Sunday Roast: March 3, 2013 – Govern and be Governed, but do it right!

Good Morning, I hope you slept well (and long because I’m late again ;)  ).

Government: You’re doing it right:

The Swiss are governing today and how. One reason for my being late here is the coverage of the latest polls on tv. Three major propositions have been voted on today and a number of regional ones. One was to amend the constitution to protect families’ rights to reconcile having a job and raising kids. It is a draw, more or less. While big cities have voted for it in big numbers and the overall popular vote is for it, the cantons are divided and as it is a constitutional amendment, it needs a majority of both popular votes and cantons. The more rural areas are, predictably against it, kicking women in the teeth once again. (Sound familiar?)

Second vote is on getting land out of the building code, so the environment can be protected from uncontrolled and uncontrolleable building for profit. It got a majority. Easily, too.

The third and most internationally acclaimed vote is on the so-called “fat-cat” initiative. A whopping 68% of voters have voted for it. This after the initiative has been blocked and fought against for seven years.

Under the proposal, shareholders will be given the right to hold a binding vote on executive remuneration. Companies would also no longer be able to pay so-called “golden hellos” and “golden parachutes”, whereby senior managers receive a one-time cash lump sum, often running into millions of pounds, when joining or leaving a company. Polls show the majority of Swiss plan to vote “yes” in the referendum, despite businesses warning it will drive out companies from the country.(read more)

Add to that the cap on manager salaries imposed by the surrounding EU countries and you see things are moving in the right direction over here.

Government: You’re doing it wrong:

You think the Tea Party is  the most proficient government obstructionist of all times? They are not. They’re outright amateurs compared to the Italians: Our southern neighbors are blocking government right at the source. All Europe is frustratedly looking at what voters there did to their country. Outright distrust of government and politicians is in the Italian genetic code and not surprisingly so, given the corruption that is rampant in the country, but now they overreached.

IT IS hard now to recall that just three months ago the big threat Italy posed was of becoming boring. Its technocratic government, under Mario Monti, had regained the markets’ confidence. The spread of Italian government bonds over German ones was dwindling. The troublesome Silvio Berlusconi no longer led his fast-disintegrating party, and it seemed certain that the centre-left would win the next election. Mr Monti might then have become an economic super-minister—if he had not taken over the right with a mandate to make it more soberly European. (read more)

Let me add, Italy, unlike the US for instance has a fairly low constitutional threshold for new elections. They’ll be at it again in a few months, everybody agrees.

I wish you all a Happy and Relaxing (yes caps) Sunday. Enjoy some reading and our discussion. It is an Open Thread so join in.

 

The Watering Hole, November 29 – The Next Step

I think we have had the possibility of living in democracies. What does it mean? It means places where the privileged are not the one to make the decisions, but that the underprivileged are going to rise to a status where they are normal human beings and human citizens with their freedoms and their rights. Stéphane Hessel

I am following the actions of the world wide Occupy Movement as much as I can. Their activism is a necessary and valuable contribution to spotlight  the inequality that is rampant in most industrialized countries. An inequality which is, by all standards, a huge threat for Democracy itself.

Increasingly there are voices that want to take things one step further. How to introduce the ideas and actions of a movement into the political process in order to bring about the necessary legislation to reinstitute the rule by the people as opposed to the rule of a chosen few?

Well, if you want to go places, you have to define the place to go. The Occupy movement is a rather amorphous entity. Students are protesting fees, OWS is protesting the power of Wall Street and the lack of regulation, OccupyParadeplatz in Zurich is voicing a general discomfort with things as they are, but can’t bring themselves to go for any kind of specific political demands.

So what exactly needs to be done? Can we change the legislation through existing political channels? Who could we support? How do we avoid being sucked into the machinery of a totally corrupted political class? Do we have to run for office ourselves? What would our platform be? What’s the starting point?

Stéphane Hessel  in the interview quoted above has called for the youth to voice their outrage. They are doing it. But he calls for political action, too. How can we help ?

Tell me in the comments section.

This is our open thread, let us know your thoughts on this and don’t hesitate to comment, if you have other things on your mind.

