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Friday, September 30, 2011

American citizen killed without trial

Remember when Republicans said Obama was "soft on terrorism."

Here is the response:

First, the US has killed more suspected high level members of al-Qaeda using predator drone strikes in President Obama's first three years than we did under President Bush did in eight years.

Second, President Obama drew down troops in Iraq and ordered a surge of troops in Afghanistan in order to increase the odds of victory there so that we can get out in the next two years.

Third, Obama created the team and the authorized the specific mission that killed Usama bin Laden (UBL).

Now, the news media report that a major al-Qaeda operative in Yemen has been killed by the US. This guy, Anwar al-Awlaki, was directly inolved not only in 9/11 but also reportedly counseled subsequent attackers including the Fort Hood shooter and the "underwear bomber" among others.

The only problem is, he was an American citizen. And he was killed without trial.

I am not saying this is right or wrong, only that it is an issue worth addressing. And yet, in this story in the mainstream press, there is no mention of it. Yes, they say he was an American citizen, but they do not even raise the issue of what are the implications for Constitutional rights in the war on terrorism.

(For the record, I did write a letter to the editor calling on President Obama to respect the Constitutional rights of all Americans in such cases, which would require capturing Americans suspected of terrorism and giving them trials, assuming they were not killed during capture).

However you feel about the issue--frankly, I can see both sides of the argument--it is still sad that we are sacrificing certain rights in order to achieve victory in this war.

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” -- Benjamin Franklin, 1755

And not a word about it in the press.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Has terrorism become a "joke" in the US?

In the past several weeks, I've read about numerous terrorist plots intercepted by law enforcement agencies. Each and every one of them involved people who were being monitored closely while they made their plans. And each and every one of them involved people who acquired bomb making materials from the US government (e.g., the FBI), where the bomb making materials were actually not real but were fakes!

The government then arrests the people for intending to commit terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism, even though there was never actually a danger (because the bombs were fake).

And now there is this story, titled: "US man planned to blow up Pentagon."

How? With model airplanes!

From the story:

Rezwan Ferdaus was arrested in Framingham, Massachusetts, after undercover federal agents delivered materials he had allegedly requested, including grenades, six machine guns and what he believed was 24 pounds of C-4 explosive. Federal officials said the public was never in danger from the explosives, which it said were always under control and closely monitored.

Wednesday's arrest was similar to other cases in which reputed would-be terrorists were caught in sting operations that revolved around fictional plots against various targets, such as Dallas skyscapers or a Chicago nightclub. In this case, though, authorities say Ferdaus planned the scheme.

According to a federal affidavit, Ferdaus, 26, of Ashland, became convinced America was evil through jihadi websites and videos, and began planning "jihad" against the U.S. in early 2010. He contacted a federal informant that December and months later, allegedly began meeting to discuss the plot with undercover federal agents he believed were members of al-Qaida.

Ferdaus said he wanted to deal a psychological blow to the "enemies of Allah" by hitting the Pentagon, which he called "head and heart of the snake," according to the affidavit.

"Allah has given us the privilege," he allegedly told the informant. "... He punishes them by our hand. We're the ones."


When you add all of these cases to the guy that left a bomb in his SUV in Times Square that merely smoked instead of exploded, the man who tried to light his shoes on fire aboard a plane but was "bitch slapped" by fellow passengers, and the fellow who tried to light his underwear on fire aboard another plan but merely burned his own crotch, and you start to wonder just how competent are these people we are fighting? And why are we spending so much money to do it?

Here's hoping these "terrorists" continue to be so incompetent!

Be on the lookout for model airplanes flying the sky. Terrorists may be operating them with plans to blow up your house.
Seriously? This is the evidence in the case?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Newsweek magazine goes criminal justice crazy

I get this magazine in the mail every week.

And this week I open it up and BAM! A new section titled, "Criminal Justice."

Stories include:

"The Death of the Death Penalty" (about America's move away from capital punishment)

"I Committed Murder" (about how executioners feel after they kill someone)

"I Ordered Death in Georgia" (one executioner's account)

"God, It’s Got to Stop" (one man's quest to end gang violence)

And finally, the magazine is worth reading again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Death penalty in the news

In case you have not been paying attention, the death penalty has been in the news lately.

