Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Teen arrested in Oregon car bomb plot led 2 lives

Teen arrested in Oregon car bomb plot led 2 lives

8:09 PM / Posted by Megaan /

The plot explained by the FBI was horrific: a 19-year-old Somali-born Muslim with a complaint against the West, prepared to kill and maim thousands at a busy Portland Christmas tree illumination ritual.

Except while the FBI describes Mohamed Osman Mohamud as a would-be terrorist, there were few hints of that unseen life to Mohamud's friends, who knew him as "Mo," a quiet, inhabited teen who liked to drink gin and play video games.

The teen who supposedly thought he was going to kill thousands of people the day after Thanksgiving in the name of Islamic extremism is the same one who, three days previous, wrote and read a Kwanzaa verse about unity with two Christian college students.

Full story

Police: Father buried 1 child in Miss., other in Ala., bodies still missing

Mobile Al Dec 5 2010 The father of two missing children in Mobile, Ala., told authorities that his children are dead and that he had buried them, according to FOX10 News.

John DeBlase, 27, allegedly made these revelations during a thorough interview with police, leading investigators to search for the childrens’ bodies within a 100-mile radius of Mobile, according to FOX10 News.

On Saturday, investigators planned to assemble a massive search party.
“We want to make sure that we find these children and that they’re buried properly,” said Michael Williams, the Mobile police chief.

The children, Natalie, 5, and Jonathan, 3, were last seen with their father back in July. Since then, no family member came forward to report the children missing. Their stepmother, Heather Leavell-Keaton, was arrested Wednesday in Louisville, Ky.

“We received a call from the Louisville, Kentucky Police Department, stating that a man had walked into the police station up there and told them that there were some kids that were from Mobile that were dead,” said Chris Levy, a police spokesman. The man was believed to be Leavell-Keaton’s brother.

While he was being escorted to a police cruiser, DeBlase reportedly told the press that the stepmother did it.
The childrens’ biological mother has spoken with FOX10 News within the past few days, but she was too distraught to speak on Friday evening.


Posted by privateofficernews

The Death Penalty on Trial in Texas

At a hearing starting today in Houston, lawyers for a man charged with murder will argue that Texas' death penalty is unconstitutional because of the very real risk of executing an innocent person.

Death penalty activists around the country will have their eyes on Judge Kevin Fine's courtroom this week as he hears evidence on the risk of wrongful convictions and the details of John Edward Green Jr.'s alleged crime. This is the first time in Texas history that a trial court will examine the constitutionality of the death penalty, and the momentum behind Green's case represents a new legal strategy to stop executions in Texas and nationwide.

Green was charged with killing a woman during a 2008 robbery in Houston, but his attorneys say the evidence against him is questionable and that a trial would carry a substantial risk of sending an innocent man to death row. The Texas Defender Service, which leads Green's defense team, published last week a powerful list of the six leading reasons they believe the death penalty is unconsitutional. It includes the most common causes of wrongful convictions nationwide: unreliable eyewitness identification procedures, the risk of false confessions, lying jailhouse informants and minorities excluded from juries.

And among other attorneys and organizations expected to present evidence this week on the possibility that the state has executed innocent people -- and could do so again -- is the Innocence Project (where I work when I'm not blogging here). In recent years, the Innocence Project has presented convincing evidence that two men, Cameron Todd Willingham and Claude Jones, were convicted based entirely on false evidence.

Obama makes Bush look good, Carter bad

From the Gallup Poll: “Of the nine U.S. presidents who have served in the past 50 years, John F. Kennedy continues to earn the highest retrospective job approval rating from Americans, now 85%. Ronald Reagan ranks second, with 74%. While these presidents’ ratings are largely unchanged from 2006, Bill Clinton’s rating has improved, putting him in third place, while Jimmy Carter, at 52%, has dropped from third to sixth. Richard Nixon remains the lowest rated.”

From the Gallup Poll on January 14, 2009: “A new USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Jan. 9-11, finds 34% of Americans approving of the overall job George W. Bush is doing as president and 61% disapproving. Those ratings are a shade better than what Bush has received for most of the past year, and may represent the kind of lame-duck approval bounce Gallup has seen for other presidents.”
Wow, so after 2 years of President Obama’s socialism, the public is seeing both Bush 43 and Carter in a new light.

Carter’s rating fell by 9 points.

Bush 43’s rose by 13.

Seeing is believing.

The public also realizes that three other ex-presidents also don’t look as bad compared to what we have now; Clinton, LBJ and Bush 41 are up by 8 points each.

Hope. Change. Come back to the White House, George Bush!

