7:00 - 7:10pm - RWS
7:10 - 7:30pm - Eric Martinez / Leanne Jennison
7:32-7:47pm - Ellis Robinson
7:48 - 8:20pm - Dr. Jill Stein Green Party Candidate 30min
Peace Rally in Tampa - Wed the 29th to do a vigil for peace at
dale mabry and gandy from 11-12:30
Aug 18th Women's March on DC
August 24, 2012 (9:30am-11:30am) -
Women's Equality Day Celebration! Florida Atlantic University
will host the 92nd Anniversary of Women's Right to Vote
with several organizations who will be your hosts! Join us!
WAR vs HUMAN NEEDS - 6 p.m. Bring-a-Dish, Eat, Socialize
7 p.m. - Legislative work for peace and human needs, Community Education on National Priorities, Discussions,
January session with Judith LeBlanc, national Peace Action Field Coordinator, your initiatives.
At Benders in Deerfield Beach.
Please (re)confirm your attendance, preferably the end of the prior week, August 24.
If you’re bringing a dish (for 5?)– what is it?
Will send out details – menu and directions, Monday, Aug 27.
MUST HAVE LIST OF ATTENDEES FOR ENTRANCE TO GATED COMMUNITY.
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012 from 11:00 to 5:00 pm -
Register Now- Progressive Fest in Melbourne
Progressive Fest: Communities in Action
Eau Gallie Civic Center
1551 Highland Avenue
Melbourne, FL 32935
1. Smell of cronyism in the wetlands
Every Floridian has a vested interest in wetlands — a primary means for recharging the aquifer and drinking water supply — and so should the state Department of Environmental Protection. But the more that is learned about how top officials have handled the wetland mitigation credit application of a well-connected landowner, the more it appears Gov. Rick Scott's administration is more interested in currying favor than following the law.
As Tampa Bay Times staff writer Craig Pittman has reported, nothing about the way the DEP has handled the application from Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank has been routine. The company is a joint venture of an influential private equity firm, the Carlyle Group, and a Jacksonville company, Hassan & Lear Acquisitions. They spent $15 million buying a 1,575-acre pine plantation in Clay County and hoped to win nearly 700 wetland mitigation credits to sell to developers who want to destroy swamps or marshes elsewhere. A single credit can sell for as much as $100,000, and the growth-friendly scheme is supposed to ensure the aquifer and its drinking water supply remain protected — though earlier Times reporting has raised serious questions about the effectiveness of such mitigation.
After Highlands Ranch's initial effort to play by the rules netted it just 193 of the 688 mitigation credits it sought from the St. Johns River Water Management District, the firm has been betting on political clout to get its way. First it tried to get the Legislature to change the mitigation law. After that failed, it filed an application for 425 credits with the DEP and took the unprecedented step of hiring a high-profile lobbyist to shepherd it. Jacksonville lobbyist Edward "Ward" Blakely Jr. has longtime political connections to DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard.
DEP's wetlands expert, Connie Bersok, wasn't impressed. She said the application still failed to meet legal requirements because it didn't spell out how the firm planned to restore wetlands. Bersok was put on leave, with agency leaders alleging she may have leaked information in the file to the media (all of which was public record). A subsequent investigation cleared her.
Vinyard has refused to be interviewed on the issue, sending Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn to make the case that nothing untoward has occurred; the DEP is simply interested in using the Highlands Ranch application as a pilot project for examining new ways to regulate wetlands mitigation credits. But Bersok has contended the law doesn't allow what the bankers wanted, and the 2011 Legislature wouldn't sign off on the changes Highlands Ranch wanted, either.
The question is why Scott, generally critical of government regulation, has ignored that his own regulators appear to be engaging in such favoritism. The renegade bureaucrat has never been Bersok but a DEP administrative team that acts as though it can change the rules as it pleases. That's not better regulation, it's special interest cronyism. Why has Scott not stopped it?
2. Why Don’t American Students Strike?
Zachary A. Bell on August 13, 2012 - 5:14 PM ET
The 2010 British student demonstrations awoke the austerity generation. The 2011 Chilean Winter frightened tight-belted administrators the world-round. And now, Quebec’s 2012 Maple Spring is showing neoliberals that if they’re going to hike tuition, it’ll be over striking student bodies.
