Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Unintended Consequences: Beware the Hate Crimes Bill!


A statute’s words do not tell how the law will be interpreted and applied.

All laws are expansively interpreted. For example:

The Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was directed at drug lords. Nothing in the law says anything about divorce; yet it soon was applied in divorce cases.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act explicitly bans racial quotas and defines racial discrimination as an intentional act. Yet, quotas were imposed by the civil rights bureaucracy on the basis of the 1964 Act, and intent was replaced by statistical disparity.

The Clean Water Act makes no reference to wetlands and conveys no powers to the executive branch to create wetlands regulations. Yet, for example, Ocie and Carey Mills, who had a valid Florida state permit to build a house, were imprisoned by federal bureaucrats, who claimed jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The bureaucrats ruled that the clean dirt used to level the building lot constituted discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters of the U.S. No navigable waters were involved, and according to the state of Florida, no wetlands.

The Exxon Valdez accident was criminalized. An unintentional oil spill became the intentional discharge of pollutants without a license, and the bird kill became killing migratory birds without a license. An accident was prosecuted as crimes of intent.

Well informed attorneys can provide many examples. Others are documented in The Tyranny of Good Intentions. Awareness of what can be pulled out of even clearly written laws is essential to the preservation of civil liberty.

With this in mind, consider the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Opponents criticize the bill for adding a second punishment to existing punishments for acts of violence. Assault, murder, rape are crimes regardless of motivation. The penalties are sufficient, or can be made so, without applying a new crime of motivation that creates specially protected classes, such as homosexuals and minorities. To commit a violent act against a member of a specially protected class will carry a heavier punishment.

How will a court know whether a violent act was committed because of hatred or because of sexual lust or the need for money? As case law is made, the likely direction will be to eliminate intent. The issue will be resolved by whether the attacked person is a member of a protected class. The mugger who beats as well as robs a victim who turns out to be homosexual or Jewish will have committed a hate crime.

It will prove difficult to separate speaking against members of protected classes, or criticizing their practices, from hate. The two things are easily conflated. Once enacted, hate crimes will become independent of specific violent acts. An eventual likely outcome will be that speaking against members of specially protected classes will itself become a violent act of inciting violence.

Since the passage of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act in 2004, the US Department of State is required to monitor anti-semitism world wide. The State Department is not required to monitor anti-Americanism or sentiments against Christians, Muslims or Arabs. Thus, the act created a specially protected class worthy of careful monitoring by the US Department of State of negative sentiments expressed against Jews.

In order to monitor anti-semitism, the term must be defined. The definition is subjective and will be widely, rather than narrowly, interpreted. The State Department has come up with its attempt. The State Department’s approach could include any truthful statements about Israel and its behavior toward the Palestinians that the Israeli government or AIPAC or the Anti-Defamation League would deny or contest.

Anti-semitic speech can be interpreted as inciting hatred. Inciting hatred can be interpreted to be a violent act. “Excessive” criticism of Israel is a subjective, undefinable concept that can be used to determine anti-semitic speech. It is easy to conflate “excessive” with “strong.” Thus, demands that Israel be held accountable for war crimes committed in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, or elsewhere become acts of the hate crime of anti-semitism.

Source: Counter Punch


How can we still be arguing over "hate crime" laws? Is there not a Constitution on which this country runs that claims equal treatment under the law for one and all? Unfortunately, over the years, under the influence of special interest groups, one municipality and state after another has enacted some form of law that gives greater legal protection only to certain victims, based on their race, gender, sexual proclivities, etc.

Over most of this time, with a few exceptions, one heard hardly a peep in protest against the injustice of these biased laws from the "conservative" evangelical community. I guess the activists among them were too occupied with their futile endeavors to rid the nation of Roe v. Wade, which kept them too busy to think of other matters. Now, however, when it appears that a federal hate crime statute is likely to pass in Congress – one that adds homosexuals to the special status categories of aggrieved groups, the right wing evangelicals are mobilized as never before.

Long before this homosexual dimension presented itself, it was clear to anyone who cared about traditional American principles that so-called hate crime legislation is designed to punish thoughts. In reality, these are thought crime laws, and constitutionalists, among others, who cherish individual rights, have condemned such decrees for at least the past decade. [See here and here.]

What is now worrying the good "Christians" about this latest proposed federal bill is the prospect of the law being used here in the U.S. as it is in places like Canada and several European countries (especially those under the aegis of the EU). In those countries, the interpretation of "hate" has resulted in arrests and prosecutions of citizens, usually of a religious bent, who speak out against the normalization of homosexual behavior. To publicly criticize aspects of a "protected" group, such as blacks or Jews or Muslims or homosexuals, is considered promoting or inciting "hate" and is, therefore, a crime.

In the U.S., the typical "conservative" does not worry himself about the general un-American nature of such specially targeted laws; he is simply opposed to the addition of homosexuals to the list of aggrieved, possibly putting their behavior and practices beyond the bounds of public criticism.

Now, along comes the upfront homosexual activist and writer Andrew Sullivan expressing agreement with opponents of hate crime laws. In "Intent vs. Motivation," Sullivan makes the rational case that there is plenty of legislation on the books to punish all infractions of the law, and that these special laws now being proposed are not to protect citizens from crime. Instead, they are the brainchild of special interest groups that desire "boutique legislation to raise funds for their large staffs and luxurious buildings."

In this regard, Sullivan cites the Human Rights Campaign, the most prestigious of the organized crusaders for homosexual civil liberties. He could just as well have cited the NAACP and the B'nai Brith Anti-Defamation League, both of which hype racism and anti-Semitism in order to justify their endless fundraising drives. (The ADL's Abraham Foxman brags about the role he has played in crafting many of these "hate crime" statutes that now exist in various cities and states.) Claiming the need for special status is, as Sullivan says, "very, very powerful as a money-making tool."

In a related article, "Hate Crime Laws" (The Atlantic, 5/1/09), Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, "The thing that made me leery of Hate Crime Law was the infamous Fat Nick case," and goes on to describe how a teenager was sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison (instead of seven), because he used the expletive "Nigger" in an assault he believed to be justified. Syndicated columnist and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff was outraged by this sentence and wrote, "Those eight years were not because of Minucci's act, but for what he said." In other words, a thought crime. [See details of the Minucci case here.]

See also the separate cases of two young men hardly out of their teens sentenced to 10 years each for activities in which no one was physically harmed.

Source: Issues and Views

City requires Facebook passwords from job applicants

If you’re planning to apply for a job with the city of Bozeman, prepare to clean up your Facebook page.

As part of routine background checks, the city asks job applicants to provide their usernames and passwords for their social-networking sites. And it has been doing it for years, city officials said.

“Please list any and all, current personal or business Web sites, Web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo,, MySpace, etc.,” states a city waiver form applicants are asked to sign. Three lines are provided for applicants to list log-in information for each site.

City officials maintain the policy is necessary to ensure employees’ integrity and protect the public’s trust, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana says they may be crossing the line.

“I would guess that they’re on some shaky legal ground with this and we would certainly welcome (the opportunity) to look at something specific from somebody who’s impacted,” Executive Director Scott Crichton said Thursday.

