Archive for legal issues

We must climb out of the black hole of American injustice and apathy

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As regular readers know, I do a weekly radio spot with Nicole Sandler, and today we tried to climb out of the black hole of American injustice and apathy as we discussed some of the stories you won't hear or see in the corporate media.

Every week, Nicole has someone on from Talk Radio News Service who fills her in on the morning's breaking news. Chief White House correspondent and global analyst Victoria Jones was her TRNS guest this week, and this is the disturbing report that she brought us. Ready? Emphasis mine:

Intel Chief Issues Press Limits:

The Obama administration has barred officials at 17 agencies from speaking to journalists about unclassified intelligence-related topics without permission. The directive, issued by DNI James Clapper, also requires agencies' employees to report any unplanned contact with journalists (NYT, Hill, me) [Laffy Note: If you recall, Clapper wasn't exactly forthcoming with Congress about NSA surveillance.]

• Officials who violate the directive may be disciplined or fired. The directive was issued in March. Clapper also issued rules to protect whistle-blowers who report info about waste, fraud or abuse via approved govt channels, although not to the news media

• Those rules, carrying out a presidential order, don't apply to intel contractors, only agency employees, a gap that's attracted scrutiny amid the debate over leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden - who pointed out he wasn't covered

The directive was reported by Steven Aftergood, head of the Project on Govt Secrecy. He wrote: "So under most circumstances, an intel community employee is at liberty to discuss unclassified "intelligence-related information" with his or her next-door neighbor,"

• "But if the neighbor happened to be a member of the media, then the contact would be prohibited altogether without prior authorization." (well, when you put it like that...)

You can read more details here, at the New York Times. This is not easy news to process, let alone accept.

Needless to say, Nicole and I lamented about the state of our dwindling rights, the decrease in feasible ways to organize and fight back, our abysmal lack of real news, and the mounting difficulty in disseminating accurate information, the soon-to-be extinct liberal radio outlets (did I mention Randi Rhodes is going off the air on May 16th?), among other things. The Political Carnival will post the podcast covering all of this later today.

The account above followed news of the terrible Supreme Court ruling that upheld Michigan’s affirmative action ban.

Jacob Dean of Filter Free Radio posted this quote in the chat room during the show:

"We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.”

Chris Hedges

We clearly have our work cut out for us.

Voting is only part of the answer. Growing a movement, using social media, forcing our elected officials to hear us, supporting Progressive candidates for local offices on up, and refusing to accept the status quo matter. Pay attention, Progressives, organize, speak out loudly, and never ever give in or give up.

Between these reports, the (sometimes violent) extremists on the right, their lies, fear tactics, and propaganda, the growing polarization of this country, the threats of climate change and assault on civil rights, and the (often willful) ignorance of voters, it's time to wake up and act before it's too late.

We can do this. But we have to start right now.

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Rick Perry lawyers up for criminal investigation of bribery, coercion, abuse of authority (VIDEO)

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Rick Perry lawyer statement investigation bribery

Texas Governor Rick Perry, that quick thinker who couldn't remember his third talking point during the 2012 presidential debates, is lawyering up. There is a criminal investigation underway into whether he illegally withheld money from the Travis County district attorney's office.

Oops.

And now he's hired high-powered lawyer David Botsford to prove that Rick Perry, who swearstogod he broke no laws, broke no laws. The real nail-biter? Watching to see if Rick Perry can come up with three reasons why he's innocent.

Via KLBJ news radio:

Governor Rick Perry has hired a high powered attorney to represent him in an upcoming trial where he will defend himself against accusations he illegally withheld money from the Public Integrity Unit, a part of the Travis County D-A's office.  Perry cut funding to the unit during the last legislative session when Rosemary Lehmberg refused to step down from office after being convicted of drunk driving.

Rick Perry vetoed a budget item after the District Attorney was arrested for a DUI and then refused to resign. So yes, he may have "illegally withheld money," $7.5 million, from the Travis County District Attorney's office.

