"It is the death of humanity to know the price of everything but the value of nothing." ~Unknown

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities

National Coalition for the Homeless

Here's what happens in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania if you should happen to get sick, become disabled & lose your job: Here is my timeline: 6/2006  Back Pain, decreased mobility, consult doctor, diagnostic tests, diagnosis: 'spinal stenosis' consult surgen,  surgery date arranged, 7/2006 Leave job & go on Short Term Disability at 80% of my wages, 10/2006 have surgery: Laminectomy with spinal fusion at L-3, L-4, L-5, long and painful recovery period ( 6-12 months), chronic pain, strong pain meds, 12/2006 Gallbladder issue, have a cholecystectomy (gull-bladder removal)in hospital for 7 days.   4 months after back surgery it fails and  sciatic nerve pain is back, 1/2007 Short Term Disability ends and Long Term Disability takes over  $960.00 a month at  less than 50% my wages plus  I lose my Healthcare Insurance so out of $960.00 a month I spend approx. $300.00 a month for prescription drugs plus another $40.00 for monthly doctor visits. My back continues to deteriorate, Pain is excruciating, can't move or feel my left leg or groin, bladder is damaged, I can not void, 4/2007 I go to the ER, they send me home, pain increases back to ER via Ambulance in less than 12 hour.  4/2008 I have a 6 hour emergency surgery on my back extending the spinal fusion L-3, L-4, L-5, S-1,  (Neurosurgeon saves my bladder) sent to intensive care for 2 days, then to surgical step-down, then to Rehab spending a total of 15 days in the hospital. Recovery period very long (8-12 months)and very painful. Pain med, neuro meds, etc. approx $700.00 a month for 3 months then back down to approx $300-350 again. 10/2009 UNUM Provident, my LTD Insurance Co. informs me that I am up for my 2 year re-evaluated. 6/2009 UNUM Provident ignores my  Surgeon, ignoring my PCP who is treating me for chronic pain with OxyContin and Percocet, ignoring my physical restriction (not to lift anything over 5 pounds) ignoring the fact I am on narcotics for pain control they still terminated my LTD. They flat out lied!  So now I have NOTHING and can not work. I applied for Public Assistance based on disability. I get Medicaide (I'm grateful for that) I get $200.00 a month in Food Stamps (I'm grateful for that) I get $200.00 a month in cash....where am I suppose to live for $200.00 a month?  Where does one live for $200.00 a month ???  I applied for SSI in 8/2009 (8 months ago) I'm still waiting for a determination. By the way, I am 54 years old, I've been working since I was 16 years old. Up until 6/2009 I paid taxes too. I'm about to be homeless.   I've lost my ability to work and earn a living, my independence, my financual security, the ability to many of the things that I enjoyed due to my physical limitations andI've lost my dignity.   Moral of the story: DO NOT GET SICK IN AMERICA

This is what spinal fusion at L-3, L-4, L-5, S-1 looks like.  
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A Dream Denied:
The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities

Trends in the Criminalization of Homelessness

For the past 25 years, cities have increasingly implemented laws and policies that target homeless persons living in public spaces. This trend began with cities passing laws making it illegal to sleep in public spaces or conducting “sweeps” of areas where homeless people were living. In many cities, more neutral laws, such as open container or loitering laws, have been selectively enforced for years. Other measures that cities have pursued over the past couple decades include anti-panhandling laws, laws regulating sitting on the sidewalk, and numerous other measures.

In some cities where a variety of “status” ordinances have resulted in large numbers of arrests, “habitual offenders” are given longer jail terms and classified as criminals in shelters and other service agencies because of their records.

Unfortunately, over the years, cities have increasingly pursued these measures and expanded their strategies to target homeless people, using vague “disorderly conduct” citations to discourage homeless people from moving freely in public. During the past year, cities have increasingly focused on restrictions to panhandling and public feedings. These restrictions only create additional barriers for people trying to move beyond homelessness and poverty.

I. Restrictions on Panhandling

Some cities have turned their attention to restricting panhandling in the downtown areas of their cities. These targeted restrictions also often include prohibitions on panhandling near ATMs, bus stops, or outdoor restaurants.

In August 2005, Atlanta passed a fairly comprehensive ban on panhandling in the “tourist triangle” and anywhere in the city after sunset. The ordinance, entitled, “Commercial Solicitation,” also bans panhandling within 15 feet of an ATM, bus stop, taxi stand, pay phone, public toilet, or train station in all parts of the city. Upon conviction for a third offense of the ordinance, a violator can be fined up to $1000 or imprisoned for up to 30 days.

Cleveland also passed an anti-panhandling law in July 2005 that, among other things, prohibits panhandling within 20 feet of an ATM, bus stop, or sidewalk café. The law on “aggressive solicitation” also prohibits panhandling within 10 feet of an entrance to a restaurant or parking lot.

Pittsburgh city leaders amended its panhandling ordinance in November 2005. The new bill expands on the existing panhandling ordinance by restricting solicitation for charity to daylight hours. The bill also bans panhandling within 25 feet of an outdoor eating establishment, 25 feet of an admission line, 25 feet of the entrance to a place of religious assembly, within 25 feet of money dispensing areas, and 10 feet of a food vendor or bus stop. The bill also outlaws “aggressive panhandling” and solicitation of money that hinders traffic.

Another trend among cities trying to regulate panhandling includes requiring panhandlers to obtain a license to panhandle. Dayton, for example, prohibits persons from panhandling without a “registration” issued by the Chief of Police. Additionally, in Cincinnati, panhandling without a permit is considered “improper solicitation.”

The Minneapolis Chief of Police tried to promote the licensing of panhandlers in May 2005. Service providers and advocates spoke out against the proposed scheme, noting that deeper issues must be addressed instead of criminalizing poor and homeless people. The effort by the Chief of Police has been put on hold, as the Mayor of Minneapolis opposes licensing panhandlers. The Mayor is seeking alternatives to licensing to address panhandling, but has not revealed what those alternatives would be.

Yet another form of targeting panhandlers has emerged in city efforts to encourage people to give to organizations or charities instead of to panhandlers. Baltimore, Nashville, Athens, Georgia, and Spokane all have such campaigns to discourage people from giving to panhandlers.

II. Restrictions on Feedings

Cities have been further targeting homeless persons by penalizing those offering outdoor feedings for homeless individuals. These city restrictions are frequently aimed at preventing providers from serving food in parks and other public spaces.

In Dallas, beginning in September 2005, a new ordinance penalizes charities, churches, and other organizations that serve food to the needy outside of designated areas of the city. Anyone who violates this ordinance can be fined up to $2000.

In June 2005, Miami also considered passing a law that would prohibit groups from feeding homeless persons in city parks and on the streets. Local advocates have been negotiating with the city to prevent the city from passing the law.

In Atlanta, Mayor Shirley Franklin issued an Executive Order prohibiting feeding homeless people in parks or in public. Although the order carries with it no legal sanction, it has deterred many churches and communities of faith from continuing with their food ministries.

Atlanta, Ga., Code of Ordinances ch. 43, § 1 (2005).

Cleveland, Oh., Code § 605.31 (2005).

The bill number is 2005-1598, and was passed by the Pittsburgh City Council on November 1, 2005. The mayor has not yet signed the bill.

Dayton, Oh., Rev. Code of Gen. Ordinances § 137.20 (2000).

Cincinnati, Oh., Code § 910-12 (2004).

Athens uses meters.

Dallas, Tx., Ordinance No. 26023 (2005).

