Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Black Men In Prison Today Than Were Enslaved in 1850

It’s a heartbreaking, but often understated, reality that America’s criminal justice system imprisons black folks at astonishingly high rates. The U.S. Bureau of Justice estimated that as of 2008, there were over 846,000 black men in prison, making up 40.2 percent of all inmates in the system. But in a recent talk, noted author Michelle Alexander put those numbers in grave historical perspective.

“Courageous” Calls Men Of Honor To Stand Up In New Movie

“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” Alexander, an Ohio State law professor, recently told listeners at the Pasadena Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. Alexander’s seminal book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” argues that prisons have become the latest form of economic and social disenfranchisement for young folks of color, particularly black men. In it, she grapples with a central question: If crime rates have fluctuated over the years and are now at historical lows, then why have rates of incarcerated men of color skyrocketed over the past 30 years? The answer to that question doesn’t require a lot of digging. “Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color,” she said. LA Progressive reported that even though studies have proven that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or higher than black, four of five black youth in some inner-city communities can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetimes.
Now, what? what do you think?

Read the rest here.

Mitt Romney solidifies his front-runner status in Republican debate

By Philip Rucker and Amy Gardner

HANOVER, N.H. — A comfortable and confident Mitt Romney solidified his front-runner status on Tuesday night in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination, navigating 90 minutes of tough questions on the economy from his rivals and debate moderators.All eight Republican hopefuls who shared an intimate round table on the debate stage at Dartmouth College clamored to blame Washington for the country’s economic ills. In turn, they pointed fingers at President Obama, the Federal Reserve and the government in general, although they sparred over the details of their plans to grow the economy.
The participants uniformly criticized Obama and official Washington for, in their view, not reviving the economy and for stunting its growth with too many regulations, overreach by the Federal Reserve and inadequate tax relief.

This time, the candidate with whom Romney had to share the spotlight was Herman Cain.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was looking to revive his struggling campaign, seized few moments. He stayed silent for long stretches in the debate. When asked how he would fix the nation’s sputtering economy, he said only that he would develop new energy resources.

In one exchange, Cain, a former Godfather’s Pizza executive, challenged Romney to name all 59 points in his 160-page economic plan, suggesting that it failed Cain’s test to be “simple, transparent, efficient, fair and neutral” in contrast to Cain’s proposal.

But the former Massachusetts governor did not hesitate to make the case that the complexity of his plan reflects the complexity of the nation’s problems, and that he has the depth of experience, business know-how and ability to deal with those problems.

read the rest of this at The Washington Post

Analysis and reaction to Tuesday’s presidential debate

Mitt Romney had another good debate performance and none of his rivals really laid a glove on him. His experience really shows. He plays the game on an entirely different level. In fact, his biggest rival might be himself. When he rambles answers to questions, he comes off looking slick and untrustworthy.

Herman Cain proved he’ll be in the top tier for at least a few more weeks. Much of the debate focused on his 9-9-9 tax plan which was only good for his profile. He took some heat from his rivals — particularly from Ron Paul on the Federal Reserve — but handled it well enough. He doesn’t get rattled easily.

Rick Perry did almost nothing to distinguish himself. Once again, he seemed tired and incoherent. Perry needed a good performance to turn around the narrative that his campaign is flailing but didn’t have one.

Of the remaining candidates, only Newt Gingrich seemed to shine. He frequently put himself into the discussion and made good points. But at the end of the day, he’s more of a pundit than a presidential candidate.
One other note: Karen Tumulty did a wonderful job asking questions. She was the best prepared on the entire stage tonight.

In one line, here is why Rick Perry is not only done, but why he was never a serious candidate to begin with: ”We don’t need to be focused on passing this policy or that policy.”
In a different world, he would not have had to go through the gauntlet of these past two months of nationally televised debates and might still be the front runner, writes James Fallows. He is really not good in “debate format,” and has not gotten better enough fast enough.

At a certain level, you can’t blame Newt. His schtick has worked for so long, why change it now? So you get things like this:
There’s a stream of American thought that really wishes we would decay and fall apart and that the future would be bleak so that the government can share the misery. It was captured by Jimmy Carter in his malaise speech. It’s captured every week by Barack Obama in his apologias disguised as press conferences.

