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Topics - Goaticus

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General Discussion / U.S. Dollar Takes Another Hit
« on: June 06, 2012, 04:55:11 PM »

Ben Bernanke's dollar crisis went into a wider mode yesterday as the greenback was shockingly upstaged by the euro and yen, both of which can lay claim to the world title as the currency favored by central banks as their reserve currency.

Over the last three months, banks put 63 percent of their new cash into euros and yen -- not the greenbacks -- a nearly complete reversal of the dollar's onetime dominance for reserves, according to Barclays Capital. The dollar's share of new cash in the central banks was down to 37 percent -- compared with two-thirds a decade ago.
Fed boss Ben Bernanke may be forced to raise rates in order to restore faith in the dollar — and help bring the euro and the yen back to earth.

Fed boss Ben Bernanke may be forced to raise rates in order to restore faith in the dollar — and help bring the euro and the yen back to earth.

Currently, dollars account for about 62 percent of the currency reserve at central banks -- the lowest on record, said the International Monetary Fund.

Bernanke could go down in economic history as the man who killed the greenback on the operating table.

After printing up trillions of new dollars and new bonds to stimulate the US economy, the Federal Reserve chief is now boxed into a corner battling two separate monsters that could devour the economy -- ravenous inflation on one hand, and a perilous recession on the other.

"He's in a crisis worse than the meltdown ever was," said Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital. "I fear that he could be the Fed chairman who brought down the whole thing."

Investors and central banks are snubbing dollars because the greenback is kept too weak by zero interest rates and a flood of greenbacks in the global economy.

They grumble that they've loaned the US record amounts to cover its mounting debt, but are getting paid back by a currency that's worth 10 percent less in the past three months alone. In a decade, it's down nearly one-third.

Yesterday, the dollar had a mixed performance, falling slightly against the British pound to $1.5801 from $1.5846 Friday, but rising against the euro to $1.4779 from $1.4709 and against the yen to 89.85 yen from 89.78.

Economists believe the market rebellion against the dollar will spread until Bernanke starts raising interest rates from around zero to the high single digits, and pulls back the flood of currency spewed from US printing presses.

"That's a cure, but it's also going to stifle any US economic growth," said Schiff. "The economy is addicted to the cheap interest and liquidity."

Economists warn that a jump in rates will clobber stocks and cripple the already stalled housing market.

"Bernanke's other choice is to keep rates at zero, print even more money and sell more debt, but we'll see triple-digit inflation that could collapse the economy as we know it.

"The stimulus is what's toxic -- we're poisoning ourselves and the global economy with it."

Japan and China trade directly without buying dollars as a currency intermediary. So much for the idea that the dollar can't lose reserve status. Something that inflation hawks claim can never happen.

The Government that needs to know everything about you so badly that it can now check your orifices wants their employees to be exempt from certain information searches.

Democrats and Republicans in the California Legislature have once again broadcast this troubling fact: They are far more concerned about the ever-expanding demands of a relatively small group of public sector union members than they are about the public welfare of the citizens of our state.

On May 17, the state Assembly voted 68-0 to support the most despicable piece of legislation that’s come through the halls in a while, which is saying a lot given the foolhardy proposals routinely on display in Sacramento. (It still requires approval by the Senate and the governor.)

The bill, AB 2299, allows a broad swath of public officials—police, judges, and various public safety officials—to hide their names from public property records. It is based on the unproven notion that criminals use such records to find the homes of law enforcement officers, then track them down to commit harm. This could theoretically happen, but even the most overheated advocates of the bill can’t point to specific instances. Lots of things can happen, theoretically.

The Sacramento Bee editorial page, hardly a font of anti-government-worker thinking, made the obvious point: “None of the testimony presented in committee indicated criminals seeking to harm law enforcement officials actually got information about where their targets lived from property records. Most just followed them home from work.”

The state is about to destroy the most significant source of public records, and create an open invitation to fraud and theft in order to combat a phantom threat. The bill was introduced by a legislator who ought to know better, Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles). Not long ago, Feuer argued that openness is the key to stopping abuse in his city’s terminally troubled children’s court system, but now he is the champion of secrecy.

