Economists Warn of Near Treason In DC Policies

Two prominent economists on the left and right have described the nation's economic planning as so misguided as to be deeply corrupt.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, left, an appointee under the Democratic President Bill Clinton, published a column describing the nation's path as shaped by the tea party as "near treasonous." He called the effort to cut spending "a cruel hoax" because its basis is an ideological pursuit of power, thus hurting the public needlessly via phony economic history.

Paul Craig Roberts, at right, a prominent conservative for many years in the Reagan Administration and elsewhere, has been at least as hard-hitting as Reich on many of the same themes.

The most recent Roberts column, The Missing Recovery, argues that recent governments of both parties deliberately deceive the public with their official economic statistics, and otherwise sell out the public interest. He uses the term "treason" and its synonyms primarily for U.S. powerbrokers hurting the country on war-mongering instead of crippling the economy. But he matches Reich in many other respects in disdain for economic policy bromides.

In underscoring the loss of America's historic freedoms, Roberts often describes government as by "The Bush-Obama Regime" and law enforcement as by the "The Justice Department (sic)."  His word choice mocks traditional Republican versus Democratic political pundity offered by what Roberts likes to call "the presstitutes" in the mass media.

Such commentary, excerpted below, is relevant for the Justice Integrity Project, which is focused on official corruption. We strive to be non-partisan while not pulling our punches. Thanks to a few voices like Reich and Roberts, we can convey a growing but largely hidden fear among Washington observers regarding a serious breakdown in economic policy, as well as other governance. The danger is illustrated by the recent book by my friend Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, both distinguished Washington commentators: It's Even Worse Than it Looks

In a Cato Institute lecture, Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig also recently underscored dangers to the public. He said a supposedly "broken" system in Washington actually works quite well for government's leaders and their funders by keeping the nation in a constant state of crisis.

As reported in Riveting Lecture Reveals Election Finance Reform Mess, Lessig, at left, argued that the current congressional process functions well if its goal is to generate more donations from lobbyists and their clients seeking to control government. Adding to a certain irony is that Cato was founded by the Charles and David Koch, two billionaires reported this week by Forbes Magazine as each being worth $34 billion. They are prominent funders of libertarian and conservative causes. Their defenders argue that their goals are more positive than commonly reported by critics. That is a topic for another day.

Listed below are links to recent Reich and Roberts commentaries along with a sample of other relevant opinion. Among the sample is a column by Harvard professor Jeffrey Miron, The Sequester Will Be Good for the Economy. The column was published by the conservative Daily Caller --which also recently published phony claims cited below of a sex scandal targeting Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat.

Professor Miron is well-credential professionally. But he appeared to cherry-picked his examples of fraud and waste to make ideological points.

Reich and Roberts use their academic and career credentials in more positive and intellectually courageous ways by challenging their own longtime colleagues and conventional wisdom.

Reich was a Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale Law School who has authored 11 books following his government servce. He is currently a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

Roberts, 73, holds a doctorate from the University of Virginia. He was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration (whose main economic policies he continues to uphold), a university professor, a nationally synidicated columnist, and an associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He had authored or co-authored 10 books. One is The Tryanny of Good Intentions, an important reference work for the Justice Integrity Project's mission. He remains a prolific writer in his native state of Georgia after founding a non-profit called the Institute of Political Economy to help disseminate his columns, which have become too controversial for mainstream publications, albeit no less valuable for readers.

Therein lies the difference between Roberts and Reich -- and the vast majority of other pundits regarding the economy. Most commentators use their undoubted talents and credentials timidly. They report upon the fine points of a system going haywire. It would hurt their careers to describe the appalling status quo, or to reiterate blunt lessons learned from history.

One such lesson is that the last president who insisted on a balanced budget during a recession was Herbert Hoover. Everyone knows but few will say that he worsened the economic disaster of his era.

Another reality is that Bill Clinton created balanced budgets for four years during the end of his administration with higher tax rates than currently. Pretty much the same Republican leaders calling for austerity for the non-rich and balanced budgets now were saying during the Bush administration that balanced budgets do not matter.

One of the Roberts contributions is to call out his own party on that hypocrisy. Similarly, part of the Reich contribution to understanding our current debacle is his criticism of the corporate-controlled Democratic Party leadership, including the president, for their halfway measures doomed to failure and suffering for the public.

