Daily Archive: 04/22/2014

Apr 22 2014

Targeted Killings Memo

NY Court: US Must Release
Targeted Killings Memo


NEW YORK April 21, 2014 (AP)

The U.S. government must publicly disclose in redacted form secret papers describing its legal justification for using drones to kill citizens suspected of terrorism overseas, because President Barack Obama and senior government officials have commented on the subject, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled in a Freedom of Information Act case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and two reporters for The New York Times. In 2011, they sought any documents in which Department of Justice lawyers had discussed the highly classified “targeted-killing” program.

The requests came after a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar Al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader who had been born in the United States, and another U.S. citizen, Samir Khan, and after an October 2011 strike killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, al-Awlaki’s teenage son and also a U.S. citizen. Some legal scholars and human rights activists complained that it was illegal for the U.S. to kill American citizens away from the battlefield without a trial.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to phone and email message requests for comment.

more…

Apr 22 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: Transparency on Targeted Killings

For years now, the Obama administration has been playing a self-serving and duplicitous game over its power to kill people away from any battlefield and without judicial oversight or accountability. It has trotted out successive officials and doled out tidbits of information attesting to the legality of President Obama’s claim to unilateral authority to carry out such killings, while withholding information essential to evaluating that aggressive claim of executive power.

In an important unanimous decision on Monday, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Manhattan refused to go along with that tactic. The ruling, written by Judge Jon Newman of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, reversed a disturbing 2013 decision by a federal district judge, Colleen McMahon, upholding the government’s claim to secrecy largely on national security grounds. [..]

Instead of appealing Monday’s ruling to the full Second Circuit or the Supreme Court, President Obama should see the wisdom of allowing it to stand – and allowing the conversation the country needs to have.

Dean Baker: Economic Policy in a Post-Piketty World

Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital for the 21st Century, has done a remarkable job of focusing public attention on the growth of inequality in the last three decades and the risk that it will grow further in the decades ahead. Piketty’s basic point on this issue is almost too simple for economists to understand: If the rate of return on wealth (r) is greater than the rate of growth (g), then wealth is likely to become ever more concentrated.

This raises the obvious question of what can be done to offset this tendency toward rising inequality? Piketty’s answer is that we need a global wealth tax (GWT) to redistribute from the rich to everyone else. That is a reasonable solution if we’re just working out the arithmetic in this story, but don’t expect many politicians to be running on the GWT platform any time soon.

Robert Reich: Raising Taxes on Corporations that Pay Their CEOs Royally and Treat Their Workers Like Serfs

Until the 1980s, corporate CEOs were paid, on average, 30 times what their typical worker was paid. Since then, CEO pay has skyrocketed to 280 times the pay of a typical worker; in big companies, to 354 times. [..]

This growing divergence between CEO pay and that of the typical American worker isn’t just wildly unfair. It’s also bad for the economy. It means most workers these days lack the purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing — contributing to the slowest recovery on record. Meanwhile, CEOs and other top executives use their fortunes to fuel speculative booms followed by busts.

Anyone who believes CEOs deserve this astronomical pay hasn’t been paying attention. The entire stock market has risen to record highs. Most CEOs have done little more than ride the wave.

Tom Engelhardt: Wrap Your Mind Around ‘the Border’… Before It Wraps Itself Around You

Sometimes you really do need a map if you want to know where you are. In 2008, the ACLU issued just such a map of this country and it’s like nothing ever seen before. Titled “the Constitution-Free Zone of the United States,” it traces our country’s borders. Maybe you’re already tuning out. After all, you probably don’t think you live on or near such a border. Well, think again. As it happens, in our brave, new, post-9/11 world, as long as we’re talking “homeland security” or “war on terror,” anything can be redefined. So why not a border?

Our borders have, conveniently enough, long been Constitution-free zones where more or less anything goes, including warrantless searches of various sorts. In the twenty-first century, however, the border itself, north as well as south, has not only been increasingly up-armored, but redefined as a 100-mile-wide strip around the United States (and Alaska). In other words — check that map again — our “borders” now cover an expanse in which nearly 200 million Americans, or two-thirds of the U.S. population, live. Included are nine of the 10 largest metropolitan areas. If you live in Florida, Maine, or Michigan, for example, no matter how far inland you may be, you are “on the border.”

Joe Nocera: The Real Port Authority Scandal

This is a column about the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but you won’t read a word in here about the lane-closing scandal in Fort Lee, N.J. This is about another scandal, one that has been going for on so long that people don’t even think of it as scandalous. Indeed, it involves no illegality whatsoever. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a scandal.

The Port Authority is supposed to manage – and improve – important parts of the transportation infrastructure of New York and New Jersey: airports like John F. Kennedy Airport, bridges like the George Washington Bridge, and terminals like the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

And, in fact, all of these need improving, especially the bus terminal, which is 64 years old and thoroughly outmoded. The steep $13 toll that drivers pay to cross the George Washington Bridge, for instance, is supposed to help pay for infrastructure improvements.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Bill de Blasio, Unbowed

To say that Mayor Bill de Blasio is unbowed after some difficult moments in his first few months in office is not entirely true. The 6-foot-5 progressive bows regularly so he won’t overwhelm interlocutors who don’t meet NBA specs.

