Undernews For Feb 27
Undernews For Feb
Since 1964, the news while there's still time to do something about it
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The serious war on teachers unions didn't begin in Wisconsin. It was launched by Michelle Rhee and her aforementioned backers. . .
Richard D. Kahlenberg, Washington Post - Walker's argument - that greedy teachers are putting their own interests over the interests of the public - resonates in part because in recent years, many Democrats have made that argument as well.
Exhibit A is former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Under Democratic mayor Adrian Fenty, she repeatedly clashed with the Washington Teachers' Union, which she said put the interests of adults over those of children. "Cooperation, collaboration, and consensus-building are way overrated," Rhee said at the Aspen Institute's education summit in 2008. She told journalist John Merrow it is imperative that teachers-union bargaining rights exclude issues such as devising a fair teacher-evaluation system.
Since resigning as chancellor last year, Rhee has launched a new organization, Students First, with the express goal of raising $1 billion to counter teachers unions. Her approach remains confrontational. In a profound sense, Democrats like Michelle Rhee have paved the way for Scott Walker.
But Rhee couldn't have done it alone.
Then-candidate Barack Obama endorsed Rhee in a 2008 debate
as a "wonderful new superintendent" and later applauded the
firing of every single unionized teacher at Central Falls
High School in Rhode Island. (The teachers were later
rehired.) Rhee's agenda also received a big boost from
liberal movie director Davis Guggenheim, whose film,
"Waiting for 'Superman,' " implies that teachers unions are
to blame for the failures of urban education and that
non-unionized charter schools are the solution. The movie
includes no acknowledgment that the things teachers want for
themselves - more resources devoted to education, smaller
class sizes, policies that allow them to keep order in the
classroom - are also good for kids.
Obama prosecutor seeks conviction of citizen urging jury rights
The NY Times' dismissive handling of jury nullification is typical of the bad journalism on the topic, all the more ironic since one of the important reasons we have a free press is because in 1735 journalist Peter Zenger, accused of seditious libel, was acquitted by a jury that ignored the court's instructions on the law. After the NYT clip is an article that outlines the facts about jury nullification
NY Times - Since 2009, [Julian] Heicklen has stood at courthouse entrances ... and handed out pamphlets encouraging jurors to ignore the law if they disagree with it, and to render verdicts based on conscience. That concept, called jury nullification, is highly controversial, and courts are hostile to it. But federal prosecutors have now taken the unusual step of having Mr. Heicklen indicted on a charge that his distributing of such pamphlets at the courthouse entrance violates the law against jury tampering. He is to appear in court on Friday for a conference in his case.
Mr. Heicklen insists that he never tries to influence specific jurors or cases, and instead gives his brochures to passers-by, hoping that jurors are among them.
But he feels his message must be getting out, or the government would not have brought charges against him.
“If I weren’t having any effect, would they do this?” said Mr. Heicklen, whose former colleagues recall him as a talented and unconventional educator. “You don’t have to be a genius to figure this thing out.”
Prosecutors declined to comment on his case, as did Sabrina Shroff, a lawyer who was assigned to assist Mr. Heicklen. (He is acting as his own lawyer.)
He said his activism on nullification dated back to just after he retired in the early 1990s, when he openly smoked marijuana in State College, Pa., to get arrested as a protest against marijuana laws. For this, he was arrested about five times. Mr. Heicklen has said that he otherwise does not smoke marijuana.
Around the same time, he learned about a group called the Fully Informed Jury Association, which urges jurors to nullify laws with which they disagree. Mr. Heicklen, of Teaneck, N.J., said he distributed the group’s materials as well as his own.
“I don’t want them to nullify the murder laws,” he said. “I’m a big law-and-order guy when it comes to real crime.”
But, he said, there were other laws he wanted to nullify, like drug and gambling laws. “This is classic political advocacy,” said Christopher T. Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Unless the government can show that he’s singling out jurors to influence a specific verdict, it’s squarely protected by the First Amendment, and they should dismiss the case.”
The truth about jury
nullification Sam Smith, 1990 -
Sam Smith, 1990 -William Penn may have thought he had settled the matter. Arrested in 1670 for preaching Quakerism, Penn was brought to trial. Despite Penn's admitting the charge, four of the 12 jurors voted to acquit. The judge sent the four to jail "without meat, drink, fire and tobacco" for failing to find Penn guilty. On appeal, however, the jurors' action was upheld and the right of juries to judge both the law and the facts -- to nullify the law if it chose -- became part of British constitutional law.
It ultimately became part of American constitutional law as well, but you'd never know it listening to jury instructions today almost anywhere in the country. With only a few exceptions, juries are explicitly or implicitly told to worry only about the facts and let the judge decide the law. The right of jury nullification has become one of the legal system's best kept secrets.
Now a remarkable coalition has sprung up to challenge this secrecy as undemocratic, unconstitutional and dangerous. Though organized by libertarian activists, the Fully Informed Jury Amendment movement includes liberals and conservatives, Greens, drug decriminalization advocates, gun owner groups, peace activists, both sides of the abortion controversy, helmet and seatbelt activists, alternative medicine practitioners, taxpayer rights groups, environmentalists, criminal trial lawyers and law professors.
Organized by Larry Dodge and Don Doig, both of Helmville, Montana (population: 26; elevation 4300'), FIJA seeks to require that juries be informed of their nullification rights. Informed jury amendments have been filed as an initiative in seven states and legislation has been introduced in the Alaska state legislature.
