January News Reports 2013



Featured Monthly Commentary

Editor's Choice: Click below to read the Justice Integrity Project's monthly archive of cutting-edge news excerpts for January 2013.

Jan. 31

Institute for Political Economy, In Amerika Law No Longer Exists: the extermination of truth, Paul Craig Roberts, left, Jan. 31, 2013. In the 21st century, Americans have experienced an extraordinary collapse in the rule of law and in their constitutional protections. Today American citizens, once a free people protected by law, can be assassinated and detained in prison indefinitely without any evidence being presented to a court of their guilt, and they can be sentenced to prison on the basis of secret testimony by anonymous witnesses not subject to cross examination.

The US “justice system” has been transformed by the Bush/Obama regime into the ”justice system” of Gestapo Germany and Stalinist Russia. There is no difference. In an article available here. Stephen Downs, formerly chief attorney with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct and Kathy Manley, a criminal defense attorney and member of the New York Civil Liberties Union, report on how the US government destroyed a charity, the Holy Land Foundation, which provided money for feeding the poor and for building schools and hospitals in Palestine.

What this means for you is that your involvement in legal transactions or associations can be declared ex post facto by secret witnesses to be criminal involvements. The criminality of your past behavior can now be established, according to Downs and Manley, by “anonymous experts,” mouthpieces for the government prosecutors who cannot “be confronted or cross-examined within the meaning of the 6th Amendment.” Downs and Manley write: “The implications are enormous. The government can now criminalize political, religious and social ideology and speech. Donating to peace groups, participating in protests, attending church, mosque or synagogue, entertaining friends, and posting material on the Internet, for example, could later be found to be illegal because of ‘associations,’ manufactured by anonymous experts, which in some way allegedly support designated terrorist organizations one has never heard of.”

FireDogLake, Drones Are a Local Issue, David Swanson, Jan. 31, 2013. I write from Charlottesville, Va., but am hopeful that this message applies to your city, town, or county as well. In the absence of state or federal laws, localities around the United States are proceeding to put unmanned aerial vehicles in our skies as they see fit.

The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones, and the use of drones up to 400 feet by police departments, at least 300 of which already have surveillance drones in operation. States and localities can ban or regulate such actions. Or they can proceed to endanger our health and our civil rights.

Vice Magazine, Aaron Swartz Died For Piers Morgan’s Sins, Greg Palast, Jan. 31, 2013. This is the tale of two geniuses. One on TV. One Dead. In 2000, Aaron Swartz, aged 14, had just released his astonishing invention, RSS, liberating news and information, replacing the selection of the tiny minds of editors with your own wide judgment. Around the same time, one of Piers Morgan’s stringers hacked into the phone of Sir Paul McCartney’s wife and stole some highly personal, and highly valuable, information – the type of gossip used to sell Morgan’s grotty little scandal sheet, The Daily Mirror, the cornerstone of Morgan's $20 million fortune based on tittle and titties.

OpEdNews, In Amerika Law No Longer Exists: The Extermination Of Truth, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 31, 2013. In the 21st century Americans have experienced an extraordinary collapse in the rule of law and in their constitutional protections. Today American citizens, once a free people protected by law, can be assassinated and detained in prison indefinitely without any evidence being presented to a court of their guilt, and they can be sentenced to prison on the basis of secret testimony by anonymous witnesses not subject to cross examination. The US "justice system" has been transformed by the Bush/Obama regime into the "justice system" of Gestapo Germany and Stalinist Russia.

Huffington Post, The Supreme Court's War on the Twentieth Century, Bruce Ackerman, Jan. 31, 2013. Is the Supreme Court about to declare war on the twentieth century? This is the larger question raised by an escalating series of decisions, starting with the recent Obamacare case. In designing its sweeping reform, Congress relied on 70 years of case-law, emerging from the New Deal, that upheld its sweeping regulatory authority under the commerce clause.

Yet Chief Justice Roberts, as well as four other conservatives, dramatically challenged this basic element of the New Deal settlement. While Roberts made a last minute doctrinal swerve on another issue to uphold the statute, this should not blind us to the dangers that lie ahead. While his act of statesmanship prevented a head-on confrontation between the presidency and the Court, the conservative majority has issued a fundamental challenge to a basic premise of twentieth century constitutionalism. A similar challenge will arise this year as the Court weighs the fate of the Voting Rights Act. "We Shall Overcome," Lyndon Johnson famously declared in introducing the legislation to Congress in 1965.

But it took more than this rhetorical gesture to transform the dreams of Martin Luther King into the law of the land. Johnson had to win the support of a broad bipartisan coalition, including Republican leaders like Everett Dirksen, for a Voting Rights Act that would actually generate real-world results when so many previous statutes had failed. Their success of 1965 has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the political branches -- most recently, when President Bush renewed the law for 25 years after it was passed 390 to 33 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. Nevertheless, the Court's conservative five-judge majority may well strike down key statutory provisions as unconstitutional.

Jan. 30

WhoWhatWhy, Et Tu, Karzai? Afghanistan Violates US Iran Sanctions, Nick Schwellenbach, Jan. 30, 2013. It would have been really interesting if reporters had known about a wee glitch in the US-Afghanistan relationship—and had asked Afghan president Hamid Karzai or President Obama about it during Karzai’s January visit to Washington. The answers might have compelled an intriguing and candid assessment of the long-term interests at play in both Afghanistan and the Middle East at large.

Legal Schnauzer, Did Alabama Lawyer Jennifer Paige Clark Die Because She Refused To Sell Out Her Own Clients? Roger Shuler, Jan. 30, 2013.   The Alabama State Bar harassed one of its member lawyers to death, probably because she refused to sell out her own clients, a Legal Schnauzer investigation shows.  The lawyer in question was Jennifer Paige Clark, who was found dead at her Mobile home last May 26, nine days after the state bar had suspended her license on charges that our research shows were unfounded.

The clients were Ms. Clark's parents, Larry and Hilda Clark of Flowery Branch, Georgia.  At least three major oddities about the Jennifer Paige Clark case strongly suggest that bar officials knew they had no legitimate grounds for investigating her, much less imposing discipline. So why did they do it? It's almost certainly because Ms. Clark was doing exactly what lawyers are supposed to do--she was providing her clients with zealous representation, and certain judges did not welcome that.

Jan. 29

Department of Justice, BP Exploration and Production Inc. Pleads Guilty, Is Sentenced to Pay Record $4 Billon for Crimes Surrounding Deepwater Horizon Incident; Jan. 29, 2013. Court Accepts Guilty Plea to Felony Manslaughter, Environmental Crimes and Obstruction of Congress Prior to Imposing Historic Sentence. BP Exploration and Production Inc. pleaded guilty today to 14 criminal counts for its illegal conduct leading to and after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and was sentenced to pay $4 billion in criminal fines and penalties, the largest criminal resolution in U.S. history, Attorney General Holder announced today.

“Today’s guilty plea and sentencing represent a significant step forward in the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts to seek justice on behalf of those affected by one of the worst environmental disasters in American history,” said Attorney General Holder.  “I’m pleased to note that more than half of this landmark resolution – which totals $4 billion in penalties and fines, and represents the single largest criminal resolution ever – will help to provide direct support to Gulf Coast residents as communities throughout the region continue to recover and rebuild.” BP’s guilty plea was accepted, and the sentence was imposed, by U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana.  During the guilty plea and sentencing proceeding, Judge Vance found, among other things, that the consequential fines imposed under the plea agreement far exceed any imposed in U.S. history, and are structured so that BP will feel the full brunt of the penalties.  She also noted that the agreement provides just punishment and significant deterrence, requiring detailed drilling safeguards, monitors and other stringent, special conditions of probation so that BP’s future conduct will be closely watched. 

Carmen Ortiz

FireDogLake, Ortiz Abuses Authority Again, Slapped Down By Judge, DSWright, Jan. 29, 2013. United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz, left, infamous for being the overzealous prosecutor in the Aaron Swarz case, was slapped down in court this week for overreach. It appears to be a pattern: "A judge this week struck down a US government scheme to seize a Tewksbury, Mass., motel because it had become a haven for drug dealers, bolstering concerns about whether US prosecutors in some cases have too much power.

The decision in the long-running forfeiture case comes as the US attorney in Boston, Carmen Ortiz, is already under fire for her role in the death of Internet hacker Aaron Swartz, who killed himself on Jan. 11 as he faced a potentially long prison term for what many in the technology field have noted was nothing more than a breach of a contract involving Internet documents." In this case, the judge rebuked Ortiz for playing drug warrior with a small motel owner whose only crime appeared to be doing business in a poorly policed community.

The Cool Justice Report / Litchfield County Times, What is up with judge bribery case in Badaracco homicide? Andy Thibault, Jan. 29, 2013. Judges, bribery, buried cars, grand jury; the twisted tale of Mary Badaracco's murder and since then: The Mary Badaracco homicide case is like a riddle jumbled in a hall of mirrors. The mirrors are usually foggy, with a rare burst of light and clarity. All that’s missing is the White Rabbit. The case began in earnest six years too late. Over the next 22½ years it generated some hope for justice, only to fall apart. One has to wonder whether all cylinders of Connecticut law enforcement were ever operating in concert.  [ "Cool Justice" by Andy Thibault, right, is a column popularized by his book, Law & Justice In Everyday Life.]  

Jan. 27

OpEdNews, Empire Project Failing in Syria Says French Foreign Minister, Michael Collins, Jan. 27, 2013. The survival of the Syrian government represents a major failure of the empire project to recolonize and dominate energy-rich Middle Eastern and North African states. In an abrupt change from months of anticipatory triumphalism,

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius admitted that Syrian President Bashar Assad will not be leaving power any time soon. This is a radical departure from the NATO script and that of their stenographers in the corporate media. We've been fed a mix of articles over the past months predicting Assad's imminent demise, filled with speculation on how post-Assad Syria will look after he's gone. After the successful takeover in Libya, it looked like NATO's plan would work its horrific magic once again.  I outlined the Libyan formula that seemed destined for Syria on August 8, 2012 (What if the Empire Project Fails in Syria):

1. Take advantage of a political clash between a used up/undesirable leader and some internal faction (the rebels);
2. Covertly arm and otherwise assist the rebels;
3. Get a UN resolution decrying human rights violations based on evidence from an NGO aligned with the rebels ;
4. Overtly arm and otherwise assist the rebels; and,
5. Win the battle for the rebels

Guardian / OpEdNews, Kiriakou And Stuxnet: The Danger Of The Still-Escalating Obama Whistleblower War, Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 27, 2013. The only official punished for the illegal NSA program was the one who discussed it. The same is now true of torture. Former CIA officer John Kiriakou becomes the only government official convicted in connection with the US torture program: not for having done it, but for having talked about it.

Jan. 26

Washington Post, Pressure mounts for suspects in Stuxnet probe; New software gives FBI a potent tool in its search for who leaked classified intel on computer virus used to damage nuclear centrifuges at enrichment plant in Iran, Peter Finn, Jan. 26, 2013. Federal investigators looking into disclosures of classified information about a cyberoperation that targeted Iran’s nuclear program have increased pressure on current and former senior government officials suspected of involvement, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry, which was started by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. last June, is examining leaks about a computer virus developed jointly by the United States and Israel that damaged nuclear centrifuges at Iran’s primary uranium enrichment plant. The U.S. code name for the operation was Olympic Games, but the wider world knew the mysterious computer worm as Stuxnet. New software gives FBI a potent tool in its search for who leaked classified intel about computer virus. Prosecutors are pursuing “everybody — at pretty high levels, too,” said one person familiar with the investigation. “There are many people who’ve been contacted from different agencies.”

OpEdNews, Senator's Denial of News Story Reflects Deep Resistance to "Chained-CPI" Social Security Cut, Richard (RJ) Eskow, Jan. 25, 2013. Here's an "Washington insider" story that could affect every family in the country. Congressional newspaper The Hill reported today that Sen. Chuck Schumer was considering using a special parliamentary maneuver to push a budget deal. But this wasn't just another "inside baseball" story, the kind that fascinates policy wonks and bores all other living beings. This story included an explosive paragraph which seemed to suggest that Schumer, the Senate's #3 Democrat, was interested in a deal that included the "chained-CPI" cut to Social Security benefits. It also included cryptic language about "Medicare reform," words that are often used as Beltway code for raising the eligibility age or other drastic benefit reductions to that program.

While the "chained CPI" is often pitched as a "technical adjustment" or "a more accurate say to measure cost-of-living increases," it's neither. The formula is less accurate and less fair than today's already-inadequate formula for calculating expenses for people on Social Security, and would result in a 3 percent benefit cut for the average senior (considerably more for those who live longer). After initial calls to Schumer's office went unreturned, Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America's Future (see disclaimer below) issued a statement which read in part: "If Sen. Schumer's proposal was accurately reported, the senator could not be more wrong ... Sen. Schumer has previously been a strong opponent of cuts to Social Security. The Campaign for America's Future reminds him and all Democrats that the chained CPI would mean an immediate cut to current Social Security benefits. These cuts are very unpopular with all Americans, and Democrats should be leading the fight to protect Social Security and Medicare, not helping Republicans accomplish their harmful goals."

OpEdNews, Three Strategies to Block the Gerrymandering of the Electoral College, John Nichols, Jan. 26, 2013. As Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus promotes one of the most blatant assaults on democracy in modern times -- a scheme to gerrymander the Electoral College so that the loser of the popular vote could win key states and the presidency -- the number-one question from frustrated citizens is: What can we do about it? After so many assaults on voting rights and the electoral process itself have been advanced, it is easy to imagine that Priebus, Karl Rove and their team could get away even with so audacious an initiative as the rigging of presidential elections. Priebus is counting on precisely that cynicism, as well as the neglect of the story by major media, to enable the plan to have Republican legislatures and governors in key swing states -- Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin -- arrange for the distribution of electoral votes not to winners of the popular vote statewide but to the winners of individual congressional districts. Because of the gerrymandering of congressional district lines, the scheme would in 2012 have shifted the circumstance so that, in Pennsylvania for instance, the losing candidate, Republican Mitt Romney, would have won the overwhelming majority of the state's electoral votes.

