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Saturday, October 11, 2014

“Cruel and Unusual” remains unconscionably cruel

Death Penalty
by whatever name
US High Court Justices’ 1970s-1990s arguments still apply to a “legal” barbarity
Edited by Carolyn Bennett

“The question does the system accurately, consistently determine which defendants ‘deserve’ to die can … [never] be answered in the affirmative.”


Capital Punishment USA


 Brennan
Death is not only an unusually severe punishment, unusual in its pain, in its finality and in its enormity; but it serves no penal purpose more effectively than a less severe punishment. Therefore, the principle inherent in the clause that prohibits pointless infliction of excessive punishment when less severe punishment can adequately achieve the same purposes invalidates the punishment” [William J. Brennan]

Justice Brennan

William Joseph Brennan Jr. (b. April 25, 1906 – d. July 24, 1997), appointed by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1956 until 1990. He was known for “outspoken progressive views.”  Justice Brennan authored landmark case opinions including “Baker v. Carr establishing the ‘one person, one vote’ principle; New York Times Co. v. Sullivan that required ‘actual malice’ in a libel suit against those deemed ‘public figures.’ He has been described as historically one of the Court’s “most influential members.”

US Constitution
a Work in Progress

The government … devised [by the drafters of the Constitution of the United States] was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights we hold as fundamental today.…

“Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice that triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not realized and promises not fulfilled.

Supreme Court of the United States 
“I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution as a living document, including the Bill of Rights and the other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights.” [Thurgood Marshall on the occasion of U.S. Constitution’s bicentennial (1987)]

Justice Marshall

Marshall had a long record of strong support for U.S. Constitutional protection of human rights and the two justices, Marshall and Brennan, were allies on the High Court in opposing the death penalty.

Brennan and Marshall concluded in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was, in all circumstances, unconstitutional, and never accepted the legitimacy of Gregg v. Georgia, which ruled four years later that the death penalty was constitutional in some circumstances.

Marshall 
Thurgood Marshall (b. July 2, 1908 – d. January 24, 1993), appointed by US President Lyndon Baines Johnson, served on the Supreme Court of the United States from October 1967 until October 1991.  Before coming to the high Court Marshall was a lawyer who was best known for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education, a decision that desegregated public schools. He served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (appointed by President John F. Kennedy) and then as U.S. Solicitor General (appointed by President Johnson)


Those who wrote the Eighth Amendment knew what price their forebears had paid for a system based, not on equal justice, but on discrimination.

“In those days the target was not the blacks or the poor, but the dissenters, those who opposed absolutism in government, who struggled for a parliamentary regime, and who opposed governments’ recurring efforts to foist a particular religion on the people. Id., at 155-163.

“But the tool of capital punishment was used with vengeance against the opposition and those unpopular with the regime. One cannot read this history without realizing that the desire for equality was reflected in the ban against ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ contained in the Eighth Amendment.

“In a Nation committed to equal protection of the laws, there is no permissible ‘caste’ aspect of law enforcement. Yet we know that the discretion of judges and juries in imposing the death penalty enables the penalty to be selectively applied, feeding prejudices against the accused if he is poor and despised, and lacking political clout, or if he is a member of a suspect or unpopular minority, and saving those who by social position may be in a more protected position.

“In ancient Hindu law, a Brahman was exempt from capital punishment, and under that law, ‘generally, in the law books, punishment increased in severity as social status diminished.’ We have, I fear, taken in practice the same position, partially as a result of making the death penalty discretionary and partially as a result of the ability of the rich to purchase the services of the most respected and most resourceful legal talent in the Nation.

White
“The high service rendered by the ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment is to require legislatures to write penal laws that are evenhanded, non-selective, and non-arbitrary, and to require judges to see to it that general laws are not applied sparsely, selectively, and spottily to unpopular groups.” [U.S. Supreme Court FURMAN v. GEORGIA, 408 U.S. 238 (1972) 408 U.S. 238 

Justice White

Byron Raymond White (b. June 8, 1917 – d. April 15, 2002), appointed by US President John F. Kennedy, served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1962 until 1993. White took a middle course on the issue of the death penalty – though he was not against the death penalty in all forms – and “was one of five justices who voted in Furman v. Georgia (1972) to strike down several state capital punishment statutes, voicing concern over the arbitrary nature in which the death penalty was administered. The Furman decision ended capital punishment in the United States until 1977.”


I think this country would be much better off if we did not have capital punishment.”

