Friday Reads

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Good Morning!

Many of you might be stuck in your homes today with all that weather so here are some things to keep you busy. First, Richard Engle’s Diary of his kidnapping in Syria has been published in Vanity Fair.

A group of about 15 armed men were fanning out around us. Three or four of them stood in the middle of the road blocking our vehicles. The others went for the doors. They wore black jackets, black boots, and black ski masks. They were professionals and used hand signals to communicate. A balled fist meant stop. A pointed finger meant advance. Each man carried an AK-47. Several of the gunmen began hitting the windows of our car and minivan with the stocks of their weapons. When they got the doors open, they leveled their guns at our chests.

Time was slowing down as if I’d been hit in the head. Time was slowing down as if I were drowning.

This can’t be happening. I know what this is. This can’t be happening. These are the shabiha. They’re fucking kidnapping us.

“Get out!” a gunman was yelling as he dragged Aziz from the car.

Then I saw the container truck. It wasn’t far away, parked off the road and hidden among olive trees. The metal doors at its rear stood open, flanked by gunmen.

That’s where they are going to put us. That’s here for us. We’re going into that truck.

I got out of the car. Two of the gunmen were already marching Aziz to the truck. He had his hands up, his shoulders back, his head tilted forward to protect against blows from behind.

Maybe I should run. Maybe I should run right now. But the road is flat and open. The only cover is by the trees near the truck. Maybe I should run. But where?

I saw John standing by the minivan. Gunmen were taking Ian toward the truck. It was his turn. Like me, John hadn’t been touched yet.

Maybe they’ve forgotten us? Maybe they don’t want us?

Our eyes made contact. John shrugged and opened his hands in disbelief. Time was going very slowly now, but my mind was racing like a panicked heart in a body that can’t move.

“Get going!” a gunman yelled at me in Arabic, pointing his weapon at my chest.

I looked at him blankly, pretending not to understand. Foreigners who speak Arabic in the Middle East are often assumed to be working for the C.I.A. or Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad. The gunman took me by the finger, holding on to it by the very tip. I could have pulled it away with the smallest tug.

But then what? Then go where?

John was the next to join us in the back of the truck. He walked slowly, as if being escorted to a waiting limo. John is a New Yorker and was dressed entirely in black. He has long white hair and a devilish smile, and his nickname is the Silver Fox. He and I had been in a lot of rough places—Libya, Iraq, Gaza. John, Ghazi, and Aziz were among my closest friends in the world.

At least I’ll die with my friends.

This will let you know how tough it is out here: “To Place Graduates, Law Schools Are Opening Firms”.

The plan is one of a dozen efforts across the country to address two acute — and seemingly contradictory — problems: heavily indebted law graduates with no clients and a vast number of Americans unable to afford a lawyer.

This paradox, fed by the growth of Internet-based legal research and services, is at the heart of a crisis looming over the legal profession after decades of relentless growth and accumulated wealth. It is evident in the sharp drop in law school applications and the increasing numbers of Americans showing up in court without a lawyer.

“It’s a perfect storm,” said Stacy Caplow, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who focuses on clinical education. “The longstanding concerns over access to justice for most Americans and a lack of skills among law graduates are now combined with the problems faced by all law schools. It’s creating conditions for change.”

Remember  John Yoo.  He was the lawyer/author of those Bush legal memos justifying torture.  He thinks that Obama is “getting too much grief over targeted killing”.

And he wants Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—who filibustered Obama’s nominee to head the CIA for 13 hours on Wednesday—to lay off.

“I admire libertarians but I think Rand Paul’s filibuster in many ways is very much what libertarians do, they make these very symbolic gestures, standing for some extreme position,” said Yoo, now a UC Berkeley law professor, who once suggested it was okay for the president to order a child’s testicles be crushed. Referring to Paul’s marathon filibuster, an attempt to force the Obama administration to clarify its views on the use of military force against terror suspects in the United States, Yoo said “It sort of reminds me of young kids when they first read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and they suddenly think that federal taxation equals slavery and they’re not going to pay any federal taxes anymore.” Yoo’s statements were made on a conference call Thursday held by the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organization.

