Tag Archives: eric Holder

Washington Post editorial board makes history (in a bad way) on Snowden. Corey Feldman, pop star and train wreck! And Vin Scully +”Field of Dreams” = magic

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There has been a lot of important news in America lost amid all the nonsense that’s passing for Presidential election coverage. One small trend that has gone mostly unnoticed is that Edward Snowden, the man who leaked information about illegal U.S. government surveillance programs, is getting more and more support.

A man who was once vilified by so many is suddenly seriously being considered for a pardon by President Obama. According to this fascinating NYT Magazine article about Snowden and the new Oliver Stone movie about him, “former Attorney General Eric Holder, once a fierce critic, has acknowledged that Snowden performed “a public service.” President Obama has called for the reform of phone metadata collection, and last June, Congress passed the U.S.A. Freedom Act, a law that directly resulted from Snowden’s leaks. Snowden has come to be seen as a levelheaded activist.

All of this heartens me, as I am one of those who from the start saw Snowden’s actions, while illegal, as courageous, highly necessary, and important. Maybe calling Snowden a “hero” is going too far, but he certainly deserves major kudos for helping expose vast, vast overreaching by the U.S. government, and his disclosures have absolutely educated millions of us who had no idea how far the NSA had bulldozed our privacy.

So, you know, things have been looking up for Ed Snowden, generally. And then this unprecedented thing happens, and my mouth just about hit the floor. The Washington Post, the newspaper of Woodward and Bernstein for goodness sakes, has done something I’m not sure has ever been done in journalism history:  It happily used Snowden as a source for the NSA disclosures, won a Pulitzer Prize for them, and is now saying Snowden should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Specifically, the Washington Post editorial calls for Snowden to stand trial on espionage charges, or accept “a measure of criminal responsibility for his excesses and the U.S. government offers a measure of leniency.”

Rather hilariously, or frighteningly, as this Glenn Greenwald column points out, the Post excoriates Snowden for leaking a legal spying program called PRISM. But who was it that happily splashed the leak all across its front page? That’s right, the Washington Post!

This is pretty amazing, coming from a newspaper that lately, in its enabling of Donald Trump in some cases, used to be such a gold standard.  Now, a caveat that a lot of non-journalists don’t know: The editorial board of a newspaper is totally separate from the newsroom’s reporters and editors, so I’m certainly not claiming the whole Post staff is behind this editorial.

But it’s just … amazingly hypocritical of the Post, in my opinion. Edward Snowden should be allowed to come home, have a fair trial in his native country, and then the chips shall fall.

But espionage? Come on. But hey, don’t look at me: I’m still waiting when the hell the International War Crimes trials are starting for Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush.

**Next up today, a couple of videos that made me happy for completely different reasons. First, my fellow Gen X’ers certainly recall the acting “career” of Corey Feldman, aka one of the Two Coreys, aka Not the Blonde, Cute One. He has entertained us, amused us, and mostly made us feel sorry for him. He’s been a bad actor, a terrible reality TV star (although I did love him so in “The Surreal Life”), and generally a pretty strange dude.

But my friends, you haven’t seen Corey Feldman until you’ve seen him in a black hoodie, singing unintelligible lyrics, with women in angel costumes behind him.

I give you Corey Feldman, on the “Today” show, and you’re welcome. My God, what a glorious three-minute train wreck this is.

**And finally today, a nice palatte-cleanser: I’ve written a lot about legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, because he’s retiring this year and deserves to be feted as much as possible.

I’ve also written a lot over the years about my all-time favorite movie, “Field of Dreams,” because it’s awesome.

So you show me a video of Vin Scully reciting the great James Earl Jones speech from “Field of Dreams,” set over great baseball highlights of the past? Yeah, I’m watching that. Lots of times.

Hope you enjoy.

