March 2009 Archives

The Obama election showed up the far right slime machine, somewhat. After all Sarah Palin's neo-McCarthyite ramblings on the stump failed to gain "traction" beyond the far right, right? Well the Naperville, illinois school district now semi-apologetically decides maybe Bill Ayers, though his ideas on progressive education might be worth engaging, is, well, just maybe too much of a  "lightning rod", after all.

TheHuffington Post reports  

The Naperville School District has canceled a scheduled speech by Bill Ayers after it sparked "outrage" in the community, the district said in a statement Monday.

Ayers, an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago whose controversial past as a member of the 1960's radical group the Weather Underground resurfaced during the presidential campaign, was scheduled to speak at Naperville North High School on April 8. The school district said last week that students would need signed permission from their parents in order to attend.

But in a statement released Monday, Supt. Alan Leis said that, "Dr. Ayers' appearance has clearly become a 'lightning rod,'" and that the controversy surrounding the speech would outweigh its value to the students.

Student fight leads Connecticut principle to mandate zero tolerance policy on physical touch of any kind on campus, including high fives, pats on the back, hugging, kissing, anything.

WCBS-TV reports

A Connecticut middle school principal has laid down the law: You put your hands on someone -- anyone -- in any way, you're going to pay.

A violent incident that put one student in the hospital has officials at the Milford school implementing a "no touching" policy, according to a letter written by the school's principal.
East Shore Middle School parents said the change came after a student was sent to the hospital after being struck in the groin.

Principal Catherine Williams sent out a letter earlier in the week telling parents recent behavior has seriously impacted the safety and learning at the school.

"Observed behaviors of concern recently exhibited include kicking others in the groin area, grabbing and touching of others in personal areas, hugging and horseplay. Physical contact is prohibited to keep all students safe in the learning environment," Williams wrote.

Students and parents are outraged. They said the new policy means no high-fives and hugs, as well as horseplay of any kind. The consequences could be dire, Williams warned in the letter.

"Potential consequences and disciplinary action may include parent conferences, detention, suspension and/or a request for expulsion from school," Williams wrote.

Many think the school's no tolerance policy goes way too far. Others said it's utterly ridiculous.

"Now it's almost as if it's a sanitized school. Where you have to keep your distance from everybody? And that's not what school is about," one father said.

"What if they are out on the playground at recess, or in gym class?" parent Kathy Casey wondered. "You know, gym class is physical."

Police from various jurisdictions swarm on a Connecticut High School with police dogs, ransack over a hundred cars in the parking lot, rifle through lockers and find- rolling papers. An embarrassing misapplication of force? Nah. Not according to the school superintendent who quite proudly said terrorizing students was worth it to prove the school was drug free. 

WTHN Reports

Officers from numerous police departments charged into Wethersfield High School Thursday to hunt for drugs.

Armed with police dogs, officers from Wethersfield, Rocky Hill, Manchester and New Britain raided the high school at 411 Wolcott Hill Road.

Locker by locker and room by room, police and their dogs sniffed around to send the school district's message that drugs will not be taken lightly.

Police also searched more than 100 cars in the school's parking lot, which led to the arrest of one student for drug paraphernalia.

Police ended up not finding any drugs, and that lone arrest is something School Superintendent Michael  Kohlhagen is proud of.

"This is just one step in the right direction, to ensure our students continue to learn and thrive in a drug free environment." Kohlhagen said and later added, "This issue has been and remains a priority; our entire administration and faculty remain committed to the health, safety and welfare of our students."

Kohlhagen said Thursday's raid proves that Wethersfield High School is safe and drug free.

Thanks to the Agitator

Students caught exchanging slumber party pictures of themselves in bras and panties,  threatened with criminal charges and possibility of lifetime sex offender status for sexually abusing themselves, unless they take 10 hour course on child pornography and sexual violence.

NY Times reports

When a high school cheerleader in northeastern Pennsylvania learned that she might face criminal charges after investigators reported finding a nude photo of her on someone else's cellphone, she was more confused than frightened at being caught up in a case of "sexting": the increasingly popular phenomenon of nude or seminude photos sent over wireless phones.

"They said they had a full-bodied naked picture of me, but I knew I'd never had any naked picture taken of me," the student, Marissa Miller, 15, recalled of the Feb. 10 telephone call to her mother as the two were having lunch together at Tunkhannock Area High School. Marissa is a freshman at the school, where her mother, MaryJo, works with special education students.

The picture that investigators from the office of District Attorney George P. Skumanick of Wyoming County had was taken two years earlier at a slumber party. It showed Marissa and a friend from the waist up. Both were wearing bras.

Mr. Skumanick said he considered the photo "provocative" enough to tell Marissa and the friend, Grace Kelly, that if they did not attend a 10-hour class dealing with pornography and sexual violence, he was considering filing a charge of sexual abuse of a minor against both girls. If convicted, they could serve time in prison and would probably have to register as sex offenders.

It was the same deal that 17 other students -- 13 girls and 4 boys -- accepted by the end of February. All of them either been caught with a cellphone containing pictures of nude or seminude students, or were identified in one or more such photos.

But three students, Marissa, Grace and a third girl who appeared in another photo, along with their mothers, felt the deal was unfair and illegal. On Wednesday, they filed a lawsuit in federal court in Scranton, Pa., against Mr. Skumanick.

They asked the court to stop the district attorney from filing charges against them, contending that his threat to do so was "retaliation" for the families asserting their First and Fourth Amendment rights to oppose his deal.

"Prosecutors should not be using a nuclear-weapon-type charge like child pornography against kids who have no criminal intent and are merely doing stupid things," said Witold J. Walczak, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which represents the families.

Thanks to National Coalition on Censorship blog

Highway Robbery, Police Style

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Allen County Indiana sheriffs stop jeep for going 7 miles per hour over speed limit.  They find $26 thousand in cash, release the driver and passenger without charges, but keep the money.

Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette reports

Going 62 in a 50-mph zone, a Jeep barreled west on a slippery, snow-covered Airport Expressway on Valentine's Day and blew past an Allen County sheriff's squad car.

One traffic stop later, two men inside the Jeep were outside being patted down by officers. They acted nervous, according to a police report. At one point they looked as if they wanted to fight; at another they looked as if they wanted to flee.

In the Jeep's back seat, police found more than $26,000 in cash wrapped in a stocking cap.

Though officers held the two men for a short time in squad cars, they were eventually released without charges, save for the driver receiving a citation for driving with a suspended license.

And the money? The police kept it.

Having that much cash is not a crime, but police have the right to seize it if they suspect it has been used or procured through criminal means. Most of the money seized comes from drug cases and can then be used by various law enforcement agencies.

And at least one local agency, the Allen County Prosecutor's Office, has taken a more aggressive approach in forfeiture cases, with the amount of money in its state seizure fund growing from more than $53,000 in 2004 to more than $105,000 in 2008, according to Allen County's Chief Deputy Prosecutor Michael McAlexander.

"We've gotten a little more aggressive," said McAlexander, citing better communication with police in how confiscations work locally. "We've created a better process."

In the situation with the $26,000, police seized the money because the driver could not give an adequate reason for having that much money. First, the driver said it was to buy a car, according to the police report. Then, he said it came from working at various jobs. The passenger said he had no clue about the money.

Those factors allowed police to take the money.

"If it's way, way over and above what a normal person will carry, and if things don't add up (on how it was acquired), we take the money," said Lt. Art Barile, head of the sheriff department's vice and narcotics unit and the Allen County Drug Task Force, a multiagency unit run out of the sheriff's department.

How often money is confiscated from people not charged with crimes is hard to determine, Barile said, but his best guess for his department is that it happens "maybe 10 percent of the time" his department performs a seizure.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards said her office seldom sees forfeitures without criminal charges attached.

Bob Trgovich, assistant U.S. attorney at the local federal court, said it's not necessarily a rare practice for his office but it does happen, sometimes with more drawn-out cases.

