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Longwood Gardens. May, 2013.  Photo by: joanneleon

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Longwood Gardens. May, 2013.  Photo by: joanneleon




Poetry Man - Phoebe Snow (1974)



News & Opinion


Very cool.  3 million views in 24 hours.

Space Oddity

Published on May 12, 2013
A revised version of David Bowie's Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station.

With thanks to Emm Gryner, Joe Corcoran, Andrew Tidby and Evan Hadfield for all their hard work.

Captioning kindly provided by CHS (www.chs.ca)

Another body blow.  I never expected this from a Democratic administration, let alone a constitutional law professor.  What constitution did he study anyway?  Yet another line has been crossed.  
Justice Department Secretly Subpoenas AP Phone Records

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – The Department of Justice secretly obtained two months' worth of phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors, according to an AP story.

The following statement can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office:

"The media's purpose is to keep the public informed and it should be free to do so without the threat of unwarranted surveillance. The Attorney General must explain the Justice Department's actions to the public so that we can make sure this kind of press intimidation does not happen again."

The following statement can be attributed to Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project:

"Obtaining a broad range of telephone records in order to ferret out a government leaker is an unacceptable abuse of power. Freedom of the press is a pillar of our democracy, and that freedom often depends on confidential communications between reporters and their sources."

Emptywheel on the latest DoJ witch hunt.  I excerpted a little but if you haven't already, do go read them. The first one is a very good refresher. The second has a different take on the whole thing than what everyone else is reporting, and has one of her timelines.  She has some ideas about this and also believes there was no judge involved in this sweep and that it was done by National Security Letter, which can be signed off by a number of different executive branch officials, however, it appears that this would have required direct action by Eric Holder, his signature.  I'm perplexed by this.  I don't understand what they want to achieve.  I have that paradox thing going on again.  I've felt stunned since the moment I heard about this.  At the same time, I am not surprised.  I don't know how to explain that.  You've read the details about this, I'm sure, so it doesn't make sense to put more news excerpts here.  I think the sleuthing and analysis by Marcy (she saw this coming months ago) and the reactions and statements in the tweets below are of more value right now (unless you prefer blog posts about how all of this is just a big GOP non-scandal, or some Rachel Maddow spin, of course ;)  Everything is a Benghazi!
DOJ Goes Nuclear on Goldman and Apuzzo

While the AP doesn’t say it in their report that DOJ got two months of unnamed reporters’ call records, but this effectively means they’ve gone nuclear on Goldman and Apuzzo for breaking a story the White House was going to break the following day anyway.
[...]
Meanwhile, John Brennan, who leaked the most damaging part of this (that it was just a Saudi sting), has since been promoted to run the CIA, even though, at least according to James Clapper’s definition, he’s a leaker.
[...]
Meanwhile, John Brennan, who leaked the most damaging part of this (that it was just a Saudi sting), has since been promoted to run the CIA, even though, at least according to James Clapper’s definition, he’s a leaker.
[...]
Update: Actually, the letter itself doesn’t say they were subpoenaed, and given that no notice was provided, it seems like NSLs are a likely candidate.

“A Full Two Month Period” that Covers John Brennan’s Entire Drone Propaganda Campaign

Now, frankly, I think the witch hunt response to the UndieBomb 2.0 plot was mostly just an excuse to start investigating the AP, though it did lead John Brennan to make it clear that it was a Saudi-manufactured plot in the first place.

But the response to that Dozier article, which provided the final piece of evidence for the timeline above showing Brennan grabbed control of drone targeting at roughly the moment we started signature strikes in Yemen, was more dramatic, at least in terms of the breathtaking propaganda the White House rolled out to pretend the drone strikes were more orderly than they actually were.
[...]
I know I’m as least as worried about DOJ targeting Dozier’s sources, who revealed a critical detail of how illegal the drone program was, as I am about the original UndieBomb 2.0 story.

Charles Pierce.

ERIC HOLDER MUST GO

And you'd have to be a toddler or a fool to believe that Eric Holder could go off on his own and take as politically volatile a step as this. But, let us take the White House at its word. Eric Holder did this by himself. He should be gone. This moment. Not only is this constitutionally abhorrent, it is politically moronic.