Stevens
“Arbitrariness in the imposition of the death penalty is exactly the type of thing the Constitution prohibits, as Justice Lewis Powell, Justice Potter Stewart, and I explained in our joint opinion in Gregg v. Georgia (1976). … Today one of the sources of such arbitrariness is the decision of state prosecutors—which is not subject to review—to seek a sentence of death. It is a discretionary call that may be influenced by the prosecutor’s estimate of the impact of his decision on his chances for reelection or for election to higher office.” [Justice John Paul Stevens]

Justice Stevens

John Paul Stevens (b. April 20, 1920), appointed by US President Gerald Ford, served on the Supreme Court of the United States from December 19, 1975, until June 29, 2010. During his tenure, Stevens served with three Chief Justices: Warren E. Burger, William Rehnquist, and John G. Roberts.


I yield to no one in the depth of my distaste, antipathy, and, indeed, abhorrence, for the death penalty, with all its aspects of physical distress and fear and of moral judgment exercised by finite minds.

“… Even if we can feel confident that these actors will fulfill their roles to the best of their human ability, our collective conscience will remain uneasy. Twenty years have passed since this Court declared that the death penalty must be imposed fairly, and with reasonable consistency, or not at all, […] and despite the effort of the States and courts to devise legal formulas and procedural rules to meet this daunting challenge, the death penalty remains fraught with arbitrariness, discrimination, caprice, and mistake.”

Blackmun
[After many years’ trying] “…to develop procedural and substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor,” he resolves, “From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.…

It is virtually self-evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies.

The basic question—does the system accurately and consistently determine which defendants ‘deserve’ to die?—cannot be answered in the affirmative.

Justice Blackmun

Harold Andrew Blackmun (b. November 12, 1908 – d. March 4, 1999), appointed by US President Richard Nixon, served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1970 until 1994.


Sources and notes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_J._Brennan,_Jr.
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=408&invol=238#f158
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thurgood_Marshall

FURMAN v. GEORGIA CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA No. 69-5003 Argued January 17, 1972, Decided June 29, 1972: Mr. Justice Douglas, Mr. Justice Brennan, Mr. Justice Stewart, Mr. Justice White, and Mr. Justice Marshall have filed separate opinions in support of the judgments.]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byron_White

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Paul_Stevens

“Tinkering with the Machinery of Death: The Evolving Jurisprudence of Justice Harry Blackmun” – Justice Harry Blackmun’s long struggle to reconcile his concern for the individual, his respect for legislative and judicial process, and his awareness of the fallibility of individuals and institutions formed a jurisprudence that continues to instruct” by Melissa M. Weldon and Paul M. Shapiro, article posted February 7, 2013, http://mnbenchbar.com/2013/02/tinkering-with-the-machinery-of-death/

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES No. 93-7054 BRUCE EDWIN CALLINS, PETITIONER v. JAMES A. COLLINS, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, INSTITUTIONAL DIVISION on petition for writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fifth circuit [February 22, 1994] Justice Blackmun , dissenting.

“On February 23, 1994, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Bruce Edwin Callins will be executed by the State of Texas. Intravenous tubes attached to his arms will carry the instrument of death, a toxic fluid designed specifically for the purpose of killing human beings. The witnesses, standing a few feet away, will behold Callins, no longer a defendant, an appellant, or a petitioner, but a man, strapped to a gurney, and seconds away from extinction.” http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/93-7054.ZA1.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Blackmun
______________________________________________________

A lifelong American writer and writer/activist (former academic and staffer with the U.S. government in Washington), Dr. Carolyn LaDelle Bennett is credentialed in education and print journalism and public affairs (PhD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; MA, The American University, Washington, DC). Her work concerns itself with news and current affairs, historical contexts, and ideas particularly related to acts and consequences of U.S. foreign relations, geopolitics, human rights, war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Dr. Bennett is an internationalist and nonpartisan progressive personally concerned with society and the common good. An educator at heart, her career began with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since then, she has authored several books and numerous current-affairs articles; her latest book: UNCONSCIONABLE: How The World Sees Us: World News, Alternative Views, Commentary on U.S. Foreign Relations; most thoughts, articles, edited work are posted at Bennett’s Study: http://todaysinsightnews.blogspot.com/ and on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carolynladelle.bennett. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08UNCONSCIONABLE/prweb12131656.htm http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000757788/UNCONSCIONABLE.aspx Her books are also available at independent bookstores in New York State: Lift Bridge in Brockport; Sundance in Geneseo; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center in Buffalo; Burlingham Books in Perry; The Bookworm in East Aurora

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

“Racism” slur serves regress never progress

Relations among human beings require collective human effort
By Carolyn Bennett

Addendum to thoughts by Mac Donald and Siegel

Some Americans feel that “the Government” is an external entity that is “out to get them.” Some Americans feel that the United States (of) America is an external entity that is “out to get them.” In each case, each feels separate and apart, alien and self-alienating, although neither would take personal responsibility for alienating self.