"We had a case a few years ago where members of this conspiracy, over the course of two years, were stopped several times," he said. "Each time they were stopped, they had large amounts of money."

Though the processes may differ with each case and whether it's handled by federal or state prosecutors, people who typically have money seized must file a claim if they want it back. They have to show how they got the money and that it was procured legally. Many don't even file a claim, according to Trgovich.

"If you find money in a vehicle, and that's all you find, many times (the people) in the vehicle don't want to admit it's theirs," Trgovich said.

After money is seized by a law enforcement agency, prosecutors in either state or federal court take over a process that determines where the money ends up. Typically, federal prosecutors handle large amounts of money, such as the $26,000 case, which Barile said has been forwarded to federal authorities. Local prosecutors take the cases with smaller amounts of cash, from $1,000 to $4,000, according to Richards.

Depending on the subtleties of the case and what court is involved, the money usually ends up divided among prosecutors and the police agency or agencies responsible for seizing the money. The process can be long and intricate, though.

"It's a complicated nightmare, actually," said Auburn Police Chief Martin McCoy, who sometimes is a spokesman for the IMAGE Drug Task Force, made up of officers from Noble, LaGrange, Steuben and DeKalb counties.

In a state seizure case, the arresting agency must show how much money it used in the investigation that led to the seizure. Prosecutors, too, have to show how much money went into the litigation for the seizures.

"You're supposed to take your law enforcement expenses out of (the seized money), which could be anything from the attorney's time to write a search warrant, the cost of doing the forfeiture, the court costs, or (drug) buy money for the police department," Richards said.

In some cases, that money gets funneled back into the respective agencies involved with the seizures, according to Richards, McCoy and Barile.

The money left over after expenses goes to the state's Common School Fund, which was established in 1851 and has historically been used to provide low-interest loans for school-building projects.

For example, if police seize $5,000 and the department and prosecutor show the investigation and litigation into the case cost $2,000, the two agencies will probably split $2,000 of the money. The remaining $3,000 goes to the Common School Fund.

A federal seizure typically goes quicker, McCoy said, and the Common School Fund is not in play. A police agency can receive up to 75 percent of the money it seizes, according to Barile and McCoy, while prosecutors at the federal level keep the rest.

According to McCoy, his department does not seize a lot of money, and maybe has one case a year that results in the confiscation of more than $5,000. When the Auburn Police Department seizes money, whatever is recouped usually goes into a general fund for the city of Auburn, and the police department does not see that money again.

If the IMAGE Task Force takes the money, it usually gets that cash back. But, he said, it's not like seizures are in abundance in his jurisdiction.

"We're not getting rich on seizures, by any means," he said.

Thanks to the Agitator
Rash of jurisdictions nationwide passing laws with criminal penalties for youth under 18 caught outdoors without adult supervision during "school hours".

The Wall St. Journal reports

Dallas- This city is considering joining a rising number of others across the country that are imposing criminal penalties on kids who skip school to hang out at the mall or on local street corners.

Such juvenile daytime curfews to combat truancy and crime are drawing protests from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and from the parents of home-schooled children who, along with some parents of public-school students, object on grounds that such laws in effect criminalize otherwise law-abiding kids who may have good reasons for not being in school.

Daytime-curfew laws have long been popular in a handful of states, including California and Ohio, and opponents say that they are becoming increasingly common. Benicia, Calif., near San Francisco, began enforcing a curfew in January, and Kennesaw, Ga., north of Atlanta, enacted one earlier this month. Bedford, Texas, near Fort Worth, adopted a curfew last year, and the city council in Philadelphia is set to vote on one Thursday.

In Dallas, the city council will vote next month on extending an existing nighttime curfew for minors to make it broadly illegal for minors under 17 years old to appear in public without adult supervision during school hours. Violators would be subject to a fine up to $500. Parents and businesses that let minors congregate on their premises during school hours also would be subject to a fine up to $500.

Elba Garcia, a dentist who serves as chairman of the council's public-safety committee, said the ban will help the police combat crimes that are "associated with truancy," especially daylight burglaries and car break-ins.

While juveniles account for only 6% of arrests in Dallas, they represent 22% of the 868 people arrested for burglary in 2008, said Lt. Robert Hinton of the Dallas Police Department, and more than half were picked up during school hours.

The law currently allows police to pick up truants, he said, but all officers can do is take them to a nearby school. If the curfew is extended, the police still plan to return truants to schools, but they say the added clout of a fine will help them combat the problem.

The Dallas school district, which enrolls about 158,000 students, handled 21,800 truancy cases last year, said Martha Hawkins, supervisor of attendance improvement. But sanctions for tardiness or absenteeism tend to be very weak, she said, with about as much punch as a traffic ticket.

Ken Adams, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Central Florida, said curfews generally are popular because "they promise to be effective and inexpensive, and we like that combination." But he and others who study juvenile justice say there is little evidence these laws reduce crime or prevent minors from being the victims of crimes.

The loudest complaints, here and across the country, come from parents who teach their children at home on their own schedules and say their kids don't need to be indoors during school hours.

Daytime-curfew ordinances usually exempt children who can prove they are taught at home, but homeschooling parents say their kids are upset by repeated challenges from authorities when they shoot hoops in parks or ride their bikes while school is in session.

About 120,000 families in Texas homeschool approximately 300,000 children, according to the Texas Home School Coalition, an advocacy group based in Lubbock that is fighting curfews.

Home-schooling families were prominent among the roughly 80 people at a city-council hearing Wednesday, and also organized a protest outside City Hall on Monday. Doreen Fisher, a Dallas mother who homeschools her two young children, said she is also concerned about the impact of fines on low-income families.

"I was raised poor," she said. "I know if I had come home with a $500 fine because I skipped school to get a tan for the prom, it would have been catastrophic."

15 Year old, involved in loud argument and altercation, stunned to death as police "break-up" fight.

Saginaw News reports

State police have launched an investigation into the death of a teen whom police Tased.

The 15-year-old died about 3:40 a.m. Sunday after Bay City police used a stun gun to subdue him at an apartment on South Catherine near East John.

Neighbors summoned authorities to quell a large fight, police said.

When officers arrived, neighbors directed them to an apartment where they found two people arguing.

Officers' attempts to diffuse the situation failed, police said.

Police say they used the stun gun after the teen tried to fight with them and others in the apartment.

Authorities have not released the name of the teen or the officer who deployed the stun gun.

City of Orlando, Fla. enforces new city ordinance outlawing feeding the homeless without a permit, arresting Food Not Bombs activist.

WFTV- Orlando reports

Montanez was charged with violating Orlando's new city ordinance that bans feeding homeless people gathered in a large group. The arrested activist told Eyewitness News he'll keep fighting.Police said Montanez, 21, with the group Food Not Bombs, broke the law by feeding more than 25 people, as Orlando's ordinance allows, inside Lake Eola's park on Wednesday. But Montanez is insistent he did nothing wrong."It is not against the law to feed people as much as they want to criminalize the help of the homelessness," he told Eyewitness News.
Undercover officers worked surveillance and counted how many people Montanez fed, 30. Police even took some stew served, as evidence.Montanez said the city reversed its position after saying it wouldn't try to enforce the ordinance until the ACLU lawsuit worked its way through the courts.An affidavit said Montanez was only arrested because he attempted to conceal his identity and threw his ID."I had it in my hand. They cuffed me and they dragged me off. I can't hold onto things with handcuffs on my hands," he said."There are a lot better things for law enforcement to be doing in this town. This was an outrage," said George Crossley, Central Florida ACLU.The mayor's office did not respond to calls from Eyewitness News on Thursday. Orlando police said they are simply enforcing the laws. But the ACLU claims it's just another example of the harassment it endures, as its group and several others try to help those in need.The ACLU believes the ordinance itself is unconstitutional. Homeless supporters had gotten around the law by having several groups present, with each not feeding more than 25 people.Montanez said he won't be scared off."You'll see me out there," he said.Montanez faces a misdemeanor charge for feeding a large group in a city-owned park. According to police, no organization had obtained the required permit for Wednesday's group feeding.

