Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

TBR News October 3, 2016

Oct 03 2016

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C.  October 3, 2016: “This coming national election seems to be a contest between bad and badder. The loser will be the American public. Over population and under employment are not a good mix for domestic tranquility. There hasn’t been a good president since Harry Truman and every year, the choices are getting worse and worse until finally, we can choose between Charlie Manson and Rick Parry of Wisconson. And if the public, in its wrath, rose up and threw out the entire circus of crooks, swindler, liars, psychopaths and moral lepers, believe it that ten years later, new ones would take their place and the public would have to start house cleaning all over again.”

Hillary Clinton Never Met a War She Didn’t Want Other Americans to Fight

by Doug Bandow


Never before were the two leading presidential candidates so disliked. Both major parties have nominated candidates that most Americans desperately want to reject.

There many reasons to oppose Hillary Clinton: a history of scandal, reaching back to Bill Clinton’s Arkansas governorship; greedy, grasping friendships with economic elites; and brutal partisan war against political opponents. She is smart, competent, and experienced, but so were Richard Nixon and Richard Cheney. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that she would put her virtues to good use as president. She almost certainly would lead America into more foolish wars. About the only reason to hope for a Clinton victory is her flawed opponent, Donald Trump.

Yet despite his many failings, he remains superior to Clinton when it comes to foreign policy. No one knows what Trump would do in a given situation, which means there is a chance he would do the right thing. In contrast, Clinton’s beliefs, behavior, and promises all suggest that she most likely would do the wrong thing, embracing a militaristic status quo which most Americans recognize has failed disastrously.

In fact, her proclivity for promiscuous war-making has attracted the support of leading Neoconservatives, including some architects of the disastrous Iraq war, which as Senator she voted to authorize. Some otherwise obscure Neocons even have appeared in her campaign ads. Her record of backing every recent U.S. military intervention is far more attractive than Trump’s intermittently blustering rhetoric to war-happy Republican hawks.

As my Cato Institute colleague Christopher Preble pointed out, “Clinton supported every one of the last seven U.S. military interventions abroad, plus two others we ended up fighting.” For instance, while First Lady she pushed for U.S. intervention in the Balkans—attacking the Bosnian Serbs and then Serbia. She was an enthusiastic war advocate, explaining: “I urged him [her husband] to bomb.” Alas, Bosnia remains badly divided while Kosovo has turned into a gangster state which, according to the New York Times, is “a font of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists.” Oops.

She apparently took the same position toward Iraq, backing bombing that became almost routine during her husband’s administration. He also turned a humanitarian mission in Somalia into nation-building on the cheap, threatened a military invasion of Haiti to enforce regime change, launched a lengthy occupation of the faux state of Bosnia, and expanded NATO toward Russia. None of them were in America’s interest or turned out well, but Hillary Clinton apparently only objected to the Haiti misadventure. She was seen by aides as the most influential of the administration’s many ivory tower warriors, always available to lobby Bill to do more bombing and killing abroad.

Sen. Hillary Clinton supported the overbroad Authorization for Use of Military Force after September 11, which 15 years later the Obama administration claims as warrant for its very different war against the Islamic State. She strongly backed the Iraq invasion. Only after it turned out badly and threatened to damage her political career did she acknowledge her mistake. Of course, that was too late to retrieve the thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and trillions of dollars squandered. At the same time, she said she was sorry for opposing the 2007 “surge” of troops, despite what Iraq became. Worse, a former State department aide reported that Clinton later announced she would not feel “constrained” in the future by the failure in Iraq. She apparently sees no need to learn from one’s mistakes.

Clinton supported the Obama administration’s decision to double down, twice, on its expensive yet failed nation-building mission in Afghanistan. She pushed for even higher troop levels than did President Obama. Clinton once warned about the ill consequences of drone strikes in Pakistan, became a strong supporter as secretary of state. Then she backed the administration’s drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen as well as Libya, Somalia, and Syria.

Clinton was more responsible than anyone else for America’s Libyan misadventure, another attempt at regime change on the cheap, though with a humanitarian gloss. She reportedly warned President Obama against allowing America to “be left behind” by not joining the foolish war parade in North Africa in early 2011. She responded to Moammar Qaddafy’s death with a joke, but the war left another failed state, host to Islamic State killers and convulsed by civil war.

Her insistence on the ouster of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad discouraged a negotiated settlement, but the administration provided his opponents with no practical means to oust him. Clinton advocated lethal aid to rebels, who displayed a dismaying tendency to surrender and turn weapons over to radial groups, including ISIS. She later urged direct U.S. military intervention in the form of a “no-fly” zone.

Clinton backed NATO expansion up to Russia’s borders, a policy guaranteed to poison bilateral relations. She further advocated including both Ukraine and Georgia, which would turn their next confrontation with Moscow into a potential nuclear war involving America. After leaving office she made the overwrought comparison of Russia’s annexation of Crimea with Nazi Germany and supported military aid to Ukraine, which would encourage Moscow to escalate accordingly.

Of her belligerent record Trump observed: “Sometimes it seemed like there wasn’t a country in the Middle East that Hillary Clinton didn’t want to invade, intervene in, or topple.” Indeed, as he suggested, she is “trigger-happy and very unstable.” This is one of the most important reasons Americans face a terrorist threat. While she previously contended that “We need a real plan for confronting terrorists,” she apparently failed to recognize how bombing, invading, and occupying other nations, supporting murderous foreign rulers, intervening in other countries’ conflicts, and killing foreign peoples all create enemies around the globe, some of whom retaliate against U.S. civilians.

Alas, her policies guarantee even more wars in the future. Every military action creates blowback, which is used to justify escalating involvement and new conflicts. Yet she believes that her mistakes entitle her to the presidency: “I’m proud to run on my record, because I think the choice before the American people in this election is clear.”

It is. A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for more meddling, intervention, and war, with more dead Americans and wasted dollars, and ultimately even more meddling, intervention, and war.

