Thursday Reads

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Good Morning!!

I haven’t really been paying much attention, but I guess President Obama’s trip to Europe didn’t go that well. I accidentally heard part of his Berlin speech, because I fell asleep with the radio on and woke up listening to a rebroadcast of it. I didn’t get much out of it, but it seemed as if Obama was lecturing Angela Merkel about her austerity obsession. The trouble is that Obama has pushed and/or allowed a milder version of austerity here, and he is doing much to lead us out of our own economic doldrums. Here are a couple of reports of the trip.

The National Journal’s Michael Hirsch: Obama’s Turbulent European Vacation

What was it, exactly, about Obama’s controversy-marred trip to Germany and the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland that fell so flat? Ummm, how about … everything?

There were the snarky words from Vladimir Putin, who expressed an almost Soviet-esque distance from Washington in his views about Syria. “Of course our opinions do not coincide,” the Russian leader said bluntly. There was the coded warning from Chancellor Angela Merkel about spying on friends, and her and Obama’s continuing frostiness over the issue of economic stimulus versus austerity. Above all, there was Obama’s vague attempt at the Brandenburg Gate to capture some wisp of his past glory by pledging vague plans to cut nuclear arms and an even vaguer concept of “peace with justice.”

The “peace with justice” line was a quote from John F. Kennedy, Obama’s attempt to steal just a little of JFK’s thunder from 50 years before. He didn’t come away with much, winning just a smattering of applause from a crowd that was one one-hundredth the size of JFK’s. A crowd that, at about 4,500, was also much, much smaller than Obama drew as a candidate in 2008.

Not only is the honeymoon long over, folks. The marriage is becoming deeply troubled and, increasingly, loveless.

The contrast with President John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” couldn’t have been more stark.

And from Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: Obama prods, gets share of pushback

In Berlin on Wednesday, Obama warned that the European Union could “lose a generation” if it doesn’t adjust its economic policies to tackle high youth unemployment. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has argued for debt-ridden eurozone countries to first deal with their fiscal problems, insisted her government was committed to helping its European partners in the crisis-hit nations. “If we were conducting policies that would harm other countries,” she argued, “we would harm ourselves.”

Wow. Is she in denial or what? All her austerity policies have done his harm other European countries. In any case, she wasn’t thrilled with Obama’s critique.

She countered with her own words of caution over the Obama administration’s secret collection of phone records and surveillance of foreign Internet traffic. “People have concerns, precisely concerns that there may be some kind of blanket, across-the-board gathering of information,” she said. “There needs to be proportionality” between security and freedom, she added, and made clear that her private talks about it with Obama were not the end of the subject.

It was a polite punch-counterpunch between vital allies — an exchange that won’t damage a strong relationship. But it illustrated how in a 21st century world order, Western powers are not beholden to the United States as they once were and Obama’s ability to find agreement or build consensus is often limited and regularly tested.

And there was the talk of peace and reducing nuclear weapons.

The centerpiece of Obama’s visit to Berlin was a speech at the historic Brandenburg Gate, once a symbol of the Cold War, where he called for negotiations with the Russians to reduce U.S. nuclear weapons by one-third and called for cutting the number of tactical warheads in Europe. “Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons, no matter how distant that dream may be,” he said.

The words were barely out of his mouth when a Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee, Ohio Rep. Michael Turner, accused him of appeasement, and Russian officials were playing down Obama’s proposal. A foreign policy aide to President Vladimir Putin said any further arms reduction would have to involve countries other than just Russia and the United States.

All in all, not a very successful trip.

To be honest, I get the feeling that Obama is already a lame duck. He doesn’t seem to be able to focus his attention on an issue long enough to get anything accomplished. I understand that Congress is really the biggest problem, but looking back to past Democratic presidents, Obama seems so passive in comparison. It’s very discouraging. I have to wonder why he worked so hard to get reelected. He seems to enjoy the ceremonial aspects of the job, but not the nuts and bolts.

Please someone, convince me I’m wrong. I do not want to end up with a Republican president and Republican majorities in Congress in 2016. I do not want the government led by troglodytes like Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey, who wants children to learn stereotypical gender roles “at a very early age.” From Think Progress:

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) wants American youths to be taught gender stereotypes in grade school classes, so they understand the roles of mothers and fathers — and the importance of allowing only opposite-sex couples to marry.

