July News Reports 2012

Featured Weekly Commentary


Salvatore DiMasi was denied medical care for months after discovering lumps in his neck. By the time he was treated, the cancer had reached stage IV.  Question: what do the federal government's "war on terror" and its "war on political corruption" have in common? Answer: torture.

Three Felonies a DayBy Harvey Silverglate (below at left) for The Boston Phoenix

Harvey SilverglateAmerica was outraged when it learned of abuses committed by enlisted personnel at Abu Ghraib. As details of waterboarding and other enhanced forms of interrogation emerged, a vigorous national debate ensued. But when the news broke recently that Salvatore DiMasi, a former Speaker of the Massachusetts House convicted of political corruption and now serving time at a federal prison, was subjected to treatment so Borgia-like, so inhumane as to constitute a form of torture, the community mostly yawned.

There is compelling evidence that DiMasi was subjected to torture-lite in his assignment to a faraway prison in Lexington, Kentucky, there to serve his eight-year sentence, rather than at the nearby federal prison hospital at Fort Devens in Ayer.

Mark WolfAt the time of DiMasi's September 9, 2011, sentencing, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark Wolf recommended to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) that DiMasi serve his sentence in Ayer.

Wolf, left, expressed concern about DiMasi's then-diagnosed heart condition and the prospect of forcing his cancer-stricken wife to travel long distances for visits. Yet the distant Kentucky assignment was callously selected by the FBP, a subdivision of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Read more here in the Boston Phoenix, DiMasi Agonistes and the federal ‘justice’ system. Harvey Silverglate is a noted litigator, adjunct law professor at Harvard Law School and author of Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.




Editor's Choice: Click below for the Justice Integrity Project's monthly archive of cutting-edge news excerpts for July 2012.



July 31

FireDogLake, Senate Proposals Are Less About ‘Leaks,’ More About Shutting Down Whistleblowers, Kevin Gosztola Tuesday July 31, 2012. Anti-leaks proposals approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of an intelligence authorization bill on July 24 became public yesterday. Politicians claim the proposals are a response to “leaks” on cyber warfare against Iran, Obama’s “kill list” and a CIA underwear bomb plot sting operation in Yemen. They supposedly would prevent “unauthorized disclosures” of “classified information” from people who are not authorized to “leak.” But, the truth is this obscures the reality, which is that hysteria over leaks has created a politically manufactured crisis of which politicians like Sen. Dianne Feinstein are taking advantage to enact measures that in their totality would function like an Official Secrets Act.  The proposals show the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to not only criminalize those who disclose information in order to cause harm to the national security of the United States but also seeks to criminalize those who do so with the sole intent to make the information public. The measures go beyond the Espionage Act. In pieces, a kind of state secrets statute would be in force if they were signed into law.July 30

Huffington Post, Reporters Know What the 'Voter ID' Push Is Really About. Why Don't They Just Say So? Dan Froomkin, July 30, 2012. Does any journalist who is not an overt shill for the right actually believe that Republicans are pushing voter ID laws because they’re concerned about voter fraud?  No, of course not. And for good reason. Voter fraud simply isn’t a problem in this country. Studies have definitively debunked the voter fraud myth time and again. This is not simply another gratuitously partisan act by the GOP. This is an attack on the very notion of democracy. The voter ID push, along with intimidation of voter registration groups and purges of voter rolls have only one goal: blocking legitimate but probably Democratic voters from exercising their constitutional rights. It is a poll tax with a new twist. For reporters to treat this issue like just another political squabble is journalistic malpractice.

July 28

Daily Mail (United Kingdom), Lynn Forester de Rothschild on her campaign to rescue capitalism... and how we must stop the greed and corruption that threaten to destroy the American Dream, Lynn Forester De Rothschild, July 28, 2012.  As a middle-class girl from nowhere, I believed that if I worked hard and played by the rules my future would be anything I wished it to be. ‘What you learn as a kid, you learn good,’ my father constantly told me. (My mother would simply say: ‘Be good.’) Of course, Western society had its ‘one per cent’ of multi-millionaires when I was growing up, but there was no Occupy Wall Street movement. This was an era when it really seemed that, economically at least, that girl from nowhere could have it all. My first two marriages failed, but I was able to support my two sons, earn a nine-figure fortune with my own series of start-up businesses and was named the 4th Most Powerful Woman in European Business by Fortune magazine. In 2000, I married an Englishman, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, who also carried his head high. He had been born into considerable wealth, which he believed was a responsibility. For 40 years, he had worked as a banker and he always said that his first duty was to his clients. Evelyn embodied the values and ethics that gave people like me faith in our positions. Now, however, we both believe that greed and corruption in the City and on Wall Street have understandably shaken the faith of countless millions who have been excluded from the very same system that brought me security and success. Evelyn and I worry that the resulting pessimism – even cynicism – about our economic system is undermining its very existence. Indeed, according to one recent survey by the Boston Consulting Group, only 21 per cent of Americans and 28 per cent of Britons believe their children will have a better life than them. This could lead to any number of negative consequences. In an effort to bring the best to the system, I am co-chairing a new international group, the Henry Jackson Initiative For Inclusive Capitalism that is trying to showcase several immediate and permanent solutions from the private sector. In our first working paper, available at henryjacksoninitiative.org, we have highlighted several private sector efforts to improve education, support small and medium businesses and to bring back a bedrock sense of ethics and civics. I don’t want to destroy the system. I want to balance the freedom that has brought me a wonderful life with personal responsibility. That is the only way to save capitalism for the sake of a future generation of girls who have dreams.

July 27

WBRC-TV, Don Siegelman apologizes to Ala. in Fox Business Network interview, Staff report, July 27, 2012. Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman apologized to Alabama for his bribery conviction in an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox Business Network last night. "I would like to apologize to the people of Alabama for the embarrassment that this has caused them, and of course to my family. This process has been going on for a long time and has been both personally and financially devastating," he said in the beginning of the interview. Siegelman faces a re-sentencing in a week, on August 3. He told Cavuto it's a frightening prospect to think about going back to federal prison. The former governor also said he and Richard Scrushy, also convicted on bribery charges, never had a conversation about a bribe. Siegelman agreed with Cavuto that federal bribery laws are still unclear and contends that anyone contributing to the presidential campaign and given an ambassadorship could also be prosecuted.

Legal Schnauzer, U.S. Judge Releases a Timely Opinion That Shows Siegelman Defendants Were Unlawfully Convicted, Roger Shuler, July 27, 2012. A federal judge in Alabama released an opinion this week that adds to the mountain of evidence showing defendants in the Don Siegelman case were unlawfully convicted, based on murky law and improper jury instructions. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson is intimately familiar with public-corruption cases; he oversaw the trial and re-trial in the Alabama bingo case that resulted in zero convictions. In fact, Thompson's opinion, dated July 24, 2012, was issued in his role as the judge in United States v. Milton E. McGregor, et al, as the bingo case is officially known. But Thompson's words have implications that go way beyond bingo issues--and way beyond Alabama, for that matter. For one, Thompson shows that the U.S. Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals have failed miserably in their duty to ensure that the law is applied consistently. Two, Thompson shows that Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy were convicted of phantom "crimes." Three, Thompson proposes a jury instruction that should clarify the law for judges, prosecutors, defendants, and the public.  Meanwhile, lives are being ruined because of incompetence in the federal judiciary regarding public-corruption cases -- and Thompson's opinion comes at a critical time. Siegelman is set to be resentenced in Montgomery on August 3. With clearly compromised trial judge and Bush appointee Mark Fuller still at the controls, the former Democratic governor almost certainly is headed back to prison. Scrushy, meanwhile, has completed his sentence and was released from federal custody this week.