She cloaks her constant push for war with praise of “American exceptionalism” and America’s role as “the indispensable nation.” In her recent speech to the American Legion she cited Ronald Reagan’s belief in America as a “shining city on a hill,” even though he urged the U.S. to lead by example, not by becoming an international dominatrix. In fact, Reagan was a veritable peacenik in comparison to Clinton, embracing missile defense out of his horror at the prospect of war.

As justification for her belligerence Clinton affirmed “America’s unique and unparalleled ability to be a force for peace and progress, a champion for freedom and opportunity.” Like intervening in Iraq and Libya, one wonders? Supporting Saudi Arabia in its brutal war in Yemen? Backing authoritarian dictatorships across Central Asia? Too bad Clinton never took seriously her admission that America’s “power comes with a responsibility to lead, humbly, thoughtfully, and with a fierce commitment to our values.”

When the U.S. fails to lead, she argued, a power vacuum occurs. Actually, it is Washington’s insistence that it must “lead” which discourages America’s vaunted allies from filling any voids. For instance, she advocates confrontation with Russia over Ukraine even though the latter is not a member of NATO and its status is of far greater interest to the Europeans—who have a much larger collective economy and population than both Russia and America.

Clinton seemed almost giddy about America’s “network of allies” which “is part of what makes us exceptional.” Last June she attacked Trump’s alleged threat to “abandon our allies in NATO,” a bunch of well-heeled friends which typically spend less defending themselves than America spends protecting them. She also has pledged to increase subsidies to America’s Arab allies, even though Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the other Gulf States—which possess significant economic wealth, populations, and militaries—could act on their own.

Allies, she earlier claimed, are a “source of strength.” That’s a dangerous delusion, best illustrated by NATO. There’s nothing special about accumulating lots of helpless security dependents. Indeed, it’s almost as easy to collect foreign allies as Facebook friends. All the U.S. need do is offer to subsidize, protect, reassure, and coddle wealthy nations which prefer to spend their money on more enjoyable endeavors, such as domestic social benefits. She argued that America should “stand with our allies because generations of American troops fought and died to secure those bonds.” Actually, no. U.S. troops fought for them because America’s security would suffer if they were conquered and they were unable to protect themselves. That is no longer the case.

Washington’s allies “deliver,” she insisted, such as sharing intelligence. However, they would do so even if America did not promise to defend them. Similar is Japanese-South Korean cooperation with America over missile defense, which she has promoted. The Pentagon should not be turned into a welfare agency; security commitments should not be treated as a form of international charity.

Clinton cited the “international coalition” against ISIS as if it was a success. In fact, Washington’s intervention relieved the states directly at risk, which had more than a million men under arms, of the need to confront the so-called Islamic State. The Gulf States quickly retreated, with Riyadh shifting to its senseless war against Yemen. For years Turkey accommodated ISIS, with high officials apparently profiting from the illicit oil trade. Even now Ankara does more to fight the Syrian Kurds, America’s most important allies against the Islamic State.

The U.S. should insist that its allies act like real allies by, for instance, defending themselves and otherwise contributing to America’s interests, rather than acting as security black holes. Trump understands enough to complain about allied free-riding on American taxpayers. He also recognizes the need for creative solutions, suggesting the possibility of Washington’s Asian allies developing nuclear weapons to deter North Korea. It’s a controversial idea, but would get the U.S. out from the middle of a no-win nuclear confrontation.

In her recent speech Clinton argued that the election “shouldn’t be about ideology,” but that is nonsense. The president’s ideology helps determine when he or she will go to war.

In an earlier speech Clinton imagined Trump “leading us into war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.” That’s an ironic charge coming from someone who has backed U.S. involvement in every unnecessary, foolish, expensive conflict over the last two decades.

Of course, she insisted, Americans “face real threats and real enemies that we need to confront and defeat.” But not nearly as many as she seems to think. And not in nearly as many circumstances as she obviously believes.

Still, Clinton appears to recognize that war-mongering is a vote loser. So she recently proclaimed: “we must only send our troops into harm’s way as a last resort, not a first choice. That must be our bedrock principle.”

Yet she never has followed that principle in deciding what positions to take. After all, how could she seriously argue that “we absolutely must” intervene in the Balkans, Iraq, Libya, and Syria and against the Islamic State? In none of these cases was there a compelling justification for U.S. combat intervention. In most there wasn’t even a bad argument for getting involved.

Yet we seem bound for a repeat. She promised not to send ground forces to fight the Islamic State: “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again and we are not putting ground troops into Syria,” she declared in early September. Yet she almost immediately started dissembling. Now she says she only doesn’t want to place “big contingents” in either Iraq or Syria. One can imagine how she might define “big.”

Moreover, foreign policy aide Jeremy Bash promised a “full review” of Syria policy, which would take into account the ruling “murderous regime” with an objective of getting the Assad regime “out of there” at the same time as Islamic State’s defeat. She previously proposed to “close Iraq’s sectarian divide,” which America created when it blew that country apart. Who really believes the U.S. could put Humpty Dumpty back together, at least without another military occupation?

Of course, means also is important. Clinton denounced budget caps and sequester as applied to the military. They aren’t a particularly smart way to make defense policy, but they are the only means to just slow military outlays which more than doubled in real terms since George W. Bush took office. Rather than complain about the process she should focus on substance—drop unnecessary defense commitments to wealthy allies and cut force structure accordingly.

There’s also “the experience and the temperament” of the prospective military commander-in-chief. Trump most obviously appears to flunk this test. In an address back in June Clinton attacked Trump for his “bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies.” However, Clinton, while publicly less volatile, is neither more truthful nor of better character. Her willingness to go to war for less than compelling reasons is an even greater flaw. A cool head is of little value if it leads to calculated involvement in multiple needless wars. Such a person also is not qualified to be the military’s commander-in-chief. If Clinton really believes that “we should be finding ways to bring our country together around national security, our role in the world, our values,” she should repudiate her past promiscuous war-making.