“AB 2299 would bar journalists and the public from investigating the situation unfolding in Los Angeles where the assessor is accused of collecting campaign contributions from property owners in exchange for lowered property assessments,” wrote the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Jim Ewert in a letter to Feuer. “The bill would completely insulate and protect any public safety official who might be involved in this type of scheme … .”

Public officials and their family members will be able to hide their identities, which will undermine the reliability of property transactions. Dirty officials will pull off real estate scams without scrutiny. If an assessor did mistakenly release a record, those officials could receive financial judgments paid by the taxpayers. As the Bee asked, “If names are redacted, could law enforcement officials prevent their estranged wives or husbands from asserting a legitimate legal interest in the property?” The property system will become far less reliable. Buyers will be less able to guarantee that the title they receive is free and clear.

What a mess we are creating, and all because union officials are constantly pushing for new and expanded privileges for their members, and because legislators never have the courage to say no. Law enforcement advocates constantly trumpet the dangers their members face, but they often exaggerate such dangers. They ignore that many other people who work outside government face dangers, too. Bail bondsmen face potential dangers from criminals, as do various attorneys and average citizens going about their lives. It’s not right to bolster the idea that public officials are members of a separate caste with rights and protections that exceed those enjoyed by the citizenry at large.

It’s fundamental to our democratic society that government officials are held to the same standards as the rest of us. Yet we see many scandals involving public officials, many crimes committed by duly sworn officers. Do we really need yet another privilege that exempts “them” from the standards that apply to the rest of “us.”

One can be sure that the number of protected categories will expand rapidly and quietly. Even the original list is fairly broad. Within weeks, lobbyists for other public-sector unions will insist that code enforcers, billboard inspectors, and milk testers receive the same protections given the dangers these officials supposedly face. If you think I'm overstating this, then consider that the latter categories made that same argument to gain expanded “public safety” pensions.

Many officials will abuse this, just as police and their families routinely abuse the “professional courtesy” granted by other officers to evade traffic tickets and DUIs. In 2008, the Orange County Register published an investigation about a special license plate program “designed 30 years ago to protect police from criminals, [that] has been expanded to cover hundreds of thousands of public employees—from police dispatchers to museum guards—who face little threat from the public. Their spouses and children can get the plates, too. This has happened despite warnings from state officials that the safeguard is no longer needed because updated laws have made all DMV information confidential to the public.”

The newspaper found that these public servants often run red lights and drive on toll roads without paying the tolls because the agencies cannot access the addresses, which are in a protected database. When these scofflaw government employees are pulled over by police officers, the newspaper reported, they often are let go with a warning because their protected plate status signals that they are part of the law enforcement fraternity. After the Register article, the Legislature actually voted to expand the number of categories of employee eligible for the program.

Now this two-tier craziness will expand to our property ownership system, undermining public records and allowing corrupt public employees to exploit other people. We know from history that free and open societies are the ones least susceptible to corruption. Yet the California Assembly has decided to cast aside those time-tested lessons and put the demands of unions above the needs of the public. So what else is new?


Cop Doing “God’s Work” Threatens to Face-Rape Petty Crook

Scott Shackford | May 21, 2012

NYPD Sgt. Lesly Charles wants Brooklyn men to know his dick is bigger than theirs, and he’s not afraid to use it to get them to stop parking their cars illegally.

A rant by Charles back in April was captured by cellphone video and provided to the New York Post by the target of the sergeant’s ire:

    The footage includes Charles berating a young man in the roadway near a silver BMW, telling him: “This is my street. All right? If you got to play tough, that’s your problem . . . I do whatever the f--k I want.”

    A short time later, Charles followed the group into the nearby No. 1 Chinese Food restaurant, flanked by two plainclothes cops.

    “I have the long d--k. You don’t,” the cop bragged.

    “Your pretty face — I like it very much. My d--k will go in your mouth and come out your ear. Don’t f--k with me. All right?”

The unidentified 21-year-old who shot the video was arrested later and charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to leave. According to the Post, the man with the pretty face Charles would like to fuck has been arrested more than 20 times for petty larceny, weapons, and marijuana charges (though there’s no information whether he was convicted or pleaded guilty to any of them).

Charles is now under investigation by the City’s Civilian Complaint Board. Reached by the Post, Charles said only, “I’m just doing God’s work. You know I can’t comment ... Have a blessed day.”

Enjoy the video below (bleeped for your sensitive ears).