Jim Antle III:
Mitt Romney won by not losing. He has regained his frontrunner status and nobody really emerged from the pack to challenge it. But can he do what he failed to do last time: run the table in the early states? It’s to his advantage to secure the nomination before the field winnows to just him and a popular candidate to his right.
Associated Press: Presidential candidate Mitt Romney took some less staunchly conservative stands than his rivals in their debate Tuesday night, declaring he can work with “good” Democrats and positioning himself closer to the center in line with his claim that he can draw crucial independent voters in next year’s general election.

He even defended portions of the Wall Street bailout, a particular sore point with many conservative voters who will play an important role in choosing the Republican nominee next winter and spring. But the former Massachusetts governor joined the others in sharply criticizing numerous aspects of President Barack Obama’s economic policies in a debate focused on the nation’s frail economy.
The economy is Romney’s bailiwick and he delivered. It is becoming increasingly clear that he operates at a higher level than the other candidates. Perry is toast. If he’s not actually dumb as a stump, he doesn’t know how to show it. Herman Cain continues to come on strong as the non-Mormon conservative alternative. Bachmann and Huntsman both sounded smooth, assured, and smart, but they no longer matter. Ron Paul continues to dominate the Ron Paul vote.
Erick Erickson:
Mitt Romney won the debate. No one knocked him off his game. He really is that good of a debater. Herman Cain proved himself a bit of an unstable number two. He is starting to get the tough questions on his 999 plan and his responses sound like they were crafted in the land of unicorns and rainbows …
Is Romney so much better than everyone else because he has made a serious run before? (On the other hand, so have Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, etc). I don’t know, but it’s a huge gap.

John Hinderaker:
Rick Perry, during the half of the debate that I saw, bordered on invisible. I don’t know whether the pundits who say this was make or break for Perry are right, but it certainly was not a strong night for him. One thing that strikes me as odd is how little mileage Perry gets out of his job creation record in Texas. He mentioned it a time or two, but, as in prior debates, he didn’t use it effectively as the foundation of his claim to be the strongest candidate.
Kathy Kiely:
Perry says blame Obama for income disparities but non partisan analysis says the gap between the haves and have-nots has been widening since 1979, when Barack Obama was 18 years old.
David Kurtz:
The average low-information voter isn’t going to be exposed to any account of this debate that includes this necessary corrective: The prescription for economic recovery offered by the Republican presidential field is completely divorced from reality.
Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight offers the following grades: Romney B+, Cain B, Huntsman B-, Gingrich B-, Bachmann C+, Paul C+, Santorum C, Perry C

Washington Post: The government is the problem. That was the message Tuesday night as the eight Republican presidential hopefuls clamored to blame Washington for the nation’s economic ills. In turn, they pointed fingers at President Obama, the Federal Reserve and the government generally as the cause of the nation’s economic collapse.

Together, they were strident in their belief that Obama-era regulations are stunting growth. Yet although the White House aspirants largely agreed on their overall visions, the two candidates whose positions at the top of the field were expected to rise or fall in Tuesday’s Washington Post-Bloomberg News debate at Dartmouth College — Texas Gov. Rick Perry and businessman Herman Cain — were short on policy specifics, even when pressed by the moderators.
Why did Romney use his question on Bachmann? Well, there are ominous signs that she may not last until the Iowa caucuses. If she drops out, it’s easier for someone like Cain to actually win the state; she stays in, and Romney can eke something.

The mouse that roared?


By Bill Wilson
It might not be an overstatement to say that the fate of representative government hangs in the balance as Slovakia has rejected the €440 billion European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF). It fell 21 votes short of a majority.

Was it the day the mouse roared? When a free people stood up — as did the people of Iceland recently — and said not just no, but hell no to more bailouts of banks?

To be certain, the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, which is a coalition member of the ruling majority there, refuses to support bailing out European creditors that bet poorly on the debt of socialist governments like Greece. But the left-wing Smer-Social Democracy party? It only refuses to offer its support to help out the majority — unless the majority agrees to new elections.

