August 18, 2013 archive

AC Meetup: Differences Matter-Wage and Wealth Gap for Single Mothers Of Color by Diana Zavala

The following is a guest diary by Diana Zavala. An educator, political activist and single mother of two, this is the second guest diary that Diana has written for us. Diana presented this piece as part of the panel at Left Forum 2013 organised by Geminijen.

Three years ago I found myself closing the chapter on my marriage. I did this against the advice of my friends who tried persuading me to stay for the children, for the sake of security and until I finished my studies. I had spent 10 years in an unsatisfying marriage and the thought of one more day for the sake of something/somebody else just was not acceptable. I left the marriage and while the emotional release was satisfying; but being independent and having to be responsible for my family was a reality I don’t think I fully grasped.

I decided there had to be a way that women in my situation could qualify for public assistance. Here I was a student, with two kids, huge rent bill, no health insurance, but these circumstances were only temporary I thought, and with a little assistance I would be able to overcome them and get myself back on my feet. I thought ‘hey, I’m not the quintessential “welfare queen” so demonized by society’, I’m someone who needs help and can become independent with some assistance. I discovered it wasn’t the case, that women who were in my predicament had no safety nets available for them to bounce back. I didn’t qualify for anything because I had too much money from child support which was just enough to cover the rent. The Welfare office recommended I become homeless in order to apply for Section 8 housing and I didn’t qualify for Food Stamps, nor did I qualify for Medicaid.

Here it was, I had been a high school teacher before getting married, I left teaching to care for my son while my husband’s career progressed and so did his income and retirement. I had no money and no savings and was being advised to become homeless so I could qualify for housing assistance and food stamps, so I could provide for my children.

I had walked into the office feeling like a strong feminist who had left her marriage choosing independence from a husband and who could make it on her own. I was college educated, employable, and young enough to have energy to fight and overcome. I came out of the office understanding that my situation was no different from other women who leave, that while I had education and language, my status as a single mother did not differ much from that of my mother’s when she immigrated from Honduras after she divorced my father.


Statement of U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Or.) and Mark Udall (D-Co.)

On Reports of Compliance Violations Made Under NSA Collection Programs

Friday, August 16, 2013

The executive branch has now confirmed that the ‘rules, regulations and court-imposed standards for protecting the privacy of Americans’ have been violated thousands of times each year.  We have previously said that the violations of these laws and rules were more serious than had been acknowledged, and we believe Americans should know that this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg.  

While Senate rules prohibit us from confirming or denying some of the details in today’s press reports, the American people have a right to know more details about of these violations. We hope that the executive branch will take steps to publicly provide more information as part of the honest, public debate of surveillance authorities that the Administration has said it is interested in having.

In particular, we believe the public deserves to know more about the violations of the secret court orders that have authorized the bulk collection of Americans’ phone and email records under the USA PATRIOT Act.  The public should also be told more about why the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has said that the executive branch’s implementation of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has circumvented the spirit of the law, particularly since the executive branch has declined to address this concern.  

We appreciate the candor of the Chief Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court regarding the Court’s inability to independently verify statements made by the executive branch.  We believe that the Court is not currently structured in a way that makes it an effective check on the power of the executive branch.  This highlights the need for a robust and well-staffed public advocate who could participate in significant cases before the Court and evaluate and counter government assertions.  Without such an advocate on the court, and without greater transparency regarding the Court’s rulings, the checks and balances on executive branch authority enshrined in the Constitution cannot be adequately upheld.

A Mine Of Salt


NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds

By Barton Gellman, Washington Post

Published: August 15

The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.

In another case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has authority over some NSA operations, did not learn about a new collection method until it had been in operation for many months. The court ruled it unconstitutional.

The May 2012 audit, intended for the agency’s top leaders, counts only incidents at the NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters and other ¬≠facilities in the Washington area. Three government officials, speak¬≠ing on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the number would be substantially higher if it included other NSA operating units and regional collection centers.

