HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Jefferson23 » Journal
Introducing Discussionist: A new forum by the creators of DU
Page: 1

Jefferson23

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Connecticut
Home country: USA
Current location: nice place
Member since: Thu May 15, 2008, 04:37 PM
Number of posts: 18,308

Journal Archives

Israel's 'Great Book Robbery' unravelled


Documentary sheds light on large-scale pillaging of books from Palestinian homes in 1948, when Israel was founded.

Dalia Hatuqa Last Modified: 29 Jan 2013 09:28

Ramallah, occupied Palestinian territories - Rasha Al Barghouti takes a few steps towards one of several large bookcases in her Ramallah home, treading slowly just four months after having hip replacement surgery. She takes out a thick blue book, and opens it to a bookmarked page, allowing her fingertips to trace the words as she reads out loud.

The book was written by her grandfather, the late Omar Saleh Al Barghouti, a leading figure of Palestinian resistance who took part in the national movement against the British occupation. During the 1948 war, when Al Barghouti was forced into exile, hundreds of his books, documents, newspapers and intimate memoirs were looted from his Jerusalem home.

The irreplaceable items representing a slice of Palestinian intellectualism were never located, except for a few - which, to Rasha's surprise, were found in Israel's National Library . "For years, we wondered what happened to my grandfather's books," said the 61-year-old, who works at Birzeit University, just outside Ramallah. "One day my sister and I looked up his name on the website of the National Library … and we found two of his books."

Rasha later found out that a whole section of the library was dedicated to her grandfather's books, a revelation that to this day moves her to tears. Al Barghouti's large collection is part of some 70,000 books that were looted just before and during the Nakba (or "catastrophe") of 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled or forced to flee their homes.

in full: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/01/201312114556875749.html

It's inequality, stupid


What the great and the good in business will not be discussing at the Davos summit.

26 Jan 2013

Amsterdam, The Netherlands - Billions of people would apply the Groucho Marx rule to Davos - the exclusive club meeting in the Swiss Alps allegedly gathering the great and the good of business; "I wouldn't want to belong to a club that accepts me as a member".

Well, to start with, those billions wouldn't get past the bouncers, because the pompously self-defined World Economic Forum is indeed about exclusion. Yet even if - by divine design - they might, what's the point?

The austerity mantra devastates large swathes of Europe. The US remains mired in the fiscal cliff maelstrom. The Japanese are about to unleash an economic tsunami - devaluation of the yen at all costs.

Double-dip recession rules.

On the other hand, growth does apply to parts of the BRICS group of emerging nations, and even more to some selected members of the N-11 (the mini-BRICS in the making); certainly Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Turkey, South Korea and Vietnam.

remainder: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/201312612182907642.html

Carmen Ortiz Strikes Out ( Scott Horton, Harper's )


January 18, 2013

Congress prepares to slap down prosecutors linked to the suicide of Aaron Swartz

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz is fighting to hold on to her job, and to avoid an embarrassing grilling in Congress and possible professional disciplinary proceedings. Her prospects look grim. Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chair of the House Committee on Oversight is pledging a vigorous and critical inquiry into her management of the dubious criminal prosecution of Aaron Swartz, one of the greatest computer prodigies of his generation, who committed suicide a week ago, apparently convinced that out-of-control prosecutors had destroyed his life. While Issa’s prior attempts to take aim at the DOJ have fizzled, this one is garnering significant bipartisan support: Zoe Lofgren (D., Calif.) is introducing “Aaron’s Law,” expressly overturning the interpretations upon which Ortiz proceeded against Swartz, while Jared Polis (D., Colo.) blasted the prosecutor’s case as “ridiculous and trumped-up.” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who would have a say in the appointment of Ortiz’s successor, was unstinting in her praise for Swartz as a person who “wouldn’t hurt a fly” and whose acts demonstrated a “powerful commitment” to the betterment of society. Nancy Gertner, a recently retired federal judge who is intimately familiar with both prosecutors, lambasted them in a broadcast interview, parsing and ridiculing the claims they had made against Swartz and suggesting that the case should have been dismissed. At funeral services in Highland Park, Illinois, on Tuesday, Swartz’s father charged that his son had been “killed by the government.” While some might ascribe this to the anguish of a bereaved father, scholars and investigators poring over the record of the Swartz prosecution are increasingly shocked at the scope and outrageousness of the prosecutorial misconduct that he faced.

