Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Troy Davis

The last words of Troy Davis before he was murdered by the state of Georgia. From the AP:

Georgia inmate Troy Davis was defiant to the end, proclaiming his innocence in the 1989 slaying of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail.

Here are his final words, as witnessed by an Associated Press reporter:

"I'd like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I'm not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent.

The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask ... is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth.

I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight.

For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I can't even write anything about this right now. Call parole board 404-656-5651. Call DA: 912-652-7308. I've been trying to call, all yesterday both numbers were busy.

Dear William,

It is with a very heavy heart and a deep sense of outrage that I let you know that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to deny clemency to Troy Davis.

This means that very little is standing in the way of the state of Georgia executing a potentially innocent man this Wednesday, September 21 st at 7pm.

The actions of the Board are astounding in the face of so much doubt in the case against Troy Davis. However, we are not prepared to accept the decision and let anyone with the power to stop the execution off the hook.

Join us in calling on the Board to reconsider its decision, and on the Chatham County (Savannah) District Attorney Larry Chisolm to do the right thing. They have until the final moments before Troy's scheduled execution to put the brakes on this runaway justice system.

We have seen an unprecedented level of support from our members, coalition partners and all sorts of concerned individuals across the political spectrum.

I was blown away as I carried one of the many boxes containing your petition signatures up to the Parole Board office last Thursday. Close to a million signatures have been collected from the many organizations working with us. I looked back as we were marching down Auburn Avenue in Atlanta Friday night and I could not see an end to the crowd. About 3,500 people came out!

The movement here is very alive. It is electric. And I have no doubt that we will raise the volume together against what could be an unthinkable injustice.

Join your voices with us - we will not allow Troy Davis to be executed, not in our names! Troy Davis and his family have counted on us for many years now and we will not let them down. Please take action - human rights and a human life are on the line. Please contact Georgia's District Attorney and urge him to stop the execution of Troy Davis.

Make the state of Georgia hear you! Tell them that executing Troy Davis will only deepen the cycle of violence and injustice.

In Solidarity,
Laura Moye
Director, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign
Amnesty International USA

P.S. We'll be organizing a Day of Protest today to express our outrage at the recent decision to deny Troy Davis clemency. And on Wednesday (Sept. 21), we're calling for a Day of Vigil on Troy's impending execution date. If you are able to organize locally for either of these events, please tell us about your plans.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Jay Carney Speaks For Obama RE: Troy Davis

I hope this is a transcript error. He's supposed to be executed Wednesday night midnight.

R. CARNEY: Thank you, guys.

Okay, let’s move on here. April, you have your hand up?

Q Jay, I want to ask you a couple of questions about the death penalty issue, especially as we’re seeing September 31st [sic] as the date for Troy Davis to possibly be executed. Where does this administration stand on issues of the death penalty, particularly when there is a question about a person’s guilt or innocence?

MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, the President has written that he believes the death penalty does little to deter crime but that some crimes merit the ultimate punishment. Some of you may also recall that when the President was in the Illinois State Senate this was an issue where he worked across the aisle to find common ground.

With regard to the specific case, I haven’t talked to the President about that, and I would refer questions about it to the Department of Justice.

Q A follow-up on that, please. Congress has several bills that I understand the Justice Department is in support of review of the criminal punishment system, as well as death penalty. Why is there a review when some things, particularly in a death penalty case, on racial aspects, there are -- we know that certain groups of people are on death row and a lot of those cases those people are found to be innocent. So is there any thought of a moratorium on death penalty cases right now with all the questions that are --

MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of a review of that nature. There may be one, but, yes, I would direct you to the Department of Justice if, in fact, they're doing that kind of review. But I’m not aware of that kind of discussion going on.

Q Can you get Justice to talk about it at least?

MR. CARNEY: Well, honestly, Justice is an independent -- is an agency that decides when it deals with the press how it will answer those questions.

Q I’m sorry, Jay. Just to piggyback on what April said, because she and I are obviously on the same plane today. The President was supposed to speak at the Martin Luther King Memorial dedication. And two of the people that I got a chance to interview at that dedication said that if Dr. King were alive today, an issue that would be most on his mind would be the mass incarceration of African Americans. I just wanted to maybe follow up with -- just wanted to get the President’s stance on that. Do you know where he stands on this issue?

MR. CARNEY: Again, this is an issue, broadly speaking, both the death penalty and broader issues in terms of crime and punishment, that the President as a state senator or senator and a candidate, as well as President, has addressed with regards to -- in terms of his views on it. And he will, as you know, speak when the ceremony has been rescheduled, he'll speak at that event.

We Sing Out

The audio/video/pictures just keep rolling in from yesterday's performance at the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts. This song is a commissioned piece from the previous concert entitled "We Sing Out". Amazing to see it from the audience perspective. I saw someone else comment that he was proud because we sang this with no rehearsal beforehand so we had no idea how the room would sound and how the acoustics would play. I think it sounds amazing!

Three men dead in 'gruesome' triple slaying

The only reason that I'm posting this is 1. It's in my neighborhood and 2. I think I heard the shots last night. I could be mistaken but I could have sworn I heard a bunch of gunshots ringing out last night. Lovely description, especially when you consider the details.

Three men dead in 'gruesome' triple slaying

Police are trying to piece together what led to a gruesome scene they discovered Sunday evening.

A police spokesperson said it may have been an execution-style killing and that the victims may have known their killers.

Police got a call on multiple shots fired just after 7 p.m. Sunday on East Linwood Blvd. near Campbell Ave.

When police arrived on the scene, they found three men, believed to be in their 30s, shot dead inside a second floor apartment in the 900 block of East Linwood Blvd.

Police said they caught five men running out of the building.

They are now being held as persons of interest and being questioned at police headquarters.

Officers said they now need the community's help filling in the gaps of their investigation.

"There was no sign of forced entry into the apartment. From the evidence, they were possibly let in. At this point, we don't know how many suspects or even a description," said officer Darin Snapp with the Kansas City, MO Police Department.

Police have not released the names of the victims.

If anyone has any information that can help their investigation, call the tips hotline at 816-474-tips.

Copyright 2011 KCTV. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Spare Troy Davis

From Crooks and Liars:Spare Troy Davis

I want to tell you a story. It isn't about Troy Davis, but it is about Troy Davis. It is about murder, loss, vengeance, and victims. It is about how our justice system treats defendants of color and about how our justice system does not necessarily deliver justice. It is my plea to you as a family member of a murder victim not to become what you loathe.

On May 29, 1971, Charles Hayes got up, got dressed, brushed his teeth and kissed his wife goodbye. It was their 40th wedding anniversary that day, but he had a full day of work as a Southern Pacific railroad clerk in South Central LA to put in before they could celebrate that night.

At 5:45 that evening, my grandmother called, hysterical. My grandfather, Charles Hayes, had not returned from work at 5:00 as he had every Saturday for 40 years. Something was wrong. I was 12 years old at the time. I handed the phone off to my parents, who suggested calling the police. You had to understand this about Charles -- he was as reliable as the sunrise and sunset. He was a creature of habit, of routine. The only reason he would possibly have not been home on their 40th wedding anniversary was because something had happened, though we fiercely hoped it hadn't.

I was the only one of us to remember the license plate of his car. I remember it like it happened yesterday. The police were skeptical that a twerp kid would have a clue as to the license, but I still remember it. KAH204. A brown Chevy Impala, the car he always wanted. Enough room for passengers, but lots of muscle, too.

On June 1, 1971, the car was found several blocks away from where he worked, and so was he, or at least his body. Shot twice through the neck on one side and then the other, life drained away in the spare tire well of the trunk of his car.

The world stopped for awhile. Nothing seemed especially right, but we spent a long time pretending it was anyway. We still moved through the days, pretended like it wasn't really as awful as it was and tried to manage my grandmother, who quite nearly lost her mind. There were days where I hated that unknown person who had taken a gun and put it point-blank to my grandfather's neck. The same man who had shown me how to hit a baseball and mow a lawn. The same man who could dance his way across a floor like he was still 20 and who had such a gentle laugh you had to lean in to hear it.

They did arrest a man. They arrested him while he was in the process of kidnapping a woman and shooting her boyfriend. Ultimately they pinned three murders on him. The judge in the case railed against the jury for sentencing him to life in prison instead of the death penalty in January, 1972. The LA Times article I found 20 years later said the judge called his case "one of the most brutal, one of the most vicious cases ever to come to [his] attention. If ever there was a reason to justify capital punishment, this is the one."

Perhaps that judge was right, but the same jury who had convicted Hendrix of three premeditated, cold-blooded murders felt otherwise. There was something there, some reason which I will not ever know, that caused them to choose life over death.

Over time, we got on with life, graduated from high school, went to college, had careers, but I was always haunted by the question of why. Detectives assured my parents that John Philip Hendrix was, indeed, the man who pulled that trigger twice. Case closed. Closure. If you think closure means accepting something without evidence, then yes. I suppose it was closure. Except it wasn't.

20 years later, I did my best to track down the police records on the case, only to discover they had been destroyed. I went to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office and begged them to pull the court records. Internet friends reached out to their contacts there, too, but as it turns out, the files were destroyed -- court, police and evidence records. All gone. Since there was no direct linkage on the record from Hendrix to Hayes, my grandfather's case was closed but not solved. Closed for them, but not for me. Not by a long shot. How could it be closed on the word of police who weren't even part of the investigation or trial?

Here is what remained: Nothing. No direct physical evidence. The little information I was able to get confirmed this much: No match between the gun and the wounds. No fingerprints. Nothing that said Hendrix pulled that trigger. Nothing. No relationship between his victims whatsoever, either physical or otherwise. Different locations, different cities, different ages, different ethnicities. Nothing in common. Zero.