Roberts describes an appalling current situation as follows:

Officially, since June 2009 the US economy has been undergoing an economic recovery from the December 2007 recession. But where is this recovery? I cannot find it, and neither can millions of unemployed Americans. Despite recovery's absence and the lack of job opportunities for Americans, Republicans in Congress are sponsoring bills to enlarge the number of foreigners that corporations can bring in on work visas. The large corporations claim that they cannot find enough skilled Americans. This is one of the most transparent of the constant stream of lies that we are told. Foreign hires are not additions to the work force, but replacements. The corporations force their American employees to train the foreigners, and then the American employees are discharged. Obviously, if skilled employees were in short supply, they would not be laid off. Moreover, if the skills were in short supply, salaries would be bid up, not down, and the 36% of those who graduated in 2011 with doctorate degrees in engineering would not have been left unemployed.

The consequence of jobs off-shoring is the ruination of the domestic consumer market. Today the stock market is high not from profits from expanding sales revenues, but from labor cost savings. As no interest group wants to be gored, Congress has been unable to deal with the trillion dollar plus annual budget deficit, the continuation of which raises the specter of dollar collapse and inflation. John Maynard Keynes made it clear long ago, as has Greece today, that trying to reduce the ratio of debt to GDP by austerity measures doesn't work.

Excerpted below are two powerful Reich blogs from his recent columns. In The Tea Party's Plot Is On The Verge Of Treason, he argues:

Sequestration is only the start. What they set out to do was not simply change Washington but eviscerate the U.S. government — “drown it in the bathtub,” in the words of their guru Grover Norquist – slashing Social Security and Medicare, ending worker protections we’ve had since the 1930s, eroding civil rights and voting rights, terminating programs that have helped the poor for generations, and making it impossible for the government to invest in our future.

Sequestration grew out of a strategy hatched soon after they took over the House in 2011, to achieve their goals by holding hostage the full faith and credit of the United States – notwithstanding the Constitution’s instruction that the public debt of the United States “not be questioned.” To avoid default on the public debt, the White House and House Republicans agreed to harsh and arbitrary “sequestered” spending cuts if they couldn’t come up with a more reasonable deal in the interim. But the Tea Partiers had no intention of agreeing to anything more reasonable. They knew the only way to dismember the federal government was through large spending cuts without tax increases. Nor do they seem to mind the higher unemployment their strategy will almost certainly bring about. Sequestration combined with January’s fiscal cliff deal is expected to slow economic growth by 1.5 percentage points this year – dangerous for an economy now crawling at about 2 percent. It will be even worse if the Tea Partiers refuse to extend the government’s spending authority, which expires March 27. A conspiracy theorist might think they welcome more joblessness because they want Americans to be even more fearful and angry. Tea Partiers use fear and anger in their war against the government – blaming the anemic recovery on government deficits and the government’s size, and selling a poisonous snake-oil of austerity economics and trickle-down economics as the remedy.

What is the President’s response? He still wants a so-called “grand bargain” of “balanced” spending cuts (including cuts in the projected growth of Social Security and Medicare) combined with tax increases on the wealthy. So far, though, he has agreed to a gross imbalance — $1.5 trillion in cuts to Republicans’ $600 billion in tax increases on the rich. The President apparently believes Republicans are serious about deficit reduction, when in fact the Tea Partiers now running the GOP are serious only about dismembering the government.

Reich's other essay is: What Obama Should Do Now. "Push to repeal the sequester (a reconciliation bill in the Senate would allow repeal with 51 votes, thereby putting pressure on House Republicans)," he  writes, "and replace it with a 'Build America’s Future' Act that would close tax loopholes used by the wealthy, end corporate welfare, impose a small (1/10 of 1%) tax on financial transactions, and reduce the size of the military. Half the revenues would be used for deficit reduction, the other half for investments in our future through education (from early-childhood through affordable higher ed), infrastructure, and basic R&D."

