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Longwood Gardens.  February, 2013.  Photo by: joanneleon



'Ring of Fire' by Lennon and Maisy Stella (Johnny Cash cover)







News & Opinion


The President and the Hunger Strike

President Obama said a lot of important things on Tuesday about the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It is a blight on the nation’s reputation. It mocks American standards of justice by keeping people imprisoned without charges. It has actually hindered the prosecution and imprisonment of dangerous terrorists. Even if Guantánamo seemed justified to some people in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, those justifications are wearing thin. It is unsustainable and should be closed.
[...]
If he is serious about moving toward closure, there are two steps proposed by the American Civil Liberties Union that could get the ball rolling. He could appoint a senior official “so that the administration’s Guantánamo closure policy is directed by the White House and not by Pentagon bureaucrats,” the A.C.L.U. said, and he could order Mr. Hagel to start providing legally required waivers to transfer detainees who have been cleared. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has urged Mr. Obama to urgently review the status of those prisoners — a primary issue for the hunger strikers.

The hunger strike is an act of desperation over policies even Mr. Obama says cannot be defended. It is his responsibility to deal with it — and close the prison.

Wow. I had missed this yesterday.  What a tragedy.  I can't help but wonder what happened.
Guantanamo attorney dead in apparent suicide

The body of Andy P. Hart, a 38-year-old US federal public defender, was found last week with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to Truthout, an investigative blog, news of the attorney’s death came only this Wednesday from an investigator working on Guantanamo detainees’ habeas corpus petitions. That investigator requested anonymity.

According to court documents, Hart had previously represented Kahlid Saad Mohammed, a 39-year-old Guantanamo detainee from Saudi Arabia who was transferred back to his home country in 2009 after being identified as having only “low-level” terrorist affiliation.

Perhaps most notably, Hart was assigned to defend Mohammed Rahim al-Afghani, one of 16 detainees at Guantanamo which the US government has designated as “high-value.” Al-Afghani, thought to be Osama bin Laden’s translator, was detained by the CIA and allegedly tortured prior to his arrival in Cuba in 2008.

Guantanamo Attorney Found Dead in Apparent Suicide

In addition to defending Guantanamo prisoners, Hart also was the defense attorney for Richard Schmidt, an alleged white supremacist and convicted felon who was under federal investigation over allegations he amassed high-powered weapons and ammunition.

In 2011, Hart was assigned to represent Jeff Boyd Levenderis, 54, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on suspicion of concealing a biological toxin, ricin, and making false statements to federal investigators. Hart was also co-defense counsel for Joshua Stafford, 23, one of five men associated with Occupy Cleveland who were accused of plotting to blow up the Ohio 82 bridge over the Cuyahoga River with fake explosives supplied by an undercover FBI agent. Stafford is due to stand trial in June. It's unclear if Hart's death will have any impact on Stafford's prosecution.

Recently, it was announced Hart's entire office would face furloughs as part of the sequestration.

Really important report.  IMHO, we should grab onto this, expand upon it, spread it far and wide until as many people as possible know about it and understand the main details.  Like the Rogoff and Reinhart debunking, this is not something I plan to talk about once and then move on.  There should be a spotlight on the Fix the Debt crew all the time.  Good for Campaign for America's Future for giving us this report to work with.
"Fix the Debt" CEOs Enjoy Taxpayer-Subsidized Pay
A new report by IPS and Campaign for America's Future shows that America’s top CEOs are pocketing massive taxpayer subsidies at the same time they’re pushing austerity cutbacks in government programs that benefit ordinary citizens.

REPORT KEY FINDINGS

Thanks to a “performance pay” tax loophole, large corporations in the United States today are routinely deducting enormous executive payouts from their income taxes. In effect, these companies are exploiting the U.S. tax code to send taxpayers the bill for the huge rewards they’re doling out to their top executives.

- During the three-year period 2009-2011, the 90 publicly held corporate members of the austerity-focused “Fix the Debt” lobby group shoveled out $6.3 billion in pay to their CEOs and next three highest-paid executives.[i]

- These 90 Fix the Debt member firms raked in at least $953 million — and as much as $1.6 billion — from the “performance pay” loophole between 2009-2011. The exact full value of corporate windfalls from this loophole will remain impossible to compute until we have more complete mandated disclosure for executive compensation.

