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"I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS," Obama said at the White House. "Given the power that it has, and the reach that it has in all of our lives. And as I said earlier, it should not matter what political stripe you're from, the fact of the matter is that the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity."
Obama also said that his administration will implement new procedures to ensure the same kind of misconduct does not occur again.
"I've directed Secretary Lew to ensure the IRS begins implementing the [Inspector General's] recommendations right away," Obama said.
"Third, we will work with congress as it performs its oversight role."Is that enough to nip this scandal in the bud? Probably not. That's not how Republicans work. But this swift reaction of the White House could make a prolonged hissy fit by Republicans politically damaging to them.
Out of the three supposed Obama beltway scandals, the AP story is clearly the worst, but what I find laughable is how conservatives are now piling on the administration in defense of journalists' right to publish stories based on government leaks against what they perceive as national security concerns. You may recall how many times conservatives called for the heads of the NY Times and Washington Post for stories about secret prisons and extraordinary renditions during the Bush years as well FISA. They went ballistic against any story that came out which made George Bush look bad, no matter what it was about. Oh, those damn journalists are all out to get George Bush, etc..librul bias...etc..
During the general election, Joe Scarborough was one such right-wing pundit who was calling for action against these nasty national security leakers because Romney and his ilk were saying these leaks were an effort to make Obama look tough on terrorism. Hmmm, now watch how Joe flips out when David Axlerod calls him on his past behavior. See, they did actually take The Scar's advice.
The investigation into national security leaks should be easier to understand, because it involves no math. The investigation that lead to the subpoenas of the AP reporters is the very same investigation that was begun last summer after a few news cycles of campaign coverage were dedicated to the Romney campaign's accuations that the White House was leaking information that made it look tough on terrorism, including the AP's report that the CIA had foiled an underwear bomber in Yemen. After its publication there were calls for investigations from Dianne Feinstein and the Romney campaign to track down the people who leaked the CIA information to the AP. "It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence,"Romney said at the time.
Scarborough joined the chorus, grilling Axelrod last July, "So what's gone wrong? What's happened? Why is it leaking out of the White House and how can we stop it?" and seemed mollified after Axelrod said they would be scaring the dickens out of anyone who might consider giving an AP reporter a scoop: "Joe, there's an investigation going -- well, you stop it by sending strong signals. Strong signals have been sent."
A week after that discussion, The New York Times carried a story headlined "Inquiry Into U.S. Leaks Is Casting Chill Over Coverage." Reporter Scott Shane opened, "F.B.I. agents on a hunt for leakers have interviewed current and former high-level government officials from multiple agencies in recent weeks, casting a distinct chill over press coverage of national security issues as agencies decline routine interview requests and refuse to provide background briefings.
"The White House is now coming under fire for the the Justice Department's subpoenaing of the Associated Press's phone records that's drawing a strong reaction from members of the press and calls for heads to roll from Politico's anonymous sources. (And from John Boehner, too.) The investigation is (allegedly) looking into the possible whistleblower who handed over national security information for a story that came out last summer about Al Qaeda terrorists unknowingly handing a sophisticated underwear bomb over to the CIA. The very same story that prompted Joe Scarborough to call for an investigation into the course of the leaks -- and the very same story he was yelling at David Axelrod about Wednesday morning on Morning Joe.
Scarborough pressed Axelrod about the potential "chilling" of whistle-blowing sources over the Department of Justice's investigation into the AP. He was worried that whistle blowers may be hesitant to come forward with confidential information in the future. "I appeared with you, and you challenged me with the same tone, actually, on these leaks and said, 'When is the president going to send a strong signal to people that leaking classified information won’t be tolerated?'" Axelrod pointed out. "'When is is he going to make people accountable for these leaks?' [...] They’ve apparently interviewed 550 people and went to court and got a subpoena to do what they did. In order to do what you and others said should be done." Scarborough did not take kindly to Axelrod's memory of events, no sir:
When a Democratic President acts like a Republican, nothing ever good comes out of it. The AP phone records story is huge and would be an abuse of power by any administration, but hacks in Conservativeland do not have the right to complain over it since they have been pining for this type of pervers action for a long time. And the Obama administration did what they wanted him to. Peace out and Bennnnghazzzziiii!!!!
“I’m going to make sure he’s going to have a vote next week, and then we’ll see what happens after that,” Reid told a small group of reporters in his Capitol Hill suite Wednesday morning. [...]
“I’m not going to do anything now, precipitously,” he said. “But I’m looking at this very closely…. We’re going to fill that job. Cordray is there now. He’s going to get a vote.”
Reid wasn’t able to explain why he believes (or claims to believe) Cordray will ultimately be confirmed. But he alluded to the possibility that he may pursue a rules change mid-session.
“Whether it’s Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton that’s the next president, I don’t think they should have to go through what we’ve gone through here,” Reid said. “People better watch.”The Cordray nomination is a good one to use if Reid wants to make a point. It's the most high-profile and public and egregious of Republican filibusters. The vast majority of the GOP caucus, 43 senators, signed a letter to President Obama declaring that they would oppose any nominee he might put forward for the job because they don't think the agency should exist. With this filibuster, they are in essence nullifying a chunk of Dodd-Frank that they disagree with, that is nonetheless the law of the land.
That's a big deal, a very big deal. It should be enough to make 51 Democrats in the Senate say "enough," and convince them to finally act.
The AP has a scathing reply to Deputy Attorney General’s claim that the subpoena he signed fulfilled DOJ guidelines on scope and notice. Among other details, it reveals the AP only learned via Cole’s letter that DOJ seized just portions of the call records of April and May 2012.
In addition, the AP makes the same point I keep making: the White House had told AP the risk to national security had passed and that it planned to release this information itself the next day.
Finally, they say this secrecy is important for national security. It is always difficult to respond to that, particularly since they still haven’t told us specifically what they are investigating.
We believe it is related to AP’s May 2012 reporting that the U.S. government had foiled a plot to put a bomb on an airliner to the United States. We held that story until the government assured us that the national security concerns had passed. Indeed, the White House was preparing to publicly announce that the bomb plot had been foiled.
The White House had said there was no credible threat to the American people in May of 2012. The AP story suggested otherwise, and we felt that was important information and the public deserved to know it.
Note what else is implied by the comment: the AP believed that the threat had posed a real threat, in contradiction to what the White House had been claiming at the time.
If they believed the plot was a real threat, though, then it means they didn’t know it was just a Saudi manufactured sting. The AP didn’t, apparently, know, the detail that Brennan’s blabbing led to the reporting of, that the plot was really just a sting led by a British Saudi infiltrator.
The White House had several choices last year.
They could have quietly informed the AP that the threat had actually been thwarted a week or so before May 1, which is one basis for their claim they had no credible threats of terrorist attacks; that would have allowed CIA to claim credit for thwarting the attack without making John Brennan look like a liar.
They could have just shut up, and dealt with fairly narrow push-back amid the hails of glory for intercepting a plot. (Note, even I only realized how central the May 1 detail was to Brennan’s pique now that I’ve read his confirmation testimony in conjunction with the original article.)
Or, in a panic, Brennan could do what he did, which led to the far more damaging details of this Saudi manufactured plot to be exposed.
It’s pretty clear Brennan chose the worst possible option, and the ensuing outrage is the real reason why AP is being targeted.
The last thing the Congress should do is refight old political battles and take a massive step backward by repealing basic protections that provide security for the middle class. Right now, the Congress needs to work together to focus on the economy and creating jobs.
If the President were presented with H.R. 45, he would veto it.As further indication of how ridiculous this ongoing one-sided fight is, the nonpartisan CBO is not going to waste its time scoring the bill, which would take several weeks of staff time. Instead, they point to past evaluations of Obamcare repeal (there are plenty of them) and reiterate that repeal would cost the nation a minimum of $1.3 trillion for the 2013–2022 period. Another thing that's different this time around, is that Democrats will be fighting fire with fire, targeting 10 Republicans who are wasting time and taxpayer money on this with robocalls to voters in their districts.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying for the calls, which according to a script obtained by Yahoo News, will warn voters that Republicans support putting "insurance companies back in charge of your health care."
“The Republican Congress is scheduled to vote tomorrow to put insurance companies back in charge of your health care and repeal vital consumer protections and benefits that you’ve earned," the voice on the call will say. “And your Congressman might be part of the problem. Tell [your congressman] to stand up for middle class families here in California—and don't help the Republican Congress give insurance companies more control over your life." [...]
