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As is generally the case during breaking news, additional details later surface that serve to shed further light on what actually transpired.  In the case of slain New York City Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos yesterday afternoon, details have surfaced that point to the possible culpability of NYPD command for failure to inform its officers of an imminent threat specific to police officers in Liu and Ramos' immediate location.

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This one's right up our alley, Kossacks.  We're naturals!  Our mainspring is right there in the Democratic Party Platform: "We will continue to fight inequalities in our criminal justice system."

Meteor Blades wrote about Tuesday's U.S. Sentencing Commission hearing where testimony was heard concerning the possibility of retroactive application of the new drug sentencing guidelines that go into effect on November 1st in prospective cases.  His diary was titled DOJ-backed proposal would cut drug sentences of up to 20,000 prisoners. That's another good step. Check it out, if you haven't already.  

Here's the catch, though, on retroactivity: there were opponents at that Commission hearing - vociferous ones - some of whom do not want the new guidelines to be applied at all to those already incarcerated and some of whom want certain restrictions placed on the application of retroactivity.  This proposal for equal justice, modest as it is, is not yet a done deal, People!

In July, the U.S. Sentencing Commission will make its decision - but, in the interim, the Commission is also soliciting public comments.  They want to hear your voice!  At the end of this diary is contact information for you to email the Commission your views for its consideration. Please convey your support for retroactive application of the drug sentencing guidelines without restrictions. That is the only just and equitable outcome and here's why:

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It's been a rough, disturbing, eleven days for the people of Charleston, West Virginia, a city already hurting before the chemical spill that devastated their local economy and caused 300,000 residents to be fearful for their long-term health.

While Charlestonians discuss ways to recoup their economic losses, the value of adequate regulations, and whether their restored water supply is, in fact, safe, another event is about to unfold which the good people of West Virginia may find equally rough and disturbing.   Soon, residents will be watching the machinations of multi-millionaire, J. Clifford Forrest III, as he navigates the bankruptcy reorganization process to protect his $20 million dollar investment in Freedom Industries and sheds the corporate responsibilities and liabilities assumed through its purchase.

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Very briefly ...

If news reports have left you with the impression that Freedom Industries - the company that has contaminated the water supply serving 300,000 people (and who knows how much wildlife) in nine West Virginia counties - is a rinky-dink Charleston operation, that might be because the media isn't mentioning its influential ties.

In 2008, Freedom Industries was specially selected by Georgia-Pacific Chemicals as a distributor of G-P's Talon brand mining reagents for West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Minnesota, Kentucky and Michigan.  

Georgia-Pacific Chemicals is, of course, a subsidiary of Georgia-Pacific, which was acquired by Koch Industries in 2005.  

"We are excited to offer our customers inventive products like Talon that push past the status quo in coal recovery to bring profit and productivity benefits to mining preparation plants," said Joshua Herzing, director of business development for Freedom Industries. "Georgia Pacific's longstanding technical expertise and R&D capabilities combined with the industry knowledge, skill and reputation of Freedom Industries will provide an excellent platform for growth and development of new technology to meet existing and future customer demands. We are proud to be part of Georgia-Pacific's strategy as a global supplier of mining reagents in multiple market segments."
There's lots more to the story, People.

Despite the facts that i) 9/11 occurred while the system was "blinking red" using then-available intelligence, and ii) opinion by informed Senators and the President's NSA Commission Report conclusion that in the past seven years, bulk intelligence gathering has prevented exactly zero terrorist attacks, perennial war-monger and authoritarian, Elliott Abrams, thinks we need to "relearn" a lesson about allowing the NSA to continue to "connect the dots."

In an opinion published by Abrams this morning on the Council for Foreign Relations blog, NSA: These are the Dots, he says the rise of Constitutional, legal and privacy concerns against bulk collection are "hysteria" and that there are two ways of stopping it:

One is leadership. Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Diane Feinstein and House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers are supplying some, refusing to be stampeded. Will the President supply any? Will he explain to Americans what the facts are, and why it would be dangerous to join the stampede? So far, we do not know.

The second thing that could stop or reverse this drive to prevent NSA from doing its work would be another terrorist attack. Then, just as after 9/11, there would be calls for more active intelligence gathering, and we would find ourselves asking “who were the fools who stopped us from collecting the data we need? Who stopped us from collecting and connecting the dots?”

Oh, sure ... Abrams does add that it would be "tragic," but to even intimate, as Abrams does, that another attack would be a constructive solution to the rising opposition to NSA spying makes his statement sound much more like "Nice country you have there.  It would a shame if ..."

Here's looking squarely at you, Elliott, should anything of the sort happen to occur.


