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Righting an Ugly Wrong: Compassion or Just Crass Political Calculation?

By Linn Washington Jr.M

An outrageous assertion by a potential presidential candidate who praised a group which had notoriously and openly supported racial segregation played a role in finally righting one of the most grotesque wrongs anywhere in America’s justice system with the freeing of two sisters serving controversial double-life sentences for an $11 robbery they may not even have committed.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour recently announced suspending the troubling prison sentences of Gladys and Jamie Scott primarily on the humanitarian grounds that older sister Jamie needs a kidney transplant.

Back in 1994, a Mississippi jury convicted the Scott sisters for a Christmas Eve robbery the preceding year. The Scotts, according to police and prosecutors, had lured two men into an ambush where three teens robbed the victims of what records indicate was $11 in cash.

DADT: A Repeal of Convenience

By Jess Guh

Am I the only queer person in the country that is sad about the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"? I know the long-delayed bill just signed into law has destroyed my plan to avoid any future military conscription.

Let me explain. Many of my male friends in college photodocumented their participation in pacifist activities. They explained that this was their insurance policy against any eventual military draft: solid proof to support a history of conscientious objection. As a queer person, I had another plan, though: If anyone tried to compel me to serve in the military, before anyone could even "ask," I planned to "tell" by yelling, "I'm gay, and not in the happy way!" loudly and repeatedly, until no branch of the military would want me. Just for extra measure I would threaten to convert any and all women that I ran across.

Serfing USA: Corporate America is Robbing American Workers

By Dave Lindorff

Along with the staggering theft in broad daylight of Americans’ assets that has occurred in the course of the ongoing financial crisis, as taxpayers funded multi-trillion bank bailouts and banks stole homes through foreclosures with the help of fraudulent paperwork, American companies have also been picking the pockets of workers more directly.

This second round of paycheck theft has come in the form of stolen productivity gains.

Holiday Thought: Santa was a Con, and Jesus Got the Death Penalty

By Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

As Christmas is celebrated in Incarceration Nation, it’s worth remembering certain things about the two figures who dominate this holiday.

As more than 3,000 American sit on death row, we revere the birth of a godly man who was arrested, “tried,” sentenced, and put to death by the state. The Passion is the story of an execution, and the Stations of the Cross trace the path of a Dead Man Walking.

Less well know is the fact that Saint Nicholas, the early Christian saint who inspired Santa Claus, was once a prisoner, like one in every 100 Americans today. Though he was beloved for his kindness and generosity, Nicholas acquired sainthood not only by giving alms, but in part by performing a miracle that more or less amounted to a prison break.

They're 'Slow Torturing' Bradley Manning Right Under Our Noses

By John Grant

On December 18, David House, an MIT researcher, visited Bradley Manning at the Quantico, Virginia, military prison where he is being held in solitary confinement. Other than Manning’s attorney, House is the rare person allowed to visit him.

House’s report is quite thorough in pointing out instances where the military authorities are lying -- or to use philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s formulation, “bullshitting” -- about how the 23-year-old Army intelligence worker is being treated.

Here’s some of psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Kaye’s comment on House’s report:

Tortured Logic: It's Clear Where the Secrecy-Obsessed Obama Administration is Headed in Its Pursuit of WikiLeaks

By Dave Lindorff

With word that Pvt. Bradley Manning, the soldier suspected of being the source of most of the WikiLeaks documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the State Department cables, has been held in intensive solitary confinement at the Marine Base brig in Quantico, VA for five months, under conditions that most of the world considers torture, it seems increasingly clear what the Obama administration's strategy is in going after WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

Assange's lawyers have said they have learned that the Obama Justice (sic) Department has impaneled a secret federal Grand Jury in Virginia to develop charges against Assange, most likely under the hoary and antiquated 1917 Espionage Act.

