Larry Flynt

Archive for May, 2013

Humanizing All of America’s Murder Victims?

Friday, May 31st, 2013

IN THE WAKE OF THE NEWTOWN MASSACRE, A JOURNALISM ORG SEEKS TO NAME EACH CIVILIAN KILLED BY U.S. DRONES.

by Nat Hentoff

Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, was a nonviolent, direct-action enabler of social justice whom I was privileged to know. In New York City she organized the first civil-disobedience protest against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and I was there protesting.

Carrying on the late activist’s unflinching spirit is the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, which publishes the Catholic Agitator. The publication’s February 2013 edition featured a thought provoking article titled “Guns and Drones,” in which author Theo Kayser took a stand I have not seen in all the coverage of a gunman’s rampage at Newtown, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School.

He framed his argument with a report, which I have cited elsewhere, from the London- based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Its records disclose “at least 176 children killed in drone strikes carried out in Pakistan, with another 27 to 35 killed in Yemen, and hundreds more adult civilian casualties.”

Turning to the murdered children in Connecticut, Kayser noted that “a new emphasis has been placed on gun control and background checks in this country.” So “perhaps we would be forced into a serious debate as to the morality and legality of this country’s military practices if photos of every person killed by a Hellfire missile were broadcast for a week in the national media after their death.”

And dig this, one and all: “Maybe,” Kayser continued, “we could begin to feel the same sense of outrage at the deaths of Pakistani children if, as with the children in Newtown, we were told about their favorite sports teams or their artistic prowess. And maybe we would demand an end to their killing if we were so reminded of their full humanity.

“When those doing the killing see only figures on a screen, how much more removed are we who hear only whispers of such murders in the media?”

By contrast, in this nation, Kayser reminded us, “repeatedly you heard about the 20 children and six adults killed in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012. You saw the names of those killed, and you heard their stories. You were told of the quality of their character, and you were informed of when their funerals took place.”

Therefore, many Americans agreed “it was a tragedy that so many lives were prematurely lost and so, millions of [us] grieved.”

However, even those who might be disturbed to learn more about the kids blown away in Pakistan and elsewhere would likely not object if the festering details were never publicized. I have what may well be unpleasant news for them: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) recently announced that it is “launching an ambitious new investigation which will seek to identify as many as possible of those killed in U.S. covert drone strikes in Pakistan, whether civilian or militant.”

Meanwhile, TBIJ reported that it “has already recorded the names of hundreds of people killed in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. At the end of January 2013 the Bureau was able to identify by name 213 people killed by drones in Pakistan who were reported to be middle- or senior-ranking militants. A further 331 civilians have also now been named,87 of them children.” [Emphasis added.]

TBIJ acknowledges that “part of the justification for the U.S. carrying out drone strikes without consent [of host governments] is their reported success. And naming those militants killed is key to that process. Al-Qaeda bomber Fahd al-Quso’s death was widely celebrated. Yet how many [American] newspapers also registered the death of Mohamed Saleh Al-Suna, a civilian caught up and killed in a U.S. strike in Yemen on March 30, 2012? By showing only one side of the coin, we risk presenting a distorted picture of this new form of warfare. There is an obligation to identify all of those killed—not just the bad guys.”

As the Obama Administration zealously maintains its drone strikes in far-off lands, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is actively seeking additional funding for its Naming the Dead Project. So I was pleased to learn that the Freedom of the Press Foundation is now a key backer.

You are invited to join the debate at TBIJ’s website, TheBureauInvestigates.com, and Twitter.com/TBIJ.


Orwellian Decision

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

THE HIGHEST COURT IN THE LAND SANCTIFIES SECRECY AND THE UNCHECKED INVASION OF OUR PRIVACY.

by Robert Scheer

Why did we go so crazy after 9/11? The idea that somehow our freedoms could be easily sacrificed, including those that our Constitution declared most fundamental to the survival of our republic, became the norm.

