MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Sandy Hook massacre was a horrifying result of the collateral damage that results when a gun industry combines with psychologically paranoid white guys to dominate politics at the federal and state level. Like almost all mass shootings that ignite national dismay and outrage, the perpetrator in Newtown was white as well as the victims.
BuzzFlash at Truthout praised President Barack Obama for finally standing up to the gun lobby after the Connecticut massacre ( "President Obama Puts His Life on the Line for Gun Control.") It takes some courage, because as I heard – in some variation -- from politician after politician in my years advocating for gun control, "Mark, listen, let me be frank, these guys crowd into your home district office and curse and threaten you and you realize, 'Hey, they've got guns.' And you know they will vote the way the NRA tells them, while gun control is not a single vote issue for those who support it."
Remember, it's not just the "crazies" or the "bad guys" that fire off their guns and kill people. For every "crazy" and "criminal," look at articles about shootings – or watch coverage on your local "knife and gun club" television evening news -- and you'll as frequently, if not more often, find an account of a neighbor who when asked about the shooter, comments something akin to, "He was always very nice to me and my dog, although he generally kept to himself. He was a quiet man, a good neighbor."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Obama's Choice: Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?
For months, the White House has been leaking how President Obama "carefully" reviews a kill list (assassination) of alleged terrorists (and who knows what other troublemakers end up on the potential target list?). Off-the-record comments (and some on the record) are meant to reassure Americans that the president doesn't take the authorization of kills (with the attendant "collateral damage" of civilians and children if a drone strike) lightly, but seriously contemplates who ends up dead as a sanctioned hit.
As has been repeatedly noted by commentators not dazzled by the assumption of extra-judicial death warrants, it is perplexing and dismaying that a Harvard Law School grad who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago is showing such a lethal disregard for the nation's fundamental legal document.
Deciding who shall live and who shall die is generally a power attributed to Gods in most religions; or one can go back to history before the birth of states founded on democracy, when tyrants and monarchs held absolute powers.
The authority Obama has assumed without any legislative or court permission goes well beyond the Bush/Cheney torture protocol; this is a kill list, not just a rendition order. The condemning of a person to death without due legal process, without habeas corpus, violates the Constitution in the most fundamental way. In doing so, Obama is undercutting and eroding the most basic guarantee in our legal system, at a time when the tide, ironically, is turning against capital punishment in the US.
A Washington Post article today that reveals a hither-too classified document that adds a chilling corroboration of what has until now only been the subject of strategic leaks (for which we might add, no one has been prosecuted because these classified leaks are meant to enhance President Obama's image as a tough guy):
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Sniper rifles can be bought by civilians
When it comes to a timely reminder of how flawed the NRA and gun advocates argument that a gun offers a magical shield of self-defense is, the recent killing of a military sniper at a Texas gun range – glorified for his book detailing his alleged 150 plus "insurgent" kill total – offers it. Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL sniper and gun enthusiast hero, was unable to protect himself or his friend from an armed assailant, even though they were at a shooting range loaded with guns.
Although the circumstances of this incident may represent a tragically ironic mega-example of the gun lobby's flawed fantasy about the alleged omnipotent self-protection power of guns, it is only because of its mega-symbolic resonance to the drumbeat of gun worshippers that sets it apart.
After all, what the gun lobby doesn't tell you is that guns are relatively rarely used in self-defense by citizens – and it is not uncommon (as in the Trayvon Martin case) that they are used to kill innocent people out of pure gun owner paranoia.
The New York Daily News provides an account of the Kyle killing:
He lived by the gun, and he died by the gun.
The military’s most famous sniper — Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who claimed to have killed more than 150 insurgents from long distances in the Iraq war — was gunned down point-blank by a mentally unstable vet at a Texas shooting range Saturday.
Eddie Ray Routh is a suspect in the shooting and killing of former Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle.
Kyle, 38, was visiting the Rough Creek Lodge range outside Fort Worth with friend Chad Littlefield when deranged vet Eddie Ray Routh, 25, fatally shot both men, police said.
Routh, a former Marine, fled and was later arrested at his home outside Dallas, where cops retrieved the semiautomatic handgun used to kill both men.
Kyle, a highly decorated Iraq veteran, wrote the best-selling book, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.”
(Photo: Virginia Guard Public Affairs)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Iceland, the Last Hope for Transparent Democracy?
Truthout recently posted an article, "With New Constitution, Post-Collapse Iceland Inches Toward Direct Democracy."
It was a detailed report on how Iceland is on the verge of potential revolution in adopting a populist constitution, while ensuring a transparent government and true freedom of the press. It is not certain that Iceland's new burst of freedom and rejection of the managerial class will succeed, but the promise is exhilarating, according to journalist Sam Knight, writing for Truthout:
Now, Iceland is making headlines for more positive reasons: activists there are in the process of advancing some of the strongest freedom of information laws and journalist protections in the world, and the Icelandic economy, while still beset by problems, is significantly outperforming other crisis-stricken countries.
Most recently, on October 20, a remarkable constitution - written by an elected council with help from the public - took a step closer toward ratification after it was approved in a referendum by a 2-1 margin.
