Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Legal Eagles Legal Brief: The Case Of The Coerced Confession

The following excerpt comes from, “The Innocent Man” By: John Grisham. It cites cases that legally prohibits coerced confessions.

In 1884, “in Hopt v. Utah, the Supreme Court ruled that a confession is not admissible if it is obtained by operating on the hopes or fears of the accused, and in doing so deprives him of the freedom of will or self-control necessary to make a voluntary statement.

In 1897, the Court, in Brown v. United States, said that a statement must be free and voluntary, not extracted by any sorts of threats or violence or promises, however slight. A confession obtained from an accused who has been threatened cannot be admissible.

In 1960, in Blackburn v. Alabama, the Court said, ‘Coercion can be mental as well as physical.’ In reviewing whether a confession was psychologically coerced by the police, the following factors are crucial: (1) the length of the interrogation, (2) whether it was prolonged in nature, (3) when it took place, day or night, with a strong suspicion around nighttime confessions, and (4) the psychological makeup- intelligence, sophistication, education, and so on- of the suspect.

And in Miranda v. Arizona, the most famous of all self-incrimination cases, the Supreme Court imposed procedural safeguards to protect the rights of the accused. A suspect has a constitutional right not to be compelled to talk, and any statement made during an interrogation cannot be used in court unless the police and the prosecutor can prove that the suspect clearly understood that (1) he had the right to remain silent, (2) anything said could be used against him in court, and (3) he had a right to an attorney, whether or not he could afford one. If, during an interrogation, the accused requests an attorney, then the questioning stops immediately.

Miranda was decided in 1966 and became instantly famous. Many police departments ignored it, at least until guilty criminals were set free because they had not been properly advised of their rights.” From, “The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice In A Small Town” By: John Grisham

[CLICK HERE for my book review of, "The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice In A Small Town” By: John Grisham]

Cell Phone Safety

Society seems to excitedly embrace new technology that makes our lives easier. [SIDEBAR: Multi-taskers stand up!] The cell phone, and all of its derivatives, may go down in history as one of the most celebrated inventions of modern times. Who wouldn't love a device that allows for such a swift transference of information? However, as with almost all relatively new inventions, there is a downside. Because of the "newness" of the product, long term testing is negated. This can be dangerous because users of the popular, new technology can be left ignorant of the detriments of its usage. In the case of mobile communication technology, the possible detriments are no small laughing matter.

Researchers have been debating about the dangers of cell phone use since the product's inception. Some scientists argue that mobile phone utilization can lead to cancer. However, there is no definitive proof to this claim because of a lack of long term observation. Still, many doctors who have experience in dealing with radiation exposure, are advising that cell phone users exercise certain precautions.

According to The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Center For Environmental Oncology, here is a list of guidelines that should be practiced when using a cell phone:
  1. Do not allow children to use a cell phone except for emergencies. The developing organs of a fetus or child are the most likely to be sensitive to any possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields.
  2. While communicating using your cell phone, try to keep the cell phone away from the body as much as possible. The amplitude of the electromagnetic field is one fourth the strength at a distance of two inches and fifty times lower at three feet.
    Whenever possible, use the speaker-phone mode or a wireless Bluetooth headset, which has less than 1/100th of the electromagnetic emission of a normal cell phone. Use of a headset attachment may also reduce exposure.
  3. Avoid using your cell phone in places, like a bus, where you can passively expose others to your phone’s electromagnetic fields.
  4. Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body at all times. Do not keep it near your body at night such as under the pillow or on a bedside table, particularly if pregnant. You can also put it on “flight” or “off-line” mode, which stops electromagnetic emissions.
  5. If you must carry your cell phone on you, it is preferable that the keypad is positioned toward your body and the back is positioned toward the outside of your body. Depending on the thickness of the phone this may provide a minimal reduction of exposure.
  6. Only use your cell phone to establish contact or for conversations lasting a few minutes as the biological effects are directly related to the duration of exposure. For longer conversations, use a land line with a corded phone, not a cordless phone, which uses electromagnetic emitting technology similar to that of cell phones.
  7. Switch sides regularly while communicating on your cell phone to spread out your exposure. Before putting your cell phone to the ear, wait until your correspondent has picked up. This limits the power of the electromagnetic field emitted near your ear and the duration of your exposure.
  8. Avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak or when moving at high speed, such as in a car or train, as this automatically increases power to a maximum as the phone repeatedly attempts to connect to a new relay antenna.
  9. When possible, communicate via text messaging rather than making a call, limiting the duration of exposure and the proximity to the body.
  10. Choose a device with the lowest SAR possible (SAR = Specific Absorption Rate, which is a measure of the strength of the magnetic field absorbed by the body). SAR ratings of contemporary phones by different manufacturers are available by searching for “sar ratings cell phones” on the internet.

Elsie Law's Daily Dose Of The Law

A Synopsis Of The Amendments Of The U.S. Constitution: Part 3

11th Amendment- Allows for the immunity of states from lawsuits from out-of-state citizens, and foreigners not living within the state's borders.
12th Amendment- States the presidential election guidelines.
13th Amendment- Prohibits slavery.
14th Amendment- Provides "equal protection under the law" for all people. Also used to end slavery, and racial segregation in the U.S.
15th Amendment- States that: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Quote Of The Day

"Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out." -Jack Buck

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

NEW BLOG FEATURES

Here are some more recurring features to come:

-Never Forget- Sometimes as a society we forget monumental events that occurred to test our will, or shock our consciousness into positive change. This feature will be a gentle reminder of historic events, and their corresponding lessons.
-Conspiracy Theory Of True Story?- Some people dismiss conspiracy theories as cockamany stories. However, in the world in which we live, nothing seems to be a stretch anymore; anything is possible. This feature will highlight situations that cast a shadow of a doubt of whether or not they are fact or fiction.

Cops Gone Wild Part 8: The Repercussions For A Whistle Blower Edition

A Harlem resident who recently complained after observing police officers patrolling his neighborhood with the head of a Black doll attached to their car antennae, is allegedly being targeted by the NYPD. The Harlemite was arrested and slapped with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges. The police claim that they issued the charges after the Harlemite drove off to avert a summons that they were attempting to give him for parking at a bus stop. The New York native refutes the NYPD's rendering of events, stating: "I got out my car, they told me to put my hands on the car. They grabbed my arm and they put the cuff on all the way until it could go no more, twisted my arms around my back and started to proceed to slam me on the car."

Many community members feel that the young man is being targeted because he blew the whistle on police officers who were patrolling his neighborhood in a blatantly disrespectful manner. State Senator Bill Perkins concurs with this assessment. According to NY1, Senator Perkins said the following: "We were concerned, and he expressed concern, that because he came forward, he would retaliated against. So this arrest obviously comes off as a retaliatory arrest to obviously punish him for the heroic deed that he did."

As of now, the NYPD is implementing their trusty strategy of "deny, deny, deny." They deny being aware of the Harlemite's identity at the time of the arrest.

[CLICK HERE for the related story: "Cops Gone Wild Part 6: The 'I Didn't Know A Decapitated Doll's Head Was Attached To My Antennae' Edition"

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words Pic Of The Week

Malcolm X plays Gordon Parks to Muhammad Ali.

Elsie Law's Daily Dose Of The Law

A Synopsis Of The Amendments Of The U.S. Constitution: Part 2

6th Amendment: The right to a speedy trial.
7th Amendment: The right to trial by jury for civil cases.
8th Amendment: No cruel and unusual punishment, or excessive bail.
9th Amendment: Recognizes that just because a right isn't listed in the Constitution, it doesn't mean that that particular right doesn't exist.
10th Amendment: Rights not listed in the Constitution are rights that are reserved to the states, or to the people.

