April 19 Radio: Gun Reformer, Gold Trading Critic -- and Dollar Danger?

Experts on gun control and controversial federal monetary policies discussed the week's developments April 19 on MTL Washington Update, the weekly public affairs radio show I co-host at noon (EDT) with network founder Scott Draughon.

Legal reformer, Chicago public defender and law professor Jeanne Bishop, at right, described her opposition to gun proliferation, the death penalty, and excessive sentences.

Then Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, an author, amplified his column this week, The Attack on Gold. Roberts, at left, argued that the Federal Reserve is driving down the price of gold for political reasons dangerous to the economy and savers. His view is that Federal Reserve directors are risking vast sums to prevent the collapse of the dollar as a world currency following its printing of dollars via "quantitative easing."

Roberts authored a new book predicting frightening economic changes ahead for the nation following a quarter century of what he called excessive deregulation of financial markets and "Crony Capitalism." He served as Assistant Treasury Secretary during the Reagan Administration, and later worked as associate editor of the Wall Street Journal among other prestigious appointments. 

We began the show with a news round-up, including commentaries on the latest developments in Washington.

The one-hour weekly public affairs show broadcast live nationally is available on archive on the My Technology Lawyer network. Click here to listen to the broadcast. For questions or comments on any of the shows, call in toll free (866-685-7469 ) or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Our show guests Bishop and Roberts each brought to their advocacy work impressive establishment credentials as well as unusual experiences that equip them to warn against frightening crimes and trends.

Bishop, for example, argues on a Christian basis for what are generally regarded as progressive reform ideas in the criminal justice system. Bishop's appearance on the show is especially timely, given the Senate's failure this week to pass expanded requirements for background checks for gun sales. Her experience includes the intense aftermath of the murder of her sister and brother-in-law two decades ago. The case became one of Chicago's leading murder mysteries in many years during the six months until authorities identified the killer, a thrill-killer living in Winnetka, one of the region's highest-income suburbs. Authorities leaked erroneous information and theories to the media for months on false trails.

During the investigation, Bishop resigned her job at one the nation's leading law firms to pursue a career in Cook County's public defender office. Her lifelong commitment to justice and her religious faith have inspired her throughout to continue her advocacy, most commonly on behalf of impoverished clients in Chicago accused of serious crime. She retains a full caseload as a public defender, while undertaking such other tasks as teaching as an adjunct law professor at Northwestern University, and serving as the treasurer of the non-profit group Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights.

Roberts also crosses traditional political divisions in his policy advocacy. As a scholar affiliated with conservative institutions and policies for much of his career, he has emerged as a blunt critic of both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations on a range of issues, including economics, human rights, due process, and foreign affairs. Regular readers of the Justice Integrity Project know that we frequently cite his trenchant columns.

In his most recent column, Roberts argued April 16 that the Federal Reserve is seeking to protect major financial institutions and stave off an inevitable crisis by risking more than a trillion dollars artificially to deflate the price of gold. He warned that the administration thereby risks the savings of ordinary members of the public.

More specifically, Roberts asserted that the Reserve is shorting the gold market to maintain the illusion that the dollar is strong versus gold. "The orchestrated attack on bullion in the paper gold market took the spot prices of gold and silver down on Friday and Monday," he wrote, "but actual physical purchases rose during this period. The sales were of paper claims, not of real metal. The demand for physical possession of bullion rose so strongly that large wholesalers such as www.tulving.com and large retailers such as Gainesville Coins reported sold out items." He says savvy gold traders seek to buy gold at its current lowered price with a view that the Fed cannot manipulate the market indefinitely.

Also on the radio show, Roberts will discuss his latest book, The Failure of Laissez Fair Capitalism. The book published in February defends Reaganomics, attacks Reagan's most recent successors, and predicts an unnecessary economic disaster for much of the West created by greed among powerful decision-makers. The 22 reviewers on Amazon.com as of April 18 have given the book an average rating of 4.4 out of a possible 5. The two most negative reviewers each gave the book a "1" not because of criticism of content but because the book is for sale only in an electronic format, not a print edition.

Roberts has been affiliated with several leading universities and think tanks during his career. His commentaries have estranged him from former supporters. He recently founded the Institute of Political Economy, and currently writes primarily for independent, web-based publications. He has written extensively in recent years opposing historic cutbacks in the nation's civil liberties. One such column two years ago was, Truth Has Fallen and Has Taken Liberty With It, saying:

Americans have bought into the government’s claim that security requires the suspension of civil liberties and accountable government. Astonishingly, Americans, or most of them, believe that civil liberties, such as habeas corpus and due process, protect “terrorists,” and not themselves.

Also, Roberts co-authored with Lawrence M. Stratton, The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Among his interviews and essays on prosecutorial misconduct are his 2008 piece for Truth in Justice, It Does Happen In America: The Political Trial Of Don Siegelman.

Dealing with a Chicago Murder

Bishop also has carved out an unusually independent advocacy path.

Her sister, Nancy Bishop Langert, was shot to death along with her husband and their unborn child in 1990 by an unknown person in Winnetka after going home from a family dinner with Jeanne and her parents. Originally, I was supposed to join the family for dinner that night. So, even more than most in Chicago, I observed closely how authorities leaked erroneous information and theories to the media for months on false trails eagerly headlined by some of the city's leading journalists and news organizations, including the Chicago Tribune.

