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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Orwellian Double-Speak Quote of the Week:
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2007
      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Orwellian Double-Speak Quote of the Week:

      "Our purpose is, and has always been, to ensure a civil and safe
      environment where the many types of campus activities and open
      discourse can occur."


      Probe Finds Taser Use on Student Was OK

      GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — University of Florida police were justified
      in using a Taser against a student who refused to stop questioning
      Sen. John Kerry on campus last month, according to a state
      investigation released Wednesday.

      Some had questioned the use of force in using the stun gun against
      Andrew Meyer, leading to the investigation by the Florida Department
      of Law Enforcement. A summary of the agency's report was released

      "In short, the FDLE determined that our officers acted well within
      state guidelines," university President Bernie Machen said in a
      letter to students, faculty and staff members.

      Two officers who were placed on administrative leave pending the
      outcome of the investigation were reinstated Wednesday, Machen said.

      Rob Griscti, Meyer's attorney, said he couldn't comment on the
      report with a criminal case still pending. He said he'd respond
      after examining the report.

      Meyer, a journalism major, is known for posting practical jokes on
      his Web site, but Griscti said his client's questions for Kerry were

      "He raised questions about voter disenfranchisement and other
      matters about American voting rights, which cut to the heart of our
      Democracy," Griscti said in a written statement. "These questions
      deserve the media's attention and full public discourse."

      The scuffle between Meyer and police started during the Sept. 17
      speech by Kerry when Meyer refused to leave the microphone after his
      allotted time was up, police said. The videotaped altercation and
      Meyer's cries of "Don't Tase me bro!" were played frequently on the

      The report says the officers' intent was to escort Meyer from the
      auditorium, but he broke away and refused to follow the officers'

      "Officers decide not to escalate to hard empty hand strikes, kicks,
      knees or baton ... (it) would have looked like the officers were
      beating Meyer into submission," the report said.

      The report, which has Meyer's name and that of other students
      blacked out, said the officers did what was necessary to control the

      "Our purpose is, and has always been, to ensure a civil and safe
      environment where the many types of campus activities and open
      discourse can occur," said Police Chief Linda Stump.

      Meyer has been charged by police for resisting an officer and
      disturbing the peace, but the State Attorney's Office has not yet
      decided whether to file formal charges.

      Spencer Mann, a spokesman for the State Attorney's Office, said the
      decision may be made some time next week.



      Wilson released after two years behind bars for teen sex conviction

      Story Highlights
      Genarlow Wilson leaves prison
      Georgia high court in 4-3 ruling found sentence cruel and unusual
      Wilson's 10-year sentence already had been reduced by a lower court
      Case compelled a change in Georgia law

      ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Genarlow Wilson was released from prison
      Friday, after spending more than two years behind bars for a teen
      sex conviction.

      "At times I dealt with adversity ... my family and myself, we
      finally get to deal with happiness now," Wilson said, with his
      mother and sister at his side.

      The Georgia Supreme Court earlier Friday ordered that he be
      released, ruling 4-3 that his sentence was cruel and unusual

      Wilson, 21, was convicted in 2005 of having oral sex with a
      consenting 15-year-old girl when he was 17.

      Wilson said he first heard about the possibility he'd be freed
      Friday when someone told him word was out on the radio.

      "I'd seen it coming, but I didn't exactly know when," he said. "I'd
      just stopped trying to figure the courts out and stopped trying to
      put a date on it."

      Wilson said he was looking forward to spending time with his family
      and plans to enroll in college to study sociology.

      "You will not be disappointed," he told his supporters. "I plan on
      succeeding in life."

      Wilson also said he doesn't regret rejecting a plea offer that could
      have freed him from prison months ago -- but would have required him
      to register as a sex offender.

      "I'm glad I stayed down for my cause," he said. "I accepted the
      situation that I got myself into, but I never accepted that label."

      Wilson's attorney, B.J. Bernstein, said earlier Friday she was
      working to gain his quick release.

      She said Wilson's mother, Juannessa Bennett, was "overjoyed" at the
      court's decision.

      A spokesman for Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker said
      there will be no further appeals.

      Friday's decision came after a protracted legal battle that has
      galvanized international attention and drawn the involvement of
      civil rights leaders. Partly as a result of Wilson's conviction,
      state legislators changed the law to make such consensual conduct
      between minors a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.

