December 6, 2008 archive

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Charged Blackwater guards ID’d: All decorated vets

By MATT APUZZO and LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writers

42 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The five Blackwater Worldwide guards indicted for a deadly 2007 Baghdad shooting are all decorated military veterans who have served in some of the world’s most dangerous hotspots.

According to lawyers for the guards, the men are: Donald Ball, a former Marine from West Valley City, Utah; Dustin Heard, a former Marine from Knoxville, Tenn.; Evan Liberty, a former Marine from Rochester, N.H.; Nick Slatten, a former Army sergeant from Sparta, Tenn.; and Paul Slough, an Army veteran from Keller, Texas.

The men are charged following the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians in a busy Baghdad intersection. Documents in the case remain sealed but are expected to become public Monday, when the men have been ordered to surrender.

Union Workers Occupy Chicago Factory! Updated with How to Help.

It’s the 1930s, folks.  In Chicago, workers have been driven to the wall and are taking action:

Idled workers occupy factory in Chicago

By RUPA SHENOY, Associated Press Writer Rupa Shenoy, Associated Press Writer – 43 mins ago

CHICAGO – Workers laid off from their jobs at a factory have occupied the building and are demanding assurances they’ll get severance and vacation pay that they say they are owed.

About 200 employees of Republic Windows and Doors began their sit-in Friday, the last scheduled day of the plant’s operation.

We’re going to stay here until we win justice,” said Blanca Funes, 55, of Chicago, after occupying the building for several hours. Speaking in Spanish, Funes said she fears losing her home without the wages she feels she’s owed. A 13-year employee of Republic, she estimated her family can make do for three months without her paycheck. Most of the factory’s workers are Hispanic.


We’re doing something we haven’t since the 1930s, so we’re trying to make it work,” Fried said.…

Here’s a great first hand report from Fred Kronsky, a blogger and head of a Chicago teachers union:

We were not exactly sure what we were going to do when we got there.

Republic Windows and Doors had suddenly announced it was shuttering its plant. The law requires 60 days notice or 60 days pay. The workers had received neither.

So, instead of leaving, they decided to stay.

It just seemed like we needed to let the folks who were sitting-in at Republic Windows and Doors know that they had support.


Armando Robles came up to our car.

“I’m Fred Klonsky. I’m president of a teachers’ union local and we wanted to come by and show our support.

Senor Robles stuck out his hand. We shook. “I’m the local president here.”

“What do you need?”

“Coffee,” Robles said. “We’ve been inside since this morning and the people had some lunch, but nothing since then.”

“How many people?” I asked.

“About 150.”

Hmmm. 150 coffees.…

More, after the fold.

Buddha Says Don’t Buy

Over at Adbusters, a current article suggests that Buddha wouldn’t buy much for Christmas….

What would the Buddha buy? Not too much, not too little. Picture him with his own reusable grocery bag slung over his shoulder, talking to a shopper about making mindful choices: “Do you really need it?” “Where does it come from?” “How will it affect the environment when you’re done?” He might have enjoyed celebrating International Buy Nothing Day on November 29 as a spiritual retreat from frantic holiday shopping

Not a message the panicked retailers want you to inhale. Despite the fact that Americans are losing their jobs and losing their houses, the retailers want you to buy stuff. I even want to buy stuff buying stuff creates a false sense of well being. Yes. I still matter in this crazy capitalist world if I can buy stuff. After all one of the most oft repeated myths of Reaganism is that his administration promoted a consumer driven recovery. We were supposed to fight back against terrorism by buying stuff. Because of course the terrorists hate us for our malls so if we were using them we had to be enveloped in some mass resistance. And what would be the point to a mythical economic recovery: yes we would be able to buy stuff again.

The author of the article at adbusters argues….

With Dharma, a marketplace can be seen as an opportunity to practice mindfulness, rather than mindless consumption. Nothing exotic – we do it every day. In each advertisement and at each potential point of purchase is a karmic choice, the opportunity to practice wise compassion for the universal human condition. The bodhisattva shopper vows to consider all beings.

The problem is Americans aren’t wired that way. Those of us who escape the ravages of this ongoing economic shrivel are likely to go back to our old habits. The only people who will learn something are the ones who end up permanently displaced and those will be the exact group nobody wants to hear from. Just to negative. Especially in a nation so bleakly defined by winners and losers. Indeed, the new “class war” might not end up being waged against Wall street, or “the rich” or corporate America but the dumbass people who took the sub-prime mortgages or bought houses that took up too much of their income. No doubt that will be the language of a resurgent Republicanism. Some people just didn’t have the right to assume they could get in on the game of American consumerism. And look they dragged us all down.

Two Words

The current edition of ColorLines has an article titled Two Words That Can Get You Life in Prison by Raj Jayadev. Its mostly the story of Joshua Herrera, a 24 year old aspiring fire fighter who learned the hard way what you can be sentenced to life in prison for being in the wrong place at the wrong time if you are a young man of color in this country. Here’s a bit of the story.