This past February, more than a decade after attacks that would seem relatively minor in the histories of most war-torn nations, the so-called conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court—in cahoots with President Barack Obama—put the final nail in the coffin of one of the Constitution’s most sacred protections: the right to the privacy of one’s home and thoughts.

Enshrined in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, it was perhaps the most important right of all in the eyes of the founders of this nation. They had risked much as colonists in objecting to the warrantless intrusion into people’s homes conducted by the king of England. That is why they guaranteed “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Surely, the right to be secure in one’s person and papers would extend in the modern era to telephone conversations, as candidate Obama stated when he first ran for President and condemned the warrantless electronic surveillance of the Bush Administration. He specifically denounced Bush’s exploitation of the 9/11 attacks as “an excuse for unchecked Presidential power. A tragedy that united us was turned into a political wedge issue used to divide us.”

Obama specifically denounced Bush’s use of warrantless wiretapping as “a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.” He promised that “I will provide our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens.”

But Obama didn’t mean it. The unconstitutional wiretapping initiated under Bush that ensnares the communications of millions of Americans has been defended even more energetically by his successor. The Obama Administration filed the critical brief affirming the constitutionality of the eavesdropping by the National Security Agency that Amnesty International and the ACLU had challenged before the Supreme Court.

It was the reasoning of the Obama Justice Department that the court’s right-wing majority embraced in slamming the door shut on protecting the basic privacy rights of Americans. In a 5-4 decision, the court held that the plaintiffs had no judicial standing to bring their challenge to the administration’s policy because they couldn’t prove they had been victimized by its wiretap procedures.

Of course they couldn’t because the wiretapping procedures are so highly secret. But the Constitutional point, as former Constitutional law professor Obama well knows, is that the government has no more right to break into your phone conversations than it does to physically enter your home without a warrant. It is the warrant that serves notice to the victim that he or she may be being victimized.

Instead of honoring the sanctity of the right to privacy, Obama and the Supreme Court— as they’ve done with drone strikes and the rendition- torture program—substitute stealth for transparency to make official criminal behavior invisible. Prophetic writer George Orwell would have appreciated the Obama argument. Rejected by the court’s pro-civil liberties minority, it insisted that since the NSA’s surveillance operation is so highly secret, those who fear that the public is being victimized can’t prove it. By that reasoning, any nefarious action of the government—say assassinations of its critics— could be deemed exempt from judicial challenge as long as the facts of the killing are concealed behind the veil of official secrecy.

The Supreme Court majority ruling spells the end of government accountability and with it the end of the Bill of Rights protection of individual freedom. That is the template of the post-9/11 America into which this country has morphed.


The Pathway Is Clear

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

larry-flyntIt’s hard to believe, but even after having their asses handed to them in the last election, Republicans still haven’t gotten the memo on the issue closest to the hearts of America’s fastest-growing group of voters: immigration. With Tea Party extremists still throttling conservative common sense, it’s time for President Obama and the Democrats to seize the issue and own it. A clear and just pathway to citizenship must be at the center of the push for immigration reform.

Progressive immigration policy is not only politically wise; it is just. Undocumented immigrants and their children contribute to our economy and have earned the rights of all Americans. A reform plan without citizenship would create a new Jim Crow reality: They’d have the right to live here—but only as second class citizens. That would be wrong and completely at odds with American values.

This is a country of immigrants, and as long as it leads the world in freedom and opportunity, it always will be. It is also a rapidly changing society. The only way to ensure that our hard-won progress toward greater freedom and tolerance is embraced and carried forward by new citizens is to allow them to personally experience its benefits themselves.

Larry Flynt


Larry Flynt On Free Speech And Smut

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Larry Flynt is celebrating dual milestones. Now 70, he heads a business empire that’s larger and more profitable than ever. He’s also celebrating the 25-year anniversary of an unlikely Supreme Court victory. Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, Flynt’s epic legal battle against evangelist Jerry Falwell, started out as a tasteless joke about the preacher losing his virginity with his own mother and ended up as a historical landmark that significantly bolstered our First Amendment right to free speech.