As we know, this story is astounding and this work by DemocracyNow interviewing Allan Nairn is an outstanding piece of journalism (h/t to artisan in the comments yesterday).  I was moved to tears by it and by this whole story.  And at the same time, I fear for the three tireless and heroic women at the center of it.  Nairn seems to be a rare and stellar and passionate investigative journalist who has been working on this for thirty years.  Thirty years.  I'm amazed by the whole thing.
Ríos Montt Guilty of Genocide: Are Guatemalan President Pérez Molina, U.S. Officials Next?

Allan Nairn: One final legal point I should make: The mandate that the judge gave, the order to the attorney general, Judge Barrios' order to the attorney general, Paz y Paz, to further investigate everyone involved in Rios Montt's crimes -- that could encompass U.S. officials because the U.S. military attaches in Guatemala, the CIA people who were on the ground aiding the G2 military intelligence unit, the policy making officials back in Washington, people like Elliott Abrams and the other high officials of the Reagan administration.  They were direct accessories to and accomplices to the Guatemalan military.  They were supplying money, weapons, political support, intelligence. They, under the law, under international and Guatemalan law, they could be charged. The courts and attorney general could have the right to seek their extradition from the U.S.  Also in the investigation process they could subpoena U.S. documents because there would be extensive reports and National Security Agency intercepts of Guatemalan army communications from that period and there would be still classified reports on exactly what the CIA and the DIA and the White House and State Department were doing with Rios Montt and with the commanders in the field -- people like before Rios Montt, General Benedict, Lucas Garcia.  Afterward, Perez Molina. So both President Perez Molina and the U.S. are now potential targets for criminal investigation for these crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity in Guatemala.

Nairn mentions Elliot Abrams (a neocon, what a surprise) but who else would be at risk and is still alive?  I remember that Dick Cheney wrote the "minority report" in defense of the people indicted for Iran Contra.  Would you believe that he was the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at the time of the atrocities in Guatemala (and other countries)?  Orwell would roll over in his grave. From Wikipedia:
Elliott Abrams (born January 24, 1948) is a well known neoconservative American diplomat who served in foreign policy positions for both U.S. Presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. [6] While serving for Reagan, Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz, and retired U.S. Marine Corps officer Oliver North were integral players in the Iran-Contra affair.[7]

He is currently a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.[8] Additionally, Abrams holds positions on the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG), Center for Security Policy & National Secretary Advisory Council, Committee for a Free Lebanon, and the Project for the New American Century.[9] He also was the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington in 1996. Abrams is a current member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and teaches foreign policy at Georgetown University as well as maintaining a CFR blog called “Pressure Points” about the U.S. foreign policy and human rights.[7]

During the Reagan administration, Abrams gained notoriety for his involvement in controversial foreign policy decisions regarding Nicaragua and El Salvador. During Bush's first term, he served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the National Security Council for Near East and North African Affairs. At the start of Bush's second term, Abrams was promoted to be his Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy, in charge of promoting Bush's strategy of advancing democracy abroad. His appointment by Bush was controversial due to his conviction in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra Affair investigation.
[...]
Assistant Secretary of State, 1980s [edit]

Abrams first came to national prominence when he served as Reagan's Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in the early 1980s and later as Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs. His nomination to Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 17, 1981.[12] Abrams was Reagan's second choice for the position; his first nominee, Ernest W. Lefever, had been rejected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 5, 1981.[12]

During this time, Abrams clashed regularly with church groups and human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch.[13][14] and Amnesty International, over the Reagan administration's foreign policies. They accused him of covering up atrocities committed by the military forces of US-backed governments, such as those in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and the rebel Contras in Nicaragua.

Transcript from an interview on the Charlie Rose show in 1998 where Allan Nairn and Elliott Abrams were the guests.  Well worth reading.
A Nuremberg Trial for the US Government

ROSE: In the State Department, or in the CIA, or both?

NAIRN: Across the board. And in the face of this systematic policy of
slaughter by the Guatemalan military, more than 110,000 civilians
killed by that military since 1978, what Amnesty International has
called a "government program of political murder," the U.S. has
continued to provide covert assistance to the G-2 and they have
continued, especially during the time of Mr. Abrams, to provide
political aid and comfort. For example. . .

ABRAMS: Uh, Charlie.

ROSE: One second.

