Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Face of Offender in Federal Courts is Hispanic


A new study says Hispanics make up the largest number of criminal offenders sentenced in federal court.
The report by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington showed that 40 percent were Hispanic, compared with 27 percent white, 23 percent black and 10 percent other racial groups. In 1991, whites comprised 43 percent of those sentenced in federal courts and 24 percent were Hispanic.
The Hispanic offenders were more likely to be non-citizens and nearly half of the crimes were immigration-related.
The study attributed the change to stepped-up federal enforcement of immigration laws and a sharp rise in illegal immigration over the years.
The report was released Wednesday. It was based on an analysis of federal sentencing data.

Uighurs Denied Release In US: Court Reverses Ruling

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that 17 Turkic Muslims cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay must stay at the prison camp, raising the stakes for an Obama administration that has pledged to quickly close the facility and free those who have not been charged.

In a showdown over presidential power, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said a judge went too far last October in ordering the U.S. entry of the 17 men, known as Uighurs (WEE'-gurz), over the objections of the Bush administration.

The three-judge panel suggested the detainees might be able to seek entry by applying to the Homeland Security Department, which administers U.S. immigration laws. But the court bluntly concluded the detainees otherwise had no constitutional right to immediate freedom after being held in custody at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without charges for nearly seven years.

"Such sentiments, however high-minded, do not represent a legal basis for upsetting settled law and overriding the prerogatives of the political branches," wrote Judge A. Raymond Randolph, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush.

Attorneys for the detainees said they were considering whether to appeal the decision to the full appeals court or the Supreme Court. But they made clear it was now time for President Barack Obama to take action after eight years of Bush administration detention policies.

"The ball is in President Obama's court," said Emi MacLean, an attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. "If he is genuinely committed to closing Guantanamo, one clear and immediate step he should take is release the Uighurs into the U.S."

The White House declined to comment on the ruling, citing its ongoing review on closing the Guantanamo prison. Within days of taking office, Obama ordered Guantanamo closed in a year. But he has since been largely quiet on where the hundreds of prisoners _ most of whom are being held without charges _ should be released if no country is willing to take them.

The State Department has said it is continuing diplomatic efforts to resettle the Uighurs and other detainees in other countries.

US FED: Fed Worsens Projections For 2009 GDP, Inflation, Unemployment

Washington, February 18 - Members of the Federal Open Market Committee made significant, and more dire revisions to its 2009 forecast, downgrading expectations for both GDP and inflation while increasing expectations for unemployment, according to the Fed's January summary of economic projections released today.

Participants now expect GDP in 2009 to fall by 0.5% to 1.3%, much worse than the Fed's central tendency of -0.2% to 1.1% GDP growth. Participants anticipate a 'broad-based' decline in the first half of this year as consumer spending is dampened by a deteriorating labor markets, tight credit conditions, falling house prices and stock market losses. However, as in October, the Fed still sees some recovery in the second half of the year, though at a gradual pace.

Yahoo! BuzzLooking ahead, the Fed has a central tendency of 2.5% to 3.3% for 2010 GDP growth and 3.8% to 5.0% for GDP in 2011. Both ranges are higher than the forecasts made in October.

Projections for the unemployment rate in 2009 is for a central tendency between 8.5% and 8.8%, significantly higher than the 7.1% to 7.6% rate expected in October. This upward revision is no surprise given that unemployment rate was already 7.2% in December before the FOMC met, and earlier this month unemployment hit 7.6%.

The Fed's central tendency for unemployment in 2010 is 8.0% to 8.3%, and 6.7% to 7.5% for 2011. Both are more than one percentage point higher than forecasts made in October. FOMC members see the unemployment rate declining further after 2011, most expecting it to settle between 4.8% and 5.0% over time.

The Fed's January expectations for PCE inflation and core PCE were lower than those made in October. Headline PCE in 2009 is projected at between 0.3% and 1.0%, lower than the 1.3% to 2.0% projection in October. Central tendency expectations were 1.0% to 1.5% for 2010 PCE and 0.9% to 1.7% in 2011, both lower than projections made in October.

Core PCE, which excludes for food and energy, is expected to land somewhere between 0.9% and 1.1% in 2009, lower than the 1.5% to 2.0% range expected in October. Projections for core PCE in 2010 and 2011 are also lower than those made in October.

SEC Was Told To Back Off Stanford In 2006Meredith Whitney Leaves Oppenheimer To Start Own Firm

Bloomberg is reporting Obama Pledges $275 Billion to Stem U.S. Foreclosures.

U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $275 billion to a program that will cut mortgage payments for as many as 9 million struggling homeowners and expand the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in curbing record foreclosures.