Paul’s conservative colleagues also pushed back on him on Thursday: On the Senate floor, John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) mocked Paul’s objections as “ridiculous.”

Yoo said that he thought the administration’s problems stemmed from its belief that it needed to provide “due process” to terror suspects abroad—or even in the United States, referring to a recently leaked white paper outlining the Obama administration’s legal views on targeted killings of US citizen terror suspects.

So, here’s an interesting study.  It seems that the “States With Most Gun Laws Have Fewest Gun Deaths”.

“It seems pretty clear: If you want to know which of the states have the lowest gun-mortality rates just look for those with the greatest number of gun laws,” said Dr. Eric W. Fleegler of Boston Children’s Hospital who, with colleagues, analyzed firearm-related deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2007 through 2010.

By scoring individual states simply by the sheer volume of gun laws they have on the books, the researchers noted that in states with the highest number of firearms measures, their rate of gun deaths is collectively 42 percent lower when compared to states that have passed the fewest number of gun rules. The study was published online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

 As proof, Fleegler pointed to the firearm-fatality rates in law-laden states such as Massachusetts (where there were 3.4 gun deaths per 100,000 individuals), New Jersey (4.9 per 100,000) and Connecticut (5.1 per 100,000). In states with sparser firearms laws, researchers reported that gun-mortality rates were higher: Louisiana (18.0 per 100,000), Alaska (17.5 per 100,000) and Arizona (13.6 per 100,000).

Speaking of working to end violence, today is Intentional Women’s Day. This year’s theme  is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women” Here’s some headlines for that celebration. First off, here’s French economist and head of the IMF Christine BEys8WOCIAAO8YI.jpg largeLeguarde.  You can watch her speak at this IMF Link. 

Here’s some suggested readings for you.

From the UK Guardian: “International Women’s Day: school is ‘the new front line of feminism’

Surveys and anecdotal evidence may suggest that few young women identify with the word feminism, fearing it sits at odds with a desire to wear makeup or heels. Yet there are increasing signs of an interest in gender equality issues among these same young women, who are now turning to social media such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook to reach out to fellow activists or just to share experiences and seek advice about what can be done.

Laura Bates, the founder of the #everydaysexism campaign, says that 10% of its more than 20,000 entries detailing harassment come from under-16s, with many more from colleges.

Campaign group UK Feminista has been so inundated with requests to speak to schools around the country that it has now launched a two-year programme of workshops and campaigns aimed at secondary pupils. Called Generation F: Young Feminists in Action, it comes as the government considers a cross-party bid to make sex and relationship education compulsory in schools.

From World News Australia, we read that  “International Women’s Day 2013: Gender inequality ‘still rife'”.

Australian women make up just over half of the total Australian population.

In some areas, equality has been achieved, but in others there is clearly a long way to go.

The boards of both private and public organisations are still dominated by men.

For instance, only about 10 per cent of the executives of companies listed in the Australian Stock Exchange Market are female.

And according to federal government figures, average weekly earnings for women are $250 less than men.

United Nations Women director for Australia, Julie McKay, thinks a combination of socio-economic factors contribute to this situation.

“I think there’s a huge issue about unconscious bias, that we sometimes don’t even realise that we have, about the roles that women should play and the sort of characteristics that make different people leaders. But I think we also got other issues around accessibility and affordability of child care, which prevent many women being able to access work and particularly full time work.”

Many migrant and refugee women in Australia can be prevented from working in the field in which they’re experienced, due to lack of English skills or problems with qualification recognition.

But Chin Wong, from the Australian Migrant and Refugee Women’s Alliance, says that doesn’t mean they don’t get into the workforce.

She argues that female newcomers can be preferred by employers because they are more likely to ignore their rights, and tend to argue less than men about working conditions.

“Sometimes the women can find jobs easier than men and therefore a lot of times the man become the homemaker, and the woman has to go to work. But that doesn’t mean that when they come home they don’t still have to make sure that the houses are maintained, because that’s culture. Some of the cultures mean that the women have to do most of the work.”

