Pirate Cat Radio


Berkeley Impeachment Vote

With overwhelming support from Berkeley residents, the Berkeley City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to be the first jurisdiction in the United States to let the public vote for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

The measure will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot, at a cost of about $10,000.

Among those who urged the council to approve the initiative were peace activists Cindy Sheehan and Daniel Ellsberg, as well as 500 Berkeley residents who sent supportive e-mails to City Hall. Only three residents said they were against the idea.

The council agreed to drop a provision that would have set up a task force of Berkeley residents to monitor the President and Vice President.

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Global Warming – “The World is Round”. “No, its Flat”.

The Earth is the hottest it has been in at least 400 years, probably even longer. The National Academy of Sciences, reaching that conclusion in a broad review of scientific work requested by Congress, reported Thursday that the “recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia.”

A panel of top climate scientists told lawmakers that the Earth is running a fever and that “human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming.” Their 155-page report said average global surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rose about 1 degree during the 20th century.

The report was requested in November by the chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., to address naysayers who question whether global warming is a major threat.

Last year, when the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, launched an investigation of three climate scientists, Boehlert said Barton should try to learn from scientists, not intimidate them.

The Bush administration also has maintained that the threat is not severe enough to warrant new pollution controls that the White House says would have cost 5 million Americans their jobs.

Climate scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes had concluded the Northern Hemisphere was the warmest it has been in 2,000 years. Their research was known as the “hockey-stick” graphic because it compared the sharp curve of the hockey blade to the recent uptick in temperatures and the stick’s long shaft to centuries of previous climate stability.

The National Academy scientists concluded that the Mann-Bradley-Hughes research from the late 1990s was “likely” to be true, said John “Mike” Wallace, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington and a panel member. The conclusions from the ’90s research “are very close to being right” and are supported by even more recent data, Wallace said.

The panel looked at how other scientists reconstructed the Earth’s temperatures going back thousands of years, before there was data from modern scientific instruments.

For all but the most recent 150 years, the academy scientists relied on “proxy” evidence from tree rings, corals, glaciers and ice cores, cave deposits, ocean and lake sediments, boreholes and other sources. They also examined indirect records such as paintings of glaciers in the Alps.

Combining that information gave the panel “a high level of confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years,” the academy said.

Overall, the panel agreed that the warming in the last few decades of the 20th century was unprecedented over the last 1,000 years, though relatively warm conditions persisted around the year 1000, followed by a “Little Ice Age” from about 1500 to 1850.

The scientists said they had less confidence in the evidence of temperatures before 1600. But they considered it reliable enough to conclude there were sharp spikes in carbon dioxide and methane, the two major “greenhouse” gases blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere, beginning in the 20th century, after remaining fairly level for 12,000 years.

Between 1 A.D. and 1850, volcanic eruptions and solar fluctuations were the main causes of changes in greenhouse gas levels. But those temperature changes “were much less pronounced than the warming due to greenhouse gas” levels by pollution since the mid-19th century, it said.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization chartered by Congress to advise the government of scientific matters.


HEATING UP: The Earth is the hottest it has been in at least 400, maybe more.

SCIENTISTS AGREE: The National Academy of Sciences studied tree rings, corals and other natural formations, in part, to conclude that the heat is unprecedented for potentially the last several millennia.

HUMAN FAULT: Human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming, the Academy says.


On the Net:

National Academy of Sciences:


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AT&T – Guestopo in Disguise

AT&T has issued an updated privacy policy that takes effect Friday. The changes are significant because they appear to give the telecom giant more latitude when it comes to sharing customers’ personal data with government officials.

The new policy says that AT&T — not customers — owns customers’ confidential info and can use it “to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.”

The policy also indicates that AT&T will track the viewing habits of customers of its new video service — something that cable and satellite providers are prohibited from doing.

Moreover, AT&T (formerly known as SBC) is requiring customers to agree to its updated privacy policy as a condition for service — a new move that legal experts say will reduce customers’ recourse for any future data sharing with government authorities or others.

