Daily Archive: 04/15/2014

Apr 15 2014

Notes from the Polk Awards

Laura Poitras & Glenn Greenwald Back in U.S. for First Time Since Breaking NSA-Snowden Story

Democracy Now

April 11, 2014

Ten months ago, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong to meet National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. They soon began exposing a trove of secrets about the NSA and the national surveillance state. They didn’t enter the United States again-until today. In this exclusive video, you can watch Poitras and Greenwald speaking for the first time since their return to the country, on Friday afternoon at the George Polk Awards in New York City. They were joined by their colleagues Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post, who shared with them the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting.

“We Won’t Succumb to Threats”: Journalists Return to U.S. for First Time Since Revealing NSA Spying

Democracy Now

Monday, April 14, 2014

Poitras and Greenwald did not return to the United States until this past Friday, when they flew from Berlin to New York to accept the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting. They arrived not knowing if they would be detained or subpoenaed after Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described journalists working on the NSA story as Snowden’s “accomplices.” At a news conference following the George Polk Award ceremony, Poitras and Greenwald took questions from reporters about their reporting and the government intimidation it has sparked.

“This Award is for Snowden”: Greenwald, Poitras Accept Polk Honor for Exposing NSA Surveillance

Democracy Now

Monday, April 14, 2014

In their acceptance speeches, Poitras and Greenwald paid tribute to their source. “Each one of these awards just provides further vindication that what [Snowden] did in coming forward was absolutely the right thing to do and merits gratitude, and not indictments and decades in prison,” Greenwald said. “None of us would be here … without the fact that someone decided to sacrifice their life to make this information available,” Poitras said. “And so this award is really for Edward Snowden.”

Apr 15 2014

The American Injustice Gap

Award winning journalist Matt Taibbi, now writing for First Look Media, has a new book. The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, which examines who goes to jail in America. The book examines the gap between white and blue collar crimes and why the vast majority of white-collar criminals have avoided prison since the financial crisis began, while an unequal justice system imprisons the poor and people of color on a mass scale. He joins Amy Goodman and Aaron Mate to talk about how the Depression-level income gap between the wealthy and the poor is mirrored by a “justice” gap in who is targeted for prosecution and imprisonment.



Full transcript can be read here

Here are some excerpts from Matt’s book:

Apr 15 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.

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

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: Unmet Promise on Discrimination

President Obama has made repeated use of executive orders to advance the administration’s goals when Republicans in Congress refused to act. Last week, he signed two orders requiring modest but important steps by federal contractors to narrow the wage gap between female and male employees.

These useful measures made even more glaring his failure to honor a 2008 campaign pledge to ban discrimination by federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity. [..]

What Mr. Obama needs to do is act on his principles and issue such an order, without the religious exemption that was put into the Senate bill to lure Republican votes. Challenged last week to explain the mystifying delay on this issue, Mr. Obama’s spokesman said that the president supported broader legislation and that its enactment by Congress would make an executive order “redundant.”

Dean Baker: The Hedge Fund Managers Tax Break: Because Wall Streeters Want Your Money

The coming of tax day provides a great opportunity for everyone to focus on their favorite tax break, and there are many from which to choose. However for all the sneaky and squirrelly ways that the rich use to escape their tax liability, none can beat the hedge fund managers’ tax break. This is the way the rich tell the rest of us, because they are rich and powerful, the law doesn’t apply to them.

The hedge fund managers’ tax break, which is also known as the carried interest tax deduction, is different from other tax breaks in that it has no economic rationale. With most other tax breaks there is at least an argument as to how it serves some socially useful purpose. That is not the case with the hedge fund managers’ tax break. This is simply a case where the rich don’t feel like paying taxes and are saying to the rest of us, “what are you going to do about it?”

Jay Rosen: Pulitzer Does Not Fully Express Power of Collaborative Snowden Reporting

The Washington Post and the Guardian won the Pulitzer Prize for public service today. There’s no prize for the network of individuals and institutions that brought the surveillance story forward.

As the New York Times reported:

   Though the citation did not name specific reporters, the work was led by Barton Gellman at the Washington Post and Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill at the Guardian, and Laura Poitras, a filmmaker and journalist who worked with both newspapers.

And people will debate that- not naming the reporters. Just as they debate the handling of the Snowden documents by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. (Disclosure: I am an advisor to First Look Media.)

