Mayor Michael Bloomberg has continued his public persona as the Captain Ahab of great big sugary drinks. The state Supreme Court Appellate Division has issued a second opinion that Bloomberg’s ban on large soft drinks in New York City is unconstitutional. Yet, Bloomberg has pledged to fight on with more appeals to defend a law that is not only paternalistic but utterly unconstitutional.
Archive for July, 2013
Russian Lawmaker Vitaly Milonov is promising to arrest Olympic athletes found to be in violation of the country’s new abusive anti-gay law. The “gay propaganda” law has led many to call for the games to be shifted from Russia since the host country would arrest athletes who are openly gay. In the meantime, a boycott of Russian vodka has picked up steam around the world in protest of the crackdown on gays and lesbians.
Raif Badawi, who started the ‘Free Saudi Liberals’ website to discuss the role of religion in Saudi Arabia, has been sentenced to a Saudi “court” to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for his engaging in free speech. It is the latest outrage from our closest Arab ally. Yet, we continue to treat Iran as part of the axis of evil while our allies deny basic rights and enforce draconian Medieval laws against dissidents and non-believers.
We have seen the reaction of police in the United States to being videotaped by citizens in arrests and destruction of equipment. It may therefore be instructive to see how police in other countries respond to such videotaping like this officer in Sweden.
After years of abuse in confinement from denying him a charge to denying him counsel, Pfc. Bradley Manning finally had a trial on the most serious charge against him: aiding the enemy. He was convicted on lesser charges. The verdict should again focus attention on the mistreatment of Manning by the Obama Administration for leaking classified reports and diplomatic cables. Many of these documents showed that the U.S. government was lying to the public and to its allies.
Brian Cisneros, 34, is accusing the Los Angeles Police Department of assaulting him without provocation last week. Cisneros says that he was riding his bike when officers allegedly jumped out of a cruiser and beat him severely. He was charged with “for no lights after hours of darkness.” He has charged the officers with police abuse in a complaint.
There is a tragedy in California that has led to a particularly challenging question of proximate causation. It appears well established that Arman Samsonian, 19, was driving recklessly when he slammed his SUV into a utility pole and a fire hydrant. It was a bad combination. When two individuals ran over to help, they were both electrocuted to death by the electrified water from the hydrant in contact with a fallen wire. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Karen Nudell last week approved charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for the deaths of good Samaritans, Irma Zamora (right) and Stacey Schreiber (left). The defense insists these were unforeseeable intervening acts that should not be the basis for criminal charges.
In his embarrassing quest to become something of a Russian action figure, Vladimir Putin has been featured a race car driver, great white hunter, jet pilot, oceanologist, martial artist and Hell’s Angel. During one such stunt Putin was shown as a scuba diver where he retrieved perfectly preserved ancient jars from the Ocean floor. His aides swore to a skeptical public that nothing was staged. Of course, it was shown later that the whole thing was staged. Now, aides are wondering why no one seems to believe them that Putin caught a record-setting pike. Professional fisherman cried foul at the latest Putin fish story.
Ok, after seeing these high resolution pictures of narcissism on parade, I have decided that Anthony Weiner and Sydney Leathers are made for each other. Leathers is now reportedly considering a porn career. In the meantime, there appears one group that remains enthusiastic about Weiner. Believe it or not, it is women aged 18-36 which give him a 78 percent favorable rating according to a poll by a dating site. Putting aside the skewed population for the poll, it is still pretty disheartening.
Fort Worth officers are claiming in affidavits that they killed an innocent man, Jerry Waller, 72, after going to the wrong house on a burglary charge and mistook Jerry Waller, 72, in the poor lighting at 12:51 am. The incident is drawing criticism and calls for an independent investigation of the two rookie officers.
There has long been a controversy over the use of snitches and informants by police who are willing to say or do anything to avoid jail time for their own crimes or simply make some money framing another person. Many cases are built virtually entirely on such testimony of jailhouse confessions or stings using such unreliable individuals. To see just how easy it is to frame someone, look at the video below where an informant is caught planting drugs at a “smoke shop” to allow for the arrest of its owner, Donald Andrews Jr.