A lot.

Largely because the state of Georgia may have killed an innocent man based on horribly unreliable eyewitness testimony.

I am pleased the debate is being heard once again.

Check it out:

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, Truthout

David Swanson, War Is a Crime

E.J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post Writers Group


We know the facts of the death penalty. I've demonstrated them clearly in my state.

Now it is up to people in power to do something about it.
This is a failed policy based on flawed logic and not at all informed by scientific evidence.

It does not reduce crime.
It does not bring closure to victims' families.
It does not provide justice for society.
It is a slow and expensive process that costs more than life imprisonment.
It is racially biased.
And it is prone to serious error.

Yet we cling to it out of simple tradition. The time has come for a new tradition. And I welcome it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What is in the news today?

Here are your top stories on CNN.COM:


So of these top 15 stories, at least 4 deal with crime. That's 27%, and these stories include a person being decapitated, 5 people being murdered, a biker who started a fight that killed someone, and a gunman shooting near a school.

Many of the same stories are over at as well, plus these:

 Ticket fixing and racial language in the NYPD? No way.

And over at Fox News?

Of their top 16 stories, 7 deal with crime. That is 44% of the stories! They include stories about terrorism, torture, murder, shooting down a plane, theft, murder, and a video game related shooting.

Now you know what Americans value. Or at least what the news media think we value, based on what they continue to show us. So we can clearly conclude ...

Friday, September 23, 2011

It’s Safe to Go Outside: NASA Says Its Falling Satellite Will Miss the U.S.

So says a headline in the NEW YORK TIMES!


Note to the media: If a falling satellite hits your house, you'll still probably die. So why does it matter if it is "safe to go outside?"


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blog closed for the week -- Conference in NASHVILLE!

I am at the annual conference of the Southern Criminal Justice Association (SCJA) in Nashville.

Busy busy busy teaching and learning.

And I spent yesterday driving here. Oh joy!

I'll have a full report next week.


Monday, September 19, 2011

So raising taxes on the rich is "class warfare," huh?

So suggest politicians on CNN and Fox News:


The principle behind the president's plan is for wealthy people and corporations to pay more in taxes and to bear some of the burden of debt reduction. FULL STORY

Fox News:

Obama Deficit Plan Will Have $1.2T in Tax Hikes

Deficit reduction strategy will likely draw fire from Republicans who have ruled out taxes as way of cutting debt


So what do we call it when incredibly wealthy people commit widespread fraud on Wall Street and in the nation's largest banks and credit rating agencies, leading to an economic recession and declines in real wages for the middle class and cuts in services to the poor and vulnerable?

Oh, that's just "capitalism" I guess.

You think the media would at least raise this issue.

It's pretty simple, actually. Here is what actually happened.

Congress cut taxes under President Bush. Then they authorized two major wars, neither of which was actually declared OR paid for.

The result of less money coming in and more money going out is entirely predictable--a growing debt. 

At the same time, regulation of big business was lax (and did NOT meaningfully increase). The result of the lax regulation is entirely predictable--the worst oil spill in US history and a major economic recession caused by unrestrained greed among the nation's elite.

So Obama proposes some solutions to try to fix the problem and they call him a "socialist" and assert he is engaging in "class warfare." And the media just report it with no analysis whatsoever.

No wonder we are so unable to understand all the ways we normal folks are being screwed. And no wonder we fall for this nonsense.

It's called "false consciousness." Google it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

FBI sees all Muslims as terrorists

A stunning story, just stunning.

Now we know the CIA AND FBI track people--AMERICAN citizens--because of their religious beliefs, without any evidence whatsoever of involvement of criminal activity.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Speaking of the rich getting richer! ...

In an outrageous white-collar crime, one man--a single man--cost his company $2 BILLION in losses. He did this by committing widespread fraud, a form of theft where people are tricked or deceived out of their money.

To put this in perspective, let's say a criminal wanted to make $2 billion by robbing banks.

If he could gain $10,000 per robbery, he'd have to rob 200,000 banks!
If he could gain $100,000 per robbery, he'd have to rob 20,000 banks!
And If he could gain $1 million per robbery (impossible), he'd have to rob 2,000 banks!