In short, what makes Clinton dangerous is not the sort of incoherence reflected in Donald Trump’s foreign policy approach but a coherent yet far more dangerous advocacy of military dominance around the globe. She genuinely believes that Washington should micro-manage the planet, lecturing, hectoring, subsidizing, sanctioning, bombing, invading, and occupying other nations as it sees fit. Alas, the rest of us would pay with our taxes and lives for her attempt to socially engineer the world.

The two major parties have done their best to nominate the worst candidates possible. On foreign policy the Democratic Party won this dubious contest. If you want more conflict and war, the obvious choice is Hillary Clinton.

Russia’s Putin suspends plutonium cleanup accord with U.S. because of ‘unfriendly’ acts

October 3, 2016

by Dmitry Solovyov


MOSCOW-Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday suspended an agreement with the United States for disposal of weapons-grade plutonium because of “unfriendly” acts by Washington, the Kremlin said.

A Kremlin spokesman said Putin had signed a decree suspending the 2010 agreement under which each side committed to destroy tonnes of weapons-grade material because Washington had not been implementing it and because of current tensions in relations.

The two former Cold War adversaries are at loggerheads over a raft of issues including Ukraine, where Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and supports pro-Moscow separatists, and the conflict in Syria.

The deal, signed in 2000 but which did not come into force until 2010, was being suspended due to “the emergence of a threat to strategic stability and as a result of unfriendly actions by the United States of America towards the Russian Federation”, the preamble to the decree said.

It also said that Washington had failed “to ensure the implementation of its obligations to utilize surplus weapons-grade plutonium”.

The 2010 agreement, signed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called on each side to dispose of 34 tonnes of plutonium by burning in nuclear reactors.

Clinton said at the time that that was enough material to make almost 17,000 nuclear weapons. Both sides then viewed the deal as a sign of increased cooperation between the two former adversaries toward a joint goal of nuclear non-proliferation.

“For quite a long time, Russia had been implementing it (the agreement) unilaterally,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with journalists on Monday.

“Now, taking into account this tension (in relations) in general … the Russian side considers it impossible for the current state of things to last any longer.”

Ties between Moscow and Washington plunged to freezing point over Crimea and Russian support for separatists in eastern Ukraine after protests in Kiev toppled pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich.

Washington led a campaign to impose Western economic sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Relations soured further last year when Russia deployed its warplanes to an air base in Syria to provide support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops fighting rebels.

The rift has widened in recent weeks, with Moscow accusing Washington of not delivering on its promise to separate units of moderate Syrian opposition from “terrorists”.

Huge cost overruns have also long been another threat to the project originally estimated at a total of $5.7 billion.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Cash-strapped Saudi Arabia switches to Gregorian calendar to pay civil servants less

October 3, 2016


Saudi Arabian civil servants will lose 11 days of pay after the country switched to the Gregorian calendar, the predominant format for organizing time in the West. The switch is part of austerity measures meant to curb the budget deficit.

Previously, only the private sector of the Gulf monarchy used the Gregorian calendar of its oil customers to calculate salaries, while the public sector has used the Islamic lunar Hijri calendar since 1932. Under it, a year comprises of 12 months lasting 354 or 355 days, or 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. The salaries are calculated on annual basis, so a longer year translates into less payment for the employees.

The switch came into force on Sunday, the last day of the year 1437 AH, and is part of a wider austerity effort that the Saudi government is enacting to cut budgetary spending, Gulf News reported.

Riyadh is also curbing financial perks for public servants, salaries of officials, annual bonuses, transport allowances, and the number of annual holidays. The new rules apply to both civilian and military officials regardless of their nationality, according to the report.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has been hit hard by the drop in crude oil prices that began in 2014, forcing it to attempt massive reform to cut spending and diversify the economy.

OPEC nations have been struggling to agree on freezing output, a measure that would help stabilize prices, amid Riyadh’s confrontation with Tehran over Iran’s market share, which it wants to regain following the lifting of US-championed sanctions on its oil trade.

Iraqi Shi’ite Cleric Issues a Fatwa against the Turkish Troops

He says it is a religious duty to resist the presence of the Turkish troops in Iraq

October 2, 2016


ERBIL — An Iraqi Shi’ite cleric on Sunday, issued a fatwa (jurisdiction), ordering the Iraqis to fight the Turkish troops in Iraq, calling it a “religious and moral duty.”

Qassim al-Tai, the Shi’ite cleric said in a statement that “We must fight the invading Turkish forces in Iraq,” stressing that “resistance to the Turkish presence in Iraq militarily, especially after the approval of the Turkish parliament on the presence of these forces is a religious, moral and social duty.”

Tai said, “in addition to the military resistance, there are other ways to resist them such as boycotting the Turkish companies and imports.”

The Turkish parliament decided on October 1st, to extend the mission of its military forces in Syria and Iraq for another year, after the Turkish president Recep Tayip Erdogan said that his country’s troops stationed at the bases near Mosul will take part in the Battle of the retaking the city from Islamic State (IS).

The Iraqi government however has repeatedly opposed the presence of the Turkish troops in Mosul, claiming that it would disrupt the upcoming military campaign to recapture the city.

The Turkish troops are stationed in a camp on the outskirts of Mosul, where they are providing the Sunni tribal forces known as Hashd al-Watani with military training to enable them in the the battle of liberating the city of Mosul which has been invaded by IS since mid-2014

45 Years After Attica Uprising, Prisoners Are Rebelling Again

October 3, 2016

by Alice Speri

The Intercept

Earlier this month, inmates across the country embarked on what organizers have called the largest prison strike in U.S. history, an ambitious mass protest against prison labor and inhumane prison conditions. The strike, which was the culmination of a series of renewed efforts at prison organizing in recent years, kicked off on September 9, in tribute to one of the bleakest moments in the country’s history of incarceration, the uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility, in upstate New York.

