We’re close to two years away from the 2016 presidential primaries, but already the media is putting everything Hillary Clinton said or does under a microscope. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. For some reason, I just can’t help being protective of Hillary even if I don’t agree with everything she says. The latest flap is over remarks she made about Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine at a private fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Long Beach, CA .
It began on Tuesday night when Buzzfeed’s Ruby Cramer reported what she learned from two people who attended the event: Hillary Clinton Compares Russia Moves To Nazi Aggression.
“Mrs. Clinton talked at length on the situation in the Ukraine,” said one attendee, Harry Saltzgaver, the executive editor of a group of newspapers in Long Beach.
Both Saltzgaver and a second fundraiser attendee, who requested to speak without attribution, described Clinton’s parallel between the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler, who resettled tens of thousands of ethnic Germans in Eastern and Central Europe to Nazi Germany before the war.
“She compared issuing Russian passports to Ukrainians with ties to Russia with early actions by Nazi Germany before Hitler began invading neighboring countries,” Saltzgaver said. “She said, however, that while that makes people nervous, there is no indication that Putin is as irrational as the instigator of World War II.”
A reporter also provided Cramer with direct quotes:
According to the Long Beach Press Telegram, whose reporter attended the event, Clinton told attendees, “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s,” she said. “All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”
Oh no! Clinton breaks Godwin’s law! Suddenly there was a stampede to be the first to criticize her for invoking Hitler. I mean, how dare she? She’s only the former Secretary of State and a possible candidate for president in 2016.
Philip Rucker at the WaPo: Hillary Clinton’s Putin-Hitler comments draw rebukes as she wades into Ukraine conflict.
Hillary Rodham Clinton has sparked a political uproar this week by wading into the middle of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, likening the moves of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the actions of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler leading up to World War II.
The former secretary of state’s provocative comparison drew swift rebukes Wednesday from U.S.-Russia policy experts — including some who served under her husband, former president Bill Clinton — while attracting rare notes of support from hawkish Republicans in Congress.
The comments put Clinton, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, at odds with President Obama and her former administration colleagues, who have been measured in their statements on Ukraine in hopes of avoiding an escalation of Putin’s incursion into Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Rucker quoted one “expert” who claimed Hillary was trying to take a “hard line” on Putin now because she had been “the face of the Obama administration’s “effort to “reset” its policy with Russia.”
Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a nonpartisan global risk consulting firm, said Clinton’s Hitler comment signaled she was trying to “stage manage” the Russia issue.
“Hillary’s too smart to actually believe that Putin’s actions are remotely close to anything that Hitler did,” Bremmer said. “The only reason she would say that is that she believes she was vulnerable in having been the architect of the failed ‘reset’ and wants to show that she’s harder-line than anybody else.”
But former Russian Ambassador Michael McFaul disagreed.
He said Clinton was “much more skeptical” of Putin than other administration colleagues, that she was the first U.S. official to condemn Putin’s disputed 2011 election, and that she made a point of meeting with civil-society critics during official visits to Russia.
Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczinski followed up on his colleague’s reporting with a clarification from Hillary in a report on her appearance at at UCLA yesterday.
“The claims by President Putin and other Russians that they had to go into Crimea and maybe further into Eastern Ukraine because they had protect the Russia minorities,” Clinton said Wednesday, “that is reminiscent of claims that were made back in the 1930s when Germany under the Nazis kept talking about how they had to protect German minorities in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere throughout Europe. So I just want everybody to have a little historic perspective. I’m not making a comparison certainly, but I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before.”
Clinton also assessed Putin’s personality, based on her personal experience:
“As for President Putin, I know we are dealing with a tough guy with a thin skin,” Clinton said. “I’ve had a lot of experience — well, not only with him but with people like that — but in particular with President Putin. I know that his political vision is of a greater Russia.”
“I support the administration’s call for Russia to respect its obligation and to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Clinton added.
