Saturday Reads

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Good Morning!!

The heatwave continues here, but I hope this will be the last day of extreme weather for the time being. It’s already 83 degrees outside my house at 7:30AM. I’m hoping and praying for a thunderstorm later on. Despite the heat, I’m doing fine–just not getting that much accomplished.

Several people are tweeting about a bomb being detonated by a passenger getting off a plane at Beijing International Airport, but I haven’t seen any news stories about it yet. Apparently the passenger was in a wheelchair and detonated a bomb after yelling something. There don’t appear to be a lot of casualties. Photo of alleged bomber holding up something and screaming. Picture of the smoky aftermath.

According to Jim Sciutto, an American living in China, the bomber is still alive and on the way to the hospital. A letter from him says that a beating by police in 2005 left him paralyzed.

The Aurora Colorado theater shooting was one year ago today, and survivors are still dealing with the aftermath. CBS News reports:

Caleb Medley was shot in the head and spent two months in a coma. Teenager Kaylan Bailey struggled in vain to save a six-year-old girl with CPR. Marcus Weaver was hit in the shoulder with shotgun pellets while his friend died in the seat next to him.

One year after the Aurora, Colo. theater massacre, survivors are struggling to cope with the physical and emotional wounds left by James Holmes, an enigmatic figure who opened fire at the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The rampage killed 12 people, injured 70 and altered the lives of the more than 400 men, women and children who were in the auditorium on July 20, 2012. Survivors still carry the trauma of that night but have found strength in everything from religion to cheerleading to taking up the issue of gun control.

Read examples at the link. NBC News has photos and remembrances of the Aurora victims.

Yesterday, President Obama spoke publicly about the Travon Martin case. CNN:

In unscheduled and unusually personal remarks, President Barack Obama tried Friday to explain why African-Americans were upset about last week’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin while lowering expectations for federal charges in the case.

“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama told White House reporters in a surprise appearance at the daily briefing….

Speaking without a teleprompter, Obama noted a history of racial disparity in law as well as more nuanced social prejudice that contribute to “a lot of pain” in the African-American community over the verdict.

“There are very few African-American men in this country who have not had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me,” the president said.

“There are probably very few African-American men who have not had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator,” he continued.

“There are very few African-Americans who have not had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had the chance to get off. That happens often,” he said.

Saying he didn’t intend to exaggerate those experiences, Obama added that they “inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.”

CNN also collected reactions to Obama’s remarks from Twitter. At Salon, Alex Seitz-Wald writes about “the time Obama was mistaken for a waiter.” Seitz-Wald surveys the negative reactions to Obama’s remarks from right wingers:

The immediate reaction from the right was scorn, and a belittling of the notion that Barack Obama, with his elite education at Punahou and Columbia and Harvard, his meteoric success, and his half whiteness, could possibly have been profiled. Or that Obama was overreacting – everyone locks their doors and it has nothing to do with race. Martin, after all, has been vilified as a thug in some circles on the right.

“I’m not saying profiling never happens, but where is the evidence?” one Fox News guest protested. “So Obama ‘could have been’ Trayvon 35 yrs ago? I had no idea Obama sucker-punched a watch volunteer & then bashed his head in. Who knew?” talk radio host Tammy Bruce tweeted. “There’s no reason to believe that Martin could have been Obama 35 years ago,” the conservative Powerline blog commented. On Twitter, some guessed Obama had “never set foot in a department store, unless you count Barney’s.”

As usual, the sneering right wingers were wrong.

…a stunning little blog post by the Wall Street Journal’s Katherine Rosman from 2008 that resurfaced this afternoon tells a remarkable story about Obama the year before his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that would make him a household name. Rosman was at a book party at the Manhattan home of a Daily Beast editor with a guest list “that can fairly be described as representative of the media elite,” when she encountered an unknown Illinois state senator “looking as awkward and out-of-place as I felt.” It was Barack Obama, of course, and they chatted at length.

When she left the party, an unnamed “established author” admitted to Rosman that he had mistaken Obama, one of the only black people at the party, for a waiter and asked him to fetch a drink.

That was when he was a state senator and Harvard Law grad, and just a few years from national fame, followed by his election to the Senate, and then the White House. And it was in New York City at a gathering of presumably liberal intellectuals.

African American leaders praised Obama’s speech, according to CBS News.