Jan. 25

Bill Moyers & Company,  U.S. Rep. Peter Welch on Amgen’s Sweet Senate Deal, Bill Moyers, Jan. 25, 2013. A recent article in The New York Times reported on a cost-control exception provided to Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm. According to the report, the sweetheart deal — hidden in the Senate’s final “fiscal cliff” bill — will cost taxpayers half a billion dollars.

Bill talks to U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) about the bi-partisan bill he recently sponsored to repeal that giveaway, and the political factors that allow such crony capitalism to occur. “When there is this back room dealing that comes at enormous expense to taxpayers and enormous benefit to a private, well-connected, for-profit company, we’ve got to call it out,” Welch tells Bill. “Those members of Congress who are concerned about the institution, about our lack of credibility, about the necessity of us doing things that are in the public good as opposed to private gain, we’ve got to call it out.” 

New York Times, Ex-Officer for C.I.A. Sentenced to 30 Months in Leak Case, Michael S. Schmidt, Jan. 25, 2013. The first Central Intelligence Agency officer to face prison for disclosing classified information, was sentenced on Friday to 30 months in prison by a judge at the federal courthouse here. The judge, Leonie M. Brinkema, said that in approving the sentence, she would respect the terms of a plea agreement between the former C.I.A. agent, John C. Kiriakou, and prosecutors, but “I think 30 months is way too light.” The judge said “this is not a case of a whistle-blower.” She went on to describe the damage that Mr. Kiriakou had created for the intelligence agency and an agent whose cover was disclosed by Mr. Kiriakou.

Washington Post, I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong? Timothy Kudo, Jan. 25, 2013.  When I joined the Marine Corps, I knew I would kill people. I was trained to do it in a number of ways, from pulling a trigger to ordering a bomb strike to beating someone to death with a rock. As I got closer to deploying to war in 2009, my lethal abilities were refined, but my ethical understanding of killing was not.I held two seemingly contradictory beliefs: Killing is always wrong, but in war, it is necessary. How could something be both immoral and necessary?

Huffington Post, Obama Labor Board Recess Appointments Are Unconstitutional, Federal Court Rules, Sam Hananel, Jan. 25, 2013. In an embarrassing setback for President Barack Obama, a federal appeals court panel ruled that he violated the Constitution in making recess appointments last year, a decision that would effectively curtail a president's ability to bypass the Senate to fill administration vacancies. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that Obama did not have the power to make three recess appointments last year to the National Labor Relations Board because the Senate was officially in session – and not in recess – at the time. If the decision stands, it could invalidate hundreds of board decisions.

Huffington Post, What The 2012 Election Would Look Like Under The Republicans' Vote-Rigging Plan, Aaron Bycoffe and Andrei Scheinkman, Jan. 25, 2013. Republicans have a new strategy for 2016: Change the rules of presidential elections in order to swing the Electoral College in the GOP's favor. On Wednesday, Virginia's Republican-controlled legislature became one of the first to advance a bill that would allocate electoral votes by congressional district. Last week, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus endorsed pushing through similar proposals in other states with Republican legislative majorities. The strategy would have states alter the way they translate individual votes into electors -- thereby giving Republican candidates an advantage. Had the 2012 election been apportioned in every state according to these new Republican plans, Romney would have led Obama by at least 11 electoral votes.

Jeb BushBoot's Blasts, The Jeb Bush Illegal Drug and Liquor Distributorship at Andover, John LeBoutillier (Fox News commentator and former Republican congressman from New York), Jan. 24, 2013. In 2006 at my 30th Harvard Reunion, during a casual conversation one evening, a classmate told me about his years at Andover. Out of the blue he told me this story: Jeb Bush and one other fellow student back then ran an illegal drug and liquor distributorship on the Andover campus. When the heat started coming down, Bush ratted out the partner to the school authorities and saved his own skin.  Jeb got away with it, was never caught, never punished, graduated unscathed and went on to the University of Texas at Austin.

To this day no one outside the Andover community even knows about this illegal activity. The media is apparently unaware of it. Through three statewide campaigns for governor of Florida, it never came up. In 2012 at another Harvard event, this same Andover alumnus brought over another one of his Andover classmates – and one of our Harvard ’76 classmates and a staunch Republican – to speak to me about the Jeb Bush matter. This second alumnus confirmed the story – and added in this detail: “I never knew why Jeb walked around Andover with his jaw hanging open until someone told me he was stoned all the time.” 

Forty years later does this matter? Does what someone did in high school matter if they run for president? In fact, yes. In the summer of 2012, the Washington Post, ran a huge story on Mitt Romney’s behavior at the Cranbrook School in Michigan, with the focus on an alleged incident where Romney and some other boys cut off the blond bangs of a classmate. If that event is worthy of the front page of the Washington Post, then the Jeb Bush Illegal Drug and Liquor Distributorship is certainly something the voters – especially GOP primary voters – have a right to know before they begin to choose a 2016 candidate. [Bush is portrayed at right in an official portrait as governor of Florida.]

Jan. 24

Washington Post, GOP is pushing electoral changes, Nia-Malika Henderson and Errin Haines, Jan. 24, 2013.

Nieman Journalism Lab, Newsonomics, The Tribune’s Metro Agony, Ken Doctor, Jan. 24, 2013.  Soon, the next act of the Tribune newspaper agonies will play out. That’s agonies, as in a Biblical passion play. The Tribune papers have endured a special kind of agony, the Hell of Zell, but really their story is the story of metro newspapers throughout the U.S. and now largely across the developed world. It’s a moment that will mark another major passage in American newspapering, and one that reopens big questions about the fate of metro dailies in American life.

The Tribune Company owns eight newspapers, six of them metros. Two — the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune — are in top 10 of U.S. dailies; five — adding in the Orlando Sentinel, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and Baltimore Sun — are in the top 40, while the Hartford Courant ranks 60th. Their likely sale will be the single largest sale of metro newspapers in the U.S. since McClatchy bought Knight-Ridder in 2006. (That sale included the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, San Jose Mercury News, Miami Herald, Kansas City Star, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Saint Paul Pioneer Press, Charlotte Observer and Akron Beacon Journal.)

Associated Press / Mississippi Business Journal, U.S. Supreme Court weighing appeal of Scruggs, Minor, AP Staff, Jan. 24, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court will hold a conference Feb. 15 to decide on whether to hear an appeal from Zach Scruggs, who was implicated as having knowledge of a judicial corruption scheme that toppled his father, plaintiffs’ lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs. The conference will also make a decision in the case of former attorney Paul Minor, who was also found guilty of judicial corruption. In Zach Scruggs’ case, court officials say a decision could be announced shortly after the conference. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld Scruggs conviction last October. The younger Scruggs, a law partner with his father, pleaded guilty to failing to report a conspiracy to improperly influence a judge in a dispute with other lawyers over $26.5 million in legal fees. He served a 14-month prison sentence and also lost his law license. Richard Scruggs and three others were convicted in the bribery scheme. Minor has asked the nation’s high court to overturn his sentence in a Mississippi judicial corruption case. Court officials say a decision could also be announced shortly after the conference. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August upheld the sentences of Minor and former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield. Prosecutors said Minor backed loans for the judges in exchange for favorable court rulings. In court documents, Minor has argued prosecutors didn’t prove he received something in return for guaranteeing loans for Teel, a Chancery Court judge, and Whitfield, a Circuit Court judge.

WND, Media ignore Hillary’s bombshell Benghazi claim; Secretary insists she did not know about gun-running at U.S. mission, Aaron Klein, Jan. 24, 2013.  During the Senate hearing on Benghazi yesterday, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed she did not know whether the U.S. special mission attacked on Sept. 11 was involved in gun-running. The remarks were perhaps the most important and telling of the entire hearing since they address a possible motive behind the jihadist attacks.

Yet Clinton’s answers were largely unreported by U.S. news media. The exchange on the subject took place with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Paul asked Clinton: “Is the U. S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?"

“To Turkey?” Clinton asked. “I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody has ever raised that with me.” Continued Paul: “It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that may have weapons, and what I’d like to know is the annex that was close by, were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons, and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries, any countries, Turkey included?”

“I do not know,” Clinton said. “I don’t have any information on that.” That section of the exchange with Paul was almost entirely ignored by media, which instead focused on the Republican senator’s earlier statement that if he were president he would have relieved Clinton of her post. WND has filed numerous reports quoting Middle East security officials who describe the mission in Benghazi as a meeting place to coordinate aid for the rebel-led insurgencies in the Middle East.

FireDogLake, Election Rigging Plotted on ABC’s Scandal: The Real Life Backstory, Sheila Parks, Jan. 24, 2013. In a flashback scene on last Thursday night’s (1/17/2013) episode of ABC’s searing political drama Scandal, a cabal of five voted to rig the upcoming presidential election to ensure that their man “Fitz” won. The personal agendas of four of them were revealed to viewers. Ultimately, Hollis – the gang leader – made a call to a computer wiz he knew and told him “It’s a go!” Was a recent episode of scandal based on real events? Who is the nerd that Hollis called to rig the election? Could the character be based on the late Michael Connell, the hard-right-anti-abortion-true-believer, who many allege handed George W. Bush the 2004 election by rigging in Ohio?  I think so.  As a national expert on election rigging, I have evaluated what we know and I believe we can trace how Connell fixed the Ohio election through computers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, via a company called SMARTech.

Connell was Karl Rove’s high tech operative.  He died, suspiciously perhaps, in a small airplane crash.  Like the characters in Scandal, he also had a personal agenda. He viewed abortion as murder and wanted an anti-abortion president.  In fictional Scandal, the election was rigged via the touchscreen electronic voting machines in Defiance, Ohio; we saw this earlier in the “Defiance” episode. Thursday night, in the flashback, viewers learned that the vote in three counties in Ohio — Defiance, Franklin and Summit — could cause Fitz to lose Ohio.  In the real-life 2004 presidential election in Ohio, Franklin and Summit went to Kerry; Defiance went to Bush. In real life, Richard Hayes Phillips a scholar and the author of Witness to a Crime: A Citizens Audit of an American Election, provides a detailed report about what happened in thirteen counties in Ohio in the 2004 presidential election where there was evidence of fraud.

New York Times via Salt Lake Tribune, N.Y. Times: Amgen’s gift from Sen. Hatch, Jan. 24 2013. The following editorial appeared Wednesday in The New York Times: Supporters of the delay — notably, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who leads the Senate Finance Committee, and Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on that committee — say it is needed to give the Medicare system and dialysis providers time to absorb other complicated changes in federal reimbursements for kidney care. But there is good reason to suspect other factors were involved as well.

Both senators have political and financial ties to Amgen, as does Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, who exerted great influence over the fiscal negotiations and praised the Medicare provisions. A top aide to Hatch, who was involved in negotiating the dialysis delay, previously worked as a health policy analyst for Amgen. The current lobbyists for Amgen include former chiefs of staff for both Baucus and McConnell. And the three senators have received substantial contributions from Amgen’s employees and its political action committee since 2007 — almost $68,000 to Baucus, $59,000 to Hatch and $73,000 to McConnell. Amgen’s strong influence prevailed even though it had pleaded guilty just weeks ago to marketing an anti-anemia drug illegally and agreed to pay criminal and civil penalties of $762 million, a record settlement for a biotechnology company. This dreadful episode is a classic example of the power of special interests to shape legislation and shows how hard it may be to carry out the reforms needed to cut health care costs.

Jan. 23

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, The Swartz suicide and the sick culture of the DOJ, Harvey A. Silverglate, left, Jan. 23, 2013. The ill-considered prosecution leading to the suicide of computer prodigy Aaron Swartz is the most recent in a long line of abusive prosecutions coming out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, representing a disastrous culture shift. It sadly reflects what’s happened to the federal criminal courts, not only in Massachusetts but across the country. It’s difficult for lawyers to step back and view the larger picture of the unflattering system from which we derive our status and our living. But we have an ethical obligation to criticize the legal system when warranted. Who else, after all, knows as much about where the proverbial bodies are buried and is in as good a position to tell truth to power as members of the independent bar? Yet the palpable injustices flowing regularly out of the federal criminal courts have by and large escaped the critical scrutiny of the lawyers who are in the best position to say something. And judges tend not to recognize what to outsiders are serious flaws, because the system touts itself as the best and fairest in the world. Since the mid-1980s, a proliferation of vague and overlapping federal criminal statutes has given federal prosecutors the ability to indict, and convict, virtually anyone unfortunate enough to come within their sights.

Black Agenda Report, The White House Un-Reality Show, Glen Ford, Jan. 23, 2013. Despite the fact that “it was Barack Obama who began the current austerity offensive in the weeks before delivering his first inaugural address,” the president was allowed to pose as a champion of the social safety net. Having redefined war, he once again claims to be a peacemaker. “By cheering the inaugural speech, progressives are only encouraging Obama’s gaming and mendacity.”

Black Agenda Radio, Symbols Are All We Need: Four More Years of Black Silence, Irrelevance, Commentary by Managing Editor Bruce Dixon, Jan. 23, 2013. Our black political class, from the president down to sheriffs evoke the struggles and victories of the fifties and sixties, but have nothing to show for the seventies, eighties nineties or the new century except their own careers. They are utterly unprepared to fight or even assist in the fight for economic justice, peace and rolling back the prison state. But they're good role models, which is all we really need. We've all lived to now to see the US elect thousands of African American local and state officials and re-elect the first black president. It's important somehow, that all these mayors, congress creatures and the rest from county sheriffs to the president are black, and that they all ceaseless evoke the epic Black Freedom movement of 45 and 50 years ago. It's much less important that black leadership has few or no victories to boast for the seventies, the eighties, the nineties or the new century, apart from their own illustrious careers, or that the war on drugs and the prison state sprung AFTER the Freedom Movement ended and continue effectively unchallenged on their watch.

