In the Belly of the Beast: 5/18/11: The quaint and obsolete Nuremberg principles

INDEX (stories follow)

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Wednesday, Day 172

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell
“POLITICS”
CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”
from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs
THE ECONOMY

    
THE ULTRA-RIGHT

      
ENVIRONMENT

NUCLEAR POWER

      

Headlines for May 18, 2011

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Wednesday, Day 172

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

“POLITICS”


Glenn Greenwald

FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2011 10:14 ET

The quaint and obsolete Nuremberg principles

The quaint and obsolete Nuremberg principles

AP
Former president George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden

Benjamin Ferencz is a 92-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, American combat soldier during World War II, and a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, where he prosecuted numerous Nazi war criminals, including some responsible for the deaths of upward of 100,000 innocent people.  He gave a fascinating (and shockingly articulate) 13-minute interview yesterday to the CBC in Canada about the bin Laden killing, the Nuremberg principles, and the U.S. role in the world.  Without endorsing everything he said, I hope as many people as possible will listen to it.

All of Ferencz’s answers are thought-provoking — including his discussion of how the Nuremberg Principles apply to bin Laden — but there’s one answer he gave which I particularly want to highlight; it was in response to this question: “so what should we have learned from Nuremberg that we still haven’t learned”?  His answer:

I’m afraid most of the lessons of Nuremberg have passed, unfortunately.  The world has accepted them, but the U.S. seems reluctant to do so.  The principal lesson we learned from Nuremberg is that a war of aggression — that means, a war in violation of international law, in violation of the UN charter, and not in self-defense — is the supreme international crime, because all the other crimes happen in war.  And every leader who is responsible for planning and perpetrating that crime should be held to account in a court of law, and the law applies equally to everyone.

These lessons were hailed throughout the world — I hailed them, I was involved in them — and it saddens me to no end when Americans are asked:  why don’t you support the Nuremberg principles on aggression?  And the response is:  Nuremberg?  That was then, this is now.  Forget it.

To be candid, I’ve been tempted several times to simply stop writing about the bin Laden killing, because passions are so intense and viewpoints so entrenched, more so than any other issue I’ve written about.  There’s a strong desire to believe that the U.S. — for the first time in a long time — did something unquestionably noble and just, and anything which even calls that narrative into question provokes little more than hostility and resentment.  Nonetheless, the bin Laden killing is going to shape how many people view many issues for quite some time, and there are still some issues very worth examining.

One bothersome aspect about the reaction to this event is the notion that bin Laden is some sort of singular evil, someone so beyond the pale of what is acceptable that no decent person would question what happened here:  he killed civilians on American soil and the normal debates just don’t apply to him.  Thus, anyone who even questions whether this was the right thing to do, as President Obama put it, “needs to have their head examined” (presumably that includes Benjamin Ferencz).  In other words, so uniquely evil is bin Laden that unquestioningly affirming the rightness of this action is not just a matter of politics and morality but mental health.  Thus, despite the lingering questions about what happened, it’s time, announced John Kerry, to “shut up and move on.”  I know Kerry is speaking for a lot of people:  let’s all agree this was Good and stop examining it.  Tempting as that might be — and it is absolutely far easier to adhere to that demand than defy it — there is real harm from leaving some of these questions unexamined.

No decent human being contests that the 9/11 attack was a grave crime.  But there are many grave crimes, including ones sanctioned by (or acquiesced to) those leading the chorus of cheers for bin Laden’s killing.  To much controversy, Noam Chomsky recently wrote: “uncontroversially, Bush’s crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s.”  That claim prompted widespread objections, including from Andrew Sullivan, who specifically criticized Chomsky’s use of the word “uncontroversially” in making that claim.  That semantic objection is not invalid: of course that comparative judgment is controversial, especially in the U.S.

Nor do I think such comparisons are ultimately worthwhile:  how does one weigh the intentional targeting of civilians that kills several thousand against an illegal, aggressive war that recklessly and foreseeably causes the deaths of at least 100,000 innocent people, and almost certainly far more?  Comparisons aside: what is clear is that Bush’s crimes are grave, of historic proportion, and it’s simply impossible for anyone who believes in the Nuremberg Principles to deny that.

