Sounds good to us.
w/ Brad & Desi
NATIONWIDE STUDY FINDS ALMOST NO VOTER FRAUD
Just 10 cases of in-person impersonation in all 50 states since 2000...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...
|MORE BRAD BLOG 'SPECIAL COVERAGE' PAGES...|
Sounds good to us.
On the day after Secretary of State Colin Powell's infamous Feb. 5, 2003 U.N. presentation of inaccurate information concerning Iraqi WMD and alleged ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, a group of high-ranking, former intelligence agency veterans and whistleblowers calling themselves Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), published their very first "VIPS Memo" to George W. Bush.
In their February 5, 2003 memo [PDF], the former intelligence professionals warned of the politicization of intelligence used by the Administration in their case for war, and cautioned against rushing into military action. They were, of course, ignored by Bush at the time.
A full decade, trillions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of dead bodies later, here we are again, as a President of the United States continues his call for U.S. involvement in yet another military excursion in the Middle East based on a "just trust us" public assessment of purported classified evidence.
Repeating the course they took in hopes of warning Bush after Powell's UN presentation, last week VIPS published another warning in the form of a memo to President Barack Obama, warning that his advisers may not be keeping him fully informed and asserting, among other things, "the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21."
While the VIPS memo presents a disturbing alleged scenario detailing claims that U.S. allies and intelligence officials had advanced knowledge of the August 21 chemical attack, like the White House claims, the VIPS scenario offers little more than serious, if unproven allegations unless and until they are substantiated, or refuted, by hard evidence or, preferably, a Congressional investigation including full immunity for the sources cited by the former intelligence veterans...
We have been working on a number of articles in hopes of highlighting concerns about the Obama Administration's so-far, evidence-free case for war against Syria in light of the August 21, 2013 chemical weapons attack said to have been carried out in a Damascus suburb.
But the matter is a quickly moving target, so to speak. While we hope to get one or more pieces out on those matters in the near future, Talking Points Memo has obtained and just released a document which they say was created by the Syrian government, is being circulated to "most offices" in Congress, according to TPM's sources, and offers the Syrian's case to the U.S. that diplomacy, rather than military attacks, is how they recommend proceeding.
The arguments presented in the 5-page document (posted in full below) on letterhead from the Syrian People's Assembly and signed by the assembly's speaker, Mohammad Jihad al-Lahham, urges the U.S. to "not rush into any irresponsible reckless action."
"You have the power and the responsibility today to convert the United States of America from the war track to the diplomatic path," September 5 letter reads. "We hope to meet there, and to talk, as civilised peoples should. We adopt a diplomatic solution, as we realize that war would be a bloody destructive catastrophic track, which does not have any benefit for all nations."
The letter attempts to play on the sympathies of the U.S. government and public's enmity for al-Qaeda and other "hatred Wahhabi Jihadist Ideology". It also makes a familiar case against military strikes by citing the follies of the Iraq War disaster. But it is the letter's direct response to "Alleged Chemical Attacks" that is most interesting for the moment...
With Brad Friedman
Greg Abbott, the Lone Star State's Attorney General, made a fool out of himself recently when he issued his public response to a U.S. Dept. of Justice lawsuit challenging the Texas Republicans' new polling place Photo ID law as a violation of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and of the U.S. Constitution.
The "facts" he publicly offered in the law's defense were wholly misleading and, worse, plainly inaccurate. But if Abbott thought that was embarrassing, he may have no idea what he's in store for when he actually shows up in a court of law, seeking to defend the Photo ID law which Texas Republicans enacted in 2011 as part of a desperate attempt to cling to power.
Rapidly shifting voter demographics are quickly working against the Lone Star Republican Party. The numbers are leading them into a panic over an ever-increasing minority population and rising voting rates to go with it. So they have been, since 2005, attempting to squelch the inevitable by trying to tamp down minority turnout any way possible. But Texas Republicans are not only in a battle with demographics. The key facts about the Lone Star State's Photo ID restrictions --- as already determined in a court of law --- are not on their side either.
In both United States v. Texas, the DoJ's newly filed legal challenge to the Texas Photo ID restriction law, and in Veasey v. Perry, a separate federal lawsuit filed by Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) and later joined by Dallas County, the plaintiffs not only set forth allegations but facts already found to be true last year by a unanimous three-judge U.S. District Court panel.
