"I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large," Holder testified at the time.
"It has an inhibiting influence --- impact --- on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate," he continued. "So, the concern that you raise is actually one that I share."
That's what he said in March. But apparently, despite that, he now says, banks are not too big to jail. That's what Holder "very, very, very" much wants us now to believe, according to his testimony in Congress today...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Senate GOP walks out, obstructs Obama's EPA nominee; OMB says EPA regulations pay off 10 to 1; Honeybee losses accelerate in US while feds stall on action; Another coal export terminal bites the dust in OR; PLUS: Shocker: Consumer Reports has a new all-time favorite car... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): "God won't save us": Sen. Whitehouse blasts GOP "magical thinking"; China cracks down on US trash exports; Debunking out-of-date clean energy conventional "wisdom"; Disease ravaging Africa's staple food crop; Crater reveals troubling future of global warming; US envoy's floats new climate treaty plan; BPA may lower testosterone; Leak shuts down MI nuke plant; Good news - Greenland melt rate to slow ... PLUS: Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses ... and much, MUCH more! ...
So, wait. It wasn't the Syrian regime, but rather the Syrian rebels who used sarin nerve gas recently? That's the story being reported tonight by Reuters, from actually named sources among U.N. investigators. But will anybody notice? Or, with Israeli airstrikes already under way, and the neo-cons already demanding another new war, is the news too little, too late...again?
The week before last, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, reading from a letter sent by the White House to Congress, announced that the Administration believes that the Syrian government recently used chemical weapons against its own people. If true, it would be a move which President Obama had previously described as a "red line" and a "game changer" in the Administration's policy on the two-year old civil war still raging in that country.
Hagel's statement was somewhat measured [emphasis added]: "Our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin."
A few days later, during a Presidential press conference, Obama himself was also measured, even back-tracking somewhat on the claim that it was "the Syrian regime" which used the chemical weapon, as Hagel had initially announced, setting off "Breaking News!" tweets around the globe.
"What we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria, but we don't know how they were used, when they were used, who used them. We don't have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened," the President said, seemingly responsibly. "And when I am making decisions about America’s national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I've got to make sure I've got the facts."
He went on to decry "rushing to judgement without hard, effective evidence," that he planned to work with "neighboring countries to...establish a clear baseline of facts", and that he had "called on the United Nations to investigate."
But the war genie was already out of the bottle. At least for many in both the corporate media and the neo-con Right...
So...funny thing. After yesterday's BradCast on KPFK, I drove the delightful Desi Doyen (of our Green News Report) out to The Young Turks' studio where she was scheduled to guest host once again last night. Two minutes or so before airtime, the third guest-host had yet to arrive. Guess who was drafted into last-minute duty?
Unshaven, jacket-free and prep-less, the show went on. With Desi, myself, and the great Jimmy Dore on board, it was an all-KPFK/Pacifica Radio episode of TYT, to boot!
We discussed, among other things, the mass stabbing in TX yesterday (where nobody died!); Rand Paul's claim that Republicans and he are civil rights champions; Obama's attempt to slash Social Security; and the plan for a vote in the U.S. Senate on a gun sale background check bill.