      "The release of Genarlow Wilson by the Georgia Supreme Court is a
      significant victory in redressing the reckless and biased behavior
      of the criminal justice system that now operates in many states
      across the union," the Rev. Al Sharpton said.

      "The bad news is that his young life was so unfairly interrupted
      with time that no state court can recover for him," Sharpton
      added. "This is why the Justice Department and federal government
      must review state courts that willfully and almost without pause
      violate the civil rights of people, particularly young black men
      around this country."

      Wilson was an honor student, a football star and his high school's
      homecoming king before his conviction.

      At the time of Wilson's conviction, Georgia law made the crime
      punishable by 10 years in prison. Changes in the law made such
      conduct "punishable by no more than a year in prison and no sex
      offender registration," the Georgia high court noted.

      But those changes were not made retroactive, so they did not apply
      to Wilson.

      The high court upheld the decision of a Monroe County judge. In a 48-
      page opinion, the court said the "severe" punishment Wilson received
      and his mandated sex offender registration make "no measurable
      contribution to acceptable goals of punishment."

      The case revolves around a 2003 New Year's Eve party outside Atlanta
      when Wilson engaged in the sex act with the girl.

      Under the now-changed Georgia law, Wilson was convicted of felony
      aggravated child molestation. He was acquitted on a second charge of
      raping a 17-year-old girl -- who prosecutors maintained was too
      intoxicated at the party to consent.

      The 10-year sentence was mandatory under the law.

      In the decision, Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears wrote that changes in
      the law "represent a seismic shift in the legislature's view of the
      gravity of oral sex between two willing teenage participants."

      "Although society has a significant interest in protecting children
      from premature sexual activity, we must acknowledge that Wilson's
      crime does not rise to the level of culpability of adults who prey
      on children," the court's majority found.

      "For the law to punish Wilson as it would an adult, with the
      extraordinarily harsh punishment of 10 years in prison without the
      possibility of probation or parole, appears to be grossly
      disproportionate to his crime," the majority opinion concluded.

      The dissent noted that the Georgia Legislature had made clear that
      the changes in the law were not to be applied retroactively.

      Writing for the dissenting justices, Justice George Carley
      said, "The General Assembly made the express decision that he cannot
      benefit from the subsequent legislative determination to reduce the
      sentence for commission of that crime from felony to misdemeanor

      The majority countered that it was not applying the 2006 amendment
      retroactively, but instead factoring that "into its determination
      that Wilson's punishment is cruel and unusual," the court said in a
      news release.

      The court said this kind of decision is unusual: "The majority
      opinion points out that this court rarely overturns a sentence on
      cruel and unusual grounds. But twice before, it did so following a
      legislative change."

      The Monroe County Superior Court judge also ruled that Wilson's
      punishment was cruel and unusual and voided it on constitutional

      The judge reduced the sentence to one year and said Wilson should
      not be put on Georgia's sex offender registry, as the old law

      Wilson's jubilant attorneys had hoped that ruling would free him
      from state prison. But shortly after it was handed down, Georgia's
      attorney general announced he would appeal that decision, a move
      that kept Wilson behind bars.

      The Georgia high court said unanimously that the decision to deny
      Wilson bail was correct.

      Wilson's plight drew pleas for his release, including from former
      President Carter, himself an ex-Georgia governor, and even some
      jurors who convicted him.

      Legislation that would make the change in Georgia's child
      molestation law retroactive to free Wilson failed to win approval
      earlier this year.

      CNN's Mary Lynn Ryan contributed to this report.



      FEMA Meets the Press, Which Happens to Be . . . FEMA
      By Al Kamen
      Friday, October 26, 2007; A19

      FEMA has truly learned the lessons of Katrina. Even its handling of
      the media has improved dramatically. For example, as the California
      wildfires raged Tuesday, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy
      administrator, had a 1 p.m. news briefing.

      Reporters were given only 15 minutes' notice of the briefing, making
      it unlikely many could show up at FEMA's Southwest D.C. offices.

      They were given an 800 number to call in, though it was a "listen
      only" line, the notice said -- no questions. Parts of the briefing
      were carried live on Fox News (see the Fox News video of the news
      conference carried on the Think Progress Web site), MSNBC and other

      Johnson stood behind a lectern and began with an overview before
      saying he would take a few questions. The first questions were about
      the "commodities" being shipped to Southern California and how
      officials are dealing with people who refuse to evacuate. He
      responded eloquently.

