Keith Allen Harward released from Virginia prison after 33 years


Wrongfully imprisoned when he was 27 years old

As he walked into the Virginia sun after spending 33 years in prison for crimes authorities now say he didn’t commit, the fact that his parents weren’t there to see him become a free man weighed heavily on Keith Allen Harward’s mind.

“That’s the worst part of this,” said Harward, who choked back tears as he spoke about his parents, who both died while he was wrongfully imprisoned. “I’ll never get that back.”

Harward was released from the Nottoway Correctional Center on Friday after the Virginia Supreme Court agreed that DNA evidence proves he’s innocent of the 1982 killing of Jesse Perron and the rape of his wife in Newport News…

The Innocence Project got involved in Harward’s case about two years ago and pushed for DNA tests, which failed to identify Harward’s genetic profile in sperm left at the crime scene. The DNA matched that of one of Harward’s former shipmate’s, Jerry L. Crotty, who died in an Ohio prison in June 2006, where he was serving a sentence for abduction…

Harward initially faced the death penalty, but a loophole in the law caused his capital murder conviction to be overturned in 1985, said Olga Akselrod, another Innocence Project attorney.

“The fact that this case involved an innocent man who faced the death penalty should terrify everyone, not just in the state of Virginia but also in the 31 other states that still have the death penalty,” Akselrod said.

Harward said he’s heading to his home state of North Carolina with family, who acknowledged that it will take him some time to get used to his new world.

“Keith is stepping out of a time capsule into a different world. We’re going to try to help him all we can,” said his brother, Charles Harward.

Harward said he’s looking forward to having some fried oysters as soon as he can. Beyond that, he’s not so sure. He just excited to be free to do whatever he wants.

“Go out and hug a tree, sit in a park. Whatever I want to do. Because I can.”

The state of Virginia almost executed a man, they imprisoned him for 33 years on bite mark evidence that’s hardly conclusive in any scientific forensics lab. After the rape victim didn’t identify him.

If it weren’t for modern technology like DNA testing – and the dedication of efforts like the Innocence Project – states like Virginia would continue to lock away individuals on mediocre evidence. And Keith Allen Harward would still be in prison.

Cartoon of the day

Thanks, gocomics,org

There are some sharper cartoons around, today, that might fit the edges of this blog better. But, I just couldn’t pass this one up.

My favorite bumper sticker, here in New Mexico, says, “Hey, man, I’ve been this way since 1969.”

Actually, I’ve been this way since about 1955. 🙂

Hillary answers question at campaign stop — bunches knickers of every Republican in USA


Hillary at campaign stop, Decorah, IowaDoug Mills/The New York Times

Hillary Clinton is sometimes asked what kind of people she would want to put on the Supreme Court – but not who. During a campaign event here in northeast Iowa on Tuesday, one attendee had a nominee in mind: President Obama. Would she name him?

Laughing with apparent delight as the audience cheered, Mrs. Clinton said: Wow, what a great idea. Nobody has ever suggested that to me. Wow. I love that.”

She then repeated “wow” again, as if giving herself an extra second to think of a good answer, considering that she has been praising Mr. Obama’s agenda and leadership repeatedly on the campaign trail recently.

“He may have a few other things to do, but I tell you, that’s a great idea,” Mrs. Clinton said — not quite committing but certainly not dismissing the notion.

Every Republican operative, activist and pimp in the country instantly spent a number of minutes in cardiac arrest. After reviving, they immediately called their favorite fundraiser and asked “How can we nominate someone electable from this outhouse of candidates?”

Military justice is to justice as military music is to music

This was a slogan during the resistance to the US War in VietNam: Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. We all recognized rigidity, reactionary, out-of-date definitions corrupting any sense of being modern or useful.

The song remains the same. Chelsea Manning faces solitary confinement for having the Jenner Vanity Fair issue in her cell.

Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier serving a 35-year military prison sentence for leaking official secrets, has been threatened with indefinite solitary confinement for having an expired tube of toothpaste in her cell and being found in possession of the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair issue…

Manning, a Guardian columnist who writes about global affairs, intelligence issues and transgender rights from prison in the brig of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has allegedly been charged with four violations of custody rules that her lawyers have denounced as absurd and a form of harassment. The army private is reportedly accused of having showed “disrespect”; of having displayed “disorderly conduct” by sweeping food onto the floor during dinner chow; of having kept “prohibited property” – that is books and magazines – in her cell; and of having committing “medicine misuse”, referring to the tube of toothpaste, according to Manning’s supporters.

The maximum punishment for such offences is an indeterminate amount of time in a solitary confinement cell.

The fourth charge, “medicine misuse”, follows an inspection of Manning’s cell on 9 July during which a tube of anti-cavity toothpaste was found. The prison authorities noted that Manning was entitled to have the toothpaste in her cell, but is penalizing her because it was “past its expiration date of 9 April 2015”.

The “prohibited property” charge relates to a number of books and magazines that were found in her cell and confiscated. They included the memoir I Am Malala by Nobel peace prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, a novel featuring trans women called A Safe Girl to Love, the LGBT publication Out Magazine, the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair and a copy of Cosmopolitan that included an interview with Manning.

Also confiscated was the US Senate report on torture. It is not clear why any of these publications were considered violations of prison rules – a request by the Guardian to the army public affairs team for an explanation of the charges received no immediate response.

RTFA for more details of the crap we expect from the United States. Not just for political prisoners, of course. If you try to learn and think, perhaps voice some level of dissent from the Dark Ages mentality of most American jailers – you’re in trouble.

China holds a Memorial Day for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre


Click for the story

If there is anything I truly hate it is war.

I’ve experienced some small participation in wars. I have had dear friends more directly affected over longer periods. Now gone. One who survived the Warsaw Ghetto uprising – made it through the sewers of Warsaw, through the countryside eventually to the Soviet Union. After healing physically, she went back to Poland to fight in the underground against the Germans.

I asked her once why she kept her Polish name from the Underground instead of returning to her Jewish family name. She told me that all of that life died with her husband and her daughters in a German death camp. Who she became after that was a different person.

My closest friend most of my life was the most decorated soldier in WW2 from our home state in New England. He was awarded every medal except the Congressional Medal of Honor and he was nominated for that. Surviving injuries at the Battle of the Bulge he was severely wounded at the liberation of the Buchenwald Death Camp – and had sixteen months in a veterans’ hospital to reflect upon how he got there.

They’re both gone, now. Someone like me has to remember.

It doesn’t matter where or when my thoughts are stirred to recall. I’ve written about Nanjing before; but, tonight I happened to switch over to CCTV America just as the ceremonies at the Memorial Site in Nanjing were wrapping up.

I sat and watched the last half-hour of the live telecast. I cried some for 300,000 civilians slaughtered by Japanese soldiers over a few weeks starting on December 13, 1937. I won’t forget Nanjing. China won’t forget Nanjing.

Euro Parliament has invited Edward Snowden to testify via video

A European parliament committee has invited Edward Snowden to testify via video link in its investigation of US surveillance practices.

The justice and civil liberties committee voted 36-2 with one abstention on Thursday to seek testimony from the former NSA contractor, who has exposed the reach of the US secret surveillance apparatus…

No date has been proposed and it was not immediately clear if Snowden would accept the invitation.

The investigation is aimed at drafting policy recommendations to better protect the privacy of European citizens and improve IT security in EU institutions.

Obama and his Homeland Insecurity flunkies can use this as an excuse to further justify their spying on millions of friends — for every single enemy of freedom. The hypocrisy of American “democrats” is matched only by the indecent way in which they toss billions of dollar$ to the winds of fear and cowardice in the name of security.

Someone mail me a penny postcard when they decide to spend a comparable sum and effort on poverty and education.

Pope Francis politely says trickle-down economics is a lie

Pope Francis condemned trickle-down economics and the world of inequality and exclusion it fosters in the first apostolic exhortation of his papacy:

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.”