Tortured Logic: It's Clear Where the Secrecy-Obsessed Obama Administration is Headed in Its Pursuit of WikiLeaks

By Dave Lindorff

With word that Pvt. Bradley Manning, the soldier suspected of being the source of most of the WikiLeaks documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the State Department cables, has been held in intensive solitary confinement at the Marine Base brig in Quantico, VA for five months, under conditions that most of the world considers torture, it seems increasingly clear what the Obama administration's strategy is in going after WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

Assange's lawyers have said they have learned that the Obama Justice (sic) Department has impaneled a secret federal Grand Jury in Virginia to develop charges against Assange, most likely under the hoary and antiquated 1917 Espionage Act.

Taking a Moral Stand at the Obama White House

By John Grant

Washington--Defense Secretary Robert Gates may be the consummate insider bureaucrat and a nice man, but his calling our war in the Pashtun homeland “the meat in the sandwich” begins to get at the real problem of the Afghanistan/Pakistan War.

Besides being a preposterously flippant and insensitive metaphor presumably uttered for clueless middle American consumption, his sandwich image is as misleading as all the war-selling PR coming out of the Pentagon and the Obama White House.

Here’s how he described his sandwich: “The Pakistanis come in behind the insurgents from the Pakistani side and, coordinating with us and the Afghans, we’re on the other side.” Of course, he's referring to what is informally dubbed Pashtunistan, down the middle of which Sir Mortimer Durand drew the Afghanistan/Pakistan border in 1893 to divide and conquer the Pashtun people. The border is a Western illusion. And, of course, the Taliban are largely Pashtun.

Where Mayor Mike Can Push His Poll

By Charles M. Young

So I’m sitting there ready to chill after a long day at my desk when the phone rings. The young woman at the other end of the line wants to know if I am who her computer says I am. Yeah, that’s me, I say. And she starts asking my opinion of how everything is going in New York state, the governor, the legislature, the city council, various politicians, unions in general, unions in specific, public service unions in even more specificity, the city’s budget problems, and finally New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Black-Out in DC: Pay No Attention to Those Veterans Chained to the White House Fence

By Dave Lindorff

There was a black-out and a white-out Thursday and Friday as over a hundred US veterans opposed to US wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, and their civilian supporters, chained and tied themselves to the White House fence during an early snowstorm to say enough is enough.

Washington Police arrested 135 of the protesters, in what is being called the largest mass detention in recent years. Among those arrested were Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who used to provide the president’s daily briefings, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the government’s Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration, and Chris Hedges, former war correspondent for the New York Times.

First in the hearts of his countrymen? Bringing George Washington's Philadelphia Slave History to Light

By Linn Washington

Philadelphia--When historians started digging into the facts about the first "White House," where President George Washington lived when Philadelphia was the nation's capital, they dredged up more than just mundane data. They also dredged up the seamy saga of the first president's slave legacy here in the "Cradle of Liberty," where the hero of America’s Revolution brought nine of his house slaves, only to see them embarrass him by trying desperately to escape from bondage.

At high noon on December 15, 2010, hundreds of people, including Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter and other dignitaries, brushed off bone-chilling cold to participate in a controversial yet truly historic event – the grand opening the first monument to slavery ever erected on federal property.

Letter from Denmark: Stop Fascism in the Making: Support Wikileaks!

By Ron Ridenour

Julian Assange, key initiator of Wikileaks, has been granted bail despite the British government’s appeal made in behalf of the Swedish government. A British district court judge had waited two days before approving bail in the amount of $ 316,000, on the condition that Assange wear an electronic tag, report to a police station daily, and comply with a 16-hour curfew allowing just eight hours of freedom from the “mansion arrest” in the house of a wealthy journalist/club owner.

