April News Reports 2013

 

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Featured Monthly Commentary

 


Exclusive: Richard Scrushy Breaks Silence on His Conviction with Gov. Siegelman in Bogus Bribery Case Linked to Karl Rove

By Peter B. Collins

Richard Scrushy, the former HealthSouth CEO who was convicted of bribing former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and served about 6 years in federal prison, gives some new dimensions to the sordid story we’ve covered for many years in this exclusive interview, co-anchored with Roger Shuler of Legal Schnauzer. Scrushy’s rags-to-riches story includes founding and being CEO of HealthSouth, which he built into a giant in its field. In this in-depth interview, he offers his view of the controversial case that sent him and former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman to federal prison. This is the first media interview Scrushy, at right with one of his nine children while imprisoned, has given since being released last summer.

Quick hits: prosecutors offered to let him walk if he'd testify against Siegelman; he had not supported Siegelman, and did not meet with him about re-joining the unpaid health care board or about the contribution to the lottery campaign fund; the amount of the contribution was $250,000 and not the $500,000 always stated; he never laid eyes on Nick Bailey until trial, and Bailey got key facts wrong, saying that the check was delivered about 5 weeks before it was cut; he said his legal team misread the jury and regrets he didn't take the stand;  he only got to know Siegelman when they shared a cell for first two weeks in Atlanta.

Peter Collins: "I found him candid, quite credible, and very clear that he and Siegelman are innocent. Roger Shuler has Scrushy's new appeal on the LegalSchnauzer blog, and will be posting stories from this interview in the next few days."

Read more here

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

Other JIP Clips:

April 29

OpEd News, What's so funny Mr. President? Michael Collins, April 29, 2013. The president and the mainstream media, along with the capital in-crowd, celebrate their wonderfulness each year at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner. The format consists of an invited comedian who pokes fun at the president and press with some shtick from the current leader of the free world.  The event is by invitation only, no common folk allowed. After watching the dinner on C-Span, I have just one question. What's so funny Mr. President?  The president will never be asked that question. But if just one of those White House correspondents hosting the event had the courage, the answer would be in two parts. How can the president and the press get together and yuck it up when we're in such a dreadful state of affairs. The nation is in an economic dead calm. Millions of jobs left the country in the past decade, probably for good. Many more jobs were lost due to the ongoing recession. Not many were created to take their place, unless we count minimum wage jobs at Walmart (with benefits from Medicaid).

FireDogLake, In First Amendment Case Over Afghan War Memoir, Justice Department Asks Judge to End Lawsuit, Kevin Gosztola, May 1, 2013.The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to conclude that a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer “has no First Amendment right to publish the information at issue” in a memoir he penned at on his service in the war in Afghanistan. They maintain information the officer wants to publish is “properly classified” and the government is “entitled to substantial deference” that its publication would result in harm from disclosure. The case involves Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, an officer with twenty-five years of field experience, who wrote Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan and the Path to Victory

New Yorker, The Culprits, David Remnick, April 29, 2013. Anzor Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who lived much of his life in Kyrgyzstan, emigrated a decade ago to the Boston area with his wife, two daughters, and two sons. Despite arthritic fingers, he made his living as an auto mechanic. Members of the family occasionally attended a mosque on Prospect Street in Cambridge, but there seemed nothing fundamentalist about their outlook. Anzor’s elder son, Tamerlan, appeared never to connect fully with American life. “I don’t have a single American friend,” Tamerlan told a photographer named Johannes Hirn, who asked to take pictures of him training as a boxer. “I don’t understand them.” He studied, indifferently, at Bunker Hill Community College, for an engineering degree. He described himself as “very religious”; he didn’t smoke or drink. Twenty-six and around two hundred pounds, he boxed regularly at Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts. He loved “Borat” (“even though some of the jokes are a bit too much”). He had a daughter, but scant stability. Three years ago, he was arrested for domestic assault and battery. (“In America, you can’t touch a woman,” Anzor told the Times.)

Huffington Post, Obama's Judicial Nominees Blocked On All Sides By Senate Republicans, Jennifer Bendery, April 29, 2013. It's bad enough that there are 82 vacant federal judge slots around the country, a level so high that many observers have deemed it a crisis situation. But perhaps even more startling is the fact that of those 82 vacant slots, 61 of them don't even have a nominee. On its face, the absence of nominees would appear to be a sign that President Barack Obama is slacking. After all, he is responsible for nominating judges, and he did put forward fewer nominees at the end of his first term than his two predecessors. But a closer look at data on judicial nominees, and conversations with people involved in the nomination process, reveals the bigger problem is Republican senators quietly refusing to recommend potential judges in the first place.

April 28

Gawker, Ex-CIA Agent Denies Rumors of Ties to Ruslan, Staff report, April 28, 2013. Graham Fuller, a retired CIA officer whose daughter was briefly married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (Uncle Ruslan), has come out and flatly denied any CIA connection to the Tsarnaev's, calling the allegations “absurd.” Fuller's daughter, Samantha, was married to Ruslan from the mid-to-late 1990's, before divorcing. Ruslan lived with the retired CIA officer in Maryland for a year, but Fuller saw no interest in politics, policy, or the CIA, from Ruslan. "Like all Chechens, Ruslan was very concerned about his native land, but I saw no particular involvement in politics," Fuller wrote in an email to Al-Monitor. “I doubt he even had much to say of intelligence value other than talking about his own family’s sad tale of deportation from Chechnya by Stalin to Central Asia,” Fuller wrote. “Every Chechen family has such stories.” The story of the Tsarnaev family, which is still being hashed out through media and family interviews (as well as government reports and suspicions about the family), is an especially complicated one that bridges the immediately post-Soviet era to the present-day "War on Terror." Juan Cole traces the Tsarnaevs flight from Russia to the fact that Anzor Tsarnaev (the father of the alleged bombers) had been a prosecutor for the Soviet prosecutor's office — an unpopular position among ethnic Chechens.

Al-Monitor, Former CIA officer: ‘Absurd’ to link uncle of Boston suspects, Agency, Laura Rozen, April 27, 2013. Retired CIA officer Graham Fuller, left, confirmed to Al-Monitor Saturday that his daughter was previously married to an uncle of the suspects in the Boston Marathon attacks, but called rumors of any links between the uncle and the Agency “absurd.” Graham Fuller’s daughter, Samantha A. Fuller, was married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (now Tsarni) in the mid-1990s, and divorced in 1999, according to North Carolina public records. The elder Fuller had retired from the agency almost a decade before the brief marriage. “Samantha was married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (Tsarni) for 3-4 years, and they lived in Bishkek for one year where Samantha was working for Price Waterhouse on privatization projects,” Fulller, a former CIA officer in Turkey and vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, told Al-Monitor by email Saturday. Fuller, a former CIA officer in Turkey and vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, told Al-Monitor by email Saturday. “They also lived in our house in [Maryland] for a year or so and they were divorced in 1999, I believe....I, of course, retired from CIA in 1987 and had moved on to working as a senior political scientist for RAND,” Fuller continued.

April 28

Washington Post, Portrait of a Faded American Dream, Marc Fisher with 11 colleagues reporting, April 28, 2013 (print edition). America, the golden door, had already welcomed two of his brothers when Anzor Tsarnaev crossed the ocean with his family in 2002. Anzor’s brother Ruslan, who had immigrated just a few years earlier, already had a law degree and was on his way to an executive job and a six-figure salary. And at first, Anzor, his wife, Zubeidat, and their two sons, Tamerlan, left, and Dzhokhar, seemed as energetic and brimming with initiative as their relatives had been. Anzor, a mechanic, fixed up cars. His wife turned a cut-rate apartment in affluent Cambridge into an improvised salon, offering facials at attractive prices. The boys — who authorities believe are the Boston Marathon bombers, responsible for killing four people and injuring more than 250 — took to their new home with gusto. The older one, Tamerlan, was sociable, even showy, dressing sharply, honing his body to become an Olympic boxer. He married an American WASP, daughter of a well-to-do Rhode Island family.