His invasion of Iraq caused the deaths of at least 100,000 (and almost certainly more) innocent Iraqis: vastly more than bin Laden could have dreamed of causing. It left millions of people internally and externally displaced for years.  It destroyed a nation of 26 million people.  It was without question an illegal war of aggression: what the lead prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials — as Ferencz just reminded us —  called the “the central crime in this pattern of crimes, the kingpin which holds them all together.”  And that’s to say nothing of the worldwide regime of torture, disappearances, and black sites created by the U.S during the Bush years.

Yet the very same country — and often the very same people — collectively insisting upon the imperative of punishing civilian deaths (in the bin Laden case) has banded together to shield George Bush from any accountability of any kind.  Both political parties — and the current President — have invented entirely new Orwellian slogans of pure lawlessness to justify this protection (Look Forward, Not Backward):  one that selectively operates to protect only high-level U.S. war criminals but not those who expose their crimes.  Worse, many of Bush’s most egregious crimes — including the false pretenses that led to this unfathomably lethal aggressive war and the widespread abuse of prisoners that accompanied it — were well known to the country when it re-elected him in 2004.

Those who advocated for those massive crimes — and even those who are directly responsible for them — continue to enjoy perfectly good standing in mainstream American political circles.  The aptly named “Shock and Awe” was designed to terrify an entire civilian population into submission through the use of massive and indiscriminate displays of air bombings.  John Podhoretz criticized the brutal assault on Fallujah for failing to exterminate all “Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35.”  The country’s still-most celebrated “foreign affairs expert” at The New York Times justified that attack based on the psycopathic desire to make Iraqis “Suck. On. This.”  The Washington Post hires overt torture advocates as Op-Ed writers and regularly features Op-Ed contributionsfrom the architects of the Iraq crime, as they did just today (Donald Rumsfeld claiming “vindication”).   And, of course, we continue to produce widespread civilian deaths in multiple countries around the world with virtually no domestic objection.

There’s no question that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack committed grave crimes and deserved punishment.  But the same is true for the perpetrators of other grave crimes that result in massive civilian death, including when those perpetrators are American political officials.  As Ferencz put it when describing one of the core lessons of Nuremberg:  “every leader who is responsible for planning and perpetrating that crime should be held to account in a court of law, and the law applies equally to everyone.”  More than anything, that precept — the universality of these punishments — was the central lesson of Nuremberg, as Jackson explained in his Opening Statement:

What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. . . . . And let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment.

But as Ferencz put it:  “Nuremberg? That was then, this is now.”  Or, to put it another way, Nuremberg is so pre-9/11 (and even before 9/11, weoften violated Jackson’s insistence that those principles must apply to ourselves as much as they did to Nazi war criminals).

There is, of course, a difference between deliberately targeting civilians and recklessly causing their deaths.  But, as American law recognizes in multiple contexts, acts that are undertaken recklessly — without regard to the harm they cause — are deemed intentional.  And when it comes to an aggressive and illegal war that counts the deaths of extinguished civilian lives in the hundreds of thousands — such as the destruction of Iraq — those distinctions fade into insignificance.

The perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks deserve to be held accountable for those crimes.  But it’s been a bit difficult listening to a country that continuously commits its own egregious crimes — ones that constantly cause civilian deaths — righteously celebrating the bin Laden killing as though it is applying universal principles of justice grounded in unmitigated contempt for lawless aggression.  It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that what has provoked such rage at bin Laden as a supreme criminal isn’t the unlawful killing of civilians, but rather the killing of Americans on U.S. soil.  The way we treat our own war criminals and policies of mass civilian death from around the world — and the way we so brazenly repudiate and even scorn the Nuremberg Principles we said we were establishing for the world — leave little doubt about that.

