Standing up to the NRA after Roanoke, horrifying U.S. gun death toll; PLUS: Denying global warming on Katrina's 10th anniversary; Trump's ugly nativism; Good news for Dems; Marriage dead-enders in KY...
After being largely off-grid over the weekend, I returned home late last night just as a problem with our server (not just our website, but many of them served by the same system) was coming to light. It's still unclear what happened, that's being investigated, but the result is the site had to be restored from an older backup.
In the bargain, some article comments (including some of my own) were lost, though I'm going to try to restore some of them manually today as I can, where I have the material available to do so. Where I don't, I'll see if I can get the rest from the NSA. My apologies for any comments that I cannot restore. The upside is that at least we hadn't posted a lot of new articles over the weekend while I was on the road, so not too much new material was lost.
I was planning for it to be an unavoidably busy day today anyway, as I scrambled to get caught up from several days off-line after an otherwise interesting and largely fruitful visit to Netroots Nation 2013 and related missions. Given the fast moving news events of the last few days, it was clearly going to be a race to catch-up. Now it'll just be that much busier, and that much longer before we're fully back up to speed here. So, my apologies for that as well...and thanks in advance for your patience...
EXCLUSIVE: Legendary 'Pentagon Papers' whistleblower offers frank comment on the NSA whistleblower; the dangers of our privatized surveillance state; the failure of Congressional oversight; and journalists 'discrediting their professions'...
"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America," Church said, "and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
On Wednesday, during a fascinating interview on The BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio, Ellsberg said directly, in the wake of Snowden's disclosures: "We're in the abyss. What he feared has come to pass."
The Guardian has asserted that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden "will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning," do it seemed the perfect time to chat with Ellsberg about all of this.
He offered a number of thoughts about Snowden himself, from one of the few people in the world who may have real insight into what the 29-year old leaker must be thinking and dealing with right about now, and why he may have chosen to both leave the country and then come out publicly. He describes Snowden as "a patriotic American, and to call him a traitor reveals a real misunderstanding of our founding documents."
"What he has revealed, of course, is documentary evidence of a broadly, blatantly unconstitutional program here which negates the Fourth Amendment," Ellsberg said. "And if it continues in this way, I think it makes democracy essentially impossible or meaningless."
As usual, Ellsberg pulled no punches in his comments on the dangers of our privatized surveillance state; the failure of our Congressional intelligence oversight committees (which he describes as "fraudulent" and "totally broken"); and on those who have been critical of Snowden and of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist from The Guardian who has broken most of the scoops on Snowden's leaked documents.
He said that folks like attorney Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker and author Thomas Friedman at New York Times and Senator Dianne Feinstein "are being very strongly discredited," by their attacks on Snowden. "The criticisms they're making, I think, are very discreditable to them in their profession," he says.
And, while answering to my request for a response to Josh Marshall's recent piece at TPM, in which Marshall weights his own conscience on this matter and frankly revealing his natural tendency to support the government over whistleblowers in cases like this, Ellsberg was particularly pointed. "Marshall has a lot to be said for him as a blogger," he said, before adding: "I think what he said there is stupid and mistaken and does not do him credit." He went on to describe some of Marshall's comments as "slander" against Snowden.
One other point that merits highlight here for now, before I let ya listen below. The difference between Ellsberg's circumstances and those in play today.
Ellsberg noted that after leaking top secret Defense Department documents to the New York Times in 1971, detailing how the Johnson Administration had lied the nation into the Vietnam War, President Nixon, at the time, ordered a break-in of his psychiatrist's office and discussed having Ellsberg "eliminated".
"All the things that were done to me then," he noted chillingly, "including a CIA profile on me, a burglary of my former psychiatrist's office in order to get information to blackmail me with, all of those things were illegal, as one might think that they ought to be."
"They're legal now, since 9/11, with the PATRIOT Act, which on that very basis alone should be repealed. In other words, this is a case right now with Snowden that shows very dramatically the dangers of that PATRIOT Act, used as it is. So the fact is, that all these things are legal. And even the one of possibly eliminating him"...
I was on Abby Martin's Breaking the Set program on RT America this evening. The video is posted below.
We discussed the NSA leaks and everything related to it, including, briefly, my own disturbing experience --- which I have in common with Glenn Greenwald --- when we were both targeted by a cyber-scheme devised by government defense contractors set to turn tools developed for the "War on Terror" against us, at the behest of major corporate interests.
