Politico reports today that President Obama
signaled on Friday that he is ready to take over the debt-limit negotiations, summoning Senate leaders to the White House next week as the continuing impasse pushes the country closer to a potential default.
Obama will meet separately with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday. The meetings follow the collapse Thursday of talks between Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders.
This isn’t good news for us liberals. Once Obama gets involved, I think we can assume he will give away the store to the Republicans. He’ll probably give them much more than they’re asking for. We’re going to need some stiffened Democratic spines in the Senate if we want to rescue Medicare and Medicaid. Are there and Democratic Senators left who have spines to stiffen?
“The president is willing to make tough choices, but he cannot ask the middle class and seniors to bear all the burden for deficit reduction and to sacrifice while millionaires and billionaires and special interests get off the hook,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday. That’s not “a fair and balanced approach.”
Oh fine. Just what we needed–a Fox News reference.
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the “realities of the situation” are that the House won’t pass any deal that involves raising new revenues, and the package must include budget reforms and spending cuts that exceed the amount of the debt limit increase, which is expected to top $2 trillion.
Boehner’s demands are insane, but that probably won’t stop Obama from allowing Republicans to put the final nails in the coffin of the U.S. economy.
Well, last night, President Obama announced his plans to pull troops out of Afghanistan. Here’s the text of his speech. It was very short, less than 15 minutes. There wasn’t much to it. And get this, according to Think Progress: Obama ‘Withdrawal’ Plan Would Leave More Troops In Afghanistan Than When He Began His Presidency
…the troop reduction would not put us much closer to actually ending the war by the end of 2012. Rather this would simply scale back the second surge of 30,000 troops that President Obama announced in December 2009. It would also maintain the first surge of 17,000 troops Obama ordered upon entering office. This comes at a time when a record number of Americans want to end the war in Afghanistan and the costs of which are putting the United States deeper into debt.
They even have graph to demonstrate these findings. Basically this was just another campaign speech for Obama. He had to fudge up something, because Americans are fed up with the wars:
A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds a record number of Americans now want to bring the troops home from Afghanistan, confirming the trends of other recent polls showing majorities now opposed to the nearly decade-long war.
For the first time since Pew Research began asking the question in 2008, a majority (56 percent) now say they want the U.S. to remove American troops from Afghanistan “as soon as possible,” while 39 percent say they they want to leave troops “until the situation has stabilized.” That result represents a reversal since last year, when leaving the troops in place was preferred by a majority of 53 percent to 40 percent.
Not only has Quitterella cancelled her cross country bus tour, but also her trip to Sudan. She says she’s not going to Sudan because of “scheduling reasons,” but it sounds like it had more to do with security concerns, i.e., fear.
She was planning to travel with Franklin Graham, the son of evangelical leader Billy Graham, as well as Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren, to the July 9 independence ceremony of South Sudan, the sources said. Van Susteren also canceled her trip. Graham said on Wednesday that he still plans to go.
One U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of Palin’s potential political aspirations, said the former governor had gotten so far in the planning process as to secure permission from the government of South Sudan to attend the independence ceremony.
The official said one challenge of the trip was security. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is also tentatively scheduled to attend the ceremony, may not make the trip because of safety concerns in one of the world’s most war-torn countries.
“There is a genocide taking place,” said Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), a longtime advocate for greater U.S. involvement in Sudan. “The more people [who travel to Sudan] from the West, from the United States, the better. I’ve been urging different people to go. We have a museum on the mall, the Holocaust Museum. It says, ‘Never again.’ What doesn’t the West understand about this? If this was taking place in the south of France, do you think we’d let it go on?”
Matt Taibbi has a new screed on Rolling Stone. It’s about how dangerous Michele Bachmann is. I definitely agree with him that her candidacy is no laughing matter; because as ridiculous as we think she is, Bachmann is a hard worker, a true believer, and a fantastic fund raiser.
Unfortunately Taibbi made a big error in his article. He writes:
Young Michele found Jesus at age 16, not long before she went away to Winona State University and met a doltish, like-minded believer named Marcus Bachmann. After finishing college, the two committed young Christians moved to Oklahoma, where Michele entered one of the most ridiculous learning institutions in the Western Hemisphere, a sort of highway rest area with legal accreditation called the O.W. Coburn School of Law; Michele was a member of its inaugural class in 1979.