Those already established facts reveal that the state's Photo ID law (SB 14) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it imposes unreasonable, and often impossible, burdens upon the right of the poor to vote that would likely result in disenfranchisement. The three judge panel further found, via "undisputed record evidence", as they described it, that a disproportionate percentage of poor Texans who would be subject to such disenfranchisement are Hispanic and African-American.
At the time, however, despite establishing those uncontested facts, those Constitutional concerns were not the basis of the case in front of the federal court in question. But they are now.
Given the Lone Star State's acknowledgment during the previous litigation that it could not contest the facts already on record, the Texas Republicans' gambit to try and turn back time at the polls, or, at least, slow it down as the demographic clock continues to tick against them, is exceedingly unlikely to work. Here's why...
That headline shouldn't have to be ALL CAPS, since it's the rule of law and all, barring a "national emergency", which clearly this is not. But it's a reflection of how much Executive Power has changed over the past several decades, particularly over the last one.
It's also a reflection of how much many "experts" and pundits had expected an announcement that military action was about to happen, or had already had. That's not what the President's remarks today turned out to be about.
In a statement from the Rose Garden --- with the chanting of anti-war protesters heard in the distance --- President Obama announced that "after careful deliberation," he has "decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets," in the wake of their alleged August 21 chemical weapons attack against more than 1,400 citizens in a Damascus suburb.
Charging the attack "presents a serious danger to our national security," Obama said military action against the regime "would be designed to be limited in duration and scope," and meant to "hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out."
He explained that while the military is prepared "to strike whenever we choose...our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I’m prepared to give that order."
And then, here was the most newsworthy portion (even if it shouldn't be so):
Over the last several days, we’ve heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they’ve agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.
"All of us should be accountable as we move forward, and that can only be accomplished with a vote," he explained, dropping the ball squarely back into Congress' court --- for now.
He also stated that while "the country will be stronger...and our actions will be even more effective" with a Congressional debate and vote to back action, he says he believes he has "the authority to carry out this military action without specific Congressional authorization." He did not state what that "authority" is, however, nor if he will exercise it should Congress vote against authorization, as the British Parliament surprisingly did earlier this week.
The President further offered his argument as to why the United States must take action in this case. [The complete text and video of Obama's remarks are posted at the bottom of this article.]
Congress is not currently scheduled to reconvene from their summer break until September 9. The President did not call them back into session earlier, and, as we pointed out several days ago, while many members have signaled they are willing to come back, if called upon by the President to do so, few if any have actually called on Congressional leaders to summon members back to Washington on their own.
That the President is appearing, for now, to follow the rule of law and the Constitution, and hand back some power to Congress that has, for so long, been usurped by the Executive Branch, left many on Twitter both pleased and agog today. Here's a sampling...
Late last night we flagged the New York Times report claiming that "momentum for Western military strikes against Syria appeared to slow," following the UK Parliament's stunning vote to reject military intervention there, after Prime Minister David Cameron's government released a fairly thin intelligence assessment and a less-than-persuasive legal theory for taking such action.
Today, the U.S. released its own unclassified intelligence community assessment of what they describe as "high confidence" that the Syrian regime --- at least someone within it --- launched a large chemical weapons attack on neighborhoods near Damascus on August 21.
The attack, the assessment says, resulted in the death of 1,429 people, "including at least 426 children". According to the document, the "high confidence" assessment is "the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation."
Along with the release of that assessment, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry offered a very straightforward statement (worth reading in full). Please note, however, that the intel assessment, as well as Kerry's statement, did not include the actual first-hand evidence from which the intelligence community is making their assessment, only their evaluation and summary of that evidence. The Administration says they are sharing more of the actual, still-classified assessment and/or evidence with members of Congress.
Kerry noted during his remarks that the intelligence community has been "more than mindful of the Iraq experience," and promised, "We will not repeat that moment." He also added: "the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility."
For his part, the President, in a statement made just before a White House meeting this afternoon, announced that he has made no final decision on action in Syria, but is currently considering a "limited narrow act" which, he says, "in no way involves boots on the ground" or a "long term campaign."
While both Kerry's remarks and Obama's brief comments referenced "consultation" with Congress, neither noted either the legal or Constitutional requirement to receive authorization from them, as we called for earlier, before launching a military intervention, "limited", "narrow" or otherwise, other than in a case of "national emergency".
Both men did, however, offer the case that we must demonstrate the world means what it says about the use of chemical weapons, as banned by the Geneva Convention after WWI and again in various treaties in the nearly 100 years since then.