Jeanne had recognized from the start that authorities were pursuing a fanciful line of investigation. During the ordeal, she recommitted herself to human rights work. That latter included family, children, and array of other personal goals that included authoring law review articles, running a marathon, and, fulfilling a childhood dream of singing the national anthem at a Chicago Cubs game. I experienced a small sample of the investigative tactics when a police team came at dawn to my student apartment at the University of Chicago Law School, and tried to intimidate me by saying I had been observed attending the victims' funeral service.

Six months after the shooting, Jeanne's sister's killer was identified as David Biro, a teenage thrill-killer in Winnetka -- and not the kind of assassin, drug cartel, or street killer that authorities had suggested to a fearful public. A friend of Biro alerted authorities that Biro was boasting of having moved from torturing animals to killing people. Biro was arrested and sentenced to a long prison term.

A powerful essay Jeanne wrote about her experiences is excerpted below. I recommend the entire essay.

In February, she published also a front page story on the Huffington Post calling for more gun control following the shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago child who had helped celebrate President Obama's inauguration just two weeks previous to her shooting. Jeanne's other major projects include advocacy against the imposition of life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders, and against “over-sentencing” in drug cases

She and law professor Mark Osler, author of the 2009 book Jesus on Death Row, have spoken in nine states to challenge the death penalty based on religious principles. Their most recent appearances were March 26 and 28 in Boulder, CO and Austin, TX at churches, where they undertook mock death penalty trials. Osler, a former federal prosecutor, teaches at University of St. Thomas Law School and leads the Association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools. Osler was a guest on the show earlier this spring.

Scott Draughon

Scott Draughon, at left, has been my colleague and friend as we have explored such topics for six years on the My Technology Lawyer network he launched a decade ago. The show's audience is heavily comprised of business professionals, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and technologists. Our past guests on the Washington Update series include prominent newsmakers, authors, and other public affairs experts. We concluded our April 19 show with commentaries on the manhunt for the remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing. Authorities reported killing one suspect in the Boston suburb of Watertown, with the suspect's brother escaping on foot, at least temporarily.

Editor's Note: The column above was updated slightly after the radio show to reflect that the show had already occurred and is available on archive.

 

Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment
 
 

 

 

Related News Coverage

Jeanne Bishop's Civil Rights Advocacy

Huffington Post, Gideon and the Constitution's Fugue, Jeanne Bishop, April 30, 2013.  I am a lawyer, a public defender. I defend people accused of crimes who cannot afford to hire an attorney. That kind of job came into being 50 years ago this year, when the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright ruled that people facing jail have a right to counsel, whether they can afford one or not. The job of a public defender can be hard. I also sing -- in a church choir. I heard a fugue from the lawyers sitting nearby at the other tables in that visiting room. I knew they were also public defenders....That, too, is part of Gideon's legacy and the improvisation of love woven into the Constitution's song.

Huffington Post, Gun violence prevention advocate, Jeanne Bishop, April 3, 2013. He was an unlikely hero of the American civil rights movement, the frail 92-year-old who sat in my living room years ago, telling his story in heavily accented English. Born in Germany in 1914, Hans Ruprecht Wilhelm Schwab came from a family of such patriotic Germans that his father named him for Crowned Princes of Prussia and Bavaria. The S.S. arrested him in 1939 because he was a Jew. They took him to Buchenwald concentration camp, where, Schwab wrote later, "I was shaven bald, received a striped prison uniform and a number I will never forget: 10052." Buchenwald held, at various times, Elie Wiesel, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bruno Bettelheim. It killed an estimated 56,000 people.

Pew Forum, Grief, Closure, and Forgiveness, Jeanne Bishop, Jan. 2, 2002. My sister Nancy Bishop Langert was murdered when she was 25 years old. She and her husband Richard were returning home from a restaurant the night before Palm Sunday, 1990. The killer, a local teenager with a criminal history, was waiting for them, gun pointed. He handcuffed Richard. Nancy, who was three months pregnant with what would have been her first child, begged for the life of her baby. The killer forced Nancy and Richard into the basement. He shot Richard once through the back of the head, execution style. He turned the gun on Nancy. She protectively folded her arms across her pregnant belly, but he fired there anyway, twice. Then he left her to bleed to death. Blood and marks on her body revealed what Nancy did in her last moments: she tried unsuccessfully to crawl upstairs to the telephone. She banged on a metal shelf in a futile attempt to summon help. Finally, when she must have known she was dying, she dragged herself over to her husband's body and wrote in her own blood a heart symbol and the letter "u." Love you. The killer was arrested six months later. Police found in his room the gun (which ballistics tests showed was the murder weapon), the burglary tools he used to break in, handcuffs, a trophy book of press clippings about the murders, his own poems about killing. Police learned he had even gone to Nancy and Richard's funeral.