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Eric Holder makes right move with drug offenders and prison time. A completely ridiculous Bar Mitzvah entrance. And a subway statistic mystery solved

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It’s extremely rare when the Obama administration actually does something correct when it comes to drugs.
After all, they’re still raiding legal medical marijuana dispensaries, still refusing to admit even a little bit that medical pot is really quite helpful, and show no inclination to admit that the “drug war” that’s been going on for decades is an abject failure, as we build more and more prisons and send non-violent offenders away for decades, when what they really need is treatment programs.

But hey, today I’m here to focus on the positive. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed Monday that he’s planning to significantly alter federal drug sentences.

According to this story in the Washington Post, Holder and the Justice Dpet. won’t charge nonviolent drug offenders with serious crimes that will subject them to long, mandatory minimum sentences in federal prison.

He’s also giving new instructions to federal prosecutors on how to write criminal complaints  when charging low-level drug offenders, to avoid triggering the mandatory minimum sentences.

Further, he called for the expanded use of prison alternatives, such as probation or house arrest, for nonviolent offenders and for lower sentences for elderly inmates.

“We must face the reality that, as it stands, our system is, in too many ways, broken,” Holder said. “And with an outsized, unnecessarily large prison population, we need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to deter and to rehabilitate — not merely to warehouse and to forget.”

This is all excellent, and long-overdue, news. I hope Holder and Justice follow through on this, and we can get legislation passed that furthers this goal.

Way, way too many people are doing long stretches in prison for carrying a tiny amount of drugs, and we all know that minorities are a disproportionate number of those locked up for drugs.

Good job, Eric Holder. Keep it up.

**Every Jewish boy in America remembers his bar mitzvah like it was yesterday. Mine was Oct. 8, 1988, and I can tell you all kinds of details about it still (my boy Pearlman enjoys, every once in a while, publishing my bar mitzvah photo on his blog. See the bottom for the beautiful visual of me in my best bar mitzvah suit).

Anyway, it’s a big deal, and should be treated as such by family and friends. But then there are people who go over the top with the celebration. I mean, way, way, WAY over the top.

Like our man Sam here, from Dallas. My cousin-in-law (that’s a thing, right?) Scott alerted me to this video above on Facebook. It’s from Sam’s bar mitzvah, and it’s possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.

It’s a Vegas lounge act and the kid looks like Liberace and it’s just, well… insane. I’m sure Sam’s a nice kid, and I’m sure his parents meant well, but I mean, don’t you think in 10 years he’s going to look back on this in horror?

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**So, being a New York City resident, I ride the subway a lot. And normally, all the ads on the walls of the subway cars blend together (If I see one more ad touting the miracle healing powers of Dr. Zizmor, ace dermatologist, I may hurl).

But for the last few weeks one in particular I’ve been seeing has bothered me. It’s an MTA sign reminding you to be careful on the subway platforms, and it has the statistic: “141 people were struck by trains in 2012. 55 were killed.”

OK, first of all, that’s a hell of a lot of people to get hit by trains in New York. 141? That’s more than one every three days.
But the thing that really stuck out? 55 were killed. Which means that 86 people were hit by trains going 35 miles an hour and survived.

How the hell is that possible? I finally went looking for the answer, and found it in this New York magazine story from earlier this year.

The part about a person’s head getting hit? Wow. Not sure I’d want to live through that.

The Obama administration stomps on the First Amendment. A 10-year-old who’s seen way too much heartache. And if Facebook updated your real life

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You know, for nearly five years now I’ve been telling myself that the Obama administration is light-years different from the horrendous era that preceded it  in the White House.
And in some ways, it is. But then I see something repulsive like this phone records seizure from one of the largest media organizations in America, and I get as repulsed as I was when Cheney and Bush were lying like Pinocchio on steroids.

If you aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about, a quick primer: Last May the Associated Press printed a story about a foiled terrorist plot, and had some super-secret sources providing details, very likely sources from inside the government.
This leak ticked off the Obama Justice Dept. something fierce, and to help expedite their investigation, they decided to secretly obtain phone records from last April and May of more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to the AP and its journalists.
According to this story, “the records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.”

So to recap, the U.S. government, where last I checked the First Amendment was still being enforced, decided to secretly spy on one of the nation’s most trusted and important news organizations because it was unhappy with a story they printed.

