Recent comments

  • C-U Black Activists Call for Diversity and Access at the University of Illinois   22 hours 36 min ago

    Long overdue. Thanks to Terry Townsend and Martel Miller for initiating this. 

  • Urbana Council Votes 6-1 to Get Tasers for Police   3 weeks 10 hours ago

    In response to the story above, Taser International, the company that makes tasers, tweeted this directly at Urbana IMC. This show just how many resources they have to lead the fight to militarize the police. BTW, they also make body cams.

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  • fbi crimes online help forge new, unlawful quasi criminal courts   16 weeks 9 hours ago
  • Decriminalization of Cannabis is Helpful, but Legalization and Regulation in Illinois Is the Answer   20 weeks 6 days ago

    The News-Gazette has an obsession with multiple speculative harms it associates with any moves to loosen Illinois law regarding cannabis. Of course, such a position assumes that prohibition does something to address the supposed negatives the paper fears will come to pass if marijuana were legal. Most of all, they assume the law is capable of enforcing their crude impulse to simply keep it illegal. That clearly is not a solution, given the wide, unregulated availablity of cannabis. Two states, Colorado and Washington, now have legal recreational marijuana, in addition to roughly 60% of the states that now have some form of medical marijauna available. The results of legalization? For the most part, it's nothing but good news, even on the multiple fronts that the N-G editorial board frets about. Voters in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington DC will have the opportunity to legalize in the November election

    Colorado and Washington Help Make the Case for Oregon’s Measure 91

    By Phillip Smith |

    As Oregon voters consider Measure 91, an initiative on the November ballot that would regulate, legalize and tax marijuana for adults 21 and older, many are looking to how similar laws are affecting Colorado and Washington. Measure 91 supporters Tuesday brought together a panel of experts from those two pioneering states to make the case that marijuana legalization is a winner, with more positives than negatives for states that have taken the step.

    Admittedly, we have not had a lot of time to judge — Colorado began allowing legal, regulated sales only this January and the first marijuana stores in Washington didn’t open until July — but early results have been promising.

    In Colorado, the state has already taken in more than $27 million in taxes and fees, with more than $5 million already allocated to building schools. At the same time, violent crime in Denver has declined by 5.2%, even as the state is set to save somewhere between $12 million and $40 million in annual criminal justice system costs, according to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

    Both a Drug Policy Alliance six-month status report and a Brookings Center report on Colorado’s situation have also found that legalization there is proceeding relatively smoothly, with few bumps.

    In Washington state, the reviews are fewer since retail stores just began operating in July (although Brookings has issued a report), but customers bought $3.2 million worth of legal weed that first month, with sales doubling to more than $6.9 million in August. More than another $6 million worth had been sold in the first three weeks of September. Tax revenues from legal marijuana sales are estimated to reach $636 million over the next five years.

    But while Washington retail sales have just gotten underway, the legalization of personal possession has been the law since the beginning of 2013, and the results on that front are remarkable. According to official state court data, the number of misdemeanor marijuana charges against adults dropped dramatically, from more than 5,500 in 2012 to only 120 last year.

    The experiences of Colorado and Washington show that — if done correctly — marijuana legalization can be a big winner for other states as well, experts and officials from the two pioneer states said Tuesday.

    “People call this an experiment, but it’s time to treat marijuana like the drug it is, not the drug we fear it to be,” said Colorado state Rep. Jonathan Singer, who was one of only two state representatives to endorse Amendment 64. “We have to thank the people for leading; the legislature has been following,” he said.

    Issues remain, Singer said, but the state is dealing with them.

    “Lawmakers have to ensure that we responsibly regulate edibles and concentrates, so consumers are well aware of what they’re putting in their bodies. We want consumers educated,” he said. The legislature has passed a bill dealing with edibles.

    “The biggest issue is banking, and a bill I sponsored created first-of-a-kind cannabis credit co-ops,” Singer said. “We will soon be petitioning the Federal Reserve for services with members of the industry who have formed their own co-ops. When dispensaries get robbed, it’s for the cash, not the marijuana.”

    “When voters decided to support Amendment 64, they did so to bring marijuana above ground in the hope that it wouldn’t detrimentally impact public health and safety, and so far, it hasn’t,” said Art Way, Colorado state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The most important impact we’ve seen is that thousands of people are no longer being arrested for simple possession of marijuana in our state,” he said.

    “All marijuana offenses have declined by about 50%, and law enforcement resources have been freed up to fight violent crime,” Way continued. “The state is saving millions of dollars a year in criminal justice system expenses.”

    For retired Denver police officer Tony Ryan, marijuana law enforcement was a distraction from more serious business.

    “Chasing marijuana smokers was not at the top of my list because I needed my officers to handle calls for service,” Ryan said. “We didn’t have enough officers to cover calls, in part because of the distraction of doing narcotics enforcement, and when you’re enforcing narcotics laws, you’re mostly enforcing marijuana laws. This frees up police officers to do what they’re supposed to do — answer calls for service and work on solving crimes.”

    Lewis Koski is director of Marijuana Enforcement for the state of Colorado, and he said officials are keeping on top of the situation.

    “We’ve recently been focused on how to comprehensively and effectively regulate the edibles manufacturing process,” he said. “We also do licensing and monitoring of the businesses that cultivate, manufacture, transport, and sell marijuana, and our licensing process is pretty robust.”

    The department also runs stings to check for age compliance, he said. Increased youth access to marijuana is one of the most often heard fears of legalization foes.

    “We put undercover underage individuals into the retail stores to see if they could buy anything, but what we’ve seen is a 100% compliance rate,” he said.

    While Washington hasn’t had as lengthy an experience with legalized, taxed, and regulated sales as Colorado, experts and officials from the Evergreen State also said legalization was working for them.

    “We’ve enjoyed a successful, albeit slow, launch,” said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. “We did see the virtual elimination of marijuana possession arrests, which has resulted in a restoration of justice. We’re no longer hounding people for the possession of marijuana in the state of Washington.”