Link has video of situation.

General Discussion / A new Greek Currency
« on: May 21, 2012, 03:50:36 PM »

This is an interesting bottom up currency. It isn't backed by anything and actually has a maximum amount you are allowed to own which is bizarre. I hope with all the currency devaluations and sovereign debt crisis's that more groups find ways to make their own currencies. A friend in Argentina told me that they used links of jewelry gold in their inflation crisis. Currently I'm expecting silver to be the most useful thing.

General Discussion / Criticizing Obama in School
« on: May 21, 2012, 03:17:13 PM »

And of course part of what the teacher was complaining about was that the student corrected obvious factual inaccuracies from Obamatons.

General Discussion / Gibson Guitar Drama Part Two.
« on: May 19, 2012, 08:33:22 AM »

Shane mentioned Gibson Guitars running into problems importing wood. Now it looks like the feds are back to seize peoples guitars. Even ones made before 2008 when the Lacy Act was expanded to include wood products.

“The law was intended to prevent illegal logging and protect U.S. job that are threatened by illegal logging, it was never intended to seize instruments or wood products that were obtained prior to the passage of the Lacey Act amendments in May 2008 because they were made from imported wood" Quote from Senator Lamar Alexander in the article.

I guess it's probably too late to tell him that what laws are intended to do and what they actually do are often two different things.

General Discussion / Police steal $22,000
« on: May 15, 2012, 09:37:12 PM »

The most important part is at the very end.

And that, Miles said, works to the benefit of the police.

He had two clients where police agreed to drop the cases in exchange for a cut of the money -- $1,000 in one case, $2,000 in another. In both cases, that was less than what they might have paid in attorney fees.

Miles called that "extortion."

General Discussion / In further bailout news......
« on: May 12, 2012, 06:38:15 PM »

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co lost $15 billion in market value and a notch in its credit ratings on Friday while a chorus of regulators and politicians reacted to its surprise $2 billion trading loss by demanding stiffer oversight for the banking industry.

Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee called for a hearing into the losses that the largest U.S. bank disclosed Thursday, while Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro told reporters: "It's safe to say that all the regulators are focused on this."

The debacle sparked new fears about big banks and prompted Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher, who has called for the breakup of the top five U.S. banks, to say he is worried the biggest banks do not have adequate risk management.

The fallout extended across much of the banking sector, with shares of some of Wall Street's top names declining on Friday. Among others, Citigroup dropped 4.2 percent, Goldman Sachs fell 3.9 percent and Bank of America slipped 1.9 percent.

JPMorgan was far away the worst performer, however, falling 9.3 percent on a day when some 212 million of its shares traded, the most volume in its history.

Fitch Ratings downgraded JPMorgan's debt ratings by one notch and put all of the ratings of the bank and its subsidiaries on negative ratings watch.

While Fitch saw the size of the loss as manageable, "the magnitude of the loss and ongoing nature of these positions implies a lack of liquidity," the ratings agency said. "It also raises questions regarding JPM's risk appetite, risk management framework, practices and oversight; all key credit factors."

"Fitch believes the potential reputational risk and risk governance issues raised at JPM are no longer consistent with an 'AA-' rating," it said.

Standard & Poor's put JPMorgan and its banking units on a negative outlook, but affirmed its current ratings.

Chief Executive Jamie Dimon's reputation also took a hit. For a leader lauded for steering his bank through the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis without reporting a loss, the incident was embarrassing, especially given Dimon's criticism of the so-called Volcker rule to ban proprietary trading by big banks.

"We know we were sloppy. We know we were stupid. We know there was bad judgment," Dimon said in an interview with NBC television to be broadcast on Sunday.

He said it wasn't clear whether the bank had broken any laws or violated any rules. "We've had audit, legal, risk, compliance, some of our best people looking at all of that."

Dimon recorded the segment to go with a wide-ranging interview he had done on Wednesday for NBC's Sunday "Meet the Press" program.

The New York Times reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission has opened a preliminary investigation into JPMorgan's accounting practices and public disclosures about the trading loss.

In a conference call disclosing the problem on Thursday, Dimon said the $2 billion in losses could rise by a further $1 billion, and acknowledged they were linked to a London-based credit trader Bruno Iksil. Nicknamed the 'London Whale', Iksil amassed an outsized position which hedge funds bet against, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal in April.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, meanwhile, had been aware of JPMorgan's big trading loss and is currently monitoring the situation, according to a source close to the situation.