Prosecutors Ortiz and Stephen Heymann turned to a standard trick while pursuing the case, mounting a total of thirteen felony counts against Swartz and arguing that his college prank aimed at “liberating” a collection of academic articles with little commercial value was a serious crime. Although each of these counts bordered on the preposterous, Ortiz and Heymann clearly reckoned that at least one or two would stick during the jury-room bargaining process. More to the point, they assumed that the risk of their success even on bogus charges would be enough to pressure Swartz into accepting a guilty plea on all the counts in exchange for a reduced sentence — which is what they offered him. The process was fundamentally corrupt and shameful. But observers of the American criminal-justice system also know that it was a common one.

The details that have emerged since Swartz’s death have only strengthened calls for the removal and punishment of the prosecutors. Swartz’s lawyers revealed, for example, that when their client’s suicidal nature was noted during their failed efforts to get the charges reduced to a misdemeanor level, Heymann responded by saying “Fine, we’ll lock him up.” Prosecutors were also revealed to have offered a reduced sentence, but only if Swartz pleaded guilty to every charge. This is clear evidence of oppression geared to advance prosecutorial careers, not to serve the interests of justice. Britain’s Daily Mail showed that Swartz was not the only youthful alleged hacker whom Heymann had hounded to suicide — twenty-four-year-old Jonathan James took his own life in 2008, six months after his home was searched in a raid coordinated by Heymann. The DOJ undertook no internal probe of that case, instead giving Heymann an award for “distinguished service.” In the Swartz case, the prosecutors claimed they were acting on behalf of two injured parties — JSTOR and MIT. But JSTOR disagreed with this characterization, including the attorneys’ use of the word “theft,” and demanded that they drop the case. And unnamed sources at MIT this week pointed their fingers at the federal prosecutors, insisting that their unreasonableness and intransigence had kept the case moving despite dishonest charges.

Ortiz’s first defender was her husband, who, without disclosing their relationship, issued a series of false statements on Twitter before being exposed and then deleting them. Now Ortiz has come forward to speak for herself. Her statement offers no apology to Swartz’s family; audaciously whitewashes the facts by stating that she never claimed Swartz sought to profit from the publication of the papers, when in fact she repeatedly implied exactly that; and shows no remorse or contrition. She states that she is unable to respond to charges that her conduct led to Swartz’s death, but tenaciously insists that what she did was “appropriate.”

in full: http://harpers.org/blog/2013/01/carmen-ortiz-strikes-out/

The political consequences of academic paywalls


Academic paywalls unwittingly benefit oppressive regimes - at society's expense.

Last Modified: 18 Jan 2013

The suicide of Aaron Swartz, the activist committed to making scholarly research accessible to everyone, has renewed debate about the ethics of academic publishing. Under the current system, academic research is housed in scholarly databases, which charge as much as $50 per article to those without a university affiliation.

The only people who profit from this system are academic publishers. Scholars receive no money from the sale of their articles, and are marginalized by a public who cannot afford to read their work. Ordinary people are denied access to information and prohibited from engaging in scholarly debate.

Academic paywalls are often presented as a moral or financial issue. How can one justify profiting off unpaid labour while denying the public access to research frequently funded through taxpayer dollars? But paywalls also have broader political consequences. Whether or not an article is accessible affects more than just the author or reader. It affects anyone who could potentially benefit from scholarly insight, information or expertise – that is, everyone.

The impact of the paywall is most significant in places where censorship and propaganda reign. When information is power, the paywall privileges the powerful. Dictatorships are the paywall’s unwitting beneficiary.

in full: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/2013117111237863121.html

ACRI files new petition against expulsion of 1,000 Palestinians from Area C

Update:January 16, 2013

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed a new petition this morning (January 16, 2013) at the High Court of Justice against the State’s plans to expel some 1,000 Palestinians living in eight rural villages in Firing Zone 918 in the South Hebron Hills.

In response, the High Court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the forced removal of the petitioners and their families from their homes in Firing Zone 918. The injunction will remain in place until the Court rules otherwise. In addition, Justice Salim Joubran gave the State 60 days to respond to the petition.

The petition was filed by Attorney Tamar Feldman, the head of ACRI’s Human Rights in the Occupied Territories Department, on behalf of 108 villagers. It asks the defense minister and the commander of Israel Defense Forces activities in the West Bank to explain why the forced transfer of the villagers from their homes cannot be prevented, as well as for an explanation as to why the closed military zone order around the area should not be lifted and their dwellings fully recognized.

