Hurrah for Mr. Levinson and his principled stand.
Now the thousands of other Lavabit E-mail users know to blame the NSA for screwing them over.
News and Opinion
Roger’s note: The video link at the end of this post is priceless (you need to click on it). You will see an honest to God dyed in the wool racist at work; and — surprise, surprise — he is a Republican state official. And at the end of the video you will have revealed to you something that few of us realize, a startling fact: the act of voting can change your sexual preference! Remember, you first heard it here.
Politics As Tawdry Theater Dept: It’s tough to pick the highlights from last night’s surreal Daily Show interview, in which correspondent Aasif Mandvi asked GOP precinct chair Don Yelton about North Carolina’s controversial new voter ID law. Is it when Yelton says the law’s purpose is “to kick Democrats in the butt,” or when he says, “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it,” or when he complains he can’t use the N word, or when he fails for several long agonizing seconds to stake his claim to non-racism after Mandvi almost begs him to, or when he boasts that one of his best friends is…you know. It might just be the stunned Mandvi finally asking, “You know that we can hear you, right?” Oh yeah: Though he later stood by his comments, Yelton resigned today after being asked to by fellow-Republicans.
Roger’s note: I remember, growing up in New Jersey back in the 1950s, that when another car did something untoward or reckless on the road, the reflex reaction was to shout “woman driver!” So the Muslim clerics take this sentiment to the extreme. The opinion reported below is so hilariously absurd as to put a five star comedy writer to shame. But the reality of patriarchal oppression of women under fundamentalist Islamic regimes is not laughing matter.
Gearing up for an Oct. 26 protest against their country’s de facto ban on female drivers – there exists no explicit law or Islam ban against it – Saudi women have posted scores of videos of themselves driving, often taken by a female Saudi filmmaker who helped organize the protest and was then briefly detained. In taking the wheel, women are thus defying a conservative cleric who claimed that driving would have “negative physiological impacts (as) medical studies show that it affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards,” resulting in children “with clinical problems of varying degrees.” Despite these grave if wholly unfounded warnings, over 15,000 people signed an Oct26Driving petition before the website was shut down. Here’s one driving video in which, as expected, no lightning descends from on high, no lady parts disintegrate, and nothing happens – except, charmingly, some drivers in other cars give them thumbs-up.
Last month, for the fourth time, Israel destroyed the Bedouin community of Khirbet al-Makhul in the occupied West Bank’s Jordan Valley, razing houses and displacing 120 people under a newly-approved Prawer Plan (or the “Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev”) that will forcibly remove up to 40,000 Arab Bedouin farmers, shepherds and citizens of Israel from their ancestral homes and place them in Israeli-authorized, hardscrabble urban townships – echoes of South Africa – to make room for Jewish settlements, development and agriculture. One of many, often-multiple demolitions, the Israeli courts said the Khirbet al-Makhul homes were illegal because they lacked mandatory construction permits, which are almost impossible to obtain. When a group of European diplomats tried to deliver tents and other aid to families who remained on the land, they too were forcibly removed and the site was declared a closed military zone. A handful of Bedouin have remained on the land to tend to the animals, sleeping under the stars and surrounded by an Israeli military base, a Jewish-only Israeli settlement and a live-fire Israeli military training area. Part of an implacable continuum, the Bedouin displacement mirrors Israel’s other, decades-long hardships and displacements – the exiling of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, the destruction of hundreds of their villages, the uprooting of an estimated 800,000 of their olive trees, or the equivalent of 33 NYC Central Parks. Last week, the World Bank issued a report that found, entirely unsurprisingly, that the Palestinian economy is struggling under Israeli strictures that only worsen. Thus, does Israel’s “democracy” proceed apace.
From an earlier village demolition: “The chickens and the doves were buried under the ruins. The fields turned desolate before our very eyes, and children walked down the road sobbing.”