- Top executives at these same Fix the Debt companies are aggressively advocating cuts to government programs that benefit the ordinary American taxpayers subsidizing their compensation. Many of these executives have also added to America’s debt and deficit by using tax havens and other accounting tricks to have their corporations avoid paying their fair tax share.[ii]

Some of our fellow "progressives" mock us for our views about moving toward a police state.  That is a very short-sighted, trusting and foolish stance, at best, and you can be sure that they will expect to be treated with more respect and empathy than they have shown anyone else when it's their turn and they've been roughed up or treated unfairly by zealous law enforcement. All of the above, in my opinion only, of course.
This May Day in Berlin: 7,000 Imported Police, With Marching Routes Exposed

May Day was no longer just about unions. Over the years, the demonstrations became a reflection of the political conflicts facing Europeans at the time. From mottos like “No liberation without revolution” in the 1980s, to “End the crisis, abolish capitalism” in the late 2000s, the fevered pitch of Berlin's leftists became a May Day institution.
In 2001, when Berlin's conservative government tried to ban the protest, it only strengthened protesters' commitment to demonstrate -- whether the city deemed it legal or not. This made bringing riot police from other parts of Germany to Berlin a necessity, and heaped unwanted attention on local police who were forced to handle the chaos.
This year, the city government brought in an estimated 7,000 auxiliary officials from across Germany to aid in controlling the action.

A young Yemeni writer on the impact and morality of drone-bombing his country
The 24-year-old Ibrahim Mothana speaks eloquently and insightfully about what the US is doing to his country. We should listen

[...] Ibrahim was invited to travel to Washington to testify before a Senate sub-committee which met last week to examine the legality and wisdom of Obama's drone program. He was unable to attend, so one of his friends, Farea al-Muslimi, testified instead, and was eloquent and powerful.

But Ibrahim prepared what would have been his opening remarks to the Committee and has sent them to me (the Committee has also agreed to publish them in the Congressional Record). I'm publishing them here in full because they are remarkably insightful and poignant, and because Americans hear far too little from the people in the countries which their government continues to bomb, attack, and otherwise interfere in. I really hope as many people as possible will take the time to read his words:

Many young people like me grew up looking to America and its people for inspiration. Among many other things my teenage years were enriched by Carl Sagan's Cosmos, Martin Luther King Junior's speeches, Mark Twain's sarcasm and American TV shows. The promise of equality and freedom seemed fulfilled when America elected its first black president. With an upsurge of happiness, many Yemenis celebrated the inauguration day and, at that point, President Obama was more popular among my friends than any other Yemeni figure. I was inspired by President Obama's promise of "a new era of leadership that will bring back America's credibility on human rights Issues and reject prioritizing safety to ideals."

But happiness and inspiration gave way to misery. My admiration for the American dream and Obama's promises has become overshadowed by the reality of the American drones strike nightmare in Yemen.

[...]

Animosity has been heightened by the US use of so-called "signature strikes" that target military-age males and groups by secret, remote analysis of lifestyle patterns. In Yemen, we fear that the signature strike approach allows the Obama administration to falsely claim that civilian casualties are non-existent. In the eye of a signature strike, it could be that someone innocent like me is seen as a militant until proven otherwise. How can a dead person prove his innocence? For the many labeled as militants when they are killed, it's difficult to verify if they really were active members of groups like AQAP, let alone whether they deserved to die.

Some details are coming out about how the friends allegedly helped cover up the role of Dzhokhar in the bombing.  There are also issues with expired student visas, so there were hearings in both immigration court and criminal court.
Portrait emerges of immigrants in a burgeoning friendship with bombing suspect

The nature of that friendship came under sharp scrutiny Wednesday in Boston, where the men faced charges in two federal courtrooms, first in immigration court, where they had an initial hearing on possible deportation to their native Kazakhstan in Central Asia. Then in the afternoon, federal officials charged the roommates and a third man, a US citizen from Cambridge, with helping cover up their friend’s alleged role in the Boston Marathon bombings.
[...]
Lawyers said the Kazakh men were engineering majors whose extremely low grades were endangering their student visas. Kadyrbayev was expelled after the fall semester because of low grades, a university official said.

