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The news roundup from April 29, 2012, including links to stories about personhood bills, Oklahoma, EPA fracking rules, Navajo, solar energy farm, Minnesota GOP, Apple's taxes, Iran war, Spanish unemployment, Jon Corzine and more.[...]
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At a bit over seven minutes, the newest Obama campaign video is longer than the typical political ad, but it accomplishes a great deal in those seven minutes, presenting the narrative of Barack Obama's first term, from the depths of the crisis he inherited to the ongoing recovery?in a word, 'Forward.'
But the real power of the video is that it outlines the positive case for President Obama's reelection, recapping the key accomplishments of his administration?saving the auto industry, bringing Osama bin Laden to Justice, equal pay for women, ending don't ask don't tell, reforming student loans, and, yes, ObamaCare?including the birth control coverage mandate. And, of course, the most important accomplishment of all: turning America around and moving us forward.
?They?re trying to figure out what they?re going to tell Hillary Clinton,? the official said of the Chinese leaders, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic delicacy surrounding the case. ?We?d like to know as much as we can before she leaves.? – The New York Times
THE U.S. EMBASSSY IN CHINA is rumored to be protecting Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who is seen in the amazing video above after he escaped house arrest. The video was released on Friday and pictures Chen Prime appealing to Chinese Minister Wen Jiabao.
No one is talking inside the State Dept., with only Pres. Obama’s counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan addressing it through a question from Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” saying ?we are working very closely with the individuals involved in this.? Not even about Kurt M. Campbell, an assistant secretary of state, who was pictured in China, but whom the United States will not say is actually in that country.
Clinton will be in China with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for two days of discussion in what is known as a Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
Chen Guangcheng’s crime is openly and adamantly disagreeing with the Chinese government’s one-child policy, as well as forced sterilization.
Mitt Romney made his first comment on the situation, which was brief, though you can argue he shouldn’t have made any at all. It’s simply not his place to opine.
?Any serious U.S. policy toward China must confront the facts of the Chinese government?s denial of political liberties, its one-child policy and other violation of human rights,? Mr. Romney said in a statement on Sunday, his first remarks on the issue since Mr. Chen?s escape was reported Friday.
I’m wondering if Mr. Romney realizes how China feels about blanket human rights statements, which they interpret as meddling in their internal affairs. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s not helpful and once again makes him sound like he just doesn’t understand the complicated intricacies of Chinese – U.S. relations, especially given the sticky circumstances surrounding Chen.
QUITE A DOGFIGHT has broken out in France, with just a week left before the election. Evidently, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is having a very hard time accepting that his oversize libido blew his chances to be president of France.
The story was detailed on Friday by the UK Guardian, which interviewed Strauss-Kahn, who vented his spleen over his poor rich man’s humiliation that was precipitated by his gargantuan ego and now infamous appetite for women.
In the more than two hours we speak, it becomes clear that Strauss-Kahn is convinced that his downfall was choreographed by his political enemies. They may not have gone so far as to set up the encounter with Diallo, he now accepts, but he believes they did play a role, through intercepted phone calls, in making sure that the hotel maid went to the police and thus turned a private tryst into a public scandal.
The media in France has recently reported, based on interviews with French intelligence officers, that he had become a target of the country’s intelligence service in 2011. I ask him whether he believes the targeting of him by French intelligence, the interception of his calls, and the surveillance in New York are related. “It would appear that more was involved here than mere coincidence,” he replies, with characteristic understatement.
He also blames French officials for the fact that he had to languish in jail in New York and had to undergo the public humiliation that brought. He thought he would be released immediately on bail ? as would be normal for someone as prominent as he was. But later that day the deal was abruptly terminated. It has been reported in the French press that the New York prosecutor, Cyrus Vance, had received information bearing on the case from one or more French officials. At the bail hearing, the assistant district attorney said that unverified “additional information [was] being provided on a daily basis regarding [Strauss-Kahn's] behaviour and background.”
Strauss-Kahn’s unseemly whine has caused his last allies to bolt and the man who’s poised to be the next French president, Franšois Hollande, to cut him off.
The BBC got Pres. Sarkozy’s response:
The charges were later dropped, but he has since been embroiled in new allegations that he was involved in a prostitution ring.
On the campaign trail Mr Sarkozy dismissed Mr Strauss-Kahn’s interpretation of events.
“Enough is enough!” he said, “I would tell Mr Strauss-Kahn to explain himself to the law.”
