Archive for the ‘Government’ Category
No real surprise, I think. It seems like much of the government (including much of Congress) is now corrupt and simply working to line their pockets rather than to serve the public. And no one in power seems interested in doing anything about it—certainly not Obama.
Eric Zuesse reports:
Bloomberg News reported, on April 8th, that a Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuting attorney, James Kidney, said at his recent retirement party on March 27th, that his prosecutions of Goldman Sachs and other mega-banks had been squelched by top people at the agency, because they “were more focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service than on bringing difficult cases.” He suggested that SEC officials knew that Wall Street would likely hire them after the SEC at much bigger pay than their government remuneration was, so long as the SEC wouldn’t prosecute those megabank executives on any criminal charges for helping to cause the mortgage-backed securities scams and resulting 2008 economic crash.
His ”remarks drew applause from the crowd of about 70 people,” according to the Bloomberg report. This would indicate that other SEC prosecutors feel similarly squelched by their bosses.
Kidney’s speech said that his superiors did not “believe in afflicting the comfortable and powerful.”
Referring to the agency’s public-relations tactic of defending its prosecution-record by use of what he considered to be misleading statistics, Kidney said, “It’s a cancer” at the SEC.
Two recent studies have provided additional depth to Kidney’s assertions, by showing that Obama and his Administration had lied when they promised to prosecute Wall Street executives who had cheated outside investors, and deceived homebuyers, when creating and selling mortgage-backed securities for sale to investors throughout the world.
President Obama personally led in this lying.
On May 20, 2009, at the signing into law of both the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, Obama said: “This bill nearly doubles the FBI’s mortgage and financial fraud program, allowing it to better target fraud in hard-hit areas. That’s why it provides the resources necessary for other law enforcement and federal agencies, from the Department of Justice to the SEC to the Secret Service, to pursue these criminals, bring them to justice, and protect hardworking Americans affected most by these crimes. It’s also why it expands DOJ’s authority to prosecute fraud that takes place in many of the private institutions not covered under current federal bank fraud criminal statutes — institutions where more than half of all subprime mortgages came from as recently as four years ago.”
Then, in the President’s 24 January 2012 State of the Union Address, he said: “Tonight, I’m asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. (Applause.) This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans. Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect our people and our economy.”
However, two years later, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued on 13 March 2014 its “Audit of the Department of Justice’s Efforts to Address Mortgage Fraud,” and reported that Obama’s promises to prosecute turned out to be just a lie. DOJ didn’t even try; and they lied even about their efforts. The IG found: “DOJ did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Investigative Division ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest criminal threat in its lowest crime category. Additionally, we found mortgage fraud to be a low priority, or not [even] listed as a priority, for the FBI Field Offices we visited.” Not just that, but, “Many Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) informed us about underreporting and misclassification of mortgage fraud cases.” This was important because, “Capturing such information would allow DOJ to … better evaluate its performance in targeting high-profile offenders.”
Privately, Obama had told Wall Street executives that he would protect them. . .
The US today: Free passes to high officials to commit criminal acts without suffering any consequences
It’s sort of depressing to read, but this column at TomDispatch.com shows how the US is reshaping itself as the oligarchy takes over: High officials no longer have to fear prosecution for the crimes they commit. The article includes specific examples, so it is actually happening.
UPDATE: And note also how the Obama Administration is closing off information about government activities, so along with an oligarchy we’re headed into a secret sort of government. Obama has certainly been a grave disappointment regarding executive power and governmental overreach (and compliance with the law).
And recall this study on how the US was already an oligarchy a dozen years ago.
That explains why things with 90% public approval ratings don’t happen: the public is not in control. Read this post for details of the study that verifies the fact.