The Fed, which is JPMorgan's primary regulator, aims to ensure banks are sufficiently capitalized to withstand such trading mistakes, not to prevent them, the source said.


The exact nature of the trading loss is still unclear, although sources said a host of asset managers, arbitrageurs and hedge funds were on the other side of the bet, viewing it as good value and a effective way to insure portions of their portfolio.

Blue Mountain, a hedge fund with offices in New York and London, was among those on the other side of JPMorgan's trade, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Dimon will undoubtedly be pressed by investors for more details about what exactly went wrong when he hosts the bank's annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday in Tampa, Florida.

A national union on Friday urged shareholders to approve a stockholder resolution calling for an independent board chairman at JPMorgan. Dimon currently holds the chairman and CEO titles.

"The stakes are too high to leave Jamie Dimon unsupervised," said Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, which sponsored the proposal. "Dimon denied that the ‘London Whale' was making risky bets, and now that this has turned out to be a fish story, shareholders need to step in."

Dimon had parlayed his bank's reputation as a white knight during the financial crisis into a position as the de facto representative fighting against excessive post-crisis regulation.

"What concerns me is risk management, size, scope," said Dallas Federal Reserve Bank's Fisher answer to a question about JPMorgan's trading loss. "At what point do you get to the point that you don't know what's going on underneath you? That's the point where you've got too big."

The trader at the center of the storm, Iksil, who graduated in engineering from the Ecole Centrale in Paris in 1991, was not available for comment. The Frenchman, and the Chief Investment Office (CIO) where he works, are known by rival credit traders for taking extremely large positions.

Friends, colleagues and fellow traders describe an unassuming man, a far cry from the brash image normally associated with traders staking huge bets in fast-moving financial markets, including derivatives.

"He's a really nice bloke. A quiet bloke. He's not an arrogant trader, he's quite the opposite. He's very charming," one former colleague at JPMorgan said of Iksil, whom he said was married with "a couple of kids."

A friend and former JPMorgan colleague said Iksil and his team were not carrying out so-called prop trading, where a bank makes bets with its own money, in disguise and its activities were known about at the highest levels.

"The CIO does not do prop trading, let's be clear on that... It involves taking positions in the form of investments, trades, credit-default swaps, or other, with the aim of rebalancing the risks of JPMorgan's balance sheet.

"The information comes from the very top of the bank and I do not even think that the CIO team members at Bruno's level are given the full picture," the ex-colleague said.

Iksil was brought into the CIO unit to head its credit desk, an asset class it had not previously covered, a person who worked in the unit said. It built up large credit positions over several years through trades which were vetted by management and the losses now likely resulted from a combination of these trades going wrong, the person said.

The CIO desk had grown rapidly in the past five years and was given free range to trade in a whole range of financial products, the only exception being commodities, they added. The CIO is run by New York-based Ina Drew, who is Chief Investment Officer.

Credit market traders said other banks have comparable functions to JPMorgan's CIO. The French banks, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and UBS were all cited as examples of large treasury functions that hedge credit exposures in similar ways.

"The argument that financial institutions do not need the new rules to help them avoid the irresponsible actions that led to the crisis of 2008 is at least $2 billion harder to make today," U.S. Representative Barney Frank said in a statement.

The Democrat co-authored the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law designed to avoid a repeat of the recent credit crisis.

General Discussion / Homophobia in the Romney Campaign
« on: May 02, 2012, 07:15:14 PM »

Just one week ago, The Atlantic heralded Mitt Romney’s hiring of an openly gay spokesman for foreign policy issues as “a breakthrough in the world of Republican presidential campaigns.”

Seven days later, that spokesman had already stepped down, citing conservatives whose outrage over his spot in the campaign made it impossible to do his job.

“While I welcomed the challenge to confront President Obama’s foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage, my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign,” Richard Grenell told the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin in a statement. “I want to thank Governor Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team.”

Romney made good on his word that “I don’t discriminate” on the basis of sexual orientation when he hired former Bush administration U.N. spokesperson Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, to be his foreign policy spokesman.

