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A selective case of 'standing on principle':

Pennsylvania's Top Lawyer Fights for Clearly Illegal Law Silencing Prisoners and Journalists Who Cover Them

 

In July 2013 Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane made a bold move when she refused to defend a Pennsylvania state law in federal court that banned same-sex marriage. Terming that ban “wholly unconstitutional,” Kane declared that ethical directives applicable to lawyers barred her from defending a "legally indefensible" law.

“If there is a law that I feel that does not conform with the Pennsylvania state constitution and the U.S. Constitution, then I ethically cannot do that as a lawyer,” Kane told a reporter in 2013 a year after her successful campaign to become the state's first female attorney general. (Kane endorsed gay marriage during her campaign.)

It looks like that self-imposed proscription of Kane's against acting unconstitutionally has a lot of flexibility built into it, though.

Today, two years after Kane’s bold refusal to defend the indefensible same-sex marriage ban, her office is in federal court defending a law hastily approved by Pennsylvania’s Republican controlled state legislature last fall that clearly does not conform with rights protections in either the Pennsylvania or U.S. constitutions.

The constitutionally-challenged law Kane now defends would cripple press freedom, free speech and other constitutionally protected rights. Unlike the same-sex marriage ban Kane earlier refused to defend, this new law she now is going to bat for in court does not afford her societal kudos or potential campaign contributions.

The law Kane is now fighting to uphold was devised specifically to silence the criticisms and critiques of prison inmates, but beyond that, it will also adversely impact civilians who monitor prison issues, rights activists and journalists, barring them from doing their work on prison-related issues.

Pennsylvania AG Kathleen Kane tries to silence state's prisoners by defending a clearly unconstitutional new lawPennsylvania AG Kathleen Kane tries to silence state prisoners by defending a clearly unconstitutional new law
 

Big donations are great, but what we really want are lots of small ones

Most of Our Readers Don't Get It: Alternative Reporting is Not a Charity


Okay, I guess it's time for us to spell it out: We're two months into our first and only fund-raising drive, hoping to raise $20,000, which we could easily do if our regular readers all just gave $1 apiece. Instead, we have a small number of you readers who repeatedly give generous donations of $25-$300 (thank you!). The rest of you give exactly nothing, zip, nada, zilch.

The upshot is that we don't come close to raising the kind of money that would allow the members of this collective -- who put out the reports on this award-winning site for nothing, doing the reporting and writing in our spare time -- to cut back on our day jobs and actually devote serious time to alternative news reporting.

There's really no excuse. You all clearly want what we are producing, and value our reports (we know that because you keep coming back and reading what we write), and yet, by and large, you, our readers, are just taking it for free. It's bad enough that the vast majority of you evidently don't feel any solidarity at all to support our work with a few bucks (which can be sent via Paypal account, credit card, or by mail as a check or cash). But solidarity aside, just from the point of view of self-interest, we could provide so much more of the unique news we have been providing for almost four years if we had some serious money coming in to support us in that work.

So readers, hear our call! Suck it up, show some solidarity, support what we do, don't just take it, and send us what you can. We're hoping from $5 per reader, but even $1 would help, if you all did it.

It's easy: use the handy Paypal button above, or send cash or a check made out to Dave Lindorff/TCBH to POB 846, Ambler, PA 19002

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17 years and still brutality and corrupt

Feds Rediscover Police Brutality In City of Brotherly Love...er...Beat City

 

The report slammed the Philadelphia Police Department for its historically flawed use of fatal force, directed primarily at non-whites, underscoring a repeated finding that Philadelphia’s Police Department has long owned one of the worst reputations of any police department in the United States.

The “persistence and regularity” of brutality and corruption in the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) indicate that “the city and its police force are failing to act to hold police accountable,” that report stated.

The almost total failure of officials in Philadelphia to hold errant police officers accountable, the report noted, solidifies a “culture of impunity” that leads to new generations of police officers learning quickly that “their leadership accepts corruption and excessive force.”

Those tough assessments of “shortcomings” within the Philadelphia Police Department are not contained in the damning report on deadly police practices in Philadelphia released on March 24th by the U.S. Justice Department. Rather, the harsh assessments of PPD failings, which would seem to merit prompt attention and reform, were in a report issued in 1998 by the organization Human Rights Watch.