Al-Monitor, Former CIA officer: ‘Absurd’ to link uncle of Boston suspects, Agency, Laura Rozen, April 27, 2013. Retired CIA officer Graham Fuller confirmed to Al-Monitor Saturday that his daughter was previously married to an uncle of the suspects in the Boston Marathon attacks, but called rumors of any links between the uncle and the Agency “absurd.” Graham Fuller’s daughter, Samantha A. Fuller, was married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (now Tsarni) in the mid-1990s, and divorced in 1999, according to North Carolina public records. The elder Fuller had retired from the agency almost a decade before the brief marriage. “Samantha was married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (Tsarni) for 3-4 years, and they lived in Bishkek for one year where Samantha was working for Price Waterhouse on privatization projects,” Fulller, a former CIA officer in Turkey and vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, told Al-Monitor by email Saturday. Fuller, a former CIA officer in Turkey and vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, told Al-Monitor by email Saturday. “They also lived in our house in [Maryland] for a year or so and they were divorced in 1999, I believe....I, of course, retired from CIA in 1987 and had moved on to working as a senior political scientist for RAND,” Fuller continued.

American Free Press, James P. Tucker, Jr., ‘Bilderberg Hound,’ Dies at 78, Michael Collins Piper, April 27, 2013. James P. Tucker, Jr. (1934 – /2013), right, famed Bilderberg Hound, author of Jim Tucker’s Bilderberg Diary, passed away yesterday due to complications he suffered following a fall. A proper tribute to Tucker will rendered next week when the front page of American Free Press newspaper will be dedicated to Jim. Please read his obituary below and listen to the last interview Tucker gave AFP prior to his passing.

Institute for Political Economy, Recovery for the 7 Percent, Paul Craig Roberts, April 28, 2013. “From the end of the recession in 2009 through 2011 (the last year for which Census Bureau wealth data are available), the 8 million households in the U.S. with a net worth above $836,033 saw their aggregate wealth rise by an estimated $5.6 trillion, while the 111 million households with a net worth at or below that level saw their aggregate wealth decline by an estimated $600 billion.” Pew Research, “An Uneven Recovery, by Richard Fry and Paul Taylor. Since the recession was officially declared to be over in June 2009, I have assured readers that there has been no recovery. Gerald Celente, John Williams (shadowstats.com), and no doubt others have also made it clear that the alleged recovery is an artifact of an understated inflation rate that produces an image of real economic growth.

Huffington Post, Paul Krugman Responds To Critics: 'Maybe I Actually Am Right,' Staff report, April 28, 2013. Paul Krugman’s got it right when it comes to the economic crisis, says Paul Krugman. The Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist responded in a blog post Sunday to his countless critics who claim he’s choosing specific facts and ignoring others to make his case that budget-tightening policies are hurting economies around the world. His comments come as debate rages in Washington and in Europe over whether slashing spending -- which has led to high unemployment and slowed immediate economic growth in some places -- is the best way to boost economies in the long term. “Maybe I actually am right, and maybe the other side actually does contain a remarkable number of knaves and fools,” Krugman wrote in the post Sunday. Krugman faces a chorus of detractors on a regular basis. The latest criticism came from Ken Langone, the CEO of investment bank Invemed Associates and co-founder of Home Depot, who argued on Bloomberg TV that Krugman’s push against focusing on closing the deficit is at odds with the realities businesses face. Langone joins the company of the Prime Minister of Latvia, conservative Harvard historian Niall Ferguson and an entire website with the URL krugmaniswrong.com in accusing Krugman of having his facts mixed up on deficit reduction and economic growth.

April 27

Washington Post, Overseer of victim compensation funds in US tragedies says work wrenching but his way to help, Associated Press, April 27, 2013. His work has immersed him in events that read like a roster of recent catastrophes, from 9/11 to the Gulf oil spill. Now, Kenneth Feinberg is adding the Boston Marathon bombings to that list. The Massachusetts native and attorney is managing the payouts from The One Fund, which was established to help victims of the explosions that killed three and injured 260. Feinberg handled victims’ compensation after 9/11, the BP oil spill, the Virginia Tech shootings and the Colorado movie theater shootings, among other calamities. He’s now advising a panel distributing money after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and mediating Penn State’s settlement discussions with the sex abuse victims of former football coach Jerry Sandusky. Lawyers, meanwhile, scoffed at his vigorous declarations of independence from BP, which he still makes. “The spin was that he was independent, but he was working for BP, that’s just the way it is,” said attorney Anthony Tarricone, now of the Boston firm Kreindler & Kreindler, who represented both BP and 9/11 families.

Gawker, Ex-CIA Agent Denies Rumors of Ties to Ruslan, Staff report, April 28, 2013. Graham Fuller, a retired CIA officer whose daughter was briefly married to Ruslan Tsarnaev (Uncle Ruslan), has come out and flatly denied any CIA connection to the Tsarnaev's, calling the allegations “absurd.” Fuller's daughter, Samantha, was married to Ruslan from the mid-to-late 1990's, before divorcing. Ruslan lived with the retired CIA officer in Maryland for a year, but Fuller saw no interest in politics, policy, or the CIA, from Ruslan. "Like all Chechens, Ruslan was very concerned about his native land, but I saw no particular involvement in politics," Fuller wrote in an email to Al-Monitor. “I doubt he even had much to say of intelligence value other than talking about his own family’s sad tale of deportation from Chechnya by Stalin to Central Asia,” Fuller wrote. “Every Chechen family has such stories.” The story of the Tsarnaev family, which is still being hashed out through media and family interviews (as well as government reports and suspicions about the family), is an especially complicated one that bridges the immediately post-Soviet era to the present-day "War on Terror." Juan Cole traces the Tsarnaevs flight from Russia to the fact that Anzor Tsarnaev (the father of the alleged bombers) had been a prosecutor for the Soviet prosecutor's office — an unpopular position among ethnic Chechens.

Huffington Post, Obama's 'Muslim Socialist' Joke Draws Big Laughs (VIDEO), Chris Gentilviso, April 27, 2013.  President Barack Obama slid in a shoutout during his 2013 White House Correspondents' Dinner speech to conspiracists who wonder about both his religion and economic preferences. "These days, I look in the mirror and I have to admit," Obama said. "I'm not the strapping young Muslim socialist I used to be."  Past polls have seen large chunks of Americans incorrectly identify the Christian Obama as a Muslim. During the heat of the 2012 presidential campaign, a May PPP survey found that 52 percent of 656 likely GOP primary voters classified the president under that religion.

April 26

Washington Post, Md. prison chief personally overseeing comprehensive review of Baltimore jail, Peter Hermann and Ann E. Marimow, April 26, 2013. Maryland’s secretary of corrections moved his office into the Baltimore city jail Friday to directly oversee a top-to-bottom review of staff and inmates that will include lie-detector tests, starting with the warden. The move comes days after federal prosecutors announced a sweeping indictment accusing 13 female guards of colluding with a dangerous gang — the Black Guerilla Family — that authorities said had essentially taken over the institution. Sex, drugs and prisoners were all involved in this recent FBI sting. According to the indictment, officers smuggled in cellphones and drugs for gang members and even had sex with them. Four officers became pregnant as a result of trysts with one detainee, prosecutors said. 

Washington Post, White House Correspondents’ Association dinner isn’t costly, but the parties are, Paul Farhi, April 26, 2013. Figure on paying big time for a semi-glamorous locale; an embassy will do (but only one for a major country). Then, add in food and booze — about $100 a head. Plus entertainment, security, cleanup, insurance. Valet parking for a few hundred could cost roughly $6,000. Want a celebrity at your event? Of course you do. First-class flight to Washington, a hotel suite and limo for the weekend: Count on $4,500 or so more per glamourpuss, not including his or her posse, which you may have to include. When all is said and paid for after all the parties surrounding the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this weekend, some media organizations will drop as much as $200,000 each to entertain an elite list of guests.

Legal Schnauzer, Federal Lawsuit Alleges Racism and GOP Politics Drove Bingo Raids in Historic Macon County, AL, Roger Shuler, April 25, 2013. Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford and five other residents of Macon County have filed a federal lawsuit alleging Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has caused "economic devastation" by unlawfully closing the VictoryLand casino. Plaintiffs claim they and other Macon County voters have been the victims of a Republican Party plan that involves the use of Indian gaming funds to help take over all three branches of the Alabama government. The scheme, plaintiffs state, essentially nullifies their lawful votes to allow electronic bingo at VictoryLand.