In October 2011, months after the program got underway, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled that the collection effort was unconstitutional. The court said that the methods used were “deficient on statutory and constitutional grounds,” according to a top-secret summary of the opinion, and it ordered the NSA to comply with standard privacy protections or stop the program.

James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has acknowledged that the court found the NSA in breach of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, but the Obama administration has fought a Freedom of Information lawsuit that seeks the opinion.

Generally, the NSA reveals nothing in public about its errors and infractions. The unclassified versions of the administration’s semiannual reports to Congress feature blacked-out pages under the headline “Statistical Data Relating to Compliance Incidents.”

Under NSA auditing guidelines, the incident count does not usually disclose the number of Americans affected.

Court: Ability to police U.S. spying program limited

By Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post

Published: August 15

The chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said the court lacks the tools to independently verify how often the government’s surveillance breaks the court’s rules that aim to protect Americans’ privacy. Without taking drastic steps, it also cannot check the veracity of the government’s assertions that the violations its staff members report are unintentional mistakes.

“The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court,” its chief, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, said in a written statement to The Washington Post. “The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders.”

The court’s description of its practical limitations contrasts with repeated assurances from the Obama administration and intelligence agency leaders that the court provides central checks and balances on the government’s broad spying efforts. They have said that Americans should feel comfortable that the secret intelligence court provides robust oversight of government surveillance and protects their privacy from rogue intrusions.

President Obama and other government leaders have emphasized the court’s oversight role in the wake of revelations this year that the government is vacuuming up “metadata” on Americans’ telephone and Internet communications.

“We also have federal judges that we’ve put in place who are not subject to political pressure,” Obama said at a news conference in June. “They’ve got lifetime tenure as federal judges, and they’re empowered to look over our shoulder at the executive branch to make sure that these programs aren’t being abused.”

Privacy advocates and others in government have voiced concerns about the ability of overseers to police secret programs of immense legal and technological complexity. Several members of the House and Senate intelligence committees told The Post last week that they face numerous obstacles and constraints in questioning spy agency officials about their work.

N.S.A. Often Broke Rules on Privacy, Audit Shows

By CHARLIE SAVAGE, The New York Times

Published: August 16, 2013

Another newly disclosed document included instructions for how N.S.A. analysts should record their rationales for eavesdropping under the FISA Amendments Act, or F.A.A., which allows wiretapping without warrants on domestic networks if the target is a noncitizen abroad. The document said analysts should keep descriptions of why the people they are targeting merit wiretapping to “one short sentence” and avoid details like their names and supporting information.

“While we do want to provide our F.A.A. overseers with the information they need, we DO NOT want to give them any extraneous information,” it said.

A brief article in an internal N.S.A. newsletter offered hints about a known but little-understood episode in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found in 2011 that the N.S.A. had violated the Fourth Amendment. The newsletter said the court issued an 80-page ruling on Oct. 3, 2011, finding that something the N.S.A. was collecting involving “Multiple Communications Transactions” on data flowing through fiber-optic networks on domestic soil was “deficient on statutory and constitutional grounds.”

NSA under renewed fire after report finds it violated its own privacy rules

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Friday 16 August 2013 11.09 EDT

The Washington Post reported, with information provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, that internal NSA audits found thousands of instances where the powerful surveillance agency collected, stored and possibly searched through vast swaths of information it is not permitted to acquire.

The revelations contradict repeated assurances this summer from senior Obama administration and intelligence officials that the NSA’s programs to collect Americans’ phone records and foreigners’ communications in bulk contain adequate privacy protections.

On the few occasions when intelligence officials have publicly discussed the impact their broad surveillance powers have on Americans, they have affirmed that all problems are mere accidents and are often promptly corrected.

A July 26 letter by James Clapper, the director of US national intelligence, to senator Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate intelligence committee, discussing the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans phone records assured that “safeguards and controls” provide “reasonable assurance that NSA’s activities are consistent with law and policy and help detect when mistakes do occur, as they inevitably do in activities this complex.”