On September 9, 1971, prisoners at the overcrowded prison seized an opportunity to gain control of the facility and took a number of hostages, inspired by earlier prison and jail uprisings and by the momentum of the liberation movements raging outside the prisons’ walls. But prisoners at Attica were mostly driven by growing desperation over unbearable conditions inside: constant abuse by guards, medical neglect, lack of showers and toilet paper. Four people — one guard and three prisoners — were killed in the early hours of the riot. Then for the following four days a group of leaders who emerged out of the initial chaos attempted to negotiate a peaceful surrender with state officials, demanding amnesty for actions conducted during the riot, as well as access to classes, religious freedom, and fairer disciplinary practices.

Despite recommendations from all sides that he do so, New York state governor Nelson Rockefeller — who two years later shaped the future of New York’s criminal justice system when he signed his infamous drug laws — refused to visit Attica. Instead, on September 13, he ordered state troopers to “retake” the prison.

By the end of the assault, 39 people — 29 prisoners and 10 hostages — had been killed by police, who entered the prison protected by a thick fog of tear gas and armed with state-issued weapons as well as personal guns and hunting rifles. Dozens of other inmates were injured and tortured in the hours that followed. But as the state regained control of the prison, officials told reporters waiting outside that prisoners had killed the hostages, sometimes embellishing those accounts with fabricated details that shocked public opinion, like when they said an inmate castrated one of the guards and shoved his testicles into his mouth.

What followed was an enormous cover-up, as 62 prisoners and zero law enforcement officials were indicted over the massacre. The cover-up was partially exposed in the decades that followed, but the magnitude and callousness of it all is something we are just now beginning to fathom thanks to Blood in The Water, a monumental account of the uprising and its aftermath by historian Heather Ann Thompson, published earlier this year.

Thompson’s book documents the Attica violence in painful detail: the circumstances leading up to the uprising and the lengths to which the state went to hide its responsibility in the decades that followed. Thompson makes the case that the Attica massacre, and the lies that Americans were told about it, played a pivotal role in justifying the dehumanization of prisoners and in providing political support for the mass incarceration binge the country embarked in the decades that followed. While Attica continues to inspire resistance among prisoners, the uprising’s most lasting legacy has been one of exacerbated repression, as corrections officials stifled prison dissent and organizing and the general public turned its back to prisoners’ continuing demands for human rights and dignity.

“Even though the extraordinary violence that took place in 1971 was overwhelmingly perpetrated by members of law enforcement, not the prisoners, American voters ultimately did not respond to this prison uprising by demanding that states rein in police power,” Thompson writes in the book. “Instead they demanded that police be given even more support and even more punitive laws to enforce.”

Today, Attica remains a prison, rife with abuse, rather than a monument to a massacre. Prisons nationwide are significantly more crowded today than they were in 1971, and they are often more punitive and less humane. The racial inequality that defined the prison experience then, and that essentially enabled the lynching that was the retaking of Attica, remains a defining factor of prison life and abuse. And today prisoners are once again rebelling, while states go to great lengths to silence them.

As the current prison strike, barely noticed by the public or acknowledged by corrections officials, entered its third week, The Intercept spoke with Thompson about what’s changed in prisons since 1971, and what hasn’t.

One of the running threads in your book is the state’s refusal — to this day — to open the books on Attica and allow the public to know what really happened 45 years ago. But accessing prisons remains incredibly challenging for the public today. Why is it so hard, for instance, to get accurate information on the current strike?

It’s really an outrage. These are public institutions, and not only can the media not get access, but neither can the families of those inside. Neither can state senators — elected officials find it incredibly difficult to get information out of the prison system. It was not my intention to make my book so timely, but if you know anything about Attica you understand that what you don’t know is always much worse than what you might imagine. These prison strikes have been happening for days and corrections officials were denying them. Now corrections officials are reporting that there have been incidents, but we don’t know how many people are involved, we don’t know what the repression is. Frankly, the only reason we know about Attica today is that reporters and law students and lawyers didn’t give up. They just insisted, came back again and again and again, filing injunctions, beating down the doors, insisting that their state legislators come in, and that’s the only reason why we have any idea that basically 1,300 people were tortured as long as they were.

It is unconscionable that prisoners in states across this country are protesting the conditions under which they live and are forced to work and the media cannot be told who they are, how many of them there are, what their demands are, and what the repercussions of their acts have been. The fact that we cannot get any of those questions answered by public institutions is outrageous and unforgivable given the support we give them.

Some prisoners today are trying really hard to reach out to people outside, even to connect to the broader movement for justice that we have seen resurface in recent years. But even when they are able to get their story out, increasingly through social media, there seems to be limited interest in their struggle. Why?

There’s no question that by the time Attica happened we were in the midst of a pretty deep social movement, that lots of young people took time off of their day jobs to tell prisoners’ stories and to demand prisoner justice. But that took a long time — there were prisoner atrocities going on for a very long time in many of these prisons. Martin Sostre had to file a federal suit to stop the solitary confinement he was suffering in Attica long before the uprising. The southern prisons were hell holes, they had nobody paying particular attention.

I think we’re in the beginning of that movement again. I feel like that energy and that interest is starting again. But the fact that we have perhaps more access to prisoners through social media, you have to remember that that is being mitigated against by the fact that prisoners do far more time in solitary than they ever did. They are on lockdown in their cells far more than they ever were, and frankly, the punitive nature of the parole system and the sentencing rules mean that many of them get cut off. They have been away for so long that it’s only a core few who manage to keep their outside networks up.

The Attica uprising came as a movement for prison justice was beginning to take hold. What happened afterward?

The movement didn’t die out at all. However, what happened after 1971 is that the police retook Attica, they did all the killing, they did all the maiming, they did all the torture, but then the state stepped out in front of the nation and said that it was prisoners that killed the hostages. And when they did that, they gave the emotional fuel to this punitive system we have today. They had already started down that path but Attica turned people, the broader nation, against prisoners’ rights. And it made possible shutting down prisoner access to the federal court system, with the Prison Litigation Reform Act, it made possible the amount of solitary confinement that happens today. In the Martin Sostre case, in 1969, a federal judge said it was cruel and inhumane to keep someone in solitary for 365 days. We now hold people in solitary for ten years or longer. Prisons became much more punitive, but that’s not because they managed to shut down resistance, they actually managed to “shut down” the prisoners themselves.