Here's what Hendrix had that led the police to believe he was the shooter: He was black, he was arrested while committing a violent crime, and he had petty crimes in his background. He was 35 at the time of these crimes, but had no adult record prior to picking up a gun in May, 1971 and offing three people (according to police). This is their argument, and they seemed to have at least enough evidence to prove to a jury that Hendrix did kill three people, just not that he killed three others who were lumped together as victims by the police despite having even one common tie.

I don't believe them. I don't have enough evidence to believe them. I don't have enough evidence to believe that this man, who had not committed any crimes since he was a juvenile, who was employed, got up one morning and decided to start shooting people, execution-style, for wallets with five-dollar bills in them, if that. I don't have enough evidence to logically connect the crimes to the one that changed me in ways I'm still learning to understand.

John Philip Hendrix has evidently died a natural death in prison sometime between when I first looked into the details of this case back in the early 90s and now. He is erased from the California prison rolls as clearly as if he never existed. Were it not for those who remain with a memory, he would just be another dead prisoner. He might as well have not existed. This is good.

But he did. He did exist, he served his life out in Vacaville and died. No one put a gun to his head. No one suffocated him. No one made the decision that they had authority over when he should die. He just died. Naturally, in his time, and the people of this state were spared the burden of murdering someone they condemned for murder.

If I have these doubts, these deep doubts that I was told the truth, that the police told me everything, that the police even tried to find out who might have done this, that the police even tried to get physical evidence, then the very last thing on earth I would want is to know I lived in the state that strapped him to a table and suffocated him with lethal gas.

I would be the murderer I loathe. I would be the person who decided I had the right to rob another human of their life.

There is no "good murder." There is only murder.

There is no "justified murder." There is only murder.

And if the state of Georgia allows an agent of the state to pick up a vial of poison, put it in a syringe and inject it into Troy Davis on September 21st, the people of that state will become what they loathe. Murderers.

They will have murdered someone as sure as if they'd put a gun to his neck and shot him, through and through.

They will have robbed the family of that slain officer to ever learn the truth instead of the story they were told.

They will have the same blood on their hands as the person who did murder him.

We, the family members of beloveds lost because someone decided their lives were worthless, will be victims yet again.

Executing Troy Davis is not justice. It is murder.

The way back rests in clemency, in admitting mistakes. Will Georgia listen? To those readers who made it this far, thank you for listening. And sharing.

[Note: The Amnesty International petition for Troy Davis is here. Please sign it, and share it with as many as you can. It matters, not only to Troy Davis but to all of us, who should not cheer the death of a likely-innocent man.]

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Probably the best thing I've seen or read about Sunday

Touré Calls Out Media 9/11 Nostalgia, Leaves Dylan Ratigan Speechless

The media coverage this week (and coming weekend) that dutifully aims to commemorate the “fateful day” of 9/11 has, in many ways, ironically cheapened its memory, at least in the eyes of some. Don’t mean to offend, but the events of that day — in particular the lives lost — deserve a memorial somehow more befitting than that which is currently being served by the mainstream media. Of course, this my personal opinion, but I think MSNBC contributor Touré said it better than I could, at least on this issue. During an appearance on The Dylan Ratigan Show, Touré called out the 9/11 nostalgia in such a way as to literally move his host to a speechless moment of self-reflection that rarely seen on live television.

There is no question that 9/11 is a tough, tough subject to discuss. Or at least, it should be, in the eyes of many of New Yorkers who lived through it firsthand. But cable news isn’t exactly known for nuance or restraint, and if you’ve been watching any television this past week, you will have noticed the same ghastly imagery repeated so regularly that, yes, its meaning has been blunted, if not completely lost. This is an unforgivable action for those who still see that day in terms far beyond “selling soap. Yes, in defense of all cable news outlets, they are “giving the people what they want,” right?

Touré’s turn today was particularly jarring to Dylan Ratigan, who had just wrapped a one-hour show dedicated to the memory of, yup, 9/11. His pensive gaze and the speechless seconds that followed Touré’s essay were as fitting a tribute to the victims of 9/11 that I have seen on television this week thus far.

Watch for yourself in the clip below, courtesy of MSNBC:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Love You..You're Perfect...Now DIE MOTHERFUCKER

I love having my own blog. It's my own personal sounding board on whatever topics I want to rant about. I hate having to complain about customer service related just irritates me to have to call someone's bad behavior out. I always feel like they should know. But they never do. So today I felt compelled to complain about two wholly separate things.

Yesterday I was at the doctors office and the Dr.(lovely neurologist by the way) ordered a blood test. So I'm so used to getting my blood drawn and I always have the warn the nurses because I have really crappy veins. I'd be the worlds worst heroin addict. I always make that joke to the nurses and they never laugh, (it amuses me, though.) So after looking at one arm, she decides on the other. So the nurse sticks me and everything is going fine shes collecting the blood in the little tube thingy. So meanwhile, there's another nurse who asks if she (the nurse working on me) could move a bit to let her fat ass (it hurts but it's true) through to the other side of the lab. So the nurse working on me moves and while she's moving she moves my arm with the needle stuck in it. In the process she not only gouges pushes the needle FURTHER in my arm which causes me to like wince in excruciating pain...then something happens and the flipping needle pops out of my vein, leaving me horrified and with an armful of blood. Lovely scene this is turning into! So now I have a most attractive red/green/purpleish massive bruise on my arm that looks like I am a heroin addict with bad aim. The lady did not even apologize to me after gouging me then popping the goddammed needle out of my arm. I could have spit I was so pissed. Let's just say that the patient advocate got an earful from me today. The second thing I really don't want to even talk about on this blog because it's so annoying and it's better if I just let my complaint sit and marinate with the appropriate officials and see what happens which will turn into another fruitful blog entry at another date.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Was There an Alternative?

I know this is a very long article, a book excerpt from Noam Chomsky but all I would ask is that you read it with an open mind and think about what the United States has done over these past 10 years since 9.11.01. It's frankly quite amazing the sheer audacity of the foreign policy of the United States to claim the idea of "American Exceptionalism". I'll write more about this later but here's the excerpt for now:

Was There an Alternative? Looking Back on 9/11 a Decade Later | Truthout:

Was There an Alternative? Looking Back on 9/11 a Decade Later
Tuesday 6 September 2011
by: Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch | Book Excerpt

We are approaching the 10th anniversary of the horrendous atrocities of September 11, 2001, which, it is commonly held, changed the world. On May 1st, the presumed mastermind of the crime, Osama bin Laden, was assassinated in Pakistan by a team of elite US commandos, Navy SEALs, after he was captured, unarmed and undefended, in Operation Geronimo.

A number of analysts have observed that although bin Laden was finally killed, he won some major successes in his war against the U.S. "He repeatedly asserted that the only way to drive the U.S. from the Muslim world and defeat its satraps was by drawing Americans into a series of small but expensive wars that would ultimately bankrupt them," Eric Margolis writes. "'Bleeding the U.S.,' in his words." The United States, first under George W. Bush and then Barack Obama, rushed right into bin Laden’s trap... Grotesquely overblown military outlays and debt addiction... may be the most pernicious legacy of the man who thought he could defeat the United States” -- particularly when the debt is being cynically exploited by the far right, with the collusion of the Democrat establishment, to undermine what remains of social programs, public education, unions, and, in general, remaining barriers to corporate tyranny.

That Washington was bent on fulfilling bin Laden’s fervent wishes was evident at once. As discussed in my book 9-11, written shortly after those attacks occurred, anyone with knowledge of the region could recognize “that a massive assault on a Muslim population would be the answer to the prayers of bin Laden and his associates, and would lead the U.S. and its allies into a ‘diabolical trap,’ as the French foreign minister put it.”

The senior CIA analyst responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden from 1996, Michael Scheuer, wrote shortly after that “bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. [He] is out to drastically alter U.S. and Western policies toward the Islamic world,” and largely succeeded: “U.S. forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it is fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.” And arguably remains so, even after his death.

The First 9/11

Was there an alternative? There is every likelihood that the Jihadi movement, much of it highly critical of bin Laden, could have been split and undermined after 9/11. The “crime against humanity,” as it was rightly called, could have been approached as a crime, with an international operation to apprehend the likely suspects. That was recognized at the time, but no such idea was even considered.

In 9-11, I quoted Robert Fisk’s conclusion that the “horrendous crime” of 9/11 was committed with “wickedness and awesome cruelty,” an accurate judgment. It is useful to bear in mind that the crimes could have been even worse. Suppose, for example, that the attack had gone as far as bombing the White House, killing the president, imposing a brutal military dictatorship that killed thousands and tortured tens of thousands while establishing an international terror center that helped impose similar torture-and-terror states elsewhere and carried out an international assassination campaign; and as an extra fillip, brought in a team of economists -- call them “the Kandahar boys” -- who quickly drove the economy into one of the worst depressions in its history. That, plainly, would have been a lot worse than 9/11.

Unfortunately, it is not a thought experiment. It happened. The only inaccuracy in this brief account is that the numbers should be multiplied by 25 to yield per capita equivalents, the appropriate measure. I am, of course, referring to what in Latin America is often called “the first 9/11”: September 11, 1973, when the U.S. succeeded in its intensive efforts to overthrow the democratic government of Salvador Allende in Chile with a military coup that placed General Pinochet’s brutal regime in office. The goal, in the words of the Nixon administration, was to kill the “virus” that might encourage all those “foreigners [who] are out to screw us” to take over their own resources and in other ways to pursue an intolerable policy of independent development. In the background was the conclusion of the National Security Council that, if the US could not control Latin America, it could not expect “to achieve a successful order elsewhere in the world.”

The first 9/11, unlike the second, did not change the world. It was “nothing of very great consequence,” as Henry Kissinger assured his boss a few days later.

These events of little consequence were not limited to the military coup that destroyed Chilean democracy and set in motion the horror story that followed. The first 9/11 was just one act in a drama which began in 1962, when John F. Kennedy shifted the mission of the Latin American military from “hemispheric defense” -- an anachronistic holdover from World War II -- to “internal security,” a concept with a chilling interpretation in U.S.-dominated Latin American circles.