The company’s policy overhaul follows recent reports that AT&T was one of several leading telecom providers that allowed the National Security Agency warrantless access to its voice and data networks as part of the Bush administration’s war on terror.

“They’re obviously trying to avoid a hornet’s nest of consumer-protection lawsuits,” said Chris Hoofnagle, a San Francisco privacy consultant and former senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

“They’ve written this new policy so broadly that they’ve given themselves maximum flexibility when it comes to disclosing customers’ records,” he said.

AT&T is being sued by San Francisco’s Electronic Frontier Foundation for allegedly allowing the NSA to tap into the company’s data network, providing warrantless access to customers’ e-mails and Web browsing.

AT&T is also believed to have participated in President Bush’s acknowledged domestic spying program, in which the NSA was given warrantless access to U.S. citizens’ phone calls.

AT&T said in a statement last month that it “has a long history of vigorously protecting customer privacy” and that “our customers expect, deserve and receive nothing less than our fullest commitment to their privacy.”

But the company also asserted that it has “an obligation to assist law enforcement and other government agencies responsible for protecting the public welfare, whether it be an individual or the security interests of the entire nation.”

Under its former privacy policy, introduced in September 2004, AT&T said it might use customer’s data “to respond to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to the extent required and/or permitted by law.”

The new version, which is specifically for Internet and video customers, is much more explicit about the company’s right to cooperate with government agencies in any security-related matters — and AT&T’s belief that customers’ data belongs to the company, not customers.

“While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T,” the new policy declares. “As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.”

It says the company “may disclose your information in response to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal process,” omitting the earlier language about such processes being “required and/or permitted by law.”

The new policy states that AT&T “may also use your information in order to investigate, prevent or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud (or) situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person” — conditions that would appear to embrace any terror-related circumstance.

Ray Everett-Church, a Silicon Valley privacy consultant, said it seems clear that AT&T has substantially modified its privacy policy in light of revelations about the government’s domestic spying program.

“It’s obvious that they are trying to stretch their blanket pretty tightly to cover as many exposed bits as possible,” he said.

Gail Hillebrand, a staff attorney at Consumers Union in San Francisco, said the declaration that AT&T owns customers’ data represents the most significant departure from the company’s previous policy.

“It creates the impression that they can do whatever they want,” she said. “This is the real heart of AT&T’s new policy and is a pretty fundamental difference from how most customers probably see things.”

John Britton, an AT&T spokesman, denied that the updated privacy policy marks a shift in the company’s approach to customers’ info.

“We don’t see this as anything new,” he said. “Our goal was to make the policy easier to read and easier for customers to understand.”

He acknowledged that there was no explicit requirement in the past that customers accept the privacy policy as a condition for service. And he acknowledged that the 2004 policy said nothing about customers’ data being owned by AT&T.

But Britton insisted that these elements essentially could be found between the lines of the former policy.

“There were many things that were implied in the last policy.” He said. “We’re just clarifying the last policy.”

AT&T’s new privacy policy is the first to include the company’s video service. AT&T says it’s spending $4.6 billion to roll out TV programming to 19 million homes nationwide.

The policy refers to two AT&T video services — Homezone and U-verse. Homezone is AT&T’s satellite TV service, offered in conjunction with Dish Network, and U-verse is the new cablelike video service delivered over phone lines.

In a section on “usage information,” the privacy policy says AT&T will collect “information about viewing, game, recording and other navigation choices that you and those in your household make when using Homezone or AT&T U-verse TV Services.”

The Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 stipulates that cable and satellite companies can’t collect or disclose information about customers’ viewing habits.

The law is silent on video services offered by phone companies via the Internet, basically because legislators never anticipated such technology would be available.

AT&T’s Britton said the 1984 law doesn’t apply to his company’s video service because AT&T isn’t a cable provider. “We are not building a cable TV network,” he said. “We’re building an Internet protocol television network.”

But Andrew Johnson, a spokesman for cable heavyweight Comcast, disputed this perspective.

“Video is video is video,” he said. “If you’re delivering programming over a telecommunications network to a TV set, all rules need to be the same.”