Quote Of The Day

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within." -Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cops Gone Wild Part 7: The Hit A Cyclist Like You're On The Gridiron Edition

A bike rider who was participating in one of the monthly critical mass bicycle rides was inexplicably targeted for physical punishment by a New York City police officer. The incident, which occurred in New York City's Times Square, was caught on video by a tourist. Watch the shocking video below:



After the cyclist, who has been identified as an army veteran, was hit by Officer Pogan (reportedly a 3rd generation police officer), like he was a member of an opposing football team and it was Superbowl Sunday, the cyclist was arrested by the officer and charged with: attempted assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.

[SIDEBAR: With all of the police aggression (<-that's putting it mildly) constantly going on in the city, New York is quickly gaining a reputation as a police state. Municipal leaders might not care about the city's residents, but maybe they'll take note that they're starting to scare the tourists...Great place to visit, huh?]

Elsie Law's Daily Dose Of The Law

United States citizens are protected from double jeopardy by the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Double jeopardy disallows a defendant to be tried more than once on the same set of facts.

Double Jeopardy is also prohibited in Canada, India, Japan, and most European countries.

Quote Of The Day

"The secret of living a life of excellence is merely a matter of thinking thoughts of excellence. Really, it's a matter of programming our minds with the kind of information that will set us free." -Charles R. Swindoll

Monday, July 28, 2008

An Update On Cops Gone Wild Part 5: The Cops With Tasers Edition

A few days ago, I reported on a situation in which a young man from Louisiana was killed by a police officer who repeatedly tasered him while he was in handcuffs. [CLICK HERE for the full story.] Although the death, which occurred in January of this year, was ruled a homicide by the examining coroner, the wheels of justice have been slow to turn.

When I reported on Baron Pikes' (pictured above) story last Thursday, the district attorney of Winnfield, LA had yet to decide whether the officer responsible for his murder would face a grand jury. However, today, CNN is reporting that this afternoon it was decided that a grand jury will convene on August 12th to determine what charges (if any) will be brought against the police officer involved in this case.

I hope that the grand jury in Louisiana makes the obvious and correct decision regarding the death of Mr. Pikes; unlike the New York grand jury's decision regarding the death of Jayson Tirado. [CLICK HERE to read the story of the death of Mr. Tirado.]

When The World Isn't Enough...

Space tourism is bound to be the new hobby for the rich and the restless. Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, known for his innovative and quirky business launchings, has recently formed Virgin Galactic.

This company will cater to people who have loads of money to drop to experience a two and a half hour space trip, that will reportedly include about five minutes of weightlessness.

Richard Branson aspires to make trips to outer space into a popular commercial enterprise. He has already garnered interest from potential clients. According to CNN, more than 250 people have paid $200,000 or put down deposits to be a part of Virgin's space travel adventure. The earliest flights are predicted to launch in late 2009, or early 2010.

Although wealthy space enthusiasts will have to patiently wait for an exact date on which they can take this out of this world trip, Richard Branson and his aerospace designer, unveiled their four year in the making mothership today. The mothership is being touted as a groundbreaking utilization of aeronautic technology. Check out a prototype video below:


[SIDEBAR: Despite the trials and tribulations of living on planet earth, I'll keep my feet firmly planted here...for now. Lol. Starface is not ready to be literally amongst the stars.]

The Top Of The World Is Melting

For all of the people who have aspirations to sit on top of the world, you might be interested to know- that it's melting.

Scientists are predicting that there is a 50-50 chance that the north pole will be temporarily ice free by September. While scientists from the National Snow and Ice Center say that there will be no immediate environmental repercussions caused by the possible lack of ice, the unprecedented melting is seen as a prediction of things to come. This is just one of the early effects of global warming, the timing of which is an indication of how quickly the environment can shift.

According to the National Snow and Ice Center's senior research scientist, Mark Serreze, "If you talked to me or other scientists just a few years ago, we were saying that we might lose all or most of the summer sea ice cover by anywhere from 2050 to 2100. Then, recently, we kind of revised those estimates, maybe as early as 2030. Now, there's people out there saying it might be even before that. So, things are happening pretty quick up there."

Alleviating the melting would require reduced greenhouse gas emissions. However scientist Mark Serreze is also hinting that there may be something to gain from the melting. In addition to the melting providing a quick sea route for ships that would no longer have to navigate through the Panama Canal or around Cape Horn, Mr Serreze says: "There's also, or course, oil at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean...The irony of that is kind of clear, but the fact that we are opening up the Arctic Ocean does make it more accessible"

[SOURCE]

Elsie Law's Daily Dose Of The Law


A Synopsis Of The Amendments Of The U.S. Constitution: Part 1

1st Amendment: Freedom of speech, religion, press, petition, and assembly
2nd Amendment: The right to keep and bear arms
3rd Amendment: "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."
4th Amendment: Guards against unreasonable search and seizures
5th Amendment: Guarantees due process. Also guards against self incrimination and double jeopardy.

Quote Of The Day

"A great man stands on God. A small man, on a great man." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, July 25, 2008

Book Excerpt Of The Week- Part 2, "Death Of Innocence: The Story Of The Hate Crime That Changed America" By: Mamie Till-Mobley

It is oft repeated lore that Emmett Till inappropriately whistled at a white woman. However, the excerpt from his mother's tome, printed below, contains the seldom told history of what likely caused the "Emmett Till whistle."

"Although it was a great relief to learn that Emmett hadn't hadn't lost any of his motor skills, it wasn't long before we noticed a related problem. It was devastating to us. Emmett's bout with polio had caused some muscle damage after all. He was left with a speech defect. He sttutered. It was especially bad when he got excited or nervous. It could just take over at times in those early days. Nobody could understand him. Nobody but Mama and me. We knew what this could mean and we refused to accept it. We were very proud people, and we didn't want anything to stand in the way of Emmett's success. We didn't want him held back because of people's prejudices, because they might hear him speak and think he had limitations...

He could improve his speech by practicing, by memorizing and reciting. That would be my solution.

So that's when the pileup began. Poor kid, I had him memorizing everything from the preamble to the Constitution to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address to poetry, everything I knew he was going to encounter. That way, when he'd come across all of this material again, he would already be ahead of everybody else. I felt so sorry for him, because my list of stuff never ran out. I mean, by the time he had learned one, I was on him with another one. And I had him doing all the gestures, all the expressions. He was good, too.

I was working him so hard, he had to take a time-out. 'Mama, you're gonna have to let me come up and breathe,' he would say.

He was very pleased with himself, though. And it seemed to help. It proved to him that, once he was certain of something, he could go ahead and execute. But there was something else. I noticed that in pacing himself for the recitation, he would have to control his breathing. That's when it occurred to me to give him a bit of advice.

'If you find yourself stuck on a word,' I said, 'take a breath, whistle, and then go ahead and speak.' He tried it, and it seemed that when he whistled, it was almost a hypnotic cue that would calm him, steady his breathing, and allow him to finish what he had started to say." -From, "Death Of Innocence: The Story Of The Hate Crime That Changed America" By: Mamie Till-Mobley

Book Excerpt Of The Week- Part 1, "Death Of Innocence: The Story Of The Hate Crime That Changed America" By: Mamie Till-Mobley

"Emmett Louis Till, my only son, my only child, was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered at the hand of white racists on August 28, 1955. That was so many years ago, yet it seems like only yesterday to a mother who needs no reminders. After all, every shattered piece of my heart has its own special memory of Emmett.