Washington Post, U.S. military should put religious freedom at the front; What must stop is the concept that America needs to conquer the world for Christ, Sally Quinn, April 26, 2013. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is worried about the Pentagon budget, but there are much more serious issues he must deal with. Religious proselytizing and sexual assault are at the top of the list. “The armed forces are on the verge of falling apart,” Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, told me in an interview. Aside from proselytizing, he said, other problems include “sexual assault, suicides, lowering entrance standards and war weariness. They are in trouble, and the leadership is oblivious.” Sexual assault and proselytizing, according to Wilkerson, “are absolutely destructive of the bonds that keep soldiers together.” Wilkerson was speaking to me in an interview with former ambassador Joe Wilson and the head of the private Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Mikey Weinstein. They were on their way to a meeting at the Pentagon on April 23 where they would discuss religious issues in a group that included several generals and a military chaplain. The chaplain’s role, according to Wilson, “is to minister to spiritual needs. You don’t proselytize. It’s a workplace violation.” Weinstein told me after the Pentagon meeting that military leaders need to understand that “there is systematic misogyny, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the military.” He said it is all part of the same culture.

April 24

MSNBC, For whistleblowers, fraying protection, Joseph Wilson and Danielle Brian, April 24, 2013. This piece was co-written by Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Ten years ago this week, advocates, funders, journalists and citizens gathered in an effort to champion the rights of whistleblowers, people who come forward with information about alleged dishonest or illegal activities. It seemed like protection for whistleblowers was nearing a turning point: only the year before, Time magazine had heralded whistleblowers on their cover as “Person of the Year.” In short, we saw a brighter future for truth-tellers, and genuine progress on an issue central to American democracy. But sadly, ten years later, we fear that we may have, in fact, lost ground. The Ridenhour Prizes, founded by Randy Fertel and former president of The Nation Institute Hamilton Fish, was named for one of the most courageous truth-tellers in recent American history: Ron Ridenhour, who exposed the infamous My Lai massacre in Vietnam and went on to become an award-winning investigative journalist. Sadly, as these awards have thrived, prosecutions of so-called “leakers” have as well. Arguably, national security whistleblowers face greater personal risk now than at the height of the Bush administration. The secrecy that Ridenhour sought to expose still shrouds our democracy: engaging in war based on lies. Torturing detainees. Holding enemy combatants without due process. Keeping secret the interpretations of law that justify targeted killings. Few people are willing to come forward to stop these unconstitutional acts. Given the risks, can we blame them?

Guardian, The Same Motive for Anti-US 'Terrorism' Is Cited Over and Over, Ignoring the role played by US actions is dangerously self-flattering and self-delusional, Glenn Greenwald, April 24, 2013. It is vital to understand why there are so many people who want to attack the US as opposed to, say, Peru, or South Africa, or Brazil, or Mexico, or Japan, or Portugal. It's vital for two separate reasons. First, some leading American opinion-makers love to delude themselves and mislead others into believing that the US is attacked despite the fact that it is peaceful, peace-loving, freedom-giving and innocent. Second, it's crucial to understand this causation because it's often asked "what can we do to stop Terrorism?" The answer is right in front of our faces: we could stop embracing the polices in that part of the world which fuel anti-American hatred and trigger the desire for vengeance and return violence. There seems to be this pervasive belief in the US that we can invade, bomb, drone, kill, occupy, and tyrannize whomever we want, and that they will never respond. That isn't how human affairs function and it never has been.April 22

April 23

SFGate, Worst job in America: Newspaper reporter, Staff report, April 23, 2013. After declining dramatically during the recession, newspapers are expected to continue losing jobs at a rate of 6 percent per year through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. CareerCast said the job's grim outlook, shrinking budgets, stressful deadlines, lack of income growth and low pay made this the worst job in America. Median salary is $36,000.  (Pictured is a scene from "All the President's Men")

April 22

Legal Schnauzer, The Court Docket In My Wife's Employment Lawsuit Provides a Road Map of Corruption In Real Time, Roger Shuler, April 22, 2013.  A recent hearing in my wife's employment lawsuit against Birmingham-based Infinity Insurance was postponed six minutes before it was to start. Court records show that the order was signed by a federal judge we were told was not there that day. These are just some of several oddities that strongly suggest someone is manipulating the judicial process in a case styled Carol Shuler v. Infinity Property & Casualty et al (2:11-cv-03443-TMP). These machinations probably amount to obstruction of justice and possibly other federal crimes. (Pertinent segments of the April 10 docket report can be viewed at the end of this post.) Mrs. Schnauzer (MS) appeared on April 10 for a scheduling conference that U.S. Magistrate T. Michael Putnam had set 10 days earlier. MS never received notice of the conference via U.S. mail--and as a pro se litigant, that is her only means of getting court documents--but she learned of it by checking the court docket in person at the Hugo Black U.S. Courthouse on April 5. That caused her to show up for the hearing and apparently foiled someone's plan to concoct grounds for dismissing her case.

April 21

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

April 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Post, Police kill one suspect in Marathon bombing, manhunt underway for second, Clarence Williams and Debbi Wilgoren, April 19, 2013.  Authorities shot and killed one suspect in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings and were conducting a massive hunt for a second suspect in Watertown, Mass., Friday morning following a chaotic night that left one police officer dead and another critically wounded in the Boston suburbs. The suspects — introduced to the world via photos and video footage Thursday night — are brothers, law enforcement officials said Friday morning. The one who was killed in a shootout was 20 years old; the one still at large is 19. Their alleged motive in the bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 170, remains unknown.

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

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

Paul Craig Roberts, Boston Marathon Bombing, Paul Craig Roberts, April 19, 2013. While driving (April 19) I listened to a NPR program on the Boston bombing and was disheartened by the absence of hard questions and any thought. Alex Jones has made a definitive statement that I lack the information to verify or contest. The video shows numerous military type guys on the scene prior to the explosion in identical garb–black baseball hats with white insignia, black shirts or jackets, tan pants and combat boots with cell phones in their hands. All have identical backpacks. The backpack straps match those on the remains of an exploded backpack, which the media has attributed to the backpack of one of the two brothers who are alleged to have committed the bombing. What strikes me about the event is the ease with which authorities were able to lockdown entire metropolitan areas, preventing US citizens from leaving their homes in order to go to their jobs, to doctor’s appointments, to the grocery store, or to walk their dogs. This is a precedent. It sets the stage for martial law, although it is not being called that, and for daylight curfews.

April 19

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

WhoWhatWhy, The Marathon Bombing: What the Media Didn't Warn You About, Russ Baker, April 19, 2013. During a meeting on Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after the bombings at the Boston Marathon, a well-meaning person asked me whether I thought we could assume that the usual suspects were behind the mayhem, or whether there was “more to it.” When I explained doubts about the conventional rush to judgment—and where those doubts came from—I was told I was on dangerous ground. ith the bombing story, emotions ran high, of course. The media understand this, and while they talk in reassuring tones and routinely issue sober disclaimers, almost everything they do plays to our irrational sides. Two elements predominate: danger and reassurance. Some of the talking heads are there to warn about danger, others to reassure us. Some do both. We wouldn’t want just one or the other—it would be too hard to take. But together, they represent, psychologically, an ineluctable offering. As long as they appear in tandem, we will sit, immobilized, and let the networks’ pronouncements wash over us. We become so anaesthetized to critical thinking that we fail to consider whether we are getting any information of use at all.

April 18

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

Washington Post, Gridlock is no way to govern, Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann, April 18, 2013. Larry Summers is a brilliant, award-winning economist. Monday, in his monthly op-ed column for The Post, he opined about politics and history [“Sometimes, gridlock is good for America,” April 15]. Our advice, as political scientists, is that Summers should stick to economics. Summers painted a rosy scenario, saying that the frustration people feel at the slowness and gridlock of recent years is misplaced — that things were just as bad, if not worse, in the early 1960s. Yes, there are signs of progress in our political system. The universe of problem-solvers in the Senate has increased since the 2012 elections. But the broader pathologies in our politics remain. For all the problems that existed in previous decades, in a system designed not to act with dispatch, there was a strong political center, with responsible bipartisan leadership. The same cannot be said today.