    There are issues remaining, but they are soluble, Holmes said.

    “One impediment is that our medical marijuana laws were in disarray after the former governor vetoed a regulation bill, and as a result, I-502 didn’t touch medical at all,” he noted. “The biggest unfinished business for us is how the legislature will address medical. Perhaps it will be folded into the I-502 system.”

    Holmes also pointed to the issue of revenue sharing, the problem of some localities opting out, and the lack — so far — of a legal supply adequate to put a sizeable dent in the black market.

    Like his Colorado law enforcement colleague, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper saw legalization as a smart move.

    “It’s no secret that relations between police officers and the communities they are required to serve are strained, especially with young and poor people, and marijuana enforcement is a big factor in this,” Stamper argued. “A vast number of poor young people of color have been arrested over the years. With I-502, there is a major shift in law enforcement priorities. Now, police can focus on burglaries and robberies and the like, and by freeing up resources, we can also deal a serious if not fatal blow to major drug dealers. This is making a huge and positive difference.”

    I-502 chief proponent Alison Holcomb was brief and to the point.

    “I-502 has preserved public safety, reduced the burden on police and prosecutors, and generated significant new tax resources,” she said.

    “We’ve learned a lot from Colorado and Washington, and we purposefully set up a very deliberative process,” said Oregon Measure 91 campaign spokesman Anthony Johnson. “The state will have a full year to analyze what’s going on there and implement what’s best for Oregon. We will regulate marijuana very much like we regulate beer and wine.”

    But first, they have to win. Measure 91 is leading in the polls, but by no means comfortably. Getting the message out about how things have gone in Colorado and Washington should only help.

    Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution/Noncommercial/Share-Alike License for registered non-profit cannabis reform organizations only.


  • “Academic Freedom & Political Dissent: A Conversation with Katherine Franke and the Community” AUDIO   21 weeks 4 days ago

    by Marc Perry. The Chronicle of Higher Education

    On a Friday night in early August, Prof. Corey Robin put out a call on his blog. There had been plenty of grumbling over the University of Illinois’s decision to revoke a job offer to Prof. Steven G. Salaita, who gained notoriety for incendiary tweets about Israel. But it had not been enough to persuade the university to reinstate Professor Salaita. So Professor Robin, a political theorist at the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College, ratcheted up the pressure.

    He suggested that scholars in every field begin organizing public statements refusing to accept any invitations to speak on any campus of the University of Illinois, a serious disruption of academic business.

    “Nobody’s gonna do this,” Mr. Robin remembers telling his wife. But, to his surprise, they did. Philosophers, citing, took up the challenge. The boycotts snowballed. English professors. Political scientists. Anthropologists. All signed on, and Mr. Robin blogged each fresh step. By his last count, more than 5,000 scholars had joined boycotts.

    The Salaita affair has riveted academe. One story line that has drawn less attention is the role played by Mr. Robin. For more than a month, he has turned his blog into a Salaita war room.

    “We’ve all looked to him as a central source of information about new developments,” said Katherine Franke, a Columbia law professor who has advised Mr. Salaita’s legal team.

    Mr. Robin, 46, cut his political teeth as a graduate-student union activist at Yale University, where he led a controversial mid-1990s grade strike. By the time the Salaita story broke, he had already fought in a series of Israel-Palestine-related battles at the City University of New York.

    “A lot of people see him as an intellectual leader,” said Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University and co-editor of the magazine Dissent. “He can be counted on to battle people.”

    Now Mr. Robin is struggling to figure out a path forward in the wake of the Illinois Board of Trustees’ Sept. 11 vote against Mr. Salaita. “We’re trying to preserve the academy as a space for people to actually be able to think and to speak without fear and without intimidation,” he said in an interview.

    Mr. Robin is something of an odd fit for his current role. Although people constantly ask him to speak about the Israel-Palestine question, he turns down the invitations because he does not consider himself an expert on the subject. His current scholarship focuses on the political theory of capitalism. His last book, “The Reactionary Mind” (Oxford University Press), was a much-debated collection of essays about conservatism.

    A Jewish professor who attends a Conservative synagogue in Brooklyn, he long ago came to consider himself an anti-Zionist. But he was always quiet about it. It was painful to talk about, particularly among Jews.

    Then, in early 2011, Mr. Robin went through an episode not unlike the Salaita affair. Brooklyn College rescinded the appointment of a graduate student, Kristofer Petersen-Overton, who had been hired by the political science department to teach a course on Middle East politics. The student accused the college of succumbing to opposition from critics of his work.

    The college president and CUNY’s chancellor had each received a letter from Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn assemblyman and CUNY alumnus, complaining about the “slanted nature” of Mr. Petersen-Overton’s writings. Mr. Hikind told The New York Times that he had spent 20 hours immersing himself in Mr. Petersen-Overton’s output, and “it was all about Israel being the bad guys in every way.” Protests succeeded in restoring the scholar’s job.

    Last year, however, Mr. Robin’s department found itself in yet another Israel imbroglio. The department came under pressure to pull its co-sponsorship of a planned event about B.D.S., the movement that backs boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

    Two aspects of that campaign were particularly chilling, according to the department’s then-chairman, Paisley Currah. One, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, and 18 other legislators publicly demanded that the department withdraw its endorsement of the event. And two, a group of 10 City Council members issued what the department chairman described as “an explicit threat” to CUNY’s funding.

    The event went ahead, with the department’s sponsorship, after Mr. Robin’s side mobilized and Michael R. Bloomberg, then the mayor of New York, intervened: And Mr. Robin ended up blogging about the controversy. A lot.

    Recent years have radicalized his views on the role of the academy in Israel debates. Previously, he didn’t have a position on B.D.S. and even sympathized with critics who questioned the relevance of such boycotts.

    He now supports the movement. “I think the academy actually is quite important on the Israel debate,” he says.

    Mr. Robin sees his activism on the Salaita and other cases as an extension of his work in political theory. His first book probed the politics of fear. He has long been interested in issues of intimidation and coercion.