A jury convicted him of the first degree murders of Nancy and Richard and of the intentional homicide of an unborn child. The court sentenced him to life without parole on all three charges. Because he was 16 at the time of the murders, he was ineligible for the death penalty in Illinois. After the judge sentenced him and the sheriffs took him away, my mother turned to me and said, "We'll never see him again." When we left the courtroom that day, a reporter asked us if we were disappointed that the killer didn't get the death penalty. That was the first time I had an opportunity to say what I've been saying ever since: No.

I thought a lot about this answer when I watched interviews with family members of the Oklahoma City victims after Timothy McVeigh was executed. Family members said they were dissatisfied. McVeigh hadn't suffered enough. He hadn't said he was sorry. And they hadn't gotten what they were promised by federal officials who had sought and carried out the execution: closure. Those family members were looking in the wrong place. First, there's no such thing as closure. Second, the death penalty is the most anti-victim response to murder imaginable. "Closure", a neatly wrapped-up end to the horror and grief of murder, simply doesn't exist—nor perhaps should it. The most blatant perpetrators of this lie are death penalty proponents who promise executions that bring psychological resolution, even peace, to family members on a specific date. It doesn't happen this way. Grief, the culmination of sweet memories and the bitter loss of possibilities, lives on—and it should. The grief I felt after my sister's murder is not closed. It lives in me today, but differently. At first it was a grief that numbed, that paralyzed. Now it is a grief that energizes me to love more passionately, to share more generously, to live more fearlessly, to work to prevent the violence which could inflict on another family the suffering mine has endured.

You don't hold back love when you understand that people can be snatched from you at any moment. You don't waste time being afraid when you realize how short life is. Every day I've lived since Nancy's murder is one day she never got to have; now I try to live in a way that honors her and the God who gave the gift of life in the first place. Grief taught me this...Read more here.

Chicago Tribune, $41 Million Judgment By Jury In Biro Case, Convicted Murderer Barred From Profiting, Pamela Cytrynbaum, Dec. 19, 1996. Though Nancy Langert's family won a $41 million judgment Wednesday against the man who killed her, the victory was a moral triumph, not a monetary one. Convicted murderer David Biro is penniless and in prison. But suing him was the only way the Winnetka family could keep him from ever profiting from his crime. "We'll never see a penny of it, but that was never the point," said Langert's sister, Jeanne Bishop, 37. "It helps, though. Before today, we always had to worry about him selling the rights or making some big movie deal. That was a horrible, raw wound that can now heal." Biro was convicted of killing Langert and her husband, Richard, in their Winnetka townhouse in April 1990. At the time, Biro was a 16-year-old student at New Trier High School. After more than two hours of deliberations and a three-day trial, the Cook County jury awarded Langert's two sisters and parents $2.5 million each and another $1 million to Lee Bishop, who found his slain daughter and son-in-law, and $30 million total to the family for the pain and suffering of Nancy Langert.

mark_osler.jpg

Justice Integrity Project. Mark Osler, right, a law professor in Minnesota, discussed March 29 on MTL Washington Update his book, essays and lectures citing a Christian basis for opposing on the the death penalty. The head of the Association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools authored Jesus on Death Row (Abingdon, 2009). The book challenges the death penalty based on the experience of Christ as a criminal defendant. Osler is a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minnesota, and a former federal prosecutor in Detroit from 1995 to 2000. He served as lead counsel in Spears v. United States, where the U.S. Supreme Court accepted his position that sentencing judges could categorically reject a 100:1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine in the federal sentencing guidelines. His work fighting overly harsh crack sentences was also portrayed in the film American Violet, where he was the basis for the character of Professor Joe Fisher. He has testified as a sentencing expert in Congress and before the U.S. Sentencing Commission. He has authored over 30 academic articles, and writes regularly for CNN, the Huffington Post, Sojourners, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He earned his law degree from Yale, where he was a senior editor of the Yale Law Journal. Among his recent articles are forthcoming chapters in a new book, Victims: Transforming the Death Penalty Debate, and Talking to Each Other in the Dark: The American Abolition Movement and The Christian Opportunity (with Jeanne Bishop). These chapters will appear in Ashgate Press’s forthcoming volume, New Voices about Capital Punishment (2013).

Work of Paul Craig Roberts

Institute of Political Economy, Update to the Update: The Attack on Gold, Paul Craig Roberts, April 16, 2013. The orchestrated attack on bullion in the paper gold market took the spot prices of gold and silver down on Friday and Monday, but actual physical purchases rose during this period. The sales were of paper claims, not of real metal. The demand for physical possession of bullion rose so strongly that large wholesalers such as www.tulving.com and large retailers such as Gainesville Coins reported sold out items. Also, dealers raised the premiums above the spot price that is charged for coins. From Friday to Monday, the premium on Silver Eagles at the large online retailer, Gainesville Coins, rose from $3.75 to $5.99 above the spot price of silver. The percentage increase in premium was larger than the percentage decline in the silver price. Thus, the price of a silver one Troy ounce coin did not drop despite the drop in the spot price. Today (April 16) the price of a silver eagle purchased with a credit card from retailer Gainesville Coins is $30.36. You would never know that the market had fallen out.