Thanks to Jonathan Turley
Dean Says Satirical images are "child porn".

The Toldeo Blade reports

The Little Gallery at Bowling Green State University's Firelands campus has been shuttered in a protest of censorship after one of 13 small sculptures was taken from its pedestal by a dean without the gallery director's knowledge.

"We removed a sculpture that graphically depicts a female middle school student, on her knees, performing oral sex on a standing male middle school science teacher," the university wrote in response to the flap. "As an institution of higher education, Bowling Green State University strongly supports the right of free speech and artistic expression. However, we also have a responsibility ... to not expose the children and families we invite to our campus to inappropriate material."

David Sapp, art professor at the campus in Huron and 15-year director of the gallery, was stunned when the piece by Pennsylvania artist James Parlin, valued at $6,000, was taken Wednesday and placed in a closet. That evening, Mr. Sapp put the remaining pieces from the exhibit in storage.

"Consider if this same scene was in a book and was required reading. If someone complained, should we rip out the passage because it's not pleasant to read or talk about?" Mr. Sapp asked.

"Not understanding metaphor makes art a foreign language to the viewer," he said, noting that the man in the piece entitled The Middle School Science Teacher Makes a Decision He'll Live to Regret is based on the father of children his own children knew.

"I was ... struck by how something could have such sway over a person, knowing that it would ruin his life [to commit the act] but would go ahead and do it anyway. Is there such a thing as a compulsion that overcomes freedom? To me, this is kind of the crux of our moral lives," he said.

The series and its pieces have been exhibited in other venues without complaint, he said.

From the politics of euphemism dept. Obama administration retains Bush-era detainee policy. but changes the language.
JD Tuccille in the Examiner

They're not called "enemy combatants" anymore, but that may be the Obama administration's only real change in policy with regards to military detainees. Whatever they're called, anybody said by the U.S. government to give "substantial" support to al Qaeda or the Taliban will still be held without charges or a trial in which American authorities have to prove their accusations.

In a statement accompanying a filing with the federal district court for the District of Columbia, administration officials said:

[T]he Department of Justice submitted a new standard for the government's authority to hold detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. The definition does not rely on the President's authority as Commander-in-Chief independent of Congress's specific authorization. It draws on the international laws of war to inform the statutory authority conferred by Congress. It provides that individuals who supported al Qaeda or the Taliban are detainable only if the support was substantial. And it does not employ the phrase "enemy combatant."

Essentially, then, the administration is dropping a single bit of terminology, retaining the previous administration's claim to have a right to hold people seized around the world without charges, and shifting the basis of its assertion of that authority from a nebulous appeal to executive authority to a tendentious interpretation of congressional actions as viewed through an equally questionable spin on international law.

In the formal document filed with the court, Respondents' Memorandum Regarding the Government's Detention Authority Relative to Detainees Held at Guantanamo Bay (PDF), the Justice department argues that habeas corpus petitions by detainees should be viewed in light of the administration's position regarding suspected terrorists:

The President has the authority to detain persons that the President determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, and persons who harbored those responsible for those attacks. The President also has the authority to detain persons who were part of, or substantially supported, Taliban or al-Qaida forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act, or has directly supported hostilities, in aid of such enemy armed forces.

The problem, of course, is that, in the absence of specific charges and trials, the government never has to prove its claims that the people it locks up ever truly "engaged in hostilities against the United States." It simply makes assertions against people it doesn't like and locks the cell door.

This position is essentially indistinguishable from the one taken by the Bush administration. In the memorandum, Obama administration officials cite the same precedents (Ex parte Quirin) dredged up by their predecessors.

In fact, the old Bush position still applies beyond the gates of Guantanamo. As Lyle Denniston, writing for SCOTUSBlog, notes:

The memorandum expressly noted that the new definition would only apply to individuals now held at Guantanamo Bay.  That leaves out, among other detention sites, the U.S. military jail operated at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. Earlier, the Obama Administration told Judge Bates that it was not changing the Bush Administration view that the Bagram detainees have no rights to challenge their captivity there.

No wonder Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, responded, "It is deeply troubling that the Justice Department continues to use an overly broad interpretation of the laws of war that would permit military detention of individuals who were picked up far from an actual battlefield or who didn't engage in hostilities against the United States."

Human Rights Watch objects, "Rather than rejecting the Bush administration's ill-conceived notion of a 'war on terror,' the Obama administration's position on detainees has merely tinkered with its form."

Coupled with the Obama administration's adoption of the Bush administration's "state secrets" position to shield government misdeeds from public scrutiny or legal challenge, Attorney General Eric Holder's assertion that the Guantanamo detention facility is "well run," the dispatch of additional troops to Afghanistan and the continuation of economic policies based on bailouts and massive government spending, President Barack Obama is starting to look an awful lot like President George W. Bush, with fewer smirks and more friends in the press.

 Thanks to

Free Speech: If You Can Afford It

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University of Colorado charging student groups with hefty "security fees" to bring controversial speakers to campus.

FIRE blog reports

FIRE Press Release

BERKELEY, Calif., and BOULDER, Colo., March 17, 2009--Open discussion of Israeli-Palestinian issues can now resume unburdened at the University of California at Berkeley, which has slashed a "security fee" that would have kept a controversial speaker off campus. Meanwhile, students at the University of Colorado at Boulder are nervously awaiting a promised $2,200 security bill for a speech by controversial professors William Ayers and Ward Churchill. Students at both universities have turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

"Charging for extra security because of a potentially hostile audience grants the most disruptive or violent hecklers a veto over controversial events and creates an incentive for that kind of behavior," Greg Lukianoff, FIRE's President, said. "It's also unconstitutional at a public college or university."

At Berkeley, members of the Objectivist Club of Berkeley (OCB) turned to FIRE when faced with a $3,000 security fee to host a speech by Elan Journo entitled "America's Stake in the Arab-Israeli Conflict." OCB President Dave Zornek was told by the UC Berkeley Police Department that uniformed officers would be required for the event because of the subject matter of Journo's presentation and previous tension between Israeli and Palestinian student groups. On February 5, Officer John Lechmanik estimated that OCB would have to pay for two sergeants and at least ten or twelve officers at a total cost of at least $3,220.63.

On February 12, FIRE wrote Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau to protest the prohibitively expensive security fee. FIRE's letter cited the Supreme Court's ruling in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement, 505 U.S. 123 (1992), which prohibits increasing a security fee because of a potentially hostile audience: "Listeners' reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation.... Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob."

Berkeley responded on February 25 by promising to use only content-neutral criteria for security. According to Zornek, such criteria included the expected number of attendees, the nature of and number of exits from the room for the event, whether money would be exchanged, and so on. As a result, OCB was charged only about $460 for two police officers.

However, Zornek also reported that Berkeley's Assistant Chief of Police told him on February 27 that in cases when the audience causes a real threat to public safety, it would be up to the sponsoring group to decide whether to close down the event or to incur additional security costs. This policy would unconstitutionally burden unpopular speech, giving the most violent and intolerant members of the community the power to shut down a controversial event.

"Berkeley must publish its content-neutral criteria for security costs as soon as possible," Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program, said. "Doing so would help other public universities around the country, like the University of Colorado at Boulder, impose security costs fairly and without violating the First Amendment."

At the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder), FIRE is working with the student group Students for True Academic Freedom to ensure that the university does not impose unacceptable security costs for a March 5 event that included controversial speakers Ward Churchill and William Ayers. The university reportedly plans to bill the group $2,203.42 for security for this event, which has already occurred and which did not see significant disruption.

According to CU-Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard, as reported at, the school also recently charged the College Republicans group $4,800 in security fees for "an event featuring two men who claimed to be former members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization."