Last Saturday, Roy Middleton went out to get a cigarette out of his mother’s car. A short time later, he would end up shot and bleeding on his driveway. Not the victim of a drive by or mugging mind you. The unarmed man was shot by police responding to a call of a man reaching into a car.
In the interview below, Fox News Lauren Green is interviewing the author of a new book on Jesus Christ. However, Green appears to be incapable of getting over that academic/author Reza Aslan is a Muslim. While Fox and the other networks routinely interview Christian and Jewish experts on Islam (including highly biased authors), it appears inconceivable that a Muslim would ever write a book on Christianity.
Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
Most are aware of the situation Eric Snowden faces: stranded essentially in a legal and diplomatic limbo the result of a protracted effort by the US government to arrest him by pulling nearly all diplomatic stops out. To encourage the Russians to deny him asylum and convey him to the United States for trial, is a letter promising to provide Mr. Snowden due process of law from an administration widely criticized to respect those rights to be believed? Or is it that they can have credibility given the allegations of abuse of the rights to privacy of the American citizenry by data mining their private information, the activities of which Mr. Snowden is alleged to have revealed?
According to Cashing in on Kids: 139 ALEC Bills in 2013 Promote a Private, For-Profit Education Model, a special report published by the Center for Media and Democracy, in the first half of this year, “at least 139 bills or state budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education bills have been introduced in 43 states and the District of Columbia.” The report states that thirty-one of those bills and provisions have already become law.
In September 2012, In the Public Interest published a report titled Profiting from Public Dollars: How ALEC and Its Members Promote Privatization of Government Services and Assets which also addresses the subject of ALEC and its agenda that promotes the privatization of public services.
Excerpt from this report:
The American Legislative Exchange Council has been a major force in pushing for the privatization of public services and assets. This organization, which boasts of having more than 2,000 members, brings together state lawmakers, corporations, and conservative think tanks in an effort to push an agenda of “free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.”1 As ALEC succinctly laid out in its 2011 publication, State Budget Reform Toolkit, “policymakers should embrace privatization and the competitive contracting of government services…”2
This agenda directly benefits many of its corporate members, who hope to increase their revenues and profits by dismantling public services and taking over the work through lucrative government contracts.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
What does a large Oil Company do when it is ordered to pay a $19 Billion dollar judgment to a country and its indigenous communities that were ravaged by the drilling and leaks caused by the Oil Company? If that Oil Company is Chevron, it cries foul and does everything possible to avoid having to pay for its corporate sins.
“Advocates for the plaintiffs in the Chevron case say that subpoenaing the email records is the company’s latest nuclear tactic to win a lawsuit it keeps losing. Chevron was ordered to pay $9 billion in damages in 2011 and to issue a public apology. After the company refused, a judge ordered the damages to double. The Supreme Court has declined to hear Chevron’s appeal.” Mother Jones (more…)
“Darkness isn’t the opposite of light, it is simply its absence.” – Terry Pratchett
As we’ve previously discussed in the Propaganda Series, The Sound of Silence, propaganda is not always language or images. Sometimes it is the lack of words. It is just as important to “listen to what is not said” as it is to “listen to what is said”. Sometimes though, propagandists try to time travel. They employ a tactic in an attempt to change the present by attempting to change the past. I say “attempt” for reasons that will be clear soon enough.
When a propagandist tries to pull off this particular trick, they don’t need a fancy machine or a black hole or a magic potion as is the staple trope of science fiction and fantasy time travel. They need nothing more complicated than a pen or a typewriter. In the present, a word processor and some basic HTML coding skills will serve that purpose. Maybe Photoshop or GIMP. When a propagandist tries to change the present by changing the past, they don’t call it time travel. No. They don’t call it anything, because they really hope you don’t notice what they are doing. Silence will work often, but they are not above a bit of misdirection. Well executed propaganda does, after all, have much in common with stage magic.
