by all causes,including death camps, starvation, disease and battle, during the Nazi period. In the interview, Williamson, 69, appeared to question that, contending there was no historical evidence of Nazi gas chambers and claiming "only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews" had been killed in concentration camps. Through his lawyer, he has told the German prosecutors he was assured his remarks were for broadcast in Sweden only, where there is no law against doubting the Holocaust.

Source: Earth Times

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Rabbi Described as `Thug’ Arrested as Human Organ Dealer

The Brooklyn man arrested for organ trafficking in connection with a massive federal corruption and money laundering sting is described a "thug" who reportedly pulled a gun on kidney "donors" who were getting cold feet, according to a Daily News report Friday.

Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum allegedly bought kidneys from impoverished people overseas for $10,000 and turned them around for $160,000 in the U.S., according to the newspaper. His operation was first brought to the attention of the FBI seven years ago by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, a University of California, Berkeley anthropologist who studied human organ trafficking.

She described Rosenbaum to the Daily News as "the main U.S. broker for an international trafficking network." One of her sources, a man who worked with Rosenbaum, said he would pull a pistol on nervous kidney sellers, telling them "You're here. A deal is a deal. Now, you'll give us a kidney or you'll never go home."

Rosenbaum became part of the federal corruption probe, which netted more than 40 people, including rabbis and elected officeholders from New Jersey and New York, after an FBI informant crossed paths with him and learned of his organ trafficking operation.

The informant introduced Rosenbaum to an undercover agent whose uncle supposedly needed a kidney transplant. According to the report, Rosenbaum described himself as a "matchmaker" who pulled off "quite a lot" of transactions.

The scope of the probe extends well beyond Rosenbaum's trafficking operation, though. Tens of millions of dollars were allegedly laundered through religious charities and bribes were allegedly passed to New Jersey politicians, including three mayors, for shady development deals.

Local officials decried the 44 arrests Thursday as a remarkable number even for New Jersey, where more than 130 public officials have pleaded guilty or have been convicted of corruption since 2001.

"New Jersey's corruption problem is one of the worst, if not the worst, in the nation," said Ed Kahrer, who heads the FBI's white-collar and public corruption division. "Corruption is a cancer that is destroying the core values of this state."

Gov. Jon Corzine said: "The scale of corruption we're seeing as this unfolds is simply outrageous and cannot be tolerated."

The arrests were headline news in Israel on Friday morning, with the front pages of all three of the country's mass-circulation dailies featuring pictures of bearded ultra-Orthodox Jews being led away by law enforcement officials.

Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for Israel's national police force, said Friday that Israeli police were not involved in the investigation. He would not comment further.

Federal prosecutors in the U.S. said the investigation focused on a money laundering network that operated between Brooklyn, N.Y.; Deal, N.J.; and Israel. The network is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars through Jewish charities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.

Prosecutors then used the informant in that investigation to help them go after corrupt politicians. The informant - a real estate developer charged with bank fraud three years ago - posed as a crooked businessman and paid a string of public officials tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to get approvals for buildings and other projects in New Jersey, authorities said.

Among the 44 people arrested were the mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus, Jersey City's deputy mayor, and two state assemblymen. A member of the governor's cabinet resigned after agents searched his home, though he was not arrested. All but one of the officeholders are Democrats.

Also, five rabbis from New York and New Jersey - two of whom lead congregations in Deal - were accused of laundering millions of dollars, some of it from the sale of counterfeit Gucci handbags and bankruptcy fraud, authorities said.

Others arrested included building and fire inspectors, city planning officials and utilities officials, all of them accused of using their positions to further the corruption.

The politicians arrested were not accused of any involvement in the money laundering or the trafficking in human organs and counterfeit handbags.

Hours after FBI agents seized documents from his home and office, New Jersey Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria resigned. Federal officials would not say whether he would be charged. Doria did not return calls for comment.

Authorities did not identify the informant, described in court papers as a person "charged in a federal criminal complaint with bank fraud in or about May 2006." But the date matches up with an investigation that led to charges against Solomon Dwek, the son of a Deal rabbi.

The younger Dwek was charged at the time in connection with a bounced $25 million check he deposited in a bank's drive-through window. He has denied the charges. Dwek's lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

Most of the defendants facing corruption charges were released on bail. The money laundering defendants faced bail between $300,000 and $3 million, and most were ordered to submit to electronic monitoring.

Among those ensnared by the informant was Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, prosecutors said. The 32-year-old Cammarano, who won a runoff election last month, was accused of accepting money from the developer at a Hoboken diner.