Oops.

Via KVUE, an ABC affiliate:

The hiring comes as a special Travis County grand jury is set to be seated Monday to hear evidence into whether Perry broke state laws concerning bribery, coercion and abuse of authority.

It's grand jury time in Texas! So GOP, how's that family values, reinvention thing working out? And your insistence that Republican governors are awesome? *coughChrisChristiecough*

Oops.

Get out the popcorn.

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First evidence that ALEC effort to rebrand as being legislator-driven is “sham”

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ALEC general

ALEC is a topic I write about often. Allow me to refresh your memory:

ALEC  (American Legislative Exchange Council) is an organization of state legislators which favors federalism and conservative public policy solutions. They literally write legislation for Republican Congress members, who then do whatever they can to pass it. The Nation:

Of all the Kochs’ investments in right-wing organizations, ALEC provides some of the best returns: it gives the Kochs a way to make their brand of free-market fundamentalism legally binding.

Now that you have some background, here is some good reporting by Madison.com that should hopefully inspire you to vote (Koch-owned) Republicans out in November and get others to do the same. It involves Wisconsin Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa who "voted on a policy allowing only lawmakers, and not lobbyists, to introduce model bills":

At the same meeting, she sponsored a model bill under the direction of a lobbying group, according to documents released Thursday following an open records lawsuit that cost state taxpayers $15,000 to settle.

Brendan Fischer, a lawyer for the liberal Center for Media and Democracy, which filed the lawsuit, said the more than 100 pages of documents provide the first evidence that an effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council to rebrand itself as being legislator-driven is “just a sham.”

“This demonstrates that ALEC is really a lobbyist-driven organization,” Fischer said. “The lobbyists are the ones calling the shots. The legislators are just following along.”

That's what we in the bloggy biz call a big oopsie. And it's about time someone went very public about how legislators are nothing more than puppets with people like the Koch brothers pulling the strings. I mean other than Harry Reid:

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In one email, Christie Herrera, vice president of policy for the Florida-based Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative think tank with a registered lobbyist, wrote to Vukmir and three other legislators from other states thanking them for sponsoring a resolution opposing the expansion of state Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act and coaching them on what to say.

More details here.

Kochtopus

Speaking of legal issues, here are a couple of good Progressive lawyers, should you ever need one: Barry Scheck and Seth Price. We have a complete list of those we like to occasionally recommend at the bottom of our right sidebar.

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Military spouses, fearing loss of benefits, stay mum about sexual misconduct of husbands

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military spouses wife toughest job

Military spouses have it tough enough, what with worrying if their husband or wife will come home in one piece or even in a box. But military spouses of cheating husbands have been under additional pressure to keep quiet about the extra-curricular activities of their lawfully wedded philanderers. Why? Because if they dare expose the betrayal, they could lose "a lifetime of military benefits if their husbands were dismissed from the Army."

"You're advised to keep your mouth shut and let him retire because you could lose everything."

And so adultery and other sex-related military crimes went unreported. This is tragic.

The Los Angeles Times has an eye-opening report about women finally demanding that their families be protected if their cheating husband is punished harshly for misconduct:

Fear of losing benefits keeps many military wives from exposing sexual misconduct or other offenses committed by their husbands, say many of those familiar with the military criminal justice system. [Kris] Johnson kept quiet about her husband, Col. James H. Johnson III, while he carried on an affair with an Iraqi woman while deployed to that country.

But when Col. Johnson moved his mistress into his military quarters in Italy, his wife turned him in — painfully aware that she and her two children might be cut off from benefits as a result... In both the Johnson and [Rebecca] Sinclair cases, court concerns that dismissing the officers would also punish their families helps explain the relatively light sentences.

As a result of wives campaigning for changes, Congress is requiring the Pentagon to consider "transitional benefits." A study will begin in May. Yes, a study. But it is a step in the right direction. And it's about time. Since 2000, more than 19,000 service members were booted from the military for sexual misconduct. That meant no health or dental care, military IDs, or housing for military spouses and their children. How's that for family values?