Flynt sat down with longtime friend Robert Scheer, one of the country’s foremost progressive voices, for an honest conversation about the lofty principles of Constitutional rights and the gutter realities of being a multimillionaire smut peddler.

ROBERT SCHEER: You once told me HUSTLER is the best magazine you could read with one hand. In your office you have a book of Helmut Newton’s photographs: classy, beautiful erotica. In the magazine you’ve got cum-shots.

LARRY FLYNT: You know something? Helmut Newton loved HUSTLER; it was his favorite magazine. People that love smut like it hard, and they like it unapologetic. If you’re a connoisseur of pornography, you really don’t like it camouflaged with a lot of aesthetics; you like it in your face. You’re one of the few people I know who define pornography very objectively when it’s really very subjective. It exists in various forms.

We all know that the old masters, Picasso or Rembrandt, had a penchant for doing nudes—for doing porn basically. When writers like James Joyce came along, they were in a league of their own. They made the desire for pornography more acceptable. Eventually there came a time when it was available to the masses. The genie was out of the bottle, and there was no way of putting it back in. It got very unfiltered and very unsophisticated. So, many of the people who appreciated very good pornography were extremely critical of the crudeness in a lot of it. But that’s the marketplace.

When you started out, you just wanted to make a buck, right?

And have fun while I was doing it.

You were the primitive capitalist. You weren’t some great artist painting beautiful naked women.

No. But if I was selling peanut butter, I’d sell it with the same enthusiasm.

You sometimes talk about yourself as just a smut peddler. I remember when people criticized you about being a bottom-feeder, you said, “Yeah, but look what I found at the bottom.” But you’ve had an evolution. You’re a true believer now in the First Amendment argument.

I didn’t have to evolve on the First Amendment. I’ve always believed in it.

But did you understand it? Did you understand its power?

No. I don’t think any of us understands the overwhelming significance of the First Amendment. Without free expression or the right to assemble, we wouldn’t even be a nation. The Second Amendment wouldn’t even be important. All others come after the First Amendment.

So you start HUSTLER in 1974, and your life takes off. Then in 1978 you have this horrendous experience of being shot. One response could be a lower profile. Take the money and run. But you became a crusader.

I never slowed down. All through the ’70s, ’80s and some of the ’90s we were putting out censorship brush fires all over the country. Prosecutors wanted to prosecute me everywhere, and I always showed up to accommodate them. I think I finally just wore them out.

The People vs. Larry Flynt is the popular record of your First Amendment fight. It’s a brilliant piece of moviemaking, but is it accurate?

It’s extremely accurate. Some of it is very embarrassing, but the director, Milos Forman, knew what he had to focus on: the most bizarre, outrageous and controversial parts of my life, because that gets the money. All of that is true, but there was a lot left out of the movie that I would like to have seen in there.

In the beginning you’re just a redneck who wants to make a buck. You’ve got strip clubs, and you need a way of publicizing them. So you put out this magazine. Then you run up against hypocrites like Charles Keating— who landed in the middle of the savings-and loan scandal—and Jerry Falwell. That confrontation took you to our highest court. How important is the legacy of that Supreme Court decision 25 years ago?

Go back to the ’70s and get some tapes from Johnny Carson’s monologue, and you’ll realize how bland and tame they are; no comparison at all to Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. You can see the evolution that took place with my case. I was talking to Rodney Smolla, who wrote Jerry Falwell v. Larry Flynt: The First Amendment on Trial, the book about the Supreme Court case. He says people are not really aware of the full impact that case had because the lawyers for NBC, CBS and all the rest of them are standing behind people like Letterman, Leno and Stewart saying you can do this because of this case. Garry Trudeau, in an interview with Ted Koppel, talked about all the trouble that his comic Doonesbury got into with politicians—Bush the lapdog and things like that. He said he was really worried that he was going to be facing serious litigation. And he said, “Then I got a get-out-of-jail-free card.” And Koppel said, “Who was that from?” And he said, “Larry Flynt.”

