Archive for April 2010
Yesterday I wrote about what seemed to be President Obama’s fairly stunning disparagement of the Warren and Burger Courts (expressed on the eve of naming Justice Stevens’ replacement), as he echoed the classic, decades-old, right-wing claim that those courts were guilty of the "error" of "judicial activism." As I noted in an update, numerous people, in comments and via email, objected that I had misinterpreted Obama’s remarks, that he was merely noting the hypocrisy of the Right but not himself criticizing those courts. As it turns out, The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage and Sheryl Gay Stolberg understood his remarks exactly as I did, as did the experts on both sides of the spectrum they interviewed, and the White House itself seemed to confirm that this is exactly what Obama intended to convey: …
In February, 2008, the Bush DOJ issued a subpoena to The New York Times‘ James Risen, demanding the identity of his source(s) for one chapter in Risen’s best-selling book, State of War. The chapter in question described a painfully inept and counter-productive CIA effort to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear program, but which ended up instead passing on valuable information to the Iranians about how to build a bomb. At the time that subpoena was issued, I wrote that it was a serious and "dangerous" escalation of the ongoing effort by Bush officials to intimidate journalists and their sources in order to choke off whistle-blowing disclosures, "the sole remaining avenue for a country plagued by a supine, slothful, vapid press and an indescribably submissive Congress." I don’t recall a single progressive or Democrat — not one — defending that subpoena.
It should surprise absolutely nobody that, as Charlie Savage reports, the Obama DOJ has now re-issued the same subpoena to Risen. As DOJ rules require [see Section III(A)(2)(l)], any such subpoenas (to journalists) require the personal approval of the Attorney General, and Savage reports that this subpoena was approved by Eric Holder. The reason such subpoenas are so dangerous is because journalists are duty-bound to their sources to refuse to comply, and will likely end up in prison if they don’t. Few things, if anything, are greater threats to the journalist-source relationship than DOJ subpoenas of this type. And the idea that this particular leak jeopardized national security is nothing short of a joke, as Harper‘s Scott Horton makes clear: …
I do not understand Obama’s determination to jail whistleblowers and to protect torturers and murderers. I guess he has values that differ from mine.
There’s always some reason to wait, some study to complete. Given that most advanced nations have militaries that include gays (including Israel and Britain, two of our allies), I would think that no study is needed: It works, and we can see it working, and it is consistent with American ideals to end discrimination. But Obama does not like to rush things, particularly things that deal with civil liberties. "Be patient" is his watchword. What a crock!
As part of the Obama administration’s plan to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the Pentagon has convened a “Working Group” that is meeting with servicemembers, chaplains, and others individuals about how to repeal the ban on gay men and women serving openly in the military. The process is going to take until at least Dec. 1, 2010, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has said that the President is committed to letting the group complete its work before moving forward. Some members of Congress have raised the possibility of passing DADT repeal legislation this year — before the review process is complete — and delaying implementation until next year.
However, today Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) a letter (in response to an inquiry from Skelton) telling him that he doesn’t want Congress to take any action at all on DADT this year. From the letter obtained by ThinkProgress:
I believe in the strongest possible terms that the Department must, prior to any legislative action, be allowed the opportunity to conduct a thorough, objective, and systematic assessment of the impact of such a policy change; develop an attentive comprehensive implementation plan, and provide the President and the Congress with the results of this effort in order to ensure that this step is taken in the most informed and effective matter. […]
Therefore, I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process.
Gates’ moratorium on any DADT action this year is troubling. Thirteen Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to replace DADT with a new nondiscrimination policy that “prohibits discrimination against service members on the basis of their sexual orientation.” The Senate bill mirrors Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-PA) repeal bill in the House but goes several steps further, laying out a timeline for repeal and setting benchmarks for the Pentagon’s ongoing review of the policy.
Gates’ stance makes it significantly harder for Congress to help fulfill Obama’s pledge to repeal DADT and has some supporters of repeal questioning the Pentagon’s dedication to moving forward. Democrats in Congress will have a tougher time attracting moderate and Republican co-sponsors in light of this letter, and if Congress waits until next year — after the Pentagon review is completed — to move forward on legislation, the make-up of the legislature will be different and could again delay repeal.
In the meantime, service men and women will have their careers terminated because of a rule that is due to be changed. What’s wrong with that picture?
Only: not. Just the usual GOP bullshit and misdirection.
They knew the same neighborhoods, but in 2000, one Wes Moore was on his way to Oxford, the other on his way to prison. Sent by The Eldest, this story by Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun:
“The Other Wes Moore” is a book that bridges the gap between Inner Harbor and inner city in the most startling and revelatory ways. The title might suggest the tale of a hidden life. But it’s something completely different: the story of two Baltimore men with the same name, roughly similar backgrounds — and wholly opposite journeys.
The Wes Moore who was just on “Oprah” became a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the Johns Hopkins University, a Rhodes scholar, a White House Fellow and an Army officer in Afghanistan, as well as the author of this book. The other Wes Moore became a drug dealer, a thief and a convicted killer.