Criminologists have long said that the reason rich people don't rob banks is because they own the banks. This case proves it.

In spite of its enormous losses, the company says: "While the news is distressing, it will not change the fundamental strength of our firm."

Why not?

Because they will recoup those losses by firing 3,500 employees!

That's the reality of white-collar crime.

Not only does it cost us far more than all street crimes combined, innocent people who have nothing to do with it also suffer.

When will we start treating white-collar criminals like real criminals?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"The rich get richer and the poorer get poorer"

So says the lyrics of a recent Stephen Marley song (son of the late, great Bob Marley).
Only now you could add ... "and the middle class get poorer."

Here is what we now have in the US:

* The economy is growing
* Corporations are making record profits

Yet, most of us are falling further and further behind. Why?

* During the past several decades, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened as most of the tax breaks go to those that are the very best off financially
* Corporations making record profits are not hiring because of "uncertainty" in the economy (their words)

Thus, unemployment remains high because tax cuts do not spur hiring. In other words, the "trickle down" does not trickle down.

So one of the dominant stories in the news media over the past day has been the new report from the US Census Bureau. For example, USA Today reports:

* Poverty at 15.1%; its highest level since 1993.
* A typical U.S. family got poorer during the past 10 years in the first decade-long income decline in at least a half-century, new federal data show.
* Median household income fell 2.3% to $49,445 last year and has dropped 7% since 2000 after adjusting for inflation.
* Income was the lowest since 1996.
* Poverty rose, too. The share of people living in poverty hit 15.1%, the highest level since 1993, and 2.6 million more people moved into poverty, the most since Census began keeping track in 1959.
* This was most felt by the poor and minorities.
* The poor, the young and minorities had the biggest income drops last year. Median income for black households fell 3.2% to $32,068, while non-Hispanic white income fell 1.3% to $54,620, a decline that wasn't statistically significant.
* The share of Americans without coverage rose to 16.3% in 2010 from 13.1% in 2000. Government is insuring more people; employers are insuring fewer.

The only group NOT to do worse?

*  People 65 and older were the only group to prosper during the decade. Household income rose 7.5% adjusted for inflation over the decade, helped by Social Security.

Get that last part? Social security helped save old people from slipping into poverty.

And according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the federal stimulus prevented another 2 million people from falling into poverty, largely through the millions of jobs it created.

This seems like solid gold evidence against the pinheads who stood on the stage the other night and claimed things like the stimulus did not create a single job and that social security is a ponzi scheme.

Hope you're paying attention.

Either way, you're getting poorer, and so am I.

Median household income by demographic group. Note that since 2000, the average income in the US has NOT increased.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Militarization of the police after 9/11

It was bound to happen and probably not at all unexpected.

We already knew that after 9/11, resources were diverted away from white-collar and corporate crime investigations toward counter-terrorism efforts.

Now we are learning that police forces are increasingly becoming militarized.

There is a great article about it in Forbes and another at the Huffington Post.

Read them. Why?

Even the police are concerned!

For example, there is this from Joseph McNamara, who served as a police chief in both San Jose, California, and Kansas City, Missouri: "Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed ... An emphasis on 'officer safety' and paramilitary training pervades today's policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn't shoot until they were about to be shot or stabbed ... Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed."

And this from former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper: "We needed local police to play a legitimate, continuing role in furthering homeland security back in 2001 ... After all, the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place on specific police beats in specific police precincts. Instead, we got a 10-year campaign of increasing militarization, constitution-abusing tactics, needless violence and heartache as the police used federal funds, equipment, and training to ramp up the drug war. It's just tragic."

Hmmmm ...

Monday, September 12, 2011

The National Criminal Justice Commission is STILL in the news

Read it!

The National Criminal Justice Commission Act would go a long way toward changing the way we deal with crime in the US:

A unique conservative stance on crime and criminal justice

So, not ALL conservatives have the same view on crime and criminal justice. These don't want to get "tough on crime" but instead want to get "right on crime." Refreshing.


Conservatives addressing criminal justice system
Russ Jones - OneNewsNow - 9/12/2011 4:05:00 AM

prison cellA prison reform group has received a significant endorsement from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, making him the latest conservative to sign the Right on Crime "Statement of Principles.", a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, is committed to conservative ideas on criminal justice. Less than a year ago, the organization released its new "Statement of Principles" and subsequently received endorsements from leaders like Newt Gingrich and Bill Bennett. The statement calls for a crackdown on crime and on criminal justice spending.