That case just stopped it all right there. You can no longer sue someone because they hurt your feelings or your wife’s feelings or your dog’s feelings or whatever; you have to prove libel. If you can’t prove libel, it’s not going to fly. That was a huge thing in that case. The second component that made it so significant was that for the first time in the history of our nation, over 200 years, parody was made protected speech. If it’s not a serious piece of literary work, it cannot be taken as such. It must be treated as a parody.

I remember you once mentioned that you thought the infamous June 1978 meat grinder cover was parody; that you were putting down the idea of women being meat in a meat grinder.

It was a satirical-spoof parody, not done in the best taste, but that’s what it represented as far as I was concerned. I think as a heterosexual male about women. I love women. I adore them. I worship them. They’re my whole life. If there’s anything that brightens up my day, it’s a beautiful woman.

Do you think you empower women by the way they are depicted in HUSTLER?

As long as there’s a woman covered up, a man’s going to want to see her in her birthday suit. That is human nature. That is the attraction. In all of my years of being in business and all the thousands of models that I’ve interviewed, I’ve never had one model ever say to the press or to me personally or to anyone that she felt like she had been coerced or intimidated to be in the magazine. It was always something that she did voluntarily. It was always because they thought they were young, they had great bodies, and they would like to preserve it for posterity’s sake because they realized they would only be young once. That is the general theme of every young woman that’s ever posed for HUSTLER over the years. I know that people, feminists like Gloria Steinem, feel that these women are being exploited. Gloria’s a lot like Reverend Falwell, just selling her take.

One of the arguments about Playboy and magazines like that is they held up an idea of a woman that couldn’t really exist in life—the ultimate objectification. It makes the husband or the boyfriend disappointed with what he has. I remember you telling me that in HUSTLER you aim for the woman-next- door, the woman you would actually see in real life.

She could be short, skinny, whatever. Redheads, blondes, brunettes.

And you were against cosmetic surgery.

Yes, and I still am. But we’ve got a huge problem today. We like to publish women in their natural state, which means their pubes are intact, but 90% of girls that show up today have no pubic hair, and over half of them have had breast implants. So we are really faced with a crisis situation. Either we take what we can get or try to go with something that is not up to our standard.

People used to get arrested for what you do, even just saying or printing the word fuck. Now it’s all out of the bag. Have we gained some freedom? Is this a better way to live? Let it all hang out?

There’s nothing said or written that has not been said or written before. It’s just rearranged. I don’t think it’s that much of a different world. I think there were some true pioneers. It wasn’t Hugh Hefner or Larry Flynt. It was Lenny Bruce. I remember Lenny Bruce saying, “They say that kids are out to repeat what they see imitated, and in that case I’d rather my kids see a porn movie than King of Kings because I don’t want them to kill Christ when he comes back.”

Lenny was scary to the establishment because he was saying things that made the establishment cringe. No one should even utter these words! But we have a First Amendment that guarantees us the right to express ourselves and not have to worry about what kind of words we’re using.

In the case of Falwell and the Moral Majority, he seemed to be riding a wave that was going to get bigger and bigger and sweep aside a lot of progress. Now, after this last election, you even have a Christian conservative like Ralph Reed saying, “We don’t have the people anymore, and we particularly don’t have the young people.” They’re not buying into that Puritanism. They’re not buying into what the Moral Majority wants. So you won at the end of the day. Did Falwell see that coming?

I think that there was one side of him that believed he was going to win; at least he wanted to win. And until the decision was rendered, I thought he was going to. When I sat in that gallery at the Supreme Court and looked over there at him and his family, it looked like a Norman Rockwell painting. The pornographer versus the preacher. I’m dead, and then it wound up being a unanimous decision. In the whole history of our nation there have only been a handful of unanimous decisions to come out of the Supreme Court, and mine was one of them.

After the case was over, I was sitting in my office, and my secretary called me and said, “There’s a Reverend Jerry Falwell in the lobby.” I said, “Send him in.” He comes walking through my office door, and he’s got both hands in the air, and he says, “I surrender.” He comes in and sits down and says, “Look, I know when I’m beaten.” I think he knew he was beaten all along, but he milked it for all he could get.