Think Progress, Santorum Defends Penn State, Blasts Freeh Report, Zack Beauchamp, July 27, 2012. Former Senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum (PA) has long positioned himself as a champion of family values, so one might think he would be the strongest advocate for children who had been sexually assaulted by trusted adults. But during an appearance on Dallas-Ft. Worth’s KSKY 660 AM on Friday, Santorum a Penn State alum and football fan denied the overwhelming evidence that former Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno, President Graham Spanier, and others intentionally covered up evidence that Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky molested and raped at least 10 boys: SANTORUM: And, my concern with the Freeh report, a lot of the conclusions in the Freeh report aren’t matched by the evidence that they presented and so I’ve been talking to a lot of folks at Penn State and they say, ‘you’re just gonna have to wait for the criminal trial of these two guys at Penn State.’" Contra Santorum, the Freeh Report’s central finding — that “nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity” by Penn State’s leaders — has been treated as conclusive by most observers of the scandal. There’s a good reason for that: the report parsed 3.5 million emails and conducted around 430 interviews. A number of emails arrayed in the report’s timeline of events confirm that Paterno, Spanier, and others had been presented with strong evidence of Sandusky’s actions and yet still decided to sweep the events under the rug — enabling multiple instances of abuse to take place. Unless Santorum has reason to believe these were falsified or somehow insufficient, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that he’s in denial about what took place at his alma mater. Indeed, when the abuse scandal broke, Santorum expressed support for Paterno, saying “I have no idea what his side of the story is” and “of course I’ll be rooting for him and wish him the best.” Eight months later, Santorum is still supporting the former coach.

July 26

Alabama Wants Democrats, The Case for Impeaching Federal Judge Mark Fuller, Publius IX, July 26, 2012. At every turn of [Former Alabama Gov. Don] Siegelman’s trial, Fuller improperly ruled against Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy, and for the prosecution. He failed to take action when the Government failed to disclose evidence favorable to Siegelman. He  silenced Siegelman’s attorneys from making relevant and legal arguments to the jury. He let charges go to the jury which were later ruled improper by the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only that, Fuller failed to notify defense attorneys that a female juror, by the name of Katie Langer, had been passing notes through Judge Fuller’s bailiff, asking if the FBI agent sitting at the prosecution table was single. I can’t imagine how her not wanting Mr. Potential FBI Dream Date to be angry about an acquittal could have influenced her vote on the jury. Fuller’s conduct in the trial (I have only named a handful of his pro-Government rulings) gave Siegelman’s attorneys lots of ammunition in his partially-successful appeal, and is doubtless going to provide them more fodder in the “§ 2255 proceeding” that is likely going to be filed, now that the direct appeals are playing out.

But what do those violations of Siegelman’s rights have to do with the hypothetical case I described in the first paragraphs? Fuller was for years, including during the Siegelman trial, a principal of Doss Aviation, Inc.; some reports made him a 43% owner. He was listed on corporate reports as the company’s CEO, even after becoming a federal judge. In his 2010 financial disclosure form as a federal judge, Fuller valued his interest in Doss at between $5,000,000 and $25,000,000; with an additional $500,000 to $1,000,000 in the affiliated Doss of Alabama, Inc. That’s enough coin to get even Mitt Romney’s attention. Doss Aviation is extremely, if not exclusively, dependent on government contracts, many of them no-bid, that can disappear if the Air Force -- or the administration in power -- decides it isn’t happy with, say, the rulings of a leading shareholder. The conflict of interest is obvious to even a layman. Despite this, Fuller has, throughout his career as a federal judge, regularly decided cases involving the Air Force.

Ottawa Citizen, “Ambush” caused judge to withdraw from “House Negro” civil suit, lawyers say, Neco Cockburn, July 26, 2012. A former University of Ottawa physics professor involved in a civil lawsuit launched an “ambush” and a “vituperative” attack that resulted in a judge removing himself from the case, a pair of lawyers said in court on Thursday. Without providing notice, the former professor, Denis Rancourt, referred in court this week to Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Beaudoin’s grief over his son’s death and provoked the judge so much that he withdrew, said lawyers for law professor Joanne St. Lewis and the University of Ottawa. St. Lewis, who works at the university, is suing Rancourt for $1 million, alleging he made racist statements about her on his blog in discussing her professional relationship with university president Allan Rock and using the term “house Negro.” Note: See also:

Students Eye View / Blog about University of Ottawa Senate, Judge Accused of Conflict of Interest Loses Decorum, Withdraws from Case, Staff report (Blog co-managers Joseph Hickey and Hazel Gashoka), July 24, 2012. Judge donated money to party in lawsuit in honor of deceased son, who was a lawyer at the firm now representing the party. A judge of the Ontario Superior Court in Ottawa threw a fit this morning and withdrew himself from a defamation case (St. Lewis vs. Rancourt) after the defendant presented documents suggesting links between the judge and another party to the case.

July 25

Associated Press / Montgomery Advertiser, Alabama gambling trial judge wants bribery clarity, Phillip Rawls, July 26, 2012.  The judge who presided over Alabama's two gambling corruption trials said the U.S. Supreme Court needs to clear up when a campaign contribution constitutes a bribe. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an opinion saying that even though the trials ended with total acquittals for the eight defendants, he wanted to "highlight a murky field of federal law." He wrote that there is "considerable confusion" about how federal corruption laws apply to campaign contributions, and a precise definition of bribery would help.
Washington Post, Senate committee approves provision to plug intelligence leaks, Greg Miller, July 25, 2012. Lawmakers who oversee the nation’s spy agencies moved this week to curb leaks of classified information by approving legislation that would further restrict intelligence officials’ ability to talk to news organizations or work for them after leaving their government jobs. The provisions, which the Senate intelligence committee passed on Tuesday, represent the broadest anti-leak measures proposed in response to stories this year that exposed details of top-secret programs and terrorism threats.

Washington Post, Skype makes chats and user data more available to police, Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima, Published: July 25, 2012. Skype, the online phone service long favored by political dissidents, criminals and others eager to communicate beyond the reach of governments, has expanded its cooperation with law enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police, said industry and government officials familiar with the changes. Surveillance of the audio and video feeds remains impractical — even when courts issue warrants, say industry officials with direct knowledge of the matter. But that barrier could eventually vanish as Skype becomes one of the world’s most popular forms of telecommunication.

Boston Phoenix, Our AWOL Security State: Where are they when we need them? Harvey Silverglate, July 25, 2012. James Holmes's Aurora rampage serves to illustrate how the Feds, so preoccupied with inventing "terrorist" plots, fail to notice — much less stop — real criminals operating right under their noses. The Feds are good at inventing "terrorist" plots starring a cast of innocuous, big-talking, disgruntled misfits. They appear less skilled at gathering accessible information, such as records of lawful but suspicious weapons sales in gun stores and unusually large online ammunition purchases. They are incompetent at noticing — much less stopping — real terrorists operating right under the noses of officialdom. Cynics on the left have used this opportunity to demand gun control. A more sensible and less constitutionally dubious response to this tragedy would be the enactment of universal reporting requirements that allow for the aggregation of data tracking lawful purchases of ammunition and weapons. (The need for effective collection and centralization of information was the main recommendation of the 9/11 commission report, released in 2004. Little has improved.) Instead of conjuring fake terrorist plots, our national security apparatus should be analyzing available data to uncover real crimes before they unfold.