    He argues that, in a legally constrained liberal society, the private, nonstate sector often becomes the sphere in which coercion happens on behalf of the state. He offers the McCarthy period as an example. Most of McCarthyism, he says, took place at the level of the workplace, where as much as 40 percent of the American work force was subjected to political investigation and surveillance for their beliefs.

    “And here we come to the question of Israel-Palestine,” he says. “Where do you see the bulk of coercion and censorship happening? It’s happening in the nonstate sector — in the universities.”

    Mr. Robin’s stances have drawn criticism from fellow academics, not just politicians. Jonathan Marks, a professor of politics at Ursinus College who blogs for the magazine Commentary, has argued that Mr. Robin has attached himself to a B.D.S. movement “that seeks to persuade academics and students to make extreme pronouncements about matters they don’t know much about.”

    Those uninformed foreign-policy statements “break down the wall between scholarship and propagandizing and so make our colleges, universities, and associations vulnerable to outside interference of the sort Robin is now deploring,” Mr. Marks wrote in an email.

    In the Salaita case, Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, has faulted Mr. Robin for failing to engage with the substance of Mr. Salaita’s tweets.

    Mr. Robin acknowledges “deliberately not engaging in the content.”

    “The serious thing to do is to figure out what’s actually happening,” he said. “An outspoken critic of Israel, speaking in an inflammatory way about it, being punished and drummed out of the academy — that’s what’s happening.”

    Getting into the details of the tweets, he says, is “missing the forest for the trees.”

    A version of this article appears in print on September 29, 2014, in The International New York Times.
    Copyright 2014 The New York Times

  • Rauner says he would have vetoed medical cannabis law   22 weeks 5 days ago

    via email...

    Rauner Wants Cancer Patients to Wait Longer to get Access to Medical Cannabis
    Date: September 16, 2014
    Illinois NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws) is appalled that Bruce Rauner wants to delay the application process for the dispensary and cultivation center licenses of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program by having the Illinois legislature pass a new law regarding transparency and bidding in the application process.  Medical cannabis patients have been waiting for years for the bill to pass and have now had to wait months for the agencies to adopt rules and regulations that would guarantee a professional program to help ensure that program will eventually be made permanent.  
    Dan Linn, Executive Director of Illinois NORML commented, “Bruce Rauner essentially told every cancer, ALS and Multiple Sclerosis patient in Illinois that they are now pawns in his political game.  If he wanted to comment on this law or any aspect of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program he could have done so during the public comment period of the draft rules or at any of the three town hall meetings that took place over the summer.  By calling for a delay in the application process and the issuing of cultivation and dispensing licenses now, he is telling seriously ill patients that they should wait longer to get access to this medical treatment.”
    The fact that Bruce Rauner wants to auction off licenses to the highest bidder shows how familiar he is with using his vast fortune to squash attempts for small businesses and entrepreneurs to gain a foothold in an industry.  Medical cannabis patients should not have to wait any longer to get access to this medicine, as many are struggling to survive and are in constant pain; to use them as a tool for political leverage is disgusting.  Furthermore, the pilot program is set to expire in less than four years and medicine will probably only be available for less than three years of that time, so any further delay is going to negatively impact the health of many patients who are eagerly awaiting safe and legal access to this medicine.  
    “Mr. Rauner has now demonstrated his lack of compassion for those who are seeking relief through the use of medical cannabis.”  Linn added.  
    Illinois NORML also noted Rauner’s lack of familiarity with the law since as written it is designed to cost the taxpayers of Illinois nothing and must be financially self sufficient.  By claiming that the application process will cost taxpayers he has revealed his lack of understanding one of the basic aspects of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.  
    Illinois NORML Assistant Director added, “Many Illinois patients have died while waiting for legal access to this important medicine, including some who worked for years to help pass the law but were never able to take advantage of it themselves.  This proposed delay is unacceptable and patient access should be provided as soon as possible.”
    -Dan Linn and Ali Nagib
  • New York Times Editorial Board: Repeal Prohibition, Again   30 weeks 3 days ago

    Illinois is among the states with the most racially-biased application of prohibition, with a shameful rate of 7.6 times as many African-Americans arrested as whites, despite essentially similar rates of use. Meanwhile, law enrforcement budgets are broken, the jails are packed hell-holes of injustice, our elected officials pander to the closet-racist vote while trumpting their prosecutorial prowess, our prisons are packed to the seams with no resources to rehabilitate the buildings, let along those forced to stay inside them.

    But there's always room for one more ineffectual arrest for marijuana.

    Nationally, the situation is little better in most states...except those few so far who have who legalized, regulated and taxed cannabis. It's obvious ate this point the police have no solutions and everyone in the justice system is just milking this until they hit retirement. I say don't cut their budget a damn cent over legalization, but it's time for this shameful charade of injustice and governmental dysfunction to end. Illinois needs the jobs and taxe revenue of legal cannabis. We don't need 80 more years of failure, which is the only thing prohibition can offer.

    The Injustice of Marijuana Arrests

    by Jesse Wegman

    America’s four-decade war on drugs is responsible for many casualties, but the criminalization of marijuana has been perhaps the most destructive part of that war. The toll can be measured in dollars — billions of which are thrown away each year in the aggressive enforcement of pointless laws. It can be measured in years — whether wasted behind bars or stolen from a child who grows up fatherless. And it can be measured in lives — those damaged if not destroyed by the shockingly harsh consequences that can follow even the most minor offenses.

    In October 2010, Bernard Noble, a 45-year-old trucker and father of seven with two previous nonviolent offenses, was stopped on a New Orleans street with a small amount of marijuana in his pocket. His sentence: more than 13 years.

    At least he will be released. Jeff Mizanskey, a Missouri man, was arrested in December 1993, for participating (unknowingly, he said) in the purchase of a five-pound brick of marijuana. Because he had two prior nonviolent marijuana convictions, he was sentenced to life without parole.