The plan also will help as many as 5 million homeowners refinance loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie, according to a White House fact sheet. Treasury will buy as much as $200 billion of preferred stock in the two mortgage companies, twice as much as previously promised, the announcement said.

“It will give millions of families resigned to financial ruin a chance to rebuild,” Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery at 10:15 a.m. in Mesa, Arizona. “By bringing down the foreclosure rate, it will help to shore up housing prices for everyone.”

The Obama plan will use $75 billion from the $700 billion financial bailout fund to match reductions lenders make in interest payments that lower borrowers’ payments to 31 percent of their monthly income. Under the program, a lender would be responsible for reducing monthly payments to no more than 38 percent of a borrower’s income, with government sharing the cost to further cut the rate to 31 percent.

Companies that service mortgages will get $1,000 for each modified loan, and as much as $1,000 for three years when the borrower stays current, the government said. Homeowners also are eligible for $1,000 annually for five years for remaining current on their loans, according to the plan.

Mortgage servicers will get $500 and loan holders $1,500 to modify agreements as an incentive for the industry to seek out borrowers at risk of falling behind on their payments.

“The Obama team is betting that if they can afford to stay in the home month-to-month, that borrower is not concerned about what today’s value of the home happens to be,” Howard Glaser, former counsel to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said today in a telephone interview. “I think that’s the right bet.”

Treasury will increase the size of Fannie and Freddie’s retained mortgage portfolios, to $900 billion, allowed under the preferred stock agreement included in the September federal takeover of the two mortgage-finance companies.

Obama said he will support revamping U.S. bankruptcy rules to let judges reduce mortgages on primary residences to fair- market value as long as borrowers pay their debts under a court- ordered plan.

MarketWatch has some interesting quotes to consider in Obama sets aside $75 billion to slow foreclosures.

The Obama administration unveiled a plan Wednesday to help 9 million "at risk" homeowners modify their mortgages, committing $75 billion of taxpayer money to back the initiative.

The plan contains two separate programs. One program is aimed at 4 million to 5 million homeowners struggling with loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to help them refinance their mortgages through the two institutions. A separate program would potentially help 3 million to 4 million homeowners by allowing them to modify their mortgages to lower monthly interest rates through any participating lender. Under this plan, the lender would voluntarily lower the interest rate, and the government would provide subsidies to the lender.

"The plan I’m announcing focuses on rescuing families who have played by the rules and acted responsibly: by refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it; by modifying loans for families stuck in sub-prime mortgages they can’t afford as a result of skyrocketing interest rates or personal misfortune; and by taking broader steps to keep mortgage rates low so that families can secure loans with affordable monthly payments," President Barack Obama said in prepared remarks.

I do not buy this "acted responsibly" nonsense. If a person took out a loan greater than 38% of their income they most assuredly did not act responsibly.

Furthermore, the Obama plan increases the size of Fannie and Freddie, rewards servicers for no reason, giving them an incentive actually to waste taxpayer money, and rewards those who acted irresponsibly. Is this a good thing?

One question I have was not answered by either article. I am very concerned for the borrower’s sake about loan modifications turning non-recourse loans into recourse loans.

How many people will become unwitting interest slaves for the rest of their lives by signing up for one of these "loan modifications"? That is likely to happen if non-recourse loans become recourse loans.

Obama Doubles Troops In Afghanistan

President Obama made his long-discussed move in Afghanistan official yesterday:

President Obama ordered his first major deployment of U.S. combat troops Tuesday, authorizing 17,000 additional soldiers and Marines for Afghanistan in what he described as an urgent bid to stabilize a deteriorating and neglected country.

The deployment will double the number of American combat brigades in the nation at a time of tension with Afghanistan’s weak government over civilian casualties of the campaign against the increasingly bold Taliban, and concern over neighboring Pakistan’s ability to fight Islamic militants based there.

Just don’t call it a “surge”:

Debate has raged for months about the possible effectiveness in Afghanistan of a “surge,” the term used for the 2007 troop increase in Iraq that has been credited with helping stabilize that country.

Military officials have been careful not to use that terminology for the current increase in Afghanistan, arguing that additional troops could be needed there for years. But senior Defense officials said that they believe they must quickly demonstrate results, roll back Taliban advances and bring some measure of stability.

Presumably, “surge” now lies in the purgatory of buzzwords alongside “War on Terror”. Besides, we wouldn’t want anyone comparing the President’s rhetoric on the campaign trail too closely with his deeds, you know. The Australian, which seems to have a keen eye for truth and hypocrisy, is speaking plainly, though:

President Barack Obama based his national security credentials on Afghanistan, and as President he desperately needs to make it work. Obama seems to think that the surge strategy, which he opposed but which many believe has worked in Iraq, will work in Afghanistan too. However, fulfilling his promise to rebuild the US’s global leadership depends on his ability to persuade other countries to surge with him. This is his first big chance to show Americans that he really can do better than Bush. He can’t afford to fail.