July 24

Who, What, Why? War, Syrian Style? Has Assad Ordered Mass Rapes? Russ Baker, July 24, 2012. A growing refrain out of Syria is that widespread rape is taking place—and sanctioned by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. But when WhoWhatWhy examined the allegations, it found that well-intentioned women’s groups trying to document and prevent such abuses may be falling victim to a deliberate disinformation campaign intent on rallying public support for toppling Assad. If so, this would not be the first time false or exaggerated allegations involving women or children were used to generate public anger and build support for military action. This is a particularly effective and cynical approach—in part because it appeals to the very constituencies most resistant to war and its toll: women and human rights advocates. While rape is horrifically common throughout the world, and more so in conflict zones, so, too, are “psychological operations” intended to shape perceptions and outcomes. Many regimes, particularly authoritarian and totalitarian ones, lie routinely to their people, but as the purported exemplars of high standards of truthfulness and accountability, the United States, Britain and their allies are expected to uphold those values.


July 23

Legal Schnauzer, Alabama Lawyer Threatened to Kill A Man In the Midst of Divorce Proceeding, Roger Shuler, July 23, 2012. How's this for "legal ethics"?  Birmingham attorney Allan L. Armstrong threatened to kill a man in 2008 after cheating with the man's wife, apparently prompting a divorce action. The threat led to a motion for a restraining order against Armstrong, which a Jefferson County circuit judge granted. Has the Alabama State Bar taken action against one of its members, an "officer of the court," for such thuggish actions? Our investigation on the matter is not complete, but we've seen no signs that the bar has taken any action against Armstrong.

July 20

Op Ed News, Rupert Watch, Murdoch Faces Shareholder Rebellion in UK, Michael Collins, July 20, 2012. hNews Corporation is facing an investor rebellion in Great Britain that parallels a similar rebellion occurring in the United States. "A consortium of 18 heavyweight investors is calling for Mr Murdoch to stand down as chairman in the interests of good corporate governance and be replaced by an independent figure who is seen to be acting in the best interests of shareholders." The Independent, July 20 The investors have filed a resolution to remove Murdoch from power at the October News Corp shareholders meeting. The resolution will accompany those already filed by large investors in the United States. What upsets the 18? Murdoch and his family have too much control. That control serves the family well, but not the shareholders. Specifically, recent scandals have hurt News Corp performance.

July 19

CNN, Dan Rather: 'Quote approval' a media sellout, Dan Rather, July 19, 2012. Dan Rather says newspapers and other news outlets must push back on candidates' demands to review quotes. Reporters are agreeing to let candidates vet their quotes before they appear in stories. Dan Rather: Allowing candidates to edit their quotes makes reports fraudulent
By making this "bargain" for access, he says, reporters essentially become PR agents. Rather: Newspapers and media outlets must push back on "quote approval."  A New York Times front-page article Monday detailed a new phenomenon in news coverage of the presidential campaign: candidates insisting on "quote approval," telling reporters what they can and cannot use in some stories. And, stunningly, reporters agreeing to it. This, folks, is news. Any way you look at it, this is a jaw-dropping turn in journalism, and it raises a lot of questions. Among them: Can you trust the reporters and news organizations who do this? Is it ever justified on the candidate's side or on the reporter's side? Where is this leading us?
As someone who's been covering presidential campaigns since the 1950s, I have no delusions about political reporting. Candidates bargaining access to get the kind of news coverage they want is nothing new. The thicket of attribution and disclosure deals is a deep maze reporters have been picking their way through even before my time. But this latest tactic by candidates revealed by the Times gives me, to say the least, great pause. It should give every citizen pause.

Reader Supported News, Presto! The DISCLOSE Act Disappears, Bill Moyers, July 19, July 12. Ask any magician and they’ll tell you that the secret to a successful magic trick is misdirection -- distracting the crowd so they don’t realize how they’re being fooled. Get them watching your left hand while your right hand palms the silver dollar. Just like democracy. Once upon a time conservatives supported the full disclosure of campaign contributors. Now they oppose it with their might - and magic, especially when it comes to unlimited cash from corporations. My goodness, they say, with a semantic wave of the wand, what’s the big deal?: nary a single Fortune 500 company had given a dime to the super PACs. (Even that’s not entirely true, by the way.)  Meanwhile the other hand is poking around for loopholes, stuffing millions of secret corporate dollars into non-profit, tax-exempt organizations called 501(c)s that funnel the money into advertising on behalf of candidates or causes. Legally, in part because the Federal Election Commission does not consider them political committees, they can keep it all nice and anonymous, never revealing who’s really behind the donations or the political ads they buy. This is especially handy for corporations -- why risk offending customers by revealing your politics or letting them know how much you’re willing to shell out for a permanent piece of an obliging politician? That’s why passing a piece of legislation called the DISCLOSE Act is so important and that’s why on Monday, Republicans in the Senate killed it. Again. All of this, of course, is more blowback from the horrible Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which unleashed this corporate cash monster. Just this week, Justice Richard Posner of U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals -- a Republican and until recently, no judicial liberal -- said that Citizens United had created a political system that is “pervasively corrupt” in which “wealthy people essentially bribe legislators.”

July 18

Huffington Post, David Gergen, CNN Analyst, Reveals Extent Of Bain Capital Ties While 'Reporting' On Firm, Michael Calderone, July 18, 2012. CNN senior political analyst David Gergen defended Mitt Romney this week against the Obama campaign's charges that the presumptive Republican nominee hasn't been honest about his tenure at Bain Capital -- a private-equity firm the former presidential adviser-turned-TV pundit knows something about. On Monday, Gergen acknowledged having a "past relationship with the top partners at Bain that is both personal and financial" -- a disclosure that the Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan suggested is "what's wrong with the press corps" and raised questions about Gergen's role in analyzing Romney's experience at the firm. "I have worked with them in support of nonprofit organizations such as City Year," Gergen wrote. "I have given a couple of paid speeches for Bain dinners, as I have for many other groups. I was on the board of a for-profit childcare company, Bright Horizons, that was purchased by Bain Capital. It was a transaction with financial benefits for all board members and shareholders, including me."

July 17

Wall Street Journal, Covert FBI Power to Obtain Phone Data Faces Rare Test, Jennifer Valentino-Devries, July 17, 2012.  Early last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent a secret letter to a phone company demanding that it turn over customer records for an investigation. The phone company then did something almost unheard of: It fought the letter in court. The U.S. Department of Justice fired back with a serious accusation. It filed a civil complaint claiming that the company, by not handing over its files, was interfering "with the United States' sovereign interests" in national security. The legal clash represents a rare and significant test of an investigative tool strengthened by the USA Patriot Act, the counterterrorism law enacted after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The case is shrouded in secrecy. The person at the company who received the government's request—known as a "national security letter," or NSL—is legally barred from acknowledging the case, or even the letter's existence, to almost anyone but company lawyers. "This is the most important national-security-letter case" in years, said Stephen Vladeck, a professor and expert on terrorism law at the American University Washington College of Law. "It raises a question Congress has been trying to answer: How do you protect the First Amendment rights of an NSL recipient at the same time as you protect the government's interest in secrecy?"

