By William Boardman – Reader Supported News
Isn’t this – by definition – cruel and unusual punishment?
Think about it: the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment requires that murderers, terrorists, pedophiles all get “to have the assistance of counsel for [their] defence.” It was, apparently, beyond the ken of the Constitution’s framers to believe that defence counsel might also need protection.
But that’s a question that current American public policy – or perhaps more aptly, American public pathology – raises in the case of Lynne Stewart whom the Obama administration has chosen to let her die slowly in prison from metastasizing breast cancer, rather than grant the 73-year-old woman a compassionate release for which she applied months ago.
Stewart is in prison basically because she provided constitutionally-mandated assistance to the blind cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Despite her representation, he was convicted of terrorist activities and remains in jail, but no grateful nation gives Stewart thanks for the result. Instead, the Bush administration in full post-9/11 panic subjected her to a political prosecution that lasted years and achieved conviction essentially because she had followed pre-9/11 court procedures with regard to client-counsel communication that had secretly become illegal. A clever lawyer or judge could – and several actually did – make a more complicated case about her behavior, but when an appeals court that included a Bush cousin ordered the lower court to give her a longer sentence based on no new evidence, the punitive abuse of the justice system was apparent to anyone willing to see it. Continue reading U.S. Policy Requires Cancer Patient to Die in Prison
Same as it ever was….
Christmas came a few days early for corporate interests and won’t arrive for the jobless as a result of the budget deal just announced. Seeking to avoid the public relations disaster of the last budget fight, Republican negotiator Rep. Paul Ryan worked out a deal to avoid another dust up. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), represented the Obama administration
The deal restores some of the cuts from the sequestration process, mainly to defense programs. It is described as a “small deal” that fails to do much for either deficit reduction or to promote economic growth.
There is no provision for extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance benefits. Between Christmas and New Years, 1.3 million citizens will lose their benefits. Another 850.000 will lose benefits by the end of March 2014.
At the same time, airlines got some relief and the planned 24% cut to Medicare physician fees was delayed. These rates are already low. The restoration on fees will probably prevent the start of an exodus of physicians away from Medicare.
Some Democrats are upset that the unemployment insurance extension was left out of the budget deal and the Tea Party faction of Republicans complained that there the deal does nothing about deficit reduction. They’re both right. Continue reading Budget deal – Corporate welfare trumps jobless benefits
Hersh’s story [Whose sarin?] was supposed to appear in the Washington Post, but … the Post passed on the story, saying it did not meet its standards. Hersh’s usual outlet, the New Yorker, also passed on the story. Jack Mirkinson, HuffPost, Dec 9
Seymour Hersh’s article, Whose sarin?, makes the case for a concerted effort by the Obama administration to deliberately deceive Congress and the public regarding the facts of the chemical weapons attack in Syria on August 21. The case derives from current and retired intelligence community sources that detail the attempt to “fix” intelligence in order to blame the Syrian government for the attack.
If believed, the deception would have enabled an act of military aggression against a sovereign nation that was no threat and had not attacked the United States. If we believe Hersh and his sources, the deception is clearly a “high crime” against the Constitution.
Why believe Hersh?
Hersh’s reporting has helped define and set the standards for investigative journalism for over 40 years. He broke the story on the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, scooped the secrets behind the downing of Korean Airlines 007, exposed the lies behind the Iraq invasion, and confirmed what many suspected about Obama’s deception regarding the proposed attack Syria. Continue reading Why Wash Post, New Yorker take a dive on Hersh Syria article
Agonist Diaries are back!
One of the best features of the old Agonist was USER DIARIES. After considerable effort, we’ve restored that function to the new WordPress platform.
All Agonist registered users can now create their own Diary entries. Posts can be on any subject but are subject to respecting the copyright of others and a few other obvious rules. Continue reading Agonist Diaries are back!
Today’s media will become rapturous over pretty much any line of bullshit that is fed to it by the power structure these days. A two-year budget that reduces the deficit by $2.3 billion in ten years, we are told by pundits and the media, is a “triumph of bipartisanship.”
Really? For one thing, a two-year budget can’t do anything in ten years; it’s a two-year budget, not a ten-year budget. At best, it reduces the deficit by
$4.6 $460 million in two years, and $4.6 $460 million is pocket change.
In this country you can pretty much “fool all of the people all of the time.” The media and voters fall for the fiction that Congress is reducing the deficit by billions (well, two billion), not noticing the fiction in that the reduction is over ten years while the budget is only two years, and falls for the big number (semi-big number), not noticing that the reduction is less than one percent.
And the only thing bipartisan about this steaming pile of dog crap is that both parties looked at the calendar and realized that it is time to go home for Christmas. They bipartisanly agreed that they did not want to spend Christmas in Washington engaging in another futile exercise of shutting down the government, so they bipartisanly agreed to put a bunch of bogus numbers on paper, bipartisanly label it a “budget,” and bipartisanly ram it through both houses of Congress.