AT&T’s new and former privacy policies both state that “conducting business ethically and ensuring privacy is critical to maintaining the public’s trust and achieving success in a dynamic and competitive business climate.”

Both also state that “privacy responsibility” extends “to the privacy of conversations and to the flow of information in data form.” As such, both say that “the trust of our customers necessitates vigilant, responsible privacy protections.”

The 2004 policy, though, went one step further. It said AT&T realizes “that privacy is an important issue for our customers and members.”

The new policy makes no such acknowledgment.

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Would you like some Whale nigiri with your Unagi?

Japan’s campaign to restart commercial whale hunting received a major boost last night when the International Whaling Commission declared invalid a 20-year ban on the slaughter of the planet’s largest creatures for anything other than scientific purposes.

Members of the international commission which regulates whaling voted at a meeting in St Kitts by 33 to 32 to support a declaration that paves the way to the lifting of a moratorium imposed in 1986 to save whale species from extinction.

Japan was joined by delegates from Caribbean and African countries who have been pushing to lift the ban as a way to protect fish stocks from whales and give their small countries food security.

The group – which included Denmark – said the resolution was needed to force the IWC to take up its original mandate of managing whale hunts, not banning them altogether.

Pro-whaling countries still need 75% of votes in the IWC to end the moratorium but last night’s vote was seen as a big step towards that goal and Japan is encouraging new pro-whaling states to join the commission in the hope of wresting control from protectionists.

“This tragic moment signifies a great step backwards in time to when the International Whaling Commission was nothing more than a whalers’ club,” said Niki Entrup, of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. “This is a return to the 1970s dark days when whales roamed the seas unprotected. The welfare and future of whales remains seriously in question.”

“This is a huge disaster,” said Kitty Block of Humane Society International. She said it would bolster Japan’s pro-whaling “propaganda”.

Earlier in the meeting Japan had lost four votes which illustrated its pro-whaling credentials. It had called for secret ballots at the IWC, an exemption to allow Japanese coastal communities to whale, the elimination of a Southern Ocean whale sanctuary and a block on the commission discussing the fate of dolphins, porpoises, small whales and great whales.

The IWC meeting was then thrown into chaos by the vote in favour of the pro-whaling resolution. The declaration’s claims that whales are responsible for depleting fish stocks and that non-governmental and environmental organisations which support the whaling ban are a “threat” were fiercely contested, but pro-whaling lobbyists celebrated the first serious setback for those against whaling in years.

“It’s only a matter of time before the commercial ban is overturned,” said Glenn Inwood, a spokesman for the Japanese delegation.

“This is historic,” said Rune Frovik, secretary of the Norwegian pro-whaling lobby the High North Alliance. “For the first time in more than two decades the Whaling Commission expresses support for commercial whaling. This shows the power balance is shifting, but it really shows that both sides need to sit down, compromise and stop yelling from the trenches.”

Sue Lieberman, director of the global species programme at WWF International, said a majority of IWC members had adopted language that anti-whaling activists considered scientifically invalid, such as the claim that whales ate large quantities of sought-after fish.

“What is more important than that is this does show that Japan’s recruitment drive has finally succeeded. It should be a wake-up call.”

Japan has increased aid to countries such as Belize, Mali, Togo, Gambia which are recent members of the IWC. Japan gave $300m to a string of Caribbean islands, ostensibly to develop their fishing industries, but Japan traditionally stresses that whales are responsible for low fish catches.

Japan has abided by the moratorium on commercial whaling since it came into force two decades ago, but, along with Iceland, uses a legal loophole to conduct scientific whaling. Norway is the only country that ignores the ban and more than 25,000 whales have been hunted and killed since the moratorium.

The Japan Whaling Association says Japan would only whale for food rather than oils or bone. It also says it should be allowed to whale because it is part of its culture. “Asking Japan to abandon this part of its culture would compare to Australians being asked to stop eating meat pies, Americans being asked to stop eating hamburgers and the English being asked to go without fish and chips,” a statement on its website reads.

