News and Opinion Based on Facts

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Is the U.S. a Democracy? Unfortunately, It is

The "founding fathers" feared the idea of a pure Democracy because of the tendency of the majority to trample upon the rights of the minority.
This of course, is exactly what has happened.
Laws are passed every day that affect only minority groups, drug laws, sex (morality) laws, conspiracy laws and so on.
The majority feels that just about everyone who commits any transgression should "do some time", i.e., go to prison.
We should realize that U.S. prisons are not the Disney lands that the aristocracy would have you believe.
Prisons are like vocational schools for many, in terms of upgrading an individuals criminal portfolio.

In the past, the majority believed that homosexuality was a "sin", and they passed laws in most states that severely punished gays for engaging in activities which are part of their nature.
There were laws that outlawed inter-marriage between blacks and whites, people were sent to hellholes, and sometimes murdered by fellow inmates, because the majority thought such punishment was "too good for them".

Brutalization of human beings in the criminal justice system is a crime in and of itself, and we at the Report plan to comment on this issue frequently.

Think of us as the "anti-Nacy Grace".

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How Much Encouragement is Required to Hate?

It was a cool, clear night in December on the north side of Albuquerque, I was on my way to work.
I pumped iron for a couple of hours before I began the workout on my  mountain bike,
a ten mile uphill ride to the Health Care Center.
I was fifty, but my body didn’t know it.
The ride to work each night seemed almost effortless.
Riding north, crossing Central through the War Zone.
I pick up the bike trail which runs along an arroyo, with the majestic Sandia Mountains  not far off.
I love the high desert.
I love every natural environment, actually, but these peaceful niches in the midst of a city are welcome.
It’s almost Christmas.
As I pumped my legs and maneuver the machine onto Moon St both sides of the lushly vegetated middle class community are glowing softly with intricate and lovely light displays.
I’m listening to Dylan on the Sony Walkman strapped into a case on my tool belt.
He is warbling, “I threw it all away.”
 It’s hard for me to hear that song, as beautiful and meaningful as it is, all of these years after losing my wife, the song, as Bob Dylan’s music did to roughly a million of other listeners, seemed to be prophetic.
“One thing’s for certain, you will surely be hurtin’, if you throw it all away.”
God, sometimes I hated that song.

Suddenly everything went black.
I came to with my eyes shut tight, a natural reaction to extreme pain.
I heard voices, the pain was incredble.
I could feel that I was naked, covered with a sheet.
“What happened?” I cried out.
A voice spoke in a strong but hesitant way, “You were on a bicycle and you were hit by a car. You are in pretty bad shape. We think you have internal injuries.”
Through the agony twisting my body in spasms of fire, I asked, “Am I dying?”
The voice, probably an EMT or Paramedic, answered, “We don’t know. You are busted up pretty bad internally, you have some real serious fractures. “
I think I started moaning, uncontrollably.

As we have just seen, a life can be derailed in the fraction of an instant.

Sometimes things that happen are unavoidable, and sometimes the consequences are immeasurable.

What I really wanted to talk about today is Misty Croslin.

This is an involved and convoluted case.
Not a lot is known about the circumstances that led to Haleigh Cummings’ disappearance.
The case has generated a good deal of media attention, particularly from Nancy Grace, the former prosecuter.
A hero to some, to many she is evil incarnate, getting her jollies from verbally beating up on attractive, vulnerable young women.
Grace makes it clear on her show that she believes those she suspects of crime are entitled to no respect or civil rights or compassion.
She actually drove a suspect to commit suicide, and she’s proud of it.
A young attractive girl.

Back to Misty Croslin.
She is a child.
She’s 17, and in many ways she is a woman, but if you listen to her, and observe her, for even a few minutes, she is a child.
She was arrested recently, and her mug shot haunts me as I write this.
All of the pain and miscomprehension and fear is so obvious in her child’s face.
She faces several life sentences for selling prescription drugs without a license.
Can we get real here, for a second?
The Manson family girls  stuck a fork into the belly of a dying pregnant woman and are eligible for  parole.
But a teenage girl, an unsophisticated teenage girl, is going to get several life sentences for selling prescription drugs?

Nancy Grace starts every show by talking through the whole case, always shouting “Bombshell!” or “Breaking News” when she talks about episodes that occurred months ago, and were well covered.