With less than two weeks remaining until Christmas Day, I thought this might be a good time for me to change things up a bit. I devote a good deal of time, energy and column inches to ridiculing the twisted, sometimes inhuman philosophies of those on the Far Right end of the political spectrum. It’s richly deserved criticism, but in doing so I’m running the risk of falling prey to the one of the things I find so objectionable about the Far Right.
It’s very easy to hold forth about what you’re against, about what you find objectionable, inappropriate, and/or just plain wrong. When all you do is tear something down, you never have to elucidate what you propose to build in its place. We hear a lot these days about what angers those on the Far Right, about what they oppose. What we generally don’t hear is what they would DO. It stands to reason that if you’re proposing to tear something down that you tell us what you’re going to build in its place, no? Of course, it’s much easier to tear things down. You never really have to address the problem you decry, but you can act as if you’re making things better.
For my part, I write a lot about what I find objectionable about modern Conservatism (Which really isn’t Conservatism at all, but that’s another story for another day). I have a difficult time processing how mean-spirited self-righteousness and the politics of divide and conquer moves America forward. Rather than expound at length about this truth, today I’m turning the light around so I can focus it on myself and what I believe. In the spirit of Christmas, then, allow me to share the world I want to live in. It’s not “pie in the sky;” everything I hope for is achievable and doable. It’s just a matter of resolve and doing the right things for the right reasons.
My Christmas wish is for a world in which… Continue reading My Christmas wish for a better America
Uruguay is nestled between Argentina and Brazil. We don’t hear much about the nation of five million. The most recent news concerned the election of José Mujica as president. He had once been an urban revolutionary. The transition, like others in South America, symbolized the reintegration of former leftists and their constituencies into states once ruled by fascists. But, Uruguay is now a world leader as the first nation to legalize marijuana. The substance is government controlled but available those who want it.
But now this! From The Independen Dec. 11t
“Uruguay has approved a ground breaking bill legalising marijuana, making it the first country to allow the growth, sale and consumption of the drug.
“The decision was made by senators following almost 12 hours of debate late on Tuesday evening, with the bill passing with 16 votes in favour and 13 against. Congress’ lower house had already approved the measure in late July.
“The bill, which is expected to come into effect after April, allows Uruguayan residents registered on a database to purchase up to 40g (1,4oz) of the drug each month from licensed pharmacies. Continue reading Uruguay legalizes pot – world’s first nation to do so
(BBC) – FSA fighters and civilians at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey (file) SMC fighters were reportedly “asked” to leave Bab al-Hawa by the Islamic Front
The US and UK governments have suspended all “non-lethal assistance” for the opposition in northern Syria.
A US embassy spokesman in Ankara said the decision was made after Islamist rebels seized bases belonging to the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Fighters from the Islamic Front, a new alliance of major rebel groups, took control of the bases at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey last week.
Humanitarian assistance by the US and UK is not expected to be affected.
That was distributed through international and non-governmental organisations, the US embassy spokesman added.
Also see, Syrian Crisis – Original Writing in the Agonist
Cross-posted at Firedoglake.
Microsoft. Google. Facebook. These firms, among others, have featured prominently in the news over the past few weeks and months. Recently, reports indicated that they have come together to demand changes to US surveillance policy, because it’s bad for business. A while earlier, reports had arisen indicating that some major US companies had worked with the US government against the best interests of their customers. Their cooperation with government spying activity evidently seemed fine to them as long as it was done in secret, but now that their bad behavior has been made public, it seems that they are concerned that their customers might not want to buy tainted goods.
Continue reading Nasty NSA, the End of US Tech, and You are the Product.
I think Barack Obama took a swing and a miss in his eulogy of Nelson Mandela this morning. In a rare moment, I believe he misread his audience.
Continue reading Ubuntu
Self-employed Agonistas looking for healthcare coverage – are you having trouble getting into Obamacare? It wasn’t going anywhere for me until this week, when I finally got to see my options.
I struggled for almost 2 months to get my application through. I tried doing it online, then by phone, then online again, then by phone again. Errors that I had corrected kept coming back. My case languished in the black hole called the Advanced Resolution Center. Telephone support people tried to fix it, but old errors kept coming back. Even when the errors seemed to be corrected, my application was endlessly in process.
A couple of days ago, an Obamacare telephone support person showed me a new feature on the site: Now you can delete your application and start again. I protested, of course; I had done that countless times already without success. He explained that before this week, you could not really delete the file (even if you thought you could); the corrupt code was still in there. Now you can just push this button and really truly start over.
I can’t remember what the button is called. “Delete” maybe? It’s on the login page, but it isn’t there right now, because the page is down for maintenance. Whatever the word is, it’s pretty obvious. You can find it on the page you get just after you log in.
Bottom line: Now you can delete your electronically corrupt application and start over. And now there’s a real chance that it will work.
Seymour M. Hersh
Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
Also see commentary in The Agonist