Cato Institute, Citizens United: What Happened? What Now? Featuring John Samples, Cato Institute (seated at right); Robert Bauer (shown at left at the podoium), Perkins Coie; Bradley Smith, Capital University School of Law; Ray LaRaja, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Michael Malbin, Campaign Finance Institute; Don McGahn, Federal Election Commission; and Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School, Jan. 23, 2013. See video: CSPAN, Campaign Finance after Citizens United: What Happened? What Now?Jan. 23, 2013. (Video: 3 hours.) Three years ago the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United. Later, lower courts followed Citizens United in deciding SpeechNow v. Federal Election Commission, the legal foundation for Super PACs. The nation has now experienced mid-term and president elections governed by these decisions. This conference will examine the consequences of Citizens United. Did anything change? Our experts will then turn toward the future and ask what policies should be enacted (or not) in light of experience and Supreme Court doctrine.C-SPAN / Cato Institute, Citizens United: What Happened? What Now? Featuring John Samples, Cato Institute; Robert Bauer, Perkins Coie; Bradley Smith, Capital University School of Law; Ray LaRaja, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Michael Malbin, Campaign Finance Institute; Don McGahn, Federal Election Commission; and Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School, Jan. 23, 2013.

Homeland Security Today, TSA May Not Be Done with Backscatter X-Ray Scanners, Mickey McCarter, Jan. 23, 2013.Toward rd the end of last year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) removed many of its controversial backscatter X-ray full body scanners from major US airports. Now TSA will remove all of the current backscatter X-ray advanced imaging technology (AIT) devices in favor of alternate technology equipped with privacy software. TSA concluded last week that it would stop using backscatter body scanners from the primary vendor supplying them but not over concerns raised about ionizing radiation emitted from the devices but rather over a legal requirement that TSA upgrade all AIT scanners with software that does not show revealing X-rays of air travelers.

Guardian, The Untouchables: How the Obama administration protected Wall Street from prosecutions, Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 23, 2013. A new PBS Frontline report examines a profound failure of justice that should be causing serious social unrest, PBS' Frontline program on Tuesday night broadcast a new one-hour report on one of the greatest and most shameful failings of the Obama administration: the lack of even a single arrest or prosecution of any senior Wall Street banker for the systemic fraud that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis: a crisis from which millions of people around the world are still suffering. What this program particularly demonstrated was that the Obama justice department, in particular the Chief of its Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer, never even tried to hold the high-level criminals accountable.

What Obama justice officials did instead is exactly what they did in the face of high-level Bush era crimes of torture and warrantless eavesdropping: namely, acted to protect the most powerful factions in the society in the face of overwhelming evidence of serious criminality. Indeed, financial elites were not only vested with immunity for their fraud, but thrived as a result of it, even as ordinary Americans continue to suffer the effects of that crisis. Worst of all, Obama justice officials both shielded and feted these Wall Street oligarchs (who, just by the way, overwhelmingly supported Obama's 2008 presidential campaign) as they simultaneously prosecuted and imprisoned powerless Americans for far more trivial transgressions.

Jan. 22

Consortium News/ OpEdNews, What to Make of Barack Obama? Robert Parry, Jan. 22, 2013. American progressives tend to have two conflicting views of President Barack Obama: one that he had good intentions but inherited a poisonous mess from George W. Bush and then faced partisan, even racist obstructionism, or two that he was always a phony with a great smile who turned out to be "worse than Bush." Of course, there is much middle ground in assessments of Obama among progressives as from other political perspectives, but some prominent critics on the Left have opted for the latter point of view and berate anyone who takes the more forgiving position as an Obama "apologist."

Alternet/Salon, 12 ways Obama’s inauguration speech humiliated the Tea Party, Adele M. Stan, Jan. 22, 2013. After reclaiming the language of patriotism, Obama threw it back in the faces of the GOP in the name of liberalism
With its elegant rendering of the liberal agenda before the eyes of the American people, President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address was music to the ears of many a progressive. But to the ears of Tea Partyers and the Republican right, this inauguration speech, as well as the ceremony that surrounded it, was war — not just a war of words, but a war of prayer, a war of poetry and even, perhaps, a war of song. Driving the message home were the hands of the Fates, who conspired to see the second inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president fall on Martin Luther King Day, the national holiday whose very creation was opposed by so many who still today comprise the Republican Party’s right wing. Here we recount a dozen ways in which the president brought his fight to the right, in no uncertain terms, at his second inauguration.

Huffington Post, Virginia Redistricting 2013: State GOP Rams Bill Through Senate In Absence Of Democratic Sen. Henry Marsh, Jan. 22, 2013. Virginia Democrats are raising hell after Republicans unexpectedly rammed a controversial redistricting bill through the state Senate on Monday, capitalizing on the absence of a Democratic lawmaker and civil rights leader who was in Washington for President Barack Obama's second inauguration.  "The new redistricting map revises the districts created under the 2011 map," writes Talking Points Memo's Evan McMorris-Santoro, "and would take effect before the next state Senate elections in Virginia and would redraw district lines to maximize the number of safe GOP seats."

WhoWhatWhy, Carmen Ortiz’s Sordid Rap Sheet, Russ Baker, Jan. 22, 2013. Carmen Ortiz has garnered much attention following the suicide of information activist Aaron Swartz, not surprising given that her office threw the book at him for a very minor offense. But what other skeletons hang in her closet, and what does it tell us about federal prosecutions these days?

Global Research, 'Conspiracy Theory': Foundations of a Weaponized Term; Subtle and Deceptive Tactics to Discredit Truth in Media and Research, James F. Tracy, Jan. 22, 2013. “Conspiracy theory” is a term that at once strikes fear and anxiety in the hearts of most every public figure, particularly journalists and academics. Since the 1960s the label has become a disciplinary device that has been overwhelmingly effective in defining certain events off limits to inquiry or debate. Especially in the United States raising legitimate questions about dubious official narratives destined to inform public opinion (and thereby public policy) is a major thought crime that must be cauterized from the public psyche at all costs. Conspiracy theory’s acutely negative connotations may be traced to liberal historian Richard Hofstadter’s well-known fusillades against the “New Right.” Yet it was the Central Intelligence Agency that likely played the greatest role in effectively “weaponizing” the term. In the groundswell of public skepticism toward the Warren Commission’s findings on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the CIA sent a detailed directive to all of its bureaus. Titled “Countering Criticism of the Warren Commission Report,” the dispatch played a definitive role in making the “conspiracy theory” term a weapon to be wielded against almost any individual or group calling the government’s increasingly clandestine programs and activities into question.

New York Post, Hasidic counselor Nechemya Weberman gets 103 years in child sex-abuse case, Josh Saul, Jan/ 22, 2013. Hasidic counselor Nechemya Weberman gets 103 years in child sex-abuse case.

The young Brooklyn teen who was sexually abused by her Hasidic counselor smiled through her tears today as the perverted monster was sentenced to 103 years behind bars and hauled off in handcuffs. Nechemya Weberman, 54, showed no emotion as he heard the judge pronounce his virtual life sentence for taking advantage of the then-12-year-old girl over the course of three years in his counseling office.

“I clearly remember how I would look in the mirror. I saw a girl who didn’t want to live in her own skin,” the brave victim, 18, said in Brooklyn Supreme Court before the sentence. “A sad girl who wished so badly she could live a normal teenage life but instead was victimized by a 54-year-old man who forced her to perform sickening acts, again and again, for his sadistic pleasure.”

A jury found the bearded child molester guilty on all 59 counts in December. He has been in jail since then awaiting today’s sentencing. “I can finally look at myself and feel happy that god gave me the strength to go through with this trial,” she said.

The trial provided a rare glimpse into the insular world of Brooklyn Hasidism and the cloistered Satmar sect. The girl was sent to Weberman for counseling after she failed to dress according to Satmar standards of modesty. Witnesses also told a riveted courtroom about Satmar practices like the masked modesty squad that stormed into a girl’s bedroom to confiscate her cellphone.

Weberman’s trial tore apart the incredibly private Satmar sect, pitting Weberman’s fierce loyalists against the victim’s supporters who claimed the community turned a blind eye to abuse.

“[She] was treated like dirt while the defendant was like a god in the community,” said assistant district attorney Kevin O’Donnell, who likened her testimony against Weberman to the fight between David and Goliath. “Just like the stone, the truth struck the giant and struck him down.”

Jan. 21

Barack Obama Inaugural Address 2013, Barack Obama via OpEd News, Jan. 21, 2013.  Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution.  We affirm the promise of our democracy.  We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names.  What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."  Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.  The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob.  They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

Washington Post, Obama’s speech heralds a bolder leadership style, Dan Balz, Jan. 21, 2013. A confident Obama takes oath for second time, seemingly committed to forwarding his agenda.

Roll Call, Obama Pushes Sweeping Agenda, Steven T. Dennis, Jan. 21, 2013. In an aggressive address that called for action on climate change, gay rights, immigration and the nation’s partisan divide, Obama urged the country to come together to reaffirm its founding principles. With his far-reaching inaugural address Monday, an emboldened President Barack Obama made the case for an activist federal government and a decidedly liberal agenda while challenging the gridlocked Congress to act. In a surprisingly aggressive address that called for action on climate change, gay rights, immigration and the nation’s partisan divide, Obama urged the country to come together to reaffirm — and extend — its founding principles.

“Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life,” Obama said. “It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.” The bold push for long-sought liberal policy goals came against the backdrop of a Congress that may not even be able to avoid a government shutdown in March and has only managed to govern through serial self-imposed deadlines and crises. But the president went well beyond the cautious, compromise-first efforts in his first term that so often disappointed his liberal base, suggesting that he will keep to the harder-nosed negotiating style he has employed since Election Day. Liberals cheered, believing the president was making the argument they always thought he should make.

Roll Call,  GOP Finds Little to Like in Obama's Inaugural Address, Meredith Shiner and Jonathan Strong, Jan. 21, 2013. Republicans by and large held their fire Monday following the peaceful installation of the nation’s commander in chief, but by next month’s State of the Union address, the so-called “loyal opposition” is unlikely to equivocate in expressing its simmering frustration with President Barack Obama. The pomp and circumstance of Monday’s ceremonial festivities were a brief respite from Congress’ lurch from one tense budget deadline to the next, even if Obama did surprise many by mentioning several liberal-leaning policy goals in his inaugural address. Although the subtext of Obama’s speech was aimed at getting Congress to find some common ground, the Feb. 12 State of the Union will provide them with more specific targets.  

WhoWhatWhy, Carmen Ortiz’s Sordid Rap Sheet, Russ Baker, Jan. 22, 2013. Carmen Ortiz has garnered much attention following the suicide of information activist Aaron Swartz, not surprising given that her office threw the book at him for a very minor offense. But what other skeletons hang in her closet, and what does it tell us about federal prosecutions these days?

OpEd News, Goldman's CEO and his pals want to increase the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare to 70. That would seriously harm, maybe kill many seniors, Michael Collins, Jan. 21, 2013. the Business Roundtable, wants you to wait until you're 70 years old before you get Social Security and Medicare benefits.  This is just a reprise of the November 2012 dictate from the king of corporate cronyism, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. The boss announced, "So there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised. But in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained," said Lloyd Blankfein, CBS News, November 2012.

That's easy for Lloyd to say.  He makes tens of millions of dollars a year without so much as lifting a finger.  You can be sure that Blankfein has a deluxe health insurance and retirement plan.Most seniors lack these necessities.  Half of those 65 or older make  $45,000 a year ($3,750 a month) or less.  If you have to wait until 70 for Medicare, you can either pay monthly health insurance premiums of $1,000 to $3,000 a month (if you can get it) or you can learn pain and suffering up close without coverage.  You can eat much less and downsize to substandard shelter to pay your health care costs (premiums and out-of-pocket expenses).  Perhaps the combination of restricted health care, substandard diet, and inadequate shelter may even kill you, in which case the problem is solved. How would Lloyd react if he had to pay anywhere from 25% to 60% of his gross income for medical coverage?  Would he have a different opinion given the choice between food and shelter versus health insurance premiums? The Money Party proposals for entitlements represent a looming disaster for millions of working people who struggle to make it to a retirement age of 65.  In fact, nearly 20% take the lower Social Security benefits that come with early retirement at 62. Medicare eligibility is fixed at 65.  Let's say it's raised to 70.  Instead of waiting three years for medical coverage, the early retirees (often unfit to work or unemployed) would wait eight years for Medicare.  For those who take the full Social Security benefit at 66 (born from 1948-1954) or 67 (born after 1960), the wait for Medicare would be three to four years.   Imagine the possibilities for complications and tragedy while waiting for Medicare. There's a real genius to the Blankfein-Roundtable proposals that escapes public examination.   The longer benefits are delayed, the more people will die before claiming any of the benefits.  The longer benefits are delayed, the longer people will end up working.  That means greater stress on health with more people axed from the Social Security and Medicare rolls due to an earlier than expected demise.

It gets even worse.  The higher the retirement age for Social Security, the more seniors end up paying in Social Security taxes. That creates an even larger poll of funds for the annual borrowing from Social Security surpluses (aka rake-off) by the government to cover a much of the pork-laden Federal budget.  All we get is a promise that our taxes and contributions will be repaid as we hear various executives, politicians, and commissions demand that those benefits be reduced.  Their scamming is without end.

Atlantic, President Obama's Second Inaugural, as Heard By Conspiracy Theorists and Haters, Steve King, Jan. 21, 2013. No matter what he says, this is what some people will think he said. We gather here today not just to celebrate the machinery of our Republic and reaffirm the continuing story of our country, but to celebrate me. We are here because we have chosen fear over hope.

Jan. 20

OpEdNews, This President Can -- and Must -- Claim a Mandate to Govern, John Nichols, Jan. 20, 2013. With his second inauguration, Barack Obama will become the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to renew his tenure after having  won more than 51 percent of the vote in two consecutive elections. More importantly, in a political sense, he will be the first Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to have won mandates from the majority of the American people in two consecutive elections. We should expect a great deal from Barack Obama.