He said Bozeman’s policy is unprecedented as far as he knows. ACLU’s legal counsel in Washington, D.C., had never heard of another city asking for log-in information for social networking sites as part of a job application.

“It’s like saying, ‘Let me look through your e-mails,’” Crichton said.

“The city certainly has access to publicly accessible information, but it gets pretty questionable when they start asking for password-protected things that are created to create privacy for communications between your friends and family,” he said. “That seems to be going too far.”

City Manager Chris Kukulski said the city checks the sites in order to ensure that employees who might be handling taxpayer money, working with children in recreation programs or entering residents’ homes as an emergency services worker are reputable and honest.

“It’s just one of the tools, like all the other tools, that we’ve used to do a thorough background check,” Kukulski said.

The city also checks credit reports, criminal history, references and past employment, among other things.

“We have to do some due diligence,” Kukulski said.

News of the city’s policy went ‘round the world via the Internet Thursday, triggering outrage and prompting comments by media outlets and bloggers. Celebrity gossip columnist Perez Hilton even weighed in on the news.

“Big Brother much?” he wrote. “We’ve heard of employers looking up potential employees on Facebook, but this seems a bit extreme.”

The Guardian, a major daily newspaper in London, named the city of Bozeman its “civil liberties villain of the week” on its Web site.

City Attorney Greg Sullivan said in light of concerns being expressed by the public, officials are looking at ways to alter the policy so that they might view an applicant’s online information without asking for log-in codes.

“We’ve already begun that discussion,” Sullivan said Thursday afternoon.

For example, city officials said they could ask applicants to log into their Facebook page and show it to a city official during the application process, or add the city as a “friend” so the officials could view the applicant’s page.

Bozeman has checked job applicants’ social networking sites for about three years, said Human Resources Director Pattie Berg. HR staff or supervisors in the department in which the job is sought are charged with reviewing the sites.

However, Bozeman’s city commissioners are exempt from the policy because elected officials aren’t subjected to the same background check as city employees, said Chuck Winn, assistant city manager.

City administrators first enacted the policy for police and fire department job applicants, said Mark Lachapelle, deputy chief of investigations for the Bozeman Police Department. The policy wasn’t presented to the Bozeman City Commission because the commission typically isn’t charged with setting personnel policies.

Winn said that in his former position as fire chief, he was sometimes responsible for looking at potential firefighters’ social-networking sites. He said he primarily looked for illegal activity.

“It’s not about taste or anything,” Winn said.

In at least one instance, an applicant’s social-networking site figured into disqualifying the person for a job, Winn and Lachapelle said. Lachapelle said information from the site was one of several components that contributed to the decision. He declined to discuss the case more specifically, citing privacy concerns.

Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle

The "Magic Bomb" Theory

This is a story about disappearing terrorists, nonexistent bags, and botched investigations, but most of all, this is a story about magic bombs.

It's Crime Scene Investigation 101. It's the basic law of physics. It's so elementary, my dear Watson, that even a dancer who was dazed from the shock of being seated directly over the spot where one of the bombs was planted in the London tube carriage two weeks ago could figure it out.

In a seemingly innocuous article in the British newspaper Cambridge Evening News, 32 year-old dance instructor Bruce Lait, in an interview from his hospital bed, said that "The policeman said 'mind that hole, that's where the bomb was'. The metal was pushed upwards as if the bomb was underneath the train. They seem to think the bomb was left in a bag, but I don't remember anybody being where the bomb was, or any bag."

Read that last part again, very slowly, and let it sink in. "The metal was pushed upwards as if the bomb was underneath the train." "They seem to think the bomb was left in a bag, but I don't remember anybody being where the bomb was, or any bag."

And the British authorities on the crime scene missed that, and just assumed that it was a carry-on bomb? C'mon, how many times have you seen that bad TV show where the eccentric detective figures out that the crime was an "inside job" because the glass was outside the broken window, not inside where it should have been. I repeat: Crime Scene Investigation 101. Basic physics.

While describing the scene, Lait said about he and his dance partner Crystal Main, "Out of that whole carriage, I think Crystal and I were the only ones who were not seriously injured, and I think we were nearest the bomb."

He went on to describe those sitting closest to him and Main when the bomb went off. "I remember an Asian guy, there was a white guy with tracksuit trousers and a baseball cap, and there were two old ladies sitting opposite me." He described the woman whose body was lying on top of him when he regained consciousness as a "middle-aged woman who had blonde curly hair, was dressed in black, and could have been a businesswoman."

Again, play close attention here. "We were nearest the bomb." An Asian guy, a white guy, two old ladies, and a blond businesswoman......and two dancers.

So.....if the bomb was in a bag carried on by the terrorist, how could two dancers be "nearest the bomb"? And why didn't the person who was the closest eyewitness see the bomber, or even ANYONE, sitting where the bomb went off? Why was the metal pushed upwards if the bomb was inside of the train carriage?

Let's put this in perspective, piece by piece:

"The metal was pushed upwards as if the bomb was underneath the train."

"I don't remember anybody being where the bomb was, or any bag."

"We were nearest the bomb."

An Asian guy, a white guy, two old ladies, and a blond businesswoman......and two dancers.

Here we go again. Another terrorist event with more questions than answers, questions that the major media (yet again) aren't even asking.

Hell, I'll even take a stab at answering them:

The metal was pushed upwards because THE BOMB WAS UNDERNEATH THE TRAIN.

Lait didn't remember seeing anyone, or a bag that could be holding a bomb, near the point of detonation because there was no bomber sitting there, there was no bag. THE BOMB WAS UNDERNEATH THE TRAIN.

An Asian guy, a white guy, two old ladies, and a blond businesswoman......and two dancers. There was no Islamic radical, no Mideastern terrorist sitting in that carriage. THE BOMB WAS UNDERNEATH THE TRAIN.

Dance partners Bruce Lait and Crystal Main were nearest the bomb.....again, no Islamic radical, no Mideastern terrorist sitting in that carriage. THE BOMB WAS UNDERNEATH THE TRAIN.

We were praised by some, and criticized by others, for posting an article by Jeff Buckley (entitled "London Calling") the day after the first London bombings two weeks ago that questioned the motives behind the bombings, and that asked readers to view the inevitable "official government response" with a healthy grain of skepticism.

Here's how Jeff so aptly put it:

"So, when you see the headlines dominated by this story and the mounting evidence of lies, deception, and treason being forever pushed to the back burner, be sure to ask yourself, 'Who benefits from this?' Before you throw your support behind administrations that only have doublespeak, deceit, and death to show for their efforts, be sure to ask yourself, 'Who benefits from this?' And, before you allow yourself to be steamrolled and swept away by the inevitable surge of jingoistic retaliatory euphoria, be sure to ask yourself, 'Who benefits from this?'"

"Who benefits from this?"

So here we are, barely two weeks (and another "symbolic" bombing episode) later, and the voices of the Far Right are busy spinning this as yet another excuse for the war in Iraq.....even though the suspected terrorists are Pakistanis. (Sound familiar? The 9/11 terrorists were mostly from Saudi Arabia, so...."Let's bomb Iraq!")