Despite the refusal of courts to inform juries of their right to nullify, American juries have periodically exercised it anyway. In recent years, some peace protesters have been acquitted despite strong evidence that they violated the law. In the 19th century northern juries would refuse to convict under the fugitive slave laws. And in 1735 journalist Peter Zenger, accused of seditious libel, was acquitted by a jury that ignored the court's instructions on the law.
Those who have endorsed the right of a jury to judge both the law and the facts include Chief Justice John Jay, Samuel Chase, Dean Roscoe Pound, Learned Hand and Oliver Wendell Holmes. According to the Yale Law Journal in 1964, during the first third of the 19th century judges did inform juries of the right, forcing lawyers to argue "the law -- its interpretation and validity -- to the jury." By the latter part of the century, however, judges and state law were increasingly moving against nullification. In 1895 the US Supreme Court upheld the principle but ruled that juries were not to be informed of it by defense attorneys, nor were judges required to tell them about it. Stephen Barkan, writing in Social Problems (October 1983), noted that the attacks on nullification stemmed in part from juries acquitting strike organizers and other labor activists. And in 1892 the American Bar Review warned that jurors had "developed agrarian tendencies of an alarming character."
Today, the constitutions of only two states -- Maryland and Indiana -- clearly declare the nullification right, although two others -- Georgia and Oregon -- refer to it obliquely. The informed jury movement would like all states to require that judges instruct juries on their power to serve, in effect, as the final legislature of the land concerning the law in a particular case.
As the diverse nature of the movement suggests, many groups in this country feel the government has overstepped its power in some way and that there must be protection for the natural rights of American citizens. They are defending not only the right to protest or carry a gun or not wear seatbelts but challenging the right of the government to decide such matters without the mediating effect of a jury's judgement of fairness in a particular case.
For many liberals and progressives, who tend to be confident of the beneficent nature of government power, such a challenge may be a bit uncomfortable -- understandable in a case involving a peace protest, less appreciated if invoked by a member of the National Rifle Association. The libertarians argue that the two are of one cloth. As government intrusion in individual matters has increased, the libertarian view has gained influence, helping to tilt normal left-right divisions on their side. Libertarians, for example, have been key to the growing opposition to the barbaric Reagan-Bush war on drugs, providing some of the best analysis and advocacy available on the issue.
Libertarians are again in the lead on the nullification issue. Many progressives may be uneasy about the thought of a western jury nullifying a case involving a gun control or seatbelt law, but this unease reminds one of little discussed principles that were once considered central to being an American -- not the least of which was freedom from some government official telling you how to live your life. As the design of the modern centralized welfare state frays and becomes increasingly authoritarian, reacquaintance with some of our individualistic roots has much to recommend it.
In fact, it is unlikely that a jury considering a gun control case would excuse the leader of an underground Nazi movement or a gang of bank robbers. It is far more likely that it would acquit the respectable rancher who simply believes that gun control represents further destruction of his paradigm of individual liberty. If so, what have we lost?
The history of jury nullification suggests there is little to fear. In those states where the concept is respected to some degree it has had minimal effect on the overall functioning of the law. Nullification has, on the other hand, played a little noted but significant role in the advance of religious and press freedom, the abolition of slavery and the building of a labor movement. Even in the face of hostility by contemporary courts, it has cropped up in political protest trials of the past few decades. And it might have surfaced more frequently absent that hostility. As one of the jurors said following the conviction of the Berrigan brothers in 1980:
We convicted them on three things, and we really didn't want to convict them on anything. But we had to, because of the way the judge said the only thing that you can use is what you get under the law... I would have loved to hold up a flag to show them we approved of what they were doing. It was very difficult for us to bring in that conviction.
The nullification principle involves the power to say no to the excesses of government, and thus serves as a final defense against tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson put it to Tom Paine in a 1789 letter, "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
"If a juror feels that the statute involved in any criminal offence is unfair, or that it infringes upon the defendant's natural god-given unalienable or constitutional rights, then it is his duty to affirm that the offending statute is really no law at all and that the violation of it is no crime at all, for no one is bound to obey an unjust law." -- Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone
"For more than six hundred years-- that is, since Magna Carta, in 1215--there has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law, than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what was the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also their right, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such law." --Lysander Spooner, The Right of Juries
If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by a judge, and contrary to the evidence. -- 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, US v Moylan, 1969
Every jury in the land is tampered with and falsely instructed by the judge when it is told that it must accept as the law that which has been given to them, or that they can decide only the facts of the case. -- Lord Denham, O'Connell v Rex (1884)
The jury has the power to bring in a verdict in the teeth of both the law and the facts. -- Justice Holmes, Homing v District of Columbia, 138 (1920)
When a jury acquits a defendant even though he or she clearly appears to be guilty, the acquittal conveys significant information about community attitudes and provides a guideline for future prosecutorial discretion...Because of the high acquittal rate in prohibition cases in the 1920s and early 1930s, prohibition laws could not be enforced. The repeal of these laws is traceable to the refusal of juries to convict those accused of alcohol traffic. -- Sheflin and Van Dyke, Law and Contemporary Problems, 43, No. 4, 1980
It is not
only the juror's right, but his duty, to find the verdict
according to his own best understanding, judgment and
conscience, though in direct opposition to the directions of
the court.-- John Adams
From our overstocked archives: Notes of a nullifier
In today's coverage we discuss developments concerning jury nullification. Here are some more personal notes on the topic:
Sam Smith, 1999 - The October issue was late because your editor was tied up in a six-hour voir dire for a double-robbery case. In the end, I maintained my perfect record of having never sat as a through a full trial. As a Coast Guard officer I was bounced from two courts martial, and I have been dismissed from three jury panels. In the one case in which I was seated, the first two witnesses -- both US Park Police officers -- identified the defense counsel as the defendant. The trial was over in 20 minutes.