Think Progress, Gun Violence Victims Detained, Put Through Background Check For Yelling ‘Shame On You’ At Senators, Igor Volsky, April 18, 2013. “Shame on you!” Patricia Maisch and Lori Haas yelled in rapid succession at the 46 senators who had just voted to kill a compromise amendment to expand background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or online. The women were sitting in the gallery with a large group of gun violence victims as the Senate responded to the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut by defeating the measure advocates and law enforcement officials consider crucial to keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. The pair has first-hand experience with the consequences of the broken system. In 2011, Maisch was hailed as a hero for disarming Tucson shooter Jared Loughner by preventing him from reloading a fresh magazine. Haas’ daughter Emily was shot twice during the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and survived, leading her to become a proponent of stronger gun regulations. But on Wednesday afternoon, the two women faced tighter scrutiny for interrupting a Senate proceeding than many individuals seeking to purchase guns.

FireDogLake, As Obama Dumps Transparency Former Staffers Cash In on “Public Service,” DSWright, April 18, 2013. As President Obama quietly signed a bill to dump further disclosure requirements for congressional and senior executive branch staffers, his former staffers were looking to ring the cash register. Leveraging their access to the Obama Administration, these Corporate Democrats have found a way to triangulate some loot – buckraking. Welcome to the buckraking phase of the Obama era. If the campaign was about hope, and the early presidency was about change, increasingly the administration has settled into a kind of normalcy in which it accommodates itself to Washington far more than Washington accommodates itself to Obama. In other words, influence peddling. It seems for most of the Obama Team “public service” was just a pretext for private payoffs. Take Robert Wolf, a former U.S. chairman of the investment bank UBS and an early Obama fund-raiser, who has served as an all-purpose (and highly visible) “first buddy” throughout the presidency. Last year, Wolf dreamed up the idea for a firm called 32 Advisors, which would instruct clients here and abroad on a variety of business transactions, such as how to secure U.S. government financing for export deals.

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

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

Forbes, KPMG and Scott London: Long-Forgotten Devil's Deal Means Feds Are Unlikely to Bring Corporate Charges, Harvey Silverglate, April 18, 2013. KPMG LLP, one of the Big Four international accounting outfits, just got a bitter taste of what happens when a partner’s loyalty to the firm erodes. During a March 20 interview with the FBI, former Los Angeles-based partner Scott London admitted to passing confidential inside information about some of the firm’s audit clients to a friend, Bryan Shaw. Shaw reportedly admitted to trading on that information and making over a million dollars, a small portion of which he shared with London. The Wall Street Journal reported that KPMG Chairman and Chief Executive John Veihmeyer was “appalled” to learn of Mr. London’s “violations of trust.” KPMG will likely be sued by its clients whose information Mr. London conveyed to Mr. Shaw. At the very least, KPMG is almost certainly going to have to return the audit fees, amounting to tens of millions of dollars, and the firm may be liable for other damages if the courts determine that the firm was in any way derelict in monitoring and supervising Mr. London, who was in charge of some 50 audit partners and 500 employees.

Washington Post, Manchin: NRA ‘made a big mistake,’ Aaron Blake, April 18, 2013. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Thursday morning that the National Rifle Association “made a big mistake” by opposing his gun background checks compromise legislation, saying the amendment would have gotten 70 votes without the NRA’s interference. Manchin said he’s not worried about the possibility that the NRA, which previously gave him an ‘A’ rating, will lower that rating because of the compromise he hammered out with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). And then the senator, who once fired a rifle at climate change legislation in a campaign ad, took aim at the group’s tactics.

April 17

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

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

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

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

April 16

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

April 15

Huffington Post, Distinguished Warfare Medal Honoring Drone Pilots Canceled By Chuck Hagel, Amanda Terkel, April 15, 2013. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has canceled the creation of a controversial new medal that would have honored drone pilots and cyber warriors, after veterans organizations and members of Congress expressed outrage that it would outrank some battlefield medals like the Purple Heart. The Distinguished Warfare Medal was approved in February by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, intended to honor members of the military for achievements beyond the battlefield since Sept. 11, 2001. The backlash to the medal centered around the fact that it would have taken precedence over several traditional combat awards, which require that the recipient risk his or her life in order to receive them. (The White House photo at left shows, from left to right, Panetta, Hagel, Obama and CIA Director John Brennan at the nomination ceremony earlier this year for Hagel and Brennan.)

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

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

April 12

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

PR Watch, Reinhart and Rogoff surely knew the purposes for which their work was being cited, Staff report, April 12, 2013.  It will come as no surprise that Reinhart and Rogoff have ties to Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, a big fan of their work. Peterson has been advocating cuts to Social Security and Medicare for decades in order to prevent a debt crisis he warns will spike interest rates and collapse the economy. (Peterson failed to warn of the actual crisis building on Wall Street during his time at the Blackstone Group.) As the Center for Media and Democracy detailed in the online report, “The Peterson Pyramid,” the Blackstone billionaire turned philanthropist has spent half a billion dollars to promote this chorus of calamity. Through the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Peterson has funded practically every think tank and non-profit that works on deficit- and debt-related issues, including his latest astroturf supergroup, “Fix the Debt,” which has set a July 4, 2013 deadline for securing an austerity budget. Reinhart, described glowingly by the New York Times as “the most influential female economist in the world,” was a Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics founded, chaired, and funded by Peterson. Reinhart is listed as participating in many Peterson Institute events, such as their 2012 fiscal summit along with Paul Ryan, Alan Simpson, and Tim Geithner, and numerous other Peterson lectures and events available on YouTube. She is married to economist and author Vincent Reinhart, who does similar work for the American Enterprise Institute, also funded by the Peterson Foundation. Kenneth Rogoff is listed on the Advisory Board of the Peterson Institute. The Peterson Institute bankrolled and published a 2011 Rogoff-Reinhart book-length collaboration, “A Decade of Debt,” where the authors apparently used the same flawed data to reach many of the same conclusions and warn ominously of a “debt burden” stretching into 2017 that “will weigh heavily on the public policy agenda of numerous advanced economies and global financial markets for some time to come.”

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

Legal Schnauzer, Alabama State University Gave Luther Strange Contracts For Studying "Education In India," Roger Shuler, April 12, 21013. Attorney General Luther Strange, left, received a contract from Alabama State University to study "education in India," according to a new report from the Inside Alabama Politics newsletter (IAP). The Strange contract was revealed in IAP's report about an ongoing investigation into the awarding of service contracts at ASU and whether the university received a fair value for the services provided under the contracts. Also at issue are allegations of kickbacks involving fees paid for legal services by the university.  State Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery) either has been or is about to be indicted by a federal grand jury in Birmingham, and House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) is under investigation by the FBI, IAP reports.  Perhaps the most intriguing portion of the IAP report involves Luther Strange.

Huffington Post, A Tale of Two Constituencies, Mike Lux, April 12, 2013. The president had been elected and re-elected on not only a progressive platform, but arguably with the most populist rhetoric in 40 years. He had run his campaigns on fighting for the middle class, protecting the vulnerable from harm, taxing the wealthy, and taking on the wealthy special interests who were harming our economy. His re-election campaign had bragged about taking on Wall Street, and harshly criticized the vulture capitalist business practices of his opponent. And because of running these kinds of campaign, this president won two decisive victories in a row, becoming the first president of his center-left party to win a clear majority of the votes more than once since the 1930s. But in the bizarre and troubled land of black magic and twisted morality I describe, the ..most widely reviled constituency, Wall Street executives, have not been prosecuted for their crimes, have not had their Too Big To Fail banks broken up, have had any regulations against them so watered down as to hardly impact on the way they do business, and have just as much access to the halls of government today as they did before the financial collapse. Meanwhile, that massive and beloved constituency, America's grandparents, are having their Social Security and Medicare benefits cut in that president's budget, the one who ran that populist progressive campaign.