A story, I might point out, that the AP actually held for a while, it says, because the government asked it to out of concerns for national security. But nope, that wasn’t enough; ole’ Eric Holder and Co. decided to trample on press freedom (something Obama speaks about often, and eloquently) and basically eavesdrop on reporter’s calls.
The ex-journalist in me is outraged. But the U.S. citizen in me is just disgusted that this administration that promised transparency and sunlight and respecting boundaries continues to run afoul of the law, and common decency, yet again.
Hilariously, the U.S. attorney general claims he had no idea about this while at the same time defending his dept’s practices.

Just an awful mess. Then there’s this IRS/Tea Party mess, as Jon Stewart eloquently talks about here, validating so many of the nutjob right-wing conspiracy theories.

When do we get the administration we were promised in 2008, Mr. President?

**Next, we’ve all used Facebook, and most of us get frustrated at the site’s constant changes and supposed “upgrades” to its site.
So this really cool video spoofs what it would look like if Facebook updated your life.
I laughed quite a bit.

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**Finally, a beautiful and heartbreaking story about a 10-year-old New Orleans boy named Ka’Nard Allen, who in his brief life has been shot twice, and seen two relatives killed as well. Ka’Nard was injured in the Mother’s Day parade shootings in New Orleans (which got very little play in the mainstream media, probably because it didn’t involve missing white women), and he’s finding it really, really hard to be a kid.
Reporter Danielle Dreilinger does what great reporters do when dealing with a story like this: Get out of the way and just let the facts, and the boy, speak for himself.
A wonderful story that made me want to buy this kid some ice cream and give him a hug.

 

The Oscar nominees bring some surprises. Obama’s State of the Union leaves me uninspired. And Federer-Nadal at the Aussie Open, set your DVR.

Tuesday was almost a national holiday for me, with two of my favorite topics (movies and politics) taking center stage.
First, the Oscar nominations came out. Was a little surprised “Bridesmaids” didn’t get a Best Picture nod. Was more than a little surprised the excellent Leo DiCaprio didn’t get a nomination for Best Actor for “J. Edgar.” He was phenomenal in that.
Happy to see “Midnight in Paris,” do well for Woody Allen, though I don’t see it winning anything. Would love to see Melissa McCarthy win just so someone from “Gilmore Girls” wins an Oscar. (I bet Michel is somewhere quietly fuming).

Overall, I think the Academy did a pretty good job. I’ve got some movies to see between now and Feb. 26. First up: “Moneyball.”

**Watched the State of the Union with great anticipation Tuesday night. I was ready for some fire and brimstone out of Mr. Barack Obama.
And what I got was … meh. A so-so speech, I thought, with enough tax credit proposals to choke a horse and very few of what I thought are “do-able” this year in Congress.
A couple things I didn’t like, followed by a couple things I liked:
— Really got rubbed the wrong way by all of Obama’s “America is awesome, yeah!” rhetoric. Reminded me WAY too much of the last guy we had in office, some fella named W. Why do our presidents have to treat us like we’re high school kids at a pep rally?
— A couple of Obama’s challenges really puzzled me. Requiring states to make kids stay in high school until they’re 18? I know I’m new in the education game but I can guarantee 99 percent of high school teachers out there would groan at that proposal. Because as I saw this fall while quasi-student teaching, there are quite a few 17-year-0ld freshmen out there with no interest in doing anything but being disruptive.
And Obama threatening colleges to keep tuition low? How, exactly, is he going to get them to do that?