"Who benefits from this?"

Here we are barely two weeks later, and the disciples of doublespeak are busy blaming a group of suicide bombers with carry-on bags, even though those who died are the most unlikely group of "suicide bombers" ever to commit an act of terrorism.

"Who benefits from this?"

Here we are barely two weeks later, and Bush and Company is using the London bombings to.....successfully.....push through the renewal of the Patriot Act. "Screw the Constitution, they're bombing us!"

The official spinmeisters are either ignoring the signs that something is just not right here, or dismissing those of us who are questioning the official response as the usual bunch of fringe conspiracy theorists.

Well guess what? If we don't keep asking the hard questions, and demanding honest, straightforward answers to those questions, then no one will. They've deceived us a million times before, and if honest Americans....and Englanders....don't continue to hold our public officials accountable for their actions and demand the truth, then they will continue to spoon feed us lie after lie after lie....until we eventually all suffocate under the weight of mass deception. And THAT'S the Faulking Truth.

Source: FaulkingTruth.Com

No one is aware the propaganda machine is on

We are blind to what is truly going on in the world, it is an unexplained mystery. After all that has happened in the last decade, how will politicians, religious leaders and financial institutions ever to regain our trust? The answer is simple, they don't have to. From the point of view of the masses, after the propaganda machine went on, they never lost our trust. We are blissfully unaware of what truly happened since we only read and watch the mass media.

None of them lied to us, none of them worked for their own interests, all is well in the best world there is, and salvation is just around the corner. Trust me, I know what to do, things will be much better afterwards. Trust me, you don't need to know anything about it. Although this is all done in secret, I'm working toward solving all humanity's problems. Here is the truth, or at least a distorted version of it.

Will we ever learn how bad things are? How close countries like the United States and the United Kingdom are to declare bankruptcy? I don't think so. We will learn about it when it happens, not even the day before. As to how this was made possible, it is unlikely the general population will ever know. After all, is it important that they should know? No one should be held accountable anyway, no one will at any rate. So let's just forget it, let's just bury everything. I think Madonna is trying to adopt another African baby.

If there is one thing every single kid learns early on, it is not to trust anyone. We learn very quickly that this world is filled with deception, as if lying was second nature to everyone on this planet. I'm sure there are some religions out there preaching of always telling the truth, but as more religious leaders are caught lying and promoting hate against even the teachings of their own religion, you might wish to think twice before trusting anyone.

In politics it is as bad, that no politician could ever survive by telling the truth, no matter the justifications and how nicely it could be presented. And about financial institutions, do I need to say more? Make a quick buck now, forget the consequences on the international financial markets in the long term, and suffer for an eternity afterwards.

Your parents will lie to you on a daily basis, most likely when you are young, so they can escape all sorts of traps and embarrassment. Just look at how Madonna justified to her kid Lourdes that kiss to Britney Spears. It was all about passing up energy. Why not tell your children the truth? Mummy is not a lesbian darling, it was just a marketing stunt. And it worked wonders, since it shocked the world. My God, this world is so easily shocked.

The truth is, no one was shocked by that kiss, we all understood what it meant, more marketing gimmick. Only a few journalists appeared to have been shocked by a kiss between two great pop stars. Those journalists are not allowed to report real news, so they report how shock we are supposed to be by anything unimportant, whilst none of us are shocked by anything these days. I wish we could all be shocked by what happened in the last decade, and maybe we are despite the appearances.

It is like at the height of the Russian propaganda machine, when those poor Russians were lied to by their government on a daily basis. At least then, none of them believed it, none of them were fooled. The government then did not try to hide the truth, they just expected you to hear the lies and shut up, or suffer the consequences.

In America it is quite different, as we will not believe that this is propaganda, we believe it is the truth. I tested it many times at work with the lightest conspiracy theories you could find, the most believable ones as they are mostly all proven already, and everyone thought I was a lunatic.

Of course, George W. Bush was such a great President, perhaps the best we ever had. And those religious leaders, what they are stating is so perfect for us, women need to go back to being home makers, serve their husbands and have babies, whilst gay people should be shot where they stand.

Teachers, managers, bosses, the prosecution and police officers in Court, none of them will tell you the truth straight, they will lie to safeguard themselves until it is proven that you are the one who's been lying all along for most of your life. Lying is definitely a law of human nature.

Even animals lie. Apparently the more intelligent they are, the more likely they are to do so. The less elaborate the language, the more they will use subterfuge instead, bluffing and deception. It has to be said that these are instincts link to survival, to avoid punishment, embarrassment or losing everything. So should it be forgiven that we are all liars and deceivers? It could very well explain why humans are today at the top of the food chain in the animal kingdom. We are what we are.

At the very least we need to be made fully aware of it, so we can protect ourselves. So many still think they live in such a perfect world where everyone is working so hard to make it all so much better for the rest of humanity. I could puke just about now. I have read enough on the independent news websites to be aware of what has really gone on this last decade, even this last year alone is quite something no one in their right mind could forgive.

Trust is not something to be taken lightly, as I find it almost unthinkable that you could trust anyone on this planet, perhaps you should not even trust yourself. Isn't that a sad statement? That the truth needs to be hidden at any cost, at every level, and if truth needs be told, then many white lies here and there might make it more acceptable.

What is this thing we all have about lying? What is it that is so frightening about the truth? Some utopian world would first have to eliminate all lies from its ranks, so trust would not be such a hard concept to grasp and accept. Unless of course we were already living in a corrupt world.

The saddest part about trust is when you reach the point where when reading a newspaper or watching the news on TV, you feel it is all false, that someone somewhere is manipulating everything and feed spoon you the most unconceivable things. Whilst you are completely aware of it, worried that the rest of the population might buy it, even brainwash them, or at least condition them. It works most of time. It is crippling me at times, makes me wish I could find out the truth and shout it everywhere, expose it all so everyone will be aware of what everything is really about.

Please, please, please, at the very least stop reading that freely distributed Metro newspaper. It is the first step to get out of your lethargic lifestyle, living unaware of what is truly going on in the world. You should only accept and read news from independent sources, there are plenty all over the Internet freely downloadable to your mobile phone every morning. Enough propaganda, stop the conditioning, get really informed about the real issues this world is dealing with.

Yet, better be aware that the source cannot be trusted, than be blind and gobble it all up. For a long time I was naive enough to believe everything I heard, I trusted everyone and everything. I was never however a weak mind. I do not state any opinion which is not mine in the first place, neither should you.

I have seen that there is a tendency in society to simply adopt the opinions of everyone else as our own, and so from my point of view most of the population is simply weak minded, and this is how lies can be fed so easily and trust gained so quickly. Most are just parrots repeating over and over again all that comes from some unknown and untrustworthy source. You should think and make up your own mind.

I have been called paranoid several times, yet, paranoia serves me well. It stops me from being mindless, from accepting for cash anything I am being told. I feel this world would be a better one if everyone was just a bit more paranoid, or at the very least, aware that what they read and watch on TV might not be all the truth, and so they would not be so trusting and feel that all is right in the world.