How can a country which has so passively accepted the complete immunity for George Bush, Dick Cheney and others — and which long tolerated if not actively supported their murderous policies — convincingly pose as stalwart opponents of lawlessly caused civilian deaths?  Does anyone doubt the widespread American fury that would have resulted if Iraqis had come to the U.S. and killed Bush or other U.S. political leaders during that war?  Recall the intense condemnation of an Iraqi citizen who did not shoot Bush in the head and dump his corpse into the ocean, but rather simply threw a shoe at him to protest the extraordinary amounts of Iraqi blood he has on his hands.  Any efforts to harm an American political leader for the civilian deaths they cause would be decried by American consensus as “Terrorism” or worse (and that would be the case despite the fact that we not only tried to kill Saddam but are now quite clearly attempting to kill Gadaffi).  “American exceptionalism” in its most odious expression means that we have the right to do things that nobody else in the world has the right to do, and that, as much as anything, is what is driving the reaction here.

It’s always easier — and more satisfying — to condemn the crimes of others rather than one’s own.  There’s always a temptation to find excuses, mitigations and even justifications for one’s own crimes while insisting that the acts of others — especially one’s enemies — are expressions of pure evil.  But a country that regrets the Iraq War onlybecause it was not prosecuted as competently as it should have been — and which as elite consensus scorns as radical and irresponsible the notion of accountability for its own war criminals — is hardly in a position to persuasively posture as righteous avengers of civilian deaths.  The claims being made about why the killing of bin Laden is grounded in such noble principles would be much more compelling if those same principles were applied to ourselves as well as our enemies.  And the imperative to do so, more than anything, was the prime mandate of Nuremberg.

    

Chris Hedges: ‘We Speak in the Language of Terrorism’

In this recent appearance on GRITtv, “The World As It Is” author and Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges talks with host Laura Flanders about the murder of Osama bin Laden and cuts through the noise to pose some tough questions about America’s fighting style. (more)

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Republicans, bought by Big Oil, block vote to end Big Oil subsidies

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

The vote was nearly 100% party line, Republicans defending billions in subsidies to Big Oil while they talk about eliminating Medicare and cutting $4 trillion from programs that help you every day.

Here’s the vote tally. “Yea” is a good vote, but 60 votes were needed because the Republicans were filibustering again.

More on how Big Oil bought the vote

The 48 Senators that voted against cloture today on S. 940, the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, have received $370,664, on average, in campaign contributions from the employees and political action committees (PACs) of oil and gas companies during their time in Congress, while those who voted to consider the legislation received just $72,145, on average.

Senate Dems will propose millionaire tax, but it’s just a negotiating tactic

Democrats in the Senate are trying to get savvier about negotiating with Republicans (who don’t negotiate). ViaThe Hill:

Senate Democrats are using their proposal to raise taxes on millionaires as a stalking-horse to force Republicans to accept other tax increases.

Democratic officials privately acknowledge that raising personal income tax rates on the wealthy has little chance of passing this Congress. However, the politically popular idea is a key part of the Democrats’ strategy to attack the deficit and gain concessions from Republicans.

Okay. Not a bad strategy. But, here’s the thing. If the millionaire tax is just a negotiating ploy (and it should be a line in the sand), don’t tip your hand in advance:

But Democrats say both positions are primarily intended to bolster the party’s negotiating leverage with Republicans. They see the proposed surtax on millionaires as more of a rhetorical weapon than a proposal likely to be included in any broad bipartisan compromise.

“I don’t think it’s realistic that would ever pass; I think we’re trying to find a negotiating point,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said of a budget proposal with an even ratio of spending cuts to tax increases and a surtax on millionaires.

Got that. Senator McCaskill just gave away the strategy. The Democrats are really just trying to find a “negotiating point.” This is a step up from negotiating with themselves, which is usually what Democrats do. But, don’t broadcast the strategy — and don’t expect to find a “negotiating point” with the hostage takers.

Trump actually could have been a contender

Before lapsing into a self defeating orgy of birtherism and buffoonery, Donald Trump was actually enunciating some positions that could have resonated with Republicans, and then with the general public. They might have formed the basis for a successful candidacy. They also provide insight into what someone not steeped in conventional beltway wisdom, but with a P.T. Barumesque feel for what people are actually feeling, comes up with.

