A non-profit news blog, focused on providing independent journalism.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Handcuffs, leg shackles and tasers: The new face of punishment in the public schools

"In many parts of the country, teachers are viewed as beyond reproach, much like doctors, police officers, or clergy ... and, therefore, are rarely challenged about their classroom conduct. In some cases, this means that actions that would be considered criminal if committed by a parent remain unchallenged by law enforcement if they occur in a school setting." - Senator Tom Harkin, "Dangerous Use of Seclusion and Restraints in Schools Remains Widespread and Difficult to Remedy: A Review of Ten Cases"

Schools and Prisons

© agovernmentofwolves.com

Roughly 1500 kids are tied up or locked down every day by school officials in the United States.

At least 500 students are locked up in some form of solitary confinement every day, whether it be a padded room, a closet or a duffel bag. In many cases, parents are rarely notified when such methods are used.

On any given day when school is in session, kids who "act up" in class are pinned facedown on the floor, locked in dark closets, tied up with straps, bungee cords and duct tape, handcuffed, leg shackled, tasered or otherwise restrained, immobilized or placed in solitary confinement in order to bring them under "control."

In almost every case, these undeniably harsh methods are used to punish kids for simply failing to follow directions or throwing tantrums. Very rarely do the kids pose any credible danger to themselves or others.

Unbelievably, these tactics are all legal, at least when employed by school officials or school resource officers (a.k.a. police officers) in the nation's public schools.

For example, in what may be the youngest example of a child being restrained in this way, in October 2014, a 4-year-old Virginia preschooler was handcuffed, leg shackled and transported to the sheriff's office after reportedly throwing blocks and climbing on top of the furniture. School officials claim the restraints were necessary to protect the adults from injury.

In New York, "school safety agents" tied a 5-year-old ADHD student to a chair with Velcro straps as a punishment for throwing a tantrum in class. Police officers claim the straps were necessary because the boy had tried to bite one of the adults.

A 6-year-old kindergarten student in a Georgia public school was handcuffed, transported to the police station, and charged with simple battery of a schoolteacher and criminal damage to property for throwing a temper tantrum at school.

A second-grader in Arizona who suffers from ADHD was duct-taped to her chair after getting up to sharpen her pencil too often.

Kentucky school officials placed a 9-year-old autistic student in a duffel bag as a punishment acting up in class. Turns out, it wasn't the first time the boy had been placed inside the "therapy bag."

An 11-year-old special needs student had his hands cuffed behind his back and was driven home in a police car after refusing to come inside after recess and acting in an out of control manner by "passively" resisting police officers.

Unfortunately, these are far from isolated incidents.

According to a investigative report, such harsh punishments are part of a widespread phenomenon plaguing school districts across the country.

Indeed, as investigative reporter Heather Vogell points out, this is a local story everywhere. It's happening in my town. It's happening in your town. It's happening in every school district in America.

In 2012 alone, there were more than 267,000 attempts by school officials to restrain or lock up students using straps, bungee cords, and duct tape. The numbers are likely far greater when one accounts for the schools that underreport their use of such tactics.

Vogell found that "most [incidents] of restraints and seclusions happen to kids with disabilities - and are more likely to happen to kids with autism or emotional/behavioral problems." Often due to their age, their emotional distress, or their disabilities, these young people are unable to tell their parents about the abusive treatment being meted out to them by school officials.

At least 500 students are placed in "Scream Rooms" (there were 104,000 reported uses of scream rooms in a given year). For those unfamiliar with the term, a "scream room" is an isolated, unmonitored, locked room - sometimes padded, often as small as four-feet-by-four-feet - which school officials use to place students in seclusion.

These scream rooms are a far cry from the tested and approved "time out," which involves monitoring the child in a non-locked setting in order to calm him down. As psychiatrist Keith Albow points out, "Scream rooms are nothing but solitary confinement, and by extension, that makes every school that uses them a prison. They turn principals into wardens and make every student an inmate."

Schools acting like prisons. School officials acting like wardens. Students treated like inmates and punished like hardened criminals.

This is the end product of all those so-called school "safety" policies, which run the gamut from zero tolerance policies that punish all infractions harshly to surveillance cameras, metal detectors, random searches, drug-sniffing dogs, school-wide lockdowns, active-shooter drills and militarized police officers.

Paradoxically, instead of making the schools safer, school officials have succeeded in creating an environment in which children are so traumatized that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, anxiety, mistrust of adults in authority, as well as feelings of anger, depression, humiliation, despair and delusion.

Even in the face of parental outrage, lawsuits, legislative reforms, investigative reports and endless cases showing that these tactics and "should never be used for punishment or discipline," full-grown adults - police officers and teachers alike - insist that the reason they continue to handcuff, lock up and restrain little kids is because they fear for their safety and the safety of others.

"Fear for one's safety" has become such a hackneyed and threadbare excuse for behavior that is inexcusable. Dig a little deeper and you'll find that explanation covers a multitude of sins, whether it's poorly trained police officers who shoot first and ask questions later, or school officials who are ill-equipped to deal with children who act like children, meaning they don't always listen, they sometimes throw tantrums, and they have a hard time sitting still.

That's not to say all schools are bad. In fact, there are a small but growing number of schools that are proactively switching to a policy of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), which relies on the use of "engaging instruction, combined with acknowledgement or feedback of positive student behavior," in order to reduce the need for unnecessary discipline and promote a climate of greater productivity, safety, and learning. One school in Pennsylvania for children with significant behavior challenges found that they were able to "reduce the use of physical restraint from approximately 1,000 incidents per year in 1998 to only three incidents total in 2012" after switching to a PBIS-oriented program. If exposed to this positive reinforcement early enough in school, by the time a student makes it to the third grade, little to no intervention is required.

Unfortunately, these schools are still in the minority in an age that values efficiency, expediency and conformity, where it's often faster and easier to "lock down" a kid who won't sit still, won't follow orders, and won't comply.

Certainly, this is a mindset we see all too often in the American police state.

So what's the answer, not only for the here-and-now - the children growing up in these quasi-prisons - but for the future of this country? How do you convince a child who has been routinely handcuffed, shackled, tied down, locked up, and immobilized by government officials - all before he reaches the age of adulthood - that he has any rights at all, let alone the right to challenge wrongdoing, resist oppression and defend himself against injustice?

Most of all, as I point out in my book , how do you persuade a fellow American that the government works for him when for most of his young life, he has been incarcerated in an institution that teaches young people to be obedient and compliant citizens who don't talk back, don't question and don't challenge authority?

Peter Gray, a professor of psychology at Boston College, believes that school is a prison that is damaging our kids, and it's hard to disagree, especially with the numbers of police officers being assigned to schools on the rise. What this means, notes , is greater police "involvement in routine discipline matters that principals and parents used to address without involvement from law enforcement officers."

Students, in turn, are not only finding themselves subjected to police tactics such as handcuffs, leg shackles, tasers and excessive force for "acting up" but are also being ticketed, fined and sent to court for behavior perceived as defiant, disruptive or disorderly such as spraying perfume and writing on a desk.

Clearly, the pathology that characterizes the American police state has passed down to the schools. Now in addition to the government and its agents viewing the citizenry as suspects to be probed, poked, pinched, tasered, searched, seized, stripped and generally manhandled, all with the general blessing of the court, our children in the public schools are also fair game.

What can be done?

Without a doubt, change is needed, but that will mean taking on the teachers' unions, the school unions, the educators' associations, and the police unions, not to mention the politicians dependent on their votes and all of the corporations that profit mightily from an industrial school complex.

As we've seen with other issues, any significant reforms will have to start locally and trickle upwards. For a start, parents need to be vocal, visible and organized and demand that school officials 1) adopt a policy of positive reinforcement in dealing with behavior issues; 2) minimize the presence in the schools of police officers and cease involving them in student discipline; and 3) insist that all behavioral issues be addressed first and foremost with a child's parents, before any other disciplinary tactics are attempted.

"Children are the messages we send to a time we will not see," Professor Neil Postman once wrote. If we do not rein in the police state's influence in the schools, the future to which we are sending our children will be characterized by a brutal, totalitarian regime.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://bit.ly/1xcsdoI.

Asteroid flying past Earth today has mini-moon!

2004 BL86
© NASA/JPL-Caltech

This animation, created from 20 individual radar images, clearly show the rough outline of 2004 BL86 and its newly-discovered moon. Click for larger animation.

Wonderful news! Asteroid 2004 BL86, which passed closest to Earth today at a distance of 750,000 miles (1.2 million km), has a companion moon. Scientists working with NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, have released the first radar images of the asteroid which show the tiny object in orbit about the main body.

