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Tongue-tied sons of bastards' ghosts

OxyContin Producers admit to 'Misbranding'
Topic: Science 1:39 pm EDT, May 10, 2007

Anyone like me, who personally knows someone who has had their life destroyed because of Oxy probably had mixed feelings reading this today in the Times.

The company that makes the narcotic painkiller OxyContin and three current and former executives pleaded guilty today in federal court here to criminal charges that they misled regulators, doctors and patients about the drug’s risk of addiction and its potential to be abused.
...according to federal officials, Purdue sales representatives falsely told doctors that the statement, rather than simply being a theory, meant that OxyContin had a lower potential for addiction or abuse than drugs like Percocet. Among other things, company sales officials were allowed to draw their own fake scientific charts, which they then distributed to doctors, to support that misleading abuse-related claim, federal officials said.

Unbelievable. How many people died while they were deciding whether to come clean about their "misbranding"? Obviously people are responsible for their own actions, and people with a propensity to drug addiction will find something regardless, but this drug was especially insidious. It provided pain relief to very ill people who thought they had no hope, but it also destroyed so many lives. A little pill that, when crushed, was as powerful as heroin. Maybe a simple warning wouldn't have prevented it all, but one can't help but think it might have made some difference in the attention doctors paid to prescribing it.

Does the company deserve some credit for coming clean, rather than dragging the trial out?

In Guilty Plea, OxyContin Maker to Pay $600 Million

OxyContin Producers admit to 'Misbranding'

PFAW Chart on Gonzales Firings
Topic: Current Events 1:35 pm EDT, May 10, 2007

Still confused about that whole Gonzales thing? (Lord knows I am.) PFAW has an flash map that connects the dots between the fired attorneys, upcoming political races, and the 2008 Election.

For example, clicking on Nevada shows you that a US attorney was fired there for "no particular deficiences," and then you find out that NV is a key battleground for 2008... which is why the DOJ wanted the atty to work harder to drive down voter turnout with b.s. voter fraud investigations. See? It all comes back to voter fraud!

Go check it out.

Fun Interactive DOJ Map!

PFAW Chart on Gonzales Firings

The Black Hole of Guantanamo
Topic: Current Events 11:11 am EDT, Apr 26, 2007

Alright. I was planning to take a few weeks off this whole blogging thing and just focus on finals. But then an article like this comes along and I simply cannot resist pointing it out. Oh boy.

The Justice Department- who is obviously completely out of the spotlight at the moment- is asking a federal court to limit basic attorney priveleges in the case of Guantanamo detainees. What kind of privileges would they give up?

"Under the proposal, filed this month in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the government would limit lawyers to three visits with an existing client at Guantánamo; there is now no limit. It would permit only a single visit with a detainee to have him authorize a lawyer to handle his case. And it would permit a team of intelligence officers and military lawyers not involved in a detainee’s case to read mail sent to him by his lawyer.
The proposal would also reverse existing rules to permit government officials, on their own, to deny the lawyers access to secret evidence used by military panels to determine that their clients were enemy combatants.
Many of the lawyers say the restrictions would make it impossible to represent their clients, or even to convince wary detainees — in a single visit — that they were really lawyers, rather than interrogators."

Wow. So, limit access to clients, their evidence, and violate attorney client privilege. For people that are already being held without charges in a secret prison that uses illegal interrogation techniques. Does that about sum it up? Oh, right... this request is being brought by a Department that is under investigation for massive corruption. Wow.

Its hard to think of a strong enough commendation of this latest DOJ action... so let me just say... um... I think that this is bad.

Court asked to Limit Lawyers at Guantanamo

The Black Hole of Guantanamo

More Voter Fraud Outrage
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:04 pm EDT, Apr 12, 2007

As I have been saying (or maybe screeching) for years, cries of voter fraud are an excuse to disenfranchise impoverished and elderly voters. And now, its even more clear that the fears of voter fraud were all a bullshit charade. A charade, nonetheless, that had a real impact on innocent people.

"Richard L. Hasen, an expert in election law at the Loyola Law School, agreed, saying: “If they found a single case of a conspiracy to affect the outcome of a Congressional election or a statewide election, that would be significant. But what we see is isolated, small-scale activities that often have not shown any kind of criminal intent.”

For some convicted people, the consequences have been significant. Kimberly Prude, 43, has been jailed in Milwaukee for more than a year after being convicted of voting while on probation, an offense that she attributes to confusion over eligibility.

In Pakistan, Usman Ali is trying to rebuild his life after being deported from Florida, his legal home of more than a decade, for improperly filling out a voter-registration card while renewing his driver’s license.

In Alaska, Rogelio Mejorada-Lopez, a Mexican who legally lives in the United States, may soon face a similar fate, because he voted even though he was not eligible."

AARGH. Does this not bother you? People getting deported or jailed beause they weren't clear on voting rules? Meawhile, Georgia passed a law, and other states have passed similar measures, requiring "Voter IDs" because of so-called massive organized voter fraud. In fact, there had not been one case of voter fraud in 10 years.

Don't you ever get tired of the GOP's endless efforts to exclude people from the political process? I know I f@$&ing do!