Prime Minister Iveta Radicova has already lost a vote of confidence, as she staked her political career on the success of the vote. Left open is whether her coalition government will agree to early elections — which could cost them the majority — in return for the Social Democrats approving the bailout.
Ultimately, a re-do vote is eventually expected to pass, but at the cost of the current government in Slovakia completely collapsing. In other words, once the Social Democrats get their piece of the pie.
Get full story here.

The Media’s Guide to Protestors

Get permalink here.

2012: The Common Sense Election

By David Bozeman

Want to annoy a liberal? Tell one that America needs a business-person as president to put our economic house in order. Most libs will, however subtly, react defensively, given that their experiment in "transforming" America has turned out — how to put it mildly? — disastrous, with even Democratic campaign officials using Titanic metaphors.

The standard reply (and we're hearing it more and more) is that running the country and running a business are two different things. The responsibilities and consequences of leading a nation can be, and usually are, far graver than those of, say, running a fast-food empire.

There is some truth to that. As we are reminded, the president doesn't enjoy the luxury of firing members of the opposing party. But the significant advantage of electing a business leader — or, at the very least, one who appreciates the dynamics of a free economy — is having someone who has been held accountable. Accountability, providing goods and services that people want, satisfying stockholders are the defining traits of a free economy. It isn't complicated nor is it just one of many competing economic theories out there. It's common sense.

That, in part, explains the appeal of Herman Cain. And the GOP's flirtation with Donald Trump a few months back. And why Mitt Romney, a mere one-term governor, remains a front-runner. It's his life-long devotion to business where common sense can mean the difference between solvency and shutting the doors for good.
Get full story here.

Gaddafi ‘hiding in southern desert’

An official on Libya’s governing council says he believes Muammar Gaddafi is hiding in the south-western desert near the borders with Niger and Algeria, but denied allegations that the Tuareg minority ethnic group is protecting the fugitive leader.
Moussa al-Kouni, who is a Tuareg representative on the revolution’s leadership body, claimed on Monday that Gaddafi had sent his son Khamis to the area to set up a radio station and make preparations for a possible escape route two months before Tripoli fell to revolutionary forces in late August.
Al-Kouni provided no evidence, saying he based his assertion on the fact that the Gaddafi regime had used the area before because it has rough terrain and porous borders that would make detection difficult. He also pointed out that Gaddafi had cultivated close ties with the Niger government and could even be going back and forth across the border.

“As far as I am aware, Gaddafi is in that region … on the border with Niger,” he told reporters in Tripoli, adding that Gaddafi could get safe passage through Niger to Mali, where he allegedly has a house in Timbuktu. Niger has put Gaddafi’s son al-Saadi under house arrest.

There has been much speculation about Gaddafi’s whereabouts since the erratic leader and two of his sons went underground as revolutionary forces swept into the capital.
Libya’s new rulers have vowed Gaddafi will face justice for crimes committed during more than four decades of brutal rule. But more than seven weeks after Tripoli’s fall, authorities appear no closer to capturing him and the fugitive former leader continues to try to rally supporters with audio messages from hiding, most recently on Thursday.

Gaddafi’s supporters

The head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, told reporters Sunday the governing authority had no confirmed information about Gaddafi’s location and he didn’t know whether the fugitive leader was inside or outside Libya.

Some military officials have alleged Tuaregs are helping Gaddafi survive and remain hidden in the vast southern desert. The nomadic community, which spans the desert border of Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Chad, has long been among Gaddafi’s strongest supporters and many fought for him during the civil war.

Al-Kouni acknowledged that some of Gaddafi’s Tuareg recruits may still be helping him but insisted the community as a whole was not. He expressed concern that the allegations were causing harmful divisions between Tuaregs and other Libyans.

Revolutionary forces still battling Gaddafi loyalists have made gains in recent days on two major fronts, his coastal hometown of Sirte and the inland enclave of Bani Walid, but still face fierce resistance.
The transitional leadership, eager to move forward with efforts to hold elections and establish a democracy, has said it will declare Libya liberated after Sirte falls.

Anti-Gaddafi fighters raised their tricolour flag on Monday over Sirte’s Ouagadougou Convention Centre, which had been used by loyalists as a base, but fighting surged elsewhere in the fugitive leader’s hometown. Tank, rocket and machine-gun fire echoed through the surrounding streets.