While these are the first images of it, the "signature" of the satellite was seen in light curve data reported earlier by Joseph Pollock (Appalachian State University, North Carolina) and Petr Prave (Ondrejov Observatory, Czech Republic) according to Lance Bennerwho works with the radar team at Goldstone.

2004 BL86 measures about 1,100 feet (325 meters) across while its moon is approximately 230 feet (70 meters) across. The asteroid made its closest approach today (Jan. 26th) at 10:19 a.m. (CST), however it will peak in brightness this evening around 10 p.m. (4:00 UT) at magnitude +9.0. Unlike some flybys, 2004 BL86 will remain within a few tenths of a magnitude of peak brightness from 6 p.m. tonight (CST) through early tomorrow morning, so don't miss the chance to see it in your telescope.

Don't expect to see the diminutive moon visually - the entire system will only appear as a point of light, but I'm sure you'll agree it's cool just knowing it's there.

Double Asteroid


The double asteroid (90) Antiope and its companion S/2000 (90) 1. The two objects are separated by 106 miles (171 km), and they perform their celestial dance in 16.5 hours. The adaptive optics observations couldn’t resolve the shape of the individual components as they are too small.

Among near-Earth asteroids, about 16% that are about 655 feet (200 meters) or larger are either binary or triple systems. While that's not what you'd call common, it's not unusual either. To date, we know of 240 asteroids with a single moon, 10 triple systems and the sextuple system of Pluto (I realize that's stretching a bit, since Pluto's a dwarf planet) - 268 companions total . 52 of those are near-Earth asteroids.

With a resolution of 13 feet (4-meters) per pixel we can at least see the roughness of the the main body's surface and perhaps imagine craters there. No details are visible on the moon though it does appear elongated. I'm surprised how round the main body is given its small size. An object that tiny doesn't normally have the gravity required to crush itself into a sphere. Yet another fascinating detail needing our attention.

Of course the main asteroid will get your attention tonight. Please check out our earlier story on 2004 BL86 which includes more details as well as charts to help you track it as it flies across Cancer the Crab tonight. This is the best view we're going to get of it for the next two centuries.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://bit.ly/1xcsdoI.

I wish I'd never reported my rape

interrogation room

© mevans via iStock

I sit in the windowless interrogation room, fingers brushing against the cool metal of handcuffs attached to the chair, and try to comprehend what the detective sitting across from me is asking.

"Were you a virgin?" he says, his lips curling slightly as he repeats the question. "Explain to me, how could you have been bleeding if you weren't on your period? Have you had sex before?"

I feel my face flush with embarrassment as I think about how to respond. Before I can say anything, there's a knock at the door and another officer walks in.

"The suspect's attorney is here."

Suspect? My stomach drops. Did he really just refer to me as a suspect?

The detective turns to his colleague.

"She agreed not to have the lawyer come in for this."

I open my mouth to object. Our "agreement" consisted of the detective asking me why I needed a lawyer if I was innocent. Before I can speak, the other officer leaves, the door closes and it's just me and the detective again, alone in the windowless room.

"Let me get this straight, you can't remember how your clothes came off? Well, what were you wearing?"

Though I am in an interrogation room, and have just been referred to as a suspect, I have not committed a crime. It is October 2013, I am 19 years old, and I am in the middle of reporting that I was raped on my college campus.

It all began so innocently. My girlfriends and I went to a fraternity party at a neighboring college and I met a guy there. We started chatting as soon as he arrived at the party. I liked him. We exchanged cell phone numbers, and texted a few times over the next few weeks. When he texted that he wanted to visit me at my college, I invited him over.

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon when we met at the quad at the center of campus. We hugged briefly, then walked around campus, chatting. He said he wanted to see my room. I had never had a date ask to see my room so quickly, but I felt comfortable with this guy and didn't think I was taking an unusual risk.

I scanned my key card to unlock the door to my secure dorm building; he held the door open for me with a smile. Still chatting, we walked upstairs to my room. I noticed that no one was in the common area nearby. He sat down on my bed, and I sat down next to him. We continued chatting until his lips softly grazed mine. I kissed him back.

Then, it was as if a switch flipped. Suddenly he was pinning me down on the bed and forcing himself onto me. Thinking there was a misunderstanding, I said, "hey!" and tried to push him off. But there was no misunderstanding. He grabbed my pillow and pressed it down onto my face so that I couldn't breathe. Then he penetrated me so forcefully that I bled. As soon as the pillow hit my face, I knew my life was in danger. I stopped resisting.

Because I go to a women's college, rape is not typically an issue on campus; therefore, unlike most universities, the protocol at my college is for students to report rapes to the city police department. That Sunday afternoon, I felt so traumatized that I did not go immediately to the police. I just wanted to forget what had happened. But my friends urged me to step forward. So two days later I sought help at my college and was taken to the hospital for a rape kit. Even though I was scared, I thought I was doing the right thing. But from that moment on, a second ordeal ensued.

At the hospital, I was told a detective would get in touch with me within the month. A month passed with no word from the police. I hired a lawyer to help me navigate the legal process and she helped me track down the investigating officer assigned to my case. I called the officer myself. The first words he said after I identified myself were, "How did you get this number?" I was surprised at his suspicious tone, but then he asked me to come to the police department for an interview, which made me believe he was interested in my case.

I felt nervous preparing for the interview. I was glad my case was finally getting attention and I was ready to do everything I could to help prosecute the man who had raped me. I was so fearful of the rapist that I had moved to a different dorm in case he came back looking for me. So I was relieved at the prospect that he would soon be removed from the streets.

At the appointed time, the officer met me in the lobby of the police station. My lawyer had not yet arrived - I wanted her there because I had never been through anything like this before and I wanted an advocate. (I learned much later that I had the right to be accompanied by a no-cost rape crisis advocate). When I asked to wait until my lawyer arrived, the officer refused. He escorted me up the elevator, through some offices and into the windowless room. I looked around dumbfounded - the room was identical to the rooms I had seen suspects interviewed in on television. It was an interrogation room with chairs separated by a small table. The detective directed me to sit in the chair with the handcuffs attached to it.

With each passing moment, my hope that the police were on my side and would help build a case against this man faded. I kept telling myself that I was overreacting and the interview was just off to a rocky start.

But then the detective began asking me about my virginity, my clothing choice and how strongly I resisted. Next, he pushed me to engage in a "pretext phone call," in which I was to call the perpetrator and tell him I was pregnant. I was shocked at the suggestion. Not only was the officer directing me to lie about a pregnancy, he was asking me to speak to a man I never wanted to have contact with again. I had blocked the rapist's number from my cell phone and was attempting - with the help of my attorney - to get a restraining order against him.

During subsequent telephone conversations with the detective, he suggested that I was perhaps mistaking rough sex for rape. He advised me that, "some men will just want to have sex with you and never talk to you again." It shocked me that he could find any way to interpret what happened to me as a consensual sexual encounter. I began to worry that the detective himself viewed me as a sex object - not as a victim.

Later, when he told me that he had seen the results of my rape kit, and it showed that I was not raped, I knew there was little chance this detective was going to help me. His statement was absurd. Surely he knew as well as I did that a rape kit does not scientifically determine whether or not someone has been raped. It's simply a tool that gathers DNA evidence and notes abrasions and other signs of physical trauma. Besides, while she was administering the rape kit, the medical examiner did tell me she saw abrasions, based on both her visual inspection and the intake of a special dye used to highlight injuries.

Ultimately, no charges were filed in my case. The man who raped me was never even brought in for questioning. The "investigation" dragged on for more than six months. During those months, I called the detective repeatedly to find out the status of my case. He rarely returned my calls and eventually stopped returning them altogether until I complained to his supervisor. I did have the opportunity to speak to the district attorney assigned to my case. He told me he could not press charges because there was no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I had been raped. He said the defense attorney would tear me apart, because I had let the perpetrator into my room and waited two days to report the crime.

Looking back on the experience, it's clear the police had very little interest in my case. Had I known I would be subjected to inappropriate interrogation, instructions that violated my personal integrity, and lengthy delays, I would never have reported the crime.

As I write this, I can only imagine the comments and criticism I will receive. I allowed a man I barely knew into my room, I returned his kiss, and I waited two days to officially report being raped. Perhaps I put too much trust in a man I barely knew, and maybe I did "lead him on," but no one deserves to be violently assaulted and to have absolutely nothing done about it.