With all of that in mind --- and, for now, taking the U.S. intelligence assessment at face value for the purposes of this article --- the central point here seems to be that, while killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people with conventional weapons is, apparently, tolerable, using chemical weapons to kill some of them is a war crime. And war crimes, we are told, are a bridge too far.
In a fairly remarkable defeat to the UK Conservative Party's Prime Minister David Cameron, the British Parliament voted against intervention in Syria in a preliminary vote today. That could change in a subsequent vote, but, hey, at least they met, debated and voted! And that was after Cameron's government actually, publicly offered their legal basis for such intervention and an intelligence assessment [PDF] they claim supports it.
Meanwhile, back in these United States, John Nichols details the several bi-partisan --- and surprisingly robust --- Congressional letters calling on President Obama to seek Congressional approval before taking military action against Syria. So far, over 150 members of Congress have signed on to those efforts.
In all, the New York Times concluded this morning (even before the vote in Parliament): "momentum for Western military strikes against Syria appeared to slow."
While a healthy portion of the U.S. Congress members speaking up are progressive Democrats, interestingly (though, perhaps, not surprisingly?), there are far more Republicans, this time around, joining the effort to call on the President to wait for an Article 1, Section 8 declaration of war from Congress --- or, at least, some form of authorization from the Legislative branch --- as clearly envisioned (an actual conservative would say "required") by the U.S. Constitution.
It's nice to see Congress, this time around --- at least more than 150 of its members --- calling on the President to do the right thing. On the other hand, Congress has its own responsibility here...
"The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are, as a people, inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings," President John F. Kennedy declared to the American Newspaper Publishers Association at New York's Waldorf-Astoria in 1961.
"No official of my Administration," he continued, "whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know."
But, that was then.
The U.S. government's legal requests for secret surveillance are, themselves, filed in secret at the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and the FISC's rulings on those secret requests are themselves a secret as well.
Last week, however, after more than a year of legal wrangling and lawsuits, the non-partisan Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was finally successful in gaining the public release of one of those secret rulings, an October 2011 decision by the Court finding that the government had, on several occasions, offered the Court "a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program ... buttressed by repeated inaccurate statements."
At the very same time, as they were about to be compelled by a court to release the decision EFF sought, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, "in the interest of increased transparency," released two other redacted court decisions as well. In all, they revealed the NSA's illegal and unconstitutional collection of the emails of tens of thousands U.S. citizens who had nothing to do with terrorism investigations. The documents were all posted on a new Tumblr website created, Clapper said in a statement posted to the site, "to provide the public with direct access to factual information related to the lawful foreign surveillance activities carried out by the Intelligence Community."
As expected, some sections of the October 2011 FISC decision were heavily redacted. Other parts, while redacted, were revelatory nonetheless about the nature of our government's secret surveillance programs. And still other portions seem to be redacted for no legitimate national security reason at all. As a number of national security journalists, FOIA advocates, security veterans and whistleblowers describe to The BRAD BLOG, the reason for some of the redactions appears to be little more than an attempt to keep the government from embarrassing itself --- or even from revealing evidence of its own crimes.
Here's one of the more disturbing revelations, from a footnote, in the previously secret October 2011 FISC decision...
Here's one of the more heavily redacted portions of the previously secret 85-page ruling that rejected a secret surveillance request by the government, after determining that the government had repeatedly misled the Court in its secret filings...
But here is one snippet about which we specifically requested comment from a number of national security journalists, FOIA advocates (including the EFF) and former national security agency veterans and whistleblowers. Note, just for now, the one sentence highlighted in yellow...
Despite the U.S. government's inability, during his military trial, to demonstrate any harm to anybody caused by Bradley Manning's leaks, the U.S. Army whistleblower who revealed war crimes and government lies was sentenced today to 35 years in prison.
According to Charlie Savage at the New York Times, "The sentence is the longest ever handed down in a case involving a leak of United States government information to be reported to the public."
Manning, who is now 25-years old, has already served more than three years as he awaited trial. Much of that time was served in solitary, windowless, and often naked confinement 23 hours a day, leading the military judge of his military trial to declare his treatment "excessive". At the time, his potential life sentence was reduced by 122 days. Manning will now be eligible for parole in 9 years, even though the judge acquitted him of the government's most serious charge of "aiding the enemy", which had never before been included in a leak case.
The moment offers another nice opportunity to revisit a promise made by 2008 Presidential candidate (and then President-elect) Barack Obama, to see if he has been able to keep his word any better than the government argued Bradley Manning did, since Obama described whistleblowing at the time [PDF] as "acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives" and which "should be encouraged rather than stifled as they have been during the Bush administration"...