Here’s two suggested reads on racism in America by Ed Kilgore with a link to Ta-Nehisi’s Coates’ guest column in the New York Time.

If you are a white person who has on occasion felt aggrieved at the persistence of allegations of white racism in America, do yourself and your conscience a favor and read Ta-Nehisi’s Coates’ guest column today in the New York Times.

His point of departure is the humiliating frisking of the very famous and distinguished actor Forest Whitaker by an employee of a deli in Coates’ own Manhattan neighborhood. But he uses this incident to make the very important point that if we disclaim the possibility of racist behavior on the part of “good” or “moral” people, we may well wind up excusing racism almost altogether.

The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion. We can forgive Whitaker’s assailant. Much harder to forgive is all that makes Whitaker stand out in the first place. New York is a city, like most in America, that bears the scars of redlining, blockbusting and urban renewal. The ghost of those policies haunts us in a wealth gap between blacks and whites that has actually gotten worse over the past 20 years.

But much worse, it haunts black people with a kind of invisible violence that is given tell only when the victim happens to be an Oscar winner. The promise of America is that those who play by the rules, who observe the norms of the “middle class,” will be treated as such. But this injunction is only half-enforced when it comes to black people, in large part because we were never meant to be part of the American story. Forest Whitaker fits that bill, and he was addressed as such.

I am trying to imagine a white president forced to show his papers at a national news conference, and coming up blank. I am trying to a imagine a prominent white Harvard professor arrested for breaking into his own home, and coming up with nothing. I am trying to see Sean Penn or Nicolas Cage being frisked at an upscale deli, and I find myself laughing in the dark. It is worth considering the messaging here. It says to black kids: “Don’t leave home. They don’t want you around.” It is messaging propagated by moral people.

The thing is, this has always been more or less true. My extended family (thought not, mercifully, my nuclear family) when I was growing up in the Jim Crow South was loaded with racists. None of them were members of the Ku Klux Klan, perpetrators of violence, or “bad people” by any general measure. Most of them were very regular church-goers. One of the sweetest people I ever knew was a great aunt who after MLK’s assassination allowed as how she wished she could take in the assassin and feed him and protect him for his great act in defending Christian civilization. That wouldn’t have been surprising to Dr. King himself, whose classic Letter From a Birmingham Jail was addressed to the good Christian clergy of that city who by their silence and calls for an unjust “peace” were defending segregation more effectively than the hooded riffraff of the Klan.

So, there are my suggestions today.  Please be careful if the weather around you is “lionly”.  What’s on your reading and blogging list?

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28 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    The storm is turning out to be really nasty here. It’s snowing and blowing pretty hard.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    That gun and murder study is one of those where the only logical response is “Duh!”

    • dakinikat says:

      Did you see Maddow on the gun industry and its heat shield strategy?

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’m boycotting Maddow as long as she supports cutting Social Security. Ezra Klein too.

        A President Who’ll Cut Social Security – And Liberals Who Love Him Too Much, by Richard Escow

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I watched that exchange between Klein and Maddow last night and unless i missed something during a snack trip I didn’t get the impression that either of them supported chained CPI. What I got from the conversation was that Klein was surprised that the those in the GOP who are not in direct leadership roles concerning the budget negotiations, had no idea what Obama had proposed. In fact Klein stated that Obama’s proposals are a matter of public record on the White House website. I haven’t checked it out yet, but I intend to.

        I’m going to email Maddow and ask her and Kiein to clearly state their position. Last night it was obvious to me that Ed does not support chained-cpi or any other tinkering with SS Medicare or Medicaid as it was inferred during a panel chat that Ed would not be happy with what POTUS was willing to negotiate.

        It’s obvious to me that Matthews supports it as does Mika, but I haven’t personally hgeard anyone else voice support, either directly or tentatively for chained-cpi or means testing. Maybe what we’re seeing is an end-around until they all figure out what the collective direction is going to be.

