Fascism 101


Can the government shut down legal but politically disfavored businesses? If an ongoing federal regulatory campaign continues, that may be precisely what happens, as I detail in a comprehensive new report published today by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

In recent months, a federal government regulatory initiative called Operation Choke Point has gained increased public and media attention. Operation Choke Point is ostensibly a joint effort by various regulatory entities—the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) most prominent among them—to reduce the chances of Americans falling victim to fraud in a variety of “high-risk” industries, predominantly payday lending. It uses existing regulatory powers to provide heightened supervision of banks that do business with the third-party payment processors that provide payment services to these industries.

However, this seemingly laudable aim conceals a worrying reality. There is nothing illegal about most of these industries (at least not yet). But because they have been designated high-risk, banks are cutting off dealings with many processors and companies preemptively. As a result, many companies and individuals that have done nothing wrong have been frozen out of banking services.Without the links to banks, their financial lifeblood is choked off indeed.


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A Jail Without Bars


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent over two years in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid a sex crimes inquiry in Sweden, said on Monday he planned to leave the building “soon”, but Britain signaled it would still arrest him if he tried.

Assange made the surprise assertion during a news conference alongside Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino. But his spokesman played down the chances of an imminent departure, saying the British government would first need to revise its position and let him leave without arrest, something it has repeatedly refused to do.

The 43-year-old Australian fled to the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition for questioning in Sweden over sex assault and rape allegations, which he denies.

He says he fears that if extradited to Sweden he would then be handed over to the United States, where he could be tried for one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.


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Mainstreet Madness Monday


It was almost midnight, curfew time, and a rainstorm unleashed thunder and lightning over Ferguson, the Missouri town rocked by a week of race-fuelled violence. The ruins of a QuickTrip store, a focus for protests and now a charred, gutted carcass, blazed in the flashes then lapsed back into blackness.

Hundreds milled on Florissant Avenue, impervious to the pelting rain, and debated whether to leave, as some urged, or stay and defy the curfew. Police in riot gear observed from each end of the street, blue lights rotating on their trucks, silent.

This was Saturday, the seventh consecutive night of protests after a police officer shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, and the St Louis suburb pulsed with a conviction that it was at the heart of something momentous.

“Right here, right now!” shouted a young, bare-chested man, running from group to group. “Right here, right now!”

For everyone here, the immediate choice was whether to scoot indoors or stay put and violate the curfew, part of a state of emergency that Missouri governor Jay Nixon, exasperated with the continuing protests and struggling to find an effective response, had declared hours earlier.

The greater dilemma, one faced by the African American community at large as well as authorities and policymakers, was how to respond to a crisis which roared out from the slumber of a Missouri summer, hurling questions about police violence, racial inequality and marginalisation.

The weather had Shakespearean timing but this was a tempest not just for the police, whose militarised response affronted worldwide opinion, or their political masters, but for local and national black leaders. All this energy: how to use it? “They left hours ago,” said Timothy Gist, 24, who studies criminology and sociology at the University of Missouri, rain dripping from his beard. “Look around, it’s a different crowd now.”


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Sunny Sunday # 285

“It’s kind of a wacky intro, but stick with me, it gets good.”

Thus Andy Cruz begins the tale of how his design studio and type foundry, House Industries, ended up creating a brand identity for a futuristic space engine called the Cannae Drive—technology that could potentially cut travel time to Mars from months to mere weeks, overturning the law of conservation of momentum along the way.

The unlikely project came by way of an even less likely referral. It was holiday season 2010, and Cruz and House Industries co-founder Rich Roat were at an event in New York. They ran into Joel Hodgson, creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000. He was familiar with their work, which includes the typefaces used for the Lucky Charms logo and Green Day’s Dookie album cover, to name a few. And they were familiar with Hodgson’s work, which includes Mystery Science Theater 3000. Everyone got to chatting, and eventually Hodgson made an unusual request: He wanted the designers to meet his neighbor.


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Saturday Reading


Jason Westcott was afraid.

One night last fall, he discovered via Facebook that a friend of a friend was planning with some co-conspirators to break in to his home. They were intent on stealing Wescott’s handgun and a couple of TV sets. According to the Facebook message, the suspect was planning on “burning” Westcott, who promptly called the Tampa Bay police and reported the plot.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the investigating officers responding to Westcott’s call had a simple message for him: “If anyone breaks into this house, grab your gun and shoot to kill.”

Around 7:30 pm on May 27th, the intruders arrived. Westcott followed the officers’ advice, grabbed his gun to defend his home, and died pointing it at the intruders. They used a semiautomatic shotgun and handgun to shoot down the 29-year-old motorcycle mechanic. He was hit three times, once in the arm and twice in his side, and pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

The intruders, however, weren’t small-time crooks looking to make a small score. Rather they were members of the Tampa Bay Police Department’s SWAT team, which was executing a search warrant on suspicion that Westcott and his partner were marijuana dealers. They had been tipped off by a confidential informant, whom they drove to Westcott’s home four times between February and May to purchase small amounts of marijuana, at $20-$60 a pop. The informer notified police that he saw two handguns in the home, which was why the Tampa Bay police deployed a SWAT team to execute the search warrant.


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FRYDAY funeez













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On Aug. 1, President Barack Obama stated in an oddly casual manner that “we tortured some folks.” As Obama is well aware, torture is a violation of international law. It is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 8 June 1977, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Torture Convention), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), all of which have been signed and ratified by the United States. Further, although the ICCPR allows for some derogation from some of its requirements under extraordinary circumstances, torture is an act that is never permitted.

The Torture Convention not only prohibits torture, it also requires that those who plan, authorize and perpetrate the crime be fairly and competently prosecuted. Failure to turn suspects over to be prosecuted before an appropriate body, such as the International Criminal Court, is itself a violation of the Torture Convention. As we know, Obama chose to “look forward, not backwards” rather than meet the United States’ legal obligations.

Despite Obama’s decision to block any form of accountability for Bush administration officials for their role in torturing individuals, his administration has been a staunch supporter of international justice for other countries. When she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton stated that the U.S. would end its “hostility toward the ICC, and look for opportunities to encourage effective ICC action in ways that promote U.S. interests by bringing war criminals to justice.” Stephen Rapp, Obama’s appointee as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, similarly said, “[W]hen the most grave and serious crimes are committed and there is no will or capacity to prosecute at the national level, most of the countries in the world have decided, and the United States accepts, that this justice will be delivered in the International Criminal Court.” Further, the Obama administration voted at the U.N. Security Council to refer Libya and Syria to the ICC.

Why would Obama immunize the Bush administration against prosecution for committing international crimes while openly supporting the prosecution of others? Clearly, Obama believes Bush administration officials committed the war crime of torture.

Jeff Bachman @ TRUTHDIG

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