Below are a few short edited video segments with the three of us on last night's lively hour of The Young Turks [Update 4/16/2013 - The Turks have posted a few more clips --- including our discussion about Pat Robertson and climate change denier extraordinaire Rep. Joe Barton --- so I've also now added those below as well]...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Profits vs. People at Obama's EPA confirmation hearing; Victory for the people in the federal fracking wars; GAO says nuke evacuation plans inadequate; Climate change is coming for your wine; PLUS: Environmental groups push back against Big Oil with hysterical ads ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities; Wind Energy Record in California, equal to 2 nuke plants; Obama Budget Drains Tax Breaks For Big Oil; Keystone XL using old, badly welded pipelines?; Rep. Joe Barton Says Biblical 'Great Flood' Proves Climate Change Not Man Made; Tea Party Leader arrest after Agenda 21 threats; 85% of tax experts support a carbon tax; Climate change's big tax on Americans; Nike: betting against climate scientists is 'false hope' ... PLUS: Video: Sen. Bernie Sanders' call for climate action is full of awesome ... and much, MUCH more! ...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Ernie Moniz, Obama's nominee for Energy Secretary, heads to easy confirmation in Senate; Former NRC chair says US nukes should be replaced; Fukushima is drowning in a sea of radioactive water; Exxon gets a medal for safety?!? PLUS: Conservative icon Margaret Thatcher believed in SCIENCE, and ACTION on climate change... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Frackers Losing $1.5b Yearly to Leaks; Australia's Coal Industry Headed For Failure; Judge denies BP's attempt to reduce oil spill payouts; Worst wildlife disease in N. America just got worse; Toxic chemicals in Great Lakes plastic pollution; Cost of air pollution scourge underestimated; Billionaire Koch Brother's bizarre self-delusion on climate science; When You Account For The Oceans, Global Warming Continues Apace... PLUS: How Far Can Climate Change Go? ... and much, MUCH more! ...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Disturbing updates on the Exxon tar sands oil pipeline spill in AR; Majority of Republicans believe global warming a 'hoax'; 'Tsunami of rain' in Argentina; China cheating on fish catches?; Golf in the Arctic? PLUS: 'Monsanto Protection Act' - Sneaky legislation exempts GMOs from the law... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Climate science denier calls for "alarmists" to face death penalty courts; Amazon tribe threatens to declare war amid row over Brazilian dam; NV Energy to decommission coal plants; Ogalalla Sioux: Resounding NO to Keystone XL Pipeline; Bill Gates, investors, back sodium battery startup; Canada may abandon expensive mine cleanup; Green pols get billionaire ally, money; climate researchers discover 1,800-year-old 'Rosetta stone' ice cores; PLUS: Obama on climate change: ‘The politics of this are tough’ ... and much, MUCH more!...
Before things turn too ugly this week, let's take a moment to flag four great progressive things --- arguably, four great conservative progressive things --- which all happened on Friday.
The first two items got a fair amount of notice, the second two, not so much. But since they all happened on the same day, and that day was Friday, when such stories tend to disappear all together, they are all worth briefly flagging here to make sure you're aware of them...
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), a co-sponsor of the unconstitutional "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) in 1996, became the first sitting Republican Senator to come out in favor of marriage equality for all. It took him learning that he had a gay son two years ago before he was finally able to do the right thing, but we'll take what we can get. It's another in a string of victories and very encouraging signs for conservative progressivism, specifically the right of equal protection under the law for all.
The Maryland legislature voted to ban the inhumane, abhorrent, expensive, ineffective and unequally applied Death Penalty. They become the 6th state in as many years to do so, and the 18th state overall. As Governor Martin O'Malley (D) notes in an op-ed today: "Across our ever-more-closely connected world, the majority of public executions now take place in just seven countries: Iran. Iraq. The People’s Republic of China. North Korea. Saudi Arabia. Yemen. And the United States of America." This is another clear victory for those who believe in the Constitutional value of equal justice for all under the law and who hate Big Government --- the biggest --- allowing itself to kill its own citizens.
A federal court ruled that the use of so-called "National Security Letters" --- essentially, a warrantless statement from the FBI handed over to banks, libraries, phone companies, etc., demanding unlimited private information about a specific person for supposed "national security purposes" --- is unconstitutional. Specifically, the gag order on those banks, libraries, phone companies, etc., disallowing them from notifying the target about the intrusion on their privacy, is what the judge found in violation of the First Amendment. The case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation(EFF). The use of these letters have been one of the most insidious and abused elements of the PATRIOT Act for a very long time, ever since its passage following 9/11. The court ruling is likely to be appealed by the DoJ, but the finding is, for now, a positive step in the right direction --- at least for those of us conservative progressives who give a damn about unwarranted search and seizure, freedom of speech, etc. AP notes that "the FBI made 16,511 national-security-letter requests for information regarding 7,201 people in 2011" alone.
A federal appeals court has re-instated a case filed by the ACLU arguing that the CIA must, at the very least, respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests concerning the use of the drone strikes. The FOIA requests in question had sought information on "the legal basis for carrying out targeted drone killings; any restrictions on those who may be targeted; any civilian casualties; any geographic limits on the program; the number of targeted killings that the agency has carried out; and the training, supervision, oversight, or discipline of drone operators." Even if the ACLU is ultimately victorious in this case, the CIA would not necessarily have to provide the information sought in those requests, but they would at least have to respond to them and state which responsive documents they may have and why they are not responding. The ACLU notes that the drone program "has already been responsible for the deaths of more than 4,000 people in an unknown number of countries."
After the two court rulings above on Friday, former Constitutional attorney and civil liberties champion Glenn Greenwald tweeted wryly: "Wow ... it's like we have a 3rd branch or something."
