An Observation on the Martin/Zimmerman Case

I was living in Los Angeles during the O.J. Murder Trial, another dubious acquittal.

There is a commonality between the two cases.

One that would argue for the banning of trying cases in the media.

When cases are tried in the media it makes it almost impossible to have a fair trial that is not biased in one direction or the other.

A criminal case isn’t American Idol. The public does not get to vote on these matters using their smart phone.

From the start these highly publicized cases are media circuses, like the gladiatorial combats of ancient Rome.  Entertainment vehicles for people to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to.

This makes a mockery of the trial system and turns what should be a courtroom process into a popularity contest.

When the media circus is contested by loud voices on both sides it invariably seems to work in favor of the defendant be that defendant O.J. Simpson or George Zimmerman.

Reasonable doubt has been created by the media.

This becomes an acquittal that leaves one side cheering and the other angry and demonstrating.

At the same time the media can function as a lynch mob and make it impossible for a defendant to win an acquittal no matter how much evidence the defendant has in his/her favor.

I think it might be better if there were little or no pretrial discussion of criminal cases in the media when jury trials are supposedly based on having unbiased juries.

The media circus turns trials in to popularity contests for the talking heads who have weighed in prior to the trial.

The Many Shades of ‘Out’

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lynn-conway/the-many-shades-of-out_b_3591764.html?utm_hp_ref=transgender

07/14/2013

On a sultry June afternoon, as my husband and I strolled towards the White House East Entrance, I reflected back to the time of my gender transition, in 1968.

Shamed as a social outcast, I’d lost my family, my friends and all social support. I’d been fired by IBM, and lost a promising computer research career. In many jurisdictions, I could have been arrested and charged as a sex offender — or, worse yet, institutionalized and forced to undergo electroshock therapy in a mental hospital.

Evading those fates, I completed my transition and began building a career in a secret new identity, starting at the bottom of the ladder as a contract programmer. Even then, any ‘outing’ could have led to media exposure, and I’d have become unemployable, out on the streets for good. The resulting fear channeled my life into ‘stealth-mode.’ I covered my past for over 30 years, always looking over my shoulder, as if a foreign spy in my own country.

But this was June 13, 2013, and what a contrast it was. My husband Charlie and I, along with many other activists, advocates and allies, were about to join the President’s White House Reception in celebration of LGBT Pride Month. The atmosphere was full of joy and hope for the future. As we waited for the President, I reflected further.

I had been ‘out’ for 15 years now, or so I’d thought: out on the Internet to inform colleagues about my past, out as an advocate for transgender people, out as an activist against the psychiatric-pathologization of gender variance.

It was one thing to hide in the back-rooms of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center decades ago, launching innovations as the hidden-hand behind the VLSI microelectronics revolution in Silicon Valley – a revolution that’s changed the world forever. I didn’t mind being almost invisible in my field back then or that no one had a clue what I was really doing, much less who was doing it. I was thrilled to even have a job.

But ‘out’ has many shades of grey — and even in recent years I kept on partly covering, shyly holding back, lingering in the darker shadows. Although times had changed, I’d clung to old habits.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lynn-conway/the-many-shades-of-out_b_3591764.html?utm_hp_ref=transgender

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Federal Government Decisions Mark A Changed Landscape For Transgender Workers

From Buzzfeed:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/federal-goverment-decisions-mark-a-changed-landscape-for-tra

In cases against both government and private employers, transgender workers — with the federal government’s backing — are successfully using the Civil Rights Act’s sex discrimination protections to fight anti-transgender discrimination.

Chris Geidner
July 15, 2013

WASHINGTON —Transgender workers, backed by the federal government for the first time, are successfully using civil rights laws to challenge government and private employers accused of anti-transgender discrimination, BuzzFeed has learned.

The Department of Justice decided earlier this month in favor of a transgender woman, Mia Macy, who had been refused work at a laboratory of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). After an investigation into her claims, the Justice Department informed Macy July 8 that the bureau “discriminated against [her] based on her transgender status.”

Macy celebrated the decision as “validation.”

“I never thought in my life that it would be over, but to have it not only be over but to have them say, ‘Yes, unfortunately, your civil rights were violated. They did do this.’ To have that vindication, it’s surreal,” Macy said.