April 11

Washington Post, Guantanamo dogged by new controversy after mishandling of e-mails, Peter Finn, April 11, 2013. The military justice system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has been dogged by charges of secret monitoring of proceedings and defense communications, became embroiled in a fresh controversy Thursday when it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of defense e-mails were turned over to the prosecution. The breach prompted Col. Karen Mayberry, the chief military defense counsel, to order all attorneys for Guantanamo detainees to stop using Defense Department computer networks to transmit privileged or confidential information until the security of such communications is assured. Army Col. James Pohl, the chief judge at Guantanamo, also ordered a two-month delay in pre­trial proceedings in the military-commission case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of organizing the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

The Real News, Wikileaks Releases Kissinger Cables and Two Decisions in Manning Trial, Paul Jay, April 11, 2013. (Video: 20:41 min.)  Michael Ratner: Kissinger files show important role Wikileaks continues to play revealing real history of US foreign policy; Judge makes one decision favorable to Manning, one not.

Legal Schnazuer, We Catch Federal Court Employees In A Con Game On My Wife's Lawsuit Against Infinity Insurance, Roger Shuler, April 11, 2013. My wife and I caught federal "justice officials" in a scam yesterday morning at the Hugo Black U.S. Courthouse in downtown Birmingham. In fact, we caught them so red-handed--and it confirmed our suspicions so thoroughly--that the experience was alternately infuriating and exhilarating. The purpose of the scam was to use the U.S. mails and court process to cheat my wife in a pending employment lawsuit. My use of the word "scam" probably is too mild to describe what happened; a strong case could be made that we unearthed a criminal conspiracy for obstruction of justice.

April 10

Huffington Post, Bi-Partisanship We Don't Need: The President Offers to Cut Social Security and Republicans Agree, Robert Reich, April 10, 2013. John Boehner, Speaker of the House, revealed why it's politically naive for the president to offer up cuts in Social Security in the hope of getting Republicans to close some tax loopholes for the rich. "If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes," Boehner said in a statement released Friday. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor agreed. He said on CNBC he didn't understand "why we just don't see the White House come forward and do the things that we agree on" such as cutting Social Security, without additional tax increases. Get it? The Republican leadership is already salivating over the president's proposed Social Security cut. They've been wanting to cut Social Security for years. But they won't agree to close tax loopholes for the rich. They're already characterizing the president's plan as a way to "save" Social Security -- even though the cuts would undermine it -- and they're embracing it as an act of "bi-partisanship."

Huffington Post, Elizabeth Warren 'Shocked' At White House Plan To Cut Social Security With Chained CPI, Jason Linkins, April 10, 2013. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), right, made it clear Wednesday in an email to supporters that not only would she oppose President Barack Obama's plan to cut Social Security benefits through a cost-of-living adjustment known as chained CPI, but that she was "shocked to hear" it was included in the White House's budget proposal at all. Warren said her brother David lives on the $13,200 per year he receives in Social Security benefits. "I can almost guarantee that you know someone -- a family member, friend, or neighbor -- who counts on Social Security checks to get by," she wrote.

Associated Press / Fox News, Amish gather last time before prison terms begin, Staff report, April 10, 2013. Come Friday, four women and one man from this tight-knit Amish group in rural eastern Ohio will enter the prison system in various states, joining nine already behind bars on hate crimes convictions for hair- and beard-cutting attacks against fellow Amish. That timing made Tuesday's event the last big gathering before the five depart, and the participants gave The Associated Press a rare glimpse into their largely insular community. Men played baseball in buttoned shirts, work boots and blue pants with suspenders. Their wives, some barefoot, sat outdoors on benches from the schoolhouse, chatting as their long-sleeved, blue and green dresses and white head scarves fluttered in the wind. Their children snacked and relaxed nearby, dressed like smaller versions of their parents. "It's a happy day on the outside, but not on the inside. On the inside, a lot of times we're crying, but we have to keep our spirits up for the children's sake," said Martha Mullet, whose husband, Sam Mullet Sr., was accused of orchestrating the hair-cutting attacks and was sentenced to 15 years, the longest term of the 16 defendants in the case.

 
April 9

Legal Schnauzer, Feds Promised To Release Scrushy From Prosecution If He Provided False Testimony Against Siegelman, Roger Shuler, April 9, 2013. Federal prosecutors offered to let Richard Scrushy out of the Don Siegelman case if he agreed to testify in a way that would "give" them the former Alabama governor. Scrushy, the former CEO of Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corporation, said prosecutors gave him several examples of testimony that would help ensure a bribery conviction against Siegelman. None of the proposed statements was truthful, Scrushy said, so he refused the offer. He wound up being convicted and was released from federal prison last July after serving a six-year sentence. Siegelman was released from custody for several years to pursue appeals, but returned to prison last September after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Rolling Stone, The most outrageous facts about our broken voting system, Tim Dickinson, April 9, 2013. So you think the American electoral system is broken? New research out of MIT lays bare just how bad it really is. Here are the five most outrageous facts from "Waiting to Vote," a forthcoming paper by Charles Stewart III for the Journal of Law and Politics, on long lines in the 2012 election.

1. African-American voters wait in line nearly twice as long as white voters. "Viewed nationally, African-Americans waited an average of 23 minutes to vote, compared to 12 minutes for whites."
2. Hispanic voters wait in line one-and-a-half times as long as white voters."Hispanics waited 19 minutes" – again, compared to a 12-minute wait for whites.
3. True-blue Democrats wait in line 45 percent longer than red-bleeding Republicans. "Strong Democrats waited an average of 16 minutes, compared to an average of 11 minutes for strong Republicans."
4. Voting in Florida remains a shitshow – even compared to other big states."Waiting times varied tremendously across the states in 2012, ranging from less than two minutes in Vermont to 39 minutes in Florida. . . . On the whole, states with the smallest populations had the lowest waits. . . . However, it should be noted that California had among the shortest wait times in the country, at an average of 7 minutes."
5. The federal Election Assistance Commission is on its last legs. It is supposed to have four commissioners. It currently has four vacancies. "It is for answering questions such as this – how to shorten lines in urban areas and a few states where they exist statewide – that the Election Assistance Commission was created. Unfortunately, the EAC has become a 'zombie commission,' without commissioners and therefore without a clear agenda . . ."

April 8

Legal Schnauzer, Richard Scrushy: Convictions In the Siegelman Case Are Grounded In A Former Aide's Flawed Testimony, Roger Shuler, April 8, 2013. Bribery convictions in the Don Siegelman case are based almost entirely on an aide's testimony that he saw the former governor holding a $250,000 check after a meeting with then HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. That scenario, as described under oath by former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey, has a slight flaw--it never happened, according to a man who was central to the alleged transaction. Richard Scrushy, who was released from federal prison last July after serving a six-year sentence, says he never had such a meeting with Siegelman -- and he never gave the governor a check. That is one of several major revelations from Scrushy's one-hour interview last Thursday with San Francisco-based radio host Peter B. Collins. It was Scrushy's first interview about the Siegelman case, and the podcast can be heard in its entirety at peterbcollins.com. Collins invited me to assist with the interview, and I was on the phone line to hear Scrushy describe the case against him and Siegelman as a "farce" and a "joke." In fact, Scrushy still can't seem to believe that it happened. 

Legal Times, Judge Reverses Suspensions of Two Prosecutors in Ted Stevens Case, Staff report, April 8, 2013. The U.S. Justice Department violated internal procedure in disciplining two federal prosecutors accused of ethical misconduct in the corruption case against Ted Stevens, a judge concluded in a ruling that voids the suspensions imposed on the two attorneys. Benjamin Gutman, an administrative judge who hears Merit Systems Protection Board disputes, said the department shirked procedure when a senior management attorney was allowed to take over for the rank-and-file lawyer who was assigned to make a recommendation about whether the prosecutors committed misconduct.

National Press Club, Judge should drop effort to compel reporter to reveal anonymous sources, John Donnelly, April 5, 2013. The National Press Club on April 5 respectfully urged a Colorado judge to drop his push to force a reporter to reveal her confidential sources for a story about the alleged shooter in the last July’s shooting spree in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. Jana Winter of Fox News reported days after the deadly shooting that the defendant in the case, James Holmes, had sent his psychiatrist detailed drawings of people being killed before the shootings occurred. All information in the investigation of Holmes was under seal. Winter had cited law-enforcement officials as her source.