Unfortunately for Grenell, Romney’s support wasn’t enough.

The Post first reported Tuesday that Grenell left Romney’s campaign after just a couple weeks on the job. Grenell’s departure, according to Rubin, came in response to numerous conservatives upset that an advocate of gay marriage, who was himself gay, had landed a high-profile position on the campaign of the likely GOP presidential nominee.

Social conservatives were indeed wary of Grenell from the start and questioned Romney’s decision to hire him. Bryan Fischer, a social conservative known for claiming that President Obama “feminized” the Medal of Honor, among other things — reacted predictably to Grenell’s hiring.

“If the Secret Service scandal teaches us one thing, it is this: a man’s private sexual conduct matters when we’re talking about public office,” Fischer wrote. “Given the propensity for members of the homosexual community to engage in frequent and anonymous sexual encounters, the risk to national security of having a homosexual in a high-ranking position with access to secret information is obvious.”

In an email to members, the Family Research Council also attacked Romney for hiring Grenell. Other conservative outlets picked up the criticism as well.

But Grenell wasn’t scrutinized solely based on his sexual orientation or his views on marriage. Shortly after Team Romney announced his inclusion, Grenell was caught up in a Twitter imbroglio that led him to delete hundreds of snarky tweets targeting everyone from Newt and Callista Gingrich to Rachel Maddow.

Grenell’s record from his tenure at the U.N. was questioned as well, as the Huffington Post noted:

    Grenell drew harsh criticism from reporters during his tenure as a U.N. spokesman. Former Reuters reporter Irwin Arieff told HuffPost that Grenell “often lied,” adding that he was the “most dishonest and deceptive press person” he’d worked with in over two decades on the job.

The Romney campaign said the resignation came over its objections.

“We are disappointed that Ric decided to resign from the campaign for his own personal reasons,” Romney campaign manger Matt Rhoades told TPM in a statement. “We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill.”

Republican LGBT activists are seething, and say that the resignation shows some factions of the party still aren’t ready to see gay Americans living openly. (Neither Romney nor President Obama supports same-sex marriage — though Obama has said his stance is “evolving.”)

“It is unfortunate that while the Romney campaign made it clear that Grenell being an openly gay man was a non-issue for the governor and his team, the hyper-partisan discussion of issues unrelated to Ric’s national security qualifications threatened to compromise his effectiveness on the campaign trail,” Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper said in a statement. “Ric was essentially hounded by the far right and far left.”

Others were more willing to cast the blame on the GOP’s anti-gay right.

“Today is a day when national security and foreign affairs is front and center and Mitt Romney don’t have the best person available speaking on his behalf,” said GOProud co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia. “He has Bryan Fischer and Tony Perkins to thank for that.”

Fred Karger, openly gay Republican candidate for president, said he knows Grenell well and was “still getting over the shock” of the resignation when TPM reached him on the campaign trail in California. He blamed the Fischers and Perkins of the world and said he doubts Romney will risk angering them again, despite what Karger called a strong Romney record of hiring openly gay staff.

“It’s going to be difficult for Romney to take other steps like this. And that’s what’s really frightening to me,” Karger said. “It’s just too tough to stand up to these groups because they have a lot of money and power. You’ve got to be able to do that, that’s leadership.”

For his part, Fischer’s certainly happy to take the credit.

“If my public comments about Romney’s gay activist hire had anything to do with today’s decision, I did the guv a big favor,” he tweeted.

General Discussion / DEA Mistreatment
« on: May 02, 2012, 01:30:11 AM »
We've had a lot of stories of local police violating peoples rights. It is only fair to show the feds doing it too.

Several hours after Obama’s drug czar told a room filled with Democratic power brokers at the Center for American Progress that the “war on drugs” was over, 23-year-old Daniel Chong sat down with NBC San Diego to recount the five days he spent handcuffed in a DEA holding cell without food or water after he was arrested for smoking pot.

During that period, Chong, a student at UC San Diego, was forced to drink his own urine because his cries for help, for water, and for food went ignored, or perhaps unheard, by DEA agents. By the third day, Chong said he was hallucinating. He tried to kill himself by breaking the lens of his glasses, cutting his wrists, and then swallowing the shards.