Amazon.com, The Failure of Laissez Fair Capitalism, Paul Craig Roberts, February 2, 2013. Publisher's announcement: "This very readable book by a distinguished economist, Wall Street Journal editor, and Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury is a major challenge both to economic theory and to media explanations of the ongoing 21st century economic crisis. The one percent have pulled off an economic and political revolution. By off-shoring manufacturing and professional service jobs, US corporations destroyed the growth of consumer income, the basis of the US economy, leaving the bulk of the population mired in debt. Deregulation was used to concentrate income and wealth in fewer hands and financial firms in corporations “too big to fail,” removing financial corporations from market discipline and forcing taxpayers in the US and Europe to cover bankster losses. Environmental destruction has accelerated as economists refuse to count the exhaustion of nature’s resources as a cost and as corporations impose the cost of their activities on the environment and on third parties who do not share in the profits. This is the book to read for those who want to understand the mistakes that are bringing the West to its knees."

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Boston Marathon Killers

New Yorker, The Culprits, David Remnick, April 29, 2013. Anzor Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who lived much of his life in Kyrgyzstan, emigrated a decade ago to the Boston area with his wife, two daughters, and two sons. Despite arthritic fingers, he made his living as an auto mechanic. Members of the family occasionally attended a mosque on Prospect Street in Cambridge, but there seemed nothing fundamentalist about their outlook. Anzor’s elder son, Tamerlan, appeared never to connect fully with American life. “I don’t have a single American friend,” Tamerlan told a photographer named Johannes Hirn, who asked to take pictures of him training as a boxer. “I don’t understand them.” He studied, indifferently, at Bunker Hill Community College, for an engineering degree. He described himself as “very religious”; he didn’t smoke or drink. Twenty-six and around two hundred pounds, he boxed regularly at Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts. He loved “Borat” (“even though some of the jokes are a bit too much”). He had a daughter, but scant stability. Three years ago, he was arrested for domestic assault and battery. (“In America, you can’t touch a woman,” Anzor told the Times.)
 
As a fourth-generation farmer, growing corn, wheat and soybeans across three counties in Southside Virginia, I cannot be oblivious to the news of death and destruction our essential business can experience. Every farmer in mass production agriculture uses either liquid nitrogen-based fertilizer or ammonia-based fertilizer, either applied by the fertilizer dealer or purchased in 50-pound bags by the farmer.Washington Post, Police kill one suspect in Marathon bombing, manhunt underway for second, Clarence Williams and Debbi Wilgoren, April 19, 2013. Authorities shot and killed one suspect in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings and were conducting a massive hunt for a second suspect in Watertown, Mass., Friday morning following a chaotic night that left one police officer dead and another critically wounded in the Boston suburbs. The suspects — introduced to the world via photos and video footage Thursday night — are brothers, law enforcement officials said Friday morning. The one who was killed in a shootout was 20 years old; the one still at large is 19. Their alleged motive in the bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 170, remains unknown. At left are the surveillance photos of Marathon bombing suspects Tamarlan, left, and Dzokhar Tsarnaev.

USA Today, Russia's Chechnya, Caucasus: A breeding ground for terror, Ray Locker, April 19, 2013. Chechnya, the Russian republic believed to be connected to the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects, has been the scene of terrorism and related violence since the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union. Militants from Chechnya and other restive regions in Russia's volatile North Caucasus have targeted Moscow and other areas with bombings and hostage-takings for more than 20 years. The allegations of ties to Monday's Boston bombings are the first connection of terror attacks in the United States. Predominantly Muslim, Chechnya declared independence from Russia in November 1991. A full-scale separatist war broke out in 1994 and lasted through most of the 1990s. It was only after a second wave of Russian military action in the early part of the last decade that Chechnya fell under firmer Russian control.

OpEd News, Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons, Coleen Rowley, April 20, 2013. I almost choked on my coffee listening to neoconservative Rudy Giuliani pompously claim on national TV that he was surprised about any Chechens being responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings because he's never seen any indication that Chechen extremists harbored animosity toward the U.S.; Guiliani thought they were only focused on Russia. Giuliani knows full well how the Chechen "terrorists" proved useful to the U.S. in keeping pressure on the Russians, much as the Afghan mujahedeen were used in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan from 1980 to 1989. In fact, many neocons signed up as Chechnya's "friends," including former CIA Director James Woolsey. For instance, see this 2004 article in the UK Guardian, entitled, " The Chechens' American friends: The Washington neocons' commitment to the war on terror evaporates in Chechnya, whose cause they have made their own."

Think Progress, What You Need To Know About Chechnya And The Boston Bombing Suspects, Hayes Brown, April 19, 2013. After an overnight chase, the media is reporting that the two suspects the FBI identified in Boston Marathon bombers are brothers from the restive Russian state of Chechnya. Here’s what you need to know about Chechnya and why that matters.

Huffington Post, Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechen President, Suggests Boston Bombing Suspects Products Of American Upbringing, Meredith Bennett-Smith, April 19, 2013. In the wake of a national manhunt for suspects in the Boston bombings, law enforcement have identified Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, brothers with ties to a Russian region near Chechnya. Now Chechnya's pro-Russian president, Ramzan Kadyrov, has spoken out about the suspects' backgrounds. In a statement on his Instagram, Kadyrov expressed sadness for the victims of the bombings but denied that the brothers have any ties to his region.