Herrera was out one night with friends. He drove three of them to the home of Thomas Martinez, a boyfriend of one of the young men’s mother. The men wanted to confront Martinez, who had allegedly abused the mother, and retrieve her belongings from the house.

Herrera stayed in the car while his friends entered the home. Martinez fled the scene and later claimed that one of the defendants had a shotgun. According to court testimony, Martinez was assaulted by one of the defendants, Richard Rodriguez. According to police reports, the young men returned to the car with a safe and two ounces of methamphetamines.

After dropping off his friends, Herrera was pulled over by police three blocks from his family home. His car, it would later be revealed, had been under surveillance by detectives investigating one of Herrera’s friends. He was arrested on the spot.

So what are the two words that, were it not for the heroic efforts of his mother, family and community, would have landed Herrera in jail for life with no prior criminal record? Gang member.  

“almost homeless”

Wearing ‘almost homeless’ sign, ex-executive seeks work

Paul Nawrocki says he’s beyond the point where he cares about humiliation.

Docudharma Times Saturday December 6

Why Is It so Difficult

To Help Those Who Really Need It?    

Saturday’s Headlines:

Exxon Valdez victims receive first payments

A month ago, the hospitals were overflowing. Now they lie empty

Zimbabwe soldiers to appear before a court martial: police

Venice flood fails to damp down fight over sea walls

Sarkozy to seek EU climate deal

Indian terror suspects linked to Mumbai plot

Sri Lankan Army Is Pushing for End to 25-Year War Against the Tamil Rebels

In Iraq, ‘a Prison Full of Innocent Men’

Head of nuclear watchdog calls efforts against Iran ‘a failure’

23 seconds of the Mexican drug war

Democrats Set to Offer Loans for Carmakers


Published: December 5, 2008

WASHINGTON – Faced with staggering new unemployment figures, Democratic Congressional leaders said on Friday that they were ready to provide a short-term rescue plan for American automakers, and that they expected to hold a vote on the legislation in a special session next week.

Seeking to end a weeks-long stalemate between the Bush administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, senior Congressional aides said that the money would most likely come from $25 billion in federally subsidized loans intended for developing fuel-efficient cars.

By breaking that impasse, the lawmakers could also clear the way for the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., to request the remaining $350 billion of the financial industry bailout fund knowing he will not get bogged down in a fight over aiding Detroit.

The schooling of a mountain jihadist

Former Lashkar-e-Toiba militants in Lahore tell Patrick Cockburn how students are indoctrinated by a ‘charity

Saturday, 6 December 2008

As the snow began to melt in the mountains, Abdul Rahman, a teacher from a school in Lahore, made his way from Pakistan into Indian-controlled Kashmir, moving slowly to avoid Indian army outposts. He lived on packets of cold rice he kept inside his coat. The young man was a member of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the militant Islamist group which India says trained and directed the 10 gunmen who killed at least 171 people in Mumbai last month.

Rahman’s military activities were directed against Indian forces in Kashmir. There, he contacted sympathisers and scouted the terrain so he could give a convincing account of himself when he was stopped by Indian security forces, as happened frequently.



Feds OK rule allowing loaded weapons in national parks

By Rob Hotakainen | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON – Some visitors to the nation’s parks and wildlife refuges will be allowed to carry loaded weapons beginning in January under a plan given final approval Friday by the Bush administration.

As expected, the Interior Department decided to scrap its longtime ban on loaded weapons. Under the new regulation, individuals will be allowed to carry loaded, concealed weapons in parks or wildlife refuges if they have state permits to carry concealed weapons in the state in which the national park or refuge is located.

Under current regulations, firearms in the national parks must be unloaded and inoperable. That means they must have trigger locks or be stored in a car trunk or in a special case.

Bush: Memoirs to highlight HIS difficult times in Office

For the love of all that is holy, Mr. Bush!  

What the hell is it with your run-away ego and your inability to understand that the people of this country, HELL, the people of this world, do not care about what you feel to be YOUR personal crises’ that you’ve faced while in office.  

You do realize that the entire population of your country is currently mired in a devastating recession of your making?  

You realize that your attempt to wipe your backside with the Constitution of this country, your green light to torture people, your thumbing of your nose regarding the “rule of law”, your lies, your wars due to lies, your inept ignorance of reality and your inability to look at yourself in the mirror and say even to yourself “I was wrong”, have made you the most un-pitied person in the world?  

You do realize this, don’t you Mr. Bush?  See, I’m not getting a warm fuzzy on the fact that you do realize this.  Let me explain.

Actually, let the snippets from this article on CNN explain.  Then I’ll pile on.

Late Night Karaoke

Orators Welcome

Johnny Cash Hurt

Banks, Cars, Class wars, frustrations, and petty politics

Amazing, simply amazing.  For the past two days I’ve been watching these hearings on the automakers, and find myself more aghast than anything else.  Actually, it’s more than that.  I think I’ve had this almost sickening feeling, a feeling where anger is meshed in with a humiliation and sadness.  It isn’t just the automakers that has been the cause of this, but that they symbolize how far we’ve fallen.

Random Japan

Ah Singapore

You go, gals!