On the actual real issues, The Donald was the only one saying some things that need to be said. Things that someone on our side should be saying, but isn’t. And frankly, he hit on some things that could have been a winning message:

Economic Nationalism: Trump first made headlines with his attacks on China. The Chinese were playing us for chumps and taking our jobs and he was going to stop it. Later he broadened the attack to include OPEC and others. And we didn’t just need jobs, we needed industrial jobs, we needed to make things again. Although simplistic, this message had more truth and much more resonance among the public than the Beltway Villagers realize.

It’s not the Deficit, it’s Jobs: Trump answered every question about the deficit by saying we needed to fix the economy and get back our jobs. He would absolutely refuse to discuss any other steps on the deficit. To the Villagers, this was of course the ultimate demonstration of his lack of seriousness.   Except, as the last two years of Paul Krugman’s columns demonstrate — restarting the economy is the correct answer to the question of what we need to do NOW.

He rejected Paul Ryan’s budget, especially cutting Medicare out of hand: Although even Newt Gingrich seems to be realizing what a loser the Ryan Budget’s destruction of Medicare is, Trump was the first Republican candidate to say so.

Get Out of Afghanistan: Trump said we needed to pull our troops out and control any resurgence of terrorism with drones. With the Obama administration stuck in a Vietnam Syndrome of “We’re there because we’re there, because we’re there,” getting out of Afghanistan is 2012’s sleeper issue. If the Republicans realize how unpopular this war is, Obama could be in real trouble. And again (except for Ron Paul) Trump was there first.

CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Inside Obama’s “Orwellian World” Where Whistleblowing Has Become Espionage: The Case of Thomas Drake

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

Play_radackNational Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake faces 35 years in prison on espionage charges for allegedly leaking information to the press about the NSA’s overspending and failure to properly maintain its large trove of domestic spy data. “Espionage is the last thing my whistleblowing and first amendment activities and actions were all about,” Drake said recently in a public speech. “This has become the specter of a truly Orwellian world where whistleblowing has become espionage.” According to the New Yorker, the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act of 1917 to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous administrations combined. We play excerpts of Thomas Drake’s first public comments and talk to former Justice Department whistleblower, Jesselyn Radack.

Bin Laden, Geronimo and historical memory: the case for accuracy

from World War 4 Report blogs by Bill Weinberg

In what is surely a great moment in bad timing, the killing of Osama bin Laden—and the news that the Navy SEALS had code-named him “Geronimo”—came just days before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee had scheduled a hearing entitled “Stolen Identities: The Impact of Racist Stereotypes on Indigenous People.” AsIndian Country Today reported, this provided an opportunity for Harlyn Geronimo—great-grandson of the famous Apache warrior—to register his protest to the nation. Rightly calling the use of his forebear’s name a “subversion of history” and “unpardonable slander of Native America and its most famous leader in history,” he went on to make demands 

since taken up by other Native American voices:

As the son of a grandson of Geronimo, who as a U.S. soldier fought at Omaha Beach on D Day and across West Europe to the Rhine in World War II, and having myself served two tours of duty in Vietnam during that war, I must respectfully request from the President, our Commander-in-Chief, or his Secretary at the Department of Defense, a full explanation of how this disgraceful use of my great grandfather’s name occurred, a full apology for the grievous insult after all that Native Americans have suffered and the expungement from all the records of the US government this use of the name Geronimo.

He noted that—in vivid contrast to Osama bin Laden!—the real Geronimo was such a popular figure, even among white Americans, that he was invited to march in Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 Inaugural Parade, and did so, in traditional Apache regalia, to spectators’ wild applause. He was similarly a major attraction at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904. Nonetheless, he received no real justice. Promised good lands in exchange for his surrender in 1886, he was instead deported with his band of some 300 from their high desert homeland in the New Mexico Territory to Fort Marion in Florida, and later to a concentration camp (“military reservation”) in Alabama, where perhaps a quarter of the band died of tuberculosis and other diseases. Geronimo was eventually allowed to relocate with his family to Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where conditions were better, with access to lands where a little village was established, and where he died in 1909. But he was still treated as an official “prisoner of war,” and never allowed to return to his homeland—even in death. His remains (if none were plundered as has been alleged), are to this day in the Ft. Sill Apache Prisoner of War Cemetery, despite the repeated requests of his descendants that they be returned to ancestral Apache lands in the Gila National Forest.