Watering Hole – Monday, August 15, 2011 – The Congressional Reform Act of 2011

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971…before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land…all because of public pressure.

Introducing:  The Congressional Reform Act of 2011

1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

(The Congressional Reform Act is not my creation.  I received this in an email.  The author is unknown).

This is our Open Thread.  Perhaps we should all send a copy of this to our members in Congress.   What do you think?  Speak Up!

The Watering Hole: November 19 – The Gettysburg Address

Detail from 'Government'. Mural by Elihu Vedder, 1896, Wikipedia Commons

Today is the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address given by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the decisive Battle of Gettysburg.

From Wikipedia:

Abraham Lincoln’s carefully crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as “a new birth of freedom” that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, and that would also create a unified nation in which states’ rights were no longer dominant.

Beginning with the now-iconic phrase “Four score and seven years ago,” referring to the American Revolution of 1776, Lincoln examined the founding principles of the United States in the context of the Civil War, and used the ceremony at Gettysburg as an opportunity not only to consecrate the grounds of a cemetery, but also to exhort the listeners to ensure the survival of America’s representative democracy, that the “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Despite the speech’s prominent place in the history and popular culture of the United States, the exact wording of the speech is disputed. The five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address differ in a number of details and also differ from contemporary newspaper reprints of the speech.

The Gettysburg Address:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This country’s founding principles.. “all men are created equal”.. “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.. So very important, but do they still apply today? Some days I wonder..

We are created equal as long as we aren’t Gay, our skin isn’t a different color, or we aren’t poor.. And we seem to have evolved into a “government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations”. What’s the answer?

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

Governmental Idiocracy in Action

Ok, I am pissed.

I live in a state which offers its’ citizens the option of using a transponder device when going through the many toll booths throughout the state, in lieu of paying double the amount of the toll. I have had one of these devices for more than four years.

Yesterday, I opened a piece of mail which said I had a violation and they were fining me $63.00…which was escalated to $213.00 after 12/1/08. Uhm, it’s 12/18/08 (when I called initially yesterday). Swell.

So, I phoned them. Usually, there is a mix up of some sort; the transponder failed or was not picked up by the toll-taking mechanism, or what have you. Usually, it is a quick call and it is all taken care of, as my transponder account is in good standing.

Oh, but not this time. This time it led to a clusterf*ck of epic proportions with the most amazing governmental idiocracy (that would be idiots in bureaucracy) I have seen in years.
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Child Labor: Employers Face Few Consequences

We need to protect these children.  Instead, we are seeing Child Labor go largely unchecked, they are being exploited at every turn with little or no real consequences to the employers.  The Charlotte Observer reports in this two part series about a local victim, Nery Castañeda a Guatemala native, who was trying to tackle a job that was never intended for a kid his age.

Charlotte Observer

One afternoon last fall, the 17-year-old ran a machine to grind damaged pallets into mulch. When a co-worker at the Greensboro plant returned from another task, he didn’t see Nery – until he looked inside the shredder. “A person shouldn’t die like this,” said older brother Luis. “…He came with a dream and found death.”

Decades after the enactment of regulations designed to prevent such tragedies, thousands of youths still get hurt on American jobs deemed unsafe for young workers. On a typical day, more than 400 juvenile workers are injured on the job. Once every 10 days, on average, a worker under the age of 18 is killed, federal statistics show.

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Sarah Palin’s Alaskonomics-Not Another Bush

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Times

Sarah Palin thinks she is a better American than you because she comes from a small town, and a superior human being because she isn’t a journalist and never lived in Washington and likes to watch her kids play hockey. Although Palin praised John McCain in her acceptance speech as a man who puts the good of his country ahead of partisan politics, McCain pretty much proved the opposite with his selection of a running mate whose main asset is her ability to reignite the culture wars. So maybe Governor Palin does represent everything that is good and fine about America, as she herself maintains. But spare us, please, any talk about how she is a tough fiscal conservative.