Guardian, Margaret Thatcher and misapplied death etiquette, Glenn Greenwald, April 8, 2013. The dictate that one 'not speak ill of the dead' is (at best) appropriate for private individuals, not influential public figures. News of Margaret Thatcher's death this morning instantly and predictably gave rise to righteous sermons on the evils of speaking ill of her. British Labour MP Tom Watson decreed: "I hope that people on the left of politics respect a family in grief today." Following in the footsteps of Santa Claus, Steve Hynd quickly compiled a list of all the naughty boys and girls "on the left" who dared to express criticisms of the dearly departed Prime Minister, warning that he "will continue to add to this list throughout the day." Former Tory MP Louise Mensch, with no apparent sense of irony, invoked precepts of propriety to announce: "Pygmies of the left so predictably embarrassing yourselves, know this: not a one of your leaders will ever be globally mourned like her." This demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure's death is not just misguided but dangerous. That one should not speak ill of the dead is arguably appropriate when a private person dies, but it is wildly inappropriate for the death of a controversial public figure, particularly one who wielded significant influence and political power.
 
New York Times, Insurance and Freedom, Paul Krugman, April 7, 2013. President Obama will soon release a new budget, and the commentary is already flowing fast and furious. Progressives are angry (with good reason) over proposed cuts to Social Security; conservatives are denouncing the call for more revenues. But it’s all Kabuki. Since House Republicans will block anything Mr. Obama proposes, his budget is best seen not as policy but as positioning, an attempt to gain praise from “centrist” pundits. No, the real policy action at this point is in the states, where the question is, How many Americans will be denied essential health care in the name of freedom?

Huffington Post, Missing In Action: Congress Ignores America's Poverty Crisis, Jennifer Bendery, April 8, 2013. At a time when Republicans on Capitol Hill are expressing outrage over canceled White House tours, something more deserving of outrage is taking place: tens of millions of the nation's most vulnerable are taking hits on all sides. The nation's poverty rate is frozen at a high of 15 percent. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, for the most part, aren't even talking about it. "Missing in action," Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said of Congress' record on poverty. It has been a topic of discussion among Washington lawmakers in fleeting moments. Language about making poverty a national priority found its way into the Democratic Party platform last year and into President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in February. Democrats tucked a line into their budget proposals this year calling for a strategy to cut poverty in half in 10 years. Yet the issue has all but disappeared from the legislative agenda in Congress as lawmakers focus squarely on deficit reduction. Obama, too, has been largely silent on the issue, and has even proposed cutting Social Security -- a key tool for combating poverty.

Huffington Post, Is The War On Drugs Nearing An End? Matt Sledge, April 8, 2013. For four decades, libertarians, civil rights activists and drug treatment experts have stood outside of the political mainstream in arguing that the war on drugs was sending too many people to prison, wasting too much money, wrenching apart too many families -- and all for little or no public benefit. They were always in the minority. But on Thursday, a sign of a new reality emerged: for the first time in four decades of polling, the Pew Research Center found that more than half of Americans support legalizing marijuana. That finding is the result of decades of slow demographic changes and cultural evolution that now appears, much like attitudes around marriage equality, to be accelerating. More and more people, including Pat Robertson and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), are rejecting the tough-on-crime rhetoric so long directed toward drug use.

FireDogLake, Obama Budget Splits The Democratic Party, DSWright, April 8, 2013. President Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security and Medicare has fueled a civil war within the Democratic Party. The social insurance programs are considered by many Democrats to be the party’s greatest achievements in the New Deal and Great Society, respectively. Obama’s alignment with Bush-style Neoliberalism has provoked the progressive wing of the party to begin to openly defy the termed-out president.

TruthDig /OpEd News, The Hijacking of Human Rights, Chris Hedges, April 8, 2013. The appointment of Suzanne Nossel, a former State Department official and longtime government apparatchik, as executive director of PEN American Center is part of a campaign to turn U.S. human rights organizations into propagandists for pre-emptive war and apologists for empire. Nossel's appointment led me to resign from PEN as well as withdraw from speaking at the PEN World Voices Festival in May. But Nossel is only symptomatic of the widespread hijacking of human rights organizations to demonize those -- especially Muslims -- branded by the state as the enemy, in order to cloak pre-emptive war and empire with a fictional virtue and to effectively divert attention from our own mounting human rights abuses, including torture, warrantless wiretapping and monitoring, the denial of due process and extrajudicial assassinations.

WikiLeaks News Conference / Press for Truth / YouTube, The Kissinger Cables: "Illegal we do immediately; unconstitutional takes a little longer," April 8, 2013. (Video: 3:57 min.) Wikileaks has just released 1.7 million classified files appropriately referred to as the "Kissinger Cables" which is comprised of congressional correspondence, intelligence reports, and cables. In a 1975 conversation with Turkish and Cypriot officials former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, shown at right, is quoted as saying, "Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, "The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer."

April 7

Wikileaks Press Release, Special Project K: The Kissinger Cables, Julian Assange and staff, April 7, 2013. The Kissinger Cables are part of today's launch of the WikiLeaks Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), which holds the world's largest searchable collection of United States confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications. As of its launch on April 8, 2013 it holds 2 million records comprising approximately 1 billion words. WikiLeaks' publisher Julian Assange stated: "The collection covers US involvements in, and diplomatic or intelligence reporting on, every country on Earth. It is the single most significant body of geopolitical material ever published."

The Kissinger Cables: "The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer." -- Henry A. Kissinger, US Secretary of State, March 10, 1975. The Kissinger Cables comprise more than 1.7 million US diplomatic records for the period 1973 to 1976, including 205,901 records relating to former US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. Dating from January 1, 1973 to December 31, 1976 they cover a variety of diplomatic traffic including cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence. They include more than 1.3 million full diplomatic cables and 320,000 originally classified records. These include more than 227,000 cables classified as "CONFIDENTIAL" and 61,000 cables classified as "SECRET". Perhaps more importantly, there are more than 12,000 documents with the sensitive handling restriction "NODIS" or 'no distribution', and more than 9,000 labelled "Eyes Only."

April 6

TED Talks, Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim, Filmed Feb 2013, Posted April 2013.  There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That's the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most fundamental way, and issues a rallying bipartisan cry that will resonate with many in the U.S. and beyond. Lawrence Lessig has already transformed intellectual-property law with his Creative Commons innovation. Now he's focused on an even bigger problem: The US' broken political system.

New York Times, Rise of the Predators: A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood, Mark Mazzetti, April 6, 2013. Nek Muhammad was a Pashtun militant who was killed in 2004, in the first C.I.A. drone strike in Pakistan. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill him in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies. That back-room bargain, described in detail for the first time in interviews with more than a dozen officials in Pakistan and the United States, is critical to understanding the origins of a covert drone war that began under the Bush administration, was embraced and expanded by President Obama, and is now the subject of fierce debate. The deal, a month after a blistering internal report about abuses in the C.I.A.’s network of secret prisons, paved the way for the C.I.A. to change its focus from capturing terrorists to killing them, and helped transform an agency that began as a cold war espionage service into a paramilitary organization. The C.I.A. has since conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people, Pakistanis and Arabs, militants and civilians alike. While it was not the first country where the United States used drones, it became the laboratory for the targeted killing operations that have come to define a new American way of fighting, blurring the line between soldiers and spies and short-circuiting the normal mechanisms by which the United States as a nation goes to war. 

April 5

U.S. Catholic, Two death penalty opponents put Jesus on trial to raise awareness, Elizabeth Lefebvre, April 2013. This November voters in California will have the chance to repeal the death penalty in their state. One of the main arguments being used against California's death penalty right now is how much the practice is costing the state--more than $130 million a year. However, two lawyers are taking a different approach to raise awareness by creating a mock death penalty trial for Jesus using existing death penalty laws. As Sojourners reports, lawyers Mark Osler and Jeanne Bishop have worked together to stage the death penalty trial of Jesus, which includes as witnesses Peter, the Centurion, and the rich young man. Osler himself plays the role of the high priest Caiaphas. Like a majority of death row inmates today, Jesus on trial has a lack of resources and social standing.