There is a whole branch of psychology dealing with deceptions and how to detect them, I think it is not going far enough. I believe they're not reaching out at all, because we have not been prepared to detect lies, question everything that is being served to us, to stop for a second before trusting any bit of information reaching us.

What is the point of psychology if, in the end, it only serves psychologists trying to help problematic individuals on an individual basis, instead of collectively teaching us how to see the world as it really is globally? As soon as something becomes a science, that is it, it is closed to everyone else except the experts of that particular field. So no one understands what public relations mean, whilst PR is all governments are about these days.

Well, I may have a small contribution to make, apart from stating that no one should trust so easily, or consider that everything is the truth until proven otherwise somehow. You need to always have these questions at the back of your mind in all situations:

What is this person telling me? Why is this person telling me this? What does it really mean? What is at the back of his or her mind? What is the real source of that new information? What can I read between the lines? What is the real truth behind all this? Who profits from this? What are their real motivations and the interests at stake? Does it really benefit me, and if so, how? What do I lose compared with what I seem to be gaining? Finally, how should I respond to this?

I believe these simple questions could get you a long way before you go on granting anyone a well deserved trust, as if you cannot find cracks after answering these questions, then that statement or information may be worth taking into account and accept, to a certain extent.

How could you go on with life without constantly re-assessing everything you are being told? You must be a lunatic indeed if you trust everyone implicitly without questioning the motivation of everyone around you, if you believe everything everyone tells you, including the media, the admitted government propaganda machine, and what else.

Trust should never be easily acquired or given. If you can trust someone or a source of information once, never assume you can trust him, her or it twice. And once you think you found the truth, dig deeper, there's probably a second truth underneath the neatly prepared one.

Anyone who appears to be working for your wellbeing, your own interests, stop right there and ask yourself how probable it really is when we all know that most people only work for their own personal interests. It is true for anyone with any kind of authority or power in this world, they care little for you, why should they? If you are honest, you certainly don't care for them or anyone else yourself. It is human nature.

You can only count on yourself for anything in this world. If you believe everyone is up to get you, you are damn right, because everyone is up to get something out of you. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and this expression has never been so true. And if you cannot even trust yourself, where does this leave you then? In a pitiful state indeed.

It is not easy, but if you learn to observe more carefully and ask yourself the right questions, you might trust a bit less quickly and learn to read what is behind it all, what are the true motivations of everyone else around you. And then you will be a little bit less taken advantage of without being aware of it. And then perhaps you can start taking advantage of the people who take advantage of you and who are trying to deceive you on a daily basis.

You will then never read a newspaper or watch the news the same way again. You will learn how to read the truth, you will learn to read between the lines. Just research a bit further, search engines are but one click away.

It may seem like a pessimistic view of the world, nevertheless I believe it is a true account of what this world has become. Too many people are being controlled by others in this world, too many people give much more than they receive in return, too many people are too easily manipulated into believing and doing anything others want them to believe and do. Don't be a victim, start second-guessing everything, and in the process make it harder for anyone to gain your trust.

No one is even aware the propaganda machine is on, we have to turn it off.


“Without irony, this life would hardly be worth living.”

Roland Michel Tremblay

Source: What Really Happened.Com

Top Torture Lawyers Still in Government

We’ve heard of John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales, and maybe even Jay Bybee. Some of us recall John Ashcroft, Michael Mukasey, and even David Addington. Michael Haynes, Stephen Bradbury, and Douglas Feith occasionally make the news. If I had any say about it all 40 of these facilitators of torture would be universally known — plus the eight more that readers of this article will call to my attention and angrily accuse me of trying to cover for by only being aware of 40. I would also make universally known the fact that two of the worst now work for President Barack Obama.

Even if you haven’t read them, you probably know that the Justice Department under Bush-Cheney produced memos pretending to legalize torture, gruesome memos stipulating exactly how many times a particular victim could “legally” be tortured with a particular technique. John Yoo and Jay Bybee wrote the worst of these memos. But the memos take the form of responses to inquiries from a guy named John Rizzo. Yes, Mr. Rizzo, you may slam that guy against a wall. No, Mr. Rizzo, you may not drown that one unless you have a doctor present. And so on. The memos are all headlined thus: “MEMORANDUM FOR JOHN A. RIZZO.”

So, Yoo and Bybee didn’t invent the torture techniques out of their own sadistic imaginations. They replied to Rizzo’s requests for “legal” permission to use detailed techniques. What if those requests from Rizzo had been turned into news headlines, rather than the Justice Department’s responses? Would activists then be focused on demanding Rizzo’s, rather than Yoo’s, removal from one of our prestigious institutions of higher learning? That’s actually a very easy question to definitively answer, and the answer is no. Rizzo doesn’t work in academia: he is still, until he retires this summer the top lawyer at the CIA.

Retirement is what counts as accountability these days in Washington. Future consiglieri are hereby put on notice: you back torture and death squads and drone strikes and you’ll be forced to retire with the LA Times printing a profile on your great influence and wonderful taste in expensive suits. Rizzo served as top lawyer at the CIA for years, without the title, because the Senate wouldn’t approve him. Serving as the “Acting So-and-So” is what now counts as compliance with the Constitution. Senators are hereby put on notice: you fail to confirm an appointee, and he or she will get the job without the title.

Rizzo oversaw in detail the use of illegal detention, rendition, and torture at sites around the world. He requested Justice Department memos to cover his actions. He illegally sanctioned the destruction of videotapes demonstrating what he had done. He brazenly testified before Congress that torture was not torture. He authorized torture prior to receiving the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos. After receiving the memos, he authorized torture that far exceeded what they pretended to allow. He lied to the Justice Department, claiming that a captive (Abu Zubaydah) was not cooperative in the absence of torture. He ignored warnings that all of this was illegal, but made clear his awareness of guilt by requesting the memos and destroying the tapes.

And Rizzo didn’t do all of this alone. He had help from another top lawyer at the CIA, Jonathan M. Fredman. Fredman now works in the Obama administration in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, with — as far as I know — no plans to leave. According to the Senate Armed Services Committee:

“On October 2, 2002, Jonathan Fredman, who was chief counsel to the CIA’s Counter Terrorist Center, attended a meeting of GTMO staff. Minutes of that meeting indicate that it was dominated by a discussion of aggressive interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, death threats, and waterboarding, which was discussed in relation to its use in SERE training. Mr. Fredman’s advice to GTMO on applicable legal obligations was similar to the analysis of those obligations in OLC’s first Bybee memo. According to the meeting minutes, Mr. Fredman said that ‘the language of the statutes is written vaguely. . . . Severe physical pain described as anything causing permanent damage to major organs or body parts. Mental torture [is] described as anything leading to permanent, profound damage to the senses or personality.’ Mr. Fredman said simply ‘It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.’”