Main Justice, Grassley Presses for Answers on DOJ Lawyer Who Demanded Anonymity at Public Hearing, Mary Jacoby, July 17, 2012. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote
Attorney General Eric Holder today to demand answers about a June 12 incident in Louisiana, in which a Civil Rights Division lawyer is described as having tried to intimidate a reporter into not quoting her statements in a public hearing.

Huffington Post, David Gergen, CNN Analyst, Reveals Extent Of Bain Capital Ties While 'Reporting' On Firm, Michael Calderone, July 18, 2012. CNN senior political analyst David Gergen defended Mitt Romney this week against the Obama campaign's charges that the presumptive Republican nominee hasn't been honest about his tenure at Bain Capital -- a private-equity firm the former presidential adviser-turned-TV pundit knows something about. On Monday, Gergen acknowledged having a "past relationship with the top partners at Bain that is both personal and financial" -- a disclosure that the Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan suggested is "what's wrong with the press corps" and raised questions about Gergen's role in analyzing Romney's experience at the firm. "I have worked with them in support of nonprofit organizations such as City Year," Gergen wrote. "I have given a couple of paid speeches for Bain dinners, as I have for many other groups. I was on the board of a for-profit childcare company, Bright Horizons, that was purchased by Bain Capital. It was a transaction with financial benefits for all board members and shareholders, including me."

July 16

WVTM (Montgomery), Judge rejects Don Siegelman's request to vacate new trial denial, Jon Paepcke, July 16, 2012. A federal judge has rejected Don Siegelman's request to erase an earlier ruling denying the former Governor a new trial. Federal Judge Mark Fuller has denied Don Siegelman's request that Fuller vacate his ruling in which he denied a new trial for Alabama's former Governor. On July 5, Fuller rejected Siegelman's longstanding motion for a new trial. Within a week, Siegelman asked Fuller to vacate his ruling because he had not given Siegelman enough time to appeal a lower court's order on the issue. Monday, Fuller said in his ruling that Siegelman failed to cite the proper authority in his vacation request and since the former Governor never appealed the lower court's order, Siegelman's motion was denied. Meanwhile, Siegelman is still set to be sentenced on August 3 in Montgomery's federal courthouse. In June 2006, Siegelman was convicted of accepting bribes from HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy in exchange for appointing Scrushy to the Alabama Certificate of Need Board.

July 14

Who What Why / Op Ed News, Russ Baker Interviewed By OpEd News, James Huang, July 14, 2012. OEN: So that’s what you do at WhoWhatWhy, Russ? What kinds of stuff do you investigate? Give us a sense of what goes on over there, please. RB:  We find that conventional journalism is jam-packed with disinformation, and we aim to correct it.

July 13

FireDoglake, Judge Shuts Down Debtor’s Prison in Alabama, David Dayen, July 13, 2012. A couple weeks back, the New York Times shed some light on a growing trend of private probation companies ramping up fees on indigents who violate misdemeanors, kicking off a process that sends these people to jail for owing money. Meanwhile the fees would get layered on top of one another. It’s a 21st-century form of debtor’s prison and it violates federal statutes against the practice as it shocks the conscience.  One judge in Alabama, the state profiled in the story, has had enough. In an order against the city of Harpersville, AL. This is a harsh ruling. Judge Harrington granted a preliminary injunction hearing to the plaintiff, a victims of the debtor’s prison, and ordered the mayor and every member of the Harpersville City Council to be present at the trial. The judge also said that the city could not incarcerate ANYONE in the county jail or corrections facility without written approval from him. Harrington called the scheme a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.” Judge Hub Harrington wrote:

When viewed in a light most favorable to Defendants, their testimony concerning the City’s court system could reasonably be characterized as the operation of a debtors prison. The court notes that these generally fell into disfavor by the early 1800′s, though the practice appears to have remained common place in Harpersville. From a fair reading of the defendants’ testimony one might ascertain that a more apt description of the Harpersville Municipal Court practices is that of a judicially sanctioned extortion racket. Most distressing is that these abuses have been perpetrated by what is supposed to be a court of law. Disgraceful.

Defendants’ depositions present virtually undisputed evidence that criminal defendants appearing before the Harpersville Municipal Court have been subjected to repeated and ongoing violations of almost every safeguard afforded by the United States Constitution, the laws of the State of Alabama, and the Rules of Criminal Procedure. The admitted violations are so numerous as to defy a detailed chronicling in this short space.

Legal Schnauzer, Penn State Employees Feared They Would Be Fired If They Reported Sandusky's Abuse, Roger Shuler, July 13, 2012. Former FBI director Louis Freeh yesterday released his report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, and coverage has focused mainly on the role of iconic football coach Joe Paterno in an apparent cover up. Freeh's 267-page report concluded that the late Paterno and three high-ranking Penn State administrators tried to bury reports of child sexual abuse because they feared bad publicity for the university and its storied football program. The most telling part of the report, however, focuses on janitors who worked in and around Penn State locker-room and shower facilities. One of the janitors witnessed Sandusky's abuse of a child, but he and his coworkers feared they would be fired if they reported it. I know, from first-hand experience, that the janitors were justified in their fears. After all, I was fired from my job in the University of Alabama System for reporting on this blog about corruption in our state's "justice system."

July 12

CBS Sports, Institutional Control? Report Shows Tragic Result of Coach as King Culture, Bruce Feldman, July 12, 2012.  Speaking to the culture of the place and how the football program controlled the school, Freeh brought up a janitor who observed one of Sandusky's attacks. Freeh said the man told him it was the worst thing he ever saw: "This is a Korean War veteran who said, 'I've never seen anything like that. It makes me sick.' He spoke to the other janitors. They were alarmed and shocked by it. But what did they do? They said, 'We can't report this because we'll get fired.' They knew who Sandusky was. "They were afraid to take on the football program. They said the university would circle around it. It was like going against the President of the United States. If that's the culture on the bottom, God help the culture at the top."

CBS Sports, Let Freeh's Damning Report Ring--King Football Needs to Answer for Sins, Dodd, July 12, 2012.  King Football must die. It must die a painful and immediate death.  It must be hanged in the public square to show that now and forever King Football can't rule a sport, a school, a society. It is time. It is overdue. If you don't know that the culture has changed after the release of the Freeh Report on Thursday then you are blind to the toxic byproducts of the second-most popular spectator sport in our country.

Salon, Excuses for assassination secrecy, Glenn Greenwald, July 12, 2012. A high-level defender of Obama's drone secrecy says "it's not to cover up wrongdoing." Let's see if that's credible. In response to his widely discussed Esquire article entitled “The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama,” Tom Junod received a telephone call from someone he describes as “a person with intimate knowledge of the executive counter-terrorism policies of the Obama administration.” This unnamed person called Junod specifically to defend the administration’s refusal to provide any minimal transparency or even acknowledgment about these policies, even when drone attacks ordered by the President kill innocent American teenagers such as 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki. Response: The most basic truth of political power — and (therefore) the core precept of the American founding — is that power exercised in secret, without checks and accountability, will be inevitably abused: not sometimes or maybe abused, but inevitably, and not only when Bad People are in power, but always, even when it involves someone so deeply and profoundly magnanimous as Barack Obama.