Despite four years of battering by Fox and Limbaugh and the Tea Party and Mitch McConnell, he has been reelected with a higher percentage of the popular vote than John Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992 of 1996 or George Bush in 2000 and 2004. The president has in the transition period since the 2012 election displayed a willingness to push harder, to go bigger, and it has yielded significant progress not just on gun-safety issues but in the long struggle against the Republican austerity agenda that makes a diety of deregulating away consumer and environmental protections, tearing the social-safety net and cutting taxes for wealthy campaign donors. See also: Huffington Post, The Road Forward: Obama's Second Term Challenges,

Huffington Post, The State of Obama, Robert Kuttner, Jan. 21, 2013. President Obama has heartened progressives with many actions since his re-election. He seems to grasp that he has a lot more power to move public opinion than he used in his first term. He also understands that most of the Republican positions on the issues are unpopular with broad public, divisive within the Republican Party, and just plain bad policy. So will he maximize his advantage? Or will the State of the Union be the occasion for more olive branches, more searching for common ground that doesn't really exist.

American history shows that a leader does better being "president of all the people" by isolating a destructive opposition rather than splitting the difference with it. In his second inaugural, Lincoln famously and magnanimously declared, "With malice toward none and charity for all, let us bind up the nation's wounds." But first it was necessarily to defeat the South on the battlefield. A rearguard fight to undo voting rights through ballot suppression still goes on, half a century later. Today, Barack Obama's approval ratings are creeping upward, both because the public likes a jaunty, resolute leader, and because Republican policies are out of sync with public sentiment. Obama pushed Republicans' backs to the wall when they tried to hold hostage tax increases for everybody to a tax cut for the top 1 percent. Obama reminded the public just what a bad idea that was. The Republicans caved. He made it clear that he was not going to allow pay a ransom

Racel CorrieRT, Abby Martin Interviews Rachel Corrie’s Parents as the 10th Anniversary of Rachel’s Death Approaches, Edward Teller, Jan. 20, 2013. March 16th, less than two months away, will mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Evergreen College senior, Rachel Corrie, in Rafah, near the Egyptian border of the Gaza Strip, as she sought to and succeeded in keeping an Israeli military armored Caterpiller bulldozer from destroying the house of a large Palestinian family. Her action cost her her life.  But her legacy lives on through the work of her parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie, and through the inspiration she has provided to hundreds of thousands of young people, worldwide. Rachel Corrie is at right in a family photo. See also: Telegraph (London), Rachel Corrie death: Israel rejects all blame, Adrian Blomfield, Aug. 28, 2012.

OpEdNews, This President Can -- and Must -- Claim a Mandate to Govern, John Nichols, Jan. 20, 2013. With his second inauguration, Barack Obama will become the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to renew his tenure after having  won more than 51 percent of the vote in two consecutive elections. More importantly, in a political sense, he will be the first Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to have won mandates from the majority of the American people in two consecutive elections. We should expect a great deal from Barack Obama.

Despite four years of battering by Fox and Limbaugh and the Tea Party and Mitch McConnell, he has been reelected with a higher percentage of the popular vote than John Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992 of 1996 or George Bush in 2000 and 2004. The president has in the transition period since the 2012 election displayed a willingness to push harder, to go bigger, and it has yielded significant progress not just on gun-safety issues but in the long struggle against the Republican austerity agenda that makes a diety of deregulating away consumer and environmental protections, tearing the social-safety net and cutting taxes for wealthy campaign donors. See also: Huffington Post, The Road Forward: Obama's Second Term Challenges,

Jan. 19

Barack and Michelle ObamaHuffington Post, Mark Blumenthal and Emily Swanson, Obama Polls Find Optimism About His Second Term, Pessimism About Economy, Washington, Jan. 19, 2013, More Americans are optimistic than pessimistic about how President Barack Obama will handle his second term, but that hope does not translate into a positive outlook on the economy or the potential for greater cooperation in Washington. Those finding stand out from a wide variety of public opinion polls conducted since November's election, including a new batch of results from a HuffPost/YouGov online survey of 1,000 Americans. The HuffPost/YouGov poll finds a significantly higher percentage of Americans who think Obama will accomplish more in his second term (39 percent) than those who think he will accomplish less (22 percent) or those who think he'll do about the same (25 percent) as he did in his first term.

Associated Press/CBS, U.S. CEOs push plan to raise full retirement age to 70, Staff writer, Jan. 16, 2013. An influential group of business CEOs is pushing a plan to gradually increase the full retirement age to 70 for both Social Security and Medicare and to partially privatize the health insurance program for older Americans. The Business Roundtable's plan would protect those 55 and older from cuts but younger workers would face significant changes.

The plan unveiled Wednesday would result in smaller annual benefit increases for all Social Security recipients. Initial benefits for wealthy retirees would also be smaller. Medicare recipients would be able to enroll in the traditional program or in private plans that could adjust premiums based on age and health status. "America can preserve the health and retirement safety net and rein in long-term spending growth by modernizing Medicare and Social Security in a way that addresses America's new fiscal and demographic realities," said Gary Loveman, chairman, president and chief executive of casino giant Caesars Entertainment (CZR). Loveman, who chairs the Business Roundtable's health and retirement committee, said the business leaders will be meeting with members of Congress and the administration to press them to enact their plan.

Huffington Post, Inauguration Shouldn't be a Coronation, Joe Lauria, Jan. 21, 2013. Americans fought an eight-year war of liberation against not only the most powerful monarchy on earth in 1775 but against monarchy itself. Yet once the dust settled and it was time to write a Constitution compromises left America a legacy of monarchy now gone from most of Europe. Among the kingly powers still residing in the American presidency are the pardon, the veto and the title Commander-in-Chief. Add to that list the Inaugural celebration we are about to witness in Washington, DC. mong the kingly powers still residing in the American presidency are the pardon, the veto and the title Commander-in-Chief.

Add to that list the Inaugural celebration we are about to witness in Washington, DC. None of this has any place in a democracy. Unlike in Europe, whose time for Empire has come and gone, the United States combines the practical power of head of government with the symbolic power of head of state. It is a frightening combination. But that is the point: to instill fear. It is part of how rulers rule, how leaders manage populations. A mere mortal, albeit one with mortal power over other people's lives, is transformed through ritual and ceremony into a super-human figure who is not to be messed with. As the chief executive he holds in his hands the state's monopoly on violence -- both domestic and foreign. That fear of potential violence buffers an American president from criticism. It takes courage for someone -- a cabinet official, a journalist or an ordinary citizen -- to stand up to a president while he's in power. Only now we are hearing from a judge who says Bush was a torturer.

New York Times, Fiscal Footnote: Big Senate Gift to Drug Maker, Eric Lipton and Kevin Sack, Jan. 19, 2013. Just two weeks after pleading guilty in a major federal fraud case, Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm, scored a largely unnoticed coup on Capitol Hill: Lawmakers inserted a paragraph into the “fiscal cliff” bill that did not mention the company by name but strongly favored one of its drugs. The language buried in Section 632 of the law delays a set of Medicare price restraints on a class of drugs that includes Sensipar, a lucrative Amgen pill used by kidney dialysis patients. The provision gives Amgen an additional two years to sell Sensipar without government controls. The news was so welcome that the company’s chief executive quickly relayed it to investment analysts. But it is projected to cost Medicare up to $500 million over that period.

Jan. 18

Institute for Political Economy, The Institutionalization of Tyranny, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 18, 2013. Republicans and conservative Americans are still fighting Big Government in its welfare state form. Apparently, they have never heard of the militarized police state form of Big Government, or, if they have, they are comfortable with it and have no objection. Republicans, including those in the House and Senate, are content for big government to initiate wars without a declaration of war or even Congress’ assent, and to murder with drones citizens of countries with which Washington is not at war.

Republicans do not mind that federal “security” agencies spy on American citizens without warrants and record every email, Internet site visited, Facebook posting, cell phone call, and credit card purchase. Republicans in Congress even voted to fund the massive structure in Utah in which this information is stored. But heaven forbid that big government should do anything for a poor person. Republicans have been fighting Social Security ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law in the 1930s, and they have been fighting Medicare ever since President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law in 1965 as part of the Great Society initiatives.

Washington Post, TSA to pull revealing scanners from airports, Ashley Halsey III, Jan. 18, 2013. The Transportation Security Administration will remove 174 full-body scanners from airport security checkpoints, ending a $40 million contract for the machines, which caused a uproar because they revealed spectral naked forms of passengers. TSA Administrator John S. Pistole issued the order this week after concluding that new software that made the machines less intrusive could not be developed by a June 1 deadline mandated by Congress.

Foreign Policy, The Obama administration’s inexplicable mishandling of Marine Gen. James Mattis, Thomas E. Ricks, Jan. 18, 2013. Word on the national security street is that General James Mattis is being given the bum's rush out of his job as commander of Central Command, and is being told to vacate his office several months earlier than planned.

Why the hurry? Pentagon insiders say that he rubbed civilian officials the wrong way -- not because he went all "mad dog," which is his public image, and the view at the White House, but rather because he pushed the civilians so hard on considering the second- and third-order consequences of military action against Iran.

Some of those questions apparently were uncomfortable. Like, what do you do with Iran once the nuclear issue is resolved and it remains a foe? What do you do if Iran then develops conventional capabilities that could make it hazardous for U.S. Navy ships to operate in the Persian Gulf?

He kept saying, "And then what?" Inquiry along these lines apparently was not welcomed -- at least in the CENTCOM view. The White House view, apparently, is that Mattis was too hawkish, which is not something I believe, having seen him in the field over the years. Presidents should feel free to boot generals anytime they want, of course -- that's our system, and one I applaud.

Jan. 17

Carmen Ortiz

CBS News, Aaron Swartz Death: US Attorney Carmen Ortiz defends handling of case that ended with activist's suicide, Julia Dahl, Jan. 17, 2013. The U.S. Attorney who led the prosecution of Reddit co-founder and online activist Aaron Swartz issued a statement Thursday on Swartz's suicide, defending the justice department's conduct. "As a parent and a sister, I can only imagine the pain felt by the family and friends of Aaron Swartz, and I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to everyone who knew and loved this young man," wrote Carmen Ortiz, left, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. At the time of his death on Jan. 12, the 26-year-old Swartz was facing prison time for allegedly hacking into the online database JSTOR and downloading millions of scholarly articles he believed should be freely available to the public. Ortiz continues: "I must, however, make clear that this office's conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case."

Atlantic, The Death of Aaron Swartz, Clive Crook, Jan. 17, 2013. As a foreigner, I'm surprised that Americans aren't more alarmed by the workings of their criminal justice system. I don't know what ought to scare me more about living in the United States--that I might be the victim of a crime (which happens), or that this ferocious prosecutorial system might one day turn its wrath on me. I'd rather be mugged than threatened with years in jail for something I didn't even know was a crime. Is this justice system actually on my side? I'm by no means sure--an astounding state of affairs.  At a conference I attended recently, I vented my preoccupation with rogue prosecutors, an ever-proliferating criminal law and the vanishing rights of the accused on a fellow attendee--a lawyer and former prosecutor. When I'd said my piece she said, "But you have to remember that nearly all of the people who are prosecuted are guilty." For half a second I thought she was joking and I started to laugh. But she wasn't joking.

Jan. 16

Talk Left, Husband of MA AUSA Criticizes Swartz Family Obit on Twitter, Jeralyn, Jan. 16, 2013. A petition to the White House to remove Mass. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for her office's handling of the Aaron Swartz case has gathered 37,000 signatures. 25,000 signatures are necessary for a response from the White House. Ortiz' husband, Tom Dolan, took to Twitter and criticized the Swartz family for its obituary, claiming it left out the 6 month offer to Aaron. Then Dolan deleted his Twitter account. But you can see it here. Eric Holder foe and Fast and Furious attacker, Republican Darryl Issa, has demanded an investigation into the case. Issa said the Swartz case was important to reevaluate. “We certainly do want to second-guess their other misconduct, not just Fast and Furious.” Colorado Congressman Jared Polis, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, criticized the prosecution today.  “The charges were ridiculous and trumped-up,” Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) told The Hill. “It's absurd that he was made a scapegoat. I would hope that this doesn't happen to anyone else.” Polis called Swartz — a co-creator of Reddit who was accused of stealing articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — a "martyr" for why Congress should limit the discretion of prosecutors. Polis urged AG Holder to set new guidelines. Polis said he is willing to consider changes to the law, and urged Attorney General Eric Holder to set guidelines curtailing the ability of prosecutors to seek overly harsh punishments. “Prosecutors shouldn't have the kind of discretion to seek absurd penalties for minor crimes,” Polis said.

The Hill, Lawmakers slam DOJ prosecution of Swartz as 'ridiculous, absurd,' Brendan Sasso and Jennifer Martinez, Jan. 15, 2013. House lawmakers blasted federal prosecutors on Tuesday for pushing aggressive hacking charges against Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who killed himself on Friday. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says his Oversight panel will look into whether federal prosecutors acted inappropriately. Meanwhile, two other members of the House Judiciary Committee said prosecutors acted too aggressively.

Black Agenda Report, FCC Opens Rulemaking Process To Lower Price of Prison Phone Calls, Bruce A. Dixon, Jan. 16, 2013. The families of millions of federal, state and local prisoners have been viciously squeezed by the legal collusion of long distance phone companies with jailers from the Federal Bureau of Prisons down to state departments of corrections and local sheriffs. Federal regs require phone companies to deliver cheap local phone service, with a locality usually defined as the telephone exchange, the first three digits after the area code. Rates for calls outside an exchange however, were classified as “long distance,” and not subject to rate controls. Phone companies made deals with jailers for exclusive access to their prisons and jails in return for lucrative one time kickbacks or a percentage of the gross, along with the occasional campaign or charitable contribution. For the jailers and phone companies it was a classic win-win situation in which everybody at the table got over, except of course prisoners and their families. Researchers attempting to gather information on the actual rates across the country have often been met with non-cooperation on the part of state and local officials reluctant to divulge their manifestly corrupt deals which have constructed this onerous toll booth blocking communication between prisoners and their families. Ten years ago a grandmother filed a petition with the FCC noting that a five minute call with her grandson cost $18. In the decade since agitation and organizing across the country has finally moved the Federal Communication to take the first tentative step to remedy the problem. On December 28, 2012, the FCC finally issued a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” the beginning of the period in which it assembles information and takes public comment prior to the issuance of new rules.