Here I share some thoughts about the Snowden story – or story system – that go beyond what the prizes can recognize.

Juan Cole: Top 6 Pulitzer Prize ‘Traitors’ in American Journalism

The Pulitzer Prize committee’s opinion that Edward Snowden is a public servant rather than a traitor or criminal, as evidenced in its award to The Guardian and The Washington Post for their reporting from his trove of government documents, is a scandal on the American Right.  But it is not a new scandal.  Journalism is about the public’s right to know what our government is up to.  The National Security State is about preventing us from knowing what it is up to.  The potential for black cells to operate within the secret government, beyond oversight of any elected official, should be obvious.  Those who value order and authority and obedience over critical public debate abhor investigative journalism.  Always have, always will.  Voltaire had to flee several courts and several cities over the course of his lifetime, because of his writings, under threat of arbitrary royal decrees. [..]

Eve Berliner reminded us that the Pulitzer has gone in the past to persons viewed by the Right as traitors.  She quotes the odious Bill Bennett, who served in the Reagan and Bush senior administrations, regarding Dana Priest, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, who won Pulitzers in 2006 for reporting that revealed W. Bush’s resort to torture and warrantless surveillance: [..]

And we who actually believe in the US constitution, Mr. Bennett, view them as heroes and view you as a miserable toady.  So here is a review of some of these remarkable individuals who have done what they could to stanch the blood of our perhaps mortally wounded liberties:

Chuck Collins: Close the Billionaire Tax Loophole

Billionaires are exploiting a tax break to pass their fortunes along to their heirs and laying the groundwork for dynasties.

Estate taxes have historically raised substantial revenue from Americans with the greatest capacity to pay. A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt – who inherited and squandered a fortune of his own – joined with steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie – one of the richest men in the world at the time – to support establishing the modern version of the estate tax.

TR and Carnegie shared a goal of slowing the build-up of wealth dynasties, which they believed would corrode our democracy.

Although they succeeded, their goal remains elusive. We’re living in a new period of increasingly extreme wealth inequality.

The wealthiest 1 percent of households now own over 38 percent of all private wealth and almost half of all financial wealth, such as stocks and bonds. And our political system is being corrupted by billionaire political contributions facilitated by a string of Supreme Court rulings that toppled key campaign finance limits.

Gary Blasi: The 1% wants to ban sleeping in cars – because it hurts their ‘quality of life’

Depriving the homeless of their last shelter is Silicon Valley at its worst – especially when rich cities aren’t doing anything to end homelessness

Across the United States, many local governments are responding to skyrocketing levels of inequality and the now decades-long crisis of homelessness among the very poor … by passing laws making it a crime to sleep in a parked car.

This happened most recently in Palo Alto, in California’s Silicon Valley, where new billionaires are seemingly minted every month – and where 92% of homeless people lack shelter of any kind. Dozens of cities have passed similar anti-homeless laws. The largest of them is Los Angeles, the longtime unofficial “homeless capital of America”, where lawyers are currently defending a similar vehicle-sleeping law before a skeptical federal appellate court. Laws against sleeping on sidewalks or in cars are called “quality of life” laws. But they certainly don’t protect the quality of life of the poor.

Apr 15 2014

The Breakfast Club: 4-15-2014 (Tax Day!)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Apr 15 2014

On This Day In History April 15

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.

April 15 is the 105th day of the year (106th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 260 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1912, Molly Brown avoids sinking with the Titanic

A 20th century version of the strong and resourceful women of the Wild West, Molly Brown wins lasting fame by surviving the sinking of the Titanic.

Margaret Brown (nèe Tobin) (July 18, 1867 – October 26, 1932) was an American socialite, philanthropist, and activist who became famous due to her involvement with the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, after exhorting the crew of lifeboat 6 to return to look for survivors. It is unclear whether any survivors were found after life boat 6 returned to search. She became known after her death as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, although she was not called Molly during her life. Her friends called her Maggie.

Born Margaret Tobin in Hannibal, Missouri, one of four children born to Irish immigrants John Tobin (1820-1899) and Johanna Collins (1825-1905). Her siblings were Daniel (born 1863), William (born 1869), and Helen (born 1871). Added to these, Margaret had two half-sisters: Catherine Bridget Tobin, by her father’s first marriage, and Mary Ann Collins, by her mother’s first marriage. Both her mother and father had been widowed young.