    The Racial Imbalance in Arrests

    Blacks and whites use marijuana at comparable rates. Yet in all states but Hawaii, blacks are more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana offenses.

    Outrageously long sentences are only part of the story. The hundreds of thousands of people who are arrested each year but do not go to jail also suffer; their arrests stay on their records for years, crippling their prospects for jobs, loans, housing and benefits. These are disproportionately people of color, with marijuana criminalization hitting black communities the hardest.

    Meanwhile, police departments that presumably have far more important things to do waste an enormous amount of time and taxpayer money chasing a drug that two states have already legalized and that a majority of Americans believe should be legal everywhere.

    A Costly, Futile Strategy The absurdity starts on the street, with a cop and a pair of handcuffs. As the war on drugs escalated through the 1980s and 1990s, so did the focus on common, low-level offenses — what became known as “broken windows” policing. In New York City, where the strategy was introduced and remains popular today, the police made fewer than 800 marijuana arrests in 1991. In 2010, they made more than 59,000.

    Nationwide, the numbers are hardly better. From 2001 to 2010, the police made more than 8.2 million marijuana arrests; almost nine in 10 were for possession alone. In 2011, there were more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes put together.

    The costs of this national obsession, in both money and time, are astonishing. Each year, enforcing laws on possession costs more than $3.6 billion, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It can take a police officer many hours to arrest and book a suspect. That person will often spend a night or more in the local jail, and be in court multiple times to resolve the case. The public-safety payoff for all this effort is meager at best: According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report that tracked 30,000 New Yorkers with no prior convictions when they were arrested for marijuana possession, 90 percent had no subsequent felony convictions. Only 3.1 percent committed a violent offense.

    The strategy is also largely futile. After three decades, criminalization has not affected general usage; about 30 million Americans use marijuana every year. Meanwhile, police forces across the country are strapped for cash, and the more resources they devote to enforcing marijuana laws, the less they have to go after serious, violent crime. According to F.B.I. data, more than half of all violent crimes nationwide, and four in five property crimes, went unsolved in 2012.

    The Racial Disparity The sheer volume of law enforcement resources devoted to marijuana is bad enough. What makes the situation far worse is racial disparity. Whites and blacks use marijuana at roughly the same rates; on average, however, blacks are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, according to a comprehensive 2013 report by the A.C.L.U.

    In Iowa, blacks are 8.3 times more likely to be arrested, and in the worst-offending counties in the country, they are up to 30 times more likely to be arrested. The war on drugs aims its firepower overwhelmingly at African-Americans on the street, while white users smoke safely behind closed doors.

    Only about 6 percent of marijuana cases lead to a felony conviction; the rest are often treated as misdemeanors resulting in fines or probation, if the charges aren’t dismissed completely. Even so, every arrest ends up on a person’s record, whether or not it leads to prosecution and conviction. Particularly in poorer minority neighborhoods, where young men are more likely to be outside and repeatedly targeted by law enforcement, these arrests accumulate. Before long a person can have an extensive “criminal history” that consists only of marijuana misdemeanors and dismissed cases. That criminal history can then influence the severity of punishment for a future offense, however insignificant.

    While the number of people behind bars solely for possessing or selling marijuana seems relatively small — 20,000 to 30,000 by the most recent estimates, or roughly 1 percent of America’s 2.4 million inmates — that means nothing to people, like Jeff Mizanskey, who are serving breathtakingly long terms because their records contained minor previous offenses. Nor does it mean anything to the vast majority of these inmates who have no history of violence (about nine in 10, according to a 2006 study). And as with arrests, the racial disparity is vast: Blacks are more than 10 times as likely as whites to go to prison for drug offenses. For those on probation or parole for any offense, a failed drug test on its own can lead to prison time — which means, again, that people can be put behind bars for smoking marijuana.

    Even if a person never goes to prison, the conviction itself is the tip of the iceberg. In a majority of states, marijuana convictions — including those resulting from guilty pleas — can have lifelong consequences for employment, education, immigration status and family life.

    A misdemeanor conviction can lead to, among many other things, the revocation of a professional license; the suspension of a driver’s license; the inability to get insurance, a mortgage or other bank loans; the denial of access to public housing; and the loss of student financial aid.

    In some states, a felony conviction can result in a lifetime ban on voting, jury service, or eligibility for public benefits like food stamps. People can be fired from their jobs because of a marijuana arrest. Even if a judge eventually throws the case out, the arrest record is often available online for a year, free for any employer to look up.

    Correcting an Old Inequity As recently as the mid-1970s, politicians and the public generally agreed that marijuana abuse was handled better by treatment than by prosecution and incarceration. Jimmy Carter ran for president and won while supporting decriminalization. But that view lost out as the war on drugs broadened and intensified, sweeping marijuana along with it.

    In recent years, public acceptance of marijuana has grown significantly. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia now permit some form of medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington fully legalized it for recreational use in 2012. And yet even as “ganjapreneurs” scramble to take economic advantage, thousands of people remain behind bars, or burdened by countless collateral punishments that prevent them from full and active membership in society.

    In a March interview, Michelle Alexander, a law professor whose book, “The New Jim Crow,” articulated the drug war’s deeper costs to black men in particular, noted the cruel paradox at play in Colorado and Washington. She pointed to “40 years of impoverished black kids getting prison time for selling weed, and their families and futures destroyed,” and said, “Now, white men are planning to get rich doing precisely the same thing?”

    As pioneers in legalization, those two states should set a further example by providing relief to people convicted of crimes that are no longer crimes, including overturning convictions. A recent ruling by a Colorado appeals court overturned two 2011 convictions because of the changed law, and the state’s Legislature has enacted laws in the last two years to give courts more power to seal records of drug convictions and to make it easier for defendants to get jobs and housing after a conviction. These are both important steps into an uncharted future.