As the spirit of youth protest winds westward, one wonders: Why don’t American students strike? And more broadly, what can US student activists learn from Montreal about making a movement mass?
As a recent graduate and student organizer, I headed north last month to compare notes with my Canadian counterparts.
Average annual tuition in Quebec stands at $2,500, dwarfed by America’s average tuition of $12,800 at public institutions and $32,000 at private ones. The average Quebec student debt is a mere $13,000 compared with America’s $25,000. And in 2012, 7.2 percent of US college grads were unemployed, beating out Quebec’s 6.3 percent.
According to the Associated Press, 53.6 percent of Americans under 26 with a Bachelor’s are jobless or underemployed. That’s 1.5 million people. That could fill a lot of streets.
So why are they empty?
Some point to uniquely American challenges. Simeon Talley explains in Campus Progress that the transformation to a bottom-line society, which is what students are protesting abroad, “has long taken hold in the US,” and retro-activism is too damn discouraging. In The American Prospect, Courtney Martin points to American class divisions, which make elite do-gooders look to developing countries rather than their own classrooms to score charity points.
Others argue that American student mobilizations do flare up, like Liz Dwyer of Good magazine. Dwyer admires UC Berkeley students’ protests against tuition increases, but notes that maintaining a movement for months “is unheard of in the 21st century United States.”
City University of New York students Biola Jeje and Isabelle Nastasia, who are fighting a five-year $1,500 tuition bump, argue that a mass movement could be sustained if the right infrastructure were in place. Specifically, if students “establish radical, federated student unions,” modeled after Montreal, to replace the “currently weak systems of student participation.”
But American students can’t just mail-order unions from Quebec. No manual can explain the student union culture that’s necessary to make them effective. However, a case study of an Anglophone university in Montreal might help.
“We always say French schools, they are so mobilized. We always look up to them,” said Rushdia Mehreen, a master’s student in Geography Planning and Environment at the primarily English-speaking Concordia University in Montreal.
Francophone schools have a tradition of activism in Quebec, Mehreen explained, but at Anglophone universities like Concordia, the customs are far less understood and practiced.
Although English activists like Mehreen have been vocal since tuition hikes were announced in April 2010, their schools remained largely quiet. In the winter of 2011, Concordia began taking steps to join its French counterparts.
Mehreen, along with other activists from Free Education Montreal and Concordia Mob Squad, initiated an information campaign, which included the seminal “23 Answers for Students,” addressing the history, justifications, and concerns about an unlimited general strike in a step-by-step manner. “We had to cater…to people not coming from Quebec,” Mehreen admitted.
They also engaged students through dialogue, hosting town hall meetings for “everyone to argue their point of view,” and holding debates to discuss common ideological barriers like, “if you want your education to be of high quality, then you have to pay for it.”
The campaign culminated in a massive November 10 march, with two hundred thousand Montreal students striking (including Concordia’s graduate and Arts & Sciences students) and thirty thousand stomping in the streets. This served as an ultimatum before an unlimited general strike.
In preparation for a possible strike, Concordia stepped up its cultural makeover through an intensive immersion experience. Francophone and Anglophone universities formally linked up, which was transformative for many English organizers. “They were ten times ahead of us,” Mehreen said.
Over the winter holidays, Mehreen co-organized a two-day training camp (a Francophone activist tradition) with this inter-cultural group. Her review: It provided the Anglophone activists in the “A to Z of what we needed to know as mobilizers.”
The relationship led to joint actions, including a bilingual demo called “Don’t Fuck with Notre [Our] Éducation.” Mehreen felt that “these encounters helped us immerse more in the movement because before that it was like Anglophone students were not really taking part in it.”
Come springtime at Concordia, “The atmosphere…was totally changed,” said Mehreen. The organizing core grew, and many students were asking how to hold General Assemblies in their own departments. “It was contagious, basically.”
On March 5, Concordia embarked on its first ever unlimited general strike in several departments. Later that month, Concordia struck university-wide for one week.