In the most recent case, the judge's impressive if tedious effort to obtain a fair jury resulted in a long series of bench conferences as citizens told of their connections to crime and law enforcement. For my part I mentioned my USCG background, three house burglaries, one office break-in, one stolen car, being detained at Washington National Airport as a suspected terrorist due to a defective computer-screening machine, and the fact that one of my brothers in-law had been killed in a drug store robbery.
Then I explained to Judge Michael Rankin that, while I doubted it was relevant in this case, I had been advised that I should reveal my long public advocacy of the right of juries to judge both the law and the facts. I noted that this view had upset some judges. Judge Rankin said it didn't bother him although he didn't mind debating the issue and had done so with Paul Butler, the black lawyer-scholar who has promoted nullification as a form of protest.
I told the judge that I didn't think Butler's arguments were effective because they were based on ethnicity rather than history, which offered a much stronger case. I then began a brief spiel the subject citing Learned Hand, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Thomas Jefferson. While previous US Attorneys had expressed hostility towards my views, this one merely asked whether there were any legal principles that I would uphold. I asked for an example and Judge Rankin said, well, you would support the presumption of innocence wouldn't you? I said, of course, and then -- brazenly rapping my hand on the judge's bench to punctuate the point -- said my concern was that the jury remain our last defense against tyranny, the final legislature deciding the law as it pertained to the case under consideration. To my amazement, Judge Rankin said, well, you'll get no argument from me. The judge and both attorneys agreed that the case under consideration did not raise such issues and that was the end of the matter. I was later dismissed on a peremptory challenge.
The incident reminded me of another
pleasant surprise I recently stumbled upon in a DC
courthouse. Twenty citizens, including myself, are suing the
President, Senate, House, and federal control board for the
lack of DC self-government. The day before our hearing
before a special three-judge panel in US District Court (in
the very courtroom of Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Monica
fame) someone called the US Marshals and warned that our
group might be planning some disruption. Sure enough, when I
entered the courthouse with co-plaintiff and black minister
Graylan Hagler, there seemed an excess number of surly cops
standing outside. A US Marshal approached and asked if he
could help us. Rev. Hagler asked for directions to the
cafeteria which the Marshal gave and then he looked at
Hagler, and said, "I've been to your church, Reverend. In
fact, one of my men is on your board of trustees. Let's go
and bless him." So the marshal and the reverend left me to
find the cafeteria by myself and to recall again something
that is easy for activists to forget: not all your friends
are out of power.
It's illegal to be black or latino in New York City
Common Dreams - With more than 600,601 stops, 87 percent of which were of black and latino New Yorkers, last year was the worst year for stop-and-frisks since the city began keeping records. For many children, being stopped by the police on their way home from school has become a normal afterschool activity, and that is a tragedy.
A February 23 NYPD press release makes the bold claim, “Stops save lives,” yet the department has never been able to prove that stop-and-frisk even reduces crime. Only 0.13 percent of last year’s stops resulted in the discovery of a firearm, and only 7 percent of the stops resulted in arrests.
Ten years’ worth of previous data show that NYPD officers use physical force at a far higher rate during stops of blacks and latinos compared to whites, and that this disparity exists despite corresponding rates of arrest and weapons or contraband yield across racial lines, which further supports our legal claims that the NYPD is engaged in a pattern of racial profiling in its stop-and-frisk practices.
The data up until the last quarter of 2010 reveal that “fits relevant description” is the reason for actual stops only 15 percent of the time. Far and away the most often cited reason for a stop by the police is the vague and undefined “furtive movements” (nearly 50 percent of all stops) and when the police deem someone to appear to be “casing a victim or location” (nearly 30 percent of all stops). Also listed are “inappropriate attire for season,” “wearing clothes commonly used in a crime” and “suspicious bulge,” among other boxes an officer can check off on the form. CCR will release the numbers for the most recent year when we receive the complete raw data.
stops-and-frisks without reasonable suspicion violate the
Fourth Amendment, and racial profiling is a violation of
fundamental rights and protections of the Fourteenth
Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Walker's sorry record of dealing with workers
AFL-CIO - Walker has long record attacking public employees’ rights to bargain for good jobs¬and having his hand slapped by the legal system, too.
* In Oct, 2010, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission found that Milwaukee County, under then-County Executive Walker, failed to bargain in good faith with AFSCME District Council 48. Walker’s own bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with county workers in late 2009, but within days he announced a budget that ignored the agreement and assumed major concessions that had not been negotiated. At that point, he threatened major layoffs unless unions accepted the un-negotiated concessions. Walker’s team had not discussed the budget’s impact with the union.
* Walker’s unilateral decision to replace Milwaukee County Courthouse security staff with private contractors also was overruled by a WERC arbitrator on Jan. 10. The arbitrator ordered the county to reinstate county security staff with back pay, a decision that could cost the county $430,000.
* In Dec. 2010, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld an arbitrator’s decision that Walker overstepped his powers by trying to impose a 35-hour work week on Milwaukee County workers. Walker cited a budget crisis as the need for chopping five hours off the workweek without talking to the union. The arbitrator and court did not agree.