"Whether it's Bill Ayers or anti-PLO speakers, CU-Boulder must not charge its students extra for bringing controversial ideas and speakers to campus," Kissel said. "A university should be society's ultimate marketplace of ideas. Pricing some ideas right out of the market with excessive, unconstitutional fees makes a mockery of American freedom."

Just Another Sunday Night in America

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And, a computer analysis of America's detention facilities by Associated Press, based on data collected one recent Sunday night, documents, tens of thousands of immigrants are in "custody" without criminal charges, legal counsel or trial.

The Washington Post reports (a must read):

America's detention system for immigrants has mushroomed in the last decade, a costly building boom that was supposed to sweep up criminals and ensure that undocumented immigrants were quickly shown the door.

Instead, an Associated Press computer analysis of every person being held on a recent Sunday night shows that most did not have a criminal record and many were not about to leave the country _ voluntarily or via deportation.

An official Immigration and Customs Enforcement database, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed a U.S. detainee population of exactly 32,000 on the evening of Jan. 25.

The data show that 18,690 immigrants had no criminal conviction, not even for illegal entry or low-level crimes like trespassing. More than 400 of those with no criminal record had been incarcerated for at least a year. A dozen had been held for three years or more; one man from China had been locked up for more than five years.

Nearly 10,000 had been in custody longer than 31 days _ the average detention stay that ICE cites as evidence of its effective detention management.

Especially tough bail conditions are exacerbated by disregard or bending of the rules regarding how long immigrants can be detained.

Based on a 2001 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, ICE has about six months to deport or release immigrants after their case is decided. But immigration lawyers say that deadline is routinely missed. In the system snapshot provided to the AP, 950 people were in that category.

Thanks to ACLU blog

Let Them Eat Drug Tests

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Fla. considering law mandating random drug tests for unemployment applicants and recipients.

Raw Story reports

Employers have justified drug tests in the workplace by pointing to such negative effects of drug use as absenteeism and work-related injuries. Now a Florida legislator has proposed that random drug-testing also be applied to those receiving unemployment insurance, justifying it as a way to make state funds go further.

Florida State Senator Michael S. Bennett told Fox News host Steve Doocy on Monday that with the unemployment rate in his recession-battered state running between 10% and 11%, he worries that the Unemployment Trust Fund might be exhausted.

"I wanted to ensure that people who are qualified for unemployment -- that the money would be there when they actually go down and get unemployment and that we weren't supporting the people who were not able to go to work," Bennett explained. "It was nothing against the people who were using the drugs as much as it was to ensure that the people who needed unemployment, it would be there when they got there."

Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance, which is dedicated to ending the "war on drugs," responded that "to require someone to pass a drug test to get their unemployment insurance after they've been laid off is pretty cruel -- and to require them to pay for the test themselves is even more cruel."

"It's a pretty degrading process," Piper went on. "You have to urinate in front of another person. ... You have to tell complete strangers if you're on birth control or Viagra or if you're suffering from depression."

"Normal, everyday Americans shouldn't have to go through that," insisted Piper. "We're talking about people who've already paid into the unemployment system. They've been working hard already, and it's simply unfair to throw another hurdle to feeding their families."

"He makes a good argument," Doocy agreed. "Unemployment insurance is money that people have already paid into the system. Why shouldn't they get it if they're laid off?"

"When you file for unemployment," Bennett replied, "basically you're saying 'I'm ready, willing, and -- quote -- able to go to work. If the person who pays into the unemployment has to pass a drug test ... to pay into it, surely the people who are taking out would not object to having to pass the same stringent test. ... If you're not able to go to work because you can't pass a drug test, why should you draw unemployment?"

"Clearly the people he's talking about were already capable of working," Piper commented. "They shouldn't have to take a drug test to prove something to any one."

Bennett, who recently proposed freezing the pay of county clerks and commissioners and similar low-level state employees, may be sincere in saying he is only trying to save money. However, according to election disclosure forms, he did receive a $500 donation to his 2006 election campaign from Abbott Laboratories, which provides workplace drug test kits.

Derek Copp, a 20 year old Michigan student, shot in chest after police shine flashlight in his eyes during apparent drug raid. Copp, now in serious condition in the hospital, was never arrested, though Ottawa County police claim some drugs were found in Copp's home.

RawStory reports

A 20-year-old university student in Michigan is hospitalized and in serious condition after police shot the man Wednesday while serving a drug warrant. He was unarmed, investigators said.

Coming through an apartment's back door, an Ottawa County deputy allegedly shined a flashlight into the student's face, causing him to raise his right hand in front of his eyes.

The officer, whose name was not released, fired a single bullet into Derek Copp's chest. The 20-year-old Grand Valley State University student, who survived the shooting, said he had no idea the man was an officer.

"He never even had a chance to even see who was coming at him, with a bright flashlight in his face," said Sheryl Copp, Derek's mother, in a 24 Hour News 8 report. "He had no clue. He heard someone knock on his door, and he had no clue."

Copp's parents insist their son is not a drug dealer. However, he appears to be a marijuana activist, stating on his facebook page he likes to "SMOKA DA BOLSKI" (smoke a 'bowl') and on his YouTube page, in a video titled 'Hippie Lunchtime Hour,' he makes references to baking marijuana-infused brownies. In another, he plays the fictional role of an acid dealer whose friend goes on a psychedelic journey through cliché colors.

Copp's parents were not notified of the shooting by police, reported CelebStoner. They allegedly found out six hours later.

The officer is on paid administrative leave. Police have not said whether they found any drugs in Copp's apartment.

Monday, a group of about 25 protesters gathered outside the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department holding signs which read, "Don't shoot, I'm unarmed" and "Why did you shoot my friend?"

I want to know what brought the Enforcement Team to Derek's apartment and why a firearm was discharged," wrote University President Thomas Haas in a Monday e-mail sent to police and student activists.

"The fact that this incident took place off-campus diminishes neither my interest nor my concern," he said in a report by

Jim DeVries with the Police Officers Association of Michigan "said the deputy is required by contract to give a statement in any internal sheriff's department investigation that could impact his job, but it cannot be used by prosecutors for any criminal charges," reported "So far, no internal statement has been requested."

"DeVries said it is not unusual for a union-represented officer to forgo speaking with investigators in a shooting incident and he does not think it gives an appearance of wrongdoing."

"Derek Copp's family, meantime, has hired Grand Rapids Attorney, Fred Dilley," reported ABC WZZM 13. "In a statement, he says, 'We have some very important questions about what appears to be some shocking police activity.' Dilley says his client is making a satisfactory, but guarded recovery. The bullet tore through his upper right lung and liver and damaged two ribs.

"As for the protesters, their voices were heard by the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department. After a brief meeting, they decided to sit down and discuss the issue as soon as the investigation is complete."

"Organizers said the next major event planned is a march 1 p.m. Friday in Grand Rapids," reported Holland Sentinel.

National media has been absent on the case and local media has focused on 'irrelevancies,' noted Michigan Messenger's Ed Brayton.

"The Grand Rapids Press took a look at Copp's Facebook page and found that it had 'drug references,' as though that had some bearing on whether he should have been shot or not. They found out that the student had expressed 'his advocacy and interest in reforming marijuana laws' and that he had declared himself to be a 'left wing hippie peace-keeping liberal.'

"But wait, there's more. He had advocated the passage of last fall's proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Michigan. And he liked the movie Drugstore Cowboy, as well as - gasp! - Martin Scorcese movies. Worst of all, he had quoted Grateful Dead lyrics.

"This strikes me as the drug war equivalent of asking what a rape victim was wearing."

Copp reportedly wants to be a filmmaker and said he may produce work based on the shooting.

You Might Be a Terrorist If....

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You possess "subversive literature", such as "pictures, cartoons, bumper stickers that contain anti-government rhetoric", have bumper stickers for third-party candidates on your car, or display display Campaign for Liberty, Constitution Party, or Libertarian material." In its attempts to sketch out the ideological proclivities of potential domestic terrorists the State of Missouri Information Analysis Center, a fusion center, paints with a broad brush indeed.