This comes as a delicious web rumor, which Sarkozy is calling “grotesque,” but further complicates his efforts to win reelection, which wasn’t going so well in the first place.
A left-wing political website, Mediapart, claims to have documentary evidence that Mr Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign received 50m euros ($66m) from the Gaddafi regime.
The document – dated 2006 and written in Arabic – appears to have been signed by the then Libyan foreign intelligence chief Musa Kusa.
It refers to an “agreement in principle to support the campaign for the candidate for the presidential elections, Nicolas Sarkozy, for a sum equivalent to 50m euros.”
If you've been following our coverage of the exciting Buck McKeon-Lee Rogers congressional race (25th CD-- Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Porter Ranch, Antelope Valley in northeast L.A.) you probably know that Buck?s supremely unqualified wife, Patricia, is also running for state Assembly, a move that is angering many local Republicans. In fact the Republican Party in the disyrict has been torn apart, ole Buck has drawn two GOP primary opponents and barely a day goes by without a high profile Republican pledging to support Dr. Rogers. Oh, yes, the Cook Report and DCCC back in Washington might not figure this out until the first Wednesday of November but the Assembly race is having a sizeable impact on the congressional race. The Assembly district is located almost wholly within the congressional district. McKeon is getting so nervous, he sent his campaign manager, his deputy chief of staff, an intern, and a video tracker to record Rogers at a recent press conference to call out McKeon on a quid pro quo for a government land transaction.
McKeon?s former district director, Scott Wilk is the other Republican candidate. He's very well liked and respected among Republicans in the area. By running his wife for no apparent reason other than to create future employment for their hopelessly incompetent sons and to funnel corporate campaign cash into their household, Buck has created a bitter, intractable GOP family feud that could well bring about his own political doom.
Salon has reported the influx of war industry contributions to Patricia's Assembly campaign-- the only state legislative campaign any of these armaments manufacturers and war contractors are donating too. And the congressman-- who just happens to be the chair of the House Armed Services Committee and the biggest recipient of war industry bribes of any Member of Congress, can't seem to give anyone a straight answer about what this is all about.
What is not expected is that one of these contributors is a gay anti-defamation activist. Paul Morabito, co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) advisory board, gave a maximum donated of $3,900 to Patricia McKeon for Assembly. The McKeons are outspoken and virulently anti-LGBT gay-discriminators. Buck donated $5,000 from his own campaign committee-- in other words, his donors? money-- to promote California Proposition 8, which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry. The McKeons, who are Mormon, helped coordinate the Mormon church?s efforts in California to support the same-sex marriage ban.
Buck McKeon?s has
one of the worst records on LGBT rights in Congress. He voted for Don?t Ask Don?t Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, a constitutional ban on marriage equality, a ban LGBT adoptions in the District of Columbia. He voted against the repeal of DADT, the 2009 hate crimes bill, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He has a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign. Last year, he tried to write language into the National Defense Authorization Act prohibiting military chaplains from officiating same-sex weddings on federal property, even after the repeal of DADT. Defeating him has been a priority on the Act Blue Worst Homophobes in Congress page.
The McKeon?s use their office and donors? money to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Why would Paul Morabito, a co-chair of the GLAAD board, support Patricia with a maximum donation? He lists his occupation/employer as investor/self on her report, but he is listed as a lobbyist with the US Senate for USHF Communications Company, LLC. Opensecrets.org shows a relatively new PAC with $20,000 in cash and no dispersements and lists their industry as ?unknown business.? But, apparently Patricia McKeon had dinner with Paul Morabito in January and discussed homeland security-- an area where she would have little knowledge and no influence... but her husband has immense influence, influence he routinely uses to push the special interests of his campaign donors.
It's obvious that McKeon is taking advantage of his position for personal gain. He runs his campaign committee like a family business, employing members of his family at above market rates. He pays his wife up to $100,000 per year to be his treasurer. She pays her campaign treasurer $450 per month. Before he became the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, he voted with the defense industries 25% of the time. In 2011, he voted in agreement with their lobbying 100% of the time and his defense contributions increased 444%. He took a dicey home refinance loan from Countrywide at a discounted interest rate and without fees. His new house won't be worth so much money; we heard he had all the mirrors removed because he just couldn't look at himself any longer.
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I miss Mike Wallace and Morley Safer on 60 Minutes. I just cannot imagine them doing a two-part interview like the one CBS aired on Sunday where Lesley Stahl did a nice soft, gentle friendly interview with former CIA torture architect Jose Rodriguez. If you didn't watch it and want to, Part One is at the top of this post. Part Two will be at the end. I warn you to hide sharp or heavy objects before you watch it.