In a speech Monday on the House floor, Gingrey stressed his continued support for the Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage as only union between a man and a woman — and suggested that children need to be carefully taught about the traditional roles of their genders:

GINGREY: You know, maybe part of the problem is we need to go back into the schools at a very early age, maybe at the grade school level, and have a class for the young girls and have a class for the young boys and say, you know, this is what’s important. This is what a father does that is maybe a little different, maybe a little bit better than the talents that a mom has in a certain area. And the same thing for the young girls, that, you know, this is what a mom does, and this is what is important from the standpoint of that union which we call marriage.”

Watch if you dare.

And then there’s the “Spanking for Jesus movement.” Yes, you read that right. From The Daily Beast:

You don’t have to be a Christian to practice domestic discipline, although many of its practitioners say they believe that domestic discipline goes hand in hand with their faith. Specifics of the practice vary by couple, though CDDers all seem to follow a few basic principles. Foremost, that the Bible commands a husband to be the head of the household, and the wife must submit to him, in every way, or face painful chastisement.

When a wife breaks her husband’s rules—rolling her eyes, maybe, or just feeling “meh,” as one blogger put it—that can equal punishments which are often corporal but can also be “corner time”; writing lines (think “I will not disobey my master” 1,000 times); losing a privilege like internet access; or being “humbled” by some sort of nude humiliation. Some practice “maintenance spanking,” wherein good girls are slapped on a schedule to remind them who’s boss; some don’t. Some couples keep the lifestyle from their children; others, like CDD blogger Stormy, don’t. “Not only does he spank me with no questions asked for disrespect or attitude in front of them, but I am also required to make an apology to each of them,” she writes.

Now that should teach those kids some useful gender stereotypes. There’s much more sickening detail at the The Daily Beast link and at Jezebel.

Oh well, here’s a story from the NY Daily News about something a little more cheerful: Joe Torre’s daughter Cristina saves falling baby with perfect catch.

Cristina Torre, 44, said she was sipping coffee outside Little Cupcake Bake Shop on Third Ave. in Bay Ridge when several bystanders spotted little Dillin Miller dangling from the awning of a frozen yogurt shop next door at about 10 a.m.

“He looked like he was balancing on one of the railings,” Torre told the Daily News. “I didn’t really know what was going to happen. . . . You just move into action — you don’t really think about it.”

Torre said she tried to tell the baby, dressed in a white onesie, not to move as another bystander called 911.

“I’m talking to him saying, ‘Don’t come down, stay there.’ . . . He helped himself with his arms. He was dangling. I knew he would be flipping very soon,” she said.

The baby dropped — and Torre made the life-saving grab.

“He literally landed in my arms,” she said. “It was a relief. I’m just glad he was safe.”

Sadly, the child’s parents were discovered asleep in their apartment while their 1-year-old Dillin and his three siblings ages 2, 3, and 5 were on their own. The children were removed from the home and the parents were charged with reckless endangerment. At least those kid are safe for the moment.

There hasn’t been much new on the aftermath of the Boston bombing lately. Every day I check to see if there is any news on the FBI shooting of Ibragim Todashev in Florida. The resignation of Richard DesLauriers, the director of the Boston office of the FBI was probably related to the series of f&ck-ups by the FBI in not informing local officials of the previous investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and then the shooting of Todashev, but other than that, the FBI has been mum.

But on Tuesday, The New York Times published an article on the FBI’s “faultless” history–not a single misstep found in 150 FBI internal investigations over 20 years!

After contradictory stories emerged about an F.B.I. agent’s killing last month of a Chechen man in Orlando, Fla., who was being questioned over ties to the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, the bureau reassured the public that it would clear up the murky episode.

But if such internal investigations are time-tested, their outcomes are also predictable: from 1993 to early 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot about 70 “subjects” and wounded about 80 others — and every one of those episodes was deemed justified, according to interviews and internal F.B.I. records obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The last two years have followed the same pattern: an F.B.I. spokesman said that since 2011, there had been no findings of improper intentional shootings.