Bachmann Accuses The Media Of ‘Treason,’ Claims Use Of ‘Deem And Pass’ Warrants ‘Impeachment’

Think Progress » Bachmann Accuses The Media Of ‘Treason,’ Claims Use Of ‘Deem And Pass’ Warrants ‘Impeachment’

How many lies does this women have to get caught telling before she is contrite? This person hasn't a minuscule of dignity,  self respect or shame.  She doesn't posses enough good taste to be the least bit embarrassed when her lies are exposed.  The woman is a Sociopath so I guess her job was tailor made for her.  She sickens me.
 By Matt Corley at 12:41 pm
Last Friday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) began freaking out that House Democrats are considering the use of a common parliamentary procedure known as either a “self-executing rule” or “deem and pass” to finish health care reform. “If they do that then American citizens have standing to sue against this bill,” said Bachmann on Friday. The next day, Bachmann suggested that citizens “don’t have to follow” the health care law if it passes using that procedure. (In fact, there will be an up or down vote on the bill.)
On Sean Hannity’s radio show yesterday, Bachmann went even further by accusing the media of “treason” for “not telling this story” that Speaker Nancy Pelosi “would even consider having us pass a bill that no one votes on.” Bachmann then suggested that if health care passed through “deem and pass,” it would warrant calls of impeachment:
BACHMANN: Well, yeah, and the other thing is treason media. Where is the mainstream media in all of this not telling this story? This is a compelling story.
BACHMANN: That the Speaker of the House would even consider having us pass a bill that no one votes on.
BACHMANN:   That should laugh her out of the House and there should be people that are calling for impeachment off of something like this. That’s how bad this is. I mean trust me, Dennis Hastert never could have gotten away with this.
Listen here:

Bachmann’s outrage is ridiculous. As AEI congressional scholar Norman Ornstein pointed out yesterday, former Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) did get “away with this” when he was Speaker. “In the last Congress that Republicans controlled, from 2005 to 2006, Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier used the self-executing rule more than 35 times, and was no stranger to the concept of deem and pass,” wrote Ornstein.
Additionally, accusations against the patriotism of people with whom she disagrees is nothing new for Bachmann. In October 2008, Bachmann declared on MSNBC’s Hardball said that she was “very concerned” that then-candidate Barack Obama “may have anti-American views,” calling for the media to investigate whether members of Congress had anti-American views. Despite denying that she called Obama’s views “anti-American,” Bachmann later reiterated her belief that “Barack Obama’s views are against America.”

HANNITY: So this is really the key week.

BACHMANN: Oh, this is it.
HANNITY: You believe that if we win this week, we win this battle.
BACHMANN: Yes I do. Yes I do. This is it.
HANNITY: Well, you’ve never said that to me before and you’ve been pretty accurate on your timelines here before. We’re not going to hold you to it, but I hope and pray — you realize Congresswoman, this has gone on for 14 months.
BACHMANN: Yes I do. This is the longest 14 months of my life. I’ve aged about 15 years.
HANNITY: Nah, you look like you’re getting younger by the day. But I’ll tell you what’s really driving me nuts is I have never seen such outright corruption.
HANNITY: I have never seen such perversion of the law. I’ve never — whoever heard of deem and pass, the Slaughter rule and whoever thought the whole process, I feel like I need to take a shower watching this.
BACHMANN: Well, yeah, and the other thing is treason media. Where is the mainstream media in all of this not telling this story? This is a compelling story.
BACHMANN: That the Speaker of the House would even consider having us pass a bill that no one votes on.
BACHMANN: That should laugh her out of the House and there should be people that are calling for impeachment off of something like this. That’s how bad this is. I mean trust me, Dennis Hastert never could have gotten away with this.
BACHMANN: President Bush never could have gotten away with this.
HANNITY: What do we teach our children when this process is all done? How do we explain this to our kids?
BACHMANN: Well, and that, that’s why this is a very useful example to all of us about growing up and being serious and knowing how valuable and important our country is. And the value of elections. That’s what we learned about the value of this last election when with one party dominance and rule and this is how they view our most precious, sacred document the Constitution. They’re going to ignore it? No.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

IRS, DOJ use social media sites to track deadbeats, criminal activity

IRS, DOJ use social media sites to track deadbeats, criminal activity

Documents offer peek at use of social networking sites in investigations

March 16, 2010 04:41 PM ET

Computerworld - Advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation has obtained documents showing how law enforcement agencies and the Internal Revenue Service are gathering information from social networking sites for their investigations.

The documents were obtained via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed last December by the EFF and the University of California, Berkeley's Samuelson Clinic. The lawsuit was filed against six federal agencies and sought information on their use of social networking sites for data collection and surveillance purposes.

The agencies named in the lawsuit were the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The EFF this week obtained documents from two of those agencies -- the IRS and the Justice Department -- that show how the government is collecting information from social networking sites, as it has been suspected of doing for some time, said Shane Witnov, a law student and spokesman for the lawsuit at the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic. "The documents tell us clearly that the government is using social networking sites for undercover investigations," Witnov said.

In the case of the IRS, formal policies appear to be in place governing the manner in which agents can use social networking sites to investigate taxpayers, Witnov said. Guidelines contained in a 2009 IRS training course show that the agency clearly forbids agents from using deception and fake social networking accounts to ferret out information.

Agents are also limited to only accessing and using publicly available information from social networking sites. "We were actually quite impressed that they had formal training in place and that these were the rules they had established," Witnov said.

The 38-page IRS training document posted on the EFF Web site provides detailed tips to agents on how to conduct searches, locate relevant taxpayer information, narrow down and refine results, and save multiple Web pages using Adobe's Web capture feature. Among the social media applications mentioned are Google Groups, FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and Second Life.

The IRS document provides an example of how information gathered from a social networking site could be useful in a tax investigation. In the example, a revenue officer discovers that a taxpayer he is investigating maintains a social networking site to advertise his services as a comedian. The officer discovers that the individual maintains a video clip on his social network site where he lists his schedule of past and future performances. That information could be useful in determining amounts paid to the taxpayer for his performances and where those payments were deposited, the document noted.

"Future performance sites are potential levy sources and show where the taxpayer will be for possible summons if returns and financial information are needed," the document said.

Meanwhile, the documents obtained from the criminal division of the Justice Department show that law enforcement agents there use social media sites for undercover operations, Witnov said.

A DOJ slide presentation titled "Obtaining and Using Evidence from Social Networking Sites" from the department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property section describes how evidence from social networking sites can reveal personal communications that might help "establish motives and personal relationships." The slide show also mentions how content posted by a user on a social media site could provide location information and "prove and disprove alibis."

The presentation also mentions the responsiveness of some social media sites such as Facebook to law enforcement requests for data. It also notes that most Twitter content is public while private Twitter messages are stored on Twitter's servers until a user deletes them. The "bad news" for law enforcement, however, is that there is no contact information for Twitter users, such as phone numbers, making the site less valuable for gathering information. The DOJ documents also say that Twitter only retains the last log-in IP address and does not preserve data unless legally required to do so.

The DOJ presentation also says that going undercover on social media sites can allow law enforcement to communicate with suspects and targets, gain access to nonpublic information and map social relationships.

The goal in getting the government to disclose its policies related to such practices is to foster a dialogue on the appropriate use of social networking sites in criminal investigations, Witnov said.

"There is a balance between privacy and protecting ourselves from crime," that needs to be achieved, he said. There are instances where the seriousness of a crime might override privacy rights. But there need to be guidelines on when and how information from social networking sites can be collected, he added.

Beyond Orwell: The Electronic Police State, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A truism perhaps, but before resorting to brute force and open repression to halt the "barbarians at the gates," that would be us, the masters of declining empires (and the chattering classes who polish their boots) regale us with tales of "democracy on the march," "hope" and other banalities before the mailed fist comes crashing down.

Putting it another way, as the late, great Situationist malcontent, Guy Debord did decades ago in his relentless call for revolt, The Society of the Spectacle:

"The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender 'lonely crowds.' With ever-increasing concreteness the spectacle recreates its own presuppositions."