FireDogLake, Obama Is the Driving Force Behind Cutting Your Social Security, Jon Walker, April 5, 2013.The driving force behind cutting your Social Security is President Barack Obama.  If it wasn’t already abundantly clear there is now more proof President Obama really really really wants to cut Social Security benefits for current retirees. Obama will include the chained-CPI, which is a yearly and continuously growing cut to your Social Security benefits, in his budget. From Politico: "President Barack Obama will make another run at a grand bargain by proposing significant new entitlement cuts and new tax revenues — including a new cigarette tax — in what the White House is portraying as a compromise budget to be released next week." The most controversial element of Obama’s proposal is the inclusion of “chained CPI,” the adjustment that would over time reduce cost-of-living increases to Social Security and other federal benefit programs — effectively, a cut to Social Security benefits by tying them to inflation. He also calls for $9 billion in new tax revenue by setting limits on “tax-preferred retirement accounts for millionaires and billionaires.” Official budgets, be they from the President or one house of Congress, are non-binding statements of principle. They are how that group wants to see the country operate in the next few years. Despite what defenders of Obama may claim this budget is in fact no different. It is not about “negotiating.” In Obama’s ideal world old people would see their Social Security benefits cut. Even though the pension system is disappearing and the 401k system has proven to have significant issues, Obama still feels one of the biggest problems in the country he needs to address is the fact that old people have it too good.

Huffington Post, Obama Budget: Administration Explains Why It Started With A 'Compromise Proposal,' Sam Stein, April 5, 2013. President Barack Obama’s budget, which will be introduced on Wednesday, takes a political position that some of his base is bound to bemoan. Rather than present an outline of progressive priorities, the Whie has chosen to stake claim to the middle ground, offering up a mix of modest tax hikes to go along with spending cuts and entitlement reforms that Democrats have long warned against.

Huffington Post, The Regulatory Nullification and the Cruelty of Big Business, Ralph Nader, April 5, 2013. It's time to start paying close attention to the mechanisms of the deregulation machine. For the past 30 years, the business lobbies have pushed Congress and the executive branch to disassemble the regulatory system that has protected us from the worst excesses of Wall Street and Big Business. The catastrophic effects of this dismantling are well known -- the misbehavior of Wall Street brought us the financial collapse, the global recession, and the dominance of the largest banks being both "Too Big to Fail" and their culpable executives "Too Big to Jail." Despite negative public sentiment and the rise of the Occupy movement, the avarice on Wall Street arrogantly continues on. The big banks are now even bigger and more powerful than they were in 2008 when they were bailed out by the U.S. taxpayers.

Pro Publica, Lasting Damage: A Rogue Prosecutor's Final Case, Joaquin Sapien, April 5, 2013 (Part II of II). Claude Stuart, after a career full of trouble as a prosecutor in Queens, finally went too far when he lied to a judge in an effort to convict a man of murder. Thirteen years later, Stuart is no longer a lawyer, the man he convicted remains in prison, and who actually killed Leroy Vann remains unclear.

Pro Publica, Who Polices Prosecutors Who Abuse Their Authority? Usually Nobody, Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, and Sergio Hernandez, April 3, 2013. Part I of II A ProPublica analysis of more than a decade's worth of state and federal court rulings found more than two dozen instances in which judges explicitly concluded that city prosecutors had committed harmful misconduct. In each instance, these abuses were sufficient to prompt courts to throw out convictions. Yet the same appellate courts did not routinely refer prosecutors for investigation by the state disciplinary committees charged with policing lawyers. Disciplinary committees, an arm of the appellate courts, almost never took serious action against prosecutors. None of the prosecutors who oversaw cases reversed based on misconduct were disbarred, suspended, or censured except for Stuart.

OpEd News, Mrs. John McTiernan's Statement Regarding her Husband's Surrender, Gail Sistrunk McTiernan, April 5, 2013. John McTiernan, director of Die Hard, Predator, The Hunt for Red October and other films, surrendered to federal prison. His wife, Gail, breaks the silence they've maintained for years after the government multiplied his charges for challenging the prosecutor's actions. Film director John McTiernan, at left, bid farewell to his children, aged 10 and 12, as he begins a prison sentence this week at the federal correctional institute at Yankton, South Dakota. The director of Die Hard and other Hollywood movies, shown also at right, was convicted of making a false statement to an FBI agent who called his home. The photos were provided by his family. His wife issued the following statement,saying in part: “The Federal Government has now imprisoned a man, with no prior criminal record, for saying a single false word on the phone (the answer of "yep") to a stranger’s voice he could not have possibly known or verified was law enforcement."

Background: Hollywood Reporter, John McTiernan Surrenders to Begin Pellicano Prison Sentence, Alex Ben Block, April 3, 2013. Die Hard director John McTiernan surrendered to federal authorities Wednesday to begin serving his 12-month prison sentence for his role in the Anthony Pellicano wiretapping scandal. He has been taken to a federal prison in North Dakota. McTiernan, 62, lost an appeal last August of a 2010 sentence and turned himself in on the last day possible. A judge had given him the option of surrendering earlier but he did not do so. McTiernan was found guilty of two counts of making false statements to the FBI and one count of perjury for lying to a federal judge during the period when he wanted to withdraw his earlier guilty plea. The filmmaker was found to have lied about ordering Pellicano, then Hollywood’s most successful private detective, to illegally wiretap producer Chuck Roven while the two were involved in the remake of the movie Rollerball in 2002. More background: Huffington Post, Feds Bully 'Die Hard' McTiernan Into Plea for False Statements, Andrew Kreig, July 13, 2010. Yet again, federal authorities have abused their vast powers by manufacturing a crime and ruining a defendant's career at needless expense to federal taxpayers.

April 4

Huffington Post, Daniel McGowan Jailed, Allegedly For Writing Huffington Post Blog, Matt Sledge and Ryan Grim, April 4, 2013. The federal government on Thursday jailed Earth Liberation Front activist Daniel McGowan in response to an article he wrote for The Huffington Post, his wife Jenny Synan said. The HuffPost story, which was published April 1, charged the Federal Bureau of Prisons, citing documents McGowan had obtained, with transferring him to a high security prison unit in order to restrict his political speech during his incarceration. Synan told HuffPost that she asked a BOP official why her husband had been re-imprisoned after his release to a halfway house in December. She said the official told her that the HuffPost article violated a term of his release that restricted him from interacting with the media. Synan expects the BOP to keep her husband locked up until the official end of his seven-year sentence in June. His 38th birthday, she said, is next month. "We were thinking, 'Oh my God, first birthday home!'" McGowan's attorney, Rachel Meeropol of the Center for Constitutional Rights, confirmed that McGowan was taken from a Brooklyn halfway house Thursday morning and brought to the Metropolitan Detention Center. She said she believed but had not yet confirmed that McGowan's jailing was connected to his recent blog post.

Wall Street Journal, Climbing the Ladder to Steven A. Cohen, Harvey Silverglate, April 4, 2013 (Subscription required). The federal pursuit of SAC Capital Advisors is typical: Get the smaller fry to 'give up' someone more senior. The investigative process is lengthy and arduous—probes of SAC have been under way since at least 2009. But it rolls on, seemingly fueled by the Justice Department's need to enhance its image after taking a hit from public anger over its refusal (or inability) to prosecute bankers in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The SAC allegations are a perfect mythmaking opportunity for prosecutors. They can easily sell their version of events to a wary public that assumes no hedge-fund manager can become as rich as Mr. Cohen without access to inside information, trading on which can be a felony under securities laws. What the public doesn't know is how impossibly vague those securities laws are. The vagueness allows a prospective witness to facilitate a conviction by adding just enough details to his tale so that the target comes off as secretive, manipulative or untrustworthy. Most of us can be portrayed in such a manner: When we ask for routine confidentiality, for instance, it can be spun to suggest that we asked for illicit secrecy to hide insider trading.

Minnesota Public Radio, States abolishing death penalty, despite public support for it, Frank Zimring and Greg Dobbs, April 4, 2013. Guests: Mark Osler, Franklin Zimiring, law professor at University of California at Berkeleyand the author of numerous books including, "The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment," and Greg Dobbs: Columnist for the Denver Post and former ABC News correspondent.

Legal Schnauzer, New Report Reveals That Alabama Coach Nick Saban Stood Watch Over An Academic Scandal At LSU, Roger Shuler, April 4, 2013. University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban presided over an academic scandal that mostly was covered up at LSU in 2001-02, according to a new report from USA Today.