When you write about prisoners’ rights, you invariably will get someone saying, “They’re prisoners, they deserve it.” How do you trace this attitude towards prisoners to what happened at Attica?

At the height of Attica, if you look at public opinion polls, there was quite a notable degree of support for prison reform and for better guard training and more humane conditions in prisons. After Attica, that door closes. The carceral state was a backlash to the civil rights movement, and Attica was the pinnacle of that link between the civil rights movement and the prison rights movement. Today, people are still very hostile to the idea that prisoners are people. But I feel like we’re in a changing moment right now. I don’t want to be too optimistic but I feel like it’s very significant that prisoners are resisting despite enormous odds, higher odds than they faced in 1971. They are going on strike, they are refusing to be warehoused. And I think that the broader public is beginning to understand that these are people we’re talking about.

But prisoners are once again protesting the same conditions they rebelled against in 1971. Or are they worse?

They’re much worse now. They’re much worse because what should have happened after Attica and what was undoubtedly on the way to happening was a humanizing of prison conditions. We were moving towards community corrections. We were moving away from warehousing, and after Attica we reversed that trend in horrifying ways and now the chickens are coming home to roost. And by the way, we’re not waking up because politicians all of a sudden got a conscience. We’re waking up because of Ferguson and Baltimore and Chicago and Charlotte. We’re waking up because people are saying enough and now they’re even saying enough in prisons. I think this moment is a new civil rights era.

Is the current resurgence of prison activism tied to the movement for black lives outside prisons? And how does that compare to the way the Attica uprising came on the heels of the civil rights movement?

If you look at a snapshot of 1970 it looks as if activism for civil rights in the streets and activism in the prisons are all happening simultaneously and people understand the connections. But it took a decade of enormous work and of both prison uprisings and urban rebellions before those connections were made. Today, we know intellectually that you wouldn’t have mass incarceration without excessive policing in black communities, but people erupt where they are. It’s not surprising to me that the first eruptions are going to be in the communities, because that’s exactly where they were in the 1970s. It’s in 1964 that we get rebellions in Philadelphia and Rochester and Harlem, but it’s not until the later 60s and the early 70s that prisons start rising up and that people are mobilizing both communities. I see the fact that we’re having these things just now starting up in prisons as a very interesting sign.

In the immediate aftermath of Attica, the media disastrously failed to see through officials’ lies. Today, with some notable exceptions, prison coverage continues to be limited and lacking, even as the movement for prison reform gains some ground. Why are we not covering prisons more aggressively?

The way that we need to start leaning on the broader media is to say: These are public institutions. We spend an incredible percentage of our tax dollars and give a considerable amount of our good will and faith to institutions we are literally barred from understanding. And those institutions are in charge of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, the poorest people, the most mentally ill. From a purely investigative journalism point of view, this is a question of access to public information and I feel that it was that spirit that led reporters in the 1960s and 1970s to uncover some of the worst abuses. It wasn’t that they were leftists or radicals, it was that they were journalists and they felt that they had a right to the information. I think that spirit is crucially important and I feel that journalists today have lost much of that; they think the story is what the press office gives them. Your job is not what the press office is giving you, your job is what the press office is not telling you.

Your book was made possible, in part, by the mistake of a courthouse clerk in Buffalo who erroneously gave you access to thousands of pages of documents that the state did not mean for anyone to see — and that have since disappeared. (Officials have even denied that those documents were there in the first place.) What does the fact that it’s so hard to get government to talk about something that happened 45 years ago say about government-perpetrated injustice that continues to go on today?

For one thing it says that every time we have a police shooting the public needs to insist that the grand jury process is more transparent, and that there have to be independent prosecutors, that is to say, prosecutors who never have to rely on the police any other time. Also, Attica was 45 years ago, but there’s no statute of limitations on murder. For many decades it was the very active fear of prosecution that motivated the state’s police unions to show up and to not let the records be disclosed. But I think that everybody understands that this is not old history. These records say something fundamental about race and justice and equal justice under the law, not just in New York but in America. What’s being protected is the legitimacy of the state, the idea — or the fantasy — that politicians are above this ugliness and that state officials do the right thing. What’s being protected goes to the fundamental nature of how society works — if you don’t have legitimacy of government you don’t have anything.

I’m not sure what we can do about the past; we should still push for these records, and frankly there still needs to be a truth and reconciliation process for what happened at Attica. That’s what the survivors want, that’s what they deserve. But what I hope the book does, in addition to rescuing their history, is make all citizens much more cynical, skeptical, curious, and cautious about these days we walk in right now. Because these things are still with us.  Attica is not that unusual. Attica is just emblematic of prisons everywhere; there have been uprisings at almost every prison in America. What might be happening right now at Holmes correctional facility in Florida makes me shudder. It just keeps going on and on until we shine a light on it.

Brexit begins: Theresa May takes axe to EU laws

October 2, 2016

by Ben Riley-Smith

The Telegraph/UK

Theresa May will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act in a move that will formally begin the process of making Britain’s Parliament sovereign once again.

Addressing the Conservative Party Conference for the first time as leader, Mrs May will on Sunday declare that her Government will begin work to end the legislation that gives European Union law supremacy in Britain.

In its place, a new “Great Repeal Bill” will be introduced in Parliament as  early as next year to put power for the nation’s laws back into the hands of MPs and peers.

The announcement is Mrs May’s first firm commitment on Brexit since becoming Prime Minister in July and marks a major step on the road to ending the country’s EU membership.

Leading Eurosceptics are likely to cheer the news after they put repealing the law at the heart of a “Brexit manifesto” published just days before the referendum. Ministers will also announce protections for workers’ rights secured via Brussels, such as parental leave and automatic holiday, to pre-empt Labour attacks.

It is intended to show critics that No 10 does have a plan for Brexit, after weeks of sniping that the Government does not have a clear strategy for the forthcoming negotiations.

Mrs May will take to the stage with her three Brexit Cabinet ministers – Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis – to show a unified front on the first day of conference.