Salon, How Boston exposes America’s dark post-9/11 bargain, Andrew O'Hehir, April 20, 2013. Why did this story drive the whole country nuts? Because we traded rights for "security," and didn't get either.  To put it mildly, this has been a bad week for democracy and a worse one for public discourse. In the minutes and hours after the bombs went off in Boston last Monday, marathon runners, first responders and many ordinary citizens responded to a chaotic situation with great courage and generosity, not knowing whether they might be putting their own lives at risk. Since then, though, it’s mostly been a massive and disheartening national freakout, with pundits, politicians, major news outlets and the self-appointed sleuths of the Internet – in fact, nearly everyone besides those directly affected by the attack – heaping disgrace upon themselves. Comment: Facebook, James Bamford, April 22, 2013. Another thoughtful piece on last week's national freak-out. First you had the media create an almost lynch-mob frenzy, then you had panicked local officials lockdown the city and basically declare marshall law. Armored vehicles patrolled the streets, military fighters flew overhead, and more than half a million people were told to lock themselves inside. All at a time when one of the two suspects was dead and the other was on foot, trailing blood. Boston strong it was not. And without standing up to this insanity, it is destined to become the norm, moving the country ever closer to a police state.

Gun Control and Special Interests

Guardian, Why does America lose its head over 'terror' but ignore its daily gun deaths? The marathon bombs triggered a reaction that is at odds with last week's inertia over arms control, Michael Cohen, April 20, 2013. The thriving metropolis of Boston was turned into a ghost town on Friday. Nearly a million Bostonians were asked to stay in their homes – and willingly complied. Schools were closed; business shuttered; trains, subways and roads were empty; usually busy streets eerily resembled a post-apocalyptic movie set; even baseball games and cultural events were cancelled – all in response to a 19-year-old fugitive, who was on foot and clearly identified by the news media. The actions allegedly committed by the Boston marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, were heinous. But Londoners, who endured IRA terror for years, might be forgiven for thinking that America over-reacted just a tad to the goings-on in Boston. They're right – and then some. What we saw was a collective freak-out like few that we've seen previously in the United States. It was yet another depressing reminder that more than 11 years after 9/11 Americans still allow themselves to be easily and willingly cowed by the "threat" of terrorism.

Huffington Post, Adolphus Busch IV Resigns From NRA After Gun Control Defeat In Senate, Christina Wilkie, April 18, 2013. Adolphus Busch IV, heir to the Busch family brewing fortune, resigned his lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association on Thursday, writing in a letter to NRA President David Keene, "I fail to see how the NRA can disregard the overwhelming will of its members who see background checks as reasonable." The resignation, first reported by KSDK, came a day after the Senate rejected a series of amendments to a gun control bill, including a bipartisan deal to expand background checks for gun sales. The NRA had vigorously opposed all those measures. "The NRA I see today has undermined the values upon which it was established," wrote Busch. "Your current strategic focus clearly places priority on the needs of gun and ammunition manufacturers while disregarding the opinions of your 4 million individual members." Reached for comment on Busch's resignation, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the Huffington Post, "We disagree with his characterization, but we wish him all the best." Busch joined the pro-gun organization in 1975 and has spoken before of his love of hunting. But the NRA has moved in a direction that Busch would not follow. "One only has to look at the makeup of the 75-member board of directors, dominated by manufacturing interests, to confirm my point. The NRA appears to have evolved into the lobby for gun and ammunition manufacturers rather than gun owners," he wrote.

Washington Post, Manchin: NRA ‘made a big mistake,’ Aaron Blake, April 18, 2013. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Thursday morning that the National Rifle Association “made a big mistake” by opposing his gun background checks compromise legislation, saying the amendment would have gotten 70 votes without the NRA’s interference. Manchin said he’s not worried about the possibility that the NRA, which previously gave him an ‘A’ rating, will lower that rating because of the compromise he hammered out with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). And then the senator, who once fired a rifle at climate change legislation in a campaign ad, took aim at the group’s tactics.
 
FireDogLake, As Obama Dumps Transparency Former Staffers Cash In on “Public Service,” DSWright, April 18, 2013. As President Obama quietly signed a bill to dump further disclosure requirements for congressional and senior executive branch staffers, his former staffers were looking to ring the cash register. Leveraging their access to the Obama Administration, these Corporate Democrats have found a way to triangulate some loot – buckraking. Welcome to the buckraking phase of the Obama era. If the campaign was about hope, and the early presidency was about change, increasingly the administration has settled into a kind of normalcy in which it accommodates itself to Washington far more than Washington accommodates itself to Obama. In other words, influence peddling. It seems for most of the Obama Team “public service” was just a pretext for private payoffs. Take Robert Wolf, a former U.S. chairman of the investment bank UBS and an early Obama fund-raiser, who has served as an all-purpose (and highly visible) “first buddy” throughout the presidency. Last year, Wolf dreamed up the idea for a firm called 32 Advisors, which would instruct clients here and abroad on a variety of business transactions, such as how to secure U.S. government financing for export deals.