One of Tazhayakov’s lawyers said in immigration court Wednesday that Tazhayakov was reinstated after switching his major to economics.

“It’s a simple student violation” of their visas, said Linda Cristello, a Boston immigration lawyer, after the initial hearings in immigration court.
[...]
Two months before the bombings, Tsarnaev, Tazhayakov, and others gathered on the banks of the Charles River and ignited fireworks. One month before the bombing, court records show, Tsarnaev confided in the men over dinner that he knew how to make a bomb.

So it looks like all of them are 19-years old.  The government handed out a photo of the fireworks evidence, and it's at the top of this article.
Two Kazakh men, Cambridge man, face charges in disposal of backpack owned by Boston Marathon bombing suspect

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both 19 and of New Bedford, were charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice by plotting to dispose of a laptop computer and a backpack containing fireworks belonging to bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the US attorney’s office said in a statement.
[...]
The trio told investigators that Kadyrbaev removed Tsarnaev’s backpack, which contained fireworks that had been opened and emptied of gunpowder, from Tsarnaev’s dorm room on the evening of April 18, shortly after the FBI released photos of the two bombing suspects (which the FBI later identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan), according to an affidavit by Special Agent Scott Cieplik attached to the complaint.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov both admitted they agreed to throw away the backpack after concluding from news reports that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev must be one of the bombers. Kadyrbayev decided to remove the backpack from Tsarnaev’s room “to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble,” the affidavit said.

Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge was charged with making false statements to law enforcement officials in a terrorism investigation, prosecutors said.

More Boston Bombing Arrests: What We Know About the Three New Suspects

4:40 p.m.: Lawyers for two of the newest suspects maintained that their clients did not know about the Boston bombing plans in a televised statement outside the courtroom Wednesday. Robert Stahl, who is representing Dias Kadyrbayev, said that his client is “very sorry for what happened here in Boston and he had nothing to do with it.” Kadyrbayev is accused of obstruction of justice after throwing away evidence from suspected bomber Tsarnaev’s dorm room. But Kadyrbayev’s lawyer says his client “did not know those items were involved in the bombing.” Similarly, lawyer Harlan J. Protass said his client, Azamat Tazhayakov, felt “horrible” and was “shocked” to learn that someone he knew is suspected of carrying out the bombings. “He looks forward to the truth coming out,” Protass added, “and he considers it an honor to study in the United States.”

If you follow the supposedly leading voices in the so called progressive blogosphere, you'll know that various people do battle with Yglesias from time to time.  Yglesias is painted as a voice on the left in the media. Putting aside the sorry state of the progressive movement, it looks like Yglesias really stepped in it this time and was called out for it, and in the case of Gaius here from Americablog, kicked out of the progressive camp, to the extent that anyone can do that.  Personally, I think it's just one more example of the pathetic state of a movement that, we've seen in stark relief for the past few years, is in shambles because its principles, if there ever were any, are long gone, scattered along the road to the White House.  You'll need to read the whole article to see what happened and Yglesias' pathetic comments that brought this on, but keep in mind that there's a long history too.
Matt Yglesias resigns from the presumed-progressive community — with prejudice

Our Barons and Betters are monsters, monomaniacs, slaves to hubris and greed, bringers of death and pain. Our Betters send men to Iraq. They force children into factories in China and women into slave-work in the Marianas. They employ death squads to murder union leaders in Colombia. They would roll across your body with a truck if there was a dollar in it for them and immunity from prosecution.

The actual left never wanted our Barons to begin with, but I don’t think we’ll be grouping Yglesias with that left again. Me, I have him in a different group.



Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


The Evening Blues
Obama in a web of deceit - is he a predator or the prey?
http://www.dailykos.com/...
http://www.dailykos.com/...
Attempts to March for Democracy and Rights Met with Massive Police Counter Measures
How We Can Help President Obama Fulfill His Pledge to Close Guantanamo

Lennon and Maisy Stella - "Ho Hey" (by The Lumineers) Live at the Grand Ole Opry

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