The stark failure of authorities in Philadelphia –- successive police supervisors and City Hall officials, and three mayors –- to halt the police misconduct identified seventeen years ago by HRW makes the policing problems identified in the latest USJD report entitled the “Assessment of Deadly Force in the Philadelphia Police Department” all the more damning and appalling.
Philly's finest being cop, judge and gangbangers on an 18-year-old in 2012Philly's finest being cop, judge and gangbangers on an 18-year-old in 2012
 

A world gone mad

Fear of Terrorism is Making Us Crazy, Especially in the US

 

When I lived in China back in the early 1990s, there was a story going around about a China Airlines flight in which both the pilot and the co-pilot had left the cockpit and then, on their return, found the door locked. They reportedly got a fire ax, and with the whole planeload of freaked out passengers watching in horror, started wailing on the metal door. The co-pilot then turned, and seeing the panic developing, calmly drew the curtain across the aisle, hiding their work from view. The axe's bashing continued until they broke the latch and got back to the controls.

Lucky this was before the 9-11 attacks! Now, because some terrorists forced their way into crew cabins and took over a few planes, virtually all aircraft have reinforced cabin doors that cannot be broken into. Predictably, this panicky response has led to a new kind of risk: mass passenger deaths by pilot suicide. A young Lufthansa pilot, apparently with a death wish but wanting to have his demise make a murderous impact, waited until the pilot had left for the loo, then locked him out and sent the plane into the side of a French Alp.

So what do we do now? Put a toilet in the cabin of every plane so that neither pilot or co-pilot ever has to leave her or his colleague alone in the cabin during a flight?

Of course, we’ve already got a problem since another solution that the FAA came up with to terrorists on planes commandeering a flight was to allow pilots, most of whom are retired military pilots, to bring a gun on board. Of course that is only a good idea if the pilot is mentally stable and a good shot. What if the pilot is the whack job? The gun just makes the job of destroying the plane that much easier. 


It is certainly a tragedy that 149 innocent people including a class of 16-year-olds and a couple of babies, went to their doom along with the deranged Lufthansa co-pilot, but the disaster shows how nuts our societies have become because of overblown fears of terrorism.

Just think about the insane delays, the fraught confrontations, the needless X-rays, the missed flights and the sheer nuttiness of the post-9-11 security screenings -- especially in the US. We have to remove our shoes because one guy tried to light up a “shoe bomb” that probably wouldn’t have done anything to the plane anyhow. I remember waiting in line once as a TSA inspector removed the booties from a three-month-old baby in a carrier at Chicago O’Hare because the rules said shoes had to come off and go through the X-ray machine. Never mind that a dedicated bomber could down a plane by bringing in six 3 oz bottles of nitro in a sealed plastic bag without any problem -- enough to blow out the side of the plane from his seat. (Thankfully, fears touted by the government two years back of alleged terrorist plans to stuff explosives up their colons for detonation in flight never materialized, or we’d all be getting proctological exams now before boarding!)

 The TSAKeeping America safe from terrorism: The TSA

This is the planet

 

A bear saves a crow from drowning.
A baboon and a dog and a deer frolic in a field.
A little girl feeds the crows
And receives gifts from them in exchange.

This is the planet we are living on,
Not that other one that we are beating up.

An Orca lifts up a kayak on its back.
A parrot feeds a puppy its kibble snack.
A raven slides down a snowy roof on a dog dish.

This is the planet we are living on.
Not that other one that we are selling off piecemeal.

A man on death row manages to prove his innocence
Days before his execution.
He leaves his own freedom party,
Walks to the end of the backyard,
Throws his arms around an apple tree
And weeps.

This is the planet we are living on.
Not the one that knows no love.

A deer raises her head to watch me skirting the field.
And as I climb the fence into the orchard
She lowers her head to graze.

This is the planet we live on.
Not the one that we have forgotten.
 
 
  --Gary Lindorff

Making enemies by droning on and on:

It’s Guilt that has US Military and Embassy Staff Fleeing Yemen Like Scared Rats

 

I’m the first to admit that I don’t know all that much about Yemen, or about the Houthi rebels who have taken control of Sana’a, the ancient Arab country’s capital, leading to the hasty evacuation of all US military forces (some 250 Special Forces personnel and the staff of the US embassy) from that country located at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

But I do know that what is being portrayed as a “disaster” for for the US global “counter-terrorism” effort is not being reported honestly to us by this country’s complacent and compliant corporate media.