While The BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio usually airs live on Wednesday's, we did a special Monday version this week, as I was filling in for my friend Harrison who was on the road today and unavailable to do his normal show.
Not for nothing, but this article is number 10,000 at The BRAD BLOG. That's right, we've now filed some 10,000 items on these pages since January of 2004, as our 10th year of investigative journalism, blogging, trouble-making and muckraking continues. (I say "some 10,000" because there are certainly several score or more over the years that never got published for one reason or another.)
I had been planning to run another mini-fundraiser of late, to try and add some fumes to our bone dry gas tank, so today's 10k landmark seems as good a reason as any.
My plan: if we can just raise $2 for each blog item we've run over the past ten years, that should keep us in pretty good stead through the end of the year! Given our history of fundraisers, however, I suspect we'll be able to raise the tiniest fraction of that at best, and I'll have to bother you all again in the near future. That's what happens without corporate money, foundational money or political partisan money. I hope you understand.
So, for now, if you're able to spare $2 or $20 or $200 for the tip-jar, to help support what we've done during almost 10 years and 10,000 articles, I would very much welcome it!
You can contribute with either a credit card or PayPal at the link above (and below). Alternately, snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" is always very welcome and much-need too.
Alternately, if you are able, monthly sustaining subscriptions of any amount are very much appreciated and quick and easy to create, via credit card or PayPal, as you prefer, to help keep us alive year round! (For amounts other than those in the drop-down box below, please see the form in the light blue box mid-way down our right sidebar where you can specify any number you wish!)
My thanks for whatever support you can offer. And now on to 10,001...
NOTE FROM BRAD: On August 28, 2005, I was the first in the national media to interview U.S. Army Specialist Tomas Young at "Camp Casey" in Crawford, TX. He and his then wife Brie had come down from Kansas City on their honeymoon to support Cindy Sheehan, the "Gold Star Mom" who was famously demanding a meeting with George W. Bush. Tomas' unarmored vehicle had been ambushed in Sadr City, Iraq on the same day that Sheehan's son Casey was killed in the same city. The attack left Tomas paralyzed from the chest down.
Since Bush had refused to meet with Sheehan --- claiming he had already met with her some months earlier, prior to proclaiming those who had died in Iraq had done so for a "noble cause" which he refused to define --- Tomas wanted to find out if he might be able to meet with Bush himself to ask what the "noble cause" was. We came up with the idea to paint a sign to help the media notice his plight. Some of the other veterans who were there as well helped to create the sign and it was, indeed, picked up by AP at the time.
Some years later, Tomas' story would be told on 60 Minutes, and then in a heart-wrenching 2007 documentary film, Body of War, by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro. (My interview on the ground at "Camp Casey" with Tomas and Brie is seen briefly in both. The full audio of my interview with them is posted in full at the bottom of this article, after Tomas' letter.)
He and Brie have since divorced and Tomas remarried last year. Now, ten years this week after the launch of the War on Iraq, what was left of Tomas' body is failing and, as Chris Hedges recently reported, he has decided to let himself die. Now in hospice care, Tomas, who was 25 when we met and is now just 33-years old, plans to end his long fight. He says he will remove his own feeding tube sometime after his first anniversary with his new wife Claudia in April and before the second birthday of his niece in June.
To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all-the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.
I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans-my fellow veterans-whose future you stole...
So what do the Chinese Government and the Rightwing mega-lobbying group calling itself the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have in common? Apparently, they are both interested in hacking into the computer networks of their perceived political opponents and appear to be using very similar techniques and tools to do so, as The Nation'sLee Fang reported on Monday.
A computer security expert cited by Fang notes "lots of overlap" between the recent documented Chinese military cyber hacks and tactics proposed for use by federal contractors working with the U.S. Chamber and their attorneys to discredit their enemies.
Readers of The BRAD BLOG will likely remember the emails hacked by Anonymous in February of 2011 revealing that three U.S. government defense contractors had been working with U.S. Chamber of Commerce attorneys from the Washington D.C. lobbying/law firm of Hunton & Williams to develop a $12 million scheme to target their political opponents --- such as unions and progressive organizations --- by hacking into their computer networks, infiltrating the groups, planting false information in hopes of discrediting them, and using other sophisticated computer tools developed for the "War on Terror" by the three cyber-security firms.