People like Rizzo and Fredman should not be working for our government a single day longer. They should be impeached. They should be prosecuted. They should be given fair trials and be imprisoned if convicted. And all existing information on what they did should be made public. Fed up with waiting for Congress or the Justice Department to act, a coalition of groups headquartered at has gone ahead and filed complaints with bar associations to have torture lawyers disbarred and to call attention to the need for further accountability. Having already filed complaints against 12 torture lawyers, Disbar Torture Lawyers filed three more on Monday. Two of these were against Rizzo and Fredman.

Disbar Torture Lawyers held a press conference on Monday at the National Press Club, with remarks by Kevin Zeese, who filed the complaints, by Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration lawyer, and by Shahid Buttar, Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. I was not in town but am certain we can count on the Washington Post to give the story all the coverage it deserves.

Source: Dick and Sharons LA Progressive

Goldman Sachs The Fourth Branch of the U.S. Government

This pretty much has us covered in terms of political strategy… but what about financial issues? Everyone knows Congress has no clue how to allocate capital. And the Executive Branch doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to financial matters either (we’ve run a deficit virtually every year since 1970).

Shouldn’t we have a Financial Branch of government? A group of fiscal experts entirely devoted to keeping the US’s fiscal house in order?

Well, we actually do, but instead of installing a branch of smart, genuine financiers interested in benefiting the American people, we installed a bunch of greedy crooks intent on stealing as much of the public’s money as possible with no consequences what so ever.

Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you America’s Financial Branch of the Government: Goldman Sachs.

Trying to detail exactly how integrated Goldman has become to the Federal Government would be like trying to track the peanut butter swirls in Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl ice cream. Indeed, with the exception of Ben Bernanke and a few other officials, Goldman Sachs provided all the lead characters for the Tragic Comedy that is our latest Financial Crisis.

Central to the entire mess is Hank “the Hammer” Paulson, our former Public Money Privatizer or Secretary of the Treasury as he is commonly known. To chronicle the full intricacy of Paulson’s web of cronies and the methods he used to funnel public funds to them and their business during the Crisis would require a book, not an essay.

However, one can draw a great deal of conclusions about Paulson’s central beliefs on business and politics by mentioning that one of his first positions of power was serving as assistant to John Erlichman, the central architect of Richard Nixon’s Watergate Scandal: a man who believed that when it came to wining seats of power, it’s best to break and enter, steal, and destroy one’s enemies at all costs.

Erlichman was convicted on conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury. Paulson went on to become CEO of Goldman Sachs.

Beyond Paulson, Goldman’s reach in this crisis is virtually unending. John Thain, former CEO of Merrill Lynch was a former Goldmanite. So was Robert Rubin, the Chairman of Citigroup. Then there’s Robert Steel, the head of Wachovia, Ed Liddy, who Paulson put in charge of the nationalized AIG, Mark Patterson, the current Treasury Chief of Staff, Neel Kashkari, the guy in charge of allocating TARP funds…
heck, even Tim Geithner was mentored by the afore-mentioned Robert Rubin.

What’s staggering is that no one seems outraged by all of this. It’s not too difficult to connect the dots on what happened: a former Goldman exec was put in charge of allocating public funds to other former Goldman execs who in turn allocated the funds to their employees in the form of bonuses and enormous salaries. Indeed, it’s telling that Paulson’s original proposal for the $800 billion bailout entailed NO curtailing or oversight of executive compensation at the firm’s receiving our money.

I’m starting to run out of room here. But if you’re interested in these issues and learning more about Goldman Sach’s involvement in our Federal Government, I STRONGLY urge you to read Matt Taibbi’s recent expose on the firm in Rolling Stone magazine. Be forewarned, you will be infuriated by what Taibbi reveals. But if it gets people contacting their local representatives and Senators asking why we haven’t launched any investigations into Paulson’s allocation of public funds.

You can see Taibbi’s article online at:

SOURCE: The Market Oracle

Jewish Voice For Peace Asks You To Call Congress today: Let the Spirit of Humanity into Gaza

Israel has illegally seized, from international waters, the 'Spirit of Humanity,' a boat carrying much needed humanitarian relief for the Palestinians living under siege in Gaza. Its 21 human rights workers are being detained. Click here for more information.

Call your Congressperson and your Senators today. Ask them to call the Israeli Embassy and the U.S. State Department demanding that the boat and its occupants be released, together with their humanitarian cargo, and that they be allowed to dock in Gaza.

Find your Congressperson
Call your Congressperson
Call your Senators

Source: Jewish Voice For Peace

A Matter of Honor

The overwhelming majority of Americans agree that Congress should read the bills they pass. Our mission is to tell them about's Read the Bills Act (RTBA). If we overwhelm Congress with demands to pass RTBA, Congress will have no choice but to follow our orders.

Directly inspired by, California businessman Jerrol LeBaron has the idea that his state legislators should also be required to read the bills. One advantage in California is he doesn't have to pressure the State Assembly and Senate -- he can go directly to the people. Through California's initiative-and-referendum process, LeBaron intends to put California's own version of a Read the Bills Act on the ballot for voters to pass. LeBaron has created Honor in Office to accomplish this.

It is gratifying to see DC Downsizer ideas spread through the country. Success in California will inspire movements in other states and hasten success at the federal level. As the name of the California group suggests, reading the bills really is a matter of honor. An elected legislator really has no other job but to understand what he or she is doing to the people. Otherwise, why have elected representatives at all?

Yet, over the past three weeks, the House and Senate combined to pass 50 bills totaling 2,904 pages. These bills were not read on the floor. They weren't read by members in their personal time. Most weren't even read in committee.

(To see the list of bills passed, see below my signature.)

Let's tell Congress that the RTBA movement isn't going away. Tell them it is actually spreading to the states. Tell them if they don't introduce and pass RTBA, their very honor is open to question. You can send your message using our easy-to-use Educate the Powerful System.

We urge you to help spread the word about RTBA by adding your website or blog to the Read the Bills Act Coalition. This is an effortless way to spread the word about RTBA, and in exchange your site will be listed on our blog and mentioned in a Dispatch like this. Details are here.

Source: DownsizeDC.Org


Britain ‘can no longer afford to be a mini-US’

LONDON // Britain should stop trying to be “a mini-United States” and give up maintaining armed forces capable of policing world trouble spots, a report from an influential think tank said yesterday.

After a two-year review, the high-powered panel of experts said the UK simply could not afford its international role and recommended slashing £24 billion (Dh146bn) from proposed defence spending.

It also said the government should rethink its commitment to a £20bn project to update the submarine-based Trident nuclear deterrent.

The report, prepared by a panel brought together by the London-based Institute for Public Policy Research, is being seen as the most fundamental challenge to the UK defence strategy in 50 years.

Lord Paddy Ashdown, joint chairman of the panel and a former international high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, told the BBC yesterday: “One conclusion we arrive at is that we can no longer afford to maintain a museum of Cold War armaments.

“We can no longer afford to maintain full-spectrum armed forces capable of operating anywhere in the globe like a mini-United States.”

Lord George Robertson, co-chairman of the panel and a former Nato secretary general, added: “In the post-9/11, post-financial crisis world, we must be smarter and more ruthless in targeting national resources as the real security risks.