A video interview with transcript at Democracy Now! Their blurb:
Award-winning journalist Matt Taibbi is out with an explosive new book that asks why the vast majority of white-collar criminals have avoided prison since the financial crisis began, while an unequal justice system imprisons the poor and people of color on a mass scale. In The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, Taibbi explores how the Depression-level income gap between the wealthy and the poor is mirrored by a “justice” gap in who is targeted for prosecution and imprisonment. “It is much more grotesque to consider the non-enforcement of white-collar criminals when you do consider how incredibly aggressive law enforcement is with regard to everybody else,” Taibbi says.
An incredibly cynical and mean-spirited—but very vigorous—effort is underway to prevent the government from simplifying filing tax returns. The power behind the effort: companies that sell tax-preparation software. I know that many will think, “So what? Business as usual.” Our expectation nowadays is that business decisions are made without any regard for morality, that morality does not belong in the business world, and any moral concern must immediately defer to profit.
This is an enormously bad idea and trend. It means, for example, that businesses are free to poison our drinking water if that is profitable for them. So they do it. Repeatedly, while we simply watch, get sick, and die.
Liz Day writes in ProPublica of the current effort to screw the public:
Over the last year, a rabbi, a state NAACP official, a small town mayor and other community leaders wrote op-eds and letters to Congress with remarkably similar language on a remarkably obscure topic.
Each railed against a long-standing proposal that would give taxpayers the option to use pre-filled tax returns. They warned that the program would be a conflict of interest for the IRS and would especially hurt low-income people, who wouldn’t have the resources to fight inaccurate returns. Rabbi Elliot Dorff wrote in a Jewish Journal op-ed that he “shudder[s] at the impact this program will have on the most vulnerable people in American society.”
“It’s alarming and offensive” that the IRS would target the “the most vulnerable Americans,” two other letters said. The concept, known as return-free filing, is a government “experiment” that would mean higher taxes for the poor, two op-eds argued.
The letters and op-eds don’t mention that, as ProPublica laid out last year, return-free filing might allow tens of millions of Americans to file their taxes for free and in minutes. Or that, under proposals authored by several federal lawmakers, it would be voluntary, using information the government already receives from banks and employers and that taxpayers could adjust. Or that the concept has been endorsed by Presidents Obama and Reagan and is already a reality in some parts of Europe.
So, where did the letters and op-eds come from? Here’s one clue:
Rabbi Dorff says he was approached by a former student, Emily Pflaster, who sent him details and asked him to write an op-ed alerting the Jewish community to the threat.
What Pflaster did not tell him is that she works for a PR and lobbying firm with connections to Intuit, the maker of best-selling tax software TurboTax.
“I wish she would have told me that,” Dorff told ProPublica.
The website of Pflaster’s firm, JCI Worldwide, had listed Intuit among its clients, but removed it after ProPublica contacted them. Pflaster said Intuit had been listed by mistake, but added that the firm does work for the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a trade group of which Intuit is a member. Pflaster also said her firm has reached out to multiple groups and encouraged them to share information about the “flaws” of return-free filing.
The only CCIA member that’s involved with tax preparation software is Intuit, and it’s also the only member of the group that has taken a public position on return-free tax filing.
Intuit has long worked against return-free filing. (See How the Maker of TurboTax Fought Free, Simple Tax Filing.) The company has said in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it views free government tax preparation as a risk to its business.
Last year, the company spent more than $2.6 million on lobbying, some of it to lobby on four bills related to the issue, federal lobbying records show.
Both Intuit and CCIA declined to answer questions about their connections to the letters and op-eds. . .
Continue reading. There’s a good graphic at the link.
To my mind, this is close enough to evil as to make no difference.
The SEC pretty clearly currently sees it job as running interference for Wall Street against the Federal government, becoming an agency that protects rather than regulates Wall Street. The degree to which the SEC studiously avoided investigating Bernie Madoff is one prime example, but the trend continues.
Eric Zuesse has an article in Counterpunch that the SEC is simply corrupt. He spells out the evidence in detail.