* In 2006, the union sought and won
temporary restraining order to stop layoffs threatened by
Walker in an attempt to force concessions.
Newly created jobs don't pay well
AFL-CIO - More than a million private-sector jobs were added to the U.S. economy during the past 12 months, but they were mainly middle and lower-wage jobs, a new report from the National Employment Law Project finds. The heavy growth in industries like temporary employment services, restaurants and retail and in nursing and residential care facilities, which pay median wages below $13 an hour, suggests that not only are there fewer job opportunities overall now than before the recession, there are fewer well-paying jobs.
States that ban collective bargaining have big deficits; those that allow are doing well
Craig Crawford, Huffington Post - Collective bargaining is hardly the problem it seems. Those that ban it are in the hole.
Check out the states that are not running deficits -- and all, in various ways, just so happen to support collective bargaining with state employees: Arkansas, Alabama, North Dakota and Wyoming.
Further establishing the myth that banning
collective bargaining curbs deficits, consider the states
that ban it: Four of the five that make it explicitly
illegal face budget shortfalls.
China regulates reincarnation
Register,UK - China has rather brilliantly declared that, from next month, Tibetan Buddhist monks must have official permission to reincarnate, Newsweek reports. The new legislation lays down strict guidelines for making a reappearance and is, according to a statement from the State Administration for Religious Affairs, "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation". The penalty for illicit reincarnation is not noted (100 consecutive life sentences without parole?), but there is method in the Chinese authorities' madness. As Newsweek points out, the law will effectively prevent any Buddhist monk living outside Tibet from seeking reincarnation. Accordingly, it also "effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama". The exiled 72-year-old Dalai Lama is currently in India pondering his successor. Since he's refused to reincarnate in Tibet while it's under Chinese control, there is the provocative possibility of a Chinese-sponsored Dalai Lama going head-to-head with a new young chum for Richard Gere.
America's biggest welfare fathers
From Think Progress
- BANK OF AMERICA: In 2009, Bank of America didn’t pay a single penny in federal income taxes, exploiting the tax code so as to avoid paying its fair share. “Oh, yeah, this happens all the time,” said Robert Willens, a tax accounting expert interviewed by McClatchy. “If you go out and try to make money and you don’t do it, why should the government pay you for your losses?” asked Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice. The same year, the mega-bank’s top executives received pay “ranging from $6 million to nearly $30 million.”
- BOEING: Despite receiving billions of dollars from the federal government every single year in taxpayer subsidies from the U.S. government, Boeing didn’t “pay a dime of U.S. federal corporate income taxes” between 2008 and 2010.
- CITIGROUP: Citigroup’s deferred income taxes for the third quarter of 2010 amounted to a grand total of $0.00. At the same time, Citigroup has continued to pay its staff lavishly. “John Havens, the head of Citigroup’s investment bank, is expected to be the bank’s highest paid executive for the second year in a row, with a compensation package worth $9.5 million.”
- EXXON-MOBIL: The oil giant uses offshore subsidiaries in the Caribbean to avoid paying taxes in the United States. Although Exxon-Mobil paid $15 billion in taxes in 2009, not a penny of those taxes went to the American Treasury. This was the same year that the company overtook Wal-Mart in the Fortune 500. Meanwhile the total compensation of Exxon-Mobil’s CEO the same year was over $29,000,000.
- GENERAL ELECTRIC: In 2009, General Electric ¬ the world’s largest corporation ¬ filed more than 7,000 tax returns and still paid nothing to U.S. government. They managed to do this by a tax code that essentially subsidizes companies for losing profits and allows them to set up tax havens overseas. That same year GE CEO Jeffery Immelt ¬ who recently scored a spot on a White House economic advisory board ¬ “earned total compensation of $9.89 million.” In 2002, Immelt displayed his lack of economic patriotism, saying, “When I am talking to GE managers, I talk China, China, China, China, China….I am a nut on China. Outsourcing from China is going to grow to 5 billion.”
WELLS FARGO: Despite being the fourth largest bank in the
country, Wells Fargo was able to escape paying federal taxes
by writing all of its losses off after its acquisition of
Wachovia. Yet in 2009 the chief executive of Wells Fargo
also saw his compensation “more than double” as he
earned “a salary of $5.6 million
Democratic governor proposes higher taxes for wealthy
Winona Daily News - Gov. Mark Dayton looked to the wealthy to erase about half of a $6.2 billion budget deficit, proposing a new top tax bracket and an income surtax that together would give Minnesota the nation's highest income tax rate.
The Democratic governor's plan would raise nearly $2.9 billion from the top 5 percent of taxpayers, including a new property tax on homes valued at more than $1 million.
It would also increase taxes on health care providers and corporations with foreign operations, while cutting almost $1 billion in spending for programs including MinnesotaCare health care and nursing homes.
Top Republican lawmakers
gave the new income taxes zero chance of passing the
New York Mets Get An Emergency Loan From MLB
The Latino population has grown by more than 30 percent since the year 2000 in the first 16 states for which the U.S. Census Bureau has released data,The Latino population doubled in in South Dakota, Mississippi, Maryland, and Arkansas in the last decade, growing at 10 times the rate of the non-Latino population in those states. Latinos are also responsible for the majority of population growth in the states of Texas, Florida, Arizona and Nevada, - New America Media.