Still, at CNN last night Timothy Stanley chided Hillary for “raising the specter of another world war.” Sorry, but isn’t Putin the one doing that? A couple more reactions:
Hillary Rodham Clinton defended her record as secretary of State against Republican criticism that she had been too accommodating to Russia, arguing Wednesday that she had taken a tough but pragmatic approach so the U.S. could attain its goals.
In remarks at UCLA’s Royce Hall, Clinton assertively brushed aside opponents’ suggestions that she and the Obama administration effectively invited Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s recent incursion into Ukraine by failing to blunt his aggression.
Clinton said that when she became secretary of State in 2009, “we had some business we wanted to get done with Russia.” Among the U.S. goals at the time: an arms control agreement, the creation of a pathway through Russia to provide support for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and an effort to get Russia into the World Trade Organization.
“There is a debate in foreign policy, and you hear these voices on TV right now: ‘These are bad folks; they’re doing bad things; do nothing with them,’” Clinton said, adding that her approach was to “be smart about it; pick and choose; stand your ground on disagreements, but look for ways to get things done.”
Pointing to the administration’s accomplishments, Clinton said that the U.S. “even got [Russia] to support sanctions against Iran in the [U.N.] Security Council — something people predicted we couldn’t get done.”
NYT The Caucus Blog: Clinton Ratchets Up Criticism of Putin and Backs Obama.
Hillary Rodham Clinton continued her sharp condemnation of Russian President Vladamir V. Putin here on Wednesday, calling him “a tough guy with a thin skin” and saying she supports the Obama administration’s call for Russia to resist further intervention in neighboring Ukraine.
“His political vision is of a greater Russia. I said when I was still secretary that his goal is to re-Sovietize Russia’s periphery,” Mrs. Clinton said at the top of remarks she delivered at the University of California. In the process, she said, Mr. Putin is “squandering the potential of such a great nation. The nation of Russia.”
I think Hillary handled herself pretty well, and I agree with her tough approach to Putin. Let’s not forget that Putin has Edward Snowden and all his stolen secrets. As former NASA analyst John Schindler tweeted yesterday,
“As crisis mounts and war looms, I hope US and NATO have excellent intelligence on Russia. Too bad #Snowden compromised all that SIGINT…”
Just one last article on the crisis in Ukraine, this time from the Russian standpoint and it shows the need for Western leaders to take clear stands. From the Moscow Times: Why There Will Be War in Ukraine. Author Sergei Markov of The Institute of Political Studies argues that the current leadership in Ukraine is anti-Russian and will intimidate Russian speakers living in the country. He predicts this could eventually lead to efforts to overthrow Putin in Russia.
After that, Kiev may evict Russia’s Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol and purge Crimea of any Russian influence. Ukraine could easily become a radicalized, anti-Russian state, at which point Kiev will fabricate a pretext to justify taking subversive action against Moscow. This looks especially likely considering that ruling coalition members from the neo-fascist Svoboda and Right Sector parties have already made territorial claims against Russia. They could easily send their army of activists to Russia to join local separatists and foment rebellion in the North Caucasus and other unstable regions in Russia. In addition, Russia’s opposition movement will surely want to use the successful experience and technology of the Euromaidan protests and, with the help and financial support of the West, try to carry out their own revolution in Moscow. The goal: to remove President Vladimir Putin from power and install a puppet leadership that will sell Russia’s strategic interests out to the West in the same way former President Boris Yeltsin did in the 1990s….
Markov too breaks Godwin’s law:
Putin made the right decision: He did not to wait for that attack and took preventative measures. Many in the West say the Kremlin’s reactions were paranoiac, but Germany’s Jews also thought the same of leaving the country in 1934. Most of them chose to believe they were safe and remained in Germany even after Hitler came to power. The infamous Kristallnacht took place five years later, one of the first early chapters in the “Final Solution.” Similarly, just four years remain until Russia’s presidential election in 2018, and there is a strong risk that subversive forces within and outside Russia will try to overthrow Putin, in part using their new foothold in Ukraine.