Vikrant Reddy, policy analyst for the campaign, says the endorsement of the younger Bush is important to the efforts of the organization.

"We were just delighted. He is obviously a gigantic figure in modern Republican politics, and we were really enthusiastic to hear that he is a supporter of all of our principles and that he wanted to be involved," Reddy shares.

Vikrant ReddyHis group advocates spending less on criminal reform and obtaining better results.

"What we would like is for conservatives to take that very critical attitude that we have towards all government programs and all types of government spending and start applying that same kind of critical eye towards critical justice, prisons, and sentencing," the policy analyst explains.

He goes on to encourage people to start asking, "How much is this costing us, and what is the government really giving us in return?" And he points out that if individuals who are sent to prison come out worse than they started, "we're paying for that, and we're not particularly happy to be paying for those kinds of terrible results."

The Right on Crime campaign believes an ideal criminal justice system works to reform amenable offenders who will return to society through harnessing the power of families, charities, faith-based groups, and communities.

Friday, September 9, 2011

In honor of 9/11

So ten years have finally gone by.

People ask me, out of all my research into the 9/11 attacks, what stands out to me the most?

And there are two things, actually, that do:

1) We knew these kinds of attacks were coming, and even took precautions against them for years and years. Yet, our leaders still say that they did not nor could not have ever imagined something like this.

2) People who would end up IN THE GW BUSH WHITE HOUSE wrote that without a "new Pearl Harbor" type attack, their goals would take a long time to achieve. And poof, we got a new Pearl Harbor type attack and they then launched their strategy of military invasions including the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime.
Class notes: The Project for a New American Century (Powerpoint format)
The Neo-Cons (a timeline) (MS Word document -- doc format)

Ideally, this would be the story on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11.

But of course it will not be. Because the mainstream media are owned by large corporations who follow proven ways of packaging and selling stories.

So we'll learn about lives lost and lives hurt by the 9/11 attacks. But we will not learn why they happened, how easily they could have been stopped, and why the people charged with protecting our country from such attacks failed us.

That thus becomes the job of the alternative media. This weekend, check out and I bet they will have some of these stories.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jon Stewart on INVENTED media conflict

Jon Stewart does it again.

We can only wonder what the real news would be like if it had this kind of wit and imagination.

The "conflict" about Obama's speech--Wednesday or Thursday?--was literally invented by the media. And we are all weaker for it.

The description from "The Daily Show" is: "The 24-hour news media turn a tale of reasonable accommodation into a tale of manufactured conflict."

Watch it here:

And more here:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9/11 Overkill ... Lessons NOT Learned

Yes, this is the week that, ten years ago, housed the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

So, of course they will be in the news.

You can logically expect them to be featured to the degree that you will probably be wishing for September 12th just so you can get back to "normal life."

However you feel about this, there is little that can be done about it.

My wish, expressed in this letter, is that Americans take some time to actually discover what happened that day. Finally.

I just sent this out to my local papers:


"As we approach the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it saddens me that most Americans still do know the truth about what really happened on that day or what led to it. This is not entirely their fault since the attacks have been politicized and the official investigation—produced by the “National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” (i.e., the 9/11 Commission)— failed to definitively explain what led to the attacks.

"While the 9/11 Commission report is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the basics of what happened, its conclusion that the attacks resulted from a 'failure of imagination' is frankly insulting to all those people who not only imagined such an attack but specifically planned for it. As one example,
the 'Atlanta Rules' (developed for the summer Olympics in Atlanta to prepare for a terrorist attack where a civilian aircraft would be crashed into the stadium) were used for numerous 'National Security Special Events' including the George W. Bush inauguration in January 2001 as well as the G-8 summit in July 2001.
That is, the US government knew terrorists were planning to hijack planes and use them in unconventional ways, 'possibly as flying bombs' (this from an international warning, one of many suggesting an extraordinary attack was imminent).