The area designated by the IDF as “Firing Zone 918” is located in the South Hebron Hills near the town of Yatta. Spread over 30,000 dunams and home to some 1,300 people, it includes twelve Palestinian villages, or hamlets: Tuba, Mufaqara, Sfai, Majaz, Tabban, Fakheit, Megheir Al-Abeid, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba, Halat a-Dab’a and Sarura. Eight of these villages, with around 1,000 residents, currently face eviction. The villagers maintain a unique way of life, with many living in or beside caves, and relying on farming and husbandry of sheep and goats for their livelihood. Most of them were born and raised in these villages to families that have been living in the area for several decades – long before 1967.

remainder: http://www.acri.org.il/en/2013/01/16/new-petition-firing-zone-918/

Aaron Swartz, RIP ( Scott Horton, Harpers )

January 14, 2013

A leading cyberactivist commits suicide at twenty-six. Was he hounded to death by federal prosecutors?

His accomplishments were astonishing considering his short life. By the time of his death on Friday, Aaron Swartz had invented the RSS feed, contributed significantly to the development of Reddit, and emerged as a leading voice on freedom of information and the ethics of intellectual-property protection on the Internet. He had also become the target of an extravagant prosecutorial vendetta, launched by federal authorities, that reads like an updating of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.

Swartz’s family issued a statement placing responsibility for his death squarely on federal prosecutors, led by Boston U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz (widely said to be preparing to run for the Massachusetts state house) and prosecutors Stephen P. Heymann and Scott L. Garland, who aggressively pursued dubious felony charges against him. As Swartz sought to have the charges against him reduced to misdemeanors, indicating to his willingness to agree to a plea, prosecutors reacted by adding more factually untenable felony charges against him. Swartz repeatedly expressed despair over the effort to criminalize him and deprive him of his freedom. His family wrote:

Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims.

These views were echoed by Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, who penned under the heading “Prosecutor As Bully” a blistering attack on the Justice Department:

remainder: http://harpers.org/blog/2013/01/aaron-swartz-rip/

When the boys return

A group of Palestinian youths try to come to terms with their experience of being jailed by Israel.

Filmmaker: Tone Andersen

In Hebron in the West Bank, 11 young Palestinian men come together each week in a room at the YMCA.

All of them have spent time in Israeli jails. They are just a few of the 7,500 Palestinian minors aged between 12 and 18 who have gone through the prison system over the past 11 years.

The arrests of these youngsters, undertaken by the Israeli army, often happen at night. The most common charge is stone-throwing and the average sentence is two years.

Upon release, many former detainees display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and almost all find it difficult to slip back into the position they occupied in their families and communities prior to arrest.

Among the group are 15-year-old Mohammad Jamil, who was newly-released from prison when filming commenced, and 17-year-old Hamze Mahfouz.

remainder: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2013/01/20131810428343551.html

Conservatives Are Always Triumphant and Also an Oppressed Minority, According to Notably Stupid New

January 11, 2013

Ben Shapiro makes his living harrumphing over the sins of liberalism, and his new book doesn't disappoint.



Being a doctrinaire conservative in this day and age requires you to do a lot of cognitive gymnastics. Luckily, the captain of the right’s gymnastic team is Ben Shapiro, who has been an exceptional contortionist since his YAF days, when he simultaneously boasted of his unfashionable virginity and scolded everyone else about their allegedly unconventional sex lives. Ben is married now, and presumably has engaged in heterosexual intercourse, but it hasn’t made him any happier or more relaxed, as he makes his living harrumphing over the sins of liberalism. Hey, just because it’s easy doesn’t mean someone should do it.

Though not himself large, Ben has wrangled, by virtue of being a nuance-impervious loudmouth, the position of editor-at-large at Breitbart.com. (You may recall that this position was once held by Andrew Breitbart himself, until his heart self-detonated rather than listen to him bellow for one more second.) This job entails being a sort of all-purpose complainer, a queen bee fat on the jelly of foundation grants, forever sending out drones to gather the sweet nectar of gripe. Just like that one guy on your Facebook who can’t relate to anything unless it has a Star Wars reference in it, Ben has cranked out book after book of impotent whining about how liberals are ruining everything with their education and their pornography and their crazy rock and roll and their hair. A 79-year-old man in the body of a failed attorney, his books (which I only hesitate to call unreadable because even I have better things to do than read them) attract praise from the kind of people who write books exactly like them — that is to say, endless litanies of alleged liberal treachery and evildoing.

It might well be enough to say that by such works ye shall know them — just wander over to Amazon and look at the titles of the books written by people who have log-rolled the corpus of Ben Shapiro: Cowards. Radicals. Invasion. Unhinged. Persecution. Slander. Treason. Demonic. Unholy Alliance. The Great Destroyer. Hating Whitey. Deliver Us from Evil. Culture of Corruption. Well, it certainly sounds like they’re fighting the good, if imaginary, fight, doesn’t it? In keeping with this great tradition of the literature of name-calling, Ben’s latest extrusion is titled Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans. On the face of it, this might seem like a curious thesis statement: if people like Ben and his fellow real Americans are being routinely silenced by the bullying of the left, how is it that their books routinely sell millions, that their radio shows frequently dominate the ratings, that their TV network is the proud peacock of basic cable, that their tricorn-sporting political movement is endlessly fretted over by media chatterboxes?

