Archive for category Prisons

Nelson Mandela Died Today

Nelson Mandela:

Born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in Transkei, South Africa, the civil rights activist would become the linchpin in South Africans’ move to end the country’s notorious apartheid regime. The impact of his efforts — to reconcile generosity with pragmatism and to find the common ground between humanity’s higher values and his own aspiration to power, as journalist John Carlin once described them — would ultimately reach well beyond South Africa’s borders, and earn him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend the book Mandela’s Way.



The Mind Your Own Business Act

I love the fact that Alan Grayson was able to get back into congress along with Elizabeth Warren. NOW when I get the old, “they’re all the same” refrain, I can say, “well not exactly”.

Alan names his amendment to H.R. 1960 the, “The Mind Your Own Business Act”. When was the last time you heard somebody in congress come up with a plan that didn’t have an Orwellian name? Republicans are always so proud of people on their side who just come right out and say what they think. It’s usually crazy as hell, but they say it anyway. Alan shoots from the hip too, but it sparks something in your brain that says: this really makes sense. Also, for years, Republicans were prohibited from disagreeing with anything a Republican in the hierarchy said. Grayson can say he disagrees with Obama’s stance, because he’s a Democrat. That’s my hope.

MSNBC is supposed to be “the liberal channel”, so why is the host of this segment trying to “get something” on Grayson for insinuating the Nazi’s would have loved to have a “Total Information Awareness” type of system that is going in to full gear, very soon. Grayson answers a question with a question, but it’s a good one, which the host, basically, answers by saying, ‘I’m the one asking the questions here’.

The question Grayson asks is,

How do you feel about the fact that the Government is keeping a record of every single phone call that you make?

I’m totally perplexed at the media coverage Edward Snowden is getting at this late date. He’s not the only whistle-blower on this matter. We have known for many years the government had planned to collect, and has been collecting as much information about every one of us as they could. Now that they are close to having the ability to get EVERYTHING, we get polls that tell us Americans WANT to have all their private information collected to…


Keep us safe.

If the government is serious about keeping me safe, they’d stop spending so much money on secret surveillance, prisons and war. What I really need to keep me “safe” is single payer healthcare and “food security”.

I think Grayson’s best quote in the video is this:

Martin, you are completely missing the point. The point is that we’re taking measures that are not correlated in any sense with our safety, and even if they were it would be beneath our dignity as human beings. That’s what this is all about. All right, listen. You could always make people safer by taking extreme measures. If, for instance, we lowered the speed limit to 10 miles per hour, people would be safer. If we outlawed knives and forks, people would be safer. If we made everybody fly on the airlines naked, people would be safer. None of those things corresponds to my sense of human dignity, and I think I’m not the only one who feels that way….

If you’d like to support congressman Grayson’s amendment, you can sign up here.


WikiLeaks Releases Prisoner Treatment Manual From Guantanamo


By Agence France-Presse

Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks website on Thursday started publishing more than 100 US Department of Defense documents including the first prisoner treatment manual for Guantanamo Bay.

…Among the documents is the 2002 manual for staff at Camp Delta at Guantanamo, shortly after it was set up by US President George W. Bush to house alleged Al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees from the “war on terror”.

“This document is of significant historical importance. Guantanamo Bay has become the symbol for systematised human rights abuse in the West with good reason,” said Assange, the founder of the website.

He added: “‘The ‘Detainee Policies’ show the anatomy of the beast that is post-9/11 detention, the carving out of a dark space where law and rights do not apply, where persons can be detained without a trace at the convenience of the US Department of Defense.

“It shows the excesses of the early days of war against an unknown ‘enemy’ and how these policies matured and evolved, ultimately deriving into the permanent state of exception that the United States now finds itself in, a decade later.”

UPDATE: WikiLeaks Releases US Military Policies for Detention & Avoiding Accountability for Torture


A Grand Farewell to ALEC

Was Alec Baldwin in Salt Lake? I didn’t hear anything on the news. 🙂

He/she/it wouldn’t give a single interview to the press and prefer to remain unknown. How many freedoms did we lose this week?


Walmart Dumps ALEC!

This could mean different theoretical things…

1. Walmart and other VERY LARGE corporations have already got everything they ever dreamed of. Amazon just bolted recently. You’ve already heard about McDonalds and the others.

2. ALEC is about to change it’s name which would allow our complicit congresspeople to pretend to stand for working peoples interests too, instead of only the shareholders, while continuing to peruse the same aims.