In most of the shootings, the F.B.I.’s internal investigation was the only official inquiry. In the Orlando case, for example, there have been conflicting accounts about basic facts like whether the Chechen man, Ibragim Todashev, attacked an agent with a knife, was unarmed or was brandishing a metal pole. But Orlando homicide detectives are not independently investigating what happened.

“We had nothing to do with it,” said Sgt. Jim Young, an Orlando police spokesman. “It’s a federal matter, and we’re deferring everything to the F.B.I.”

Why doesn’t the Justice Department’s civil rights division investigate? Here is something President Obama could lead on without Congress blocking him. He could easily tell Attorney General Holder to appoint an independent investigation. But he probably won’t.

Okay, that’s my contribution for today. Now it’s your turn. What stories have captured your interest today? Please share your links in the comment thread.

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18 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a great day everyone! The sun is shining here for a change–the second nice day in a row.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Lots of SCOTUS opinions coming. SCOTUSblog is live blogging it.

    http://www.scotusblog.com/

    • bostonboomer says:

      Ooops, already finished for today. More coming on Monday. They’re still discussing though.

      Why does everyone in DC get to work 3-day weeks?

  3. Allie says:

    Hope this links works. I couldn’t help but think of South Pacific and “You’ve got to be Carefully Taught”. One of my favorite musicals of all time.

    This is Mandy Patinkin:

  4. RalphB says:

    balloon-juice: Rand Paul: Not Aristotle

    There’s something about being a willfully marginal player in the political sphere that induces whininess. Or at least that’s the conclusion I can’t help but come to after reading the libertarian-ish Conor Friedersdorf’s epic lament over the media’s treatment of Rand Paul.

    I’m tempted to take it apart, piece-by-piece; but I’m also aware of that whole Nietzsche thing about staring into the abyss. So rather than picking out the many, many places where Friedersdorf makes claims that are either highly questionable or laughably wrong, I’ll try to zoom out and focus on what he seems so incapable or unwilling to address.

    Nice takedown of libertarians.

    • bostonboomer says:

      If only Glenn Greenwald would read it. But of course he wouldn’t learn anything, so why bother?

      • RalphB says:

        I’ve been thinking. It’s too bad Michael Hastings didn’t write the NSA story instead of Greenwald. It would have still been pretty devastating and also true, Now who knows if any of it is real?

        • bostonboomer says:

          It would probably have been a lot better. Apparently he was working on something like that.

  5. RalphB says:

    yahoo: Developer: Kan. caverns could preserve human race

    ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — After most of the world’s population is wiped off the map by a wayward meteorite or hail of nuclear missiles, the survival of the human race might just depend on a few thousand people huddled in recreational vehicles deep in the bowels of an eastern Kansas mine.

    That’s the vision of a California man who is creating what he calls the world’s largest private underground survivor shelter, using a complex of limestone caves dug more than 100 years ago beneath gently rolling hills overlooking the Missouri River.

    Survival ScamsR’Us

  6. RalphB says:

    TPM: House Votes Down Farm Bill That Would Cut Food Stamps By $2 Billion

    Republicans can’t even pass their own bills.

  7. littleisis says:

    Thanks a lot BB. Now every time I make a blasphemous joke about our lord and saviors dong I’m going to be reminded of this disturbing spanking for Jesus business. 😜

  8. John Oliver had a good take of the Obama tour: John Oliver Slams Obama’s Foreign Trips: We’ve Made Him Sad, So He’s Leaving The Country To Find Love | Mediaite

    Obama spoke today in Germany (described by Oliver as “the happiest place on earth), but his speech this time did not garner the huge audience his 2008 Berlin speech did. Oliver remarked, “Losing 95% of your audience in just 5 years, that basically makes Obama the NBC of presidents.”

    As it turns out, Germans are not happy with the recent NSA revelations, because as Oliver noted, Obama’s explanation that the surveillance is only spying on foreigners doesn’t really play well with foreigners.

    And as far as Merkle is concerned, her remarks about austerity:

    “If we were conducting policies that would harm other countries,” she argued, “we would harm ourselves.”

    remind me of a scene out of Seinfeld.

    Like Kramer says, she knew what she was doing…

  9. dakinikat says:

    Zimmerman trial: All-female jury seated in #TrayvonMartin shooting case | Updated story: http://bit.ly/197J4Pd ##GeorgeZimmerman