These thoughts surface though not for the first time after reading recent articles by the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal writers Heather Mac Donald (“Ferguson’s Unasked Questions: In the Missouri city and elsewhere, the media clings to predetermined conclusions,” October 6, 2014) and Fred Siegel (“Ferguson Fury: Activists, Journalists Stuck in 1960s Racial Resentments,” August 19, 2014). Siegel exposes the debilitating “grudge” mentality and Mac Donald the equally counterproductive “race-racist-racism” mantra.  
 
I

 was lucky, I guess, because as an adult and an older person, I realize that I never felt alienated either from government or from the USA. I was raised pledging my allegiance to the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands; and though I was born and raised in a racially segregated U.S. South, I was raised neither on “racial inferiority” (or superiority) nor on race (racial) resentment. These pathologies never took root in my character. I grew more and more to focus on my own “mission,” so to speak, my own work; and when the call came in 1960s asking what I could do for America, I finished my college credential and answered by joining the U.S. Peace Corps and serving as a teacher in West Africa. There began my worldview.

I have seen the resentment that Fred Siegel observes and have myself fairly recently asked a black woman who had expressed disdain for a baseball team that she said had been slow in hiring black men the questions MacDonald asks, “How many qualified black people applied?” How many of those applicants were turned down? The woman didn’t know but she still held on to a grudge. I told her I cannot afford to hold on to resentments because it hurts me, does injury to my insides. It reinforces pathology or at least an unhealthy psychology and so unhealthy human relations.

In any situation there are always many variables that a reasonable person – not blinded by resentment (re-feeling of perceived or actual wrongs) – can see. But none are so blind, as the saying goes, as those who “will not see” and or say out loud the truth. There is another saying I like: “fix the problem, not the blame.” I believe Americans in general and black Americans in particular concerning the case at issue tend to fail solutions while wallowing in blame.

I

 am also of the opinion that “racism” is too easy a response and it accomplishes nothing except counter-resentment, flashes of anger – how dare you call me a racist. I have wondered how resentful black people would feel if someone flung an epithet at them. This is another delusional “apart from” but people are people regardless to their color or race or nationality or creed, et cetera.

The Trayvon Martin/Michael Brown cases and fallout – incidents, confrontations, call them what you like (and I agree that media histrionics distracted, drove a wedge between human beings and cast aside actual facts on the ground) – might never have happened if people in communities had as a matter of routine practiced “community.” These things don’t spring up all of a sudden. They simmer and fester and one day their toxicity breaks into the open. If Americans joined as Americans, they could solve human relations issues together before and prevent them from boiling over.

Is this too much trouble? Is it too much trouble to assemble in a church basement or public hall and reason together? Is it too much – as Mac Donald says – to even register and vote? (I don’t remember hearing that voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer went around yelling “racists” and “racism.” Black people, as Mac Donald implies, are no more sacrosanct than are white people, no better or worse as police officers or public officials.  Name-calling gets you nowhere – unless your aim is to get nowhere except backward.

My final point is that there is among United States Americans of all stripes a character or culture or strain of violence that manifests itself in foreign and domestic relations.

If we speak of killings in our cities and towns and on our college campuses, we cannot divorce these from the evidence in U.S. officials’ choice of violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and other places. We cannot divorce sanctions and drone warfare abroad from an actor’s, a football player’s, a soldier’s violence against women.

We can talk about these things. But so long as we see ourselves as apart from America and Americans and government and or apart from peoples in other lands; so long as we choose to hold on to and deepen resentments or play one against another – one or another race or sect or ethnic group or nation – we can never solve our problems as people, as human beings.

That’s my take on an issue that plays out again and again in dark pageantry, in show, in media frenzy; when what we need to apply is an all-encompassing humanity (this foundation of our equality) and soul-searching, seriously self-reflecting honesty.

I
’ve got another thought that I often tell people. If all you’ve got to commend you is race or color (characteristics you had absolutely no part in creating), then you don’t have much or even anything going for you.

As to those who feel apart from America and or apart from government, we ARE America and we ARE government, from local to federal levels.

One of our serious problems is that we are ignorant; some of us are deliberately, obliviously ignorant. I like that quote attributed to our fourth president, James Madison, and inscribed on the Madison Building of the Library of Congress in Washington:

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

What is the meaning of “progressive”?  This is not a bad word, in my view. We have come a long way since Madison’s time but we cannot fulfill the promise and potential of America unless and until ALL of us together own this land and participate fully in its civic and social, ethical and human uplift, its substantive progress.