3. Corporations and the congresspeople, who have bolted, are feeling bad about what they’ve done to the country and have decided we should have the right to vote, have a good environment, collectively bargain in our workplace, not be killed by cowards with guns, not be put in jails for profit, have healthcare that doesn’t send us to the poorhouse and numerous other liberal ideas that bring people joy and comfort.

I’m not saying which different theoretical thing this might mean, but I’ve been pretty skeptical over the last decade.

I KNOW, I KNOW! Corporate leaders could be put in jail for not maximizing their shareholder’s profits. Where in the hell did that law come from: most certainly NOT from the people!

Maybe ALEC could work on that one before they disband.


A Novel And Movie That Are Too Big To Fail

To Kill A Mockingbird is – in my opinion – a perfect description of Americas struggle to end inequality.

I think Gregory Peck knew he was portraying a man greater then himself, but the result caused people to think about themselves in a different way.

I watched this movie and read the novel when I was very young, but when I saw it again last night, I was stunned by the relevance to recent events.

Poor Black people, Hispanics, Whites and others in our country can only be seen as dealing with oppression in a peaceful way, but poor is a relative word.


Is George Zimmerman Some Kinda 007? Is ALEC?

I think the police are sick and tired of being called racist or against people who are falling through the cracks in the “Cops” show. I believe the overwhelming majority of police are doing an impossible job – incredibly.

Who released the Zimmerman booking video? The police.

Sure there’s a lot of violence caused by desperate people; some of whom are probably just trying to feed their children in America.

Watch this video, (if it lasts), and tell me what you think:

Who made the best case here: Bill and Van, or the republican strategists?

In case you don’t know who or what “ALEC” is, let me refer you to a pretty good post I did on it earlier.

ALEC made the law that killed who I think is an innocent young man. Poor white people carrying Skittles or empty Marijuana bags are no safer, (well, they might be. :)). The media is willing to put up old mug shots of Zimmerman which make him look overweight and vulnerable; WHY?

I think this is a turning point for the unfair drug laws and whatnot. I think I have a right to an opinion too, but we’ll see.

Zimmerman killed a guy! If he’d killed a dog in Florida, he’d be in jail. Let’s have a trial and find out what happened!


Iranians to Captured Hikers: ‘What About Guantanamo?’

Camp Delta

Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, two Americans captured and held by Iran since 2009, had an interesting point to make at their news conference yesterday in New York (via Think Progress):

According to Bauer and Fattal, Iranian prison guards repeatedly used the harsh conditions of Guantanamo Bay and CIA prisons around the world to justify their own human rights violations:

BAUER: In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay. They would remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world, and the conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S. We do not believe that such human rights violations on the part of our government justify what has been done to us. Not for a moment. However, we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an excuse for other governments, including the government of Iran, to act in kind.

According to the hikers, extended solitary confinement “was the worst experience of all our lives.”

It was already a well-known fact that torture and inhumane treatment of detainees by the USA helps other governments try to justify similar acts. In violation of the U.S. Constitution and international treaties, the Obama administration continues to hold people indefinitely without any charges being brought against them, under conditions similar to the Iranian prison Bauer and Fattal experienced.


ALEC: An Acronym to Fear!

Smoke Filled Room

This is a serious post, but don’t miss the funny part towards the bottom.

Known as the “American Legislative Exchange Council“, this group was more comfortable when it’s inner workings were unknown, but a member becoming uncomfortable with it’s real mission, decided to release massive amounts of information about the group to “The Center for Media and Democracy”, which can be found here.

The long list of people who have been involved in this organization, which was formed in 1973, reads like a who’s who of mischievous scoundrels. ALEC claims to be a non-partisan, non-profit organization, but currently only has one Democrat out of 104 legislators in leadership positions. Current and past members which I personally don’t trust include:

Henry Hyde, Paul Weyrich, John Kasich, Jesse Helms, Jack Kemp, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, congressman Joe Wilson, Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay, Andrew Card, Donald Rumsfeld, Scott Walker, and Jan Brewer.

Featured speakers have included: Milton Friedman, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, Jessie Helms and Pete Coors.

ALEC has given awards to: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, George H.W. Bush, Charles and David Koch, Tommy Thompson, John Kasich, Rick Perry, Mark Foley, and Congressman Billy Tauzin.

You read through this stuff and all kinds of lights go off in your head if you’ve followed politics at all. With something this voluminous, it’s probably best to be introduced to the particulars by somebody who can distill it down in a short interview. Terry Gross is one of the very best interviewers in the country because she asks hard questions when she has to, always knows the subject she is discussing and has a great left hook. Her show on NPR is called “Fresh Air” and, unfortunately covers musicians most of the time, but even those shows can get a little too revealing. KISS member Gene Simmons ordered his interview with Gross removed from NPR’s archives.