— I did like his proposal to have AG Eric Holder investigate illegal lending and packaging of risky mortgages that helped get us into the housing crisis. Course, I’m still pissed he didn’t let Holder investigate John Yoo and Dick Cheney, among others, for war crimes a few years ago, but hey, I’m not one to hold a grudge.
— I’m glad Obama started and ended with bin Laden and how much he’s gotten accomplished overseas. He did end the war in Iraq, as promised.
— And I really liked Obama’s combative tone toward Republicans. Enough of this stalling and delaying bullshit, he seemed to say. I’m going to keep reminding Americans for the next nine months that’s it’s you guys who are stopping my bills and ideas that could help Americans get jobs and pay lower taxes.
My man Pearlman had the line of the night, I thought:  “John Boehner: Has any man who has done less for the rights of minorities done more to intentionally darken his own skin?”
Still, I wanted more from Obama. I’m sure a lot of my liberal friends (like my Mom, who loved the speech) will disagree with me. But it felt like a lot of Obama pandering to everyone he could in the speech, and that’s not the guy I voted for.

**Finally, the greatest individual rivalry in sports resumes in the wee hours of the morning tonight, about 3:30 a.m.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer play in the semifinals of the Australian Open.I don’t expect you to stay up and watch, even a hardcore tennis lunatic like me is going to watch it on DVR.
Like a rare delicacy or a trip to your favorite city, every Federer-Nadal match should be treasured and warmly embraced, since we may not have many of them left. These two class acts, whose primes have almost overlapped, have battled through some of the most classic matches in tennis history.
I have no idea who’ll win this one. Federer is playing outstandingly well so far this tournament, and seems completely relaxed. Rafa has had to work hard in his last couple of matches and, as usual, is battling injuries.

I of course am pulling for my man Federer, but I hope it’s a five-set classic.  When Federer and Nadal meet, that’s not usually too much to ask for.

The feds leave pot alone, horrendous baseball umpiring, and will Miss California give her boobs back?

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Here’s what I love: When laws that should’ve been upheld all along, are completely ignored by the federal government for eight years, then a new administration takes over, agrees that those laws are valid, and WE ALL CHEER WILDLY!

I’m talking of course, about the Obama administration’s long-overdue decision to no longer prosecute those who are using medical marijuana legally in the

14 states that allow it. Under W. and John Ashcroft, the federal government basically said “screw you” to the state laws, and raided medical marijuana dispensaries and made arrests.

Finally, perfectly legal distributors will be allowed to, you know, do the legal business they should’ve been allowed to in the first place! I realize we’re a long, long way from legalizing marijuana, which millions of Americans (including me) believe should happen.

And President Obama and Eric Holder can’t, politically, say what is obvious to almost everyone else: Medical marijuana works, it does so much more good than harm, and we should leave these stores alone.

But hey, at least the federal government is eliminating the time-waste of busting legal businesses. Now they have time for, oh, I don’t know, continuing to allow Guantanamo to stay open and keeping gay people out of the military.

**So many jokes, so little time. Apparently the Miss California pageant is suing their fine female representative, Miss Carrie Prejean, for $5,200. She borrowed the money to get breast implants before the Miss USA pageant, and now they want their moolah back.

Just the first three thoughts from my head as it spins wildly from this news: If she gets the implants taken out, will California consider it all even? Who gets to sue Prejean over that fake personality she has? And most importantly, does this set a legal precedent? Think about how much money states can recoup from demanding money back from losing contestants.

Hell, I’m willing to bet that the Texas pageant refunds could fully fund health care in this country.

**So I’m not one who usually complains about umpiring and referee calls; I think in most cases that’s a classic loser’s lament (except when it costs a team the game, like it did for the Arkansas football team against Florida last week).

But have you SEEN how horrible the umpiring has been in the baseball playoffs this year? From the blown call on Joe Mauer of the Twins’ double down the line in the ALDS, to the terrible calls Tuesday night in the Yanks-Angels game, I don’t ever remember it being this bad.

I mean, the play where the Yanks had two runners off third base, the Angels catcher tags BOTH of them, and only one of the is called out, was about the worst thing I’ve seen since … well, since this: (sorry, Cardinals fans)

**Finally, she’s haunting me again. The Bob Dance girl. The one who haunted me last summer, the one who’s in EVERY freaking commercial every five minutes on Central Florida TV. Now they’ve got Halloween-themed stuff going on behind little Grace.

Please, Dear God, make her go away!