The questions these scholars are raising about economic justice are highly relevant to other forms of justice. These two critics may differ on recommended solutions. They agree in many ways on the bad faith of policy makers. The concept of treason or similar disloyalty is too complex to explore at the end of an already long column. As a brief attempt, however: The salient characteristics include disregard of accepted procedures for governance, and willingness to sabotage the governing system for private motives. Those private motives in the United States often involve foreign loyalties, or secessionist and similar credos most common in the South and West. 

Secessionist impulses often coincide with expressions of intense patriotism. That makes analysis overly complex, except for the apt slogan of the headstrong: "My way or the highway."

United States history has many examples of these patterns. So, it should not be surprising when they reoccur. 

 

 

Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment
 
 

 

Editor's Recommendations

Institute for Political Economy / OpEd News, The Missing Recovery, Paul Craig Roberts, March 1, 2013. Obviously, if skilled employees were in short supply, they would not be laid off. Moreover, if the skills were in short supply, salaries would be bid up, not down, and the 36% of those who graduated in 2011 with doctorate degrees in engineering would not have been left unemployed. The National Science Foundation's report, "Doctorate Recipients From U.S. Universities," says that only 64% of the Ph.D. engineering graduates found a pay check. As I have reported on numerous occasions for many years, neither the payroll jobs statistics nor the Bureau of Labor Statistics' job projections show job opportunities for university graduates. But this doesn't stop Congress from helping US corporations get rid of their American employees in exchange for campaign donations.  The consequence of jobs off-shoring is the ruination of the domestic consumer market. Today the stock market is high not from profits from expanding sales revenues, but from labor cost savings. As no interest group wants to be gored, Congress has been unable to deal with the trillion dollar plus annual budget deficit, the continuation of which raises the specter of dollar collapse and inflation. John Maynard Keynes made it clear long ago, as has Greece today, that trying to reduce the ratio of debt to GDP by austerity measures doesn't work.

Business Insider, The Tea Party's Plot Is On The Verge Of Treason, Robert Reich, March 1, 2013. Imagine a plot to undermine the government of the United States, to destroy much of its capacity to do the public’s business, and to sow distrust among the population. Imagine further that the plotters infiltrate Congress and state governments, reshape their districts to give them disproportionate influence in Washington, and use the media to spread big lies about the government. Finally, imagine they not only paralyze the government but are on the verge of dismantling pieces of it. Far-fetched?  Perhaps. But take a look at what’s been happening in Washington and many state capitals since Tea Party fanatics gained effective control of the Republican Party, and you’d be forgiven if you see parallels. Tea Party Republicans are crowing about the “sequestration” cuts beginning today (Friday). “This will be the first significant tea party victory in that we got what we set out to do in changing Washington,” says Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), a Tea Partier who was first elected in 2010.

Robert Reich.org, What Obama Should Do Now, Robert Reich, March 4, 2013. Push to repeal the sequester (a reconciliation bill in the Senate would allow repeal with 51 votes, thereby putting pressure on House Republicans), and replace it with a “Build America’s Future” Act that would close tax loopholes used by the wealthy, end corporate welfare, impose a small (1/10 of 1%) tax on financial transactions, and reduce the size of the military. Half the revenues would be used for deficit reduction, the other half for investments in our future through education (from early-childhood through affordable higher ed), infrastructure, and basic R&D. Also included in that bill — in order to make sure our future isn’t jeopardized by another meltdown of Wall Street — would be a resurrection of Glass-Steagall and a limit on the size of the biggest banks. I’d make clear to the American people that they made a choice in 2012 but that right-wing House Republicans have been blocking that choice, and the only way to implement that choice is for Congress to pass the Build America’s Future Act. If House Republicans still block it, I’d make 2014 a referendum on it and them, and do whatever I could to take back the House.

Huffington Post, Sequestration Nation, and Remembering Robert Kennedy, Robert Reich, March 3, 2013. With the sequester now beginning, I find myself thinking about Robert F. Kennedy -- and 46 years ago when I was an intern in his Senate office. 1967 was a difficult time for the nation. America was deeply split over civil rights and the Vietnam War. Many of our cities were burning. The war was escalating. But RFK, at right,  was upbeat. He was also busy and intense -- drafting legislation, lining up votes, speaking to the poor, inspiring the young. I was awed by his energy and optimism, and his overriding passion for social justice and the public good. (Within a few months he'd declare his intention to run for president. Within a year he'd be dead.) The nation is once again polarized, but I don't hear our politicians talking about social justice or the public good. They're talking instead about the budget deficit and sequestration. At bottom, though, the issue is still social justice.