A new document meant to help Missouri law enforcement agencies identify militia members or domestic terrorists has drawn criticism for some of the warning signs mentioned.

The Feb. 20 report called "The Modern Militia Movement" mentions such red flags as political bumper stickers for third-party candidates, such as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for president last year; talk of conspiracy theories, such as the plan for a superhighway linking Canada to Mexico; and possession of subversive literature.

"It seems like they want to stifle political thought," said Roger Webb, president of the University of Missouri campus Libertarians. "There are a lot of third parties out there, and none of them express any violence. In fact, if you join the Libertarian Party, one of the things you sign in your membership application is that you don't support violence as a means to any ends."

But state law enforcement officials said the report is being misinterpreted.

Lt. John Hotz of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the report comes from publicly available, trend data on militias. It was compiled by the Missouri Information Analysis Center, a "fusion center" in Jefferson City that combines resources from the federal Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. The center, which opened in 2005, was set up to collect local intelligence to better combat terrorism and other criminal activity, he said.

"All this is an educational thing," Hotz said of the report. "Troopers have been shot by members of groups, so it's our job to let law enforcement officers know what the trends are in the modern militia movement."

But Tim Neal, a military veteran and delegate to last year's state GOP convention, was shocked by the report's contents.

"I was going down the list and thinking, 'Check, that's me,'" he said. "I'm a Ron Paul supporter, check. I talk about the North American union, check. I've got the 'America: Freedom to Fascism' video loaned out to somebody right now. So that means I'm a domestic terrorist? Because I've got a video about the Federal Reserve?"

Neal, who has a Ron Paul bumper sticker on his car, said the next time he is pulled over by a police officer, he won't know whether it's because he was speeding or because of his political views.

"If a police officer is pulling me over with my family in the car and he sees a bumper sticker on my vehicle that has been specifically identified as one that an extremist would have in their vehicle, the guy is probably going to be pretty apprehensive and not thinking in a rational manner," Neal said. "And this guy's walking up to my vehicle with a gun."

Thanks to

New York tourist cuffed and arrested at Galveston restaurant for vulgar language.

Houston Chronicle reports

Movie actors say it on screen. Some artists put it in their songs.

But using the "F-word" in public places is starting to get Houston-area residents handcuffed or arrested.

For the second time within the past eight months, a person using the word during private conversations in public places -- once at a Wal-Mart in La Marque and then at a Mexican restaurant in Galveston -- have been taken into custody and cited for disorderly conduct.

While the word is vulgar, disrespectful and in poor taste, constitutional scholars such at T. Gerald Treece, an associate dean at the South Texas College of Law, believe "criminalizing" the word is a violation of free speech.

Such a word has to "excite violence or an immediate disruption, where people feel they are forced to leave or not participate in an activity" before police action would be warranted, he said.

State law says the use of abusive, indecent, profane or vulgar language in a public place, which causes an "immediate breach of peace," meets the definition of disorderly conduct.

Officer makes the call

Abraham Urquizo, 35, a visitor from Jamaica, N.Y., was arrested this week at Salsa's Mexican and Seafood Restaurant on Seawall Boulevard in Galveston after twice using the word to berate his girlfriend, officials said.

A Galveston police officer overhead the conversation in which Urquizo was reported to have said, "I can't believe you're so (expletive deleted) stupid" which was followed by "what the (expletive deleted) were you thinking."

The officer, eating his dinner nearby, took Urquizo outside to caution him about his speech , said Galveston police spokesman, Lt. D.J. Alvarez. The restaurant's manager then stated the use of the word had offended him and asked the officer to do something, Alvarez said.

The officer arrested Urquizo on a charge of disorderly conduct.

Urquizo could not be reached for comment, but he has since pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor offense. The judge assessed his punishment as the hours he had already spent in jail prior to the pleading.

"Rather than arrest the customer, the appropriate response would have been for the manager to ask him to leave the premises. That was within the manager's rights" said Treece, the law school dean. "But the government should not make the call."

Out of batteries

However, he said citizens often "want to get on with their lives and don't fight it," although the La Marque case is headed for trial on May 1.

In this case, 28-year-old Kathryn "Kristi" Fridge, went to a Wal-Mart on Aug. 4 to buy batteries before Tropical Storm Edouard arrived.

After finding the battery shelf empty, she told the Chronicle that she turned to her mother and remarked, "They're all (expletive deleted) gone!"

Capt. Alfred Decker, a La Marque assistant fire marshal who also is a certified peace officer, overheard the conversation.

He came from around the corner to tell her, "You need to watch your mouth," she said.

When she told him it was a private conversation and none of his business, she said he ordered her outside so that he could retrieve his citation book and ticket her for disorderly conduct.

La Marque Fire Chief Todd Zacheri said Fridge had created a scene by cursing the officer and everyone else present, causing a "huge group" to gather.

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

Provisional North Carolina court order acknowledges children have been thriving while home schooled, but orders them to attend public school anyway, in order to be better socialized.

World Net Daily reports

A North Carolina judge has ordered three children to attend public schools this fall because the homeschooling their mother has provided over the last four years needs to be "challenged."

The children, however, have tested above their grade levels - by as much as two years.

The decision is raising eyebrows among homeschooling families, and one friend of the mother has launched a website to publicize the issue.

The ruling was made by Judge Ned Mangum of Wake County, who was handling a divorce proceeding for Thomas and Venessa Mills.

A statement released by a publicist working for the mother, whose children now are 10, 11 and 12, said Mangum stripped her of her right to decide what is best for her children's education.

The judge, when contacted by WND, explained his goal in ordering the children to register and attend a public school was to make sure they have a "more well-rounded education."

"I thought Ms. Mills had done a good job [in homeschooling]," he said. "It was great for them to have that access, and [I had] no problems with homeschooling. I said public schooling would be a good complement."

The judge said the husband has not been supportive of his wife's homeschooling, and "it accomplished its purposes. It now was appropriate to have them back in public school."

Mangum said he made the determination on his guiding principle, "What's in the best interest of the minor children," and conceded it was putting his judgment in place of the mother's.

And he said that while he expressed his opinion from the bench in the court hearing, the final written order had not yet been signed.

However, the practice of a judge replacing a parent's judgment with his own regarding homeschooling was argued recently when a court panel in California ruled that a family would no longer be allowed to homeschool their own children.

WND reported extensively when the ruling was released in February 2008, alarming homeschool advocates nationwide because of its potential ramifications.

Ultimately, the 2nd Appellate District Court in Los Angeles reversed its own order, affirming the rights of California parents to homeschool their children if they choose.

The court, which earlier had opined that only credentialed teachers could properly educate children, was faced with a flood of friend-of-the-court briefs representing individuals and groups, including Congress members.

The conclusion ultimately was that parents, not the state, would decide where children are educated.

The California opinion said state law permits homeschooling "as a species of private school education" but that statutory permission for parents to teach their own children could be "overridden in order to protect the safety of a child who has been declared dependent."

In the North Carolina case, Adam Cothes, a spokesman for the mother, said the children routinely had been testing at up to two years above their grade level, were involved in swim team and other activities and events outside their home and had taken leadership roles in history club events.

On her website, family friend Robyn Williams said Mangum stated his decision was not ideologically or religiously motivated but that ordering the children into public schools would "challenge the ideas you've taught them."

Williams, a homeschool mother of four herself, said, "I have never seen such injustice and such a direct attack against homeschool."

"This judge clearly took personal issue with Venessa's stance on education and faith, even though her children are doing great. If her right to homeschool can be taken away so easily, what will this mean for homeschoolers state wide, or even nationally?" Williams asked.

Williams said she's trying to rally homeschoolers across the nation to defend their rights as Americans and parents to educate their own children.

Williams told WND the public school order was the worst possible outcome for Ms. Mills, who had made it clear she felt it was important to her children that she continue homeschooling.