When we citizens and media consumers catch their slight of hand, we don’t call it time travel either. We call it historical revisionism. Just this week, the Obama Administration was caught red-handed doing precisely that in relation to the Edward Snowden case.
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
The resignation of Jack Hunter, the social-media director of Sen. Rand Paul (R, Kentucky), also known by the moniker “Southern Avenger,” has brought to the surface a not insignificant minority who identify themselves as libertarians. This minority defends the Old South, the Southern cause, and the Confederacy. These Neo-Confederate libertarians claim to be anti-slavery and their arguments are a case study in cognitive dissonance.
Posted in Constitutional Law, Courts, Criminal law, Justice, Lawyering, Science, Society, tagged George Zimmerman, Groupthink, jury, jury trials, justice, Trayvon Martin, trials on 1, July 27, 2013 | 33 Comments »
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Author’s note: This is the second in a series of related posts examining the American Jury. In the first installment (here), we looked at the antecedents created by the judicial system that foster Jury Groupthink. We said that seven systemic components lead to a higher risk of groupthink when citizens form isolated, cohesive work groups to decide issues in a litigation setting. We also explained that the more antecedents in the mix, the higher the likelihood of decisions based not on reason or evidence but more on the need to reach a unanimous decision and to defend that decision later. The events of this week serve almost as a scripted piece of this article as first one then another juror in the Zimmerman case came forward to exemplify aspects of the groupthink mentality. (More about that in Installment Three.) Antecedents by the judicial system aren’t the only promoters of group think. Societal constructs created by our society as a whole enhances the pattern, too, and serve as telltale markers of the bad decision-making, as we shall see.
You think your average juror is King Solomon? No! He’s a roofer with a mortgage. He wants to go home and sit in his Barcalounger and let the cable TV wash over him. And this man doesn’t give a single, solitary droplet of shit about truth, justice or your American way.
~John Grisham, The Runaway Jury
John Grisham’s crystallized cynicism surely doesn’t hold true for all jurors but the point to be made is that jurors are not “big picture” deciders of great issues of the day utilizing lofty principles. Instead, jurors tend to recoil from abstract notions of truth and justice and delve more deeply into human motivations and empathy. In their classic work on American juries, Professors Kalven and Zeisel of the University of Chicago, concluded that “in many instances the jury reaction goes well beyond” rational sentiments “and rests on empathy of one human being to another.” Appealing enough to our natural sentiments and intuitively correct, but in the battle of human versus human, the question becomes, “empathy for whom?” And how does empathy fit into the structure of a system that calls for cold-blooded reason and eschews warm-hearted sentiments? Not so well, it seems. In fact, jurors swear off these emotional human frailties (which form much of their everyday decision-making. Don’t think so? Ask yourself: “Why did I marry my wife? Wide pubic bone for ease in childbearing perhaps, there Mr. Spock?) and promise to be guided by the evidence alone. How can juries bridge the gap between their own intuition and the judge’s instruction?
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
One month before I was scheduled to begin my freshman year in College my mother died. My father had gone bankrupt in his automobile franchise the year before and was working as a car salesman. Money was tight, but I had won a full tuition scholarship under the New York State Regents Scholarship program. While tuition was not a problem, there would be other costs associated with College, such as books and various student fees. My father found out about New York State’s student loan program and signed me up for a low amount of money, with the understanding that he would repay it. Due to his business failure my father had no way to get credit in his own name. Ironically, one month before my sophomore year my father died. I was 18 years old and the only work I had ever done was as a “car jockey” at the dealership where my father worked. There was little money in my father’s estate and I soon had to start school. I upped my student loan to the maximum allowed so that I would have living expenses until I could get a job to support myself through my remaining college years. Within two months, still reeling from the effect of being orphaned, I had gotten a job as a Night Watchman in a municipal hospital and arranged my course schedule around it. I lived in a furnished room, with a bathroom in a common hall, but my life slowly began to normalize. Later I got a job as a Clerk/Delivery boy in a liquor store, working 35 hours a week after school and making $32.50 plus tips, using my own car. I managed to scrimp by with the aid of taking out the maximum available student loans each year. The loans under the program them were from a bank, guaranteed by New York State. After I graduated I got a job for $6,000 a year and tried to pull my financial head above water. Six months after graduation though, I was notified by the bank that my student loan was to start being repaid, at a fixed rate that to me was a hardship financially. I went to the bank to ask to restructure the deal so I would pay less each month and they refused. It turned out that the New York State Student Loan plan was set in such a way that if the borrower defaulted the State would pay the bank the full amount immediately and then go after the borrower. It was therefore in the bank’s interest to have the student default, since they would get their return much more quickly.