Col Younis al-Abdally, a commander in Sirte, said his troops have surrounded pro-Gaddafi fighters in a small area along the upscale Dollar Street. He conceded a fierce fight still lies ahead, adding that information indicates one of Gaddafi’s sons and a number of top officials of the former regime are holed up in villas there.


Artillery commander Mahmoud Mustafa said Gaddafi’s son Moatassim was believed to be hiding in Dollar Street or one of two other areas where fighting still raged, so revolutionary forces were trying to capture pro-Gaddafi fighters alive.

“We believe there are some important figures, including Moatassim, and that is the reason we have faced such strong resistance for weeks,” he said.

A team from the International Committee of the Red Cross entered Sirte’s Ibn Sina Hospital on Monday to evacuate wounded people left behind after three weeks of fighting.

More than 100 patients, including several wounded children and their families, were trapped in the hospital, Dr Abdallah Etbiga said.

In Bani Walid, the other remaining bastion of Gaddafi loyalists, revolutionary fighters retreated from the town center after facing heavy sniper fire and booby-traps but still held the airport and two villages to the south, said Abdullah Kenshil, who led failed talks for the town’s peaceful surrender.

Gaddafi forces also attacked revolutionaries at the town’s northern gate on Monday but were repelled, he said, adding four fighters were killed and six wounded in that battle.
Source: AP

Tens of thousands rally in Damascus to support Assad as he again promises reforms

Tens of thousands rally in Damascus to support Assad as he again 
promises reforms
Al Arabiya

Tens of thousands of Syrians demonstrated in central Damascus on Wednesday in show of support for President Bashar al-Assad, who is battling a six-month uprising against his rule, as more deaths were reported by security forces fire across Syria.

“America, out, out, Syria will stay free,” chanted the crowd, many of them carrying pictures of Assad and Syrian flags. They also shouted slogans warning the European Union not to intervene in their country.
“God, Syria and Bashar,” they sang.

State television described the government-backed rally as a “million-strong march … supporting national independence and rejecting foreign intervention.”

At the start of the demonstration a man holding the flags of Russia and China — which both vetoed a European-drafted resolution against Syria at the United Nations last week — flew over the crowd, suspended from a helicopter by rope.

It was the biggest demonstration for months in the center of the capital, which has been relatively untouched by the protests which have rocked Damascus suburbs and other parts of the country.
More killings reported
As many as 10 people were killed by Syrian security forces during protests across the country on Tuesday, activists told Al Arabiya. “Seven people were killed in Homs, while three others were killed in Aleppo, Duma and Idlib,” activists said.

Assad’s crackdown on protesters against his 11-year rule has killed about 2,900 people, according to U.N. estimates. The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions and are seeking a U.N. resolution against Damascus. The government routinely blames “terrorists” of being behind the violence dominating the country.

In the first interview with Al Arabiya, the economic adviser of Syria’s National Council, Osama Qadi, warned of the economic impacts on the country and said that the foreign currency reserves has been decreasing rapidly since the start of the revolution.

President Assad, meanwhile, plans to create a new constitution, a top ruling party official said on Tuesday, as China joined long-time ally Russia in pressing for prompt reforms in a country riven by a deadly crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

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Breaking News: Underwear bomber pleads guilty

The Nigerian student has pleaded guilty to trying to blow up a plane over Detroit with a bomb hidden in his underwear, the Associated Press reports.

The plea comes on the second day of the trial of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

He is accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day 2009.

The bomb didn’t work, but Abdulmutallab was badly burned. Hours later in the hospital, he told the FBI that he was working for al-Qaida in Yemen

Update at 10:23 a.m. ET: Free Press writer David Ashenfelter, who is liveblogging from the courthouse in Detroit, says Abdulmutallab says he understands his rights and wants to plead guilty. The judge then goes over the penalties.