In the recently published Cambridge University History of the Cold War, Latin American scholar John Coatsworth writes that from that time to “the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of non-violent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites,” including many religious martyrs and mass slaughter as well, always supported or initiated in Washington. The last major violent act was the brutal murder of six leading Latin American intellectuals, Jesuit priests, a few days after the Berlin Wall fell. The perpetrators were an elite Salvadorean battalion, which had already left a shocking trail of blood, fresh from renewed training at the JFK School of Special Warfare, acting on direct orders of the high command of the U.S. client state.

The consequences of this hemispheric plague still, of course, reverberate.

From Kidnapping and Torture to Assassination

All of this, and much more like it, is dismissed as of little consequence, and forgotten. Those whose mission is to rule the world enjoy a more comforting picture, articulated well enough in the current issue of the prestigious (and valuable) journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. The lead article discusses “the visionary international order” of the “second half of the twentieth century” marked by “the universalization of an American vision of commercial prosperity.” There is something to that account, but it does not quite convey the perception of those at the wrong end of the guns.

The same is true of the assassination of Osama bin Laden, which brings to an end at least a phase in the “war on terror” re-declared by President George W. Bush on the second 9/11. Let us turn to a few thoughts on that event and its significance.

On May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed in his virtually unprotected compound by a raiding mission of 79 Navy SEALs, who entered Pakistan by helicopter. After many lurid stories were provided by the government and withdrawn, official reports made it increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law, beginning with the invasion itself.

There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 79 commandos facing no opposition -- except, they report, from his wife, also unarmed, whom they shot in self-defense when she “lunged” at them, according to the White House.

A plausible reconstruction of the events is provided by veteran Middle East correspondent Yochi Dreazen and colleagues in the Atlantic. Dreazen, formerly the military correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, is senior correspondent for the National Journal Group covering military affairs and national security. According to their investigation, White House planning appears not to have considered the option of capturing bin Laden alive: “The administration had made clear to the military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command that it wanted bin Laden dead, according to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the discussions. A high-ranking military officer briefed on the assault said the SEALs knew their mission was not to take him alive.”

The authors add: “For many at the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency who had spent nearly a decade hunting bin Laden, killing the militant was a necessary and justified act of vengeance.” Furthermore, “capturing bin Laden alive would have also presented the administration with an array of nettlesome legal and political challenges.” Better, then, to assassinate him, dumping his body into the sea without the autopsy considered essential after a killing -- an act that predictably provoked both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

As the Atlantic inquiry observes, “The decision to kill bin Laden outright was the clearest illustration to date of a little-noticed aspect of the Obama administration's counterterror policy. The Bush administration captured thousands of suspected militants and sent them to detention camps in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration, by contrast, has focused on eliminating individual terrorists rather than attempting to take them alive.” That is one significant difference between Bush and Obama. The authors quote former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who “told German TV that the U.S. raid was ‘quite clearly a violation of international law’ and that bin Laden should have been detained and put on trial,” contrasting Schmidt with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who “defended the decision to kill bin Laden although he didn't pose an immediate threat to the Navy SEALs, telling a House panel... that the assault had been ‘lawful, legitimate and appropriate in every way.’"

The disposal of the body without autopsy was also criticized by allies. The highly regarded British barrister Geoffrey Robertson, who supported the intervention and opposed the execution largely on pragmatic grounds, nevertheless described Obama’s claim that “justice was done” as an “absurdity” that should have been obvious to a former professor of constitutional law. Pakistan law “requires a colonial inquest on violent death, and international human rights law insists that the ‘right to life’ mandates an inquiry whenever violent death occurs from government or police action. The U.S. is therefore under a duty to hold an inquiry that will satisfy the world as to the true circumstances of this killing.”

Robertson usefully reminds us that “[i]t was not always thus. When the time came to consider the fate of men much more steeped in wickedness than Osama bin Laden -- the Nazi leadership -- the British government wanted them hanged within six hours of capture. President Truman demurred, citing the conclusion of Justice Robert Jackson that summary execution ‘would not sit easily on the American conscience or be remembered by our children with pride... the only course is to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused after a hearing as dispassionate as the times will permit and upon a record that will leave our reasons and motives clear.’”

Eric Margolis comments that “Washington has never made public the evidence of its claim that Osama bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks,” presumably one reason why “polls show that fully a third of American respondents believe that the U.S. government and/or Israel were behind 9/11,” while in the Muslim world skepticism is much higher. “An open trial in the U.S. or at the Hague would have exposed these claims to the light of day,” he continues, a practical reason why Washington should have followed the law.

In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In June 2002, FBI head Robert Mueller, in what the Washington Post described as “among his most detailed public comments on the origins of the attacks,” could say only that “investigators believe the idea of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon came from al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan, the actual plotting was done in Germany, and the financing came through the United Arab Emirates from sources in Afghanistan.”

What the FBI believed and thought in June 2002 they didn’t know eight months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know) to permit a trial of bin Laden if they were presented with evidence. Thus, it is not true, as President Obama claimed in his White House statement after bin Laden’s death, that “[w]e quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda.”

There has never been any reason to doubt what the FBI believed in mid-2002, but that leaves us far from the proof of guilt required in civilized societies -- and whatever the evidence might be, it does not warrant murdering a suspect who could, it seems, have been easily apprehended and brought to trial. Much the same is true of evidence provided since. Thus, the 9/11 Commission provided extensive circumstantial evidence of bin Laden’s role in 9/11, based primarily on what it had been told about confessions by prisoners in Guantanamo. It is doubtful that much of that would hold up in an independent court, considering the ways confessions were elicited. But in any event, the conclusions of a congressionally authorized investigation, however convincing one finds them, plainly fall short of a sentence by a credible court, which is what shifts the category of the accused from suspect to convicted.

There is much talk of bin Laden's “confession,” but that was a boast, not a confession, with as much credibility as my “confession” that I won the Boston marathon. The boast tells us a lot about his character, but nothing about his responsibility for what he regarded as a great achievement, for which he wanted to take credit.

Again, all of this is, transparently, quite independent of one’s judgments about his responsibility, which seemed clear immediately, even before the FBI inquiry, and still does.

Crimes of Aggression

It is worth adding that bin Laden’s responsibility was recognized in much of the Muslim world, and condemned. One significant example is the distinguished Lebanese cleric Sheikh Fadlallah, greatly respected by Hizbollah and Shia groups generally, outside Lebanon as well. He had some experience with assassinations. He had been targeted for assassination: by a truck bomb outside a mosque, in a CIA-organized operation in 1985. He escaped, but 80 others were killed, mostly women and girls as they left the mosque -- one of those innumerable crimes that do not enter the annals of terror because of the fallacy of “wrong agency.” Sheikh Fadlallah sharply condemned the 9/11 attacks.

One of the leading specialists on the Jihadi movement, Fawaz Gerges, suggests that the movement might have been split at that time had the U.S. exploited the opportunity instead of mobilizing the movement, particularly by the attack on Iraq, a great boon to bin Laden, which led to a sharp increase in terror, as intelligence agencies had anticipated. At the Chilcot hearings investigating the background to the invasion of Iraq, for example, the former head of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency MI5 testified that both British and U.S. intelligence were aware that Saddam posed no serious threat, that the invasion was likely to increase terror, and that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan had radicalized parts of a generation of Muslims who saw the military actions as an “attack on Islam.” As is often the case, security was not a high priority for state action.

It might be instructive to ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos had landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic (after proper burial rites, of course). Uncontroversially, he was not a “suspect” but the “decider” who gave the orders to invade Iraq -- that is, to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country and its national heritage, and the murderous sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region. Equally uncontroversially, these crimes vastly exceed anything attributed to bin Laden.

To say that all of this is uncontroversial, as it is, is not to imply that it is not denied. The existence of flat earthers does not change the fact that, uncontroversially, the earth is not flat. Similarly, it is uncontroversial that Stalin and Hitler were responsible for horrendous crimes, though loyalists deny it. All of this should, again, be too obvious for comment, and would be, except in an atmosphere of hysteria so extreme that it blocks rational thought.

Similarly, it is uncontroversial that Bush and associates did commit the “supreme international crime” -- the crime of aggression. That crime was defined clearly enough by Justice Robert Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States at Nuremberg. An “aggressor,” Jackson proposed to the Tribunal in his opening statement, is a state that is the first to commit such actions as “[i]nvasion of its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State ….” No one, even the most extreme supporter of the aggression, denies that Bush and associates did just that.

We might also do well to recall Jackson’s eloquent words at Nuremberg on the principle of universality: “If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

It is also clear that announced intentions are irrelevant, even if they are truly believed. Internal records reveal that Japanese fascists apparently did believe that, by ravaging China, they were laboring to turn it into an “earthly paradise.” And although it may be difficult to imagine, it is conceivable that Bush and company believed they were protecting the world from destruction by Saddam’s nuclear weapons. All irrelevant, though ardent loyalists on all sides may try to convince themselves otherwise.

We are left with two choices: either Bush and associates are guilty of the “supreme international crime” including all the evils that follow, or else we declare that the Nuremberg proceedings were a farce and the allies were guilty of judicial murder.

The Imperial Mentality and 9/11

A few days before the bin Laden assassination, Orlando Bosch died peacefully in Florida, where he resided along with his accomplice Luis Posada Carriles and many other associates in international terrorism. After he was accused of dozens of terrorist crimes by the FBI, Bosch was granted a presidential pardon by Bush I over the objections of the Justice Department, which found the conclusion “inescapable that it would be prejudicial to the public interest for the United States to provide a safe haven for Bosch.” The coincidence of these deaths at once calls to mind the Bush II doctrine -- “already… a de facto rule of international relations,” according to the noted Harvard international relations specialist Graham Allison -- which revokes “the sovereignty of states that provide sanctuary to terrorists.”