Jan. 15

Guardian, Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann: accountability for prosecutorial abuse. Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 16, 2012. Imposing real consequences on these federal prosecutors in the Aaron Swartz case is vital for both justice and reform. US Attorney Carmen Ortiz is under fire for her office's conduct in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz. Whenever an avoidable tragedy occurs, it's common for there to be an intense spate of anger in its immediate aftermath which quickly dissipates as people move on to the next outrage. That's a key dynamic that enables people in positions of authority to evade consequences for their bad acts. But as more facts emerge regarding the conduct of the federal prosecutors in the case of Aaron Swartz -- Massachusetts' US attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant US attorney Stephen Heymann -- the opposite seems to be taking place: there is greater and greater momentum for real investigations, accountability and reform. It is urgent that this opportunity not be squandered, that this interest be sustained. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that -- two days before the 26-year-old activist killed himself on Friday -- federal prosecutors again rejected a plea bargain offer from Swartz's lawyers that would have kept him out of prison. They instead demanded that he "would need to plead guilty to every count" and made clear that "the government would insist on prison time." That made a trial on all 15 felony counts -- with the threat of a lengthy prison sentence if convicted -- a virtual inevitability.

Huffington Post, Darrell Issa Probing Prosecution Of Aaron Swartz, Internet Pioneer Who Killed Himself, Ryan J. Reilly, Ryan Grim, Zach Carter, Jan. 15, 2013. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is investigating the Justice Department's prosecution of Aaron Swartz, right, the Internet activist who committed suicide on Friday after fighting felony hacking charges for two years. Issa's inquiry comes amid bipartisan expressions of sympathy for Swartz on Capitol Hill, including a statement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Praising Swartz’s work toward “open government and free access to the people,” Issa told HuffPost that the government's case against Swartz is problematic enough to warrant further investigation. I’m not condoning his hacking, but he’s certainly someone who worked very hard,” Issa said. “Had he been a journalist and taken that same material that he gained from MIT, he would have been praised for it. It would have been like the Pentagon Papers.” Issa said he didn't have enough information to say whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts overprosecuted Swartz. He said he had dispatched an investigator to gather more facts. Also on Tuesday, Warren praised Swartz's character and life's work.

FireDogLake, Pardon John Kiriakou, CIA Whistleblower Convicted of Classified Leak, Kevin Gosztola, Jan.15, 2013. Days before John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer convicted of a classified leak, is scheduled to be sentenced to thirty months in jail, support for him is growing. Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, Joan Claybrook, a lawyer who once served as president of Public Citizen and Bruce Fein, lawyer active on civil liberties issues, have signed a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to pardon Kiriakou.  The letter explains Kiriakou pled “guilty to the crime of providing the name of a former colleague to an author who was writing a book and searching for former CIA officers to interview.” They find this is “an act which seems much less censorable than Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage’s disclosure” of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity “to reporter Robert Novak with impunity.”

Jan. 14

Huffington Post, Aaron Swartz's Lawyer: Prosecutor Stephen Heymann Wanted 'Juicy' Case For Publicity, Ryan J. Reilly, Gerry Smith, Zack Carter, Jan. 14, 2013. The federal prosecutor who reportedly insisted on jail time for the late Aaron Swartz was "very, very difficult to deal with," Swartz's lawyer told The Huffington Post. In a phone interview Monday, Swartz's attorney Elliot Peters accused Massachusetts assistant U.S. attorney Stephen Heymann of pursuing federal charges against Swartz to gain publicity. Heymann was looking for "some juicy looking computer crime cases and Aaron's case, sadly for Aaron, fit the bill," Peters said. Heymann, Peters believes, thought the Swartz case "was going to receive press and he was going to be a tough guy and read his name in the newspaper." Heymann, the deputy chief of the criminal division in the Boston-based U.S. Attorney's office, also headed the computer crimes task force there, a position Peters said "doesn't carry much prestige and respect unless you have computer crimes cases."

Democracy Now! "An Incredible Soul": Larry Lessig Remembers Aaron Swartz After Cyberactivist’s Suicide Before Trial; Parents Blame Prosecutor, Amy Goodman & Juan González, Jan. 14, 2013. Today we remember the pioneering computer programmer and cyber activist Aaron Swartz, who took his own life Friday at the age of 26. As a teenager, Swartz helped develop RSS, revolutionizing how people use the Internet, going on to co-own Reddit, now one of the world’s most popular sites. He was also a key architect of Creative Commons and an organizer of the grassroots movement to defeat the controversial House Internet censorship bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the Senate bill, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Swartz hanged himself just weeks before the start of a controversial trial. He was facing up to 35 years in prison for sneaking into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and downloading millions of articles provided by the subscription-based academic research service JSTOR. We hear Swartz in his own words and speak to Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, a longtime mentor and friend. "There are a thousand things we could have done, a thousand things we could have done, and we have to do, because Aaron Swartz is now an icon, an ideal," Lessig says. "He is what we will be fighting for, all of us, for the rest of our lives." Lessig also echoes the claims of Swartz’s parents that decisions made by prosecutors and MIT contributed to his death, saying: "This was somebody who was pushed to the edge by what I think of as a kind of bullying by our government." Guest: Lawrence Lessig, left, professor of law and leadership at Harvard Law School. He was a longtime mentor and friend of Aaron Swartz, whom he knew for 12 years.

Ron WydenFireDoglake, Obama Administration Won’t Show Secret Legal Opinions for Targeted Killings to US Senator, Kevin Gosztola, Jan. 14, 2013. Ahead of the confirmation of Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan to the position of CIA director, US Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has sent a letter to Brennan asking him to provide Congress access to “secret legal opinions outlining the government’s ability to target and kill Americans believed to be involved in terrorism.” Wyden, who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, by law is supposed to provide oversight and have access to classified legal opinions, but, as he shares, the Obama administration has refused to provide him access to a copy of secret legal opinions for targeted killings. Wyden, right, explained that the decision by the Obama administration to claim intelligence agencies may kill American citizens while at the same time refusing to provide Congress with access to all legal opinions explaining the administration’s understanding of the authority is “alarming and indefensible.”

Huffington Post, Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks After Almost 7 Years Of Silence, Mike Sacks, Huffington Post, Jan. 14, 2013. On Monday morning, Justice Clarence Thomas broke nearly seven years of silence at Supreme Court oral arguments. Problem is, what he said was apparently so funny that you had to be there. Really -- the court's official transcript didn't catch his words. What we do know is that Justice Thomas was speaking to a lawyer representing the state of Louisiana. The state was arguing that its five-year failure to fund a lawyer for an indigent defendant facing the death penalty did not undermine the defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial. Before Thomas spoke in Boyer v. Louisiana, Justice Antonin Scalia was asking the state's attorney about the competency and experience of the lawyers for the capital defendant, Jonathan Edward Boyer. After learning that the lawyers went to Harvard and Yale law schools, Scalia said, "Son of a gun." Then Thomas spoke. According to the transcript, he said, "Well -- he did not -­-," followed by laughter. Louisiana's lawyer then responded, "I would refute that, Justice Thomas." What came between? SCOTUSBlog, which had its reporter in the courtroom, tweeted, "Thomas, J. (Yale, JD), speaks: funny at argument—Yale degree could mean lawyer is incompetent, not competent, capital trial counsel." Another person present at the oral argument, law student Billy Freeland, tweeted, "Thomas might have cracked, 'Thats not effective counsel.' But hard to hear."

OpEd News, Kill for Peace -- US and EU Sanctions Deny Medicine to the Critically Ill, Michael Collins, Jan. 14, 2013. United States and European Union sanctions against Iran prevent much needed medical care for the Iranian people.  Those with cancer, for example, have lost the option of treatment through chemotherapy while hemophiliacs are at high risk for any surgery due to a denial of essential pharmaceuticals. There are 85,000 new cases of cancer every year in Iran.  Those with cancer and the newly diagnosed will have to do without effective treatments. A large percentage of them will die sooner than anticipated as a result. The Iranian medical community is unable to get required medicines due to financial restrictions in the sanctions regime.  The restrictions effectively blocks pharmaceutical purchases by Iranian medical facilities. No ticket, no laundry is the policy of big and little pharma throughout the world.  As a result, right now -- as you read this -- innocent Iranians are dying, sentenced to death by the U.S.-E.U. sanctions. Who on earth would initiate and sustain such a policy?

Legal Schnauzer, Chilton County Resident Bonnie Wyatt Is Out Of Jail, But Now She Is Being Forced To Sell Her Home, Roger Shuler, Jan. 14, 2013. A central Alabama woman who was unlawfully incarcerated for almost five months now is on the verge of being thrown from her home. Bonnie Wyatt, of Clanton, was released from the Chilton County Jail on December 18, but her freedom came with a major caveat. Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds issued an order on that date, giving Ms. Wyatt 30 days to be out of her home so it could be sold to satisfy an alleged debt from her divorce case. That means Ms. Wyatt must exit the premises by this Thursday, January 17, so that it can be shown by Amber Darnell, an agent with RealtySouth in Clanton. Are the fine folks at RealtySouth aware that Judge Reynolds' order is unlawful? Are they aware of how many ways it is unlawful? Do they care about the rule of law or only about the nice commission a court-ordered sale will bring?Atlantic, Obama's Chief of Staff Will Be the Most Important Appointment of His Term, Ben W. Heineman Jr., January 14, 2013, For many practical purposes, it is the White House operations boss -- and not the vice president -- who serves as the nation's deputy president.   The convention's main honoree was John Walsh, a civizen activist famous as host of America's Most Wanted following the abduction/murder of his son. The officials cited Walsh as "Ciitizen of the Year" for his good works. Among Walsh's entrepreneurial efforts was co-founding the database company TLO with Hank Asher, a Boca Raton database pioneer whose previous company was used by the State of Florida to eliminate eligible voters in the 2000 presidential election. Asher had been forced out of the company by then, but the ties show the close links betweenall the players and the utter absence of criticism.

OpEd News, And the Winner of the Golden Globes is... The MIIC, Rob Kall, Jan. 14, 2013. Last night the Golden Globes gave out their awards for Movies and TV shows. The winner was the CIA, or more the Military Intelligence Industrial complex (MIIC)-- comprised by the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, Military Intelligence, black Ops, TSA, Fusion Centers, the ever increasingly militarized local police, the prison system...  a sprawling, malignantly growing collection of agencies sucking hundreds of billions out of our economy, while simultaneously destroying our bill of rights.  Homeland won best TV series, best TV actor and actress. It IS a highly entertaining show which actually portrays some of the flaws of the MIIC system. Argo won best movie and best director. It glorifies the CIA and Ben Affleck spoke with the highest praise for the CIA. And best actress went to Jessica Chastain of Zero Dark Thirty, a movie that has been vilified for propagandizing the use of torture. Sure, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Les Miserables took some well deserved wins, but it's really odd that so many awards went to movies that focus on the CIA and the MIIC. Or maybe it's not so odd. The Military Industrial Intelligence Complex is playing a more and more pervasive role in our lives.

Daily Howler, Barack Obama talks pork to the people! Bob Somerby, Jan. 14, 2013.  Earlier today, Barack Obama began explaining why it would be crazy to refuse to raise the debt limit. He explained the logic of the situation. He began explaining the harm which could ensue. This is some, but not all, of what he said today: OBAMA (1/14/13): Now, the other congressionally imposed deadline coming up is the so-called debt ceiling, something most Americans hadn’t even heard of before two years ago. So I want to be clear about this: The debt ceiling is not a question of authorizing more spending. Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending. It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already committed to. These are bills that have already been racked up, and we need to pay them. So, while I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up.  If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks, and veterans benefits will be delayed.

Jan. 12

Guardian/OpEd News, Will Obama's "War On Weed" Really Ride Roughshod Over American Voters? Naomi Wolf, Jan. 12, 2013. Initially, I found it hard to care much about the grassroots movement to legalize pot -- the right to get high with impunity seemed like a very trivial concern given the other issues facing the nation. But when one sees how the "war on drugs" generates far bigger consequences than mere buzz suppression -- from racist incarceration outcomes, to prison lobbies writing our laws, to the mass disenfranchisement of the felons convicted of marijuana possession, whose conviction prevents them from being allowed to vote -- then the move toward decriminalization by these two states seems urgently needed, and a model for others. And the White House's response appears especially benighted. The larger critique also make the case that US drug laws go to heart of the issue of who controls our justice system. Besides the trend toward privatization of local police forces, which I've written about, many of our prisons too are being privatized, and for these businesses, punitive marijuana laws are at the center of this growth strategy. Indeed, marijuana legalization groups argue that some prison lobbies are so powerful and intrusive that they directly affect state law -- to make sure that prisons have 90% occupancy. (This is hard to achieve solely by prosecuting violent crime, major hard-drug trading, and white-collar crime.) Forbes notes that any easing of the laws that ensnare small-scale users also threatens the profitable spin-off of the "war on drugs" -- the businesses that want to grow privatized incarceration.

Jan. 11

WND, Cops unleash armored 'beast' for patrols, Michael Thompson, Jan. 11, 2013. Police in one Atlanta community are taking extraordinary measures to deal with heightened rates of violent crime – the unleashing of armored vehicles capable of withstanding bullets fired from AK-47s.