Did you get the feeling that Falwell was in it as an act, that this was a racket? Or was he a true believer?

I think Reverend Falwell knew what he was selling just like I knew what I was selling. I was selling porn; he was selling religion.

Let me ask you about exposing politicians. At first I thought this was a little weird and contradictory. Here is a guy who wants us to be sexually freer, and yet he’s going after people because they’ve got a mistress. Did you feel that there was something contradictory about your big campaign?

Not at all. I have one vote, only one. But by outing corrupt politicians, I can get rid of some people who shouldn’t be there—not because I’m exposing their sex life but because I’m exposing their hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the biggest enemy that democracy has. It doesn’t have anything to do with sex or money; it’s the hypocrisy involved.

Take somebody like Bob Livingston. He’s trying to impeach Bill Clinton, and he’s talking about how solid his marriage is, saying he had never strayed from his marriage, never had an affair with a government employee or an intern or a lobbyist. Then we find out he’s doing a lobbyist, a federal judge and an intern in his own office. That guy just reeked of hypocrisy. He was ripe to be exposed.

Like when we exposed Larry Craig, the congressman from Idaho who was doing the footsies in the men’s-room stall. He’d voted against every piece of gay-rights legislation in the last 20 years and was gay himself. He should have been exposed.

What if they’re public citizens, and they’re not being hypocritical?

You have some liberals in both the House and the Senate who don’t profess to be holier-than- thou. They’re not trying to conduct their personal lives differently than the way they conduct their public life. We leave those people alone. I’ve had very compromising information and photographs of some very famous and influential people in this country, and I stopped it from being published because they were private citizens. I could have made a lot of money by publishing the material, but I didn’t do it.

HUSTLER is a pretty tawdry publication. But when people picked it up during the last election, they saw—right next to the smut—statements by Larry Flynt about why we need to vote for Obama, why we need to tax rich people like yourself, why we need to care about people who don’t have so much.

I don’t know how people who are successful can feel that they do not have an obligation to help people who have been less fortunate, especially the young and the elderly or the handicapped. I give a lot of money to charity every year. I don’t do it because it makes me feel better. I do it because I know there’s a need for it. Republicans are mean-spirited. I don’t think they give a damn. At their core they’re racist, and they’re on their way to becoming a minority party because they have no compassion for their fellow people. A nation cannot survive with a bunch of selfish rich people.

What impresses me is that, somehow out of all of this madness, you ended up being a pretty classy guy. The last thing anybody would have expected is that you, smut peddler Larry Flynt, would still be here at 70 years old a respected member of the community, the one who protected our freedoms.

Somebody said to me once, “My problem with you is that you’re offensive.” I said, “Well, freedom of speech is only important if it’s offensive. If you’re not going to offend anybody, you don’t need protection of the First Amendment.”

When they were interviewing me in front of the Supreme Court, I said, “If the First Amendment will protect a scumbag like me, it’ll protect everybody.”


Congress Tunes Its “Instrument of Villainy”

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

My most exciting memory of growing up in Boston during the Great Depression was learning how our independence was born. A pivotal event occurred in 1761 in a Boston courtroom. Lawyer James Otis Jr. spent nearly five hours arguing against extension of the “writs of assistance,” which British officials drew up themselves—like today’s FBI does—so they could burst into unspecified colonists’ businesses and homes in search of smuggled goods and other items.

As I chronicled in my book Living the Bill of Rights, Otis told the magistrates: “The freedom of one’s house is an essential liberty, and any law which violates that privacy is an instrument of slavery and villainy.”

Otis lost the case, but in the courtroom was a lawyer named John Adams (later our second President), who wrote in his notebook that very night: “Every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born.”

Otis subsequently proclaimed in a pamphlet that those writs violated the British constitution and Magna Carta. Hence, as I have told American schoolchildren over the years, they inspired the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution. This part of the Bill of Rights guards against unreasonable searches and seizures and decrees that any warrant be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

Adams later wrote, “Otis was a flame of fire [that night].” But since 9/11 the Bush- Cheney Administration and Barack Obama’s even more harshly have dimmed that flame.