Whistleblower, Torture, Due Process, and Human Rights Claims

Huffington Post, Michael Calderone and Matt Sledge, Obama Whistleblower Prosecutions Lead To Chilling Effect On Press, April 16, 2013. On April 9, McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay reported that the Obama administration has “targeted and killed hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified ‘other’ militants” in drone strikes, a revelation that contradicts previous administration claims of pursuing only senior-level operatives who pose an imminent threat to the United States. It was an investigative story clearly in the public interest, shedding new light on the government’s long-running targeted-killing program in Pakistan. But now Landay, a veteran national security reporter for the McClatchy newspaper chain, is concerned that the Obama administration could next investigate him in hopes of finding the sources for “top-secret U.S. intelligence reports” cited in the story. “Do I think that they could come after me?” Landay asked, in an interview with the Huffington Post. “Yes.” “I can tell you that people who normally would meet with me, sort of in a more relaxed atmosphere, are on pins and needles,” Landay said of the reporting climate during the Obama years, a period of unprecedented whistleblower prosecutions. The crackdown on leaks, he added, seems “deliberately intended to have a chilling effect.” Landay isn’t alone in that assessment, as several investigative journalists attest in “War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State,” a timely documentary directed by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Foundation that premieres this week in New York and Washington. The film details the ordeals of four whistleblowers who turned to the press in order to expose waste or illegality.

FireDogLake, Hunger Striking at Guantánamo and the Abusive Use of Forced Feeding, Kevin Gosztola, April 18, 2013. Guantánamo Bay prisoners have been on a hunger strike for over two months. Some of them have, in that period, been subject to forced feeding by medical staff in the prison. But, a new report that examines the United States government’s recent history of torture and abuse of detainees in the global war on terrorism highlights hunger strikes in the prison camps and recommends that forced feeding come to an end because it is abuse. The report comes from a “Task Force on Detainee Treatment” formed by The Constitution Project, which describes itself as “a national watchdog group that advances bipartisan, consensus based solutions to some of most difficult constitutional challenges of our time.” The co-chair of the “Task Force” was Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who worked in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush. James R. Jones, who helped President Bill Clinton pass the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), was the other co-chair

Huffington Post, New Torture Reports Blames Obama and the Media for Not Confronting the Truth, Dan Froomkin, April 17, 2013. By this point, there really should be no doubt in anyone's mind that torture was widely used during the last administration -- and that nothing like that should ever happen again. The new, comprehensive report out today from an august, bipartisan commission goes a long way toward making that abundantly, authoritatively clear, laying the blame fully at the feet of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and other top officials. But the reality is: That's old news. What's new and disturbing and important about the report from the Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment is how it calls attention to the absurd reality that we, as a country, are actually still actually arguing about any of this. And for that, the report lays the blame fully at the feet of the current administration, for covering up what happened and stifling any sort of national conversation on the topic -- and the media, for splitting the difference between the facts and the plainly specious argument made by torture regime's architects that what occurred should be defined as something other than what it so obviously was.

FireDogLake, Countries Subject to US Intervention Become Executioners & Impose Death Penalty, Kevin Gosztola, April 12, 2013. Amnesty International released its annual review of death sentences and executions around the world. The review found the five biggest executors in 2012 were China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the USA. It also found that the number of countries that abolished the death penalty rose to 97 and progress toward abolition of the death penalty was made in “all regions of the world.” The human rights organization reported, “In the Americas, the USA remains the only country to carry out executions.” A total number of 43 executions—the same in 2011, occurred. Though, “Only nine states executed in 2012, compared to 13 in 2011.”  And, ”Connecticut became the 17th abolitionist state in April, while a referendum on the abolition of the death penalty was narrowly defeated in California in November.”

Claims of Federal Excessive Prosecutions

Whitey BulgerMassachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Bulger’s immunity defense: what appearance of justice requires, Harvey A. Silverglate, April 17, 2013. The federal government’s cozy dealings with Whitey Bulger, right, and the Winter Hill gang have produced widespread and long-lasting damage to the reputations of the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston and the now-disbanded Organized Crime Strike Force. This sordid history now jeopardizes the perception that Bulger’s coming trial will be fair and transparent, not just the latest in a long line of cover-ups. During the trial of Stephen Flemmi in the late 1990s, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf began to shine light on the government’s then-secret relationship with Bulger. Now federal Judge Denise Casper, the new judge recently assigned to Bulger’s trial that begins June 10, has a golden opportunity to continue Wolf’s restoration of public confidence in the justice system. Casper’s upcoming first major ruling will be pivotal. She has to decide whether to reconsider the March 4 decision of her predecessor, Judge Richard Stearns, that Bulger and his lawyers will not be allowed to present Bulger’s asserted immunity defense to the jury unless they first convince the judge that the federal government actually granted him effective immunity for past crimes. (Stearns dismissed out-of-hand Bulger’s further claim that the feds even offered him immunity for future crimes.) Bulger’s lawyers have beseeched Judge Casper to let the jury hear Bulger’s claim that former federal prosecutor, the late Jeremiah O’Sullivan, promised him immunity for any crimes, past and future, committed during his cooperation with the FBI and the strike force, including murder. Shortly after Stearns’ decision on the immunity question, a panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took the extraordinary step of ordering Stearns to step down from the case in the interest of maintaining the appearance of “impartiality” in the mind of “a reasonable person.” In his March 14 opinion, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, who occasionally sits on the court as a visiting judge, cited Stearns’ service in both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the strike force while Bulger was cooperating.