At age 18, Margaret relocated to Leadville, Colorado with her sister, and got a job in a department store. It was here she met and married James Joseph Brown (1854-1922), nicknamed J.J., an enterprising, self-educated man. His parents, too, had emigrated from Ireland. Brown had always planned to marry a rich man but she married J.J. for love. She said,

   I wanted a rich man, but I loved Jim Brown. I thought about how I wanted comfort for my father and how I had determined to stay single until a man presented himself who could give to the tired old man the things I longed for him. Jim was as poor as we were, and had no better chance in life. I struggled hard with myself in those days. I loved Jim, but he was poor. Finally, I decided that I’d be better off with a poor man whom I loved than with a wealthy one whose money had attracted me. So I married Jim Brown.

Margaret and J.J. were married in Leadville’s Annunciation Church on September 1, 1886. The Browns had two children.

The family acquired great wealth when J.J.’s engineering efforts proved instrumental in the production of a substantial ore seam at the Little Jonny mine of his employers, Ibex Mining Company, and he was awarded 12,500 shares of stock and a seat on the board.

In Leadville, Margaret first became involved with the women’s suffrage issue, helping to establish the Colorado chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and working in soup kitchens to assist miners’ families.

During 1894, the Browns moved to Denver, Colorado, which gave the family more social opportunities. Margaret became a charter member of the Denver Woman’s Club, whose mission was the improvement of women’s lives by continuing education and philanthropy. During 1901, she was one of the first students to enroll at the Carnegie Institute in New York. Adjusting to the trappings of a society lady, Brown became well-immersed in the arts and fluent in the French, German, and Russian languages. During 1909 she advertised herself as campaigning for the U.S. Senate.

Margaret assisted in the fundraising for Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception which was completed during 1911. Margaret worked with Judge Lindsey to help destitute children and establish the United States’ first juvenile court which helped form the basis of the modern U.S. juvenile courts system.

Margaret campaigned for Senate again during 1914 but stopped when her sister Helen married a German baron, with Margaret believing that the union would have made a successful campaign impossible.

By the time Margaret Tobin Brown boarded Titanic at Cherbourg, France, she had already made a significant impact in the world. She and her daughter Helen, who was a student at the Sorbonne, had been traveling throughout Europe and were staying with the John Jacob Astor party in Cairo, Egypt, when Margaret received word that her first grandchild, Lawrence Palmer Brown, Jr., was ill. She decided to leave for New York immediately, and booked passage on the earliest ship: Titanic. At the last minute Helen decided to stay behind in London. Due to her quick decision, very few people, including family, knew that Margaret was on board the Titanic.

After the ship struck the iceberg, Margaret helped load others into lifeboats and eventually was forced to board lifeboat six. She and the other women in lifeboat six worked together to row, keep spirits up, and dispel the gloom that was broadcast by the emotional and unstable Robert Hichens. However, Margaret’s most significant work occurred on Carpathia, where she assisted Titanic survivors, and afterwards in New York. By the time Carpathia reached New York harbor, Margaret had helped establish the Survivor’s Committee, been elected as chair, and raised almost $10,000 for destitute survivors. Margaret’s language skills in French, German, and Russian were an asset, and she remained on Carpathia until all Titanic survivors had met with friends, family, or medical/emergency assistance. In a letter to her daughter shortly after the Titanic sinking, she wrote:

   “After being brined, salted, and pickled in mid ocean I am now high and dry… I have had flowers, letters, telegrams-people until I am befuddled. They are petitioning Congress to give me a medal… If I must call a specialist to examine my head it is due to the title of Heroine of the Titanic.”

Her sense of humor prevailed; to her attorney in Denver she wired:

   “Thanks for the kind thoughts. Water was fine and swimming good. Neptune was exceedingly kind to me and I am now high and dry.”

On May 29, 1912, as chair of the Survivor’s Committee Margaret presented a silver loving cup to Captain Rostron of the Carpathia and a medal to each Carpathia crew member. In later years Margaret helped erect the Titanic memorial that stands in Washington, D.C.; visited the cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to place wreaths on the graves of victims; and continued to serve on the Survivor’s Committee. She was particularly upset that, as a woman, she was not allowed to testify at the Titanic hearings. In response she wrote her own version of the event which was published in newspapers in Denver, New York, and Paris.

The actor Kathy Bates, who portrayed Margaret “Molly” Brown in the movie Titanic, bears an uncanny resemblance to Margaret Brown.