OAR

Webster Tarpley 

Kerik is shown in January making his first speech following prison release. The audience was convened by a local service organization for ex-prisoners, Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR), now celebrating its 40th anniversary. Kerik paid his own way to travel from New Jersey to speak to OAR's gathering in Rosslyn, Virginia, OAR's leader tpld the Justice Integrity Project.

Vice.com, Former Comcast and Verizon Attorneys Now Manage the FCC and Are About to Kill the Internet, Lee Fang, April 25, 2014. A tombstone for Internet freedom. Photo via Flickr user DonkeyHotey The open Internet may soon become a thing of the past. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal dropped something of a bombshell with leaked news that the Federal Communications Commission is planning to abandon so-called “net neutrality” regulations—rules to ensure that Internet providers are prevented from discriminating based on content. Under the new proposed system, companies such as Comcast or Verizon will be able to create a tiered Internet, in which websites will have to pay more money for faster speeds, a change that observers predict will curb free speech, stifle innovation and increase costs for consumers. Like so many problems in American government, the policy shift may relate to the pernicious corruption of the revolving door. The FCC is stocked with staffers who have recently worked for Internet Service Providers (ISP) that stand to benefit tremendously from the defeat of net neutrality. The backgrounds of the new FCC staff have not been reported until now. Many have expressed shock that the Obama administration would walk back one of its biggest promises. On the campaign trail, Barack Obama said that he is a strong supporter of net neutrality. During a question and answer forum in Iowa, Obama explained, “What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites … And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.” Critics have been quick to highlight the fact that chairman Wheeler, the new head of the FCC, is a former lobbyist with close ties to the telecommunications industry. In March, telecom companies—including Comcast, Verizon, and the US Telecom Association—filled the sponsor list for a reception to toast Wheeler and other commissioners. Many of these companies have been furiously lobbying Wheeler and other FCC officials on the expected rule since the Verizon ruling. Notably, though the FCC staff tilts heavily in the direction of telecoms, Gigi Sohn, Wheeler’s advisor on external affairs, is the former CEO of Public Knowledge, an advocacy group that supports net neutrality.

But overall, the FCC is one of many agencies that have fallen victim to regulatory capture. Beyond campaign contributions and other more visible aspects of the influence trade in Washington, moneyed special interest groups control the regulatory process by placing their representatives into public office, while dangling lucrative salaries to those in office who are considering retirement. The incentives, with pay often rising to seven and eight figure salaries on K Street, are enough to give large corporations effective control over the rule-making process.

Of course, ISPs have many tools for shaping policy at their disposal. Giving cash to third party groups is another avenue for influence. Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers-funded non-profit political shop, aired deceptive advertisements claiming that net neutrality is somehow a plot by bureaucrats “to takeover the Internet.” Asian American civil rights group OCA was one of several nonprofits caught accepting telecom money while penning a letter to the FCC in opposition to net neutrality.

FireDogLake, Hillary Clinton Mocks Snowden, Displays Her Ignorance When It Comes to Whistleblowers, Kevin Gosztola Saturday April 26, 2014. The University of Connecticut hosted a keynote speaking event with former United States senator and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on April 23. She was asked a question about former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and proceeded to express puzzlement and mock him for disclosing information on top secret surveillance programs. Much of what Clinton said deserves a rebuttal, particularly if this is going to be the talking points that Democratic Party politicians repeat throughout the next fear years. So, I have decided to go line by line through her remarks.

FireDogLake, US Military Censors Images of Soldiers Recorded by Miami Herald, Kevin Gosztola, April 28, 2014.  A video posted to YouTube by the Miami Herald shows how the United States military is now imposing a greater regime of censorship on the press, who are credentialed to cover the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Since 2002, reporters from the media organization had been reporting on the facility. Rarely has it been easy to do reporting, but, when four senior journalists for the Herald traveled to Guantanamo in March to shoot video “with a staff videographer for the first time,” the Herald “encountered censorship of the sort” that they had “never experienced.” What images the journalists were able to get past the military’s censors were cut together in a video narrated by Herald senior editor Dave Wilson. It notes, “For years,” the organization was “allowed to take pictures of troops who consented and we could name them.” A photograph of a soldier on duty from July 2013 is shown. They had also been permitted to photograph Guantanamo prisoners so long a “distinguishing features” were not shown.

“This time we had a whole new layer of restrictions and ended up with lots of footage of headless soldiers,” Wilson states.

Reporters for the Herald discovered later that the exact people they were told they could not photograph or video could be found in military pictures “taken by Army journalists.” These pictures could be found through a Google search and had been “posted as approved for release on public and Pentagon websites.”
 