The investigation of my rape took place within the special victims unit of the police department. This means the officer I worked with and his supervisor only investigated crimes like mine and had received training on how to treat rape victims. Yet I still faced an incredibly traumatic and counterproductive investigative process.

What should be done? I'm just a college student; I don't have all the answers. But I do know that what happened to me is unacceptable. Handling sexual assault on campuses doesn't seem to be working, but as we continue to discuss how to confront it instead - including directing victims to report their assailants directly to the police - we must confront some difficult questions: Are police agencies adequately equipped to handle rape investigations? How can the process be improved? Are we putting victims in a position to be assaulted twice - once by the rapist, and again by the justice system?

I wish I could warn unsuspecting women about the smooth-talking predator that I encountered. How many women has he victimized since his attack on me a year ago? How many women did he rape before I fell victim to him that fateful Sunday afternoon? Knowing he is still on the streets haunts me every day. And somehow, I feel responsible for it. I failed to present a "good enough" case to prosecute, and because of that, a violent predator is free to re-offend.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://bit.ly/1xcsdoI.

Argentina to dissolve intelligence body after prosecutor death

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has announced plans to disband Argentina's intelligence agency.

In a TV address, she said she would draft a bill to set up a new body.

Ms Fernandez said the intelligence services had kept much of the same structure they had during the military government, which ended in 1983.

The move comes after the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman - hours before he had been due to testify against senior government officials.

He had been investigating the bombing of a Jewish centre in the capital in 1994 which left 85 people dead.

Mr Nisman, 51, had accused several senior government figures - including President Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman - of involvement in a plot to cover up Iran's alleged role in the bombing.

'Combating impunity'

"I have prepared a bill to reform the intelligence service," President Fernandez said, adding that she wanted the proposal to be discussed at an urgent session of Congress.

Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, May 2013A gun was found next to the body of Prosecutor Alberto Nisman in his Buenos Aires flat

"The plan is to dissolve the Intelligence Secretariat and create a Federal Intelligence Agency," she said that a new leadership should be chosen by a president but would be subject to a Senate approval.

"Combating impunity has been a priority of my government," she added.

Lethal weather forecast for the UK; crippling snowstorms next week

© Net Weather/Getty Images

Panicked forecasters raised the alert in the past hour after spotting the freak system on the weather models.Rare in the UK it is identical to the phenomenon which triggered crippling whiteouts and ice storms in the United States.Sparked by the frenzied and volatile behaviour of the jet stream it threatens to bring the fury of the North Pole tearing across the country next week.

Forecasters say temperatures will plunge to below -15C (5F) while feet-deep snow drifts on a par with the worst winters in history are likely.The whole of the UK will be scourged by screaming Arctic gales and blizzards right through the first half of February.

A repeat of the historic freeze of 2010 which brought the coldest temperatures on record and ground airports to a standstill, is feared. Weather experts say they have issued a stark warning to emergency services and the Government to take action now.Airports, railway lines and roads are expected to grind to a shivering halt with extreme cold threatening the lives of thousands of people.

Piers Corbyn, forecaster for WeatherAction, warned a "catastrophic" set of circumstances have come together to trigger a lethal spell of weather. He said: "This could lead to anything, gales, huge snowstorms and the lowest temperatures of winter so far. "We are now 95 per cent certain that the whole of the country will be affected from the start of February.

"Such is the severity of this situation I have written to the Government's Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBRA) committee urging them to take immediate action." The terrifying prediction is the result of a deeply meandering jet stream which has been largely responsible for the erratic weather this winter.

At the start of the season forecasters warned this big freeze would hit towards the end of December, but the frenzied deviation of the jet stream nudged it out of the way.The fast-flowing band of air is now poised to shift to a much more southerly position allowing the contents of the North Pole to flood into the UK.Swathes of the UK face knee-deep snow drifts with roads set to turn into deadly ice rinks sparking travel chaos.

Mr Corbyn said: "This is going to be a severely damaging spell of weather, the NHS is thoroughly unprepared and has been lucky up until now as it has not been too severe."But this is about to change dramatically with a displaced Polar vortex likely to dominate the weather for the first half of next month."

© Net Weather

The Jet Stream plunging southwards towards the beginning of next week.

Weather charts show the jet stream violently churning across the Atlantic, sweeping in dips and troughs over the UK.It has been travelling resulting in the storms being pulled in from the Atlantic at the beginning of the year.

Forecasters warn it is cranking up a gear again threatening more wind and rain this week before whipping freezing cold air down from the Arctic region.

James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather, said the entire country could be blanketed in a carpet of snow by the end of next week.He explained the chaotic winter surge is being bolstered by a strong negative Arctic Oscillation AO. The AO describes the pattern of air flow around the northern hemisphere, when a negative phase it pulls Arctic air towards the UK.Mr Madden said after this sets in the country will be plunged into a lengthy and severe big freeze.

He said: "We are now about to enter a significant and prolonged pattern change to even colder conditions, which will also be accompanied by frequent and widespread snow events across the whole country."From the middle part of next week cold air of an Arctic origin will begin to surge in across the whole of the country.

"This will also bring the risk of almost nationwide snow showers. "The cold and wintry theme will also remain as the more dominant feature over the next several weeks at the very least, and it will tighten its grip even more and gradually worsen throughout February as a strong blocking pattern develops.

"The final part of January and February period is now shaping up to something that could be on a similar par to December 2010 at the very least. "There is likely to be frequent and heavy bouts of snow across the whole country, severe blizzards, and major ice problems."

The Met Office warned of widespread wintry showers as temperatures plummet close to -10C (14F) by the end of the week.Forecaster Calum MacColl said tomorrow and Tuesday will stay mild before the cold snap bites on Wednesday.

He said freezing winds from Greenland and Canada will make it feel even colder with snow and widespread frosts on the cards.He said: "From Wednesday onwards we are back into a cold snap which will initially last five or six days. "Winds from the north will see wintry showers picking up with snow right through to low levels later in the week.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://bit.ly/1xcsdoI.

It's not the Greeks who failed, it's the predatory beast EU

© Matson Photo Service

Aircraft refueling at Semakh, British Mandate Palestine 1931.

In what universe is it a good thing to have over half of the young people in entire countries without work, without prospects, without a future? And then when they stand up and complain, threaten them with worse? How can that possibly be the best we can do? And how much worse would you like to make it? If a flood of suicides and miscarriages, plummeting birth rates and doctors turning tricks is not bad enough yet, what would be?

If you live in Germany or Finland, and it were indeed true that maintaining your present lifestyle depends on squeezing the population of Greece into utter misery, what would your response be? F##k 'em? You know what, even if that were so, your nations have entered into a union with Greece (and Spain, and Portugal et al), and that means you can't only reap the riches on your side and leave them with the bitter fruit. That would make that union pointless, even toxic. You understand that, right?

Greece is still an utterly corrupt country. Brussels knows this, but it has kept supporting a government that supports the corrupt elite, tried to steer the Greeks away from voting SYRIZA. Why? How much does Brussels like corrupt elites, exactly? The EU, and its richer member nations, want Greece to cut even more, given the suicides, miscarriages, plummeting birth rates and doctors turning tricks. How blind is that? Again, how much worse does it have to get?

Does the EU have any moral values at all? And if not, why are you, if you live in the EU, part of it? Because you don't have any, either? And if you do, where's your voice? There are people suffering and dying who are part of a union that you are part of. That makes you an accomplice. You can't hide from that just because your media choose to ignore your reality from you.

And it doesn't stop there. It's not just a lack of morals. The powers that be within the EU deliberately unleashed shock therapy on Greece - helped along by Goldman Sachs and the IMF, granted. All supra-national organizations tend towards zero moral values. It's inherent in their structures. We have NATO, IMF, World Bank, EU, and there's many more. It's about the lack of accountability, and the attraction that very lack has for certain characters. Flies and honey.

So that's where I would tend to differ from people like Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis, the man seen as SYRIZA's new finance minister, and also the man who last night very graciously, in the midst of what must have been a wild festive night in Athens, responded to my congratulations email, saying he knows what Dr Evil Brussels is capable of. I don't see trying to appease Brussels as a successful long term move, and I think Athens should simply say thanks, but no, thanks. But I'm a writer in a glass tower, and they have to face the music, I know.

But let's get a proper perspective on this. And for that, first let's get back to Steve Keen (you now he's a personal friend of The Automatic Earth). Here's what I think is important. His piece last week lays the foundation for SYRIZA's negotiations with the EU better than anything could. Steve blames the EU outright for the situation Greece is in. Let's see them break down the case he makes. And then talk.