The changes coming about now are the result of a crucial legal decision made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Macy’s case back in 2012. The commission then ruled that anti-transgender discrimination is covered under the ban on sex discrimination found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That April 2012 decision in Macy’s case sent her complaint back to the Justice Department, which is charged with investigating discrimination complaints brought against agencies under its control such as ATF.

Macy isn’t alone. BuzzFeed has learned that the EEOC also acted on at least one similar complaint later in 2012, a claim brought against a private employer.

The EEOC itself conducted an investigation into the actions of a private company in Maryland, concluding in September 2012 by finding that “reasonable cause” existed to believe the company had discriminated against a transgender woman employed by the company, which is a federal contractor. Although such findings often remain unpublicized, Freedom to Work and Lambda Legal, which represent the woman, presented the information about the case to BuzzFeed at this time because they have now reached a settlement with the company on behalf of the woman.

Continue reading at:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/federal-goverment-decisions-mark-a-changed-landscape-for-tra

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Trans Women Win Employment Discrimination Suits Using Civil Rights Act

From The Advocate:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2013/07/15/trans-woman-wins-employment-discrimination-suit-using-civil-rights

For the first time in history, the federal government is standing behind transgender employees who say they’ve been discriminated against because of their gender identity.

BY Sunnivie Brydum
July 15 2013

In what advocates hail as a historic first, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled in favor of a transgender woman who was subjected to physical and verbal harassment at her job with a federal contractor in Maryland.

After a full investigation, the EEOC ruled that supervisors failed to intervene even when they were informed of the harassment, creating a hostile workplace and violating the employee’s rights as protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, filed a complaint with the EEOC last year, following a landmark decision last April declaring that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act extends to transgender people who are harassed on the basis of their sex. Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

“We applaud the EEOC for conducting such a thorough investigation and interviewing so many witnesses to the anti-transgender harassment,” said Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT organization Freedom to Work. “Coming just a few months after the EEOC issued its historic decision that transgender people are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC’s reasonable cause determination in this case is, to our knowledge, the first time in history that the EEOC has investigated allegations of anti-transgender harassment and ruled for the transgender employee. This case shows that the EEOC takes very seriously its role in protecting LGBT Americans’ freedom to work.”

Complete article at:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2013/07/15/trans-woman-wins-employment-discrimination-suit-using-civil-rights

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Mission Creep: When Everything Is Terrorism

From The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/07/mission-creep-when-everything-is-terrorism/277844/

NSA apologists say spying is only used for menaces like “weapons of mass destruction” and “terror.” But those terms have been radically redefined.


Jul 16 2013

One of the assurances I keep hearing about the U.S. government’s spying on American citizens is that it’s only used in cases of terrorism. Terrorism is, of course, an extraordinary crime, and its horrific nature is supposed to justify permitting all sorts of excesses to prevent it. But there’s a problem with this line of reasoning: mission creep. The definitions of “terrorism” and “weapon of mass destruction” are broadening, and these extraordinary powers are being used, and will continue to be used, for crimes other than terrorism.

Back in 2002, the Patriot Act greatly broadened the definition of terrorism to include all sorts of “normal” violent acts as well as non-violent protests. The term “terrorist” is surprisingly broad; since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it has been applied to people you wouldn’t normally consider terrorists.

The most egregious example of this are the three anti-nuclear pacifists, including an 82-year-old nun, who cut through a chain-link fence at the Oak Ridge nuclear-weapons-production facility in 2012. While they were originally arrested on a misdemeanor trespassing charge, the government kept increasing their charges as the facility’s security lapses became more embarrassing. Now the protestors have been convicted of violent crimes of terrorism — and remain in jail.

Meanwhile, a Tennessee government official claimed that complaining about water quality could be considered an act of terrorism. To the government’s credit, he was subsequently demoted for those remarks.