Flash to many years down the road and my two daughters going to college. I was forced to take out student loans for their education, but I made each of them the promise that I, not they, would pay it back. This was of course the result of my own experience and I considered it my duty. I paid off my oldest daughter’s debt and am now paying off my youngest daughter’s debt. On my fixed income this is difficult. Both of them are working with good jobs, however, I don’t want my children to go through what I went through and would prefer they are not burdened by the costs of their education. Incidentally, they both worked part time when they went through college, although in both instances I didn’t want them to have to do so and that is only a minor part of why I am so proud of them. Which leads me to what is going on today with the Federal Student Loan Program, which brings in a surplus of $184 billion for the Federal Government. Call me what you will, but I don’t think that government should be a profit making enterprise and I certainly believe that it is in all of our interests to educate our children. At least one Senator feels the same way. (more…)
I must admit to being a bit depressed this day about our country and what has come of principles and ethics among both our politicians and citizens. There seems to be a corruption not just of power but of spirit. The Weiner scandal this morning captures my angst perfectly. There literally does not appear a single redeeming character. You have Anthony Weiner aka Carlos Danger. Then you have the other half of the power couple, Huma Abedin, who assured everyone that she still believes in him while recent reports show a questionable salary arrangement with a Clinton-connected company. Then you have Ms. Leathers, one of the other women, who is actually denouncing Weiner as betraying her when she was helping him betray his wife. Then you have Democratic voters who still have Weiner in a close second place to be elected mayor of New York. If you wonder why our politicians treat us like chumps, just take a look at the Weiner scandal.
While some Democratic voters continue to debate whether to support Anthony Weiner in the wake of additional sextexting to women (after he resigned from office), there has been attention drawn to the extraordinary deal given to his wife Huma Abedin, a close aide to Hillary Clinton. This town is infamous for such special deals but this one takes my breath away. It appears that Abedin, the deputy chief of staff at the State Department under Clinton while she was at the State Department, was granted status as a “special government employee” after the birth of her son in the midst of the scandal. That allowed her to continue to earn $135,000 as a government employee while also earning as much as $355,000 as a consultant for Teneo. You guessed it. Teneo Holdings happens to have former President Bill Clinton is a board member.
The respected Foreign Policy magazine details how the recent close vote on the NSA warrantless surveillance program was heading to a victory for privacy when the White House called in Nancy Pelosi. With heavy pressure from Pelosi, the White House was able to get just enough votes to kill privacy. Even with her ignoble role in this vote (and prior work to reduce civil liberties), many democrats are still supporting Pelosi in what is now a robotic form of politics. As their leader takes an axe to privacy, Democrats are again adopting the mantra that the other guys are worse and she is still good on other issues — making privacy just another item to trade off as part of the blue state/red state paradigm maintained by our duopoly of government.
Cyclist Lance Armstrong spent years vehemently denying that he was taking performance-enhancing drugs and attacked those who accused him of being a cheater. Now, he is essentially arguing that it was clear all along that he was a cheater so he does not have to give anything back to the U.S. government for the sponsorship contract with U.S. Postal Service. In his filing, Armstrong insisted “The government wanted a winner and all the publicity, exposure, and acclaim that goes along with being his sponsor. It got exactly what it bargained for.”