New York Post Chimp Cartoon Compares Stimulus Author To Dead Primate

A cartoon likening the author of the stimulus bill, perhaps President Barack Obama, with a rabid chimpanzee graced the pages of the New York Post on Wednesday.

The drawing, from famed cartoonist Sean Delonas, is rife with violent imagery and racial undertones. In it, two befuddled-looking police officers holding guns look over the dead and bleeding chimpanzee that attacked a woman in Stamford, Connecticut.

"They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," reads the caption.

An email to Delonas and a call to the New York Post went unreturned. The cartoon appears both on the New York Post website and page 12 of the Wednesday paper.

At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it. Others believe it compares the president to a rabid chimp. Either way, the incorporation of violence and (on a darker level) race into politics is bound to be controversial. Perhaps that's what Delonas wanted.

Charlie Rose: On Iran

Discussion about Iran with Azar Nafisi, Hooman Majd and Vali Nasr

Screaming Chimp, Frantic Owner Heard on 911 Call

***NOTE GRAPHIC AUDIO*** In recordings of calls to 911 dispatchers released Tuesday, a chimpanzee's grunts can be heard as a frantic owner cries that her pet is "eating" her friend and must be killed. (Feb. 18)

Judges Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan should be lega

The cases of Pennsylvania judges Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr. and Michael T. Conahan are an example of one of the only situations where I believe our States have a right to put someone to death based solely on Constitutional powers of government: treason. Treason is the act where a person violates their oath of loyalty to their nation or sovereign group (such as a state). Since common citizens do not take an oath of loyalty (and should never!), the only ones who should be charged with treason are our so-called public servants, especially judges and federal politicians.

Ciavarella and Conahan are charged with taking kick-backs from a private juvenile jail facility. Both judges found 5000 youths guilty of minor crimes, and enslaved them in the junvenile facility as punishment. Even after the $2.6 million in kickbacks were discovered, there are still teenagers in these facilities. The State average for juvenile detention (enslavement in a jail) is about 10%. Under these judges, 25% of teens brought up for minor offenses were jailed, in exchange for the kickbacks.

I won’t go into my disagreement with the idea of state-funded penatentiaries. State-corporate ventures are always a negative situation in my opinion. I do want to move forward with my full support of the death penalty for these two justices (ex-justices?) based solely on their violation of their oath to support the Constitutions of their states.

The Pennsylvania oath of office states:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.”

Since they did not discharge the duties of their offices with fidelity, and since they did not uphold the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, they should be charged with high treason. As the common judgment for high treason is the death penalty, I see no other alternative for punishment but hanging, lethal injection, or preferably a firing squad. This will teach our public servants that they must take their oath seriously.

I’m always in favor of using the laws against the law-makers and law-enforcers. In this case, we MUST, as citizens of sovereign States and Commonwealths, push for full judgment against those who judge us unfairly or criminally.

If you are a citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I urge you to contact your public servants and push forward for a trial of treason, with the full punishment as set forth by Pennsylvanian law.

Facebook Changes Terms of Service Again, Make Up Your Mind!

Big news a few days ago was the facebook changed their terms of service agreement to basically say they can do whatever they want with your content…forever. As the Consumerist clearly points out, among one of the changes was this:

“You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.”

a.k.a they own your soul. The image below that my pal @gumshoo sent over, pretty much explains it all.

eh, not so fast. Mark Zuckerberg or M Zizzle as I call him (ya, I’m cool like that) has decided to change their terms of service BACK to the way they were. According to the Facebook Master (yes Mark): (also here on techcrunch)

“Going forward, we’ve decided to take a new approach towards developing our terms. We concluded that returning to our previous terms was the right thing for now. As I said yesterday, we think that a lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective so we don’t plan to leave it there for long.”

So that means everything is fine and dandy right? ah hah you fools! How dare you think that facebook would let you get off the hook so easy. Marky Mark also cleverly added in that their will be another addition of the TOS soon with substantial changes coming:

“Our next version will be a substantial revision from where we are now. It will reflect the principles I described yesterday around how people share and control their information, and it will be written clearly in language everyone can understand. Since this will be the governing document that we’ll all live by, Facebook users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms.”

Basically facebook said, “yes we are going to screw you over and keep your content forever…just not yet.” Hmm, how’s myspace doing these days…?

Thoughts? I know you’ve got ‘em!

Thanks for Reading!