Many of the pontiff’s criticisms of trickle-down economics are true of the American experience. The policies that began with Ronald Reagan have not benefited middle and working class Americans, while deregulation spawned a reckless financial system that nearly destroyed the financial industry in a historic recession — a recession in which the most affluent have rebounded from far more easily than other Americans. Three decades of high-income tax cuts have proven equally ineffective. The Bush tax cuts aided the wealthy but did not reach the middle and lower classes as promised, resulting instead in “the worst wage and salary growth and total compensation growth of any postwar economic expansion.” In short, the wealth never trickled down…

Continue reading

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg to officiate same-sex wedding

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will become the first Supreme Court member to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony Saturday when she officiates at the Washington wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser.

The gala wedding of Kaiser and economist John Roberts at the performing arts center brings together the nation’s highest court and the capital’s high society and will mark a new milepost in the recognition of same-sex unions.

Such marriages were virtually unheard of a little more than a decade ago but now are legal in the nation’s capital, 13 states and in all or part of 17 other countries. After victories at the Supreme Court earlier this summer, a wave of litigation is challenging bans on same-sex marriages in states where they remain prohibited.

During a recent interview, Ginsburg seemed excited about being the first member of the court to conduct such a ceremony and said it was only a logical next step.

“I think it will be one more statement that people who love each other and want to live together should be able to enjoy the blessings and the strife in the marriage relationship,” Ginsburg said…

Earlier this summer, Ginsburg was in the majority in a pair of major gay rights victories at the Supreme Court. The court said the federal government may not refuse to recognize legally married gay couples and reinstated a lower-court ruling that found California’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional…

It is not uncommon for Supreme Court justices to officiate at weddings, most often for former law clerks or close friends or relatives. Ginsburg tied the knot for her son, for instance. Justice Clarence Thomas performed a ceremony for radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Bravo. The triumph of love continues to march across these sometimes United States.

We need to shine more light on America’s secret spy court

Many of America’s controversial surveillance activities are “legal” because they are approved by a secret court. Critics, including its own judges, have called for reform – but the problem won’t be fixed until the court adopts some basic legal traditions…

…There is a lot at stake because the court is charged with issuing warrants that give spy agencies permission to listen to Americans’ phone and email conversations if the agencies think there’s a chance that the American in question is communicating with a terror suspect outside the country.

The problem, however, is that the spy agencies are not asking for individual warrants, but large batches of them at once. And the FISA court has been rubber-stamping nearly all of these requests — without leaving any public record of when or why it is doing so…

…This week, a former FISA Court judge published an op-ed titled “A Better Secret Court” in which he argued that the government should appoint lawyers with security clearance to argue the side of the people the government wants to spy on (the people themselves can’t be made aware of the proceedings since that might compromise the investigations).

Such reforms could better protect civil liberties but they don’t address what’s most wrong the FISA court.

Even non-lawyers are familiar with two basic elements of how courts work in a democracy: the court publishes its decision and the loser has a way to appeal it. The FISA court, however, doesn’t really provide either of these basic planks of justice.

Only a handful of the FISA court’s many rulings over the past few decades have seen the light of day, since it is the court itself that decides whether to release them. And the appeals process is a bit of a mystery — even to lawyers familiar with the court…

It would not take much to fix the situation. Congress can write rules to require the court’s decisions to be declassified on a regular basis. It can also change the original law that created the court to confirm that it is not an island unto itself, but part of the rest of America’s judiciary and subject to oversight by the Supreme Court.

A coalition of liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans have already formed an influential alliance to challenge the country’s surveillance practices. It would be easy for them to shift their attention to the FISA Court and support people like Rep. Steven Cohen (D-Tenn) who are already trying to reform it.

Finally, in the short term, the FISA Court can take the situation into its own hands and start publishing its decisions — especially the ones that explain the powers of the government and the court’s own role in overseeing it. This transparency is essential to ensure that America, as it expands its security operations, doesn’t abandon the basic legal protections that are the base of every free society.

The closeness of the single occasion when Congress has voted on the question is encouraging. Cripes, it’s encouraging when Congress – particularly the Republican-controlled House – figures out how to do anything.

I wasn’t aware of the FISA court having the power to reform itself. I think the Obama White House can continue to count on childlike obedience from that quarter.

Meanwhile, we need to keep up the pressure.