    Copyright 2014 The New York Times

  • ASA Gives D Grade to Illinois Medical Marijuana Law   32 weeks 13 hours ago

    Long article on front page of the News-Gazette today about efforts to site medical marijuana dispensaries and grows in Central Illinois. A long time opponent of any sort of commonsense on marijauana, the paper has regularly editorialized about the topic, but its reporting is now clearly showing that ideology trumps fact when it comes to this topic.

    Musing on the various onerous and frankly ridiculous requirements needed to be met by licensees, the paper somehow believes that there are very few places in this largely rural and agricultural area where cannabis could be grown legally. But wait, there's more...

    What's the biggest reason marijuana might not be grown even where it's legal according to the overly restrictive state law?

    Because people don't want it.

    That's right. Despite polls that over a period of years have shown that somewhere around 80% or more of Illinois citizens support legal medical marijuana -- one big reason this iniatitive, as bad as it is,  finally passed -- the News-Gazette claimed that a survey of residents and business owners in Danville "showed no support for the idea."

    Yeah, Danville doesn't want new jobs, despite typically boasting the highest unemployment rates in the region, often over 10%, but all of the sudden people are getting picky about what the work is? Never in a million years would the News-Gazette print such drivel about a business locating in the area -- unless it involves marijuana.

    It's long been apparent that the News-Gazette caters to a self-selected elite. But pretending that their biased and anecdotal reporting somehow trumps the evidence provided by repeated, scientifically-designed and statistically-exacting public polling takes even their past bad reporting to new lows by just inventing "facts" when reality doesn't suit them.

  • Unpatriotic US Corporations Becoming Hot Political Issue That Unites Right and Left   33 weeks 3 days ago

    The Limits of Corporate Citizenship: Why Walgreen Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Influence US Politics If It Becomes Swiss

    by Robert Reich

    Dozens of big U.S. corporations are considering leaving the United States in order to reduce their tax bills.

    But they’ll be leaving the country only on paper. They’ll still do as much business in the U.S. as they were doing before.

    The only difference is they’ll no longer be “American,” and won’t have to pay U.S. taxes on the profits they make.

    Okay. But if they’re no longer American citizens, they should no longer be able to spend a penny influencing American politics.

    Some background: We’ve been hearing for years from CEOs that American corporations are suffering under a larger tax burden than their foreign competitors. This is mostly rubbish.

    It’s true that the official corporate tax rate of 39.1 percent, including state and local taxes, is the highest among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

    But the effective rate – what corporations actually pay after all deductions, tax credits, and other maneuvers – is far lower.

    Last year, the Government Accountability Office, examined corporate tax returns in detail and found that in 2010, profitable corporations headquartered in the United States paid an effective federal tax rate of 13 percent on their worldwide income, 17 percent including state and local taxes.Some pay no taxes at all.

    One tax dodge often used by multi-national companies is to squirrel their earnings abroad in foreign subsidiaries located in countries where taxes are lower. The subsidiary merely charges the U.S. parent inflated costs, and gets repaid in extra-fat profits.   

    Becoming a foreign company is the extreme form of this dodge. It’s a bigger accounting gimmick. The American company merges with a foreign competitor headquartered in another nation where taxes are lower, and reincorporates there.

    This “expatriate” tax dodge (its official name is a “tax inversion”) is now at the early stages but is likely to spread rapidly because it pushes every American competitor to make the same move or suffer a competitive disadvantage.

    For example, Walgreen, the largest drugstore chain in the United States with more than 8,700 drugstores spread across the nation, is on the verge of moving its corporate headquarters to Switzerland as part of a merger with Alliance Boots, the European drugstore chain.

    Founded in Chicago in 1901, with current headquarters in the nearby suburb of Deerfield, Walgreen is about as American as apple pie — or your Main Street druggist.

    Even if it becomes a Swiss corporation, Walgreen will remain your Main Street druggist. It just won’t pay nearly as much in U.S. taxes.

    Which means the rest of us will have to make up the difference. Walgreen’s morph into a Swiss corporation will cost you and me and every other American taxpayer about $4 billion over five years, according to an analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness.

    The tax dodge likewise means more money for Walgreen’s investors and top executives. Which is why its large investors – including Goldman Sachs — have been pushing for it.

    Some Walgreen customers have complained. A few activists have rallied outside the firm’s Chicago headquarters.

    But hey, this is the way the global capitalist game played. Anything to boost the bottom line.

    Yet it doesn’t have to be the way American democracy is played.

    Even if there’s no way to stop U.S. corporations from shedding their U.S. identities and becoming foreign corporations, there’s no reason they should retain the privileges of U.S. citizenship.  

    By treaty, the U.S. government can’t (and shouldn’t) discriminate against foreign corporations offering as good if not better deals than American companies offer. So if Walgreen as a Swiss company continues to fill Medicaid and Medicare payments as well as, say, CVS, it’s likely that Walgreen will continue to earn almost a quarter of its $72 billion annual revenues directly from the U.S. government.

    But as a foreign corporation, Walgreen should no longer have any say over the size of those payments, what drugs they cover, or how they’re administered.

    In fact, Walgreen should no longer have any say about how the U.S. government does anything.

    In 2010 it lobbied for and got a special provision in the Dodd-Frank Act, limiting the fees banks are allowed to charge merchants for credit-card transactions — resulting in a huge saving for Walgreen. If it becomes a Swiss citizen, the days of special provisions should be over. 

    The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision may have opened the floodgates to American corporate money in U.S. politics, but not to foreign corporate money in U.S. politics.

    The Court didn’t turn foreign corporations into American citizens, entitled to seek to influence U.S. law and regulations.

    Since the 2010 election cycle, Walgreen’s Political Action Committee has spent $991,030 on federal elections. If it becomes a Swiss corporation, it shouldn’t be able to spend a penny more.

    Walgreen is free to become Swiss but it should no longer be free to influence U.S. politics.

    It may still be the Main Street druggist, but if it’s no longer American it shouldn’t be considered a citizen on Main Street.

    obert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.