At play here could well be documents Wikileaks released that show that US diplomats communicated with their State Department and White House bosses in Washington saying British troops in Afghanistan are not very good at the job. Brits are angry about this slur, especially given their long record of standing “shoulder to shoulder” with Bush’s in his terror wars.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

By John Grant

It is the climactic scene. Dorothy and her friends stand before the great Wizard of Oz. Toto wanders off and yanks back a curtain to reveal a man busy manipulating levers. Whistles and smoke bombs go off, and the great Oz thunders: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”
____________

The federal government, the military and the Library of Congress have all ordered those under their power not to look at the material published on the WikiLeaks website because it is illegal and looking would make them criminals. Meanwhile, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, is still jailed in Britain because his condom allegedly "malfunctioned" while having sex in Sweden with a woman with shady connections to anti-Castro Cubans and US intelligence.

Something Rotten in Sweden:

By Dave Lindorff

With a grown daughter and a wife, far be it from me to minimize the issue of rape, but to borrow from the Bard, in the case of the “rape” case being alleged against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently being held in a British jail without bail pending an extradition request from Stockholm: “Something is rotten in Sweden.”

As I wrote earlier in this publication, the alleged sexual crimes that Assange is currently being sought for by a Swedish prosecutor are:

1. Allegedly failing to halt an act of consensual sexual intercourse when his sex partner and host, Anna Ardin, claims she somehow became aware that the condom he was using had “split” and,

America Criticized for Human Rights Abuses

By Linn Washington Jr.

Given the sensationalism in mainstream US news media coverage of alleged sexual impropriety charges filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden, it’s no surprise that other significant news about America involving that Scandinavian nation is being left uncovered.

In early November, Sweden called on the US to end the death penalty and to improve conditions in maximum security prisons, as the United States went through its first-ever Universal Periodic Review by the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.

Sweden joined nearly two dozen countries in calling upon the US to end its pariah-like status as the only western industrialized nation to engage in executions. The US has over 3,200 people facing death sentences, a sharp rise from 1968, when America’s death row population numbered just 517, according to statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.

Support WikiLeaks, Defend Julian Assange

By Dave Lindorff

WikiLeaks is under concerted attack from the US government. Also under attack by the US government is the whole idea of freedom of thought and of information.

It is increasingly clear that the "rape" charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are trumped-up affairs resulting from pressure by the US government and intelligence agencies on Swedish authorities. The main allegation of rape is being made by a Swedish woman, Anna Ardin, who admits she had consensual sex with Assange, but claims he failed to halt their love-making when a condom allegedly failed. Calling such a situation "rape"--if it even happened--makes a mockery of the term.

End the Bankers' $3.3-Trillion Free Ride: Bust 'Em Up and Take 'Em Down!

By Dave Lindorff

Let’s just assume for the sake of argument--though I believe the claim to have been completely bogus--that the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury and all of the Bush and Obama economic advisers and Congressional leaders in late 2008 and early 2009 genuinely feared that shutting down and breaking up the nation’s biggest banks would lead to financial and economic disaster because of the extent of the fiscal crisis caused by the implosion of subprime-linked structured products.

We now know, thanks to an amendment to the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” law introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), that the Fed made available a stunning $3.3 trillion in emergency lending, at extraordinarily low interest rates ranging as low as 0.5%.

Get Over It! WikiLeaks is Good for America

By John Grant

“The problem here is to define ... a form of life that would not depend on an unsustainable relation of domination over the rest of the world.” 
Jean Bricmont

We live in a time of incredible change, and to have any say at all in the direction that change will take requires a respect for reality. Right now, the United States is losing this battle as it tries mightily – and wastefully -- to sustain its post-WWII legacy as the world’s undisputed Top Dog.

The key to this disaster here in the US is a greater and greater restriction of information in conjunction with what can only be called a top down enforced blindness among the population.
If you think this is only the view of a disgruntled leftist, read Thomas Friedman’s latest column in The New York Times, where he imagines WikiLeaks revealing a gleeful cable from the Chinese ambassador in Washington to his bosses in Beijing:

Book Review: Whole Lotta Lies

By Charles M. Young

Howard Zinn, probably the most influential American historian ever, had an amazing sense of humor when he lectured or met people in person. He could make fun of himself and the audience in a way that exploded the guilt and ambivalence that so often paralyzes liberals, progressives, greens, socialists, anarchists, communists and everyone else on the more-or-less left. Only occasionally, however, did Zinn use his sense of humor in print. His masterpiece, A People’s History of the United States, had no humor at all, as he himself pointed out, because he didn’t find anything funny about the Trail of Tears and all the other ghastly episodes he wove into a narrative that convinced millions of citizens the United States was something less than what they had believed.