Originally a division of Oral Roberts University, this august academy, dedicated to the teaching of “the law from a biblical worldview,” has gone through no fewer than three names — including the Christian Broadcasting Network School of Law. Those familiar with the darker chapters in George W. Bush’s presidency might recognize the school’s current name, the Regent University School of Law. Yes, this was the tiny educational outhouse that, despite being the 136th-ranked law school in the country, where 60 percent of graduates flunked the bar, produced a flood of entrants into the Bush Justice Department.
Regent was unabashed in its desire that its graduates enter government and become “change agents” who would help bring the law more in line with “eternal principles of justice,” i.e., biblical morality. To that end, Bachmann was mentored by a crackpot Christian extremist professor named John Eidsmoe, a frequent contributor to John Birch Society publications who once opined that he could imagine Jesus carrying an M16 and who spent considerable space in one of his books musing about the feasibility of criminalizing blasphemy.
Oral Roberts University (ORU) established the O. W. Coburn School of Law in 1979. The school was founded to educate Christian lawyers. Initially, there was some question whether the American Bar Association would accredit the school because of its emphasis on Christian values, but accreditation was granted. In 1986 ORU discontinued the law school and gave its law library to CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) University (now Regent University) at Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Giving their law library to an already establish college isn’t the same as *becoming* that college. BTW, CBS is Pat Roberts’ operation, not Oral Roberts’. I realize it’s difficult for yuppies like to to keep the right-wing preachers straight, but don’t they have fact-checkers at Rolling Stone to sort things out for you? Bachmann also attended William & Mary School of Law, and Taibbi doesn’t mention that. I’m not defending Bachmann or Christian law schools, but Taibbi is supposedly telling us not to underestimate Bachmann, while at the same time getting her history wrong. There are more problems with Taibbi’s article, but I won’t bore you any further.
I hope I didn’t put you to sleep with that silly rant. Matt Taibbi tends to get on my nerves.
Shades of the 1960s, the government has been spying on NYT reporter James Risen.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen has been subjected to government surveillance and harassment that began under the Bush administration, according to a 22-page affidavit he filed Tuesday.
“I believe that the efforts to target me have continued under the Obama administration, which has been aggressively investigating whistleblowers and reporters in a way that will have a chilling effect on freedom of the press in the United States,” Risen said.
Early this year, authorities arrested former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling and charged him with six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and one count of unlawfully keeping national defense information, mail fraud, unauthorized conveyance of government property and obstructing justice.
The U.S. Justice Department subpoenaed Risen in May to testify at the criminal trial of Sterling, who was allegedly cited in Risen’s 2006 book.
The Justice Deparment claimed that Risen should be compelled to provide information “like any other citizen” and that he was not “being harassed in order to disrupt his relationship with confidential news sources.”
Ain’t it great having a Democrat in the White House? Oh wait—-
CNN has a couple of crime stories that are well worth reading. The first is a piece on human trafficking in the U.S.: Sex trafficking victim testifies, then vanishes
Among the strung out addicts with zombie eyes and the beaten down prostitutes loitering by neon-lit entrances to adult video stores, Kelsey Emily Collins would have stuck out.
She was from out of town and too young to be where she was.
As she would later testify to a federal grand jury, a man 20 years older than her drove Kelsey 170 miles down Interstate 5 from Seattle to Portland’s 82nd Ave.
There amidst the strip’s seedy motels and lingerie stores where customers can buy backroom lap dances and more, the plan was simple: sell her to as many men as possible.
After that first night in January 2008 when she made about $1,000, all of which she later told investigators went to her pimp, Kelsey went right back to work as a prostitute.
Kelsey was only 16. Later she was approached by Sgt. Doug Justice, a vice squad officer who wanted her to testify against her pimp. Gradually he got Kelsey to talk to him about what had happened to her. Finally she agreed to testify before the Grand Jury. She did testify, and the pimp was later convicted. Afterward Kelsey’s mother wasn’t able to get her the help she needed to recover. She didn’t have money and there was no program that would take Kelsey. Law enforcement basically used her and threw her away. A month after she testified, Kelsey left home with a new “boyfriend,” and disappeared. Justus believes she was murdered because of her testimony. If you have time, please read the article. These are the kinds of women who are targets for predators and serial killers. It’s heartbreaking.
The second article is quite a serious discussion of whether Casey Anthony should testify in her own defense. Here’s just a short excerpt:
George Parnham, best known for defending Andrea Yates, the mentally ill woman who drowned her five children in the bathtub in 2001, says that opening statement “boxed the defense in.” He says Anthony has to tell her story.
“She needs to get up there and defend herself,” he said. “The jury is going to want to hear from her.”