  • Serial School Privatizer "Chainsaw Paul" Vallas Gets Ready For His Next Job, IL Lt. Governor   34 weeks 3 days ago

    In Emanuel's 'War on Educators,' Hundreds More Chicago Teachers Laid Off

    Public school advocates expected to mount challenge against corporate-controlled city government

    - Lauren McCauley, Commondreams staff writer
    Following the announcement (pdf) that Chicago Public Schools is laying off nearly 1,200 teachers and key staff members, public school advocates on Friday slammed the cuts as further proof of the city government's support of the corporate charter school system which they say is "siphoning students out of public schools and contributing to a system of dysfunction and instability."

    "Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his Board continue their war on our educators by doing nothing to salvage school budgets other than forcing principals to terminate valued teachers and staff," said Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis in a statement.

    Of the 1,150 individuals whose jobs were cut on Thursday, 550 are teachers and 600 are Educational Support Personnel (ESP). This latest round of layoffs is the fourth in the last five years where over 1,000 educators were let go.

    Defending the cuts, public schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett cited "declining student enrollment" as the reason behind the layoffs. However, critics said this was "yet another brutal attack on public education in Chicago" and pointed to the "ever-increasing number of charter schools" opening in the city.

    “This decision further demonstrates the disdain for public education and the lack of leadership and vision for the city from our mayor and his handpicked Board," Lewis said. According to reports, the union president is now "seriously considering" to challenge Emanuel in the upcoming mayoral election.

    "Do we want 'Star Wars' museums or public, neighborhood schools? Do we want presidential libraries or librarians for every child?” Lewis continued.



  • Why Do We Hate the Poor?   34 weeks 3 days ago

    When I unmasked an Arizona official who made outrageous and anonymous comments on blogs, it revealed more than his bad judgment.

    by Bob Lord

    For years I’d wondered about the identity of a gaggle of anonymous commenters on Blog for Arizona, the website to which I frequently contribute. These guys weighed in a lot and were very eager to burnish the reputation of Arizona School Superintendent, John Huppenthal.

    Ultimately, my fellow writers and I explored the source of the comments. With only modest effort, we figured out these commenters were all aliases of Huppenthal himself. Among other things, the 60-year-old official was posting from the Arizona Department of Education and providing details of his own childhood.

    Nonetheless, we were stunned. By then, I’d had a year-long dialogue with “Thucky,” (a riff on one of his aliases) and knew his economic views were beyond extreme and demonstrably wrong, and that he resorted to intellectual dishonesty without hesitation.

    As this strange tale draws increasing media attention, it’s clear that one of his many unvarnished and outrageous opinions is drawing the most fire: Huppenthal believes that people who benefit from food stamps and other features of America’s safety net are “lazy pigs.”

    Huppenthal said plenty of other incendiary things under his pseudonyms. But that particular gaffe epitomizes his disdain for the millions of people he’s supposed to serve. The “lazy pigs” line also sums up an extreme philosophy gaining popularity among influential Republicans.

    It’s essentially a corollary to the Prosperity Gospel, a strain of Christian belief that emerged in the 1950s. The Prosperity Gospel casts financial wealth as a blessing from God, turning Mark 10:25 — “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” — on its head.

    Prosperity Gospel suits the religious right movement. It justifies the personal wealth belonging to its leaders and televangelists and puts those folks on the same page as major conservative funders, like the Koch brothers.

    What could be more in sync with idolizing the rich than demonizing the poor? Huppenthal hardly invented this demonization.

    President Ronald Reagan sneered at “welfare queens.” During their failed 2012 bid for the White House, Mitt Romney wrote off the “47 percent” while Paul Ryan disparaged a majority of Americans — as “takers.”

    John Huppenthal is a Roman Catholic but his no-longer anonymous blog comments reveal him to be more partial to the Prosperity Gospel and its companion ethos that the poor are bad people than to his own church’s emphasis on charity.

    Pope Francis would surely disapprove of the Arizona official’s comments, such as this one: “You have an ethnic majority, Hispanics, oppressing an ethnic minority, small business owners, exacting a property tax and paying to force students to undergo a toxic indoctrination.”

    In other words, he sees the poor as un-Christian bullies, forcing the wealthy to pay taxes to fund everything from food stamps and child protective services to Mexican-American studies.

    Huppenthal’s comments are out of step with the growing number of Americans who aren’t willing to blame the poor for their plight at a time when wealth and income are increasingly concentrated and the rich are getting absurdly rich.

    His compulsive commenting isn’t the only odd online behavior exposed so far. Huppenthal also spent an alarming amount of time scrubbing anything he didn’t like out of his own Wikipedia page as an “editor.”

    It’s not clear yet what this will mean for his career. He’s running for re-election and faces competition in Arizona’s August 26 Republican primary. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce yanked an award it was about to bestow upon him and is considering whether to call for his resignation.

    Before this scandal erupted, Huppenthal was already taking heat for his promotion of private school vouchers while serving as chief of the state’s public schools.

    Conservatives abhor his support for Arizona’s version of the Common Core. Now he has to explain his extreme views and why his anonymous commenting on websites, including items entered during the workday from the Education Department’s offices, was an appropriate use of his time.

    I hope Arizona voters see Huppenthal for what he is — dangerous and wrong — and reject him. His defeat would send a strong message: Characterizing the poor as un-Christian is politically off limits.

    Bob Lord, a veteran tax lawyer and former congressional candidate, practices and blogs in Phoenix, Arizona. He is also an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow.


  • Report: Militarization of Police Turning Communities into 'War Zones'   34 weeks 5 days ago

    Typically unquestioning in its reporting on the Champaign County "justice" system, the News-Gazette reported in its Friday edition that the county has now acquired an MRAP. I suppose that will help them navigate through all the car bombs, IEDs, and dangerous armed groups roaming the countryside -- oh, wait, that last group is just a bunch of NRA members -- in any case, the Sheriff's Dept. is ready for war.

    Still no word on when the Sheriff's drone will be least it doesn't take up much garage space.

  • Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: Six-Month Status Report   34 weeks 5 days ago

    100% of shops in compliance

    by Marijuana Policy Project

    Colorado Sting Operations Fail to Bust Any Marijuana Shops for Sales to Minors

    DENVER, CO — State regulators and state police recently performed sting operations on 20 different marijuana stores in the Denver and Pueblo areas to determine compliance with state law.

    The conclusion they reached was undisputed: None of the stores were breaking the law by selling marijuana to people under the age of 21.

    In Colorado, marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol, including the stipulation that people without medical marijuana licenses may only purchase marijuana from retail establishments if they are 21 or older.

    The sting operations involved sending underage customers into stores to attempt to buy marijuana while being supervised by police officers. Shops who break the law face huge fines and can have their licenses revoked.

    During the course of these sting operations, not a single underage buyer was allowed to purchase marijuana from any of the 20 shops.

    Business owners have welcomed this announcement as an important sign of the legitimacy of the industry and the effectiveness of the regulatory structure.

    In response to this news, Lewis Koski, the director of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, issued a statement saying, “We are pleased with the results and will continue to monitor the businesses to ensure that the compliance efforts are maintained.”

    Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution/Noncommercial/Share-Alike License for registered non-profit cannabis reform organizations only.

  • Report: Militarization of Police Turning Communities into 'War Zones'   35 weeks 1 day ago

    June 24, 2014
    4:00 PM



    ACLU’s Report on Police Militarization Finds Weapons and Tactics of War Used Disproportionately Against People of Color

    Report shows injustice, suffering, caused by SWAT teams deployed for low-level police work, not crises

    NEW YORK, NY - June 24 - After obtaining and analyzing thousands of documents from police departments around the country, today the American Civil Liberties Union released the report War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. The ACLU focused on more than 800 SWAT raids conducted by law enforcement agencies in 20 states and on the agencies’ acquisition of military weaponry, vehicles, and equipment.

    "We found that police overwhelmingly use SWAT raids not for extreme emergencies like hostage situations but to carry out such basic police work as serving warrants or searching for a small amount of drugs," said Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel with the ACLU’s Center for Justice. "Carried out by ten or more officers armed with assault rifles, flashbang grenades, and battering rams, these paramilitary raids disproportionately impacted people of color, sending the clear message that the families being raided are the enemy. This unnecessary violence causes property damage, injury, and death."

    The report documents multiple tragedies caused by police carrying out needless SWAT raids, including a 26-year-old mother shot with her child in her arms and a 19-month-old baby critically injured when a flashbang grenade landed in his crib.

    "Our police are trampling on our civil rights and turning communities of color into war zones," Dansky continued. "We all pay for it with our tax dollars. The Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice give police military weaponry and vehicles as well as grants for military equipment. The War on Drugs has failed, yet the federal government hasn’t stopped the flow of guns and money."

    The report calls for the federal government to rein in the incentives for police to militarize. The ACLU also asks that local, state, and federal governments track the use of SWAT and the guns, tanks, and other military equipment that end up in police hands.

    "Our findings reveal not only the dangers of militarized police, but also the difficulties in determining the extent and impact of those dangers. At every level – from the police to the state governments to the federal government – there is almost no recordkeeping about SWAT or the use of military weapons and vehicles by local law enforcement," noted Dansky.

    In addition, the report recommends that state legislatures and municipalities develop criteria for SWAT raids that limit their deployment to the kinds of emergencies for which they were intended, such as an active shooter situation.

    The report is available here:


    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.



  • Report: Militarization of Police Turning Communities into 'War Zones'   35 weeks 2 days ago

    by Abby Zimet

    Commondreans staff writer

    Last month, 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavahn - aka Baby Bou Bou - was asleep in his crib in Atlanta, Georgia when a SWAT team, armed with assault rifles and acting on a "no-knock warrant," burst into the bedroom where he and his family were sleeping and threw a flash bang grenade into his crib, critically burning him and blowing a hole in his chest so deep it exposed his ribs. Police found no drugs, guns or suspects at the house, which they said they'd had under surveillance while evidently failing to notice that four kids lived, played and scattered their toys around there. They later arrested the nephew of Bou's father, who is Laotian, for allegedly buying $50 worth of drugs.

    In its new report "War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing" - which describes a failed War on Drugs employing "hyper-aggressive, wartime tools and tactics" that is often as much about race and class as drugs - the ACLU finds that Bou Bou's story is only slightly more awful than many other awful stories. Bou Bou remains in a medically induced coma. Doctors say he has a 50-50 chance of surviving. Updates here on what we have wrought.


  • fbi/cia cowards direct brave Young into unjust wars   37 weeks 2 days ago
  • Reset the Net: Don't Ask for Privacy, Take It Back   38 weeks 15 hours ago

    Online day of action marks one year since Snowden reporting began and calls for people to "take their privacy back" from prying eyes

    - Jon Queally, CommonDreams staff writer

    'Don't ask for your privacy... Take it back.' (Image:

    To mark the one year anniversary of the first reporting based on information revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on June 5, 2013, privacy advocates, organizations, and technology companies all over the world on Thursday are participating in 'Reset The Net'—an online day of action in which participants pledge to take real steps to protect online freedoms and fight back against mass surveillance.

    "Don't ask for your privacy," goes the call issued by the campaign, "Take it back."

    Coordinated by a broad coalition of policy organizations and activist groups—and initiated by Fight For the Future—'Reset The Net' calls on websites, app developers, organizations, and individual internet users to promote what they call "privacy packs" so that people everywhere can have better access to online privacy and encryption tools.

    On Wednesday, as a way to show its support for the day, internet giant Google announced new end-to-end encryption methods for its widely used Gmail service.

    Websites (including this one), tech companies, and advocay organizations of all stripes—including Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Common Dreams and scores of others—have all signed on and pledged to improve their privacy protections for their members and users.

    As just one example, Josh Levy, of media reform group Free Press, described what actions his group is taking in a blog post on Wednesday:

    We’ve removed every third-party tracker from our websites. The standard Facebook and Twitter buttons that you find across the Web — the ones those companies use to track your surfing behavior whether or not you’re actually logged in to their services — are gone. In their place are buttons that let you preserve your privacy while you share our stuff.