Allison refers to the pronouncement of Bush II, directed at the Taliban, that “those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves.” Such states, therefore, have lost their sovereignty and are fit targets for bombing and terror -- for example, the state that harbored Bosch and his associate. When Bush issued this new “de facto rule of international relations,” no one seemed to notice that he was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and the murder of its criminal presidents.

None of this is problematic, of course, if we reject Justice Jackson’s principle of universality, and adopt instead the principle that the U.S. is self-immunized against international law and conventions -- as, in fact, the government has frequently made very clear.

It is also worth thinking about the name given to the bin Laden operation: Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound that few seem able to perceive that the White House is glorifying bin Laden by calling him “Geronimo” -- the Apache Indian chief who led the courageous resistance to the invaders of Apache lands.

The casual choice of the name is reminiscent of the ease with which we name our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Blackhawk… We might react differently if the Luftwaffe had called its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

The examples mentioned would fall under the category of “American exceptionalism,” were it not for the fact that easy suppression of one’s own crimes is virtually ubiquitous among powerful states, at least those that are not defeated and forced to acknowledge reality.

Perhaps the assassination was perceived by the administration as an “act of vengeance,” as Robertson concludes. And perhaps the rejection of the legal option of a trial reflects a difference between the moral culture of 1945 and today, as he suggests. Whatever the motive was, it could hardly have been security. As in the case of the “supreme international crime” in Iraq, the bin Laden assassination is another illustration of the important fact that security is often not a high priority for state action, contrary to received doctrine.

Copyright 2011 Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky’s most recent book, with co-author Ilan Pappe, is "Gaza in Crisis." Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Disturbing News 101: Labor Day Weekend Edition 2011

Jesus this week has been a week of really disturbing news. I am going to make this the last post re: news from this week and try to focus future [sunday and monday] posts on things that really matter. Like men, men, and more men from around the country descending on Kansas City. "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy"

I feel compelled to at least highlight some of things that the public found out about this past week about the government and the actions it's taken since the war[s] began.

So you and I and joe taxpayer have been paying for all matter of illegal adventures by the United States government:

No 1. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: The final report of the congressionally chartered Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan says at least $31 billion has been lost to contract waste and fraud, and that major reforms are required.

No 2. In an unintentional slip, a simple billing dispute has revealed what we've long known not so secret fact that we [The US Taxpayers] have been using the tactic 'extraordinary rendition' to kidnap, transfer, torture and kill suspects in this conflict.

No 3. Even while doing this, Darth Vader has come out with his new memoir that basically confirms everything we've long suspected about this war. I have to say that I believe that Col. Lawrence Wilkerson is a hero for saying the things he has, even incriminating himself saying that he would testify against Cheney about war crimes. “And I’d be willing to testify, and I’d be willing to take any punishment I’m due."

No 4. The bombshells just keep on coming from Wikileaks about the massacre of children in Iraq by US Forces.Warning: There are some disturbing pictures in that previously linked article. Be prepared.

U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.

From the cable itself:
I have received various reports indicating that at least 10 persons, namely Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay'ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra'a (aged 5) Aisha ( aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz's mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz's sister (name unknown), Faiz's nieces Asma'a Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.

According to the information received, American troops approached Mr. Faiz's home in the early hours of 15 March 2006. It would appear that when the MNF approached the house, shots were fired from it and a confrontation ensued for some 25 minutes. The MNF troops entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them. After the initial MNF intervention

Read the cable yourself. I didn't believe it until I read it. Download it here.

Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The GOP War on Voting

The GOP War on Voting | Rolling Stone Politics:

The GOP War on Voting

In a campaign supported by the Koch brothers, Republicans are working to prevent millions of Democrats from voting next year

by: Ari Berman

As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots. "What has happened this year is the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century," says Judith Browne-Dianis, who monitors barriers to voting as co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.

Republicans have long tried to drive Democratic voters away from the polls. "I don't want everybody to vote," the influential conservative activist Paul Weyrich told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1980. "As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." But since the 2010 election, thanks to a conservative advocacy group founded by Weyrich, the GOP's effort to disrupt voting rights has been more widespread and effective than ever. In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.

All told, a dozen states have approved new obstacles to voting. Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering. Florida and Texas made it harder for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters. Maine repealed Election Day voter registration, which had been on the books since 1973. Five states – Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia – cut short their early voting periods. Florida and Iowa barred all ex-felons from the polls, disenfranchising thousands of previously eligible voters. And six states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures – Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots. More than 10 percent of U.S. citizens lack such identification, and the numbers are even higher among constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic – including 18 percent of young voters and 25 percent of African-Americans.

Taken together, such measures could significantly dampen the Democratic turnout next year – perhaps enough to shift the outcome in favor of the GOP. "One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time," Bill Clinton told a group of student activists in July. "Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate" – a reference to the dominance of the Tea Party last year, compared to the millions of students and minorities who turned out for Obama. "There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today."

To hear Republicans tell it, they are waging a virtuous campaign to crack down on rampant voter fraud – a curious position for a party that managed to seize control of the White House in 2000 despite having lost the popular vote. After taking power, the Bush administration declared war on voter fraud, making it a "top priority" for federal prosecutors. In 2006, the Justice Department fired two U.S. attorneys who refused to pursue trumped-up cases of voter fraud in New Mexico and Washington, and Karl Rove called illegal voting "an enormous and growing problem." In parts of America, he told the Republican National Lawyers Association, "we are beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are colonels in mirrored sunglasses." According to the GOP, community organizers like ACORN were actively recruiting armies of fake voters to misrepresent themselves at the polls and cast illegal ballots for the Democrats.

Even at the time, there was no evidence to back up such outlandish claims. A major probe by the Justice Department between 2002 and 2007 failed to prosecute a single person for going to the polls and impersonating an eligible voter, which the anti-fraud laws are supposedly designed to stop. Out of the 300 million votes cast in that period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for voter fraud – and many of the cases involved immigrants and former felons who were simply unaware of their ineligibility. A much-hyped investigation in Wisconsin, meanwhile, led to the prosecution of only .0007 percent of the local electorate for alleged voter fraud. "Our democracy is under siege from an enemy so small it could be hiding anywhere," joked Stephen Colbert. A 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a leading advocate for voting rights at the New York University School of Law, quantified the problem in stark terms. "It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning," the report calculated, "than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls."

GOP outcries over the phantom menace of voter fraud escalated after 2008, when Obama's candidacy attracted historic numbers of first-time voters. In the 29 states that record party affiliation, roughly two-thirds of new voters registered as Democrats in 2007 and 2008 – and Obama won nearly 70 percent of their votes. In Florida alone, Democrats added more than 600,000 new voters in the run-up to the 2008 election, and those who went to the polls favored Obama over John McCain by 19 points. "This latest flood of attacks on voting rights is a direct shot at the communities that came out in historic numbers for the first time in 2008 and put Obama over the top," says Tova Wang, an elections-reform expert at Demos, a progressive think tank.

No one has done more to stir up fears about the manufactured threat of voter fraud than Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a top adviser in the Bush Justice Department who has become a rising star in the GOP. "We need a Kris Kobach in every state," declared Michelle Malkin, the conservative pundit. This year, Kobach successfully fought for a law requiring every Kansan to show proof of citizenship in order to vote – even though the state prosecuted only one case of voter fraud in the past five years. The new restriction fused anti-immigrant hysteria with voter-fraud paranoia. "In Kansas, the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive," Kobach claimed, offering no substantiating evidence.

Kobach also asserted that dead people were casting ballots, singling out a deceased Kansan named Alfred K. Brewer as one such zombie voter. There was only one problem: Brewer was still very much alive. The Wichita Eagle found him working in his front yard. "I don't think this is heaven," Brewer told the paper. "Not when I'm raking leaves."

Kobach might be the gop's most outspoken crusader working to prevent citizens from voting, but he's far from the only one. "Voting rights are under attack in America," Rep. John Lewis, who was brutally beaten in Alabama while marching during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, observed during an impassioned speech on the House floor in July. "There's a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process."

The Republican effort, coordinated and funded at the national level, has focused on disenfranchising voters in four key areas:

Barriers to Registration Since January, six states have introduced legislation to impose new restrictions on voter registration drives run by groups like Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters. In May, the GOP-controlled legislature in Florida passed a law requiring anyone who signs up new voters to hand in registration forms to the state board of elections within 48 hours of collecting them, and to comply with a barrage of onerous, bureaucratic requirements. Those found to have submitted late forms would face a $1,000 fine, as well as possible felony prosecution.

As a result, the law threatens to turn civic-minded volunteers into inadvertent criminals. Denouncing the legislation as "good old-fashioned voter suppression," the League of Women Voters announced that it was ending its registration efforts in Florida, where it has been signing up new voters for the past 70 years. Rock the Vote, which helped 2.5 million voters to register in 2008, could soon follow suit. "We're hoping not to shut down," says Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote, "but I can't say with any certainty that we'll be able to continue the work we're doing."

The registration law took effect one day after it passed, under an emergency statute designed for "an immediate danger to the public health, safety or welfare." In reality, though, there's no evidence that registering fake voters is a significant problem in the state. Over the past three years, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has received just 31 cases of suspected voter fraud, resulting in only three arrests statewide. "No one could give me an example of all this fraud they speak about," said Mike Fasano, a Republican state senator who bucked his party and voted against the registration law. What's more, the law serves no useful purpose: Under the Help America Vote Act passed by Congress in 2002, all new voters must show identity before registering to vote.

Cuts to Early Voting After the recount debacle in Florida in 2000, allowing voters to cast their ballots early emerged as a popular bipartisan reform. Early voting not only meant shorter lines on Election Day, it has helped boost turnout in a number of states – the true measure of a successful democracy. "I think it's great," Jeb Bush said in 2004. "It's another reform we added that has helped provide access to the polls and provide a convenience. And we're going to have a high voter turnout here, and I think that's wonderful."