"Further, the 9/11 Commission glossed over the fact that various intelligence agencies (including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency) tracked known 'terrorist killers' (their words) into the US but failed to tell the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or everyday American citizens. This is significant for the simple reason that two of the 9/11 hijackers lived in San Diego under the nose of an FBI informant who was never asked to gain information on the men because the FBI did not know they were here.

"So what is the point of this letter? I have a simple request. This week as you reflect upon the worst terrorist attack against our nation in its history, don’t just weep for those lives lost and pray for the health and security of our country and its people, devote some time to do some research about what really happened on that day and what failures led to it. Unfortunately, as a teacher-scholar who has carefully examined the 9/11 attacks, I can confidently conclude that all the answers are not found in the 9/11 Commission report. I
suggest this source as a starting point: Or you can watch
the film, '9/11: Press for Truth.'"
We might also pause and consider the words of Noam Chomsky in his essay "The 9/11 response: Wrong from start to finish," recently published on "A massive assault on a Muslim population would be the answer to the prayers of bin Laden and his associates."

Yep, that is exactly what the US did.

And the US response to bin Laden has cost us about $3 trillion over 15 years.

So you can understand why some people have suggested that maybe bin Laden is winning, even though he is dead.

I wonder if these voices will be heard in the mainstream press or if we will instead, simply remember and feel sad.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Check out today's (BAD) news

I just logged on to Yahoo to check my email account and on the front page of Yahoo News were these stories:
That's a total of nine stories. Of those, five are about the police in one way or another, four are about crime, and seven of them are "bad" or "negative" stories (I'm not counting the dead man on the plane as a bad story because the passengers got discounts!).

What do you think the net effect of this constant bombardment of negativity from the media is on us consumers?

There is in fact much good news out there. But you almost never see it in the news, unless of course it is a trivial story about a celebrity or something like that.

Monday, September 5, 2011

It's LABOR day

Do you know what that means?

Do you know why we celebrate it?

Hint: It has to do with LABOR.

Wonder what you will do to honor those who LABOR and have LABORED for your employment rights?

Further, I wonder how it will be discussed in the media?

Tell me here.

(I specifically want to know what Fox News says about it, IF ANYTHING). You know, they are so big on labor these days.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Counter-terrorism news you're not seeing in the news

As we rapidly approach the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, now is the appropriate time to examine what they have really cost us.

So you'd expect the mainstream press to be looking at this issue. And to some degree, they are.

But only on independent news sites will you find stories like these. Together, they call into serious question America's "war on terror" (like it's war on crime and war on drugs, there are some benefits but also enormous costs).

We are spying on our own citizens.

We are infiltrating peace groups and non-Christian religious groups with no probable cause.

We are spending trillions of dollars (think: billions of dollars, millions of times).

We are killing innocent people.

For example:


Nancy Murray and Kade Crockford, "Ten Years Later: Surveillance in the 'Homeland'"

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A no brainer, no? Only chase dangerous people!

The police are sworn to protect and serve.

And for the most part, that is precisely what they do.

Yet, occasionally, media portrayals of law enforcement impact actual police work, and cops find themselves in a real-life movie scene, chasing a criminal at high speeds even though residential neighborhoods or in heavy traffic.

And every once in a while, someone dies.

Whoops, sorry, you are now dead.
Like in Indiana recently.

A chase ended in the deaths Tuesday of two suspected car thieves. This would have been banned under a new vehicle pursuit policy under review by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Chief Paul Ciesielski said Wednesday that the new policy would allow officers to chase only violent suspects who are an immediate threat. Currently, police can pursue any motorist who flees, regardless of what they did.

This makes no sense, because courts have ruled that vehicles are deadly weapons when used against the police. The logic works the other way, too. A cop racing through the streets at a high rate of speed is also driving a "loaded weapon."

So logic suggests that if you cannot legally kill a car thief, then you should not be able to chase him, because if he dies during that chase, you are liable for his death.

Critics of chases say they put police officers, offenders and innocent bystanders at risk. And they do.

Now, the counter argument is that now criminals know that when they steal cars, they don't have to worry about being chased by the police. That is also true.

There is any easy solution to this problem. Lock your cars. Don't leave your keys in them. And companies can now produce technology that allows stolen cars to be shut down from afar (just watch the show, "Bait Car" if you don't believe me).

And everybody wins!