More from NBC:

    Chong said he was at a friend’s house in University City celebrating 4/20, a day many marijuana users set aside to smoke, when agents came inside and raided the residence. Chong was then taken to the DEA office in Kearny Mesa.

    He said agents questioned him, and then told him he could go home. One agent even offered him a ride, Chong said. No criminal charges were filed against him.

    But Chong did not go home that night. Instead, he was placed in a cell for five days without any human contact and was not given food or drink. In his desperation, he said he was forced to drink his own urine.

    “I had to do what I had to do to survive….I hallucinated by the third day,” Chong said. “I was completely insane.”

    Chong said he lost roughly 15 pounds during the time he was alone. His lawyer confirmed that Chong ingested a powdery substance found inside the cell. Later testing revealed the substance was methamphetamine.

    After days of being ignored, Chong said he tried to take his own life by breaking the glass from his spectacles with his teeth and then carving “Sorry mom,” on his wrists. He said nurses also found pieces of glass in his throat, which led him to believe he ingested the pieces purposefully.

    Chong said he could hear DEA employees and people in neighboring cells. He screamed to let them know he was there, but no one replied. He kicked the door, but no one came to get him.

    By the time DEA officers found Chong in his cell Wednesday morning Chong was completely incoherent, said Iredale.

    “I didn’t think I would come out,” Chong said.

A DEA official told NBC San Diego on Sunday that Chong was locked up four days (not five) and said, “[W]e plan to thoroughly review both the events and detention procedures on April 21st and after." Chong will file his lawsuit against the agency on Wednesday. The drug war continues apace.

-----Mike Riggs.

General Discussion / Author and former CIA case officer on torture.
« on: April 30, 2012, 01:18:10 PM »

When I wrote my eighth thriller, Inside Out, in 2009, the villains were a group of CIA and other government officials who colluded to destroy a series of tapes depicting Americans torturing war-on-terror prisoners. The plot was of course based on actual events, and I considered naming one of the characters Jose Rodriguez, the Director of the National Clandestine Service at the time the actual tapes were destroyed. In the end I decided against real names, though, because, after all, the characters in the book were committing terrible crimes, and to name them after real people seemed a recipe for a libel suit.

I needn't have worried. Since Inside Out was published, former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney have confessed to ordering waterboarding in their respective memoirs, with no repercussions, legal or otherwise. And now former Director Rodriguez, in his own memoir, has himself confessed to ordering the destruction of the videotapes that were the basis for the plot of my novel. He understands -- correctly, I'm sure -- that he will face no more legal action or damage to his reputation than did the president or vice president. Such are the times we live in. After all, President Obama disavowed torture on his second day in office. No, this was not good news. It merely ratified the idea that torture, illegal by treaty and U.S. law, is not in fact a crime, but rather merely a policy, which some presidents will permit and others prohibit, entirely at their discretion. And indeed, although Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged during his confirmation hearings what everyone already knew -- that waterboarding always has been and always will be torture -- no one has since been charged or prosecuted for ordering it or carrying it out.

Is waterboarding torture? The Spanish Inquisition, the Nazi Gestapo, and the Khmer Rouge all used it. And previous U.S. cases have all ruled that waterboarding is inarguably torture. And it's hard to imagine that any American, Rodriguez included, would argue waterboarding isn't torture if the tapes in question depicted Iranian or Chinese agents waterboarding captured American pilots. Just a dunk in the water? A little discomfort, no big deal, all's fair?

But Rodriguez says waterboarding isn't torture, at least when it's Americans doing it, that it merely makes victims "uncomfortable." He also says it's vital for U.S. national security that we continue to waterboard terror suspects. So: why not a torture Turing Test? If Rodriguez can continue to maintain that waterboarding isn't torture even while being waterboarded, he would be infinitely more persuasive. I wonder why Rodriguez, and so many other apologists with so much on the line, refuse to make this extremely persuasive point? After all, they say waterboarding causes no permanent harm. It's just a dunk in the water, a no brainer, merely uncomfortable, no big deal at all. Are these people not patriots? Why won't they submit to an easy dunk and demonstrate powerfully and persuasively and once and for all for everyone to see that waterboarding isn't torture, and thereby make a more powerful case that America should continue doing it? You know, like rightwing talk show host Mancow did.