The neophyte strikers quickly ran into problems. The inexperienced administrators threatened activists or barred them from campus, and called for all faculty, staff, and students to report anyone participating in strike activities. This led some disgruntled students to break through picket lines, while some departments simply didn’t hold a General Assembly to continue the strike.
Still, Mehreen believed that the school gained some activist muscle that’s not going to atrophy. “These departmental associations are politicized now.” Mehreen’s story demonstrates how building infrastructure for each department and faculty to hold assemblies can be instrumental in sustaining a movement.
Concordia’s narrative also identifies culture as a crucial complement to infrastructure — it wasn’t until the organizing core shared Francophone activist culture that Concordia students used the unions to mobilize en masse and join the movement.
What about Francophone organizing culture sparked the mobilization?
At the demonstrations and assemblies I attended, there was a noticeable lack of infighting. In my experience with American college and Occupy organizing, conflict over issues of process (everyone feeling like their voice is heard) and goals (radical or reformist political visions) are often prevalent.
In searching for an explanation to Montreals’ relative harmony and success in building a mass movement, I returned to Mehreen’s description of the culture of L'Université du Québec à Montréal, which she tried to emulate: “combative syndicalism...to fight for our rights.”
Syndicalism is a principle many of my interviewees repeated. It refers to a sort of union-based collectivism. Academically, it’s defined as an alternative to capitalism and state socialism, relying on federations of multiple non-competitive units to manage the economy. In practice in Montreal, it amounted to a strong respect for autonomous decision-making, genuine trust within groups, and an intense sense of solidarity and collective purpose.
Mehreen asserted that this syndicalism was in the DNA of Quebecois organizing. Naturally, it was expressed in the movement’s foundational political body: the General Assembly.
The General Assembly at L'Université du Québec à Montréal was rather mundane. A group of biology students wanted an exception to the strike. They would lose a semester’s worth of lab work if they didn’t complete it by the fall, and only needed two weeks to finish.
A student brought up the implications of making exceptions. Someone raised that summer session wasn’t official. Another slipped “if the strike ever ends” into his statement and got laughs. An amendment was offered: the biology students do the lab work over the summer, but don’t submit them for grades until later so that their transcript doesn’t report classes taken during the strike. The resolution squeaked by with the necessary two-thirds majority. I checked my watch. It’d been forty-five minutes.
Coming from Occupy Philly — which is deciding whether to continue to have General Assemblies at all, and is working on a consensus-based process partially because some consider voting to be violent — the contrast was stark.
Occupy’s “step up, step back” anti-oppression policy and radical horizontalism calls for participants to favor underrepresented voices by taking into account how privilege embedded in their identities affects their language, manner, and ideas. The assembly at L'Université du Québec à Montréal, which was governed by principles similar to Robert’s Rules, simply asked that no one speak twice before everyone got a chance to speak once, that speakers alternate in gender, and that nominated facilitators be approved by a vote.
The structure is designed for efficiency and accountability all the way down. Students belong to unions in their faculties and departments, which send delegates to a congress, where any decision made must be ratified by each departmental assembly. Occupy exerts great effort to ensure that all participants feel like their concerns have been heard, while Montrealers focus more on productivity and yet few seem to feel hurt or excluded.
Quebec’s particular culture of solidarity, or syndicalism, engenders the trust necessary for a union structure to function well. The culture also fosters a sense of inclusivity and understanding that makes the movement more inviting to all students.
“It’s not about tuition for me, and it never was,” said Mehreen. Both Mehreen and Noemi Stern, an activist at McGill University in Montreal, have political visions that extend far beyond a tuition freeze. Stern hopes for small, autonomous, democratic communities, while Mehreen wants an end to privatization of public services.
But the manifencours (a name for the protests meaning “manifestations in the streets”) are not about dismantling the system, and these radical-leaning activists are okay with that. “We went on strike on those demands, so we want a resolution,” Mehreen declared. Even if a tuition freeze feels inadequate or social change based in the political system seems reformist, they remain committed to their classmates.
Mehreen personally convinced students that striking works, and that the 75 percent tuition hike was the reason to strike now. Mehreen’s sense of obligation and respect for the student union’s decisions makes her want to include students with a range of political views, including those counter to her own.