The Yahoos are in Charge: Taking It Out on the Kids...and the Grandkids

By Dave Lindorff

One of the major talking points issued by the Republican Party to its newly elected members of Congress is that they should always say in interviews that they are worried about the impact of government deficit spending on their grandchildren.

It sounds good: “I’m worried about what continued deficits will mean for our grandchildren.”

But it’s a lie.

If these Congress members were genuinely worried about their grandchildren--and ours--they’d be doing something about putting the brakes on climate change, and that is not anywhere on the Republican agenda. In fact, most Republicans claim they don’t even believe in climate change.

They May Not Work, but They Do Cause Cancer: Invasion of the Body Scanners

By James Ridgeway

Are you one of the millions of Americans flying this Thanksgiving weekend? Are you thinking about joining the national protest to opt-out of being run through an airport X-ray scanner?
If you’re worried about the alternative--getting groped by TSA screeners at the checkpoint--you might consider this: The government insists those back-scatter X-ray machines are perfectly safe, but many scientists disagree.

It’s not just a matter of some puerile TSA screeners giggling at your naked body. In a letter to John Pistole, administrator of TSA, New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt, a physicist and the Chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, raises the possibility that the machines might be carcinogenic. He writes:

'Presente!'--The Demonstration to Close Down the School of the Americas

By John Grant

It was the fifteenth time I’d trekked to Columbus, Georgia, to the gate of Fort Benning, for the annual November demonstration to close the School of the Americas.

Since 1989, following the murder of six Jesuit priests in San Salvador by graduates of the SOA, the effort to close it down has been led by Mary Knoll priest Father Roy Bourgeois, a Vietnam veteran and a priest who served in Bolivia during a very violent period hostile to priests sympathetic to the plight of the poor. The school is used to train foreign soldiers.

Bourgeois is a legend for a famous and clever act of civil disobedience. Dressed as an Army colonel, he went on post, climbed a tree and chained himself and a large boom box to the tree outside the barracks where Salvadoran soldiers were sleeping.

This Dec. 7, Take the Money and Run

By Dave Lindorff

Leave it to a soccer hero to kickstart some serious political action.

Eric Cantona, a French soccer star who finished his playing career at Manchester United and went into acting, has sparked a European, and perhaps a global uprising against the global banking industry by calling on people everywhere to simply take their money and run away from the big banks on December 7.

Cantona, in a television interview about his career, got political in a hurry, saying that demonstrations such as those that occurred last month across France in opposition to cuts in that country's retirement program, were meaningless and "accomplish nothing except to further the aims of the oppressors." He called on those same protesters, and on people everywhere, to take "effective action" by withdrawing all their savings from the banks.

No News is Not Good News: If Cops Tape Protests and Journalists and No One Reports It, Is It Intimidation?

By Dave Lindorff

Is it news when police photograph and videotape demonstrations?

Apparently for American editors and reporters, making that news judgement depends on where the demonstration occurs and what nationality the police are.

When a hundred artists gathered outside a Beijing courtroom in mid-November to protest the jailing of artist Wu Yuren, who had earlier been beaten by police and jailed because he had gone to a police station to file a complaint against a landlord, the New York Times ran an article by reporter Andrew Jacobs which pointedly noted that police officers had videotaped the crowd, and then quoted a demonstrator, artist Dou Bu, as saying, “I was scared to come out here today, but you have to face your fears.”