Grace herself is physically attractive, although she wears a perpetual sneer of contempt for almost every one that appears on her show, including people who agree with her, but use a word or phrase that she objects to .
When that happens Grace goes into an angry diatribe “Rights?? Rights? Where were the rights of this helpless little child? Oh I forgot,” she says, with an even more obvious sneer, “You’re a defense lawyer, you believe the victim doesn’t have any rights, only the killers and rapists.”

Nancy Grace boasts of not having lost a case during her career.
I believe her.
I also know that statistically, some of the people she convicted were probably innocent.

I can safely say that Nancy Grace hates 17 year old Misty Croslin.
A young, pretty and obviously confused youngster caught up in events beyond her control.
Married to an older, reportedly, physically abusive drug user.

Hate, anger, revenge and superiority come so easily to Ms Grace and those who think like she does, which is, undoubtedly, millions of Americans.

This televising and glamorizing and over-exposing of crime and prison and suspects, particularly young, attractive suspects, or particularly “gory” suspects, cannot be a good thing for our psyche as a nation.
Compassion is not stupid. It is not socialist.
It is an important part of who and what we are.
I don’t know what happened in the case of Haleigh Cummings.
Neither does Nancy Grace.

Nancy Graces chortling “Tot Mom whines in court,  Misty Croslin cries, ‘I want out’”
is extremely mean and unbecoming.
She is the Glenn Beck of Televised crime "News".

People like Ms Grace, and Mr Beck, do not need encouragement.

They are our dark side.

Analysis: Iranian Quickstep: 1 Step Forward, 2 Steps Back

President Obama has attempted to extend the olive branch to Tehran, are they finally willing to accept it?  MBSR

By Jonathan Spyer *
February 5, 2010

Latest Ahmadinejad statement suggests that Teheran still believes it can find a few partners for the dance it has been performing since 2003.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week told Iranian state television that "we have no problem sending our enriched uranium abroad."

In so doing, Ahmadinejad appeared to agree to the long-standing plan for the export of the greater part of Iran's enriched uranium stocks.

Recent experience with the diplomatic methods of the Islamic Republic of Iran suggests that this statement is the latest instance of Teheran's favored approach to diplomacy.  The Iranian tendency is to seek to offset confrontation at the 11th hour by appearing to show flexibility. Once crisis is averted, the regime relies on differences over the details to make sure that nothing actually happens. It is the diplomacy of one step forward, two steps back. Thus is further time bought for the Iranian nuclear program.

The hitherto seemingly inexhaustible international patience at Iranian maneuvering, meanwhile, has recently been showing signs of at last wearing thin. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is the latest convert to the cause of renewed sanctions. Brown said on Tuesday that "What we now, I think, have to do is accept that if Iran will not make some indication that it will take action - we have got to proceed with sanctions."

It remains to be seen if the latest Iranian move will revive the spirits of the advocates of "engagement." Ahmadinejad's statement relates to the IAEA proposal that Iran should ship its low-enriched uranium abroad, where it would be converted into fuel rods for an Iranian research reactor producing medical isotopes.

The purpose of the IAEA proposal was to call Iran's bluff. Iran has long claimed that its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes. Very well, then, said the IAEA - let other countries take charge of converting Iranian low-grade uranium into material fit only for domestic use. Of course, this proposal depends on the assumption that the Iranians have been entirely honest in revealing all their supplies of enriched uranium. If they have not, and if a substantial amount remains outside of the purview of international observers, then the exercise becomes meaningless. Still, let us assume in this regard that the Islamic Republic of Iran's well-known tendency toward honesty and transparency has prevailed, and that as such the proposal to export a large percentage of Iran's known supplies of low enriched uranium is not entirely devoid of content.

In considering the seriousness or otherwise of Ahmadinejad's statement, it is worth looking back to October last year, when the export proposal was first tabled. The apparent Iranian flexibility at that time came two weeks after the revelation of a secret uranium enrichment plant in the town of Qom on September 21. At the time, there was international excitement as Iranian representatives in Geneva agreed "in principle" with the proposal for the export of uranium. It was agreed that the details would be worked out at a subsequent meeting in Vienna.