One of the perceived political opponents targeted by the Chamber, we would learn from the hacked emails, was I. Personal details about myself and my family showed up in both the emails and a PowerPoint presentation for the U.S. Chamber prepared by "Team Themis," the name used for the illicit project by the three government contractors, HBGary Federal, Palintir, and Berico.
Lee Fang, who was then a reporter for Think Progress, and Scott Keyes, who still is, originally broke the revelations from the hacked HBGary Federal emails there. A slide in one of the presentations prepared for the U.S. Chamber scheme described the effort to "Discredit, Confuse, Shame, Combat, Infiltrate [and] Fracture" the progressive organizations with online tools, hacking and other dirty tricks in order to "mitigate [the] effect of adversarial groups."
Another slide included a photograph of me, and other personal details meant to target VelvetRevolution.us, a not-for-profit good government group (co-founded by The BRAD BLOG) which has long called for accountability for the Chamber and its mafia-like political tactics.
The news of the hack and its revelations quickly garnered front-page headlines in the U.S. and around the world as an international scandal, even as the Chamber denied having knowledge of the specific cyber-terror threat clearly being created on their behalf by the three defense contractors, and even as neither they nor their attorneys have yet to face any accountability for the scheme to terrorize public organizations and private individuals, such as myself and my family. An official Dept. of Justice investigation into the matter --- and even a brief attempt to do so by Democrats in Congress --- was no doubt crippled by both the enormous power of the Chamber, and the fact that it was the DoJ itself which had referred Bank of America to the very same defense contractors in a parallel scheme mirroring the Chamber's, as revealed by the same email hack. That scheme was being prepared to target perceived supporters of WikiLeaks at the time, including journalist Glenn Greenwald.
"[W]ho better to develop a corporate information reconnaissance capability than companies that have been market leaders within the DoD and Intelligence Community," read one of the proposals [PDF] created by "Team Themis," as delivered to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's law firm Hunton & Williams.
In Monday's report at The Nation, Fang details how recent cyber attacks against U.S. interests, which appear to be emanating from the Chinese Military, mirror tactics used by the U.S. Chamber's thugs in the eventually aborted 2010/2011 attempt to pull off what Fang describes as "one of the most brazen political espionage efforts in recent memory."
My thanks to those of you who answered my recent call for support on the heels of our 9th Anniversary announcement. A little more than 100 of you answered that call which, while seemingly a very small number of the thousands who visit here each day, is amongst the largest responses we've had to any of our attempted fundraisers over the years, in terms of number of people giving.
So my great thanks for that. If you had purchased our premium offer for a signed copy of Marta Steele's new book, Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Rise and Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, 2000 - 2008, it's on its way or already there, or we'll need a few more days to get a few of them out, since we oversold our limited number of available copies and Marta's been kind enough to help us get a few more to cover all of those who purchased. If you didn't get one through our premium offer, you can (and should!) get one via the Columbus Free Press website right here.
All of that said, I'm still facing difficult questions about how to sustainably keep going here as we begin our 10th(!) year of trouble-making, muckraking and journalism regarding many topics that most in the media would prefer to ignore. I hate --- and am not very good at --- constantly haranging you all for contributions, even if it's just a few times a year. So, for the short term, a quick question for those who have time to offer some feedback to me here...
Suffice to say, she was more optimistic about all of the above than I was.
In most of the second half of the show, we focused on the many environmental issues raised in Obama's State of the Union with the Green News Report's Desi Doyen. I'm not sure who was more (or less) optimistic in that half of the show.
Please support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system, as available from no other media outlet in the nation --- now in our TENTH YEAR! --- with a donation to help us keep going (Snail mail, more options here). If you like, we'll send you some great, award-winning election integrity documentary films in return! Details right here...
It would be rather easy to double The BRAD BLOG's readership in a week or quadruple it in a month. It's a pretty simple matter to pound out short "Look What This Republican Idiot Did Today!" items and other similar knee-jerkery. It brings in tons of traffic. But there are plenty of places that do that. Instead, I've tried, since opening this joint almost 10 years ago, to offer stuff that actually matters. We may not always succeed, but that is always my hope. I have tried since our inception to choose carefully what we devote attention to, in hopes of publishing things that we can actually add something beyond "me too-ism." It has always been my goal to remain a unique place on the worldwide Internets where focusing on helping to better educate the electorate is the prime directive.