Huffington Post, Mitt Romney's Own 2002 Testimony Undermines Bain Departure Claim, Ryan Grim, July 12, 2012. Obama Camp: He Either Lied To Voters – Or Committed A Felony... Romney Team Asks For Retraction, Gets Shot Down: 'Story Was Entirely Accurate'... Why Romney's Shadow Years Matter... Washington Elites Were Wrong.

Legal Schnauzer, Was Major Bashinsky the Target of Attempted Extortion Before He Died? Roger Shuler, July 12, 2012. Alabama lawyer Major Bashinsky killed himself because someone was about to "out" him as bisexual, according to a recent blog post by his older brother, Sloan Y. Bashinsky Jr.  This information, by itself, is not news. Sloan Bashsinky Jr. has written it several times on various blogs from his base in Key West, Florida. The most recent post, titled "Major Bashinsky Suicide Redoubt," was published on July 1 at GoodMorningBirmingham.com. That came 11 days after my post titled "Was Major Bashinsky's Death Connected to a Lawsuit Involving Oil and Millions of Dollars?"

Huffington Post, Mitt Romney's Bain Capital Exit Date Called Into Question By Filings, Luke Johnson, July 12, 2012. When did Mitt Romney leave Bain Capital? The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has said that he left the private equity firm in 1999, but new reports indicate that he may have stayed on until 2002. The Boston Globe reported Thursday on SEC filings dated after February 1999 that state that Romney is the firm's "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president." A 2003 Massachusetts disclosure form says that he owned 100 percent of the company in 2002, and forms indicate that he earned $100,000 as an "executive" in 2001 and 2002, apart from investments. A Romney official told the Globe that the SEC filings "do not square with common sense." "The article is not accurate," spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement sent to reporters. "As Bain Capital has said, as Governor Romney has said, and as has been confirmed by independent fact checkers multiple times, Governor Romney left Bain Capital in February of 1999 to run the Olympics and had no input on investments or management of companies after that point."

The Agonist, Kagan Health Care Vote Raises New Questions, Andrew Kreig via Michael Collins, July 12, 2012. Democratic Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan joined conservative justices June 28 to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Kagan, at left, joined the first ruling since the 1930s to void federal legislation for exceeding congressional power under the Commerce Clause. Her vote has largely escaped attention in the general media because a separate 5-4 majority, including her, upheld the law on the grounds that Congress could impose it as a "tax." But her decision has important long-term consequences for other federal legislation, especially controversial measures proposed by Democrats, if the Court returns to a theory conservatives used during the New Deal to thwart bills the justices did not approve.

July 11

Reflections of a Newsosaur, What’s next for newspapers? Alan D. Mutter, July 11, 2012. Not so very long ago, the newspaper business was a snap:  Build the largest possible audience, sell the most possible ads, charge the highest possible rates, print the fattest possible papers and pump out the biggest possible profits.  This enviable model worked exquisitely for generations, because publishers had little, if any competition.  But it is now clear, as attested by the 50% drop in newspaper advertising since 2005, that the old ways can no longer succeed.  So, most publishers – after arguably procrastinating far too long – are faced with choosing the best possible going-forward strategy for their mature, if not to say declining, businesses. They will be in good company. In the last few weeks, Warren Buffett, the Newhouse family and Rupert Murdoch each embarked on one of the three most likely paths available to newspaper publishers. Here's a quick way to think about the three approaches: Farm It.  Milk It. Feed it.

Huffington Post, Roseanne Barr and Legendary Concert Promoter Leonard Rowe Talk about Racism in Hollywood, Kathleen Wells, J.D., July 11, 2012. Kathleen Wells:  "On June 24, I co-hosted with Roseanne Barr on her show, heard each Sunday on KCAA radio. Our guest was legendary concert promoter and long-time friend and manager of Michael Jackson, Leonard Rowe, author of the new book, What Really Happened to Michael Jackson. Our subject: racism in Hollywood. Both Roseanne and I were shocked, but not surprised by the things we were hearing from Rowe."

July 9



Legal Schnauzer, Oil, Money, Politics, and the Death of a Prominent Alabama Lawyer, Roger Shuler, July 9, 2012.  According to the official finding, Alabama lawyer Major Bashinsky shot himself in the head and used duct tape and rope to create the appearance of murder. The Bashinsky family, at the time of Major's disappearance and death, had been embroiled in contentious litigation involving questions about the whereabouts of tens of millions of dollars. Our review of that lawsuit, which involved proceeds from investments in Oklahoma oil and gas wells, indicates the story behind Major Bashinsky's death might not be as clean and simple as officials want us to believe.  Styled the Estate of Sloan Y. Bashinsky Sr., et al v. W&H Investments, et al, the lawsuit sought an accounting of at least $37 million Major Bashinsky's father had invested with a firm that has ties to gambling, Republican Party politics, and Alabama's toxic political environment.

Birmingham News / Al.com, Don Siegelman wants decision denying him a new trial set aside, needs time to pursue another appeal angle, Kim Chandler, July 9, 2012. A lawyer for former Gov. Don Siegelman has asked a federal judge to set aside his decision denying the former governor's request for a new trial. Siegelman's lawyer Peter Sissman filed the request, saying he wants time to appeal a discovery request seeking documents related to the recusal of former U.S. Attorney Leura Canary. Sissman has been focused on allegations that Canary, whose husband is involved in Republican politics, maintained some involvement in the prosecution of Siegelman, a  Democrat, despite her public recusal. U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, who denied Siegelman's request for a new trial, has scheduled a resentencing hearing for Siegelman on Aug. 3. A magistrate judge on June 27 denied defense discovery requests. Sissman said he had 14 days to appeal that decision.

WBRC (Birmingham), Siegelman attorney files motion to set aside new trial denial, Staff report, July 9, 2012.  The attorney for former Alabama governor Don Siegelman has filed a motion to set aside U.S. Judge Mark Fuller's denial of a new trial. The motion says the defense would like to seek more documents and information on U.S. Attorney Leura Canary. Canary recused herself from Siegelman's trial, but the defense says she was still involved to a degree. Judge Fuller had denied Siegelman's latest appeal on the grounds that it was almost identical to the appeal made by co-defendant Richard Scrushy.

July 8

New York Times, More Demands on Cell Carriers in Surveillance, Eric Lichtblau, July 8, 2012. In the first public accounting of its kind, cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course of investigations. The cellphone carriers’ reports, which come in response to a Congressional inquiry, document an explosion in cellphone surveillance in the last five years, with the companies turning over records thousands of times a day in response to police emergencies, court orders, law enforcement subpoenas and other requests.

July 7

Politico, Justice Elena Kagan: Overlooked turncoat on health care law? Josh Gerstein, July 7, 2012. In the landmark health care decision last Thursday, a Supreme Court justice broke with that justice's political roots, snubbed the justice's ideological fellow travelers on the court and confounded critics who had predicted the opposite outcome.  I refer, of course, to Justice Elena Kagan.

Salon, Kagan’s Medicaid vote, Glenn Greenwald, July 7, 2012. The Obama Court appointee once again sides with the right-wing faction in an important ruling. During the debate over Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination, those of us who opposed her selection argued that there was a substantial risk that she would join with the Court’s four right-wing Justices more often than her predecessor, John Paul Stevens, did, and more often than other potential nominees (such as Diane Wood) would, and thus have the effect of actually moving the Court to the right (using “left” and “right” here in its conventional sense). The argument was not that she would be a Scalia clone; it was that her deliberate lack of a public record on judicial philosophy, combined with the isolated glimpses into her worldview that were available, made this an unnecessarily risky choice to replace Stevens, who had become the leader of the “liberal” bloc. The Supreme Court’s health care ruling two weeks ago provides perhaps the most potent example yet justifying these concerns about Kagan.