NAIRN: ...during the Northwest Highland massacres of the [early] '80s
when the Catholic Church said: "never in our history has it come to
such grave extremes. It has reached the point of genocide," President
Reagan went down, embraced Rios Montt, the dictator who was staging
these massacres, and said he was getting "a bum rap on human rights."
In '85 when human rights leader Rosario Godoy was abducted by the
army, raped, and mutilated, her baby had his fingernails torn out, the
Guatemalan military said: "Oh, they died in a traffic accident." Human
rights groups contacted Mr. Abrams, asked him about it, he wrote
back-this is his letter of reply-he said: yes, "there's no evidence
other than that they died in a traffic accident."  Now this is a woman
raped and mutilated, a baby with his fingernails torn out. This is
long-standing policy.

ROSE: ...these are specific points raised by Allan having to do with
your public conduct.

ABRAMS: I'm not, I tell you, whatever Allan Nairn wants to do,
Charlie, I'm not here to refight the Cold War. I'm glad we won, maybe
he's not.  What I'm here to say is we're talking not about U.S. policy
in the world .

NAIRN: Won against who, won against those civilians the Guatemalan
army was massacring?

ABRAMS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.  Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
We're not here to refight the Cold War.  We're here to talk about, l
thought, a specific case in which an allegation is being made that the
husband of an American, in another case an American citizen, were
killed and there was a CIA connection with, allegedly, with the person
allegedly involved in it. Now I'm happy to talk about that kind of
thing. If Mr. Nairn thinks we should have been on the other side in
Guatemala, that we should have been in favor of a guerrilla victory, I
disagree with him.

NAIRN: So you're then admitting that you were on the side of the
Guatemalan military!

ABRAMS: I am admitting that it was the policy of the United States,
under Democrats and Republicans, approved by Congress repeatedly to
oppose a Communist guerrilla victory anywhere in Central America
including in Guatemala.

NAIRN: "A Communist guerrilla victory!"  Ninety-five percent of these
victims are civilians-peasant organizers, human rights leaders,
priests-assassinated by the U.S.-backed Guatemalan army.

ROSE: I'm happy to invite both of you, I'm happy to invite both of you
back to review Reagan and Bush administration policy. Right now I want
to stick to this point [re Alperez scandal]...

NAIRN: Let's look at reality here. In reality we're not talking about
two murders, one Colonel. We're talking about more than a hundred
thousand murders, an entire army, many of its top officers employees
of the U.S. government. We're talking about crimes and we're also
talking about criminals; not just people like the Guatemalan Colonels
but also the U.S. agents who've been working with them, and the higher
level U.S. officials. I mean, I think you have to apply uniform
standards. President Bush once talked about putting Saddam Hussein on
trial for crimes against humanity-Nuremberg style tribunal.  I think
that's a good idea. But if you're serious, you have to be even-handed.
If you look at a case like this, I think we have to start talking
about putting Guatemalan and U.S. officials on trial. I think someone
like Mr. Abrams would be a fit subject for such a Nuremberg-style
inquiry,

ABRAMS: (laughs)

This is from the top rated review/comment of a book on Amazon, Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, and I found it to be very interesting and familiar sounding, especially the last two paragraphs.  Another intelligence failure?  Really?
Destroying democracy behind a charade of anti-Communism

Schlesinger's and Kinzer's classic study examines one of the more disgraceful chapters in the history of American foreign policy: the CIA-sponsored overthrow in 1954 of the democratically elected government of Guatemala. The long-term repercussions of this unprovoked excursion are still felt today; many Latin American countries still do not trust United States intentions because of our actions in both Guatemala and, two decades later, Chile.

"Bitter Fruit" explodes some cherished myths that apologists for the coup have proffered over the years. First, it's clear that Roosevelt rather than Stalin provided the inspiration to the presidencies of Juan Jose Arevalo (1945-1951) and Jacobo Arbenz Guzman (1951-1954). Both Arevalo and Arbenz were motivated by the policies and practices of the New Deal; their support for labor and their actions towards American businesses must be viewed in this light and were never any worse than the laws passed during the Depression in the United States. Regardless of whatever tolerance Guatemalan Communists may have enjoyed, or influence they may have had--and it's clear that they didn't have much--the Eisenhower administration was motivated as much by scorn of the Roosevelt and Truman years as by anti-Communism. (Tellingly, those who cite Che Guevera's presence in Guatemala often fail to note that his arrival, at the age of 25 in early 1954, postdated the planning of American intervention and predated by many years Guevera's notoriety.)