She said on Saturday night: “We will introduce, in the next Queen’s Speech, a Great Repeal Bill that will remove the European Communities Act from the statute book. That was the act that took us into the European Union.

“This marks the first stage in the UK becoming a sovereign and independent country once again. It will return power and authority to the elected institutions of our county. It means that the authority of EU law in Britain will end.”

Mr Davis, who is charged with leading the negotiations as Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, will explain the decision during his speech.

“EU law will be transposed into domestic law, wherever practical, on exit day,” he will say.  “It will be for elected politicians here to make the changes to reflect the outcome of our negotiation and our exit. That is what people voted for: power and authority residing once again with the sovereign institutions of our own country.”

The European Communities Act 1972 allowed Britain to join what would become the EU the following year. It also enshrined the supremacy of EU law in the UK, making the European Court of Justice [ECJ] the ultimate arbiter in legal disputes.

Throughout the years, as controversial judgments from the ECJ often triggered anger among Tory MPs, the legislation became symbolic of Brussels’s influence over Britain.

Vote Leave, the formal campaign to leave the EU, named repealing the European Communities Act as one of their six Brexit “road map” promises a week before the vote.

The group was headed up by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. The new “Great Repeal Bill”, introducing the change, will be included in next year’s Queen’s Speech in spring 2017.

The “historic” piece of legislation will allow Parliament to write parts of EU law it wants to keep into the British system while discarding unwanted elements. Government sources hope the move will show that ministers want to give Parliament a say on the Brexit process and will open negotiations up to parliamentary scrutiny. However, the process is not without risk.

A majority of both MPs and peers will need to vote for the Bill for it to pass, raising the prospect pro-EU Lords could hold up its progress.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Davis will move to assure workers concerned that key rights which were introduced on an EU-wide level will remain in place.

“To those who are trying to frighten British workers, saying ‘When we leave, employment rights will be eroded’, I say firmly and unequivocally ‘no they won’t’,” he will state.

The legislation will only come into effect on the day that Britain leaves the EU – expected to be as early as 2019, two years after Mrs May formally begins the negotiations.

Mrs May’s speech at 2pm will open the Conservative Party’s four-day annual conference in Birmingham. Despite growing pressure from Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers and EU leaders, she is not expected to name a date for triggering Article 50, the mechanism to start talks.

She is also expected to steer clear of the “hard Brexit” and “soft Brexit” labels which have emerged as a way of defining where people stand on the negotiations in recent days.

She will use the speech to emphasise that her Government has a plan to fulfil the vote for Brexit in June that triggered the upheaval that let her enter No 10.

The conference will also give Mrs May a platform to better explain her vision for her premiership after a summer largely bereft of major policy announcements.

Earlier this week Ken Clarke, the long-serving Tory MP who held posts in three prime minister’s cabinets, criticised Mrs May for running a “government with no policies”.

Anonymous briefings about the tight control she holds on policy and willingness to clash with other Cabinet ministers have also surfaced. Aides rebut the criticism but say Mrs May will spell out her vision for social change and an economy that works for “everyone” during the conference.

Liberty Is Security

The Lesson Not Drawn From Post-9/11 Government Overreach

by Karen J. Greenberg

Tom Dispatch

One vivid image of the historical relationship between government power and individual liberties in America has long been the swing of the pendulum. It catches the nature of the perpetually changing balance between the two. When it comes to terrorism and civil liberties after 9/11, that pendulum swung strongly toward the power side of the equation and it has been slow indeed to swing back.  Still, in several areas in recent years — torture, detention, and surveillance — there has been at least some movement in the other direction and from this delayed and modest backswing, there is a distinct lesson to be drawn about liberty and security in twenty-first-century America.  The only problem is that no one has bothered to draw it.

Put in a nutshell: the liberties designed almost a quarter-millennium ago by the Founding Fathers still turn out to be curiously well-aligned with the security of this country and the safety of Americans, while the government overreach of this era has proved to be anything but.  As it turned out, those heavy-handed government policies meant to pry our lives open in an invasive and expansive way, torture information from suspects, and lock away people forever, it seems, without charges or trial, were remarkably counterproductive and ineffective — and that reality, rather than the concerns of civil libertarians, was essential to whatever backswing of the pendulum we’ve seen in recent years.

After 9/11, of course, few could have missed which way that pendulum was swinging.  Government overreach in the name of our “security” was quickly apparent from the passage of the Patriot Act, a grab bag of some of the more oppressive proposals for “security” floating around Washington at that time, to the setting up of CIA “black sites” beyond the reach of American law where brutal interrogations could be used.  In a similar fashion, the Department of Justice secretly authorized novel readings of presidential power that justified, among other things, the warrantless, bulk surveillance of Americans and non-Americans alike; consigned individuals in U.S. custody to what was politely called “indefinite detention” at a newly constructed prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in military brigs at home; and opened the way for the torture (under the euphemism of “enhanced interrogation techniques”) of terror suspects in U.S. custody, including people who turned out to be innocent of anything having to do with terror. All such acts, secret and open, were justified in the name of what was called the Global War on Terror and on the grounds of keeping the country “safe.”

Reversing Government Overreach

For years, there seemed little prospect of a shift back from this period of overreach in the name of national security. True, by the end of George W. Bush’s first term in office, a handful of Justice Department officials, including current FBI director James Comey, and Jack Goldsmith (now a Harvard professor), were trying to revoke, rewrite, or ameliorate some of the worst of those initial excesses, but with only modest success.  By 2006, the CIA’s overseas black-site program, in which terrorism detainees were brutally tortured, was ostensibly on its way out and, by the end of the Bush presidency, no more individuals were being sent to Guantánamo.  With the passage of time, and the persistence of lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union, some headway at least looked possible on the restoration of a more normal sense of American justice and the rule of law.