July 5

Brendan SullivanWashington Post, No justice for ‘reckless’ prosecutors, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., right, July 5, 2012. In late May, the Justice Department finally completed its three-year investigation of the miscreant prosecutors who obtained an illegal verdict against Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008. That verdict caused the Alaska Republican to lose his reelection bid and changed the balance of power in the Senate. The department’s actions in this matter have fallen too far short. The underlying misconduct represents a shameful chapter in the Justice Department’s history. But the department’s failure to punish wrongdoers makes the scandal worse, and the failure makes a mockery of the attorney general’s effort to establish a standard of propriety that the goal of prosecutors is to do justice, not to win at all costs. The department has said that such misconduct happens only rarely. But most times the defense does not find out when prosecutors hold back exculpatory evidence. The Innocence Project has shown in recent years that there is widespread injustice in our system and many wrongful convictions. It is hard to catch a wrongdoer prosecutor. When we do, the punishment must fit the crime. The Justice Department’s failure to adequately punish is unbecoming to the department and unfair to the thousands of honest prosecutors who do follow the law. If we don’t learn from these mistakes, we are doomed to repeat this miscarriage of justice. And if this can happen to a U.S. senator in a Washington, D.C., courtroom, it can happen to anyone, anywhere in America.

Washington Post, Destroying the soul, Colin Dayan, July 5, 2012. Colin Dayan is Robert Penn Warren professor in the humanities at Vanderbilt University and the author of “The Law Is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons.”  We as a nation are guilty of the most horrific treatment of prisoners in the civilized world. In March, 400 prisoners in California’s Security Housing Units, as well as a number of prisoners’ rights organizations, petitioned the United Nations asking for help. Since then, the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison who have each spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement . A class-action suit in Arizona challenges inadequate medical and mental health care that subjects prisoners to injury, amputation, disfigurement and death — especially in prolonged solitary confinement. Supermax detention is the harshest weapon in the U.S. punitive armory. Once, solitary confinement affected few prisoners for relatively short periods. Today, most prisoners can expect to face solitary, for longer periods and under conditions that make old-time solitary seem almost attractive. The contemporary state-of-the-art supermax is a clean, well-lighted place. There is no decay or dirt. And there is often no way out.

Legal Schnauzer, Jerry Sandusky Case Unmasks Morally Bankrupt "Leaders" in Higher Education, Roger Shuler, July 5, 2012.  The second chapter of the Jerry Sandusky scandal is about to be written, and it looks like it will be radically different from the first.  Chapter 1 focused on Sandusky and the boys he sexually abused, during and after his tenure as an assistant football coach at Penn State. Chapter 2, it appears, will focus on the university leaders who had information about Sandusky's crimes and chose not to report it to the proper authorities.  This kind of moral lapse among those who lead an institution of higher learning might be shocking to the public. But I worked in a university setting for almost 20 years, and it does not shock me in the least. Ironically, my experience was at one of Penn State's regular football rivals--the University of Alabama. I witnessed moral decay in the UA System that, while not as dramatic as what we now are seeing at Penn State, certainly rivals it in severity and scope.

Media Nation, Exposing the “‘pink slime’ journalism” of Journatic, Dan Kennedy, July 5, 2012. If you care about local news, then you must listen to a report on “This American Life,” broadcast last weekend, that exposes a scandal whose importance can’t be overstated. The story is about a company called Journatic, which produces local content for newspapers using grossly underpaid, out-of-town reporters — including cheap Filipino workers who write articles under fake bylines. And how great is it that “This American Life,” damaged earlier this year when it was victimized by fake journalism, has now exposed fake journalism elsewhere? Here is the Chicago Tribune — a major Journatic client — lecturing “TAL” on journalism ethics earlier this year. After you listen, be sure to read the detailed back story, written by Anna Tarkov for Poynter.org.

Chicago Tribune, Tribune investigating ethics policy violation by content provider Journatic; Company that provides content for TribLocal used false bylines, Robert Channick, July 1, 2012.  A national radio report this weekend revealing that hyperlocal content provider Journatic used false bylines in several stories that ran in TribLocal online has prompted an investigation by the Chicago Tribune. Journatic, brought in to run part of the Tribune's community news operation, has acknowledged its mistake and said it would discontinue the practice. "This American Life," which is produced by Chicago public radio station WBEZ-FM, included a 23-minute segment focusing on Journatic's use of low-paid Filipino freelancers to cull and format information for stories, some of which were published under aliases.  In interviews this weekend with the Tribune, Journatic co-founder and CEO Brian Timpone said altered bylines were commonly used for its Blockshopper.com real estate stories, a separate enterprise from its newspaper content service.

Guardian (United Kingdom), HBO kills plan to adapt Roger Ailes biography into a movie about Fox News, Adam Gabbatt, July 5, 2012.  TV presenters from rival MSNBC were among the executive producers ? but HBO announces the plan is dead just hours after it was first revealed. Just a day after it was first reported, HBO has killed a plan to adapt a forthcoming book about Fox News president Roger Ailes into a movie. Deadline's Nikki Finke, who broke the story, reveals she has received an email from HBO, citing its affiliation with CNN as the reason. Finke speculates that her report on the hush-hush project may also have been a factor. Anyway, it didn't last long.

Forbes, Justice Roberts and the Commerce Clause: Did He Open a New Path for an Activist Congress? Veta T. Richardson, the president and chief executive officer of the Association of Corporate Counsel, July 5, 2012.  In the days since the Supreme Court handed down its health care decision, at the end of June, people have started to focus on what the ruling means for other federal laws. Some commentators, on both sides of the political spectrum, suspect that the Supreme Court might use its reasoning to strike down a wide range of statutes that Congress has passed. I think that sort of thinking isn’t fair to Chief Justice John Roberts.  In fact, I think that the chief justice’s opinion might spell out what Congress needs to do to avoid problems in the future. Just read the language that the chief justice used. He wrote that the Constitution’s “power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated.” He continues that “it is nearly impossible to avoid the word”—activity—”when quoting them.” And the President’s health care law? It can’t pass muster under that standard, because it would regulate “individuals precisely because they are doing nothing.”

Salon, Two-tiered justice, Glenn Greenwald, July 5, 2012. The paperback version of my last book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, was released yesterday. The themes and arguments in it continue to be central to much of what I write. In fact, so many of the new stories on which I’ve focused since the book’s publication are pure expressions of the two-tiered justice system which the book examines. Here are several interviews and appearances I’ve done in the past several days concerning the book [including] a10 minute interview I did last night with Alyona Minkovski, who is really a superb interviewer, on the American Surveillance State.