The Manchurian Candidate Gives Out a Medal of Honor

John Grant

Sergeant Salvatore Giunta will receive a Congressional Medal of Honor this week for bravery under fire in October 2007. At great risk, he assaulted a hill and rescued a gravely wounded comrade being dragged away by an insurgent. He will be the first living soldier to receive the medal since the war in Vietnam.

The man Giunta rescued did not survive, and the US forces eventually abandoned the Korengal Valley where the fighting took place.

Giunta, 25, saw his actions this way:
“I ran to the front because that is where he (the wounded comrade) was. I didn’t try to be a hero and save anyone.”

As for the ten-year-old war in Afghanistan, he said, “I have sweat more, cried more, bled more in this country than in my own. These people won’t leave this valley. They have been here far before I could fathom an Afghanistan.”

New Lawyer, New Round: 3rd Circuit Court Panel Re-Hears Issue of Abu-Jamal's Death Penalty on Orders of Supreme Court

By Dave Lindorff

The three-decades-long murder case of Philadelphia journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has sat in solitary in a cramped cell on Pennsylvania’s death row for 28 years fighting his conviction and a concerted campaign by the national police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, to execute him, was back in court Tuesday, with a three-judge federal Appeals Court panel reconsidering its 2008 decision backing the vacating of his death sentence, on orders of the US Supreme Court.

BS from the BLS:Things are a Lot Worse Than They are Telling Us

By Dave Lindorff

Many Americans simply assume that the government and politicians lie when they are talking about things like cutting taxes, or eliminating waste. But somehow, we tend to believe official government reports about things like economic “growth” or unemployment rates, or even cost-of-living increases.

The truth, sadly, is that the government is lying about these things too.

Okay Mister Boehner, Lets See Some Real Cuts in the Budget

By John Grant<.em>

This huge and confusing thing we call the United States of America is in the midst of a major epochal reality check, not your usual, garden-variety recession. The roots of today’s crises go back at least 60 years or more.

Politics in such a crisis state is naturally volatile, swinging this way, then that way, affected by fear and pride and all the usual human emotions. Like the stock market, electoral politics operates with rapid, shifting en-mass movements like a school of little fish into which one throws a rock.

At times like these, it’s interesting to look at what's not being said – the large elephants in the room going unrecognized. To talk about these things would take courage, self-awareness and humility, like the hard stuff shrinks and counselors try to get troubled patients to look at.

An Epidemic of Police Brutality

By Linn Washington Jr.

Hours after San Francisco Bay Area radio show host J.R. Valrey screened his documentary film about police brutality at a university in Philadelphia daily newspapers in that city carried articles about two separate lawsuits filed against Philly police alleging brutality.

Those lawsuits, filed respectively by a state legislator and a high-profile media commentator (both of whom are black) didn’t surprise Valrey. His travels across America screening his film highlighted for him – again – a reality that governmental officials constantly reject: police brutality is a widespread scourge.

“Police brutality is definitely not ‘isolated incidents’ as officials always say after each new killing or beating by police,” said Valrey, host of the Block Report, a program aired on KPFA-FM, the Pacifica station in the Bay Area.

“When we screened the film in Atlanta people were still talking about the police murder of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston [in 2006].”

Democratic Base to Party Leaders: Take That You Smug Bastards!

By Dave Lindorff

The Democrats were blown out of the water on Nov. 2.

But it’s not because of the Tea Party, or because of a resurgent Republican majority.

The Democrats deserved to lose because they have long since abandoned whatever principles they had, and more important, they’ve pissed on their most important supporters--the left, real liberals, African Americans, women, unionized workers, and workers in general. So I say hooray, all those groups have struck back!

Barack Obama set this disaster for the party and his presidency in motion before he was even sworn in as president, by choosing Wall Street hacks as his economic advisers in the midst of the worst economic crisis in 75 years, and by choosing as his key political adviser Rahm Emanuel, who famously called progressive critics “fucking retarded,” and who, when warned that the GM bailout plan would hurt the United Autoworkers members who worked there, also famously said “Fuck the UAW!”

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