It's All The Greeks' Fault

Politically paralyzed Washington talked austerity, but never actually imposed it. So who was more successful: the deliberate, policy-driven EU attempt to reduce government debt, or the "muddle through" USA?

[..] muddle through was a hands-down winner: the USA's government debt to GDP ratio has stabilized at 90% of GDP, while Spain's has sailed past 100%. The USA's macroeconomic performance has also been far better than Spain's under the EU's policy of austerity.

[..] simply on the data, the prima facie case is that all of Spain's problems - and by inference, most of Greece's - are due to austerity, rather than Spain's (or Greece's) own failings. On the data alone, the EU should "Cry Uncle", concede Greece's point, stop imposing austerity, and talk debt-writeoffs - especially since the Greeks can argue that at least part of its excessive public debt ratio is due to the failure of the EU's austerity policies to reduce it.

[..] why did austerity in Europe fail to reduce the government debt ratio, while muddle-through has stabilized it in the USA? .. the key factor that I consider and mainstream economists ignore - the level and rate of change of private debt. The first clue this gives us is that the EU's pre-crisis poster-boy, Spain, had the greatest growth in private debt of the three - far exceeding the USA's. Its peak debt level was also much higher - 225% of GDP in mid-2010 versus 170% of GDP for the USA in 2009

[..] the factor that Greece and Spain have in common is that the private sector is reducing its debt level drastically - in Spain's case by over 20% per year. The USA, on the other hand, ended its private sector deleveraging way back in 2012. Today, Americans are increasing their private debt levels at a rate of about 5% of GDP per year - well below the peak levels prior to the crisis, but roughly in line with the rate of growth of nominal GDP.

[..] the conclusion is that Greece's crisis is the EU's fault, and the EU should "pay" via the debt write-offs that Syriza wants - and then some.

That's not the attitude Berlin and Brussels go into the talks with Tsipras and Varoufakis with. They instead claim Greece owes them €240 billion, and nobody ever talks about what EU crap cost the PIIGS. But Steve is not a push-over. He made Paul Krugman look like a little girl a few years ago, when the latter chose to volunteer, and attack Steve on the issue, that - in a few words - banks have no role in credit creation.

Back to Yanis. The right wing Daily Telegraph, of all places, ran a piece today just about fully - and somewhat strangely - endorsing our left wing Greek economist. Ain't life a party?

Yanis Varoufakis: Greece's Future Finance Minister Is No Extremist

Syriza, a hard left party, that outrightly rejects EU-imposed austerity, has given Greek politics its greatest electoral shake-up in at least 40 years.

Hold, wait, don't let's ignore that 40 years ago is when Greece ended a military dictatorship. Which had been endorsed by, you know, NATO, US ... So "greatest electoral shake-up" is a bit of a stretch. To say the least. There was nothing electoral about Greece pre-1975.

You might expect the frontrunner for the role of finance minister to be a radical zealot, who could throw Greece into the fire He is not. Yanis Varoufakis, the man tipped to be at the core of whatever coalition Syriza forges, is obviously a man of the left. Yet through his career, he has drawn on some of the most passionate advocates of free markets. While consulting at computer games company Valve, Mr Varoufakis cited nobel-prize winner Friedrich Hayek and classical liberal Adam Smith, in order to bring capitalism to places it had never touched.

[..] while Greece's future minister is a fan of markets in many contexts, it is apparent that he remains a leftist, and one committed to the euro project. Speaking to the BBC on Monday, he said that it would "take an eight or nine year old" to understand the constraints which had bound Greece up since it "tragically" went bankrupt in 2010. "Europe in its infinite wisdom decided to deal with this bankruptcy by loading the largest loan in human history on the weakest of shoulders, the Greek taxpayer," he said.

"What we've been having ever since is a kind of fiscal waterboarding that have turned this nation into a debt colony," he added. Greece's public debt to GDP now stands at an eye watering 175%, largely the result of output having fallen off a cliff in the past few years. Stringent austerity measures have not helped, but instead likely contributed.

That last line, from a right wing paper? That's the same thing Steve Keen said. Even the Telegraph says Brussels is to blame.

It will likely be Mr Varoufakis' job to make the best of an impossible situation. The first thing he will seek to tackle is Greece's humanitarian crisis. "It is preposterous that in 2015 we have people that had jobs, and homes, and some of them had shops until a couple of years ago, that are now sleeping rough", he told Channel 4. The party may now go after multinationals and wealthy individuals that it believes do not pay their way.

[..]The single currency project has fallen under heavy criticism. The economies that formed it were poorly harmonised, and no amount of cobbling together could make the end result appear coherent. Michael Cembalest, of JP Morgan, calculated in 2012 that a union made up of all countries beginning with the letter "M" would have been more workable. The same would be true of all former countries of the Ottoman Empire circa 1800, or of a reconstituted Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, he found.

That's just brilliant, great comparisons. Got to love that. And again, it reinforces my idea that the EU should simply be demolished, and Greece should not try and stay within eurozone parameters. It may look useful now, but down the line the euro has no future. There's too much debt to go around. But for SYRIZA, I know, that is not the most practical stance to take right now. The demise of the euro will come in and of itself, and their immediate attention needs to go to Greece, not to some toxic politics game. Good on 'em. But the fact remains. The euro's done. And SYRIZA, whether it likes it or not, is very much an early warning sign of that.

[..] A disorderly break up would almost certainly result in a merciless devaluation of whatever currency Greece launched, and in turn a default on debt obligations. The country would likely be locked out of the capital markets, unable to raise new funds. As an economy, Greece has only just begun to see output growth return. GDP still remains more than 26% below the country's pre-crisis peak. A fresh default is not the lifeline that Greece needs.

Instead, it will be up to a Syriza-led government to negotiate some sort of debt relief, whether that be in the form of a restructuring, a deal to provide leeway on repayment timings, or all out forgiveness. It will be up to Mr Varoufakis - if he is selected as finance minister - and newly sworn in Prime Minister Alex Tspiras to ensure that this can be achieved without Greece getting pushed out of the currency bloc in the process.

And whaddaya know, Steve Keen finishes it off too. Complete with history lessons, a take-and-shake down of failed economic policies, and a condemnation of the neo-liberal politics that wrecked Greek society so much they voted SYRIZA. It's not rocket politics...

Dawn Of A New Politics In Europe?

About 40 years ago, one of Maggie Thatcher's chief advisors remarked that he wouldn't be satisfied when the Conservative Party was in government: he would only be happy when there were two conservative parties vying for office. He got his wish of course. The UK Labour Party of the 1950s that espoused socialism gave way to Tony Blair's New Labour, and the same shift occurred worldwide, as justified disillusionment about socialism as it was actually practiced - as opposed to the fantasies about socialism dreamed up by 19th century revolutionaries - set in.

Parties to the left of the political centre - the Democrats in the USA, Labour in the UK, even the Socialist Party that currently governs France - followed essentially the same economic theories and policies as their conservative rivals.

Differences in economic policy, which were once sharp Left-anti-market/Right-pro-market divides, became shades of grey on the pro-market side. Both sides of politics accepted the empirical fact that market systems worked better than state-run systems. The differences came down to assertions over who was better at conducting a pro-market economic agenda, plus disputes over the extent of the government's role in the cases where a market failure could be identified.

So how do we interpret the success of Syriza in the Greek elections on Sunday, when this avowedly anti-austerity, left-wing party toppled the left-Neoliberal Pasok and right-Neoliberal New Democracy parties that, between them, had ruled Greece for the previous 4 decades? Is it a return to the pro-market/anti-market divides of the 1950s? No - or rather, it doesn't have to be.

It can instead be a realisation that, though an actual market economy is indeed superior to an actual centrally planned one, the model of the market that both sides of politics accepted was wrong. That model - known as Neoliberalism in political circles, and Neoclassical Economics in the economic ones in which I move - exalts capitalism for a range of characteristics it doesn't actually have, while ignoring characteristics that it does have which are the real sources of both capitalism's vitality and its problems.

Capitalism's paramount virtues, as espoused by the Neoliberal model of capitalism, are stability and efficiency. But ironically, the real virtue of capitalism is its creative instability - and that necessarily involves waste rather than efficiency. This creative instability is the real reason it defeated socialism, while simultaneously one of the key reasons socialism failed was because of its emphasis upon stability and efficiency.

[..] real-world capitalism trounced real-world socialism because of its real-world strength - the creative instability of the market that means to survive, firms must innovate - and not because of the Neoliberal model that politicians of both the Left and the Right fell for after the collapse of socialism.