Mid East Update
• Qaddafi Moves $4.8 Billion Of His Own Money To London
• Tunisia prime minister resigns
• Gadhafi Forces Abandon Tripoli Neighborhoods
• Iran opposition figures 'detained'
• Police support protesters against legislature
• The U.S. Catholic bishops threw their moral weight behind the pro-union protesters in Wisconsin, saying the rights of workers do not abate in difficult economic times.
• Rally photos
• Wisconsin governor Scott Walker was asked to leave a restaurant. As a bartender put it, ""his presence was causing a disturbance to the other customers and management asked him to leave."
• WTDY, Madison - WTDY can no longer carry the Glenn Beck program. Over the last 12 months, the show has devolved into plugs for Fox News (the radio version of which is aired by our direct competitor), his books, and other personal endorsements. The lack of actual content becomes more apparent daily. Monday's program was the final straw; his unabashed deriding of Madison is unacceptable for broadcast in our community.
Word: Liberal Zionism is dead
Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam - Liberal Zionism is dead and J Street is liberal Zionism personified. It’s like the Sean Penn character in Dead Man Walking. While it isn’t precisely dead, it is close to being irrelevant. And in politics that’s as good as dead. J Street abandoned us. It is too timid to represent real change or a hopeful message for the future. It waffles. It fudges. It performs ideological litmus tests to determine who’s welcomed inside the tent. And anyone who believes it represents something vital or hopeful in the long-term is deluding him or herself.
may think I’m being overly harsh with J Street if they
feel about it as I once did–that it represents a potential
for something new in the American Jewish community. But the
truth is that J Street will either eventually embrace ideas
it currently labels anathema, or it will rapidly become
irrelevant. Given what I’ve seen, I don’t see it taking
the kind of bold positions that are vital to encourage real
change on the Israeli political scene.
Tolkien estate bullies badge maker
Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing - Not content to censor a book that combines literary criticism and fiction by including JRR Tolkien as a character, the Tolkien estate has shut down Adam Rakunas, who makes and gives away buttons that have the word Tolkien on them:
"Back in the late 2009, I got into a Twitter conversation with Madeline Ashby about geek culture, fandom, and a bunch of stuff like that. Madeline wrote, "While you were reading Tolkien, I was watching Evangelion." I thought this was an excellent encapsulation of the divide in SF/F/Whatever fandom, and thus took to Zazzle to make little buttons with her quote. I bought a bunch, handed them out at a few conventions, then I had a kid and promptly forgot all about it.
"Until today, when Zazzle emailed me to say they were pulling the buttons for intellectual property right infringement.
"And guess who complained about their rights being infringed?
"I've tried to come up with something more to say about this, but I'm too angry and confused and tired to say anything more than I did in the title of this post. Have fun milking your dad's stuff, Christopher Tolkien! "
New censored Tolkien
T-shirts Only the richest 5 percent of Americans are back in
the stores because their stock portfolios have soared. The
Dow Jones Industrial Average has doubled from its crisis
low. Wall Street pay is up to record levels. . The truth
is if the super-rich paid their fair share of taxes,
government wouldn't be broke. If Governor Scott Walker
hadn't handed out tax breaks to corporations and the
well-off, Wisconsin wouldn't be in a budget crisis. If
Washington hadn't extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich,
eviscerated the estate tax, and created loopholes for
private-equity and hedge-fund managers, the federal budget
wouldn't look nearly as bad. And if America had higher
marginal tax rates and more tax brackets at the top - for
those raking in $1 million, $5 million, $15 million a year -
the budget would look even better. We wouldn't be firing
teachers or slashing Medicaid or hurting the most vulnerable
members of our society. We wouldn't be in a tizzy over
Social Security. We'd slow the rise in healthcare costs but
we wouldn't cut Medicare. We'd cut defense spending and lop
off subsidies to giant agribusinesses but we wouldn't view
the government as our national nemesis.
“In my opinion, any
future defense secretary who advises the president to again
send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle
East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as
General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Mr. Gates told an
assembly of Army cadets here. Lincoln, then a young Whig state
congressman, was a major backer of Illinois’s State Bank.
The bank had been authorized to suspend its specie payments
(payments in coin) until the end of the legislative session
in December. Lincoln and his fellow Whigs, then in the
minority, naturally sought to extend the session
indefinitely and hence delay the resumption of specie
payments. So Lincoln jumped out the window. Here’s how
Lincoln biographer David H. Donald described the scene: The Democrats of his day defeated Lincoln's
attempts taking a page out of Wisconsin governor Scott
Walker's book¬by recording Lincoln as "presenting and
voting" even after he had fled. [Lincoln] became the butt
of jokes from his political rivals for a long while after
the spectacle. Mocking his height (Lincoln was tall even by
modern standards), Democrats declared he suffered no
injuries because “‘his legs reached nearly from the
window to the ground!’” The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement
Act requires telecom companies to make it possible for the
government wiretap their networks. Now Obama and law
enforcement want to expand CALEA to cover all online
communications technologies, including peer-to-peer and
social networking apps. The New York Times says the law
would even include making sure the government could
intercept and unscramble encrypted messages. Companies
that want to avoid stifling regulations, and those that
actually care about our privacy rights, would have to leave
the U.S. That'd reduce our prominence as a technology
leader, and encourage the government to devise ever more
heavy-handed ways of blocking Americans from using the
offending technologies. Other companies would comply by
creating back-doors that could lead to more privacy
violations and make the Internet more vulnerable to attack:
experts say wiretap-ready technologies would be much easier
Madison crowd grows
USA Today - Madison Police Department spokesman Joel DeSpain said police figure the crowd of protesters Saturday in downtown Madison, Wis., exceeded last week's Saturday protest, which was estimated at 70,000 people and included a small counter-demonstration by supporters of Gov. Scott Walker. The crowd could have numbered as high as 100,000, but counting it was difficult because it was spread over parts of State Street as well as the Capitol Square and in the Capitol itself. DeSpain said there were no arrests and called the demonstrators "a very civil group."