This, of course, is the great contradiction of the neo-New Right. They must be simultaneously ragged and right, persecuted and triumphant, the choice of the majority and a precarious threatened minority. Their America is both an exceptionalist juggernaut — the envy of the economic world and a military titan than can enforce the Ledeen Doctrine at will — and an internally weakened paper tiger that is at risk of total destruction by the machinations of a handful of Segway-riding enviro-snobs and post-structuralist academics. Their culture is one where trü-kvlt American values of machismo, independence, and not-abortion are shared by every decent person in the lower 48, but which are driven out of theaters and and set-top boxes by a tiny cabal of bezrodniy kosmopolit in Hollywood. Their politics never loses, but is always made to lose; it cannot fail, but is always failed. Reconciling history and current events in this way, where oppression, dictatorship, and the impeding of human rights are exclusively products of liberalism and the political right is both naturally, inevitably victorious and forever persecuted and silenced, is the great project of today’s movement conservative. They toil at their laptops with the vigor of a contrarian rock critic lamenting the lack of respect paid to Van Hagar, painting Americans, whites, males, heterosexuals, Christians, and the rich as both the natural masters of man and a criminally vilified underclass.

in full: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/conservatives-are-always-triumphant-and-also-oppressed-minority-according?paging=off

The Pardons Turkeys ( Scott Horton )

January 7, 2013

An inspector general’s report finds, again, that the Department of Justice is strangling the pardons process

By Scott Horton

On November 20, 2012, President Obama acceded to the demands of schoolchildren across the nation by issuing commutations to Cobbler and Gobbler. The two turkeys were then transported to George Washington’s estate at Mont Vernon to live out the balance of their lives in federal custody.

But a dark fact shadows this holiday ritual: as it turns out, Cobbler and Gobbler received the only presidential pardons issued in 2012. As presidential authority reaches an historic high-water mark, one of the president’s powers is on the verge of atrophying: that of granting pardons in the interests of justice.

It would be more accurate, however, to say that this power has been strangled by a Justice Department jealous for its own reputation, particularly in relation to doubtful and overzealous prosecutions. A few weeks ago, a report issued by the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General concluded that complaints about the pardons office were well founded. The inspector general stated that pardon attorney Ronald L. Rodgers, a Bush-era appointee, had engaged in “conduct that fell substantially short of the high standards expected of Department of Justice employees and the duty he owed the President of the United States,” and recommended a further review for possible disciplinary action.

The IG’s report focuses on the case of Clarence Aaron, a black athlete who played an indirect role in a minor drug transaction and who became the victim of hyperaggressive prosecution and sentencing. While handling the case, Rodgers misrepresented the views of both the United States attorney who made a pardon recommendation and the judge who seconded it, resulting in the pardon’s being denied. Aaron continues to languish in federal prison.

remainder in full: http://harpers.org/blog/2013/01/the-pardons-turkeys/

The importance of European court's ruling against extraordinary rendition


It's the first time a court has expressly found that the CIA's extraordinary programme constituted torture.

07 Jan 2013 07:22

** Jonathan Hafetz is Associate Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law and the author, most recently, of Habeas Corpus after 9/11: Confronting America's New Global Detention System.


In a recent judgment, the Grand Chamber of the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) concluded that German citizen Khaled el-Masri had been subjected to torture, unlawful detention and other abuses in connection with the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" programme.

The case, El-Masri v The Former Yugolsav Republic of Macedonia, not only represents an important judicial critique of the CIA programme, which led to the enforced disappearance of numerous individuals after 9/11, but also underscores the failure of US courts to provide a remedy for the same human rights violations.

The basic facts of el-Masri's case have previously been described in accounts of the extraordinary rendition programme, including the 2006 Council of Europe report (compiled by Swiss Senator Dick Marty). In brief, el-Masri was seized while travelling by bus across the Serbian-Macedonian border based on suspicion of terrorism.

Macedonian officials took el-Masri to a hotel in Skopje, where they subjected him to abuse - including holding a gun to his head - during three weeks of incommunicado interrogation. El-Masri was then handed over to a CIA rendition team, who stripped, beat and sodomised him with a suppository before flying him - hooded and shackled - to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit.

in full: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/20131595119662381.html
Go to Page: 1