Neoliberalism prospered in politics for the next 40 years, not because of what it got right about the economy (which is very little), but because of what it ignored - the capacity of the finance sector to blow a bubble that expanded for almost 40 years, until it burst in 2007. The Neoliberal model's emphasis on making the government sector as small as possible could work while an expanding finance sector generated the money needed to fuel economic prosperity. When that bubble burst, leaving a huge overhang of private debt in its wake, Neoliberalism led not to prosperity but to a second Great Depression.

The Greeks rejected that false model of capitalism on Sunday - not capitalism itself. The new Syriza-led Government will have to contend with countries where politicians are still beholden to that false model, which will make their task more difficult than it is already. But Syriza's victory may show that the days of Neoliberalism are numbered. Until Sunday, any party espousing anything other than Neoliberalism as its core economic policy could be slaughtered in campaigning by pointing out that its policies were rejected by economic authorities like the IMF and the OECD.

Syriza's opponents did precisely that in Greece - and Syriza's lead over them increased. This is the real takeaway from the Greek elections: a new politics that supports capitalism but rejects Neoliberalism is possible.

All Europeans, and Americans too, must now support SYRIZA. It's not only the only hope for Greece, it is that for the entire EU. SYRIZA breaks the mold. Greeks themselves would be terribly stupid to start taking their money out of their accounts and precipitating bank runs. That's what the EU wants you to do, create mayhem and discredit the younger generation that took over this weekend.

It's going to be a bitter fight. The entrenched powers, guaranteed, won't give up without bloodshed. SYRIZA stands for defeating a model, not just a government. Most of Europe today is in the hands of technocrats and their ilk, it's all technocrats and their little helpers. And it's no just that, it's that the neo-liberal Brussels crowd used Athens as a test case, in the exact same way Milton Friedman and his Chicago School used the likes of Videla and Pinochet to make their point, and tens of thousands got murdered in the process.

It's important that we all, European or not, grasp how lacking in morality the entire system prevalent in the west, including the EU, has become. This shows in East Ukraine, where sheer propaganda has shaped opinions for at least a full year now. It's not about what is real, it's about what 'leaders' would like you to think and believe. And this same immorality has conquered Greece too; there may be no guns, but there are plenty victims.

The EU is a disgrace, a predatory beast unleashed upon all corners of Europe that resist central control and, well, debt slavery really, if you live on the wrong side of the tracks.

SYRIZA may be the last chance Europe has to right its wrongs, before fighting in the streets becomes an everyday reality. Before we get there, and I don't know that we can prevent it, hear Steve Keen: it's not the Greeks that screwed up, it's the EU. But they would never ever admit to that.

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://bit.ly/1xcsdoI.

Let them shiver: Utah proposes wood burning ban

salt lake valley

© AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac

Particulates from an inversion fill the Salt Lake valley Friday, Jan. 26, 2007, as seen from the mountains southeast of Salt Lake City.

In an effort to improve air quality across Utah during the winter season, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has proposed a seasonal wood burn ban, much to the chagrin of many locals.

The ban would eliminate solid fuel burning in fireplaces and wood/coal stoves from Nov. 1 to March 15, except for homeowners whose homes are heated solely by wood.

The proposal comes after Gov. Gary Herbert requested the the Air Quality Board explore options for improving wintertime air quality along Utah's Wasatch Front and Cache Valley.

The region suffers from winter temperature inversions, which occur when a dense layer of cold air becomes trapped under a layer of warm air.

The warm layer of air acts like a lid, trapping pollutants underneath. The Wasatch Front valleys and their surrounding mountains act like a bowl, keeping this cold air in the valleys.

The snow-covered valley floors reflect rather than absorb the heat from the sun, preventing the normal vertical mixing of warm and cold air.

"Additionally, high pressure sitting over the region during the wintertime results in light winds, that just aren't sufficient for mixing the air," AccuWeather.com Expert Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

"The inversion just stays trapped."

The longer an inversion lasts, the higher the level of trapped pollution.

utah wood burning ban

According to the DEQ, the areas included in the proposed ban routinely violate the federal health-based standard for particulate matter, and solid fuel burning has been found to be a significant contributor to fine particulate pollution.

Though mandatory burn ban days already exist for this region during wintertime inversions, a full-fledged seasonal ban is opposed by many.

According to Utahns for Responsible Burning, an organization strongly opposed to a seasonal ban: "The Utah Department of Environmental Quality estimates that wood smoke is approximately 5% of this problem. Even if burning is completely banned, it won't solve the valley's brown cloud."

Car exhaust, factory emissions and other pollutants contribute to the region's poor air quality.

The organization believes that the ban punishes citizens who invested in newer, cleaner burning stoves and will be a disincentive for others to upgrade to more environmentally responsible hearth products.

Others say that the cost of using an alternative form of heat is too great.

"I know many families that will be impacted. I know families that will have to choose between food and keeping their families warm," Utah resident Debi Rosenlund Brozovich said.

"No business or industry has ever been asked to reduce pollution by 100 percent."

In an effort to make the ban more affordable to local residents, the DEQ has agreed to subsidize the costs for low-income families. Additionally, it exempts households whose only option for heat is wood burning.

"Homeowners whose homes are heated solely by wood and are registered with DAQ as a sole source residence would be permitted to continue heating with wood," the DEQ said.

On Tuesday, more than 500 people showed up to Brigham City's public hearing. The hearing was one of seven scheduled during the 40-day public comment period, which closes Feb. 9.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://bit.ly/1xcsdoI.

The healing power of sound

The Healing Power of Sound", actively uses sound in his integrative oncology practice. This interview was reprinted with permission from Mr. Bill Thompson. It should be noted here that singing bowls are horizontal gongs. More information about sound healing can be found

tibetan singing bowls

© unknown

NT: How did you discover Tibetan "singing" bowls and their usefulness in healing?

Gaynor: Well, I took care of a Tibetan monk in 1991. I'm a cancer specialist and also a hematologist and I had been working with guided imagery and meditation with my patients since the mid-1980's. I was actually asked to see this Tibetan monk at Cornell Medical Center for a routine medical problem which was anemia. But he was suffering from a very severe disease that was destroying his heart muscle called cardiomyopathy. I talked with him about what we could do for his anemia and what diagnostic work-up we'd do.

I always talk with my patients on an in-depth level about what's going on in their lives and I noticed a tremendous sense of sadness and resignation in his eyes. So I asked him to tell me about his life and he recalled a time when he was 3-years old and was living as a Tibetan refugee in India. His parents were very poor and could no longer afford to feed him and his brother, so they had to take them to an orphanage run by Tibetan Buddhist monks. He recalled watching his parents walk away; he reached out through the fence and was asking them not to leave and you could really feel his sense of anguish. I didn't think it was any coincidence that on an emotional level he had a broken heart and on a physical level he was suffering, literally, from a broken heart.

He left the hospital about 2 weeks later and he gave me as a gift a metal Tibetan singing bowl. I had never heard one before. I didn't even know they existed. But I was taken with the tones and the over-tones and I could literally feel them going through every cell in my body. I could not only hear it with my ears, but I felt it through-out my body. So, I figured that would be an excellent thing for patients who were dealing with serious illnesses.

I started working with the bowls with my patients and the results were phenomenal. People who were dealing with a lot of fear and a lot of worry were able to go into their own inner harmony. That's something all of us have, but most of us don't know exists. That's a harmony deep inside of us that when we learn to live from that and create from that...everything in our life begins to transform. I've seen it work with marital problems, job related stress or illness. Everything begins to look completely different. Sound effects us in so many ways. Sound effects us on a physiological level. The scientist in me wanted to understand how people were having such miraculous turnarounds in their whole perspective about life! People who were living in fear every day were suddenly able to really live in the moment. That's when I started looking into studies on how sound can heal and transform. I found out Gregorian chants or classical music can change our brain waves to alpha and theta waves that are very relaxed.

Sound can change our immune function. After either chanting or listening to certain forms of music, your Interluken-1 level, an index of your immune system, goes up between 12 and a half and 15 percent. Not only that, about 20 minutes after listening to this meditative type music, your immunoglobin levels in your blood are significantly increased. There's no part of our body not effected. Even our heart rate and blood pressure are lowered with certain forms of music. So, it effects not only our soul and our spirit, but it effects us on literally a cellular and sub-cellular level.

NT: Are the metal singing bowls the ones you usually use?

Gaynor: I also use quartz crystal bowls. These are made out of the same quartz crystals that microchips are made out of. They can be tuned to any note and they're incredible. When you play them, it brings out all sorts of tones, overtones and harmonics in your own voice. That can also be very healing. I think it's very important for us to bring back some of the ancient wisdom. When I started looking into sound and healing I found that every culture on earth has used sound, voice and music as part of their healing rituals.