Carolyn LaDelle Bennett, author of
Unconscionable (published in September 2014)
No Land an Island No People Apart (published in 2012


__________________________________________________

A lifelong American writer and writer/activist (former academic and staffer with the U.S. government in Washington), Dr. Carolyn LaDelle Bennett is credentialed in education and print journalism and public affairs (PhD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; MA, The American University, Washington, DC). Her work concerns itself with news and current affairs, historical contexts, and ideas particularly related to acts and consequences of U.S. foreign relations, geopolitics, human rights, war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Dr. Bennett is an internationalist and nonpartisan progressive personally concerned with society and the common good. An educator at heart, her career began with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since then, she has authored several books and numerous current-affairs articles; her latest book: UNCONSCIONABLE: How The World Sees Us: World News, Alternative Views, Commentary on U.S. Foreign Relations; most thoughts, articles, edited work are posted at Bennett’s Study: http://todaysinsightnews.blogspot.com/ and on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carolynladelle.bennett. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08UNCONSCIONABLE/prweb12131656.htm http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000757788/UNCONSCIONABLE.aspx Her books are also available at independent books in New York State: Lift Bridge in Brockport; Sundance in Geneseo; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center in Buffalo; Burlingham Books in Perry; The Bookworm in East Aurora

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Scahill talks wars, backfires, beneficiaries and Team Blackwater-Clinton-Obama

US in Iraq
UNCONSCIONABLE US FOREIGN RELATIONS
Editing by Carolyn Bennett 
Journalist and author Jeremy Scahill is founding editor of the online news publication The Intercept and author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army and  book and documentary Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield
Scahill appeared today on the New York-based Democracy Now program. These thoughts were particularly on point.  

Pakistanis protest
USA
Deniability and Impunity

Currently at trial on charges of murder and manslaughter are four former Blackwater operatives who were “allegedly involved in a 2007 massacre” in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead when a Blackwater unit indiscriminately opened fire. The four mercenaries have been charged with killing 14 of the 17 Iraqis.

In answering Amy Goodman’s question on this matter, Jeremy Scahill said the incident at Nisour Square in Baghdad “was the worst massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of mercenaries (private contractors) that we know of in Iraq.” But, he said, “It is always the people down the chain that face the consequences.”

Pakistanis protest
USA

While the four accused “should be prosecuted, should be convicted, for what they did and should be in prison, the leadership of Blackwater should also be there.”  Blackwater founder and chief operating officer Erik Prince held these positions when Blackwater was “essentially ‘Murder Incorporated’ in Iraq and when there was a company environment” in which mercenaries “were encouraged to view every Iraqi as the enemy” and when Blackwater operatives “committed many massacres” beyond the massacre at Nisour Square. Scahill takes the view that Prince should also stand trial.

Wikipedia note: The American private military company founded in 1997 by Erik Prince was originally named “Blackwater.” In 2007 the company gained notoriety “when a group of its employees killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 in Nisour Square, Baghdad [Iraq].” In 2009 Blackwater was renamed “Xe Services.” In late 2010, a group of private investors purchased the company and installed a board of directors and new senior management. In 2011 the former Blackwater assumed the name “Academi.” The company founder, Erik Prince, reportedly “retained the rights to the name Blackwater and has no affiliation with Academi.” In 2014, the company became a division of Constellis Holdings along with Triple Canopy and other security companies that were part of the Constellis Group as the result of an acquisition.

Despite the notoriety of this ever name-changing private military company, the United States federal government continues to employ and partner with it. “The Obama administration contracted the group to provide services for the CIA for $250 million.” Academi subsidiary International Development Solutions in 2013 “received an approximately $92 million contract for State Department security guards.”

Scahill summed up, “Until we as a society stop cutting off who’s held accountable at the lowest ranks, nothing is ever going to fundamentally change.” In other words, no one should be above the law.

Dark Shadows
Libyans protest
USA

As if current President Barack Obama’s ruthless performance were not enough, shadowing in the wings toward the next U.S. presidency is a character “more hawkish” than the current second-term president who, Scahill says, “has emerged as a pretty significant hawk … [in] a totally militarized presidency.”

But the Clintons, Hillary Clinton and her husband, the former president, “are two of the most fierce projectors of the politics of the American empire and they [enjoy] very close relationships with some of the most nefarious characters from the [George W., Jeb and George H.W.] Bush family.”  The families together constitute something like a monarchy, Scahill said. (Ah, the perks of cronyism, nepotism, corruption, Yale, Harvard, and legacy hires.)

When she was head of the State Department of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton “acted as though she was also sort of Secretary of Defense.” During her tenure as Secretary, the “State Department,” he reports, “was deeply involved with plotting covert action around the world, using the State Department as cover for CIA operations.”