The austerity economics on which we've embarked is a cruel hoax -- cruel because it hurts those who are already hurt the most; a hoax because it doesn't work. The trickle-down-economics, on which Republicans base their refusal even discuss closing tax loopholes for the wealthy, is a proven failure -- proven because it's been tried before, by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush; a failure because nothing has trickled down. Taxes have been cut on the wealthy, but the real median wage keeps dropping and the rate of poverty keeps rising. Meanwhile, America has become far more unequal than it was in 1967. Then, the richest 1 percent got 9 percent of the nation's total income and paid a top marginal tax of 78 percent (and an effective rate, after deductions and credits, of 54 percent). Now the richest 1 percent get over 20 percent of the nation's income and pay a marginal tax of 39 percent (and an effective rate of 23 percent -- or, if you're in Mitt Romney's league, less than 19 percent). The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million combined. If Robert Kennedy were alive today he'd condemn the Tea Party Republicans (and the Koch Brother billionaires who fund them) for violating the basic ideal of social justice that's the moral foundation of this nation.

Justice Integrity Project, Riveting Lecture Reveals Election Finance Reform Mess, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 26, 2013.  Congressional reform advocate Lawrence Lessig this week delivered a powerful lecture in the nation's capital showing that control of elections by the wealthy is vastly greater than commonly understood. Just 159 wealthy U.S. donors provided as much presidential funding as all small donors combined, according to 2008 statistics that Lessig cited as the most recent available. Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, argued that this small pool of donors essentially decides who is eligible to run for president on the major parties.
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Related News Coverage

Roll Call, Obama's Lost Leverage, Steven T. Dennis and Daniel Newhauser, March 1, 2013. President Barack Obama is in a position of supplication to Hill Republicans, talking loudly and often about the harm of automatic budget cuts but lacking the leverage to get the GOP to buckle. Senior administration officials had for months predicted that Republicans would cave on the sequester and agree to more taxes, even after agreeing to $600 billion in tax increases in the New Year’s Eve fiscal-cliff deal. But Obama gave away the one big legislative stick he has in his arsenal. He said he wouldn’t risk a government shutdown by demanding a sequester fix in the continuing resolution needed to fund the government past March 27. “I think it’s the right thing to do to make sure that we don’t have a government shutdown,” he said on March 1. The White House had been quietly signaling to its Democratic allies on the Hill that Obama would not threaten a veto out of fear the public would blame Democrats for the shutdown. But the decision only underscored what many Hill Democrats believe was a major negotiating error by the White House and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the fiscal-cliff deal. By making all of the tax cuts permanent but only avoiding the sequester for two months, the president traded away most of his leverage in return for only half of the revenue he had been seeking — and no clear way to force Republicans to the table for more. “It’s playing out exactly as we warned them it would,” a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide said.

Cato Institute/Daily Caller, The Sequester Will Be Good for the Economy, Jeffrey A. Miron, February 28, 2013. Politicians, pundits and economists are all forecasting horrific impacts on the U.S. economy as sequestration hits Friday. The basis for this view is the standard — Keynesian — claim that spending cuts slow economic growth, perhaps even causing a recession. This claim is false. The Keynesian model of business cycles is taught in most college and high school economics courses around the world. It is accepted wisdom in the halls of government. But its value as a guide for policy depends on a key but under-emphasized assumption.

Politico, Paul Ryan floats change to Medicare plan, Jake Sherman and Jonathan Allen, March 4, 2013. Paul Ryan’s budget will show how Republicans can balance a budget that’s trillions of dollars out of whack. But the most significant unresolved issue comes down to a minuscule number: one year. Ryan — the House Budget Committee chairman — has privately been floating the idea of allowing his changes to Medicare to kick in for Americans younger than 56.  In previous budgets, those 55 and older were exempted from his plan to turn Medicare into a premium-support — or voucher — program. It might not seem like much of a distinction — and it doesn’t help Republicans achieve their stated goal of balancing the budget in 10 years. But it has sharp political teeth. Republicans have been arguing for two years that their plans wouldn’t affect Medicare coverage for anyone older than 54, and Democrats will surely pounce on any change as Republicans breaking faith with their own pledge to seniors. The Ryan budget served as a favorite battering ram for Democrats against Republican candidates on the campaign trail.  Ryan, according to Republicans familiar with his pitch, wants to take a stand on a program they say doesn’t have a future for the next generation of retirees if major reforms aren’t made soon. If the GOP gradually makes the argument to change the program incrementally, they hope the public will begin to accept it.