They say there are lessons to be learned from every experience in life. It has taken practically all my life to sort out the lessons here. I couldn't see how there might possibly be any good to come of something so evil. What could the lesson have been? How could anyone deserve this? Then there was there was the mistreatment, the indifference of those who I thought really cared, the betrayal by those I trusted, the injustice at the hands of the justice system.

It has taken all these years of quiet reflection to recognize the true meaning of my experience, and Emmett's. It took quite a while for me to accept how his murder connected to so many things that make us what we are today. I didn't see right away, but there was an important mission for me, to shape so many other young minds as a teacher, a messenger, an active church member. God told me, "I took away one child, but I will give you thousands.". He has. And I have been grateful for that blessing.

That's why, for forty-seven years, I wasn't quite ready to write this book. It took a long time for me to reach this kind of deep understanding. I have been approached, oh, so many times by people who wanted to tell my story or put words in my mouth to tell their version of my story. But I just couldn't do that. I owe Emmett more than that. I owe him the absolute understanding I finally have come to appreciate; the deep understanding of why he lived and died and why I was destined to live so long after his death. You see my story is more than the story of a lynching. It is more a story of how, with God's guidance, I made a commitment to rip the covers off Mississippi, USA- revealing to the world the horrible face or race hatred. It is more than the story of how I took the privacy of my own grief and turned it into a public issue, one which set in motion the dynamic force that led ultimately to a generation of social and legal progress for this country. My story is more than all of that. It is the story of how I was able to pull myself back from the brink of desolation, and turn my life around by digging deep within my soul to pull hope from despair, joy from anguish, forgiveness from anger, love from hate. I want people to know all of that and how they might gain some useful understanding for their own lives from my experience. But I also want people to know my Emmett, the way they might have known him had they met him so many years ago- as the driven, industrious, clever boy that he was at age fourteen. Forever fourteen." -From, "Death Of Innocence: The Story Of The Hate Crime That Changed America" By: Mamie Till-Mobley

[SIDEBAR: Emmett Till would have turned 67 today.]

Music With A Message: Bob Dylan Pays Tribute To Emmett Till


Emmett Till would have turned 67 today.

TODAY IS...

PLEASE PASS THIS ON! (EACH ONE TEACH ONE OR TWO!) THIS IS PHASE ONE ON HOW WE CAN HELP TO STRENGTHEN & EMPOWER OUR COMMUNITY:The 2008 not guilty verdict in the Sean Bell case evoked outrage, emotion, and debate. It is not an anomaly that the police officers involved in the Sean Bell slaying were acquitted of all charges on all counts in State Supreme Court. I could run out of ink printing the names of people who have been victimized by the inaptly named justice system.

The American justice system has been especially terroristic towards the African American community. Many community members can cite historic and personal accounts to prove this. Therefore, it would be foolhardy (at the least) to turn to a system that has methodically oppressed us, and request that they free us. We can only free ourselves through extreme discipline and intelligent planning.

As a community we have been too compliant with leaders who organize ineffective, delayed reactions. The only strategy that can save us in this last hour is one that calls for a collective code of conduct that will be conducive to improving the conditions of our community, and shifting the paradigm of how we are treated by outside entities. The first step of this code of conduct should be based on economics.

The old adage of “money talks,” still reigns true in the new millennium. Any political scientist worth his or her library card will tell you that: “Economic powerlessness equals political powerlessness,” and conversely “economic power equals political power.” This means that if we continue to allow our wealth to be extracted from our community, we will remain impotent.

The power of the collective “Black Dollar” is often discussed. However, that power has been left unchanneled. Today is the day to change that. A one-time boycott is not going to bring long-term change and respect to our community. Our community has launched boycotts before. Our success and ascension will be based on what we consistently do. For this reason, we should initiate “BUY BLACK FRIDAYS.”

BUY BLACK FRIDAYS is a small step towards our community acquiring power via controlling our economics. Every Friday, people who acknowledge the injustice and oppression that the African American community has been consistently subjected to should do one of the following:

Option #1: Spend $0 on Friday
Option #2: Spend no more than $10 on Friday
Option #3: Only Shop at Black Businesses on Friday
[PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ABOVE OPTIONS CAN & SHOULD BE EXERCISED ON A DAILY BASIS. However, we can all at the very least focus on Fridays. This way we can take a collective stand and build our collective discipline. Please remember that this is only Phase 1!].

To the people who are tempted to label “BUY BLACK FRIDAYS” as racist, I say this: In the big scheme of things, this is about right & wrong, justice & injustice. The African American community is a strong, proud community that has endured the brunt of America’s iron fist. We must stop the pounding. I feel that any fair-minded individual will concur, and join in.

ANY business that is privileged to enjoy the support of the African American community MUST return that support.

I thank you in advance for your effort and dedication.

-Elsie Law AKA Starface

Quote Of The Day

"People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within." -Romana L. Anderson

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Definitions Better Than Webster's: Part 5

KARMA:
Through the experiences of my life, I've formulated my own definition of Karma- which is: What you do to someone else, you do to yourself.

[SIDEBAR: In the words of KRS-ONE, "Stay alive, all things will change around."]

Cops Gone Wild Part 6: The "I Didn't Know A Decapitated Doll's Head Was Attached To My Antennae" Edition



[SIDEBAR: How can these officers possibly solve or stop a crime, when they can't even notice an object attached to their own vehicle?!...What you're selling I'm not buying...SMH at Commissioner Ray Kelly's befuddled attempts to try to defend this.]

Cops Gone Wild Part 5: The Cops With Tasers Edition

NYC recently implemented a rule that allows city police sergeants on patrol to carry a taser. The purpose of this rule implementation is to supposedly allow the city's sergeants an alternative to using the deadly force of a pistol. There have been dissenting voices that have stated that a taser can be just as deadly as a firearm- especially when it is improperly and excessively used. A case in point, is the beginning of the year death of Baron Pikes in Winnfield, Louisiana.

The case of Baron Pikes (pictured above) is just reaching news outlets' radar. Mr. Pikes died in January, after he was repeatedly tasered by an arresting officer- while he was in handcuffs.

The death of the 21 year old (who was ironically- or maybe not so ironically- a first cousin of Mychal Bell of the Jena 6), was recently ruled a homicide by the Winn Parish Coroner. The coroner reached his decision after an extensive months long investigation, in which he was assisted by two nationally known forensic pathologists.

According to CNN, the coroner's investigation determined that "[Baron] Pikes was already handcuffed and on the ground when he was first hit with the taser...[Officer] Nugent fired his Taser at Pikes six times in less than three minutes (the shots were recorded by a computer chip in the weapon's handle). Then, officers put Pikes in the back of a cruiser and drove him to their police station- where Nugent fired a seventh shot, directly against Pikes' chest. After he was given that drive stun to the chest, he was pulled out of the car onto the concrete. He was then electroshocked two more times. Two officers noted that he had no neuromuscular response to those last two 50,000-volt electroshocks...It's possible that [Officer] Nugent was shocking a dead man the last two times he pulled the trigger."

In a weak attempt to rationalize the murder, Winnfield Police Lieutenant Chuck Curry, said: "[Baron] Pikes told officers he suffered from asthma, and had been using PCP and crack cocaine." However after performing a meticulous investigation, the coroner strongly refutes this claim, stating that "he found no sign of drug use in the autopsy, and no record of asthma in Pikes' medical history."

