Daily Archive: 07/31/2013

Jul 31 2013

The Slow Death of Democracy

“Well, Doctor, what have we got-a Republic or a Monarchy?”

 “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

~Benjamin Franklin~ 1787

While Bradley Manning awaits sentencing that could bring up to 136 years in prison, the perpetrators of the war crimes that he exposed and those who authorized those crimes remain free, some still have been appointed to high positions in the government. War crimes apologists hail Manning’s conviction but are silent about prosecution of the likes of George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzalez, John Brennan, James Comey, and hundreds of others.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange spoke with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on this morning’s Democracy Now!



Transcript can be read here

“Bradley Manning is now a martyr,” Assange says. “He didn’t choose to be a martyr. I don’t think it’s a proper way for activists to behave to choose to be martyrs, but these young men – allegedly in the case of Bradley Manning and clearly in the case of Edward Snowden – have risked their freedom, risked their lives, for all of us. That makes them heroes.” According to numerous press reports, the conviction of Manning makes it increasingly likely that the U.S. will prosecute Assange as a co-conspirator. During the trial, military prosecutors portrayed Assange as an “information anarchist” who encouraged Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.

Statement by Julian Assange on Verdict in Bradley Manning Court-Martial

30 July 2013, 19:30 UTC

Today Bradley Manning, a whistleblower, was convicted by a military court at Fort Meade of 19 offences for supplying the press with information, including five counts of ‘espionage’. He now faces a maximum sentence of 136 years.

The ‘aiding the enemy’ charge has fallen away. It was only included, it seems, to make calling journalism ‘espionage’ seem reasonable. It is not.

Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions, and induced democratic reform. He is the quintessential whistleblower.

This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage’.

President Obama has initiated more espionage proceedings against whistleblowers and publishers than all previous presidents combined.

In 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform that praised whistleblowing as an act of courage and patriotism. That platform has been comprehensively betrayed. His campaign document described whistleblowers as watchdogs when government abuses its authority. It was removed from the internet last week.

Throughout the proceedings there has been a conspicuous absence: the absence of any victim. The prosecution did not present evidence that – or even claim that – a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning’s disclosures. The government never claimed Mr. Manning was working for a foreign power.

The only ‘victim’ was the US government’s wounded pride, but the abuse of this fine young man was never the way to restore it. Rather, the abuse of Bradley Manning has left the world with a sense of disgust at how low the Obama administration has fallen. It is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.

The judge has allowed the prosecution to substantially alter the charges after both the defense and the prosecution had rested their cases, permitted the prosecution 141 witnesses and extensive secret testimony. The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to crack him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial.

The Obama administration has been chipping away democratic freedoms in the United States. With today’s verdict, Obama has hacked off much more. The administration is intent on deterring and silencing whistleblowers, intent on weakening freedom of the press.

The US first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. What part of ‘no’ does Barack Obama fail to comprehend?

Manning Verdict: Slow Death for Democracy

by David Gespass, Common Dreams

Hypocrisy and criminality are rife in the United States government and, in its eyes, the worst criminals are those who expose such evils. Among the many documents Manning released, for example, was the notorious “collateral murder” video, showing U.S. pilots killing a Reuters journalist, his driver and several others. Some have argued that, although unfortunate, the killing was justified in the heat of battle but the U.S. denied any knowledge of how the reporter, Namir Noor-Eldeen, died until the video was released. Reuters had simply asked how such events could be avoided in the future and was stonewalled. It is only thanks to Manning that the world knows exactly what happened.

There are two ways in which any government can seek to control security leaks. The first is by honesty and transparency, by allowing the public to know enough to make democratic decisions about how far is too far. That is the path that the United States, and this president, claims to follow. The second is by threatening draconian consequences to anyone who exposes questionable policies and practices to the light of day. That is the path the United States, and this administration, has chosen with the prosecution of Bradley Manning and others. No amount of sophistry can hide that truth, try as the administration might. The result, for Bradley Manning, is many years in prison. The result for democracy is a slow death.

The highest obligation we, as citizens, have is to protect the Constitution and the laws of this country. This is what two young men, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, have courageously done. They don’t deserve prosecution. They deserve medals and praise.

Jul 31 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Ana Marie Cox: Obama pitches ‘grand bargain’ to a middle class that no longer exists

Americans like to think of themselves as middle class, but the reality is 79% will have to rely on aid at some point

On Monday, the Associated Press cited a survey showing that 79% of Americans will experience “economic insecurity” by the time they turn 60. At some point, pandering to the middle class will begin to feel like pandering to those who already have it easy. If Obama wants to truly energize voters, and to use their energy to sway recalcitrant Republicans, he needs to do more than make promises to those in the middle class, he needs to make them understand that the middle class as a category is threatened.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The GOP Misunderstands the ‘War on Women’

You can’t say Republicans lack for chutzpah. The cynical right-wing message-men have come up with a new insult to our intelligence-and to millions of US women. As Buzzfeed reported Friday, Republicans are now spinning a series of scandals to try to prove the Democrats are the party with the real “War on Women.” That’s just silly, and they know it.