Hillary Clinton, Scahill said, “is a fierce neoliberal who believes in backing up the so-called ‘hidden hand of the free market’ with merciless, iron-fisted military policies.”

Libyans protest
USA
Backfire

“For many, many decades … U.S. policy has been its own worst enemy in one sense – We have created the very threats we claim to be fighting.”

Every time we kill civilians in drone strikes, Scahill said, “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula becomes stronger in the sense that they have a greater propaganda movement that they can roll out.” But beyond this obvious creation and perpetuation of enemies and violence, the big beneficiary of war is “the war industry.…

Middle East
“Under Mr. Transformative Presidency Barack Obama,” Scahill said, “the administration has been an incredibly great friend to the war industry,” which is the greatest beneficiary of the Obama policy. 

Middle East
Camps
Every Tomahawk cruise missile launched – and coming soon a next-generation- longer-airborne-sustaining jet-propelled drones – ensure that major beneficiary (and major political campaign financing) military industrialist Lockheed Martin and like brands never stop making “a killing off killing.”




Sources and notes

“Jeremy Scahill on Obama’s Orwellian War in Iraq: We Created the Very Threat We Claim to be Fighting,” October 3, 2014,  http://www.democracynow.org/2014/10/3/jeremy_scahill_on_obamas_orwellian_war

Journalist and author Jeremy Scahill is founding editor of the online news publication The Intercept; author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army and Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield and the documentary of the same title, both released in 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Scahill

Blackwater brief at Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academi

Blackwater Baghdad shootings at Wikipedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “On September 16, 2007, Blackwater Security Consulting (since renamed Academi) military contractors shot at Iraqi civilians killing 17 and injuring 20 in Nisour Square, Baghdad. The killings outraged Iraqis and strained relations between Iraq and Washington. Blackwater guards claimed that the convoy was ambushed and that they fired at the attackers in defense of the convoy. The Iraqi government and Iraqi police investigator Faris Saadi Abdul alleged that the killings were unprovoked. The next day, Blackwater Worldwide’s license to operate in Iraq was temporarily revoked.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackwater_Baghdad_shootings

The Clintons

William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton (originally named William Jefferson Blythe III) was the 42nd president of the United States (1993–2001) who in his second term (1998) became the second U.S. president to be impeached.

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton was a lawyer by training who became a member of the U.S. Senate (2001–09) and a U.S. Secretary of State (2009-2013). As wife of the 42nd president of the United States, she was “First Lady” (1993-2001).


Britannica and Wikipedia biographical briefs on the Clintons

______________________________________________

A lifelong American writer and writer/activist (former academic and staffer with the U.S. government in Washington), Dr. Carolyn LaDelle Bennett is credentialed in education and print journalism and public affairs (PhD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; MA, The American University, Washington, DC). Her work concerns itself with news and current affairs, historical contexts, and ideas particularly related to acts and consequences of U.S. foreign relations, geopolitics, human rights, war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Dr. Bennett is an internationalist and nonpartisan progressive personally concerned with society and the common good. An educator at heart, her career began with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since then, she has authored several books and numerous current-affairs articles; her latest book: UNCONSCIONABLE: How The World Sees Us: World News, Alternative Views, Commentary on U.S. Foreign Relations; most thoughts, articles, edited work are posted at Bennett’s Study: http://todaysinsightnews.blogspot.com/ and on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carolynladelle.bennett. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08UNCONSCIONABLE/prweb12131656.htm http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000757788/UNCONSCIONABLE.aspx Her books are also available at independent books in New York State: Lift Bridge in Brockport; Sundance in Geneseo; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center in Buffalo; Burlingham Books in Perry; The Bookworm in East Aurora

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

What do they fear? What are they hiding? Why?

Info control, cover up, secrecy, intimidation – further grounds for impeachment
Excerpts, editing by 
Carolyn Bennett

Secret government

At government hearings, journalists are blinded. They cannot follow what’s happening. They don’t know what prosecutors are asking for or what defense attorneys are arguing – because they are denied “most court filings in real time” – even of prep or background material that is not classified. Under the current U.S. administration “information about Guantanamo is now kept secret. The U.S. military refuses to release the number of prisoners on hunger strike or the number of assaults on guards. Photo and video coverage is virtually nonexistent,” according to an Associated Press journalist. 

Suppression and intimidation

“Government press officials say their orders are to squelch anything controversial or that makes the administration look bad.” The government routinely intimidates sources. The Associated Press’s “transportation reporter’s sources say that if they are caught talking to her, they will be fired – even if they just give out facts about safety.”

