Daily Archive: 03/26/2014

Mar 26 2014

Osama bin Laden’s Son-in-Law Convicted of Terrorism In NYC

In a Federal court in New York City, the son in law of Osama bin Laden was convicted on Wednesday of conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the most senior advisers to bin Laden, was captured in Aman, Jordan last year after leaving Turkey on his way back to his home in Yemen. Mr Abu Ghaith’s trial was one of the first prosecutions of senior al-Qaeda leaders on US soil.

Since 9/11, 67 foreign terror suspects have been convicted in US federal courts, according to data obtained by the group Human Rights First.

Mr. Abu Ghaith, a 48-year-old Kuwaiti-born cleric known for his fiery oratory, had recorded impassioned speeches for Bin Laden after Sept. 11, in which he praised the attacks and promised that future attacks would be carried out.

His conviction on all three counts – and the lightning speed from his arrest to verdict – would seem to serve as a rejoinder to critics of the Obama administration’s efforts to try suspected terrorists in civilian court, rather than before a military tribunal. [..]

The jury returned its verdict on its second day of deliberations in the trial, which had entered its third week in United States District Court in Manhattan. Mr. Abu Ghaith was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans, for which he could face life in prison; and providing material support to terrorists, as well as conspiring to do so, counts that each carry maximum terms of 15 years.

Mr. Abu Ghaith was asked to rise as the judge’s deputy clerk, Andrew Mohan, read the verdict aloud, and the defendant appeared impassive as the word “guilty” was repeated three times.

Mr. Abu Ghaith is being held in the Manhattan federal detention facility awaiting sentencing.

Who was it that said that terrorists should not be tried in civilian courts?

Some US lawmakers disagreed with the decision to try Mr Abu Ghaith in New York.

“When we find somebody like this, this close to Bin Laden and the senior al-Qaeda leadership, the last thing in the world we want to do, in my opinion, is put them in a civilian court,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Thursday.

“This man should be in Guantanamo Bay,” he said.

Lindsey? We can’t hear you. Oh! And crickets from fear mongering in chief Rep. Peter King (R=NY) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who poo-pooed the idea that any of the 9/11 terrorists should be tried in any civilian court,let alone one in New York City.

The system works. Now, close the Guantanamo detention facility and end the sham military tribunals.  

Mar 26 2014

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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

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

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Huevel: Voters should know who’s holding up their health care

With one week remaining before the March 31 deadline for health coverage this year, a Republican filing a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act has become a familiar, if tiresome, sight.

But Republicans filing a lawsuit against the law on the grounds of copyright infringement? That’s something new.

Yet that is effectively what happened this month in Louisiana. On March 14, the state’s lieutenant governor sued the progressive group MoveOn.org over a billboard criticizing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid in the state. The billboard uses Louisiana’s tourism slogan – “Pick Your Passion!” – and adds: “But hope you don’t lose your health. Gov. Jindal’s denying Medicaid to 242,000 people.” The lawsuit claims that the MoveOn ad will “result in substantial and irreparable harm, injury, and damages” to the Louisiana tourism office – as if denying health insurance to the neediest will not cause the state “substantial and irreparable harm.”

Legal experts say Jindal’s ploy has no chance of succeeding, thanks to the First Amendment. (This would be the same First Amendment that the governor passionately invoked in defense of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson’s right to spew racist and homophobic vitriol.)

Jill Filipovic: What Sandra Fluke knows about Hobby Lobby: a case beyond ‘religious liberty’

The accidental contraception authority says the supreme court may open a Pandora’s Box of discrimination masked as freedom

The questions sound absurd: is a for-profit corporation a person with religious beliefs? Should the religious beliefs of your employer dictate what kind of medical care you get?

Yet these are the questions before the supreme court this week, and given where some of the justices stand – that a corporation is a person (see: Citizens United), that a woman’s reproductive choices are up for debate (see: the “partial-birth” abortion ruling) – there may be many more absurdities across America after Tuesday’s oral arguments on Obamacare’s contraception mandate. [..]

Those of us who care about women’s equality, workers’ rights and legal protections for minority groups – there are a lot of us – are nervous. So I called up Sandra Fluke, the reproductive justice activist who is now running for state legislature in California, for a preview.

Dianne Ravitch: The Fatal Flaw of the Common Core Standards

Across the nation, parents and educators are raising objections to the Common Core standards, and many states are reconsidering whether to abandon them and the federally-funded tests that accompany them. Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Business Roundtable vocally support them, yet the unease continues and pushback remains intense.

Why so much controversy?

The complaints are coming from all sides: from Tea Party activists who worry about a federal takeover of education and from educators, parents, and progressives who believe that the Common Core will standardize instruction and eliminate creativity in their classrooms.

But there is a more compelling reason to object to the Common Core standards.

They were written in a manner that violates the nationally and international recognized process for writing standards. The process by which they were created was so fundamentally flawed that these “standards” should have no legitimacy.

Setting national academic standards is not something done in stealth by a small group of people, funded by one source, and imposed by the lure of a federal grant in a time of austerity.

There is a recognized protocol for writing standards, and the Common Core standards failed to comply with that protocol.

Michelle Goldberg: Corporate Religious Freedom Means Freedom to Discriminate

Reports from the Supreme Court, where the Hobby Lobby case was argued today, suggest that a majority of the judges appear sympathetic to the idea that corporations are not just people, but people with religious liberty. “The court seemed ready to accept that at least some for-profit corporations may advance claims based on religious freedom,” Adam Liptak wrote in The New York Times. Granted, it’s easy to read too much into the judges’ questions, and no one knows how the case will ultimately be decided. Still, it seems possible that logic of the Citizens United case – that corporate “persons” have the same first amendment rights to political speech as individuals – is about to be expanded, with frightening implications that go far beyond birth control.

