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A history of surveillance: Rep. John Lewis reads his own FBI file to make a point about government spying


Mugshot of civil rights pioneer John Lewis


 | Raw Story | May 16, 2015

This morning, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) posted a photo to his Facebook page of him reading the FBI file on the activism of the civil rights-era Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he was part of.

Below the photo, he wrote, “Reading the FBI file on SCLC & myself, I am more convinced than ever that we cannot allow government surveillance.”

Recall that the federal government heavily monitored and infiltrated civil rights and antiwar organizations in the 50s and 60s – the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. himself was wiretapped by the Democratic administrations of Kennedy and Johnson. Earlier this week Lewis voted against the USA Freedom Act, which many have criticized as doing little to actually rein in NSA abuses.


Student Who Told Jeb Bush “Your Brother Created ISIS” Speaks Out About Incident


University of Nevada student Ivy Ziedrich challenges Jeb Bush during a town hall meeting in Reno. (photo: screengrab)
University of Nevada student Ivy Ziedrich challenges Jeb Bush during a town hall meeting in Reno. (photo: screengrab)


Ivy Ziedrich challenged the likely presidential candidate after he blamed the militant group’s formation on Barack Obama for withdrawing troops from Iraq


college student who confronted Jeb Bush about the Iraq war has spoken out about the incident, which made headlines around the world, saying of the former Florida governor’s position: “It was like somebody crashing their car and blaming the passenger.”

Ivy Ziedrich, a 19-year-old University of Nevada student, addressed the likely presidential candidate after he spoke at town hall event in Reno, telling him: “Your brother created Isis.”

She questioned him amid a flock of reporters about his assertion that the jihadi group developed because Barack Obama had overseen the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.

“You stated that Isis was created because we don’t have enough presence and we’ve been pulling out of the Middle East,” Ziedrich said, shifting blame instead on to the consequences of George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq. “The threat of Isis was created by the Iraqi coalition authority, which ousted the entire government of Iraq.

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Bartering from the shadows: Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership is bad news

 | America Blog | May 11, 2015

President Obama takes great pride in referring to his administration as “the most transparent administration in history.” Long gone are the days when governments could easily keep secrets from their people. Well aware of what a post-WikiLeaks world entails, President Obama hopes to avoid the hullabaloo surrounding leaks (and the draconian manner in which his administration deals with whistleblowers) by being open about the dealings of his government.

Or so he would have us believe. For the reality is, from the failures of the military’s drone program to the frightening reach of the NSA’s surveillance policies, even “the most transparent administration in history” has a lot to hide. Nowhere is this more evident than in the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade agreement nearly a decade in the making. As Robert Reich notes, the deal is massive in scope, “representing 792 million people and accounting for 40 percent of the world economy.” The details of the TPP have been negotiated behind closed doors, with the few non-government parties allowed a seat at the table being the corporations who stand to benefit the most from the deal. What little the public does know about the deal comes from leaked documents.

Even members of Congress are being kept in the dark about the deal, as evidenced by the fiasco faced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) when a member of his staff was denied access to the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the executive agency responsible for advising the President on trade. President Obama has frequently said that the trade agreement’s critics are more than welcome to walk over to the USTR and read the text of the agreement; while that’s technically true if you limit “critics” to “critics who also happen to be members of Congress,” it’s incredibly misleading. As Mike Masnick of TechDirt writes:

Yes, members of Congress are allowed to walk over to the USTR and see a copy of the latest text. But they’re not allowed to take any notes, make any copies or bring any of their staff members. In other words, they can only read the document and keep what they remember in their heads. And they can’t have their staff members — the folks who often really understand the details — there to explain what’s really going on.

So although regulating foreign commerce is a responsibility delegated to the legislative branch by the Constitution, members of Congress are being kept in the shadows about what this trade deal will entail.

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Republican objections effectively neutered a bill to care for military war dogs

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark Bush, 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, gets affectionately licked by his dog, Xarius, June 3, 2014 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

attribution: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock/Public Domain
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark Bush, 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, gets affectionately licked by his dog, Xarius, June 3, 2014 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

Mark E AndersenFollow | Daily Kos | May 10, 2015

Two years ago when I attended a reunion of my old Desert Storm-era Army unit, Co. B 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, we were looking at where our old barracks once stood. The old cockroach-infested buildings had been torn down to make way for the new buildings now under construction. One of my fellow veterans who worked in construction on post told us the story that did not leave a dry eye amongst us, even with our hardened veteran hearts.