Attorney Robert Michael Hoffman is a free man. Hoffman has been at the center of a bizarre case where multiple women accused him of sexual assaulting them. The complication in the case was that the women had answered his Craigslist invitation for rough sex. He insisted it was merely rougher than they anticipated while they said it was forced sex. The case began to unravel in September 2011 when six of nine counts were tossed by Judge Bruce Chan after a secret tape contradicted the testimony of two of the women. Now the remainder have been dismissed against the San Francisco attorney. Hoffman specializes in sexual harassment cases.
The video below shows a Spanish passenger train hurtled off the tracks right in front of a camera. The entire train derailed killing 80 people and injuring another 140. The energy and force released in such a crash is immense and, in what is likely to be played repeated in lawsuits, the driver said that they were doing 120 miles per hour coming into the turn. That would be twice the limit for the urban section. He was heard exclaiming “we’re only human, we’re only human” after the crash.
There is an interesting potential lawsuit brewing in Ohio over a Holocaust memorial that will feature a prominent Star of David on the Ohio Statehouse lawn. The memorial, designed by Daniel Libeskind, has been criticized as violation by the separation of church and state by civil libertarians. The case could present a perfect vehicle to explore the meaning of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Salazar v. Buono in 2010 where a sharply divided court allowed a cross to remain on public lands as a memorial for the dead of World War I.
We have previously discussed how police are increasingly doing drug stops on pretextual grounds and seizing any money that a driver cannot explain to their satisfaction. It is called “policing for profit” and departments are able to keep much of seized money in these stops. The federal government is being forced to return over $1 million to Tara Mishra, 33, of California, who was taking her life savings as a stripper to buy her own business. That was before it was seized by Nebraska state troopers who declared that it must be drug proceeds. Even though no drugs were found and there was no basis for concluding the cash was from drug proceeds, the matter became a federal case and the Obama Administration fought her to deny her even a hearing for demanding the money back. Now U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon has ordered them to give back the money. However, this is not considered theft because police officers took the money at a traffic stop. The case is United States of America v. $1,074,900.00 in United States Currency, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11544 (D. Neb. 2013).
We have previously discussed difficult cases (here and here and here) where physical appearance is a job criteria — leading to claims of gender discrimination. Now, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson has ruled that cocktail servers known as the “Borgata Babes” at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa can be required to keep their weight within proscribed limits as part of their job. Johnson ruled against 22 cocktail servers in a decision that found that these positions are part entertainment and part waitress — allowing the company to specify appearance requirements for women described as “eye candy.” The company required women not to gain more than seven percent body weight after their hiring. They wear cleavage-bearing bustiers and high heels at work.
We previously discussed the curious case of Anthony Garcia, 25, who was arrested after police noticed a tattoo on his chest that depicted an unsolved murder. The corpus delicti or body of evidence in this case is the defendant himself who was convicted yesterday for his role in the 2004 shooting at a Pico Rivera liquor store.
For many years, there has been controversy over the funding of military chaplains and the preferences given certain faiths. The problem is that as much 23 percent of our military list no religious association or preference. While many simply have no religious association with a particular faith, some are agnostics, some are atheists, and some are generally humanists. It would seem logical to have some chaplains who can relate to those groups. However, members of Congress are irate and insist that chaplains must believe in a deity to be funded. They warm that humanist or secularist chaplains would be traumatizing dying soldiers about being “worm food” and dying without hope.
New York Democrats must have the weakest bench of leaders in the country. Otherwise, it is hard to see how two disgraced politicians in sex scandals could be leading in the polls to resume power. On one hand you have Elliot Spitzer who, while Governor, used call girls with regularity. He now appears to be praying himself into the comptroller’s office at churches and synagogues. Then you have Anthony Weiner who sent out disgusting pictures of his genitals to women, lied to the press and public, and engaged in conduct that would be at best considered sexual harassment and at worst stalking. Yet, he is leading in the polls for a race for mayor of New York. Now, Weiner is again before the public asking for forgiveness — this time for new pictures and messages sent after his resignation and the birth of his child by his ever forgiving wife. Some as recently as last summer. By the way, Weiner now appears to go under the nom de guerre of Carlos Danger. It is not clear if he will use that name as mayor or just use it when he sends women pictures of himself in various obscene poses.