“When it comes to security, national self-reliance is a dangerous fantasy. European co-operation is the only viable way forward in many areas. We need to make it work.”

Among the proposals set out in the report is the creation of a US-style national security council and a refocusing of defence priorities, which should be aimed at combating Mumbai-style terrorist attacks and rogue states rather than conventional threats.

The report also warns that the mission in Afghanistan could fail unless it is changed to include a joint civilian-military stabilisation and reconstruction taskforce.

“The emphasis must be on responding to the shifting geopolitical landscape, and unconventional threats like climate change, energy shortages, nuclear proliferation and neo-jihadi terrorism,” the report says.

“Reliance on nuclear deterrence for long-term security is increasingly unsafe given concerns over proliferation to both state and non-state actors.”

Planned spending on new aircraft carriers, an Anglo-American strike fighter project and on new destroyers and submarines should be cut, the report stated flatly.

Lord Ashdown said he personally favoured scrapping the Trident programme and replacing it with some other, cheaper and more flexible nuclear missile programme.

The report itself merely said Britain should “revisit” the philosophy behind Trident and added that the nation should be encouraging moves by the White House aimed, eventually, at ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

Britain also needed to pursue far more comprehensive military cooperation with other European states while maintaining its “special relationship” with the United States.

“We must reach out to establish a new concordat with other nations and other global powers in order to secure a secure world in changing and turbulent circumstances,” Lord Ashdown said. “That does require new thinking.”

The report comes at a time when all areas of public spending in Britain are under pressure because of the economic turndown.

While Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, the head of the Royal Navy, has defended the building of two new large aircraft carriers from accusations that they are outdated Cold War relics, his case has not been helped by claims yesterday that the cost of the ships has risen to £5 billion from £3.9 billion in the span of a year.

Additionally, Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, the army chief, has criticised many of the ministry of defence’s new equipment programmes as being “irrelevant” to modern warfare.

Bill Rammell, the defence minister, gave a guarded welcome to the report but defended the government’s military equipment programme and the Trident refurbishment plan, which is supported by the opposition Conservatives but would be scrapped by the Liberal Democrats.

“We don’t put forward proposals to invest in equipment unless we believe it is necessary,” he told the BBC. “We remain committed to the [Trident] policy we set out two years ago.

“We are talking about our national security. We constantly need to keep our position under review and we need to work for multilateral nuclear disarmament.”

But he added: “When we look at the risks moving forward over the coming decades, we don’t believe at the moment it would be safe to fail to make decisions now which would effectively commit us to unilateral disarmament in the future, regardless of the circumstances.”

The report’s proposal to slash £24bn from major defence procurement projects has sent shock waves through industry.

Ian Godden, the chief executive of the Society of British Aerospace Co, said: “The debate about big projects versus better conditions for troops or more boots on the ground, is a false one or at best highly risky.

“The real issue is the fact that, as a nation, we no longer adequately fund our own defence. Threats to our security do not go away simply because we are in a recession.”

Other members of the panel that prepared the report included Lord Charles Guthrie of Craigiebank, former head of Britain’s defence staff, and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former UK ambassador to the United Nations and to Iraq.

Source: The National

Israelis intercept Gaza aid ship

Israeli forces have boarded a ship trying to carry aid and pro-Palestinian activists to the Gaza Strip in defiance of Israel's blockade of the territory.

The 20 passengers include former US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel Prize winner Mairead Maguire.

The activists also include some Britons, campaigners said.

Ms McKinney described it as "an outrageous violation of international law", as the boat was on a humanitarian mission and was not in Israeli waters.

The Israeli military said the boat was trying to enter Gaza illegally.

The US-based Free Gaza Movement has breached the blockade five times since August 2008.

Two other attempts by the activist group were stopped by Israeli warships during Israel's three-week military offensive in Gaza in December and January.

Israel keeps a tight hold on Gaza, which is ruled by the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

The Israeli military said the passengers and crew of the Greek-registered ship Arion would be handed over to immigration authorities in Ashdod, and its humanitarian aid cargo would be taken to Gaza by road after a security check.

"An Israeli navy force intercepted, boarded and took control of the cargo boat Arion... as it was illegally attempting to enter the Gaza Strip," a military spokesman said.


The British Foreign Office said on Tuesday it was aware of the situation and was trying to clarify the facts.

"We would be concerned if the stories of the Israeli Navy boarding the boat in international waters were true," a spokesman said.

"We have made it clear to Israel that we are very concerned for the safety of British nationals."

The mission is the latest by the Free Gaza Movement, which has renamed the ferry Spirit of Humanity.

"This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip," said Ms McKinney in a statement.

"President [Barack] Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that's exactly what we tried to do. We're asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey."

On Monday, a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross described the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza as people "trapped in despair", unable to rebuild their lives after Israel's offensive.

Donors have pledged $4.5 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation in Gaza following the 22-day offensive which left more than 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties and 200 schools damaged or destroyed, as well as 39 mosques and two churches.

Source: BBC

Worst Application of a Law I Have Ever Seen

Did you know ... a law passed to protect people from stalkers is being used by the government to prosecute protesters

One of the most heartbreaking articles I have ever read was a response column published recently in the Guardian. Edward Countryman explained that he was writing on behalf of his wife, Evonne Powell-Von Heussen, "who could not bear to face" the unintended consequences of the thing she had created.

For 17 years she was the victim of an aggressive stalker, who attacked her and held her captive. She spent five years running a brave and vigorous campaign for an anti-stalking law, to ensure that nobody else's life could be ruined as hers was. Now she has seen how that law – the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act – is being used for a completely different purpose. She is so upset by the "perversion of its intentions" that she cannot bring herself to confront it.

Powell-Von Heussen "took great care that the act would protect frightened, endangered individuals from their assailants, and only such persons". But the first three people to be prosecuted under it were all peaceful protesters. Since then it has been used by the police and courts to criminalise almost all forms of dissent.

The law creates an offence of pursuing "a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another". Harassment is defined as "alarming the person or causing the person distress". The act can be used to impose injunctions on people, criminalising their previously lawful activities. As the injunctions use civil law to create criminal offences, they require a much lower standard of proof: hearsay evidence and untested and unproven allegations can be used to criminalise any action the police or the courts wish to stop.

In 2001, the act was used to prosecute protesters outside the US intelligence base at Menwith Hill, who were deemed to have distressed American servicemen by holding up a placard reading "George W Bush? Oh dear!" In the same year a protester in Hull was arrested under the act for "staring at a building". In 2004, police in Kent arrested a woman who had sent two polite emails to an executive at a drugs company, begging him not to test his products on animals. In 2007, the residents of a village in Oxfordshire were injuncted from protesting against a power company's plan to fill their lake with fly ash – in case they caused alarm or distress to the company's burly security guards.