Nowhere can I find any article in the corporate news media asking what role the US’s massively unpopular campaign of bombings and drone-fired missile attacks on alleged terrorists -- attacks that have killed countless civilians, and that have also included wholly erroneous massacres of innocents such as wedding caravans -- has played in the creation of a situation that is likely to become a bloody civil war. This in a country that already endured one such catastrophe lasting from roughly 1964 - 1994. We’re talking about a generation’s worth of bloodletting, both between tribes, and between a north dominated by the US-puppet Saudi monarchy, and a south supported by the Soviet Union and, for many years, its alley, Egypt. The idea that the US would casually take actions that could re-ignite such a horror in a place that had to be seen as a tinderbox is simply appalling.

If the goal of President Obama’s global drone wars was to combat and degrade global terrorism, it has been an embarrassing and tragic failure not just in Yemen, but in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia too.

Yemini fort and tank base, where US Special Forces were stationed before fleeing, and wreckage of a Yemini wedding caravan hit by a US drone strike that killed 15Yemini fort and tank base, where US Special Forces were stationed before fleeing, and wreckage of a Yemini wedding caravan hit by a US drone strike that killed 15
 

Takin’ it to the streets (and voting booth)!:

Time to Demand Medicare for All and Social Security Benefits We Can Live On!

 

With Republicans now in control of both houses of Congress, the current president already on record as having supported cuts in Social Security and Medicare, and all signs pointing to the likelihood that the 2016 election could bring us either a neo-liberal or a neo-conservative president, and an increasingly Republican-dominated Congress, it’s time for an aggressive mass movement built around defending and expanding both those critical public funding programs.

The first step is getting out the truth that Social Security is not broke or doomed, but simply needs to be better funded by ending the free pass given to the wealthy. Simply eliminating the cap on income subject to the FICA tax, currently set at the first $118,500 of earned income, would make the system fully able to pay all promised benefits for the next century or more. Extending the tax to cover unearned income -- basically capital gains (a tax that only impacts the wealthy) would allow for an expansion of benefits.

There is today $2.8 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund, a fund that was created by a compromise reform reached by President Ronald Reagan and a Democratic Congress led by House Speaker Tip O’Neill back in 1983. The idea at the time was to have Baby Boomers and their employers pay more into the system ahead of the time they would be retiring, when their numbers would place a burden on current workers (the Boomers’ kids and grandkids), since the system has always since its inception financed current retirees’ benefits through current workers’ FICA payroll tax payments. (The reform also raised the full retirement gradually from 65 to 66 and later to 67 for people born after 1964.)

That advance funding of Boomer retiree benefits is now starting to be tapped but that is what was supposed to happen to it, a point the doom-sayers and political scare-mongers fail to mention. It turns out, though, that the advance funding was not large enough for several reasons. One, very positive, is that people are living longer than projected because of improved nutrition and medical advances. Another is that a series of recessions and market collapses, especially during the “lost decade” of 2000-2010, caused in large part by corrupt investment banks in 2001 and by Wall Street’s mega-banks turned casinos in 2007-9, cut severely into FICA contributions, as well as into workers’ personal savings and net worth.

Right-wing and corporate propaganda to the effect that the Trust Fund is smoke and mirrors or just “IOU” scrips, is absurd. It’s true that Washington politicians promptly borrowed FICA tax revenues as soon as they came in the door to allow them to fund things like endless wars and Pentagon war-profiteers without raising taxes, but that debt is every bit as real as the federal debt held by investors in the form of treasury bills and notes. It will be covered, whether by rolling it over into new debt or by raising taxes.
Boomers and their ofspring have the power to remake Social Security and to expand Medicare to all! We just have to use it!Boomers have the political power to remake Social Security and to expand Medicare to all! We just have to use it!
 

In any event, as has been often pointed out, even were the fund to be exhausted in 2033 or 2034 because of inaction by Congress to boost revenue for Social Security, the system would, at the current FICA tax rate of 6.2% for employee and employer, still be able to fund 77-78% of promised benefits out into the distant future beyond the time when the last Baby Boomer has moved off to some Woodstock in the sky.