    In that same spirit we’ve removed Google Analytics from our site. While the service is helpful in telling us where our Web traffic comes from, it tracks your every move after you leave our properties. We find that behavior too intrusive. We’re now using Piwik, the free and open-source Web analytics software that respects the privacy of Internet users.

    And Snowden himself released the following statement in support of the day and its mission:

    One year ago, we learned that the internet is under surveillance, and our activities are being monitored to create permanent records of our private lives — no matter how innocent or ordinary those lives might be.

    Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same. That’s why I’m asking you to join me on June 5th for Reset the Net, when people and companies all over the world will come together to implement the technological solutions that can put an end to the mass surveillance programs of any government. This is the beginning of a moment where we the people begin to protect our universal human rights with the laws of nature rather than the laws of nations.

    We have the technology, and adopting encryption is the first effective step that everyone can take to end mass surveillance. That’s why I am excited for Reset the Net — it will mark the moment when we turn political expression into practical action, and protect ourselves on a large scale.

    Join us on June 5th, and don’t ask for your privacy. Take it back.

    Other participants were sharing their support on Twitter using the #resetthenet hashtag.


  • May 3-14: Pete Seeger Events Provoke Memory of 1958 Concert   38 weeks 2 days ago

    by Abby Zimet, CommonDreams staff writer

    After months of demanding a hefty administrative fee for the privilege, national archives officials have announced that due to public interest they will post onlline an estimated 2,500 pages of FBI files on iconic activist, patriot, music historian, alleged seditionist and "well-known left-wing folk singer" Pete Seeger, who died in January at 94. With a cogent look at the way the blacklist of the 1950s, like the NSA abuses and any other form of political repression, worked - through not just the actions of those in power, but the infrastructure of support, cooperation and coercion of many others seeking "their own personal definition of the good" that "made the machine go." With a link to Seeger's memorable appearance before HUAC, when he politely declined to name names but happily offered to sing songs. He was the best.

    “(Redacted) took the tape home and played same and found that it consisted largely of parodies that were highly inflammatory and derogatory toward the Armed Services of the United States, U.S. defense systems and the FBI....(He) became highly incensed (and his) feelings of revulsion were shared by his family and some neighbors who also heard the tape.”


  • Congress Votes to De-fund DOJ Enforcement in Medical Marijuana States   38 weeks 6 days ago

    It's important to note that our local US Rep Rodney Davis (Republican) joined a significant number of Republicans in voting in support of ending DEA enforcement against those in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. Thank you, Congressman Davis, for doing what was right in support of your constituents. I hope this is a good sign that our nation will soon be able to conduct a rational, adult conversation in general on marijuana, the safest therapeutic substance known.

  • Poverty Is Not a State of Mind   40 weeks 2 days ago

    by Cherita Mouzon

    I have lived in Philadelphia, in poverty, for most of my life. I remember the smell of mold and mildew. I would watch as my most valuable possessions were destroyed by them. The smell of decay was all around me. I remember being cold and being in houses with no heat or hot water. My stepfather would use gray duct tape to wrap around the cords of the heaters when they burned out, so we could keep using it. Yes, it was a fire hazard, but who cared – the heater was keeping us warm. On occasion you would hear a sizzle and a pop from the heater.  Despite our efforts we were still cold.

    We never had a working kitchen. My mom would cook food at her parents’ house and then we would take the food back to wherever we were staying at that moment. Most of the places we lived in had no running water and were very unsanitary. We would also go to my grandparents’ house to take baths and we got used to defecating in shoe boxes, putting it in plastic bags, getting on the bus and just throwing it out the window into a lot or something. People who are raised like this simply pass it on down the line. And you grow up thinking that it is ok to live like this.

    As for food, we didn’t starve.  But we were hungry.  We ate whatever we could afford.  This is where the past affects the present. Today I’m somewhat of a food hoarder – I’m afraid of not having enough food for my family and me. I know what it feels like to be hungry but not have the food that you need or want. I have to constantly remind myself that I no longer live that way. But it’s the only way I’ve ever known. I don’t take showers, only baths, because I’m not used to it. If I do get cold or hungry I have learned how to deal with it. It’s like when you are being raped and you go out of your body to survive. That’s what it’s like when you are born into hunger and into a dirty, unhealthy environment.  This kind of living goes back in time, too.  If your parental figure is used to living that way, it’s likely because their childhood was the same way. You are stripped of your dignity. You are ashamed. Your soul feels like a bottomless pit. You feel less than human. The hell that I know came from the environment that I was born into. Now I am in my thirties, and I’m still haunted by the trauma and food insecurity.

    My scars run long and deep – they will always be there. The long lasting effects of trauma stick with you. But I refuse to let my past dictate my future. My memories keep me humble. I’m shaped not by the commonly accepted “fact” that since I grew up in poverty I have to live in poverty now. Instead, I’m shaped by the idea that while you can’t change the past, you can change the future.

    When I go into a market and see and smell food I feel bliss. It’s like I just won the lottery. To know that I can buy a steak if I want to or some seafood is a very priceless feeling. To be able to run hot and cold water is a blessing.

    Today I am far from my childhood of mold, cold, and hunger. But even though I’ve healed so much and don’t have to live that way anymore, the effects of early poverty and trauma are still a part of my being. They shape me into the woman I am today. A woman who is motivated, and works hard to make sure that her daughter will have more opportunities than she had growing up. I take what I saw and experienced as a child, and use that to drive me to be a better person for myself, for my family, and for others who live through the trauma of poverty.

    Sherita Mouzon is a member of Witnesses to Hunger, a groundbreaking project featuring the voices and photography of parents and caregivers who have experienced hunger and poverty firsthand. Sherita is a wife and mother of one daughter, and works as a Peer Mentor for the Salvation Army, running trauma-informed peer support groups in Philadelphia.


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