Her holier than thou speeches are getting old. When she smiles and waves at you, Palin wants you to forget all the things you have read about her in the media or seen on the blogosphere. She doesn’t want you to think about Troopergate, or that she is all cozy with Big Oil and the coal firms that want to ravage Alaska. Instead, she wants you to envision her baking dinner for her family because, she got rid of the chef at the governor’s mansion. To show she is just like the rest of us.. I’m starting to feel ill..

Palin has continued to repeat the already exposed lie that she said, “No, thanks,” to the famous “bridge to nowhere” (McCain’s favorite example of wasteful federal spending). In fact, she said, “Yes, please,” until this project became a symbol and political albatross.

Back to reality. Of the 50 states, Alaska ranks No. 1 in taxes per resident and No. 1 in spending per resident. Its tax burden per resident is 21/2 times the national average; its spending, more than double. The trick is that Alaska’s government spends money on its own citizens and taxes the rest of us to pay for it. Although Palin, like McCain, talks about liberating ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, there is no evidence that being dependent on Alaskan oil would be any more pleasant to the pocketbook.

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Sarah Palin: A Gidget for God’s Truth

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TruthOut

“The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation,” declared John McCain back in September 2007. With his vice-presidential pick of Governor Sarah Palin, he has found a winsome soul mate who is even more of a Christian nationalist, eager to use government to impose her religious views on the rest of us.

Palin’s stance on abortion illustrates her approach. As she proudly declares, she sees the Bible as literally true, which leads her to believe that aborting a fetus is murder. That position contradicts our long history of common and statutory law. She then goes on to conclude that government should severely punish anyone who has an abortion or performs one, even in the case of rape or incest. She also opposes stem cell research.

Sarah Palin isn’t for a culture of freedom and responsibility. She doesn’t believe that women have the intelligence and thoughtfulness to make decisions about their health with their families and their physicians. Palin wants the government and politicians to interfere in our personal lives – and she isn’t going to allow people to be empowered to make the right decisions for themselves.

McCain hears God less extremely, but the Republican platform echoes Palin, and if she ever became president, she would feel completely justified in making her religious belief a litmus test for appointees to the Supreme Court.

Her attitude toward gays and lesbians is similar, though observers in both the gay press and corporate media have misrepresented the firmness of her convictions. The confusion stems from a legal suit that some same-sex couples filed in 1999, arguing that Alaska had no right to deny domestic partners of state employees the same health and pension benefits that the state gave to married spouses. The case made its way to Alaska’s Supreme Court, which ruled in 2005 that the state could not discriminate against the domestic partners.

In the political firestorm that followed, the Alaska legislature passed a bill forbidding state officials to pay the benefits. Alaska’s attorney general then declared the bill unconstitutional, and the newly inaugurated Governor Palin felt legally obliged to veto it. But, she loudly proclaimed her opposition to spousal benefits for domestic partners and signed a separate bill calling for a state referendum, which she said would lay the groundwork for overturning the state Supreme Court ruling.

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Palin Gets Crash Course in Foreign Policy 101

The McCain team has hastily assembled a team of former Bush White House aides to tutor the vice-presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, on foreign-policy issues, to write her speeches and to begin preparing her for her all-important Oct. 2 debate against Sen. Joe Biden.

Steve Biegun, who once served as the No. 3 National Security Council official under Condoleezza Rice at the White House, has been hired as chief foreign-policy adviser to the Alaska governor.  After taking leave from his job as vice president for international affairs at Ford Motor Co. last Friday, Biegun flew to St. Paul and, together with McCain’s foreign-policy guru Randy Schuenemann, began briefings for Palin on national-security issues—an area where her resume is conspicuously thin.  (That is just their nice way of stating that she has absolutely no experience in foreign policy or national-security issues.)

Biegun is hardly the only Bushie to be tapped for Palin duty. Among others:

Matt Scully, a former Bush White House speechwriter, is working on Palin’s acceptance speech to the convention Wednesday night.

Mark Wallace, a former lawyer for the Bush 2000 campaign who served in a variety of administration jobs including chief counsel, has been put in charge of “prep” for the debate against Biden.

Wallace’s wife, Nicolle Wallace, the former White House communications director, has taken over the same job for Palin.