The calls will go to voters in the districts of Reps. Chris Gibson and Michael Grimm of New York, Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Jon Runyan of New Jersey, Reps. Gary Miller and David Valadao of California, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Bill Young of Florida, Nevada Rep. Joe Heck, and New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce.The argument should have some heft, particularly if Democrats start talking about the math of these votes, as the New York Times has done. They figured out that Thursday will be "at least the 43rd day" a Republican-led House has spent on repeal. Because they've only actually held votes on 281 days in the past 29 months, that means "Republicans have spent no less than 15 percent of their time on the House floor on repeal in some way."
And there's still no jobs bill.
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D Magazine on Tuesday published a shockingly not safe for work voicemail from Dallas City Council candidate Richard P. Sheridan who said that the publication had not done enough to inform voters that his opponent was gay.
In the voicemail left over the weekend, Sheridan tells reporter Dan Koller that he's "extremely happy" that "Sodomite" Leland Burk lost to Jennifer Staubach Gates.
"You know, you didn't post the fact, communicate to voters that he's gay, and I think I did a pretty good job of communicating to voters," Sheridan, who only received 28 votes, opines. "You, sir, are cunt, bitch, coward, Mr. Koller. Dan Koller is a cunt, bitch, coward. And I don't think you have one testicle, sir. You're a sorry-ass, you're a disgrace to our city, you're a propagandist to the Sodomites.
"And when I see you, I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but minimally your eardrums will hurt, you motherfucker. Because the word fuck means abuse and if you're in the gay lifestyle, the mothers that bring their children up in the world, wanting to do good, want to live a good life, and you go with the Sodomites? You motherfucker, cunt, coward Dan Koller."
Sheridan adds that Koller would "regret it" the next time he saw him, but the "fucking coward" should not to call the police because it was not intended as a threat of bodily harm.
Koller responded on Tuesday with lyrics from Michael Jackson's "Bad."
"Well, Richard (or should I call you Dick? Yeah, I should), all I can say in response, Dick, is your talk is cheap; you’re not a man," Koller wrote. "The word is out, you’re doing wrong; gonna lock you up before too long. I’m telling you, just watch your mouth; I know your game, what you’re about."
"I sincerely hope that the man is never a Twitter user," D Magazine's Jason Heid added in a follow-up piece. "I’m sure that he could single-handedly add several degrees of red to Dallas’ appearance on the Geography of Hate map."
Gap’s proposed changes would greatly limit any legal liability for any company that violated the plans.
In a statement, Gap said: “We’re pleased that an accord is within reach, and Gap Inc. is ready to sign on today with a modification to a single area — how disputes are resolved in the courts. This proposal is on the table right now with the parties involved. With this single change, this global, historic agreement can move forward with a group of all retailers, not just those based in Europe.”
Under Gap’s proposal, if a retailer is found to have violated the agreement, the only remedy would be public expulsion from the factory safety plan.As of Wednesday, there was a report that Gap would in fact sign onto the safety plan. But early reporting didn't make it clear if that would be with or without the liability provision, and obviously, removing legal liability for not holding to the plan weakens it seriously. Gap's position against the liability provision is itself weak, though, since all the while the company was trying to make it sound like the current form of the safety agreement made it impossible for any American brand to sign, PVH, the parent company of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, was signed on, having been one of the first companies to do so.
And what about Walmart, the elephant in the room? The second-largest manufacturer of clothing in Bangladesh is definitely not interested in joining other companies in the binding safety agreement, but apparently the bad publicity has gotten to be a little too much for Walmart to just keep blowing off the very concept of safety. Just as in the November Tazreen factory fire that killed more than 100, Walmart's initial position with regard to the Rana Plaza collapse was that none of its clothes were there. But just as Walmart clothes were found at Tazreen after the fire, it turns out that it also had clothes being manufactured at Rana Plaza in mid-2012. No doubt coincidentally, shortly after this news appeared in the New York Times, Walmart announced a new safety plan. Not the one that international labor groups have been pushing for and at least 10 major retailers have signed onto, though. No, this will be a special Walmart-only plan, and Walmart totally promises it'll be better than that other one. Even though the Walmart plan is voluntary, self-administered, and doesn't actually help pay for safety improvements. Just trust them!
There you have it: American companies lagging behind European ones on the basic corporate responsibility metric of trying to keep their workers from being burned or crushed to death.
The Obama administration asked Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Wednesday morning to reintroduce legislation that would help reporters protect the identity of their sources from federal officials, a White House official told The Huffington Post. There's a catch, however. That previous bill, called the Free Flow of Information Act and introduced by Schumer and Arlen Specter, was originally opposed by the Obama administration over "national security" concerns. A compromise was carved out that would allow current and future administrations to declare that a given leak was an issue of "national security"—and would require judges to accept a prosecutor's say-so that the information being investigated met the criteria for such an exemption. That was a broad enough loophole that it helped kill support for the entire bill. It's apparently that compromise bill that's going to be reintroduced:
Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Mr. Schumer, said the senator would reintroduce the compromise version of the media shield bill in the form that passed the Judiciary Committee.
In a statement, Mr. Schumer referred to the A.P. subpoena: “This kind of law would balance national security needs against the public’s right to the free flow of information. At minimum, our bill would have ensured a fairer, more deliberate process in this case.”Given that the AP investigation has already been declared to fall into the realm of "national security" concerns, it seems uncertain just how much the bill would have affected the current case. The situation was considered, however:
The 2009 legislation would have created a presumption that when the government is seeking calling records from a telephone carrier, the news organization would be notified ahead of time, allowing it to fight the subpoena in court. But the bill also would have allowed the government to seek a 45-to-90-day delay in notification if a court determined that such notice would threaten the integrity of the investigation. Reintroducing the bill is a good first step. Tweaking it so as to not rely so heavily on prosecutor say-so as to whether any particular leak investigations is too important to follow the normal rules might be another; we've not had very good luck with administrations asking us to trust them on such matters.
I was traveling with students in Barcelona in the summer of 2011, walking through La Rambla, when I noticed two guys making fun of me. I could see them in the reflection of a mirrored building, making gestures with their hands to suggest how much bigger I was than the thin girl standing next to me, her small waist accentuated by her crop top and cut-off shorts. They painted her figure in the air like an hourglass. Then they painted my shape like the convex curves of a ball. The guys were saying something, too, but there was only one word I could make out: Gorda. Fat woman.
I’ve been hearing comments like this for much all my life. Maybe someone else would have yelled at them, or shrunk inside. But I don’t get upset when this happens.
I pulled out my camera, and set up a shoot.
For about a year, I’d been taking pictures of strangers’ reactions to me in public for a series I called “Wait Watchers.” I was interested in capturing something I already knew firsthand: If the large women in historical art pieces were walking around today, they would be scorned and ridiculed.
So I found a crowded crosswalk farther down La Rambla, used my rangefinder camera to set the exposure and focus of where I would stand, and handed the camera to my assistant. I bought a cup of gelato and began eating it. I’ve learned I get more successful reactions if I am “doing” something.
In my peripheral vision, I saw a teen girl waiting for the signal to cross the street. As I stood there, eating my ice cream, I heard a repetitive “SLAP, SLAP, SLAP” of a hand on skin. I signaled to my assistant to shoot. It was only when I returned home to Memphis and got the film developed that I realized the sound was the girl hitting her belly as she watched me eat. She did this over and over. I have five frames of her with various facial expressions. I called the resulting image “Gelato.”
My struggle with my body started after I graduated high school. I played soccer my whole life, sometimes three teams at one time. I never thought about “exercising.” I just ran around, knocked people over and kicked the ball hard. When I started college, there was no more soccer and my weight ballooned from a size 7 to a size 14 in weeks.
Eventually, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Though I did go through phases of food restriction and over-exercise, I came to realize that I shouldn’t punish myself for something I can’t control. Self-criticism is a waste of time. I look worse with tons of make up and products in my hair. I am happy when I am not stressed — so I don’t stress.
That doesn’t mean the world is comfortable with how I look. Even though I’m a college professor, who works 12-hour days and eats healthy, even though I have none of the diseases constantly reported in the media as linked to obesity, I’m up against quite a few stereotypes as an overweight blond female artist. I’m constantly fighting strangers’ criticisms that I am lazy and slow-witted, or that I am an overly emotional slob.
I suspect that if I confronted these narrow-minded people, my words would have no effect. So, rather than using the attackers’ actions to beat myself up, I just prove them wrong. The camera gave me my voice.
The idea of the “Wait Watchers” series came one day when I was shooting on the bleachers in Times Square. I’d been doing a series of photographs in which I sought out public spaces where I’m most uncomfortable, like swimming pools and restaurants (I always feel like I’m not “allowed” to order fattening food).
Going through the film, I noticed an image with a man standing behind me. There he is, being photographed by a woman who appears to be quite beautiful, standing in the middle of the sensory assault that is Times Square. But at the moment the shutter is released, he is smirking at me. He clearly does not approve. This kind of moment had happened many times. Until that moment, I never thought I could capture it on film.