That was on October 2. At the meeting in Vienna on October 19, the proposal was further clarified. A draft proposal was formulated. At the end of that month, Iran began to retreat from its apparent acceptance of the proposal.  On November 18, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki unambiguously rejected it in the following terms: "Definitely, Iran will not send its 3.5 percent-enriched fuel out."

The tentative December "deadline" came and went. On January 20, Iran confirmed that it rejected the export proposal as formulated in Vienna.

In other words, a skeptic might conclude, the international anger resulting from the Qom revelation made a bit of momentary cooperation from Iran advisable. Once the moment had passed, normal service could be resumed. The Iranian parliament and Guardian Council a week ago approved an Ahmadinejad endorsed bill to cut food and energy subsidies. The move, while significantly reducing government spending, stands to sharply increase prices and possibly lead to rising inflation. Political unrest is ongoing in Iran, and the regime is reported to be unnerved by the failure of its initial attempts at repression to douse the flame.

At such a moment, the last thing the regime needs is renewed sanctions. It is therefore an opportune moment for the reappearance of the reasonable Teheran of last October - to kick the ball down the road again for another few months.

Will the "international community" play ball?   There are currently indications of a hardening US stance. A bill to target Iranian fuel imports is working its way through Congress. New sanctions may be discussed at the Security Council later this month. In the absence of renewed UNSC sanctions, the administration may set about trying to build a "coalition of the willing" for further moves against Iran.

But it is deeply questionable if any of this will prove sufficient to stop the Iranian nuclear drive.
 *Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Palestinian Prime Minister to Israeli Audience: You Make Concessions, We Don't

By Barry Rubin*

Imagine this. You're prime minister of a regime that isn't yet a state. You are praised in the Western media as a great moderate man of peace. You represent a people who the U.S. president says is in an intolerable situation. You supposedly want a country of your own. Indeed you've announced you will get a state in two years, something conceivable only if your negotiating partner agrees. You're dependent on contributions  from Western democratic countries that want you to make a deal. Your rivals have seized almost half the land you want to rule and work tirelessly to overthrow your regime and very possibly to kill you personally.

But here comes a big opportunity.

You are invited by your negotiating partner to its most important meeting of the year. All the other side's top leaders and opinionmakers are listening to you.

And that country's second most powerful leader has just made a very conciliatory speech praising you personally, urging peace, offering concessions, and telling his own people they must be ready to give you a lot.

What do you do?

Make a warm conciliatory, confidence-building speech, showing by substantial offers that you, too, are willing to compromise; stretching out your hand in order to build friendship and ensure you get a country?

Hey, we're talking about the Palestinians here! And as I say over and over again: anyone who thinks the Palestinian Authority (PA) is going to make peace hasn't been paying attention to what they say and do.

So here is what PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told the audience at the Herzliya Conference, held at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), following Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's conciliatory speech:

--Israel must immediately start pulling out of the rest of the West Bank, without getting anything in return.

--It must immediately stop all construction on settlements, including apartments now being completed.

--Israel's army should never enter PA-ruled areas. Even if the PA refuses to arrest those who have murdered Israelis or won't stop planned attacks, Israel's army must do nothing, despite the 1993 agreement between the two sides permitting this. Fayyad said this isn't necessary because the PA is taking care of these matters. But this makes no sense: when Israel sees that to be true it never orders incursions in the first place.

--Israel should end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, even though the Hamas movement ruling there refuses to make a deal with the PA, openly announces its goal of destroying Israel, and smuggles in as many weapons as possible. Moreover, as soon as it feels secure again, Hamas will launch new attacks on Israel. Fayyad claimed, however, that if Israel did so, the PA could then build government institutions in the Gaza Strip, though it has no control whatsoever there.

--He openly stated that his goal was to mobilize international support and create such a strong state apparatus that the world would pressure Israel to end any presence in the West Bank or east Jerusalem, apparently without the Palestinian side giving anything.

--While Barak said that the "roughness" of the region made it harder to give the Palestinians everything they wanted (for example, the PA could be overthrown by Hamas; subverted by Iran and Syria; unwilling or unable to stop cross-border attacks), Fayyad responded that once Israel left all of the West Bank the region would become more stable and peaceful. That's a rather questionable assertion.

It is true that he ended by saying:

"The Israeli people have a long history, they have pain, they have ambition, and like you, we Palestinians have our own history. Right now we are going through lots of pain and suffering. And we have one key aspiration, and that is once again to be able to live alongside you in peace, harmony and security."