And when those "presuppositions" reproduce ever-more wretched clichés promulgated by true believers or rank opportunists, take your pick, market "democracy," the "freedom to choose" (the length of one's chains), or even quaint notions of national "sovereignty" (a sure fire way to get, and keep, the masses at each others' throats!) we're left with a fraud, a gigantic swindle, a "postmodern" refinement of tried and true methods that would do Orwell proud!

Ponder Debord's rigorous theorem and substitute "cell phone" and "GPS" for "automobile," and "Internet" for "television" and you're soon left with the nauseating sense that the old "infobahn" isn't all its cracked up to be. As a seamless means for effecting control on the other hand, of our thoughts, our actions, even our whereabouts; well, that's another story entirely!

In this light, a new report published by Cryptohippie, The Electronic Police State: 2010 National Rankings, delivers the goods and rips away the veil from the smirking visage of well-heeled corporate crooks and media apologists of America's burgeoning police state.

"When we produced our first Electronic Police State report" Cryptohippie's analysts write, "the top ten nations were of two types:

1. Those that had the will to spy on every citizen, but lacked ability.
2. Those who had the ability, but were restrained in will.

But as they reveal in new national rankings, "This is changing: The able have become willing and their traditional restraints have failed." The key developments driving the global panopticon forward are the following:

● The USA has negated their Constitution's fourth amendment in the name of protection and in the name of "wars" against terror, drugs and cyber attacks.
● The UK is aggressively building the world of 1984 in the name of stopping "anti-social" activities. Their populace seems unable or unwilling to restrain the government.
● France and the EU have given themselves over to central bureaucratic control.

In France, the German newsmagazine Spiegel reported that a new law passed by the lower house of Parliament in February "conjures up the specter of Big Brother and the surveillance state."

Similar to legislation signed into law by German president Horst Köhler last month, police and security forces in France would be granted authority to surreptitiously install malware known as a "Trojan horse" to spy on private computers. Remote access to a user's personal data would be made possible under a judge's supervision.

While French parliamentarians aligned with right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy insist the measure is intended to filter and block web sites with criminal content or to halt allegedly "illegal" file sharing, civil libertarians have denounced the legislation.

Sandrine Béllier, a member of the European Parliament for the Green Party, said that "when it comes to restrictions, this text is preparing us for hell."

Additionally, the new law will include measures that will further integrate police files and private data kept by banks and other financial institutions. French securocrats cynically insist this is a wholly innocent move to "maintain the level and quality of service provided by domestic security forces," Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux told Spiegel.

Generalized political measures such as these that hinder free speech and expression, whilst enhancing the surveillance capabilities of the state, also indicate that so-called "Western democracies" are not far behind beacons of freedom such as China, North Korea, Belarus and Russia when it comes to repressive police measures. Indeed, Cryptohippie's rankings place the United States a mere 2/100ths of a point behind Russia when it comes to Internet and other forms of electronic spying.

The top ten scofflaws in 2010 are: 1. North Korea; 2. China; 3. Belarus; 4. Russia; 5. United States; 6. United Kingdom; 7. France; 8. Israel; 9. Singapore and, 10. Germany.

A Profit-Driven Panopticon

In a capitalist "democracy" such as ours where the business of government is always business and individual liberties be damned, grifting North American and European telecommunications and security firms, with much encouragement and great fanfare from their national security establishments and a lap-dog media blaze the path for Western versions of the sinister "Golden Shield."

Recently in the United States, whistleblowing web sites such as Cryptome and Slight Paranoia have come under attack. Both sites have been hit by take down notices under the onerous Digital Millennium Copyright Act for posting documents and files that exposed the close, and very profitable arrangements, made by giant telecommunications firms and ISPs with the American secret state.

In Cryptome's case, administrator John Young had his site shuttered for a day when the giant software firm, Microsoft, demanded that its so-called "lawful spying guide" be removed by Young. All five files are currently back on-line as Zipped files at Cryptome and make for a very enlightening read.

But the harassment didn't stop there. When Young published PayPal's "lawful spying guide," the firm froze Cryptome's account, in all likelihood at the behest of America's spy agencies, allegedly for "illegal activities," i.e., offering Cryptome's entire archive for sale on two DVDs!

Why would the secret state's corporate partners target Young? Perhaps because since 1996, "Cryptome welcomes documents for publication that are prohibited by governments worldwide, in particular material on freedom of expression, privacy, cryptology, dual-use technologies, national security, intelligence, and secret governance--open, secret and classified documents--but not limited to those. Documents are removed from this site only by order served directly by a US court having jurisdiction. No court order has ever been served; any order served will be published here--or elsewhere if gagged by order. Bluffs will be published if comical but otherwise ignored."

In previous reports, Cryptohippie characterized an electronic police state thusly:

1. It is criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial.
2. It is gathered universally ("preventively") and only later organized for use in prosecutions.

Silent and seamless, our political minders have every intention of deploying such formidable technological resources as a preeminent--and preemptive--means for effecting social control. Indeed, what has been characterized by corporate and media elites as an "acceptable," i.e. managed political discourse, respect neither national boundaries, the laws and customs of nations, nor a population's right to abolish institutions, indeed entire social systems when the governed are reduced to the level of a pauperized herd ripe for plunder.

How then, does this repressive metasystem work? What are the essential characteristics that differentiate an Electronic Police State from previous forms of oppressive governance? Cryptohippie avers:

"In an Electronic Police State, every surveillance camera recording, every email sent, every Internet site surfed, every post made, every check written, every credit card swipe, every cell phone ping... are all criminal evidence, and all are held in searchable databases. The individual can be prosecuted whenever the government wishes."

"Long term" Cryptohippie writes, the secret state (definitionally expanded here to encompass "private" matters such as workplace surveillance, union busting, persecution of whistleblowers, corporate political blacklisting, etc.), "the Electronic Police State destroys free speech, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, and other liberties. Worse, it does so in a way that is difficult to identify."

As Antifascist Calling and others have pointed out, beside the usual ruses deployed by ruling class elites to suppress general knowledge of driftnet spying and wholesale database indexing of entire populations, e.g., "national security" exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act, outright subversion of the rule of law through the expansion of "state secrets" exceptions that prohibit Courts from examining a state's specious claims, one can add the opaque, bureaucratic violence of corporations who guard, by any means necessary, what have euphemistically been christened "proprietary business information."

In a state such as ours characterized by wholesale corruption, e.g., generalized financial swindles, insider trading, sweetheart deals brokered with suborned politicians, dangerous pharmaceuticals or other commodities "tested" and then certified "safe" by the marketeers themselves, the protection of trade secrets, formulas, production processes and marketing plans are jealously guarded by judicial pit bulls.

Those who spill the beans and have the temerity to reveal that various products are harmful to the public health or have deleterious effects on the environment (off-loaded onto the public who foot the bill as so-called "external" costs of production) are hounded, slandered or otherwise persecuted, if not imprisoned, by the legal lackeys who serve the corporatist state.

How does this play out in the real world? According to Cryptohippie, the objective signs that an electronic net has closed in to ensure working class compliance with our wretched order of things, are the following:

Daily Documents: Requirement of state-issued identity documents and registration.

Border Issues: Inspections at borders, searching computers, demanding decryption of data.

Financial Tracking: State's ability to search and record all financial transactions: Checks, credit card use, wires, etc.

Gag Orders: Criminal penalties if you tell someone the state is searching their records.

Anti-Crypto Laws: Outlawing or restricting cryptography.

Constitutional Protection: A lack of constitutional protections for the individual, or the overriding of such protections.

Data Storage Ability: The ability of the state to store the data they gather.

Data Search Ability: The ability to search the data they gather.