Robert Schmidt’s article in Bloomberg News spells out the case an SEC prosecutor made in his retirement speech against SEC leadership. That article begins:
A trial attorney from the Securities and Exchange Commission said his bosses were too “tentative and fearful” to bring many Wall Street leaders to heel after the 2008 credit crisis, echoing the regulator’s outside critics.
James Kidney, who joined the SEC in 1986 and retired this month, offered the critique in a speech at his goodbye party. His remarks hit home with many in the crowd of SEC lawyers and alumni thanks to a part of his resume not publicly known: He had campaigned internally to bring charges against more executives in the agency’s 2010 case against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS)
The SEC has become “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors,” Kidney said, according to a copy of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg News. “On the rare occasions when enforcement does go to the penthouse, good manners are paramount. Tough enforcement, risky enforcement, is subject to extensive negotiation and weakening.” . . .
And Pam Martens at Wall Street on Parade reviews the corruption of Wall Street and the SEC in a good summary article. From that article:
On June 28, 2006, Gary Aguirre, a former SEC attorney, testified before the U.S. Senate on the Judiciary. During his final days at the SEC, Aguirre had pushed to serve a subpoena on John Mack, the powerful former official of Morgan Stanley, to take testimony about his potential involvement in insider trading. Mack was protected; Aguirre was fired via a phone call while on vacation — just three days after contacting the Office of Special Counsel to discuss the filing of a complaint about the SEC’s protection of Mack.
Aguirre told the Senate hearing that the SEC had thrown a “roadblock” in his investigation because the suspected insider trader had “powerful political connections.” Aguirre returned on December 5, 2006 to testify further before the Senate Judiciary Committee, providing the following additional insights: . . .
These three articles are worth reading to understand how utterly our institutions (and the Obama Administration) have failed us in reining in Wall Street. Of course, Obama got a substantial amount of campaign money contributed from Wall Street. I assume letting Wall Street do as it wants was the quid pro quo.
The US objects, naturally enough. And yet the high civilian death toll and questionable legality of the attacks makes the inquiry perfectly natural. The US generally adopts a one-sided view of things and seems disinclined to approach things with equity—equal treatment—in mind, part of the idea of US exceptionalism, I suppose: “We can do as we want, and we reserve the right to condemn strongly and even punish other nations who do as we do.” What would the US think of some other nation kidnapping a US citizen from within the US, spiriting him out of the country, torturing him for months, and then releasing him in some backwoods spot? Would we think that was okay, particularly if the citizen was innocent of any wrongdoing? The US seems to think it was fine when we did it, but I bet the US would object to being on the receiving end.
For example, the US is (petulantly) refusing to issue a visa to Iran’s Ambassador to the UN, so he will be unable to travel to the UN. (This also shows the lack of wisdom in placing an international body on territory controlled by one government, which can then restrict access as it pleases.) TIME magazine notes:
Under a 1947 treaty establishing the headquarters of the UN in New York, the U.S. is generally required to expeditiously approve visa requests for UN diplomats. But on Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said visas can still be denied on “security, terrorism, and foreign policy” grounds.
However, neither Psaki nor Carney would expand on the reasons for denying Aboutalebi’s visa.
It’s very strange that the US refuses to provide a reason for its refusal, but presumably the Ambassador either represents a security threat, or is a terrorist, or it’s a foreign policy reason (though the US is in fact attempting to negotiate an agreement with Iran). But the (unanimous) Congressional vote offers a clue:
Outraged by his involvement in the 1979 hostage-taking of Americans in Tehran, the House unanimously passed the bill Thursday. That followed Senate passage on Monday, which was also unanimous. If signed by President Barack Obama, the bill would bar representatives to the United Nations from entering the U.S., where the U.N. is headquartered, if such persons have engaged in espionage or terrorist activities against the United States.
And the NY Times reports:
The vote sent what sponsors called a blunt rejoinder to the Iranian government for having selected a nominee who played a role, however minor, in the 1979 American hostage crisis in Tehran.