Baron Pikes' family and community understandably want justice. Although Officer Nugent was belatedly fired in May [SIDEBAR: He is currently appealing his dismissal], no charges have been currently filed against him for this murder.

Quote Of The Day

"It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." -J. K. Rowling

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Scorching Dangers Of Artificial Turf Revisited

I recently wrote a blog entry about the potential dangers of the artificial grass that is being installed in many New York City parks and playgrounds. [CLICK HERE for the article entitled, "It's So Hot, You Could Fry An Egg On The Sidewalk Grass..."]. However, the artificial grass doesn't appear to be the only synthetic turf that is being deemed dangerous.

CNN just did a report on a toddler who suffered from 2nd degree burns after his feet touched over-heated playground "safety" mats, which blanketed a NYC playground.

The potential dangers caused by the mats' over heating, after being exposed to the sun on an average-temperature summer day, has many parents and child advocates crying foul. They are demanding changes from the City's Parks Department.

Altering the type of material that the city's children play on, seems to be a legitimate concern. However, the New York Parks Commissioner has stated that it "is not practical to replace the playground mats."

Hopefully, this is a situation that can be amicably and quickly resolved. Some parents even seem willing to settle for detailed warning signs on the playground citing the turf's danger.

[CLICK HERE for CNN's video report entitled, "Playground Burns Toddler."]

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words Pic Of The Week

CLICK HERE to read the interesting background on how this groundbreaking comic book cover came to be.

Quote Of The Day

"Unless a man undertakes more than he possibly can do, he will never do all that he can." –Henry Drummond

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why Do We Sit Idly By?

The horrors and the injustices of the world are not occurring in an isolated vacuum. They are happening out in the open, and are even being telecast. Meanwhile, most of us sit by idly, oblivious to our own power. We impotently disregard the necessity of our own positive action.

After recently reporting (on this blog) on an incident in which a veteran police officer paired with a prostitute to purchase and pimp a young runaway, it struck me how uninvolved many members of society have become to ensuring the well being of those who are most in need. In the aforementioned case, the two adults who were complicit of such egregious abuse of a minor were only sentenced to three and a half years in jail. That type of punitive judgment for such a heinous crime is beyond shocking to me.

There are many good people with good intentions who despise injustice. However, they don’t seem to find some of our current horrendous societal conditions despicable enough to be motivated to spring into action. Others are just plain scared, and are allowing their fears to render them mute. When they finally decide to speak up, it may be too little to late. Our silence makes us accomplices to these unspeakable crimes. The great Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

It’s time for us to wake up and recognize the power that we have. We have to educate ourselves on what we can do to prevent injustices from perpetuating themselves. As Miriam Wright Edelman said, "A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back- but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you."

Everyday, I contribute what I can to do my part. I hope that you do the same. One of the bright sides of having such a big mess to clean up is that no matter where we start, we can’t go wrong. Any contribution to improvement will have a huge ripple effect.

Please do something every day to help improve the world. Commit to a daily discipline of committing at least one good deed every 24 hours. Please don’t contribute any more negativity and destruction to society.

Also, please stay in contact with your elected officials. Demand that they do the jobs that they are elected, and paid, to do.

With Lots Of Love,
Elsie Law aka Starface

Video Of The Week

When Billie Holiday bravely recorded "Strange Fruit," as a protest to the lynchings that were happening across the nation, she literally put her life and career on the line.

STRANGE FRUIT LYRICS
Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves
Blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
The scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
for the rain to gather
for the wind to suck
for the sun to rot
for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop
Composed by Abel Meeropol (aka Lewis Allan)
Originally sung by: Billie Holiday

Quote Of The Day

"You can never get enough of the things you don't need, because the things you don't need can never satisfy." -Marvin J. Ashton

Monday, July 21, 2008

NEW BLOG FEATURES

In addition to the already recurring features on The Legal Eagles Community Newsletter Blog, like:

-Quote Of The Day
-Video Of The Week
-Book Excerpt Of The Week

I am adding some new recurring features. They are as follows:

-Elsie Law's Daily Dose Of The Law- This feature will discuss any and all things legal, including: new laws, old laws, legal definitions, laws waiting to be passed, legal trivia, etc. (PLEASE SEE THE SIDE PANEL DISCLAIMER).
-The Legal Eagles Legal Brief- This feature will discuss precedent setting legal cases. (PLEASE SEE THE SIDE PANEL DISCLAIMER).
-Play Your Position: The Politics Edition- This feature will discuss the various political positions, and the responsibilities that these positions carry.
-Play Your Position: The Business Edition- This feature will discuss the various positions & titles in the world of business.
-The Fly Or Die Commerce Report- This feature will discuss business news, and will occasionally spotlight various businesses.
-Invention Spotlight Of The Week- This feature will spotlight great inventions of the past & present.
-DVDs Worth Watching
-A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words Pic Of The Week- This feature will spotlight a striking visual image.

NY Is The Original Trendsetter When It Comes To "Urban Renewal"

"In 1949, the federal government enacted a new approach to the housing problems in cities: urban renewal. The approach was now both in philosophy- for the first time in America, government was given the right to seize an individual's private property not for its own use but for reassignment to another individual for his use and profit- and in scope: a billion dollars was appropriated in 1949 and it was agreed that this was only seed money to prepare the ground for later, greater plantings of cash.

Most cities approached urban renewal with caution. But in New York City, urban renewal was directed by Robert Moses. By 1957, $133,000,000 of public monies had been expended on urban renewal in all the cities of the United States with the exception of New York: $267,000,000 had been spent in New York. So far ahead was New York that when scores of huge buildings constructed under its urban renewal program were already erected and occupied, administrators from other cities were still borrowing New York's contract forms to learn how to draw up the initial legal agreements with interested developers. When Moses resigned from his urban renewal directorship in 1960, urban renewal had produced more physical results in New York than in all other American cities combined." -From, "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and The Fall of New York" By: Robert A. Caro

Cops Gone Wild Part 4: The Buy A Child, Pimp A Child Edition

A married, father of three, 14-year New York City police department veteran, was allowed to make a cushy deal with Queens prosecutors last week for his role in a heinous crime.

The NYPD detective teamed with a prostitute, and purchased a 13 year old runaway for $500. The pair then pimped the child out at various parties. According to the NY Daily News, the two adults "were charged with kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, endangering the welfare of a child and promoting prostitution." However, they "were allowed to plead guilty to attempted kidnapping."

For their dastardly crimes, they were each sentenced to three-and-a-half years of jail time.

[SIDEBAR: I have no words for this! However, I will be contacting my state senator this week to find out how something like this could happen! (I suggest that you do the same). Three-and-a-half years???? What kind of prosecutor & judge would allow such a slight slap on the wrist for buying, selling, and pimping a child????]

[SOURCE]

Quote Of The Day

"Ours is the age which is proud of machines that think, and suspicious of men who try to." -Howard Mumford Jones

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Hypnotic Power Of Television

"The physical effects of watching trauma on television- the rise in blood pressure and heart rate- are the same as if an individual has actually experienced the traumatic event directly. Moreover, it has been documented that television can create false memories that are just as powerful as normal memories. When recalled, television-created memories have the same control over the emotional system as do real memories.

And the consequences are predictable. People who watch television news routinely have the impression that the cities where they live are far more dangerous than they really are. Researchers have also found that even when statistics measuring specific crimes actually show steady decreases, the measured fear of those same crimes goes up as television portrayal of those crimes goes up. And the portrayal of crime often increases because consultants for television station owners have advised their clients that viewership increases when violent crime leads newscasts. This phenomenon has reshaped local television news.