Before the changes are signed into law, the draft must be approved by the Althingi, Iceland's Parliament, approved again by referendum and finalized once more by the legislature after a fresh parliamentary election in April.
Uncertainty is swirling around the status of the constitution, however. Those opposed to it - primarily right-wingers - claim that the 48.9 percent turnout for October's vote doesn't lend the document legitimacy. There is also fear among the constitution's supporters in Parliament that some of their colleagues are trying to abrogate the public's influence by altering the document's content instead of offering the technical revisions they were given the mandate to make.
"I truly believe that our democracies have been hijacked by bureaucrats," said Parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a self-described "realist-anarchist" elected after the Kitchenware Revolution protests which ensued following the 2008 financial crisis and forced the long-ruling conservative government to resign in 2009.
"I don't want the new constitution to be plagued with their language, but the language of the people," she insisted in a Skype conversation with Truthout. "Their time is over. They just can't get over it."
Knight also noted:
"Political parties, liberally oiled by interested parties, no doubt - as they were by the bankers - have managed to thwart the popular will in Parliament," Gylfason said.
"The constitutional bill aims to correct the situation," he added.
In short, Iceland stands on the cusp of possibly becoming the vibrant "horizontal" democracy that the United States trumpets with cliches, but suppresses through an ossified financial/political ruling elite.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF TRUTHOUT AT BUZZFLASH Supreme Court
Yesterday, we wrote a piece on the long-term and devastating impact of the right-wing GOP increasing control over the federal judiciary. It is a toxic impact that will last for decades, as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit David Sentelle has shown.
The BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary, "Republican Federal Judge David Sentelle: How the GOP Has Packed the Courts With Partisan Hacks," explains a bit of background on how Sentelle has carried out GOP political objectives through the federal courts since 1985 – and since 1987 on the DC appellate court in a way that has negatively changed the course of US history.
As further background on the Republican federal bench coup (remember it resulted in on a Supreme Court mandated stolen election in 2000), BuzzFlash is reaching back into its early days and providing some context through David Brock, now head of Media Matters.
In 2002, BuzzFlash was one of the foremost promoters of a repentant David Brock. At that time, Brock had written a mea culpa book, "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative," recounting how he had been a journalistic hit man for the extreme right. Indeed, Brock had been instrumental in igniting the Whitewater and Troopergate stories as a means for the Republicans to pursue the eventual impeachment of Bill Clinton. Brock "reported" for the American Spectator, a right wing attack publication largely financed by Richard Mellon Scaife, who was sort of a one man Koch Brothers in the '90s.
In short, Brock was a key scribe for what was known as "The Arkansas Project," the right wing financed effort to drive Bill Clinton from office despite being elected by the voters of America for two terms. Brock called it a "contract on Clinton" that included his early articles about Paula Jones that stirred up the Ken Starr lynch mob after the Whitewater findings -- the original purpose of the independent counsel -- ended with the exoneration of the Clintons, who had actually lost money on the deal.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT David Sentelle, Partisan Judicial Hack
The hijacking of the federal judiciary by the Republican Party – through the appointment of aggressive partisan judges combined with preventing votes on nominations by Democratic presidents – is the hidden cancer on US government. The sudden nixing of recess appointments last week by a DC appellate court panel of three Republican-appointed judges (in this case Obama filling empty National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seats and appointing Richard Cordray to chair the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) during a recess to circumvent endless Republican sabotage in the Senate) is symbolic of the macro-subversion of justice through manipulation of the federal bench, including, of course the Supreme Court.
It should be remembered, for those who have forgotten, that almost no legal scholars or analysts – conservative or liberal – thought that the Supreme Court would rule on the 2000 presidential ballot recount dispute in Florida. But Antonin Scalia, the exhaustively partisan hack who impresses people with his intellectually sounding illogical and unconstitutional blather, stopped the recount faster than you can say "stolen election."
Then he went onto gather his partisan five votes to permanently halt the recount in an act of Republican hypocrisy usurping states' rights that was limited, in the opinion of the felonius five, to apply only to the one case of – in effect -- appointing George W. Bush as president.
Enter David Sentelle, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Not only is the DC appellate court the most powerful in the land, it is essentially the pre-trial hearing ground for government cases before they reach the Supreme Court (if the Supreme Court chooses to hear an appeal).
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Treasury Department
During the Bush presidencies, we thought that DC had turned into a Republican version of the Yale Secret Society "Skull and Bones" (which the Bush's had a dynastic membership in), in which the few inside players in government and finance protect and enrich each other – not to mention remain unaccountable for illegal governmental actions.
But as BuzzFlash at Truthout has reported again and again, the Obama administration – through the Department of Justice (DOJ), Treasury Department, Securities and Exchange Commission, and assorted other executive branch agencies and departments – has frequently applied a double standard to the masters of the universe when it comes to the rule of law and financial gain.