Let’s think about that. In 1953 the US, using the CIA, covertly overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran. The US deliberately destroyed their government and put in place puppets (in effect). The reason: we wanted their oil, and we were willing to destroy their government to get it.
In the light of that, and of the atrocities visited on Iranians by the SAVAK, is it any wonder that the average Iranian had little love for the US. Possibly the US citizenry, if a foreign power overthrew our government and put in place a puppet government to seize our national resources, would have no objection and would welcome the rape of their country. But Iranians apparently didn’t like it, and in 1979 seized the US Embassy and held the occupants hostage for 444 days. None were killed. (8 servicemen died by accident in a rescue attempt; one Iranian was killed.)
So: a reasonable provocation, no deaths, and 33 years later the US bars the Iranian Ambassador because he was one of the students who particpated in that uprising. He was 22 years old at the time. Have you ever heard of college-age youth rising in protest about a cause they see as important? (Cf. Occupy Wall Street.)
A lot has happened since then, and holding the Ambassador responsible for understandable actions more than 30 years ago seems excessive, especially given the US’s own responsibility in creating the situation (by illegally overthrowing a democratically elected government).
You can see how other nations might view the US in a negative light, in part because the US tends to skip over its own faults and its responsibility for bad actions.
Now, back to the UN Human Rights Council: John Zorocostas reports in McClatchy:
The U.N. Human Rights Council agreed Friday, over the strong objections of the United States, to study whether American drone strikes comply with international law.
The resolution, which was drafted by Pakistan and co-sponsored by Yemen, both countries where the U.S. has undertaken multiple drone strikes, was adopted on a 27-6 vote, with 14 abstentions. The United States, Great Britain and France all voted no, but several NATO allies abstained.
Human rights advocacy groups, led by New York-based Human Rights Watch, mounted a strong campaign to garner support for the the motion.
In a letter circulated to the 47-members of the council on Thursday, the advocacy group argued that while currently only the U.S., Great Britain and Israel use armed drones in operations against alleged terrorists, it cautioned “that other states, and non-state actors, may acquire them in the future.”
Human Rights Watch also said it has “serious concerns that some if not many U.S. drone attacks may violate international law.”
A report published earlier this month, by Ben Emmerson, the U.N. independent expert on the promotion and protection for human rights and fundamental freedoms found that a U.S. drone strike in October 2006 at a religious seminary in Chenagai in the Bajaur tribal region of Pakistan killed up to 80 people instantly, 69 of whom were children.
The report also said that in December, a U.S. drone strike on a convoy of vehicles making their way to a wedding celebration outside the city of Rada in Yemen killed as many as 15, the majority of whom may have been civilians.
The resolution urges that all “states” using drones should ensure that they are complying “with their obligations under international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular, the principles of precaution, distinction and proportionality.” . . .
US drone strikes are killing civilians in countries who, naturally enough, object to a foreign power arbitrarily dealing out death to citizens simply because it has the power. It seems perfectly logical to bring the issue to the Human Rights Commission, and the only reason the US objects is that in this case the US is the transgressor. (If another nation were doing such things to the US or US allies, the US would certainly demand a review and action.)
The utter hypocrisy of US foreign policy is repugnant. And yes, I know that doubtless there are other nations who are worse. That does not lessen, and is not relevant to, the US idea of fairness, justice, and international law, which seems to be mostly “might makes right,” and anything the US does is good. This is a child’s view.
Toward the end of Zorocostas’s report, he notes:
But a large number of U.S. allies abstained rather than oppose the resolution, including Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Romania, Austria, and Montenegro.
Moreover, neutral European Union member Ireland, and neutral Switzerland voted in support of the motion, along with China, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia, among others.
The EU does not have a common position on the use of armed drones, but there is growing political opposition to them.
In February, the European Parliament, voted 534 to 49 to declare drone strikes “outside a declared war” to be “a violation of international law and of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of that country.”