And now our lawmakers practically eviscerated the Fourth Amendment on December 28, 2012. As Robert Pear reported in the New York Times, “Congress gave final approval… to a bill extending the government’s power to intercept electronic communications of spy and terrorism suspects after the Senate voted down proposals from several Democrats and Republicans to increase protections of civil liberties and privacy.” The vote was 73 to 23.

The dissenters worried that electronic surveillance, though directed at suspected non-citizens abroad in contact with Americans, “inevitably swept up communications of Americans as well.”

More pointedly, despite President Obama’s strong support of the bill and its passage in the House of Representatives, Senate Democrat Richard J. Durbin of Illinois reminded those few of us who were paying attention that this extension of the government’s surveillance authority for five more years “does not have adequate checks and balances to protect the Constitutional rights of innocent American citizens.”

How many of us are still regarded by our intelligence agencies as “innocent American citizens”?

Dig this from Pear’s report: Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) said he and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) “were concerned that ‘a loophole’ in the 2008 law [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] ‘could allow the government to effectively conduct warrantless searches for Americans’ communications.’”

Of course, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. told Congress, “There is no loophole in the law.” So how come, fellow Americans, Pear reported that “by a vote of 52 to 43, the Senate…rejected a proposal by Mr. Wyden to require the national intelligence director to tell Congress if the government had collected any domestic e-mail or telephone conversations under the surveillance law”?

In the midst of Republican and Democratic administrations’ reluctance to tell We the People what the hell is going on as the government invades our privacy ever more contemptuously, Senator Wyden told his colleagues that this impervious secrecy from on high “reminded him of the ‘general warrants that so upset the colonists’ more than 200 years ago.” Me too.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) noted, “The Fourth Amendment was written in a different time and a different age, but its necessity and its truth are timeless.” He added: “Over the past few decades, our right to privacy has been eroded. We have become lazy and haphazard in our vigilance.”

We’ll long be paying for our laziness in ways we will not even know while those we keep electing continue to pry into our lives.

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Nat Hentoff is a historian of the Constitution, a jazz critic and a columnist for the Village Voice and Free Inquiry. His incisive books include The First Freedom: The Tumultuous History of Free Speech in America and Living the Bill of Rights.


Outsourcing Torture

Friday, May 10th, 2013

If you are the least bit squeamish, don’t read “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition,” an Open Society Justice Initiative report published by the Open Society Foundations. The OSF was established by philanthropist George Soros, one of the handful of the super rich still guided by a moral compass. Soros was a Hungarian Jewish teenager when Nazi Germany occupied his homeland and is therefore aware of the depravity which can emanate from a society that lays claim to being a high point of human civilization.

After all, the Germans who voted Hitler into power in 1933 were among the world’s most well-educated people, as well as largely being followers of Christian scripture. That so many of them came to equate barbarism with patriotism is a warning sign to those Americans who find assurance in our “values” cloaking our nation’s collective descent into the darker realms. It is an arrogance starkly challenged by the systematic savagery practiced by a widespread network of agents of our government, ostensibly in response to the attacks of 9/11.

But the purpose of the OSF report is not to shock with examples of the most extreme cases from the sinister world of torture into which America sank. It methodically defines the norm in a vast terror operation that the United States has sponsored around the globe.

In this detailed report documenting the U.S. policy of outsourcing interrogation to 54 nations, chosen for their unfettered embrace of torture techniques, you will discover the depths of evil to which the most extreme totalitarian societies might aspire. Indeed, that was the point of the CIA’s “extraordinary-rendition” program initiated after 9/11, capturing suspected terrorists and turning them over to the world’s most brutal torturers without any presumption of innocence and regard for due process.

The techniques go far beyond the beatings and waterboarding celebrated in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. Apparently, America’s homegrown torturers didn’t have the proper skill-set to slit penises and dismember body parts. Or perhaps the CIA agents whom Bigelow honors did engage in such sadistic practices, and her script advisers at CIA headquarters objected to revealing the grisly details. In any case, as the Open Society Foundations report proves, CIA officials were often present and certainly had ultimate supervisory power over the torture chambers financed by the world’s most overly hyped democracy.