White House Caves to GOP on Tax Cuts--"change we can believe in" became "I can't"

President Obama has agreed with GOP negotiators on a "framework" to extend all of the Bush tax cuts for two years--including a package of cuts for the wealthy and big corporations, getting only extension of unemployment benefits  and the more or less useless "making work pay" credits in return.  He also agreed to a "temporary reduced estate tax" at 35% rate and $5 million extension, as the trade for a payroll tax holiday of 2%.  See Lochhead, Obama Announces Tenative Deal on Tax Cuts, PoliticsBlog, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 6, 2010.

How sad.  The death of the estate tax this year is the best opportunity the Democrats will have in the next forty years to get the estate tax right--meaning make it progressive, so that no one in the lower quintiles of the income and wealth distribution will have to pay it (not much chance of that no matter what the final shape of the estate tax is) and so that the wealthy have to be a bigger and bigger share of their estate upon their death to make up for the fact that almost nothing is paid on their incomes during life.  As noted frequently here, the wealthy in the top 2% or so who may end up paying some estate tax are the ones that own the vast majority of the financial assets.  Much of their income isn't taxed at all--the very wealthy are the primary group that owns tax-exempt municipal bonds and that income isn't subject to taxation.  (In his first year in office, Vice President Cheney had some $2 million of tax exempt interest on which he paid no income tax.)  Most of the rest of their income ends up being taxed at very preferential capital gains rates.  Since the wealthy can control the time of sales of their assets, they generally time them for low rate or for ability to use loses to offset gains, further ensuring that they minimize the taxes paid.  Accordingly, the estate tax serves as a backstop to ensure that they contribute something to the government that has facilitated their wealth.  It should provide a $2 million exemption and a steeply progressive rate (beginning at 45% and increasing to as high as 65% or more).

Further, extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and giving multinationals (who already are enjoying the cheapest borrowing rate imaginable because of the Fed's policies and other benefits) another huge tax break by permitting 100% expensing (at a $200 billion cost) is more of the "winner-take-all" politics that has caused the decimation of ordinary working Americans by giving all the benefits of the tax system to those at the top.  Letting the GOP succeed in extending the cuts on Obama's watch even before the minority becomes the majority in the House in January means Obama now takes credit for the Bush tax cuts and can no longer take the high ground.

What's even worse is that Obama tried to sell his weak compromise as "an essential step on the road to recovery", saying that these tax cuts have a hand in spurring the private sector to create millions of new jobs and add momentum to the economy.  That's falling into the Republican trap of claiming that tax cuts do a lot to create jobs.  They don't. The rich will invest in businesses overseas or use their money to fund private equity deals that buy out companies so they can lay off workers.  Allowing businesses to expense has been tried for years--it was a huge part of the Bush tax cuts, and they failed on creating jobs.   Expensing doesn't encourage businesses to invest more--they already have more cash on hand than ever so they have every reason to invest in equipment if they need to without the tax subsidy to them.  Infrastructure spending is the best way to create jobs, and while the lower-end tax cuts will help keep spending up, they won't really create any jobs.  It's an oversell that will show win it comes time for the 2012 elections and the vast majority of the American workforce is still suffering while the well-off stay well-off.

What a shame that Obama caves so easily.  Not voting an extension of unemployment benefits wasn't an option for the GOP, so treating that as something "won" in the negotiation is foolish.  Similarly, the payroll holiday--while it will get money in the hands of the working class--is also something that will cause the Social Security fund to run short sooner, giving the GOP even more ammunition to privatize and/or cut benefits, which is their goal.  The Democrats just don't seem to be able to play the politics game well at all. Instead of letting GOP leader McConnell have his ear for the last week, Obama should have been helping to twist arms in the Senate to ensure that all Democrats and some Republicans stood with the American people.

Of course, the pundits recognize that the Bush tax cuts were "incredibly expensive" and "deeply flawed conceptiually" but then assume that "Obama can't afford to let all the $3.3 trillion in tax cuts expire as scheduled on December 31."  I think that is wrong.  I suspect that if Obama and the Dems would force the Republicans to vote (and in the Senate force a real filibuster), they would find that Americans don't get enough dollars in their pockets from the lower-class tax cuts to make that much of a difference.  Let them expire.  Then pass a new tax cut bill in January through a reconcilation measure.

It will be very hard for progressives to support Obama in the future.  If he doesn't have the ability to negotiate with Congress better than he has demonstrated on this issue he comes across as a failure.  And it is a failure that reinforces the "winner-take-all" nature of politics and tax policy that has resulted in banksters making millions while millions of ordinary Americans suffer.  Too bad that the "change we can believe in" president turned into a "sorry I can't" president.

By Linda Beale