Palm Beach Post, Boca Raton database pioneer Hank Asher dead at 61, Jeff Ostrowski, Jan. 11, 2013. Hank Asher, an entrepreneur who pioneered the use of databases and spent millions of his fortune fighting child pornography, died this week. He was 61. Officials at TLO, Asher’s Boca Raton company, said he “died peacefully in his home” Friday. “He was a wonderful human being who, through his philanthropy, saved thousands of children,” said former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who worked for Asher for a time. Asher’s database work also led to the arrests of the Beltway snipers who killed 10 people in the Washington area in 2002.

Jan. 10

Legal Schnauzer, Mainstream Media Does A Dismal Job Of Reporting On Profound Issues Raised By Paul Minor Appeal, Roger Shuler, Jan. 10, 2013. Whenever Alabama winds up near the bottom in a national quality-of-life ranking--and it happens a lot--our citizens tend to exhale and exclaim, "Whew, thank God for Mississippi!" I recently discovered a new reason.  But based on last weeks' coverage of the latest appeal in the Paul Minor case, Mississippi appears to "have us beat." Albert Alschuler, a national expert on legal issues connected to honest-services fraud, filed a brief on December 31 with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking review of the Minor case in light of the high court's 2010 ruling in a case involving former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling.

Albert Alschuler, right, a national expert on legal issues connected to honest-services fraud, filed a brief on December 31 with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking review of the Minor case in light of the high court's 2010 ruling in a case involving former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling.  The court found in Skilling v. United States, 130 S. Ct. 2896 (2010) that the federal honest-services statutes reach only cases of alleged bribery and kickbacks. Skilling was decided after Minor's original petition for certiorari review had been filed. As such, Alschuler argues, it represents "an intervening change in law" that merits review under Supreme Court Rule 10(a).
Paul Minor, left, one of the most successful plaintiffs' attorneys in Mississippi history, was convicted on Bush-era corruption charges, along with former state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield. Minor and Whitfield remain in federal prison, while Teel was released last year after completing his sentence.  The Minor case was one of the most high-profile federal prosecutions in Mississippi over the past decade. And it raises critical issues about the U.S. election process, including the First Amendment right to financially support the candidates of our choice. But you would never know that from last week's coverage about the Minor appeal in the Mississippi MSM.  First, a reasonable person might expect that Mississippi newspapers would consider the Minor case important enough to assign staff reporters to the latest story. That would seem especially true in Biloxi, where Minor live and worked, and in Jackson, where the trial was conducted. But our research indicates both the Biloxi Sun Herald and the Jackson Clarion-Ledger used a wire report provided by Associated Press.  A reporter named Jack Elliott Jr. wrote the Associated Press story out of Jackson, and he did not distinguish himself with this effort. Perhaps Elliott has done fine work on other stories, and in his defense, news about the Minor appeal was released on December 31--and that means the AP bureau probably had a skeleton crew working on New Year's Eve. Whatever caused it, Elliott's story was a sorry piece of journalism that did almost nothing to help readers understand a case that has national implications.

Washington Post, A team of rivals to a band of brothers, Scott Wilson, Jan. 10, 2012. Obama’s second-term Cabinet reflects a president who wants to complete his first term’s objectives. Obama has worked closely with all of the recent nominees — either in the Senate, during his abbreviated term there, or in the White House during difficult times. Only Kerry was a second choice, named after U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice, one of Obama’s first and most loyal foreign policy advisers, bowed out last month in advance of a confirmation fight that the president did not want. Unlike Geithner and some other previous Treasury secretaries, Lew has spent only brief time on Wall Street, running a hedge fund for Citibank for a couple of years before joining the Obama administration. In nominating Hagel and Kerry to run defense and state, Obama may secure a place in history. If they are confirmed, it would be the first time in U.S. history that the top four national security posts — president, vice president, defense secretary and secretary of state — are held by men who served together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. All three nominees support Obama’s approach to U.S. foreign policy, which favors multilateral efforts and alliances, the use of intelligence, drones and diplomacy to further national security goals, and holding out war as a last resort. “These are people he knows well and feels are in line with his worldview,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, referring to the national security picks. “They share a similar orientation but have their own views, as well. That’s the dynamic the president likes in his national security team.”

Washington Post Chart: Who's in, Who's Out, Jan. 10, 2012. 

Business Insider, Talk About Politicizing Intelligence! Meet John Brennan, CIA Chief Designee, Russ Baker, Jan. 10, 2013, John O. Brennan, nominated by President Obama to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a crafty character. Not surprising for a spy. We do not yet understand what role if any Brennan might have played in the still mysterious affair that brought down David Petraeus, the man Brennan replaces at CIA. If you don’t think there are power struggles going on that determine, for example, which adulterous relationships in high places come to light and which don’t—then you don’t know Washington very well.

Editorial Board, America’s Health Disadvantage, New York Times, January 10, 2013. It is no secret that the United States spends a lot more on health care than any other country yet ranks far behind other advanced nations in keeping its citizens healthy. This has been well documented in studies of older people and of newborn infants. It is now shockingly clear that poor health is a much broader and deeper problem than past studies have suggested. An authoritative report issued by the Institute of Medicine this week found that, on average, Americans experience higher rates of disease and injury and die sooner than people in other high-income countries. That is true at all ages between birth and 75 and for even well-off Americans who mistakenly think that top-tier medical care ensures that they will remain in good health. The study found that even upper-income Americans with health insurance and college educations appear to be sicker than their peers in other rich nations. American men ranked last in life expectancy among the 17 countries and American women ranked next to last. The United States also ranked at or near the bottom in nine areas, including heart disease, chronic lung disease, obesity and diabetes, injuries and homicides, and sexually transmitted diseases. “We were struck by the gravity of these findings,” said the panel chairman, Dr. Steven Woolf, a professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University. “What concerns our panel is why, for decades, we have been slipping behind.”

WND, Did CIA pick sanitize Obama's passport records? Employee breached files when eligibility issue during 2008 campaign, Jerome Corsi, Jan. 10, 2013.  John Brennan, the Obama counter-terrorism adviser nominated this week to head the CIA, played a controversial role in what many suspect was an effort to sanitize Obama’s passport records. On March 21, 2008, amid Obama’s first presidential campaign, two unnamed contract employees for the State Department were fired and a third was disciplined for breaching the passport file of Democratic presidential candidate and then-Sen. Barack Obama.

Jack Lew

Huffington Post, Jacob Lew: Another Brick in the Wall Street on the Potomac, William K. Black, Jan. 10, 2013. The New York Times has just run two articles confirming that President Obama intends to appoint Jacob Lew as Treasury Secretary Geithner's replacement. Most people assume that Geithner is a creature of Wall Street through direct employment, but Geithner never drew a paycheck directly from Wall Street. Geithner worked for a wholly-controlled subsidiary of Wall Street -- the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Lew, shown at left, is the real deal, another brick in Obama's creation of Wall Street on the Potomac. While the first NYT article ignored Lew's work on Wall Street, the second article simply tries to minimize it. Mr. Lew had a brief turn in the financial industry before joining the Obama administration four years ago, working at the financial giant Citicorp, first as managing director of Citi Global Wealth Management and then as chief operating officer of Citigroup Alternative Investments. "Global Wealth Management" refers to banking services for the wealthiest people in the world, a club in which mere millionaires are barely worth having as a client. "Alternative investments" refers to financial derivatives traded for the bank's own account. Lew's training was as a lawyer. From CBS News: Obama is clearly comfortable bringing another ex-Wall Streeter into an administration that, beyond a recent ratcheting up of populist rhetoric, has done relatively little to rein in the financial industry.  That, in turn, reflects the ease with which Washington hands like Lew shuttle between the Street and the Hill. Case in point: Lew's predecessor as budget chief, Peter Orszag, left the agency and joined Citi as vice chairman of global banking. A job in politics is no longer a back-door to a lucrative job in banking -- it's a red carpet. The revolving door keeps spinning. The Citi [alternative investments] division ultimately lost billions. As for Lew, he naturally made big bucks during his three-year stint at Citi, including a roughly $950,000 bonus in 2009 -- after the company's federal bailout.

Daily Howler, Frontline mails it in about Rhee! Bob Somerby, January 10, 2013. On balance, a large waste of time: Did Frontline decide to get tough on Michelle Rhee? Alex “Kid” Pareene said they might. But did it actually happen? We’d have to say no, it did not. On Tuesday evening, Frontline aired a program about Rhee’s three-year reign in the DC schools. But Frontline was late to the scene of the action, and it glossed almost all topics.  In fairness, you probably can’t cover the relevant topics in a 53-minute report. That said, no one made Frontline report on Rhee (shown at right) at all at this point. What Frontline did was grossly inadequate.

Huffington Post, Joe Walsh Obamacare Opposition Prompts Tea Party Favorite To Suggest People 'Break The Law', Paige Lavender, Jan. 10, 2013. Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act, suggested people "defy and or break the law and engage in civil disobedience" in response to Obamacare restrictions or new gun laws. "We may have to shed blood every couple hundred years to preserve our freedoms," Walsh told supporters at a rally, according to Chicago's DNAinfo. Walsh also criticized conservatives who don't "understand we're at war [with progressives.]" DNAinfo reports: Walsh said there is a battle between the old values of freedom against the new emphasis on government control. "These two Americas are having it out," he said, adding it was the old, traditional conception of America against the new, progressive America. "I do want to go back," he said. Although he talked tough politically, saying, "We have no Republican Party in this state — none," he added, "I'm not there yet with a third-party movement." He also said, "Don't yet give up on the Republican Party." During his time in Congress, Walsh continually expressed opposition to the Affordable Care Act, once saying he "would have voted to repeal ObamaCare" once a month if he were the House Speaker. Walsh spent two years in Congress before being defeated by Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth in November.

Jan. 9

Huffington Post, 'Zero Dark Thirty' Is a Despicable Movie, Even if Bigelow and Boal Didn't Intend It That Way, Dan Froomkin, Jan. 9, 2013. Do yourself a favor, and don't go see Zero Dark Thirty. Don't encourage film-making that at best offers ambiguity about torture, and at worst endorses it. Spend the two and a half hours and the $10 on something more valuable, and moral.

Associated Press/Huffington Post, Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary Nominee, Will Face Looming Fiscal Deadlines, Jim Kuhnhenn, Jan. 9, 2013. President Barack Obama's nominee for treasury secretary, is a premier federal budget expert who would take the helm of the government's main agency for economic and fiscal policy just as the administration girds itself for a new confrontation with congressional Republicans over the nation's debt and deficits. A year ago, Obama appointed Lew as his chief of staff, taking him from his perch as director of the Office of Management and Budget into the White House's tight inner circle. In selecting Lew, shown at right, to replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Obama not only picks an insider steeped in budget matters but also a tough bargainer. Some Republicans complain that Lew has been unyielding in past fiscal negotiations.If confirmed, Lew would assume the post in time for the administration to tangle anew with Republicans over a confluence of three looming fiscal deadlines – raising the $16.4 trillion federal borrowing limit, averting automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs, and the expiration of a congressional resolution that has been keeping the government operating. Those three events, if unreso lved, would have a far greater negative effect on the economy than the "fiscal cliff" that Obama and Congress avoided a week ago. Lew, 57, has often been described as a "pragmatic liberal" who understands what it takes to make a deal even as he stands by his ideological views.

OpEd News, Debt Ceiling Disaster -- Crazy or Criminal? Michael Collins, Jan. 9, 2013.  Let's say that on a Monday, you sit down and take a hard  look at your finances.  Your bills exceed your income, assets are just a feint memory, and there is no relief in sight.  Reluctantly, you decide that your only choice is to declare bankruptcy.  On Tuesday you say, I think I'll do some  shopping before it's all over.  You proceed to charge $2,000 on  your VISA card for some jewelry and other non essentials.  On Wednesday, you get a lawyer and file for bankruptcy. Guess what? You still owe the $2,000 since the court will conclude that you made the purchases  fraudulently. You knew you were filing for bankruptcy and made the charges any way. Even worse, the court may refuse to grant the bankruptcy filing all together as a result of the obvious fraud. That is exactly what the Republicans in the House of Representatives are doing with their open announcement that they will vote against raising the debt ceiling without their solution to government spending. Since that announcement, has one single deficit hawk stood up and said, We must stop all spending as of this moment since we are proposing to default on those expenditures? They haven't said any such thing and they won't. That would mean an end of all Federal spending in their districts and states.

National Journal, The Neocons vs. Chuck Hagel, The attacks on the Defense nominee reflect an old struggle—and a philosophy that’s in eclipse, Michael Hirsh, Jan. 9, 2013. Among the chicken-hawks of Washington William Kristol is the bantam rooster. Though Kristol never served in the military, for almost two decades the editor of The Weekly Standard has been the true brains behind the neoconservative movement, advocating the aggressive projection of U.S. military might around the globe. And now Kristol is leading the neoconservative fight against Chuck Hagel, left, the Defense secretary nominee whose policy record amounts to a living rebuttal of Kristol’s worldview. In a recent "special editorial" in his magazine, Kristol delivered the following diatribe against the former Nebraska

Jan. 8

FireDogLake, NSA Whistleblower Compares Case to CIA Officer Convicted of First Classified Leak, Kevin Gosztola, Jan. 8, 2013. On Sunday, New York Times journalist Scott Shane published a feature story on the Justice Department’s prosecution of John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer convicted of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) by revealing the name of an undercover officer. It was the first successful conviction of someone for a disclosure since President Barack Obama was elected president.  Thomas Drake, a National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower who the Obama administration tried to prosecute for a “leak” until the case collapsed, joined me for a conversation about the parallels between his prosecution and Kiriakou’s prosecution.  “I’ve said publicly that John Kiriakou was the new Tom Drake, that the similarities between this case and mine were uncannily similar particularly in terms of how the government approached it,” Drake declares.  Drake goes through a description of how he found out he was a government target. He highlights how the government launched an investigation into who may have been the sources for a Times article by Eric Lichtblau and James Risen on President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. Because “the universe of people who knew about the secret surveillance program” was quite small being managed by the highest levels of government, he was caught up in the investigation to protect details on the program from being further disclosed.  Kiriakou acknowledged waterboarding by the CIA was torture in an ABC News interview. Similarly, Drake had communications with a reporter at the Baltimore Sun and informed this reporter of what he was seeing inside the NSA and how the government was committing constitutional violations.  Drake suggests they went through many attempts to find a way to indict him and make an example out of him. This he adds is what he believes the government did with Kiriakou.