Daily Howler, Imitations Of Life:Charlie Sits With Justice  O’Connor! Bob Somerby, March 6, 2013. On Monday evening, Charlie Rose pretended to moderate a debate between Paul Krugman and Joe Scarborough. In fact, Rose was staging an imitation of this familiar broadcaster function. Just 12 minutes into an hour-long program, a remarkable moment had occurred. In a nation which is screeching and yelling about $85 billion in spending cuts this year, Scarborough had proposed something quite different. He had proposed $200 billion per year in additional federal spending! This is precisely the type of proposal for which Krugman routinely gets flayed! In a world which wasn’t imitation, a moderator would have seized the day. He would have declared a remarkable point of agreement between the two combatants. Krugman tried, several times, to note the oddness of Scarborough's statement. But Charlie Rose, the program’s host, was involved in an imitation of life. All around the United States, people tune to PBS thinking they’re getting the goods. But the bulk of our American discourse is composed of imitations of life—imitations of discourse. Consider what happened when Rose sat down with Sandra Day O’Connor, right, last night….
 
FireDogLake, The GOP’s Possible Path on the Sequester, Jon Walker, March 1, 2013. The most important development in President Obama’s press conference today is that he didn’t issue a veto threat against a continuing resolution that would integrate the size of the sequester cuts into new baseline spending levels. This gives Republicans a rather clear possible path to dealing with the sequester. The Republicans can put forward a new omnibus spending bill which contains overall reductions roughly equal in size to the sequester, but with more flexibility in how they are implemented.

New York Times, Report May Ease Path for New Pipeline, John M. Broder, March 1, 2013.The State Department issued a revised environmental impact statement for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline on Friday that makes no recommendation about whether the project should be built but presents no conclusive environmental reason it should not be. The 2,000-page document also makes no statement on whether the pipeline is in the United States’ economic and energy interests, a determination to be made later this year by President Obama.

FireDogLake, The GOP’s Possible Path on the Sequester, Jon Walker, March 1, 2013. The most important development in President Obama’s press conference today is that he didn’t issue a veto threat against a continuing resolution that would integrate the size of the sequester cuts into new baseline spending levels. This gives Republicans a rather clear possible path to dealing with the sequester. The Republicans can put forward a new omnibus spending bill which contains overall reductions roughly equal in size to the sequester, but with more flexibility in how they are implemented.

National Press Club Wire, U.S. GDP will grow If trade deficit drops, says economist Dean Baker,  Andrew Kreig, February 28, 2013.  Washington economist Dean Baker, left, told a National Press Club Newsmaker press conference audience Feb. 28 that U.S. trade deficit reductions deserve far more attention as a strategy for domestic economic growth. Baker, co-director and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said the U.S. economy has lost $8 trillion in wealth from the economic downturn beginning at the end of the Bush administration. "The idea that job creators are going to create jobs if we make them happy is not going to happen," Baker said. Employers are going to hire, he continued, only if they have foreign or domestic customers with money to spend.

Washington Post, Efforts to avert cut are dropped, Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman, Feb. 28, 2013, One day before automatic spending cuts were due to hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies, Congress on Thursday abandoned efforts to avert the reductions and left town for the weekend. The sequester is here, and policymakers have no plans to end it. President Obama is scheduled to meet Friday at the White House with congressional leaders, but expectations for the meeting are low. House Republicans are already turning their attention to the next deadline on March 27, drafting a measure that would avoid a government shutdown while leaving the sequester in place through the end of September.