A good reason to shop at Lowes
Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus says retailers who don't support Republican candidates "should be shot; should be thrown out of their goddamn jobs."
The real cause of our financial problems
Robert Reich, TPM Cafe - The truth is that while the proximate cause of America's economic plunge was Wall Street's excesses leading up to the crash of 2008, its underlying cause -- and the reason the economy continues to be lousy for most Americans -- is so much income and wealth have been going to the very top that the vast majority no longer has the purchasing power to lift the economy out of its doldrums. American's aren't buying cars (they bought 17 million new cars in 2005, just 12 million last year). They're not buying homes (7.5 million in 2005, 4.6 million last year). They're not going to the malls (high-end retailers are booming but Wal-Mart's sales are down).
Even Defense Secretary admits Afghan war is stupid
NY Times - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates bluntly told an audience of West Point cadets on Friday that it would be unwise for the United States to ever fight another war like Iraq or Afghanistan, and that the chances of carrying out a change of government in that fashion again were slim.
Telecoms ripping off universal service fund you pay for
The Hill - Half of the subsidies allotted to phone companies through the Federal Communications Commission's "High-Cost" Universal Service Fund go to the general operations of phone companies, rather than to paying for phone lines, according to a study released on Wednesday.
Fifty-nine cents of every dollar paid out through the fund go to general phone company operations, according to Scott Wallsten, vice president for research at the Technology Policy Institute, a think tank.
Goldman Sachs: GOP budget would hurt economy
LA Times - Spending cuts approved by House Republicans would act as a drag on the U.S. economy, according to a Wall Street analysis that put new pressure on the political debate in Washington. The report by the investment firm Goldman Sachs said the cuts would reduce the growth in gross domestic product by up to 2 percentage points this year, essentially cutting in half the nation's projected economic growth for 2011. The analysis, prepared for the firm's clients, represents the first independent economic assessment of the congressional budget fight, which could lead to a government shutdown as early as next week.
Role model for Wisconsin Democrats: Abraham Lincoln
History News Network - Both Democrats and Republicans in Wisconsin are waging battle armed with the weapons of parliamentary procedure. Fourteen Democratic state senators have fled the state for neighboring Illinois. Their choice of refuge is eminently appropriate, for Abraham Lincoln himself tried to deny his political opponents quorum through a very unorthodox method of departure in 1840.
The only way the Whigs could keep the legislature in session was by absenting themselves, so that there was no quorum. They left Lincoln, together with one or two of his trusted lieutenants, to watch the proceedings and to demand roll calls when the Democrats tried to adjourn. The session dragged on into the evening… Several Democrats rose from their sickbeds to help form a quorum. Rattled, Lincoln and his aides lost their heads and voted on the next roll call. Then, still hoping to block adjournment, they unsuccessfully tried to get out of the locked door. When the sergeant at arms rebuffed them, they jumped out the first-story window.
Feds spied on NY Times reporter
Politico - Federal investigators trying to find out who leaked information about a CIA attempt to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program obtained a New York Times reporter’s three private credit reports, examined his personal bank records and obtained information about his phone calls and travel, according to a new court filing. The scope and intrusiveness of the government’s efforts to uncover reporter James Risen’s sources surfaced Thursday in the criminal case of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer facing federal criminal charges for allegedly disclosing classified information. Sterling is accused of giving Risen details about what Risen describes as the CIA’s plan to give Iran faulty nuclear blueprints, hoping to temporarily thwart the regime’s ambitions to build an atomic bomb.
Providence mayor fires almost 2,000 teachers
NN - Termination notices have been sent to every teacher in the Providence public school system, setting off a wave of anxiety and anger in the Rhode Island city and prompting a union leader to accuse the mayor of anti-union maneuvering. The teachers will remain at work as the school year continues, though the notices sent out this week mean any of them now could lose their jobs at the municipal officials' discretion. During a packed and at-times spirited meeting Thursday night, the city school committee voted 4-3 to back Mayor Angel Tavares' move to send out the notices. The mayor said in an online message Wednesday that he authorized the previous day's decision to dismiss almost 2,000 teachers and staff to allow for greater flexibility as the budget process unfolds.
Obama wants exempt your Blackberry from the Constitution
Act Demand Progress - Skype, BlackBerry, and other Internet communications services are under attack. The Obama administration and the FBI are pushing legislation that would ban online communications technologies like these unless their developers make it easy for the government to wiretap them.
Funny, doesn't look like a diplomatic ID
Things Obama forgot he said
And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner. - Barack Obama, 2007
Down East Journal: An agenda worth copying
Sam SmithAt the last monthly meeting in Brunswick of the Merrymeeting Greens (named after a nearby bay) I was pleased to find the agenda full of some great projects, ones not only good for our area but ones worth repeating elsewhere.