April 3

Washington Post, Cancer Clinics Turn Away Patients, Sarah Kliff, April 3, 2013. Citing Sequester, cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts. Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially. Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them. “If we treated the patients receiving the most expensive drugs, we’d be out of business in six months to a year,” said Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York. “The drugs we’re going to lose money on we’re not going to administer right now.” After an emergency meeting Tuesday, Vacirca’s clinics decided that they would no longer see one-third of their 16,000 Medicare patients.

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists / Huffington Post, Secret Files Expose Offshore's Global Impact, Staff report. April 3, 2013. Dozens of journalists sifted through millions of leaked records and thousands of names to produce ICIJ’s investigation into offshore secrecy. A cache of 2.5 million files has cracked open the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts, exposing hidden dealings of politicians, con men and the mega-rich the world over. The secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists lay bare the names behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and other offshore hideaways. They include American doctors and dentists and middle-class Greek villagers as well as families and associates of long-time despots, Wall Street swindlers, Eastern European and Indonesian billionaires, Russian corporate executives, international arms dealers and a sham-director-fronted company that the European Union has labeled as a cog in Iran’s nuclear-development program. The leaked files provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy and the well-connected to dodge taxes and fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike. The records detail the offshore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries and territories. The hoard of documents represents the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organization. The total size of the files, measured in gigabytes, is more than 160 times larger than the leak of U.S. State Department documents by Wikileaks in 2010.

National Press Club Wire, Cummings pushes gun trafficking legislation, Bob Weiner and Rich Mann, April 3, 2013. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, urged “action” on gun legislation in Congress at an April 2 Newsmaker. He underlined the current dangers associated with gun trafficking and made the case for tough federal penalties aimed at “straw purchasers.” Cummings said, “Most Americans already think gun trafficking is a federal crime — but it’s not. They have no idea that there is no federal law targeting firearms traffickers who commonly use ‘straw purchasers’ to buy guns for convicted felons and other dangerous criminals who cannot legally buy guns on their own. Laws to prevent trafficking are toothless, like a traffic ticket.”

Washington Post, The NRA’s disarming plan to arm schools, Dana Milbank, April 3, 2013 (print edition). The gun-lobby goons were at it again. The National Rifle Association’s security guards gained notoriety earlier this year when, escorting NRA officials to a hearing, they were upbraided by Capitol authorities for pushing cameramen. The thugs were back Tuesday when the NRA rolled out its “National School Shield” — the gun lobbyists’ plan to get armed guards in public schools — and this time they were packing heat. About 20 of them — roughly one for every three reporters — fanned out through the National Press Club, some in uniforms with gun holsters exposed, others with earpieces and bulges under their suit jackets. In a spectacle that officials at the National Press Club said they had never seen before, the NRA gunmen directed some photographers not to take pictures, ordered reporters out of the lobby when NRA officials passed and inspected reporters’ briefcases before granting them access to the news conference. Thus has it gone so far in the gun debate in Washington. The legislation is about to be taken up in Congress, but by most accounts the NRA has already won. Plans for limiting assault weapons and ammunition clips are history, and the prospects for meaningful background checks are bleak. Now, The Post’s Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe report, the NRA is proposing language to gut the last meaningful gun-control proposal, making gun trafficking a federal crime. Apparently, the gun lobby thinks even criminals deserve Second Amendment protection. If the NRA has its way, as it usually does, states will soon be weakening their gun laws to allow more guns in schools.

April 2

Huffington Post, Is The War On Drugs Nearing An End? Matt Sledge, April 8, 2013. For four decades, libertarians, civil rights activists and drug treatment experts have stood outside of the political mainstream in arguing that the war on drugs was sending too many people to prison, wasting too much money, wrenching apart too many families -- and all for little or no public benefit. They were always in the minority. But on Thursday, a sign of a new reality emerged: for the first time in four decades of polling, the Pew Research Center found that more than half of Americans support legalizing marijuana. That finding is the result of decades of slow demographic changes and cultural evolution that now appears, much like attitudes around marriage equality, to be accelerating. More and more people, including Pat Robertson and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), are rejecting the tough-on-crime rhetoric so long directed toward drug use.
 
CBS Radio, Flattering Obama Images Flourish As White House Media Access Narrows, Staff report, April 2, 2013. Capitalizing on the possibilities of the digital age, the Obama White House is generating its own content like no president before, and refining its media strategies in the second term in hopes of telling a more compelling story than in the first. A photo of the Obamas hugging that was released on Election Day 2012 has become the world’s most popular tweet on Twitter. A dressed-up version of Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, packed with charts and graphs, is huge on YouTube. A playful picture of the president cavorting with a 3-year-old in a Spiderman costume is a favorite online.

FireDoglake, Two Big Components of the Affordable Care Act Delayed for a Year, Jon Walker, April 2, 2013. A big sign that the federal implementation of the Affordable Care Act is not going smoothly is the Obama administration delaying two big components of the law for at least a year. Last week Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced that the Obama administration will delay the Federal Basic Health Plan Option (FBHPO) until 2015. Cantwell is responsible for putting the provision into the law. It will allow states to create a program to cover people from 138% to 200% FPL instead of putting them on the new private insurance exchanges.

FireDoglake, Exchanges Fail to Control Cost, Jon Walker, April 2, 2013. Private health insurance exchanges, like those created by the Affordable Care Act or in Medicare Advantage, have historically failed to control cost. Part of the reason is the basic economic issue of individuals lacking real market power and actually choosing the “best” insurance option, which is extremely complicated. Another problem is lobbying related. Whenever you needlessly create private middlemen you also create another layer of lobbyists. You don’t just have providers lobbying for higher prices, you now have private insurances companies lobbying for them as well. Because of their business design these middlemen are even better at lobbying and/or rallying their customers to lobby. This dynamic makes what we have seen happen in Medicare Advantage more likely to occur.

April 1

New York Times, Choice of Plans Under Health Law Delayed for Small Firms, Robert Pear, April 1, 2013. Unable to meet tight deadlines in the new health care law, the Obama administration is delaying parts of a program intended to provide affordable health insurance to small businesses and their employees — a major selling point for the health care legislation. The law calls for a new insurance marketplace specifically for small businesses, starting next year. But in most states, employers will not be able to get what Congress intended: the option to provide workers with a choice of health plans. They will instead be limited to a single plan.

Legal Schnauzer, The Remnants Of Alabama High Court's Credibility Will Be Riding On Luther Strange's Recusal Petition, Roger Shuler, April 1, 2013.  To no one's surprise, Attorney General Luther Strange has filed a petition asking the Alabama Supreme Court to force the recusal of Macon County Circuit Judge Thomas Young in the VictoryLand seizure case. Will the state's high court grant the petition? Well, that probably depends on how the justices answer the following questions: 1) Do they care about retaining what is left of their tattered credibility? 2) Are they concerned about signs that they are engaging in a criminal conspiracy?

Denver Post, Former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio moved from prison to halfway house, Andy Vuong, Denver Post, April 1, 2013. Former Qwest CEO and convicted felon Joe Nacchio is wrapping up more than four years in prison at a halfway house in the New York area. Scheduled for release in September, Nacchio recently was transferred from the minimum-security Lewisburg prison camp in central Pennsylvania. He started his term at the Schuylkill minimum-security prison camp in Minersville, Pa., in April 2009 and was moved to Lewisburg two years later. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Nacchio has been assigned to a residential reentry center, or a halfway house, that is overseen by a community corrections management field office in Brooklyn, N.Y. Background: Denver Post, Former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio sues his attorneys, Steve Raabe, March 24, 2013. Former Qwest chief executive Joe Nacchio sued his attorneys Wednesday for negligence and overbilling, including charges for lawyers' underwear purchases. The lawsuit alleges that attorney Herbert Stern and his New Jersey law firm of Stern & Kilkullen charged unreasonable and inappropriate fees, and were "negligent and careless" in the defense of Nacchio, who was charged with 42 counts of insider trading in December 2005 and convicted on 19 counts in April 2007 after a 21-day trial. The lawsuit says Stern's firm billed Nacchio more than $25 million for representation in criminal and civil issues.