Kris Johnson, who urged a petition to Congress for the changes, said her husband, Brig. Gen. Sinclair, and other senior officers felt invincible. "When they had their zippers unzipped," she said, "they weren't' thinking of their families."

Yes, it's highly unlikely that they take their wives and kids into account mid-shtup.

Prosecutors told her that her husband was kept in the Army to protect benefits for her and her children.

Johnson said she supported her husband's career for 25 years, constantly moving and enduring multiple deployments while caring for two children. Like many military spouses, she was unable to build her own career; she relied instead on military benefits...

She finally turned her husband in after enduring his living arrangements with his mistress, the woman who was also by his side when he socialized with fellow officers. Hence the adjective "invincible"... or as I like to call it, sleazy, vile, despicable, and shameless.

You can see why these military spouses were up to here with losing a lifetime of benefits because of these bottom feeders. Let's hope the Pentagon "study" next month produces real results real fast.

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Will corporations have "a chief religious officer" to dictate birth control use?

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Corporations are people 2

Corporations are not people. Corporations don't get married. Corporations don't wear condoms or give birth (although they do screw us). Corporations don't even get a twinkle in their little beady corporate eyes. But even though they are not living, breathing human beings, they have more rights than we do.  coughCitizensUnitedcough! coughBankruptcyLawscough!

And now we're faced with the appalling possibility that the Supreme Court may rule on something that the founders would consider pure lunacy: that corporations have religious rights that trump the rights of women to make decisions about their own health and reproductive needs.

With that, here are today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Re "Taming the boardwalk," March 26:

I read about some of the "artists, the homeless, Silicon Beach hipsters, surfers, inline skaters and tourists" all coming together on the "circus-like boardwalk" of Venice, and I thought, "Strange but nice."

Then I read about our conservative-controlled Supreme Court and arguments about Hobby Lobby not wanting to provide contraceptives to women — many of whom are probably already taking them — and the thought crossed my mind: Just who is strange?

Allen F. Dziuk

Carlsbad

Re "Court looks kindly on test of health act," March 26

Assuming for the moment that the Supreme Court's conservative majority goes ahead and allows employers to refuse contraceptive care for employees on religious grounds, will there be some sort of test of faith for the employers to make sure they aren't just cutting costs?

For example, we know that many business owners go to church on a regular basis, but surely that is never enough by itself to qualify them as honest Christians. If the employer gets an exemption but sins in his or her daily life, would he or she lose the exemption? Do all religions qualify for the exemption, even if this involves claims by heretics and infidels?

How will the corporation express its faith? Do all the board members have to be validly and acceptably religious, or will there just be a chief religious officer?

Philip Brimble

Los Angeles

***

How the Supreme Court can look kindly on a case that would destroy the basic American principle of separation of church and state is beyond me.

This is a case brought in order to refuse birth control to people who do not share an employer's belief system, but the implications are much larger and more poisonous.

If your employer is against blood transfusions, would those be forbidden? If adherents used only prayer to treat sickness — well, just think of the money insurance companies could save.

This court cannot be trusted to make the correct decision.

Alix Fargo

Altadena

Re "Unfair to Obamacare," Editorial, March 25:

I believe the management of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties should make it clear that they want only customers who present sworn affidavits indicating that they, or any relation, have never used any form of contraception — and then be prepared to close their doors.

Martin J. Weisman

Westlake Village

***

Aside from the obvious reasons for a rejection of this suit as far as freedom, equality, constitutionality and fairness, another reason for access to birth control is the growing worldwide population and the path we are on to do ourselves in rather soon. Why aren't we more concerned about this threat?

But if corporations do end up being able to dictate birth control use, employees should take back their freedom to choose, demand what wages they've contributed to the company's health insurance plan and use the money to buy Obamacare policies.