After all, if corporations enjoy the free exercise of religion, all sorts of civil rights protections will be endangered. Nationwide, businesses have claimed that religious liberty grants them the right to discriminate against gay customers. Some religious sects object to placing women in positions of authority over men – if corporations have religious liberty, would such beliefs allow them to deny women promotions? Would companies owned by devotees of one faith be permitted to discriminate against job seekers of of another? According to a brief filed by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who is arguing the Hobby Lobby case for the administration, that’s a live possibility. “Respondents’ approach would even allow a for-profit corporation to discriminate in employment, such as by refusing to hire a devout member of a religion other than that of the corporation’s owner,” he wrote.

Michelle Chen: When the Government Outsources to Private Companies, Inequality Gets Worse

State and local officials nationwide are responding to budget crunches by siphoning off public services to private contractors – the classic “market-based solution” for a fiscal crisis. But on balance, the savings of these supposedly cost-saving outsourcing measures often turn out to be less than advertised. A new report from the Colorado Center for Policy Studies out of the University of Colorado outlines the true price of outsourcing government functions like sanitation and healthcare: weakened social infrastructure, deepened economic inequity and hollowed-out civic institutions.

Contracting out a service, like managing bridge tolls or a healthcare website, might make financial sense on paper for a state or local government. And certainly, the recession has produced real fiscal pressures on local policymakers. But the study’s analysis of patterns of contracting and privatization nationwide shows that in many cases, when officials turn to private firms to serve the public on the cheap, hidden costs surface eventually in the form of economic decline, mismanagement and poor quality of services. The benefits of this kind of “private-public partnership” largely accrue to contractors, while communities bears the costs of insufficient oversight and limited public control over the use taxpayer resources.

In contrast to the neoliberal rhetoric touting the efficiencies of privatization and injecting “free enterprise” into government, when providing critical public services, lower inputs often lead to worse results.

Leslie Savan: True or False? Koch Brothers Group Abandons Its Misleading Anti-Obamacare Ads

Have Harry Reid and the order of the fact-checkers beaten back the the brothers who shall not be named (at least in their own ads)? That is, has a Koch-supported group been forced to “abandon” its powerful but false Obamacare “horror story” commercials, as some believe?

After Senate Majority Leader Reid attacked the oil billionaires for trying to “buy” elections by blanketing battleground states with more than $30 million worth of ads that he called “lies,” the Koch-funded advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP) appears to be easing off the misleading campaign. In it, real people claim that they can’t afford Obamacare or that they’ve lost coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.

In the most glaring case, a spot targeting Democratic Senate candidate Representative Gary Peters, a Michigan woman with leukemia, Julie Boonstra, says she was forced off her old plan and onto Obamacare, which makes her life-saving medications unaffordable. “If I do not receive my medication, I will die,” she says. But the Detroit News found that Boonstra would actually save more than $1000 a year on the ACA plan. (She insists that “can’t be true.”)

Mar 26 2014

On This Day In History March 26

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 image to enlarge

May 26 is the 146th day of the year (147th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 219 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1637, an allied Puritan and Mohegan force under English Captain John Mason attacks a Pequot village in Connecticut, burning or massacring some 500 Indian women, men, and children.

The Pequot War was an armed conflict in 1634-1638 between the Pequot tribe against an alliance of the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Saybrook colonies with American Indian allies (the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes). Hundreds were killed; hundreds more were captured and sold into slavery to the West Indies. Other survivors were dispersed. At the end of the war, about seven hundred Pequots had been killed or taken into captivity. The result was the elimination of the Pequot as a viable polity in what is present-day Southern New England. It would take the Pequot more than three and a half centuries to regain political and economic power in their traditional homeland region along the Pequot (present-day Thames) and Mystic rivers in what is now southeastern Connecticut.

The Mystic massacre

Believing that the English had returned to Boston, the Pequot sachem Sassacus took several hundred of his warriors to make another raid on Hartford. Mason had visited and recruited the Narragansett, who joined him with several hundred warriors. Several allied Niantic warriors also joined Mason’s group. On May 26, 1637, with a force up to about 400 fighting men, Mason attacked Misistuck by surprise. He estimated that “six or seven Hundred” Pequot were there when his forces assaulted the palisade. As some 150 warriors had accompanied Sassacus to Hartford, so the inhabitants remaining were largely Pequot women and children, and older men. Mason ordered that the enclosure be set on fire. Justifying his conduct later, Mason declared that the attack against the Pequot was the act of a God who “laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to scorn making [the Pequot] as a fiery Oven . . . Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling [Mystic] with dead Bodies.”  Mason insisted that any Pequot attempting to escape the flames should be killed. Of the estimated 600 to 700 Pequot resident at Mystic that day, only seven survived to be taken prisoner, while another seven escaped to the woods.

The Narragansett and Mohegan warriors with Mason and Underhill’s colonial militia were horrified by the actions and “manner of the Englishmen’s fight . . . because it is too furious, and slays too many men.” The Narragansett left the warfare and returned home.

Believing the mission accomplished, Mason set out for home. Becoming temporarily lost, his militia narrowly missed returning Pequot warriors. After seeing the destruction of Mystic, they gave chase to the English forces, but to little avail.