But Republican support for early voting vanished after Obama utilized it as a key part of his strategy in 2008. Nearly 30 percent of the electorate voted early that year, and they favored Obama over McCain by 10 points. The strategy proved especially effective in Florida, where blacks outnumbered whites by two to one among early voters, and in Ohio, where Obama received fewer votes than McCain on Election Day but ended up winning by 263,000 ballots, thanks to his advantage among early voters in urban areas like Cleveland and Columbus.

That may explain why both Florida and Ohio – which now have conservative Republican governors – have dramatically curtailed early voting for 2012. Next year, early voting will be cut from 14 to eight days in Florida and from 35 to 11 days in Ohio, with limited hours on weekends. In addition, both states banned voting on the Sunday before the election – a day when black churches historically mobilize their constituents. Once again, there appears to be nothing to justify the changes other than pure politics. "There is no evidence that any form of convenience voting has led to higher levels of fraud," reports the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College.

Photo IDs By far the biggest change in election rules for 2012 is the number of states requiring a government-issued photo ID, the most important tactic in the Republican war on voting. In April 2008, the Supreme Court upheld a photo-ID law in Indiana, even though state GOP officials couldn't provide a single instance of a voter committing the type of fraud the new ID law was supposed to stop. Emboldened by the ruling, Republicans launched a nationwide effort to implement similar barriers to voting in dozens of states.

The campaign was coordinated by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which provided GOP legislators with draft legislation based on Indiana's ID requirement. In five states that passed such laws in the past year – Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – the measures were sponsored by legislators who are members of ALEC. "We're seeing the same legislation being proposed state by state by state," says Smith of Rock the Vote. "And they're not being shy in any of these places about clearly and blatantly targeting specific demographic groups, including students."

In Texas, under "emergency" legislation passed by the GOP-dominated legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Perry, a concealed-weapon permit is considered an acceptable ID but a student ID is not. Republicans in Wisconsin, meanwhile, mandated that students can only vote if their IDs include a current address, birth date, signature and two-year expiration date – requirements that no college or university ID in the state currently meets. As a result, 242,000 students in Wisconsin may lack the documentation required to vote next year. "It's like creating a second class of citizens in terms of who gets to vote," says Analiese Eicher, a Dane County board supervisor.

The barriers erected in Texas and Wisconsin go beyond what the Supreme Court upheld in Indiana, where 99 percent of state voters possess the requisite IDs and can turn to full-time DMVs in every county to obtain the proper documentation. By contrast, roughly half of all black and Hispanic residents in Wisconsin do not have a driver's license, and the state staffs barely half as many DMVs as Indiana – a quarter of which are open less than one day a month. To make matters worse, Gov. Scott Walker tried to shut down 16 more DMVs – many of them located in Democratic-leaning areas. In one case, Walker planned to close a DMV in Fort Atkinson, a liberal stronghold, while opening a new office 30 minutes away in the conservative district of Watertown.

Although new ID laws have been approved in seven states, the battle over such barriers to voting has been far more widespread. Since January, Democratic governors in Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire and North Carolina have all vetoed ID laws. Voters in Mississippi and Missouri are slated to consider ballot initiatives requiring voter IDs, and legislation is currently pending in Pennsylvania.

One of the most restrictive laws requiring voter IDs was passed in South Carolina. To obtain the free state ID now required to vote, the 178,000 South Carolinians who currently lack one must pay for a passport or a birth certificate. "It's the stepsister of the poll tax," says Browne-Dianis of the Advancement Project. Under the new law, many elderly black residents – who were born at home in the segregated South and never had a birth certificate – must now go to family court to prove their identity. Given that obtaining fake birth certificates is one of the country's biggest sources of fraud, the new law may actually prompt some voters to illegally procure a birth certificate in order to legally vote – all in the name of combating voter fraud.

For those voters who manage to get a legitimate birth certificate, obtaining a voter ID from the DMV is likely to be hellishly time-consuming. A reporter for the Tri-State Defender in Memphis, Tennessee – another state now mandating voter IDs – recently waited for four hours on a sweltering July day just to see a DMV clerk. The paper found that the longest lines occur in urban precincts, a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act, which bars states from erecting hurdles to voting in minority jurisdictions.

Disenfranchising Ex-Felons The most sweeping tactic in the GOP campaign against voting is simply to make it illegal for certain voters to cast ballots in any election. As the Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist restored the voting rights of 154,000 former prisoners who had been convicted of nonviolent crimes. But in March, after only 30 minutes of public debate, Gov. Rick Scott overturned his predecessor's decision, instantly disenfranchising 97,491 ex-felons and prohibiting another 1.1 million prisoners from being allowed to vote after serving their time.

"Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they've paid their price?" Bill Clinton asked during his speech in July. "Because most of them in Florida were African-Americans and Hispanics and would tend to vote for Democrats – that's why."

A similar reversal by a Republican governor recently took place in Iowa, where Gov. Terry Branstad overturned his predecessor's decision to restore voting rights to 100,000 ex-felons. The move threatens to return Iowa to the recent past, when more than five percent of all residents were denied the right to vote – including a third of the state's black residents. In addition, Florida and Iowa join Kentucky and Virginia as the only states that require all former felons to apply for the right to vote after finishing their prison sentences.

In response to the GOP campaign, voting-rights advocates are scrambling to blunt the impact of the new barriers to voting. The ACLU and other groups are challenging the new laws in court, and congressional Democrats have asked the Justice Department to use its authority to block or modify any of the measures that discriminate against minority voters. "The Justice Department should be much more aggressive in areas covered by the Voting Rights Act," says Rep. Lewis.

But beyond waging battles at the state and federal level, voting-rights advocates must figure out how to reframe the broader debate. The real problem in American elections is not the myth of voter fraud, but how few people actually participate. Even in 2008, which saw the highest voter turnout in four decades, fewer than two-thirds of eligible voters went to the polls. And according to a study by MIT, 9 million voters were denied an opportunity to cast ballots that year because of problems with their voter registration (13 percent), long lines at the polls (11 percent), uncertainty about the location of their polling place (nine percent) or lack of proper ID (seven percent).

Come Election Day 2012, such problems will only be exacerbated by the flood of new laws implemented by Republicans. Instead of a single fiasco in Florida, experts warn, there could be chaos in a dozen states as voters find themselves barred from the polls. "Our democracy is supposed to be a government by, of and for the people," says Browne-Dianis. "It doesn't matter how much money you have, what race you are or where you live in the country – we all get to have the same amount of power by going into the voting booth on Election Day. But those who passed these laws believe that only some people should participate. The restrictions undermine democracy by cutting off the voices of the people."

This story is from the September 15, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 9/1/2011

So I guess the MSM is not going to pay attention to this? Why am I not shocked that the history of the US picking up people around the world, kidnapping, torturing and detaining people isn't going to be scrutinized by anyone? WTF is happening? Seriously people, this is flipping crazy. I read Stephen Carter's The Violence of Peace where he explains the concept of American exceptionalism and even though I vehemently disagree with the concept it still seems to be in effect today. We can rape, pillage, murder, kidnap, torture and attack anyone but they can't attack us?

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 9/1/2011:

2:15 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for coming to the White House for your daily briefing.

I have no announcements at the top, so we’ll go straight to questions.


Q Thank you. The new budget projections that just came out predict 9 percent unemployment next year when the President is facing reelection, 1.7 percent growth for this year. Does the White House believe that the jobs initiatives the President is going to announce next week will change those projections for the positive?

MR. CARNEY: Yes. Absolutely. As I mentioned yesterday, I think as I mentioned earlier this week, the President will come forward with specific proposals that by any objective measure would add to growth and job creation in the short term. And that will be part of a broad package that reflects his commitment to grow the economy now and to build a foundation for economic growth for the future to ensure that we win the future. So the answer to that is yes.

Q So if Congress were to pass the package that the President is going to announce, unemployment would be under 9 percent?

MR. CARNEY: I think based on -- when you’re talking about economic predictions, yes, economic analysts, economists, will be able to look at this series of proposals and say that based on history, based on what we know, based on their collected expertise, that it would add to economic growth and it would cause an increase in job creation.

Q Given the flap yesterday over the date and timing of this speech, is there anything --

MR. CARNEY: What flap? (Laughter.)

Q There was a bit of a flap. Is there anything that the White House would have done differently, in retrospect, in terms of consulting with the Hill or announcing the joint session?

MR. CARNEY: Our focus from the beginning was to have the President have the opportunity to speak to the American people and to Congress, in front of Congress, at the soonest possible date upon Congress’s return from its long recess. Wednesday seemed to be the best option. When that wasn’t available -- or when that seemed to be a problem, Thursday was fine with us. And we are just looking forward to -- the President is looking forward to the opportunity to talk about what the American people really care about: the economy and the need to create more jobs. So we’re focused on that.

Q So you would have gone through that process the same way?

MR. CARNEY: All we care about here is that we address the issues that are most important. We’re certainly not interested in sort of inside-the-beltway political gamesmanship. What we are interested in is coming up with proposals that make sense, that can grow the economy, can create jobs, that by historical standards would have broad bipartisan support, and that if Congress comes back from their districts -- members of Congress come back from their districts and their states with the same sense of urgency that the President has, and having heard from their constituents the same things that the President heard when he went on his bus tour through the upper Midwest, everyone will come back with the same amount of urgency and focus to get this done -- because what the President will propose can get done, should get done and will benefit the country.

Q Just on one other topic -- the Justice Department’s lawsuit to block the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, should that be viewed as the administration taking a more aggressive approach on antitrust?

MR. CARNEY: This is a law enforcement action that you should address -- about which you should address your questions to the Department of Justice. It’s based on a law that is designed to foster competition and protect American consumers. But beyond that, I refer you to the Department of Justice.