The exhibition of Geronimo at inauguration pageants and the like was in large part an ugly triumphalist spectacle. But, paradoxically, Geronimo’s popularity in defeat also had to do with his embodiment of the mythos of American freedom—in his proud refusal for 10 years and more to be confined to reservations, his commitment to fight for his liberty rather than be fenced in—and a wistfulness about the closing of the frontier. (Geronimo’s surrender marked the formal end of the Indian wars.) This makes the conflation of his name with that of a man who has been loathed in official propaganda as an enemy of “our freedom” even more perverse.

The day after Harlyn Geronimo’s congressional testimony, his demands were taken up by Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation. From Navajo Times, May 5:

On Wednesday, President Ben Shelly called the use of Geronimo as the codename for Bin Laden “dehumanizing, unethical” and a perpetuation of “international ignorance” toward every Native American living in the U.S.

Shelly called on Obama and the Pentagon to change the code name so that U.S. history books will not continue to portray negative stereotypes of Native people and America’s youth will remember Geronimo as “one of our greatest war heroes.”

He added, “As the leader of the largest Indian nation in America, I am appalled and disappointed that United States military leaders would dishonor the legacy of war leader – Geronimo and the Apache tribes, as well as all Native American service men and women and our own Navajo Nation Code Talkers, who have fought hard for the freedom of all Americans.”

The famous Code Talkers were Navajo servicemen who used their language as a code indecipherable to the Japanese in the Pacific theater of World War II. The Code Talkers are today honored by the US Navy—which nonetheless saw fit to invoke the hunt for Geronimo in that for bin Laden. Nor was it an isolated incident. More from Navajo Times:

In another incident in March, U.S. Department of Defense compared Seminole ancestors to the terrorist group al-Qaeda in a case in the U.S. Court of Military Commissions Review.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida petitioned the defense department to remove this portion of the case: “Not only was the Seminole belligerency unlawful, but, much like modern-day al Qaeda, the very way in which the Seminoles waged war against US targets itself violate the customs and usage of war.”

Seminole tribal counsel Jim Shore said, “To equate the historic struggle of our ancestors in resisting General Andrew Jackson’s unlawful invasion of our homeland to al Qaeda terrorism is a vicious distortion of well-documented history.

“The government’s strained comparison of Native Americans to al Qaeda is disrespectful to our tribe, all American Indians and our American Indian military veterans, as well as those in active military service,” he said.

The Miami Herald informed us on March 23 that one Navy Capt. Edward S. White apparently wrote the brief in the case of Ali al-Bahlul, the only man who remains behind bars of the three who have been convicted by military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay to date, and whose attorneys are now appealing. In defense of the Gitmo tribunal system, Capt. White invoked an 1818 military commission convened by Gen. Andrew Jackson after US forces invaded then-Spanish Florida, where escaped Black slaves from Southern plantations were taking refuge with the Seminoles. Two British men were convicted by the commission of aiding the Seminoles, and sentenced to be flogged. Slave-owner Jackson declared the punishment too soft, and ordered them executed. They were.

It is pretty amazing that in this supposed age of political correctitude, the good guys and bad guys in American history can be neatly reversed like this. It is Jackson’s invasion of Florida that was arguably illegal, and the pushing of the Seminoles into the swamplands by the white settler onslaught after the US formally took over the territory in 1821 would today be considered “ethnic cleansing.”