Jan. 7

Buzzfeed/Truthout, The FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism, Bill Berkowitz, Jan. 7, 2013. As Trevor Aaronson tells it in his new book, The Terror Factory: Inside The FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism (IG Publishing, 2013), a large percentage of the so-called terrorists nabbed by the FBI since 9/11 more aptly dubbed “sad sacks.” After extensive research Aaronson and his research assistant Lauren Ellis compiled a “database of 508 defendants whom the U.S. government considered terrorists. Of the 508, 243 had been targeted through an FBI informant, 158 had been caught in an FBI terrorism sting, and 49 had encountered an agent provocateur.

Huffington Post, Chuck Hagel Defense: The Combustible Politics Of Obama's Clearest Break From Bush, Sam Stein and Joshua Hersh, Jan. 7, 2013. President Barack Obama's nomination Monday of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as secretary of defense reignites an uncomfortable, and potentially combustible, debate over the foreign policy of the George W. Bush presidency. The anticipated nomination had been under fire for weeks, as Hagel critics sought to use his positions on Israel and gay rights to fight the appointment. But under the surface, the controversy centers on Hagel’s outspoken criticism of the war in Iraq, and Republican fears that the appointment would represent a clean break for Obama from the policies of the Bush years.

Rightwing Watch, Klayman: 'Revolution' Needed to Bring Down 'Black-Muslim' Obama, Brian Tashman, Jan. 7, 2013. In his latest WorldNetDaily column, Larry Klayman calls for a literal revolution to overthrow President Obama that mirrors the American Revolution against King George III. Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch, claims in his column “Revolution!” that the recent fiscal cliff deal, the “moral decay that has swept the nation” and the unsuccessful birther legal challenges to Obama’s eligibility (among other reasons) provide a rationale to topple the “black-Muslim, anti-white, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian ‘Manchurian candidate’ fraudster socialist tyrant in the Oval Office.” “I am currently in a deep contemplative mood on how to try to do this peacefully without resort to violence,” Klayman writes, “The Founding Fathers, however, ultimately concluded that peaceful means were not possible.”

Institute for Political Economy/OpEd News, Does Truth Have A Future In America? Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 7, 2013. Summary: Truth-tellers are inconvenient. Major General Antonio Taguba was given the assignment of conducting the official inquiry into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse. Instead of covering up the incidents as he was expected to do for his third star, he produced a professional and truthful report. It was Taguba's career that was terminated, not the careers of those responsible for the illegal torture of prisoners.

As a writer I have found that one problem in communicating with readers is that many have political, social, economic, or ideological agendas. They read in order to confirm their beliefs and agendas. Neither the right-wing nor the left-wing can escape their ideological boxes and are creatures of their biases. They want their prejudices vindicated and their beliefs supported. A writer who tells them something that they do not want to hear receives abuse. These readers cannot benefit from facts and new information and change their minds. Truth is what validates their prejudices, biases, or their programing. Objective truth is not the matrix in which they live. If a writer makes a case so clear that readers simply cannot avoid it, the reader will intentionally misread the article or book and attack the writer for saying everything that he does not say. The chorus will join in the effort to shut down the unwelcome information before it reaches others. If a majority of Americans sought objective truth instead of confirmation of their beliefs, truth could prevail over special interests. Reality would inform social, political, and economic life, and American prospects would be good. But when a majority are hostile to facts and truths that do not support their biases and serve their interests, there is a disconnect from reality, which is the situation in America today.

There is another constraint on revealing truth. The human capital of people with inside knowledge is destroyed if they speak out. Position, contacts, invitations, income, and social life are all forfeited when an insider becomes a dissenter or a truth-teller. Only the extremely naive can believe that governments cannot keep conspiracies a secret, "because someone would talk."  No one talks, because talking harms the personal interests and human capital of the insider, and seldom does any good.

Associated Press/Huffington Post, John Brennan, Counterterrorism Aide To President Obama, To Be Nominated As CIA Director, Julie Pace, Jan. 7, 2013. President Barack Obama on Monday will nominate Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, two potentially controversial picks for his second-term national security team. Hagel, even before being nominated, has faced tough criticism from congressional Republicans who say the former GOP senator is anti-Israel and soft on Iran. And Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, withdrew from consideration for the spy agency's top job in 2008 amid questions about his connection to harsh interrogation techniques used during the George W. Bush administration.The White House said Obama will announce both nominations Monday afternoon. Along with secretary of state nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Hagel and Brennan would play key roles implementing and shaping Obama's national security priorities in a second term. All three men must be confirmed by the Senate. In nominating Hagel, Obama signaled he is willing to take on a tough confirmation fight. Once Hagel emerged as Obama's likely nominee, GOP lawmakers began sharply questioning his commitment to Israel and his willingness to take a hard line with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

Legal Schnauzer Roger Shuler, A Prosecutorial Thug For Alabama AG Luther Strange Might Receive Some Much-Deserved Scrutiny, Jan. 7, 2013. One of Alabama's most notorious prosecutorial thugs over the past decade or so might be on the verge of receiving some richly deserved scrutiny. Matt Hart currently serves as a "public corruption special prosecutor" under Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. But Hart perhaps is best known for his actions as a federal prosecutor under Alice Martin, who served as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama during the George W. Bush years. A Tuscaloosa contractor who was found not guilty in 2010 on corruption charges now is seeking to unseal records that might show Hart abused the federal grand-jury process in that case. Roger Taylor, president of Hall-Taylor Construction, was charged in connection with an investigation of the Alabama two-year college system, but a jury acquitted him on all eight counts. Taylor's attorneys long have argued that their client was the victim of abusive prosecutorial tactics. They renewed that argument after recently receiving a call from a newspaper reporter working on an investigative series about the federal grand-jury system.  Matt Hart's reputation for thuggish tactics came to light for most citizens in 2004 when former U.S. Circuit Judge U.W. Clemon cited him for contempt of court in the Medicaid-fraud case against former Governor Don Siegelman and codefendants Paul Hamrick and Phillip Bobo. Prosecutors dropped those charges, in Birmingham, after Clemon ruled they had insufficient evidence for a conspiracy claim. Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy later faced bribery-related charges in Montgomery, and that case led to convictions and has been widely called the most notorious political prosecution in U.S. history. Hart's fingerprints, it turned out, were all over that case, too--as we reported in a post titled "Prosecutors Used 'Sex Scandal' to Intimidate Key Witness in Siegelman Case." Who led the effort to intimidate chief prosecution witness Nick Bailey? According to Andrew Kreig's reporting at Huffington Post, based on an affidavit from Tuscaloosa businessman Stan Pate, it was Matt Hart. Misleading witnesses, threatening them with sex scandals and prosecutions? Is there anything Matt Hart won't try in order to win a case? Will he ever be held accountable for years of such abuse?

Legal Schnauzer, Rape In Steubenville Attracts Anonymous' Attention To Injustice And Corruption On Main Street, USA, Roger Shuler, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013.  The hacktivist group Anonymous is known mostly for efforts to expose wrongdoing involving governments, multinational corporations, and large financial institutions. That might be about to change with the alleged gang rape and kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio. The alleged attack, on a girl who reportedly was unconscious, happened last August. But it did not become national news until the New York Times reported a story titled "Rape Case Unfolds On Web And Splits City" on December 16.  Witness accounts via social media caused the story to spread. Anonymous helped break it wide open last week when it gathered information suggesting an official cover up and placed it on a WikiLeaks-style Web site. Two members of the town's football team have been arrested and charged with rape. But the Anonymous reports hint at misconduct that goes way beyond two student-athletes--and it might include efforts by law enforcement and town officials to cover up crimes.

News from Underground, NY State Board of Elections has no investigators, Joseph Spectoron, Jan. 7, 2013. The state Board of Elections had one investigator to handle any abuse of campaign finance or election law. The investigator retired last year, and now there is none. Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin confirmed today that the state hasn’t allowed the department to hire a new investigator to uphold election law. At one point, the board had six investigators. “We have not been allowed to hire anybody new,” Conklin said. “If we need to have an investigation done, we would call upon State Police.”

Institute for Political Economy/OpEd News, Washington's Hegemonic Ambitions Are Not in Sync With Its Faltering Economy, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 7, 2013. In November the largest chunk of new jobs came from retail and wholesale trade. Businesses gearing up for Christmas sales added 65,700 jobs or 45% of November's 146,000 jobs gain. With December sales a disappointment, these jobs are likely to reverse when the January payroll jobs report comes out in February. Family Dollar Stores CEO Howard Levine told analysts that his company's customers were unable to afford toys this holiday season and focused instead on basic needs such as food. Levine said that his customers "clearly don't have as much for discretionary purchases as they once did." For December's new jobs we return to the old standbys: health care and social assistance and waitresses and bartenders. These four classifications accounted for 93,000 of December's new jobs, 60% of the 155,000 jobs.

Wayne Madsen Report, Pollard damage report reveals nuclear bombshell, Wayne Madsen,  right, Jan. 7, 2013 (Subscription required). Israeli and American Jews often brush aside the damage that convicted Naval Intelligence spy Jonathan Pollard did to U.S. national security. However, the recent disclosure of formerly redacted pages in the Pollard Damage Assessment prepared by the Director of Central Intelligence's Foreign Denial and Deception Analysis Committee and issued on October 30, 1987 has revealed that Pollard began working as a U.S. naval intelligence watch officer the same month that Israel and South Africa, possibly with the financial support of Taiwan, detonated a nuclear device in the South Atlantic near Prince Edward Islands. The unredacted damage assessment report also provides details of Pollard's espionage work for South Africa before or at the same time he was spying for Israel. Pollard's joint espionage for Israel and South Africa point to him likely playing a role on providing faulty intelligence to upper intelligence. The report contains several lengthy and unredacted descriptions of Pollard's espionage for the Jewish state and the timing of the most recent CIA declassification and disclosure, December 16, 2012, may have been agreed upon to point out Israel's duplicity with regard to the United States a few weeks prior to the political firestorm from mainly Jewish neo-conservatives upset about the nomination of former Republican senator Chuck Hagel from Nebraska as the next Secretary of Defense. The neo-con meme is that Hagel is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

Huffington Post, Obama Gets Debt Ceiling Support From Harry Reid, Senate Democrats, Sabrina Siddiqui, Jan. 11, 2013. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other members of Senate Democratic leadership issued a letter to President Barack Obama Friday, urging the White House to bypass Congress on raising the debt ceiling."I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they have already racked up through the laws that they passed," Obama said last week. "If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic."

Rightwing Watch, Klayman: 'Revolution' Needed to Bring Down 'Black-Muslim' Obama, Brian Tashman, Jan. 7, 2013.  In his latest WorldNetDaily column, Larry Klayman calls for a literal revolution to overthrow President Obama that mirrors the American Revolution against King George III. Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch, claims in his column “Revolution!” that the recent fiscal cliff deal, the “moral decay that has swept the nation” and the unsuccessful birther legal challenges to Obama’s eligibility (among other reasons) provide a rationale to topple the “black-Muslim, anti-white, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian ‘Manchurian candidate’ fraudster.

Jan. 6

Neil King Jr., In GOP, All Eyes on Jeb Bush, Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2012. Close aides and friends say former Fla. Governor Jeb Bush is actively weighing a run for president, something he didn't do in the last election cycle. But as WSJ's Neil King reports, the Republican party is divided about another Bush candidacy. As Republicans begin the early jockeying for the 2016 presidential race, the intention of one man, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, dominates conversations and informal strategy sessions. Within the party, Mr. Bush is seen as the one potential candidate whose decision on whether to run—yea or nay—has the power to scramble the rest of the field.FireDogLake, The Only CIA Officer Scheduled to Go to Jail Over Torture Never Tortured Anybody, Kevin Gosztola, Jan. 6, 2013. New York Times reporter Scott Shane wrote a feature story on the case of former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who is the first from the agency to face jail time for a classified leak. He is to be sentenced to 30 months of jail on January 25. Kiriakou pled guilty to the charge of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) by revealing the name of an undercover officer on October 23 in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. He faced the potential of going to jail for more than a decade and did not want to be separated from his wife and five children for that long. The chain of events that led to Kiriakou becoming a target of prosecution is outlined in Shane’s story.  In 2009, officials discovered “defense lawyers for detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had obtained names and photographs of CIA interrogators and other counterterrorism officers, including some who were still under cover.”  The CIA and Justice Department were afraid. They opened an investigation into the photographs and found John Sifton, a human rights advocate, was helping the Project put together a “dossier of photographs and names of CIA officers.” Sifton was talking to a journalist over email named Matthew Cole, who was a “freelancer” working on a book on a “CIA rendition case in Italy” (that never was published). In August 2008, Cole “asked Mr. Kiriakou if he knew the name of a covert officer who had a supervisory role in the rendition program, which involved capturing terrorism suspects and delivering them to prisons in other countries.” He did not know the name at first but later emailed Cole with it saying, “It came to me last night,” the documents show.  Kiriakou did not think the agent was still undercover. He thought he had retired.

Jan. 5

New York Times, Ex-Officer Is First in C.I.A. to Face Prison for a Leak, Scott Shane, Jan. 5, 2013. Looking back, John C. Kiriakou admits he should have known better. But when the F.B.I. called him a year ago and invited him to stop by and “help us with a case,” he did not hesitate. In his years as a C.I.A. operative, after all, Mr. Kiriakou had worked closely with F.B.I. agents overseas. Just months earlier, he had reported to the bureau a recruiting attempt by someone he believed to be an Asian spy. “Anything for the F.B.I.,” Mr. Kiriakou replied. Only an hour into what began as a relaxed chat with the two agents — the younger one who traded Pittsburgh Steelers talk with him and the senior investigator with the droopy eye — did he begin to realize just who was the target of their investigation. Finally, the older agent leaned in close and said, by Mr. Kiriakou’s recollection, “In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that right now we’re executing a search warrant at your house and seizing your electronic devices.”  On Jan. 25, Mr. Kiriakou is scheduled to be sentenced to 30 months in prison as part of a plea deal in which he admitted violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by e-mailing the name of a covert C.I.A. officer to a freelance reporter, who did not publish it. The law was passed in 1982, aimed at radical publications that deliberately sought to out undercover agents, exposing their secret work and endangering their lives. In more than six decades of fraught interaction between the agency and the news media, John Kiriakou is the first current or former C.I.A. officer to be convicted of disclosing classified information to a reporter.