For our government, condoning barbarism is easily rationalized: We were attacked and have the right to utilize the most heinous of means to attain the end of ensuring our safety. Of course, we know from the testimony of key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that Bigelow’s film mistakenly implies that torture was pivotal in hunting down Osama bin Laden.

As the OSF report makes clear, information obtained by torture is most often unreliable. Words are spewed in a desperate effort to stop the infliction of pain. One glaring example cited is the tortured detainee who indicated that al-Qaeda operatives had been trained in biological and chemical weapons by the government of Saddam Hussein. The George W. Bush regime used that fabrication to justify the invasion of Iraq even though it was well known that Hussein was a sworn enemy of Bin Laden’s organization.

But what if barbaric techniques occasionally provide accurate information, as torturers have claimed in their defense down through history? It was routine for Europe’s royal despots to justify employing brutal methods at the time our great experiment in republican governance was taking shape. Unlike King George III and other unscrupulous monarchs, our Founding Fathers held basic human rights to be inalienable and accordingly enshrined the right of due process into our Constitution.

Moreover, it is a right that must also be extended to our presumed adversaries. Yet— and this high crime is even more vicious than the assault on the bodies and minds of so many prisoners—the right of the accused to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a fair court of law has been obliterated by the leaders of our nation on an unprecedented international scale. Check the OSF report for the details of our depravity and then demand of our leaders that such horrid acts never again be conducted in our name.
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Before serving almost 30 years as a Los Angeles Times columnist and editor, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. He is now editor of TruthDig.com. His latest book is The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Love Them.


Carmen Ortiz

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Will dragging the name of U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz through the shit bring back Internet martyr Aaron Swartz? No, but it’ll serve more justice than the poor guy ever got at the hands of this sadistic inquisitor. Ortiz is a bitter reminder that sometimes the good guys lose and the war must go on.

Carmen “Killer” Ortiz hit the national radar early this year when Swartz—an Internet activist and technological whiz kid who, at the age of 26, had already pioneered cutting-edge social-networking systems—hanged himself after landing in Ortiz’s clutches.

What did he do that merited a soul-crushing federal indictment? Expose national security secrets? Hack into the nuclear codes? No, he downloaded content from JSTOR, a database of scholarly articles openly accessible to universities all over the country. And what did he plan to do with it? Plagiarize it? Sell it for illegal profit? No, he was going to distribute it free of charge, believing that everyone should have free access to educational content.

JSTOR must have pressed for Swartz to be sent up the river, right? Wrong. JSTOR got all its content back and refused to press charges! If anything called for the proverbial slap on the wrist, this was it.

But Ortiz, always on the lookout to score cheap political brownie points, knew low-hanging fruit when she saw it. She sent her ass-sucking henchman, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann—a G-man with a notorious hard-on for hackers—after Swartz. Heymann’s prosecution had already driven another young hacker, Jonathan James, to suicide after naming him in an identity theft and hacking case.

Ortiz’s office slapped Swartz with four felony counts that could have put him behind bars for 35 years and financially crippled him with $1 million in fines. But she was just getting warmed up. Even though Ortiz knew that Swartz suffered from severe depression, her office upped the felony count to 13. That meant a possible 50 years. Basically, a life sentence for the victimless, nonviolent crime of downloading some fucking college papers!

That’s what’s called prosecutorial abuse. Read that carefully, Ortiz. Our lawyers already have. So if you want to come after us, fuck you!

Now let’s consider this carefully for a moment. A brilliant, ambitious young mind with all the potential of a fledgling Bill Gates, working at the forefront of a field in which our country desperately needs to excel to remain a world leader in innovation, is snuffed out by an aging, dogmatic and vindictive dinosaur who has never so much as innovated a new way to wipe her ass.