It is 40 minutes of justification, intellectual dishonesty, authoritarian bluster, and will make you remember exactly what things were like when George W. Bush was in office.
If you don't want to watch it, then let me summarize it for you. Anyone who dares to disagree with Rodriguez and his decision to torture detainees and destroy the evidence that they were tortured is a traitor. Also, the torture was necessary to cover the CIA's behind, not for the previously-claimed purpose of eliciting information. Here it is, in Rodriguez' own words:
Jose Rodriguez: If there was going to be another attack against the U.S., we would have blood on our hands because we would not have been able to extract that information from him. So we started to talk about an alternative set of interrogation procedures.
Lesley Stahl: So you're the one who went looking for something to break this guy.
Jose Rodriguez: Yes. And let me tell you something, you know, because years later the 9/11 Commission accused, or said that 9/11 was a failure of imagination. Well, there was no lack of imagination on the part of the CIA in June 2002. We were looking for different ways of doing this.
In their imaginations, they imagined themselves to be the equivalent of our former Cold War enemies, and hired a psychologist trained up in those ways:
His search led him to a former military psychologist who had helped train American soldiers in how to resist torture if they were captured. The psychologist adapted the brutal tactics of our Cold War adversaries into what the CIA called "enhanced interrogation techniques." A team of interrogators -- about six of them -- was given a two-week training course and while Jose Rodriguez himself never engaged in any of the sessions with detainees, he supervised the program.
Because somehow, it's justifiable to become what we hate(d).
However, Mr. Rodriguez would like for all Americans to know it wasn't really as bad as all that:
Lesley Stahl: But I mean, these were enhanced interrogation techniques. Other people call it torture.This was-- this wasn't benign in any-- any sense of the word.
Jose Rodriguez: I'm not trying to say that they were benign. But the problem is here is that people don't understand that this program was not about hurting anybody. This program was about instilling a sense of hopelessness and despair on the terrorist, on the detainee, so that he would conclude on his own that he was better off cooperating with us.
Oh, well that's a relief. I was so worried that it was all about hurting other human beings, and really it was simply coercion. I wonder, is instilling hopelessness and despair with the goal of convincing the detainee to act in his best interests something like self-deportation?
Coming toward the middle of the second half of the interview, Rodriguez justifies the whole thing with strange and wonderful (not) logic. Essentially, the argument is that because we don't know whether there would have been attacks without detaining and torturing these operatives, they succeeded. Also? We don't know whether Martians would have landed, or an earthquake would have dropped half of California in the ocean. So many unknowns, so few detainees. Rodriguez does a terrific job of trying to pull a fast one though, saying that the mythical anthrax and nuclear programs hatched by al Qaeda were stopped in their tracks. Just like that.
It's easy to stop something that didn't exist in the first place.
Lesley Stahl: You told us that the whole rationale, justification for the whole interrogation program was to stop an imminent attack. The inspector general says it didn't stop any imminent attack.
Jose Rodriguez: I submit to you that we don't know. We don't know if, for example, al Qaeda would have been able to continue on with their anthrax program or nuclear program or the second wave of attacks or the sleeper agents that they had inside the United States that were working with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to take down the Brooklyn Bridge, for example. So, it's easy, years later, to say, "Well, you know, no ticking time bomb-- nothing was stopped."
Rodriguez is proud of what he and his cohorts did. Very, very proud. It's the crowning accomplishment in his career. There's just one problem. What he claims to be proud of happened after he left the CIA. He didn't have a damn thing to do with it.
I am proud of the fact that after 9-11 the agency became the pointy end of the spear going after those who killed 3,000 of our countrymen and go after al Qaeda and we did an incredible job. We focused on going after each one of the leadership of al Qaeda and one by one, over the years -- it took ten years -- but over the years, we were able to destroy that organization.
I'm very proud of that accomplishment.
This interview made me physically sick to watch, beginning to end. This man is crazy. He revels in humiliation and physical harm to others. He justifies it by using an event that is tragic, but not justification to toss morals and ethics out of the window. He confesses to criminal acts, including destruction of evidence. It's sickening, but what's most sickening is his motive for coming out now with his brazen self-justification.