OpEdNews, The ABCs of Sequester with William Rivers Pitt, Joan Brunwasser, Feb. 28 , 2013.  My guest today is author, political activist, Truthout editor and columnist, William Rivers Pitt. Welcome to OpEdNews, Will. This week, you wrote "The "Fix' is In: Laying Bare Some Sequester Lies." With the sequester due to kick in shortly, this is a golden opportunity to bring our readers up to speed. Let's begin at the beginning. What is this much ballyhooed sequester? It was determined that $4 trillion in deficit reduction is required to get the nation's economic house in order. Through a series of quasi-apocalyptic showdowns - the recent "fiscal cliff" farce was one such - the president and Congress have managed to reduce the deficit by $2.5 trillion through a series of spending cuts and tax increases on wealthier Americans. In order to cross the $4 trillion finish line, however, the sequester was created as a kind of doomsday device: an automatic $1.25 trillion in deep, traumatizing cuts to the military, and to social programs across the board, would take place if the $4 trillion goal was not met by March 1st. The argument for creating the sequester was simple: the looming cuts are so deep, and apply to so many different areas beloved across the ideological spectrum, that no one in Washington would allow it to happen, and would be forced to do a deal.

New York Times, Ben Bernanke, Hippie, Paul Krugman, February 28, 2013. We’re just a few weeks away from a milestone I suspect most of Washington would like to forget: the start of the Iraq war. What I remember from that time is the utter impenetrability of the elite prowar consensus. If you tried to point out that the Bush administration was obviously cooking up a bogus case for war, one that didn’t bear even casual scrutiny; if you pointed out that the risks and likely costs of war were huge; well, you were dismissed as ignorant and irresponsible. And, even more remarkably, a very similar story has played out over the past three years, this time about economic policy. Earlier this week, Mr. Bernanke delivered testimony that should have made everyone in Washington sit up and take notice. The Fed chairman spoke more clearly and forcefully on fiscal policy than ever before — and what he said, translated from Fedspeak into plain English, was that the Beltway obsession with deficits is a terrible mistake. And an end to deficit obsession can’t come a moment too soon. Right now Washington is focused on the idiocy of the sequester, but this is only the latest episode in an unprecedented run of declines in public employment and government purchases that have crippled our economy’s recovery. A misguided elite consensus has led us into an economic quagmire, and it’s time for us to get out.

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Washington Post, Manning Pleads Guilty to Counts in WikiLeaks case, Julie Tate and Ernesto Londoño, Feb. 28, 2013. The Army private charged in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history pleaded guilty to 10 charges Thursday and offered an impassioned defense of his actions, arguing that he sought to spark a national debate about what he described as the nation’s obsession with “killing and capturing people.” The testimony marked Pfc. Bradley Manning’s first detailed account of his disclosure of a trove of U.S. diplomatic cables and military documents in 2010 to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy organization he said he approached after he was unable to entice the Washington Post and the New York Times.
 
Democracy Now! / OPpEdNews, Glenn Greenwald: Why the Obama Administration's Persecution of Bradley Manning Should Terrify Us All, Democracy Now! March 5, 2013. The following is a Democracy Now! interview with Glenn Greenwald on the terrifying persecution of Bradley Manning. As we broadcast from the Freedom to Connect conference, we look at one whistleblower who used the Internet to reveal the horrors of war: U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning. Military prosecutors have decided to bring the maximum charges against Manning after he admitted during a pretrial hearing last week to the largest leak of state secrets in U.S. history. In a bid to secure a reduced sentence, Manning acknowledged on the stand that he gave classified documents to WikiLeaks in order to show the American public the "true costs of war" and "spark a debate about foreign policy." Manning pleaded guilty to reduced charges on 10 counts, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. But instead of accepting that plea, military prosecutors announced Friday they will seek to imprison Manning for life without parole on charges that include aiding the enemy. Manning's court-martial is scheduled to begin in June. We speak with Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, who has long covered the case, about what this means for Manning and its broader implications for whistleblowers and the journalists they often approach.
 