It's bad enough high government officials like Rodrigez get away with murder, sometimes literally. It becomes even more galling when they justify their self-interested destruction of evidence of their crimes by claiming the destruction was necessary to protect America. Remember the English lord in the film Braveheart, showing up with men-at-arms to rape the bride at a Scottish wedding, and describing the act as a way to "bless this marriage"?

I don't know which bodes worse for the future of the republic. That officials like Rodriguez can claim such stunningly self-interested reasons for having destroyed the evidence of their crimes. Or that the pubic is credulous enough to believe them.

---Barry Eisler

General Discussion / Another Public Eductation Fail
« on: April 24, 2012, 01:20:13 PM »

Aren't you glad the Government takes care of education?

"When Stuart Chaifetz sent his 10-year-old son to New Jersey's Horace Mann Elementary School wearing a wire, he couldn't have predicted the audio he would uncover.

The wiring came as a reaction to accusations from the school that his son Akian was having "violent outbursts," including hitting his teacher and teacher's aide -- claims that Chaifetz says are simply against his son's "sweet and non-violent" nature.

To Chaifetz's shock, Akian, a student with Autism, returned with a tape containing hours of verbal and emotional abuse from his classroom aide and teacher, which the father documented and published in an emotional YouTube video.

The Feb. 17 recording started with Akian's aide and the teacher, whom Chaifetz identifies as Jodi Sgouros and Kelly Altenburg, respectively, according to Collingswood Patch. The two engage in inappropriate conversations, like joking about their alcohol abuse and sex lives in front of their students -- all of whom suffer from conditions that prevent them from relaying the conversations to their parents.

"You would never get away with talking about your alcohol abuse the night before if this was a mainstream class," Chaifetz says in the YouTube video. "And that's the point, isn't it? They knew none of those boys could go home and tell their parents that the person who ran that class was under the influence the alcohol and was throwing up."

As the tape continues, the teacher and teacher's aide's behavior turned from inappropriate to cruel.

"Who are you talking to, nobody?" Altenburg asked Akian, who sometimes talks to himself. "Knock it off," Sgouros chimed in.

According to the video, Akian became upset, and starting crying.

"Go ahead and scream because guess what? You're going to get nothing until your mouth is shut," the classroom official is heard saying. "Shut your mouth."

Due to his son's anxiety, Chaifetz, who is divorced from his wife, has to reassure Akian that he will return to his care after the boy spends time with his mother.

"It's not a big deal," he said, describing the reassurance ritual in the video.

When Akian asked Sgouros for the same reassurance, however, she answered "no," sending him into an emotional panic.

Instead of compassion, however, the teacher's aide responded with cruelty.

"Oh Akian, you are a bastard," Sgouros said, according to the audio recording.

Although Sgouros, the classroom aide, was fired after the father presented the recording to school district officials, Altenburg remains employed, but in a different classroom.

“That my son's teacher was not fired and still works in the school district is an outrage I am not willing to allow to pass in silence,” Chaifetz said in an email to the Huffington Post.

“She betrayed my son and caused him great pain. If some union rule or HR regulation has allowed her to keep her job, then the law needs to be changed so that the next time a teacher bullies a child, especially one with special needs, they will be immediately fired. For me to do nothing would mean I was treating my son with as much disrespect as they had," he added.

An online petition on and a Facebook page calling for the teacher's termination have already received attention.

Susan Bastnagel, Cherry Hill Public School District spokesperson declined to comment on Altenburg's continued employment, but told the Huffington Post that the incident is a "personnel matter that the district took seriously and handled appropriately."

Akian's troubling experience is not unique, nor is his father's method of exposing believed wrongdoing in the classroom.

"I have also been stunned by how many emails I have received from people with special needs who were bullied by teachers when they were in school, and from parents who have a situation that mirrors what I went through," Chaifetz told the Huffington Post. "These parents are desperate to find out what is happening to their child and have asked for help on how to wire them."

Thus was the case for the parents of a special needs student at Miami Trace Middle School in Ohio sent their daughter to school with a hidden tape recorder last fall, after the girl had repeatedly complaint about teacher bullying.

The revelation was shocking: the educators on the recording called the child lazy and dumb, and forced her to run on a treadmill with increasing speed.

"Don't you want to do something about that belly," former teaching aide Kelley Chaffins says in the recording. "Well, evidently you don't because you don't do anything at home. You sit at home and watch TV."

