Tag Archive: 9/11

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corps: “Illegal and Unconscionable Actions”

As we predicted Monday night, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. empire is now in deep trouble in New Jersey for what appear to be illegal and immoral activities.

On one front, Senator Menendez has asked Attorney General Holder to investigate “accusations made by a British lawmaker that News International, a British subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, had hacked into the phones of 9/11 victims”:

“The U.S. government must ensure that victims in the United States have not been subjected to illegal and unconscionable actions by these newspapers seeking to exploit information about their personal tragedies for profit,”

Despite the owners of Fox News being involved, this is no partisan matter as Republican Congressman Peter King says he feels the same way.

Meanwhile, Senator Lautenberg has identified what may be legally even more serious: violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when News Corp employees allegedly bribed the police.From his letter to Holder:

As you know, the anti-bribery provisions of FCPA make it illegal for a U.S. person or company to pay foreign officials to obtain or retain business.  In this case, media reports indicate that reporters for News of the World, a newspaper that is controlled by a subsidiary of News Corporation, paid London police officers for information…

As you know, News Corporation is a U.S.-based company subject to FCPA.  Indeed, the company’s own website states the following:  “The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is a U.S. law that forbids bribery of foreign (meaning non-U.S.) government officials, whether elected or appointed, even if the bribe takes place outside the United States.  Because News Corporation is a U.S. corporation, the FCPA may apply to all Company employees everywhere in the world, regardless of their nationality or where they reside or do business.”

The British “firestorm”, as the Prime Minister calls it, shows this story won’t go away but the United States Department of Justice must do its part.

All You Have To Do To Be A Taxpayer Is Buy A Snickers

There was a time when the ultimate source of pride in this country was being an American Citizen.  It was an awesome thing, and we had free mandatory public education so everyone could be better citizens.  We had public meetings and parties so people could be better engaged as citizens.  Being an American meant being a CITIZEN in bold italic capital letters.  Nothing superseded it.

But things started changing around 1980 or so with the Reagan Revolution as the concept of citizen was discounted.  This reached its pinnacle during the roll up to the Iraq War as countless American citizens were demonized and attacked as traitors for not supporting a war of choice against a country that had not attacked and could not attack us.

Something had to take the place of being an American Citizen as the ultimate sign of patriotism and righteousness.  Some tried “real Americans” but that just smacked of moronic stupidity.  Others tried, “middle America” but that left out the majority of Americans living on the coast.

What took root was “Taxpayers” which came to symbolize everyone we were trying to serve.  Why do we have to cut the benefits of public workers?  The Taxpayers deserve it!  Why do we need to eliminate medical care for the elderly? The Taxpayers deserve it!  Why do we need to get Obama out of the White House? The Taxpayers deserve it!  Why do we spend $10 million investigating Clinton’s use of his privates?  The Taxpayers deserve it!  Why should we deny marriage equality?  The Taxpayers deserve it!

And it goes for both sides of the aisle.  Seemingly rational Democratic legislators start saying we need to protect Social Security because the Taxpayers deserve it!  End the Iraq War why?  The Taxpayers deserve it!  Eliminate bargaining for public sector unions? The Taxpayers deserve it! (Yeah, I’m looking at you Sweeney.  And your well-funded 2013 primary from a union member who understands how important bargaining is.)  

But there is a massive flaw that makes the use of “Taxpayers” even more moronic than “real Americans.”  At least “real Americans” implies there are “unreal Americans” out there to fight.

But anyone who buys a tire for a car, a gallon of gasoline, takes a paycheck from an honest employer, rides an airplane, buys a house, buys a book, goes to the movies, or engages in any other of a billion different actions and transactions is an American Taxpayer.

In fact, you don’t even have to set foot in the United States to be a taxpayer.  A Saudi Arabian can own 100% of a company operating the United States, meaning they pay taxes here.  A French citizen who never left Paris could export wine, and is now an American Taxpayer.  That Mexican coyote sneaking illegal aliens into the United States and gets a hotel room for the people he pays to treat them like shit is an American Taxpayer.

