Daily Archive: 08/11/2015

Aug 11 2015

The Thomas Drake Report

Thomas Drake is a former Senior Executive at the National Security Agency.  He was targeted by the NSA because he exposed that the agency had intel that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks and because he blew the whistle on a massive secret surveillance program aimed at Americans.

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Aug 11 2015

Ferguson: One Year Later Nothing Changed

It is one year since a young black man was gunned down by a white police officer on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri for jay walking. Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent cover up of his murder by the police and prosecutor’s office sparked months of demonstrations that were marked by more police brutality and violation of the constitutional rights of the protestors and the press.

Seven months later, the Justice Department cleared the white police officer, Darren Wilson, of civil rights charges. However, in a scathing report the police and the courts routinely demonstrated racial bias and violated the constitutional rights of the black citizens of Ferguson with illegal traffic stops, arrests without reasonable suspicion and excessive fines for minor infractions. Then Attorney General Eric Holder misguidedly thought that this report would effect change. The still mostly white Ferguson city council rejected the report and its reforms. And, as seen by this week’s violence, arrests of reporters and use of excessive police tactics during the demonstrations on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, nothing has changed and once again there is a state of emergency in Ferguson and St. Louis County.

The state of emergency was precipitated by the shooting and critical wounding of an 18 year old black man by undercover police who claim that the young man was firing at them. The officers were not wearing body cameras and unmarked vehicle they were in was not equipped with a dash camera. So there is only their word.

In the original New York Times article, this quote, cited by Esquire‘s Charles Pierce, from State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, whose district includes Ferguson, was removed:

“After a year of protest and conversation around police accountability, having plainclothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer’s account of the incident, which is clearly problematic,” Kayla Reed, a field organizer with the Organization for Black Struggle, said in a statement. State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, whose district includes Ferguson, said on Monday that she was seeking information about the shooting. “I’m just trying to figure out the timeline of events and ensure that police officers are following protocol,” said Ms. Chappelle-Nadal, who has been active in protests here. The shooting, which came toward the end of an otherwise peaceful day, was another vexing turn for activists and the authorities alike. It was the second consecutive night of gunfire on West Florissant Avenue.

There is also the issue of arresting reporters on bogus charges supressing freedom of the press:

Huffington Post, Washington Post Reporters Charged For Doing Journalism In Ferguson (UPDATE)

by Michael Calderone, Huffington Post

“You’d have thought law enforcement authorities would have come to their senses about this incident.”

Reporters from The Huffington Post and Washington Post have been charged with trespassing and interfering with a police officer’s performance, a chilling setback for press freedom coming nearly a year after their arrests in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Huffington Post’s Ryan J. Reilly and Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery were arrested while working out of a McDonald’s on Aug. 13, 2014, just four days after white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

Police claimed the journalists, who were covering the unrest that followed the police killing, didn’t leave the restaurant fast enough.  Reilly described a police officer shoving his head against glass during his arrest, while Lowery said an officer pushed him into a soda machine. Both Lowery and Reilly were quickly released and not charged with any crime at the time.

The decision to charge Reilly and Lowery now is especially surprising, given that St. Louis County settled just last week with two other journalists arrested while reporting in Ferguson.

Until recently, Reilly and Lowery believed their incidents with police were long over with. The Huffington Post reported last month that the St. Louis County Police Department filed incident reports in late April describing the two reporters as trespassing in the McDonald’s. Police referred their cases to the St. Louis County counselor’s office, which, given a one-year statute of limitations, had until Thursday to bring charges.

Peaceful, unarmed protesters and reporters doing their jobs are harassed and arrested. Now, the vigilantes have arrived:

Heavily-armed members of a controversial right-wing “patriot” group added an extra dose of unease to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, early Tuesday.

The Oath Keepers organization says its members – all former military, police and first responders – pledge to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

However, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar described their presence as “both unnecessary and inflammatory.”

Protesters and police confirmed that a handful of Oath Keepers with what appeared to be assault rifles, bulletproof vest and camouflage gear were seen early Tuesday on the streets of Ferguson, which was under a state of emergency following demonstrations pegged to the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.

Several protesters confronted members of the group, asking why they were allowed to openly carry weapons.

“I’m happy that we’re able to defend ourselves,” one Oath Keeper replied in footage from NBC station KSDK. “It’s been our right for a long time.”

The St. Louis County Police Department said it would consult with the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorneys Office about the legalities of the issue.

Missouri allows individuals with concealed weapons permits to openly display firearms, unless it is done in an “angry or threatening manner.”

Shawn McGuire, a spokesman for St. Louis County Police, said he did not believe officers had confronted the Oath Keepers or told to leave.

Holy crap on a pogo stick, protesters are arrested for lawful assembly, two reporters are being railroaded, black men are still being indiscriminately shot by white cops, yet, civilian white men, armed to the teeth are allowed to roam free on the streets of Ferguson, unchallenged by the police or courts. Seriously, nothing has been learned from last year. Not one damned thing.

Aug 11 2015

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

Jeanne Theoharis: 50 Years Later, We Still Haven’t Learned From Watts

ON AUG. 11, 1965, a California highway patrolman in the Watts section of Los Angeles pulled over an African-American man, Marquette Frye, for drunken driving. When another officer began hitting Mr. Frye and his mother, who had rushed to the scene, onlookers started throwing stones and bottles.

The unrest escalated to looting and burning. In response, the police cracked down on the black community at large. When the violence ended a week later, 34 people had died and more than a thousand were injured, a vast majority at the hands of local police or the National Guard. [..]

The Watts uprising occurred 50 years ago this week, but its causes and distorted coverage seem painfully fresh in the context of Cleveland, Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo. Perhaps most disheartening is the likelihood that commemorations of Watts will engage in the same disingenuousness King criticized years ago – a reflection not only of historical ignorance of black organizing and anger, but an unwillingness to understand similar organizing and anger today.

Scott Lemieux: Anti-abortion hysteria: the new norm for Republican presidential candidates

Roe v Wade wasn’t overruled in the 1992 US supreme court case Planned Parenthood v Casey, but the justices did give states the power to regulate and restrict the procedure. In the years since, many states did make abortion much harder to obtain without officially outlawing it. But the pro-life movement means to push until restrictions turn into bans. And as the electoral primaries heat up, it’s becoming clear that that radicalism has moved into the mainstream in the Republican Party. [..]

American women, then, face a stark choice. Two of the frontrunners would seek to extinguish a woman’s right to choose entirely. If Scott Walker had his way, women who get pregnant would potentially face a state-imposed death sentence. Given that the next president could be in a position to replace Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer – two of the members of the razor-thin five-vote majority supporting Roe v Wade – Americans who don’t want to return women to the reproductive dark ages should vote accordingly come November.

Dean Baker: Disciplining Corporate Directors: The Real Culprits in CEO Pay

More than five years after the passage of Dodd-Frank the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finally issued rules on disclosure of CEO pay last week. The financial reform law required that corporations make public the ratio of CEO pay to the pay of a typical worker at the company. Corporate lobbyists have spent the last five years complaining that this disclosure would impose an enormous burden. After much delay, the SEC finally decided to carry through with the requirements of the law and issued specific rules for the disclosure.

This is likely to provide useful information for people interested in trends in inequality, but it does not directly address the issue. At most it will serve to provide some degree of embarrassment to the companies where this ratio is most out of line. It’s worth thinking more carefully about why CEO pay got so ridiculous and how it can be reined it.

The most obvious story is that there is no effective check on CEO pay. While most workers have bosses who don’t want to pay them a nickel more than they have to, CEOs don’t live in that world. The pay of CEOs is determined by corporate directors who decide their compensation package.

Mark Morford: Coca-Cola Asks: How Stupid Are You, Really?

It’s a pertinent question, sadly: Just how dumb are you, average American? How gullible, how blindly trusting of corporate double-speak, of murky science, the idea that companies famous for making drinks that burn rust off your car really care about your health?

If you’re the Coca-Cola company (or the NRA, or Monsanto, or RJ Reynolds, or Taco Bell, et al), the answer is: Very. You are very stupid. Still. Now and forever. They are counting on it.

Here’s a big story from the NYT not long back, re-confirming a whole raft of studies that point to one rather significant truth, one known to nutritionists and educated fitness gurus for years: While exercise – regular, vigorous, addictive, sweaty, heart-racing, OMG take an Instagram of me exercise – is wildly essential for a whole range of human happy, it’s not actually the key to weight loss.

For that, it’s all about the food. Portion control, better choices, minimal processing, real ingredients. It’s about dramatically reducing the garbage, the chemicals, the excess sugar, the oversized portions, the eating until you’re “stuffed.”

Tom Englehardt: Where Did the Antiwar Movement Go?

(Or What It Means When You Kill People On the Other Side of the Planet and No One Notices)

Let me tell you a story about a moment in my life I’m not likely to forget even if, with the passage of years, so much around it has grown fuzzy.  It involves a broken-down TV, movies from my childhood, and a war that only seemed to come closer as time passed.

My best guess: it was the summer of 1969. I had dropped out of graduate school where I had been studying to become a China scholar and was then working as a “movement” printer — that is, in a print shop that produced radical literature, strike posters, and other materials for activists.  It was, of course, “the Sixties,” though I didn’t know it then.  Still, I had somehow been swept into a new world remarkably unrelated to my expected life trajectory — and a large part of the reason for that was the Vietnam War. [..]

Admittedly, American children can no longer catch the twenty-first-century equivalents of the movies of my childhood.  Such films couldn’t be made.  After all, few are the movies that are likely to end with the Marines advancing amid a pile of nonwhite bodies, the wagon train heading for the horizon, or the cowboy galloping off on his horse with his girl.  Think of this as onscreen evidence of American imperial decline.

In the badlands and backlands of the planet, however, the spectacle of slaughter never ends, even if the only Americans watching are sometimes unnerved drone video analysts.  Could there be a sadder tale of a demobilized citizenry than that?

Aug 11 2015

On This Day In History August 11

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.

August 11 is the 223rd day of the year (224th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 142 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1934, the first Federal prisoners arrived at Alcatraz.

A group of federal prisoners classified as “most dangerous” arrives at Alcatraz Island, a 22-acre rocky outcrop situated 1.5 miles offshore in San Francisco Bay. The convicts–the first civilian prisoners to be housed in the new high-security penitentiary–joined a few dozen military prisoners left over from the island’s days as a U.S. military prison.

Alcatraz was an uninhabited seabird haven when it was explored by Spanish Lieutenant Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775. He named it Isla de los Alcatraces, or “Island of the Pelicans.” Fortified by the Spanish, Alcatraz was sold to the United States in 1849. In 1854, it had the distinction of housing the first lighthouse on the coast of California. Beginning in 1859, a U.S. Army detachment was garrisoned there, and from 1868 Alcatraz was used to house military criminals. In addition to recalcitrant U.S. soldiers, prisoners included rebellious Indian scouts, American soldiers fighting in the Philippines who had deserted to the Filipino cause, and Chinese civilians who resisted the U.S. Army during the Boxer Rebellion. In 1907, Alcatraz was designated the Pacific Branch of the United States Military Prison.

In 1934, Alcatraz was fortified into a high-security federal penitentiary designed to hold the most dangerous prisoners in the U.S. penal system, especially those with a penchant for escape attempts. The first shipment of civilian prisoners arrived on August 11, 1934. Later that month, more shiploads arrived, featuring, among other convicts, infamous mobster Al Capone. In September, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, another luminary of organized crime, landed on Alcatraz.

By decision of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the penitentiary was closed on March 21, 1963. It was closed because it was far more expensive to operate than other prisons (nearly $10 per prisoner per day, as opposed to $3 per prisoner per day at Atlanta), half a century of salt water saturation  had severely eroded the buildings, and the bay was being badly polluted by the sewage from the approximately 250 inmates and 60 Bureau of Prisons families on the island. The United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, a traditional land-bound prison, opened that same year to serve as a replacement for Alcatraz.

The entire Alcatraz Island was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and was further declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986. In 1993, the National Park Service published a plan entitled Alcatraz Development Concept and Environmental Assessment.  This plan, approved in 1980, doubled the amount of Alcatraz accessible to the public to enable visitors to enjoy its scenery and bird, marine, and animal life, such as the California slender salamander.

Today American Indian groups such as the International Indian Treaty Council hold ceremonies on the island, most notably, their “Sunrise Gatherings” every Columbus and Thanksgiving Day.

Aug 11 2015

The Breakfast Club (Help)

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

Start of the Watts riots in Los Angeles; President Ronald Reagan’s joke causes a Cold War flap; The Mall of America opens; ‘Roots’ author Alex Haley born; Painter Jackson Pollock killed in auto accident.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.

Dalai Lama

Aug 11 2015

Just The Nightly Show (What?)

I’m serious.  They didn’t even wait for the corpse to cool.

Tonightly we will be talking about the Republican debate with our panelists Mike Yard, Yamaneika Saunders, and Chris Gethard.

Or maybe Ferguson, hard to tell.