Joanne Tatham

Irvine

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Slut shaming, gossip: Chris #Christie's taxpayer-funded million dollar PR defense

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you're a whore case closed slut shaming

Yesterday Team Christie cleared Chris Christie in a "report" by a firm that donated to his campaign; it was a laugh out loud over the top PR document that repeatedly relied on slut shaming to make its case.

Rachel Maddow made mince meat out of it, as did Lawrence O'Donnell on "The Last Word":

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Maddow:

Why on earth would Bridget Kelly's personal life and how her love life was going and whether or not Bill Stepien dumped her be relevant to that political question? ...

Bridget Kelly never spoke to the lawyers doing this investigation...

So what they've printed throughout the report is gossip about what they heard about their relationship and how it was going. They just gratuitously bring that up as they blame the whole thing on her. In real life, this is called "slut shaming." I'm not sure what they call it in New Jersey politics, but it's amazing to see it in this report that New Jersey taxpayers have paid for.

$1 million in public money spent to produce this report which blames the bridge scandal without explanation on the fact that this lady in the office was having a tough time in her love life. Amazing.

... This is also the law firm that governor Christie's office has hired essentially to put together the governor's defense in this issue. The governor's defense as federal prosecutors continue to pursue potential federal criminal charges related to this scandal.

There's no indication right now that Governor Christie is going to be indicted in this matter, but today's report looks very much like a ready criminal defense if that would become necessary. A would-be defense prepared at taxpayer expense and previewed for all of us at a length of 360 pages today.

And as they have rolled out the governor's legal defense today, they also did it in conjunction with a public relations rollout, the governor granting his first one-on-one interview tonight since the scandal broke.

...They actually published no new documentation of the scandal at all....

This is called protesting too much. The guy who did the lane closures says Chris Christie knew about it while it was happening. He says he told him while it was happening. There are pictures of them together on the day and at the occasion where the guy says it happened.

There is still no purported explanation from the governor's lawyers or the governor, himself, as to why this happened if it wasn't political retaliation directed from the governor's office, and this is his million-dollar defense.

This is the best he's got. and New Jersey taxpayers, you paid for it. Well, they did get that incredible detail that Mayor Zimmer once yawned. So i guess there's that.

chris christie report christie crying

And as mentioned at the top, Lawrence O'Donnell had a field day with the report whitewash as well as with former two-time Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien's response to it:

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Team Christie clears #Christie in report by firm that donated to his campaign

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chris christie cartoon via FB team christie

chris christie bridgegate report by firm who donatedLink

Randy M. Mastro, the Team Christie lawyer who led an internal investigation of Bridgegate, held a news conference. In his self-serving little press event, Mastro pretty much laid out Chris Christie's legal defense. He also released a relatively meaningless, but lengthy, report by the gov's pals at the legal team of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher,. Christie hired them at the cost of more than a million taxpayer buckaroos.

The account was missing a little something though: It didn't include interviews with key players David Wildstein and Bridget Anne Kelly. But it does allege that the plan to close the George Washington Bridge lanes was orchestrated by Wildstein and approved by Kelly, Christie’s now-fired deputy chief of staff.

It also fails to reveal their motives.


The New York Times has the story:

The Port Authority official who oversaw the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge said that he had informed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey about it at a Sept. 11 memorial while the closings were occurring, according to the findings of an internal investigation released on Thursday by lawyers for the governor.

The official, David Wildstein, told Mr. Christie’s press secretary, Michael Drewniak, of the Sept. 11 conversation at a dinner in December just before his resignation from the Port Authority, according to the report.

The report said that Mr. Christie did not recall any such conversation, and it found no evidence that he was involved in the scheme, which snarled traffic for thousands of commuters in Fort Lee, N.J., from Sept. 9 through the morning of Sept. 12. [...]

At times, it reads like a point-by-point defense of the governor.

The old "I don't recall" defense. What's not to believe?

One reporter asked, “Why should this not be seen as a whitewash?” Indeed.

The New York Times has much more here. Click here for the full report.

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