Blocking information
FOIA breached

“Requests for information under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) have become slow and expensive. Many federal agencies simply do not respond at all in a timely manner, forcing news organizations to sue each time to force action.”  One of the media and public’s most important legal tools, FOIA, “is under siege.”


Political appointees spying on press
FOIA abused
  
The administration uses FOIAs as a tip service to uncover what news organizations are pursuing. Requests are now routinely forwarded to political appointees. At the agency that oversees the new health care law, for example, political appointees now handle the FOIA requests.


Domestic stalking, cover-up

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, a federal law enforcement agency, “has directed local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology the police departments use to sweep up cellular phone data. In some cases, federal officials have formally intervened in state open-records cases, arguing for secrecy.” The Obama administration “is trying to control the information that state and local officials can give out.”

Related News 

 
Chief Law breaker never fit for Justice

Even before his confirmation it was clear that he was unsuited for the purpose of leading U.S. law enforcement, National Review editors writing in a September 26, 2014, post following the announcement of another gradual departure from the Obama government.   “In an administration characterized by outsized misadventures,” the editors write. “… Eric Holder managed to make his Justice Department a source of special, nay, historic attention,” the editors write. “Holder was the first U.S. Attorney General the House of Representatives held in contempt of Congress (June 2012).

Partisanship

No previous USAG exhibited Holder’s “sheer contempt for the rule of law…: his preference for employing the law for political purposes or, when necessary, dispensing with [exempting from] the law completely.

“…The duty of the attorney general historically has been to advise against unconstitutional or illegal activity. Holder instead regularly aided and abetted it [illegal activity, breach of the Constitution of the United States].

“When the president unilaterally delayed deportations for a select group of illegal immigrants, Holder concocted specious legal rationales to justify it. …”

Identity Posturing

“…Holder’s rank partisanship” was displayed “on issues of race” as in “his refusal to prosecute the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation — despite video evidence of truncheon-wielding men warding voters away from a Philadelphia polling station in November 2008. Those whose political expression was inhibited in Philadelphia were not, Holder later suggested to the [U.S.] House Oversight Committee, ‘my people’ — and thus apparently did not deserve the protection of the law, this from the lips of the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer.” 

At the same time, Attorney General Eric Holder “dismissed his critics as racists, eager to destroy him and [U.S. President Obama] because ‘we’re both African American.’ This same ‘nation of cowards’ was, by Holder’s reckoning, responsible for the voter-identification laws that his Justice Department has worked stridently — and largely unsuccessfully — to suppress in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and elsewhere.…

Breach of law

“…In May 2013, [the Holder-Obama] Justice Department seized the phone records of twenty Associated Press reporters. James Rosen of Fox News revealed that the U.S. Department of Justice “had monitored his phone calls and e-mails.”

In their conclusion the National Review editors declare that “the end of Holder’s death grip on law enforcement at the federal level is long overdue.” Looking forward they hope for a U.S. Department of Justice that delivers “actual justice.”


Sources and notes

“8 ways the Obama administration is blocking information” posted on 09/19/2014 by Erin Madigan White, http://blog.ap.org/2014/09/19/8-ways-the-obama-administration-is-blocking-information/

“The fight for access to public information has never been harder, Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee said recently at a joint meeting of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Associated Press Photo Managers.”

“Journalists criticize White House for ‘secrecy’” AP editors, NYT reporter criticize Obama administration on access, transparency issues, Associated Press by Michael Tarm, Associated Press, September 17, 2014 9:10 PM, http://news.yahoo.com/journalists-criticize-white-house-secrecy-002418926.html;_ylt=AwrBEiISAidU8W0AAA3QtDMD

Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee

Sally Buzbee has served as Middle East editor for the AP based in Cairo, Egypt, running a region of 11 bureaus in 16 countries. IN the position she supervised Iraq war coverage, Israeli conflicts with Hezbollah and Hamas, the Darfur crisis and the growing activities of terrorist cells in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Before Cairo, she was assistant bureau chief supervising foreign affairs coverage in the AP’s Washington bureau; and covered education, politics and economics in Washington and supervised various coverage areas as a news editor. Before her current position, she was deputy managing editor of The Associated Press in charge of creating and building the news cooperative’s News Center, a new global headquarters operation based in New York. Buzbee ‘s AP tenure began in Topeka, Kansas (1988), then  correspondent in San Diego before moving to Washington, D.C. (1995). Her credentials were taken at the University of Kansas and Georgetown University.