Those mistakes, Clapper continued, amounted to “a number of compliance problems that have been previously identified and detailed in reports to the court and briefings to Congress as a result of Department of Justice reviews and internal oversight. However, there have been no findings of any intentional or bad-faith violations.”

Numerous intelligence and administration officials have made similar statements in congressional testimony and public speeches.

Wyden, a persistent critic of the bulk phone records collection, responded on the Senate floor that “these violations are more serious than those stated by the intelligence community, and are troubling.” Wyden did not specify what he meant, citing classification restrictions, but urged senators to read NSA’s secret compliance reports in designated congressional chambers.

In an earlier speech, to the Center for American Progress, Wyden said a “culture of misinformation” exists inside the US intelligence agencies – directed not just at US adversaries, but the US legislators that are designed to oversee them and the US public in whose name they act.

“When did it become all right for government officials’ public statements and private statements to differ so fundamentally?” Wyden asked. “The answer is that it is not all right, and it is indicative of a much larger culture of misinformation that goes beyond the congressional hearing room and into the public conversation writ large.”

Clapper is perhaps the most prominent public example of that culture.

In March, the director of national intelligence testified to Wyden that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect any type of data on millions of Americans, a statement proven untrue by the Guardian’s June publication of a Fisa court order for ongoing, bulk surveillance of Americans’ phone records.

Clapper has since apologized to Wyden, saying first that it was the “least untruthful answer” he could give publicly and later that he made a good-faith error, having “forgotten” momentarily the NSA program, conducted ostensibly under the Patriot Act, that collected precisely such data.

Civil liberties organizations reacted with outrage to the latest disclosure.

“The number of ‘compliance incidents’ is jaw-dropping. The rules around government surveillance are so permissive that it is difficult to comprehend how the intelligence community could possibly have managed to violate them so often,” Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, said in a statement.

“Obviously it’s important to know what precisely these compliance incidents involved, and some are more troubling than others. But at least some of these incidents seem to have implicated the privacy of thousands or millions of innocent people.”

‘Jaw-Dropping’ Record of Violations Reveals Perils of NSA Self-Policing

Jon Queally, Common Dreams

Published on Friday, August 16, 2013

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the ACLU, called the scale of the violations “jaw-droppping.”

“The rules around government surveillance are so permissive that it is difficult to comprehend how the intelligence community could possibly have managed to violate them so often,” said Jaffer in a statement. “Obviously it’s important to know what precisely these compliance incidents involved, and some are more troubling than others. But at least some of these incidents seem to have implicated the privacy of thousands or millions of innocent people.”

One aspect that the ACLU finds particularly worrying is the degree to which the FISA Court, designed to oversee these surveillance programs, is at the mercy of the spy agency itself when it comes to garnering information.

“That the FISA court is so reliant on the representations of intelligence officials is a real problem. In recent months, intelligence officials have made misleading and even false statements about the government’s surveillance activities,” Jaffer said. “It makes no sense at all to let the intelligence community police itself.”

Sen. Leahy calls new hearing on NSA, wants ‘straight answers’

By Jennifer Martinez, The Hill

08/16/13 11:22 AM ET

Leahy’s announcement about the additional hearing comes a day after an internal NSA audit published by The Washington Post revealed that the spy agency had repeatedly broken privacy rules or overstepped its authority.

“The American people rely on the intelligence community to provide forthright and complete information so that Congress and the courts can properly conduct oversight. I remain concerned that we are still not getting straightforward answers from the NSA,” Leahy said in a statement.

“I plan to hold another hearing on these matters in the Judiciary Committee and will continue to demand honest and forthright answers from the intelligence community.”

Leahy has been critical of the surveillance programs and introduced a bill that aims to rein in the NSA’s phone data collection program.

“Using advanced surveillance technologies in secret demands close oversight and appropriate checks and balances, and the American people deserve no less than that,” Leahy said.

Pelosi: NSA report ‘extremely disturbing’

By Brendan Sasso, The Hill

08/16/13 09:40 AM ET

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said on Friday that a report that the National Security Agency broke privacy rules thousands of times per year is “extremely disturbing.”