I embarked on a social experiment: to set up my camera in plain sight and document how the world reacted to me. To create my images, I seek out interesting compositions in public areas. My goal is to capture a wide range of social groups so I travel as much as I can. I’ve photographed in Spain, Peru, Chicago, New York and Memphis. My ideal settings have linear compositions or gendered references in signs in the landscape. I set up my camera in plain sight on a tripod or bench, or an assistant will take hundreds of photographs in several minutes. I then comb the images to see if I captured a reaction.
I do not know what the strangers are thinking when they look at me. But there is a Henri Cartier-Bresson moment when my action aligns with the composition, the shutter and their gaze that has a critical or questioning element. Even though they are in front of a camera, they feel they have anonymity because they are crossing behind me.
And I don’t get hurt when I look at the images. I feel like I am reversing the gaze back on to them to reveal their gaze. I’m fine with who I am and don’t need anyone’s approval to live my life. I only get angry when I hear someone comment about my weight and the image does not reflect the criticism. That’s frustrating: when I didn’t get the shot.
But since the project started getting media attention, I’ve received hundreds of emails from people thanking me. There are so many people in the world who feel they have the right – no, the obligation — to criticize someone for the way they look, and to be that recipient of those insults can feel so lonely. I got an email from a 15-year-old girl in Belgium who said my images made her “feel better and not care about what others think and live my life.” That made me proud. As for what the images mean, viewers may interpret the images as they see fit. I’m just trying to start a conversation.
Do you see the problem? If not, here's what it boils down to:
Union leaders, including Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, are calling on the Senate to keep the NLRB working:
The ironically named criminal justice system in this country is good at prosecuting and creating many criminals but not very good at producing any justice. The United States would not have the largest prison population of any other country on earth if it did not also have the harshest prosecution and sentencing system of any other country. America’s addiction to racism and violence creates outright criminality among police and prosecutors. Their misconduct is tolerated and even encouraged and the result is an untold number of innocent people in jail.
In 1989, five New York City teenagers, four black and one Latino, were convicted of raping and assaulting a then anonymous woman known as the Central Park jogger. In the now infamous case the teens were coerced into giving false video taped confessions. None of the established procedures for interviewing minors were in place and police and prosecutors broke the law in order to convict them. Unable to pay for good legal representation and convicted in the court of public opinion, the five spent between six and thirteen years behind bars.
In 2002 a sole perpetrator confessed to the attack, DNA tests proved his guilt and the convictions were vacated. Thanks to the new documentary, The Central Park Five, the prosecutors who orchestrated the travesty have come under scrutiny but none of them have suffered as a result of their actions. Until very recently prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer bragged about her involvement in the case and included it in her biography. She is still a law professor at Columbia University. It isn’t clear why anyone would want her to teach anything about the law, but there she sits in the lap of establishment legal profession luxury. When an outraged citizen circulated a petition pressuring Columbia to fire Lederer, the wagons circled around her and the media excoriated those who only wanted accountability and justice.
“The prosecutors who orchestrated the travesty have come under scrutiny but none of them have suffered as a result of their actions.”
Lederer’s boss, Linda Fairstein, also made quite a name for herself in the ensuing years. She became a best selling author and a wealthy woman after the prosecution. Her behavior in getting the teens arrested and convicted was particularly egregious.
“Fairstein gruffly dismissed Yusef Salaam's aunt and threatened his mentor, Brooklyn federal prosecutor David Nocenti, in refusing to let them see the teen while he was being interrogated. According to both Sharonne Salaam and Timothy Sullivan's book on the case, Unequal Verdicts, Fairstein then called her husband to demand the home number of Nocenti's then boss, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney, so she could get the young attorney fired. According to court records, Fairstein even tried to block Sharonne Salaam from interrupting the interrogation, despite Sharonne's claims that Yusef was 15 and too young to be questioned without an adult.”
The five men will not get back the years they lost in prison, but the world knows they were innocent. However, the city of New York still maintains their guilt and fights every effort to bring them some financial justice. The exonerated men filed a $250 million lawsuit in 2003 but the city has spent the past ten years defending itself and even attempted to intimidate the documentary producers by issuing subpoenas for theirvideo footage.
In New York others still languish in jail, sometimes for decades, because of law enforcement corruption. There are now 50 murder convictions under review by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office because of one man, retired detective Louis Scarcella. His criminal behavior came to light when an innocent white man, David Ranta, was freed after spending 23 years in jail because Scarcella coached a witness into falsely identifying him as a killer.
When Scarcella wanted an individual convicted he stopped at nothing to make his case. He took informants out of jail and allowed them to smoke crack and visit prostitutes. Supposed witnesses deny having spoken to him, or were told whom to pick out of a line up or told what to say. One prostitute allegedly witnessed six different murders investigated by Scarcella and testified under oath every time.
The district attorney’s office is now investigating these cases, but they can hardly investigate themselves. How did supposedly smart people allow the same person to testify numerous times that she had witnessed murders? The answer is obvious. Anyone who noticed the implausibility of these situations must also have noticed that the Scarcellas of the NYPD worked hand in hand with prosecutors to prosecute as many people as possible and that their bad behavior was condoned.
Shabaka Shakur is serving the 26th year of a 40 year sentence in part because Scarcella claimed he made self-incriminating statements. There are no records of such a statement, yet Shakur was convicted anyway. Derrick Hamilton was paroled after serving 21 years in prison and now strives to prove he was set up by Scarcella. “He told me, ‘I know you didn’t commit this murder, but I don’t care.’ “
Those words may have been spoken by one man, but they represent the thinking of an entire system and its attitudes towards black people. One-half of all wrongfully convicted prisoners are black. Mass incarceration depends on an assembly line of conviction and imprisonment and too few who are charged with caring about justice really do.
It is indisputable that America strives to put as many black people behind bars as possible. Inevitably some white people will be caught up too, but the goal of criminal justice is to make every black person a criminal. No one knows how many Shabaka Shakurs and Derrick Hamiltons there are behind bars in New York and across the country.
Any discussion of ending mass incarceration must address these travesties which take place on a daily basis. The crooked prosecutors and cops must be held accountable. They ought to be charged criminally themselves. There is no incentive for them to obey the law if they are not. The exonerated men and women are expected to quietly accept their misfortune and disappear without expecting any relief. In a sense that is the expectation for all black people. We are known to be innocent but the system doesn’t care.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.Related Stories
- Today's comic by Jen Sorensen is Where were you when CO2 passed 400 parts per million?
- That would be the famed Wild Bill Gandhi? Adam Kokesh has signed up hundreds of people to march with loaded firearms on Washington, D.C., a city where that is illegal. In a text exchange with the Washington Post, Kokesh compared the protest with the non-violent efforts of Mahatma Gandhi to free India from British rule.
Suppose the D.C. police, as they have promised, block the marchers from crossing into Washington? How should they respond?
“With Satyagraha,” Kokesh, 31, texted the Washington Post. That is a term used by Mahatma Gandhi to describe his strategy of nonviolent resistance to British rule in India. [...]
Did his response of “satyagraha” mean violence is unacceptable?
“Only if absolutely necessary in defense of life or limb,” he wrote.
- Majority of Michiganders now support marriage equality:
Support for same-sex marriage has increased to 56.8 percent, up 12.5 percentage points from last year—movement fueled largely by shifting opinions from Republicans and independents, the poll of 600 registered voters by the Glengariff Group Inc. showed.
The support is in contrast to 2004, when Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
That year, Glengariff found 24 percent of state voters supported gay and lesbian marriages. Now, 54 percent would repeal the ban and replace it with an amendment to allow same-sex marriages, the poll found.blockquote>
- Tennessee legislator pushes bill to remove traffic camera that nabbed him: [Republican Jon] Lundberg said the traffic camera speeding ticket "has absolutely zero effect" on his decision to sponsor the bill, adding, "In fact, until you said that, I completely forgot about that."
- A broke Alabama Democratic Party splits. New party leader takes over just as threat to cut off water and power hits and landlord threatens to evict. A splinter group, the Alabama Democratic Majority, has set up shop.
The Alabama Democratic Majority came in for heated criticism at the board meeting by not just [new chair Nancy] Worley but by Joe Reed, the party's long time vice chairman and chairman of the party's black wing, the Alabama Democratic Conference.
Worley said in addition to the financial chaos there are equipment, supplies and art work missing from party headquarters. Worley charged that a quick review has shown that [former Democratic Party chair Mark] Kennedy and the party staff he took with him appear to have taken data including information on over 2.8 million voters and to have cut off bank drafts from donors to the party and diverted them to Kennedy's new organization.
- Dallas candidate's voicemail to reporter definitely NOT suitable for office listening: @#^!!*#%@¡#∞#¶&
- Price-fixing by oil companies? Say it isn't so.