More importantly, there is no way that will happen. Why? Because the Baby Boom generation, in retirement, will constitute not just the largest block of elderly voters in the nation’s history (almost 78 million people!), but also will represent the largest elderly bloc proportionately, in history, fully 1.5 times as large a segment of the electorate as the already powerful current senior vote.

The ubiquitous doll is now an information-gathering device!

Barbie the Spy!

 

For many people reading this, there are at least two concepts that will offend.

One is surveillance, about which we've written often on this site. The other is the Barbie doll: the ubiquitous toy that has for decades molded girls' (and boys’) concept of "the perfect female" as having an impossible-to-achieve figure derived from sexist fantasy and has taught them that their lives should be about dressing up and attracting the attention of a boring male named "Ken."

There are, of course, many other offensive things going on in the world but these two catch the writer's attention because, in a new version of this product toy-maker Mattel Inc. is introducing to the market this Fall they are combined. Barbie, the girl you can never be (and shouldn't ever want to be), is now a spy.

 Reporting for DutyHello Barbie: Reporting for Duty
 

The company introduced its new doll, called "Hello Barbie," at a February trade fair in New York and...well, you can't make this stuff up.

This doll can converse with you (or with your child unless you play with dolls) and record the answers. It then transmits these answers to a data-bank at the company's headquarters and stores them under the child's name and other personal information, then analyzes this data and responds to it...immediately or months later. Given a little time, it will have profiled your child and turned her into an information gathering source.

New poem:

Cape Cod 1966

 

We used to have picnics on a bayside beach.
My grandmother was too frail to walk on the sand,
So we used to carry her from the car
Which made her grumble,
Which was just grandma.
We never knew how much she hated being carried
Because we were so busy feeling manly,
My brother and I.
And once we got her settled out of the breeze
She would say
“There, this is nice. . .” or something like that
And smile.
And when you are young you never question a smile.
So that was our permission to run off
Leaving our half-eaten sandwiches
While she sat there under her hat
Facing outward to the bay.
 

  --Gary Lindorff

Civilization and Barbarism

It Takes a Life Cult to Beat a Death Cult

 
We have to address the political grievances terrorists exploit.
                 - Barack Obama
 
All week, the bully-in-chief of cable news, Bill O’Reilly, has been passionately recruiting American clergy of all ethnic and supernatural inclinations to preach from their pulpits this weekend for US troops to lead what he sees as a holy war declared by ISIS. "The problem is Islamic fanatics who want to kill Christians and Jews." The goat that gives him his vein-popping urgency is President Barack Obama who is determined to never make a reference to religion in his call for international propaganda war against the ISIS phenomenon -- to accompany his current bombing campaign and any other military action he may lead.

While Mr. Obama is guilty of a host of national security state sins and is not without blood on his hands, the president’s rhetoric is smart when he emphasizes that ISIS is a “death cult” with incredible influence that should be engaged by the forces of civilization. The problem is the fine rhetoric seldom translates into action. Policy always falls back on our runaway national security state and its deep terror of losing some aspect of its power and self-image of exceptionalism.

Bill O'Reilly takes up holy war with ISISBill O'Reilly takes up holy war with ISIS
 

The question that needs to be asked -- and answered forthrightly and courageously for the American people -- is why ISIS is so successful all of a sudden in the geographic arc made up of the Middle East, Southwest Asia and North Africa. Ordinary Americans should realize this is a serious question that has less to do with messiahs and theological beliefs about the afterlife than it has to do with frustrated human aspirations and the power of a death cult. It's true that comforting afterlife fantasies certainly constitute fuel for a death cult; in fact, it's the religious component that makes them that much more deadly and frightening.

What we’re talking about is ideas that coalesce as mobilizing thought in the mass human mind. Think of a school of fish or a swarm of birds moving as one. In this sense, then, what exactly is a death cult? My dictionary defines cult as “a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.” As for the adjective in this case, death, in line with his long 1930 essay Civilization And Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud might have defined a death cult as a group focused on a mythic and psychological obsession with Thanatos, the Greek mythic personification of death, or what he called the death instinct -- versus its counterpart, Eros, or the life instinct. The latter drive overcomes difference and pulls things together, while the former accentuates difference and tears things apart. This is how Freud put it:

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Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

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by Dr. Radut