      He was apparently quite familiar with the reporters -- in one case,
      he appears to say "Mike" and points to a reporter -- and was asked
      an oddly in-house question about "what it means to have an emergency
      declaration as opposed to a major disaster declaration" signed by
      the president. He once again explained smoothly.

      FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker interrupted at one point to
      caution he'd allow just "two more questions." Later, he called for
      a "last question."

      "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" a reporter asked.
      Another asked about "lessons learned from Katrina."

      "I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson said,
      hailing "a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team."

      "And so I think what you're really seeing here is the benefit of
      experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good
      partnership," Johnson said, "none of which were present in Katrina."
      (Wasn't Michael Chertoff DHS chief then?) Very smooth, very
      professional. But something didn't seem right. The reporters were
      lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with
      formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media
      seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA's

      Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA
      staffers playing reporters. We're told the questions were asked by
      Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of external affairs, and
      by "Mike" Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director
      of External Affairs John "Pat" Philbin asked a question, and another
      came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali

      Asked about this, Widomski said: "We had been getting mobbed with
      phone calls from reporters, and this was thrown together at the last

      But the staff did not make up the questions, he said, and Johnson
      did not know what was going to be asked. "We pulled questions from
      those we had been getting from reporters earlier in the day."
      Despite the very short notice, "we were expecting the press to
      come," he said, but they didn't. So the staff played reporters for
      what on TV looked just like the real thing.

      "If the worst thing that happens to me in this disaster is that we
      had staff in the chairs to ask questions that reporters had been
      asking all day, Widomski said, "trust me, I'll be happy."

      Heck of a job, Harvey.



      Philippine Ex-President Estrada Freed

      MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Free for the first time in 6 1/2 years,
      ousted President Joseph Estrada thanked his successor for pardoning
      him and vowed Friday to stay out of "dirty politics" while
      dedicating the rest of his life to helping the poor.

      The former action star's first hours of freedom played out live in
      national television like a scene from one of his old films, which
      won him legions of fans for his portrayals of underdog heroes.

      Estrada's joyous release from house arrest was followed by a speech
      to thousands of cheering supporters in Manila's San Juan district,
      where he once served as mayor, then a bedside visit to his ailing
      102-year-old mother and a dinner of his favorite foods. His wife
      said she was making rice cake and paella.

      The question is: Will the man who won the biggest election landslide
      in Philippine history be able to avoid the temptation of being
      drafted back into politics by a disjointed opposition desperate for
      someone popular to rally around?

      For a day at least, Estrada was happy to bask in adulation and
      follow the lead of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who has
      shrugged off allegations of political opportunism and touted the
      pardon as a move toward reconciliation that was in the public's best

      "There is no substitute for freedom," the 70-year-old Estrada said
      before leaving his villa east of Manila, where he has spent most of
      his time in detention since his arrest three months after being
      forced out by the country's second "people power" revolt in January

      Estrada was convicted last month on graft charges and given a life
      sentence. Arroyo pardoned him Thursday.

      The pardon was greeted with a heavy dose of cynicism because of the
      timing — Arroyo is fighting a third impeachment attempt and calls
      for her resignation. State prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio said the
      pardon, especially so soon after the hard-fought conviction,
      amounted to a license to break the law.

      Estrada, who has been one of Arroyo's chief critics over the past
      six years, sounded conciliatory for the first time since his ouster.

      He thanked Arroyo, reiterated his wish to live the life of a "plain
      citizen" and, in a turnaround from previous attacks on the
      administration, urged his supporters to back Arroyo's programs to
      combat poverty and hunger.

      "I am aware of the agonizing times and tough choices that Mrs.
      Arroyo has had to wade through before arriving at this executive
      decision," Estrada said.

      Arroyo admitted that her decision was controversial, but said the
      pardon was aimed at ending "the single most significant cause of
      political noise and controversy" during her tumultuous time in
      office. She cited the pardons of former U.S. and South Korean
      presidents as precedents.

      "In the end, we had to make a decision that was bound to please and
      displease, impress and confound, unite and divide," Arroyo said in a
      speech to businessmen.