- FBI investigating deputies' bludgeoning of California man:
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said he asked the FBI to get involved after learning that one of two cellphones seized from witnesses had no footage on it.
Two witnesses told The [Los Angeles] Times that they watched the videos on each of the phones last week in the wake of David Silva’s death. The case is generating widespread attention because several witnesses have come forward to say deputies ruthlessly beat Silva with batons on the head, even after he was lying motionless on the ground.
- Insurance companies aren't deniers on climate change:
From Hurricane Sandy’s devastating blow to the Northeast to the protracted drought that hit the Midwest Corn Belt, natural catastrophes across the United States pounded insurers last year, generating $35 billion in privately insured property losses, $11 billion more than the average over the last decade.
And the industry expects the situation will get worse. “Numerous studies assume a rise in summer drought periods in North America in the future and an increasing probability of severe cyclones relatively far north along the U.S. East Coast in the long term,” said Peter Höppe, who heads Geo Risks Research at the reinsurance giant Munich Re. “The rise in sea level caused by climate change will further increase the risk of storm surge.”
- On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin's round-up sampling on the three "scandals" of the week, the 37th attempt to repeal Obamacare, and Stanley Fish's question, "Is the N.R.A. Un-American?" Meanwhile, what's suddenly missing from the conversation? Debt & deficit hawkery. Is it the "scandal" feeding frenzy? Or is the narrative just falling apart? Next, the continuing child-on-child shooting spree, and fact-finding on gun show #GunFAIL. Then, back to the IRS story, featuring the 2011 Mother Jones series, "Tea Party Patriots Investigated."
About a year ago, on March 26, 2012, Sandra Steingraber, an environmental writer and activist against natural-gas fracking, wrote a public letter titled “Breaking Up with the Sierra Club.” Breakups are never easy, and the letter, published on the website of the nature magazine Orion, was brutal from the start: “I’m through with you,” Steingraber began.
The proximate cause of the split was the revelation that between 2007 and 2010 the nation’s oldest environmental organization had clandestinely accepted $26 million from individuals or subsidiaries associated with Chesapeake Energy, a major gas firm that has been at the forefront of the fracking boom. “The largest, most venerable environmental organization in the United States secretly aligned with the very company that seeks to occupy our land, turn it inside out, blow it apart, fill it with poison,” Steingraber wrote. “It was as if, on the eve of D-day, the anti-Fascist partisans had discovered that Churchill was actually in cahoots with the Axis forces.”
In 2010, the club’s new executive director, Michael Brune, stopped taking Chesapeake Energy’s cash. Brune also made the decision to come clean with the revelation and express regret for his predecessor’s lack of better judgment. “We never should have taken this money,” Brune wrote in response to the breakup letter.
But to Steingraber and many others, the betrayal had been done.
“I call them gang-green,” says Maura Stephens, an activist based in Ithaca, New York, who spearheads several anti-fracking groups, including Frack Busters and the Coalition to Protect New York. “There are a lot of so-called environmental groups that were started with noble ideals—for example the ideals of John Muir—but who no longer live up to their mission. … They do good work on some level, but on this [fracking] they are selling us out.”
The eco-infighting over natural gas is just one example of internecine strains that appear to be intensifying in the green movement. When it comes to prescribing ways to address the planet’s ecological challenges, environmentalists increasingly find themselves at odds with each other. In a way, greens’ predicament is a measure of their own prescience. For at least 40 years, they have been warning about the consequences of overpopulation, the risks of industrial pollution, and the loss of wilderness and wildlife habitat due to human encroachment. Few heeded the warnings in time to halt the first effects of large-scale global pollution and resource depletion, and now the consequences of ignoring the warnings have come to pass. Many global fisheries are on the brink of collapse; nearly half of the planet’s land is dedicated to feeding a global population that will soon reach nine billion; freshwater scarcities in some regions are becoming acute; and, most frighteningly, we appear intent on wrecking the global atmosphere, the ecosystem on which all other ecosystems depend.
Environmentalists have found themselves being taken seriously, and it has proved to be something of a curse. As they are asked to come up with solutions for the cascading eco crises, internal divisions are becoming more obvious. The biggest divide may be between those who would do anything to cut carbon emissions and slow climate change—going so far as to support natural gas and nuclear fuel, or even supporting geo-engineering and other controversial ideas—and conservationists who don’t want to trade one earth-damaging practice for another.
“I feel like the community has splintered,” says Chris Clarke, a writer in Joshua Tree, California, and a co-founder of the group Solar Done Right, which has battled the construction of utility-scale solar stations in the Mojave Desert that involve destroying vast stretches of wilderness. “Some people are unwilling to call themselves ‘environmentalists’ because ‘environmentalist’ has now come to mean climate-change mitigation at any cost.”
Some environmentalists say the divisions have been fueled by gadflies looking to appear contrarian for the sake of minor celebrity. “I think, bluntly, that part of this is [happening] because there’s some value to the post-environmentalists in hippie-punching,” says Alex Steffen, a self-described “bright green” futurist who is the author of a new book, Carbon Zero. “Just saying, ‘Oh, those guys are wrong’—since there are a lot of people who want to think that traditional environmentalists are wrong—is a great way to sell books and get speaking gigs.”
It’s true that some of the noise seems calculated for effect. But it would be dangerous to wave off the differences of opinion. A careful look at the environmental movement reveals a profound gap among people who share a worry about the state of Earth. There is a real split over what should be considered a smart survival plan for billions of people on a finite planet. That split, if it’s not navigated constructively, threatens to sap the environmental movement’s political muscle just when it is needed most to achieve its goal: keeping the planet healthy enough to maintain our civilization.
In a sense, today’s differences are just a new variation on a century-old dispute. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, American environmentalists fell into two distinct camps. The first, led by Sierra Club founder John Muir, was part of the larger Romantic movement that viewed wild areas as pristine places that needed to be saved from the scourge of humanity’s hand. The second, led by the founding head of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, thought of nature more like a garden—something to be tended by man. Natural resources, in Pinchot’s view, should be mindfully stewarded to conserve them for future generations.
The split between those who esteem nature for its intrinsic value and those who want to protect it for its instrumental value persisted through the years. Some 21st-century environmentalists—most prominently the leaders of The Nature Conservancy—now talk almost exclusively about environmental protection in terms of preserving ecosystem services. We should invest in nature and protect natural infrastructure because humans benefit from them: Wetlands blunt hurricanes, forests suck up carbon dioxide, clean rivers bring us water. At the same time, some environmentalists have been re-energized by a nascent grassroots movement to recognize legal rights for natural systems, an effort inspired by the new constitutions of Ecuador and Bolivia that grant nature formal rights.
Opposing opinions on what constitutes appropriate use of modern technology also divides some putative eco allies. An instinctual techno-skepticism has formed an undercurrent in environmental thought—at least since Silent Spring and the backlashes to the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl and near disaster at Three Mile Island. As worries intensify about unchecked greenhouse-gas emissions, however, some greens are rethinking their posture toward once-verboten technologies. James Hansen, the NASA climatologist who twice has been arrested at the White House while opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, has said, “Next-generation, safe nuclear power is an option which we need to develop.” Nuclear power is anathema to many other environmentalists, but the British writer George Monbiot reversed his long-standing opposition two years ago and wrote in The Guardian, “Abandoning nuclear power at a time of escalating greenhouse gas emissions is far more dangerous than maintaining it.”
The use of genetically modified organisms also highlights this divide. Even as most rank-and-file environmentalists remain suspicious of them—with their vibe of Promethean overreach and their control by monopolist corporations like Monsanto—some self-identified greens say GMO technologies are the only way to feed a growing population. In a speech earlier this year, Mark Lynas, another British environmentalist, told the Oxford Farming Conference, “The risk today is not that anyone will be harmed by GM food but that millions will be harmed by not having enough food.”
Another rift involves the geographic scope of individual environmentalists’ concerns. Ever since Henry David Thoreau set up a shack on Walden Pond, environmentalism has been animated by a love of place. A righteous parochialism was the spark that inspired scores of successful environmental campaigns: a desire to protect this river, this forest grove, this mountaintop. On the other hand, environmentalism has also been animated by a planetary consciousness from the moment the Apollo mission beamed back images of a tiny blue marble floating in space. For a generation these two ideals were in chorus, exemplified best by the greenie bumper sticker: “Think Global, Act Local.” But in the era of global climate change, a love for the local and a concern for the global might be in conflict.
This is best illustrated by the controversies over putting giant solar installations in the Mojave Desert and building a wind farm off of Martha’s Vineyard. One person’s blueprint for clean energy infrastructure is another person’s unthinkable desecration of a beloved place. While some environmentalists argue that we have to pave parts of the desert with solar panels in order to save other parts of the desert from a four-degree Celsius temperature rise, others see that as heresy.