Having discovered what a useful tool it had become, in 2005 the government amended the act in a way that seemed deliberately to target peaceful protesters and smear them as stalkers. Originally you had to approach one person twice to be "pursuing a course of conduct"; now you need only approach two people once. In other words, if you hand out leaflets to passers-by which contain news that might alarm or distress them, that is now harassment. The government slipped in a further clause, redefining harassment as representing to "another individual" (ie anyone) "in the vicinity" of his or anyone else's home (ie anywhere) "that he should not do something that he is entitled or required to do; or that he should do something that he is not under any obligation to do". This is, of course, the purpose of protest. These amendments, in other words, allow the police to ban any campaign they please. Surreptitiously inserted into the vast and sprawling 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, they were undebated in either chamber of parliament.

So who can blame Powell-Von Heussen for being unable to face the monster to which she unwittingly gave birth? The government, police and corporations have used the law she requested to ban people from acting very much as she did: peacefully seeking to change the way the world is run.

Source: The Guardian

When Did We Lose the First Amendment?

The First Amendment to our Constitution seems to have disappeared. It appears we lost it on June 27, 2009.

In an LA Times interview with California State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass is asked the question, “How do you think conservative talk radio has affected the Legislature’s work?”

The Speaker answers with this gem…

The Republicans were essentially threatened and terrorized against voting for revenue. Now [some] are facing recalls. They operate under a terrorist threat: “You vote for revenue and your career is over.” I don’t know why we allow that kind of terrorism to exist. I guess it’s about free speech, but it’s extremely unfair.

Its unfair… Its terrorism. Oh yes we don’t want competition for these jobs of running the state of California and we certainly don’t want any Constitutional Ballyhoo.

Ok for all you Constitutional slackers let’s look at the 1st Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It appears that Bass doesn’t believe in the right of the people to petition the Government for a redress of grievances; a right guaranteed by one of the most powerful documents ever created.

There’s a lot of stupidity and tyranny locked into those few words. The First Amendment guarantees the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, even apart from the “free speech” issues Bass casually discards. Elected politicians are accountable to the people who elect them in a free society. Politicians do not acquire lordly status when they go to the Assembly, or anywhere else. The Hot Air Blog

How the hell is it that our “leaders” don’t understand the foundation of the Government they work for? I guess it’s because America aka the voters are so caught up in non-important matters as to ignore the particularly important ones.

Let’s just look at the last week. TV News Devotes 28 Hours to Michael Jackson; 93% of Cable Airtime. While the media was eating up Michael Jackson’s death they failed. The media missed Iran having a major upheaval over a tainted election. Congress is working on the largest tax of all time, a tax that will kill our economy. Obama is attempting to spend Trillions of dollars on social programs like government healthcare insurance. Many important issues are being swept aside by the mainstream media and in turn our 2 second attention spans and a society that is showing signs of missing a moral compass are not monitoring what is important to this country.

No one is watching our political leaders. Our political leaders are as confused as anyone as to right and wrong. Our leaders choose to cheat, lie and do whatever with impunity. We see failure to pay taxes, failure to promises and committments including family bonds. We as a society have lost our ability to choose right from wrong. We have become confused as to what is what. Our societies moral compass is broken. Unfortunately if we don’t change, we will find bondage as the country as we are crushed under a massive debt created by a failure to choose good from evil.

Source: Erins's World

The End of Security – The Collapsing Safety Net

Let’s face the facts. Government interventionism has run amuck. The Congress of the United States indulges in a drunken orgy of spend, spend, spend. The Federal Reserve System supplies the “punch bowl” which overflows with newly created inflationary money.

Honestly, do you really believe your lifestyle is secure, when we are saddled with a government, that runs massive deficits and supports a Federal Reserve System that causes boom and bust cycles with its inflationary money? How can you possibly trust political and financial leaders whose wealth destroying policies guarantee rising unemployment?

If you believe in a security that resides outside of who you are, then you’re living in a world of illusion. In fact, the events of the external world actually come pretty close to crushing the security you believe you possess.

Have you allowed yourself to be hoodwinked by our “beloved” leaders? Do you know what “The Big Lie” is? Well, here it is. The safety nets are firmly in place and you need not worry about the fact that our government is voraciously siphoning capital from our free enterprise system.

Let me ask you this. How is it possible for business to create new jobs when our government is consuming the necessary capital for job creation?

If the following doesn’t scare your or at least piss you off then I don’t know what will.

The government’s on-budget deficit is close to $12 trillion dollars. Understand this. It’s growing at a rate of a trillion dollars per your, probably forever, or until the whole damn thing collapses.

Do you realize the government is currently removing a whopping $240 billion a month from the marketplace? Of course, you’re smart enough to know this amount will continually increase—at a rapid pace. Perhaps, you’re wondering how the free enterprise system can create any jobs under these dire circumstances. The only thing that grows is that gargantuan monster, the government.

Remember the old movie “The Blob?” The plot line was “An alien life form consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows.” Imagine this. Our political and financial leaders are actually aliens who create governments that grow and grow by consuming all the wealth on the planet.

Let’s get to the point and face reality. As long as the faulty ideas of socialism and big government interventionism are prevalent and widely practiced, you can forget about the illusory safety net. If it did once exist, government policies are tearing into shreds.

The only security this world supplies is discovered through spiritual practices such as meditation. Sure, go ahead, play the game and accumulate as much wealth as possible, but realize this isn’t where your security resides.

For your benefit, I offer 2 free reports on my website to help you overcome our severe long-term economic crisis.

Robert A. Meyer

Source: Freedom News Blitz

"I'm from the government and I'm here to Help"

Scary words, no? Did you know that after 50 years, statistics show that the same relative number of people are poor as when the “War on Poverty” began (Poverty Statistics) ? Over a Trillion dollars spent and no headway whatsoever.

Could it be that the war on poverty uses policies which, rather than help people climb permanently out of poverty, instead perpetuates it? Could it be that, when you strip away good intentions and feel-good ideas, you find no progress at all.

Imagine you are a single mother living in an urban environment. The government provides you with food stamps, WIC , medical assistance, a welfare check. And the assistance increases if you should have another child. What would you do?

During the Clinton term the republican congress voted for and passed the Welfare to Work program, and although Clinton disapproved of it at the time, he later claimed credit for it when he saw the results.

Welfare to work gave that mother hope, showed her that with effort, she could move from a subsidized existence by the state to a better life created by her own hard work.

No, it isn’t easy. And as a privileged white person from the suburbs I certainly do not pretend to know what such a life would be like.

It’s tough when you are on welfare. But when you are born into welfare, when the government tells you that you will never make it on your own (for whatever reason), people believe it and act accordingly.

That means the creation of a self perpetuating welfare state where people trade dreams of excelling for their next check from a bankrupt government. They feel “entitled” to money earned by producers.

Never tell a mother or a child that they can’t make it in this country. It should be a crime to put such an idea in the mind of anyone.

While it’s true that the starting point in life is clearly unequal, it should not be an excuse not to try. Some of our greatest citizens were born in poverty; they simply refused to stay in that zip code.

My dad was one such person. Despite the confiscatory taxes of the Carter administration, despite ever increasing regulations, my dad somehow made a huge success of his restaurant. He saw the government as a hindrance. He wished they would have gotten out of his way.

During my dad’s years running his restaurant he provided many jobs and had many cooks and waitresses that were there almost from the beginning. He saw kids fund their college educations in part due to the money earned working in the restaurant.