That, however, doesn't necessarily bring torrents of clicks and eyeballs. Yes, it's easy to offer crap that brings clicks. Sideboobage, literal and otherwise, makes lots of money for its progenitors, and it's really easy.
There is a reason that The BRAD BLOG does not receive regular financial support from either foundations or corporations, and it's not because I'm against the idea, in principle --- so long as we'd be allowed to maintain 100% editorial independence. But it's because we are truly independent here, unlike many of some of the finest progressive websites on the net, that we find ourselves now in our tenth year still raking the muck on our own, with only reader support to help keep us in rakes.
By way of just one recent example, I didn't even bother trying to pitch our exclusive investigative special report last week on what happened to the attempted Prop 37 "recount" to any other news sites. Though my independent work at such places helps to fund what we do here, it's unlikely that any of those sites, even progressive news sites, would be interested in paying for such a report that isn't particularly sexy and calls both Republican and Democratic officials on the carpet. It took some three weeks (at least) of digging and researching to make that report possible. And you'll only find that sort of work --- and my KPFK radio report that followed it in support --- generated here at The BRAD BLOG, despite how important I believe that story is to the nation; despite national election expert and UC Irvine law professor Rick Hasen declaring that it "calls for a legislative response"; and despite the fact that meetings are taking place this coming week in Sacramento to discuss what can be done about some of the problems that special report helped to expose.
I could detail many other things that The BRAD BLOG does and offers exclusively, or, at least, unlike any other place on the net, but hopefully you get the idea.
Nonetheless, despite my recent plea with our 9th Anniversary announcement, only a tiny fraction of the thousands who read this site regularly and/or every day, answered the call to chip in support to help keep us going. I'd really like to make it through our 10th year (and beyond!), but unless something around here changes, that may be very difficult, if not impossible.
So, not to belabor this, I'm going to simply re-run below the section from that recent announcement that includes easy options I hope more of you will consider using to help keep us going. We've got only a few signed books left. [We've now sold the last of those, thanks! So if you now want one, please grab one at the author, Marta Steele's website!]. My thanks to those of you who have already chipped in after previous recent pleas (and, especially, to those of you who signed up to be sustaining monthly supporters!). But, to be perfectly blunt, we need more help. If you can afford to do so, I hope you will consider it. If you can't, I certainly understand. I hate asking, but I must. Either that, or I can start running nothing but "Republicans Suck!" videos and sideboobage! You'll let me know what you prefer.
Here then, once again, are a few easy ways that you can help us keep going...
You can contribute with either a credit card or PayPal at that link. Alternately, snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" is also very much appreciated!
A one-time donation of any amount, from $10 to $1,000,000, is quite welcome! (We'll even be grateful for $5 if that's what you have to offer. Truly.)
• MONTHLY SUSTAINING SUBSCRIPTION
Even more than a one-time donation, sustaining, automated, monthly contributions of any amount you can comfortably afford is greatly appreciated as well.
Monthly sustaining subscriptions of any amount you like are a quick and easy matter to create, via credit card or PayPal, as you prefer, and help to keep us alive year round! (For amounts other than those in the drop-down box below, please see the form in the light blue box mid-way down our right sidebar where you can specify any number!)
• COOL NEW PREMIUM OFFER!
[NOTE/UPDATE: We've now sold the last of the limited number of signed copies of Marta Steele's new book! Thanks for those who purchased! If you'd like one now, please grab one at Marta's website! And, otherwise, read on below to find out about this very cool new book, in which we are featured quite prominently throughout!]
THIS) UC Irvine election law professor and nationally recognized expert Rick Hasen links today to our exclusive special report from Monday which called out the Fresno County, CA Registrar of Voters for illegally overcharging for the citizen-attempted oversight "recount" of last November's Prop 37 initiative (which would have required Genetically Modified Foods to be labeled as such.) As we reported in that investigative report, her actions effectively stopped the attempted "recount" dead in its tracks, highlighted the possibilities for abuse by a single election official and the county-by-county disparities in "recount" pricing.
Our report also puts the lie to the notion that paper ballots, secretly-tabulated by computers, are just fine because if there are any concerns about the results of elections, we can always just count them by hand later. As our report detailed: no, we can't.
When linking to our report today, Hasen added: "This calls for a legislative response." Of course, we concur and thank the professor for noticing.
