RSSCategory: law and order

Martin Luther King: Three methods of dealing with oppression

December 18, 2011 | By | Reply More
Martin Luther King:  Three methods of dealing with oppression

Martin Luther King eloquently asserts that non-violent resistance is the best approach to oppression. He asserts, though, that he is not advocating “anarchy,” and there is such a thing as an “intelligent” use of police force. The backdrop to this discussion was the ongoing struggle to desegregate Little Rock Central High School.

In the following conversation with Dr. Kenneth Clark, King disagrees with the criticisms of Malcolm X, emphasizing that non-violent resistance is “powerful” and it is not at all the same thing as “non-resistance,” which is to be avoided, because it “leaves you in a state of stagnant passivity and dead-end complacency.”

Here is a transcript of this conversation.

The above video is mislabeled. It is not a discussion involving Malcolm X, but it is about the differences between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. It includes excerpts from a speech by Malcolm X, as well as numerous historical and entertainment clips.

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Barack Obama again fails to take a stand for individual protections

December 15, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Barack Obama again fails to take a stand for individual protections

Jonathan Turley sums up the problem:

Obama has now again betrayed the civil liberties community and lifted the threat of the veto. Americans will now be subject to indefinite detention without trial in federal courts in a measure supported by both Democrats and Republicans. . . This leave Ron Paul as the only candidate in the presidential campaign fighting the bill and generally advocating civil liberties as a rallying point for his campaign. Paul offered another strong argument against the Patriot Act and other expansions of police powers in his last debate. He also noted that the Patriot Act provisions were long advocated before 9-11, which was used as an opportunity to expand police powers. As discussed in a prior column, Obama has destroyed the civil liberties movement in the United States and has convinced many liberals to fight for an Administration that blocked torture prosecutions, expanded warrantless surveillance, continued military tribunals, killed Americans on the sole authority of the President, and other core violations of civil liberties.

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Your Gmail account could be hacked

October 16, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Your Gmail account could be hacked

At The Atlantic, James Fallows has written an excellent and harrowing account of how your email program in the cloud be hacked and what you can do about it. The story is centers on a real-life experience of Fallows’ wife, who noticed one day that she couldn’t get into her Gmail account; by the time she got control of her account again, she noticed that all of her email was missing. After much additional effort she regained access to most of her email, but it wasn’t easy and this result is not guaranteed. She made the mistake of simply assuming that her data was safe with Google and that no one would hack her account.

Many people are out there trying to take over your email account, and they are successful too often. They have broken into email accounts in all of the cloud email companies (gmail, yahoo, hotmail . . . you name it). The problem is usually password hygiene.

Fallows offers some suggestions at the end of his detailed article (I highly recommend that you read the entire article, because his suggestions go well beyond the excerpts below):

[I]f you use Gmail, please use Google’s new “two-step verification” system. In practice this means that to log into your account from any place other than your own computer, you have to enter an additional code, from Google, shown on your mobile phone. On your own computer, you enter a code only once every 30 days. This is not an airtight solution, but it can thwart nearly all of the remote attacks that affect Gmail thousands of times a day. Even though the hacker in Lagos has your password, if he doesn’t have your cell phone, he can’t get in.

In case you’ve missed the point: if you use Gmail, use this system. Also, make sure the recovery information for your account—a backup e-mail address or cell phone where you can receive password-reset information—is current. Google uses these to verify that you are the real owner.

Next we have password selection, that seemingly impossible task. The science, psychology, and sociology of creating strong passwords is a surprisingly well-chronicled and fascinating field. OnThe Atlantic’s Web site, we will describe some of the main strategies and the reasoning behind them. Even security professionals recognize the contradiction: the stronger the password, the less likely you are to remember it. Thus the Post-it notes with passwords, on monitor screens or in desk drawers.

But there is a middle ground, of passwords strong enough to create problems for hackers and still simple enough to be manageable.

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Meet the protesters of Occupy St. Louis – October 14, 2011

October 15, 2011 | By | 10 Replies More

I occasionally listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show because I consider it important to understand how it is that my views differ from those of people who oppose my views. Two days ago, I listened to Limbaugh bloviating about the people who are participating in the Occupy Protests springing up all over the United States.  By  some reports, there are more than 1,000 such protests ongoing, and they are actually occurring all over the world.   Limbaugh announced, without hesitation, that these protesters are mostly unemployed, lazy, dirty, amoral, socially irresponsible and ignorant young people. Those who rely on Rush Limbaugh for their facts might thus be highly likely to object to these protests (including Occupy Wall Street) based on Limbaugh’s description of the protesters.  But is the description he gave to his many (though dwindling number of) listeners accurate?  I had an opportunity to check this yesterday at the Occupy St. Louis protest in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

Over the past few days, I’ve been quite occupied at my day job, and it was only while walking back to my law office from the federal courthouse at 4 pm yesterday that I spotted an organized march coming down Market Street in downtown St. Louis.  I would estimate that there were almost 1,000 people marching.  I didn’t have my video camera with me, but I did have my Canon S95 pocket camera, so I got to work taking hand-held video and still shots of the protesters.  Here’s the finished product, which will allow you to actually meet the types of people who are participating in the Saint Louis Occupy protest.  You can now be your own judge of what these protesters are like:

As you can see from the parade route pans and the interviews, none of these people fit the description given by Rush Limbaugh.  Off camera, I asked most of the protesters about their “day jobs,” and all of them indicated that they were gainfully employed, and in a wide variety of challenging fields.   These “young” protesters of Occupy St. Louis ranged in age from 20’s to their 80’s.   The on-camera statements of the people I interviewed show that they are well-informed, thoughtful, highly articulate and good-hearted.  Many of the people I spoke with indicated that they are not going away.  They have been waiting for a good time and place to express their deep concerns about the way our government works, and they have finally found what they’ve been looking for.