Whether it's the Sufis and their chants, or the Tibetan Buddhist chants, or the mantras used in yoga or the Gregorian chants sung at Vespers, or prayers from the Jewish Kabbalah....where they believe that every vowel sound is a divine sound... all of these...even the African ritual chants and Native American songs and chants use virtually identical tones and sounds to elicit a deep meditative state. So, it doesn't require believing in any dogma. These sounds effect us on a physiological, spiritual and emotional level.

NT: What other instruments have traditionally worked well in healing?

Gaynor: Drumming can also be very effective and there's a resource section in my book on different forms of music. You really have to find what you resonate to. Whenever you're stressed you have stress hormones that go up in your body called "cortizol" and ACTH which mediate a lot of the negative effects of stress on your body.

For instance, it'll cause your blood pressure to go up and depress your immune system. It's been found if people are allowed to listen to any music of their choosing during medical procedures it will markedly lower the amount of stress hormones that are being released.

We can look at ourselves as vibration, and so tone and voice and music effects us on every level. It's important to know you're exposed to disharmony every day. Cars honking at you in a traffic jam, a jackhammer when you're walking along the street, or somebody yelling at you. But all these things can be retuned. We need to take time to retune our bodies, like we would a fine instrument. The way to do that is to take 15 or 20 minutes in the morning and another few minutes before you go to sleep at night to focus on your inner harmony.

NT: So you're saying the disruption of harmony leaves us open to disease?

Gaynor: Absolutely. In fact, disease is a form of disharmony. I think it's a little naive of the medical profession to think that you can allow people to go on with stress and depression and pessimism and frustration every day of their lives and not believe that eventually it's going to manifest in some form. But, if you want harmony in your life, harmony in your body and in your world, you have to find your own inner harmony. That exists in each of us, and when you learn to access it your whole life begins to miraculously transform. That's how all of us were meant to live each day of our lives.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://bit.ly/1xcsdoI.

Paleo cardiologist: 'Never inject chemicals into ourselves and into our children in order to boost our immune systems'

snake oil vaccines

© Image illustrators

Since the "Disneyland Outbreak" of measles in California, there's been a mass hysteria and calls for quarantine and forced injection scarcely seen since...that brief break we got from Ebola.

So when a medical doctor boldly stands up and flies against the face of the narrative, the mainstream press cannot help but capture his "shocking statement."

What they won't heavily highlight about Dr. Jack Wolfson is that he is a respected integrative cardiologist who does not use medicine to help his heart patients, but instead a whole body view of nutritional and lifestyle changes.

Of course, they bring two opposing views to the broadcast, but in the end: "...both doctors agree that the measles infection, once caught, is not likely to turn deadly."

Dr. Wolfson does not believe that injecting chemicals and heavy metals into the bloodstream is the way to help the immune system stave off disease.

Did you know that Merck, the only company licensed to sell the Mumps vaccine is in legal hot water for completely falsifying effectiveness test results? Mumps is included in the Measles Mumps Rubella shot.

Furthermore, some of the side-effects listed on the vaccine insert could be life-threatening conditions.

Side-effects also include: atypical measles and measles-like rash. Isn't that convenient? Actually, it's not. A complication from atypical measles is pneumonia. That - is something to ponder. Medicinenet says that it only occurs in people who received a killed measles virus vaccine in the late 1960s and people should vaccinate with newer, live-virus vaccines. Yet, Merck's own vaccine insert lists atypical measles.

Additionally, multiple vaccines have been shown to lead to virus-shedding leading to asymptomatic spread of disease. Dr. Gil Chavez, the California state epidemiologist said, "it is absolutely safe for you to go to Disneyland if you're vaccinated." Yet, seven people who contracted measles had been fully vaccinated.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://bit.ly/1xcsdoI.

Thomas Jefferson’s views on crime and punishment

The whipping post was a common punishment for lawbreakers.

In 1778, Thomas Jefferson began working with a committee to reform the criminal code in the Commonwealth of Virginia. What the committee proposed may come as a surprise to modern observers. Below are some of the notable excerpts of the proposal, known as the “Bill Proportioning Crimes and Punishments”, or Bill 64.

* * * * *


Adopting a lex talionis approach to justice — better known as “eye-for-an-eye” punishment — committee the proposed poisoning as a punishment for people convicted of poisoning:

Whosoever committeth murder by poisoning shall suffer death by poison. [1]

Similarly, the proposed punishment for disfigurement was disfigurement:

Whosoever on purpose and of malice forethought shall maim another, or shall disfigure him, by cutting out or disabling the tongue, slitting or cutting off a nose, lip or ear, branding, or otherwise, shall be maimed or disfigured in like sort: or if that cannot be for want of the same part, then as nearly as may be in some other part of at least equal value and estimation in the opinion of a jury and moreover shall forfiet one half of his lands and goods to the sufferer. [1]


Castration and mutilation was proposed as the penalty for certain prohibited sex acts, such as having multiple spouses or committing the act of sodomy.

Whosoever shall be guilty of Rape, Polygamy, or Sodomy with man or woman shall be punished, if a man, by castration, if a woman, by cutting thro’ the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least. [1]

It is relevant to note that sodomy is broadly defined as any sex act that does not involve one penis and one vagina. Any other sexual activity — regardless of consent — was prohibited. This might have condemned even straight, married couples engaged in oral sex.


Controversial speech and religious practices, such as witchcraft, were prohibited. Witches — or those labeled as such by the courts — were to suffer public whippings and/or the punishment of “ducking.”

All attempts to delude the people, or to abuse their understanding by exercise of the pretended arts of witchcraft, conjuration, inchantment, or sorcery or by pretended prophecies, shall be punished by ducking and whipping at the discretion of a jury, not exceeding 15. stripes. [1]

An early sketch of a colonial "ducking chair."

An early sketch of a colonial “ducking chair.”

Ducking” involved strapping the guilty party — typically a woman — to a so-called “ducking stool.” This was a seat connected to a long arm of a large wooden contraption. Once bound to the seat, the victim would be wheeled around town, suspended over water, and dunked repeatedly to a jeering crowd.

Ducking was derived from an earlier punishment for witches in which the accused were bound and thrown into water to see if they floated — the supposed test of establishing whether a woman was a witch. However, by the 1770s, ducking was primarily an act of public humiliation and censure, used in an era when public reputation mattered much.


When a death penalty was imposed, there was no appeals process. The sentence was quickly executed. There was no opportunity to be granted a retrial based on new, exculpatory evidence.

Whenever sentence of death shall have been pronounced against any person for treason or murder, execution shall be done on the next day but one after such sentence, unless it be Sunday, and then on the Monday following. [1]

After a death penalty was imposed, the corpse was to be displayed in a gibbet. It would be a crime to take away the body.

Whosoever committeth murder by way of duel, shall suffer death by hanging; and if he were the challenger, his body, after death, shall be gibbeted. He who removeth it from the gibbet shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; and the officer shall see that it be replaced. [1]

Captain William Kidd's body displayed in a gibbet. (Source: The Pirates Own Book, 1837)

Captain William Kidd’s body displayed in a gibbet. (Source: The Pirates Own Book, 1837)

According to Wikipedia, “A gibbet is any instrument of public execution, but gibbeting refers to the use of a gallows-type structure from which the dead or dying bodies of executed criminals were hanged on public display to deter other existing or potential criminals. In earlier times, up to the late 17th century, live gibbeting also took place, in which the condemned was placed alive in a metal cage and left to die of thirst. As well as referring to the gibbet as a device, the term gibbet may also be used to refer to the practice of placing a criminal on display within one. This practice is also called ‘hanging in chains.’”

The article continued, “Gibbeting was a common law punishment, which a judge could impose in addition to execution. This practice was regularised in England by the Murder Act 1751, which empowered judges to impose this for murder. It was most often used for traitors, murderers, highwaymen, pirates, and sheep stealers and was intended to discourage others from committing similar offences. The structures were therefore often placed next to public highways (frequently at crossroads) and waterways.”

* * * * *


These punishments likely come as a shock to modern readers and would certainly have been excluded by the yet-to-be-written U.S. Constitution, which was amended to forbid “cruel and unusual punishments.”

It is relevant to note that the existing code of laws in Virginia — which James Madison described as the “bloody code” — included generous application of the death penalty. Reducing certain crimes to whipping, castration, and public humiliation was actually a liberal reformation; a reduction of punishment.