Q Jay, Democrats are unifying around the advice that the President needs to go bold in his speech. Is that the way you would characterize the proposals that he’s going to roll out? And are there certain high expectations that one creates when you do a joint session of Congress speech?

MR. CARNEY: I’ll leave it to you and others to characterize the speech in the terms that you just described. What will be the case, and the reason why the President wants to speak before Congress, is because this is an important moment in our economy and it is an important moment for the American people who are demanding that Washington put an end to the gridlock and bickering that has paralyzed the process here and take action to help the economy, to create jobs -- to help them.

That’s what they want. They don’t want -- they’re not out there scoring political points. They want -- the vast majority of Americans, whether they voted Democratic or Republican, whether they’re registered with a party or not, they want Washington to work for them. They want them to take sensible actions to work for them -- to create jobs, to grow the economy. That’s what this speech will be about. That’s what the concrete proposals the President puts forward will be about.

Q Economists, when you talk to them and ask them what would constitute “bold,” throw out figures like $400 billion in fiscal stimulus. Is he looking at anything on that scale? Is he going to give specifics about how many jobs he thinks this package might create when he unveils it?

MR. CARNEY: I will not preview the speech any more than I really have, except to say that it will focus on the need to grow the economy and create jobs. It will be a collection of proposals that, again, should have bipartisan support, have had a similar -- at similar times have had bipartisan support, that will be, by any objective standard, pro-growth, pro-job creation, and that can be acted on right away if members of Congress come back from their recess ready to do things to help the American people. Beyond that, I’m not going to characterize it.

Q You talked about bipartisan ideas that should have bipartisan support. Do you have any indication that some of these ideas will get bipartisan support, like are people in the White House consulting with people on the Hill about some of these specific proposals and have gotten some indication that they would be accepted?

MR. CARNEY: In previous days, when you haven’t been here, I’ve been asked that question in a variety of ways. The President has consulted widely, as he had throughout his presidency, very interested in ideas that folks might have outside of his administration, in Congress, outside of Washington -- consults frequently with businessmen, with CEOs, with workers. And he has done that in this process. But beyond -- I’m not going to detail conversations he’s had or lay out which policy proposals may or may not have support from this segment or that segment of Congress.

Q One more question. How has the President reacted to the whole debate yesterday over -- the issues over the scheduling of the speech?

MR. CARNEY: I spent a great deal of time with him this morning and it never came up. Honestly.

Q You’re not asking the right questions. (Laughter.)

Q But Jay, if you can’t --

MR. CARNEY: I know you guys love this stuff. I know it’s catnip. But we’re really not focused on it.

Q But there’s a basic question here. If you can’t even get the Congress to agree on a date for a speech without a political sideshow, how can we expect -- how can the American people expect that you can do something much more difficult, come up with a jobs plan, deal with the deficit?

MR. CARNEY: Because the sideshows don’t matter. The economy matters. The American people matter. Jobs matter. And that’s what we’re focused on. That’s why -- you know, if Thursday is the day, Thursday is the day. We want to give this speech. The President wants to talk to the American people. The President wants to call on Congress to act. That’s what we’re going to do.

Q But what does it say about your ability to get anything out of this Congress? I mean, you can’t work on a scheduling date for a speech.

MR. CARNEY: John, it’s irrelevant and it’s -- this is small stuff. The issue is whether it’s -- we were -- Wednesday was the soonest possible day upon their return from their recess. Thursday is fine with us. He’s going to give the speech Thursday.

Q So on the --

MR. CARNEY: The issue about -- look, going back to what I said before, the cooperation, it’s about -- do the members of Congress return next week to Washington, having heard from their constituents that they’re fed up, right? They’re tired -- you and I have been in Washington long enough and covered this stuff long enough that the cycles of gridlock, cycles of partisanship -- not new, right? And people get frustrated with it because they think Washington is incompetent or broken. What they saw this summer is that it’s not incompetence, it’s dangerous. The incompetence, the gridlock, actually threatened and harmed the American economy, harmed the American people. That’s just not acceptable.

So what I think and what we hope will happen upon Congress’s return is that they will have heard from their constituents that enough is enough and that it is time to actually do things that are productive, do things that are helpful to the economy, rather than retreat to your corner and hope that you win the partisan political battle for an ideological band within your own political party. That’s just not going to cut it.

So the American -- so the President believes -- again, because he will put forward proposals that we believe should have bipartisan support, that faced with that imperative -- because everyone here is working for the American people, and the members of Congress, like the President, were elected by the American people -- will do the right thing and actually focus on the issues that matter, which -- the economy and jobs.

Q But the only indications are bad, right? I mean, you had this kerfuffle over the speech, the super committee has had -- the only thing -- they haven’t even had a meeting of the full committee but the two sides have been off to their own corners, Democrats meeting with Democrats, Republicans meeting with Republicans. This doesn’t seem to be an auspicious start.

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you’re too focused on what’s happening within the narrow confines of not just this town but the handful of blocks between here and Congress. I think, again, members of Congress have to answer to their constituents. The President answers to every American citizen. They have heard -- they will have heard the imperative from the American people to put an end to the nonsense and get to work. And I think there is an opportunity here for the American people to drive this process, to have their demands heard, to -- we’re faced with a challenging situation. There’s no question that the recovery is moving too slowly, that we need to do something to boost growth, to boost job creation. That’s a number one priority, and any data you can come across that the American people have, number one priority of Democrats, independents and Republicans.

So with that information, we should act. And the President is hopeful that Congress will want to join him in doing that.

Yes, Norah.

Q Jay, you blame partisanship, but isn’t this -- isn’t the real culprit here an inability to just communicate on the most simple terms?

MR. CARNEY: No. No. We communicate all the time with Congress. We obviously spent a lot of time this year communicating with Congress. And this President has since he took office.

The problem -- the problem -- I mean, you don’t need a civics lesson from me but I’ll give you one anyway. (Laughter.) No, but I think the problem is -- and I think everyone in here is aware of this -- is that the partisanship that -- and the apparent polarization that is sometimes observed here and felt here, is actually not very reflective of what’s happening out in the country, that the country is pretty unified when it comes to their priorities, when it comes to their belief that compromise is necessary, when it comes to their acceptance that the far ends of either spectrum don’t have the answers necessarily. So if you look back over our history, we’re closer together in many ways than we’ve ever been, and we ought to take advantage of that instead of fabricate false divides that prevent us from getting things done.

Q Well, would you concede -- I mean, compromise requires effective communication between the two parties. And my understanding of what happened yesterday was that the President’s Chief of Staff first reached out to the Speaker at about 10:30 in the morning and delivered a message that the President wanted to speak to a joint session of Congress, but there was no give-and-take that is part of the regular give-and-take that goes on between a White House and the Congress about delivering a joint session of Congress. You cited from the podium congressional scheduling yesterday as one of the concerns and yet it appears that there was no one who checked with Congress about what’s the -- whether they could get everybody back in time to hear from the President, so you conceded on that point.

MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I think the focus on the details of this --

Q What has happened with the communication between the President and his staff and the Speaker’s staff?

MR. CARNEY: We have fine communication. And I think the focus on this is really yesterday’s story; it is not what people care about. We were interested in speaking Wednesday because Congress was returning, both houses, first day after Labor Day -- Wednesday -- after a long recess, that was the first day they were back. There were no initial objections to that. When problems were expressed, we said -- we talked about it and we said, fine, Thursday will work for us fine. Because the -- it’s just not very relevant. What matters is moving as quickly as possible to raise and then address the issues the American people care about -- the economy, jobs, the need to build a foundation that includes getting our fiscal house in order while we invest in key areas like innovation and education and infrastructure, building the capacity to compete in the 21st century against a world that’s growing more competitive.

So I think that’s what people care about. They don’t care about what happened at 11 o’clock versus what happened at 4 o’clock. They care about what are we doing to make the economy grow, to help the private sector hire, and make sure that their kids are getting educated.

Q Given yesterday’s failure to work this out behind the scenes, before there was this very public kerfuffle or spat, and given what happened during the debt ceiling, where there were people who are elected members who hung up on one another and wouldn’t return phone calls, what can you say today that would give confidence to the American people that Republicans and the President can actually work together to solve whatever hard problems facing this country, based on that track record?

MR. CARNEY: I will go back to what I said to John and I think to Julie and others, that we believe that members of Congress -- House and Senate -- will have heard from their constituents what the President heard in Minnesota -- in small towns in Minnesota, in Iowa, in Illinois, what he heard the previous week in Michigan, which is that the American people -- Democrat, Republican, independent -- are tired of the bickering and they want reasonable compromise solutions to the problems that face the country. They want the government to do things that help the economy grow, that help private sector hire, and they don’t expect and they get frustrated by politicians who don’t listen to them.

So I think everyone will have gotten an earful from the very people who sent them to Washington about what their priorities are, and I think that, because everyone here works for the American people, that that will have a salutary effect on their behavior -- we hope.

Q Jay, following on that, you’re absolutely right. Obviously everyone knows sideshows matter less than helping people who are unemployed -- obviously. But you don’t seem to be acknowledging that there’s a process in Washington that has to be dealt with to help those people who are unemployed. And I think what John and Norah are suggesting is if the President is having this much trouble with the date -- you have James Carville saying on ABC today, “The last thing the White House needed was to appear to cave in to the Speaker, and that’s what happened.” So if there’s a perception even among Democrats that he doesn’t have enough clout with the Hill to figure out what day it is, how is he going to pass a plan to help the American people?

MR. CARNEY: Look -- Ed, you guys, I honestly think that your obsession with this is --

Q It’s not an obsession.