“I think the important split is actually between people are who thinking in planetary terms and people who are not,” Steffen, the futurist, told me. “The key to intelligent planetary thinking is to recognize that goal number one is to be promoting the stability of planetary systems, and then figuring out goal number two: how to get the greatest set of interesting possibilities for humanity into that constraint. And I worry that this debate between ‘old environmentalists’ and ‘post-environmentalists’ or whatever totally misses the larger point. The only kind of conservation worth having is one that starts at those larger systems, talks about what is necessary to maintain their stability, and starts scaling down from there into the particularities of political contexts, and specific places, and technological systems.”
Achieving those goals could get increasingly difficult, however, if the movement is publicly split, as has happened with the issue of hydrofracking for natural gas.
The Sierra Club, under the leadership of its previous executive director, Carl Pope, wasn’t the only prominent environmentalist organization heralding natural gas as a bridge fuel that could take our energy system from carbon-intense coal to renewables like wind and solar. (When burned, gas emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal.) Among the most vocal proponents of natural gas today are Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, founders of the Oakland-based liberal think tank the Breakthrough Institute. Nordhaus and Shellenberger ticked off greens in the early aughts with the essay “The Death of Environmentalism,” which urged green groups to rethink the core assumptions of their political strategy. The pugnacious pair is often bashed for their rhetoric, but the two are genuine in their hawkishness on the climate and their commitment to global equity.
“As we look ahead to the human-development challenge, we’re going to need other kinds of low-carbon and zero-carbon energy,” Shellenberger says. “If we have everything riding on solar and wind, then we have all of our eggs in one basket.”
Nordhaus adds: “Look, we have two billion people who don’t have access to anything other than wood and dung [for energy]. Assume a world of nine billion people. Now assume that we have perfect economic redistribution from rich to poor, and everybody makes $15,000 a year. And then just do the math on global energy use—it still triples. You can’t meet that all with renewables.”
But since the fracking boom began in earnest, a larger, anti-fracking grassroots has emerged. Small towns in the East that were unaccustomed to the thrum of the fossil-fuel industry have been shocked to find themselves surrounded by trucks and heavy machinery and with compressors in their back lots whirring all night long. Some homeowners had their wells contaminated with flammable methane. Places like Ohio and Arkansas that weren’t used to seismic activity started to experience earthquakes when underground wastewater injections stimulated geologic faults. Today, the movement against gas fracking has become a cause célèbre (Yoko Ono and Mark Ruffalo have an “Artists Against Fracking” group) and is one of the most invigorating issues among grassroots environmentalists. At February’s Forward on Climate rally near the White House, easily a fifth of the placards in the crowd of 35,000 had to do with gas drilling.
“No sensible person would ever be a proponent of shale gas,” anti-fracking activist Maura Stephens says. “The number of people whose water is contaminated, I can’t even count. And the number of people who have been given a gag order and been given shut-up money is incredible. The whole idea is to do the harm and then mitigate.”
“Of all the forms of fossil-fuel extraction, fracking is the only one that is wrapped up in a green myth,” says Sandra Steingraber, who wrote the letter against the Sierra Club. “The demand for energy is not some inexorable thing like gravity. We control that. And it’s plain to me that we could reduce our energy use by half and entirely run our economy on renewables.”
Nordhaus and Shellenberger have a nearly opposite worry: that the intensity from partisans like Steingraber and Stephens has forced some big green groups to retreat from gas. The World Resources Institute, a D.C.-based environmental research organization, is an example of that shift. As recently as early 2012, the organization was expressing qualified enthusiasm for gas as a “potential game changer” that “should be part of America’s low-carbon energy mix.” But when asked recently to comment on the gas controversy, Jennifer Morgan, director of the institute’s climate and energy program, chose her words carefully. “It’s an extremely fraught and tough discussion,” Morgan told me. “I think we recognize both the risks—and the risks are significant—and the potential opportunity.”
And, of course, the Sierra Club has retreated from natural gas under its new executive director. Last week at a conference in Santa Barbara organized by The Wall Street Journal, Michael Brune warned that fracking’s greenhouse-gas emissions might be worse than coal due to leaks of methane, a potent heat-trapping gas. The club also has launched a new section on its website: “Beyond Gas.”
Whether the question is shale-gas development, nuclear power, utility-scale solar and wind, or GMO crops, the core of the debate among environmentalists comes down to what’s realistic. That, of course, is the same dilemma that confronts any political movement, whether on the right or on the left. But environmentalists’ conundrum is especially complicated because it involves a system beyond our control: Earth.
Nordhaus and Shellenberger say their pragmatism is grounded in what is politically possible given a range of shitty options. In the other camp, Steffen, Steingraber, and Stephens also claim the mantle of pragmatism, one based on geophysical necessity. The existential threat of climate change has become a sort of projection screen: Either it confirms that we are locked into business as usual, or it’s proof that we need to make a societal 180-degree turn in how we relate to the planet.
“Those of us who are calling ourselves the latter-day abolitionists, our idea of what’s possible is grounded in physical and natural laws. How much water and land and resources do we need to feed ourselves?” Steingraber says. “My hope that is that we can help people imagine, have a vision of a future when blasting gas out of the ground to make our tea kettles whistle is just barbaric, which it is.” It’s a view Nordhaus and Shellenberger call naïve.
It’s clear that, much of the time, environmentalists are arguing past each other. Beyond any debates over strategy or technology, the various factions of greens harbor completely different ideas about human nature and the planet’s capacity to hold us. While some eco-policy wonks appear to have internalized the notion that there are no alternatives to our modern, energy-dependent ways, the environmental grassroots remain committed to encouraging a change in consciousness that will prompt a new, less resource-intense mode of living. It’s as if the environmental movement is playing three-dimensional chess, but with the players operating on totally different planes.
Such differences of opinion aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Political movements often benefit from some degree of ideological tension. The differences only become a political liability because our environmental situation urgently needs a solution. Carbon emissions continue to rise, the number of humans continues to grow, and Earth isn’t getting any bigger.
The environmental movement has a surplus of good ideas for how to manage ecological problems. It’s got plenty of smart and passionate people. The one key asset it doesn’t have is time to sort its issues out.Related Stories
Ed Kilgore writes at the Washington Monthly:
Well, it doesn’t get much more official than this: an VandeHei/Allen “Behind the Curtain” column announcing that D.C. (“the town”) is “turning on” Barack Obama, and there will be nothing but venom coming from any direction for the foreseeable future:
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.
Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on — so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.
Too bad, voters, and all those who have an interest in their federal government doing something constructive; Obama has to have his spanking from “D.C. stakeholders,” so enjoy it or look the other way.
What amazes me the most about this column is the forthright announcement that the MSM are going to make explicit common cause with the GOP:
Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.
Kilgore is amazed? I'm not. The media is nothing more than junior-high lunchroom cliques!
This open partisanship is excused by the fact that in “this town” (among the “Establishment Democrats” who are a “D.C. Stakeholder”) Democrats aren’t bothering to defend Obama. Which Democrats are we talking about here? Here you go:
The dam of solid Democratic solidarity has collapsed, starting with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s weekend scolding of the White House over Benghazi, then gushing with the news the Justice Department had sucked up an absurdly broad swath of Associated Press phone records.
Yes, MoDo is your representative Democrat. When you’ve lost her, you’ve clearly lost the Blue States altogether. And if that’s not enough, we have the Anonymous Insider Democrat:
One Democrat who likes Obama and has been around town for many years said elected officials in his own party are no different than Republicans: They think the president is distant and unapproachable.
“He has never taken the Democratic chairs up to Camp David to have a drink or to have a discussion,” the longtime Washingtonian said. “You gotta stroke people and talk to them. It’s like courting: You have to send flowers and candy and have surprises. It’s a constant process. Now they’re saying, ‘He never talked to me in the good times.’”
Yep, this is what it's all about: the fucking egos of the Beltway press corps. It's not about paralyzing government, or shortchanging the voters, or destroying the environment. Uh uh. It's about whether Obama gave them their fucking strokes. Unreal.
Turns out, it's been that way for a while. At the Washington Post Neil Irwin writes about when it was gay rights groups that were targeted by the IRS, and how little has changed in the IRS's directive, despite previous problems, including federal court rulings against the agency. The legal standards the IRS is supposed to meet are too vague, and that leaves too much to the discretion of individual IRS employees.