According to Williams' website, the judge also ordered a mental health evaluation for the mother - but not the father - as part of the divorce proceedings, in what Williams described as an attack on the "mother's conservative Christian beliefs."

According to a proposed but as-yet unsigned order submitted by the father's lawyer to Mangum, "The children have thrived in homeschool for the past four years, but need the broader focus and socialization available to them in public school. The Court finds that it is in the children's best interest to continue their homeschooling through the end of the current school year, but to begin attending public school at the beginning of the 2009-2010 instructional year."

The order proposed by the father's lawyer also conceded the reason for the divorce was the father's "adultery," but it specifically said the father would not pay for homeschooling expenses for his children.

The order also stated, "Defendant believes that plaintiff is a nurturing mother who loves the children. Defendant believes that plaintiff has done a good job with the homeschooling of the children, although he does not believe that continued homeschooling is in the best interest of the children."

The website said the judge also said public school would "prepare these kids for the real world and college" and allow them "socialization."

Williams said the mother originally moved into a homeschool schedule because the children were not doing as well as she hoped at the local public schools.

In last year's dispute in California, the ruling that eventually was released was praised by pro-family organizations.

"We're pleased the appeals court recognized the rights of parents to provide education for their children," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. "This decision reaffirms the constitutional right that's afforded to parents in directing the education of their children. It's an important victory for families who cherish the freedom to ensure that their children receive a high quality education that is inherent in homeschooling."

"Parents have a constitutional right to make educational choices for their children," said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. "Thousands of California families have educated their children successfully through homeschooling. We're pleased with the court's decision, which protects the rights of families and protects an avenue of education that has proven to benefit children time and time again.

thanks to jgodsey

Though the East Haven Police arrest report says Rev. James Manship was arrested for holding an unknown, potentially threatening, "shiny silver object", Manship's just released tape makes it clear the arresting officer knew the object was a camera. 

CBS News reports

A Roman Catholic priest who monitors law enforcement treatment of minorities with a video camera released footage that appears to contradict the police account of his own arrest. 

A police report says the Rev. James Manship was confronted and arrested Feb. 19 because he was holding an "unknown shiny silver object" and struggled with an officer who was trying to take it from him."I'm taking a video of what's going on here," Manship replies. 

But a 15-second video released this week by Manship's attorneys shows East Haven police Officer David Cari asking Manship, "Is there a reason you have a camera on me?" 

"Well, I'll tell you what, what I'm going to do with that camera," Cari says as he approaches the priest. The tape then goes blank. 

The arrest has reignited the debate about racial profiling and ethnic discrimination in East Haven, a working-class community of about 28,000 that borders New Haven. The shooting death of an unarmed black man by an East Haven officer in 1997 sparked harsh criticism by minority groups that has lingered. Manship and his parishioners say officers have been unfairly targeting Hispanics in recent months. 

Hugh Keefe, a New Haven attorney who represents East Haven police, said the videotape shows only a small portion of what happened and confirms part of what Cari wrote in his report. He also said the tape doesn't show what happened from the time the camera was turned off until Manship's arrest. 

Marcia Chacon, co-owner of My Country Store, where Manship was arrested, said Friday that the priest surrendered peacefully after the camera was shut off. 

"He didn't say anything," she said. 

Chacon, a 36-year-old immigrant from Ecuador who moved to the U.S. 15 years ago and a parishioner of Manship's church, said she had called the priest to her store that day because the two officers were confiscating license plates displayed on the store's wall, saying they were illegal. She and her husband, Rodrigo Matute, were given a $372 ticket. 

Thanks to Raw Story
From the Dog Ate My homework dept.: National Security Archive study finds that two-thirds of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests return a "Files Not Found" or "No Such Files Available" response.

National Security Archives reports:

Washington, DC, March 13, 2009 - The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) today won the fifth annual Rosemary Award for the worst Freedom of Information Act performance by a federal agency.  The FBI's reports to Congress show that the Bureau is unable to find any records in response to two-thirds of its incoming FOIA requests on average over the past four years, when the other major government agencies averaged only a 13% "no records" response to public requests.

Given annually during Sunshine Week by the Emmy- and George Polk Award-winning National Security Archive at George Washington University, the Rosemary Award recognizes outstandingly bad responsiveness to the public that flouts the letter and spirit of the Freedom of Information Act. The Award is named after President Nixon's secretary Rose Mary Woods and the backwards-leaning stretch with which she erased an eighteen-and-a-half minute section of a key Watergate conversation on the White House tapes.

"The FBI knowingly uses a search process that doesn't find relevant records," commented Tom Blanton, the director of the Archive. "Not only does this woeful performance lead to unnecessary litigation, but the Bureau apparently uses the same searches in its criminal investigations as well."

During fiscal year 2008, the FBI gave "no records" responses to 57% of the requests it processed, more than any other major agency.  The Bureau only provided documents (most redacted) in less than 14% of cases--the lowest percentage of requests granted among the major agencies in the federal government.  In 2007, the FBI responded with "no records" in 70% of its FOIA requests.  In 2006, "no records" peaked at 74%; and in 2005, at 66%--the four-year average.

recent declaration submitted in federal court by FBI FOIA chief David M. Hardy shed some light on these dreadful statistics.  Hardy explained that FBI files are indexed only by reference terms that have to be manually applied by individual agents (although Hardy also admitted that agents don't always index all relevant terms). And unless a requester specifically asks for a broader search, the FBI will only look in a central database of electronic file names at FBI headquarters in Washington.  This search will miss any internal or cross-references to people who are not the subject of an investigation, any records stored at other FBI offices around the country, and any records created before the 1970s, which are stored in paper form and only indexed using a manual card catalog.  When requesters send their requests directly to relevant field offices for processing, the FBI's policy is to automatically route all requests back to headquarters for the same inadequate search. Until the requester files suit in federal court, the FBI will not perform a broader search.

Thanks to Wendy McElroy
Whose policies hamstring small business at every turn, hold property rights in contempt and are an embarrassment to the constitution? And create an uproar of protest.

Easy. If you're Mayor Frank Hibbard of Clearwater, Fla, you blame it on Glenn Beck.

The only  problem is opposition to the city of Clearwater's heavy-handed actions against Herb Quintero's fish and tackle store and its right to post a mural and, subsequently, the text of the first amendment, have generated derision across the ideological spectrum, from liberal attorney and constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley, the ACLU and the leftist Autonomous media network, as well as libertarians and conservatives.

For the best coverage of the Clearwater controversy, check out The Complete Angler website
 Easy. Bring Back Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground. And, better yet, try one more time, to associate Barack Obama, George Soros, Eric Holder, Talking Points Memo, campus progressives, Paul Krugman, Center for American Progress and anyone who protested the War in Iraq, with them, terrorists all.

Cliff Kincaid "reports"

During the 2008 U.S. presidential race, Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and
Bernardine Dohrn came under some limited press scrutiny for their ties to Democratic
Party candidate Barack Obama. His Democratic primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, and
his general election opponent, Republican John McCain, tried to make an issue out of
the controversial connections. The Weather Underground had emerged from the
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which laid siege to college campuses in the
Under attack for his ties to Ayers and Dohrn, Obama fired back against Hillary Clinton,
noting that two members of the Weather Underground, Linda Evans and Susan
Rosenberg, had been pardoned or had their sentences commuted by President Clinton
and were released from prison. But in another strange twist, the Clinton Justice
Department official involved in these and other controversial pardons, Eric Holder, was
subsequently nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a
75-21 vote as Attorney General of the United States. Clinton had also pardoned
members of the terrorist Puerto Rican FALN, which had ties to the Weather
Underground, and Holder was involved in the issuance of those pardons.
Holder is now in a position to influence and try to control investigations of
terrorism in the United States, including those relating to members of the
Weather Underground. However, FBI director Robert Mueller is technically
independent, his term expires in 2011, and he can help make sure justice is done.
One of the Weather Underground attacks, on the Park Police Station in San
Francisco on February 16, 1970, killed Sergeant Brian V. McDonnell. No one has
yet been prosecuted for the murder, but investigations have been underway for
years. It is time for all of the evidence, which points to the involvement of the
Weather Underground, especially Bernardine Dohrn, to be used to bring charges
in this case.
In terms of the personal relationships, according to the public record, the basic facts
were that Ayers and Obama had worked together on educational projects in Chicago,
including serving on a foundation board, and Ayers and Dohrn had hosted a small
political gathering for Obama during his first political campaign for the Illinois State
Senate. Some of the commentary about this relationship assumed that Ayers and
Dohrn, both now university professors, had gotten over their anti-war "radicalism" and
were now members of the mainstream.