When it came to interrogation and detention, however, the first significant changes — and the promise of more to come — arrived with the Obama presidency.  He entered the Oval Office declaring torture once again illegal, withdrawing the memos that supported its use (though his Justice Department would never prosecute any of the torturers, no less the officials who had set them loose to do so), and promising to close Guantánamo, the country’s prison of choice when it came to indefinite detention. Meanwhile, a 2008 Supreme Court decision, Boumediene v. Bush, seemed to mark the beginning of a pendulum swing back in the direction of liberty.  It granted habeas rights to Guantánamo detainees, enabling them for the first time to challenge their detentions in the federal court system.

As it turned out, however, these initial signs of change proved deceptive. The only court authorized to hear such habeas challenges to detention — the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. — has essentially ensured that there will be no legal relief or recourse for the Guantánamo detainees. To date, nearly half of those who have sought habeas relief have had their claims rejected outright or on appeal.

While Obama’s torture ban remains officially in place, the absence of any accountability for the torturers has opened a space for the future return of such techniques, particularly with a President Trump who, as a candidate, embraced torture “and worse.”  And when it came to indefinite detention, Obama, once an opponent of the practice, essentially accepted it in the late spring of 2009 by acknowledging that some Guantánamo detainees could not be prosecuted, but were too dangerous to release. Today, were Guantánamo to be closed (still possible but an increasingly unlikely prospect), indefinite detention without charges or trial would remain an option for the detainees, even if in a different prison.

On surveillance policy, there has more recently been some movement towards the liberty side of the pendulum. In 2015, two years after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the existence of a massive program used to collect the telephone metadata of Americans in bulk, an appellate court declared the program — established under section 215 of the Patriot Act — illegal.  It pointed out that the laws cited by the government to support it had never previously “been interpreted to authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here.” A month later, section 215 was “sunsetted” when Congress did not move to renew the Patriot Act. Like torture, such bulk surveillance has now, however provisionally, been officially restored to its status outside the law.

This surely was cause for a sense of accomplishment among human rights activists and civil libertarians.  They had, it seemed, had an impact. Though a distinctly limited victory (given the still expansive possibilities for governmental surveillance in post-9/11 America), it felt like a long sought-after triumph, and in many ways it was. But to grasp what’s really been going on, it’s necessary to look beyond the protests of constitutional scholars, rights activists, and others.

What Actually Keeps Americans Safe

Legal, political, and moral challenges to government excursions into the unlawful have been crucial in these years in keeping both the costs and grisly realities of such overreach in the public eye.  Yet it would be a mistake to look to either protests or lawsuits for the real reasons why the CIA’s torture program and the NSA’s mass surveillance of American telephone habits were shut down.  They were ended for a far simpler reason.  Experts in national security concluded that they simply did not work, that they were hopelessly inadequate measures for preventing terrorism.

In several government reports, the failures of both the torture and the surveillance programs to produce tangible results were repeatedly noted by experts, analysts, and officials. In the case of torture, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under the direction of Diane Feinstein, completed a 6,000-page report detailing the evolution of torture policy after 9/11 and its grim use on individual detainees. The report’s more than 500-page executive summary, released to the public, condemned the Bush administration’s use of torture, declaring that “CIA personnel, aided by two outside contractors, decided to initiate a program of indefinite secret detention and the use of brutal interrogation techniques in violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.” In every instance, the report concluded, the program did not produce useful information of any sort that led in any way to the stopping of terror attacks or plots.  In the words of the report, “The Committee finds, based on a review of CIA interrogation records, that the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.” If anything, those brutal techniques only alienated allies, while adding fuel to the fire of anti-American sentiment worldwide.

So, too, for surveillance. Immediately following the Snowden revelations in the late spring of 2013, Obama appointed the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, five experts in national security and the law, to review two of the NSA programs that had been exposed. Their report revealed that the bulk telephone metadata collection under the Patriot Act simply did not work.  It had provided neither actionable information nor aid in thwarting up terror plots. Another report issued by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a post-9/11 government group mandated to “review and analyze actions the executive branch takes to protect the nation from terrorism,” similarly found that the program was thoroughly ineffective. It concluded: “Based on the information provided to the Board, including classified briefings and documentation, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.”

In other words, like the torture program, the metadata one simply didn’t perform as advertised in preventing terror attacks. Those very governmental excesses that human rights and civil liberties advocates identified as extralegal, unconstitutional, and outside the bounds of international human rights law were also programs that just didn’t work as security measures — and this, not government overreach, was the crucial factor in bringing each of them to an end.

That the conclusions of the experts (and the officials listening to them) coincided with the recommendations of civil libertarians, who had opposed the policies all along, made the decisions look far more like human rights victories than they were.

There’s a lesson in all this that should be given some thought. When civil libertarians defend their side of the liberty-security debate, they usually claim that liberties are just as important as security. Perhaps what they should be saying is that protecting our liberties means ensuring our safety; that surveilling everyone produces more but not better information and is not a national security measure; and that the informed interrogation of prisoners who have rights, including the right to a fair trial, is not only more consonant with the American way, but more effective than secret prisons and physical abuse.

The kinds of policies that the U.S. developed after 9/11, and that former Bush officials and others are still demanding back, were clear expressions of fear and a lack of confidence in the traits that America had prided itself on since its inception.  It should by now be far clearer that needing to know everything to know something is a sign of weakness, not strength; that needing to be a bully instead of a smart operative is a sign of insecurity, not security.

It’s been 15 years since 9/11 and yet few have noticed the obvious. Where the power of the national security state has been curtailed, it’s been for a simple enough reason: undeniable ineffectiveness.  Put another way, the biggest lesson of 9/11 has yet to be learned. It’s a curious fact that what’s actually lawful and mindful of liberty has turned out to be what also makes us more secure against our enemies. In these years, safety and liberty have been anything but incompatible, even if few are saying that.

What should be seen as incompatible with liberty and safety is the overreach of the state in the name of ensuring both of them.  It was that overreach, not our liberties, which made us less secure.  So let’s note it carefully: the Founding Fathers were right and the Bush administration, its Justice Department memos, and more recently, the candidate who has called for ever more extreme measures, supposedly to protect us and our country, will only endanger us further.  Let’s take this lesson to heart: liberty is security for Americans.