Center for Public Integrity via Daily Beast, Law-Breaking Judges Took Cases That Could Make Them Even Richer, Federal judges aren’t supposed to hear cases in which they have a financial stake. Dozens do it anyway, Reity O’Brien Kytja Weir Chris Young, April 28, 2014. When Linda Wolicki-Gables and her husband appealed a lawsuit all the way to the second-highest court in the nation against Johnson & Johnson over a malfunctioning medication pump that had been implanted in her body, the couple had no idea that one of the judges who decided their case had a financial stake in the giant multinational company. Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Hill owned as much as $100,000 in Johnson & Johnson stock when he and two other judges ruled against the Gables’ appeal in the precedent-setting case. For the Gables, a different decision in the 2011 appeal could have helped them win a verdict for as much as $20 million, a sum that would have vastly improved the quality of her care, according to their attorney, T. Patton Youngblood Jr. Today, the Florida woman is a partial paraplegic, he said, largely confined to her home with only her husband to care for her. The Center uncovered the conflict by examining the three most recent years of financial disclosure reports filed by 255 of the 258 judges who sit on the nation’s 13 appellate circuits. In all, the Center identified 24 cases where judges owned stock in a company with a case before them. In two other instances, the judges had financial ties with law firms working on cases over which they presided. After the Center notified the judges of its findings, 16 judges had letters sent to the parties in all 26 of those cases disclosing the financial conflicts of interest uncovered by the Center in the months-long investigation.  The letters are the first step in possibly reopening the cases. The violations occurred even though clear rules regarding conflicts of interest exist. Federal judges may not sit on cases in which they have a financial interest, according to a federal law. A similar rule is also in place in the code of conduct established by the court system. Judges have been warned before about not participating in such cases. Following a Washington Post investigation in 2006, the courts even added a computerized screening process to help judges avoid such conflicts.

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Bernard Kerik Prison Reform OAR Jan. 29, 2014PolicyMic, NYPD Commissioner-Turned-Felon Has a Message For Us Now That He's Been to Prison, Laura Dimon, April 9, 2014. As the top cop who landed behind bars, he's arguably one of New York's most controversial figures. Bernard Kerik, 58, served as the police commissioner of New York City under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. In 2010, after years of litigation, he was convicted of tax fraud and false statements and was sentenced to four years in federal prison. Today, he is a convicted felon. On a recent bright morning in a Manhattan skyscraper office, Kerik leaned his head against the glass window and stared down at the two distinct square plots where the Twin Towers once stood. He was there when those towers fell. He lost many of his men that day and saw unimaginable things — people jumping out of the burning buildings, some holding each other as they went. That was then. That was when he headed up 55,000 personnel and a $3.2 billion budget. That was before Giuliani recommended him to Bush, before the thorough vetting process uncovered a questionable past.  He turned around and said, "I've never seen this view before." There was a palpable sadness in his voice. He's been called a hero and a leader, a liar and a crook. But praise or condemn him, it's hard to argue that he doesn't have a damned interesting story. He said that throughout his career, he thought he understood the criminal justice system. But it wasn't until the tough "lock 'em up" cop with the Tony Soprano-like swagger was suited up in prison uniform, mopping floors and living in a small room with three other men that he realized: He knew "nothing," he said, until he was on the other side of the bars. He was one of 2.4 million prisoners in the United States. Because of mass incarceration, the country now accounts for 25% of the world’s imprisoned despite making up, overall, just 5% of the world's population. In the U.S., one in every 108 adults was in prison or jail in 2012 and 1 in 28 children has a parent behind bars. Currently, 65 million Americans have a criminal record — that is greater than the total populations of England and Wales combined. The numbers are staggering and reflect a deeply troubled system. Kerik has some insights about how to begin fixing it. He paid his own way to travel from New Jersey to speak to a gathering convened in Rosslyn, Virginia by a local service organization for ex-prisoners, Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR), the group's leader said. 

Chicago Reader, Chicago decriminalized marijuana possession—but not for everyone, Mick Dumke, April 7, 2014. African-Americans account for almost eight of every ten low-level pot busts. Two years after Chicago moved to reform its marijuana laws, a two-tiered system of justice remains firmly in place: while low-level pot possession has essentially been decriminalized for residents of affluent neighborhoods, others are routinely stopped and cuffed in an ongoing crackdown in poor, minority areas. Though studies have found similar marijuana usage rates across racial groups, 78 percent of those arrested since August 2012 for carrying small amounts of pot were black, according to police department data. Another 17 percent were Hispanic, and just 4 percent were white—virtually the same breakdown as before the new possession ordinance went into effect. The reformed pot law allows police to ticket people caught with less than 15 grams of marijuana instead of locking them up. But police have seldom issued the tickets, formally known as administrative notices of violation, or ANOVs. Just 1,725 marijuana-possession tickets were handed out between August 2012 and this February—while 20,844 arrests were made during the same period for possession of less than 15 grams. Police are making marijuana busts in black neighborhoods because they're under pressure to get dangerous gang members and drug dealers off the street by any legal means they can. "You've got aldermen and other people demanding that we stop crime, but the only response we really have is to flood the area and stop everybody who walks down the street," says a longtime officer assigned to a troubled area. "And this is what happens."

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