But here’s a second similarity with the anti-gay IRS cases of the past, though this one is harder to prove. When standards are vague, it leaves too much room for IRS agents’ decisions to be colored by their own instincts. They’re human beings, after all. [...] If you’ve spent your life as a tax collector, you’re naturally going to be a little unsettled by a surge in anti-tax activism. And you thus are going to be less attuned to the possibility that you are screening cases in a way that puts an ideological bias into the tax code.The word "Party" is in a mess of those organizations that were targeted for follow up (and none of which, by the way, have had their applications denied), which kind of gives a clue to the likely partisan activity of those groups. If the IRS employees weren't taking a closer look for political activity, then they would have been derelict in their duty. The real problem seems to be that they used "tea party" as a shortcut, but it doesn't mean that the additional scrutiny of these overtly political groups wasn't appropriate. That's where the comparison to the scrutiny and denial of status to gay groups ends. Because the gay groups were actually organizing to support their community, not to launder millions of big donor money to further a partisan political cause.
There's lots of talk about tax reform in congress, most of it Republican shorthand for more tax cuts for the rich. If Congress really wants to talk reform, they should work on making the rules for the IRS more concrete. But that would actually take work, something one of the two chambers (hint: it's the Republican House) has absolutely no interest in doing. Not when they think they can use this story ("scandal!") as a political cudgel to keep their tea party base in an Obama-hating froth.
Next step, tie this to Benghazi and any other fact-free psuedo-scandal close at hand. Step two, moan about the general incompetence and corruption of government. Step three, demand scalps — but not before there's time to spin out a good half dozen Sunday talk show seasons on Taxgazi, or Tax and Furious, or whatever brand the pundits decide has the most snap.
You know this one must be the real deal, because every news channel, newspaper, local anchor, radio nutjob, and water cooler wag is singing the same tune. Hell, even Jon Stewart is on step two.
There's just one minor problem: the exact purpose of the IRS office in question IS to look at political groups. Specifically, to weed out purely political groups that promote or oppose candidates from obtaining a tax status that's supposed to go to nonprofit educational organizations. The crime of the IRS agents in Cincinnati? They were doing their job.
But what about the specific targeting of Tea Party groups? Doesn't that show that this was all just a witch hunt against groups with right wing ideologies? Uh, no. It came up at exactly the time the office was getting flooded with a bunch of hastily prepared applications spewing from the Tea Party's messy birth. The edict went out expressly because the office was being flooded with a bunch of hastily prepared, clearly political, applications all using very similar terms. In fact, the entire group of IRS employees in question was created to address the influx of possibly political applications. If the office had suddenly received a hundred applications for exempt status all claiming to be from the Sierra Club, wouldn't you want them to pay a bit more attention? I would. What if those applications had all been from groups using Muslim Brotherhood in their titles? Would the same pundits still be on the air screaming about the IRS getting all political?
Behind all this are the staggering numbers. Out of thousands of applications, only a handful were rejected. You know what happens while a nonprofit organization is waiting to get this approval? They get to operate as a nonprofit organization. The harm caused by this action is exactly zero, and exactly no groups have sued the IRS in response to their rejection. They simply amended the application and tried again.
These are agents doing their job. They responded to an unusual influx of groups with political language in their applications all going after a designation that excludes groups that carry out many political actions.
The only scandal here is that this is being reported as if the IRS did something wrong in injecting itself into politics. The law requires that the IRS inject itself into politics. Don't like it? Change the law. Don't attack the people trying to enforce it.
CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) - South Carolina's Department of Social Services ordered doctors to do irreversible, medically unnecessary sex-assignment surgery on a year-old child in state custody, her adoptive parents claim in court.
Pamela and John Mark Crawford sued three doctors and four Social Services workers on behalf of their child, M.C., in Federal Court. M.C. is 8 years old.
"This lawsuit challenges the decision by government officials and doctors to perform an irreversible, painful, and medically unnecessary sex assignment surgery on a sixteen-month-old child in state custody. Defendants performed this surgery for the purpose of 'assigning' the child the female gender despite their own conclusion that he 'was a true hermaphrodite but that there was no compelling reason that she should either be male or female,'" the complaint states.
M.C. was taken into state custody because his mother was deemed unfit and his father had abandoned him, according to the complaint. The Crawfords say the parental rights of the child's biological parents were terminated.
"At birth, M.C. was identified as a male based on his external genitalia. Shortly after birth, however, M.C.'s doctors discovered that M.C. had 'ambiguous genitals' and both male and female internal reproductive structures. As his medical records repeatedly indicated, M.C.'s doctors determined that he could be raised as either a boy or a girl," the complaint states.
"Despite not knowing whether M.C. would ultimately grow up to be a man or a woman, and whether he would elect to have any genital surgery, Defendants, who include doctors at a state hospital and SCDSS officials, decided to remove M.C.'s healthy genital tissue and radically restructure his reproductive organs in order to make his body appear to be female."
The Crawfords claim the doctors acted rashly upon Social Services' decision, going ahead with the surgery though there was no medically compelling reason to do so. The defendant doctors, Ian Aaronson, James Amrhein and Yawappiagyei-Dankah, cut off M.C.'s phallus to reduce it to the size of a clitoris, removed one testicle, excised all testicular tissue from the second gonad, and constructed labia, the complaint states.
"The surgery eliminated M.C.'s potential to procreate as a male and caused a significant and permanent impairment of sexual function," the adoptive parents say.
M.C. was not quite 16 months old, and "the defendant doctors knew that sex assignment surgeries on infants with conditions like M.C.'s pose a significant risk of imposing a gender that is ultimately rejected by the patient," the complaint states. "Indeed, one of the doctor defendants who performed the surgery on M.C. had previously published an article in a medical journal wherein he recognized that 'carrying out a feminizing-genitoplasty on an infant who might eventually identify herself as a boy would be catastrophic.'"
The Crawfords say that since he was very young, M.C. has shown strong signs of developing a male gender, and that he is living as a boy.
"His interests, manner and play, and refusal to be identified as a girl indicate that M.C.'s gender has developed as male. Indeed, M.C. is living as a boy with the support of his family, friend, school, religious leaders, and pediatrician," according to the complaint.
The Crawfords say M.C. could have been raised as either a girl or a boy until he was old enough for his gender identity to emerge. At that point, they could have made appropriate decisions regarding medical treatment - including whether to have surgery at all.
"Defendants usurped these intimate and profound decisions from M.C. when he was barely older than an infant, knowing that surgically mis-assigning M.C.'s sex would lead to disastrous results. Unfortunately, medical technology has not devised a way to replace what M.C. has lost," the Crawfords say.
"By their actions, Defendants also interfered with M.C's future ability to form intimate, procreative relationships, choices central to his personal dignity and autonomy."
They call the defendants' actions an egregious, arbitrary, and enduring invasion of M.C.'s bodily integrity. They seek compensatory and punitive damages for constitutional violations.
They are represented by Kenneth M. Suggs of Columbia, S.C.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges joined Democracy Now! to discuss what could mark the most significant government intrusion on freedom of the press in decades. The Justice Department has acknowledged seizing the work, home and cellphone records used by almost 100 reporters and editors at the Associated Press. The phones targeted included the general AP office numbers in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Connecticut, and the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. The action likely came as part of a probe into the leaks behind an AP story on the U.S. intelligence operation that stopped a Yemen-based al-Qaeda bombing plot on a U.S.-bound airplane. Hedges, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and former New York Times reporter, calls the monitoring "one more assault in a long series of assault against freedom of information and freedom of the press." Highlighting the Obama administration’s targeting of government whistleblowers, Hedges adds: "Talk to any investigative journalist who must investigate the government, and they will tell you that there is a deep freeze. People are terrified of speaking, because they’re terrified of going to jail."
NERMEEN SHAIKH: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder [headed to Capitol Hill on Wed, facing questions] over Justice Department’s decision to secretly seize the work, home and cellphone records used by almost a hundred reporters and editors at the Associated Press. On Tuesday, Holder defended the move as a necessary step in a criminal probe of leaks of classified information.
The phones targeted by the subpoena included the general AP office numbers in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Hartford, Connecticut; and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. The records were from April and May of 2012. Among those whose records were obtained were Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, three other reporters and an editor, all of whom worked on a story about an operation conducted by the CIA and allied intelligence agencies that stopped a Yemen-based al-Qaeda plot to detonate a bomb on an airplane headed for the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: The Associated Press had delayed publication of the story 'til May 7, 2012, at the government's request. One day before the AP story was finally published, a U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed Fahd al-Quso, a senior leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Attorney General Holder, who says he recused himself from the leak probe, defended his department’s actions.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: This was a very serious—a very serious leak, and a very, very serious leak. I’ve been a prosecutor since 1976, and I have to say that this is among, if not the most serious, it is within the top two or three most serious leaks that I’ve ever seen. It put the American people at risk. And that is not hyperbole. It put the American people at risk. And trying to determine who was responsible for that, I think, required very aggressive action.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking Tuesday. In a letter to Holder, AP’sCEO Greg Pruitt protested the government’s seizing of journalists’ phone records. He wrote, quote: "There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know."