“Eric Holder’s Rap Sheet” by The Editors, National Review Online, September 26, 2014 10:30 AM, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/388913/eric-holders-rap-sheet-editors



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A lifelong American writer and writer/activist (former academic and staffer with the U.S. government in Washington), Dr. Carolyn LaDelle Bennett is credentialed in education and print journalism and public affairs (PhD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; MA, The American University, Washington, DC). Her work concerns itself with news and current affairs, historical contexts, and ideas particularly related to acts and consequences of U.S. foreign relations, geopolitics, human rights, war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Dr. Bennett is an internationalist and nonpartisan progressive personally concerned with society and the common good. An educator at heart, her career began with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since then, she has authored several books and numerous current-affairs articles; her latest book: UNCONSCIONABLE: How The World Sees Us: World News, Alternative Views, Commentary on U.S. Foreign Relations; most thoughts, articles, edited work are posted at Bennett’s Study: http://todaysinsightnews.blogspot.com/ and on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carolynladelle.bennett. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08UNCONSCIONABLE/prweb12131656.htm http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000757788/UNCONSCIONABLE.aspx Her books are also available at independent books in New York State: Lift Bridge in Brockport; Sundance in Geneseo; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center in Buffalo; Burlingham Books in Perry; The Bookworm in East Aurora

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

U.S. Foreign Relations Policy, Practice -- UNCONSCIONABLE


A lifelong American writer and writer/activist (former academic and staffer with the U.S. government in Washington), Dr. Carolyn LaDelle Bennett is credentialed in education and print journalism and public affairs (PhD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; MA, The American University, Washington, DC). Her work concerns itself with news and current affairs, historical contexts, and ideas particularly related to acts and consequences of U.S. foreign relations, geopolitics, human rights, war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Dr. Bennett is an internationalist and nonpartisan progressive personally concerned with society and the common good. An educator at heart, her career began with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since then, she has authored several books and numerous current-affairs articles; her latest book: UNCONSCIONABLE: How The World Sees Us: World News, Alternative Views, Commentary on U.S. Foreign Relations; most thoughts, articles, edited work are posted at Bennett’s Study: http://todaysinsightnews.blogspot.com/ and on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carolynladelle.bennett. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08UNCONSCIONABLE/prweb12131656.htm http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000757788/UNCONSCIONABLE.aspx Her books are also available at independent books in New York State: Lift Bridge in Brockport; Sundance in Geneseo; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center in Buffalo; Burlingham Books in Perry; The Bookworm in East Aurora

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lethal mixture in world affairs – incompetence, cowardice, lawlessness, belligerent amorality – must end

Significant discussion surrounding Stepped up U.S. aggression in Middle East Today on Democracy Now
Excerpt, minor editing, commentary by 
Carolyn Bennett

Vijay Prashad


Sovereign land and people
Indian historian, journalist and commentator Vijay Prashad is George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut); author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter; Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today; The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South; The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World.

Medea Benjamin

United States political activist and writer Medea Benjamin is best known for co-founding and activism representing Code Pink and Global Exchange; author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control and editor with Jodie Evans of How to Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism.

Lethal governance

Medea Benjamin on Democracy Now

Wounds of perpetual War
Displaced People
“The Obama administration is supposed to have been working for a binding resolution that we should be hearing about by the United Nations Security Council talking about cutting off the funding, cutting off the equipping of these extremist groups. That’s a positive thing.”

Sovereign land and people
However, showing its true face, the Obama administration at the same time has given only one week to Iraq’s new government “to show that it is no longer a sectarian Shiite government that is suppressing Sunnis but is actually going to be a government for all the people of Iraq…That takes time. One week is not enough to show that, and to have the Sunnis peel away from ISIS.”

The charge that ISIS threatens the United States “is a lie,” Benjamin said. “There is no imminent
threat to the United States right now.”

Considering the timing of U.S. officials’ saying, the Iraqis had “better get on with this” together with the U.S. choice of “partners” further proves that “political solutions have been put aside now for the military ones.”

The coalition brought together by the United States is composed of governments that are “among the most repressive governments in the Middle East.” The government of “Bahrain has been repressing its nonviolent, democratic uprising. The Saudis have provided the financing and the recruits for so many of the extremists.”
 
Sovereign lands and peoples

This is U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s “diplomatic success,” Benjamin said.  “… Instead of coming to the United Nations to say that we have the world coming together to stop the recruiting and the financing and buying of the oil that ISIS has – we have the accomplishment of having repressive Arab regimes joining us in bombing another Arab state.”

Vijay Prashad on Democracy Now

“The United States government has decided to strike in Syria” and currently a major city called Kobane situated on the Turkish border and refuge to half a million people “is under siege” and “on the verge of falling.”