ISP Data Retention: States forcing Internet Service Providers to save detailed records of all their customers' Internet usage.

Telephone Data Retention: States forcing telephone companies to record and save records of all their customers' telephone usage.

Cell Phone Records: States forcing cellular telephone companies to record and save records of all their customers' usage, including location.

Medical records: States demanding records from all medical service providers and retaining the same.

Enforcement Ability: The state's ability to use overwhelming force (exemplified by SWAT Teams) to seize anyone they want, whenever they want.

Habeas Corpus: Lack of habeas corpus, which is the right not to be held in jail without prompt due process. Or, the overriding of such protections.

Police-Intel Barrier: The lack of a barrier between police organizations and intelligence organizations. Or, the overriding of such barriers.

Covert Hacking: State operatives copying digital evidence from private computers covertly. Covert hacking can make anyone appear as any kind of criminal desired, if combined with the removing and/or adding of digital evidence.

Loose Warrants: Warrants issued without careful examination of police statements and other justifications by a truly independent judge.

Sound familiar? It should, since this is the warped reality manufactured for us, or, as Debord would have it: "The spectacle cannot be understood as a mere visual excess produced by mass-media technologies. It is a worldview that has actually been materialized, a view of a world that has become objective."

That such a state of affairs is monstrous is of course, an understatement. Yet despite America's preeminent position as a militarist "hyperpower," the realization that it is a collapsing Empire is a cliché only for those who ignore history's episodic convulsions.

If, as bourgeois historian Niall Ferguson suggests in the March/April 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs, the American Empire may "quite abruptly ... collapse," and that this "complex adaptive system is in big trouble when its component parts lose faith in its viability," what does this say about the efficacy of an Electronic Police State to keep the lid on?

Despite the state's overwhelming firepower, at the level of ideology as much as on the social battlefield where truncheons meet flesh and bullets fly, Marx's "old mole" is returning with a vengeance, the "specter" once again haunting "rich men dwelling at peace within their habitations," as Churchill described the West's system of organized plunder.

Against this loss of "faith" in the system's "viability," Debord points out, although the working class "has lost its ability to assert its own independent perspective," in a more fundamental sense "it has also lost its illusions." In this regard, "no quantitative amelioration of its impoverishment, no illusory participation in a hierarchized system, can provide a lasting cure for its dissatisfaction."

Forty years on from Debord, sooner rather later, an historical settling of accounts with the system of global piracy called capitalism will confront the working class with the prospect of "righting the absolute wrong of being excluded from any real life."

As that process accelerates and deepens, it will then be the "watchers" who tremble...

Free Documentaries Films Online

Free Documentary Films
At we strongly believe that in order to have a true democracy, there has to be a free flow of easily accessible information. Unfortunately, many important perspectives, opinions, and facts never make it to our televisions or cinemas (you can watch movies in our media category if you want to know why).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tales of How Big Corporations Are Screwing Americans Over

Tales of How Big Corporations Are Screwing Americans Over | Economy | AlterNet
(This article is from 2009 but it still relevant today) / By Amy R. Ramos

Tales of How Big Corporations Are Screwing Americans Over
Stagnant wages, sexual harassment, worsening benefits, horrible treatment: just a few of the problems faced by American workers in all industries.
July 17, 2009 

The silver lining -- if there is one -- in this horrible [financial] crisis is that for years, the country just wasn't paying attention to how the typical worker was doing," declares New York Times labor and workplace correspondent Steven Greenhouse.

"There was so much focus on the wizards of Wall Street and the brilliant entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, but very, very little attention paid to how the average worker was doing. I think the recession has gotten the nation to realize that things are really bad for millions and millions of average workers."

Greenhouse has described that pinch in The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker, his chronicle of everything that's wrong with the modern U.S. workplace: "stagnant wages, worsening benefits, horrible treatment," as he put it in an interview with

"There are a lot of unfair, often illegal things going on in the workplace," says Greenhouse, who also holds a law degree from New York University. Some of the legal violations he details in his new book include forcing employees to work off the clock, union busting and sexual discrimination and harassment. The Big Squeeze has been described by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz as "shocking and important"; American Conservative magazine, which would be more likely to be critical of the work, said, "Greenhouse's picture should unnerve anyone committed to a stable future for American democracy." Although, it added: "Greenhouse can offer only unsatisfactory suggestions for redressing the plight of America's workers."

Toil and Trouble
Relating the accounts of actual people and their experiences working for some of the nation's best-known companies, Greenhouse doesn't just round up the usual suspects -- although he does devote considerable space to Wal-Mart, writing that "its low wages and benefits have created a downward pull on the way that many companies treat their workers."

Broadening his focus beyond low-wage workplaces with relatively low-skilled jobs, Greenhouse -- who says he requested the labor-and-workplace beat after a stint covering economic and foreign policy for the Times because he hankered to return to "reporting about flesh-and-blood people" -- also details questionable employment practices of firms typically regarded as employee-friendly.

Federal courts, for example, have ruled that the FedEx Ground division of the package delivery giant -- listed on Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For" — improperly classified drivers (among them a three-time cancer survivor interviewed by Greenhouse) as independent contractors in order to cut costs.

Greenhouse also profiles a woman who spent more than a decade working full-time as a so-called temp, "receiving lesser pay, benefits, and status than regular workers," for Hewlett-Packard, a company whose corporate culture, "the HP Way," was once widely celebrated for valuing workers.

Some of the other workers he describes in his book toil in what Greenhouse calls a "workplace hell," where store managers for national retailers erase hours from workers' time sheets to cut payroll costs, and a plastics manufacturer's flouting of safety rules results in four workers losing fingers in little more than a year.

Despite such conditions, and the U.S. unemployment rate reaching 9.5 percent in July, Greenhouse cites reasons for optimism -- among them, the rising demand for "green jobs." He concedes that green industries may still involve some offshore production: "Solar panels have a lot of complicated electronic guts," he says, so companies "might find it easier to make that in China than here." But many green jobs -- installing solar panels, retrofitting houses, erecting wind turbines -- will be immune to outsourcing, he says, because they have to be done he

Election Fraud Documentaries

:: Watch Election Fraud Documentaries Online. Download Election Fraud Documentaries Documentary & Trailer. Watch Free movies Find dvds, torrents & documentary feature films. ::

Highlighted Movie
Hacking Democracy | 81 minutes
This must watch, HBO featured, shocking documentary explores voter fraud in today's electronic voting machines and how they have altered past elections. Think your vote counts? Well, it depends...
Blacked out or dismissed by corporate news outlets, reports of massive vote fraud in the 2004 presidential election circulated on the internet and independent media. What if it can be proven that George W. Bush didn't win the election of 2004 but rather lost by several million votes?
Shown on the BBC, this documentary discusses how the Bush family has used its wealth and power to manipulate U.S. policy as well as the Bush-Bin Laden ties. Here you will find the hard-hitting reports that have been seen in films like Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 and used in Greg Palast's best selling book.
Unprecedented | 50 minutes
"Unprecedented" discusses corruption in vote counting as well as intentional vote manipulation in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, which George W. Bush won. If you haven't watched this film, there is probably much that you don't know about what really happened in 2000 and how the result of the election was decided by political connections.
Votergate | 36 minutes
Shot before the 2004 presidential elections, "Votergate" investigates the new electronic voting machines and discovers some troubling and disturbing information which may have had an impact on the 2004 election. If you care about democracy, this premonitory movie will shock, anger and worry you.