In case anyone is concerned that I intentionally skewed my sampling regarding who I interviewed, this was my method:  I simply walked up to someone nearby and asked whether he or she would be willing to give a short statement about why they were attending the protest.   I approached 12 people.  One woman sympathetic to the protest apologized and said she couldn’t talk on camera because she was a member of the news media. One man said that he supported the protest, but he’d rather not go on camera.  Another man said he had never been part of a protest before, but he read about this protest recently and then said to himself, “Yeah, these people are right on these issues.”   The other nine people I approached agreed to give statements on camera.  I’d like to thank each of these folks for taking the time to talk (I’ve listed their names in the order in which they appear in my video):

  • Al Vitale
  • Fred Raines (a retired economics professor, who said that he compiled the statistics displayed on one of the signs appearing on the video)
  • Apollonia Childs
  • Chrissy Kirchhoefer
  • Curtis Roberts
  • Michel Kiepe
  • Jeff Schaefer
  • Matt Ankney, and
  • Frances Madeson

Based on the above video, there is no lack of intellectual moorings for this protest. The focus is that our government, including politicians of both major parties, has been substantially bought by big business, and many destructive things are flowing from the consequent misuse of government power.

About a dozen protesters have have formed a camp in Kiener Plaza, a public gathering spot across the street from the towering downtown headquarters of Bank of America. I was told by several protesters that some of the camping protesters had been evicted from the camp over the past week, but that the intent is nonetheless maintain a presence in Kiener Plaza indefinitely. The Bank of America building has been the geographical focus of other recent protests, including this one in August, 2011. (A payday loan protest by a group called GRO occurred at this same bank last year–here’s video).  I should note that most of the people who work in the huge Bank of America building work for companies other than the Bank of America, yet the building remains a symbol of what has gone so very wrong with the political process.

I’d also like to mention that the St. Louis Police, who were out in the hundreds, were courteous and professional.   The protesters were there merely to protest-to get their message out.  There were no untoward incidents that would distract from the central message of the protests.

For more on yesterday’s protest, see this description by St. Louis blogger Gloria Bilchik at Occasional Planet. See also, this post by another St. Louis blogger, Adam Shriver at St. Louis Activist Hub.

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Nothing better to do with tax dollars than put drug-users in prison

October 9, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More
Nothing better to do with tax dollars than put drug-users in prison

I’m still stunned that President Obama has decided to crank up the federal drug war by clamping down on medical marijuana dispensaries. This has been yet another political about-face by Barack Obama. Don’t we have anything better to do with our tax dollars and energies than to throw people in prison for using a substance that makes them feel good, where that substance is far less dangerous than alcohol? And keep in mind that there are legally available pharmaceuticals that have comparable effects on one’s psyche, available only if the user is wealthy enough to afford the doctor appointment and the pharmaceutical.

But wait . . . the stories is even worse. As reported by Glenn Greenwald, there is is evidence to counter-balance the idea that currently illegal drugs are always destructive:

[T]he deceit at the heart of America’s barbaric drug policy — that these substances are such unadulterated evils that adults should be put in cages for voluntarily using them — is more glaring than ever. In light of his comments about LSD, it’s rather difficult to reconcile America’s adoration for Steve Jobs with its ongoing obsession with prosecuting and imprisoning millions of citizens (mostly poor and minorities) for doing what Jobs, Obama, George W. Bush, Michael Phelps and millions of others have done. Obviously, most of these banned substances — like alcohol, gambling, sex, junk food consumption, prescription drug use and a litany of other legal activities — can create harm to the individual and to others when abused (though America’s solution for drug users — prison — also creates rather substantial harm to the drug user and to others, including their spouses, parents and children: at least as much harm as, and usually substantially more than, the banned drugs themselves). But no rational person can doubt that these substances can also be used responsibly and constructively; just study Steve Jobs’ life if you doubt that. Jobs’ praise for his LSD use is what I kept returning to as I read about the Obama DOJ’s heinous new policy to use the full force of criminal prosecutions against medical marijuana dispensaries in California.

In the meantime, do you know how your local law enforcement officers are spending most of their time?

To make it clear: I’m not advocating drug use. I’m stating facts that make it undeniable that the “war on drugs” is much more dangerous to all of us than the use of those drugs.