“Objection!” Ortiz would no doubt screech at this point. Like most overzealous benchwarmers, she drapes her absolutist, all-or-nothing interpretation of the law in bloated sanctimony. When justified objections started flying as she carefully wove Swartz’s judicial noose, she bellowed, “Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar.” That’s the same kind of shit medieval magistrates spewed before torturing people to death for stealing a loaf of bread. These days we have something called judicial discretion that is supposed to keep the legal process from turning into an inhuman nightmare.

Flaunting the basic precept that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, Ortiz’s office has a history of shifting the burden of proof onto its targets. Under Ortiz’s watch, DEA agents allegedly combed through crime reports to find juicy real estate that could be seized under a statute that allows for forced forfeiture of assets with suspected links to crime. In one case, the Feds grabbed a shabby little Massachusetts motel because of some minor drug offenses even though the owners were never accused of wrongdoing. Here too, Ortiz’s goons went after easy pickins: small fries that couldn’t mount a costly defense. The magistrate judge reviewing the case ended up laughing it out of court. As Swartz’s loved ones can attest, most of Ortiz’s victims haven’t been that lucky.

Eager to add an anti-terrorist stripe to her robes, Ortiz once hunted down a pharmacist who posted stupid pro-al-Qaeda YouTube videos for “conspiring to kill Americans overseas.” No actual link to any planned attack was ever proven, and the defendant claimed he was being persecuted for not being an FBI informant. But Ortiz knew that few people would give a shit if the guy rotted in jail, so that’s where he landed. Meanwhile, she got to strut around like the baddest bitch in Boston.

If there’s one good thing to come out of the Aaron Swartz tragedy, it’s that Carmen Ortiz’s path to a coveted seat on the U.S. Supreme Court is now so strewn with bodies, it’s a longshot she’ll ever get there. No President is going to relish the crapfest of an Ortiz confirmation that would be sure to get shitcanned anyway.

As it is, Ortiz will be lucky if she keeps her current gig. Aaron Swartz was a hero to many fighting for Internet freedom. Even in death, he has some high-powered allies who are now turning their sights on Ortiz. As for the Obama Administration that originally applauded her as Massachusetts’s first Latina U.S. Attorney, she’ll be lucky if anyone takes her calls.

Here’s a nasty footnote to the Swartz chapter: Ortiz’s husband, Tom Dolan, saw fit to lash out at the grieving parents by tweeting that they purposefully ignored his wife’s rejected plea offer. What’s wrong, Tom? Home life a little tense these days married to America’s hated Lady Injustice?

The best way to remember Aaron Swartz is, of course, to go online and read all about him. Once you do, you’ll understand why his death is such a big loss. Check out his story at his own activist site DemandProgress.org. It’s free for all to read.


An Open Letter From Larry Flynt to Mark Sanford

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

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For Immediate Release

AN OPEN LETTER FROM LARRY FLYNT TO MARK SANFORD: “I WILL NEVER DIVORCE YOU.”

(May 2, 2013 – Beverly Hills, CA)

Dear Governor Sanford,

In a vain gesture to achieve respectability, your refusal to accept my endorsement and financial contribution of $2,600 for being America’s great sex pioneer has hurt my tender feelings.

First, you threw your wife overboard. Now you have tossed me aside. I will support you in spite of your hopeless posturing. Nothing can deter me. I came in to save you, like a member of SEAL Team 6, after the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) left you as road kill.

I would remind you Governor, that beggars cannot be choosers. While you have treated me like you have your former wife, you embrace Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and proudly brandish his endorsement. But now the intelligent voters of South Carolina’s 1st District are asking whether or not you support Sen. Paul’s positions in favor of legalizing marijuana and deploying drones within the United States. Is there anyone you wish to target on Hilton Head?

Regardless of your answers to these and other questions, however reckless, dangerous or euphoric, I will always remain your staunchest supporter for the blow you have struck against traditional values.

I will never divorce you.

Sincerely,

Larry Flynt

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For press inquiries, email Media@LFP.com or call (323) 651-5400.

SANFORD OPEN LETTER 05-02-13


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