Only the richest 5 percent of Americans are back in the stores because their stock portfolios have soared. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has doubled from its crisis low. Wall Street pay is up to record levels. .
The truth is if the super-rich paid their fair share of taxes, government wouldn't be broke. If Governor Scott Walker hadn't handed out tax breaks to corporations and the well-off, Wisconsin wouldn't be in a budget crisis. If Washington hadn't extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich, eviscerated the estate tax, and created loopholes for private-equity and hedge-fund managers, the federal budget wouldn't look nearly as bad.
And if America had higher marginal tax rates and more tax brackets at the top - for those raking in $1 million, $5 million, $15 million a year - the budget would look even better. We wouldn't be firing teachers or slashing Medicaid or hurting the most vulnerable members of our society. We wouldn't be in a tizzy over Social Security. We'd slow the rise in healthcare costs but we wouldn't cut Medicare. We'd cut defense spending and lop off subsidies to giant agribusinesses but we wouldn't view the government as our national nemesis.
“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Mr. Gates told an assembly of Army cadets here.
Lincoln, then a young Whig state congressman, was a major backer of Illinois’s State Bank. The bank had been authorized to suspend its specie payments (payments in coin) until the end of the legislative session in December. Lincoln and his fellow Whigs, then in the minority, naturally sought to extend the session indefinitely and hence delay the resumption of specie payments.
So Lincoln jumped out the window.
Lincoln biographer David H. Donald described the scene:
The Democrats of his day defeated Lincoln's attempts taking a page out of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's book¬by recording Lincoln as "presenting and voting" even after he had fled.
[Lincoln] became the butt of jokes from his political rivals for a long while after the spectacle. Mocking his height (Lincoln was tall even by modern standards), Democrats declared he suffered no injuries because “‘his legs reached nearly from the window to the ground!’”
The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act requires telecom companies to make it possible for the government wiretap their networks. Now Obama and law enforcement want to expand CALEA to cover all online communications technologies, including peer-to-peer and social networking apps. The New York Times says the law would even include making sure the government could intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
Companies that want to avoid stifling regulations, and those that actually care about our privacy rights, would have to leave the U.S. That'd reduce our prominence as a technology leader, and encourage the government to devise ever more heavy-handed ways of blocking Americans from using the offending technologies. Other companies would comply by creating back-doors that could lead to more privacy violations and make the Internet more vulnerable to attack: experts say wiretap-ready technologies would be much easier to hack.
The first was to get Greens and Libertarians debating or discussing with each other on Maine college campuses, something I have occasionally urged for more than a decade. Greens and Libertarians are usually the only parties on the ballot whose intellectual positions haven't been undermined by bribery. Both tend to be smart, thoughtful and interesting and, besides, the purpose wouldn't be to get Greens to become Libertarians or vice versa but for Democrats and Republicans to see the error of their ways as well as discovering what honest politics is really about. As the minutes of our meeting later put it, "The purpose of these forums would be to show how political discussion can be handled with a goal of finding commonalities rather than differences."
Greens and Libertarians have a lot in common beyond the frustrations of third party status. They tend not to like war, they support abortion and marijuana rights, gay marriage and a localist approach to things. I can't stand the Libertarian go-it-alone theory of economics - which I sometimes suspect grows out of an inability to play well with other children - but it does lead to a healthy view of civil liberties. It's not that I think of Libertarians as self centered, rather I sense a kind of loneliness and a lack of happy experience with communities coming together for the common good. Nonetheless, I still find Libertarians among the nicest folks with whom not to agree.
At the meeting our conversation was neither political nor theoretical. It was about getting the discussions going and there to help us was Jorge Maderal, one of the leaders of the Maine Libertarians. He stayed for the whole meeting and things are now rolling in the right direction.
The Merrymeeting Greens was a great place to start. No one really knows where the name Merrymeeting comes from but Frank Burroughs, in Confluence: Merrymeeting Bay, wrote, "It might more plausibly have come from the springtime reunions of trappers and traders, native Americans and Euro-Americans, which would presumably have been as convivial as cheap rum and brandy could make them. But my guess is that the name had more to do with the English culture wars than with local events, and that it was intended to appeal to one kind of English colonist and warn off another. The fact that one cove down river from the Bay is named Robinhood and another Christmas tends to support this: both names, to a Puritan, would have smacked of Merry Olde England, which was precisely the anathema they were fleeing." Neither Greens nor Libertarians have much use for Puritans.
The other two items on the agenda were a flashback to a time before the Internet had untrained activists in the once valued skill of community organizing, replacing it with clictivisim.
As Micah White put it in the Guardian:
"Gone is faith in the power of ideas, or the poetry of deeds, to enact social change. Instead, subject lines are A/B tested and messages vetted for widest appeal. Most tragically of all, to inflate participation rates, these organizations increasingly ask less and less of their members. The end result is the degradation of activism into a series of petition drives that capitalize on current events. Political engagement becomes a matter of clicking a few links. In promoting the illusion that surfing the web can change the world, clicktivism is to activism as McDonalds is to a slow-cooked meal. It may look like food, but the life-giving nutrients are long gone.
"Exchanging the substance of activism for reformist platitudes that do well in market tests, clicktivists damage every genuine political movement they touch. In expanding their tactics into formerly untrammelled political scenes and niche identities, they unfairly compete with legitimate local organizations who represent an authentic voice of their communities. They are the Wal-Mart of activism: leveraging economies of scale, they colonies emergent political identities and silence underfunded radical voices."