Anthony, 25, is accused of murder, aggravated child abuse, misleading authorities and other offenses. If convicted of murder, she faces the death penalty. In Florida, only seven jurors have to agree on a death sentence.
Parnham, who successfully used an insanity defense for Yates but did not put her on the stand, said he usually decides in favor of letting a jury get to know his client in death penalty cases. “If you humanize her, that may save her life. You’ve got a woman who, if she is convicted, her life is going to be in jeopardy. She’s going to be on death row.”
I know this is tabloid stuff, but there are actually a lot of interesting issues involved in this case–child abuse, teen pregnancy, the death penalty–plus fascinating new forensic techniques.
Anyway, I agree with Parnham. I think the only chance Anthony has to save her life is to get up there and tell the truth. The only problem is that I’m not sure she is capable of being sincere. I think she should try though. It’s entirely possible that she was sexually abused as a child, and it’s obvious that her mother is incredibly narcissistic and manipulative. That doesn’t justify what she did, of course; but it might convince the jury to not to give her the death penalty.
That’s it for me for today. What are you reading and blogging about?
FIRST JUXTAPOSITION: COMPARE AND CONTRAST
Huffington Post reported today that a little-known amendment in the new 9/11 health bill requires anyone who applies for benefits to be checked by the FBI to make sure they’re not terrorists.
The tens of thousands of cops, firefighters, construction workers and others who survived the worst terrorist assault in U.S. history and risked their lives in its wake will soon be informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list, according to a letter obtained by HuffPost.
Any of the responders who are not compared to the database of suspected terrorists would be barred from getting treatment for the numerous, worsening ailments that the James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law was passed to address.
It’s a requirement that was tacked onto the law during the bitter debates over it last year.
The letter from Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, informs medical providers and administrators that they should begin letting patients know before the new program kicks in this July.
Yes, the people who risked their lives and their health to help after 9/11 will be treated like suspected terrorists by their government.
From Voice of America: Chernobyl’s Cleanup Crew Pay a Steep Price, 25 Years On
On April 26, 1986 a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl plant caught fire and exploded, sending radioactive debris high into the sky. Aleksey Breus was an engineer at Chernobyl at the time of the explosion. He worked four straight days inside the plant after the explosion. He wore protective equipment, but still received a large dose of radiation.
According to Breus, all “lucheviki” – the Russian word surviving cleanup workers use for describing one another – have been left with one thing in common: illness and a lack of money to pay for medications. He says virtually all of them live in poverty.
Another Chernobyl worker, Aleksander Kramer, says he was one of the first to go into the plant after the explosion. Kramer, who now lives in Germany, remains angry at how he was treated by authorities in what was then the Soviet Union. From the very beginning, he says, the authorities doubted those claiming they were part of the clean-up effort.
And the suspicions have lingered. In 1993, Kramer says former rescue workers had to prove to Ukranian authorities “that their documents were not a sham and that their health problems were real.”
Remember when we were told over and over again that the United States was morally superior to the Soviet Union? What’s the difference again?
SECOND JUXTAPOSITION: COMPARE AND CONTRAST
Nixon had just come from a ten-day working holiday in San Clemente, where he found himself angered by the coverage given the Manson case in the local media. Many of the young, Nixon said in Denver, “tend to glorify and to make heroes out of those who engage in criminal activities.”
In Los Angeles, the effect of Nixon’s remarks on the Manson trial was instant and dramatic. While the Los Angeles Times came out the same afternoon with a four-inch headline reading MANSON GUILTY, NIXON DECLARES, Judge Charles Older went to great lengths to ensure that the jury, which has been sequestered since the trial began, would not learn of Nixon’s remarks. The windows of the jury bus were whited over with Bon Ami so that no juror could glimpse the headline on street newsstands. If the jury discovered Nixon’s verdict, the defense might have grounds for a mistrial.
Remember when Americans (and the media) cared when the President did something wrong?
WL Central, April 22, 2011: President Obama tells protestors that Bradley Manning “broke the law.”
Transcript and comments from WL Central:
“People can have philosophical ideas about certain things,” President Obama explains. “But, look, I can’t conduct diplomacy on open source.” He then goes on to add that he has to abide by certain classified information rules or law and if he had released material like Manning did he’d be breaking the law.
Now, here is the remark that deserves the most attention: “We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our decisions about how the laws operate.” He adds, “He broke the law.” Finally, before removing himself from the conversation, he says Manning “dumped” information and “it wasn’t the same thing” as what Daniel Ellsberg did because what Ellsberg leaked “wasn’t classified in the same way.”