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Bush Signs Broadcast Decency Law

I hope this means Bush is no longer allowed on television…

President Bush signed legislation Thursday that will cost broadcasters dearly when raunchy programming exceeds “the bounds of decency.”

At a signing ceremony for the new law increasing by tenfold the maximum fine for indecency, Bush said that it will force industry figures to “take seriously their duty to keep the public airwaves free of obscene, profane and indecent material.”

Accompanying the president at the ceremony was a crowd of lawmakers who worked to pass the bill in Congress.

For raunchy talk or a racy show of skin, the Federal Communications Commission can now fine a broadcaster up to $325,000 per incident.

Approval of the bill culminates a two-year effort to get tough on sexually explicit material and offensive language on radio and television following Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction.”

The FCC recently denied a petition of reconsideration from CBS Corp.-owned stations facing $550,000 in fines over the Jackson incident, in which she briefly revealed a breast during a halftime concert.

The agency recently handed down its biggest fine, $3.3 million, against more than 100 CBS affiliates that aired an episode of the series “Without a Trace” that simulated an orgy scene. That fine is now under review.

The FCC has received increasing complaints about lewd material over the airwaves, and has responded with fines jumping from $440,000 in 2003 to almost $8 million in 2004.

“The problem we have is that the maximum penalty that the FCC can impose under current law is just $32,500 per violation,” Bush said. “And for some broadcasters, this amount is meaningless. It’s relatively painless for them when they violate decency standards.”

The bill does not apply to cable or satellite broadcasts, and does not try to define what is indecent. The FCC says indecent material is that which contains sexual or excretory material that does not rise to the level of obscenity.

The legislation, while facing little resistance in Congress, had detractors warning of problems in defining what is indecent and of the erosion of First Amendment rights.

Under FCC rules and federal law, radio and over-the-air television stations may not air obscene material at any time, and may not air indecent material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. when children are more likely to be in the audience.

“Unfortunately, in recent years, broadcast programming has too often pushed the bounds of decency,” Bush said. “The language is becoming coarser during the times when it’s more likely children will be watching television. It’s a bad trend, a bad sign.”

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Your IPod was made in a Sweatshop!

It has come to define a generation. In just five years, Apple’s Latest News about Apple iPod has become one of the most popular and iconic gadgets around. More than two million people in Britain own one, and last year alone 22.5 million were bought worldwide: a phenomenal 61,644 a day.

The distinctive digital audio players, which can store thousands of songs, photos and even full-length films, have turned California-based Apple into one of the world’s most profitable companies, earning founder Steve Jobs a US$3 billion fortune.

Last year Apple achieved a record billion-dollar profit, boosted by the launch of its latest nano model, which is the width of a pencil and weighs just 1.5 oz. A million nanos were sold in just 17 days, including one to Pope Benedict XVI.

Have you ever wondered where your iPod is made, and what’s in it? The Mail on Sunday has traced the incredible journey an iPod makes from conception to completion.
Click Here
The Largest Plant in China

Although it is one of America’s most prestigious brands, nearly all Apple computers and iPods are made abroad, predominantly in China. As you might expect, the workers who assemble them see little of the profit.

The first factory we visited was in Longhua, just 20 miles from Hong Kong.

Run by Taiwanese company Foxconn, it is the original and largest plant to be built in mainland China.

It’s a sprawling place where 200,000 people work and sleep.

Arriving at the gates, the visitor is initially struck by the giant billboards inviting anyone over 16 — the legal working age here — to apply for jobs.

Workers live in dormitories on the site, 100 to a room, arriving with a few possessions and a bucket to wash their clothes. The accommodation may be free, but it comes at a cost: No one outside the plant is allowed to visit the workers.
High Security, Low Wages

Security is high everywhere, but especially in the five-story E3 factory that makes the nanos.

Police — not security guards — are stationed on all gates, studiously checking those entering and leaving the site to thwart rivals intent on industrial espionage.