Needless to say, some current and former Democratic pols haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory recently. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s refusal to resign, despite an apparent pattern of repeated abuse, is particularly outrageous. But sexual indiscretion and sexual harassment (two types of scandal that shouldn’t be conflated) know no partisan affiliation. Remember Herman Cain, onetime GOP presidential frontrunner and accused serial sexual harasser? National Journal reported at the time that “scores of interviews with Iowa Republicans over the weekend turned up scant outrage” over the allegations. Some high-profile Republicans even questioned the concept of sexual harassment itself, with Representative Steve King calling it “a terrible concept,” and Senator Rand Paul warning that some now “hesitate to tell a joke to a woman in the workplace…” The horrors!

Rachel Alexander: The future of the GOP: Rand Paul or Chris Christie?

Christie can criticize Paul all he wants, but Republicans would much rather see a true conservative like Paul in the White House

New Jersey Republican Mayor Chris Christie took a harsh swipe at Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky last week, declaring Paul’s criticism of the National Security Administration as “dangerous”. [..]

Attacking the libertarians in the GOP as Christie has done will not help the Republican party or Christie’s election chances. The Reagan revolution came about because Reagan was able, with the help of the late William F Buckley Jr and his National Review magazine, to bring together a coalition of libertarians, religious conservatives and fiscal conservatives. Paul, who is outspoken about his Christian faith, is one of a few Republicans who could rebuild that coalition.

Jessica Valenti: The GOP’s Twenty-Week Mistake

According to The New York Times, GOP leaders-all men-are strategizing on how to push through a Senate bill that would ban abortions after twenty weeks. Senator Marco Rubio is quoted as saying, “Irrespective of how people may feel about the issue, we’re talking about five months into a pregnancy. People certainly feel there should be significant restrictions on that.” [..]

The Republican leadership may see polls on what Americans think of later abortion and think they have a winning issue here. But they’d be wrong. The GOP is so out-of-touch with what pregnancy actually looks like-how complex and nuanced women’s lives really are-that they don’t see the stories behind the numbers. They’re going to make the same miscalculation they did last year by underestimating women and the way their experiences shape their vote. Our reproductive stories are not black and white, and they’re certainly not something that can be mandated or restricted by policy. Not at two weeks, not at twenty weeks, not ever.

Salamishah Tillet : Sexual Harassment Is Not a Disease, But It Surely Is an Epidemic

The storyline has become all too familiar: a well-known politician is accused of sexual harassment by several women; he first plays defense (a public denial), then goes on the offensive (a public apology), and finally, admits to past behavior and pledges to get “help.” [..]

It would be nice to believe that Filner, after his two weeks of therapy, would come back to work and lead the charge to end sexual harassment-in the schools, the streets and the City Hall of San Diego. But he probably won’t. And this is not just because 60 percent of San Diegans surveyed over the weekend believe he should be recalled if he does not resign. He seems to be unaware that to sexually harass women is far more dangerous than a pathology or breach of public trust. It is part of the larger epidemic of violence against women that preserves our system and social practice of male dominance and gender inequity.

And let’s be clear, that’s something that can be controlled and cured.

Michelle Chen: ‘Bargain’ on Immigration Would Feed Prison Profits

The private prison industry stands to gain millions from the Senate’s reform plan.

The supposed grand bargain of the immigration reform bill is shaping up to be a lucrative deal for prisons. As a compromise between “border security” and “amnesty,” the comprehensive reform plan emerging in Congress ties the “legalization” of millions of migrants to the prospective criminalization of millions more.

The Senate’s reform bill, now being debated in the House, would boost immigration enforcement by beefing up border patrols, militarized barriers, border surveillance, immigration prosecutions and privately run detention facilities. According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, the original bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee “would increase the prison population by about 14,000 inmates annually by 2018.” (The number of “immigration offenders” in federal prison has risen over the past decade to about 22,100 in 2011.) Just before passage, the bill was saddled with the draconian “Hoeven-Corker border security amendment,” which contains harsher, more costly enforcement provisions, including a doubling of border agents to roughly 40,000.

Jul 31 2013

D.C. Time Warp

Ted Kaufman is a former Democratic Senator from Delaware.

Why DOJ Deemed Bank Execs Too Big To Jail

Ted Kaufman, Forbes

7/29/2013 @ 9:30AM

I guess you have to be something of a masochist to quote yourself being so wrong. In my defense, who could have imagined that:

a) The six largest banks would pay $62.2 billion in fines to settle lawsuits in the past three years, led by Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. (SNL Financial estimate)

b) It will take $24.7 billion to settle pending suits, most of them involving the mortgage junk sold to investors. (Compass Point estimate)

c) Despite the fact that a+b=$86.9 billion, not one bank has ever had to admit to any wrongdoing.

d) Not one dollar of the $86.9 billion has been paid by any bank executive. Shareholders took all the hits.