"There's the people who were with us, and that's you guys," the complaint quotes Cammarano saying. "There's the people who climbed on board in the runoff. They can get in line. ... And then there are the people who were against us the whole way. ... They get ground into powder."

Cammarano was accused of accepting $25,000 in cash bribes. His attorney Joseph Hayden said his client is "innocent of these charges. He intends to fight them with all his strength until he proves his innocence."
Source: CBS News
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Obama, Netanyahu and the Settlements


First, an honest disclosure: I loved the Shepherd hotel very much.

In the first years after the Six-Day War, I was a frequent guest there. My work in the Knesset demanded that I stay in Jerusalem at least two nights every week, and after the war I switched from the hotels of West Jerusalem to those in the Eastern part of the city. My favorite was the Shepherd. I felt at home there.

The charm of the place lay in its special atmosphere. It is located in the middle of that ancient Arab town which itself aroused my intense curiosity. Its rooms have high ceilings and old furniture, and it was run by remarkable people - two elderly Arab ladies who were educated in Beirut and steeped in Palestinian-Lebanese culture.

The area surrounding the hotel is the neighborhood of the al-Husseini clan. The holdings of this vast extended family, with more than 5000 members, comprise the greater part of the Sheikh Jarrah quarter, which also includes the legendary Orient House.

The al-Husseini family is one of the handful of aristocratic Jerusalemite families, and perhaps the most respected one (its members certainly think so). For centuries the family has filled at least one of the three most important positions in the town: those of Grand Mufti, mayor and the notable in charge of the Islamic shrines. Shepherd was built by Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti who led the Arab Rebellion in the 1930s and became the Arab the Hebrew community most loved to hate.

I spent hours in conversation with the two ladies, learnt a lot from them and grew very attached to the place. It was a sad day for me when it was closed.

I don’t know how this property fell into the hands of the American millionaire, the Bingo king whose declared intention is to set up Jewish settlements all over the Arab town. Now he wants to build a housing project in the grounds of the Shepherd.

But that’s enough of him. My business is with Binyamin Netanyahu.

* * *

NETANYAHU’S AIM is to Judaize Jerusalem. This week he boasted that in his last term in office, ten years ago, he had set up the fortified Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa.

To Har Homa – whose real name is Jebel Abu Ghneim, Mountain of the Father of Sheep – I also have a sentimental attachment. I spent many days and nights in the struggle to prevent the creation of the monstrous housing project that looms there now.

The leader in this struggle was another Husseini – the unforgettable Feisal. I held him in high esteem. I don’t hesitate to say that I loved him. He was a nobleman in the real sense of the word: a scion of nobility but modest in his manners, generous and approachable, a man of peace but fearless in his confrontations with the occupation troops, a real Palestinian patriot, moderate in his opinions, wise and courageous. He was the son of Abd-al-Kader al-Husseini, the leader of the Arab fighters in the Jerusalem district in the 1948 war, who was killed in the battle for the “Castel” near the city. I had no part in that battle, but I passed by a few hours later in a relief convoy for the besieged Jewish part of Jerusalem. Like most of my comrades, I respected him as an honorable enemy.

The site of Har Homa, for those who have already forgotten, used to be a unique place of beauty between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, a rounded hill covered with a dense wood. The destroyers of Jerusalem – that brutal coalition of real estate sharks, fanatical Zionists, American millionaires and religious mystics – had decided to eliminate that last spot of beauty in order to build a dense, fortified and particularly ugly Jewish settlement. Under the leadership of Feisal and Ta’amri, the former husband of a Jordanian princess, a tent camp was set up. When the bulldozers started to cut down the trees and level the top of the hill, we held dozens of demonstrations and vigils. In one of them I suffered a hemorrhage and would have ended my life there and then, if a Palestinian ambulance had not succeeded in reaching me in that road-less stone desert and got me to the hospital in time. So I have a sentimental attachment to the place.

* * *

THE SHEPHERD provocation is a part of the tireless effort to “Judaize” Jerusalem. In simple words: to carry out ethnic cleansing. This campaign has been going on for 42 years already, from the first day of the occupation of East Jerusalem, but the timing of this particular operation results from tactical considerations.

Netanyahu is facing heavy American pressure to freeze the settlements in the West Bank. He is quite unable to do so, as long as he remains at the head of the coalition he himself chose, which consists of Rightists, religious zealots, settlers and outright fascists. He has offered several “compromises”, all based on various fraudulent ploys, but the Americans have learnt the lessons of the past and did not fall into any of his traps.