There's only one reason to do it, and it's political. He intends to convince the public that the capture and killing of Bin Laden and dismantling of al Qaeda happened under the Bush administration rather than the current one. This is for two reasons. First, because Mitt Romney is a neocon of the first order and is assembling a team that looks very much like the old Bush team. And second, the one area Romney cannot compete with the Obama administration is on Obama's strategy to dismantle al Qaeda and kill Bin Laden. That doesn't mean he's not trying, of course, which is why he gave this interview and confessed in writing to his crimes in his book.
Marcy Wheeler, regarding the soon-to-be released Senate Intelligence Committee report timing and Rodriguez' book tour:
Whether the timing?coming out just as Mitt Romney and his torturer-advisors face off against Obama in the General Election?was planned or not, the effect will be to turn torture into a campaign issue with two sides treated as legitimate by a spineless press, rather than one side with self-preservation in mind and the other with exhaustive study.
And sadly, that will probably mean the most interesting (and politically explosive) result of the investigation gets lost, relegated to paragraph 26 of 27.
Critics also say that still-classified records are likely to demonstrate that harsh interrogation techniques produced far more information that proved false than true.
Dana Priest reveals that, when Jose Rodriguez tried to persuade her not to publish news of the black sites in 2005, he tried to argue torture ?was producing real results and helping to keep the country safe.? We?re about to get validation that the example of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi was not unique (though his treatment was included in the scope of the SSCI study). If torture ?was producing real results? those results were false confessions, not real intelligence.
If we?re going to have a debate about torture, the fact that Cheney and his torturers used it to create false stories to?among other things?get us into the Iraq War should be at the center of that debate.
I expect Rodriguez' next stop will be the Fox News circuit, with special softball interviews with Hannity and O'Reilly conveniently timed to drown out any truth that might leak into the news about how the Bush administration with Rodriguez at the helm took the entire country into a dark place where we now inhabit what we abhor.
Watching Rodriguez was like staring into the face of Satan. It's mind-blowing to see him sit on a respected national news show and play mind games with the viewers. Next we'll get word that he's been hired as an advisor to the Romney campaign. It's only a matter of time, whether it's official or not.
This post contains spoilers through the April 29 episode of Game of Thrones.
Much of the time, the power of Game of Thrones comes from watching people we love manipulated by forces beyond their control?or by the decisions of those they are powerless to influence. Sansa’s limpid eyes can’t restrain Joffrey’s murderous streak; Catelyn’s choices are subordinated to her husband’s sense of duty and her son’s war; Brienne and Sam can’t help being born into bodies that make it impossible to live up to the ideals assigned to them by station and gender. But this week, we see characters severed from the ties that bound and constrained them by tragedy, mistaken identity, and offers of new opportunities?and as a result, we see them faced with, and in some cases, making choices that will have significant implications for them, and for the world that is being radically reshaped around them.
The first person to be cast into the wind is Brienne, who loses her king and the identity and legitimacy he briefly granted her by making her a member of his Kingsguard, when Melisandre of Asshai’s monstrous offspring murders Renly in his tent. In her grief, she swears “I won’t leave him,” but Cat has to remind her of her choices, and of the necessity of making one, cautioning “You can’t avenge him if you are dead.” Once she’s free from her oath to Renly, Brienne ends up choosing a new liege lord, one that’s both beyond the menu of options Cat saw for her, and that’s in keeping with her strict application of the code of chivalry and flexible thinking about who can embody it. “I do not know your son, milady,” she tells Cat. “But I would follow you if you would have me. You have courage. Not battle courage, but a woman’s courage.”
Margaery Tyrell’s also cut free from a marriage that was guaranteed to be loveless, and carried some considerable risk beyond that. Her decision is more conventional than Brienne’s, and has larger implications. It helps, of course, that she has someone there to broker the decision for her, the consistently conveniently placed Petyr Baelish, who tells her “You will note that I am standing here talking to you, not Stannis.” The two of them clashed in the previous episode, with Margaery bridling at Baelish’s nosiness, and his retort that the marriage of a wealthy girl is always of interest, no matter the specifics of her domestic arrangement with her husband and brother. But while their interests were misaligned at that moment, when their interests converge, they can recognize each other as equals in shrewdness. “Do you want to be a queen?” Baelish asks her. Margaery’s answer is attentive to both grammar and geopolitics: “No. I want to be the queen.”