AMY GOODMAN: In an editorial today, The New York Times strongly criticized the Justice Department’s move. The editors wrote, quote: "These tactics will not scare us off, or The A.P., but they could reveal sources on other stories and frighten confidential contacts vital to coverage of government."
Well, we’re joined right now by a former Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist from The New York Times. He’s now a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and author, along with Joe Sacco, of the book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. We’re joined by Chris Hedges. ... Your response to this revelation about the—about what happened with AP and the U.S. government?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, it’s part of a pattern. That’s what’s so frightening. And it’s a pattern that we’ve seen, with the use of the Espionage Act, to essentially silence whistleblowers within the government—Kiriakou, Drake and others, although Kiriakou went to jail on—pled out on another charge—the FISA Amendment Act, which allows for warrantless wiretapping, the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows for the stripping of American citizens of due process and indefinite detention. And it is one more assault in a long series of assault against freedom of information and freedom of the press. And I would also, of course, throw in the persecution of Julian Assange at WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning as part of that process.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Chris Hedges, you wrote in the recent article that was published, your article "Death of Truth" in Truthdig and Nation magazine—you also write about the significance of the Espionage Act and how often it’s been invoked, and you say that it eviscerates the possibility of an independent press. So could you talk about the Espionage Act and how it also is somehow related to this AP story?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, it’s been used six times by the Obama administration. It was written in 1917 and was—is our Foreign Secrets Act. It is never meant—it was not designed to shut down whistleblowers, first used against Daniel Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers. So, three times from 1917 until Obama takes office in 2009, six times. And if you talk to investigative journalists in this country, who must investigate the inner workings of government, no one will talk, even on background. People are terrified. And this is, of course—the seizure of two months of records, of AP records, is not really about going after AP; it’s about going after that person or those people who leaked this story and shutting them down. And this canard that it endangered American life is—you know, there’s no evidence for this. He’s not—yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, the news conferences that Eric Holder and the White House held yesterday were interesting. This is White House spokesperson Jay Carney questioned Tuesday about the AP spying scandal and the Obama administration’s prosecution of whistleblowers.
REPORTER: This administration in the last four years has prosecuted twice as many leakers as every previous administration combined. How does that reflect balance?
PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: I would say that the president is committed to the press’s ability to pursue information, to defending the First Amendment. He is also, as a citizen and as commander-in-chief, committed to the proposition that we cannot allow classified information to be—that can do harm to our national security interests or to endanger individuals to be—to be leaked. And that is a balance that has to be struck.
REPORTER: But the record of the last four years does not suggest balance.
PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: That’s your opinion, Ari. But I—
REPORTER: No, it’s twice as many prosecutions as all previous administrations combined. That’s not even close.
PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: Well, I—I understand that there—you know, that there are ongoing investigations that preceded this administration, but I—again, I’m not going to—I can tell you what the president’s views are. And the president’s views include his defense of the First Amendment, his belief that journalists ought to be able to pursue information in an unfettered way, and that is backed up by his support for a media shield law, both as senator and as president. And it is also true that he believes a balance needs to be struck between those goals and the need to protect classified information.
AMY GOODMAN: And the questions of Jay Carney about the spying scandal on AP just continued.
REPORTER: As a principle, does the president approve of the idea of prosecutors going through the personal phone records and work phone records of journalists and their editors?
PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: I—I appreciate the effort to generalize the question, but, obviously, that goes right to the heart of some of the reporting on this specific case. I can tell you that the president believes that the press, as a rule, needs to be—to have an unfettered ability to pursue investigative journalism and—
REPORTER: How can it be unfettered if you’re worried about having your phone records—
PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: Well, again, I can’t—I can’t respond to this in the specific. And, you know, I—I am very understanding of the questions on this issue and—and appreciate the—the nature of the questions. And I think they—they go to important issues, and they go to the fundamental issue of finding the balance between—when it comes to leaks of classified information of—of our nation’s secrets, if you will, between the need to protect those—that information, because of the national security implications of not protecting them, on the one hand, and the need to allow for an unfettered press and its—in its pursuit of investigative journalism.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Jay Carney, the White House press spokesperson, who used to be the Washington bureau chief of Time magazine. Your response, Chris Hedges?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, I find, you know, all of these measures to essentially shut down the freedom of information, including the persecution of Assange and Manning, as symptomatic of a reconfiguration of our society into a totalitarian security and surveillance state, one where anyone who challenges the official narrative, who digs out cases of torture, war crimes—which is, of course, what Manning and Assange presented to the American public—is going to be ruthlessly silenced. And I find the passivity on the part of the mainstream press, publications like The New York Times,The Guardian, El País, Der Spiegel, all of which, of course, used this information, and turning their backs on Manning and Assange, to be very shortsighted for precisely this reason. If they think it’s just about Manning and Assange, then they have no conception of what it is that’s happening. And, you know, everyone knows, within the administration, within the National Security Council, the effects of climate change, the instability that that will cause, the economic deterioration, which is irreversible, and they want the mechanisms by which they can criminalize any form of dissent. And that’s finally what this is about.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what do you think allowed this to happen, Chris Hedges? You think it’s related to, you’ve suggested in your piece, the war on terror, that it gave kind of sanction, in a way, to this kind of crackdown on journalists?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, you know, it becomes the same paradigm in the war against communism. It’s an excuse to ferret out and destroy legitimate movements that challenge centers of power. And that’s, of course, how the war on terror has worked in exactly the same way. But we are seeing environmental activists, Occupy activists, people who function, like Manning, as a whistleblower being caught up in this war on terror and silenced through these rules.
So what they do is they pass, you know, for instance, Section 1021 of the NDAA. They pass it in the name of the war on terror, but then they can use it. Anybody can become a terrorist. I mean, in the trial in federal court, which we brought against—in the Southern District, we used, in the Stratfor-leaked emails that were put out by WikiLeaks, where they were trying to link a group that was close to Occupy, US Day of Rage, and al-Qaeda. That’s precisely what happened. So when we allow this kind of thing to go forward, we essentially shut down any ability not only to ferret out what’s happening internally within the mechanisms of power, but to protest or carry out dissent.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to another clip of the news conference of Attorney General Eric Holder being questioned on Tuesday.
REPORTER: The real question here, the underlying question, is the policy of the administration when it comes to the ability of the media to cover the news. And I think the question for you is, given the fact that this news organization was not given an opportunity to try to quash this in court, as has been precedent, it leaves us in the position of wondering whether the administration has somehow decided policy-wise that it’s kind of going to go after us.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Well, that is certainly not—I mean, I can talk about policy. That is certainly not the policy of this administration. If you will remember, in 2009, when I was going through my confirmation hearings, I testified in favor of a reporter shield law. We actually, as an administration, took a position in favor of such a law, didn’t get the necessary support up on the Hill. It is something this administration still thinks would be—would be appropriate. We’ve investigated cases on the basis of the facts, not as a result of a policy to get the press or to do anything of that nature. The facts and the law have dictated our actions.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Attorney General Eric Holder. Chris Hedges, I wanted you to respond to him and then talk about your recent trip. Well, you just came back from London, where you met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy, and then you came here and went to Pennsylvania and met with Mumia Abu-Jamal.
CHRIS HEDGES: It was a good week. Yes. I mean, I find what’s happening terrifying, truly frightening. And when you look closely at all of the documents that were purportedly given to WikiLeaks by Bradley Manning and published through Assange, none of them were top-secret. I mean, as a former investigative reporter for The New York Times, it was my job to go and find out often top-secret information. And that’s why I can’t understand the inability of the traditional press to grasp that we are now in the last moments of an effort to, in essence, effectively extinguish press freedom. And if you—I mean, AP is an—like The New York Times, an amazingly cautious organization, but read the comments. I mean, they get it, internally. But, unfortunately, you know, they have divided us against ourselves, and—and this is—you know, what we’ve undergone, as John Ralston says and as I’ve said many times, a kind of corporate coup d’état.
What we are seeing is a system put into place where it’s all propaganda. And anybody who challenges—I mean, look, this constant reference to a shield law is absurd, because they just violated the shield law by not going to court and informing AP of a subpoena but doing it secretly. So, I mean, you’ve got to hand it to the Obama administration. They’re far more clever than their predecessors in the Bush administration, but they’re carrying out exactly the same policy of snuffing out our most basic civil liberties and our most important press freedoms. And that’s because they know what’s coming, and they are going to legally put in a place by which any challenge to the centers of corporate power become ineffectual or impossible.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But how do you think this is already impacting the work of journalists?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, talk to any investigative journalist who must investigate the government, and they will tell you that there is a deep freeze. People are terrified of speaking, because they’re terrified of going to jail. And Kiriakou is now sitting for 30 months in a prison in Pennsylvania. So—
AMY GOODMAN: And Kiriakou is?
