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News & Opinion

After days of inspiring and peaceful protests against the Zimmerman verdict, a relatively small group (I heard numbers of ~150 and also numbers of a "couple dozen") broke away and wreaked havoc.  Some are claiming on Twitter that the treatment by the LAPD sparked this, but the video tells a different story which looks a lot more like a rogue group of protesters out of control.  While the media and the LAPD, surprisingly, are stressing that these protesters are an exception to the rule and stressing that the protests have been otherwise peaceful, you have to wonder if this is going to undermine the Trayvon protest movement altogether, and this kind of thing hurts all peaceful protests, especially the fact that they are assaulting passers by, which brings back horrific memories of the riots in the early 1990's.   It also gives the police and Homeland Security reasons to clamp down more and perhaps to use more force.  

I watched the LAPD press conference last night.  Now mind you, this is the police department that just the night before was shooting protesters with rubber bullets and the optics of that were terrible for LAPD, plus obviously, they have a history.  But this gave them the opportunity to change the optics entirely. They did a really good job of presenting themselves as compassionate and supportive of first amendment rights last night, despite the reality on the ground the night before.  So gee, thanks a lot, rogue protesters, whoever you are for really f'ing this up.  I suppose there could have been provocateurs involved.  If there were, they did a good job of hiding it.  

Los Angeles Protesters "Assaulting Passers By And Destroying Private Property"

Putin is playing his cards well.  Unlike a lot of others, I don't think Putin is enjoying this very much or that the Russians schemed to get control of Snowden, etc., and to bring him into their backyard.  I don't doubt that there is some schaudenfreude and opportunism and some intel games playing, but I think he wants to get Snowden out of his hair ASAP. He's got a country with booming industry and is part of the BRICS countries on the rise and enough problems of his own, and I also doubt that these NSA revelations are breaking news to him and his intel apparatus (though some of it might be).  But it's a convenient and old familiar Cold war meme for our intel operatives to work with.
Putin Blames U.S. For Edward Snowden Being Stuck In Moscow Airport

This is important analysis by Jim White at emptywheel.
Shaker Aamer: “Guards Using Ramadan to Massage Numbers” on Gitmo Hunger Strike

Isn’t that interesting? We have flip sides of the same story. Savage informs us that the guards moved prisoners who are no longer participating in the hunger strike back into communal living areas where they can pray together, while Aamer’s take on the same situation suggests that isolation is used a tool to punish those who still refuse to eat.

Considering the history of John Bogdan and the emerging questions over his fitness to retain command of the guard detail at Guantanamo, it is not surprising that Ramadan practices would be used to game the numbers on the hunger strike while continuing to inflict punishment on those who continue the strike.

Wow, that was really (cough) lucky timing for the propaganda machine and our govt.!  Here is DSWright from FDL.
Propaganda Ban Repealed As Government Made News Floods U.S.

Anonymous smearing of journalists and programs to manipulate the news, why was this ban lifted again?

While the Department of Defense does what it pleases in any case, the ban was diluted somewhat in 1987 to mostly just cover official State Department “public diplomacy.” That restriction is now completely removed with taxpayer funded public diplomacy PR campaigns now coming back at taxpayers. America now has official state media which will make things interesting if it becomes involved in political debates.

More dangerous is the effect of a well funded alleged news organization pumping out reports endlessly. Given the diminishing infrastructure of the media establishment, especially newspapers, might not a lot of these stories be unthinkingly repeated in the non-government media?

An op-ed by Sen. Blumenthal in Politico. I didn't even know they did op-eds.  It will be very interesting to see how much support he gets.
FISA court secrecy must end

On any given day in Washington, 11 judges — all designated by Chief Justice John Roberts, without congressional advice or consent — convene to hear surveillance applications from the United States government. Behind closed doors and without checks or scrutiny, they balance the threats of espionage and terrorism with Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches and seizures. But the odds are stacked strongly in favor of the federal government. Last year alone, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, heard nearly 1,800 such applications from the U.S. government; not a single request was denied. In its entire 33-year history, the FISA court has rejected just 11 of 34,000 requests.
The FISA court reviews domestic surveillance requests through a secretive process that denies the public an opportunity to influence or even understand opinions with immense implications for our privacy. [...] This has to stop. I am already working on legislation to reform the FISA court so it can perform effectively its crucial function as a check on the executive branch, while still allowing light to shine upon its proceedings. My proposal, which I plan to introduce this month, will bring transparency to the process for selecting FISA court judges and ensure a broader diversity of views on the bench. It also will ensure that FISA court rulings are the product of a process in which both sides have the opportunity to be heard, a process designed to keep the government honest and allow for balanced consideration of difficult issues.

GOP Not Anxious to End John Roberts’ Unilateral Reign Appointing FISA Judges

And some members of Congress — Adam Schiff in the House and Richard Blumenthal in the Senate — are trying to change that.

Curiously, however, while Republicans are happy to cosponsor legislation to force FISC to publish their opinions, Schiff, at least, has had no success finding a Republican cosponsor to support moves to take the FISC appointments out of John Roberts’ hands.

‘Heroic effort at great personal cost’: Edward Snowden nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

In his letter addressed to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Stefan Svallfors praised Snowden for his “heroic effort at great personal cost.” He stated that by revealing the existence and the scale of the US surveillance programs, Snowden showed “individuals can stand up for fundamental rights and freedoms.” 

7 dead, 261 injured, 401 arrested in overnight Egypt clashes

Street fights also took place between opposing groups in the Gamra district, with both sides allegedly firing birdshot. State news agency MENA also reported firefights near Giza Square in Cairo. Around 2,000 Morsi supporters marched to the Republican Guard headquarters in Nasr City on Monday, demanding the return of the ousted leader. MENA said that another march took place near the Ittihadia presidential palace.

Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has issued a statement following Monday’s protests, Al Jazeera reports. In it, the Islamist party says that security forces fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters who were praying in Ramses Square. Such use of force violates Egyptians’ right to peacefully demonstrate, which is guaranteed to the people of Egypt. The attacks on demonstrators indicate that the new government plans to shed more blood, the FJP stated.

Snowden Backlash: US Media Get Personal

But now, Pincus has truly embarrassed himself: Last week the Washington Post had to add a three-paragraph-long correction to a two-day-old Pincus column, invalidating its core claims. This was an unprecedented measure in the 136-year history of the American capital's most lauded newspaper.
Pincus had speculated that whistleblower Edward Snowden, as well as the two people centrally responsible for publicizing the NSA revelations, Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, had a political agenda and were surreptitiously "directed" by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Pincus' "evidence" turned out to be demonstrably false, rendering the "corrected" column -- or what was left of it -- little more than malicious gossip.

Really interesting and level headed analysis on the Lawfare blog.
What Happens When We Actually Catch Edward Snowden?

The United States is pressing hard to get hold of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. But if and when Snowden is apprehended, what then? This question deserves attention, too, because the denouement to this drama may be unpleasant not just for Snowden, but for his captors as well.
One source of concern is the jury. Snowden says his leaks revealed an unconstitutional and undemocratic system of surveillance. Polls suggest that many Americans agree. Even if the judge instructs the jury to set aside its views on the rightness or wrongness of Snowden’s acts, there is no guarantee it will. Jurors might be tempted to acquit Snowden, not because they believe he is factually innocent but because they believe he was morally justified.

It has happened before—in England. In 1985, Clive Ponting looked destined for prison after leaking Ministry of Defence documents that called into question the official story of the Falklands War. Ponting fessed up to being the source. The jury voted to acquit him nevertheless, and in so doing helped catalyze a movement to liberalize the laws against unauthorized disclosures.

You have to read this story to believe it.  And keep in mind that Chris Christie has been going after unions and trying to undermine pensions since the day he took office.  But somehow, law enforcement don't seem to be one of his targets.  This retired/disabled policeman was part-owner of a gold and jewelry shop, a front for a fencing operation and got caught denying that they bought the goods from a particular robbery. Around the same time, he claimed disability due to injuries while making arrests.  

And then his partner in the fencing operation also started up a reality show for a badass repo operation in which the disabled cop chases down vehicle owners and wrestles them to get their vehicles.  It shines a light on the prosecutor's office and also the fact that 20% of law enforcement officers in NJ retire on disability. The type of disability that Derrico took was a special kind that allows the officer to receive 80% of salary (in his case, 100K+) tax free for life.  

I hate to question disability because I know that Republicans and centrist Democrats are gunning for pensions, and nobody wants to deny a law enforcement officer who puts his life on the line and is truly injured for life in the line of duty.  But aside from wondering about how many of these 20% of retired/disability police had some kind of arrangement like Derrico had, it also makes you wonder how many are involved in the "We Buy Gold" shops that are ubiquitous in this state. And this story is just bizarre.  This cop was on TV on a reality show.  Which means he was that confident of not being nailed for it.  He wasn't even trying to hide it as he made the badass wrestling repo retired cop reality show for anyone to see, and that anyone includes pension boards, prosecutors, fellow law enforcement, etc.  

Lastly, and really just an aside, I can't help but think about the well known cases of police brutality during arrests after which they turn around and charge the person they beat up with assault and resisting arrest.  Do any of those cops who report injuries use it to build their disability case?  This state is in bad shape financially and our governors have failed to make payments to pension and retiree benefits programs in recent years.  Pensions are on the firing line. Cases like this will be used to undermine the whole thing and will harm people who truly are disabled, people who've paid into these programs for all their careers.  And pension funds are also yet another thing, another set of big pots of money that banksters and corporate crooks have their eye on, along with public education money.  I hate it when guys like this give the people going after good benefits ammunition via stories like this.

And, well, I have other personal reasons for being pissed off about things like this, including the fact that this state is notoriously expensive to live in, a lot of people are really hurting.  The fact that we're all paying for guys like this doesn't please us.  Also I've been the victim of a crime in which a "We Buy Gold" shop bought the stolen goods and given that we found the shop (this shop at least admitted they bought the goods and kept the records, but maybe only because I showed up there with a local cop?) and I saw how much they paid for the goods, and it was ridiculous and there's no way I believe that they didn't know they were stolen goods. So there's that.  How many other cops are part-owners of these operations.  I had never even thought of that kind of a set up.  Anyway, end of rant, and many thanks to the investigative reporters and watchdog group who brought all of this to light.  Clearly the guy didn't think that even flaunt his badass self on a TV show would threaten his disability payments, no matter how many police or prosecutors or pension board people saw him, but some honest watchdogs and media blew the lid off of it.

NJ repossesses TV repo man's police disability pension

Joe Derrico – the disabled New Jersey cop turned roughhousing repo man on reality TV – took a hard punch today from a state pension board.
Whether Hamilton wants Derrico back is another matter. At the time he retired in 2010, Derrico was under indictment on a felony charge of theft by receiving stolen property.
One year after retiring, Derrico was brawling on television as a cast member of “Bear Swamp Recovery” – a truTV cable network reality show on vehicle repossessions by the “baddest towing team in Jersey.”



We need a new Church Committee that is fully empowered to investigate the abuses of the NSA and make public its findings, and that is charged with recommending new laws to ensure the U.S. government does not violate our constitutional rights.

Stop Watching Us.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.

Massive Spying Program Exposed
Demand Answers Now (EFF petition)

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