Why? Why has no one been held responsible? There are many reasons, including the complexity of the cases and the lack of criminal referrals from the regulatory agencies. But perhaps the key reason is that those most responsible for indicting and prosecuting Wall Street executives seem to believe that, just as there are banks that are too big to fail, there are people who are too big to jail.

In a speech he gave last fall, the retiring head of the Criminal Division in the Department of Justice, Lanny Breuer, explained that position: “To be clear, the decision of whether to indict a corporation, defer prosecution, or decline altogether is not one that I, or anyone in the Criminal Division, take lightly. We are frequently on the receiving end of presentations from defense counsel, CEOs and economists who argue that the collateral consequences of an indictment would be devastating for their client. In my conference room, over the years, I have heard sober predictions that a company or bank might fail if we indict, that innocent employees could lose their jobs, that entire industries may be affected, and even that global markets will feel the effects.

“Sometimes-though, let me stress, not always-these presentations are compelling. In reaching every charging decision, we must take into account the effect of an indictment on innocent employees and shareholders, just as we must take into account the nature of the crimes committed and the pervasiveness of the misconduct. I personally feel that it’s my duty to consider whether individual employees with no responsibility for, or knowledge of, misconduct committed by others in the same company are going to lose their livelihood if we indict the corporation. In large multi-national companies, the jobs of tens of thousands of employees can be at stake. And, in some cases, the health of an industry or the markets is a real factor. Those are the kinds of considerations in white collar crime cases that literally keep me up at night, and which must play a role in responsible enforcement.”

From my point of view, this is certainly a novel approach to prosecutorial decision-making. It is doubly puzzling because, back in 2009 and again in 2010, I chaired two Judiciary Committee Hearings on the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act. In extensive testimony in those hearings, and in meetings in my Senate office, Mr. Breuer never said anything like it.



Nothing I have seen in the past four years leads me to believe that Wall Street as a whole learned much from the events of 2008-2009. The government’s bailouts that helped the big banks survive have been pretty much forgotten. The multimillion-dollar bonuses are back with a vengeance, and with them incentives to cut corners and, for some, to circumvent the law.

I only wish that Justice Department action matched Attorney General Holder’s words when he said, introducing his task force, “The mission is not just to hold accountable those who helped bring about the last financial meltdown, but to prevent another meltdown from happening.”

Duh.

Jul 31 2013

On This Day In History July 31

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 31 is the 212th day of the year (213th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 153 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1948, the Broadway musical “Brigadoon” closed after 581 performances. It originally opened on March 13, 1947 at the Ziegfeld Theater. It was directed by Robert Lewis and choreographed by Agnes de Mille. Ms. De Mille won the Tony Award for Best Choreography. The show was had several revival and the movie starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse premiered in 1954.

Brigadoon is a musical with a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. Songs from the musical, such as “Almost Like Being in Love” have become standards.

It tells the story of a mysterious Scottish village that appears for only one day every hundred years, though to the villagers, the passing of each century seems no longer than one night. The enchantment is viewed by them as a blessing rather than a curse, for it saved the village from destruction. According to their covenant with God, no one from Brigadoon may ever leave, or the enchantment will be broken and the site and all its inhabitants will disappear into the mist forever. Two American tourists, lost in the Scottish Highlands, stumble upon the village just as a wedding is about to be celebrated, and their arrival has serious implications for the village’s inhabitants.

Jul 31 2013

Chronic Tonic- Not This Week, I’ve Got A Headache

Originally published at VOTS

Yeah, you read that right. I’ve been battling this migraine for a week. It seems like it might be dying down, only to come roaring back at me in all it’s spiky glory. I’ve been sleeping crappy, not eating well, I’m nauseous, not really fit company for anybody, and I don’t mind telling you, it’s beginning to piss me off.

I hate this less when it happens in bad weather. Now is the time when I want to be playing with my kids. I have summer projects planned, like the great gel glue t-shirt project. My Dad just picked up the glue, but it sits on the table, mocking me. No happy squeals of laughter in the backyard for me just now. The only good thing about it is that I never tell the boys any of my plans in advance, it’s always a surprise, that way they are never sitting around disappointed. But, damn it, I am.

I just barely made it through poker on Saturday night. I just got a regular game going I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a headache stop me. The nice thing about playing with family is that they know the situation and we deal with it. So, it was a low key night, and everybody was drinking but me. A lot of times after the game is over we’ll sit around and socialize for a while, but as I was ailing, we called it a night. Now, like I said, the majority of the table was lit up like the fourth of July, who do you think met Blargle the great white porcelain god? Hello!

I’m used to being in pain on some level, but when it wants to stay at a seven out of ten or higher for days on end, it makes me crabby. Before I decided to get out of bed and try to have a life, none of this would matter, it would just be the slightly dimmer week in a dim life. Now that I actually have a life, with kids and a husband and activities and such, it’s really quite irritating, to say the least. Especially in summertime.

I am in bed too much and it feels like summer is flying by. Maybe I’m dwelling on it a little, I always feel a little guilty when pain keeps me down too long. It’s just that summer always seems to go by so fast anyway, I don’t like missing a minute of it, let alone a whole week.