Greenwald: This is a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overkill. The government has never been able to identify any substantial harm that has come from any of the leaks that Bradley Manning is accused of and now admits to being responsible for....But even more specifically, the theory that the government is proceeding on is one that's really quite radical and menacing. That is, that although he never communicated with, quote-unquote, "the enemy," which the government has said is al-Qaeda, although there's no evidence that he intended in any way to benefit al-Qaeda -- he could have sold this information, made a great deal of money, had he wanted to. All the evidence indicates that he did it for exactly the reason that he said, with the intent that he said, which was to spark reform and to bring attention to these abuses. The government is proceeding on the theory that simply because the information that's leaked ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda had an interest in it, that constitutes aiding and abetting the enemy. And what that essentially does is it converts every form of whistleblowing or leaks into a form of treason.

Washington Post, Sen. Menendez prostitution claims made up, escort says, Carol D. Leonnig and Ernesto Londoño, March 5, 2013. Woman who said N.J. Democrat paid her for sex now tells Dominican Republic police she was paid to make up claims. An escort who appeared on a video claiming that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) paid her for sex has told Dominican authorities that she was instead paid to make up the claims and has never met or seen the senator, according to court documents and two people briefed on her claim. The woman said a local lawyer had approached her and a fellow escort and asked them to help frame Menendez and a top donor, Salomon Melgen, according to affidavits obtained by The Washington Post. That lawyer has in turn identified a second Dominican lawyer who he said gave the woman a script and paid her to read the claims aloud. The first lawyer said he found out only later that the remarks would be videotaped and used against Menendez, the affidavits say. Menendez, shown at left, has denied the prostitution claims, saying they were made by enemies trying to undermine him as he sought reelection in the fall and became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this year. The videotaped claims of two women, made with their faces obscured, were posted on the conservative Web site the Daily Caller. The site reported that “the two women said they met Menendez around Easter at Casa de Campo, an expensive 7,000-acre resort in the Dominican Republic. . . . They claimed Menendez agreed to pay them $500 for sex acts, but in the end they each received only $100.”

Legal Schnauzer, Why Do Ex Wives Of Campus Crest CEO Ted Rollins Tend To Issue Warnings About Possible Child Abuse? Roger Shuler, Feb. 28, 2013.  Birmingham resident Sherry Carroll Rollins did not realize it at the time, but she now says Ted Rollins' first wife tried to warn her that he might abuse her two sons from a previous marriage. Sherry and Ted Rollins were married for 14 years before their divorce was finalized in 2005, right here in my backyard, Shelby County, Alabama. Ted Rollins grew up in one of the nation's wealthiest families, the folks behind Orkin Pest Control, and he has gone on to become CEO of Campus Crest Communities, a Charlotte-based developer of student housing that has received more than $400 million in Wall Street support.

Washington Post, Why Ann Romney is wrong, Chris Cillizza, March 4, 2013. Ann Romney insisted in an interview with Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace over the weekend that the media was to blame for her husband’s loss in the presidential race last fall. While the media is a convenient (and common) scapegoat, Ann Romney is simply wrong when she says: “I believe it was the media’s fault as well, is that he was not giv[en] — being given a fair shake, that people weren’t allowed to see him for who he was.” Mitt Romney had two great positive selling points when it came to introducing himself to the American public: his business record and his faith. He talked about neither at any great length — or on the sort of terms that might have helped his chances. Let’s start with Romney’s Mormon faith. It was no secret that many within Romneyworld viewed the fact that he was a Mormon as a major reason for why his campaign never caught on among social conservatives in places like Iowa and South Carolina in 2008. And so, coming into the 2012 race,  it was clear from very early on that Romney would not speak extensively (or really at all) about his Mormonism. Romney avoided talking about his faith even in openly religious settings; in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney gave his faith only a passing mention. Then there is his business background. While Romney did talk much more openly about what he did with Bain, he was constantly cowed by the negative storyline being told by President Obama’s campaign and other Democratic groups about his work as a “vulture capitalist.” Rather than seize the narrative — yes, I backed some companies that failed but I backed lots and lots that succeeded and here are their stories in detail — Romney wound up defaulting to a canned line about successes like Bright Horizons and Staples. As a result, the Obama campaign was effectively able to take Romney’s “successful businessman” narrative and use it against him, turning what should have been a great strength as a major weakness.