But de Blasio offers no apologies for waging war on economic inequality, for taking his time in making key appointments, or for riling advocates of charter schools. He’ll concede errors of presentation, pointing out that he renewed a substantial majority of charter school arrangements even as his opponents grabbed national attention by casting him as an enemy to them all. His biggest mistake, he said, was in underestimating the “extraordinary level of opposition to change.” [..]

De Blasio ascribes some of his early trials to a need to go with “a really rigorous no-huddle offense in the first hundred days.” Now, there will be more huddles. De Blasio is running plays that will affect politics far outside his city, and he knows the cost of fumbles.

Apr 22 2014

The Breakfast Club: 4-22-2014

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 22 2014

On This Day In History April 22

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 22 is the 112th day of the year (113th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 253 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1978, The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on Saturday Night Live.

It was Marshall Checker, of the legendary Checker brothers, who first discovered them in the gritty blues clubs of Chicago’s South Side in 1969 and handed them their big break nine years later with an introduction to music-industry heavyweight and host of television’s Rock Concert, Don Kirshner. Actually, none of that is true, but it’s the story that Saturday Night Live’s Paul Shaffer told on April 22, 1978 as he announced the worldwide television debut of that night’s musical guest, the Blues Brothers-the not-quite-real, not-quite-fake musical creation of SNL cast members Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

Origins

The genesis of the Blues Brothers was a January 17, 1976, Saturday Night Live sketch. In it, “Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band” play the Slim Harpo song “I’m a King Bee”, with Belushi singing and Aykroyd playing harmonica, dressed in the bee costumes they wore for the “Killer Bees” sketch.

Following tapings of SNL, it was popular among cast members and the weekly hosts to attend Aykroyd’s Holland Tunnel Blues bar, which he had rented not long after joining the cast. Dan and John filled a jukebox with songs from many different artists such as Sam and Dave and punk band The Viletones. John bought an amplifier and they kept some musical instruments there for anyone who wanted to jam. It was here that Dan and Ron Gwynne wrote and developed the original story which Dan turned into the initial story draft of the Blues Brothers movie, better known as the “tome” because it contained so many pages.

It was also at the bar that Aykroyd introduced Belushi to the blues. An interest soon became a fascination and it was not long before the two began singing with local blues bands. Jokingly, SNL band leader Howard Shore suggested they call themselves “The Blues Brothers.” In an April 1988 interview in the Chicago Sun-Times, Aykroyd said the Blues Brothers act borrowed from Sam & Dave and others: “Well, obviously the duo thing and the dancing, but the hats came from John Lee Hooker. The suits came from the concept that when you were a jazz player in the 40’s, 50’s 60’s, to look straight, you had to wear a suit.”

The band was also modeled in part on Aykroyd’s experience with the Downchild Blues Band, one of the first professional blues bands in Canada, with whom Aykroyd continues to play on occasion. Aykroyd first encountered the band in the early 1970s, at or around the time of his attendance at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and where his initial interest in the blues developed through attending and occasionally performing at Ottawa’s Le Hibou Coffee House.

Apr 22 2014

Another War Criminal Defends Torture

After seven years of silence, the psychologist, who is considered the chief architect of the CIA’s torture program, has spoken out in defense of the program. The reason for his sudden appearance is the possibility of the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture.

In an uncompromising and wide-ranging interview with the Guardian, his first public remarks since he was linked to the program in 2007, James Mitchell was dismissive of a Senate intelligence committee report on CIA torture in which he features, and which is currently at the heart of an intense row between legislators and the agency.

The committee’s report found that the interrogation techniques devised by Mitchell, a retired air force psychologist, were far more brutal than disclosed at the time, and did not yield useful intelligence. These included waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation for days at a time, confinement in a box and being slammed into walls.

But Mitchell, who was reported to have personally waterboarded accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, remains unrepentant. “The people on the ground did the best they could with the way they understood the law at the time,” he said. “You can’t ask someone to put their life on the line and think and make a decision without the benefit of hindsight and then eviscerate them in the press 10 years later.”

He was just following orders. Where have we heard that before?

James Mitchell: ‘I’m just a guy who got asked to do something for his country’

by Jason Leopold, The Guardian

Psychologist who designed CIA’s post-9/11 torture program insists he has nothing to apologise for – and attacks ‘people with a Jack Bauer mentality who don’t understand how intel works’

Dr James Elmer Mitchell has been called a war criminal and a torturer. He has been the subject of an ethics complaint, and his methods have been criticized in reports by two congressional committees and by the CIA’s internal watchdog.

But the retired air force psychologist insists he is not the monster many have portrayed him to be. [..]

Mitchell is featured prominently in a new report prepared by the Senate select committee on intelligence, which spent five years and more than $40m studying the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

The findings, according to a summary leaked to McClatchy, are damning: that the agency misled the White House, Congress and the American people; that unauthorised interrogation methods were used; that the legal opinions stating the techniques did not break US torture laws were flawed; and perhaps most significant, that the torture yielded no useful intelligence.

This country executed people for torture and war crimes after World War 2. There is no statute of limitations on war crimes.

Apr 22 2014

TDS/TCR (Themistocles)

Long past time I moved this franchise anyway.

TDS TCR