      Arroyo's spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said the pardon restored
      Estrada's civil and political rights. However, a court ruling that
      confiscated Estrada's villa and more than $15.5 million in savings
      remained in effect.

      More than 2,000 supporters, family and friends prepared a fiesta for
      Estrada's homecoming. Balloons and ribbons in orange — Estrada's
      campaign color — festooned the route of his lengthy motorcade, and
      he was mobbed as he got out of his vehicle.

      While he admitted he made mistakes in office, Estrada denied
      corruption was among them. He claimed he twice turned down offers
      that he could avoid being charged if he left the country. Despite
      his conviction in court, he said he felt he had been acquitted by
      public opinion.

      "I have no plan to rejoin dirty politics," he told the crowd
      chanting his name. "My remaining time will be offered in the service
      of our people."

      Associated Press writers Oliver Teves, Teresa Cerojano, Jim Gomez
      and Hrvoje Hranjski contributed to this report.



      Published on Sunday, October 21, 2007 by the Sunday Gazette-Mail
      (Charleston, West Virginia)
      Nobel Prize Sees What Market-Fundamentalists Don't
      by Rick Wilson

      The reality-based community got a little boost recently with the
      announcement of the 2007 Nobel Prize in economics.

      Three Americans, Eric Maskin, Roger Myerson and Leonid Hurwicz,
      shared the honor for their work in mechanism design theory, which
      studies under what conditions markets work well or don't. Sneak
      preview: They do better with private than with public goods.

      The very idea that markets are imperfect at some things may come as
      a shock - or even sacrilege -to true believers in the cult of the
      market god.

      According to this cult, the market is like an all-wise and all-good
      but jealous god which becomes exceedingly wrathful when interfered
      with by things like coal mine or workplace safety laws, minimum wage
      protections, or taxes that pay for health, education or other
      services. Its ways are not our ways, nor are its thoughts our
      thoughts. And if it demands an occasional human sacrifice, we just
      have to deal with it.

      In the real world, however, markets work better for some things than
      others. They are at their best when they distribute private goods in
      a situation which isn't dominated by any one or few industries and
      where sellers and buyers have adequate information. They have
      problems in cases of monopolies or oligopolies, imperfectly informed
      consumers, or where exchanges create public costs and social

      As the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences put it, "Adam Smith's
      classical metaphor of the invisible hand refers to how the market,
      under ideal conditions, ensures an efficient allocation of scarce
      resources. But in practice conditions are usually not ideal; for
      example, competition is not completely free, consumers are not
      perfectly informed and privately desirable production and
      consumption may generate social costs and benefits."

      Many transactions, according to the Academy, don't take place in
      open markets but occur within firms, under special arrangements, or
      under the influence of political or other powerful interest groups.
      Think Halliburton or Blackwater.

      Maskin, Hurwicz, and Myerson's mechanism design theory studies what
      kinds of arrangements make for an optimal allocation of resources.
      Here's the short version of a key finding: Markets work well with
      what economists call private goods, like refrigerators or cars, but
      not for public goods, such as a clean environment or public health.

      According to Maskin in an article in Bloomberg.com, "There are some
      things we want that are never going to be attainable by markets," he
      said in a telephone interview. "If we are going to get them at all
      we have to find alternative ways of delivering them. That's where
      mechanism design comes in."

      A Reuters report on the prize noted, "Societies should not rely on
      market forces to protect the environment or provide quality health
      care for all citizens …"

      In such cases, public investments and policies should promote and
      protect public goods.

      None of this would have come as a surprise to Adam Smith, who wrote
      in 1776 that there was a need of government support for "public
      institutions and those public works, which, though they may be in
      the highest degree advantageous to a great society, are, however, of
      such a nature that the profit could never repay the expense to any
      individual or small number of individuals, and which it therefore
      cannot be expected that any individual or small number of
      individuals should erect or maintain."

      If some people want to worship the market god, that's fine with me,
      as long as they don't try to make it the state religion.

      In reality, markets are goods, not gods. What we need to do is
      figure out how to let them do what they do well, while also
      protecting the very important things they don't.

      Wilson is director of the American Friends Service Committee WV
      Economic Justice Project and publishes The Goat Rope, a daily public
      affairs blog: www.goatrope.blogspot.com.
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