World Net Daily, Amish prosecuted because scissors 'crossed state lines,' Staff report, April 12, 2013. Feds invoked Commerce Clause to make 'hate crimes' case. What does the federal hate crimes law inspired by the murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. have to do with an internal dispute among the Amish in which the beards of men and the hair of women were forcibly sheared? “The scissors used to cut the hair were manufactured in one state and used in another,” explained Edward Bryan, defense lawyer for Amish bishop Samuel Mullet Sr., who was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Bryan, in an interview with radio host Michael Savage Thursday night, said the Commerce Clause is one of the federal government’s primary justifications for intervening in the dispute in eastern Ohio among members of the Christian sect. U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach, of the Northern District of Ohio, argued in the indictment that the “Wahl battery-operated hair clippers” used in the assaults “were purchased at Walmart and had travelled in and affected interstate commerce in that they were manufactured in Dover, Delaware.” The 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act stipulates any crime prosecuted under the law must involve crossing state lines or using “an instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce.” In a September trial, Mullet was convicted of organizing a series of raids in 2011 against religious enemies and disobedient family members in which the men’s beards were forcibly sheared and women’s hair was cut. Fifteen other Amish members were sentenced to prison terms of two to seven years.

Legal Schnauzer, Siegelman Case Involved No 'Meeting Of The Minds,' But Scrushy Still Spent Six Years In Federal Prison, Roger Shuler, April 18, 2013. Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy was released from federal prison last summer after serving six years for bribing former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. But Scrushy said he didn't have a "meeting of the minds" with Siegelman on any of the issues that prosecutors claim constituted a crime. In fact, Scrushy says, he didn't meet with Siegelman at all. That's largely because he barely knew Siegelman, he did not support his election campaigns, and he did not support the education lottery that was central to the governor's term--and ultimately, the government's criminal case. How on earth did Scrushy get convicted for bribing a governor he hardly knew, did not support, and did not meet with -- over a seat on a health-care regulatory board that Scrushy says he did not want? That might go down as one of the great mysteries in the history of American criminal law. To make it more stunning, Scrushy says the government got it wrong about the person he met with and the amount of money involved. That is one of many revelations from Scrushy's recent interview with San Francisco-based radio host Peter B. Collins.

Huffington Post, Why Is Don Siegelman Still in Jail? Bennett Gershman, April 20, 2013. Actually, the first question is why Don Siegelman was prosecuted and jailed at all. The second question is why President Obama has not yet pardoned him or commuted his sentence. Of all the abusive, vindictive, and politically-driven prosecutions by the U.S. Department of Justice, the prosecution of Don Siegleman stands at the top. Over a hundred Attorneys General from both political parties have condemned the legality of his prosecution. The House Judiciary Committee has documented the partisan cabal between the Bush White House and the Justice Department to take down Siegelman and destroy his career. Commentary by journalists, academics, and disinterested observers has uniformly decried the legal and ethical irregularities that contaminated his prosecution and blackened the reputation of the Justice Department. Despite all this, President Obama, apparently on advice from his "Pardon Attorneys," has refused to grant Siegelman a pardon or commute his seven-year sentence. Why?

Al.com, Dana Siegelman keeping up the fight to get her father out of prison, Mike Cason, April 21, 2013. Don Siegelman still gives fatherly advice, has lost weight from an already lean frame and doesn’t mind picking up a mop or tackling chores that other inmates might want to avoid. Dana Siegelman, the former governor’s daughter, said he emails her almost every day from the federal prison in Oakdale, La., where he is serving a six-and-a-half year sentence for accepting a bribe. She said he is writing a book about his case and remains committed to showing he was wrongly convicted. Dana Siegelman lives in Long Beach, Calif., and plans to return this summer to the American University of Cairo, Egypt, where she is majoring in Middle East studies in pursuit of a career as a college professor. In a telephone interview, she said her father was shocked last year when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case, a decision that sent him behind bars after being out more than four years on appeal. But she said he has adjusted since returning to prison seven months ago. “Dad is such an adaptable person,” she said. “He re ally can get along with anyone. I think he just sort of accepts the cards that he’s dealt. He’s always been like that, even when he’s lost an election, he’s sort of picked up where he left off and made the most of the situation.”

Huffington Post, Bradley Manning Trial Secrecy Upheld By Military Court, Lawyers May Appeal, Matt Sledge, April 18, 2013. Lawyers may appeal a ruling made by the military's highest court that they say slams the door on transparency in the Bradley Manning court-martial. The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces found in a 3-2 decision on Tuesday that media organizations and the public have no right to access court documents, like transcripts and court orders, in the high-profile trial of Bradley Manning, the Army private who admitted to sending sensitive documents to WikiLeaks. The court said it lacked jurisdiction to force Judge Denise Lind to release files to the public. But two dissenting judges wrote that the court's ruling threatened to undermine the public's trust in military law. Senior Judge Walter T. Cox wrote that "a military judge has the jurisdiction, indeed the responsibility, to insure that a military court-martial is conducted so that the military accused and the public enjoy the same rights to a fair and public hearing as is envisioned in the Bill of Rights."