Zang Lan, 21, from Zhengzhou in central China, has worked on the Apple assembly line for a month. Her 15-hour days earn her Pounds 27 (US$49.81) a month, about half the wage weavers earned in England in 1805, allowing for inflation. This is low, even for China, but Zhengzhou is a particularly poor region, so workers would accept even less.

“The job here is so-so,” Zang Lan says. “We have to work too hard and I am always tired. It’s like being in the army. They make us stand still for hours. If we move, we are punished by being made to stand still for longer. The boys are made to do push-ups.”

Every morning, the workers — in beige jackets to denote their junior status — are taken up to the factory roof for a military-style drill.

“We have to work overtime if we are told to and can only go back to the dormitories when our boss gives us permission,” says Zang Lan. “If they ask for overtime, we must do it. After working 15 hours until 11.30 p.m., we feel so tired.”

Foxconn, one of the world’s biggest IT companies, is currently investing Pounds 31 million ($57.2 million) in plants in Beijing and Suzhou to take advantage of China’s cheap workforce.

A fifth of Foxconn’s million-strong workforce is deployed here, working on other Apple products, including computers. Only a tiny proportion of workers are allowed to make iPods.
Dormitories and Barbed Wire

The site, as large as eight football pitches, is surrounded by barbed wire.

It employs 50,000 workers, and its six gates are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with particular attention paid to gate five, which leads to factory eight — the home of the iPod shuffle.

Here the dormitories are outside the plant, and we spoke to some of the workers at the end of their working day. Although the proximity to Shanghai means they are better paid than their Foxconn counterparts, earning up to Pounds 54 ($100) a month, they have to pay for dormitories and food, which takes up half their salaries.

Working up to 12 hours a day, their only freedom is the half-hour walk to and from work.

One 26-year-old security guard, who would not reveal his name, earns Pounds 80 ($148) a month.

“Factory eight is mostly made up of women, as they are more honest than men,” he tells us. “The iPod shuffle is very easy to steal because it is so small.”

The guard is virtually the only person we interviewed in the communist-run country who understood the implications of China’s cheap labor force. “Payment is lower because the boss wants to reduce our costs,” he says. “Prices need to be competitive to get orders from abroad.”

Which is exactly why Apple makes its products in China.
Cost vs. Sale Price

The nano contains 400 parts that together cost an estimated Pounds 41 ($76). The tiny flash memory card, which stores thousands of songs, is by far the most expensive part at Pounds 25 ($46).

Made in Korea, flash memory, which replays the music without skipping when the user moves, is extremely robust. That was proved when staff on a technology Web site ran over their iPod in a car. The screen broke, but the music played on.

The amplifier comes from Edinburgh, Scotland-based Wolfson Microelectronics, whose audio converter translates the digital information into buzz-free analog sound. This essential component, costing just 85 pence ($1.57), makes an 8,500-mile journey to be assembled in China.

Batteries cost Pounds 2.60 ($4.79) each, and the headphones and the ClickWheel used to select tracks each cost 45 pence (83 cents). Labor costs in the Chinese factories we traced are a further Pounds 4.20 ($7.74) per iPod.

Everything considered, the total cost of manufacturing an iPod nano is around Pounds 41 ($76). In Britain they sell for between Pounds 109 ($201) and Pounds 179 ($331).

Still, putting together an iPod’s hundreds of components is a task of fiendish complexity and mindboggling logistical efficiency.

For an idea of the global nature of business, consider just one component — the nano’s central PortalPlayer microchip.
Core Technology

The chip’s core technology is licensed from British firm ARM, then modified by PortalPlayer’s programmers in California, Washington state and Hyderabad, India. The finished chip will carry about one million lines of code.

PortalPlayer works with microchip design companies eSilicon and LSI Logic, both based in California’s Silicon Valley, who send the finished design to a “foundry” in Taiwan.

These sites can cost up to Pounds 1.5 billion ($2.8 billion) to set up, and represent the most complex aspect of chip construction.

They produce thousands of “wafers” — thin metal discs imprinted with hundreds of thousands of chips. These are sent out to be cut up into individual discs, which go on to Taiwan, where each is tested individually.