        It looks to me that there will be an impasse, not because of what Obama isn’t willing to talk about, but because of what the GOP/TP isn’t willing to consider, changes to the tax code, higher taxes on the wealthy, closed loopholes the end to corporate tax escape hatches.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Ezra Klein has written several times at his blog that he’s OK with chained CPI. Maddow rarely talks about SS at all, as far as I can tell. Trying to remind the Republicans that it’s on the table is tantamount to support for the President’s police IMO.

        I haven’t noticed that Chris Matthews is harping on cutting SS. Ed Schultz supports the working class and unions. In fact Ed said yesterday that he was off the Obama bandwagon if he touches the “big three,” as he calls them.

        Maddow and Klein are basically yuppies. They do some good work, but I can’t listen to the supportive words about what Obama is doing. Ditto for the young kids on “The Cycle.” They don’t seem to get that if Democrats support SS cuts, the party is basically dead.

        To me this is a human rights issue. I’d feel the same if they opposed gay rights or abortion rights.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Joe Weisenthal: JOBS REPORT DEMOLISHES EXPECTATIONS, UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS TO 7.7%

    Just in time for the sequestration cuts to ruin everything!

  4. Boo Radly says:

    Feast – Dak – thanks! Link to Rachel Maddow Show – Heat Shield
    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/49263362#51093920

  5. bostonboomer says:

    NYT’s Linda Greenhouse is pretty sure that SCOTUS will destroy the Voting Rights Act.

    Years from now, when the Supreme Court has come to its senses, justices then sitting will look back on the spring of 2013 in bewilderment. On what basis, they will wonder, did five conservative justices, professed believers in judicial restraint, reach out to grab the authority that the framers of the post-Civil War 14th and 15th Amendments had vested in Congress nearly a century and a half earlier “to enforce, by appropriate legislation” the right to equal protection and the right to vote. How on earth did it come to pass that the Supreme Court ruled a major provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional?

    You will have noticed that I’m making a premature assumption here about the outcome of a case, Shelby County v. Holder, that was argued just last week. Although I’m willing to bet that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has already drafted his 5-to-4 majority opinion, I’d be nothing but relieved if the court proves me wrong when it issues the decision sometime before the end of June. But except for a few wishful thinkers, everyone who witnessed the argument, read the transcript, or listened to the audio now expects the court to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act – and seriously harm itself in the process.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    New Kansas anti-abortion law would prohibit anyone who works at an abortion clinic from volunteering in schools–so couldn’t even go on a field trip with their child or bring in cupcakes for a party!

  7. bostonboomer says:

    I went out and shoveled some. I estimate I have about 8 inches out there so far, with hours of the storm left to go.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      and it is in these times that south-bumfuckerville is tolerable.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Luckily at this time of year, it will melt quickly. We are supposed to have a warm weekend. But I’m glad you’re having nice weather–someone should!

  8. bostonboomer says:

    On chained CPI, Dean Baker had an interesting post yesterday in which he pointed out that if SS benefit cuts happen, people may not be OK with paying the same amount in payroll taxes. The powers that be are assuming the taxes will stay the same. And of course if Social Security is ever completely scrapped, that money won’t be going to the federal treasury.

    • RalphB says:

      Really why should people be willing to pay the same to receive less? Makes no sense.

      As a society, we spend too high a percentage on the elderly and too little on the young but I don’t think cutting SS will make any difference in that regard. We have to get health care costs under control to do any real good.

  9. dakinikat says:

    Connie: Check this out for another view on the question that you emailed me about.

    http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/does-the-bull-market/513760ed2b8c2a535e00067a

    Stock Market Disconnect

  10. dakinikat says:

    Dean Baker ‏@DeanBaker13

    If banks are too big to prosecute, they are too big to exist. This is why God created anti-trust policy http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/are-banks-becoming-too-big-to-jail/use-antitrust-policy-to-break-up-mammoth-banks

    • RalphB says:

      Wouldn’t that be nice! Though it’s not quite why God invented anti-trust, it’s certainly close enough and an ancillary one.