MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/sites/all/modules/patched/service_links/images/facebook.png http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Elizabeth Warren's "Most Watched" Video Is Absolutely Fantastic http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/06/elizabeth-warrens-mad-as-hell <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren participated in a conference hosted by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/RecodeDotNet/videos/851341318289186/" target="_blank">tech website Re/Code</a>, where she was asked a policy question about infrastructure spending. What followed was an incredibly powerful response that touched upon the Massachusetts senator's signature issues&mdash;student loans, misplaced Washington interests, and the systematic problems hurting middle class Americans.</p> <p>"The only way we get change is when enough people in this country say 'I'm mad as hell and I'm fed up and I'm not going to do this anymore," Warren said. "You are not going to represent me in Washington, DC, if you are not willing to pass a meaningful infrastructure bill. If you are not willing to refinance student loan interest rates and stop dragging in billions of dollars in profits off the backs of kids who otherwise can't afford to go to college. If you don't say you're going to fund the NIH and the NISF, because that is our future. We have to make these issues salient and not just wonky."</p> <p>The video is now officially Warren's <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenm/status/605099823981834240" target="_blank">most watched video</a>, according to her digital director. <strong>Watch below: </strong></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_b0obdnXfqg" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><em><a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/6/2/8700177/elizabeth-warren-video-viral" target="_blank">(h/t Vox)</a></em></p></body></html> MoJo Corporations Income Inequality Tue, 02 Jun 2015 22:05:26 +0000 Inae Oh 276401 at http://www.motherjones.com Well, Well, Well, Look Who Just Endorsed a Bold Fix For Climate Change http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/06/guess-who-just-came-out-support-bold-fix-climate-change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Oil companies are pretty much the last ally you'd think of when it comes to advancing big-picture solutions to climate change. These are the companies, after all, whose product is <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/20/90-companies-man-made-global-warming-emissions-climate-change" target="_blank">responsible</a> for causing a significant amount of climate change in the first place&mdash;and pretty much every proposed fix for global warming necessarily involves burning less oil.</p> <p>So it came as a bit of a surprise Monday when six of the leading European oil companies, including BP and Shell, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/01/europe-carbon-un-idUSL1N0YN08L20150601" target="_blank">unveiled a letter</a> addressed to the United Nations climate chief calling for a price on carbon emissions (read the full letter below).</p> <p>"We believe that a price on carbon should be a key element" of ongoing UN-led international climate negotiations, the letter said. This week representatives from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Bonn, Germany, to prepare for a summit in Paris this winter where they hope to produce a powerful global accord on fighting climate change. The letter called on the world's governments to create new national carbon markets where they don't currently exist (like most of the United States, for example), and to eventually link those markets internationally.</p> <p>As <em>Bloomberg Business</em> pointed out, the letter is "<a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-01/europe-s-largest-oil-producers-make-joint-call-on-climate-action" target="_blank">unprecedented</a>," in that it's the first time a group of major oil companies have banded together to advocate for a serious climate change policy. It was <a href="http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/major-oil-companies-letter-to-un/" target="_blank">welcomed by the UN's top climate official</a>, Christiana Figueres, who said that the "oil and gas industry must be a major part of the solution to climate change."</p> <p>Most environmental economists and policy wonks agree that making companies pay for their carbon pollution&mdash;whether through a tax or a cap-and-trade system&mdash;is a fundamental step for any meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The basic idea is that making carbon pollution expensive will drive big polluters to clean up. Policies like this are already gathering steam across the globe, from <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/02/cap-and-trade-countries" target="_blank">Canada to China.</a> (California and a few Northeast states have regional carbon markets, but a national carbon price is still a non-starter in the US Congress.) Recently, Australia <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/australia-emissions-carbon-tax-chart" target="_blank">demonstrated just how effective carbon pricing</a> can be, in a counterintuitive way: Carbon emissions dropped immediately after the country implemented a carbon tax, then jumped right back up when the tax was repealed.</p> <p>If Monday's letter is any clue, oil companies are reading the writing on the wall, and they know that one way or another, it's time to start planning for a future when carbon pollution is more expensive and tightly regulated. Well, some oil companies: Conspicuously absent from the letter are any US oil companies, like Chevron or ExxonMobil; all the signatories are European. In fact, just last week Exxon chief Rex Tillerson <a href="http://oilpro.com/post/13695/exxonmobil-isnt-going-to-fake-rex-tillerson-takes-40-year-smear-o" target="_blank">implicitly blasted his European peers</a> for cozying up to the UN on climate issues, saying his company wouldn't "fake it" on climate change and that investing in renewable energy is tantamount to "losing money on purpose."</p> <p>The head of French oil giant Total addressed the cross-Atlantic schism in <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/01/europe-carbon-un-idUSL1N0YN08L20150601" target="_blank">comments to Reuters</a>, saying that the European companies were set on throwing their weight behind carbon pricing "<span id="articleText">without necessarily waiting for an American to come on board."</span></p> <p>Although carbon pricing "obviously adds a cost to our production and our products," the letter says, the companies would prefer consistency and predictability over the patchwork of policies that exists now. In other words, it's easier to justify and plan investments in lower-carbon projects, such as replacing coal with natural gas, when carbon prices are stable and "even-handed," the letter said. At the same time, these companies have come under <a href="http://tcktcktck.org/2015/04/shareholders-urge-fossil-fuel-giants-to-act-on-climate-change/" target="_blank">increasing pressure from shareholders</a> to address how they'll stay profitable in the future, as restrictions on carbon emissions are tightened.</p> <p>To that end, a few of the signatories already have their own <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/12/chart-how-much-do-companies-charge-themselves-climate-pollution" target="_blank">internal "shadow" carbon price</a>, where investment options are calculated with a hypothetical carbon price added in, as a way of anticipating future policies.</p> <p>Still, progressive-sounding statements notwithstanding, oil companies are oil companies, and the letter gives no indication that any of them have plans to replace fossil fuels as their primary product. Shell, for one, is just weeks away from a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/05/obama-just-gave-shell-green-light-drill-arctic" target="_blank">new foray into offshore drilling</a> in the Arctic. And according to <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-01/europe-s-largest-oil-producers-make-joint-call-on-climate-action" target="_blank"><em>Bloomberg</em></a>, the European companies are no better than their American counterparts in terms of their actual carbon footprint. So it remains to be seen how committed the companies will be to supporting sweeping changes to the global energy system, or if letters like this are just a clever way to stay relevant as the international climate talks forge ahead. Either way, the paradox of a corporation calling for a carbon price while still pursuing fossil fuel extraction is just more evidence that the free market won't fix climate change voluntarily&mdash;governments have to create new policies, like an international carbon price, that energy companies can't evade.</p> <p>Here's the letter:</p> <div class="DV-container" id="DV-viewer-2091463-paying-for-carbon-letter">&nbsp;</div> <script src="//s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/viewer/loader.js"></script><script> DV.load("//www.documentcloud.org/documents/2091463-paying-for-carbon-letter.js", { width: 630, height: 800, sidebar: false, container: "#DV-viewer-2091463-paying-for-carbon-letter" }); </script><noscript> <a href="http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2091463/paying-for-carbon-letter.pdf">Paying for Carbon Letter (PDF)</a> <br><a href="http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2091463/paying-for-carbon-letter.txt">Paying for Carbon Letter (Text)</a> </noscript></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Top Stories Infrastructure Tue, 02 Jun 2015 21:38:58 +0000 Tim McDonnell 276416 at http://www.motherjones.com How Mitch McConnell Tried—and Failed—to Weaken NSA Reform http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/mitch-mcconnell-nsa-reform-freedom-act <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The USA Freedom Act, the bill that reforms the Patriot Act and stops the US government's bulk collection of phone records, finally passed the Senate on Tuesday after the chamber rejected three amendments from GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) aimed at weakening the bill's reforms.</p> <p>McConnell originally supported leaving the Patriot Act with all of its surveillance powers intact, but he faced resistance from both Democrats and Republicans, including die-hards such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who were happy to let bulk collection simply disappear without creating a replacement. So McConnell agreed to proceed with the USA Freedom Act, but proposed four amendments to address what he called the bill's "<a href="http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2015/05/31/NSA-data-collection-expires-as-Patriot-Act-debate-continues/5691433114016/" target="_blank">serious flaws</a>." (He withdrew one of them.)</p> <p>Harley Geiger, chief counsel of the Center for Democracy and Technology, called McConnell's amendments "unnecessary for national security" and said that they would "erode both privacy and transparency."</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/06/mitch-mcconnell-nsa-reform-freedom-act"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Civil Liberties Rand Paul Top Stories Tue, 02 Jun 2015 21:07:55 +0000 Max J. Rosenthal 276391 at http://www.motherjones.com Oh Snap. The Feds Are Reportedly After Sepp Blatter. http://www.motherjones.com/contributor/2015/06/soccer-question-mark-i-hardly-know-her-exclamation-point <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The<em> New York Times </em><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/03/sports/soccer/sepp-blatter-to-resign-as-fifa-president.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&amp;smid=nytcore-iphone-share&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">reports that authorities are confirming</a> to them that Sepp Blatter is indeed the subject of a federal corruption investigation:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Blatter had for days tried to distance himself from the controversy, but several United States officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that in their efforts to build a case against Mr. Blatter they were hoping to win the cooperation of some of the FIFA officials now under indictment and work their way up the organization.</p> </blockquote> <p>No one could have predicted.</p></body></html> Contributor Tue, 02 Jun 2015 20:50:30 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 276456 at http://www.motherjones.com Google's New Diversity Stats Are Only Slightly Less Embarrassing Than They Were Last Year http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/06/google-diversity-statistics-barely-impoved <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Around this time last year, Google shocked Silicon Valley by voluntarily <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/05/google-diversity-labor-gender-race-gap-workers-silicon-valley" target="_blank">releasing statistics</a> on the diversity of its workforce. The move helped shame other large tech companies into doing the same, and the picture that emerged wasn't pretty: In most cases, only 10 percent of the companies' overall employees were black or Latino, compared to 27 percent in the US workforce as a whole. For its own part, Google <a href="http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/getting-to-work-on-diversity-at-google.html" target="_blank">admitted</a> that "we're miles from where we want to be," and pledged to do more to cultivate minority and female tech talent.</p> <p>Now Google has an update: Its 2015 diversity stats, <a href="http://www.google.com/diversity/" target="_blank">released yesterday</a>, show that it has moved inches, not miles, toward a workforce that reflects America. The representation of female techies ticked up by 1 percentage point (from 17 to 18 percent), Asians gained 1 point, and whites, though still the majority, slipped by 1 point. Otherwise, the numbers are unchanged:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/google-chart.WEB_.gif"><div class="caption">Google</div> </div> <p>"With an organization our size, year-on-year growth and meaningful change is going to take time," Nancy Lee, Google's vice president of people operations, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jun/02/googles-staff-worldwide-still-overwhelmingly-white-and-asian-men?CMP=share_btn_tw" target="_blank">told</a> the <em>Guardian</em>. Last year, Google spent $115 million on diversity initiatives and dispatched its own engineers to historically black colleges and universities to teach introductory computer science courses and help graduating students prepare for job searches. But unlike Intel, another big tech company that has prioritized diversity, Google has not set firm goals for diversifying its talent pool.</p> <p>"While every company cannot match Intel's ambitious plan, they can set concrete, measurable goals, targets, and timetables,"&nbsp;said a statement from the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who last year played a key role in convincing Google and other companies to disclose their diversity stats. "If they don't measure it, they don't mean it."</p></body></html> MoJo Charts Race and Ethnicity Tech google Tue, 02 Jun 2015 20:36:48 +0000 Josh Harkinson 276446 at http://www.motherjones.com Don't Pay Attention to Obamacare Rate Increase Horror Stories http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/dont-pay-attention-obamacare-rate-increase-horror-stories <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I wrote about this once before, but it's worth repeating: don't pay too much attention to scare stories about gigantic increases in Obamacare premiums next year. Insurers that request increases of more than 10 percent are required to get clearance from state and federal regulators, which means that the only increase requests that are public right now are the ones over 10 percent. <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/06/02/obamacare_2016_premiums_insurers_ask_for_big_rate_hikes.html" target="_blank">Jordan Weissman explains what this means:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;Trying to gauge the average premium hike from just the biggest increases is like measuring the average height of the public by looking at N.B.A. players,&rdquo; Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Foundation told the <em>Times</em>. Moreover, some states may ultimately end up rejecting the gaudiest requests if they're deemed unjustified.</p> <p>How skewed is the federal database? Here's one telling illustration from ACAsignups.net founder Charles Gaba. In Washington State, 17 insurers submitted health plans for next year, requesting an average rate increase of 5.4 percent. Only three of those companies asked for a big enough hike to show up on the federal rate review site. Together, they requested bumps averaging 18 percent, more than three times larger than the actual statewide mean. That gap should make everyone think twice before drawing conclusions from yesterday's data dump.</p> </blockquote> <p>This will be the first year in which insurance companies have a full year of experience with Obamacare to draw on. Does that mean it's possible that rates will go up a lot, now that they know what they're in for? Sure, it's possible. But so far there's really no evidence that the demographics of the Obamacare population are very different from what the companies expected. Nor are companies dropping out of Obamacare. In fact, in most states competition is increasing. All that suggests that Obamacare premiums will rise at a fairly normal rate next year. For the time being, then, don't pay too much attention to the Fox News horror stories. We've heard them all before.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 02 Jun 2015 18:24:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 276421 at http://www.motherjones.com Mike Huckabee Wishes He Lied About Being Transgender So He Could Have Showered with High School Girls http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/06/mike-huckabee-transgender <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>While speaking at a religious convention in Nashville earlier this year, Mike Huckabee's trademark <a href="https://twitter.com/adamsmithtimes/status/605735618509975552" target="_blank">candor</a> reached a new level of absurdity, as he joked about wishing he&nbsp;"could have felt like a woman" back in high school&hellip;in order to get access to female locker rooms.</p> <p>"Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE," <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/meganapper/huckabee-on-transgender-people-i-wish-i-couldve-said-i-was-t#.qlBYbz0op" target="_blank">Huckabee said on stage</a> at the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters Convention&nbsp;back in February. "I'm pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, 'Coach, I think I'd rather shower with the girls today.'"</p> <p>The remarks, reported by <em><a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/meganapper/huckabee-on-transgender-people-i-wish-i-couldve-said-i-was-t#.qlBYbz0op" target="_blank">BuzzFeed</a></em> on Tuesday, were meant&nbsp;to warn the crowd about Americans' growing tolerance of the transgender community and &nbsp;support for laws protecting transgender people's access to the restroom of their choice.</p> <p>"For those who do not think that we are under threat, simply recognize the fact that we are now in city after city watching ordinances say that your seven-year-old daughter&mdash;if she goes into the restroom&mdash;cannot be offended and you can&rsquo;t be offended if she's greeted there by a 42-year-old man who feels more like a woman than he does a man," he said.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/unR7hfEnR6E" style="line-height: 2em;" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>For more on the conservative assault on where transgender people use the bathroom, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/03/transgender-bathroom-discrimination-bills" target="_blank">check out our primer here. </a></p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Gay Rights Tue, 02 Jun 2015 18:17:20 +0000 Inae Oh 276411 at http://www.motherjones.com FIFA President Sepp Blatter Resigns Amid Corruption Scandal http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/06/breaking-fifa-president-sepp-blatter-resigns-amid-corruption-scandal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>FIFA President Sepp Blatter <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/03/sports/soccer/sepp-blatter-to-resign-as-fifa-president.html" target="_blank">announced</a> Tuesday that he will step down after 17 years at the head of soccer's international governing body, in the wake of a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2015/05/fifa-corruption-sepp-blatter-historian" target="_blank">corruption probe</a> that has rattled the sport. In a press conference, Blatter called for a special election to find his replacement, just days after he was elected to a fifth term.</p> <p>Here's an excerpt of <a href="http://resources.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/footballgovernance/02/61/77/26/presidentaddress2jun15_final_neutral.pdf" target="_blank">Blatter's resignation letter</a>:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p>I have been reflecting deeply about my presidency and about the forty years in which my life has been inextricably bound to FIFA and the great sport of football. I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football. I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organization. That election is over but FIFA&rsquo;s challenges are not. FIFA needs a profound overhaul. While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football &ndash; the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA. Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Mixed Media International Sports Tue, 02 Jun 2015 17:13:35 +0000 Edwin Rios 276406 at http://www.motherjones.com Is Campaign Finance Reform Really the Key to Winning the White Working Class? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/campaign-finance-reform-really-key-winning-white-working-class <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Stan Greenberg says that white working-class voters aren't lost to the Democratic Party. In fact, most of them strongly support a progressive agenda in the mold of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. The problem is that they don't trust the system, and they want to see reform <em>first</em>, before they're willing to vote for Democratic candidates <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/junejulyaugust_2015/features/the_average_joes_proviso055824.php?page=all" target="_blank">with expansive social welfare programs:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Three-quarters of voters in the twelve most competitive Senate battleground states in 2014&mdash;states flooded with campaign money&mdash;support a constitutional amendment to overturn the <em>Citizens United</em> ruling. Three in five <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_money_elections.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">of those voters support &ldquo;a plan to overhaul campaign spending by getting rid of big donations and allowing only small donations to candidates, matched by taxpayer funds.&rdquo;</p> <p>....Yet most important for our purposes are the results for white unmarried women and working-class women. These groups both put a &ldquo;streamline government&rdquo; initiative ahead of everything except protecting Social Security and Medicare. They want to &ldquo;streamline government and reduce waste and bureaucracy to make sure every dollar spent is a dollar spent serving people, not serving government.&rdquo; They gave even greater importance than white working-class men to streamlining government. For these women, being on the edge means feeling more strongly that government should pinch pennies and start working for them.</p> <p>....What really strengthens and empowers the progressive economic narrative, however, is a commitment to reform politics and government. That may seem ironic or contradictory, since the narrative calls for a period of government activism. But, of course, it does make sense: Why would you expect government to act on behalf of the ordinary citizen when it is clearly dominated by special interests? Why would you expect people who are financially on the edge, earning flat or falling wages and paying a fair amount of taxes and fees, not to be upset about tax money being wasted or channeled to individuals and corporations vastly more wealthy and powerful than themselves?</p> </blockquote> <p>I'll admit to some skepticism here. Are working-class voters, white or otherwise, really pining away for campaign finance reform? The evidence of the past 40 years sure doesn't seem to suggest this is a big winner. Still, times have changed, and the influence of big money has become far more obvious and far more insidious than in the past. Maybe this really is a winner.</p> <p>As for streamlining government, my only question is: where's the beef? That is, what kind of concrete plan are we talking about here? "Streamlining" seems a little too fuzzy to capture many votes.</p> <p>In any case, read the whole thing if this is the sort of thing you enjoy arguing about. It's food for thought at the very least. As for me, I'm off to see my doctor. I'll be back sooner or later depending on how streamlined his office is.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 02 Jun 2015 15:10:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 276396 at http://www.motherjones.com The Forgotten Pentagon Papers Conspirator http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/other-conspirator-anthony-russo-daniel-ellsberg <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176004/tomgram%3A_barbara_myers,_the_unknown_whistleblower/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>The witness reported men being hung by the feet or the thumbs, waterboarded, given electric shocks to the genitals, and suffering from extended solitary confinement in what he said were indescribably inhumane conditions. It's the sort of description that might have come right out of the executive summary of the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2014/dec/09/-sp-torture-report-cia-senate-intelligence-committee" target="_blank">Senate torture report</a> released last December. In this case, however, the testimony was not about a "black site" somewhere in the Greater Middle East, nor was it a description from Abu Ghraib, nor in fact from this century at all.</p> <p>The testimony came from Vietnam; the year was 1968; the witness was Anthony J. Russo, one of the first Americans to report on the systematic torture of enemy combatants by CIA operatives and other US agents in that long-gone war. The acts Russo described became commonplace in the news post-9/11 and he would prove to be an early example of what also became commonplace in our century: a whistleblower who found himself on the wrong side of the law and so was prosecuted for releasing the secret truth about the acts of our government.</p> <p>Determined to shine a light on what he called "the truth held prisoner," Russo blew the whistle on American torture policy in Vietnam and on an intelligence debacle at the center of Vietnam decision-making that helped turn that war into the nightmare it was. Neither of his revelations saw the light of day in his own time or ours and while Daniel Ellsberg, his compatriot and companion in revelation, remains a major figure for his role in releasing the <a href="http://www.archives.gov/research/pentagon-papers/" target="_blank">Pentagon Papers</a>, Russo is a forgotten man.</p> <p>That's too bad. He shouldn't be forgotten. His is, unfortunately, a story of our times as well as his.</p> <p><strong>The CIA Interrogation Center, Saigon </strong></p> <p>Before him sat the enemy. VC. Vietcong. He was slender, a decade older than the 28-year-old American, and cautious in his initial responses.&nbsp; The American offered him a cigarette. "Smoke?"&nbsp;</p> <p>Anthony Russo liked to befriend his subjects, finding that sharing a cigarette or a beer and congenial conversation could improve an interview's results.</p> <p>This man's all right, Russo thought&mdash;unlike the one he had interviewed when he first arrived in Saigon. That prisoner had<strong> </strong>sat before him, quivering in fear, pleading for his life.<strong><em> </em></strong>"Are you going to kill me?" the distraught man had said repeatedly, his thumbs red and bulbous from being strung up<strong><em>.