Second, the succession of American puppets who succeeded Arbenz were certainly not supported by the people of Guatemala: the ragtag opposition "army" never exceeded 400 troops in number, and none of the dictators during the next four decades could have survived a freely held election. Between 1954 and the early 1990s, tens of thousands of civilians were imprisoned, executed, or "disappeared" at the fleeting whims of a series of brutal tyrants--and this, to most Central Americans, is the "bottom line" legacy of American interference. Third, some defend American intervention because the Guatemalan land reforms in the early 1950s "stole" property from the United Fruit Company. What the supporters of the company's property rights rarely acknowledge is that one of the company's early founders, Samuel Zemurray, acquired its land, as well as a railroad monopoly, by organizing from New Orleans a coup in 1905 that overthrew the existing government and installing UFC's own puppet--all in violation of American law. In addition, when the Arbenz government attempted to compensate UFC for the land (all of it fallow), the company admitted that it had fraudulently undervalued their holdings for tax purposes at $627,000; the land was worth closer to $16 million.

And, finally, what is clear from Schlesinger's and Kinzer's account is that the Americans behind the 1954 coup, from Ambassador John Peurifoy to the Dulles brothers to Eisenhower himself, knew that what they were doing was indefensible. In order to "sell" the coup at all they had to invent a propagandistic war against a democratically elected government to a gullible American media. Not surprisingly, they covered up and denied American involvement not only at the time but during the ensuing years. Furthermore, many of the participants who survived into the late 1970s either confessed their regret to the authors of this book or admitted that the horrific long-term consequences of the coup in no way justified its short-term "success."

The American adventure in Guatemala was fostered by bad intelligence, furthered by greedy intentions, and executed with no coherent strategy, and it dealt a serious blow both to democracy and to the immediate and long-term interests of the United States government. Meticulously documented, this blood-boiling yet even-handed study should be read by all who are concerned by the consequences of ill-conceived, unilaterally executed, and short-sighted foreign policy planning.

Barry Eisler's reaction to the post by Atkins on the Greenwald-Maher debate.
Don't Worry, US Imperialism is Cost-Free

After the last ten years, if they really hated us for our freedoms, don't you think they'd hate us a bit less by now?  With two successive presidents claiming the right to imprison people indefinitely without charge, trial, or conviction, and to spy on Americans without warrants, and with our current president claiming in addition the power to execute American citizens without any recognizable due process, we have a lot less freedom to hate.

I guess we just haven't given up enough freedom for them to stop hating us.  We really should give up even more.

Or, instead, we could try invading, occupying and droning Muslim countries a little less, and see if that helps.  Maybe prop up fewer corrupt and tyrannical Muslim regimes.

Nah.  Islamic violence against America has nothing to do with any of that.  It's all hatred of our freedoms, or something innate to Islam, or it's just that violence is what fundamentalists do.  I mean, people never react violently to violence.  After all, look how calmly and rationally America responded to 9/11.

The most amazing thing about this topic?  That it even needs to be discussed.  Martin Luther King pointed it out almost fifty years ago, when he described America as "The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."  Violence carries terrible costs.  We ought to accept those costs, not deny them.  Not least because the denial is such a large part of what enables the violence.

Someone in the comments of the Eisler post links to Michael Scheuer (former head of the CIA bin Laden unit, author of "Imperial Hubris") speaking on this topic.  He is on FoxNews doing this... brave guy, lol.  I thought this was settled law, so to speak, but I guess a lot of people are still in denial but the fact that they are having this debate on FoxNews might be a good sign.
Michael Scheuer: The Idea That They're Attacking Us Because Of Our Culture And Freedom Is Insane

And that sequester and the austerity policies will really help with that...  not.  He's made it clear that he's not even finished cutting yet!  Is he subscribing to the myth that a soaring stock market = a soaring economy or something?  Black reminds him about that pesky issue of jobs, jobs, jobs.
Obama says Economy Poised for Progress - Is It?