His Siamese twin, Ehud Barak, is busy leaking to the media “news” about a grandiose operation: at any moment, with one stroke, like Alexander and the Gordian knot, the dozens of settlement “outposts” that have been set up since 2001 with secret government support will be uprooted. But except for the media people themselves, hardly anyone believes that this will really happen. Certainly not the settlers, judging by their knowing smiles.

So what to do in order to avoid having to dismantle the outposts? Netanyahu, the King of Spin, has a solution: a new provocation to draw attention away from the last one. The Shepherd hotel is now diverting the world’s attention away from the hills of “Judea and Samaria”. When you have a toothache, you forget about your bellyache.

What, he says, the Goyim want to stop us building in Jerusalem, our Holy City?! Our eternal capital, which has been reunited for all eternity?! What Chutzpah! Will they prohibit Jews from building in New York?! Will they forbid Englishmen to build in London?!

Netanyahu really hit his stride when he declared that any Arab can live in West Jerusalem, so why should a Jew not build a home in East Jerusalem?

Clear and to the point – and absolutely false. When Netanyahu says things like that, it is hard to know whether he is spreading lies consciously (though they can easily be exposed), or if he believes his falsehoods himself. Thus, for example, he claimed to remember the British soldiers in front of his home when he was a child – when the last British soldier left the country a year before he was born.

The truth is that with extremely rare exceptions, no Arab can acquire an apartment in West Jerusalem, not to mention building a house there – though large sections of the Western part of the city consist of former Arab neighborhoods, whose inhabitants fled or were driven out during the 1948 war. The former owners of the houses in these quarters (including Talbiya, Katamon, Dir Yassin), who found refuge in East Jerusalem, were not allowed to return to their homes when Jerusalem was “united” in 1967, neither were they paid compensation (as I proposed in the Knesset).

But Netanyahu does not care so much whether people believe him or not. This week, like every other week since he returned to power, he was fully occupied with survival. In order to survive, the coalition must remain intact. To achieve this, he must show that he does not “fold” under American pressure. No better place to prove this than Jerusalem.

About Jerusalem, as official spokesmen never tire of telling us, about Jerusalem there is a national consensus. From wall to wall. From left to extreme right.

However, this myth is long dead. No such consensus exists. Right now, most Israelis are ready to return the Arab quarters of East Jerusalem to Palestinian rule in return for real peace. I know of no Jewish mother who is ready to sacrifice her son in a war for the Shepherd hotel.

* * *

I BEG to contradict yet another myth that is being propagated relentlessly by our media: that a national consensus against President Obama is forming.

As we say in classical Hebrew: No bears and no forest. Or more colloquially: No birds and no shoes.

Many Israelis, very many, hope that Barack Obama will do for them what seems impossible without him: bring them peace. They have despaired of our political system, of both the coalition and the opposition, of both Right and Left. They are convinced that only an outside force can realize this hope.

If indeed Obama does clash with Netanyahu over his refusal to freeze the settlements in the West Bank and his insistence on continuing to build in East Jerusalem, it is for Obama’s victory that many Israelis will be praying. They know that in this battle, it is not Netanyahu but Obama who represents the true interests of Israel.

The question is whether Obama has the power to follow through, as no preceding president since Dwight Eisenhower has done.

Netanyahu does not believe so. His American partners – the defeated Republicans, the Neocons who are now in hiding, the almost-silent Evangelical preachers – this defeated camp is hoping to recover its fortunes by encouraging the Jewish lobby and the Israeli government to provoke Obama. Netanyahu, who has mobilized Congress against the White House in the past, believes that he can do it once again.

Our newspapers are gleefully reporting, with charts and graphs to bear them out, that Obama’s standing in America is sinking. It is not hard to divine that most of this information emanates from Avigdor Lieberman’s Foreign Office, the same source that is feeding the American media with reports of the growing opposition of the Israeli public against Obama. Soon the American media will show Israeli protesters waving posters with Obama in SS uniform, as happened with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin before him.

* * *

The battle is not about 20 outposts, nor about 20 apartments in the grounds of the Shepherd hotel. Every house in every West Bank settlement serves one supreme purpose: to destroy any possibility for peace. Every Israeli house in East Jerusalem serves the same sublime aim. The opponents of peace know that no Arab leader will ever sign a peace agreement that does not designate East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and no Arab leader will ever sign a peace agreement that does not assign all of the West Bank to the State of Palestine.

A historic responsibility rests on the shoulders of Barack Obama: not to fold, not to give in, not to “compromise”. To insist on the total freeze of the settlements, as a first and necessary step towards peace. For his sake, and for ours too.

As an Israeli, I feel like calling out to him: Yes, You Can!

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Source: Counterpunch

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