Naoko Yamazaki, a 37-year-old mom, will become the second Japanese female astronaut when she rides the US space shuttle Atlantis in February 2010, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced.

Japanese runner Yoshimi Ozaki passed countrywoman Yoko Shibui with a late surge to win last month’s Tokyo International Women’s Marathon, the final running of the race. A women’s field will be added to the Tokyo Marathon to take its place.

Sixteen-year-old schoolgirl Eri Yoshida, said to have a nasty knuckleball, became the first woman ever selected in Japanese men’s pro baseball when she was drafted by the independent league club Kobe 9 Cruise.

In other Cruise news, a Toyota Land Cruiser will take part in the grueling Dakar Rally powered by used tempura cooking oil collected by students and donated from school cafeterias and local restaurants. Former Formula One racer Ukyo Katayama will pilot the vehicle on its deep-fried drive through the desert.

WTF? 6 Months In Jail For A Word?

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

Another sign of the end of the world. The venerable f-word is not to be uttered in certain courtrooms in Cincinnati in its participle form.  Under any circumstances.  Those who say it no matter to whom get 6 months.  WTF?

The Enquirer reports:

For the second day in a row, Judge Robert Ruehlman threw someone in jail and cited him for contempt for cussing in the courtroom.

It was an accused gang member Wednesday. On Thursday, it was a private attorney in a non-criminal case.

And what, prey tell, were these cusses?

Brautigam, who is an attorney but isn’t licensed in Ohio, asked Ruehlman for more time to file documents. Ruehlman gave it to him.

As Koenig and Brautigam turned to walk away from the judge, Brautigam called Koenig “a (bleeping) liar.”

“He used the famous F-word,” Koenig said. “(Ruehlman) asked Mr. Brautigam if he said that.”

Brautigam admitted he had and had directed it at Koenig.

Ruehlman cited Brautigam for contempt and sent him to jail for six months.

The word was not directed at the judge.  It was directed at opposing counsel. Apparently it was overheard by the judge.  No matter.  6 months.

The judge decided the sentence should be 6 months because he gave somebody else 6 months for cussing.  WTF?  6 months in jail for the F-word as an adjective?  OK.  What was the previous offense that set the bar so high?

Jamel Sechrest was before Ruehlman in a Wednesday hearing with four other accused members of the “Taliband,” a gang police say has terrorized Northside and its residents by selling drugs and committing other crimes.

Sechrest, unhappy at having to wait until Feb. 2 for a trial – and sitting in jail until then – muttered “That’s (bleeping) bull (bleep).”

“You don’t say bull (bleep) in the courtroom,” Ruehlman told Sechrest before citing him for contempt, sentencing him to six months in jail.

Sechrest it turns out said this to the judge.  He did not say it to his lawyer and that was not overheard.  Isn’t that different from the lawyer’s remark to opposing counsel?  Evidently not.

If you’re trying to understand this, here’s the apparent rule of law in this particular Cincinnati Courtroom: say the F-word participle as an adjective in any context to anyone, 6 months.  If the modified noun is a bad word, you apparently don’t get extra time for the noun.  I have no idea what you get if you invoke the F-word as a verb or an imperative.

I doubt the lawyer will spend the time in jail.  He’ll appeal and manage to be bailed pending a decision on his appeal.  The alleged Taliband member is, I think, just plain stuck.

This is all very interesting in light of the old US Supreme Court decision in Cohen v. California, 403 US 15 (1971).  Young Mr. Cohen had a jacket on his lap while he was in a courtroom in the LA County courthouse.  When he left the courtroom but was still in the halls of justice, he put the jacket on.  The problem was that it said, “Fuck the Draft” on the back.  He was arrested and charged with a crime.  Said the US Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision striking down the conviction

“[A]bsent a more particularized and compelling reason for its actions the State may not, consistently with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, make the simple public display of this single four-letter expletive a criminal offense.”

Likewise, its utterance?  In his majority decision, Justice Harlan wrote, “One man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.”  (A lyrical aside: Ah for that Supreme Court, alack, alack, alack, how they are missed.)

Meanwhile back in Cincinatti, we’re all treated to another sign of the end of the world.  The F participle has become so powerful, that you can be incarcerated simply for saying it.  George Carlin and Lenny Bruce were apparently right.  Some words, in particularly the F-word used in its participle form, keep their power because we nonsensically both censure and censor their use.  

And then we have the learned judge.  When he discovered that his initial sentence to the alleged gang banger was too harsh, he doesn’t amend the first sentence to make it fair.  No.  That would show weakness?  Or rationality?  Instead, he just goes ahead and gives the too stringent sentence to somebody else.  He makes the crime fit the punishment. Does that solve the problem with the first sentence?  No, it does not.  It replicates and magnifies it.  It’s the end of the world.

Who caused the great crash of 2008?

Original article, subheaded Lee Sustar analyzes the roots of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression–and shows why Marxism offers the best way of understanding what went wrong, via Socialist Worker (US):

THERE ARE plenty of people who should be held accountable for turning an ordinary recession that began a year ago into a global catastrophe.

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