Last week, good ole North Carolina, whose wacko right-wing majority has been some busy passing laws that hurt women, minorities, the poor and the environment, got a nice jump on National Banned Books Week by banning of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, which Ellison described in his speech accepting the National Book Award as “a return to the mood of personal moral responsibility for democracy.” Ellison’s classic about American racism, about being “a man of substance, of flesh and bone,” who is not seen because he’s black, was evidently banned after one parent complained it was “not so innocent…filthier….too much for teenagers”; school board members agreed it was “a hard read” that “didn’t (have) any literary value.” Banning books is a time-tested, spirit-deadening tradition in fearful communities; there were 464 challenges to books reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2012, with The Bluest Eye and Persopolis perhaps the most recently banned. In the past, almost half of what are widely viewed as the top 100 novels of the 20th century have been banned or challenged, including The Grapes of Wrath, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Color Purple, 1984, Ulysses, Sophie’s Choice, Rabbit Run, Slaughterhouse-Five, A Farewell to Arms, and An American Tragedy, which it is.
“I am an invisible man…No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.”
One more time: A guy – an unstable veteran who drank alot, suffered from anger management and other ill-defined mental issues, and “had a gun at all times” – killed at least 12 people at a D.C. Navy yard. There have been so many mass shootings in this country, and this country alone, that there are currently several battling definitions for mass shootings. If one uses the FBI definition - a spree in which four or more people are killed in one location – there have been six mass shootings in the past nine months and 20 during Obama’s presidency. If you broaden the definition to include people killed or wounded in the spree, as the folks at the database Guns Are Cool have reasonably done, the number comes to 250 in 2013, or almost one a day. Yes. Almost one a day. You can scroll down them. Scroll and scroll. While details are still emerging on this latest travesty, we do know a few things: that gun freaks should shut up already with their crap about how none of this would have happened if there had been more guns at the Navy yard – a notion Chris Hayes obliterates right quick – and that the body count in this country is well past obscene. Obama called the shooting “a cowardly act.” You wanna see a cowardly act? Congress persistently, unfathomably, unconscionably failing to halt the bloodshed.
“Guns don’t kill people. Nothing kills people. People don’t die. Stop saying words.” – spoof NRA tweet.
Days before Bradley – now Chelsea – Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for helping expose U.S. war crimes in Iraq, the Obama Department of Justice filed a petition in federal court arguing that the perpetrators of those crimes - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al – enjoy “absolute immunity” against criminal charges or civil liability. The filing came in a suit brought by Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan, who alleges that the planning and waging of the Iraq war under false pretenses constituted a “crime of aggression” under a law used in the Nuremberg trials. With neither Congress nor Obama willing to hold Bush & Co. accountable for the Iraq catastrophe, supporters see the suit as a last-chance tactic to force the issue back into the public eye – an effort the Obama adminstration clearly opposes. More, all dispiriting, on the increasingly flawed Bush-Obama-lesser-of-two-evils thesis, and the current culture of impunity.
Offering the elusive explanation that he wanted to avoid “being complicit in crimes against the American people,” Lavabit founder Ladar Levison has suspended operations, evidently the first time a service provider has publicly closed down rather than cooperate with court-ordered government surveillance. In a statement on his site, Levison notes, “I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot….the First Amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise.” He also suggests he is preparing a legal fight, offers a link to a legal defense fund – “Defending the Constitution is expensive!” – and ends with a warning. More on the implications for other possible NSA targets here.
“This experience has taught me one very important lesson: Without Congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”
Roger’s note: sure is comforting to know that Obama has done away with torture.
by Abby Zimet, commondreams.org, July 4, 2013
It just keeps getting worse. Responding to a court case brought by Guantanamo prisoners against force-feeding, the Obama administration says it cannot guarantee it will not happen during the day over Ramadan, which starts Monday – that it “plans” to feed all detainees before dawn and after sunset “absent any…operational issues,” because the “public interest lies with maintaining the status quo.” The President’s lawyers also argued the detainees bringing the case are not “persons” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and therefore not protected by it. One is rendered speechless. Not so two prisoners, who send their “call to the outside world” in letters describing solitary confinement, confiscated blankets, beatings, tear gas, body searches up to ten times a day and daily, violent, blood-soaked force-feedings. Thus, the “status quo” that must be maintained.
“Does the world know what is happening in this prison?” – Abdelhadi Faraj, prisoner #329.