Free Documentries: Stay Informed

:: Download Free Political Documentaries And Watch Many Interesting, Controversial Free Documentary Films On That You Wont Find On The TV! ::
At we strongly believe that in order to have a true democracy, there has to be a free flow of easily accessible information. Unfortunately, many important perspectives, opinions, and facts never make it to our televisions or cinemas (you can watch movies in our media category if you want to know why).
featured videos
SUPER SIZE ME | 100 minutes
"Super Size Me" is one man's journey into the world of weight gain, health problems and fast food. It is an examination of the American way of life and how we are eating ourselves to death.
Loose Change | 130 minutes
Was the United States Government responsible for the attacks of September 11th, 2001? This is the "Final Cut" of the "Loose Change" films, released in November, 2007.
Uncovered | 56 minutes
"Uncovered" provides interviews with leading experts and officials all of whom possess informed opinions about the reasons we were given for war and the evidence presented to support those reasons. Some supported the war itself but are deeply concerned about the way information was misused.
What would happen if you were on vacation in Afghanistan and were accused wrongly of being a terrorist and taken to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? Winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, "The Road to Guantanamo" is the terrifying first-hand account and recreation of three innocent British citizens who were held there for two years. Charges were never brought against them.
"Orwell Rolls in His Grave" is the consummate critical examination of the Fourth Estate, once the bastion of American democracy. Asking whether the U.S. has entered an Orwellian world of doublespeak where outright lies can pass for the truth, Pappas explores what the media doesn't like to talk about: itself.
Iraq for Sale | 76 minutes
War for profit? Are companies profiting from the war in Iraq while further endangering the lives of American soldiers and innocent civilians?
SiCKO | 124 minutes
This is Michael Moore's new documentary about healthcare or the lack of it in the United States. Learn why U.S. healthcare is second-rate yet by far the most expensive in the world.
Bowling for Columbine | 116 minutes
Michael Moore investigates the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. He looks into the causes for such violent crimes, focusing on guns as a symbol of both American freedom and its self-destruction.
The 11th Hour | 89 minutes
Leonardo Dicaprio narrates a film comprised by experts on global warming as they discuss the dire consequences of Global Warming.
If you smoke you should watch this. This well made film takes a look at the business side of Tobacco companies and explores the details of a very corrupt industry.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Texas Spins History, Again

Texas Spins History, Again | Center for Media and Democracy

Submitted by Lisa Graves on March 13, 2010 - 9:31am.

cowboy.jpgIn a straight party-line vote, ten people on the Texas "Board of Education" voted Friday to change history textbooks to advance right-wing ideological positions on historical matters (the five members of the other party voted against the measures as a whole). Because Texas is one of the most populous states in the union, the contents that it requires in its history books will affect the quality of historical education students receive in other states. (Hawai'i, for example, lacks the population leverage to push for a laid-back island view of history.) In all, the Board has passed over 100 amendments to curriculum since the beginning of the year. According to the New York Times, "no historians, sociologists or economists" were consulted during the Board's meetings on these right-wing changes, which were spearheaded by board member and dentist Don McLeroy, who claimed expertise in a host of serious educational matters not involving tooth decay. In the "highlights" of this Texas-sized historical spin, the Board:

* Required that students learn positive things about "Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association."

* Replaced the word "capitalism" with "free-market system."

* Ordered that students learn “the unintended consequences” of progressive legislation, including "Title IX legislation" (which protects the rights of girls to have equal athletic opportunities and has actually empowered generations of women to be physically stronger and psychologically more confident) and "Great Society" legislation, which includes Medicare (health care for the elderly), Medicaid (health care for the poorest members of our society), food stamps (to help keep the poorest families from starvation), public broadcasting (that helps ensure that press coverage is not only what commercial broadcasters and their corporate sponsors will permit), consumer protection (such as health warnings about tobacco), truth-in-lending laws (which were intended to help people know the true finance charges of some types of loans), civil rights laws (which includes the Voting Rights Act that prevented poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent the poor from participating in our democracy), and environmental legislation. Yep, there sure is a lot there for the right-wing to be concerned about -- little girls as athletes rather than simply cheering the boys on from the bleachers and efforts to help keep the poor from starving to death or dying from being denied basic medical assistance!

* Insisted that textbooks stress that Americans of German and Italian heritage were held by the government during World War II to undermine the historical fact that anti-Japanese racism led to exponentially greater numbers and proportions of the population of Americans of Japanese heritage being stripped of their property and moved to prison camps. (The Board wants to counter the idea that any "racism" was involved in Japanese internment decisions.) The attempt to make these black marks on our history of equal magnitude really is "white" washing.

* Demanded that McCarthyism be defended, because there were some actual communists who were discovered;

* Deleted founding father Thomas Jefferson "from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century," and replaced him with conservative religious figures St. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin, and also made changes that called into question the U.S. tradition of the "separation of church and state," despite efforts of the Framers of the Constitution to ensure that no religious oaths were required by the Constitution among other protections from religious persecution or preferential treatment via the government.

* And blocked efforts to include more Latino Americans as examples of leaders in government, business, and society.

But don't worry, pard'ner, there's a thirty-day public comment period before the partisan Board ignores public sentiment and imposes its agenda on young minds in Texas and elsewhere. (And, Dr. McLeroy lost his primary last month to more moderate Republicans than he, but the right-wing block on the Board still has the votes to ratify its re-write of history.)

They really do make things big in Texas, including the spin and propaganda!

Lisa Graves is the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the publisher of,, and

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The 'Public Option': Democrats' Scam Becomes More Transparent

by Glenn Greenwald

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about what seemed to be a glaring (and quite typical) scam perpetrated by Congressional Democrats:  all year long, they insisted that the White House and a majority of Democratic Senators vigorously supported a public option, but the only thing oh-so-unfortunately preventing its enactment was the filibuster:  sadly, we have 50 but not 60 votes for it, they insisted. 

Democratic pundits used that claim to push for "filibuster reform," arguing that if only majority rule were required in the Senate, then the noble Democrats would be able to deliver all sorts of wonderful progressive reforms that they were truly eager to enact but which the evil filibuster now prevents.

In response, advocates of the public option kept arguing that the public option could be accomplished by reconciliation -- where only 50 votes, not 60, would be required -- but Obama loyalists scorned that reconciliation proposal, insisting (at least before the Senate passed a bill with 60 votes) that using reconciliation was Unserious, naive, procedurally impossible, and politically disastrous.
But all those claims were put to the test -- all those bluffs were called -- once the White House decided that it had to use reconciliation to pass a final health care reform bill.  
That meant that any changes to the Senate bill (which had passed with 60 votes) -- including the addition of the public option -- would only require 50 votes, which Democrats assured progressives all year long that they had.  Great news for the public option, right?  Wrong.  
As soon as it actually became possible to pass it, the 50 votes magically vanished.  Senate Democrats (and the White House) were willing to pretend they supported a public option only as long as it was impossible to pass it.  Once reconciliation gave them the opportunity they claimed all year long they needed -- a "majority rule" system -- they began concocting ways to ensure that it lacked 50 votes.
All of that was bad enough, but now the scam is getting even more extreme, more transparent.  Faced with the dilemma of how they could possibly justify their year-long claimed support for the public option only now to fail to enact it, more and more Democratic Senators were pressured into signing a letter supporting the enactment of the public option through reconciliation; that number is now above 40, and is rapidly approaching 50.  In other words, there is a serious possibility that the Senate might enact a public option if there is a vote on it, because it's very difficult for these Senators to vote "No" after pretending all year long -- on the record -- that they supported it.  In fact, The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim yesterday wrote:  "the votes appear to exist to include a public option. It's only a matter of will."

The one last hope for Senate Democratic leaders was to avoid a vote altogether on the public option, thereby relieving Senators of having to take a position and being exposed.  But that trick would require the cooperation of all Senators -- any one Senator can introduce a public option amendment during the reconciliation and force a vote -- and it now seems that Bernie Sanders, to his great credit, is refusing to go along with the Democrats' sham and will do exactly that:  ignore the wishes of the Senate leadership and force a roll call vote on the public option.