Wikipedia Note: Ayn al-Arab (Arabic: ‘Spring of the Arabs’) or Kobane (Kurdish: Kobanê): a city in Aleppo Governorate in northern Syria inhabited by Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Armenians. Its population 44,821 in the 2004 census (ref. Syria Central Bureau of Statistics) has been since 2012 under the control of Kurdish YPG (The People’s Protection Units commonly known as the YPG, the official armed wing of the Kurdish Supreme Committee of Syrian Kurdistan); and in 2014 was declared the administrative center of the Kobanê Canton of Syrian Kurdistan.

Syria for Syrians
Syria's people protest
foreign interference
“Tens of thousands of people from Kobane have crossed into Turkey,” Vijay Prashad said. “And these are Kurds so it is quite something that Kurdish refugees have been allowed into Turkey.

“…ISIS fighters have surrounded Kobane using heavy artillery they stole in Mosul.” And United States has attacked “symbolic targets inside Raqqa,” made to appear “like a major attack against ISIS [but in reality] is a demonstration of American strength” that is unlikely to “change the situation on the ground in northern Syria directly.”

Vijay Prashad posed a genuine solution to the violence and foreign aggression.

The current foreign aggression “is just Band-Aid … just a lot of loud noise. It will not provide the kind of political solution needed in the region for the long term.…

“…The real solution in the region,” Prashad said, “is going to come from some kind of grand bargain between Iran and Saudi Arabia. These two countries have been at each other’s throats since 1979. They have opened the region to entry of outside forces.

“…When these two countries decide that it is in their absolute self-interest to have some kind of grand bargain, we are going to see a de-escalation [of conflict and violence] in the region.”

He concludes with the “hope that the forces of peace will encourage more meetings with the Iranians, more meetings between the Iranians and the Saudis” that will provide what all sane people are calling for -- “political solutions.”
Wounds of perpetual War
Displaced People

W
hat sets human beings apart from barbarians (even wild animals have rules of society they abide by) is the capacity for reflection and reason. What we are witnessing in U.S. foreign affairs is barbarism, a nuclear armed, weapons-running reckless unconscionable cruelty rooted at the same time in incompetence, cowardice, lawlessness, cronyism, and a belligerent amorality that constitutes a lethal mixture abroad in the world. Americans must see it for what is and put a stop to it.

No government or head of state should commit violent aggression directly or indirectly against another sovereign nation, its land, its region or its people – especially when that nation or region presents no threat to or aggression against the attacking head of state or nation. The American people must put a stop to the carnage by their government officials and the cronies and “partners” of those partisans, ideologues and criminals.
  
I have said for a long time and this is still my view. The American people must clean house – without regard for any political party, partisan, or sect.


 
R
ecall, deselect, vote out of office ALL members of the U.S. House and Senate – public elective office should not offer lifelong endeavor or permanent employment for anyone. And based on the high crimes committed against humanity and gross negligence in purely domestic affairs; on a broader scale, the constant breach of U.S. and international laws and human rights declarations and conventions, the American people must push for a bill of impeachment against the current U.S. Executive and Cabinet. In my view, there is no other way to begin the hard work of recovering what is good about this nation and laying the foundation for (and holding accountable) a new and essential competency; a nonpartisan, law abiding, moral ethos in leadership and federal governance.

Sources and notes

Today on Democracy “Now Expanding U.S. Strikes to ISIS in Syria, Has Obama Opened New Phase of ‘Perpetual War?’” September 23, 2014, http://www.democracynow.org/2014/9/23/expanding_us_strikes_to_isis_in

Wikipedia reference on definitions, clarifications, biographical notes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijay_Prashad
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medea_Benjamin
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_al-Arab

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Protection_Units

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A lifelong American writer and writer/activist (former academic and staffer with the U.S. government in Washington), Dr. Carolyn LaDelle Bennett is credentialed in education and print journalism and public affairs (PhD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; MA, The American University, Washington, DC). Her work concerns itself with news and current affairs, historical contexts, and ideas particularly related to acts and consequences of U.S. foreign relations, geopolitics, human rights, war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Dr. Bennett is an internationalist and nonpartisan progressive personally concerned with society and the common good. An educator at heart, her career began with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since then, she has authored several books and numerous current-affairs articles; her latest book: UNCONSCIONABLE: How The World Sees Us: World News, Alternative Views, Commentary on U.S. Foreign Relations; most thoughts, articles, edited work are posted at Bennett’s Study: http://todaysinsightnews.blogspot.com/ and on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carolynladelle.bennett. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08UNCONSCIONABLE/prweb12131656.htm http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000757788/UNCONSCIONABLE.aspx Her books are also available at independent books in New York State: Lift Bridge in Brockport; Sundance in Geneseo; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center in Buffalo; Burlingham Books in Perry; The Bookworm in East Aurora

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