MR. CARNEY: -- is not -- what the American people expect the President to do, what the American people expect their senators and congressmen and women to do, is listen to them and take action. They do not give a lick about what day next week the President speaks before Congress. They want to hear from him. They want to know what his proposals are. They want to know that he has reasonable, sound, serious ideas to grow the economy and to create jobs, and that he’s going to pay for it and that he has a plan for getting our fiscal house in order in the long term. That’s what they care about. And they care whether or not Congress has similar ideas and is willing to take action on those ideas. They simply do not care about this stuff.

Q Okay. So let me concede your point -- they don’t give a lick about what day it is, what time it is. Why doesn’t he give a speech from the Oval Office tonight saying, here’s my plan?

MR. CARNEY: He wants to speak before Congress because he recognizes that while there are things he can do without Congress -- and he will do them -- there are actions that need to be taken with Congress that require legislation to grow the economy and create jobs. And he wants to go to Congress, speak directly to members of Congress, and lay out his proposals.

The first opportunity to do that is next week, so that’s when he’ll do it.

Q Okay. Last thing. The President visited the solar company Solyndra in May of 2010. He said, “It’s here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” You probably heard overnight that yesterday this company, after getting half a billion dollars in government money, attention from the President, a visit, is filing for Chapter 11 and laying off 1,100 people. What does it say about the President’s policies so far, as he gets ready for this new plan, if this company he promoted, gave government money to, is going bankrupt and is laying off 1,100 people?

MR. CARNEY: The whole purpose of this program, which has a broad portfolio of many companies that are doing well, was to invest in cutting-edge technologies that with some government assistance, with some government loan guarantees, would help us establish a beachhead in vital industries that will allow America to compete in the future.

There are no guarantees in the business world about success and failure. That is just the way business works, and everyone recognizes that. And that’s why -- there’s over 40 companies, as I understand it, 40 guarantees involved in this program that merit looking at. There’s no individual -- you cannot measure the success based on one company or the other.

Q You’ve said several times today and yesterday that the President wanted to speak to Congress at the soonest possible opportunity when they get back. Was this the plan all along, to give a speech to a joint session?

MR. CARNEY: Well, obviously we discussed this as the President worked on his proposals and this was the idea settled upon. And once we thought -- the conclusion was made, the President decided that this is what he wanted to do, then we moved forward.

Q And that decision was made yesterday?

MR. CARNEY: It was made this week.

Q It was made this week. Not to put too fine a point on it, but let me just ask you straight up -- did the President give in or capitulate to the Speaker on the schedule?

MR. CARNEY: The President wanted to speak to Congress. Congress is back next Wednesday. That’s the first day that both houses -- senators and Congressmen -- are back in session. Therefore he requested that he speak Wednesday. If Wednesday doesn’t work, Thursday is fine with us, as long as he gets to speak to Congress. And he looks forward to doing it.

Q And I know you are loath to get into some of the details that are being discussed for the speech, whether you’re going to go big, small, whatever, but the Mid-Session Review -- we’ve just been treated to a conference call that forecasted an average unemployment rate of 9 percent through the course of 2012. And you said that the President’s policies, if enacted, will lower that rate. Correct?

MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I will say that objective outside economic analysts will look at it and say, if enacted, this plan will have a positive impact on growth and a positive impact on job creation.

Q And what is the target for growth and the target for the unemployment --

MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to make projections here, nor am I going to get into details of the proposals.

Q Well, we’ve just been treated to a conference call where projections were -- that was what the call was about. So --

MR. CARNEY: That’s the Mid-Session Review; that’s not -- this is a new series of proposals the President is making next week. And rather than preview them now --

Q And are those proposals predicated on certain results, though, that he’d like to see, and what is --

MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to get into projections or show any more leg on the details of the speech. What I am going to say is that there will be a series -- it will contain a series of proposals that are aimed at having a quick impact on economic growth and job creation.


Q Are they updating the Mid-Session Review? I mean, it’s going to be --

MR. CARNEY: You’ll have to ask OMB. I’m not -- I don’t know how that process works.

Q But you guys put it out a month and a half late, a week before the President delivers a new economic plan, making it completely --

MR. CARNEY: There are a lot of factors here. This has obviously been quite an interesting budget year. But these are separate issues here. The President is moving forward with a job and growth proposal next week, and the obligations to put out a Mid-Session Review that came out today -- these are not connected in any specific sense.

Q So should we or shouldn’t we expect an updated economic report --

MR. CARNEY: Again, I just said you have to ask OMB. I’m not sure how that works.

Q Do you have a time for the speech on Thursday?

MR. CARNEY: I don’t. I can assure you that, for all you football fans, that he will be completed before kickoff between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.

Q And then if you could just clarify -- you said yesterday and you’ve said today that the President and his team have consulted with Republicans on the Hill as he puts together this plan.

MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, what?

Q You said yesterday and today that the President and his team have consulted with Republicans on the Hill as he puts together --

MR. CARNEY: I think that’s a slight --

Q So he hasn’t?

MR. CARNEY: I think I’ve answered this about six times this week, but as I just said to Athena, the President has consistently throughout his presidency and including in recent weeks and months consulted with a wide array of folks within his administration, outside of his administration, in Congress, both parties, business and elsewhere, about economic ideas, proposals for growing the economy and creating jobs. That has been true throughout. It’s been true through this process.

Q Right, but he’s putting forward a new plan with new ideas --

MR. CARNEY: But I’m not going to get into did he have specific conversations with individual lawmakers --

Q Because they say he hasn’t. And wouldn’t that be something that he would want to do?

MR. CARNEY: Have you talked to every member of Congress?

Q The Republican leadership in Congress said that they have not been consulted as he was putting together his plan.

MR. CARNEY: He’s consulted widely, as he always does. He’s gathered ideas. His economic team and he have put together proposals that we are quite confident, if Congress comes back to Washington filled with a righteous sense of urgency about the need to grow the economy and create jobs, they will act on it and do the right thing by the American people.

Q But you can’t definitively say whether or not he’s talked to Republicans --

MR. CARNEY: I think I answered that question a half dozen times.


Q Jay, in the hours between the letter from Speaker Boehner and your statement at about 9:18 last night, it didn’t seem as though you were saying, well, if Wednesday doesn’t work, Thursday is fine with us. Did it go to the President and he said, all right, fine, we’ll do it on Thursday? Is that what happened?

MR. CARNEY: No, I think we were -- it was clear that we were in conversation with the Speaker’s office and looking at what the alternatives were. And I think, again, we’re talking about a matter of hours here, we’re not talking days and weeks -- resolved that Thursday would be the day, and that was fine with us.

Q And the President made that decision last night?

MR. CARNEY: The President makes all the decisions here. So we were discussing among ourselves, we were talking with the Speaker’s office -- we decided to go with Thursday.

Q And if the address is done by kickoff, does that mean he sees the speech as the pregame show? (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY: It means that he’ll have the opportunity to watch the game like millions of other Americans.

Q Thanks, Jay. You referred us to the Justice Department on questions about the law enforcement action involving the AT&T decision, but I want to ask you about a couple of White House questions regarding that. Did the Justice Department notify the White House before announcing this decision? And was the White House involved in the decision or given any consultation -- did the jobs impact come up in the course of those consultations?

MR. CARNEY: The decision was made by the Justice Department -- it’s a law enforcement action. And for any questions on what factors were considered, I encourage you to go to the Justice Department.

Q What about -- of course the decision was made by them. Was that in consultation in advance --

MR. CARNEY: It’s a Justice Department decision. They look at the factors, they make the call.

Q Right, but did the White House consult with them before they made their decision?

MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure what your -- the Justice Department makes the -- they look at the factors, they make the decision about proceeding on a law enforcement action. So I think you should ask them about what their considerations were.

Q Including what the White House’s role was?

MR. CARNEY: The White House did not have a role in making the decision; the Justice Department made the decision.

Q And also, has AT&T’s lobbyist Jim Cicconi been to the White House today? That’s been --

MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of.

Q Is it possible to get an actual definitive answer on that? Would you be able to help us to do that?

MR. CARNEY: I’ll take that.

Q Thanks.

Q Jay, just one question on Solyndra. Should we assume that whatever money the taxpayers put into that in terms of loan guarantees, that is not going to be returned, that can’t be returned, it’s lost?

MR. CARNEY: I don’t know the technical details of it, but I can take that or refer you to OMB -- or Department of Energy probably.

Q And a question about the speech next week. You keep on saying that the proposals the President is going to lay out should have bipartisan support. That’s quite different than saying you’re designing a package that would have the best chance of passing. I’m wondering, what is the goal? Is the goal to just put out the proposals he believes --

MR. CARNEY: I think you asked me this yesterday --

Q Yes, and I -- well, no, I asked you on the plane --

MR. CARNEY: Tuesday.

Q -- and it seemed like you said that they were designed to pass, which is what really worries a lot of your supporters, that you’re designing a package that can pass and therefore will --

MR. CARNEY: I think that it is a difficult process to know precisely what is in the hearts and minds of 535 elected members of Congress as they consider legislation. What we know with great confidence is that the proposals the President will put forward next week are reasonable and reflect, based on historic precedent, historical precedent, what should be bipartisan -- should receive bipartisan support, and I think that will be judged that way when he unveils it on -- on Thursday, rather.

Q That’s different than saying these are designed -- this is a package designed to get Congressional support --

MR. CARNEY: I don’t -- I think it’s a distinction without a difference, because you could say that nothing could get congressional support, or you could say anything could get congressional support. I don’t know -- I mean, I think that, again, if members of Congress come back focused on the need to address the economy and hiring, they will view this proposal as an excellent path to take to grow the economy and create jobs, and a reasonable one, and one that merits broad support. That’s what we believe, and that’s why we’re coming forward with it next week.

Q Just one last question following up on what Jonathan was asking, this idea that the President can’t get something out of this Congress, not even a date to speak. Is it fair to judge this President on what he gets out of this Congress? Or is it fair to judge him just on the proposals he lays out and his vision?