The girl and her father spoke to Ann Curry on the TODAY show last November, and in a tearful interview, the concerned dad touched on how the abuse had affected his daughter.

"She got to where she didn't want to go to school," he said, choking back tears. "She was ... starting to harm herself to keep from going to school and we knew we had to do something at that point."

Chaffins was forced to resign from her position.

Other bullying incidents like that of 15-year-old Julio Artuz at Bankbridge Regional School in New Jersey were exposed by hidden camera. Based on the uncovered video, the student asks his teacher to stop calling him "special," to which the teacher responded, "…I will kick your a-- from here to kingdom-come until I'm 80 years old."

UPDATE 1:05 p.m.: A previous version of this article named Jodi Rosenfeld as the possible "Jodi" referred to in the video. Stuart Chaifetz has since confirmed that this is not the teacher he refers to, according to Collingswood Patch."

General Discussion / Glenn Greenwald on Strip Searches and Obama.
« on: April 15, 2012, 08:39:22 PM »

From the article.

"As The Guardian said yesterday: “The decision was a victory for the jails and for the Obama administration, which argued for an across-the-board rule allowing strip-searches of all those entering the general jail population, even those arrested on minor offenses.” Civil rights lawyer Stephen Bergstein added:

    This evidence suggesting that minor offenders are not smuggling contraband into jails was not good enough for the Obama administration, which is asking the Supreme Court to endorse the restrictive strip search policy in Florence. At oral argument, a lawyer for the Obama Justice Department told the Supreme Court that “[p]rotesters…who decide deliberately to get arrested… might be stopped by the police, they see the squad car behind them. They might have a gun or contraband in their car and think hey, I’m going to put that on my person, I just need to get it somewhere that is not going to be found during a patdown search, and then potentially they have the contraband with them.” This position would probably be identical to that advanced by a Republican presidential administration.

What makes the Obama DOJ’s position in favor of this broad strip-search authority particularly remarkable is that federal prisons do not even have this policy. As The New York Times‘ Adam Liptak explained, “the procedures endorsed by the majority are forbidden by statute in at least 10 states and are at odds with the policies of federal authorities. According to a supporting brief filed by the American Bar Association, international human rights treaties also ban the procedures.”

Glenn Greenwald is great for not allowing Obama to get away with civil liberties violations.

General Discussion / Michigan State Police and Smart Phones
« on: April 08, 2012, 06:47:45 PM »

"The Michigan State Police have a high-tech mobile forensics device that can be used to extract information from cell phones belonging to motorists stopped for minor traffic violations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan last Wednesday demanded that state officials stop stonewalling freedom of information requests for information on the program.

ACLU learned that the police had acquired the cell phone scanning devices and in August 2008 filed an official request for records on the program, including logs of how the devices were used. The state police responded by saying they would provide the information only in return for a payment of $544,680. The ACLU found the charge outrageous.

"Law enforcement officers are known, on occasion, to encourage citizens to cooperate if they have nothing to hide," ACLU staff attorney Mark P. Fancher wrote. "No less should be expected of law enforcement, and the Michigan State Police should be willing to assuage concerns that these powerful extraction devices are being used illegally by honoring our requests for cooperation and disclosure."

A US Department of Justice test of the CelleBrite UFED used by Michigan police found the device could grab all of the photos and video off of an iPhone within one-and-a-half minutes. The device works with 3000 different phone models and can even defeat password protections.

"Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags," a CelleBrite brochure explains regarding the device's capabilities. "The Physical Analyzer allows visualization of both existing and deleted locations on Google Earth. In addition, location information from GPS devices and image geotags can be mapped on Google Maps."

The ACLU is concerned that these powerful capabilities are being quietly used to bypass Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.

"With certain exceptions that do not apply here, a search cannot occur without a warrant in which a judicial officer determines that there is probable cause to believe that the search will yield evidence of criminal activity," Fancher wrote. "A device that allows immediate, surreptitious intrusion into private data creates enormous risks that troopers will ignore these requirements to the detriment of the constitutional rights of persons whose cell phones are searched."

The national ACLU is currently suing the Department of Homeland Security for its policy of warrantless electronic searches of laptops and cell phones belonging to people entering the country who are not suspected of committing any crime."

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