In place of clicktivism, the Merrymeeting Greens have come up with a League of Brunswick Voters and another group called Vital Connections. Both were created on the principle that communities - of geography or of empathy - are the rock of successful organizing. In many ways it is the opposite of what the corporate world and its emulators think of as leadership. Instead of a few taking power, it involves helping people build their own by coming together. Nelson Mandela knew about it, as he recalled, because he had grown up on a cattle farm. There he learned to "lead from behind."
The League of Brunswick Voters is the geographical example, "an informal group of citizens for better government. Our goals are to help ordinary people understand the workings of our government and to build grassroots support for better public policies." Current topics include a recently closed naval air station, a downtown plan, where to put the new police station, and how to introduce majority, instead of plurality, voting.
Vital Connections, on the other hand, is a community of empathy. As the minutes put it: "Bruce reminds us that this idea is intended as a way of ending our isolation from each other, of setting up a new model for communication and community-building, of encouraging the many issues to collaborate together. Getting to know each other is central to the growth of the idea.
"The proposal is that quarterly potlucks (with an opportunity for a few of the groups to present their issues and needs at each gathering) will lead us to cross-fertilize ideas and support each other as we move toward change. What actually emerges and develops will come as the groups meet and talk, not from a proposed expectation."
Here are some notes from the minutes of
first meeting. As you read it, think about how different it
sounds from what you hear on CNN or MSNBC:
|||| After sharing a hearty meal we gathered in Fred's living room for introductions. . .
John Rensenbrink: "You wouldn't know it from the masters of the mass media and surely not from the daily troubling scene in Washington, D.C. but there is something really thrilling going on in America. Below the radar screen, a revolution is taking place in America. A quiet revolution. One word for it is the localization revolution. Take food, for example: in 1988 there were 14 certified organic farms in Maine. Twenty years later there were 339. . . .
Bill Bliss reporting on Tedford Housing where he is a board member: They provide shelter, they work to prevent homelessness and to create supportive housing. . . Reporting on Bath United Church of Christ where he serves as pastor: They are in the process of re-branding to become "The Neighborhood Faith Community" where healing, generosity, spiritual growth and authentic relationships will be fostered.
Donna Robinson reporting on Merrymeeting Community Shares which she leads: It is a complementary economy where neighbors help neighbors using time as the currency and where all kinds of services are considered equal in value.
Andrew Fiori reporting on Friends of Merrymeeting Bay . . . a unique eco-system in need of human care and support.
Carol Huntington reporting on her work as Deacon of the Episcopal Church where she focuses on peace and justice work toward building a culture of peace. She works with churches listening around issues of conflict between Israel and Palestine. She educates in Maine around Wabanaki indigenous rights. At home she and her husband provide housing for five low-income residents.
Alexander Petroff reporting on his non-profit Working Villages International in Congo. Starting a few years ago with nothing but barren land, the project is now supporting 1000 farmers and their families and is growing many acres of grains and vegetables.
Jim McCarthy reporting on his 10 years as managing editor and now editorial page editor of the Times Record. He sees the paper as a forum for discussion by way of daily submissions and feels blessed that so many people send letters to be published.
John D'Aneiri reporting on his project Maine Farm Enterprise Schools where he wants to break down boundaries between "school" and "life."
Peter Woodruff reporting on his work at Bath Iron Works where he has been a mechanic and a designer for many years: He tries to swing the vote to building other things besides war ships. There could be a bright future at BIW in alternative energy via deep-sea wind turbines. Most BIW workers don't care what it is they build. They could be working on high-speed rail or woodstoves. He takes photographs of wind towers and posts them around the workplace.
Karen Wainberg is a social worker and spoke about the Oasis Clinic in Brunswick where nurses, social workers and doctors volunteer their time meeting the needs of a growing community of people without health care coverage. She also spoke of the Neighborhood Café in Bath that started as a once a week dinner on the day of the Food Bank at the UCC church. It has become a spectacular experience where there are no servers [or] served.
Mary Heath has been a nurse and social worker in Maine for 30 years. She wants to see the health care system develop around caring circles that offer care and dignity to all patients.
Liz Brownlee is just transitioning from an Americorps job at Wolfe's Neck Farm to their agriculture program. The Farm is dedicated to sustainable agriculture, environmental education, and community well being
Jorge Madaral is a retired Naval officer who is on the board of the Hydrogen Energy Center, supporting small alternative energy projects. No oil, no electricity. He also works with the American Legion trying to find a meeting place for older veterans. [He's also the Libertarian leader mentioned earlier]
Seth Kroeck runs the Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick. His children are school aged. In 2007 he became seriously ill with an immune system disorder. He and his family found themselves in an amazing community of care and support that was an inspiring experience for them and for the community.
Kay Mann has been the marketing manager of Woodex Corporation in Georgetown for a number of years and was on the board of the Hydrogen Energy Center. When the U.S. invaded Iraq she says "something snapped in me" and I resolved to work on a transition to clean energy
Rosalie Paul is a retired art teacher, volunteering now as a peace and social justice activist.||||
All this has been taking place in one American town of 15,000. But even in such a small place, many who came to the first Vital Connections session hadn't met and had never sat down together to discover what they had in common or to discuss what they could create in common.
According to one count there are about 10,000 cities, 4400 towns and 3700 villages in America. What if each had a league of voters and a Vital Connections? What if in each people came together and learned that they were not the problem - they were the answer?