CHRIS HEDGES: That’s the former CIA official who purportedly gave information to The New York Times. And, you know, they’ve subpoenaed Risen’s records, both for his book and—
AMY GOODMAN: James Risen of The New York Times.
CHRIS HEDGES: Right, of the Times. I mean, so, it is—
AMY GOODMAN: For reporting on warrantless wiretapping.
CHRIS HEDGES: Exactly. And—
AMY GOODMAN: Which they held onto, a story they held onto for more than a year and that took the—
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, that gets into the cowardice of The New York Times, but that’s another show. Yeah, it was about to come out in the book, and then the _Times_’ Bill Keller ran it, because—but they had held it. And so, yeah, I think we’re in a very, very frightening moment.
AMY GOODMAN: And the fact that these—the phones were—the logs were taken of these different phones that more than a hundred AP reporters used, reporters and editors, shows who is calling them and who they’re calling.
CHRIS HEDGES: Right, that’s what they want.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the significance of that.
CHRIS HEDGES: Right. Well, what they’re clearly—
AMY GOODMAN: These aren’t tape-recorded conversations.
CHRIS HEDGES: Right. And, I mean, having done that kind of work, I’m almost certain that whoever gave the AP this information didn’t give it to them over the phone. But what they’re doing is finding out—matching all of the phone records to find out who had contact with someone in an AP bureau, whether that was in New York or Hartford or Washington or wherever else, and then they will probably use the Espionage Act to go after them, as well. That would—that’s certainly what the Obama administration has done since its inception.
AMY GOODMAN: Very briefly, can you talk about your visit with Julian Assange and then your visit with journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, I mean, I have tremendous respect for Julian Assange and what he’s done. Again, even within the liberal intelligentsia, who should know better, they’ve turned their back on him. You know, whatever the sexual misconduct charges in Sweden were, it certainly wasn’t rape, but there was something. But that has been used—
AMY GOODMAN: Well, they aren’t charges, but he’s wanted for questioning.
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, he’s actually not been charged at all, so that’s right, in a legal sense. But, you know, that kind of character assassination has left him very much alone. And I think the courage of a Manning, the courage of an Assange, the courage of a Mumia—I mean, how that man remains unbroken. I was there with Cornel West and the theologian James Cone. I mean, it was a privilege for me. I mean, three of the probably greatest African-American intellectuals in the country, and certainly radicals. It’s—you know, those people who hold fast to the—a kind of moral imperative, or hold fast to the capacity for dissent, whether that’s Manning, who exhibited—I was in the courtroom when he read his statement—tremendous courage, poise, whether that’s Assange, whether that’s Mumia, let’s look at where all those three people are, because for all of us who speak out, that’s where they want us to be, as well. And that gets back to this AP story, because that is exactly the process that we are undergoing and where—if they win, where we’re headed.
The IRS certainly deserves some of the criticism it's getting, but it's also worth looking at the groups they were examining a little closer.
I've been collecting the IRS filings for these organizations since they dropped off the FEC radar in early 2009. At that time, these political "civic" organizations were springing up like weeds after a spring storm. Let's take just one subset of the larger group and look more carefully.
American Majority Action is the 501(c)(4) companion to American Majority, the Koch-funded 501(c)(3) organization devoted to "training conservative activists." It is headed up by Andrew and Net Ryun, sons of former Kansas congressman Jim Ryun. Their initial report to the IRS for the short year ending June 30, 2011 described its program services as "issue advocacy and get out the vote operations in 4 states including 9 liberty headquarters." Secondary services included "capacity building grants to 32 like-minded organizations," and tertiary services included "health care policy issue advocacy." Amounts spent were $1,020,500, $529,000 and $224,000, respectively.
What like-minded organizations received grants? Here is a list of some, not all, since they did not list all 32 grantees:
- Arkansas Conservative United - $45,000
- Citizens Alliance of PA - $5,000
- Tulsa 912 Project Association - $5,000
- WI GrandSons of Liberty - $55,000
- Grassroots Outreach (AZ) - $275,000
- Liberty Restoration Foundation (FL) - $20,000
- Jefferson County Tea Party - $5,000
- Kitchen Table Patriots - $46,500
- Medina County Friends Neighbors (OH) - $5,000
- Ohio Liberty Council - $20,000
- PA Family Council - $5,000
- PA Coalition for Responsible Government - $6,000
- St Louis Tea Party - $22,500
- Tampa 912 - $5,000
Most of these groups are those "small tea party groups" crying out about unfair treatment now. They have billionaires beneath their scattered whines -- billionaires who seeded those groups with the intention of building network nodes in key swing states for the 2012 election.
At least one of them isn't a non-profit at all. You might recall Grassroots Outreach from 2012, or perhaps the name Nathan Sproul rings a bell. On April 29, 2010 I wrote about Mark Jacoby, who pled guilty to voter registration fraud in California. He was associated with Nathan Sproul then. Sproul has a very long history of conducting unethical voter registration cleansings in key states, and was ultimately caught doing so aggressively in 2012.
Perhaps it was more convenient to launder payments through a brand-new nonprofit organization than for the RNC to get their hands dirty, or maybe it was just insurance. Either way, Sproul received $275,000 for "get out the vote" efforts.
Meanwhile, American Majority, the c3 associated with American Majority Action, was incubating a new group called the John Hancock Committee for the States. The JHCFS was the successor organization to Eric Odom's American Liberty Alliance. Here is American Majority's incubation disclosure:
The almost $700,000 in funding for that organization came from the Sam Adams Alliance, the very same organization that incubated American Majority. I reported that information on April 26, 2010, which was around the same time that the IRS placed these groups under higher scrutiny.
Shorter version: Sam Adams Alliance incubates American Majority. American Majority spawns American Majority Action and John Hancock Committee for the States. American Majority Action sends thousands of dollars to 'small tea party groups' around the country for "get out the vote" operations. What does JHCFS do? According to Rachel Tabachnik, all three groups are in an alliance to do the same thing:
The focus of this national Tea Party group is radical free marketers and culture warriors – anti-union, anti-regulatory, anti-environmental, anti-feminist, anti-reproductive rights, and the list goes on. But it’s not about Israel.
In early October American Majority opened a storefront office on Forward Avenue in the largest Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh. This is one of several campaign offices opened in swing states including Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio.
The American Majority Inc.’s purpose, as listed on its IRS 990 tax forms is to “create a national training institute dedicated to identifying, training, and mentoring political leaders.” It is affiliated with the Valley Forge Alliance in Aledo, Texas, also formerly called the John Hancock Committee for the States and the American Liberty Alliance, and the Sam Adams Alliance. The organizations have worked closely with Glenn Beck’s 912 organizations to build Tea Party networks.
Just to place some additional context, the JHCFS gave out some grants in 2011:
- Texas Public Policy Foundation: $124,000
- 1851 Center for Constitutional Law: $7,000
- Tea Party Patriots: $50,000
- James Madison Institute: $25,000
In 2011, the Ryun brothers let JHCFS fly from the nest after it changed its name to the Valley Forge Alliance. At that time, they handed the reins over to Mark Meckler, disgraced former leader of -- wait for it -- Tea Party Patriots! At the same time, Meckler was also placed in charge of Empower Texans, another 501(c)(4) organization created to watchdog state legislators.
The Tea Party Patriots are some of the biggest whiners about their non-profit status being held up, yet when you untangle the funding hairball and remember that Jenny Beth Martin is a Republican consultant, it's not quite as evil as she makes it seem.
What else was happening at the time the IRS decided to look closer at these groups? Karl Rove was crowing all over the place about his big initiative with Crossroads GPS, Sarah Palin was reading her hand at the "National Tea Party Convention", and Glenn Beck was huddling with Paul Ryan to plot ways to "flush out" progressivism.
In this environment, is it difficult to understand why the IRS put these groups under high scrutiny? Just for the record, it wasn't only conservative groups, either. In fact, the only organiztion denied tax-exempt status was a liberal group who intended to recruit women candidates.
The scandal here isn't the IRS having the common sense to look harder at these organizations. The scandal is the utter incompetence with which they did it. Asking stupid questions, asking for radio interview transcripts? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Their incompetence is truly mind-blowing, but this one case study should prove beyond all reasonable doubt that these so-called grassroots organizations deserved all scrutiny and attention given to them. After all, these organizations and their donors are asking for a pass on taxes. They have a duty to prove they deserve that.
Next on the agenda? Push Congress to close the loophole. It's simple enough. No political activity in non-profit organizations that directly funds election efforts. Period. That should take care of any possible future scandals, and still allow organizations to advocate/lobby for their cause.