First, President Obama says Bradley Manning did it. It is not entirely clear that he did it unless you solely rely on the chat logs published by Wired magazine. Manning is the alleged whistleblower in the case. And, displaying this attitude that he is guilty before he actually is put on trial and convicted may prejudice Manning’s case.
That’s if Mr. Obama ever allows Bradley Manning’s case to go to trial. When is that going to happen? And when will today’s media be as outraged by Obama’s irresponsible remarks as the media of 1970 was at Nixon’s?
Over the past 2-1/2 years, we’ve seen how broken the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government are. We have a president who refused to stand up to the minority party while his party had historic majorities in both houses of Congress. Thanks to this president’s weak-kneed fealty to “bi-partisanship” and his predictable willingness to cave to the Republicans on just about any issue, he no longer has a supermajority in Congress.
Blue Texan at FDL makes a very good case for why Obama and the Democrats lost in 2010.
Democrats lost because they lost independents by 15 points, and independents don’t care what liberals think.
So why did Democrats lose independents?
Because the economy hadn’t improved enough because the stimulus bill was inadequate. It didn’t help matters that the Affordable Care Act was stripped of its most popular feature [a public option] or that HAMP was a total failure or that the Democrats punted on immigration and host of other progressive goals — but it was mostly about the economy.
The lesson, then, is…that Democrats need to deliver — especially when they promised CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN — and when they don’t, they lose elections.
For the past few weeks, we’ve seen the House Republicans and the White House bicker over cutting the budget when what we really need to do is raise taxes on the richest Americans. If Obama had any guts at all, he would have refused to extend the Bush tax cuts period. But, because he’s a lily livered wimp, he caved.
Today, Nicholas Kristof said the Congresspeople are acting like junior high school children.
It’s unclear where the adults are, but they don’t seem to be in Washington. Beyond the malice of the threat to shut down the federal government, averted only at the last minute on Friday night, it’s painful how vapid the discourse is and how incompetent and cowardly our leaders have proved to be.
Kristof doesn’t specifically chide Obama, but come on. If he weren’t so focused on getting “bipartisan support” for every initiative, he could have accomplished much more and gotten more respect from the Republicans at the same time. He was and is still simply too inexperienced to do the job of POTUS.
Tonight I want to put the spotlight on the third branch of government. Our judicial system is broken too. We have an epidemic of wrongful convictions in our justice system, and we have an ultra-right wing majority in the Supreme Court that refuses to do anything about it.
As of February 4, 2011, 250 wrongly convicted people had been exonerated by DNA testing, according to The Innocence Project,
There have been 268 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history. These stories are becoming more familiar as more innocent people gain their freedom through postconviction testing. They are not proof, however, that our system is righting itself.
The common themes that run through these cases — from global problems like poverty and racial issues to criminal justice issues like eyewitness misidentification, invalid or improper forensic science, overzealous police and prosecutors and inept defense counsel — cannot be ignored and continue to plague our criminal justice system.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, more than 130 people have been released from death row because they were exonerated based on evidence that proved they were innocent. The chart below shows those exonerations state by state. The chart comes from a fact sheet (PDF) produced by the Death Penalty Information Center.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that about 70% of the people who have been exonerated are members of minority groups–mostly African Americans. One of the most frequent causes of false convictions is prosecutorial misconduct. For more information on this problem, see this report (PDF) by the Innocence Project. In late March, the Supreme Court basically gave carte blanche to dishonest prosecutors by deciding that a wrongfully convicted man who had spent 14 years on death row has no right to sue for damages. From the LA Times:
A bitterly divided Supreme Court on Tuesday tossed out a jury verdict won by a New Orleans man who spent 14 years on death row and came within weeks of execution because prosecutors had hidden a blood test and other evidence that would have proven his innocence.
The 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas shielded the New Orleans district attorney’s office from being held liable for the mistakes of its prosecutors. The evidence of their misconduct did not prove “deliberate indifference” on the part of then-Dist. Atty. Harry Connick Sr., Thomas said.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphasized her disapproval by reading her dissent in the courtroom, saying the court was shielding a city and its prosecutors from “flagrant” misconduct that nearly cost an innocent man his life.
“John Thompson spent 14 years isolated on death row before the truth came to light,” she said. He was innocent of the crimes that sent him to prison and prosecutors had “dishonored” their obligation to present the true facts to the jury, she said.
Besides Justice Ginsburg, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan also dissented from the majority opinion.