Many of the national morning programs now lead with crime and murders, and we'll watch them for hours because they are so compelling. The visual imagery on television can activate parts of the brain involved in emotion in a way that reading about the same event cannot.

Television's ability to evoke the fear response is especially significant because Americans spend so much of their lives watching TV. An important explanation for why we spend so much time motionless in front of the screen is that television constantly triggers the 'orienting response' in our brains...

Now, television commercials and many action sequences on television routinely activate that orienting reflex once per second. And since we in this country, on average,watch television more than four and a half hours per day, those circuits of the brain are constantly being activated.

The constant and repetitive triggering of the orienting response induces a quasi-hypnotic state. It partially immobilizes viewers and creates an addiction to the constant stimulation of two areas of the brain: the amygdala and the hippocampus (part of the brain's memory and contextualizing system). It's almost as though we have a 'receptor' for television in our brains." -From, "The Assault On Reason" By: Al Gore

Book Excerpt Of The Week, "The Assault On Reason" By: Al Gore

"Psychology-based communication was first developed by another Austrian of Hitler's generation, Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's nephew. Bernays adapted the revolutionary insights of his uncle to create the modern science of mass persuasion- based not on reason, but on the manipulation of subconscious feelings and impulses. Bernays, considered the father of public relations, left Austria ling before the Nazi rise to power and immigrated to the United States, where he transformed commercial advertising and began a similar transformation of political persuasion.

The combination of psychologically driven public relations and electronic mass media broadcasting led to modern propaganda. Reason was displaced not only by the substitution of broadcasting for print, but also by the science of PR as the principal language by which communication occurs in the public forum- for both commercial and political purposes.

One of Bernays' first breakthroughs involved his work for the American Tobacco Company, when he interviewed psychoanalysts to discover the reason women in the 1920s would not smoke cigarettes. Upon learning their view that women of the era saw cigarettes as phallic symbols of male power and thus inappropriate for women, Bernays hired a group of women to dress and act as suffragists. They marched down New York's Fifth Avenue in a parade for women's rights and upon passing news photographers pulled out and lit cigarettes, proclaiming them 'torches of freedom.' The strategy worked to break women's resistance to cigarettes.

A second victory involved another corporate client, Betty Crocker. Bernays discovered that women were not buying cake mixes because they felt ashamed to present their husbands with a cake that required so little work. Bernays advised changing the formula to require the addition of a fresh egg, and once again, the strategy worked. Women felt they had done enough to deserve praise for their baking and the cake mix began to sell robustly.

Bernays' business partner,Paul Mazur, understood the larger significance of the new techniques of mass persuasion. 'We must shift America from a needs to desire culture,' Mazur said. 'People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality. Man's desire must overshadow his needs...'

Inevitably, Bernays also began to apply his psychological and mass marketing insights to the sale of political ideas." -From, "The Assault On Reason" By: Al Gore

TODAY IS...

PLEASE PASS THIS ON! (EACH ONE TEACH ONE OR TWO!) THIS IS PHASE ONE ON HOW WE CAN HELP TO STRENGTHEN & EMPOWER OUR COMMUNITY:The 2008 not guilty verdict in the Sean Bell case evoked outrage, emotion, and debate. It is not an anomaly that the police officers involved in the Sean Bell slaying were acquitted of all charges on all counts in State Supreme Court. I could run out of ink printing the names of people who have been victimized by the inaptly named justice system.

The American justice system has been especially terroristic towards the African American community. Many community members can cite historic and personal accounts to prove this. Therefore, it would be foolhardy (at the least) to turn to a system that has methodically oppressed us, and request that they free us. We can only free ourselves through extreme discipline and intelligent planning.

As a community we have been too compliant with leaders who organize ineffective, delayed reactions. The only strategy that can save us in this last hour is one that calls for a collective code of conduct that will be conducive to improving the conditions of our community, and shifting the paradigm of how we are treated by outside entities. The first step of this code of conduct should be based on economics.

The old adage of “money talks,” still reigns true in the new millennium. Any political scientist worth his or her library card will tell you that: “Economic powerlessness equals political powerlessness,” and conversely “economic power equals political power.” This means that if we continue to allow our wealth to be extracted from our community, we will remain impotent.

The power of the collective “Black Dollar” is often discussed. However, that power has been left unchanneled. Today is the day to change that. A one-time boycott is not going to bring long-term change and respect to our community. Our community has launched boycotts before. Our success and ascension will be based on what we consistently do. For this reason, we should initiate “BUY BLACK FRIDAYS.”

BUY BLACK FRIDAYS is a small step towards our community acquiring power via controlling our economics. Every Friday, people who acknowledge the injustice and oppression that the African American community has been consistently subjected to should do one of the following:

Option #1: Spend $0 on Friday
Option #2: Spend no more than $10 on Friday
Option #3: Only Shop at Black Businesses on Friday
[PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ABOVE OPTIONS CAN & SHOULD BE EXERCISED ON A DAILY BASIS. However, we can all at the very least focus on Fridays. This way we can take a collective stand and build our collective discipline. Please remember that this is only Phase 1!].

To the people who are tempted to label “BUY BLACK FRIDAYS” as racist, I say this: In the big scheme of things, this is about right & wrong, justice & injustice. The African American community is a strong, proud community that has endured the brunt of America’s iron fist. We must stop the pounding. I feel that any fair-minded individual will concur, and join in.

ANY business that is privileged to enjoy the support of the African American community MUST return that support.

I thank you in advance for your effort and dedication.

-Elsie Law AKA Starface

Quote Of The Day

"Failures are divided into two classes. Those who did and never thought, and those who thought and never did." -John Charles Salak

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Stop Snitching" Explained For Once And For All...

The media has been engrossed in a "Stop Snitching & The African American Community" discussion for quite some time now. They have been projecting that the premise of the whole "stop snitching movement " is that Black people are plagued with a street ethos which disallows them to report crimes to the police. This nonsensical supposition has been fueled by lightweight commentary given by mass media approved notables. By spewing such shallow conjecture, the media and their loudest mouthpieces have missed the boat of connecting the real issues that could solve the problem.

Below is a quote from, "Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women In Prison" By: Paula C. Johnson, that captures the historically fractured relationship between African Americans and the law enforcement system: "Enactment of racially specific criminal laws, discriminatory application of purportedly neutral criminal laws, and official failure to enforce legal protections on behalf of African Americans have created an enduring ethos of distrust of the U.S. criminal justice system within many Black communities across America. This distrust is reinforced by present circumstances in which African American men and women are disproportionately incarcerated under harsh criminal law penalties in the U.S. Many share the disillusionment expressed by civil rights and anti-lynching advocate Ida B. Wells in 1887, which prompted her to ask, 'O God, is there no redress, no peace, no justice in this land for us?'"

The lack of communication between law enforcement and African Americans is neither a "new street movement" or a phenomenon sparked by a "code of street ethics." It is caused by the traditional abuses of power by the criminal justice system. These abuses have reasonably bred mistrust. No one is going to share dangerous, confidential information with someone who has been proven untrustworthy. Moreover, no one is going to turn to an entity that has been abusive and irresponsible during their most sensitive times of distress (and in many cases, has even been the cause of that distress). Hence, the unwillingness of community members to communicate with the police.

Fix the system, and you'll earn the trust of the people. This is the side of the "stop snitching" debate that the media has failed to report.

[SIDEBAR: Question: Isn't The Blue Wall Of Silence > Stop Snitching??? Just asking.]

Quote Of The Day

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." -Edmund Burke

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Will The Constitution Survive 2008?