The use of the death penalty for sodomy was a carryover from British law imposed in the colonies. Yet in the 1770s, the culture had not changed much in that regard, and it was still acceptable and preferred to punish sodomy and many other crimes by death.

Jefferson’s objection to the overuse of the death penalty was noted in his writings:

“On the subject of the Criminal Law, all were agreed that the punishment of death should be abolished, except for treason and murder; and that, for other felonies should be substituted hard labor in the public works, and in some cases, the Lex talionis. How this last revolting principle came to obtain our approbation, I do not remember…It was the English law in the time of the Anglo-Saxons, copied probably from the Hebrew law of ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,’ and it was the law of several ancient people. But the modern mind had left it far in the rear of it’s advances.” [2]

Though Jefferson played a central role in the committee, he was unsettled with some of the results. As he opined about the Crime and Punishment bill to fellow committee member George Wythe:

“I have strictly observed the scale of punishments settled by the Committee, without being entirely satisfied with it. The lex talionis, altho’ a restitution of the Common law,…will be revolting to the humanised feelings of modern times. An eye for an eye, and a hand for a hand will exhibit spectacles in execution whose moral effect would be questionable…This needs reconsideration.” [3]

Ironically, the bill’s ultimate failure was because it was too liberal. The proposal was rejected before the General Assembly on June 18, 1779, because its punishments were viewed as too lenient.

Jefferson’s friend and political colleague, James Madison, later wrote to him in 1787 regarding the outcome of Bill 64, saying, “A rejection of the Bill on crimes and punishments…was lost by a single vote. The rage against Horse stealers had a great influence on the fate of the Bill. Our old bloody code is by this event fully restored…” [4] (The penalty for horse stealing was proposed to be reduced from death down to three years’ hard labor.)

The failure of Virginia’s Bill 64 paved the way for a new Revised Code to be enacted, and on December 10, 1792, sodomy and other crimes were codified as capital offenses. In 1800, a second reformation effort succeeded and the punishment for sodomy was reduced to imprisonment for a period of “not less than one nor more than ten years.” [5]

While Virginia’s Bill 64 appears to be draconian by modern standards — and it is draconian — it is important to relate it in the context of the prevailing laws and views the 1770s. It would also be disingenuous to make the assumption that the resulting committee proposal was an ideal creation in Jefferson’s eyes. Realistically, it was a product of compromise and politics, something which was endorsed as a way to spare the lives of people who would otherwise be put to death for certain crimes.

This article is not meant to be a condemnation of Jefferson, as his motivations were undoubtedly more freedom-oriented and just than most of his contemporaries. What can be deduced is that personal freedom was heavily infringed before, during, and after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. When modern folks pine for the “good old days” in post-colonial America, which supposedly embraced uninfringed liberties, some historical context is sorely needed.



1. Jefferson, Thomas. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (J. P. Boyd, Ed., Vol. 2). Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950. 2:492-504. [http://bit.ly/1D0lgar]

2. Jefferson, Thomas. Writings (Merrill D. Peterson, Ed.). New York : Viking Press, 1984.

3. Jefferson, Thomas. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (J. P. Boyd, Ed., Vol. 2). Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950. 2:230.

4. James Madison to Jefferson, February 15, 1787, in ibid., 11:152.

5. Crompton, Louis. “Homosexuals and the Death Penalty in Colonial America.” University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 1976. [http://bit.ly/1zQIvpT]

U.S. broadcasting chief compares RT to ISIS and Boko Haram

Following comments from the US overseas broadcasting chief listing RT as a challenge alongside the Islamic State and Boko Haram, critics said the outlet was singled out for "daring to advocate a point of view," as well as for "competing for viewership."

On Wednesday, the new chief of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Andrew Lack, told the that RT posed a significant challenge - putting the broadcaster in a list alongside the Islamic State and Boko Haram terror groups.

The comments have since been denounced on social networks and across the media spectrum. Speaking to RT, legal analyst and media commentator Lionel said the channel was being outrageously singled out and equated to the Islamic State for "daring to advocate a point of view."

"In the history of incoherent statements, this might be the granddaddy of them all. In reading this, he alleges that Russia Today pushes... 'a point of view,'" he told RT's Ameera David.

Georgetown University journalism professor Chris Chambers added that Lack's words were "supremely silly and careless," especially considering his media background. Lack previously worked for NBC, Bloomberg, and Sony Music.

[embedded content]

"This is a guy who has some media savvy, supposedly, even though he's moved around a lot - maybe this is one reason he's moved around," Chambers told RT. "But this was a very careless and silly thing to say considering the prevalence of corporate media here in the United States, and the purpose of BBG's constitutes like Voice of America, who are supposed to put out all kinds of views."

Nothing makes me want to watch @RT_com more than to have a US propaganda minister tell me not to watch it. #NewsIsNotTerror

- Lionel (@LionelMedia) January 23, 2015

While Lack's comments were roundly criticized, Steven Ellis of the International Press Institute said he was right in one way. "Mr. Lack could have phrased his comments more carefully: RT does indeed pose a challenge to US international broadcasting in terms of competing for viewership," he said.

Asked about the issue on Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki distanced the US government from Lack's comments, saying it doesn't agree with the statement.

"Would the US government put those three in the same category? No, we wouldn't," Psaki said. However, she said there are "concerns" the US does agree with, stating that Russia's independent media is under pressure and that BBG's ability to broadcast in the country has become more difficult.

RT's editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan condemned the comparison and demanded clarification.

"We are extremely outraged that the new head of the BBG mentions RT in the same breath as the world's number one terrorist army," she said. "We see this as an international scandal and demand an explanation."

We all need propaganda free news but the banksters have other ideas. My take just now on@RT_com #NewsIsNotTerror http://bit.ly/1zkHd6S

- Tony Gosling ✈ (@TonyGosling) January 23, 2015

To Lionel, the comparison was also troubling because Lack began his tenure on questionable footing by targeting another media outlet instead of expressing a commitment to spreading the truth.

"Instead, you pull one organization out and align, and impugn, and suggest - through some strange kind of juxtaposition - that RT is somehow - what? An agent of ISIS and Boko Haram? On day one? I can't wait for day two!"

Still, Lionel pointed to the reaction on social media, which spread under several hashtags including #NEWSISNOTTERROR, and from other outlets as a sign of optimism.

"We have resoundingly said that this is absurd," he said. "So the best thing to do is always to disseminate truth."

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://bit.ly/1xcsdoI.

Freedom, where are you? Not in America or Europe today

When the former Goldman Sachs executive who runs the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that he was going to print 720 billion euros annually with which to purchase bad debts from the politically connected big banks, the euro sank and the stock market and Swiss franc shot up. As in the US, quantitative easing (QE) serves to enrich the already rich. It has no other purpose.

The well-heeled financial institutions that bought up the troubled sovereign debt of Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain at low prices will now sell the bonds to the ECB for high prices. And despite depression level unemployment in most of Europe and austerity imposed on citizens, the stock market rose in anticipation that much of the 60 billion new euros that will be created each month will find its way into equity prices. Liquidity fuels the stock market.

Where else can the money to go? Some will go into Swiss francs and some into gold while gold is still available, but for the most part the ECB is running the printing press in order to boost the wealth of the stock-owning One Percent. The Federal Reserve and the ECB have taken the West back to the days when a handful of aristocrats owned everything.

The stock markets are bubbles blown by central bank money creation. On the basis of traditional reasoning there is no sound reason to be in equities, and sound investors have avoided them.

But there is no return anywhere else, and as the central banks are run by the rich for the rich, sound reasoning has proved to be a mistake for the past six years. This shows that corruption can prevail for an indeterminable period over fundamentals.

As I demonstrated in my book, , first Goldman Sachs deceived lenders into over-lending to the Greek government. Then Goldman Sachs former executives took over Greece's financial affairs and forced austerity upon the population in order to prevent losses to the foreign lenders.

This established a new principle in Europe, one that the IMF has relentlessly applied to Latin American and Third World debtors. The principle is that when foreign lenders make mistakes and over-lend to foreign governments, loading them up with debt, the bankers' mistakes are rectified by robbing the poor populations. Pensions, social services, and public employment are cut, valuable resources are sold off to foreigners for pennies on the dollar, and the government is forced to support US foreign policy. John Perkins' describes the process perfectly. If you haven't read Perkins book, you have little idea how corrupt and vicious the United States is. Indeed, Perkins shows that over-lending is intentional in order to set up the country for looting.

This is what Goldman Sachs did to Greece, intentionally or unintentionally.