In 5 year effort, Scant Evidence of Voter Fraud

More Voter Fraud Outrage

Sanctuary Cities and Illegal Immigration
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:35 am EDT, Apr 10, 2007

"In the aftermath of a series of raids in 2004, the town council in this historic borough of 5,300 -- transformed in recent years by an influx of at least 1,300 Latin Americans -- unanimously approved a sort of immigrant bill of rights. Joining a growing list of cities enacting a no-questions-asked policy on immigration status, Hightstown now allows its undocumented residents to officially interact with local police and access city services without fear of being reported to federal authorities"

Wa-Po has a great article about towns that have adopted a sort of "don't ask don't tell" policy when it comes to undocumented immigrants. These towns rightfully recognize that harassing and arresting people won't solve the immigration problem, and definitely won't help the town be safer.

Rather, when local police decide to take a federal power (regulation of immigration) into their own hands, disaster results. The immigrant community- illegals and legals alike- become hesistant to use social services. The police aren't called in violent situations, injured people hold off as long as possible before visiting the hospital, and even school children get confused about their rights to go to school. When working people feel they can't fully integrate into the community, everybody suffers- whether through health crises, gang violence, or simply a lack of political participation by one sector of the population.

I'm glad that this town- and others- has decided to let the power to regulate immigration stay where it belongs: with the federal government.

"Looking the other way on Immigrants"

Sanctuary Cities and Illegal Immigration

New Life for the ERA
Topic: Current Events 10:15 am EDT, Mar 28, 2007

Mr. Speaker, House Joint Resolution 264, before us today, which provides for equality under the law for both men and women, represents one of the most clear-cut opportunities we are likely to have to declare our faith in the principles that shaped our Constitution. It provides a legal basis for attack on the most subtle, most pervasive, and most institutionalized form of prejudice that exists. Discrimination against women, solely on the basis of their sex, is so widespread that is seems to many persons normal, natural and right. - Shirley Chisholm, Aug. 10 1970

Good news on an otherwise boring day: Sen. Barbara Boxer has reknewed the drive to get the embattled Equal Rights Amendment passed. Originally written in the 20's by Alice Paul, the last time it was seriously considered was the 70's, when it missed the mark for ratification to the tune of 3 states. These days it seems to have a fighting chance, but you can bet the conservatives (including, shudder, Phyllis Schafly) will come out in droves to prevent it. (They think it will be a basis for gay marriage and unisex bathrooms, both of which I am ALL for, btw.) The actual text of the amendment is as follows:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Would an amendment like this actually have a tangible impact on women's lives? Who knows. But think about the difference it could make to future generations of women, reading the constitution for the first time to discover that their rights were enshrined there too.

New Life for the ERA

RE: More on U.S. Attorney Firings- this stuff is getting out of hand
Topic: Current Events 11:21 am EDT, Mar 22, 2007

Mike the Usurper wrote:
For one reason, it's a place the Democrats can stake out a clear opposition position. It's hard for them to even say "withdrawl" and getting them to agree on a version of that or what is done after that is sort of like herding cats. Agreement on the US Attorneys mess is easy.

Second, they have something that is really interesting here. As came out at the press meeting, the White House is in a very ugly corner, and it's one of their own making. On the one hand they want to claim executive privilege about the decisions made on this issue. On the other, they have been making public statements that W was not informed about any of this. That's a very tricky box. They can't claim privilege on something that was not discussed with W, but they can't very well let these guys go to the floor and have to say "These people were fired because they were prosecuting our buddies."

Third, this is a subject that has traction with likely voters. These guys were trying to turn Justice into the right hand of the party? That will get the left going even more ballistic, the middle (what's left of it) going against the administration in a hurry, and fracture off the "get government out of my space" wing of their own party.

Fourth, it's a way to cut out even more of the political machinery. This is more than enough to take down Alberto, and might be enough to take down Turd Blossom with him. Even if Rove stays, it weakens the hand being played by W even more.

It's a fight they can win, and win going away. At that point they stop looking like loser Democrats and can maybe start running with other balls that need to be moved downfield, like the wiretaps, like the Iraq war, like botching Afghanistan, like bungling Katrina, like torture and extraordinary renditions for that purpose. As Newton put it, an object at rest tends to remain at rest, an object in motion tends to remain in motion.

I'm not happy with the Democrats at the moment, but I'll take this as a first step.

These are all very good points. And one thing that didn't occur to me is that the main thing isn't the firing itself, its the lying about the firing. Here's a great article by Cohen that gives that statutory basis I was looking for.

All the same, I'm not so sure that the attys shouldn't have sued so the judiciary could handle it and the legislature just harp on it (and possible repeal certain patriot act provisions.)

It wasn't just a bad idea, it may have been illegal

RE: More on U.S. Attorney Firings- this stuff is getting out of hand

More on U.S. Attorney Firings- this stuff is getting out of hand
Topic: Current Events 10:20 am EDT, Mar 22, 2007

So lets see. Against the administration we've got Hurricane warming...voter disenfranchisement...the DC vote...oh yeah, and IRAQ. But what are Dems harping on? Fired Republican attorneys. This is a bad strategy. Times reports:

The potential for the investigation to broaden into a constitutional confrontation has created a tricky political calculus for the newly empowered Democrats. As they consider their strategy, they are acutely aware that they are already entangled in another major clash with the administration over the question of pulling American troops out of Iraq.