We are in an era where we are constantly seeing our protective civil laws being obliterated. As imperfect and treacherous as the founding of this country was, there has always been hope lying in the words of our founding documents. The hope has been that one day we would live up to the ideals written in some of our original laws. How can we make a valiant attempt of achieving this goal, when the basic liberties that would protect us and encourage us to perform such a herculean task are being snatched away from us by the "people in power."

The human rights that were written into the Constitution are being steadily plucked off with the passage of bills like the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008.

Infringing on someone's human rights is equivalent to attempting to damage an individual's God-given rights.

There is power in the Constitution (With the exception of the “Three Fifths Compromise” travesty- but that's another blog post for another day). It is our legal protection as American citizens. Yet the supposed "leaders of American citizens," are the very ones who are killing off our protective shield in a sinister act of friendly fire.

It seems like the role that the Constitution was supposed to play on our world's stage has been preempted by a greedy grab for power that is detrimental to ALL (including the people who are provoking this demise of civil rights).

Here is a precise and informative overview of the intended function of the constitution: “Constitutional law doesn’t address relations among individuals the way property, contract, and tort law do. Instead, it defines the structure and function of the government and the relationships between the government and individual citizens. It also defines the relative powers of the national government and the state governments and prohibits the government from taking certain actions, such as those that infringe on freedom of religion. In defining the limiting government powers, constitutional law is superior to every other body of law. The Constitution proclaims itself to be “the supreme Law of the Land.” Any state or federal law on any topic- contracts, criminal punishment, election contributions, or public schools- that conflicts with the Constitution is invalid.” -From: Law 101 By: Jay M. Feinman

Quote Of The Day

"A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back- but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you." -Marian Wright Edelman

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Video Of The Week

Barbara Hillary: The 1st Black woman to reach the North Pole.
This pioneer is smart, witty and a brave-hearted class act.

"If you fall in...you don't have to worry about your bills anymore..." Lol.

Quote Of The Day

"A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men, purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cops Gone Wild Part 3: The Killer Road Rage/Duck A Breathalyzer Test Edition

The family of another father, and husband-to-be killed by a NYPD officer is struggling to gain justice for his death.

Jayson Tirado was shot and killed on October 21, 2007, by Officer Sean Sawyer. The off-duty officer shot the young father after they argued during a traffic incident. Mr. Sawyer claimed that Mr. Tirado raised his hands in a menacing manner after saying he had a gun. However, there's no evidence to prove that Jayson Tirado was in fact in possession of a firearm; no weapon was found inside the vehicle. It should also be noted that the officer isn't professing that he actually saw a weapon. He is only professing that he saw the victim raise his hands. The claim that Jayson verbally stated that he had a gun is also in dispute.

However, the indisputable part of this tragic situation is that after firing his weapon, Officer Sean Sawyer failed to report the incident until 19 hours later. This delay raised eyebrows, and would cause anyone with a modicum of analytical skills to conclude that Mr. Sawyer might have went M.I.A. in order to avoid a breathalyzer test. The shooter was reportedly returning home from a night of partying at the time of the incident. Since the Sean Bell travesty, the NYPD has implemented a policy of administering a breathalyzer test to any officer who wounds or kills someone. The officer's 19 hour absence allowed him to skirt this requirement.

This quagmire of a case was recently handed to a grand jury. The grand jury decided not to bring ANY charges against Jayson Tirado's killer. I am appalled that a grand jury failed to indict someone who acted in such a reckless manner. The family's famed attorney, Ronald Kuby, reasoned that the lack of charges was due to Mr. Sawyer's status as a police officer. Mr Kuby States: "
Of course, he got preferential treatment because he was a police officer...If a civilian had killed a police officer under those circumstances, that civilian would be looking for bail money right now."

The absence of any charges, shows me that the judicial system has it backwards. Logically, the fact that Sean Sawyer is an officer of the law should mean that he should be held to higher standards. His job training should have taught him this. In addition to having supposedly receive training as to when it is apropos to use a firearm; as a member of the NYPD, Mr. Sawyer has formidable resources at his disposal. If Mr. Sawyer felt that his life was in danger, he could have called for assistance.

What do these type of repeated, tragic, unpunished killings say about the system that we pay to protect us? Moreover, what does it say about us as a society?

[SIDEBAR: I will be following up on this blog post with another entry concerning the legal aftermath of this heartrending situation. R.I.P to another young father, and condolences to his loved ones.]

Is The Iran Missiles Photo A Fake?

The recent photograph, which was released to and by many prominent news outlets, of Iran testing their missiles is reportedly a fake.

The striking photo was front page news at The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. The websites for: BBC News, MSNBC, The New York Times, and many other major news sources; also ran the allegedly doctored photo.

The photo was deemed as evidence of Iran's threateningly dangerous missile possession, until...bloggers outed the photo as a fake. Since the outing, several news sources- like the BBC- have removed the photo and denounced its authenticity.

According to BBC.com, "Defence Analyst Mark Fitzpatrick of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies" has stated: "It very much does appear that Iran doctored the photo. The whole purpose of this testing was to send a signal, so Iran both exaggerated the capabilities of the missile in their prose and apparently doctored the photos as well."

This appears to be a game of- you showed me your missiles, now I'll show you mine- gone wrong (OR IS IT???). This is another instance that shows how ridiculous war is. Peace has got to be a better use of all of our time!

[CLICK HERE for pic & article source: The Wired Blog Network]
[CLICK HERE for sited BBC article]

[SIDEBAR: I heart bloggers!]

Quote Of The Day

"People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within." -Romana L. Anderson

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Quote Of The Day

"Patience with others is Love. Patience with self is Hope. Patience with God is Faith." -Adel Bestavros

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Quote Of The Day

"Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friday, July 11, 2008

Book Excerpt Of The Week, "Protectors Of Privilege" By: Frank Donner

"The surveillance program was conducted without guidelines of any kind; the range of targets was extraordinary. As Herlihy [a former police inspector] further testified, all dissident activities involving public issues were considered a proper subject of police interest: 'I just can't say what we weren't interested in.' Another functionary, Captain George R. Suter, head of the security information unit from May 1968 to December 1970, insisted that any organization opposed to the Vietnam War was 'subversive' and a threat to the government. These elastic standards resulted in targeting for surveillance of peaceful organizations with a commitment to nonviolence and no record of past violence." - From "Protectors Of Privilege" By: Frank Donner

TODAY IS...

PLEASE PASS THIS ON! (EACH ONE TEACH ONE OR TWO!) THIS IS PHASE ONE ON HOW WE CAN HELP TO STRENGTHEN & EMPOWER OUR COMMUNITY:The 2008 not guilty verdict in the Sean Bell case evoked outrage, emotion, and debate. It is not an anomaly that the police officers involved in the Sean Bell slaying were acquitted of all charges on all counts in State Supreme Court. I could run out of ink printing the names of people who have been victimized by the inaptly named justice system.

The American justice system has been especially terroristic towards the African American community. Many community members can cite historic and personal accounts to prove this. Therefore, it would be foolhardy (at the least) to turn to a system that has methodically oppressed us, and request that they free us. We can only free ourselves through extreme discipline and intelligent planning.

As a community we have been too compliant with leaders who organize ineffective, delayed reactions. The only strategy that can save us in this last hour is one that calls for a collective code of conduct that will be conducive to improving the conditions of our community, and shifting the paradigm of how we are treated by outside entities. The first step of this code of conduct should be based on economics.