She argued that under the law, the NSA should have reported the violations to Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court.

“Congress must conduct rigorous oversight to ensure that all incidents of non-compliance are reported to the oversight committees and the FISA court in a timely and comprehensive manner, and that appropriate steps are taken to ensure violations are not repeated,” she said in the statement.

Pelosi’s comment represents some of her harshest criticism of the NSA since leaks earlier this summer publicized the scope of the agency’s surveillance.

She voted against a House measure last month that would have curbed the NSA’s phone data collection program, but has called for greater transparency and expressed concern that there are insufficient privacy protections.

The Snowden Effect, Continued

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

10:05AM 8/16

It’s well past time for another Church Committee — or, if you will, another Pecora Commission — dedicated to a full exposition of the surveillance state and its place in our lives and in our democracy. No half-truths. No hedging. No James Clappers, slow-dancing with perjury and obstruction of Congress. Put people under oath and compel their testimony as to what is being done in our name, especially what is being done to us in our name. If we’re going to have a “national conversation,” then let’s have a by-god national conversation, and let it be held in the place where we are supposed to have our national conversations on issues like this — in the Congress, among our elected representative, out in the open and in the light of day. Let us at least have all the information so we can decide for ourselves how to keep ourselves safe. We are not fragile children. We’re the world’s oldest democracy. We should damned well begin to raise hell and act like it.

Absent that, here’s what now should be taken as an operating procedure in any discussion of the NSA and/or the surveillance state. First, everything they say is a lie, or, at best, a quarter-truth. Second, any argument based on the fundamental premise of “Trust us,” should cause the person making the argument to be laughed out of government service forever. Third, any defense based on the alleged safeguards of either the FISA Court, or the responsible committees of the Congress is prima facie worthless, whether it comes from your favorite pundit, your favorite congresscritter, or, especially, your favorite President of the United States.

Leno Part 2

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

Aug 9, 2013


On This Day In History August 18

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 18 is the 230th day of the year (231st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 135 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified when the Tennessee General Assembly, by a one-vote margin became the thirty-sixth state legislature to ratify the proposed amendment. On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the amendment’s adoption.

It took 70 years of struggle by women of the Suffrage Movement headed by Susan B. Anthony to get this amendment passed. Gail Collins’ NYT Op-Ed recount of the story puts it in great perspective:

That great suffragist and excellent counter, Carrie Chapman Catt, estimated that the struggle had involved 56 referendum campaigns directed at male voters, plus “480 campaigns to get Legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters, 47 campaigns to get constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions; 277 campaigns to get State party conventions to include woman suffrage planks, 30 campaigns to get presidential party campaigns to include woman suffrage planks in party platforms and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses.”

As Ms. Catt tells it and to no one’s surprise the Senate was the biggest obstacle, so the Suffragettes decided to take it to the states and amend all the state constitutions, one by one.

The constitutional amendment that finally did pass Congress bore Anthony’s name. It came up before the House of Representatives in 1918 with the two-thirds votes needed for passage barely within reach. One congressman who had been in the hospital for six months had himself carted to the floor so he could support suffrage. Another, who had just broken his shoulder, refused to have it set for fear he’d be too late to be counted. Representative Frederick Hicks of New York had been at the bedside of his dying wife but left at her urging to support the cause. He provided the final, crucial vote, and then returned home for her funeral.

The ratification stalled short of one state when it came to a vote in the Tennessee Legislature on August 18, 1920 and was short one vote to ratify when a young state legislator got a note from his mother:

Ninety years ago this month, all eyes turned to Tennessee, the only state yet to ratify with its Legislature still in session. The resolution sailed through the Tennessee Senate. As it moved on to the House, the most vigorous opposition came from the liquor industry, which was pretty sure that if women got the vote, they’d use it to pass Prohibition. Distillery lobbyists came to fight, bearing samples.

“Both suffrage and anti-suffrage men were reeling through the hall in an advanced state of intoxication,” Carrie Catt reported.