“We just want to go to school,” cried Zupa Semitego, a protester without particularly radical aspirations who has been shocked by police repression. She claimed, “[The police] made this into a bigger thing than it is.” According to Mehreen, once involved, many like Semitego have become radicalized through the experience of participatory democracy or the sting of pepper spray.
On American campuses, most students are not attracted to activist groups, and some feel alienated or even attacked by them. Is such solidarity even possible in America, particularly with its plurality of identities?
According to Wall Street Occupier David Murphy, it’s not. “Shared identity. We don’t have that in America,” said Murphy, who came to Canada for the protests.
“There are so many different cultures in the US that they fractionalize,” Murphy claimed, pointing to splits in Chicago. “Occupy Chicago is now the college students which are mostly white. Occupy El Barrio…is mostly Latin American, and Occupy the Hood…is predominately African American.”
I went to Montreal’s culturally mixed Côte-des-Neiges for a neighborhood assembly, to see how Quebecois solidarity dealt with diversity. Despite a few instances of interruptions and overbearing speeches, the meeting was marked by smiles and excited conversation. This included an international student’s declaration that he identified as “a part of Quebec society until [his] last day in Canada.”
Stateside solidarity and student consciousness may be possible, but the activist culture must address the multitude of distinctly American issues.
“You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.”
This statement, put out on occupywallst.org after the encampments were shut down, is reiterated in activist circles nation-wide.
But a movement forged in the fire of pre-figurative politics, where the means are the ends, cannot just wield an idea.
An idea can be inhabited by an individual. A culture is inherently based on interactions between people. Culture is not convincing, but demonstrative. A culture is a manifencours, a manifestation, of a society that encompasses many ideas and principles, best articulated through practice.
John Dewey, the philosopher who pioneered “learning by doing,” wrote, “Education is a social process…education is not preparation for life but is life itself.” Spreading ideas helps people understand Occupy, but sharing culture helps people become Occupiers. A reorientation toward crafting a culture of accessible activism may allow students to learn by doing.
American students need to create their own organizing culture, perhaps incorporating Quebecois syndicalism but without ignoring the principles of radical horizontalism employed by Occupy to address the uniquely American inequalities engraved into our identities — or else suffer terminal fractures like movements past.
As the Occupy Student Debt Campaign takes off, and college dissidents congregate at the Student Power Convergence in August, let the project be creating an accessible activist culture to support a mass movement.
3. Gary Kasparov (Chess Champion) roughed up and arrested outside the PUSSY RIOT trial
band sentenced to 2 yrs - Protest against PUTIN, asking the Virgin Mary expell Putin
formerly atheistic Russia - punished for Blasphemy - Coming soon to a town square near you.
4. Napoleonville, LA
For many weeks, Corne and Grand Bayou residents warily noticed strange bubblings from the watery depths, and they reported smelling burnt diesel fuel and sulfur. Then overnight, a sinkhole the size of three football fields appeared, swallowing scores of 100-foot tall cypress trees.
The beginning of a Grade B monster flick? No: real life in Assumption Parish, Louisiana
The 372-foot diameter, 422-foot deep sinkhole is just 1200 feet from Highway 70. Quantities of diesel and oil appeared on the surface of the slurry, creating a stink. The mysterious bubbles in the bayou continue. A butane-filled well is located just 1500 feet from the sinkhole. A breach could trigger an explosion. Scientists in an Examiner investigation, estimate that an explosion like this could be in the range of one-and-a-half B83 thermonuclear (hydrogen) bombs. The Department of Natural Resources issued a Declaration of Emergency on Aug 6. Daily briefings were held, 150 families were evacuated. Acadian Ambulance Services have been staged at the site for emergency purposes. During cleanup operations on the morning of Aug. 16, an additional 50' feet of property on the southwest side of the site suddenly fell into the sinkhole. Two cleanup workers in a boat, which was tied to a tree in that area, were rescued via airboat. Shortly thereafter, their boat sunk into the sinkhole, pulled down by the descent of the tree it was tied to.
All workers have been accounted for and no injuries have been reported. However, clean up operations at the site have been suspended.