The notion of making a terrorist threat is older than the current spate of anti-terrorism craziness. It basically means threatening people in order to terrorize them, and can include things like pointing a fake gun at someone, threatening to set off a bomb, and so on. A Texas high-school student recently spent five months in jail for writing the following on Facebook: “I think I’ma shoot up a kindergarten. And watch the blood of the innocent rain down. And eat the beating heart of one of them.” Last year, two Irish tourists were denied entry at the Los Angeles Airport because of some misunderstood tweets.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/07/mission-creep-when-everything-is-terrorism/277844/

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Oliver Stone on NSA Spying

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The crux of the NSA story in one phrase: ‘collect it all’

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/15/crux-nsa-collect-it-all

The actual story that matters is not hard to see: the NSA is attempting to collect, monitor and store all forms of human communication


guardian.co.uk, Monday 15 July 2013

The Washington Post this morning has a long profile of Gen. Keith Alexander, director the NSA, and it highlights the crux – the heart and soul – of the NSA stories, the reason Edward Snowden sacrificed his liberty to come forward, and the obvious focal point for any responsible or half-way serious journalists covering this story. It helpfully includes that crux right in the headline, in a single phrase:

For NSA Chief, Terrorist Threat drives passion to ‘collect it all,’ Observers say.

What does “collect it all” mean? Exactly what it says; the Post explains how Alexander took a “collect it all” surveillance approach originally directed at Iraqis in the middle of a war, and thereafter transferred it so that it is now directed at the US domestic population as well as the global one:

“At the time, more than 100 teams of US analysts were scouring Iraq for snippets of electronic data that might lead to the bomb-makers and their hidden factories. But the NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, wanted more than mere snippets. He wanted everything: Every Iraqi text message, phone call and e-mail that could be vacuumed up by the agency’s powerful computers.

“‘Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’ said one former senior US intelligence official who tracked the plan’s implementation. ‘Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it. . . . .

“It also encapsulated Alexander’s controversial approach to safeguarding Americans from what he sees as a host of imminent threats, from terrorism to devastating cyberattacks.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/15/crux-nsa-collect-it-all

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Surveillance Blowback

From Tom Dispatch:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175724/tomgram%3A_alfred_w._mccoy,_obama%27s_expanding_surveillance_universe/

The Making of the U.S. Surveillance State, 1898-2020

By Alfred W. McCoy
July 14, 2013

The American surveillance state is now an omnipresent reality, but its deep history is little known and its future little grasped.  Edward Snowden’s leaked documents reveal that, in a post-9/11 state of war, the National Security Agency (NSA) was able to create a surveillance system that could secretly monitor the private communications of almost every American in the name of fighting foreign terrorists. The technology used is state of the art; the impulse, it turns out, is nothing new. For well over a century, what might be called “surveillance blowback” from America’s wars has ensured the creation of an ever more massive and omnipresent internal security and surveillance apparatus.  Its future (though not ours) looks bright indeed.

In 1898, Washington occupied the Philippines and in the years that followed pacified its rebellious people, in part by fashioning the world’s first full-scale “surveillance state” in a colonial land.  The illiberal lessons learned there then migrated homeward, providing the basis for constructing America’s earliest internal security and surveillance apparatus during World War I.  A half-century later, as protests mounted during the Vietnam War, the FBI, building on the foundations of that old security structure, launched large-scale illegal counterintelligence operations to harass antiwar activists, while President Richard Nixon’s White House created its own surveillance apparatus to target its domestic enemies.

In the aftermath of those wars, however, reformers pushed back against secret surveillance.  Republican privacy advocates abolished much of President Woodrow Wilson’s security apparatus during the 1920s, and Democratic liberals in Congress created the FISA courts in the 1970s in an attempt to prevent any recurrence of President Nixon’s illegal domestic wiretapping.

Today, as Washington withdraws troops from the Greater Middle East, a sophisticated intelligence apparatus built for the pacification of Afghanistan and Iraq has come home to help create a twenty-first century surveillance state of unprecedented scope. But the past pattern that once checked the rise of a U.S. surveillance state seems to be breaking down.  Despite talk about ending the war on terror one day, President Obama has left the historic pattern of partisan reforms far behind. In what has become a permanent state of “wartime” at home, the Obama administration is building upon the surveillance systems created in the Bush years to maintain U.S. global dominion in peace or war through a strategic, ever-widening edge in information control.  The White House shows no sign — nor does Congress — of cutting back on construction of a powerful, global Panopticon that can surveil domestic dissidents, track terrorists, manipulate allied nations, monitor rival powers, counter hostile cyber strikes, launch preemptive cyberattacks, and protect domestic communications.

Continue reading at:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175724/tomgram%3A_alfred_w._mccoy,_obama%27s_expanding_surveillance_universe/

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Hunger Games, U.S.A.

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/15/opinion/krugman-hunger-games-usa.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

By
Published: July 14, 2013

Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We’ve gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We’ve even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we’re talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.