The US response seems unreasonable, unfair, and inappropriate. In a word, the US does not play well with others. If the nations were children in a sandbox, the US would definitely be the bully.
Paul Krugman has an excellent column on the nightmare of Obamacare—for the GOP. It’s worth looking at the comments to see how mean-spirited some of the commenters are. There are people who really don’t want the poor to get any assistance at all. Very ugly. His column begins:
When it comes to health reform, Republicans suffer from delusions of disaster. They know, just know, that the Affordable Care Act is doomed to utter failure, so failure is what they see, never mind the facts on the ground.
Thus, on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, dismissed the push for pay equity as an attempt to “change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare”; on the same day, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation released a study estimating “a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.” Some nightmare. And the overall gain, including children and those who signed up during the late-March enrollment surge, must be considerably larger.
But while Obamacare is looking like anything but a nightmare, there are indeed some nightmarish things happening on the health care front. For it turns out that there’s a startling ugliness of spirit abroad in modern America — and health reform has brought that ugliness out into the open.
Let’s start with the good news about reform, which keeps coming in. First, there was the amazing come-from-behind surge in enrollments. Then there were a series of surveys — from Gallup, the Urban Institute, and RAND — all suggesting large gains in coverage. Taken individually, any one of these indicators might be dismissed as an outlier, but taken together they paint an unmistakable picture of major progress.
But wait: What about all the people who lost their policies thanks to Obamacare? The answer is . . .
It should be noted that the GOP totally opposes pay equity—that is, paying men and women the same amount for doing the same work. The GOP unanimously voted against a measure to remedy pay equity.
I have occasionally remarked that “CIA” stands for “Criminals In Action,” and that certainly seems to be the case in their kidnapping and torture program, which also resulted in some homicides. Ali Watkins, Jonathan Landay, and Marisa Taylor have a report at McClatchy of some sections leaked from the Senate report. Well worth reading. The report begins:
A still-secret Senate Intelligence Committee report calls into question the legal foundation of the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, a finding that challenges the key defense on which the agency and the Bush administration relied in arguing that the methods didn’t constitute torture.
The report also found that the spy agency failed to keep an accurate account of the number of individuals it held, and that it issued erroneous claims about how many it detained and subjected to the controversial interrogation methods. The CIA has said that about 30 detainees underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.
The CIA’s claim “is BS,” said a former U.S. official familiar with evidence underpinning the report, who asked not to be identified because the matter is still classified. “They are trying to minimize the damage. They are trying to say it was a very targeted program, but that’s not the case.”
The findings are among the report’s 20 main conclusions. Taken together, they paint a picture of an intelligence agency that seemed intent on evading or misleading nearly all of its oversight mechanisms throughout the program, which was launched under the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and ran until 2006.
Some of the report’s other conclusions, which were obtained by McClatchy, include:
_ The CIA used interrogation methods that weren’t approved by the Justice Department or CIA headquarters.
_ The agency impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making regarding the program.
_ The CIA actively evaded or impeded congressional oversight of the program.
_ The agency hindered oversight of the program by its own Inspector General’s Office.
The 6,300-page report is . . .
Many police departments seem to have problems in controlling their members—for example, the Albuquerque Police Department, which has a history of killing the mentally ill.
Attempts have been made in LA (another police department with a record of unprovoked violence and killing) to monitor police at work, but the police don’t like that and cripple the monitoring devices so they can continue current practice. Aviva Shen reports at ThinkProgress:
Los Angeles police officers tampered with voice recording equipment in an apparent attempt to keep their behavior from being monitored, according to an investigation by the Police Commission.
Cops reportedly removed the antennas on at least fifty squad cars, mostly in the Southeast division, which patrols low-income and minority-heavy communities and has a history of excessive force. The antennas help audio recorders worn on cops’ belts transmit back to the car from farther distances.