Much of this nation's government, all three branches, are largely stuck and broken in the muck and mire of partisan, corporate-sponsored quagmire or worse. So the fact that we had four important, not-horrible, arguably excellent things happen within that quagmire all on the same day on Friday are worth, at least, noting here for the record.
This exchange --- by Congressional committee proxy --- got a bit more buried than it deserved to be amidst a week of important (Rand Paul's drone filibuster) and not so important (Presidential/Congressional dinner dates!) news items last week.
You may have already seen both of these clips. But just in case you haven't, the remarks made during two different Congressional hearings last week illustrate the very heart of the most broken part of our broken government, so I wanted to be sure to at least flag these two short videos here.
The first was Attorney General Eric Holder's remarkable admission last week, when asked about why one the world's largest banks, such as HSBC --- which admitted to some $881 million dollars in drug cartel money laundering and working with regimes in a number of countries around the world in blatant violation of human rights sanctions against them --- have not been brought to trial by the Obama Dept. of Justice...
"The concern that you have raised is one that I, frankly, share," Holder responded to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-NE). "I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large."
"It has an inhibiting influence --- impact --- on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate," he continued. "So, the concern that you raise is actually one that I share."
With all due respect to AG Holder --- and he is due very, very little --- what he just said is, to the best of my knowledge, complete bullshit. While I'm not an expert in financial law, I am familiar with no clause in any of those laws which offers a "get out of jail free card" to institutions who have become so large that prosecuting them would have "a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy."
I know of no provisions in the criminal code which says that if your corporation has become large enough that facing criminal prosecution might make the world markets jittery, you don't have to face prosecution for those crimes. In fact, we still have anti-trust laws on the books to deal with exactly those situations --- cases in which corporations have become so powerful, have such a monopolistic effect on the market, that they may be broken up by the Dept. of Justice, or even taken over and then sold off piece meal to bring the company back into manageable size again.
The next day, in another U.S. Senate hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), expressed a similar sentiment, in a must-see video clip, absolutely slamming U.S. Treasury regulators for their lack of willingness to take action against some of the most criminal corporations, such as HSBC.
"What does it take to get you to consider shutting down a bank for money laundering?!," she asked the regulators who couldn't respond as to the last time a bank had been prosecuted for this sort of thing. "How many billions of dollars before somebody says we're shutting you down?"...
But more importantly, the point of that tweet seems to have made it into the heart of Fugelsang's rather brilliant --- and rhyming! --- Rand rant that same night. He stands with Rand...but not all of his plan...man...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Obama's Interior nominee promises "balanced" use of public lands; Extreme weather forces Republicans to cancel climate science denial hearing; Colorado city defies Governor, bans fracking; Conflict of interest in State Dept's glowing Keystone XL pipeline report; PLUS: Hottest summer ever on record in Australia ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Why are sinkholes swallowing Florida?; 'Carbon capture and storage will never pay off'; Jump In atmospheric CO2 brings climate catastrophe closer; U.S. clean energy trade surplus with China; Climate change will open up surprising new Arctic shipping routes; Ice Age study bolsters CO2 and warming link; CA town requires all new homes to have solar power; GOP legislator seeks a new carbon tax on bicycle riders; Infections with 'Nightmare Bacteria' on the rise in U.S. hospitals ... PLUS: Don't Worry: Keystone XL pipeline would be safe from the climate impacts it would cause ... and much, MUCH more! ...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Another hurdle cleared for the Keystone XL pipeline; Obama names new environmental cabinet nominees; New York Times kills its Green blog; PLUS: Score one for endangered polar bears ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Pesticides are killing our sperm; "I am one of the Fukushima fifty"; L.A. aims to be coal-free by 2025; US scientists report big jump in heat-trapping CO2; Tar sands developers turn to railroads; Atmospheric warming altering ocean salinity, circulation; Drought, snow hit KS wildlife hard; Forest elephants near extinction due to ivory poachers; Offshore windpower vulnerable to wave power; Rising food prices triggered Arab Spring ... PLUS: 'Angry Summer': Australia's climate on steroids in record-breaking summer ... and much, MUCH more! ...
The first section of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1870 after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, reads simply: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
The second, and final section of the 15th Amendment, is even shorter: "The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
Congress is charged with determining the "appropriate legislation" to assure that voters are not discriminated against on the basis of race. And, though it took almost another 100 years after the ratification of the 15th Amendment to do so, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 was passed to help ensure exactly that.