Um, yeah, there's always that. But what about the fact that they are requesting documents, calling witnesses, spending money on a huge investigation to prove *at most* that the Executive branch violated a "traditional" separation of U.S. attorneys from political endeavors. Fired atty David Iglesias wrote in the Times yesterday,

United States attorneys have a long history of being insulated from politics. Although we receive our appointments through the political process (I am a Republican who was recommended by Senator Pete Domenici), we are expected to be apolitical once we are in office. I will never forget John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, telling me during the summer of 2001 that politics should play no role during my tenure. I took that message to heart. Little did I know that I could be fired for not being political.

Not being political? A few pararaphs later, he describes his noble fight (but eventual failure) to prosecute voter fraud, which was number 1 political priority for the GOP at the time. So. Its not that he wasn't being political... its that he was doing a shitty job at it.

Why do I not feel sorry for him?

Ethics are important in government. But in this extraordinarily unethical administration, why are we focusing on firings of GOP attys that are pissed that they didn't get rewarded for their noble attempts to fuck over voters, prosecute illegal immigrants, and otherwise be good ole boys for Bush? I'll admit that this investigation has its value in pointing out what a racket these political appointments have become. But are dems really going to waste their time and cred on a constitutional showdown over this, when they've got so many more valuable constitutional fights to fight?

Someone please explain this to me.

More on U.S. Attorney Firings- this stuff is getting out of hand

RE: Whose Bong Would Jesus Hit?
Topic: Current Events 9:23 am EDT, Mar 22, 2007

The Times has an editorial today about the BHFJ case- pretty interesting stuff. This letter was most interesting to me, as it offered an educators perspective:

To the Editor:

As educators, we are charged with the duty not just to educate our young people but to help mold them into moral adults. This “mission” does not always agree with the precept of free speech.

No student in my middle school classroom may speak to me or to any other student with disrespect or in a hurtful manner. I also expect my students to limit conversations during class time to the topics I pick. Does this violate the students’ rights to free speech? You bet it does! Should it carry out of the classroom? I believe that it should.

I hope that any educator who sees his student behaving in a destructive manner will step in and speak up. I hope that someday my students thank me for this “violation” of their constitutional rights, just as I hope that the Alaska student realizes someday that his principal was acting in what he believed to be the student’s best interest.

Claire Hirschhorn
Fair Lawn, N.J., March 20, 2007

But Decius, to answer your question: there are limitations on free speech in plenty of situations ("shouting fire" in a crowded theater, for example.) In school this is particularly true. The courts have given schools wide discretion in surpressing speech that is sexual, gang-related, and drug-related, among other things deemed "disruptive." However, for the most part political speech is protected, even if it is mildly disruptive (black arm bands, for example.)

So yes, the content really made a difference here. But all the same I think the court will come down for the kid because of the extenuating circumstances (and also because the school's argument was just really unconvincing.)

RE: Whose Bong Would Jesus Hit?

RE: Whose Bong Would Jesus Hit?
Topic: Current Events 10:17 am EDT, Mar 21, 2007

Decius wrote:
Do those few words make a difference?

They do make a difference, because this sign was basically interpreted by the court as irreverant nonsense. Read the transcript- they spend half the time grilling Starr about whether this would have been removable if the sign had said "repeal the marijuana laws" or something similarly political. But "Bong Hits for Jesus"? The kid admitted he used this phrase because he thought it was funny and would attract media attention, but its not even clear that it makes any real statement about pot or Jesus. This is why the school though they could get away with this- its not protected political speech, its just druggie nonsense! The court really didn't seem to buy it.

Why did they grant cert? The appeals court ruled for the student. Wouldn't freedom of speech be safter if they decided the circuit was so obviously corrent that it wasn't worth reviewing? Why did they decide to review it?

Read my blog and I have some links to the transcript and a slate article that puts this case in context. My understanding (as far as cert) is that this case was unique because the expression wasn't exactly on school property, but took place at a school sponsored event. Also, because drug and violence speech is usually repressable within the school, it made an interesting question that hadn't been looked at since Tinker. The circuits were split on what exactly were the bounds of the school's authority in this kind of case.
I do think that this will be good for free speech if they come down for the students, because schools have been tightening the kinds of speech for years, and allowing them to regulate it in and out of school according to school policies (which of course, could be totally arbitrary) would be scary.

Is the student really interested in money? How much was he awarded?

The answer is yes, he sued for damages, I'm guessing punitive. Like I said, this kid seems like kind of a jackass. The case isn't over yet so damages haven't been awarded yet, but Justice Roberts indicated that big damages weren't likely. (He was like, come on! Its a principle who was acting under the school's rules, you're really gonna ream her on damages?)
I bet they get awarded court costs, which are fairly significant, but nothing else.

RE: Whose Bong Would Jesus Hit?

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