The town profited from increased tax revenue, the employees had steady work and a fun, family atmosphere; no one expected anything without first making an effort.

When I began working for my dad, me – the owner’s son – I started by picking up cigarette butts in the parking lot. Later, I washed pots and dishes.

Only after demonstrating that I could, pardon the pun, take the heat, was I promoted to line cook and even waiter.

The pursuit of happiness is not a guarantee of happiness. No on said that life would be a painless exercise of rainbows and great music.

Only hard work, persistence and determination gets you to where you want to go. If you look to the government for a solution, you are looking to a life of subsistence.

My dad looked to no one but himself. He made it. Others can too.

Source: The Persistent Conservative

Canadian gov't: you have no expectation of privacy on the Internet

In the latest episode of the Canadian tech podcast Search Engine, Peter Van Loan, the new Public Safety minister, attempts to explain the Conservative government's approach to privacy on the internet. It's a remarkable piece of audio. It goes a little like this:

Search Engine: Here's some audio of your predecessor promising, on behalf of your party and your government, never to ever allow the police to wiretap the Internet without a warrant.

Minister (as though he had been off on another planet): We never promised not to do that.

Search Engine: What about all the personal information that you guys are now proposing to give to the cops without a warrant?

Minister (tragically unclear on the subject): We're not requiring ISPs to give out any personal information without a warrant, just your real name, your home address, your IP address, your home and cell number...

Search Engine: Huh. Well there's this really critical, high profile court ruling that calls all that stuff private information?

Minister (pretending he didn't hear): The courts have ruled that this isn't private information. Canadians have no legitimate expectation of privacy when they use the Internet, not when it comes to your name, address, cell phone number, etc

Search Engine: Do the cops really need to get this information without a warrant?

Minister: Oh yes. There are MONSTROUS BABY-EATING CHILD PORNOGRAPHERS WHO ADVERTISE THAT THEY ARE ABOUT TO SEXUALLY ASSAULT A LIVE CHILD IN TEN MINUTES and we need to be able to run down their IPs without talking to a judge first.

Search Engine: But when a child is endangered, the law already allows you to get this information without a warrant, right?

Minister: Why are you still asking questions? Didn't you hear me? BABY-EATING CHILD PORNOGRAPHERS! Surely that settles the matter.

Search Engine: Uh, I guess. Thanks anyway.

Source: Boing Boing

Johnson has his card marked by Brown

The home secretary wanted to ditch ID cards, but Gordon Brown vetoed that. So a Conservative government will kill the scheme

What a fiasco. The government has announced it is abandoning all compulsory elements of the ID cards – while accelerating the implementation of a voluntary scheme. The government is playing party politics with our civil liberties – and that's not on.

The rumours have been running round ever since Alan Johnson became home secretary. It's a classic Labour trick – and one he's always been keen on. Scrap ID cards – remove one of the key issues of difference between the government and the opposition and, in doing so, reduce their political room for manoeuvre.

Oh, and save a few hundred million pounds in doing so, which will help fill the gap in the Home Office budget following Gordon Brown's raid around Whitehall departments to find the cash to pay for his latest relaunch.

The trouble is, No 10 didn't buy it. Despite the best efforts of Mr Johnson and his Home Office team, the word on the street is that the prime minister wouldn't let them get rid of what is still one of the government's flagship schemes.

Apparently, the PM wants to hang onto ID cards because he wants to be able to look tough on terror and paint his opponents as weak liberals who don't take the security of the country seriously.

So Alan Johnson's plans were scuppered at the last minute. Instead of being greeted by a ground-breaking new announcement, the assembled Home Affairs correspondents found themselves listening to something rather more anodyne.

No more compulsion ... that is, no more compulsion for airport staff at Manchester or London City airports. And, er, well, that's it!

So the new home secretary has fallen at the first hurdle. What he's been left with is neither fish nor fowl. The ID card scheme is now purely voluntary for British citizens. And for now, it's only happening at all for airline industry workers at a handful of airports and, bizarrely, for the residents of Manchester.

As if any sensible Mancunian is seriously going to wake up one morning and say to themselves, "I think I'll skip the curry tonight, go down to Boots and spend the money on an ID card instead." Or realise that the airside security card that they have already been issued with isn't good enough, and that it might be useful to spend the cash on an extra form of ID as well.

It's just pure fantasy – and it comes at a price of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of pounds. And it's another example of why this government has run out of steam. Introducing ID cards isn't a matter of great national security importance. Since becoming shadow home secretary, I have talked to numerous experts on the terror threat we face. Not one has argued to me that we are wrong on ID cards. Not one has tried to persuade me to change the Conservative party view, and adopt ID cards as a policy.

ID cards have become a totem for the prime minister – against the wishes of many of his colleagues. A former home secretary, David Blunkett, now says the project is too ambitious. Chancellor Alistair Darling has cast doubts on the scheme. Now, we know the current home secretary would like to ditch the plans. But he isn't being allowed to, on strict orders from the Downing Street bunker.

So people will have to wait – just a few months – for the chance to vote in a Conservative government that will scrap the project immediately.

And if you live in Manchester? Well, personally, I'd rather spend the money on a pint of lager, some poppadoms and a prawn biryani.

Source: The Guardian

ID cards test Johnson's political skills

The announcement today that a compulsory ID card trial for airside workers has been dropped makes clear that the new home secretary, Alan Johnson, a good union man, is not going to take on the British Airline Pilots' Association and other unions in the runup to the next election. For the same reason, he is not going to annoy the rail workers who were also fingered as a test bed in the Home Office's megalomaniac ID plans. This speaks well of Johnson's political skills but not of his principles as democrat.

He is clearly trying to take some of the poison out of the debate by emphasising that identity cards will be voluntary (until MPs vote for a compulsory scheme). He says he will issue £30 cards to young volunteers across North England, and he is thinking of making it free for people over 75 years old.

It's all mood music: we are still stuck with a wasteful and invasive scheme. The really imaginative and bold action would have been for Johnson to conduct a review and announce a swift termination. But that would have meant confrontation with his department, which is wedded to its identity management strategy, trying to sell it to an increasingly sceptical public as a means of empowerment – " to make it easier for citizens to prove and manage their identity" in the words of Sir David Normington, the permanent secretary at the Home Office, and James Hall, chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service.

This is nonsense. The ID card is primarily a scheme that enables government to identify you, and that is made clear in a dubious little paper called Safeguarding Identity, produced by the Home Office last week, which describes how the ID card and the transformational government scheme mesh together in one glorious structure where data about the individual passes between departments. That is the prize and why they will use any argument and spend any amount to achieve it. Every case mounted in favour of ID cards has been convincingly knocked down. It will not protect us from terrorism, as Johnson concedes, and it won't do anything to stop crime. Its effect on benefit fraud is limited. The unions have rejected it, Sheffield city council refuses to take part in a pilot scheme, and politicians from all parties despise it.

The ID card is a dead duck: it's just that no one in government has the guts or sense to read the last rites.

Source: The Guardian