As for bin Laden, if we are to draw analogies at all (which is a bit of a stretch at best), the “Geronimo = Osama” formula also just about reverses things. Geronimo was an indigenous leader fighting for the defense of his land and people, not a mass-murdering fundamentalist. The mass murderers in the centuries of Indian wars were far more often the US cavalry and settler militias—who justified their bloody deeds in the name of an Abrahamic god and expunging paganism. The most infamous such example was the Reverend Colonel John Chivington, the “Crimson Parson” who oversaw the 1864 massacre of a peaceful encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek, Colorado. The fundamentalist jihadis, with their ideology (and often their foot-soldiers) imported from Saudi Arabia, are similarly committing acts of brutal cleansing against indigenous Somalisagainst Yazidis in Iraqagainst the Fur in Sudan—against indigenous, land-rooted peoples throughout the greater Middle East.

In a case of the paradoxical unity of opposites, those who would glorify bin Laden as the defender of indigenous peoples against imperialist assault—most obviouslyWard Churchill—make precisely the same error. The long incestuous relationship between the jihadis and the CIA (especially during the Cold War) speaks to Islamist fundamentalism’s and Western imperialism’s shared contempt for indigenous peoples, who are perceived (at best) as merely in the way in a great struggle over oil, resources and power.

As much as we are heartened by the protests of Harlyn Geronimo and Ben Shelly, we cannot share their call for striking references to “Operation Geronimo” from the historical record. Sanitizing the record fails to acknowledge the profundity of the problem—and is, in its own way, a part of exactly what they are protesting: a betrayal of historical memory. History books should reflect the actual history: the operation was, in fact, code-named Geronimo. Native Americans are owed an apology for that. But there is no point in hiding what it says about our culture.

See our last post on the politics of Native America.

Drake the Heroic Whistleblower

from Informed Comment by Juan

Is Thomas Drake, the National Security Agency whistleblower a hero or a criminal? A hero, obviously.

Drake revealed to the Baltimore Sun how how the NSA abandoned a legal and promising data mining program for an intrusive, unconstitutional and ultimately useless one. For telling the public how its rights had been violated and its money wasted, he now faces decades in prison.

Jane Mayer shows how the government strategy is to depict whistleblowing as a form of espionage.

Why are Obama and Holder even pursuing this case? Obama campaigned on ending such abuses, which he would not have known about without whistleblowers like Drake. The cult of the ‘classified’ document is being used to overthrow the US constitution. I would argue that a public servant who sees his boss violate the 4th amendment has a duty to reveal the transgression to the public. That the crime was (predictably) classified by the criminal official is irrelevant and should be trumped by a democratic republic’s need to hold its public servants to account. That was the conclusion of the Supreme Court with regard to the Pentagon Papers.

If Tricky Dick Nixon had tried to prosecute Daniel Ellsberg as a spy for North Vietnam, the justices would have laughed him out of court.

It is a measure of the decline of our rule of law and of our democracy that specious arguments that once would have attracted ridicule are now pursued by the likes of Obama and Holder. And no one even talks about George W. Bush, under whom the NSA abuses began, as ‘tricky’ or unethical even though his deceit and dirty tricks outstripped those of Nixon.

The thing that worries me most is that the government officials who break the law by engaging in illegal surveillance are the ones best able to blackmail judges and politicians and journalists. Part of the story of the gradual destruction of the Bill of Rights, i.e. the Constitution, probably lies hidden in those corrupt shadows.

Nevada passes anti-discrimination bill

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs

The movement for passage of anti-discrimination laws is spreading. Twenty-one states have laws banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. A mere thirteen fourteen forbid discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Meanwhile job discrimination, housing discrimination, harassment, and violence remain serious problems for transgender people. Here is a recent statement from NGLTF on a new law passed by the Nevada state legislature:

Nevada Legislature passes employment protections
based on gender identity or expression

WASHINGTON, May 17 — The Nevada Legislature has passed legislation prohibiting employment discrimination based on gender identity or expression. The measure now moves to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his signature. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has been working with the Las Vegas-based staff of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) to pass these protections for transgender Nevadans. This includes sending organizers from the Task Force Academy for Leadership and Action to assist and train local activists there, as well as providing monetary support.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality recently released Injustice at Every Turn, which reveals the depth of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people. The study is the first large-scale national study of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming Americans, and paints a more complete picture than any prior research to date. According to Injustice at Every Turn, respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the population as a whole. Half of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment in the workplace, and one in four reported being fired because of their gender identity or expression. Transgender people of color experienced even higher rates of harassment and discrimination.