It is something of a doggie whodunit. Citizens in Olathe, Kansas are debating the killing of a six pound Yorkie named Precious. Carl Henrichson is accused of killing Precious by standing on her while he claims that he was protecting his larger Labrador dog from a neighborhood menace.
These are certain things that you will not easily find in U.S. media like Jimmy Carter declaring that we no longer have a functioning democracy in this country. Another is reading about Snowden as a whistleblower. The White House has been highly successful in telling media not to refer to Snowden as a whistleblower and enlisting various media allies to attack him as a clown and a traitor or mocking his fear of returning home. This week you had to read Moscow Times or other foreign sites (or a link on Reddit) to learn that Snowden has won this year’s Whistleblower Award established by German human rights organizations.
We have been discussing how police are using pretext stops to search for drugs in many jurisdictions. Pamela Held, 27, of Deer Park, Long Island, has an added gripe against a NYPD officer from Queens. She says that she was pulled for a missing sticker and police used that excuse to search her car for drugs. They did not find anything, but they seized her cellphone, searched it, and she claims that NYPD Officer Sean Christian found revealing images of herself and sent them to himself. She is now preparing to sue the city.
Police in Australia pulled over a driver who appeared to be driving erratically and driving on two blown-out tires. It turned out that that was the least of his problems . . he was steering his car with a pair of vice grips. The vice cops have an impressed list of crimes for the driver.
The American Civil Liberties Union seems a bit less unified in the aftermath of the Zimmerman acquittal. I remain a huge admirer of the ACLU and its inspiring legacy in fighting for civil liberties in America. I also have great respect for ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. However, the divisions evident on this civil liberties blog appears equally represented in that civil liberties institution. To the surprise of many, including myself, Romero sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that seemed to clearly invite a civil rights or hate crime prosecution of George Zimmerman. The ACLU however has long taken the view that such prosecutions violate the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution. When the federal government does not like the outcome of a high-profile case, it can use the very same facts to bring another prosecution under a different crime. After sending the letter, however, the ACLU staff appear to have objected and sent out a conflicting position that such successive prosecutions are violative of constitutional principles.
After a global outcry, Dubai has pardoned Norwegian Marte Deborah Dalelv, 24, who was sentenced to 16 months in prison after she reported her alleged rape by a colleague. The police allegedly asked her if she was just complaining because she did not like it and she was eventually convicted of having unlawful sex, making a false statement and illegal consumption of alcohol. The case highlights the abusive Sharia laws applied to women and the continuing barriers to countries like Dubai as they try to attract greater tourism and investment.
We have been discussing the increased powers claimed by police in searching homes without warrants under claims of exigent circumstances or hot pursuit, including the right to search an entire area of a city. Sarasota Florida resident Louise Goldsberry came face to face with these powers recently after eating dinner. The nurse was at her kitchen sink when she looked out the window facing a man in a hunting vest pointing a gun in her face. She dropped to the floor and started screaming and then thing got really bad. (The picture on the right is of a different “knock and announce” raid by the Marshals and local police).
There is an interesting property case out of Pittsburgh this week. Patricia Hill, owner of the South Broadway Manor Bed and Breakfast, has charged that her former tenant drank 52 bottles of vintage whiskey valued that he was supposed to safeguard. Hill found 104 bottles of pre-prohibition Old Farm Pure Rye Whiskey when she bought the historic mansion. She is accusing her caretaker, John Saunders, 62, of drinking the booze but he denied it. However, police say that a DNA test found his DNA on the empty bottles. The consumed whiskey was valued at $102,400 or roughly $2000 a bottle.