MR. CARNEY: I think it is fair to judge the President on the actions he takes and the determination he shows to do what he was elected to do, which is, first and foremost, protect the American people and help the American people and the American economy. And he has done that since he took office, and he will demonstrate that again next week. That is his focus: What can I do as President, either administratively or with Congress legislatively, to ensure that the American economy is best positioned to grow, that the private sector has the conditions that will allow it to hire and encourage it to hire, and that the American people can go back to work?

We have been through a horrible situation -- the worst recession since the Great Depression. We here, I think -- Americans in general, we can have short-term memory, I mean, it’s part of what makes us great -- we don’t spend our time wallowing in the past; we look towards the future. It is important to remember what we are emerging from and how serious the economic recession was. And this President has been focused on this since the day he took office, and he’ll be focused on it until, as he says, he knows that every American who wants a job and is looking for a job has a job.


Q Jay, could you say that -- could you just explain a little bit about what the President expects to do and see and hear when he goes to Paterson, New Jersey, on Sunday?

MR. CARNEY: Well, he, I think as you saw throughout the process -- Hurricane Irene -- very concerned about the devastation the storm was likely to cause and did cause. And the fact that it was not as severe as it could have been may be true, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that many, many Americans were severely affected by it, and some lost their lives. And obviously New Jersey was a very hard-hit state.

Q Is he going to take a tour of the town or --

MR. CARNEY: I think we’ll come out with more details about what his itinerary will look like on Sunday a little later.

Q I mean, does he -- is going sort of for moral support or does seeing it firsthand better help him foment the government’s continuing response?

MR. CARNEY: I think it’s very important that he’s -- to see up close and personal what the effects of a storm like this were, to talk to local officials, talk to affected Americans, talk to first responders and to those officials who are working on recovery, and hear from them. So he looks forward to doing it.


Q Jay, does the White House feel that this President has gotten the respect from Congress that the office of the presidency deserves, with yesterday’s incident?

MR. CARNEY: The White House spends zero time worrying about that. It spends its time -- we spend our time, the President spends our time focused on the job at hand. The job at hand is to come up with, propose and act on the things that we can do to help the economy and to help job creation, specifically for next week -- and obviously all the other responsibilities that the President has and the White House and the administration have.

Q So there’s no worry at all that there -- about the whole idea of the office of the presidency being demeaned? I mean, it’s virtually unheard --

MR. CARNEY: You guys are making --

Q -- virtually unheard of for --

MR. CARNEY: -- you’re really making so much more of this than is merited, okay? The President will speak to the Congress in a joint session and to the American people next week. It’s an important time for our country; it’s an important time for the economy. He will speak directly to the people about what we need to do to grow the economy and create jobs, and he looks forward to doing it.


Q One on Solyndra. Does the President have any regrets about having made such a big deal about this company?

MR. CARNEY: The President -- the administration, the President is committed to, as I think I said, the idea that we need to make investments in clean energy technology, in the kind of industries that will be the -- that are the industries of the future, and that will be the job-creation engines in American in the future. If we intend to be number one in the 21st century the way we have been in the 20th and the early part of this century, we need to make those key investments.

American history is full of examples of the federal government providing seed money in areas that allowed for explosive and economy-changing growth in certain areas, whether it’s the Transcontinental Railroad or the Internet. So the President is very committed to that, and, as I said before, that does not mean that each individual investment we made -- we do not change the rules of business by doing this. And by nature these can be high-risk but also very high-reward investments, and we are committed to that process.

Q Does he have any regrets about this particular company --

MR. CARNEY: I haven’t spoken to him about it.

Q And just -- you know that some Republicans said they thought this particular company was a dubious proposition from the start --

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think there were Republicans who thought investments in clean energy were a mistake, that they were ready to cede that vital industry to foreign competition, they were ready to cede the automobile industry to foreign competition, a million jobs there. We just disagree on that front.

Q Are you satisfied that this company got the scrutiny that it should have had from the outset?

MR. CARNEY: I refer you to DOE on the particulars of the process. We’re satisfied that this program was necessary and is working.


Q Jay, thank you. When you say that the President will make some proposals in his address next week that will be things that he could do administratively, doesn’t he -- would that make up the bulk of his recommendations?

MR. CARNEY: I simply said that obviously -- what I meant, or meant to convey through that, is that he’s -- I think I was asked why Congress, and that’s because we need to act with Congress. Much of -- some of what -- much of what we need to do requires legislation, requires action by Congress. That is why it’s important to go to Congress.

He can also do things, as he has in the past, administratively that can help the economy grow, that can -- for example, the regulatory look-back that can free -- relieve businesses from burdensome regulations; other measures he can take administratively that don’t require legislative action, he will continue to do that as well.

So that was not -- there are many pieces to this that are both legislative and administrative.

Q And do you think if he finishes by the time the kickoff comes at 8:35 p.m., he might also leave enough time for a Republican response during that time? (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY: I have not -- again, we don’t have a specific time yet for when he will begin speaking, so I don’t have an answer to that.


Q Jay, just to follow on two points that you made. You told Helene a couple minutes ago that you felt -- the President has sort of zero interest in the notion that the prestige of the office has been dented by this. Should he have zero interest? Isn’t the prestige of the office a significant component of having leverage in these negotiations?

MR. CARNEY: Let’s just –- what he has zero interest in, and what the American people have zero interest in, is the petty political gamesmanship that goes on in here and that gets chronicled quite assiduously by the press, which is fine. But it is not what the American people care about, right? It’s just not.

And, in fact, when they are forced to pay attention to it, they recoil in disgust. And they -- (laughter) -- you know, go out there and talk to regular folks.

Q I do.

MR. CARNEY: I know you do, and I think that’s what you hear. That’s what –- when you go out into the country and you talk to ordinary Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, who are making sure they can get their car payments, ensuring that they’re saving money for their kids’ college education, who are coming up with great new ideas for -– to increase the productivity in their small business, tilling the field or working in the shop, they do not have any time for this. They do not have any time for the pettiness, the smallness, the posturing. And mostly they don’t even pay attention to it.

And I think one of the things that I think that was so frustrating about what happened this summer is that because of the seriousness of the consequences of the posturing, they were forced to pay attention to it, and they were appalled by and scared by it. So that’s what -– look, the President is focused on the big things, the things that matter. And I think that’s what the vast majority of the American people are focused on. And I think that with any luck, that’s what members of Congress will be focused on when they come back.

Q The other thing I wanted to follow on, you described the communication between the White House and the Hill as being “fine.” I think this might be the only room in Washington where you could say that without folks shouting you down. To what extent do you think the fact that there was a communications gap with the Speaker’s office -- it appears that this was done at the staff level -– do you have any regrets that the President himself didn’t call up Speaker Boehner –-

MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to -- first of all, I think you need to fine tune your reporting on what happened, but I –- and who was involved, but it is irrelevant. It really is. The President will speak to the nation and the Congress next week, as he hoped to do, and he will talk about some very important things that have nothing to do with communication gaps.

Q But do you really think communications between the White House and Hill Republicans are fine? I mean, do you not see that there’s a problem?

MR. CARNEY: What I think is that the issues trump that kind of stuff. And as you know, the President has a working relationship with the Speaker of the House. They’ve spent an awful lot of time together in person and on the phone this year. They will continue to do that. The same is true with the Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate, as well as obviously the Senate Republican leaders. So -– and other leaders and members of Congress. That will continue. The issues matter far more than this.

Q But you don’t think something has to be fixed? You think the communications is fine?

MR. CARNEY: I think politics needs to be fixed. Yes, the President says politics is broken. The American people are fed up with this. So we’re going to focus on the stuff that matters. And I think, listening to their constituents, that Congress is going to focus on it, too.


Q Thank you, Jay. Yes, the Boston Globe reported today on the President’s uncle that had been arrested. Was the President aware that his uncle was in the United States as an undocumented –-

MR. CARNEY: He became aware of this story when I walked into his office and among other subjects mentioned it to him, and it was new to him on Monday.

Q And also, is the administration committed to seeing that all U.S. laws are enforced in this case?

MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. We expect it to be treated –- I refer you to ICE and DHS and expect it to be handled like any other immigration case.


Q And I have a follow-up –-

MR. CARNEY: Steve.

Q On the things the President can do without Congress, you mentioned regulations. Can you give us some other examples of things he can do administratively or by executive order to create jobs?

MR. CARNEY: I don’t want to ruin the surprise.

Q So he’s going to --

MR. CARNEY: I mean, of course the President has certain powers. The executive branch has certain things it can do, and we’re always looking -- I refer to you –- I talked yesterday about – on the housing front, the measures that were taken to assist the unemployed; unemployed homeowners. That’s a measure that can be taken at the executive level, administrative level to help homeowners on an economic issue. There are just a variety of things we can do.

Q On a completely different subject, the President in Minneapolis reaffirmed his commitment to get all the troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. Former Prime Minister -- I’m sorry --

MR. CARNEY: Allawi.

Q -- said this morning in a very strong op-ed in the Washington Post, made a very compelling case that things are getting much, much worse there. And he referred to a big debate in Washington about whether you’re going to maintain this troop withdrawal. Is there any of that debate in the administration?

MR. CARNEY: I’d trust your sources in Washington on this, and I would simply say that we’ve made significant progress at great sacrifice in Iraq. And the fact of the matter is that violence overall remains down significantly, and Iraqi security forces have demonstrated great improvements in their capacities to maintain security in that country. It’s not perfect. There are still incidents, no question. And there are still folks there who have a great interest in being disruptive, but the accomplishments of American men and women over there are substantial. The fact is, it’s important to remember we turned over combat lead there quite a long time ago. Iraqis have been in the security lead for a substantial period of time, and that progress continues.

So no question there are challenges ahead in Iraq, but substantial successes have been achieved.

Q Thanks, Jay.

MR. CARNEY: Thanks, you guys.

END 2:57 P.M. EDT