It’s no accident that among the multifarious “justifications” contained in the DOJ’s  2006 Legal Authorities Supporting the Activities of the National Security Agency, the following paragraph - seemingly unrelated to the principal arguments attempting to support warrantless wiretapping - was tucked away on page 30:

… it is clear that some presidential authorities in this context [the Supremacy Clause] are beyond Congress’s ability to regulate. For example, as the Supreme Court explained in Curtiss-Wright, the President “makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it.” 299 U.S. at 319.  Similarly, President Washington established early in the history of the Republic the Executive’s absolute authority to maintain the secrecy of negotiations with foreign powers, even against congressional efforts to secure information. See id. at 320-21.

Convoluted as the justifications were, the example still hardly seems germane to the topic of domestic surveillance - yet its inclusion was not irrelevant.  As it happens, along with defending warrantless wiretapping, DOJ was providing a cudgel for George Bush to wield over a somewhat reluctant Senate with which Bush had long been embattled, attempting to convince them to ratify a treaty he had signed two months after September 11, 2001.  After protracted efforts, Bush prevailed and, on August 3, 2006, the Senate voted to allow ratification of the treaty which privacy and human rights advocates, worldwide, abhorred and that, ultimately, could be used to provide a back door to obtain surveillance intelligence on the public.

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Not a single death row inmate has received a trial before a jury fairly representative of the community in which he or she was tried. In every case, the juries who convicted those prisoners were chosen through special selection procedures, unique to capital cases, that effectively stacked the juries against the accused.
          Clay S. Conrad
          Jury scholar, criminal defense attorney
          and author of Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine

     This diary relies partly upon an article by Mr. Conrad titled "Death-Qualification" Leads to Biased Juries, in addition to research of certain case law, to explain how selecting "death qualified" juries occurs.  As Mr. Conrad writes in his article, that process has, thusfar in the U.S., "resisted public scrutiny."  We should take a hard look at how this primary mechanism for the application of the death penalty is so fundamentally flawed.

    Some of you may recognize this as a slightly edited diary that I published several years ago here.  It garnered a number of thoughtful responses that are worthy of exploration, as well.

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    In a previous diary titled Prop 8: Proponents May Lack Standing to Appeal, I mentioned that on the same day Judge Walker ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, the Court also entered his 17-page Order denying the motion of Imperial County to intervene in the case.  Imperial County, which is backed by "Advocates for Faith and Freedom," sought the ability to intervene in Perry v. Schwarzenegger in order to bring an appeal to the Ninth Circuit because concerns about the Defendant-Intervenor's standing had arisen.  Judge Walker, in considering Imperial County's Motion to Intervene, "noted that 'Imperial County raises serious concerns whether the existing defendants are willing and able to seek appellate review.' But, he concluded," Imperial County itself lacked standing."

  Today, Imperial County filed a Notice of Appeal with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

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    Last up on the docket yesterday in Perry v. Schwarzenegger is the Plaintiffs' and Plaintiff-Intervenor's Joint Opposition to Defendant-Intervenors' Motion For A Stay Pending Appeal (the "Opposition").  The Opposition, written by Olson and Boies and joined by the City and County of San Francisco, vociferously argues against a stay and forcefully addresses the four justifications that should be met in order for Judge Walker to consider granting a stay:

..."(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies."

    The Opposition begins with an assertion that the appeal is meritless, that the "Proponents simply repeat in their stay motion the various unsubstantiated, unfounded, and illogical arguments this Court first rejected at summary judgment, and then rejected again after a full blown trial."

    And then the case takes a twist...

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I confess.

I’m the person who posted that image that conveyed a slightly snide undertone toward Woozles in a recent Pootie diary.
You know the one.  Photo of Pootie and Woozle together.   "Mussle" in LOLcat script above the Woozle’s head.   "Brainz" above the Pootie’s.

I’d show you if I weren’t so very ashamed of myself now.

You see, in recent days, I’ve gained a much greater appreciation and new-found love for the Woozles of the world.   And I’ve learned that, as special and wonderful as Pooties are, there are some incomparable things for which this Pootie lover should give the Woozles their well-deserved accolades...

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Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 08:19 PM PST

What A Wonderful World

by dharmafarmer

A photo array of Haitian relief efforts...

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Sun Aug 16, 2009 at 11:22 AM PDT

Healthcare Just Like Congress Has

by dharmafarmer

We’ve heard it spoken many times – the American people deserve healthcare coverage comparable to that enjoyed by members of Congress.  The sentiment makes sense; after all, they are our public servants whose healthcare is substantially subsidized by taxpayers’ dollars.  Why shouldn’t the public have access to comparable plans?

No doubt you’ve also heard the terminology "Cadillac Coverage" and "Gold-plated Plan" used to describe Congressional healthcare options, but you just might be stunned to learn that concentrating on the commonly accepted meaning of those terms reveals only half the story.  Let’s take a closer look at the Senate – where opposition to a public option for healthcare reform is strongest.

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