Many civil libertarians around the world have rallied to support Clare Daly, Irish Parliament member of the United Left Alliance representing Dublin, after she challenged the prime minister and the reception given to President Barack Obama who she called a war criminal. The video of the speech is below. Daly called Obama the “hypocrite of the century” for lecturing children on peace while expanding drone attacks and funding civil wars around the world. Many in the United States particularly took note of her attack on the type of cult of personality surrounding Obama that seems detached from his horrendous record on civil liberties, privacy, and international law.
Florida starting linebacker Antonio Morrison has been suspended from the team after he was arrested for barking at a police dog. That’s right, the 19-year-old was arrested for walking up to a police dog and barking at him. Gainesville police then added a second, and equally dubious charge, of resisting arrest without violence. Morrison came up with a novel defense: he insisted that the dog barked at him first.
Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
Does the US Government have rose colored glasses when it looks at itself administering justice for an individual after the demands of the public to instigate a prosecution are satisfied by an individual going to prison? One may look at a bit of history to see this more clearly. A chapter would be read by some in the case of Iva Toguri. Another might be that of George Zimmerman.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
There has been a large volume of discussion on this blog concerning the loss of our personal liberties and constitutional freedoms. One of the most important of those “freedoms” that seem to be at risk is the Freedom of the Press, especially in light of recent events.
“Following the amendment of a long-standing U.S. law, people in this country will now be exposed to news which is produced by the U.S. government. On Jul. 2, a change to the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act, also known as the Smith-Mundt Act, came into effect, reversing a ban on the State Department and U.S. international broadcasting agencies which had prevented them from disseminating their program materials within U.S. borders. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. federal government agency which oversees all U.S. government-supported media internationally, notes that individuals residing in the U.S. will now have access to vast amounts of new information.” Nation of Change (more…)
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
As erudite and informed as I pretend to be, the fact is that there is much that is important that I either miss, or fail to see any significance in. The death of investigative reporter Michael Hastings showed me that because my first reaction to the news flash was “who is Michael Hastings?” Reading further into the story I discovered that he was the reporter who brought down General William McChrystal and that he was considered to be one of America’s premier investigative journalists. As I read that original story, the thought occurred to me that possibly Hastings’s death in an auto “accident” was not simply a case of reckless driving, but I initially dismissed that as merely the operation of my cynical mindset. Nevertheless, the thought nagged at the back of my consciousness and then I saw a story on http://whowhatwhy.com/ , my favorite investigative website, run by the renowned Russ Baker. The stories title: “The Michael Hastings Wreck-Video Evidence Offers a few Clues” http://whowhatwhy.com/2013/07/14/the-michael-hastings-wreck-video-evidence-offers-a-few-clues/
For my own benefit and perhaps yours, I’ve done a little research into who Michael Hastings was and what he did that deserves attention. I explore the possibility that his death was no accident. I admit that I have no proof beyond speculation. Hopefully I can give you enough information to make your own judgments. In a world where American Presidents openly arrogate to themselves the right to kill people deemed enemies of the United States, all things suddenly become possible. When the basic right of habeas corpus can be denied to American citizens, based upon unproven allegations of their being threats to this country, isn’t it possible for those with the power to detain and to eliminate individuals, to make decisions as to someone’s existence doing harm to this country? Finally, doesn’t this unconstitutional expansion of powers give individuals with government connections the leeway to take revenge on those who expose them? While I’m not privy to knowledge of the actions of those in power and can claim no inside information, I certainly can speculate based on the experience of my lifetime. This then is my speculation about the death and life of Michael Hastings in the context of current life in these United States. (more…)
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
As the United States draws down its military presence in Afghanistan, the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai has discovered yet another gimmick to extort money from the Americans. Karzai is demanding that the US pay $1000 for each shipping container that leaves the country. According to Afghan customs officials, the US military has racked up a total of $70 million in fines. The Kabul government has blocked inbound shipments of fuel and equipment in order to extort US compliance. If forced to ship by air, the additional costs could balloon to billions of dollars.
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger