Excerpts from Rebel News Round Up, broadcast live on The Howie Rose Show at 11 a.m. Fridays on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington. This week: Getting ready for the First Lady, Massachusetts v. Entergy, National Syrup Security, Obama and secrecy, the Libyan Blame Game, and a cyber attack at the IMF. Plus, this week’s rant: Are drugs and cyberspace messing with our minds? Tune in The Radiator (WOMM-FM/LP). Follow updates from Greg Guma on Twitter
National Syrup Security
Burlington legislator Kesha Ram is in Washington, DC today (6/17/11), one in a select group of young elected officials -- YEOs, as they're known -- invited to a policy briefing with senior administration officials. There will also be a reception with President Obama. On her Facebook page, Kesha writes, “Words cannot express how honored and excited I am!”
But there is a security issue. Evidently, some family friends gave her a gift for the President. Here’s how she handled it: “Thank you for confirmation of my invitation to the YEO briefing and reception on Friday. I have a question about policies regarding gift giving to the President. A Vermont family gave me a small jug of maple syrup handmade on their farm for President Obama, and I would really love to give it to whomever can verify that it is not hazardous or harmful to the President who can then give it to him. Is that possible?”
Diplomatic. The thing is, Vermont maple syrup has been linked to outbreaks of uncontrolled enjoyment and potentially seditious speech.
Waiting for Michelle
Vermonters don’t often get a glimpse of presidents, candidates or their wives. In 2008 neither John McCain nor Barack Obama visited the state. It’s pretty small and, after all, there was little doubt about which way most state voters would go in the election.
But Michelle Obama did visit, and will return in less than two weeks to raising money for her husband and meet with Vermont soldiers. Senator Pat Leahy says he and his wife suggested the visit a few months ago after Vermont troops returned from an overseas deployment.
The First Lady will also be the featured guest at a South Burlington fundraiser for her husband's re-election. That event is slated for June 30 at the Sheraton Hotel in South Burlington. Doors open at 3:30 pm, the festivities begin at 4:15. Tickets are $100 and up. According to reporter Shay Totten, however, that’s not the only event being planned. A $5,000 per person shindig at ECHO on the waterfront may also be in the works.
Questions: Is anyone planning to greet her outside the Sheraton or on the waterfront? What does she need to know? What messages or questions would you like to share? Let us know.
Mass vs. Entergy: The Plot Thickens
Vermont has a new ally in its struggle to close the Vermont Yankee Nuke next March. When Yankee owner Entergy's request for a preliminary injunction against the state is heard in federal court this month, the state will be joined by Massachusetts, which is backing Vermont's position in the case.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed a friend-of-the-court brief. The state’s New England neighbor has a special interest in the case, she says, namely its own state laws regulating power facilities within its borders, including the nuclear kind. The goal is to preserve “its ability to enact, implement and enforce its own laws, to address the numerous concerns inherent in construction and operation of nuclear power plants within its border, now or in the future. The preemption questions presented in this proceeding, while specifically focused on Vermont laws, implicate the same type of constitutional analysis to a preemption challenge." The case could have a big impact on how the Commonwealth deals with its nuclear power plant, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, in Plymouth.
In April, Entergy filed a lawsuit against Vermont claiming its attempt to end operation of the plant by March 21, 2012, infringes on the federal jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The company’s problem: Entergy signed a memo of understanding with Vermont when it bought the plant back in 2002. Now it claims that two of the conditions – that the state Public Service Board has jurisdiction over the plant's continued operation and that Entergy waived any claim it might have to federal preemption – are no longer valid because of actions taken since the deal was signed.
What actions, you may ask? First, the legislature passed Act 160 in 2006, giving itself the authority to forbid the PSB from issuing a certificate of public good. Second, the Legislature's discussion about whether to let the PSB issue the CPG was based on an area of review under the sole jurisdiction of the NRC – plant safety.
Coakley isn’t taking a position on whether Vermont Yankee should be allowed to continue operating beyond next March. But she does argue that Entergy is relying on an "overly broad preemption analysis that lacks merit and should be rejected." The Atomic Energy Act preserves a state's right to regulate nuclear facilities with respect to generation, sale or transmission of electric power, she says. Entergy charges that federal law is being violated and challenges the state legislature’s motives.
Next week, we’ll talk on the air with nuclear power expert Arnie Gundersen about the case, the safety of Yankee, and what lies ahead as the deadline for closing it approaches.
Whistleblowers Go After Obama
On March 28 President Obama received a “transparency award” from five open government groups: OMB Watch, the National Security Archive, the Project on Government Oversight, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and OpenTheGovernment.org. The presentation took place at a closed, undisclosed meeting in the White House, however, and, as a petition criticizing the award notes, “If the ceremony had been open to the press, it is likely that reporters would have questioned the organizations’ proffered justification for the award.”
The petition, signed by more than 20 well-known whistleblowers, says that the award should be rescinded. The signers include Daniel Ellsberg, former CIA analyst Raymond McGovern, former Pentagon analyst Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, and former National Security Agency analyst Russ Tice. Obama has actually increased governmental secrecy, they charge. Ellsberg says Richard Nixon would be favorably impressed with Obama’s silencing of dissent.
According to the Information Security Oversight Office, the annual cost of classification topped $10.17 billion last year, a 15 percent jump. The number of original classification decisions by the administration was 224,734, a 22.6 percent jump. "There were 544,360 requests for information last year under the Freedom of Information Act to the 35 biggest federal agencies – 41,000 requests more than the year before,” the petition notes. “Yet the bureaucracy responded to 12,400 fewer requests than the prior year, according to an AP analysis.”
More petition excerpts, courtesy of Sam Husseini:
"Obama has invoked baseless and unconstitutional executive secrecy to quash legal inquiries into secret illegalities more often than any predecessor. The list of this President’s invocations of the 'state secrets privilege' has already resulted in shutting down lawsuits involving the National Security Agency’s illegal wiretapping – Jewel vs. NSA and Shubert vs. Obama; extraordinary rendition and assassination – Anwar al-Aulaqi; and illegal torture – Binyam Mohamed.
"Ignoring his campaign promise to protect government whistleblowers, Obama’s presidency has amassed the worst record in U.S. history for persecuting, prosecuting and jailing government whistleblowers and truth-tellers. President Obama's behavior has been in stark contrast to his campaign promises which included live streaming meetings online and so forth, and rewarding whistleblowers. Obama’s Department of Justice is twisting the 1917 Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks -- more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined.
"The Obama DOJ’s prosecution of former NSA official Thomas Drake who, up till June 9, faced 35 years in prison for having blown the whistle on the NSA’s costly and unlawful warrantless monitoring of American citizens typifies the abusive practices made possible through expansive secrecy agreements and threats of prosecution.
"President Obama has set a powerful and chilling example for potential whistleblowers through the abuse and torture of Bradley Manning, whose guilt he has also publicly stated prior to any trial by his, Obama's, military subordinates.
For the complete petition: http://takeawardback.org/
The Blame Game in Libya
A rumor has circulated that Libyan soldiers were issued Viagra to help them in raping woman as part of Gaddafi’s war on those opposing his regime. But this has the ring of disinformation, perhaps aimed at making any military response seem reasonable.
Meanwhile, there are other rumors; for example, reports that NATO has bombed a university in Tripoli, killing students and staff. The bombing hasn't been reported by CNN or The New York Times. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “evidence of casualties [in Libya] has been thin, despite more than 160 cruise missile strikes by US and British forces, and at least 175 sorties by those and French and a Canadian jet fighter in the last 24-hour count.”
Soon after NATO started bombing, officials began denying that civilians were dying in the raids. Only the deaths of Gaddafi loyalists were reported. Last week The Times claimed that bombing heavily populated urban areas hasn't killed civilians. “Sightings of civilian casualties have been rare,” wrote John Burns. Sounds like a case of "see no evil."
From the InfoWar Front
The International Monetary Fund says it was targeted by a sophisticated cyber attack earlier this year. Officials provided few details but said the attack was "a very major breach." Cyber security officials surmise the hack was designed to install software to create a "digital insider presence." The IMF has sensitive economic data about many countries.
“The fact that the FBI has been called in, and that the neighboring World Bank has severed its computer link to the IMF, show that it is being taken seriously," notes tech writer Rory Cellan-Jones. This is the latest in a series of high-profile cyber security breaches. Sony Playstation’s network was shut down in April after hackers stole the personal data of about 100 million accounts. In May, Lockheed Martin said it experienced a significant cyber-attack.
CIA Director Leon Panetta has warned the US Congress that a large-scale cyber attack crippling power, finance, security and governmental systems is "a real possibility in today's world."
MIND GAMES: The weekly rant
Are cyberspace and psychiatric drugs messing with our heads? (out on the web)
Brain-altering drugs and Internet “indoctrination” – it’s a potent combination. Together, they pose a threat not only to the stability of individuals but of society itself. Seduced by the promise that our brains can be managed, massaged and enhanced without serious side-effects, we are creating a future where psychological dysfunction could become a post-modern plague and powerful forces use cyberspace to reshape “reality” in their private interest. Read the Essay
ITEMS & IDEAS
Police State in Wisconsin: Vermont journalists roughed up in Capitol video their own arrest. http://t.co/fuDmzSD via @moveon
GOP debate in NH: Looks like we have a new un-reality show, Michelle and the Six Dwarfs. Meet the little guys – “Snarky” (Newt G), “Zany” (Ron P), “Stiffy” (Mitt R), “Creepy” (Rick S), “Deep Dish” (Herman C), and “Timid” (Tim P).
Tweet, tweet, boom: NATO is using Twitter to help locate Libyan targets. Is this the birth of anti-social media?
War Games: Will the GOP block Obama’s Libyan adventure? Does this mean they’re now the anti-war party? Confusing (not really).
What’s Ahead: An air show may be held in Burlington, Vermont again next year. But since the mayor received more negative feedback about this event in 2006 than any other, he’s decided to solicit public comments about whether people in Burlington want another one. Go to www.enjoyburlington.com/Contact.cfm to tell Mayor Kiss what you think before 6/21.
One suggestion – Burlington could hold out until its new corporate partner Lockheed Martin agrees to fund a commercial rocket that can take locals and tourists into space at reasonable prices.
If Danes can pull it off, why not Vermonters?