“I think the president did exactly what was needed, and he did it in only a way he can,” Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, told CBS News. “I believe he started a conversation today that must continue.”

Politically, using the shooting of 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman to talk about race was a risky move, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told CBSNews.com. Yet as a statesman, it was important for Mr. Obama “to lay out a vision of how best to move forward,” he said. “It should be an important starting point for a conversation on race in America and how we can become a better society.”

However, another Salon writer, African American author Rich Benjamin denounced Obama’s speech as “safe, overrated, and airy.” Benjamin compared Obama’s words unfavorably to recent remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder and asked whether Holder is acting as Obama “inner n****r.”

Finally the president has spoken about George Zimmerman’s acquittal. Even as the country waited for his singular response – the nation’s leader and a law professor who once looked like Trayvon Martin – the president danced around the issues. And what a dramatic anti-climax, listening to the president refuse to say anything insightful or profound about the acquittal. In signature professorial style, the president gave us the “context” to the episode and to black people’s “pain.” But he didn’t offer a meaningful opinion on the episode’s hot molten core: racial profiling, vigilantism, and “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered trenchant thoughts on the acquittal, demanding action. Before an audience of supporters, Holder recently called for a full investigation of Martin’s death after Zimmerman’s acquittal. Holder vowed that the Justice Department will act “in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law. We will not be afraid.”

“We must stand our ground,” he told supporters.

Some of us have an Inner Child. Others have an Inner Nigger. Is Holder the president’s conscience? Or his Inner Nigger?

Is Holder the president’s aggressive internal mind and voice — willing to speak truth to power, but unbothered with appearing like an angry black man?

Read it and see what you think. I must admit, I was a little shocked.

Meanwhile, in a House hearing on the IRS non-scandal, good ol’ Darrell Issa referred to African American Congressman Elijah Cummings as “a little boy.”

The testy exchange came after Cummings, a 62-year-old African-American congressman from Baltimore, challenged past insinuations by Republicans that the White House was behind the IRS targeting. Cummings was picking up on testimony from two IRS witnesses who both said they knew of no evidence of political motivations in the enhanced scrutiny, which also included some progressive groups.

But Issa took issue with Cummings, denying that he had implied the orders came from the highest office in the land and insisting that he only said the targeting came from Washington.

Issa interrupted at the start of another member’s remarks to express his “shock” at Cummings.

“I’m always shocked when the ranking member seems to want to say, like a little boy whose hand has been caught in a cookie jar, ‘What hand? What cookie?’ I’ve never said it leads to the White House,” Issa said.

In fact, he has pointed to the Obama administration and went so far as to call President Barack Obama’s top spokesman, Jay Carney, a “paid liar.”

Nice.

Ex-CIA head Michael Hayden, who supported and defended warrantless wiretapping under the Bush administration has published an op-ed at CNN in which he says that  Edward Snowden “will likely prove to be the most costly leaker of American secrets in the history of the Republic,” and that writer and inveterate Snowden defender Glenn Greenwald is “far more deserving of the Justice Department’s characterization of a co-conspirator than Fox’s James Rosen ever was.” He says Snowden has hurt U.S. intelligence and foreign policy in three ways:

First, there is the undeniable operational effect of informing adversaries of American intelligence’s tactics, techniques and procedures. Snowden’s disclosures go beyond the “what” of a particular secret or source. He is busily revealing the “how” of American collection….

As former director of CIA, I would claim that the top 20% of American intelligence — that exquisite insight into an enemy’s intentions — is generally provided by human sources. But as a former director of NSA, I would also suggest that the base 50% to 60% of American intelligence day in and day out is provided by signals intelligence, the kinds of intercepted communications that Snowden has so blithely put at risk.

But there is other damage, such as the undeniable economic punishment that will be inflicted on American businesses for simply complying with American law….

The third great harm of Snowden’s efforts to date is the erosion of confidence in the ability of the United States to do anything discreetly or keep anything secret.

Manning’s torrent of disclosures certainly caused great harm, but there was at least the plausible defense that this was a one-off phenomenon, a regrettable error we’re aggressively correcting.

Snowden shows that we have fallen short and that the issue may be more systemic rather than isolated. At least that’s what I would fear if I were a foreign intelligence chief approached by the Americans to do anything of import.