The chips are then encased in plastic and readied for assembly by Silicon-Ware in Taiwan and Amkor in Korea.

The finished microchip is sent to a warehouse in Hong Kong, then transported to the plants in mainland China, where the iPods are put together before being shipped worldwide.
Wages Are a ‘Godsend’

Will Sturgeon, managing editor of IT website silicon.com, said such global operations are now commonplace.

“Apple are only one of thousands of companies manufacturing their products in the same places and in the same conditions,” he said. “It’s the nature of big business today to exploit any opportunity that comes their way.”

James Kynge, author of China Shakes The World, argues that despite Westerners’ perceptions about working conditions in factories, the wages are a godsend that are transforming rural China. “The money sent back to farming families from the workers now exceeds the amount made from agriculture,” he says.

“Because China has no independent unions, subcontractors like Foxconn are able to keep wages artificially low. Workers will be lucky if they make 2 percent of the profit from an iPod. Foxconn will make less than 10 percent. Far more money is spent by Apple on marketing the product than making it,” Kynge points out.

China misses out on this lucrative market because its poor global reputation means it has not been able to build its own worldwide brands.

“Even if the Chinese made their own version of the iPod and sold it at a fraction of the price, no one would buy it,” says Kynge. “Consumers respond to the Apple logo — not the people in Chinese factories making the products.'”

Apple had declined to comment as of Saturday night. Mail on Sunday originally published this article on June 11

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California’s Crisis In Prison Systems A Threat to Public

A few interesting political items are contained in this article which has quite a wide sweep —

1). [Roderick] Hickman quit in February after discovering that Schwarzenegger’s top aides had been meeting with union representatives behind his back.

2). Hickman was replaced by Jeanne Woodford, the former warden of San Quentin. But at the end of April, she also resigned after Schwarzenegger administration officials allowed the union to veto one of her picks for a warden.

3). Also in April, U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson in San Francisco took over the prisons’ medical system, declaring that inmates were receiving inadequate care. Now, the judge is believed to be so exasperated with the slow pace of rehabilitation and with prison overcrowding that he is considering putting the entire system under federal control, said several sources familiar with the judge’s plans.


Longer Sentences and Less Emphasis On Rehabilitation Create Problems

By John Pomfret
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 11, 2006; Page A03

NORCO, Calif. — This is what conditions are like at one of California’s best prisons, the California Rehabilitation Center: Built to hold 1,800 inmates, it now bulges with more than 4,700 and is under nearly constant lockdown to prevent fights. Portions of the buildings, which date to the 1920s, are so antiquated that the electricity is shut off during rainstorms so the prisoners aren’t electrocuted. The facility’s once-vaunted drug rehab program has a three-month-long waiting list, and the prison is short 75 guards.

It is even worse throughout the rest of California’s 32 other prisons, which make up the second-largest system in the nation after the federal Bureau of Prisons. Despite a vow from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to cut the prison population, it has surged in recent months to more than 173,000, the worst overcrowding in the country, costing taxpayers more than $8 billion a year. More of those inmates return to prison because the state has the nation’s highest recidivism rate.

A senior prison official warned not long ago of “an imminent and substantial threat to the public” and fears of riots have only increased, prison officials and correctional officers said. The situation has left Schwarzenegger, who faces reelection this year, with one of his biggest political problems.

It was not always so. Once, California had the nation’s premier system, studied by other states and nations. It had an admired research staff and worked to educate and rehabilitate its inmates.

But like much of the rest of the nation over the past three decades, it enacted get-tough laws with long sentencing provisions that put people behind bars for longer periods of time. Unlike many other states, however, which in recent years have looked for ways to ease prison population and lower recidivism, California has achieved little reform.

“When it comes to prison systems, California is the 800-pound gorilla,” said Alexander Busansky, a former prosecutor who is executive director of the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse, a think tank that works to improve prison conditions. “The problem in California is that hope is lost.”

Critics of the system say it is merely reflective of the deterioration of a variety of government services, including the Golden State’s educational system and its highways, that were once the envy of the nation. But what has been at work in California’s prisons also reflects the effect of the nation’s experimentation with tough sentencing, combined with the internal machinations of state politics.