And you know who else is an American Taxpayer?  The school teacher Chris Christie demonized the other day as screwing over American Taxpayers.  The state union worker who Steve Sweeney just demonized as sucking at the teat of American Taxpayers!  All of these people who the right and “left” have demonized as screwing over the American Taxpayers are American Taxpayers!

But I’ll take it one more step, and the saddest thing about what I am about to lay out for you is that it is not taking my argument to the illogical extreme.  It is not reductio ad absurdum.  It is simply a plain hard fact — something sorely missing in our public and political discourse today — that the following people were not only American Taxpayers but also New Jersey Taxpayers:

  • Abd al-Aziz al-Umari
  • Ahmed al-Ghamdi  
  • Salim al-Hazmi  
  • Nawaf al-Hazmi  
  • Majid Muqid  
  • Khalid al-Mihdhar  
  • Hani Hanjur  

These seven men at one time or another paid New Jersey and United States sales and income taxes, gasoline taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, and any number or other fees or taxes.

And on September 11th these seven men boarded airplanes and flew them the fuck into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and thanks to some courageous passengers an empty field in Pennsylvania.

So the next time some moronic politician wants to tell you that we are doing something for the taxpayers, don’t let them use that rhetoric to shut you down.  Just remind them that everyone is a taxpayer, even those who hate this country, and you don’t want to justify political actions in a way that supports the terrorists of 9/11.

We need to go back to talking about American Citizens, about citizenship, about engaging in public life as an American.  These are things that Americans and immigrants can aspire to and desire.  It is hard to be a good citizen.  It takes work to be a citizen.  You have to sacrifice to be a citizen.  You have to give up evenings with your children to be a citizen.  You have to waste vacation days at work to be a citizen.

All you have to do to be a taxpayer is buy a Snickers bar.

Marie Corfield, Candidate for NJ Assembly

This is Marie Corfield, who was pulled to the podium at yesterday’s collective bargaining rally at the State House. This is who was speaking as testimony was being given by firefighters and police to members of the New Jersey Senate, who were about to pass a bill corrosive to their collective bargaining to the full NJ legislature for a vote.

Marie Corfield, an art teacher at a Hunterdon County elementary school, is a candidate for the New Jersey Assembly from the newly-drawn LD-16, in Somerset, Middlesex, Hunterdon and Mercer counties.

Apologies for the video quality. Best we could get.

Only Kings Should Need Jesters

When 9/11 happened it was an affront to everything Americans hold dear.  It was indiscriminate, it was an attack on innocents, it was an assault on civilians, it was mass murder for no apparent reason.

There were lots of us out there talking about this, and there was no dearth of taking heads and politicians talking about the import of this day.  But we knew the import of the day ourselves, and didn’t really need to be told.  

The two best responses, in my opinion, were both by comedy writers and delivered pitch perfect.  One was the Onion — a spastic, slapstick, rude, nonsensical and riotous online spoof of modern news dissemination — imagined what a press conference from God after 9/11 would be like.  It ended like this, which still makes me tear up:

Governor Christie: Voice of Reason on Religious Freedom in Lower Manhattan

promoted by Rosi

A wake-up call went out on Monday, sounded by a less-than-usual suspect: our governor, Chris Christie.

The Washington Post editorial board (generally not known for being the most progressive opinion page) gave him a shout-out today, citing him as the sole Republican to speak out for the sane position on religious freedom:

And Republican leaders – and we use that term loosely – have been almost universally eager to exploit the issue for political purposes. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie objected to both sides using the issue “as a political football,” but he is the rare exception.

Christie, who’s become a conservative icon, took a vocal stand against the xenophobia and mob mentality driving the opposition to the Park51 Muslim community center in Manhattan. More than that, he took a stand for one of our most fundamental founding rights.