In 2006, in continuing its duty to uphold the Constitution, after 21 Congressional hearings, including testimony that amounted to some 15,000 pages of evidence, the VRA was re-authorized for another 25 years by an astounding 98 to 0 margin in the U.S. Senate and a nearly-as-impressive 390 to 33 in the U.S. House.
"There was a lot of invidious discrimination shown," says Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who chaired the U.S. House Judiciary Committee at the time. He characterized the hearings, which closely examined the extent to which racial discrimination still affects minority voters, as "one of the most extensive considerations of any piece of legislation that the United States Congress has dealt with in the twenty-seven and a half years that I have [served]."
That year's VRA re-authorization was signed into law by Republican George W. Bush. The law's three other federal re-authorizations (in 1970, 1975 and 1982) were also signed into law by Republican Presidents.
One of the most successful, and universally respected pieces of bi-partisan legislation in our nation's history, however, is now coming under serious attack from Republicans and a group of billionaire funders in the years following its last re-authorization. Since that year, an unprecedented number of challenges against the VRA --- specifically its Section 5, which applies to some 16 different jurisdictions with a long history of racial discrimination --- have been filed in the court system, at the same time that a tidal wave of voter suppression laws have been passed by GOP legislatures across the country, most notably, in many of the jurisdictions covered by Section 5.
A challenge to that section of the VRA, which served to block a number of new restrictions on voting and voter registration during the run-up to the 2012 election, will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, and the outlook for the crucial protections that Section 5 has offered for decades are now potentially in very grave danger of being struck down entirely...
On Monday night, NBC News aired its new documentary, Hubris: Selling the Iraq War, based on the book of a similar name by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. The film offered a number of new and disturbing insights since the original 2007 book was published.
While it may be maddening --- particularly for those of us who followed the massive scam as it was ongoing --- the documentary should be mandatory viewing for those who have lost sight of just how each and every single one of the key reasons used to sell the U.S. on war with Iraq was built on known lies. Each and every point --- from Saddam's alleged ties to al-Qaeda, to his alleged mobile chemical labs, to his alleged nuke program, to those aluminum tubes said to have been for use in uranium enrichment, to the "fissile material" (yellowcake) he was said to have been trying to obtain from Niger --- was a lie. And each an every lie was known to be a lie by the scoundrels and war criminals who sold it to the American public and a compliant American media.
Even with its failures, and several of them are identified here, Hubris reminds us of how each and every one of those points was a scam. Period. And, while it's not expressly highlighted (but should be in a follow up!), we are reminded how none of the liars have ever faced any accountability whatsoever, despite nearly 4,500 U.S. troops killed, more than 30,000 of them wounded, well over 100,000 Iraqi citizens murdered and some $3 trillion looted from our nation's coffers. You should take the time to watch it.
The entire documentary, broken into 6 parts, narrated by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, and originally aired on 2/18/2013, follows in full below...
A few seemingly remarkable items coming in via our Twitter feed today, all fueled by folks on the Right who are hoaxed into giving their hard-earned dollars to con-men...
• The crew at the pretend "news" site, Breitbart.com (specifically, Editor-at-Large Ben Shapiro) have successfully pushed a story about "Friends of Hamas" supporting SecDef-nominee, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) somehow into the mainstream Rightwing media. The problem with the story --- which is meant to help target the first Presidential cabinet nominee in history to ever be filibustered (much less by his own party!) --- is that "Friends of Hamas", the "scary-sounding pro-Hagel group", doesn't actually seem to exist, according to Slate's Dave Weigel.
• George Zimmerman, the Florida "hero" who claimed that he was just "standing his ground" after having stalked and shot unarmed African-American teen Trayvon Martin last year has a) Reportedly burned through $300,000 in donated legal defense funds and is now considering asking the court to declare him "indigent", so the state would have to pay for his defense and b) Gained some 105 pounds since his arrest last year, according to ThinkProgress today. (Yes, that is what Zimmerman looks like now, at the top of this article.)
• But the most bizarre story of the day must surely be David Corn's at Mother Jones, where his latest investigative report into the profiteering "non-profit" racket called FreedomWorks (one of the nation's largest and most powerful so-called "Tea Party" groups) documents a video said to have been created by the group, but never shown publicly, which "included a scene in which a female intern wearing a panda suit simulates performing oral sex on Hillary Clinton." As Corn himself felt necessary to mention in an Author's note: "The previous sentence contains no typos."
Keep sending in those bucks to the Rightwing scam-artists, wingnuts! No, you're not being played for suckers in the least!