Allegations of Local Prosecution Irregularities

Legal Schnauzer, Feud Among Members Of The Legal Community Apparently Drove Murders Of Texas Prosecutors, Roger Shuler, Monday, April 15, 2013. The prime suspect in the recent assassinations of three people connected to a Texas district attorney's office turns out to be . . . a lawyer. In fact, Eric Williams had been a judicial officer. Williams, who once served as justice of the peace in Kaufman County, was arrested over the weekend in connection with the shooting deaths of assistant DA Mike Hasse (January 31) and DA Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia (March 30). Who is the bad guy in all of this? Finding an answer to that question is not as easy as it might appear. Williams faces charges of making terroristic threats, and it appears that murder charges will come any day. But a look beneath the surface shows that Williams might have been the victim of an abusive prosecution, one that eventually led him to lash out.

Legal Schnauzer, Trusted Strange Aide Jessica Medeiros Garrison Rivals Her Boss On Gambling-Related Hypocrisy, Roger Shuler, April 17, 2013. Who is the bigger hypocrite, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange or his trusted aide and former campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison? Looks like this one is going to be a close call, but we will strive to come up with an answer. We know that Strange takes hypocrisy on gambling issues to monumental dimensions. After all, this is the guy who has tried to shut down non-Indian gaming facilities, such as VictoryLand in Macon County and Center Stage Alabama in Houston County, while taking a $100,000 campaign contribution from the Poarch Creek casinos. This also is the guy who used the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) to help obscure the donation via a PAC-to-PAC transfer.  That brings us to Jessica Medeiros Garrison. Garrison now serves in an "of counsel" role with the large, downtown-Birmingham law firm Balch & Bingham. But her primary role seems to be serving as director of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). What is RAGA? It is an affiliate of RSLC, the organization that helped funnel Indian gaming funds to the Luther Strange campaign.

Political In-Fighting On Social Justice Issues

Buzzfeed, Howard Dean: Obama Might Drive Me Out Of The Democratic Party, Evan McMorris-Santoro and Andrew Kaczynski, April 15, 2013. “What the hell are they thinking?” the former DNC chair asks about Obama's proposed budget. The Democrats' civil war? Howard Dean, right, has had it with President Obama's budget proposal, saying the plan put forward by the White House might just drive him from the Democratic Party he once led as DNC chair. On Sunday night, Dean tweeted that the restoration of some defense sequestration cuts contained in Obama's budget proposal were a step too far when coupled with the president's entitlement cut proposal that progressives like Dean are already livid about. "If this is true I may have to become an independant [sic]," Dean wrote, before linking to an April 10 article by Bloomberg Business Week's Josh Green.  Dean doubled down on his threat to leave the part in an interview with BuzzFeed Monday. The White House did not respond directly, but an official did push back Monday on the thrust of Dean's attacks. "I just think that's unacceptable," Dean said. "If this passed I would have to reevaluate if I belong in the Democratic Party. If this were passed with Democratic votes, I think it would be impossible to be Democrat."

New York Times, The Excel Depression, Paul Krugman, April 18, 2013. In this age of information, math errors can lead to disaster. At the beginning of 2010, two Harvard economists, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, circulated a paper, “Growth in a Time of Debt,” that purported to identify a critical “threshold,” a tipping point, for government indebtedness. Once debt exceeds 90 percent of gross domestic product, they claimed, economic growth drops off sharply. Austerity enthusiasts trumpeted that supposed 90 percent tipping point as a proven fact and a reason to slash government spending even in the face of mass unemployment. What the Reinhart-Rogoff affair shows is the extent to which austerity has been sold on false pretenses. For three years, the turn to austerity has been presented not as a choice but as a necessity. Economic research, austerity advocates insisted, showed that terrible things happen once debt exceeds 90 percent of G.D.P. But “economic research” showed no such thing; a couple of economists made that assertion, while many others disagreed. Policy makers abandoned the unemployed and turned to austerity because they wanted to, not because they had to.

New York Times, Conservative Koch Brothers Turning Focus to Newspapers, Amy Chozicvk, April 20, 2013. Three years ago, Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and supporters of libertarian causes, held a seminar of like-minded, wealthy political donors at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, Colo. They laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes. The first two pieces of the strategy — educating grass-roots activists and influencing politics — were not surprising, given the money they have given to policy institutes and political action groups. But the third one was: media. Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of which Charles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant. The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion. Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas.

National Black Farmers, A Farmer's Perspective on the Texas Fertilizer Explosion, John Boyd, Jr., April 19, 2013. The disastrous fertilizer plant explosion in Texas this week should be a wake-up call for Americans. With an estimated 15 dead and more than 160 reported injured, this incident shows just how dangerous a retail fertilizer facility can be. And the Texas tragedy was made even more stunning against the backdrop of the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent violence. The explosion at the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company near Waco, Texas, was felt for miles around and registered up to 45 miles away as a minor earthquake. It should create an echoing alarm in the fertilizer industry to demand stepped-up safety precautions.

 

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