The old adage of “money talks,” still reigns true in the new millennium. Any political scientist worth his or her library card will tell you that: “Economic powerlessness equals political powerlessness,” and conversely “economic power equals political power.” This means that if we continue to allow our wealth to be extracted from our community, we will remain impotent.

The power of the collective “Black Dollar” is often discussed. However, that power has been left unchanneled. Today is the day to change that. A one-time boycott is not going to bring long-term change and respect to our community. Our community has launched boycotts before. Our success and ascension will be based on what we consistently do. For this reason, we should initiate “BUY BLACK FRIDAYS.”

BUY BLACK FRIDAYS is a small step towards our community acquiring power via controlling our economics. Every Friday, people who acknowledge the injustice and oppression that the African American community has been consistently subjected to should do one of the following:

Option #1: Spend $0 on Friday
Option #2: Spend no more than $10 on Friday
Option #3: Only Shop at Black Businesses on Friday
[PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ABOVE OPTIONS CAN & SHOULD BE EXERCISED ON A DAILY BASIS. However, we can all at the very least focus on Fridays. This way we can take a collective stand and build our collective discipline. Please remember that this is only Phase 1!].

To the people who are tempted to label “BUY BLACK FRIDAYS” as racist, I say this: In the big scheme of things, this is about right & wrong, justice & injustice. The African American community is a strong, proud community that has endured the brunt of America’s iron fist. We must stop the pounding. I feel that any fair-minded individual will concur, and join in.

ANY business that is privileged to enjoy the support of the African American community MUST return that support.

I thank you in advance for your effort and dedication.

-Elsie Law AKA Starface

Quote Of The Day

"There is no better time than now. The time to live is now. The time to dream is now. The time to imagine and forget the past is now. The time to shine is now. The time to bleed, sweat, and determine yourself for the things you want most is now." -Anonymous

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How Did Your Favorite Presidential Candidate & State Senator Vote On The Passage Of H.R. 6304: FISA Amendments Act of 2008...

The H.R. 6304: FISA Amendments Act of 2008 was passed with a vote of 69 to 28. The above map shows the geographic voting breakdown. The horizontal bars indicate that two senators from the same state voted differently.

Arizona Senator and Republican Presidential candidate, John McCain, failed to vote at all. He was one out of a party of three senators who's votes were absent. Illinois Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate, Barack Obama, disappointingly voted in favor of the passage of the bill. The other Senator from Illinois voted to reject the Bill. Senator Obama cast an approving vote despite previously voicing his disapproval of the bill, and vowing to fight against any legislation that granted immunity to telecommunication companies.

CLICK HERE
to view the roll call of the votes, and a detailed breakdown by state and political party.

A Moment Of Silence For The 4th Amendment Of The U.S. Constitution

The FISA Amendments Act of 2008, blatantly disregards the rights protected by the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment of The U.S. Constitution states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

[SIDEBAR: Another one bites the dust. The Patriot Act also assaulted the IV Amendment, as well as Amendments I and VI...Here's to the, law without order years...SMH.]

Warrantless Wiretapping 2008

Yesterday the Senate voted to pass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008. Is this another step in George Bush's master plan to strip Americans of their civil liberties? Many balked at the Patriot Act, now the U.S. is cementing their expansion of warrantless wiretaps. This is being done despite a Federal Court Judge's ruling that: Bush's "legal justification for the surveillance has no legal merit."

Below I've provided some links concerning the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

The first link is to an article that weighs in on how the courts have ruled on the newly enacted bill. The expanded warrantless wiretapping parameters are being implemented without the courts' blessing (so much for checks & balances). The other links are to articles provided by various news sources.

Let's see how some other news outlets are reporting on this issue:
CLICK HERE for an article that discusses the federal court's take on FISA 2008.
CLICK HERE for CNN's: "Senate Sends No-Warrant Wiretapping Bill to Bush"
CLICK HERE for the New York Times article: "Senate Approves Bill to Broaden Wiretap Powers"
CLICK HERE for BBC News': "US Senate Passes Surveillance"
CLICK HERE for Wired's: "Senate Approves Telecom Amnesty, Expands Domestic Spying"

Cops Gone Wild Part 2: The Warrantless Wiretapping Throwback Edition

"Almost all witnesses who testified were members of the police force and had been involved in the wiretap operation. Corroborative testimony was presented that Stephen Ahern [another police officer] fathered the New Haven wiretapping operation from his apartment, beginning in the late fifties, with a machine that he himself had purchased. At that time, this activity, initially directed at gamblers, went on to include prostitutes and drug dealers, and then, in the late sixties, political activists and an assortment of students, professionals, and intellectuals. From 1964 on, Ahern had succeeded in acquiring more equipment (apparently with public funds illegally used for this purpose) and institutionalizing the tapping operation over the years by installing recorders in various locations at police headquarters.

The wiretap operation at police headquarters was at first conducted in a sergeant's closet, but was ultimately moved to a room specifically prepared with acoustical tile and closed to members of the force who were not privy to its operation. Loge were kept of phone calls tapped, detailing information considered essential for intelligence purposes. Inspector Nicholas Pastore testified that at the time in the late 1960s when Chief James Ahern [Stephen Ahern's brother] won national acclaim as a 'new breed' of liberal cop, he had, on more than one occasion, ordered the bugging of meetings of the police board through a wireless transmitter placed under the table in the police commissioners' conference room. Moreover, testimony revealed that the cell block phone in the police department used by individuals incarcerated there to contact their lawyers or arrange for bail was tapped.

Sergeant Walter P. Connor, assigned to monitoring the wiretapping equipment from April 1968 to the summer of 1969, testified that Chief James Ahern, who had visited the wiretap room after its removal from police headquarters, to the fourth floor of an office building in downtown New Haven in 1969, told him that if a stranger came to the door, 'throw the [expletive] machines out the window.'

Although the criminal and civil sanctions of the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968 put teeth into its strictures against wiretapping, the New Haven police wiretappers were obviously not deterred.

Warrantless Wiretapping Laws: The Throwback Edition

"Actually, warrantless wiretapping had been illegal both on federal and state levels for decades. But in 1968, climaxing a series of Supreme Court decisions striking down warrantless wiretapping and other forms of electronic eavesdropping as violative of the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, Congress enacted Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act banning wiretapping and bugging by federal authorities except in certain carefully circumscribed areas. Moreover, permissible activity could not be undertaken without the explicit authority of a federal court, unless it involved a foreign security matter. This interdiction applied to state and local officers as well.

Title III stated specifically that any state activity in this area would be permissible only if preceded by a state legislative grant of such authority. However, this authority could not be less restrictive than the standards established by the federal government. The Congress, in adopting this legislation, was determined not only to punish unjustifiable interception, disclosure, or use of wire communications; it sought to ban the manufacture, distribution, possession, or advertising of intercepting equipment. Thus the act provided criminal sanctions for possession or use of the machines: 5 years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both. In addition, civil suits were authorized: if an individual proved his phone was tapped, he could collect $100 for each day tapped, or $1,000, whichever was greater, plus punitive damages and legal fees from the tap operator." -From, "Protectors Of Privilege" By: Frank Donner

Warrantless Wiretapping Day...

In light of the Congressional decision to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, in order to greatly expand the U.S. government's surveillance parameters at home and abroad, I will dedicate all of today's blog entries to this very controversial topic.

In an effort to make heads-and-tails of the warrantless wiretapping laws, I will explore this topic from various angles.