Tucker Eskew, another senior Bush White House communications aide, is serving as senior counselor to Palin’s operation.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former chief economist at the Council of Economic Advisers who has been serving as top economics guru for the McCain campaign, has moved over to serve as Palin’s chief domestic-policy adviser.

The proliferation of former Bush White House aides in the Palin team may strike some as ironic-and could even provide some fodder for the Democrats-given the McCain camp’s efforts to distance itself from the unpopular president. (It has been widely noted, for example, that while the president is addressing the convention tonight by satellite, neither the president nor Vice President Cheney will be coming anywhere near St. Paul. And when Palin’s selection was announced last week, McCain aides touted it as an example of the senator returning to his “reformer roots” and rebelling against the GOP establishment.)

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FISA Court Denies Public Access

“In a decision issued late Thursday, a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judge denied a motion from the American Civil Liberties Union seeking to bring a measure of transparency to the court’s legal review of the Bush administration’s new spying law.”

For years, the Bush administration illegally intercepted the emails and phone calls of millions of Americans. Rather than rein in this abuse of power, lawmakers on Capitol Hill caved in to the administration and gave the National Security Agency (NSA) even more expansive powers to spy on Americans than it had under the illegal warrantless wiretapping program President Bush secretly authorized in 2001.

“On July 10, less than two hours after the president signed the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) into law, the ACLU filed legal papers asking the FISC to ensure that any proceedings it might conduct relating to the scope, meaning or constitutionality of the FAA be open to the public to the extent possible. The ACLU also asked the secret court to allow it to file a brief and participate in oral arguments, to order the government to file a public version of its briefs addressing the law’s constitutionality and to publish any judicial decision that is ultimately issued. The FISC oversees intelligence surveillance, typically operates in secret and hears arguments only from the government.”

The Constitution is the bedrock of our democracy; it guarantees Americans the right to privacy and free speech. Electronic surveillance is highly invasive. By reading our emails and listening to our phone calls the government gets direct access to our thoughts, our feelings, our associates and our political views. Unrestrained and unchecked government surveillance not only intrudes upon Americans’ right to privacy, it also has the dangerous effect of chilling speech and political dissent. The power to spy is one that is easily abused and history is full of examples of what leaders are willing to do when tempted with unchecked power.

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Breaking: FBI, ATF, and St. Paul Police Amassing at 1162 Juliet Ave.

A few minutes ago, at approximately 2:25 am, I was awakened by a tweet from the ColdSnap Legal Collective. According to the message, police are raiding a house at 1162 Juliet Ave. in St. Paul.

I called ColdSnap for further details. Greg, the volunteer manning the legal hotline, confirmed that there were agents on the scene. (As a rule, ColdSnappers working the hotline don’t give out their surnames to the press.) Greg is in contact with ColdSnap legal observers on the ground.

“A little bit ago, we got a call saying that police were massing at the house,” Greg said. “Then we got another call saying they were entering the house.” Greg said their was some confusion about whether there was actually a raid in progress.

According to Greg, his legal observer has confirmed the presence of agents from the “FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, and Firearms, and St. Paul Police.” Law enforcement is reportedly checking on a “suspicious vehicle.”

1162 Juliet Ave. is a residential address that is also associated with a medical clinic.

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Silence From The Press About RNC Police Raids and From The Politicians

I was under the misguided delusion that all of these raids, police harassment, snatch squads, and arrests made in St. Paul would cause a media blitz to descend upon the Twin Cities.  Oh, there was a blitz, but it wasn’t by the media.  It came from concerned bloggers and journalists that don’t work for the MSM.

So I checked the front page stories from all the newspapers today; to see what they deemed important for you to know.  This is what I found.  NYT’s has “Thousands Stream From New Orleans Ahead of the Storm”, good start but “Troops Surge Took Place Amid Doubt and Debate” could have been buried on page two.  How about USA Today, maybe they thought is was noteworthy, no it didn’t appear there either.  “Bush, Cheney skip GOP Convention” made it.  Wall Street Journal headlined Gustav, Bush Cancels Convention Speech and the Highlight of the Day “Night Runner”.  You ask “Night Runner”??  Is about McCain VP pick Gov. Sarah Palin discusses her unusual workout and fitness routine.  Do I care about the workout habits of Sarah Palin??  OMG, since when did a government official’s fitness training become of National Importance.