John Nichols, is a political writer for “The Nation” and has been reporting on the documents. There is nobody better for the job because Nichols is an expert researcher and has been flawlessly covering important stories about powerful institutions in America for a long time. Mr. Nichols’s interview with Gross can be heard here and the transcript can be read here.

I highly recommend listening to the entire interview, but here are some parts I found very interesting:

GROSS: Now, you say ALEC is known for its refusal to compromise. What do you mean?

Mr. NICHOLS: Well, I mean this is part and parcel of what we’re seeing across the political life right now. Back in the 1970s, early 1970s, a number of new organizations, think-tanks, membership groups, political operations, were started by true-believer conservatives, really passionate conservatives, as well as some libertarian folks and a lot of corporate folks who were very frustrated by the Nixon presidency.

Richard Nixon, elected as a Republican, quite hated by a lot of Democrats, went out and created the Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, expanded public housing, was relatively sympathetic to a lot of unions. And they were thinking, you know, this just doesn’t work.

This is – here we elect Republicans and we still end up getting, you know, policies that don’t favor what we want. And so ALEC, like a lot of these other groups, has worked for a very long time to get political players trained up, raised up, get ideas into the mix that are very pure, that are not about compromise but that are about, you know, winning the game, winning the whole thing.

And I think that’s one of the reasons why ALEC is not just interested in corporate regulation, tax policy, but also very, very interested in election law and election policies.

And this:

GROSS: What would you say [ALEC’s] agenda is?

Mr. NICHOLS: Well, I think it’s to make it easier for corporations to do what they want to do, and not all those things are evil, although sometimes folks talk about corporations that way. But it’s just to clear the way – lower taxes, less regulation, particularly less environmental regulation, a lot of protections against lawsuits. ALEC is very, very active in what’s referred to as tort reform. And also an opening up of areas via privatization for corporations to make more money, particularly in places you might not usually expect, like public education.

ALEC is a very, very strong advocate for voucher programs and privatization programs in the area of education.

GROSS: And privatization of prisons as well?

Mr. NICHOLS: Oh, very ambitiously for privatization of prisons. And there’s a group called the Corrections Corporation of America that’s very, very active with ALEC, and they build prisons.

GROSS: So the focus of ALEC is legislation on the state level, not the national level. Most of us, I think, are more focused on national legislation. Why is ALEC focused on the state level?

Mr. NICHOLS: Well, because they’re smart. The fact of the matter is that we live at the local and state level. That’s where human beings come into contact with government more often than not.

Almost reads like THE list of anti-liberal policies, doesn’t it?


Besides talking about the voter ID legislation being rolled out all over the country, Mr Nichols talks about something that has been an obsession of mine and apparently of his too (emphasis mine):

Mr. NICHOLS …I focus – my interest is in elections. I’m always fascinated by, you know, how our elections play out, how our politics plays out, how democracy itself functions. And so I looked through all the documents, at least everything that was in this document dump on elections and on democracy and on everything from the Electoral College to how we do local initiatives. And frankly, it’s amazing. There is just such meticulous work. They are very detail-oriented, very, very focused on a whole host of issues and they have an opinion about everything. And, you know, what they – how they want elections to work.

Money should speak. No question of that. They think it’s a big deal. They love the Electoral College. They think it’s a very, very dangerous notion to have direct election of presidents. They even say at one point that if you had direct election of the presidents you might create a situation in which someone with a plurality was elected. So what they’re saying is you might create a situation where the person with the most votes got elected.


Now for the funny part…

Well it happens that the national chairman of ALEC, Noble Ellington, made the bad decision to go on with Gross also; what results is a pretty funny interview. I guess he thought he could get away with some ridiculous claims or actually believes that ALEC is helping the American people.

Mr. Ellington’s interview with Gross can be heard here, and the transcript can be read here. I highly recommend you listen to get the full effect. Here’s a part of the conversation:

GROSS: But the taxpaying public isn’t at the table.

Mr. ELLINGTON: Wait just a minute. Don’t don’t assume that.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ELLINGTON: I work for the taxpaying public. So don’t assume that they’re not, because they are. And we represent the public and we are the ones who decide. So the taxpaying public is represented there at the table because I’m there.

GROSS: I understand that, but you’re there at the table with corporations. But at the table…

Mr. ELLINGTON: Can I interrupt you again?