July 3

Patrick FitzgeraldDick Cheney

July 3


Huffington Post, Patrick Fitzgerald's Legacy: Letting Rove And Cheney Go, Dan Froomkin, July 3, 2012. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s prosecution of former CIA officer John Kiriakou for talking to journalists about the Bush/Cheney torture program has at least one thing in common with his conviction of I. Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby in 2007. In both cases, Fitzgerald, left, went for the little fish. But the big fish got away. (See related story on the Kiriakou case.)  In the Plame case, Fitzgerald prosecuted Libby, then-vice president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, for perjury and obstruction of justice related to the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as a covert CIA operative. But he stopped short of charging Cheney or top presidential adviser Karl Rove -- both of whom had been targets of his investigation. Fitzgerald was appointed as a special prosecutor in late 2003 to investigate the July 2003 leak of Plame’s identity, which came during a White House effort to discredit her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson. Wilson was trying to expose how the administration had twisted intelligence to make its case for the war in Iraq, launched a few months earlier, and the White House was desperate to prevent that narrative from establishing itself before the 2004 elections.  The evidence that came out at trial clearly established that Cheney was the first person to tell Libby about Plame’s identity and that Cheney wrote talking points that likely prompted Libby and others to raise Plame’s role with reporters.

Salon / Huffington Post, Roberts wrote both Obamacare opinions, Paul Campos, July 3, 2012. This weekend CBS News’ Jan Crawford reported that Chief Justice John Roberts switched his vote in regard to upholding the bulk of the Affordable Care Act. Crawford reports that Roberts voted with the rest of the court’s conservatives to strike down the individual mandate, but in the course of drafting his opinion changed his mind, and ended up siding with the court’s four liberals to uphold almost all of the law.  It’s notable that Crawford’s sources insist on the claim that the joint dissent was authored specifically in response to Roberts’ majority opinion, without any participation from him at any point in the drafting process that created it. It would, after all, be fairly preposterous for the four dissenters to jointly “author” an opinion that was in large part written originally by the author of the majority opinion to which the joint dissenters were now so flamboyantly objecting. Yet that, I am told by a source within the court with direct knowledge of the drafting process, is exactly what happened. My source insists that “most of the material in the first three quarters of the joint dissent was drafted in Chief Justice Roberts’ chambers in April and May.” Only the last portion of what eventually became the joint dissent was drafted without any participation by the chief justice. This source insists that the claim that the joint dissent was drafted from scratch in June is flatly untrue. Furthermore, the source characterizes claims by Crawford’s sources that “the fact that the joint dissent doesn’t mention [sic] Roberts’ majority …  was a signal the conservatives no longer wished to engage in debate with him” as “pure propagandistic spin,” meant to explain away the awkward fact that while the first 46 pages of the joint dissent never even mention Roberts’ opinion for the court (this is surely the first time in the court’s history that a dissent has gone on for 13,000 words before getting around to mentioning that it is, in fact, dissenting), the last 19 pages do so repeatedly.

SCOTUSBlog, Tuesday Round-Up, Nabiha Syed July 3, 2012. Coverage of and commentary on the Court continue to parse Thursday’s landmark ruling in the Affordable Care Act litigation. Much of the coverage and commentary focuses on the Chief Justice’s vote and reactions thereto.  At Politico, Jennifer Haberkorn and Darren Samuelsohn describe conservatives as “seeing red” after Sunday’s story by Jan Crawford of CBS News reporting that the Chief Justice switched his opinion to uphold the mandate. The Atlantic Wire and Reason also report on this “anger” and “fury,” while Noah Feldman at Bloomberg View, Laurence Tribe at PBS, Robert Barnes of The Washington Post, William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, Ilya Shapiro of Cato@Liberty, Adam Liptak of The New York Times, and Mark Sherman of the Associated Press all discuss the Chief Justice’s vote.  And at Slate, Barry Friedman and Dahlia Lithwick dispute accusations that the Chief Justice acted politically, arguing that “on a nation’s high court, in which legal precedents rarely decide cases, what one calls law and what goes in the vernacular by politics often come together.” Other coverage and commentary focus on the text of the health care decision and its implications for conservative ideology. At the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin suggests a “simple solution” for resolving questions over whether the Court’s Commerce Clause conclusions are part of the holding or dictum: “just look at what the Court itself said the holding was.” Deborah Pearlstein of Balkinization explains that she has “a hard time seeing the decision as quite so necessarily damaging on its own to the future power of the feds,” while Steven Schwinn of Constitutional Law Prof Blog contends that the decision’s net effect on the Necessary and Proper Clause was “[v]ery little.”  Forbes provides a basic explanation of the decision, while Roger Pilon of Cato@Liberty finds the “silver lining” in the decision.  Writing for Salon, Andrew Koppelman sums up the decision: “What is really at war here is different conceptions of individual liberty.”

FireDogLake, Probation as a Revenue Scheme for Cash-Strapped States, David Dayen, July 3, 2012.  If you liked for-profit prisons pushing tougher sentencing and leading to a sharp increase in the warehousing of US citizens, then you’ll love for-profit probation: Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked.  When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed — charged an additional fee for each day behind bars.  For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that “two can dine for $5.99,” is not about innocence.   It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system. The result is that growing numbers of poor people, like Ms. Ray, are ending up jailed and in debt for minor infractions.

Chicago Tribune, Tribune investigating ethics policy violation by content provider Journatic; Company that provides content for TribLocal used false bylines, Robert Channick, July 1, 2012.  A national radio report this weekend revealing that hyperlocal content provider Journatic used false bylines in several stories that ran in TribLocal online has prompted an investigation by the Chicago Tribune. Journatic, brought in to run part of the Tribune's community news operation, has acknowledged its mistake and said it would discontinue the practice.  "This American Life," which is produced by Chicago public radio station WBEZ-FM, included a 23-minute segment focusing on Journatic's use of low-paid Filipino freelancers to cull and format information for stories, some of which were published under aliases.  In interviews this weekend with the Tribune, Journatic co-founder and CEO Brian Timpone said altered bylines were commonly used for its Blockshopper.com real estate stories, a separate enterprise from its newspaper content service.

CBS News, Roberts switched views to uphold health care law, Jan Crawford, July 1, 2012. Chief Justice John Roberts initially sided with the Supreme Court's four conservative justices to strike down the heart of President Obama's health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, but later changed his position and formed an alliance with liberals to uphold the bulk of the law, according to two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations. Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy - believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law - led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold. "He was relentless," one source said of Kennedy's efforts. "He was very engaged in this." But this time, Roberts held firm. And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, "You're on your own." The conservatives refused to join any aspect of his opinion, including sections with which they

Vanity Fair, Where the Money Lives, Nicoholas Shaxson, August, 2012. For all Mitt Romney’s touting of his business record, when it comes to his own money the Republican nominee is remarkably shy about disclosing numbers and investments. Nicholas Shaxson delves into the murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws, and investigating just how much of Romney’s fortune (with $30 million in Bain Capital funds in the Cayman Islands alone?) looks pretty strange for a presidential candidate.

July 2

OpEd News, Trans Pacific Partnership: Corporate Escape From Accountability, Paul Craig Roberts, July 2, 2012. Information has been leaked about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is being negotiated in secret by US Trade Representative Ron Kirk. Six hundred corporate "advisors" are in on the know, but not Congress or the media. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate trade subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the TPP, has not been permitted to see the text or to know the content. The TPP has been called a "one-percenter" power tool. The agreement essentially abolishes the accountability of foreign corporations to governments of countries with which they trade. Indeed, the agreement makes governments accountable to corporations for costs imposed by regulations, including health, safety and environmental regulations. The agreement gives corporations the right to make governments pay them for the cost of complying with the regulations of government. One wonders how long environmental, labor, and financial regulation can survive when the costs of compliance are imposed on the taxpayers of countries and not on the economic activity that results in spillover effects such as pollution.