Robert Kennedy Jr., in his speech, notes that the decline of our media could be traced to the 1988 repel of a Federal Communications Commission regulation known as the Fairness Doctrine, which Reagan threw out the window.

I agree with that view to a certain point, the rest of it IMHO is the 5 or 6 men that run all the media outlets.  The Rupert Murdoch’s of the world have killed any fair and balance reporting that most of us remember.  It is not in their best interest for you to know about  civil rights violations that are happening around the country.  If you did, you would probably write your congressman, email the government, or even protest on the White House front lawn.  That is not a problem Bush and his cronies want to deal with. So to protect them, media giants like Murdoch squash any chance of you hearing the truth.  That the US is under siege, in a manner of speaking, that you could just disappear or have policemen break down your door with automatic weapons in hand, cuff you and take you to jail.  Your crime, you thought about, or were going to protest a corrupt government, and you asked to see a warrant.

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Massive Police Raids-Squashing the Right to Protest and Assembly

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I posted yesterday about one raid in St. Paul, unfortunately there were many other similar raids across the city.  Here is an excerpt from Glenn Greenwald with some details about these police raids.

 

“Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets.”

 

“Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff’s department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than “fire code violations,” and early this morning, the Sheriff’s department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.”

 

Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald went to two of the homes –one had just been raided and the other one was in the process of being raided.  They give us a chilling look and description of what these people went through.

 

“In the house that had just been raided, those inside described how a team of roughly 25 officers had barged into their homes with masks and black swat gear, holding large semi-automatic rifles, and ordered them to lie on the floor, where they were handcuffed and ordered not to move. The officers refused to state why they were there and, until the very end, refused to show whether they had a search warrant. They were forced to remain on the floor for 45 minutes while the officers took away the laptops, computers, individual journals, and political materials kept in the house. One of the individuals renting the house, an 18-year-old woman, was extremely shaken as she and others described how the officers were deliberately making intimidating statements such as “Do you have Terminator ready?” as they lay on the floor in handcuffs. The 10 or so individuals in the house all said that though they found the experience very jarring, they still intended to protest against the GOP Convention, and several said that being subjected to raids of that sort made them more emboldened than ever to do so.”

 

Twin Cities Indymedia posted this yesterday: RNC Welcoming Committee Organizers Seek Sanctuary From Illegal Arrests.

 

“Today two members of the RNC Welcoming Committee sought sanctuary from illegal disappearances carried out by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office at the Twin Cities Friends Meeting in St. Paul. Andy Fahlstrom, 27, and Betsy Raasch-Gilman, 56, appealed to the meeting for sanctuary following the arrests of five other Welcoming Committee members on Saturday, August 30. Warrants for the “search” of two other members have been made public – others have been “searched” and then arrested and held without bail for “probable cause.” Many have been snatched on the street by plainclothes officers.

“In the past two days we have seen numerous instances of police harassment and arrest of Bushville campers on Harriett Island, independent journalists, and now the arrest on false pretenses of activists who have worked for over two years, in the open, to provide support for public dissent this week,” said Raasch-Gilman.

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Waxman Calls for Cancellation of Blackwater’s Contract

Congress member Henry Waxman, chair of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform committee, has called on Senator Barack Obama to cancel the private military firm Blackwater’s Iraq contract if Obama is elected president. Waxman’s committee is the top investigative body in the Congress and has been leading multiple investigations into the firm’s activities. In recent months, Obama has indicated he intends to continue using private military companies as part of his foreign policy and specifically in Iraq.

Waxman’s call comes as newly revealed federal documents obtained by USA Today show US spending on armed private contractors like Blackwater is on the rise. This year alone, the US State Department will spend more than a billon dollars on armed contractors. That’s a 13 percent increase from 2007. A State Department official revealed contractors “will increasingly take over…former military roles and missions, increasing [the] numbers of private security.”

As Barack Obama prepares to make the war in Iraq a centerpiece of his campaign against John McCain, serious questions remain about what Obama will do with this massive private shadow army in Iraq. Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill filed this report.