Remes, when asked if he had anything else to say, says this: "President Obama is the key to this.  They can't be freed unless he acts.  He won't act until he gets the political courage to act and he won't get the political courage to act unless people push him to act."
Gitmo Lawyer Speaks Out

David H. Remes is an American lawyer who has served as a pro bono attorney for several of the prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay prison. He was involved in litigation surrounding the Detainees Treatment Act of 2005, which denied prisoners the ability to submit habeas corpus petitions. In this interview with WeAreChange, Remes gives us a look at the current situation in gitmo, the start of the hunger strike and some of the personal stories of the detainees he represented.

More trouble for Bloomberg's .  These Bloomberg terminals cost a fortune to lease, and they were expensive some 20+ years ago too when colleagues of mine had them.  It looks like an employee made a mistake, and it also looks like Bloomberg fired them and is going to take legal action against them.  Hmm.
Bloomberg accidentally posted private terminal messages online

Bloomberg says it accidentally posted on the internet more than 10,000 private messages that traders sent each other on their Bloomberg terminals. The new revelation, reported by the Financial Times, will undoubtedly escalate the furor over Bloomberg’s handling of data that its customers consider to be confidential.

The messages were related to a Bloomberg service that helps clients keep track of prices for fixed-income securities [...]Bloomberg told the FT that it would consider “all potential legal” action against the employee, who has since left the company.

Monsanto Wins Seed Case as High Court Backs Patent Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court bolstered Monsanto Co. (MON)’s ability to control the use of its genetically modified seeds, ruling that companies can block efforts to circumvent patents on self-replicating technologies.
The justices unanimously upheld an $84,456 award Monsanto won in a lawsuit against Vernon Hugh Bowman, an Indiana farmer. Rather than buying herbicide-resistant soybean seeds from a Monsanto-authorized dealer, Bowman used harvested soybeans containing the technology to plant his crops.

Some giant clothing retailers claim that they are working on ways to improve safety for workers in Bangladesh.  Walmart and Gap are working on their own separate plans and they have refused such efforts in the past.  The number of injured is double the number of dead, and according to news, a lot of the injuries are horrific.    
Counterparties: Improving Bangladesh’s clothing industry

With more than 1,100 dead, this is, James Surowiecki notes, the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry and one of the worst industrial catastrophes ever. The Bangladesh story is also, he says, about how Western consumption habits have shaped the global supply chains:

Most of us have a sense that low prices in Dubuque have something to do with low wages in Dhaka, but that’s just one aspect of the pressure that we as consumers exert on global supply chains. Our insatiable demand for variety and novelty has led to ever-shorter product life cycles. In consumer electronics, the average product is replaced in just eight months. The rise of fast fashion means that clothing stores get new products almost every week.
Americans have become all-too accustomed to this kind of “fast fashion” (read: cheap) clothing. The WSJ reports that clothing prices are up just 10% since 1990, while food prices are up 82%. Global competition has put tremendous pressure on Bangladesh’s $18 billion garment industry to keep its already low costs from rising. “Average monthly pay in 2009 for workers in Dhaka was $47, vs. $235 in Shenzhen and $100 in Hanoi”, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Already at the bottom of the global wage-scale, workers are quite literally prevented from bargaining by force: 40% of the industry’s workers, which are predominantly female, report being beaten by bosses.
Sniff, sniff, but I'm richer than you.
Dimon May Leave JPMorgan Chase If Dual Role Is Split: Report

May 11 (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said he may consider leaving the bank where he has held the top post since 2005, if shareholders vote to split his duties, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
[...]
Results of the vote will be announced on May 21, but it remains unclear what the board will do if the proposal passes.

Big Vote on Dimon May Hinge on Views on JPMorgan’s Top Director

In his 12 years as chief executive of Exxon Mobil, Lee R. Raymond had a reputation for bulldozing analysts and long-winded shareholders and going toe-to-toe with government authorities.

Now as the lead director on the board of JPMorgan Chase, a crucial shareholder vote on splitting Jamie Dimon’s jobs as chief executive and chairman could hinge on whether the 74-year-old Mr. Raymond is seen as strong enough to stand up to Mr. Dimon.

Oh, oh, oh, Jamie's cryin'



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Phoebe Snow/Paul Simon "Gone at Last"

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