Meanwhile, in a related development, a "new SDS" of young people has also emerged,
with two hundred chapters around the country, as well as links to "other student radical
organizations," according to Weather Underground terrorist and Obama supporter Mark
Rudd. "Even larger numbers formed the youth base of Barack Obama's presidential
campaign of hope and change," he writes in his new book. 4 Clearly, Rudd hopes these
young people become part of the new SDS.
The obvious fear is that the "new SDS" will be like the "old" SDS, in which some
youthful "social democrats" and students alienated from society were
transformed by Marxist ideology, drugs, and sexually-promiscuous lifestyles into
a dangerous revolutionary movement capable of violence.
Rudd was and remains a major "progressive" voice in support of then-candidate and
now President Obama. In addition to his work on helping create a new student
movement, he expressed the hope and even predicted that "progressives" from the
George Soros-funded think tank, the Center for American Progress (CAP), will move
into key positions in the new Obama Administration. Former Clinton official John
Podesta, president of CAP, was the co-chair of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.

Even as some tentative signs of sanity, and a thaw in certain aspects of the drug war, appear, drug warriors set their sights on another demon herb.

DrugWar chronicle reports

South Dakota has become the latest state to ban salvia divinorum, the hallucinogenic plant used for centuries by Mexican shamans whose recreational use has become noticeable in the US in recent years. Oddly enough, as the bill was amended in back and forth between the state House and Senate, legislators forgot to specifically make it a crime to distribute the herb.

The bill does not go into effect until it is signed by Gov. Michael Rounds (R), who has indicated he will sign it. Once he does, the salvia ban goes into effect immediately because the bill declared an "emergency" regarding use of the fast-acting, short-duration psychedelic.

The bill creates two salvia possession offenses -- a misdemeanor for possession of less than two ounces of the plant or its active substance, Salvinoran A, and a felony for possession of more than two ounces. A misdemeanor charge can earn you up to a year in jail, while the Class 6 felony would be worth up to two years in the state penitentiary.

Rep. Lance Russell (R-Hot Springs) urged the House to reject the Senate version of the bill because it did not specifically outlaw distribution of salvia. But other lawmakers, eager to move ahead, said banning possession was a good enough start.

As the Chronicle noted last week, South Dakota is only the latest state to fall prey to salvia mania. Nebraska banned it a week ago, and similar measures are before legislatures in Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.

Thirteen states -- Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Virginia -- have classified salvia as Schedule I under state drug laws. Make that 14 now that South Dakota has joined the list. Three more -- Louisiana, Maine, and Tennessee -- restrict the sale of the plant. Maine and California ban it only for minors.

Encouraging news that the Obama administration intends to take a small step back from the war on drugs by recognizing state's rights to permit and regulate the distribution medical marijuana has led to a bit of euphoria that we may be nearing a tipping point toward decriminalizing marijuana.Perhaps and hopefully. But then what's up with this?

The LA Times reports:

The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles sent a confidential memo to prosecutors last week ordering them to stop filing charges against medical marijuana dispensaries, then abruptly lifted the ban on Friday, according to sources familiar with the developments.

U.S. Atty. Thomas P. O'Brien declined comment on what prompted him to issue the directive or to later rescind it.

O'Brien's decision to temporarily halt the prosecutions came two days after remarks by Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, who seemed to imply at a Washington, D.C., press conference that medical marijuana prosecutions would not be a priority for the Justice Department under President Obama.

A Justice Department official said Friday that the attorney general did not direct O'Brien or any other U.S. attorney to alter policies regarding the prosecution of such cases.

O'Brien's initial order was delivered in a memo by Christine Ewell, head of the U.S. attorney's criminal division, according to three sources who read the document, which was distributed by e-mail on Feb. 27.

In addition to being told to stop filing new cases, prosecutors were instructed to refrain from issuing subpoenas or applying for search warrants in pending cases, said the sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. In fact, a few hours after the memo was circulated, Ewell sent out another e-mail admonishing prosecutors not to discuss the contents of the memo with anyone outside the U.S. attorney's office, the sources said.

Another e-mail came out Friday instructing prosecutors to resume work on medical marijuana cases. Despite the reversal, news of the temporary ban is likely to spark interest amid the ongoing national debate over medical marijuana. Thirteen states, including California, allow for the cultivation, use and sale of doctor-prescribed medical marijuana under certain conditions, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization that supports the legalization of the drug. Federal law, which trumps those of the states, bans the drug altogether.

As a result, operators of dispensaries in California and elsewhere who maintain they were operating under state law have been raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration and charged under federal drug laws.

Such prosecutions have been controversial, with patients and supporters of the dispensaries complaining that operators embraced by their own communities were unfairly targeted. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for O'Brien, has said that prosecutors target people they consider egregious offenders, such as those accused of selling drugs to minors or proprietors with past drug convictions.

One high-profile case went to trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles last summer. Charles Lynch, who sought and received the blessing of elected officials in Morro Bay before opening a dispensary in that Central Coast community in 2006, was charged with distributing more than 100 kilos of marijuana.

At trial, prosecutors portrayed Lynch, 47, as a common drug dealer who sold dope to minors and toted around a backpack stuffed with cash.

Lynch and his lawyers hoped to mount a defense based on the assertion that he was providing a legitimate service to cancer patients and other severely ill people. But they were limited in doing so because the U.S. Supreme Court has concluded that because federal law trumps those of the states, why drugs are being distributed is irrelevant.

Jurors convicted Lynch on five counts, but the jury forewoman said it was not easy to do so. "We all felt Mr. Lynch intended well," Kitty Meese said after the verdict in August. "It was a tough decision for all of us because the state law and the federal law are at odds."

Lynch, who is to be sentenced later this month, is facing a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison. His case has become something of cause celebre among medical marijuana advocates.

Holder was asked about medical marijuana at a Feb. 25 press conference after the arrests of more than 50 alleged members of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel. Specifically, he was asked whether the DEA would continue raiding medical marijuana dispensaries under Obama's administration. He did not answer the question directly but said: "What the President said during [the] campaign . . . is now American policy."

Obama was asked about the topic numerous times during the campaign and responded with varying levels of specificity. Generally speaking, the campaign's position was that DEA raids would not be a high priority in states with their own medical marijuana laws on the books.

"The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind," Nick Shapiro, a White House spokesman, told the Washington Times last month. Shapiro declined to elaborate on Friday.

Alex Capron, a professor of law and medicine at USC, said the debate about medical marijuana centers on whether the drug is viewed exclusively as an illegal narcotic or a drug that also has legitimate medical applications.

"It has become a highly politicized issue as to whether it is something that is part of the doctor-patient relationship or something where the authorities have an obligation to protect the community from a dangerous drug," Capron said.

He added that he wasn't surprised that O'Brien would want to deliberate over his office's policy on such a matter in private.

"On the one hand, there's a very vocal constituency that wants this treated like a medical issue. On the other, there's a very vocal constituency that regards allowing medical marijuana treatment as a very slippery slope toward the legalization of drugs. He doesn't want to look like he's abandoning his commitment to law enforcement," Capron said.

Thanks to Alternet

Bill proposes that the Oklahoma House of Representative strongly opposes the invitation to speak on the campus of the University of Oklahoma to Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, whose published statements on the theory of evolution and opinion about those who do not believe in the theory are contrary and offensive to the views and opinions of most citizens of Oklahoma.