</em> </strong></p> <p>Torture was not something Russo had anticipated when he took the job. A civilian with a rank equivalent to major working for the RAND Corporation, he had arrived in the South Vietnamese capital on February 22, 1965, and was briefed on his mission. Russo was to meet the enemy face-to-face and figure out what made them tick. On that first day, he could hear General Richard Stilwell, chief of staff of Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), barking orders from the next room: "You get every goddamn plane in the air that you can!"</p> <p>Russo thought the war would be over in a few weeks,<strong> </strong>months at worst.</p> <p>Instead of the limited conflict he expected, years slipped by. Bombs fell, villages were decimated, the fabric of Vietnamese life assaulted. Russo persisted with his interviews of<strong> </strong>Vietcong prisoners, witnessing the after-effects of torture in nearly every instance.</p> <p>It's hard to pinpoint just when the shift occurred in the young man who came to Southeast Asia to "promote democracy." But as one tour of duty extended to two, contact with the enemy changed not their hearts and minds, but his. On the eve of the 1968 <a href="http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/tet-who-won-99179501/?no-ist" target="_blank">Tet Offensive</a>, he returned to the United States intent on challenging the war, a chance he would get, helping his friend and RAND co-worker <a href="http://www.ellsberg.net/" target="_blank">Daniel Ellsberg</a><strong> </strong>with the <a href="http://www.archives.gov/research/pentagon-papers/" target="_blank">Pentagon Papers</a>.</p> <p>That secret history of US decision-making in Vietnam, a massive compilation of internal government memoranda and analyses, had been quietly commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1967 to assess what had gone wrong in Vietnam. Ellsberg <a href="http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9E03EEDC163CE634A25750C1A9609C946090D6CF" target="_blank">leaked</a> the Papers to the press in mid-1971, setting off a political firestorm and First Amendment crisis. He would be indicted on charges of espionage, conspiracy, and theft of government property, and would face a maximum penalty of 115 years in prison. Charges were also brought against Russo, who was suspected of complicity, after he refused to testify before a grand jury. He was jailed for 47 days for contempt and faced a possible sentence of 35 years in prison if convicted.</p> <p>Ellsberg's leak led to a Supreme Court <a href="http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&amp;court=us&amp;vol=403&amp;invol=713#714" target="_blank">decision</a> on prior restraint, a landmark First Amendment case. Though all the charges were ultimately dropped, the leak and its aftermath had major political fallout, contributing to the demise of the presidency of Richard Nixon and forming a dramatic chapter on the path to US defeat in Vietnam.</p> <p>Ellsberg became a twentieth-century hero, applauded in print and film, his name nearly synonymous with the Pentagon Papers, but Russo, the young accomplice who goaded Ellsberg to go public, has been nearly forgotten. Yet he was, according to Ellsberg, the first person to document the systematic torture of enemy combatants in Vietnam. If no one knows this, it's because his report on the subject remains buried in the vaults of the RAND Corporation, the think tank that did research for the Pentagon in Vietnam. Similarly, while the use of unprecedented airpower against the civilian populations of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia inspired international calls for war crimes trials in the 1970s, Russo's exposure of the fabrication of data that propped up that air war remains but a footnote in Vietnam War historiography, unknown to all but a handful of academics.</p> <p>He has remained "the other conspirator." Ellsberg later conceded that he probably wouldn't have thought of releasing the Papers if Russo hadn't prodded him to "put that out" and helped copy them in a series of all-night sessions. But Russo would take a backseat to Ellsberg, who had snuck the massive set of documents out of RAND headquarters and released them to the <em>New York Times</em>, the <em>Washington Post</em>, and 18 other news organizations.</p> <p>The two of them would become the antiwar movement's odd couple. Ellsberg was articulate, suave, and fashionable; Russo opted for hippie attire, long hair, and impossibly bushy sideburns, a style of dress that fit with his growing political radicalism. Russo and his attorney, <a href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/09/30/the-legacy-of-leonard-weinglass/" target="_blank">Leonard Weinglass</a>, devised a bold&mdash;some said reckless&mdash;defense strategy focused on using expert witness testimony to put the US prosecution of the war on trial. Weinglass would emerge as a star attorney on the case, even&mdash;in the opinion of some observers&mdash;eclipsing Ellsberg's senior lawyer, Leonard Boudin. But his client kept getting into trouble: scrawling a wiseacre comment on evidence before the court, handing a prosecution witness a press release that accused him of war crimes, peppering his statements to the press with movement jargon. In the end, Russo's leftwing antics would help marginalize him and bury the story he had to tell.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/06/other-conspirator-anthony-russo-daniel-ellsberg"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Corporations Human Rights International Military Tom Dispatch Viet Nam Tue, 02 Jun 2015 15:00:00 +0000 Barbara Myers 276341 at http://www.motherjones.com