The occasion for these observations is, as you may have guessed, the monstrous farm bill the House passed last week.

For decades, farm bills have had two major pieces. One piece offers subsidies to farmers; the other offers nutritional aid to Americans in distress, mainly in the form of food stamps (these days officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP).

Long ago, when subsidies helped many poor farmers, you could defend the whole package as a form of support for those in need. Over the years, however, the two pieces diverged. Farm subsidies became a fraud-ridden program that mainly benefits corporations and wealthy individuals. Meanwhile food stamps became a crucial part of the social safety net.

So House Republicans voted to maintain farm subsidies — at a higher level than either the Senate or the White House proposed — while completely eliminating food stamps from the bill.

To fully appreciate what just went down, listen to the rhetoric conservatives often use to justify eliminating safety-net programs. It goes something like this: “You’re personally free to help the poor. But the government has no right to take people’s money” — frequently, at this point, they add the words “at the point of a gun” — “and force them to give it to the poor.”

It is, however, apparently perfectly O.K. to take people’s money at the point of a gun and force them to give it to agribusinesses and the wealthy.

Now, some enemies of food stamps don’t quote libertarian philosophy; they quote the Bible instead. Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, for example, cited the New Testament: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Sure enough, it turns out that Mr. Fincher has personally received millions in farm subsidies.

Given this awesome double standard — I don’t think the word “hypocrisy” does it justice — it seems almost anti-climactic to talk about facts and figures. But I guess we must.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/15/opinion/krugman-hunger-games-usa.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

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Has the Left Been Neutered?

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Keystone XL Pipeline Will Raise Gasoline Prices, Not Just Environmental Concerns

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-steyer/keystone-pipeline-gasoline-prices_b_3605297.html


07/16/2013

The last thing Americans, or the American economy needs, is another jump at the gas pump. A new report by Consumer Watchdog finds that’s what America will get if the president approves Keystone XL pipeline: a 25 cent to 40 cent gas price hike in the Midwest, and pain at the pump all the way to California.

Environmental security has rightfully been a rally cry of clean air advocates opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline, which poses tremendous environmental hazards from leaks of the oil itself to emissions of toxic additives on the line to greater carbon output in refining of tar sands oil. New evidence shows economic security and energy security are equally important reasons for the president to oppose the pipeline.

Statements from pipeline developers reveal that the intent of the Keystone XL is not to help Americans, but to use America as an export line to markets in Asia and Europe. As Alberta’s energy minister Ken Hughes acknowledged, “[I]t is a strategic imperative, it is in Alberta’s interest, in Canada’s interest, that we get access to tidewater… to diversify away from the single continental market and be part of the global market.”

Relatively cheap Canadian tar sands crude, which is more than half of the crude oil used in Midwest refineries, and increasingly the source of Western refiners, will get a lot more expensive if the XL pipeline developers have their ways. Their articulated goal for the global market: raising the price per barrel of Canadian tar sand oil by $30, from $70 now charged to the $100 per barrel now commanded by Mexican Maya crude oil in the Gulf.

As a businessman, I can understand that profit motive. But what it means for U.S. drivers is higher gasoline prices. When crude prices go up, gasoline prices go up. Why build the Keystone XL if it will hurt the consumer and the environment?

As reported this morning in the Des Moines Register, in the Midwest, in particular, the 40 cent per gallon increase at the pump that the report identifies is going to do grave damage to the economy.

High gasoline prices ripple through the economy with devastating impact on economic activity — the price of everything goes up. Consumers pay the price not only at the gas pump, but in increased costs for the food they eat, the clothes they wear, their airfare, their electronics. When fuel costs go up, the economy takes a big hit. This report shows that the risks from the Keystone XL are not just environmental, but economic, and they are dire.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-steyer/keystone-pipeline-gasoline-prices_b_3605297.html

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Yes, Monsanto Actually DID Buy the BLACKWATER Mercenary Group!

From Earth First News: http://earthfirstnews.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/yes-monsanto-actually-did-buy-the-blackwater-mercenary-group/

July 1, 2013

Cross Posted from Political Blindspot

A report by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation revealed that the largest mercenary army in the world, Blackwater (later called Xe Services and more recently “Academi”) clandestine intelligence services was sold to the multinational Monsanto. Blackwater was renamed in 2009 after becoming famous in the world with numerous reports of abuses in Iraq, including massacres of civilians. It remains the largest private contractor of the U.S. Department of State “security services,” that practices state terrorism by giving the government the opportunity to deny it.