In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, California embraced a philosophy that the state could successfully treat individual offenders through education and psychotherapy. Wardens wrote books, including the groundbreaking 1952 study “Prisoners are People,” and held advanced degrees in social work. The department’s research wing had 80 experts on staff.

“California was leading the rest of the nation,” said John Irwin, a professor of criminal justice at San Francisco State University who is a living example of the rehabilitative philosophy. Before he got his degree from the University of California at Los Angeles in the late 1950s, he spent five years in Soledad Prison for armed robbery.

The hallmark of that philosophy was what was known as “indeterminate sentencing.” Judges would give defendants sentence ranges — a few years to life — and parole boards would determine whether the offender had reformed and could be released.

In 1977, then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D), responding to a worries about rising crime, did away with indeterminate sentencing. Three years later, state lawmakers enacted legislation that said the purpose of incarceration was punishment alone, formally writing rehabilitation and treatment out of the penal code. (Brown is today running for state attorney general on a platform that calls for sentencing procedures that would lower prison population.)

Over the next decade, California’s legislature, dominated by Democrats, passed more than 1,000 laws increasing mandatory prison sentences. The climax came in 1994 with the enactment of the “three strikes” law mandating 25-years-to-life sentences for most offenders with two previous serious convictions. “People have this image of California beach politics and the left coast,” said state Sen. Gloria Romero, a Democrat from Los Angeles. “The truth is California is a law-and-order state.”

Prisons expanded to accommodate the influx. Now, a person driving along Interstate 5 from Mexico to Oregon is never more than an hour from a California prison. Pilots can even navigate by the facilities’ locations.

As the prison population grew and rehabilitation stopped, the Department of Corrections turned into an organization with “no other pretensions but human warehousing,” said Franklin Zimring, a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley.

Zimring and others say the Department of Corrections effectively ceded its managerial role to the state’s correctional officers union. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association today has 31,000 members and one of the wealthiest political action committees in the state.

From the beginning, the union has been adept at cultivating backers in both parties. Union backing and millions in donations played a key role in the elections of two governors: nearly $1 million to help elect Republican Pete Wilson in 1990, and, eight years later, $2 million to Democrat Gray Davis. Both governors awarded corrections officers large raises.

For the past three years, under a contract negotiated by Davis, California’s correctional officers, already the highest-paid in the nation, have been averaging increases of more than 10 percent a year; more than 2,000 of their members make more than $100,000 a year. Their contract grants them better pension benefits than professors from the state university system.

But more than salaries, the contract gives the union the right to reject policy changes. And, the union, not management, determines who fills more than 70 percent of the positions at a given prison.

In almost every way the union seems to have the state administration outgunned. “We sit down to the negotiating table, and we use our laptops. We all have one program,” said Joe Bauman, a correctional officer in Norco and a union negotiator. “Meanwhile, they’re using a calculator that you get free with a carton of cigarettes.”

When he came into office on the back of an unprecedented recall of Davis in 2003, Schwarzenegger vowed to take on the union and bring California’s prison system into the modern world. On his second day in office, he appointed Ronald Hickman, a barrel-chested former prison guard with a reputation as a reformer, to lead the department. “Corrections,” Schwarzenegger said, “should correct.”

Last year, Hickman reorganized the state’s prison network and returned the word “rehabilitation” to the title of his agency for the first time since 1980. Schwarzenegger and Hickman subsequently announced a new parole program that they said would cut the prison population by an estimated 15,000 and vowed more changes.

But the parole plan bombed because it was poorly planned and badly executed and the prison officers unions fought it all the way, Hickman said in a recent interview. “We really didn’t do a very good job on implementation.”

For his part, Hickman quit in February after discovering that Schwarzenegger’s top aides had been meeting with union representatives behind his back.

Hickman was replaced by Jeanne Woodford, the former warden of San Quentin. But at the end of April, she also resigned after Schwarzenegger administration officials allowed the union to veto one of her picks for a warden.