Mr. ELLINGTON: It’s not just corporations. I’m there, and members of ALEC is the Americans for Tax Reform, the National Taxpayers Union, National Federation of Independent Businesses – those are people that we represent as well and those are people who are members.

GROSS: But those are all pro-business, anti-tax groups. People not represented at the table include workers, union members, teachers, students…

Mr. ELLINGTON: No, ma’am. No, ma’am.

GROSS: Patients who are can’t medical bills…

Mr. ELLINGTON: You are completely wrong.

GROSS: Uh-huh. I’m sorry?

Mr. ELLINGTON: I represent…

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ELLINGTON: I, me, as an elected official, I represent unions. I represent teachers. And you’re saying you want taxes raised? Is that what you’re saying?

GROSS: I don’t think I said I want taxes raised. I don’t think I said anything about what I wanted.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Aren’t you glad that Mr. Ellington, the Koch brothers, the “Americans for Tax Reform” and Paul Weyrich, are/were watching your back, America. 🙂

Yep! That Paul Weyrich:

Whom the editors at the Deseret News and the AP gave a glowing sendoff when he died.


Random Morning WTF

Dropping the kids off this morning, I heard the part of the middle of a story on NPR.

Que WTF.

The story was about meditation in Alabama prisons. This is exactly the section I heard…

Read the rest of this entry »


Public Trial for Tim DeChristopher. Tomorrow Noon. Come One Come All!

Climate Trial - Salt Lake City, Utah November 5, 2010

Climate Trial - Salt Lake City, Utah November 5, 2010

“The public square is the proper place for the defendants message, not criminal proceedings in federal court.” -US government

The Justice Department is putting Tim  DeChristopher on trial for blocking an illegal federal oil and gas auction. This absurdity is heightened by the judge’s subsequent ruling, legally prohibiting Tim from telling the jury his reasons for doing what he did. Even though the judge is severely restricting what Tim can say, the government continues to delay the trial, denying Tim justice.

The oil industry might not want us to have this trial, but we do.

“The Climate Trial” will take place November 5th, 2010, with or without the court. This trial is not just about Tim; it’s about holding the real criminals accountable. Join us—you’ll be the jury—deciding where the responsibility lies for passing on a healthy world to our children.

Begin: high noon. Length: about 30 minutes  Where: 350 S. Main St. (across from the federal courthouse. (map)

Questions? Suggestions? email:  To volunteer to help with promotion or logistics, include your contact info in the message. Thanks!

Note: there will also be mobilizations and actions in Salt Lake City during the “real” trial. After 5 delays (and counting?) from the government, we are unable to post the exact date until it is imminent. If you would like to receive the most up-to-date information, you can sign up for our Climate Trial Email Updates.


A Rare Example of Tough Reporting

It’s always good to see a news organization doing their jobs rather then parroting the local government’s construct of reality. In this case CBS 5 News in Arizona lives up to it’s motto, “Telling It Like It Is” in a big way by going after the governor of the state with some astounding inquiries into the nature of the high profile bill, (SB 1070), that has put Arizona and it’s governor in the national spotlight for weeks now; stepping on the constitutional rights of citizens with brown skin.

Gov. Jan Brewer has been drumming up the fear to the point that the tourism industry is getting very worried about tourist cancellations. According to CBS 5:

[Brewer] has made several statements to the national media, the validity of which CBS 5 Investigates could not confirm. The governor told one media outlet that almost all illegal immigrants are bringing drugs across the border. U.S. Border Patrol officials said that statement is false.

Brewer also said law enforcement officials have found decapitated bodies in the desert. Calls to all of Arizona’s border county medical examiners revealed no decapitated bodies have been reported to them.

It’s obvious from the video connected with this report that Gov. Brewer is not at all interested in answering questions about her statements.


There may be a very good reason to believe the law Gov. Brewer is pushing so hard for is designed to enrich a certain industry which operates in her state:

Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, holds the federal contract to house detainees in Arizona. The company bills $11 million per month. CBS 5 Investigates learned that two of Brewer’s top advisers have connections to CCA.

The prison industry has been one of the largest public works industries in the United States for decades now and as it grows, so does the prison population. A move to privatize the industry is encouraged to save money for the taxpayers, but what does it actually encourage?

Two judges in the south were recently found to have been making millions, flippantly sending young people to private corrections facilities without spending any time to review their cases and that’s just the tip of the iceberg in this insane trend which has given America the largest prison population in the world, even surpassing China.

What we are willing to do for the love of money is beyond disturbing. Do we make our society safer by creating criminals?

CBS 5 News report:


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