Jan. 4

Washington Post, In the House, a deck stacked for Republicans, Dana Milbank, Jan. 4, 2012.  As a new Congress convenes, it has become an unquestioned truth among Republicans that their party has as much of a mandate as President Obama because voters returned them to power in the House. he final results from the November election were completed Friday, and they show that Democratic candidates for the House outpolled Republicans nationwide by nearly 1.4 million votes and more than a full percentage point — a greater margin than the preliminary figures showed in November. And that’s just the beginning of it: A new analysis finds that even if Democratic congressional candidates won the popular vote by seven percentage points nationwide, they still would not have gained control of the House. The analysis, by Ian Millhiser at the liberal Center for American Progress using data compiled by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, finds that even if Democrats were to win the popular vote by a whopping nine percentage points — a political advantage that can’t possibly be maintained year after year — they would have a tenuous eight-seat majority. In a very real sense, the Republican House majority is impervious to the will of the electorate. Thanks in part to deft redistricting based on the 2010 Census, House Republicans may be protected from the vicissitudes of the voters for the next decade.

Guardian/OpEd News, A letter to Kathryn Bigelow on "Zero Dark Thirty's" apology for torture, Naomi Wolf, Jan. 4, 2013.  By peddling the lie that CIA detentions led to Bin Laden's killing, you have become a Leni Riefenstahl-like propagandist of torture.

Dear Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker" was a beautiful, brave film; many young women in film were inspired as they watched you become the first woman ever to win an Oscar for directing. But with "Zero Dark Thirty," you have attained a different kind of distinction. Your film "Zero Dark Thirty" is a huge hit here. But in falsely justifying, in scene after scene, the torture of detainees in "the global war on terror," "Zero Dark Thirty" is a gorgeously-shot, two-hour ad for keeping intelligence agents who committed crimes against Guantanamo prisoners out of jail. It makes heroes and heroines out of people who committed violent crimes against other people based on their race -- something that has historical precedent.

Jan. 3

Washington Post, A CIA veteran on what ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ gets wrong about the bin Laden manhunt, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., Jan. 3, 2013.  “Zero Dark Thirty,” which will open for Washington audiences Friday, inaccurately links torture with intelligence success and mischaracterizes how America’s enemies have been treated in the fight against terrorism. Many others object to the film, however, because they think that the depiction of torture by the CIA is accurate but that the movie is wrong to imply that our interrogation techniques worked. They are wrong on both counts. I was intimately involved in setting up and administering the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program, and I left the agency in 2007 secure in the knowledge not only that our program worked — but that it was not torture.

New York, Battles of the Budget, Paul Krugman, Jan. 3, 2013. The centrist fantasy of a Grand Bargain on the budget never had a chance. Even if some kind of bargain had supposedly been reached, key players would soon have reneged on the deal — probably the next time a Republican occupied the White House.  For the reality is that our two major political parties are engaged in a fierce struggle over the future shape of American society. Democrats want to preserve the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — and add to them what every other advanced country has: a more or less universal guarantee of essential health care. Republicans want to roll all of that back, making room for drastically lower taxes on the wealthy. Yes, it’s essentially a class war.  The fight over the fiscal cliff was just one battle in that war. It ended, arguably, in a tactical victory for Democrats. The question is whether it was a Pyrrhic victory that set the stage for a larger defeat.

Jan. 3

Forbes, Black and Whitey: How the Feds Disable Criminal Defense, Harvey A. Silverglate, Jan. 3, 2013. Two remarkable legal proceedings are currently wending their way through the federal criminal courts. The cases involve very different parties: Conrad Black, one of the most consequential public intellectuals and businessmen of our era, and James “Whitey” Bulger, right, a Boston-based alleged racketeer and serial murderer. But both cases highlight some of the same profound problems with the way federal prosecutorial business is done these days. In both cases, as in countless others, the feds have used certain techniques that virtually assure convictions of both the innocent and the guilty, the wealthy and the poor, the violent drug dealer and the white collar defendant, indifferent to the niceties of “due process of law,” particularly the right to effective assistance of legal counsel. In order to prevent a defendant from retaining a defense team of his choice, federal prosecutors will first freeze his assets, even though a jury has yet to find them to have been illegally obtained. They then bring prosecutions of almost unimaginable complexity, assuring that the financially hobbled defendant’s diminished legal team (or, as is often the case, his court-appointed lawyer) will be too overwhelmed to mount an adequate defense.

Legal Schnauzer, Mississippi Attorney Paul Minor Gets A Second Crack At An Appeal Before The U.S. Supreme Court, Roger Shuler, Jan. 3, 2012. Paul Minor, the Mississippi lawyer who is in federal prison from a Bush-era prosecution that closely mirrors that of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, has filed a second petition to have his appeal heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. (See a copy of the petition at the end of this post.)  The nation's highest court declined to hear Minor's initial petition for certiorari review in 2010. But that petition came before the court's ruling in a case involving former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling, redefining the federal law on honest-services fraud.

DSWright, “'Fiscal Cliff' Deal Packed With Corporate Welfare," FireDogLake, January 3, 2013. Throughout the months of November and December, a steady stream of corporate CEOs flowed in and out of the White House to discuss the impending fiscal cliff. Many of them, such as Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, would then publicly come out and talk about how modest increases of tax rates on the wealthy were reasonable in order to deal with the deficit problem. What wasn’t mentioned is what these leaders wanted, which is what’s known as “tax extenders”, or roughly $205B of tax breaks for corporations…

Matt Stoller, "Naked Capitalism, Eight Corporate Subsidies in the Fiscal Cliff Bill, From Goldman Sachs to Disney to NASCAR," Jan. 3, 2013. Throughout the months of November and December, a steady stream of corporate CEOs flowed in and out of the White House to discuss the impending fiscal cliff. Many of them, such as Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, would then publicly come out and talk about how modest increases of tax rates on the wealthy were reasonable in order to deal with the deficit problem. What wasn’t mentioned is what these leaders wanted, which is what’s known as “tax extenders”, or roughly $205B of tax breaks for corporations. With such a banal name, and boring and difficult to read line items in the bill, few political operatives have bothered to pay attention to this part of the bill. But it is critical to understanding what is going on.

DS Wright, Top 100 Richest People Now $241 Billion Richer, FireDogLake, Jan. 3, 2013. Sometimes it seems like the system is rigged and the rich just keep getting richer – it seems that way for a reason, it’s true. From the Los Angeles Times: The richest people on the planet got even richer in 2012, adding $241 billion to their collective net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 100 wealthiest individuals.

Jan. 2

Reuters/Huffington Post, New York Times Loses Lawsuit To Uncover Drone Strikes Information, Jonathan Stempel and Jennifer Saba, Jan. 2, 2013.  A federal judge on Wednesday rejected The New York Times' bid to force the U.S. government to disclose more information about its targeted killing of people it believes have ties to terrorism, including American citizens. U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan said the Obama administration did not violate the law by refusing the Times' request for the legal justifications for targeted killings, a strategy the Times said was first contemplated by the Bush administration soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. McMahon appeared reluctant to rule as she did, noting in her decision that disclosure could help the public understand the "vast and seemingly ever-growing exercise in which we have been engaged for well over a decade, at great cost in lives, treasure, and (at least in the minds of some) personal liberty."  Nonetheless, she said the government was not obligated to turn over materials the Times had sought under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), even though it had such materials in its possession.

Washington Post, Renditions continue under Obama, despite due-process concerns, Craig Whitlock, Jan. 2, 2013. The three European men with Somali roots were arrested on a murky pretext in August as they passed through the small African country of Djibouti. But the reason soon became clear when they were visited in their jail cells by a succession of American interrogators. U.S. agents accused the men — two of them Swedes, the other a longtime resident of Britain — of supporting al-Shabab, an Islamist militia in Somalia that Washington considers a terrorist group. Two months after their arrest, the prisoners were secretly indicted by a federal grand jury in New York, then clandestinely taken into custody by the FBI and flown to the United States to face trial. The secret arrests and detentions came to light Dec. 21 when the suspects made a brief appearance in a Brooklyn courtroom. The men are the latest example of how the Obama administration has embraced rendition — the practice of holding and interrogating terrorism suspects in other countries without due process — despite widespread condemnation of the tactic in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Renditions are taking on renewed significance because the administration and Congress have not reached agreement on a consistent legal pathway for apprehending terrorism suspects overseas and bringing them to justice

Paul Krugman, That Bad Ceiling Feeling, New York Times, Jan. 2, 2013. More thoughts about the fiscal deal. One good thing is that the deficit scolds are furious: they had their hearts set on exploiting this crisis to push through benefit cuts, and it didn’t happen — part of the larger good news that Obama didn’t gut Social Security or Medicare this time around. And as I pointed out yesterday, the numbers are disappointing, but the disappointment isn’t that big a deal.  So, why am I feeling so despondent, and why do so many other progressives, like Noam Scheiber, feel the same? Because of the way Obama negotiated. He gave every indication of being more or less desperate to cut a deal before the year ended — even though going over the fiscal cliff was not at all a drop-dead moment, since we could have gone weeks or months without much real economic damage. Now, given his evident antsiness to cut a deal in this case, how credible is his promise to hang tough over the debt ceiling, which is a much brighter red line? He may say that he absolutely, positively won’t negotiate over the ceiling — but nothing in his past behavior makes that believable. I have to say that I now expect Obama to cave on the ceiling; and so, of course, do the Republicans, which means that the crisis is going to happen. The only thing that might save this situation is the fact that Obama has to be aware just how much is now riding on his willingness to finally stand up for his side; if he doesn’t, nobody will ever trust him again, and he will go down in history as the wimp who threw it all away.

Richard CharninRichard Charnin, at left, 2012 Election Fraud: A True Vote Model Proof, Richard Charnin's Blog, Jan. 2, 2013. This analysis will show that Obama overcame massive election fraud in 2012. A landslide was denied, just as it was in 2008. In 2012, Obama won by 4.97 million recorded votes, a 51.03-47.19% share (51.95% two-party). In the True Vote Model Obama won all plausible scenarios.There are some who are convinced that Election Fraud is systemic, but was thwarted in 2012 by Anonymous or government oversight. It is possible that the threat of an investigation in Ohio may have prevented late vote-rigging. But vote switching algorithms were in effect throughout the day in most states. Exit pollsters always assume that both prior and current elections are fair and the exit poll samples biased. So they adjust exit poll weights and vote shares to match the sacrosanct recorded vote. They never consider the possibility that their samples were good and the elections were fraudulent.

Ryan Grim, Harry Reid Threw Obama Fiscal Cliff Proposal Into Burning Fireplace, Huffington post, Jan. 2, 2013. Shortly after 7:00 Saturday evening, the offices of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) were still trading offers. McConnell left the Senate for the night, and Reid's staff said they'd get back to him by mid-morning. The White House sent Reid a list of suggested concessions as his staff debated what to send back to McConnell. Reid looked over the concessions the administration wanted to offer, crumpled up the paper and tossed it into his fireplace. The gesture was first reported by Politico and confirmed to HuffPost by sources with knowledge of it, who noted that Reid frequently keeps his fire going and is fond of feeding a variety of proposals to it. Reid's staff then called McConnell's office with a simple message: Our last offer stands. There will be no further concessions. McConnell took to the Senate floor, complaining that he had no "dance partner" in Reid, and called Vice President Joe Biden, a man he assumed would be more willing to give. McConnell was right. Perhaps the most important concession he wrangled from the administration, which Reid had been unwilling to make, was a two-month extension of the sequester, automatic cuts to defense spending and domestic programs that were supposed to be triggered Jan. 1. Reid wanted much more, worried that the two-month period will simply set up another colossal showdown that will also rope in the debt ceiling and funding for the government. "The deal itself is OK, but sets up Democrats for [a] worse fight and strengthens Republicans' hand for what they really want: cuts," said a Democratic source close to Reid. "Biden gave away the store on timeline. Two months and we're back at this and in worse shape."

Jan. 1

Washington Spectator, Did an Election day lawsuit stop Karl Rove's vote rigging? Lou Dubose, Jan. 1, 2013. Rove’s on-air meltdown was understandable. He had just squandered $300 million that corporate oligarchs poured into the two dark-money PACs he created to buy the Senate and the presidency. Plaintiff’s attorney Clifford Arnebeck has a different theory. Exactly seven hours before Rove embarrassed himself and Fox News, Arnebeck was in an Ohio courtroom, arguing that a secret contract the state’s secretary of state had executed with a voting-tabulation company created the capacity to “flip the vote” in 25 Ohio counties. To understand Arnebeck’s lawsuit, it is necessary to understand who the defendants were. Jon Husted is a Republican secretary of state who has spent much of the past two years working to restrict early voting, which in previous elections has been used by far more Democratic than Republican voters.

New York Times, Lines of Resistance on Fiscal Deal, Jonathan Weisman, January 1, 2013. Just a few years ago, the tax deal pushed through Congress on Tuesday would have been a Republican fiscal fantasy, a sweeping bill that locks in virtually all of the Bush-era tax cuts, exempts almost all estates from taxation, and enshrines the former president’s credo that dividends and capital gains should be taxed equally and gently.

December 2012 

The Guardian, Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy

Naomi WolfThe Guardian (United Kingdom),  Naomi Wolf, left, Dec. 29, 2012. New documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves – was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world. Read more here.