Well, that third point is really the government’s fault, not Snowden’s.

Greenwald reacted by tweeting that Hayden “belongs in prison for implementing illegal warrantless eavesdropping at Americans.” FAIR defended Greenwald, calling Hayden’s characterization of Greenwald as “co-conspirator” a “smear.”

There’s nothing new on the Snowden front, except that Russia’s treatment of its own whistleblowers is beginning to get some coverage. From CNN: “Putin, a hypocrite on Snowden, Navalny.”

On Thursday in Moscow, where former NSA contractor Edward Snowden awaits his asylum papers, a Russian court removed a major critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin’s list of worries, sentencing the charismatic opposition leader Alexei Navalny to five years in jail on theft charges. Amid intense anger at the verdict and fears that it would raise Navalny’s profile, the court agreed on Friday to release him pending appeal.

The trial and the predictable verdict, as the European Union foreign affairs chief said, “raises serious questions as to the state of the rule of law in Russia.” That’s putting it mildly. Navatny is the most prominent, but just one in a long series of politically-motivated prosecutions in a country where the courts seldom make a move that displeases Putin.

Navalny was particularly worrisome to the Russian president. He had gained an enormous following by speaking out against corruption and cronyism, labeling Putin’s United Russia “a party of swindlers and thieves” and using social media to help mobilize the president’s critics. He had just announced he would run for mayor of Moscow. But, like other Putin opponents with any possible chance to loosen the president’s complete hold on power, he will likely go to prison instead. Now that he’s released, Navalny is considering whether to stay or withdraw from the race for mayor.

According to Voice of America, Navalny still plans to run for Mayor of Moscow.

Then there’s the case of Sergei Magnitsky. The government auditor was sent to investigate the investment firm Heritage Capital, which was charged with tax evasion. When Magnitsky concluded the tax fraud was actually coming from the government side and became a whistleblower, naming a network of corrupt officials, he was accused of working for Heritage and thrown in jail, where he became ill, was denied medical treatment and died in 2009, when he was just 37. The United States responded with the Magnitsky Law, imposing sanctions on those involved in his death.

Death didn’t save Magnitsky from Russia’s courts, which found him guilty of tax fraud just last week.

Many others, including the performance group Pussy Riot, have seen even small scale political activism land them in jail.

I’ll end there and open the floor to you. What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comments, and have a stupendous Saturday!!


19 Comments on “Saturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    The temperature rose to 89 (9AM) while I was writing this post. How do you Southerners stand it? Your body reacts to the heat even in air conditioning. I guess it’s all in what you get used to. At this point, I think I’ve really become acclimated. I was out early yesterday when it was nearly 100 degrees, and it didn’t bother me that much. I’m still looking forward to it getting back into the 70s and low 80s though!

    • ecocatwoman says:

      The older I’ve gotten the more my body cannot tolerate either high heat or Florida’s cooler temps. Plus between my falls & car accidents, my back, neck, ankles, right shoulder & right leg & knee, my bones are riddled with arthritis. I spend nearly no time outside. However, when I was in my 20s I worked outside and I got used to the heat, although I think it’s hotter & more humid now than it was in the 70s. It’s 86 right now & the afternoon thunderstorms are about to hit. Lately they’ve cooled things off, which isn’t normal for Florida. Normally the humidity would just escalate to infinity & beyond. I really hope you and the rest of the NE gets a break from the miserable weather soon. Can you imagine working on roofs during this heat wave?

      • bostonboomer says:

        Yes, I have lots of arthritis too, but it’s usually better when it’s warm. When it’s cold and damp, I ache all over, especially my hands, feet, and knees.

  2. Fannie says:

    Helen Thomas, died this morning in Washington………….she was 92 years old, and white house press secetary……………

    • Silent Kate says:

      This is the news I woke up to as well. Regardless of how the media will end up portraying her because of her statement about Israel, etc. I think she was an amazing person. If anyone asked what person would i most like to have lunch with to hear their stories….Helen would be mine!