Mother Jones, The Dog That Voted and Other Election Fraud Yarns: The GOP's 10-year campaign to gin up voter fraud hysteria—and bring back Jim Crow at the ballot box, Kevin Drum, July / August, 2012. What's the problem with cracking down on voter fraud? And why shouldn't voters be required to show photo ID? If you need ID to cash a check or buy a six-pack, why not to vote? The answer—surprising to many—is straightforward: Not everyone has, or can easily get, a photo ID. Among blacks, the young, and the poor—all of whom vote for Democrats at high rates—the rate was about 80 percent. Overall, 91 percent of registered Republicans had some form of photo ID, compared to only 83 percent of registered Democrats. Still, Republicans argue, anyone can obtain a photo ID with a modest amount of effort if they really want to vote. And isn't this small amount of inconvenience worth it in order to crack down on fraud? Sure—but first there needs to be some actual fraud to crack down on. And that turns out to be remarkably elusive. That's not to say that there's none at all. In a country of 300 million you'll find a bit of almost anything. But multiple studies taking different approaches have all come to the same conclusion: The rate of voter fraud in American elections is close to zero. In her 2010 book, The Myth of Voter Fraud, Lorraine Minnite tracked down every single case brought by the Justice Department between 1996 and 2005 and found that the number of defendants had increased by roughly 1,000 percent under Ashcroft. But that only represents an increase from about six defendants per year to 60, and only a fraction of those were ever convicted of anything. A New York Times investigation in 2007 concluded that only 86 people had been convicted of voter fraud during the previous five years. Many of those appear to have simply made mistakes on registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, and more than 30 of the rest were penny-ante vote-buying schemes in local races for judge or sheriff. The investigation found virtually no evidence of any organized efforts to skew elections at the federal level.

Legal Schnauzer, How Much Sleaze Will Be Unearthed In Investigation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? Roger Shuler, July 2, 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold most of the Obama health-care law was by far the most-watched story of last week. But a story that might prove to be more important in the long run quietly unfolded in Albany, New York.  It could wind up shining light on organizations and individuals who have befouled the political environment here in Alabama. Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, launched an investigation of tax-exempt groups that are heavily involved in political campaigns. A case involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and its high-profile director Tom Donohue, is a focal point of the probe. It might also examine groups led by the billionaire Koch brothers and Republican strategist Karl Rove.

Salon, Dianne Feinstein targets press freedom, Glenn Greenwald, July 2, 2012. The California Democrat, long a prime defender of the Surveillance State, renews her assault on the First Amendment. The supreme Senate defender of state secrecy and the Surveillance State, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, yesterday issued a statement to Australia’s largest newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, demanding (once again) the prosecution of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. To see how hostile Feinstein is to basic press freedoms, permit me to change “Assange” each time it appears in her statement to the "New York Times":

The head of the US Senate’s powerful intelligence oversight committee has renewed calls for [The New York Times] to be prosecuted for espionage. . . .I believe [The New York Times] has knowingly obtained and disseminated classified information which could cause injury to the United States,” the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein, said in a written statement provided to the Herald. ”[It] has caused serious harm to US national security, and [] should be prosecuted accordingly."

As [Electronic Frontier Foundation's] Trevor Timm noted, there is no sense in which Feinstein’s denunciation applies to WikiLeaks but not to The New York Times (and, for that matter, senior Obama officials). Indeed, unlike WikiLeaks, which has never done so, The New York Times has repeatedly published Top Secret information. That’s why the prosecution that Feinstein demands for WikiLeaks would be the gravest threat to press freedom and basic transparency in decades. Feinstein’s decades-long record in the Senate strongly suggest that she would perceive these severe threats to press freedom as a benefit rather than drawback to her prosecution designs.

SCOTUSblog, Radical opinions, modest result, Charles Fried, July 2, 2012. The fact is that not since 1937 has the Court turned down the use of the Commerce Clause as a basis for Congressional intervention in a major national economic concern — which of course neither the Gun-Free School Zones Act nor the Violence Against Women Act were.  Activity / inactivity is a new basis for limitation and has no anchor in our jurisprudence.  hat is why Roberts’s opinion was not conservative but radical.  I have my doubts about the political and economic virtues of the ACA, but am appalled at this radically reactionary new doctrine. And as for the reversion to Butler and pre-1937 Spending Clause jurisprudence, the practical effects may be profound and all bad.  It is even bad contract law.

MSNBC Lean Forward, Just when did Romney leave Bain? Report on medical waste firm raises fresh questions, Zaid A. Jilani, July 2, 2012. Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney, invested in a medical waste firm called Stericycle that was involved in disposing of aborted fetuses, according to a report today by Mother Jones. And documents from the time described Romney as an active participant in the deal. Bain's involvement with the Stericycle was first reported earlier this year by the Huffington Post. At the time, the Romney campaign deflected the story by claiming that the candidate had left Bain in February 1999 before the deal went down. But the S.E.C. documents unearthed by Mother Jones's David Corn raise questions about that explanation. They date from November 1999, and say Romney "may be deemed to share voting and dispositive power with respect to" the shares in Stericycle. As Corn wrote, the documents suggest "Romney still played a role in Bain investments until at least the end of 1999."  As Corn noted on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell Monday, the report's implications go beyond the Stericycle issue. That's because on several occasions, Romney has claimed he has no responsibility for actions taken by Bain after he left the company, giving that February 1999 date as his date of departure. So the documents raise questions about just when Romney stopped playing an active role in Bain's decisions.

July 1

Huffington Post, John Roberts Health Care Decision: Supreme Court Chief Justice Switched Sides, Sources Say, Chris Gentilviso July 1, 2012. Fresh evidence has surfaced regarding suspicions that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts switched his vote on health care reform. CBS News reports that Roberts initially sided with the court's four conservative members to overturn President Barack Obama's individual mandate. After changing his mind, Roberts fended off a month of efforts to sway him back to the other side, headed by Justice Anthony Kennedy. "He was relentless," a source told CBS regarding Kennedy's push. "He was very engaged in this." In addition to private jostling within the Supreme Court, it appears that the public spotlight was a factor. The CBS report points to how Roberts pays attention to media coverage. With his court's reputation on the line, one source suggested that the chief justice became "wobbly" in the eyes of his conservative counterparts.

Huffington Post, Rupert Murdoch: 'Doubtful' That Romney Will Beat Obama In 2012 Election, Alana Horowitz, July 1, 2012. Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter on Sunday to weigh in the U.S. presidential election. "Met Romney last week. Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful," he wrote. He added: "US election is referendum on Obama, all else pretty minor." This is just the latest in a series of anti-Romney tweets. Last week, the News Corp CEO wrote that Romney "Seems to play everything safe, make no news except burn off Hispanics." Murdoch's criticism may come as a surprise to those who watch and follow right-leaning Fox News (which Murdoch owns.) The network has offered generally positive coverage of the GOP candidate. Earlier this year, Romney told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that Fox has given his campaign "good, fair play." Even Newt Gingrich complained that "Fox has been for Romney all the way through."  Murdoch also sounded off on the news that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are divorcing. "Scientology back in news. Very weird cult, but big, big money involved with Tom Cruise either number two or three in hiearchy," he said. "Watch Katie Holmes and Scientology story develop. Something creepy, maybe even evil, about these people."