So now what is to be done?  They only need 50 votes, so they can't use the filibuster excuse.  They don't seem able to prevent a vote, as they tried to do, because Sanders will force one.  And it seems there aren't enough Senate Democrats willing to vote against the public option after publicly saying all year long they supported it, which means it might get 50 votes if a roll call vote is held.  So what is the Senate Democratic leadership now doing?  They're whipping against the public option, which they pretended all year along to so vigorously support:

Senate Democratic leaders are concerned about the amount of mischief their own Members could create if or when a health care reconciliation bill comes up for debate. And sources said some supporters of creating a public insurance option are privately worried that they will be asked to vote against the idea during debate on the bill, which could occur before March 26.
Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) acknowledged Wednesday that liberals may be asked to oppose any amendment, including one creating a public option, to ensure a smooth ride for the bill. "We have to tell people, 'You just have to swallow hard' and say that putting an amendment on this is either going to stop it or slow it down, and we just can't let it happen," Durbin, who supports a public option, told reporters.
If -- as they claimed all year long -- a majority of Congressional Democrats and the White House all support a public option, why would they possibly whip against it, and ensure its rejection, at exactly the moment when it finally became possible to pass it?   If majorities of the House and Senate support it, as does the White House, how could the inclusion of a public option possibly jeopardize passage of the bill?
I've argued since August that the evidence was clear that the White House had privately negotiated away the public option and didn't want it, even as the President claimed publicly (and repeatedly) that he did.  And while I support the concept of "filibuster reform" in theory, it's long seemed clear that it would actually accomplish little, because the 60-vote rule does not actually impede anything. 

Rather, it is the excuse Democrats fraudulently invoke, using what I called the Rotating Villain tactic (it's now Durbin's turn), to refuse to pass what they claim they support but are politically afraid to pass, or which they actually oppose (sorry, we'd so love to do this, but gosh darn it, we just can't get 60 votes). 

If only 50 votes were required, they'd just find ways to ensure they lacked 50.  Both of those are merely theories insusceptible to conclusive proof, but if I had the power to create the most compelling evidence for those theories that I could dream up, it would be hard to surpass what Democrats are doing now with regard to the public option.  They're actually whipping against the public option.  Could this sham be any more transparent?

UPDATE:  One related point:  when I was on Morning Joe several weeks ago, I argued this point -- why aren't Democrats including the public option in the reconciliation package given that they have the 50 votes in favor of the public option -- and, in response, Chuck Todd recited White House spin and DC conventional wisdom (needless to say) by insisting that they do not have the votes to pass the public option.  If that's true -- if they lack the votes to pass the public option through reconciliation? -- why is Dick Durbin now whipping against it, telling Senators -- in his own words -- "You just have to swallow hard' and say that putting an amendment on this is either going to stop it or slow it down, and we just can't let it happen"?

No discussion of the public option is complete without noting how much the private health insurance industry despises it; the last thing they want, of course, is the beginning of real competition and choice.

The Left's Answer to Tea Parties? A Cup of Joe

by Sean J. Miller

A burgeoning netroots movement has emerged from what its founder characterized as "ranting on my Facebook page."
Several weeks ago, filmmaker Annabel Park posted a note on her Facebook profile expressing "frustration ... listening to news coverage that made it seem like the Tea Party was representative of America."
That grew into the liberal Coffee Party movement, a play off the conservative Tea Party movement. The Coffee Party consists of people who believe that government can play an active role in resolving the country's major issues.
Park, a resident of Silver Spring, Md., founded the Coffee Party Movement with a mission to be non-partisan and promote civil discourse on important issues.
"If you don't believe that the government has any role [in healthcare], then yeah, you should join the Tea Party," said Park in a Coffee Party introduction video. "But there are many of us who that believe we have to have the government addressing these things, representing our interests."
Since February, the Coffee Party has gathered some 120,000 fans on Facebook. And it's set to bring its virtual community together in public for the first time this Saturday. The group has close to 350 kickoff parties scheduled around the country, with thousands of supporters expected to attend, according to Chris Rigopulos, a Boston-based organizer for the group.
"The movement will migrate from a pure online endeavor to in-person meet-ups all over the country," said Rigopulos, who got involved out of frustration with the harsh partisan atmosphere in the country. "These are not designed to be mass demonstrations of any kind. They are designed to begin the process of discussing critical issues."
He added: "People did not sign onto the Coffee Party as a referendum on healthcare reform."
Rigopulos said the group, which is working to incorporate as a non-profit, will decide what direction to take after Saturday's meetings. He said that no elected officials have reached out to the group and that it would be "premature" to say if it planned to get involved in any races this cycle.
"It's not agenda driven," Rigopulos, a business consultant, said. "It's about frustration at the political culture. And the fact that the politicians that we observe seem to be really ineffective at getting anything done."
The group's goal, Rigopulos said, is to promote "more collaborative decision making."
He said the thinking goes, if a diverse group of people can get together over, say, coffee and discuss in a civil manner controversial political issues, then so should the country's elected officials. Essentially, the Coffee Party is calling for a trickle up of civility in politics.
Michael Slaby, a Democratic consultant experienced in online organizing, said the Internet can't replace the old fashioned machinations of politics. "It's a myth that you can have a well-organizing political entity and just be an online thing," he said. "At some point, you need to be able to translate your online organization to offline results."
Meanwhile, an official with the Democratic National Convention (DNC) said there has been no attempt to court the so-called Coffee Partiers. Instead the DNC is pushing ahead with marshalling volunteers through its Organizing for America arm, the official said.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nation's Food Policy Pro-Pus, Pro-E. Coli, Pro-Bribery, Pro-GMOs

Nation's Food Policy Pro-Pus, Pro-E. Coli, Pro-Bribery, Pro-GMOs | Sustainable Food |

Nation's Food Policy Pro-Pus, Pro-E. Coli, Pro-Bribery, Pro-GMOs

Published July 10, 2009 @ 05:19PM PT

It sticks its tongue out; by LaenulfeanPractices that were infuriating to me under Republicans have simply become disheartening under Democrats. I will explain.


So Michael Taylor, Monsanto's former lawyer and a fan of adding extra pus to the nation's milk supply by way of giving all our dairy cows chronic mastitis from rBST/rBGH, has indeed been hired to the newly created position of Deputy Commissioner of Food with the Food Safety Working Group at the FDA.

In theory, Taylor might not be as bad as all that, he shilled for rBST as a young, impressionable executive and he seems to have grown as a person.

Though adding insult to injury, Pennsylvania's Dennis Wolff is a finalist for Undersecretary of Food Safety. A willing and enthusiastic participant in Monsanto's campaign to prevent rBST-free labeling on milk, Wolff tried to sneak a 2008 ban on the labels under the noses of Pennsylvania citizens who were outraged and forced the governor to overturn the policy.

But really, two, TWO people appointed or being considered to head food safety in the Obama administration who opposed the public's right to know when their milk came from cows being treated with a hormone that gives them chronically inflamed and infected udders!?

(BTW, people would have heard about the bovine growth hormone controversy more widely as of the year 2000, perhaps, if Monsanto hadn't instigated the firing of two journalists who tried to expose rBST/rBGH for the carcinogenic, bovine mastitis-causing health disaster that it is. Though also, and this is funny, ha-ha, as part of the resolution of the ensuing litigation, a judge ruled that it wasn't illegal for a news station to lie. F*ers!)

So, I think we can safely say that there are those in our national food safety leadership who don't consider pus a worrying contaminant in the milk supply. Even if they don't hire Wolff, that this didn't immediately disqualify him, that they'd consider adding to the shame of hiring Taylor, is a mark of some serious concern.