In the words of our governor:

We cannot paint all of Islam with that brush. We have to bring people together.

You made New Jersey proud Monday, Governor.

Governor Christie chose to speak out, taking one for the team to remind us all what too many Americans too often forget: religious freedom doesn’t belong to one faith – it belongs to everyone. No religion can claim a monopoly on the Constitution, and no race or ideology can claim exclusive access to the core values at the heart of America.

New Jersey witnessed the collapse of the towers from just across the Hudson. The Garden State grieved for the lives that were so senselessly lost, and we prayed for the commuters who would never make it home from the World Trade Center Path Station.

A cadre of fanatics sought to undermine America. They do not deserve the power to watch us undermine American values. Millions of Muslim Americans – whose religion claims as wide a range of members as every other – should not suffer for an attack that violated the country they love, too.

So we of the ACLU-NJ – as well as (we hope) everyone who believes in the First Amendment – thank you, Governor Christie, for speaking up Monday for religious freedom, for the Constitution, and for New Jersey.

Allison Peltzman works as communications specialist for ACLU-NJ, but this is what she believes no matter what her job is.

Justice for 9/11

I was very, very pleased to hear this morning that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others will finally face trial in New York for their alleged roles in the 9/11 attacks. As I have written here on military commissions many times before, the entire concept of inventing a new legal system outside the country for these terrorists was a disaster from top to bottom, whether in terms of grand principles or simply in terms of actually having a trial.

Driving to work today, I heard Republican Peter King complain that a civilian trial will involve lawyers and take too long. King must have been living on Mars. KSM was captured in 2003. It has been over six years. It is as if Timothy McVeigh, instead of being convicted in 1997 and executed in 2001 for his 1995 attack, instead went on trial during the Bush Administration. The only worry is that a fair trial may be jeopardized by illegal torture, but I trust that there is real, untainted evidence that can be used against these terrorists.

We’ve all had our frustrations with the Obama Administration, but here we see a great decision returning us to the American system that has served our country so well for centuries. Six years of blundering are finally over.  

Military Commissions still a bad idea

The Obama Administration sure is trying to be very quiet on its decision to try some terrorist suspects using military tribunals despite his campaign promises. I think it’s fair to say that many Blue Jersey posters have heavily criticized these Military Commissions system set up by Bush and approved by Congress. Personally, I view it as the worst vote Senators Menendez and Lautenberg took, and so I feel the oligation to say that I think Obama is making a big mistake here. Sure, it’s better that the suspects will have more possibilities to defend themselves, but the decision plainly is designed to get convictions regardless of the evidence of actual guilt, otherwise a new system wouldn’t need to be invented. While I imagine most of those to be tried are guilty, it is simply a fact that many people were sent to Guantanamo without much evidence against them:

“It did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance,” Wilkerson wrote in the blog.

He said intelligence analysts hoped to gather “sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.”

It is also a fact that many military prosecutors have resigned because they don’t believe in the system. Here’s what one said:

In a declaration and subsequent testimony, he said the U.S. government was not providing defense lawyers with the evidence it had against their clients, including exculpatory information — material considered helpful to the defense.

Saying that the accused enemy combatants were more likely to be wrongly convicted without that evidence, Vandeveld testified that he went from being a “true believer to someone who felt truly deceived” by the tribunals. The system in place at the U.S. military facility in Cuba, he wrote in his declaration, was so dysfunctional that it deprived “the accused of basic due process and subject[ed] the well-intentioned prosecutor to claims of ethical misconduct.”

 

Glen Greenwald as usual is the must-read opinion on the situation.  

Maybe the fact that my Representative (LoBiondo), both Senators, and both Presidents have supported these commissions means that I am wrong. One has to be humble in the face of bipartisan opposition. But I don’t think I am wrong, and I still believe that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could have been convicted years ago in an ordinary court trial.