Metropolitan Museum of Art sued for return of Picasso sold ‘under duress’ during Nazi era

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has been sued by relatives of a German Jewish industrialist who once owned Picasso’s “The Actor.” It was allegedly sold “under duress” in 1938.

October 1, 2016


The complaint was filed by the great-grandniece of Paul Leffmann, a Jewish industrialist from Germany, who once owned “The Actor,” from Picasso’s Rose Period in 1904 and 1905.

Laurel Zuckerman, who handles estate matters for Leffmann’s widow Alice, is alternatively seeking more than $100 million (88.9 million euros) in damages, claiming the museum did not hold good title to the painting because of the forced sale.

“We believe the painting is tainted by the history of the Holocaust, and the Leffmanns, given the circumstances under which they sold it, never lost title,” Lawrence Kaye, a lawyer for Zuckerman, said.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan “did not disclose or should have known that the painting had been owned by a Jewish refugee, Paul Leffmann, who had disposed of the work only because of Nazi and Fascist persecution,” the suit alleges.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has been sued by relatives of a German Jewish industrialist who once owned Picasso’s “The Actor.” It was allegedly sold “under duress” in 1938.

The complaint was filed by the great-grandniece of Paul Leffmann, a Jewish industrialist from Germany, who once owned “The Actor,” from Picasso’s Rose Period in 1904 and 1905.

Laurel Zuckerman, who handles estate matters for Leffmann’s widow Alice, is alternatively seeking more than $100 million (88.9 million euros) in damages, claiming the museum did not hold good title to the painting because of the forced sale.

“We believe the painting is tainted by the history of the Holocaust, and the Leffmanns, given the circumstances under which they sold it, never lost title,” Lawrence Kaye, a lawyer for Zuckerman, said.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan “did not disclose or should have known that the painting had been owned by a Jewish refugee, Paul Leffmann, who had disposed of the work only because of Nazi and Fascist persecution,” the suit alleges.

In a statement, the Met said it had “indisputable title” to “The Actor” and would defend its rights. It claimed the amount received was “a higher price than any other early Picasso sold by a collector to a dealer during the 1930s.”

Zuckerman said Paul Leffmann sold “The Actor” to two art dealers in June 1938 for $12,000 to fund an escape to Switzerland from Benito Mussolini’s regime in Italy. Leffmann had to sell his home and businesses in Cologne, Germany, before he fled with his wife, Alice, to Italy in 1937. German Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had made it clear that Jews in Italy were in danger, and this caused Leffmann to sell the painting, as there was “no time left” to act, according to the complaint.

The Leffmanns left Italy for Switzerland before going to Brazil.

Bought in New York

In 1941, Thelma Chrysler Fox bought the painting via a New York gallery for $22,500. This will be used as evidence that the sale in 1938 was at a discount. Fox donated the work to the Met in 1952, where it has been continuously displayed ever since. The lawyers consider the work to be worth more than $100 million.

Zuckerman had learned about the painting in 2010 and demanded its return from the museum. The lawyers claimed they had been given an erroneous provenance, indicating it had been owned by an unnamed German private collector until 1938 and the Met only corrected the information in 2011.

“While the Met understands and sympathizes deeply with the losses that Paul and Alice Leffmann endured during the Nazi era, it firmly believes that this painting was not among them,” the museum said.

An agreement putting the case on hold expired on Friday.

Hillary Clinton considered drone attack on Julian Assange – report

October 3, 2016


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reportedly wanted to drone Wikileaks founder Julian Assange when she was secretary of state.

According to True Pundit, Clinton and the state department were under pressure to silence Assange and Wikileaks in the months before the whistleblowing site released a massive dump of 250,000 diplomatic cables from 1966 up to 2010, dubbed CableGate.

“Can’t we just drone this guy?” Clinton asked, according to unidentified state department sources.

Published by True Pundit on Sunday, Wikileaks posted a link to the story on their official Twitter account on Monday, along with a screenshot of the article.

Clinton and the state department held numerous meetings to discuss what could be done about Assange and his site which had already exposed damning military secrets about the war in Afghanistan and Iraq before the promised document dump was to come. The department was under pressure from both the White House and foreign governments to silence Wikileaks.

True Pundit reports the people in the room with Clinton on November 23, 2010 laughed at her comment, until it became clear that the then-secretary of state was serious. Clinton was reportedly fuming and referred to Assange as a “soft target.”

After Clinton’s drone suggestion, the state department considered offering a reward to anyone whose help secured the Australian journalist’s capture and extradition to the US. Unnamed sources reported a $10 million price was discussed at the meeting.

Following the meeting, Clinton aide Ann-Marie Slaughter emailed Clinton and aides Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin and Jake Sullivan with the subject, “RE an SP memo on possible legal and nonlegal strategies re Wikileaks.”

The email contained an attachment “SP Wikileaks doc final11.23.10.docx.” which has not been found by federal investigators investigating Clinton’s use of a private email server. Wikileaks itself does not have this attachment.

Five days after the meeting, Wikileaks began releasing the CableGate files, on November 28, 2010.

Sources familiar with the meeting claim they were reminded of Clinton’s penchant for discussing droning enemies following the release of the FBI’s report on the Clinton email investigation, according to True Pundit.

The FBI’s notes on Clinton’s interview during the investigation referred to Clinton having “many discussions” about “nominating” droning individuals.

“Clinton could not recall a specific process for nominating a target for a drone strike and recalled much debate pertaining to the concurrence process. Clinton knew there was a role for DOD, State and the CIA but could not provide specifics as to what it was. Due to a disagreement between these agencies, Clinton recalled having many discussions related to nominating an individual for a drone strike,” the report reads.

Assange was set to make a big announcement at the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Tuesday where he has been trapped for five years, but cancelled in light of security concerns.

The teased leak, dubbed an “October Surprise” is thought to be damaging for Clinton before the presidential elections in November.

The announcement will now be made at Wikileaks’ 10-year anniversary celebration in Berlin on Tuesday. Assange will address the event via video leak.


No responses yet

Leave a Reply