There’s a drug-related arrest in the U.S. every 19 seconds. Consider, also, that 45 people are massacred in the U.S. every day thanks to our “drug war,” and that it is this “war” that causes the violence.  This is a war that has failed at every one of its announced objectives.  Many of our law enforcement officer have declared the “war on drugs” to be an immoral war.  Consider this conservative judge’s harsh words toward the “Drug War.”  The most harmful thing about marijuana, according to Judge John Gray, is jail.  Here’s why:  the “war on drugs” by the numbers.  It’s time to take a deep breath and get over America’s obsession with imprisoning otherwise law-abiding citizens for partaking of a relatively harmless drug.

What the hell is wrong with us?

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Ken Burns on Prohibition

October 3, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Ken Burns on Prohibition

Tonight I watched Part II of Ken Burns’ excellent new documentary, “Prohibition.” I highly recommend it (and you can watch Part I, “A Nation of Drunkards,” here). Here’s the bottom line of Prohibition:

Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals, made a mockery of the justice system, caused illicit drinking to seem glamorous and fun, encouraged neighborhood gangs to become national crime syndicates, permitted government officials to bend and sometimes even break the law, and fostered cynicism and hypocrisy that corroded the social contract all across the country.

If only Americans would open their eyes and acknowledge that our raging drug war is Prohibition redux, and that it is causing the same kinds of destructive problems as Prohibition.

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Free speech, Muslim student version

September 23, 2011 | By | Reply More
Free speech, Muslim student version

Last year, eleven Muslim students at U.C.-Irvine protested the speech by the Israeli Ambassador to the United States by shouting, “It’s a shame this university has sponsored a mass murderer like yourself.” They weren’t asked to leave like most everyone else who disrupts a speech. No, they were criminally prosecuted of “conspiracy” and “disturbing an assembly” and today they were convicted. They are each facing a sentence of up to one year in prison.

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Law Enforcement Officers point out Barack Obama’s hypocrisy regarding the war on drugs

September 14, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Law Enforcement Officers point out Barack Obama’s hypocrisy regarding the war on drugs

You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the people at LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). This organization consists of law enforcement officers who have come to the stark realization that the “war on drugs” is more destructive than the drugs themselves.  That means that the law enforcement officers now agree with 76% of Americans who “have come to realize that the war on drugs is a failure” (Zogby International (October 2008)).  How many law enforcement officers agree that the war on drugs is a failure?

LEAP is made up of current and former police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents, corrections officials, military officers and others who fought on the front lines of the “war on drugs” and who know firsthand that prohibition only worsens drug addiction and illicit drug market violence. Including our civilian supporters, LEAP represents more than 40,000 people in more than 80 countries.

LEAP has now released a short brochure titled “Ending the Drug War: a Dream Deferred.” The focus is the hypocrisy of Barack Obama. Consider this comparison of how the war on drugs was treated by the man who started it, Richard Nixon, with the way it is being treated by Barack Obama (the following quote is from LEAP’s “Ending the Drug War”):

While the Nixon administration’s public messaging carefully stressed punishment, it directed resources primarily toward public health. Today, the Obama administration’s press releases emphasize public health while its funding requests are actually weighted toward punishment.

The LEAP report quite reasonably insists that actions speak louder than words, and follows the budget dollars Mr. Obama has allocated toward the use of illegal drugs versus the number of dollars used for treatment and counseling. When one considers these numbers, one can see that the Obama administration is putting a high priority on punishment, and deemphasizing treatment. When one follows the same budget dollars, one can also see that the United States is pouring gasoline on the drug war fire in Mexico:

One of the ugliest signs of the failure of the war on drugs is the wildly escalating rate of illegal drug trade murders in Mexico. Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels shortly after taking office in late 2006, nearly 40,000 people have been killed in attacks that the media calls “drug violence,” but which are in fact the predictable turf battles that accompany the policy of prohibition. The tally of dead of course includes cartel members themselves, but an alarming number of the fallen are police officers and civilian bystanders as well as some U.S. citizens.

(See page 9 of LEAP’s well-documented report).  40,000 dead people is a lot of blood on the streets to “protect” Americans from drugs that they want to use at a time when most illegal drugs have legal equivalent available with a prescription through your local drugstore (and see here), or available without a prescription at your local tavern.

The source of the hypocrisy of Barack Obama is his admission that criminally prosecuting illegal drug users is not effective and his complementary admission that he thinks of drugs as “more of a public health problem.”

OK, Mr. President.  If you feel that way, why have you acted the opposite? Instead of calling it “the war on drugs,” it’s time to call it what it is: Prohibition. And prohibition has been proven to not work.

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Dick Cheney’s crime stories

September 3, 2011 | By | Reply More
Dick Cheney’s crime stories

Medea Benjamin at Common Cause argues that Dick Cheney’s new book, In My; Time, should be sold in the “Crime” section of bookstores. Here’s her first two reasons (of ten):

1. Cheney lied; Iraqis and U.S. soldiers died. As Vice President, Cheney lied about (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s (nonexistent) ties to the 9/11 attack as a way to justify a war with a country that never attacked us. Thanks to Cheney and company, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and over 4,000 American soldiers perished in a war that should never have been fought.

2. Committing War Crimes in Iraq. During the course of the Iraq war, the Bush/Cheney administration violated the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and using illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new type of napalm.

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