Yet he addressed none of the points in Israel's own peace plan: an official end to the conflict if there is an agreement; resettlement of Palestinian refugees in Palestine; an end to incitement (which would be easy to do) to kill Israelis; limits on the militarization of a Palestinian state; or recognition of Israel as a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian Arab Muslim state (the PA constitution says that Islam is the country's official religion).

This was not an extremist speech or one seeking conflict. Fayyad is probably the most moderate guy in the PA leadership. He was doing about the best he could. But that's the point. He has no base of support, isn't a member of Fatah, and doesn't really represent Palestinian thinking. He is in office for one reason only: the Western donors demand it. Fayyad, and arguably the PA leadership as a whole, don't want a new war with Israel. But Fatah will sponsor one if it thinks such a step is advantageous or needed to out-militant Hamas.

Equally, Fayyad couldn't go any further than he did because he knows that his Fatah bosses, Palestinian constituents, and Hamas enemies would throw him out if he offered the slightest concession to Israel and demanded any less than everything they want.

We will see how much progress Fayyad makes over the next two years in building strong and stable institutions. Yet it should be understood that what he is doing is not a way to convince Israel that both sides can reach a compromise peace but to persuade the world to force Israel to make compromises without the PA having to do so.

The irony is that it doesn't matter what Barak says, except to show the world that Israel wants real peace and to encourage Israeli voters to back Labor as a party that balances a strong desire for peace with a smart sense of security for the country.

Barak warned the right-wing in Israel that it would be a mistake to oppose a genuine two-state solution, an outcome that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu-like Barak--has accepted. But the defense minister also urged the left-wing not to be naïve.

Here's a fascinating example of how the world generally interprets the situation. Read thisparagraph from the Washington Post coverage carefully:

"But there was a common thread, too, with each acknowledging an international consensus on the idea of two nations. Barak said that Israel risks becoming 'an apartheid state par excellence' if it does not negotiate the terms of Palestinian statehood soon, and Fayyad said the work being done in the West Bank on governance needs to be matched by political progress."

The two statements are supposed to be parallel. Barak says: Israel must get rid of the West Bank for its own good. Fayyad says: progress must be made in negotiations, in the context of a speech in which he asked for a long list of Israeli concessions and offered nothing in exchange. These statemens are not parallel. A parallel statement would be if Fayyad had said something like:

The Palestinians risk becoming permanently mired in violence and backwardness unless they negotiate terms for Israel feeling secure in giving up the territory.

Since 1993 not a single Palestinian leader has ever made a speech to his own people like Barak's, never said that they should have to give up something to get a state, never urged the media and public debate to become more moderate.

Four days before Fayyad's speech, here is the Friday prayer sermon given in Nablus by the imam appointed there by Fayyad and broadcast on the television Fayyad controls:

"The Jews are the enemies of Allah and [Muhammad], the enemies of humanity in general, and of the Palestinians in particular.... Jews will always be Jews. Even if donkeys cease to bray, dogs cease to bark, wolves cease to howl, and snakes cease to bite, the Jews will not cease to be hostile to the Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad said: 'Whenever two Jews find themselves alone with a Muslim, they think of killing him.' Oh Muslims, this land, these holy places, and these mosques will only be liberated when we return to the Book of Allah, and when all Muslims are prepared to become mujahideen for the sake of Allah, in support of Palestine, its people, its land, and its holy places."

How can this be reconciled with Fayyad's claim that the sole aspiration is "to live alongside you in peace, harmony and security"?

Note that this is a Palestinian Authority, not a Hamas, cleric speaking. Note, too, that while Fayyad's speech is covered around the world, sermons like these are never quoted in the Western media. This is not to say that the sermon is real and Fayyad's views are fake, it is to say that the sermon is meant to shape Palestinian politics and public opinion and what Fayyad says is meant to shape Israeli and Western politics and public opinion. Fayyad, a figurehead, is not going to make anything change and he isn't even going to try. Nor does Fayyad have any control over the ruling party, Fatah, whose leadership is still hardline on goals and negotiations, though not on more immediate issues.

The Israeli audience applauded Fayyad because it does want peace and prefers him to all the worse alternatives, especially Hamas but also those in Fatah. Yet few have any illusions that peace is at hand or that Fayyad is going to deliver it.