Also making twinned decisions that augur collective tragedy are Theon and Bran, once brothers, now enemies. Theon, frustrated when even after being given command of the Sea Bitch, his launch turns into not a celebration of his authority but another humiliation. But his discussions with Dagmar about the weaknesses of deviating from the job assigned them by Balon gives him another idea?hitting Torrhen’s Square can pull troops out of Winterfell, leaving the much richer prize underdefended. And poor Bran takes the bait exactly as he’s intended. He may have grown into leadership in his parents’ absence, but the style of leadership he’s learned is his father’s and brother’s, a kind of decision-making that’s unable to see deceit and evil. “We have to help them,” he declares when news of the Ironborn’s invasion reaches his holdfast. “if we can’t protect our own bannermen, why should they protect us?” His honor may be his doom.
And Arya gets a lesson in making choices from Jaqen H’ghar, who she saved from fire only to see join her brother’s enemies. If he admired her before, he’s even more impressed by how she’s comported herself in Tywin Lannister’s service, as a stony-faced liar who hides her loyalty to her brother deep enough to declare that he can be killed. “A girl says nothing. A girl keeps her mouth closed. No one hears. And friends may talk in secret, no?” Jaqen muses. He’s about to offer her a tremendously valuable boon, but the lesson that’s wrapped around that offer is the more valuable gift. “I was always a girl,” Arya says, hoping to break down Jaqen’s sense of invincibility. “And I was always aware,” he counters her, parrying her thrusts as Syrio once did. “But a girl keeps secrets. It was not for a man to spoil them.” Information is powerful, as is the right to conceal yourself. When Arya chides him for going into the service of such dreadful men, Jaqen seeks to sharpen her mind. “Why is this right for you and wrong for me?” When she protests he didn’t have a choice, Jaqen refuses to treat her like a child or a victim. “You did. And I did. And here we are. A man pays his debts. A man owes three. The red god takes what is his, lovely girl. And only death can pay for life.” He’s given her choices to make and the tools to help her make them wisely. She dispatches with a torturer first. It remains to be seen what she’ll done with the rest of her decisions.
Those sorts of lessons Dany could benefit from, in a place where she’s getting more options presented to her than good, disinterested counsel and instruction. Xaro offers her “More than enough to buy horses, ships, armies. Enough to go home,” asking her to marry him with the caveat that “I’ve already married once for love. The gods stole her from me.” Pyat Pree offers her refuge in the House of the Undying. And though a mysterious masked woman warns Ser Jorah of Dany that “she is the mother of dragons. She needs true protectors now more than ever,” he has more ardor than advice to offer her. “You would not only be respected and feared, you would be loved,” he tells her. “There are times when I’m with you and I still can’t believe you’re real.” All very well. But not much help to Dany in choosing with wisdom.
Welcome to The Morning Pride, ThinkProgress LGBT?s daily round-up of the latest in LGBT policy, politics, and some culture too! Here?s what we?re reading this morning, but please let us know what stories you?re following as well. Follow us all day on Twitter at @TPEquality.
- A New Jersey transgender woman has reached a settlement with her insurance company after the provider refused to cover the costs of her mammogram.
- WRAL-TV in Raleigh put together a 21-minute documentary about North Carolina’s discriminatory Amendment One, but couldn’t find a CEO to go record in favor of it.
- Protect All NC Families has released two new ads attacking Amendment One for how it could impact domestic violence protections.
- Two teens from Concord, NC organized a small rally against Amendment One this weekend.
- Iowa legislators are considering creating a statewide bullying-specific hotline.
- The first-ever same-sex marriage proposal on a military base took place last week.
- The Pope has called for a Catholic alliance with Muslim and Jewish groups to oppose same-sex marriage.
- A Canadian court has ruled that a separated lesbian couple must split custody of the leftover sperm they have in the sperm bank.
- Iran has executed a young man described as a “gangster” for alleged same-sex activity.
- Groups supporting and opposing marriage equality have launched new campaigns in Scotland.
- The President of The Gambia doubled down on his anti-gay comments last week, saying, “We will rather eat grass than accept this ungodly evil attitude that is anti-God, anti-human, and anti-creation.”
- Check out this new infographic about global recognition of LGBT rights.
- A new study finds thatáanalyticaláthinking reduces religious belief.
- Iowan Zach Wahls continued his media tour about his two moms with a recent appearance on the Piers Morgan Show:
Welcome to Justiceline, ThinkProgress Justice?s morning round-up of the latest legal news and developments. Remember to follow us on Twitter at @TPJustice
Medical examiners in Los Angeles are investigating the possible poisoning death of one of their own officials who may have worked on the case of Andrew Breitbart, the conservative firebrand who died March 1, the same day Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced probable cause for forgery in President Obama?s birth certificate.
No word yet on whether the medical examiner was poisoned because he was on the verge of discovering a plot to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.