Many military and former CIA officers work for Blackwater or related companies created to divert attention from their bad reputation and make more profit selling their nefarious services-ranging from information and intelligence to infiltration, political lobbying and paramilitary training – for other governments, banks and multinational corporations. According to Scahill, business with multinationals, like Monsanto, Chevron, and financial giants such as Barclays and Deutsche Bank, are channeled through two companies owned by Erik Prince, owner of Blackwater: Total Intelligence Solutions and Terrorism Research Center. These officers and directors share Blackwater.

One of them, Cofer Black, known for his brutality as one of the directors of the CIA, was the one who made contact with Monsanto in 2008 as director of Total Intelligence, entering into the contract with the company to spy on and infiltrate organizations of animal rights activists, anti-GM and other dirty activities of the biotech giant.

Contacted by Scahill, the Monsanto executive Kevin Wilson declined to comment, but later confirmed to The Nation that they had hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and 2009, according to Monsanto only to keep track of “public disclosure” of its opponents. He also said that Total Intelligence was a “totally separate entity from Blackwater.”

However, Scahill has copies of emails from Cofer Black after the meeting with Wilson for Monsanto, where he explains to other former CIA agents, using their Blackwater e-mails, that the discussion with Wilson was that Total Intelligence had become “Monsanto’s intelligence arm,” spying on activists and other actions, including “our people to legally integrate these groups.” Total Intelligence Monsanto paid $ 127,000 in 2008 and $ 105,000 in 2009.

No wonder that a company engaged in the “science of death” as Monsanto, which has been dedicated from the outset to produce toxic poisons spilling from Agent Orange to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), pesticides, hormones and genetically modified seeds, is associated with another company of thugs.

Almost simultaneously with the publication of this article in The Nation, the Via Campesina reported the purchase of 500,000 shares of Monsanto, for more than $23 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which with this action completed the outing of the mask of “philanthropy.” Another association that is not surprising.

It is a marriage between the two most brutal monopolies in the history of industrialism: Bill Gates controls more than 90 percent of the market share of proprietary computing and Monsanto about 90 percent of the global transgenic seed market and most global commercial seed. There does not exist in any other industrial sector monopolies so vast, whose very existence is a negation of the vaunted principle of “market competition” of capitalism. Both Gates and Monsanto are very aggressive in defending their ill-gotten monopolies.

Continue reading at:  http://earthfirstnews.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/yes-monsanto-actually-did-buy-the-blackwater-mercenary-group/

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World’s ‘Last Ocean’ Now Up for Grabs Following Russia No Vote

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/07/16-10

Would-be world’s largest marine conservation area fails to pass international committee

Jacob Chamberlain

The world’s “last ocean” will remain open for exploitation following a failed agreement amongst several countries that would have protected the Ross Sea along with the East Antarctica coastline from the global fishing industry.

The agreement, which was crafted within the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), whose 25 members have been meeting in Germany, would have established two massive Marine Protected Areas (2.3 million square kilometers) off the coastline of Antarctica and more than doubled the current area of protected ocean on the planet.

However, the proposal was essentially blocked on Tuesday by Russia, one of the few nations in the group who have fishing fleets in the region, in what campaigners called a “bad faith stalling tactic.”

Mongabay.com calls the area “the most pristine marine ecosystem on the planet.” The Ross Sea is home “to an abundance of penguins, whales, orcas, seals, and massive fish,” and has thus far “largely avoided the degradation that has impacted much of the world’s other marine waters,” according to the environmental news site.

“[The] Ross Sea is the last open ocean tract (i.e. not a reef) that still has a food web much like what one would expect the ‘Garden of Eden’ to have been like. That is: all the ‘fruits’ are still there, ready to be picked,” explained marine ecologist Dr. David Ainley in an interview with Mongabay.com.

Yet, as of Tuesday, as Steve Campbell of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance explains, “After two years of preparation, including this meeting, which Russia requested to settle the scientific case for the Ross Sea and East Antarctic proposals, we leave with nothing.”

According to the Guardian, CCAMLR requires unanimous agreement from all of its 25 member states to create reserves.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/07/16-10

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