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

“This is a wonderful victory for the people of Nevada. We commend lawmakers for ensuring that all Nevadans, regardless of gender identity or expression, are protected from discrimination in employment. The startling statistics and personal stories found in our national survey on transgender discrimination show just how critically necessary these protections are. No one should fear being jobless, homeless and going hungry because of discrimination. Without legal protections, transgender people are made particularly vulnerable to bias and abuse. This law will literally save lives. We thank the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada for its hard work leading to this victory and we’re proud to be a partner in this effort. We look forward to the governor’s signature on this important measure.”

[Update] This statement came out yesterday from the U.S. State Department on IDAHO – International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia:

In every part of the world, men and women are persecuted and attacked because of who they are or whom they love. Homophobia, transphobia and the brutal hostility associated with them are often rooted in a lack of understanding of what it actually means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). So to combat this terrible scourge and break the cycle of fear and violence, we must work together to improve education and support those who stand up against laws that criminalize love and promote hate. As we mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia this May 17, let us resolve to redouble our efforts.

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am proud to reaffirm our support for LGBT communities at home and abroad, and to call for an end to discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT persons wherever it occurs. Whether by supporting LGBT advocates marching in Belgrade, leading the effort at the United Nations to affirm the human rights of LGBT persons, or condemning a vile law under consideration in Uganda, we are committed to our friends and allies in every region of the world who are fighting for equality and justice. These are not Western concepts; these are universal human rights.

Despite these gains and hard work, there is more to do to turn the tide of inequality and discrimination against the LGBT community. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, know that the United States stands with you and we are unwavering in our commitment to ending this cycle of hate.

THE ECONOMY

The Great Switch by the Super Rich

from Robert Reich

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Forty years ago, wealthy Americans financed the U.S. government mainly through their tax payments. Today wealthy Americans finance the government mainly by lending it money. While foreigners own most of our national debt, over 40 percent is owned by Americans – mostly the very wealthy.

This great switch by the super rich – from paying the government taxes to lending the government money — has gone almost unnoticed. But it’s critical for understanding the budget predicament we’re now in. And for getting out of it.

Over that four decades, tax rates on the very rich have plummeted. Between the end of World War II and 1980, the top tax bracket remained over 70 percent — and even after deductions and credits was well over 50 percent. Now it’s 36 percent. As recently as the late 1980s, the capital gains rate was 35 percent. Now it’s 15 percent.

Not only are rates lower now, but loopholes are bigger. 18,000 households earning more than a half-million dollars last year paid no income taxes at all. In recent years, according to the IRS, the richest 400 Americans have paid only 18 percent of their total incomes in federal income taxes. Billionaire hedge-fund and private-equity managers are allowed to treat much of their incomes as capital gains (again, at 15 percent).

Meanwhile, more and more of the nation’s income and wealth have gone to the top. In the late 1970s, the top 1 percent took home 9 percent of total national income. Now the top 1 percent’s take is more than 20 percent. Over the same period, the top one-tenth of one percent has tripled its share.

Wealth is even more concentrated at the top — more concentrated than at any time since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.

So what are America’s super rich doing with all this money? They’re investing it all over the world, wherever they can get the best return for any given level of risk. Treasury bills – essentially loans to the U.S. government — have proven good and safe investments, particularly during these last few tumultuous years.

You hear a lot of worries about foreigners dumping Treasuries if they lose confidence in the dollar because of our future budget deficits. What you hear less about are these super-rich Americans, who are just as likely to abandon Treasuries if spooked by future budget deficits.

The great irony is if America’s super rich financed the U.S. government the way they used to – by paying taxes rather than lending the government money – that long-term budget deficit would be far lower.

This is why a tax increase on the super rich must be part of any budget agreement. Otherwise the great switch by the super rich will make the income and wealth gap far wider.

Worse yet, average working Americans who can least afford it will either lose the services they depend on, or end up with a tax burden they cannot bear.