This is the video of the flyover on Aug 16, after the additional 50' of property fell into the sinkhole. (24 seconds)
I interviewed Wilma Subra, a scientist and Pres. of the Subra Company, and past Vice-Chair of the Environmental Protection Agency National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT). Her company provides technical assistance to citizens concerned with environmental issues, by combining technical research and evaluation.
Ms. Subra explained that the Napoleonville Salt Dome area, in which the sinkhole is located, is about 3 miles long and a mile wide. A salt dome is a naturally occurring formation of hard mineral.
Some portions of a salt dome are used for solution mining in which a well is excavated, leading to a cavern below. Then, water is pumped in, and the resulting salt water is pumped out, creating brine, a salable product used in various manufacturing processes.
Some caverns may be used for storing natural gas or butane.
Subra said that on Aug. 3, something caved in somewhere, creating the sinkhole. It is not possible to determine exactly what happened until investigation by drilling. In order to do that, Subra explained that a rig available for rent had to be located, and then shipped to the site in pieces. A rig is currently being assembled 950 feet from the sinkhole. It will be used to dig an exploratory well into the cavern in order to assess its condition. Digging this well is expected to take 40 days.
It has been determined that Oxy Geismar Well No. 3 (serial number: 180708) is the cause of the sink hole. The well was first permitted in April 15, 1982 for the mining of salt water brine from the Napoleonville Salt Dome. In 1995 Texas Brine received permission from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources to pump soil contaminated with Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) into the well.
In early September 2010, Texas Brine began reworking the cavern well, milling a section of salt higher than the existing cavern roof, at 3,400 feet deep, to see if the upper strata could be mined. A DNR permit for that work was issued in May 2010. In 2011 the well failed a pressure test showing that the integrity of the well had been lost. Texas Brine Company sent a letter to Louisiana Department of Natural Resources reporting the failed test and expressing concern over the possibility that "a breach out of the salt dome appears possible."
On June 6, 2011, the well bore above the cavern was plugged with cement.
Bubbling and odors were reported in the nearby bayous, and the sinkhole appeared on Aug. 3.
(ADDITIONAL INFO, ADDED ON FRIDAY MORNING:
At 10:40 EDT on Aug 17, I got another email from Wilma Subra:
"An additional 20 feet on the east side of the sink hole were noted sloughed off this morning.")
5. ANTI WAR VETS - OCCUPY OBAMA Campaign HQ Oakland
the news story:
OAKLAND, Calif. — Six protesters were arrested Thursday night for holding a sit-in inside President Obama’s campaign headquarters in Oakland and refusing to leave.
The protesters marched to the headquarters after a 5 p.m. rally in Frank Ogawa Plaza in support of Bradley Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.
The march of several dozen protesters arrived at the campaign headquarters about an hour later.
Police said that initial reports were that three protesters had entered the building, followed by reports that 60 protesters were inside. By 6:30 p.m., seven protesters were seated just beyond the front doors and refused to leave.
Several of the protesters sitting inside were wearing t-shirts reading “Iraq Veterans Against the War,” including Scott Olsen, an Iraq War veteran seriously injured by a police projectile during an Occupy Oakland protest on Oct. 25.
Police later closed the doors to the building, leaving the larger crowd of protesters outside. Officers negotiated with the seven for several hours, and eventually arrested six of them for trespassing at the request for building management, according to police. – KGO TV San Francisco
President Obama: As U.S. veterans, we demand justice for human rights whistle-blower Private First Class Bradley Manning
Today, August 16, 2012, we occupy the President’s campaign office to raise awareness about the injustices facing military whistle-blower and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bradley Manning. We do not plan to leave until our demands, regarding the illegal treatment of our fellow soldier, have been met. As those who have spent years serving our country, we have faith that as Commander-in-Chief, President Obama will do the right thing in answering our request.
Our demands are as follows:
1. First, that President Obama apologize for the comment he made at a fundraiser in April 2011, regarding PFC Manning’s guilt. Commander-in-Chief Obama stated, “He broke the law,” a sentiment that was later echoed by General Dempsey. This constitutes Unlawful Command Influence, illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which precludes PFC Manning from receiving a fair trial.