Pro-E. coli

As reported, again at ObamaFoodorama, this is another of goals of the Obama administration's food policy:

*Reducing the Threat of E. coli O157:H7: The bacterial strain called E. coli O157:H7 causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever in approximately 70,000 Americans each year. In an estimated one in 15 patients, complications arise potentially resulting in intense pain, high blood pressure, kidney failure, and even death. In recent years, this bacterium has caused outbreaks associated with meat and spinach. ...

It goes on like that, very lofty sounding goals framed in descriptions of problems that those interested in food policy are generally familiar with. Here's what they propose to address the E. coli problem: more inspections of slaughter facilities. Here's what would work: stop feeding cows grain and give them hay, or at the very least, feed them hay the few days before slaughter.

Cows' stomachs are supposed to have a near neutral pH of 6.5-7.2, whereas the healthy human gut has an acidic pH that hovers around 2-3. (More about the pH scale.)

The bacteria found in the guts of health cows eating a normal cow diet of high fiber, low starch grass and hay is generally no match for the acidic environment of a human stomach. Our stomach secretions aren't only there to digest our food, but to be the first line of our immune defense.

It's because we have feedlots full of cows suffering permanent acidosis and standing in each other's poop their whole lives that we continue having outbreaks of a bacterial strain that shouldn't stand a chance against our stomach acid.

Does the federal government currently have a plan to reduce the concentration of animals into cruel and revolting factory feedlot farms? No. That would injure Cargill's right to profit,* and it's just not profitable to And in further fact, they're going to continue subsidizing their waste management costs through the existing provisions of the Farm Bill.

In fact, those waste management costs are going to be further subsidized if the ACES/Waxman-Markey climate bill gets passed. Which brings us to the pro-bribery aspect ...


It must sadly be reported that one of my usual favorite Senators, Tom Harkin (D-IA), has promised to do to the Senate climate bill what Rep. Peterson did to the House bill, only moreso. As reported first in Congress Daily:

In a speech to the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Harkin praised Peterson's efforts to win over farm-state members during negotiations on the House energy bill. But Peterson "could only do so much," Harkin said, adding he can add "more allocations and allowances" because every senator has farm and rural constituents.

What do those allowances include? First, the door is wide open to reimburse farmers for chemical no-till, as has been discussed widely in the ag-blogosphere. Which means that Monsanto would be a huge beneficiary as US' farmers' Roundup use becomes eligible for a government kickback. That chemical no-till is only very questionably inclined to improve carbon sequestration in soil is, I'm sure, not going to be a stumbling block.

Second, and more perniciously, they include funding for large-scale biodigesters. I can hear you now, saying, 'But Natasha, whyever could it be problematic to turn cow crap into fuel?' Ha, I thought you might ask that. As I wrote the other day about the existing biodigester and farm waste management subsidies:

... As one policy expert quoted in the article explains, the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) funding might cover up to 75 percent of the waste containment costs for large livestock operations, a routine cost of doing business that smaller ranching concerns have to cover out of their regular operating revenues.

When the 2008 Farm Bill passed, those subsidies were continued (pdf). Compare the cap of $80,000 over 6 years for the support of organic agricultural practices with the $300,000 per 6 year cap for environmental mitigation projects, or the $450,000 per 6 year cap for anaerobic methane biodigesters.

If $450,000 over 6 years sounds like an amount of money that you would only need to spend on methane digestion if you ran an enormous factory feedlot that had as many as 500,000 pigs on a single 'farm', you'd be right. ...

Whatever the final form of ACES, should it pass both houses of Congress, we can be sure that CAFOs, and in turn the meatpacking plants, will end up with even bigger subsidies, in the form of even cheaper Roundup Ready corn feed and even lower waste management costs.

In spite of the fact that the world is burning down around our ears, with egregious costs projected from climate disruption for American agriculture, they'd still like us to pay for the worst practices out of funds allocated for the purpose of protecting the environment, our human habitat.


The Obama administration has stunned the world by promising billions for food security in developing nations, though if the Senate has their way, much of that money will be dedicated to forcing genetically modified seed on them.

I know it makes me a mean, cruel, horrible person and all sorts of bad stuff, woo!, to oppose giving them the blessings of our marvelous genetic crop engineering products, with their technology fees and their high chemical input requirements, and their ridiculously lax safety protocols. But look, they really do not need that crazy expensive rubbish. From the second part of an interview with Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists:

... When farmers begin using the [agroecological] push-pull method, their maize yields typically more than double. Compare that to genetically engineered Bt maize, which also targets stem borers: you might get anywhere from 20-40% yield increases with Bt, but that’s less than half of what you get from push-pull, plus farmers won’t see most of the other benefits. With push-pull you’re also building soil fertility: you don’t have to use a lot of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer because the leguminous cover crop does it naturally, and you have fodder for livestock as well as a corn crop. In general, with this system I’d predict that pest problems will be less than with Bt. No system is perfect, and there are limitations and problems that can arise with the push-pull system, but it shows a lot of promise.

... Knowledge-based agroecological systems have the advantage of being inexpensive. They usually use inputs like leguminous cover crops to add nitrogen to the soil, prevent erosion, and boost organic matter, and they rotate crops from year to year to keep pest levels down. That’s a system based on understanding the biological interactions: you use knowledge rather than having to buy things. ...

Though such an economically practical approach, one that empowers small farmers through knowledge as opposed to making big profits for agribusiness, isn't good enough for the Obama administration and its advisors.

[Obama's Secretary of Agriculture Tom] Vilsack "made this very creative argument on how during the eight years of the Bush administration, the Europeans would lecture us on how we had to bring our citizens along and educate them on the science of climate change. He turned that around and said, 'You know, you've got a similar responsibility on biotech' " [Michael] Michener [of the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service] said.

I'm going to complain to my Senators about this travesty, which would allow companies like Monsanto to push on the world what they've undemocratically pushed on US citizens without our knowledge. Maybe it will even do some good. But still, so, so irritating.


I am so f*ing tired of these f*ing failures of my government to protect the public good. I suppose I shouldn't say that sort of thing, I'm supposed to be encouraging. Though I've never found myself very encouraged by listening to people who refused to admit to unpleasant realities and Washington, DC is extremely bad on these issues in a comitragically bipartisan way.

If anyone knows what could really be done to roll back the corporate-mediated corruption of every instrument of public policy we have, I'm all ears. In the meantime, I'm seriously looking forward to the 10 days I'll be spending in NYC with no laptop this month, because I've just f*ing had it.

* 'But Natasha,' you say, 'corporations don't have a right to profit.' To which I would respond, listen to the Senate debate on healthcare and you will observe that, even if such a thing can be found nowhere in the Constitution or any subsequent statute, many of our Senators do in fact devoutly believe in the existence of a right to profit. Bastiches

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Asset Forfeiture: Unconstitutional Property Theft by our Governments



Texas Sen. John Whitmire on Alex Jones Tv 1_2_Criminal Asset Forfeiture

A large and growing list of Americans -- now numbering in the hundreds of thousands -- who have been victimized by civil asset forfeiture. Under civil asset forfeiture, everything you own can be legally taken away even if you are never convicted of a crime.

Donald P. Scott, age 61, owned and lived on a 200-acre property known as the Trails End Ranch, in the Ventura County portion of Malibu. California. On October 2, 1992, while serving a search warrant at the ranch, Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies shot Donald Scott, resulting in his death.