Josh Rosenau reports

Oooooo-oh!-klahoma where the wind goes whistling 'twixt the ears!

Richard Dawkins, having visited Scibling Ed Brayton in Michigan, is on his way to Oklahoma, where Scibling ERV is skipping the event (she prefers to watch Casey Luskin and John "hard for Hitler" West, inexplicably).

And if state Representative Thomsen has his way, no one would get to hear Dawkins. Yesterday, Thomsen filed a resolution decrying Dawkins and calling for the University of Oklahoma to withdraw his invitation (RTF link):

WHEREAS, the University of Oklahoma is a publicly funded institution which should be open to all ideas and should train students in all disciplines of study and research and to use independent thinking and free inquiry; and

WHEREAS, the University of Oklahoma has planned a year-long celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of Darwin's theory of evolution, called the "Darwin 2009 Project", which includes a series of lectures, public speakers, and a course on the history of evolution; and

WHEREAS, the University of Oklahoma, as a part of the Darwin 2009 Project, has invited as a public speaker on campus, Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, whose published opinions, as represented in his 2006 book "The God Delusion", and public statements on the theory of evolution demonstrate an intolerance for cultural diversity and diversity of thinking and are views that are not shared and are not representative of the thinking of a majority of the citizens of Oklahoma; and

WHEREAS, the invitation for Richard Dawkins to speak on the campus of the University of Oklahoma on Friday, March 6, 2009, will only serve to present a biased philosophy on the theory of evolution to the exclusion of all other divergent considerations rather than teaching a scientific concept.


THAT the Oklahoma House of Representative strongly opposes the invitation to speak on the campus of the University of Oklahoma to Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, whose published statements on the theory of evolution and opinion about those who do not believe in the theory are contrary and offensive to the views and opinions of most citizens of Oklahoma.

THAT the Oklahoma House of Representatives encourages the University of Oklahoma to engage in an open, dignified, and fair discussion of the Darwinian theory of evolution and all other scientific theories which is the approach that a public institution should be engaged in and which represents the desire and interest of the citizens of Oklahoma.

THAT a copy of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the University of Oklahoma, the Dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Oklahoma, and the Chair of the Department of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma.

Thanks to Reason Hit and Run blog

Law and Order, Hayward Style

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Poet and activist's account of arbitrary detention, beat-down and torture by the Hayward, California police, ironically after attending rally protesting the killing of Oscar Grant by Oakland police.

Raul (Curly) Estremera reports
(too long to paste in full, but well worth reading)
I was ordered to put my hands on the two marks set wide apart on the tall desk. My left hand held up my pants after they had removed my shoes and belt. "Put your (expletive) hands on the desk!" re-canted the guard. I tried not to look at him and addressed the female guard before me and behind the desk-"If I let go of my pants, they will fall down". "Put your hands on the two marks now- and spread your legs", commanded the guard (which I will refer to as the torturer from now on). He reached out to my knees and pulled my pants down exposing my buttocks and genitals to the two police women and the other guard. I looked to the Latina looking guard with the smirk on her face and whispered just below my breath "pendeja". My torturer suddenly went into physical animalistic hysterics and like a beast grabbed and twisted both my arms up into the back of my neck, holding them there while pushing up and down, torturing me as he used profane language. He then smashed my chest against the edge of the desk and violently slammed my head onto it.

The blow to my head converted a low ringing tinnitus in my right ear into a high decibel piercing pitch. I slid into a vertigo attack. As the room began to spin, and my legs wobbled, I was dragged to a small cell and thrown into the wall with the door slamming behind me.

Beginning to experience the onset of a full attack I remember thinking "oh God Allah, they're going to kill me here".

In hearing on sign ordinance forbidding murals and other signage on storefronts, a topic covered here recently, city of Clearwater defends its decision to forbid businesses from posting the  words of the First Amendment on their property.

The St. Petersburg Times reports

Regardless of whether it's art or advertising, a federal magistrate on Wednesday set a high legal standard for granting federal protection for the mural on a Clearwater bait shop's wall.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Jenkins was asked to recommend an injunction protecting the mural. City officials say the painting is an illegal sign.

The American Civil Liberties Union wants Jenkins to recommend an injunction against the city of Clearwater while the ACLU fights for the First Amendment rights of the Complete Angler to preserve a fish mural on the side of its building.

The shop owner considers it art. The city calls it a code violation.

"I'm somewhat disappointed in both sides by your arguments. I expected more," Jenkins said.

ACLU attorneys James Green and Maria Kayanan railed against Clearwater's sign ordinance, calling it vague and saying that city planning officials have too much discretion. They noted several exemptions to the ordinance, such as holiday signs, and questioned the city's judgment on content.

But Jenkins wanted to hear more legal arguments from the ACLU attorneys and Leslie Dougall-Sides, an assistant city attorney for Clearwater.

The judge took a 10-minute recess and asked the lawyers to come back with "a higher level of advocacy" for their individual stance.

"I just really don't feel that this case has been articulated very well," Jenkins told them.

The two sides came back, pressed their cases more fully, and Jenkins adjourned to mull it over.

The magistrate judge will issue a recommendation on the injunction to U.S. District Judge James Whittemore. Jenkins didn't say when she would have a decision.

City officials say the mural at the Complete Angler, which depicts a half-dozen game fish such as grouper and snook, is an unauthorized sign under Clearwater law. They already have imposed a fine of nearly $700 and threatened business owner Herb Quintero with steeper fines if he doesn't paint over the mural.

Instead, Quintero covered the mural with a banner displaying the text of the First Amendment. That earned him another citation from the city.

Under questioning by Green, Clearwater planning director Michael Delk said that if the banner had been of the American flag, Quintero wouldn't have been cited for an additional violation.

Delk agreed with Green that both the American flag and the First Amendment symbolize the United States of America. But Delk didn't elaborate on why an American flag banner might be exempt.

Meanwhile, Clearwater's City Hall has been bombarded with e-mails from around the country criticizing the city's stance. They say things like "Shame on the city of Clearwater," and "Clearly this is government tyranny," and "You sound like Gestapo."

And those are the printable ones.

"They're very abusive, profane, insulting e-mails," said City Manager Bill Horne. "People are passionate about the First Amendment, and rightfully so. I happen to believe we did the right thing."

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

West Virginia to Mull Barbie Ban

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State house delegate introduces bill that would make sale of Barbie dolls illegal.

The Charleston Gazette reports

Barbie's life in plastic? Not so fantastic, as far as one Lincoln County delegate is concerned.
Democrat Jeff Eldridge introduced a bill in the House of Delegates on Tuesday that would ban the sale of Barbie dolls - and "other dolls that influence girls to be beautiful" - in West Virginia.

Eldridge said the dolls have encouraged girls to value their physical appearance more than their education and intelligence.

"I hate the myth around, if you're beautiful, you don't have to be smart," Eldridge said.

His bill, HB 2918, would make it illegal to sell Barbie dolls "and other similar dolls that promote or influence girls to place an undue importance on physical beauty to the detriment of their intellectual and emotional development."

Kids need to know that "beauty from the inside" is just as important as outer beauty, Eldridge said.

He is the father of a 13-year-old son, and said he's worked extensively with children during his time as a social worker and coach of kids' sports teams.

The bill proposes no penalty if people were to continue selling Barbie dolls in the Mountain State. Eldridge is the only sponsor of the proposal, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

A spokeswoman for Mattel Inc., which manufactures the toy, did not return requests for comment on Tuesday.

The famous fashion doll is turning 50 next week, and various events are planned for a year-long celebration of Barbie's anniversary, according to Mattel's Web site. She debuted March 9, 1959, at the American International Toy Fair.

Eldridge has also recently drawn attention for his proposed legislation to legalize and regulate mixed martial arts competitions.

Thanks to Wendy McElroy

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