2. Second, that President Obama ensures soldiers are free from illegal pretrial punishment. For the first eleven months of his detention, PFC Manning was held in solitary isolation. He was not allowed regular exercise or sunlight, and was even forced to stand at attention naked. UN Chief Investigator on Torture Juan Mendez has declared these conditions “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” Just this last week PFC Manning’s defense revealed they have discovered e-mails which show orders to hold him in these inhuman conditions came from a three-star general who ignored the warnings of brig psychologists, and was likely acting with political motive. Though he’s yet to be convicted of any crime, PFC Manning has already been severely punished. We ask that President Obama pardon him of the remaining charges and seek to ensure the international human rights of other service men and women will be respected.
While we would defend the rights outlined above for any member of the armed services, we support PFC Manning especially due to the patriotic motivations behind the actions attributed to him, and the positive impacts that have come from them. For example, we believe it would be appropriate for President Obama to acknowledge the role that those actions have played in ending the Iraq War. During the 2008 campaign, a majority of Americans, as well as a majority of those enlisted, believed that U.S. forces should be withdrawn from Iraq. Many people voted for President Obama because they believed that he would end the war.
Despite the wishes of the American people, President Obama sought to keep troops in Iraq past the originally planned 2011 deadline. Documents allegedly released by PFC Manning helped American citizens understand why the war had not ended sooner. These reasons included a failure of the command to adequately discipline soldiers who would discredit the U.S. military in the eyes of the world by wrongfully killing civilians. The release of improperly classified documents via WikiLeaks provided an opportunity for President Obama to grant the new Iraqi government more independence as planned, and to bring American taxpayer dollars home and use them to treat traumatized veterans.
Bradley Manning served with conscience. Words attributed to him in May 2010 show he acted because he wanted “people to see the truth… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.“ President Obama made a similar statement in May 2011, when he stated, “In the 21st century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.” We now ask that President Obama honor those words by freeing American truth-teller Bradley Manning.
6. Federal judge blocks National Defense Authorization Act provision
In a stunning turnaround for an act of Congress, a judge ruled Wednesday that a counterterrorism provision of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense appropriations bill, is unconstitutional. Federal district Judge Katherine B. Forrest issued an injunction against use of the provision on behalf of a group of journalists and activists who had filed suit in March, claiming it would chill free speech.
In her decision published Wednesday, Forrest, in the Southern District of New York, ruled that Section 1021 of NDAA was facially unconstitutional — a rare finding — because of the potential that it could violate the 1st Amendment.
“Plaintiffs have stated a more than plausible claim that the statute inappropriately encroaches on their rights under the First Amendment,” she wrote, addressing the constitutional challenge.
Seven individuals, including Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges, MIT linguist Noam Chomsky and “Pentagon Papers” activist Daniel Ellsberg, had sued President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and a host of other government officials, stating they were forced to curtail some of their reporting and activist activities for fear of violating Section 1021. That section prohibits providing substantial support for terrorist groups, but gives little definition of what that means. Environmental activists were also poised to join the suit if it expanded.
Judge Forrest also found that the language of Section 1021 was too vague, meaning it was too hard to know when one may or may not be subject to detention.
“It was really unusual for a judge to declare unconstitutional a major provision of an act of Congress. I can’t remember the last time that ever happened,” said Carl Mayer, co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “The judge recognized that, but felt it was necessary to protect our constitution and to protect our democracy. There’s a lot of activists who understand how serious this is, but it’s less well known to the general public.”
The suit demands that Congress cut or reform this section of the law, which allows the U.S. military to indefinitely detain without charges anyone — including U.S. citizens — who may have “substantially supported” terrorists or their “associated forces,” without defining what those terms mean. President Obama signed the bill on Dec 31, 2011, with a signing statement saying that the law was redundant of powers already provided to the government under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (passed after 9/11), and that these powers would not be used against U.S. citizens. The next administration may decide differently, however.
The plaintiffs made their cases very clear. Hedges had said that he could no longer interview some of his contacts in the Middle East because associating with these individuals might subject him to indefinite detention. Similarly, one of the founders of Occupy London, Kai Wargalla, discovered that the city of London Police Department had categorized her organization as “domestic terrorism/extremism” — among a list of groups that included Al Qaeda. Along with her work supporting Wikileaks, she said she felt primed for a visit from the rendition patrol.