Quote Of The Day

"The citizen can bring our political and governmental institutions back to life, make them responsive and accountable, and keep them honest. No one else can." - John Gardner

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Designer Knockoffs: The Ancient Artifacts Edition

The Brooklyn Museum of Art, which is said to be the home of the second largest collection of Coptic art in North America, is questioning the authenticity of some of their pieces. According to The Independent, one of the museum's curators, Dr Edna Russmann, began having doubts about the collection 4 years ago. (It should also be noted that another specialist voiced his concerns about the collection in the 70s).

An investigation of the pieces are still underway. However, some conclusions have been formulated. The Independent states: "Although some chemical testing on the works has yet to be completed, Dr. Russmann considers that 10 of the 30 examples of Coptic art held by the museum are phoney. Moreover, about half the other pieces have probably been extensively recarved and retouched."

Instead of trying to camouflage their findings, the museum will display the inauthentic pieces in an exhibit in February.

The museum's findings show that we can never be 100% sure about history; we can only give our best investigative efforts. For one thing, our efforts will reward us with entertaining stories and mysteries, at the very least. There's never a dull moment with all of the historical plots and counter-plots.

[SIDEBAR: I wonder what's the story behind how the museum acquired the fugazy pieces. This is like The DaVinci Code: Reloaded.]

Quote Of The Day

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -Walt Emerson

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Definitions Better Than Webster's: Part 4

DESIRE:
"Desire is a manifestation of power. The desire to play music is the power which can play music seeking expression and development; the desire to invent mechanical devices is the mechanical talent seeking expression and development.

Where there is no power, either developed or undeveloped, to do a thing, there is never any desire to do that thing; and where there is strong desire to do a thing, it is certain proof that the power to do it is strong, and only requires to be developed and applied in the Right Way." -From, "The Science of Getting Rich" By: Wallace D. Wattles

[SIDEBAR: Follow your heart and utilize all of your gifts.]

Video Of The Week

The joy to many that is You Tube is on the litigation ropes, and their users are getting caught in the crossfire. Here's one user's poignant take on the situation...

[SIDEBAR: SEE 2 entries below for the You Tube vs. Viacom story.]

Quote Of The Day

"We must use time wisely, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right." - Nelson Mandela

Monday, July 7, 2008

Who's Watching You, While You're Watching You Tube?

You Tube's owner, Google, and Viacom are in the midst of a hot-and-heavy legal battle. Viacom is suing Google for giving internet surfers the opportunity to view Viacom's copyrighted material free of charge without their permission. In an effort to prove their case, Viacom requested and was granted, a peek into You Tube's visitor files.

According to Wired, a judge ruled that "Google will have to turn over to Viacom every record of every video watched by You Tube users, including users' names and IP addresses." Google argued that turning over this data would be a gross violation of their site visitors' privacy. However, the presiding judge disagreed.

All I have to say to You Tube users is: "Enjoy it while it lasts." We'll all be telling our grandkids about the "good old early-You Tube days" someday.

[SIDEBAR: It seems like "Viacom" is becoming a dirty word- for more reasons than one].

It's So Hot, You Could Fry An Egg On The Sidewalk Grass...

The artificial grass that is blanketing about 100 NYC parks and playgrounds, and counting, is reportedly literally melting the soles off of sneakers. The New York Daily News did an investigation on the installed turf, and found that it was dangerously hot- even on mild days. The temperature of the turf, which is often twice as high as the temperatures reached on natural grass, is said to provoke heat-related illnesses. In addition to this, other dangerous health risks are also associated with the artificial turf.

According to the New York Daily News the synthetic material is composed of: "millions of tiny crumbs which contain heavy metals like lead and cadmium, as well as volatile organic compounds and other chemicals." These materials are highly likely to give off poisonous emissions when exposed to heat. The city needs to rectify this situation pronto, unless they are looking forward to several lawsuits based on the "dangers of the grass."

[SIDEBAR: Doesn't somebody get a nice fat paycheck to do due diligence on this type of thing before it is placed in public spaces. SMH. When will we learn that mother nature knows best.]

Quote Of The Day

"If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it." -From, "The College Blue Book" By: Anthony J. D'Angelo

Friday, July 4, 2008

Book Excerpt Of The Week, "Women In Prison" By: Kathryn Watterson

"Another area worthy of investigation is the big business of building prisons; who is getting the contracts to build these billion dollar facilities that cost millions to run? What political donations have led to the sites chosen for new prisons, and to the many contracts made as part of the building process? Taxpayers should demand to know these facts, since public funds are being poured into prisons in such huge quantities for such unproductive results...Greater profits also can be made by spending as little as possible on the prisoners- just enough to keep order and promote the likelihood of return. The profit makers can insure the security of their investments by keeping the public in a state of fear from 'the criminal element.' As we've seen from the recent growth of the prison industrial complex- like the growth of the military industrial complex before it- when the public is living in fear, it doesn't complain about the price tag, no matter how outrageous. It is important to realize that the safety and well being of the community is at odds with the interest of the profit makers." -From, "Women In Prison" By: Kathryn Watterson

TODAY IS...

PLEASE PASS THIS ON! (EACH ONE TEACH ONE OR TWO!) THIS IS PHASE ONE ON HOW WE CAN HELP TO STRENGTHEN & EMPOWER OUR COMMUNITY:The 2008 not guilty verdict in the Sean Bell case evoked outrage, emotion, and debate. It is not an anomaly that the police officers involved in the Sean Bell slaying were acquitted of all charges on all counts in State Supreme Court. I could run out of ink printing the names of people who have been victimized by the inaptly named justice system.

The American justice system has been especially terroristic towards the African American community. Many community members can cite historic and personal accounts to prove this. Therefore, it would be foolhardy (at the least) to turn to a system that has methodically oppressed us, and request that they free us. We can only free ourselves through extreme discipline and intelligent planning.

As a community we have been too compliant with leaders who organize ineffective, delayed reactions. The only strategy that can save us in this last hour is one that calls for a collective code of conduct that will be conducive to improving the conditions of our community, and shifting the paradigm of how we are treated by outside entities. The first step of this code of conduct should be based on economics.

The old adage of “money talks,” still reigns true in the new millennium. Any political scientist worth his or her library card will tell you that: “Economic powerlessness equals political powerlessness,” and conversely “economic power equals political power.” This means that if we continue to allow our wealth to be extracted from our community, we will remain impotent.

The power of the collective “Black Dollar” is often discussed. However, that power has been left unchanneled. Today is the day to change that. A one-time boycott is not going to bring long-term change and respect to our community. Our community has launched boycotts before. Our success and ascension will be based on what we consistently do. For this reason, we should initiate “BUY BLACK FRIDAYS.”

BUY BLACK FRIDAYS is a small step towards our community acquiring power via controlling our economics. Every Friday, people who acknowledge the injustice and oppression that the African American community has been consistently subjected to should do one of the following:

Option #1: Spend $0 on Friday
Option #2: Spend no more than $10 on Friday
Option #3: Only Shop at Black Businesses on Friday
[PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ABOVE OPTIONS CAN & SHOULD BE EXERCISED ON A DAILY BASIS. However, we can all at the very least focus on Fridays. This way we can take a collective stand and build our collective discipline. Please remember that this is only Phase 1!].

To the people who are tempted to label “BUY BLACK FRIDAYS” as racist, I say this: In the big scheme of things, this is about right & wrong, justice & injustice. The African American community is a strong, proud community that has endured the brunt of America’s iron fist. We must stop the pounding. I feel that any fair-minded individual will concur, and join in.

ANY business that is privileged to enjoy the support of the African American community MUST return that support.

I thank you in advance for your effort and dedication.

-Elsie Law AKA Starface