Asset Forfeiture: Unconstitutional Property Theft by our Governments

Asset Forfeiture:

Unconstitutional Property Theft by our Governments

By Leon Felkins

Written 1/25/1996

Revised 7/30/2001

"We believe the government’s conduct in forfeiture cases leaves much to be desired. We are certainly not the first to be ‘enormously troubled by the government’s increasing and virtually unchecked use of the civil forfeiture statutes and the disregard for due process that is buried in those statutes’" (Quoting Judge George Pratt in US v. All Assets of Statewide Auto Parts, Inc., 971 F.2d 896, 905 (2d Cir. 1992)). US v. $506,231 in U.S. Currency, 125 F.3d 442 (7th Cir. 1997)

The Forfeiture Business

Our once trusted government (maybe we were naive to do so) has now shown its true colors for all to see, apparently without the slightest shame. Some years ago, using the notorious Drug War as a pretext, the government started to quietly establish laws and procedures to allow them to seize the property of individuals without going through the legal processes that we thought were insured by our Constitution. They have since increased the severity of these laws with several legislative updates. You can read the details in the links to other sites I have provided below, but basically, what the government has decided that they can do is to prosecute your property rather than you. So, they say, you may be protected by the Constitution, but your property is not. The idea came for this from an ancient English Law that allowed the state to prosecute a bull and to dispose of the bull if it had harmed a person ("deodand"). From this simple beginning, our government has developed a multi-billion dollar operation of seizing the properties of private citizens.
Here are a few links and references to more information of the subject:

  • My essays on Forfeiture

  • On-line material and References

    • Here I have on-line copies of printable documents that you can print on your own printer in small quantities for hand-outs.
    • An outstanding summary of the whole government Forfeiture and Seizure business and its consequences is the essay at the FEAR site, "POLICING FOR PROFIT: THE DRUG WAR'S HIDDEN ECONOMIC AGENDA", by Eric Blumenson & Eva Nilsen. This is book size (72 pages on my printer!) and includes the most comprehensive bibliography that I have seen.
    • A fairly thorough online manual about Forfeiture and what to do if you are a victim is called, "THE ASSET FORFEITURE MANUAL".
    • Charles Miller has generously allowed me to post the on-line version of his book, U.S. v. Grandma here. The book is a fascinating and detailed personal account of government asset forfeiture gone bad. I have also posted a copy of his testimony to Congress about this disturbing program of the government.
    • Here is a nice summary of the government's obsession to steal private property: "Seizure Fever: The War on Property Rights", by James Bovard.
    • Be entertained while you are learning about the evils of government forfeiture! Read Dean Koontz's book,Dark Rivers of the Heart

    • A Government Document on the "How-To's" of Forfeiture.

      The U.S. Department of Justice document, "Civil Forfeiture: Tracing the Proceeds of Narcotics Trafficking" is available on the net. To me, this is a terrifying document. I will quote a segment for you to see if maybe it doesn't send a few chills down your back:

      "The Advantages of Civil Forfeiture"

      Although tracing is a complex process, prospects for successful forfeiture are eased considerably by the procedural benefits of civil process. The most obvious feature is the lower burden of proof confronting enforcement officials: proof by a preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.(8) Furthermore, under federal law and some state legislation, the burden of proof is placed on the claimant rather than the government.(9) Thus, enforcement officials need not achieve certainty in their tracing efforts. They need only satisfy a relaxed standard of proof This is an advantage of enormous consequence, as many cases turn on the burden of proof. Moreover, even if criminal prosecution was precluded by operation of the exclusionary rule, civil forfeiture may still be possible. Although the exclusionary rule applies to forfeiture proceedings, tainted evidence may still be sufficient to meet the lower burden of proof.(10) Indeed, civil forfeiture may be a viable option despite an acquittal on criminal charges.(11)
      The civil context provides other advantages as well. For example, prosecutors may resort to the discovery process to obtain information pertinent to tracing.(12) The claimant may be deposed and disclosure of his records compelled. Perjury and contempt sanctions are potentially available against untruthful or recalcitrant witnesses. And, while the Fifth Amendment may still be asserted, a civil claimant risks an adverse factual finding by doing so.(13) This possibility places the claimant in a particular bind if criminal charges against him are still pending. Asserting the Fifth Amendment may result in an adverse factual determination, while answering questions may have incriminating consequences in the criminal proceedings.(14) And, regardless of whether criminal charges are pending, discovery is likely to provide useful information for impeachment if the claimant testifies at the forfeiture proceeding. Such testimony will often be necessary because, once the government's evidentiary burden has been sustained, failure to provide responsive proof will result in an adverse judgment.(15) Often times, however, such testimony proves counterproductive because it is presented in an evasive or inconsistent manner.
      A civil claimant is also required to establish his standing to contest the forfeiture. Frequently, legal title to property will be in someone's name other than the real party at interest. Most courts will not permit forfeitures to be contested by such so-called straw men. Thus, before the prosecution must present its proof, the claimant must establish his standing. Normally, this requires proof of dominion and control beyond mere legal title.(16) Federal law and some state statutes require that this be initially accomplished by filing a verified claim.(17) In addition, some United States Attorneys offices routinely make standing a central discovery issue.(18) Thus, civil claimants are by no means assured automatic access to the courtroom.
      For these reasons, the civil claimant is in a very difficult position relative to his posture in a criminal trial. Indeed, notwithstanding tracing obstacles confronting the government, many cases are uncontested by potential claimants or otherwise lost on standing grounds.(19) This means that, even when tracing obstacles exist, forfeiture proceedings should be considered since the government may never be put to its proof."
    • "Presumed Guilty", the Famous Pittsburgh Press Series on Forfeiture.
    • See my page on Volunteer Support for other links to resources.

  • Links to Sites that have Significant Material on Forfeiture

      "When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox must be stoned; the flesh may not be eaten. The owners of the ox, however, shall go unpunished." Exodus 21:28

    • F.E.A.R.

      The most complete source for information on this subject is the F.E.A.R. site. The FEAR site has many links to other documents.

    • The MAP (Media Awareness Project)

      This site has an excellent compilation of Forfeiture news articles and is an outstanding source of current news on forfeiture.

    • The CATO Institute

      The CATO Institute has some material on this subject including books for sale. Of particular interest is the book by Representative Hyde on Forfeiture, Forfeiting Our Property Rights. The book is only $10.95 in paper back. An introduction to Representative Hyde's book is here.

Why Should I care about government confiscations, I'm not a Criminal?

"[T]o live outside the law, you must be honest," -- Bob Dylan
The question posed in the heading is a very upsetting question but one that I have heard from several people. I once posted some information about government seizure of property to one of the newsgroups (alt.government.abuse). The first response was from one of our fine citizens who said something to the effect, "Hey, if you are not a criminal, then you don't have anything to worry about". Which, of course, is not true. Even if the original intent was justified -- which it was not -- government always expands the scope of any law far beyond the original intentions. Look at how they have managed to get involved in every aspect of our normal lives from a simple statement about interstate commerce in the Constitution! They have already expanded the scope of seizure from drug related crimes to essentially any crime. How would you like to have your new car seized because your license had expired? It could happen.
In fact this statement reminds me of what the good citizens in Germany said just before World War II when Jews were being harassed. "Hey, if you are not a Jew, you have nothing to worry about." Right.

Which Party will Protect our Constitutional Rights?

Neither (at least, neither of the two major parties)! There has been a string of private property seizure laws passed since 1970. Some of these forfeiture laws were passed when the Republicans were in the Presidency and the Democrats were in control of Congress. Some were passed when a Democrat was president and Republicans held the congress. The fact is, there is little interest by either party in restoring our rights or in complying with the Constitution.
And why is this so? For one reason, because they are fulfilling the desires of the citizens! That's right, apparently the citizens are quite willing to give up constitutional guarantees to fight the so-called Drug War. A poll taken in 1995 found that over half of the citizens were willing to go along with this stupid idea. Another reason, of course, is that forfeiture provides a very substantial source of income for police at both the federal and local level. And of course, there's the control thing. Politicians and police are control freaks of the first order. Even when it is not profitable, they are obsessed with control of the citizens.
Check the links I have provided above for the details of the looting and how the proceeds are consumed.

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