Hedge fund king John Paulson earns more per hour than most Americans in a lifetime—and he pays a lower tax rate

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Gaius Publius

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This is about closing that monster “hedge fund tax loophole” now that we’re all so very concerned about the deficit.

Let’s start with Zaid Jilani at ThinkProgress. First he references the estimable Jim Hightower (my emphasis):

If your job paid $50,000 a year and you stayed at it for 47 years, your tally for a lifetime of work would be $2.4 million. Not bad — but hedge fund hustler John Paulson pulled down that much last year.

Most of us would consider an annual income of $2.4 million to be a windfall, but it didn’t take Paulson a full 12 months of work to pocket his windfall — or one month, a week, or even a day.That’s how much he made an hour. Yes, Paulson could’ve worked one single hour in 2010 and hauled off a paycheck equal to what a typical household gets for a lifetime of work.

Jilani then says:

Hightower goes on to note that not only does Paulson earn such wild compensation, but that he actually pays a lower effective income tax rate — 15 percent — than the average American, whose effective rate in 2007 was 20.4 percent.

Jilani’s point — close that hedge-fund tax loophole, the one that taxes capital gains at 15%. He even has agreat graph from MoveOn.org to illustrate the point. (Read carefully; white-on-light-blue was maybe not the best color choice for this excellent data.)


By the way, hedge-king John Paulson is the guy we clocked in 2009 as earning $2.3 billion. He’s also this guy, the one who got Goldman Sachs to create worthless derivatives packages so he could bet against them.

You can buy a lot of Congressional thank-you for what he earns in a day. And a lot of reluctance-to-prosecute with the change.

Will the Justice Department Prosecute Bank of America, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo For Mortgage Fraud?

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

Play_home_foreclosuresThe Huffington Post has revealed that a set of confidential federal audits accuse the nation’s five largest mortgage companies of defrauding taxpayers in their handling of foreclosures on homes purchased with government-backed loans. The audits conclude the banks cheated the government by overvaluing their losses on foreclosed homes and submitting faulty and defective documents to get federal reimbursement. According to the audit, the banks—Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial—violated the False Claims Act, which protects the government from fraudulent billing. The findings have been referred to the U.S. Department of Justice.

THE ULTRA-RIGHT

“Getting Wise to Breitbart’s Lies”: Missouri Professors Survive Right-Wing Smear Campaign by Andrew Breitbart

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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Play_judyTwo Missouri labor professors have been vindicated after a right-wing smear campaign almost cost them their jobs. Last month, the website BigGovernment.com—run by right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart—posted footage of a labor relations class taught by University of Missouri professors Judy Ancel and Don Giljum. In the video, the professors appeared to make a number of statements backing the use of violence in the struggle for labor rights. But it turned out the video was edited in a way to distort their words—similar to recent video campaigns against ACORN, Planned Parenthood, NPR and former FDA official, Shirley Sherrod. “I was just appalled, because I knew it was me speaking, but it wasn’t saying what I had said in class,” said Judy Ancel, director of the Institute for Labor Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas City. [includes rush transcript]

     
ENVIRONMENT



    
NUCLEAR POWER

Fukushima: flooding of reactors halted on groundwater contamination fears

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

Engineers at Japan’s stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant have abandoned their attempt to stabilize reactor Number 3 by flooding it with water, finding that melting fuel rods had created a hole in the chamber, allowing some 3,000 tons of contaminated water to leak into the basement of the reactor building—raising concerns about groundwater contamination. Plant operator TEPCO now says it will pump the 4,000 tons of water out to be transferred to a waste-disposal facility before pumping in new water and installing a “self-circulating” system. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has approved the new plan—but it appears to carry its own risks. The temperature in reactor No. 3 has been rising since the beginning of the month, reaching more than 200 degrees Celsius (392 Fahrenheit).

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This entry was posted in Background & Analysis, Bin Laden, Civil Liberties, Corporations, Corruption, Decline, Events, Gay & Lesbian Rights, Nuclear Power, Obama, US Economy, US Electoral Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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