The women and their allies knew they had a one-vote margin of support in the House. Then the speaker, whom they had counted on as a “yes,” changed his mind.

(I love this moment. Women’s suffrage is tied to the railroad track and the train is bearing down fast when suddenly. …)

Suddenly, Harry Burn, the youngest member of the House, a 24-year-old “no” vote from East Tennessee, got up and announced that he had received a letter from his mother telling him to “be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt.”

“I know that a mother’s advice is always the safest for a boy to follow,” Burn said, switching sides.

We celebrate Women’s Suffrage Day on Aug. 26, which is when the amendment officially became part of the Constitution. But I like Aug. 18, which is the day that Harry Burn jumped up in the Tennessee Legislature, waving his mom’s note from home. I told the story once in Atlanta, and a woman in the audience said that when she was visiting her relatives in East Tennessee, she had gone to put a yellow rose on Harry Burn’s grave.

I got a little teary.

“Well, actually,” she added, “it was because I couldn’t find his mother.”

Geothermal Power From Abandoned Oil Wells

Al Jazeera making case for utilizing abandoned oil wells for geothermal…

Sorry, Americans, Time-Warner has decreed you cannot watch Muslim propaganda – at least for those of us who subscribe to Time-Warner.

The principle is simple enough.  Hot water from deep oil or gas wells can generate electricity without drilling.

The hot water is a burden today for active producers as it is not only produced in far greater quantity than the methane and petroleum from which it must separated but is loaded with often noxious chemicals and may even be radioactive.

Abandoned mines also produce hot water in quantity. Entrepreneurial firms offer portable geothermal power platforms to miners but they may require some drilling.  Miners and water don’t mix well.  A Papua New Guinea gold miner has struck gold with its use of hot water for power that has expanded to use far away from the mine.

But you should understand it’s not the expensive sometime energy from solar and wind beloved by politicians and fossil fuel purveyors so we care little about such ways of producing energy.

Thanks, Time-Warner, for helping keep those coal mines open and drillers busy.  The Koch brothers and Exxon must be appreciative.

Best,  Terry

What We Now Know

In this week’s segment of “What We Know Now,” Up host Steve Kornacki shares the new things we have learned with guests Krystal Ball, MSNBC’s “The Cycle“; Rick Wilson, Republican media consultant; Sam Seder, radio host; and Nia-Malika Henderson, National Political Reporter, The Washington Post.

Area 51 Location Revealed In Government Document, Still No Mention Of Aliens

Huffington Post

The government shed some light on an age-old mystery on Thursday, releasing documents that included the location and first official government acknowledgment of the secretive Area 51 facility, a staple of conspiracy theories about alien life and futuristic government technology.

The National Security Archive at George Washington University got their hands on the report, eight years after filing a Freedom of Information Act request. The document gives previously classified information on the development of the U-2, a spy plane that was revolutionary in 1955, when a CIA agent signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to begin producing the aircraft.

Unease at Clinton Foundation Over Finances and Ambitions

by Nicholas Confessore, The New York Times

Soon after the 10th anniversary of the foundation bearing his name, Bill Clinton met with a small group of aides and two lawyers from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Two weeks of interviews with Clinton Foundation executives and former employees had led the lawyers to some unsettling conclusions.

The review echoed criticism of Mr. Clinton’s early years in the White House: For all of its successes, the Clinton Foundation had become a sprawling concern, supervised by a rotating board of old Clinton hands, vulnerable to distraction and threatened by conflicts of interest. It ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in.

And concern was rising inside and outside the organization about Douglas J. Band, a onetime personal assistant to Mr. Clinton who had started a lucrative corporate consulting firm – which Mr. Clinton joined as a paid adviser – while overseeing the Clinton Global Initiative, the foundation’s glitzy annual gathering of chief executives, heads of state, and celebrities.

NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds

by Barton Gelman, The Washington Post

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

NSA Spying photo updated_2_NSA_breaches16_606_zpsf4e2f43c.jpg

Click on image to enlarge

‘The Butler’ to prevail at box office this weekend — Oscars next?

by Glenn Whipp, The Los Angeles Times

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” will be the No. 1 movie at the box office this weekend after taking in about $9 million in ticket sales last night. That puts the historical drama on track for a $27-million weekend, significantly more than The Weinstein Company’s initial lowball estimate of $15 million.

It also means “The Butler” will open to roughly the same weekend take as DreamWorks’ 2011 civil rights drama “The Help,” which also debuted in August and brought in $26 million on its way to a $169.7-million domestic gross.

Will “The Butler,” which tracks the life of an African American man who worked for 34 years as a White House butler, have the same staying power as “The Help”? Oprah Winfrey, who stars in the film with Forest Whitaker, obviously gave the movie an initial boost at the box office, proselytizing on its behalf to her hugely loyal — and large — following. According to a Fandango poll, 72% of ticket-buyers said Winfrey increased the likelihood that they’d see the film.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Drone strike campaign in Yemen shows U.S. standards are elastic

The wave of attacks highlights Obama’s willingness to accelerate airstrikes even if intelligence on a terrorist plot is imprecise, analysts and ex-officials say.

By Ken Dilanian

A surge of U.S. drone missile strikes that has killed about 40 suspected militants in Yemen over the last three weeks may appear inconsistent with President Obama’s pledge in May to use drone aircraft to target and kill only individual terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to Americans.

White House officials say the targeting rules haven’t changed for the 10 recent drone strikes. But analysts and former U.S. officials say the current campaign, after the pace of attacks had slowed, shows that the standards are elastic.

They say the wave of attacks highlights Obama’s willingness to accelerate lethal operations in response to terrorist threats, even though intelligence on the latest plot was imprecise about the timing or location of apparent targets.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Uganda: Rigged elections and mysterious killings … it’s the Mugabe script with a different cast

India on trial as gang rape verdict is due

Iran has 18,000 uranium centrifuges, says outgoing nuclear chief

Mexican army captures leader of Gulf cartel

Long Bien: Historic Hanoi bridge with an uncertain future

Late Night Karaoke

Sunday Movie Showcase

Plead Guilty, Fool, The Truth Means Nothing To Anyone Who Counts

A very old woman, worn and haggard from a lifetime of struggle, appeared for the last time before a New Jersey appeals court to ask again that the court consider the evidence exonerating her executed husband.  It mattered greatly to her though the court could do nothing about the dead.  

In its immutable wisdom, the court decided it was best left to history.

And so it was.

The woman died soon after and the lies continue unabated and are strengthened and propagated by the very FBI that abandoned the case under J. Edgar Hoover, reputedly because of the bad conduct and false evidence from the New Jersey cops.

The widow of “the fiend of the century,” Bruno Hauptmann, might at least have been spared her long widowhood if Hauptmann had only confessed to a crime he didn’t commit.  

Not, mind you, when Hauptmann first appeared in court for his arraignment with the marks of his – ummm, interrogation clearly visible.  We nearly beat a confession out of him, a cop was reported to have said.

Rather, on the eve of his execution, the Governor of New Jersey pleaded with Hauptmann to confess in a room close to the electric chair so the governor could commute his sentence to life.

Hauptmann refused.  He didn’t want his wife and young son to bear the burden of a false confession.  

They were spared from nothing at all.  Instead they had to endure additional pain.

I have never been quite able to wrap myself around the lifelong admiration of Benjamin Franklin for Cotton Mather, he of the Salem witch trials.  Franklin was a horny old goat, who wasn’t much of a husband, but, geez, he did seem a most honorable fellow in some regards though liberals don’t count for much these days.

These morose thoughts were revived when I looked again at the refusal of courts to consider the exculpatory evidence, including DNA, against another innocent man, a friend.  It’s too painful to regurgitate and probably harmful to any last slender hope of freedom after decades of imprisonment.

Justice will come in an afterlife only there isn’t any.



Saturday Night Movie

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