Government attorneys had challenged the issue that any of these people had standing, but Forrest ruled that they did.
7. US TRYING TO GET ASSAUGE -EXCLUSIVE
AUSTRALIAN diplomats have no doubt the United States is still gunning for Julian Assange, according to Foreign Affairs Department documents obtained by The Saturday Age.
The Australian embassy in Washington has been tracking a US espionage investigation targeting the WikiLeaks publisher for more than 18 months.
The declassified diplomatic cables, released under freedom of information laws, show Australia's diplomatic service takes seriously the likelihood that Assange will eventually be extradited to the US on charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining leaked US military and diplomatic documents.
This view is at odds with Foreign Minister Bob Carr's repeated dismissal of such a prospect.
Australia's ambassador to the US, former Labor leader Kim Beazley, has made high-level representations to the American government, asking for warning of any moves to prosecute Assange. However, briefings for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Senator Carr suggest the Australian Government has no in-principle objection to Assange's extradition.
8. RUSSIA WARNS BRITAIN
AFP - Russia on Friday warned Britain against violating fundamental diplomatic principles after London suggested it could arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange inside Ecuador's embassy.
"What is happening gives grounds to contemplate the observance of the spirit and the letter of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and in particular the Article 22 spelling out the inviolability of diplomatic premises," the Russian foreign ministry said.
Ecuador on Thursday granted asylum to Assange -- whose website enraged the United States by publishing a vast cache of confidential government files -- but Britain has vowed not to grant him safe passage out of the country.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said his government was obliged under its own law to extradite the Australian national to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes.
Britain has angered Ecuador by suggesting it could invoke a domestic law allowing it to breach the usual rules and go in to arrest Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador's London mission since June.
This would challenge a fundamental principle of the diplomatic system, and the threat has left Britain in unchartered legal waters.
At the same time, Moscow warned Britain against interpreting the law selectively, stressing that London has given refuge to "dozens of people suspected of committing grave crimes" who are wanted in other countries.
"What to do with a right to refuge for Julian Assange when London turns the observance of this right for this category of people into an absolute principle?" the Russian foreign ministry asked, referring to a number of high-profile figures granted asylum in Britain.
Russia has for years sought the extradition of top Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky as well as several other figures.
9. the end of diplomatic immunity
Britain’s implying that diplomatic or political asylum is a matter of belief or convenience has instantly put every embassy in the world on that basis, as convenience may require. The damage is already done.
How effortlessly the powers that be throw away the foundation stones of Western civilization, from habeus corpus to the laws of war to diplomatic immunity!
Ecuador is fortunate to have President Corrente already aware of this lawless approach to international law, and not disposed to back down.
10. Presto! The DISCLOSE Act Disappears
By Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers & Company
19 July 12
sk any magician and they’ll tell you that the secret to a successful magic trick is misdirection - distracting the crowd so they don’t realize how they’re being fooled. Get them watching your left hand while your right hand palms the silver dollar: “Now you see it, now you don’t.” The purloined coin now belongs to the magician.
Just like democracy. Once upon a time conservatives supported the full disclosure of campaign contributors. Now they oppose it with their might - and magic, especially when it comes to unlimited cash from corporations. My goodness, they say, with a semantic wave of the wand, what’s the big deal?: nary a single Fortune 500 company had given a dime to the super PACs. (Even that’s not entirely true, by the way.)
Meanwhile the other hand is poking around for loopholes, stuffing millions of secret corporate dollars into non-profit, tax-exempt organizations called 501(c)s that funnel the money into advertising on behalf of candidates or causes. Legally, in part because the Federal Election Commission does not consider them political committees, they can keep it all nice and anonymous, never revealing who’s really behind the donations or the political ads they buy. This is especially handy for corporations - why risk offending customers by revealing your politics or letting them know how much you’re willing to shell out for a permanent piece of an obliging politician?
That’s why passing a piece of legislation called the DISCLOSE Act is so important and that’s why on Monday, Republicans in the Senate killed it. Again.
Why? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “Perhaps Republicans want to shield the handful of billionaires willing to contribute nine figures to sway a close presidential election.” The election, he said, may be bought by “17 angry, old, white men.”