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The FBI Unchecked Power To Hide Abuses In the Form of Gag Orders

The American Civil Liberties Union urged a federal appeals court to uphold a decision striking down the national security letter (NSL) provision of the Patriot Act.  This provision gives the FBI the authority to issue letters demanding private information about people within the United States, and to place the recipients of the letters under indefinite gag orders. Recent reports issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have revealed the FBI’s widespread, systemic abuse of its NSL power.

The FBI shouldn’t have the unreviewable power to impose gag orders on the recipients of national security letters,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project who argued today in court. “As the district court ruled, the FBI’s power to silence the recipients of these letters has to be subject to judicial oversight. Without that check, the FBI can use its power to hide abuses and silence its critics – and that’s exactly what it’s been doing.”

You may remember earlier this year that, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive’s lawyers, fought the NSL, challenging its constitutionality.  The FBI served a controversial National Security Letter in November 2007, on the Internet Archive‘s founder Brewster Kahle, asking for records about one of the library’s registered users, asking for the user’s name, address and activity on the site.  The FBI agreed on April 21 to withdraw the letter and unseal the court case, making some of the documents available to the public.

The ACLU and New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in April 2004 on behalf of an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that received an NSL. Because the FBI imposed a gag order on the ISP, the lawsuit was filed under seal, and even today the ACLU is prohibited from disclosing its client’s identity. The FBI continues to maintain the gag order even though the underlying investigation is more than four years old (and may well have ended), and even though the FBI abandoned its demand for records from the ISP over a year ago. 
 
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The FDA approved irradiation as a new “food additive”

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Kirk James Murphy, M.D. at firedoglake.com had this to say on the subject:

“Yesterday what remains of the FDA under the Bush regime opened the lead doors to allow Big Ag and Big Industrial Food to start irradiating the life out of the iceberg lettuce and spinach you eat. The FDA claims that nuking these leafy greens is required to keep us safe from the E. Coli and other fecal coliforms (nerdspeak for “shit germs”) found to have contaminated the food we bring home to eat. The Bushies, their moles in the Federal agencies that once protected us, and the corporatists they all serve are — as usual — lying through their coliform encrusted teeth. Our menus — and our choices — need not be collapsed down to the binary option of “nuked food vs poop food”. “Let them eat shit” is the GOP’s de facto public safety policy, but we don’t have to swallow it.”

Although this announcement only applies to fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach, other fresh produce, such as tomatoes or peppers, are included in the Grocery Manufacturers Association petition. The FDA says it is continuing to evaluate the use of irradiation in additional foods.

Irradiation of iceberg lettuce and spinach will be voluntary on the part of food processors. If whole foods have been irradiated, FDA requires that the label bear the radura symbol and the phrase “treated with radiation” or “treated by irradiation.”  Yet, if irradiated ingredients are added to foods that have not been irradiated, no special labeling is required on retail packages.

The biggest problems with vegetables is caused by viruses not bacteria and irradiation is not going to kill a virus.  For example, the Salmonella outbreak we had this year with tomatoes could not have been averted had the tomatoes been irradiated.

When food is irradiated, ionized radiation reacts with water in the food, causing the release of electrons and the formation of highly reactive free radicals.  The free radicals interact with vitamins in ways that can alter and degrade their structure and/or activity.  The extent to which vitamin loss occurs can vary based on a number of factors, including the type of food, temperature of irradiation, and availability of oxygen.  Vitamin loss almost always increases with increasing doses of radiation.

The destruction of vitamins continues beyond the time of irradiation.  Therefore, when irradiated food is stored, it will experience greater vitamin loss than the food that has not been irradiated.  Cooking further accelerates vitamin destruction in irradiated food compared to non-irradiated food.

To understand how bad this is here is an example:  A kiloGray (kGy) is the unit of measuring radiation unique to the process of food irradiation.  In the United States, fruits and vegetables are irradiated with up to one kGy, which equals the radiation output of approximately 33 million chest X-rays.  Fresh meat and poultry are irradiated with up to 4.5 kGy, which equal the radiation output of approximately 150 million chest X-rays.

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