Police departments are starting to embrace recording equipment in patrol cars and on cops themselves as a way of internally monitoring officers. Cameras in the dashboard of a car turn on automatically when an officer switches on the emergency lights and sirens, and officers also wear audio recorders on their belts. On top of this, the LAPD is also preparing to make officers wear lapel cameras.
Recorders have helped expose a number of police abuses all over the country. In the case of Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man who was beaten to death by cops in nearby Orange County, digital transmitters worn by the officers captured Thomas begging for his life, as well as the officer’s now infamous threat: “See these fists? They’re getting ready to fuck you up.”
Still, even with footage of these abuses, cops rarely face consequences for their actions. In fact, top LAPD officials learned about the sabotaged equipment last summer but kept it under wraps for months. The Police Commission only discovered the tampering during a shooting investigation, where some of the recordings were fuzzy while others were clear. Police departments’ reflex to close ranks and protect abusive officers means many complaints go ignored and dangerous officers stay on the streets, sometimes with fatal results.
The LAPD recently ended over a decade of monitoring by the Justice Department that had been mandated after rampant civil rights abuses and corruption. A federal judge decided the department had reformed enough to lift the federal oversight, as the LAPD promised to continue internal policing like the car recording. The department has been praised for apparently transforming from one of the most corrupt and violent police forces in the nation into a success story.
Do not live or spend much time near fracking sites: the government is failing to regulate fracking and when businesses are given the opportunity, they poison the environment. Lisa Song and Jim Morris report at McClatchy:
People in natural gas drilling areas who complain about nauseating odors, nosebleeds and other symptoms they fear could be caused by shale development are usually told by state regulators that monitoring data show the air quality is fine.
But a new study suggests that the most commonly used air monitoring techniques often underestimate public health threats because they don’t catch toxic emissions that spike at various points during gas production. The study, reported this week in the peer-reviewed journal Reviews on Environmental Health, was conducted by the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, a nonprofit based near Pittsburgh.
A health survey the group released last year found that people who live near drilling sites in Washington County, Pa., in the Marcellus Shale, reported symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, breathing difficulties and nosebleeds, all of which could be caused by pollutants known to be emitted from gas sites. Similar problems have been reported by people who live in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas.
While residents want to know whether gas drilling is affecting the air near their homes – where emissions can vary dramatically over the course of a day – regulators generally use methods designed to assess long-term regional air quality.
They’re “misapplying the technology,” said lead author David Brown, who conducted the study with three of his colleagues at the Environmental Health Project. . .
In the NY Review of Books Daniel Wilkinson describes what’s going on in Venezuela. Pretty bad.
Because the government does only those things that the wealthy and powerful allow it to do: the wealthy and powerful have veto power. Take a look.
Amazing to see something so well established and working so well in other countries being seriously considered in the US. But indeed the states are supposed to be the laboratories of democracy, so I hope this effort comes to fruition so we can see here what it would be like. (Of course, insurance companies and medical profession will undoubtedly do all they can to undermine and sabotage the effort: that’s the American way!)
Only by sending responsible parties to prison, as well as fining the corporation that failed to supervise them adequately, can the sort of corporate crime like the Ford Pinto (gas tank) and the Chevy Cobalt (ignition switch) be curtailed. Read this post and see whether you agree. Holding accountable the persons responisble just seems basic common sense and decency. You don’t get carte blanche because you’re acting as an employee. The law still applies, and a crime committed in a corporate context should be treated exactly as a crime in the civilian context. Because someone is part of the corporate “person” does not mean they relinquish their own personhood.
Interesting article in the NY Times on how Spain is finding that the past will not stay buried.
If nothing is done about the Border Patrol, then I think it indicates the direction that the US is going. Dara Lind writes at Vox:
The US Border Patrol has a problem. And the face of that problem is Esteban Manzanares.