THAT) We'll be discussing that report today on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast at 3pm PT, when I'll be joined by Tom Courbat, who helped lead the attempted Prop 37 "recount", and Dr. John Maa who helped advise the effort after he, himself, requested and paid for the first statewide initiative "recount" ever after last June's failed Prop 29 initiative (which would have added a $1-per-pack cigarette tax to fund cancer research). Unfortunately, Fresno's Registrar Brandi Orth declined my invitation to join us on the show today to explain her position, while CA Sec. of State Debra Bowen's office has so far failed to respond at all to several invitations to do so. I'll hope that changes between now and showtime. You can listen LIVE from 3p to 4p PT right here.
THE OTHER THING) I'd been so busy over the past week or three working on that report that I haven't really had much opportunity to enjoy the fact that The BRAD BLOG is now, officially, in our tenth year of trouble-making and muckraking. I was, however, able to take some time to discuss it, and reminisce a bit, with our friend Angie Coiro of In Deep Radio up in San Francisco. You can listen to that interview right here. Long-time BRAD BLOGGERS may particularly enjoy it.
Relatedly, though I made a fairly impassioned pitch for support of The BRAD BLOG in my 9th Anniversary posting, and offered a very cool premium for those who may wish to purchase it, I've had astoundingly few folks willing to contribute or purchase the premium. Given the thousands who read this site every day, it's disappointing to be able to count those who have answered my plea on two hands.
If you've gotten anything of value from this site over the years, please consider supporting us with a donation, so we can try to make it through year number 10. We are truly reader supporter (that means you), and do not rely on foundational or corporate support. You are the only thing that gives us a chance to keep going. Please consider donating a little something, if you can.
It's rather remarkable, but we are now officially beginning our tenth(!) year here at The BRAD BLOG!
Yes, you and I and the "six or seven"* others who read this site are now officially closing in on one full decade of investigative muckraking and trouble-making!
Our official 9th anniversary was actually late last week, but I've been working on an investigative report over the last week or so (hopefully, coming soon!) and didn't have time to stop to mark the day.
I was looking back at last year's anniversary announcement, and noticed that it came on the very "day we learn[ed] that Mitt Romney makes some $33k a day --- simply by doing nothing --- while paying a lower tax rate than most of you and me, [even as] we'll be happy just to make this month's rent and put some gas in the tank (both literally and figuratively)."
A year later, the sentiment remains true, as we fight on for yet another year here. But it's a year in which, as the media landscape --- particularly on the Internet, but on the broadcast and cable airwaves as well --- continues to change, we are likely to have to make some tough decisions. So, once again, I turn to you all for help even as we celebrate this week's extraordinary milestone.
Don't worry. I'll try to make it worth your time, with a very cool new premium offer to help both me and you celebrate the beginning of our tenth year "being the media"...
We're going to try to take a bit of much-needed down time over the next coupla weeks through the new year holiday. We'll be on the road to spend some much overdue time with family after a particularly grueling year.
Some folks might call this sort of a thing "a vacation". Given my record at accomplishing same over the past many years, however, that word seems a bit of an overstatement. Still, I'm gonna try my best to look the other way for a bit, though I suspect I'll still be checking in (unless I can help it, and I'm gonna try to help it) as news warrants. I'll also be editing, as usual, upcoming pieces from our excellent guest bloggers who will also be making some occasional noise here in my "absence".
So, with all of that vaguery in mind, we'll see ya --- one way or another --- before, during or after the turn of the New Year. Just wanted to let ya know why things may be going quieter here than usual for a bit...
P.S. If you'd like to make a year end contribution to help fill our gas tank --- both figuratively and literally in this case --- it is, as always, greatly appreciated! You may do so easily via the "Donate" button at right --->
On today's The BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio here in Los Angeles, we dealt with, what, if anything, will now be done in the wake of the latest mass shootings in Newtown, CT, and if the lies and propaganda and bullying of the NRA will finally be overcome --- or not.
Desi Doyen joins us for a brief history of how the NRA changed in 1977 from a 100-year old gun safety organization, to a Republican political operation, as well as for the latest Green News Report.
Plus, we got to a lot of phone callers with opinions on all of this, including an NRA member who says he'll be quitting the group; an NRA instructor who says we're absolutely right about what the NRA has become; a caller disagrees that any more gun laws are needed, because it would "allow the wolf in the door", or some such; and even a surprise call from our pal, the great progressive trouble-maker Cliff Schecter. Enjoy!