Instead of stoking the “good” Moore with a sense of pride and accomplishment, the contrast bedeviled and haunted him. Seeing reports of the crime juxtaposed in The Baltimore Sun with profiles of himself as the ultimate “local boy makes good” roused a driving curiosity. It kept getting fired up as the coverage of both men continued in 2000 and 2001.
“One of the titles I tried out for this book was ‘Baltimore Sons,’ ” he says. On June 9, 2001, The Sun reported that a judge had sentenced the criminal Wes Moore to life without parole. Exactly a month later, you could read The Sun’s coverage of Wes Moore, the Rhodes scholar, as one of People magazine’s top 50 bachelors. (He’s now married.)
Moore, who grew up in Southern Maryland and the Bronx, kept thinking about the coincidence even after two years at Oxford. He knew it had become a life-altering obsession.
“The thing just grabbed me and captured me,” he says.
He started immediately to see parallels to his own past. “When the stories started coming out early in the investigation, and reported that Wes’ mother had started to cooperate with police, and was making public statements to Wes and [his half-brother] Tony, saying, ‘come home, I’m worried about you, turn yourself in’ — just knowing the community, I guessed that the mother was the only parent in the house. … It resonated with me. I had seen my mother’s pain when she had to do things on her own.”
He had to follow his inchoate urge to investigate the life of someone he thought “may have carried part of me with him” into his prison cell. He sent a letter to him at the Jessup Correctional Institution.
“I wasn’t sure he would get what I wanted,” Moore now says, “and I wasn’t sure, even if he did, that he’d be interested in writing me back.” Having no expectations turned out to be freeing. “I had no fears of being disappointed in any way.” When he did respond, and the two began exchanging life stories in letters and occasional prison visits, the similarities and differences proved to be equally profound.
The age-old cry, “There but for the grace of God go I,” resounds throughout the book. The process of writing it fit two goals Moore has held throughout his adult life: introducing urban tribes to society at large, and helping adolescents achieve true manhood. He reminisced about what it was like to enter Hopkins a dozen years ago after graduating from Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Wayne, Pa…
UPDATE: Another review found here.
Interesting story by Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post includes this important bit:
With Friday’s opening of "Discovering the Civil War," the National Archives launches what will be a long and potentially transformative era of Civil War commemorations. As the nation prepares for a string of 150th anniversaries — of every important battle, every political event, every proclamation — the country will again rehash the meaning of its most pivotal internal event. With an African American president, and a Southern political culture still in thrall to the myth of Confederate legitimacy, is there hope for any progress this time round?
The show proceeds thematically rather than chronologically. It raises large questions — What led to the secession of the South? Were there efforts to avoid war? — and then offers documents that should help visitors form answers. Early in the exhibition, viewers confront what might be called the Southern-apologist listening station, where you can both read, and listen to, a document laying out South Carolina’s reasons for secession. After some boilerplate language about the Constitution comes reason No. 1: The right to property, which for South Carolina included the right to human chattel, had been infringed.
There it is, in black and white, and coming at you through a very 1980s hand-held listening device: Slavery is the cause — the essential, primary, undeniable first and sufficient cause for the war. While much of the exhibition aims at nuance and complexity, this should be sufficient to unmask the old masquerade about what the South was fighting for. Efforts to make it seem problematic and complex are all too often part of a nostalgia game, nostalgia for a time when every white Southern man had a God-given right to be a racist, if he so chose.
The exhibition puts this material in a corner, literally and figuratively. It isn’t hidden, but it isn’t highlighted, a reflection, perhaps, of what Ken Lore, president of the Foundation for the National Archives, explained to journalists before the exhibition opening: No one will be forced to believe anything in particular about the war…
But the reason for the war was clearly to protect the institution of slavery, which the white South seems to have longed for ever since.
A federal appeals court ruled Monday that a gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. can go forward as a class-action case, in one of the biggest class-action lawsuits in history.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted 6-5 to affirm a federal judge’s decision to award class-action status to potentially one million women or more. The ruling increases the pressure on Wal-Mart to either settle claims of unfair pay brought by the women or risk going to trial.
The decision represents a serious blow to Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest corporate employer, as a denial of class-action status would have forced the women to pursue their cases individually. Fewer women would likely proceed in that event, due to high legal expenses.
Wal-Mart’s defense attorney said the company plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.
"We disagree with the decision of the sharply divided 6-5 court to uphold portions of the certification order, and are considering our options," Wal-Mart said in a statement.
Large class-action lawsuits aggregate many claimants with similar experiences into one action as opposed to presenting each one on its merits. As a result, individuals with relatively small sums at stake, as in this case, have an incentive to participate in the lawsuit.
"It’s generally understood that without a class action, most of the cases will go away," said Brian Wolfman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, who also represents plaintiffs in class-action litigation. "When you are dealing with large companies with large resources, the only way for a plaintiff to be on the same battlefield is to aggregate claims as a class action."
In March, Wal-Mart announced a settlement on a much smaller class-action discrimination case, brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2001 over alleged discriminatory hiring practices at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in London, Kentucky, from 1998 to February 2005. The commission alleged that Wal-Mart routinely hired men over equally or better qualified women at the facility.
Wal-Mart settled for about $12 million and agreed to improve its hiring and training practices at the center.
On Monday, Wal-Mart said in statement that …
Continue reading for Wal-Mart lies.