The BuzzFlash at Truthout commentaries dealing with the Washington DC government/Wall Street insider club are too many to mention, but our most recent critiques were "The Covington & Burling Trio Overseeing the Department of Justice Criminal Division: An Injustice" and "Consigliere Lanny Breuer, Head of the DOJ Criminal Division, Leaves Without Prosecuting One Made Man on Wall Street."
If you are a member of the masters of the universe secret society – the smug, career opportunist, ultra-rich governing/corporate class – you have something akin to a bullet proof vest at your disposal, only it is a prosecution proof garment that keeps you from going to jail for financial misconduct, while the guy who cashes three bum checks gets life in prison in some states.
(Photo: Joe W. Campbell)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Law gets dumb about smartphones
The Atlantic provides more evidence that the government is more interested in granting corporations monopolies than having them compete in a vibrant free market.
According to the Atlantic article headline, "It Is Now a Crime to Unlock Your Smartphone." That's right, as of Saturday, your smartphone cannot be switched by you to another carrier. In fact it will be a felony, with a huge potential jail sentence and possible humongous fines. As the Atlantic laments, "These laws serve to protect the interests of a few companies and create and maintain barriers to entry."
Indeed they do. In this case, for regulatory reasons derived from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), this legal obstruction of the theoretical free market and potential punishment of individual consumers is being instigated by the Library of Congress, of all places:
Until recently it was illegal to jailbreak your own iPhone, and after Saturday it will be illegal to unlock a new smartphone, thereby allowing it to switch carriers. This is a result of the exception to the DMCA lapsing. It was not a mistake, but rather an intentional choice by the Librarian of Congress, that this was no longer fair use and acceptable. The Electronic Frontier Foundation among other groups has detailed the many failings of the DMCA Triennial Rulemaking process, which in this case led to this exception lapsing.
The intrusion of the mega-corporations into fixing the rules to prevent competition and consumer choice should have, as the Atlantic notes, Republicans in an uproar – but Capitol Hill Republicans (as is the case with many Dems on the Hill) are not really pro-free market; they are pro monopolizing corporations.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Let's start here, with a question from the website Wall Street Parade:
The public, and Congress, have a pressing need to question how a law firm that was cited by a U.S. District Court, an Appellate Court and the U.S. Supreme Court as playing a central role in coordinating the illegal activity of Big Tobacco – activity that callously harmed the health and welfare of both children and adults, ended up sending three of its lawyers to the top slots at the Nation’s highest law enforcement office.
Both Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, and Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division were Covington & Burling partners before they joined the Justice Department. Dan Suleiman, who also worked at Covington and Burling, became the new deputy chief of staff and counselor to Lanny Breuer on July 16 of this year. Since 2008, employees of Covington & Burling have contributed $347,951 to President Obama’s campaigns.
In the past, Covington & Burling's clients have included Monsanto, Union Pacific, Merck, Warner-Lambert, Eli Lilly, Turner Broadcasting, IBM, General Motors, BankBoston Corporation, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Blackwater (Xe), Chiquita Bananas (in which Eric Holder defended the company against a lawsuit brought by families of individuals slain by Colombian paramilitary groups receiving money from Chiquita), the Southern Peru Copper Company (accused of human rights violations and pollution) among a bevy of other mega-financial and corporate entities.
Among this list, it is important to remember that Covington & Burling received a lacerating critique from a federal judge in 2006 for its long-term representation of the Tobacco Institute and Philip Morris. Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reprimanded attorneys for not just representing Big Tobacco, but for taking part in a conspiracy to deceive the public and regulators:
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"Lanny Breuer, Justice Department criminal division chief, is stepping down," a Wednesday Washington Post headline announced.
We'd like to think that it was a Tuesday BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary that did the trick: "The New Untouchables Are Wall Street Executives, Despite Evidence Many Likely Criminally Violated Sarbanes-Oxley Act." In that piece, BuzzFlash observed that Breuer is ultimately responsible for not prosecuting any key Wall Street executives, many of which – on the evidence available – oversaw a tsunami of criminal violations of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Many Americans are not aware of Sarbanes-Oxley, which has many legal requirements in it. A key regulation it places on corporations, under penalty of law, is full disclosure of financial transactions and any discovered fraudulent activity. The latter breaking of the law was key to how the subprime mortgage breakdown was the gateway to the collapse of the economy in 2008.
Yet, Breuer, who was – and likely will be again – an insider DC megabucks lawyer representing banks too big to fail and global corporations, settled on fines (or let the Securities and Exchange Commission do a slap on the wrist to corporate and financial masters of the universe). As the Washington Post confirms, "Prior to his appointment at the Justice Department, Breuer worked at the Washington office of the Covington & Burling law firm, alongside [Eric] Holder."
In short, Breuer and Holder are responsible to the American people for prosecuting the same masters of the universe clientele who they represented for lavish salaries at Covington & Burling. We can't read the minds of Breuer and Holder, but given DC precedent, it is quite likely that they will return to mega-bucks salary partnerships at a DC law firm again representing the kind of people who they are supposed to be prosecuting. If they criminally indict Wall Street executives, their financial value as attorneys decreases. That's the bottom line.
Besides, these guys are of the same elite managerial class that the Wall Street "made men" are.