      • Fannie says:

        SK……….she hit the glass ceiling too, and won many honor awards in her life time. I always enjoyed listening to her………….she was born 4 Aug 1920 in Clark Co. Ky. Her parents were George and Mary Thomas from Syria Arab Republic. During 1930/1940 her parents had Fruit store in Detroit, Michigan. Neither parent could read/write. She came from a large family, 5 or more sisters…………most were stenographers, etc. Helen wrote several books………seeing how Detroit went down the tubes, I wonder if in her last years she wrote about her old hometown. Salute to a fine first lady in journalism.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Oh no. Thanks for the info, Fannie. Here’s a link:

      Helen Thomas dies at 92, reported on every president since Kennedy

  3. Silent Kate says:

    I was disappointed in what the president said and all of the glorious hoopla the media has expressed about it. I really thought it was an opportunity to push towards sensible gun laws. One cop on a post I read suggested that Zimmerman probably couldn’t become a cop because he wouldn’t be able to pass a psych evaluation….yet, no problem carrying a weapon. I just wonder how many kids have to die before something is done about our gun culture. What happened to the president that was upset after Sandy hook? The whole world must view us as a backwards nation of redneck culture…old west style meshed up with the religious nuts that think an eye for an eye is justice…but no justice for black kids.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Obama has spoken about guns many times, and it just riles up the crazies. I think he has decided it may be counterproductive. Holder did talk about stand your ground, and he’s the one who should be dealing with it.

  4. cygnus says:

    Here’s a good article that iterates well the shudder I felt upon hearing of Janet Napolitano’s appointment to head up UC:

    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/07/2013719133744121515.html

    “First, there is the manner in which her selection was made. Her candidacy was developed in the course of a secretive process that excluded meaningful participation of UC faculty, thus departing from the transparency of information and free exchange of ideas to which the University of California and the Academy more broadly aspire. Such secrecy not only violates the governing principles of the American Association of University Professors, it is also a process from which other university systems, including those in Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Minnesota, Vermont, Nebraska, Florida, and Wisconsin, are increasing moving away in the hiring of senior administrators. “

    And Mitch Daniels is the president of Purdue. Not a happy trend when academics get pushed out by pols.

    http://gawker.com/mitch-daniels-president-of-purdue-tried-to-ban-howard-813676742

    “Shortly after Zinn died in 2010, Daniels e-mailed various education officials about Zinn, the AP said. His e-mail said: “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away. The obits and commentaries mentioned his book A People’s History of the United States is the ‘textbook of choice in high schools and colleges around the country.’ It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?”

    • bostonboomer says:

      It’s not new. Administrators aren’t generally academics. They are managers. Eisenhower was President of Columbia U. back in the day. You may be too young to remember.

      I hadn’t heard about Napolitano’s appointment though. Now that she has left ogvernment, I think we should shut down the Dept of “Homeland security.” Ugh, what a fascist name!

  5. NW Luna says:

    Yes, I also thought Obama should speak about the “Stand Your Ground,” aka Bully With a Gun laws, and the rest of the insane gun laws.

    I thought his characterization of women (presumably white, though he didn’t say) clutching their purses when blacks (presumably male, though he didn’t say) got on the elevator with them was quite a stretch, and perhaps condescending to women.

    Overall it was a tepid speech. OTOH, at least he did step out of his scheduled-speech routine.

  6. NW Luna says:

    Meanwhile, spying on its citizens continues as usual in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

    A secret U.S. intelligence court renewed an order Friday to continue forcing Verizon Communications to turn over hundreds of millions of telephone records to the government each day in its search for foreign terror or espionage suspects.

    The order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) has been in place for years but must be renewed every three months. It was exposed in June after former National Security Agency (NSA) systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked details of two top-secret U.S. surveillance programs that critics say violate privacy rights.

    The order was set to expire Friday, and its renewal shows that the Obama administration and the court of 11 federal judges stand behind its legality.

  7. NW Luna says:

    Whoa! This is interesting:

    Russian opposition leader freed in surprise move

    A court’s abrupt decision Friday to release Russia’s most charismatic opposition leader less than a day after handing him a five-year prison sentence appears to reflect confusion in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle about how to deal with its No. 1 foe.

    Even more, it makes clear that the Kremlin is far from a monolith. The surprising about-face involving Alexei Navalny highlights an open rift between factions in Putin’s government that could be as unsettling for the leadership as any opposition figure, experts say.

    In an unusual move, prosecutors themselves had requested that Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger and Moscow mayoral candidate, be let go pending appeal just a few hours after he was led out of a courtroom in handcuffs following an embezzlement conviction that was widely seen as unfair.