Also in April, U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson in San Francisco took over the prisons’ medical system, declaring that inmates were receiving inadequate care. Now, the judge is believed to be so exasperated with the slow pace of rehabilitation and with prison overcrowding that he is considering putting the entire system under federal control, said several sources familiar with the judge’s plans.

And on May 11, the state’s parole chief was fired after it was revealed that paroled sex offenders had been placed in hotels near Disneyland.

Facing what could be a tough campaign in November, Schwarzenegger is now courting the union, according to a Republican political consultant with knowledge of the governor’s plans.

The corrections officers union had amassed a war chest of $10 million for attack ads against the governor. But now the union is “agnostic” on Schwarzenegger’s reelection, Chuck Alexander, the union’s executive vice president, said in an interview.

If the union maintains that stance, several Republican consultants said, it would be a significant bonus for the governor.

Meanwhile, here in Norco, a former dairy farming community east of Los Angeles, the inmates continue to pile into the California Rehabilitation Center situated on the grounds of an old resort. Warden Guillermina Hall said the institute remained devoted to rehabilitation.

But union officials point out that the educational program is basically a self-study course with little classroom time. Tougher inmates routinely compel weaker inmates to complete the coursework for them, defeating its purpose. As for the work programs, they often consist of having an inmate sweep or mop a small section of a hall over and over and over, for six hours.

“I don’t care what you want to call that,” said Lance Corcoran, a lobbyist for the union. “That is not rehabilitation.”

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6-6-6 Means Hide! Hide! Hide!

Anyone seen the beast?
Today’s date supposedly a wicked number, but the Vatican doesn’t seem too worried

There are those worthless souls who ignore the power of 666, who believe today — June 6, 2006 — is nothing more than another ordinary mark on the ordinary calendar. They will go about their lives, blind to the bloodcurdling evil all around.

Soon, the streets will fill with death and decay.

Soon, the anti-Christ will rise to render the Earth a mosh pit of despair — an empty, rotted stink hole of evil mayhem brought about by all things satanic. Doom will reign! Faces will melt! The world will explode! Die! Die! Die!

Or maybe not.

Yes, the date is June 6, 2006. And yes, there is a movie remake, “The Omen,” that premieres today and focuses on the idea that 6/6/06 marks the rise of the anti-Christ. And yes, a couple of people even believe it. (According to a report by Tony Allen-Mills of Britain’s Sunday Times, a pregnant Englishwoman recently urged her doctor to do everything within his power to push up her June 6 due date.)

“But I think I can assure you we’re safe,” says Fred Berardi, a monsignor with Holy Family Church in New Rochelle, N.Y. “Nobody needs to hide under their furniture.”

Indeed, few within the Vatican appear to be losing much sleep.

There have been no public warnings, no cries from Pope Benedict XVI to load up on canned goods.

And yet, a legitimate biblical tie between 666 and bad stuff seems to exist. As reads Revelation 13:16-18: “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.”

By “the beast,” is the Bible referring to a three-headed, red-eyed ogre? Unlikely. Instead, most scholars interpret 666 to be the numerical code for Nero, the fifth Roman Emperor (A.D. 54-68) of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians.

“The legend of the anti-Christ is that of an agent of Satan empowered to pave the way for the end of times,” says Phil Stevens, a professor of anthropology at the State University of New York at Buffalo and an expert on religious symbolism. “The myth of the anti-Christ has been passed down through the generations. But to start with, it appeared to be simply a very disliked man.”

For the record, we’ve gone through this before.

The concept of a heinous 666 received a nice jolt in the year 1666, when the Great Fire of London killed thousands and left more than 100,000 people without homes. Unfortunately for panic’s sake, there’s little else to work with.

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Thank You Stephen Colbert.

“..Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it’s yogurt. But I refuse to believe it’s not butter. Most of all, I believe in this president.”

A president runs criminally amok, dismantling the American democracy.

The press, cowering, forgets its obligation to the citizenry.

A comedian emerges as the Edward R. Murrow of our day.

  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3
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