The Supreme Court has consistently shielded prosecutors from accountability for misconduct in the past, but Thompson had sued the New Orleans District Attorney’s office, claiming the office had demonstrated a “pattern of wrongdoing” and had failed to ensure that its attorneys obeyed the law. Now the Supremes have eliminated another check against willful misconduct by prosecutors.
Here from NPR is a brief summary of the case against Thompson:
In December of 1984, Raymond Liuzza Jr., the son of a prominent New Orleans business executive, was shot to death in front of his home. Police, acting on a tip, picked up two men, Kevin Freeman and John Thompson.
Thompson denied knowing anything about the shooting, but Freeman, in exchange for a one-year prison sentence, agreed to testify that he saw Thompson commit the crime.
Prosecutors wanted to seek the death penalty, but Thompson had no record of violent felonies. Then, a citizen saw his photo in the newspaper and implicated him in an attempted carjacking — and prosecutors saw a way to solve their problem. John Hollway, who wrote a book about the case, said the solution was to try the carjacking case first.
A conviction in the carjacking case would yield additional benefits in the subsequent murder trial, Hollway observes. It would discredit Thompson if he took the stand in his own defense at the murder trial, so he didn’t. And the carjacking would be used against him during the punishment phase of the murder trial.
It all worked like a charm. Thompson was convicted of both crimes and sentenced to death for murder.
Ten years later, after Thompson’s appeals were exhausted and he was days from be executed, an investigator for his attorneys found that the blood of the perpetrator had been left at the scene of the murder. The lab report showed that Thompson had a different blood type than the person who committed the crime. The DA had deliberately concealed this information from the defense.
At a new trial, more exculpatory evidence that had been suppressed by the DA was presented–10 pieces of evidence in all–and the jury acquitted Thompson in half-an-hour. Thompson then sued and won a $14 million judgment against Connick and the NOLA DA’s office. But, now the right wingers on the Court have nullified that judgement.
On March 31, the editors of The New York Times wrote that a lack of empathy led to this injustice.
The important thing about empathy that gets overlooked is that it bolsters legal analysis. That is clear in the dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her empathy for Mr. Thompson as a defendant without means or power is affecting. But it is her understanding of the prosecutors’ brazen ambition to win the case, at all costs, that is key.
After detailing the “flagrant indifference” of the prosecutors to Mr. Thompson’s rights, she makes clear how critically they needed training in their duty to turn over evidence and why “the failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights” of defendants.
The district attorney, Harry Connick Sr., acknowledged the need for this training but said he had long since “stopped reading law books” so he didn’t understand the duty he was supposed to impart. The result, Justice Ginsburg writes, was an office with “one of the worst” records in America for failing to turn over evidence that “never disciplined or fired a single prosecutor” for a violation.
One thing about conservatives, they rarely show any empathy or compassion for anyone who isn’t just like them.
Today John Thompson himself contributed an op-ed to the NYT. Please read the whole thing, but here is just a bit.
I SPENT 18 years in prison for robbery and murder, 14 of them on death row. I’ve been free since 2003, exonerated after evidence covered up by prosecutors surfaced just weeks before my execution date. Those prosecutors were never punished. Last month, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to overturn a case I’d won against them and the district attorney who oversaw my case, ruling that they were not liable for the failure to turn over that evidence — which included proof that blood at the robbery scene wasn’t mine.
Because of that, prosecutors are free to do the same thing to someone else today.
The prosecutors involved in my two cases, from the office of the Orleans Parish district attorney, Harry Connick Sr., helped to cover up 10 separate pieces of evidence. And most of them are still able to practice law today.
Why weren’t they punished for what they did? When the hidden evidence first surfaced, Mr. Connick announced that his office would hold a grand jury investigation. But once it became clear how many people had been involved, he called it off.
According to NPR, former DA Harry Connick Sr. “feels vindicated” by the SCOTUS decision.
“I think that he committed … a murder, and I think that obviously we thought we had enough evidence to gain a conviction,” he says. “So I was delighted that the Supreme Court ruled in our favor.”
Never mind the ten pieces of exculpatory evidence that his prosecutor covered up in order to convict Thompson. And, by the way, the prosecutor confessed what he had done to a friend, so it was no accident. Relatives of the murdered man, Ray Liuzza, still believe Thompson is guilty. Liuzza’s sister
Maurine Liuzza said she has reviewed all of the evidence in the case and still believes that Thompson is guilty.
“Just because you are found not guilty does not make you innocent,” she said.
It’s time for radical change in all three branches of our broken government.