Manzanares, a Border Patrol agent, was on duty along the Rio Grande in March when he came across a Honduran woman and two girls who had crossed the river illegally. Instead of apprehending them, he sexually assaulted the woman and her 14-year-old daughter, slashed the mother’s wrists, and tried to break the teenager’s neck. Then he abducted the other daughter and tied her up in his home before returning to finish his shift.
By the time the FBI was on his trail, Manzanares had killed himself. But the incident called attention to abuse and violence among Border Patrol agents at the worst possible time for the agency.
A few weeks earlier, the press had gotten hold of the unredacted version of an independent report conducted last year on shooting incidents involving Border Patrol agents. The government had released a censored version last fall, but the leaked, full report showed what the officials who oversee Border Patrol had been trying to hide. There were cases of agents stepping into the path of cars trying to escape custody in order to justify shooting at them, and cases of agents firing across the border at Mexicans who were throwing rocks. [Note the repeated pattern of government agencies trying to conceal their missteps and criminal actions. This is why an independent press is necessary---and where, may I ask, was the Inspector General in all this? - LG]
The resulting outcry in the press forced the Border Patrol to issue a few new directives to its agents. But the policy tweaks couldn’t assuage the worry that has slowly been building among residents of both sides of the border for years. How often do Border Patrol agents escalate situations or initiate violence? And what is the agency doing about it?
More agents, more misconduct
Misconduct among Border Patrol agents, especially on the southwestern border, has become a more pressing concern in the last several years simply because there are so many more agents.
US Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol, was ordered by Congress to put more boots on the ground on the southwest border — both at road crossings to check people entering the country legally (those are called “ports of entry,” and are operated by the agency directly) and along the border between those spots, to catch people entering illegally. The latter is Border Patrol’s job. . .
And, speaking of stupidity, check out the Alabama judge who locked a blogger in jail until he took down some posts from his blog, to which he of course had no access while in jail. When the blogger pointed out that if he was in jail, he could not remove the posts, the judge replied, “That’s your problem.” I would have to classify this judge in the “stupid” camp. Nicole Flatow has the report at ThinkProgress:
“You get down to survival mode.” That was blogger Roger Shuler’s state of mind after being arrested and hauled off to jail for writing about a politically connected Alabama lawyer.
“Once you’re arrested I mean there’s not much you can do,” he told ThinkProgress in a conversation after his release, explaining that he felt powerless to handle the legal defense of his case. “Your hands are tied literally and figuratively and just to try to figure out how to get out was almost impossible … I really was afraid for my life at times.”
Until last week, Shuler was the only known journalist in the Western Hemisphere jailed for doing his job. Shuler, a former sports reporter and university editor who developed the political blog Legal Schnauzer, is known as a controversial figure in his community. He has fielded other allegations of falsehoods and has been embroiled in numerous lawsuits over his blogging. But even his critics conceded that a court order banning him from writing anything about the alleged extramarital affair of a man rumored to be running for Congress was likely unconstitutional, and a First Amendment outrage.
First, a Shelby County judge ruled that Shuler could not continue writing about the alleged affair of Robert Riley, Jr., the son of former Gov. Bob Riley rumored to be running for Congress. Then, when Shuler refused to comply with the order, police came to his home one evening and arrested him for contempt of court. Contempt of court is a punishment for failure to comply with a court order. In many instances such as this one, it is a “civil” offense, meaning it doesn’t carry long-term criminal penalties. But officials use jail as a means of forcing compliance with the order. So Shuler sat in jail until he complied.
Shuler was initially resistant to the order. But even when he wanted to comply, he didn’t know how.
“At my Nov. 14 hearing, the only hearing I had in the case, the court gave me no direction on how I could purge myself of contempt,” Shuler told the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “I noted that I had no computer or Web access to take down the posts, even though I knew it was unlawful to be forced into taking them down. The court’s response was more or less that I had to resolve that problem myself. With that kind of response from the court I felt caught between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place.’” . . .