Update:  I just watched the White House Press Briefing and Gibbs wants us to think the President has not changed his position and that this is somehow a completely different process than the system set up in 2006. I normally can’t stand Jake Tapper, but he and other reporters demolished the first claim, and Gibbs was not very convincing on the second either. It is sad to see the bubble set in as the administration starts to believe their own spin.

Let’s commemorate 9/11 with even more debt!

Just to refresh everyone’s memory, Hoboken is broke and had to call on Joe Doria – JOE DORIA! – to get its budget finished in time to start working on the new budget.  So Mayor David Roberts,

believes he will not only balance next year’s budget, but come up with $11.7 million extra to pay off the toys he couldn’t afford last year. One supposes an extra sweet letter to Santa is in the works.

Now, this should be enough to make any politician realize that they are skating on very thin ice – maybe even think about cutting back ever so slightly on needless spending.  But Dave Roberts isn’t just any politician – he’s the Mayor of the Mile-Square City.  That means he gets to make up reality as he goes along:

Mayor David Roberts will ask the City Council this week to bond for a $4 million Sept. 11 memorial on the south waterfront.

In what could be the Quote of the Year, Dave Roberts says:

“It’s a fitting tribute to those young people who went into work that day and never came back.”

Yes, what better way to ensure the community will never forget the victims of the worst mass murder attack on American soil than by making them pay for a commemoration for twenty years?

I’m not against commemorating 9/11 – though I don’t think that every municipality needs its own memorial.  But I’m against borrowing $4 million when a community fund drive would almost assuredly raise as much, if not more, without driving the municipality deeper into debt.  I mean, Hoboken has a population of roughly 40,000.  $100 per head would raise the money.

Of course it isn’t that simple to get $100 per person.  But I’m willing to bet some of the wealthier residents – like Governor Jon Corzine, Senator Bob Menendez, and Mayor Dave Roberts – could afford to give a bit more than $100.  Heck, even Juan Melli, Hoboken’s brainiest resident, can afford to give $100 (I’ve met his wife and she’s a real peach – she’d probably let him bum it if he can’t scratch it up).

The thing is that 9/11 was seven years ago.  If Dave Roberts actually cared about the people that died, and the families and friends they left behind, he could have easily made this happen by now.  That he is only willing to do this now – and wanting to go into debt to do it – speaks volumes about his lack of leadership.

9/11 Trials at Last?

The New York Times is reporting that Military Prosecutors Set to Open Major 9/11 Case:

Military prosecutors are in the final phases of preparing the first sweeping case against suspected conspirators in the plot that led to the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, and drew the United States into war, people who have been briefed on the case said.

The charges, to be filed in the military commission system at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, would involve as many as six detainees held at the detention camp, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the former senior aide to Osama bin Laden, who has said he was the principal planner of the plot.

“The thinking was 9/11 is the heart and soul of the whole thing. The thinking was: go for that,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because no one in the government was authorized to speak about the case.

I have always regarded this matter as a New Jersey issue because so many of the victims lived here. I been outraged at the failure to prosecute anyone involved in the attack. At least these military commissions will finally result in a trial, although the price paid by Senators Menendez and Lautenberg of legalizing  torture and gutting habeas corpus was too high.  I guess we should be grateful that someone decided to actually “go for” 9/11 convictions to “establish credibility.”  

This is especially true because I do not need to be a government official, “Super-Delegate” or lawyer to know that murdering thousands of innocents was already illegal in New York.   So, why are these questional legal tactics necessary?  The answer is almost certainly to protect those in the Bush Administration who are guilty of torture:

Lawyers have said that two of those are men whose treatment in American hands would inevitably be a focus of defense lawyers in their cases.

One of them, Mr. Mohammed, known as KSM, was subject to the simulated-drowning technique known as waterboarding while in secret C.I.A. custody, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, confirmed this week.

Like our senators, I find it unimaginable that we let these terrorist monsters get away  with their crimes, but our justice will be tainted as the Bush administration holds an election-year trial under rules it invented.