The DISCLOSE Act is meant to pull back the curtain and reveal who’s donating $10,000 or more not only to super PACs but also to trade groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and these so-called “social welfare” non-profits that can spend limitless cash on campaigns as long as it’s less than half the organization’s total budget.
The New York Times recently cited a report by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Center for Public Integrity finding that “during the 2010 midterm elections, tax-exempt groups outspent super PACs by a 3-to-2 margin with most of that money devoted to attacking Democrats or defending Republicans.” We’re talking in excess of $130 million. What’s more, the Times reported, “such groups have accounted for two-thirds of the political advertising bought by the biggest outside spenders so far in the 2012 election cycle ... with close to $100 million in issue ads.”
We know a few of the corporations that are contributing, but just a few, and that’s only by accident or via scattered governance reports, regulatory filings and tax returns. The insurance monolith Aetna, for example, gave more than $3 million to a pro-Republican non-profit called American Action Network, which spent millions on ads attacking Obama’s health care plan - even though, publicly Aetna supported the president. The Chamber of Commerce has pledged to spend at least $50 million on this election. Its contributors include Dow Chemical, Prudential Financial and MetLife.
But they’re just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Without disclosure we have little idea of all the big businesses that are buying our democracy - and doing their best to drown it at the bottom of the sea.
All of this, of course, is more blowback from the horrible Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which unleashed this corporate cash monster. Just this week, Justice Richard Posner of U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals - a Republican and until recently, no judicial liberal - said that Citizens United had created a political system that is “pervasively corrupt” in which “wealthy people essentially bribe legislators.”
Nonetheless, at the time of the ruling two and a half years ago, eight of the nine justices also made it clear that key to the decision was the importance of transparency. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “The First Amendment protects political speech and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way.”
One of the DISCLOSE Act’s biggest opponents isn’t buying that argument. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who used to say, “We need to have real disclosure,” has changed his tune. Now that conservatives and the GOP are able to haul in the big bucks, he claims that divulging the identity of corporate donors would be the equivalent of creating an “enemies list,” like the one Richard Nixon kept to punish his foes and settle political scores. Here’s what McConnell said in a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute last month:
“This is nothing less than an effort by the government itself to expose its critics to harassment and intimidation, either by government authorities or through third party allies… That’s why it’s a mistake to view the attacks we’ve seen on ‘millionaires and billionaires’ as outside our concern. Because it always starts somewhere; and the moment we stop caring about who’s being targeted is the moment we’re all at risk.”
McConnell’s not the only one - every Republican voted to kill the DISCLOSE Act, including fourteen who just a couple of years ago supported it. Groups like Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty smell an un-American conspiracy lurking behind the demands for disclosure. So do the National Rifle Association and FreedomWorks - the Tea Party organizers originally funded by David Koch - each of which warned senators that their votes on the DISCLOSE Act will be included in the scorecards they keep, recording each ballot they don’t approve like pins in a voodoo doll.
Their outrage is ridiculous and hypocritical. These non-profits are just another magic trick, an illusion intended to obscure the fact that these are monumental slush funds, plain and simple. As The Washington Post noted in an editorial this week:
“We seem to have created the political equivalent of secret Swiss bank accounts… In their lust for contributions, in cozying up to the moneybags of this era, candidates and political operatives in both parties seem to be forgetting that they put their own credibility at risk.”
Contrary to Senator McConnell’s view, this is more corrupt and covert than anything that happened during Watergate. The public has a right to know who’s behind the hundreds of political ads with which we’re being bombarded this year, who’s giving what to whom - not to mention our right to try to connect the dots and figure out what their motives are.
The good news is that people are fighting back. On July 5th, California joined state legislatures in Hawaii, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings July 24th and the state of Montana, which recently had its law barring corporate spending in elections struck down by the Supreme Court, has put a voter initiative on its November ballot, also calling for a constitutional amendment.
Lee Drutman at the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation quotes the father of our Constitution, James Madison, who warned, “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to Farce or Tragedy or perhaps both.” Drutman goes on to point out that, “The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed by Anonymous. Those who sign the big checks should have the very same courage in their convictions.”