It took the Greeks a long time to realize it. Apparently, 36.5 percent of the population was awoken by rising poverty, unemployment, and suicide rates. That figure, a little over one-third of the vote, was enough to put Syriza in power in the just concluded Greek election, throwing out the corrupt New Democracy party that has consistently sold out the Greek people to the foreign banks. Nevertheless, 27.7 percent of the Greeks, if the vote reporting is correct, voted for the party that has sacrificed the Greek people to the banksters. Even in Greece, a country accustomed to outpourings of people into the streets, a significant percentage of the population is sufficiently brainwashed to vote against their own interests.

Can Syriza do anything? It remains to be seen, but probably not. If the political party had received 55% or 65% or 75% of the vote, yes. But the largest vote at 36.5% does not show a unified country aware of its plight and its looting at the hands of rich banksters. The vote shows that a significant percentage of the Greek population supports foreign looting of Greece.

Moreover, Syriza is up against the heavies: the German and Netherlands banks who hold Greece's loans and the governments that back the banks, the European Union which is using the sovereign debt crisis to destroy the sovereignty of the individual countries that comprise the European Union, Washington which backs EU sovereign power over the individual countries as it is easier to control one government than a couple of dozen.

Already the Western financial presstitutes are warning Syriza not to endanger its membership in the common currency by diverting from the austerity model imposed from abroad on Greek citizens with the complicity of New Democracy.

Apparently, there is a lack of formal means of exiting the EU and the euro, but nevertheless Greece can be threatened with being thrown out. Greece should welcome being thrown out.

Exiting the EU and the euro is the best thing that can happen to Greece. A country without its own currency is not a sovereign country. It is a vassal state of another power. A country without its own currency cannot finance its own needs. Although the UK is a member of the EU, the UK kept its own currency and is not subject to control by the ECB. A country without its own money is powerless. It is a non-entity.

If the US did not have its own dollar, the US would be of no consequence whatsoever on the world scene.

The EU and the euro were deception and trickery. Countries lost their sovereignty. So much for Western "self-rule," "freedom," "democracy," all slogans without content. In the entire West there is nothing but the looting of people by the One Percent who control the governments.

In America, the looting does not rely on indebtedness, because the US dollar is the reserve currency and the US can print all the money needed in order to pay its bills and redeem its debt. In America the looting of labor has been through jobs offshoring.

American corporations discovered, and if they did not they were informed by Wall Street to move offshore or be taken over, that they could raise profits by moving their manufacturing operations abroad. The lower labor cost resulted in higher profits, higher share prices, huge managerial bonuses based on "performance," and shareholder capital gains. Offshoring greatly increased the inequality in income and wealth in the US. Capital succeeded in looting labor.

The displaced well-paid manufacturing workers, if they were able to find replacement jobs, worked part-time minimum wage jobs at Walmart and Home Depot.

Economists, if they are entitled to the designation, such as Michael Porter and Matthew Slaughter, promised Americans that the fictional "New Economy" would produce better, higher-paying, and cleaner jobs for Americans than the "dirty fingernail" jobs that we were fortunate our corporations were moving offshore.

Years later, as I have proven conclusively, there is no sign of these "New Economy" jobs. What we have instead is a sharp decline in the labor force participation rate as the unemployed cannot find jobs. The replacement jobs for the manufacturing jobs are mainly part-time domestic service jobs. People have to hold 2 or 3 of these jobs to make ends meet. These part time jobs offer no medical or pension benefits.

Now that this fact, once controversial believe it or not, has proven completely true, the same bought-and-paid-for spokespersons for robbing labor and destroying unions claim, without a shred of evidence, that the offshored jobs are coming home.

According to these propagandists, we now have what is called "reshoring." A "reshoring" propagandist claims that the growth of "reshoring" over the past four years is 1,775 percent, an 18 times increase.

There is no sign whatsoever of these alleged "reshoring" jobs in the monthly BLS payroll jobs statistics.

What reshoring is all about is propaganda to counteract the belated realization that "free trade" agreements and job offshoring were not beneficial to the American economy or its work force, but were beneficial only to the super-rich.

Like people throughout history, the American people are being turned into serfs and slaves because the fools believe the lies that are fed to them. They sit in front of Fox News, CNN, and whatever. They read the New York Times. If you want to learn how badly Americans have been served by the so-called media, read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States and Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick's The Untold History of the United States.

The media helps the government, and the private interests that profit from their control of government, control the brainwashed public. We have to invade Afghanistan because a faction there fighting for political control of the country is protecting Osama bin Laden, whom the US accuses without any proof of embarrassing the mighty US with the 9/11 attack. We have to invade Iraq because Saddam has "weapons of mass destruction" that he surely has despite the reports to the contrary by the weapons inspectors. We have to overthrow Gaddafi because of a slate of lies that have best been forgotten. We have to overthrow Assad because he used chemical weapons even though all evidence is to the contrary. Russia is responsible for Ukraine problems, not because the US overthrew the elected democratic government but because Russia accepted a 97.6% vote of Crimeans to rejoin Russia where the province had resided for hundreds of years before a Ukrainian Soviet leader, Khrushchev, stuck Crimea into Ukraine, at the time a part of the Soviet Union along with Russia.

War, War, War, that is all Washington wants. It enriches the military/security complex, the largest component of the US GNP and the largest contributor, along with Wall Street and the Israel Lobby, to US political campaigns.

Anyone or any organization that offers truth to the lies is demonized. Last week the new chief of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors, Andrew Lack, listed the Russian TV Internet service Russia Today as the equivalent of Boko Haram and the Islamic State terrorist groups. This absurd accusation is a prelude to closing down RT in the US just as Washington's puppet UK government closed down Iran's Press TV.

In other words, Anglo-Americans are not permitted any different news than what is served to them by "their" governments.

That is the state of "freedom" in the West today.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://bit.ly/1xcsdoI.

Biotech firm using climate change hysteria to persuade Florida residents to accept GMO mosquitoes

gmo mosquitoes

© Reuters / Ricardo Rojas

Pointing to climate change and the rise of tropical diseases, British researchers hope to sell their idea of releasing millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. Almost 140,000 people have signed a petition against the plan.

For many years, the neighborhoods of the Florida Keys have been sprayed with insecticides to ward off a host of bugs, including perhaps the mother of all pests, the mosquito. Over time, however, Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that can spread the dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses has built up resistance to many of the insecticides used to kill them.

The rising risk of a mosquito infestation and disease outbreak presents an opportunity for one British firm, Oxitec, which has developed a method for breeding Aedes aegypti that kills mosquito larvae, AP reported.

According to Oxitec's website, the process involves injecting a "lethal gene" into either the male sperm or female egg that eventually kills the offspring.

Change.org, the world's largest petition platform, presented some of the unintended consequences of releasing millions of mutant mosquitos into the Florida Keys. For example, would the more virulent Asian tiger mosquito, which is also a carrier of dengue, "fill the void" left by a drop in Aedes aegypti populations? Or will the dengue virus mutate and become even more deadly?

The group calls efforts to introduce genetically modified mosquitos a "radical approach" since dengue fever has been absent from Key West since 2010. The group says this "indicates the current methods of control and public education are working."

Oxitec says only non-biting male mosquitoes would be released, while attempting to assure the public that no genetically modified DNA would enter the bloodstream in the event of a bite from an overlooked female specimen.

Experts, however, question the claims.

"I think the science is fine, they definitely can kill mosquitoes, but the GMO issue still sticks as something of a thorny issue for the general public," Phil Lounibos, a researcher at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, told AP.

"I'm on their side, in that consequences are highly unlikely. But to say that there's no genetically modified DNA that might get into a human, that's kind of a gray matter."

Oxitec spokeswoman Chris Creese said the experiment will be similar in size to one held in 2012 in the Cayman Islands, where 3.3 million genetically modified mosquitoes were set loose over a six- month period, resulting in the elimination of 96 percent of the targeted insects, AP quoted.

Critics say the British firm failed to notify residents about the possibility of being bitten by a few females overlooked by the researchers.

As more people question anything genetically modified, especially something that has the potential to suck their blood, resistance to the idea is growing. Already, almost 140,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to halt the experiment.

FDA spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman said no experiments with the modified bugs will be permitted until the agency has "thoroughly reviewed all the necessary information."

Marilyn Smith, a Florida Keys resident, wasn't sold on the plan following Oxitec's presentation at a public meeting. Smith asked "why are we being used as the experiment, the guinea pigs, just to see what happens," AP quoted her as saying.

Oxitec has a laboratory in Marathon, a Key West town of just over 10,000 people, and hopes to start releasing mosquitoes in the Key West region this spring

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://bit.ly/1xcsdoI.