Washington Post, Jeb Bush is back in the spotlight — and thinking about 2016, March 5, 2013. Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has remained on the sidelines since his older brother left the White House with dismal ratings four years ago, has jumped back into the political fray this week with a new book, wall-to-wall television interviews and a round of public speaking engagements. His appearances mark a change in approach for Bush, 60, who has operated as more of a Republican elder statesman since leaving Tallahassee in 2007 but is now clearly considering a run for the White House. He is shown at left in an official photo from his time as governor.

Huffington Post, Jeb Bush Book: Undocumented Immigrants Should Be Ineligible For Citizenship, Elise Foley, March 4, 2013. In a new book, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) makes a notable reversal on immigration reform, arguing that creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would only encourage future unauthorized immigration. "It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences -- in this case, that those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship," Bush and lawyer Clint Bolick argue in a new book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution. "To do otherwise would signal once again that people who circumvent the system can still obtain the full benefits of American citizenship." 

Politico, House GOP rolls out stopgap spending plan, David Rogers, March 4, 2013. House Republicans moved ahead Monday behind a six-month stopgap spending bill that would keep the government funded through September but also lock in appropriations at a far lower level than even Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget envisioned last spring. The measure addresses multiple hot spots in the wake of the automatic spending cuts ordered last Friday. But it is ultimately a zero-sum game in which money is shifted from one account to the next — only to mitigate the adverse impacts of sequestration, not roll back the reductions themselves. Inside the Pentagon, billions of dollars would be moved to operation and maintenance accounts to relieve some of the crunch facing the four military services. At the State Department, up to $2 billion in new funding — offset by cuts elsewhere — is reallocated for embassy security in the wake of the attack in Benghazi, Libya. Closer to home, an additional $344 million would become available to help Homeland Security maintain customs and Border Patrol staffing. And the Forest Service and Interior Department are promised an additional $570 million to cope with wildfires this summer. But a frustrated White House came away empty-handed in its effort to boost Head Start or secure additional funds to help set up the state exchanges important to the president’s health reform initiative. And Senate Democrats are sure to demand further adjustments before the measure becomes law.
 
New York Times, Vali Nasr Criticizes Obama in ‘The Dispensable Nation,’ Michael R. Gordon, March 4, 2013. In his new book, The Dispensable Nation, Vali Nasr, a former senior State Department policy expert, describes the Obama administration’s handling of foreign policy as overly cautious. A new book by a former senior State Department policy expert paints a sharply critical picture of the Obama administration’s handling of foreign policy, detailing destructive turf battles and policy debates that challenge the White House’s claim that its management of the Afghan war is a vital accomplishment.

Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA), Early Registration Discounts for COPA 2013 Conference in Dallas, Rob Morrow, March 4, 2013. COPA is currently planning the 20th annual conference in Dallas which will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy and the 45th anniversaries of the murders of Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. The theme is: “50 Years is Enough! Free the Files – Find the Truth.” Events are from Nov.  22-24, 2013 in Dallas. Featured are the leading researchers, authors, ballistics, forensic and medical experts who have worked on these cases over the last five decades and the best documentary films. Email contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Mail: COPA, P.O. Box 772, Washington, DC, 20044.

Legal Schnauzer, Issuance Of A Search Warrant At VictoryLand Casino Moves Alabama One Step Closer To A Police State, Roger Shuler, March 4, 2013. The Alabama Supreme Court has introduced a police state here in the Heart of Dixie--at least if the court's recent ruling on a search warrant at the VictoryLand casino is to be taken seriously.  Our guess is that the opinion in Ex parte State of Alabama (CR-12-0607), which was released last week, is not meant to be taken seriously. Its central message--that a trial-court judge must issue a search warrant whether he finds probable cause or not--is so flagrantly unconstitutional that future high courts are likely to ignore the ruling, knowing that it can't possibly set precedent. A close reading of the opinion, which can be viewed at the end of this post, leaves the impression that it is a politically driven fraud upon the public. The document seems to be targeted only at VictoryLand and its owner, Milton McGregor, with no basis in actual law or concern about broader application. Ex parte State of Alabama is our equivalent to the Bush v. Gore ruling that decided the 2000 presidential election. In that instance, the U.S. Supreme Court, in so many words, said, "This is a one-time ruling that is to have no precedential bearing on future cases. We had a desired outcome in mind, and we couldn't reach it via established law, so we pulled this out of our fannies."

 

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