How dumb, gullible, confused, played, brainwashed and miseducated are Republicans in Louisiana?
Heckuva job, GOP and Fox "News"!
By now, you've certainly heard of the outrageous 9-hour detention of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda at Heathrow Airport under Great Britain's supposed "Terrorism Act" over the weekend. As Rachel Maddow amazingly, but justifiably, found it necessary to point out loudly last night, "journalism is not terrorism", and both the British government and U.S. government (which has admitted receiving a "heads-up" about the planned detention by British authorities in advance, but didn't stop it from happening) should be ashamed of themselves and held accountable for the outrage.
Many have opined, since the detention of Miranda, what an outrage something like that would have been had a similar harassment and the seizure of personal property of, say, a New York Times journalist doing his or her job, occurred in this country or by a country so closely allied with the U.S.
Well, before we took our short break last week, I had been covering some of the increasing citizen protests in several states around the U.S. in reaction to the extreme and radical Republican policies being put in place by states where the GOP has recently taken control of state government. I covered the ensuing arrests of an 83-year old Korean War vet peacefully demonstrating for voting rights in NC (as he did with MLK in Selma, AL in 1965) and of an 80- and 85-year old couple in WI arrested in a crackdown by Republican Gov. Scott Walker's Capitol Police for participating in a daily protest sing along in the state capitol building.
While I was gone, it seems, things have gotten worse in Wisconsin, as an elected official was also arrested for singing along, and even the editor of a progressive news magazine was arrested for having attempted to record it...
Last year, in a petition to President Barack Obama, the advocacy group Change.Org described Edward J. DeMarco, a holdover from the Bush Administration who still serves as Acting Directer of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), as "the single largest obstacle to meaningful economic recovery."
Around the time Change.Org began circulating its petition, New York Times' Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, called for President Obama to "Fire Ed DeMarco". The blog detailed how DeMarco had, in defiance of the Obama Administration, rejected a U.S. Treasury Department request "that he offer debt relief to troubled homeowners --- a request backed by an offer that the U.S. Treasury would pay up to 63 cents to the FHFA for every dollar of debt forgiven."
Treasury's request was rejected even though, as Krugman explained, "a reduction in debt burdens would strengthen the economy," creating "greater revenues" that could "offset any losses from the debt forgiveness itself."
The fact that a Bush holdover, who, for so many years, has been committed to protecting the same Wall Street casino --- the market created out of mortgaged backed securities --- whose collapse triggered what Krugman insists is now a "depression", is primarily due to the ability of Senate Republicans to block both of the nominations Obama finally made to replace him...
I sat in the courtroom all day on Wednesday as Bradley Manning's trial wound its way to a tragic and demoralizing conclusion. I wanted to hear Eugene Debs, and instead I was trapped there, watching Socrates reach for the hemlock and gulp it down. Just a few minutes in and I wanted to scream or shout.
I don't blame Bradley Manning for apologizing for his actions and effectively begging for the court's mercy. He's on trial in a system rigged against him. The commander in chief declared him guilty long ago. He's been convicted. The judge has been offered a promotion. The prosecution has been given a playing field slanted steeply in its favor. Why should Manning not follow the only advice anyone's ever given him and seek to minimize his sentence? Maybe he actually believes that what he did was wrong. But --- wow --- does it make for some perverse palaver in the courtroom...
I was joined on this week's KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast by Dan Froomkin, formerly of the Washington Post, where he worked for more than a decade before becoming Washington Bureau Chief for the Huffington Post before becoming the founder of the soon-to-be-launched Center for Accountability Journalism at FearlessMedia.org.
My first question to him: Why should anyone in the public, other than journalism industry insiders, actually care that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post this week?
His response to that question and others on the recent shameful history and hopeful future of journalism were much more optimistic than mine --- but, as I note during the show, I really need a break (which I hope to get somewhere in the mountains next week), so I may be a even more cynical this week than usual.
Speaking of cynicism, I also ranted a bit on the United States of Fear and Redaction, on CA Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley's vote to continue violating her constituents' and every American's civil liberties, and even found some time to offer some improbable kudos to WI Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner for his support of the Voting Rights Act.
All that, a bit more, and even Desi Doyen with the latest Green News Report can be enjoyed in this week's BradCast.
Download MP3 or listen online below [appx. 58 mins]...
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