The story goes like this: The day demolition was to start, the military police (MPs) received a man at the front gate. He was in tears, and he had driven all night to get to Ft. Campbell before demolition of the 326th barracks began. He had to find the remains of the dog he went to Vietnam with, came home with, and buried at Ft. Campbell, before the demolition began. The MPs got him to the site of the barracks, the civilian construction workers stopped working, and they searched the battalion area for the remains of his dog. They never did find the remains—either his memory was faulty about where the remains were or too much earth had already been moved during construction.

Jump below the fold for more.

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The Marriage Cure

(Photo: CSA-Plastock/iStock)



Rachel M. Cohen | The American Prospect | May 12, 2015

Policies to help the broad range of families are better for kids—and better for progressive politics.

Several authors long associated with the idea that marriage is a prime cure for inequality have published a manifesto, condensed in The Washington Monthly. The new wrinkle is an alliance between marriage traditionalists and gay-rights activists. The Marriage Opportunity Council, a spin-off of the, hopes that by adding same-sex unions to the definition of marriage, they can unite progressives and conservatives in a cause to promote marriage generally. The basic premise of the essay and the broader campaign is that marriage provides economic as well as emotional security; that it’s good for children to grow up in two-parent families; and that a class gap has opened up in the incidence of marriage, which widens inequality and harms the poor, especially the children of the poor. A “growing class-based marriage divide threatens all of us,” the several authors, led by longtime marriage advocate David Blankenhorn, write. “It endangers the very foundations of a broadly middle-class society.”

There is much that is controversial in the premise of the statement. One tricky question is cause and effect. Does marriage produce improved incomes, or do higher incomes increase the possibility of successful marriages? The evidence that marriage, in and of itself, is better for children is inconclusive. There is plenty of evidence, however, that toxic marriages can do more harm to children than divorces or single parenthood. It’s not at all clear that public policy is competent to promote marriage, even if that were a goal that could unite liberals and conservatives. And by emphasizing marriage per se, the writers ignore marriage-neutral measures that could really help children and parents, such as more supportive work-family policies, more comprehensive child care options, and higher earnings for working people. Progressives would do better to fight for policies that aid the broad spectrum of kids and families.

But that set of policies, unlike the supposed left-right appeal of marriage, bitterly divides conservatives and liberals. Fiscal conservatives don’t want to spend the money, and “traditional values” conservatives don’t want the state involved in any aspect of child-rearing. The debate goes back several decades, and a pro-marriage manifesto that papers over these political differences is a distraction, at best.

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Revealed: FBI Violated Its Own Rules While Spying on Keystone XL Opponents

Tar Sands Blockade occupy the corporate offices of TransCanada in January 2013. (photo: Laura Borealis/Tar Sands Blockade)
Tar Sands Blockade occupy the corporate offices of TransCanada in January 2013. (photo: Laura Borealis/Tar Sands Blockade) 

Paul Lewis and Adam Federman | Guardian UK | Reader Supported News | May 12, 2015

Houston investigation amounted to ‘substantial non-compliance’ of rules. Internal memo labels pipeline opponents as ‘environmental extremists’. FBI failed to get approval before it opened files on protesters in Texas

he FBI breached its own internal rules when it spied on campaigners against the Keystone XL pipeline, failing to get approval before it cultivated informants and opened files on individuals protesting against the construction of the pipeline in Texas, documents reveal.

Internal agency documents show for the first time how FBI agents have been closely monitoring anti-Keystone activists, in violation of guidelines designed to prevent the agency from becoming unduly involved in sensitive political issues.

The hugely contentious Keystone XL pipeline, which is awaiting approval from the Obama administration, would transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast.

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‘People are very disturbed': Outraged parents vow to take down trans-friendly school board

Angry woman pulling her hair (Shutterstock)


Kellan Howell  |  | Raw Story | May 8, 2015

Hundreds of parents and northern Virginia residents were outraged Thursday night when the Fairfax County Public School Board voted 10-1 to amend its nondiscrimination policy to include “gender identity” without consulting the parents and against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of audience members.

Concerned parents filled the auditorium at Luther Jackson Memorial middle school in Falls Church to attend the meeting with nearly one hundred more waiting outside to protest the amendment, which could lead to mixed-sex bathrooms and locker rooms in schools.

Those who opposed the policy amendment said the board made the sweeping change too quickly without consulting parents and without studying the implications of such a change.

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