Egypt military denies shooting protesters

An Egyptian relative of one of the Copts 
who were killed during clashes with the Egyptian army late Sunday, 
mourns over his coffin outside the morgue of the Copts hospital in 
Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Oct. 10, 2011. Egypt's Coptic church blasted 
authorities Monday for allowing repeated attacks on Christians with 
impunity as the death toll from a night of rioting rose to more than two
 dozen, most of them Christians who were trying to stage a peaceful 
protest in Cairo over an attack on a church. (AP Photo / Khalil Hamra)
An Egyptian relative of one of the Copts who were killed during clashes with the Egyptian army late Sunday, mourns over his coffin outside the morgue of the Copts hospital in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Oct. 10, 2011. Egypt’s Coptic church blasted authorities Monday for allowing repeated attacks on Christians with impunity as the death toll from a night of rioting rose to more than two dozen, most of them Christians who were trying to stage a peaceful protest in Cairo over an attack on a church. (AP Photo / Khalil Hamra)

CAIRO (AP) — A military official on Wednesday blamed a group of Christian protesters for starting violent clashes with armed troops, saying some attacked soldiers with swords and firebombs during a Christian rally earlier this week that turned into Egypt’s worst violence since Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

Gen. Adel Emara denied the troops opened fire with live ammunition on the protesters or intentionally ran over them with armored vehicles. The violence late Sunday left at least 26 people dead, most of whom where Christians and many of whom were crushed by vehicles or died from gunfire, according to forensic reports. State media said at least three soldiers were also killed.

Emara spoke at a press conference Wednesday that was clearly aimed at defending Egypt’s military rulers from heavy criticism they have come under for the violence at the protests. He gave a detailed account of the military’s version of the events, using video footage of the events culled from state TV and independent stations. One of the images showed a protester hurling a heavy stone at soldiers inside an armored vehicle.
Witnesses and Christian protesters have denied the demonstrators started the fighting outside Egypt’s state television building in Cairo, known as the Maspero building. At the press conference, Emara did not show other videos aired on TV stations or posted on YouTube — one of which seems to show soldiers storming protesters who were peacefully holding speeches outside the building and another that shows a soldier firing with an unidentifiable weapon at protesters at close range from the back of a speeding amored vehicle that is weaving at the crowds.

The violence Sunday rippled through the Egyptian community, fueling rage beyond the Christian community. It was the worst violence against the protesters involving the military, and has put the ruling generals in a bad spot.

Emara said some Christian religious leaders and public figures incited protesters to violently take over the state TV building. He said a minority of the protesters were peaceful, but that a more violent, armed crowd joined the protest outside the TV building and began attacking a unit of about 300 soldiers, armed only with anti-riot gear.
“I want to bring your attention that the protesters outside Maspero had many strange things with them: swords, gas cylinders, molotov cocktails,” he said. “This is not an indication that this is not a peaceful protest.”
He said the protesters sparked the violence by setting army vehicles on fire and attacking forces inside with stones. He denied vehemently that soldiers barrelled their vehicles into the crowd intentionally, saying the drivers were in a state of panic and were trying to escape as they drove. “I cannot deny that some people may have been hit. But it was not systematic,” Emara said.

It is not “part of the dictionary” of the armed forces to drive over protesters, he said, adding that the troops guarding the television building did not have live ammunition.

His comments aimed clearly to draw sympathy for the troops, calling the protesters’ attacks with stones and sticks “savage.” Some of the video showed a bloody soldier being carried away on a stretcher. There was footage of protester bodies, some of which were mangled in the violence.

On Wednesday, the military quietly buried soldiers killed in the violence, the state news agency MENA reported. It did not give the number of soldiers buried, but the Arabic phrasing suggested it was more than two. An unidentified military official told MENA that the army hasn’t released the exact number of troops killed in Sunday’s clashes to preserve troop morale.

Another general at the press conference, Gen. Mahmoud Hegazi blamed some for trying to derail the democratic transition.

“The basic fact is there are enemies of the country who take advantage of the protests to infiltrate and realize destructive roles,” he said. “We should all be aware.”

Violence against Christians, the majority of whom belong to the orthodox Coptic Church, has mounted since the fall of Mubarak as state control has loosened, and as Islamist groups have started to operate freely.
But the violence on Sunday has fueled anger beyond the Christian community and is likely to widen criticism of the management of the ruling generals of the transition period.

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