Will there be war in Ukraine? I am afraid so. After all, the extremists who seized power in Kiev want to see a bloodbath. Only fear for their own lives might stop them from inciting such a conflict. Russia is prepared to move its forces into southern and eastern Ukraine if repressive measures are used against the Russian-speaking population or if a military intervention occurs. Russia will not annex Crimea. It has enough territory already. At the same time, however, it will also not stand by passively while Russophobic and neo-Nazi gangs hold the people of Crimea, Kharkiv and Donetsk at their mercy.
So . . . what do you think? And what other stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comments. I have few I’ll post there too.
I saw this photo on Twitter yesterday, and I couldn’t resist sharing it. The comments were pretty funny too. Several people noted that the gun goes on the left; others said the gun should be turned over for quicker access if needed. Others said the bacon was just right but there should be a couple more eggs and some doughnuts.
I feel like I’m writing for an exclusive group this morning; we seem to have lost a lot of our regular commenters over the past week or so. I hope it wasn’t something I said.
Maybe it’s just that we’ve reached the dregs of a very long and exhausting winter. I must admit that yesterday I was selfishly relieved to see a nasty storm coming across the country that didn’t involve the Boston area. Nevertheless, I know it did affect places where we have readers, and I am well aware of how very depressing and tiring it can feel when the snow, ice, and cold just won’t quit.
The political news isn’t exactly cheery either–It’s mostly endless civil wars in the Middle East accompanied by the one here at home in the Republican Party; constant attacks on President Obama for being either too wimpy and weak or a vicious, drone dropping, privacy-invading dictator; and the press digging up old Clinton smears in preparation for Hillary running for President in 2016.
Right now, the main focus is on the events in Ukraine–Syria and Egypt are all but forgotten by “journalists” who seem unable to focus on more than one story at a time. Somehow, they never fail to find a way to blame everything on Obama though, no matter what crisis they are reporting.
Even Dana Millbank, who often judges Obama harshly has noticed: Obama, the feckless tyrant.
President Obama is such a weak strongman. What’s more, he is a feeble dictator and a timid tyrant.
That, at any rate, is Republicans’ critique of him. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Obama’s critics pivoted seamlessly from complaining about his overreach to fretting that he is being too cautious. Call it Operation Oxymoron.
Last Wednesday, I sat in a House hearing and listened to Republicans describe Obama exercising “unparalleled use of executive power” and operating an “uber-presidency.” They accused him of acting like a “king” and a “monarch,” of making the United States like a “dictatorship” or a “totalitarian government” by exercising “imperial” and “magisterial power.”
But after events in Ukraine, this very tyrant was said to be so weak that it’s “shocking.”
“We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) proclaimed Sunday on CNN.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday that Obama has “a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”
For once Millbank, the ultimate Villager, hit the nail on the head. On Twitter over the last few days, I’ve even seen people complaining about the White House photo of Obama in shirtsleeves talking on the phone to Putin, because it supposedly shows how weak and unprofessional Obama is.
Michael Cohen at the Guardian has it right, IMO : Don’t listen to Obama’s Ukraine critics: he’s not ‘losing’ – and it’s not his fight.
In the days since Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into the Crimea, it has been amateur hour back in Washington.
I don’t mean Barack Obama. He’s doing pretty much everything he can, with what are a very limited set of policy options at his disposal. No, I’m talking about the people who won’t stop weighing in on Obama’s lack of “action” in the Ukraine. Indeed, the sea of foreign policy punditry – already shark-infested – has reached new lows in fear-mongering, exaggerated doom-saying and a stunning inability to place global events in any rational historical context.
This would be a useful moment for Americans to have informed reporters, scholars and leaders explaining a crisis rapidly unfolding half a world away. Instead, we’ve already got all the usual suspect arguments.
Cohen offers a number of examples:
Let’s start here with Julia Ioffe of the New Republic, a popular former reporter in Moscow who now tells us that Putin has sent troops into Crimea “because he can. That’s it, that’s all you need to know”. It’s as if things like regional interests, spheres of influence, geopolitics, coercive diplomacy and the potential loss of a key ally in Kiev (as well as miscalculation) are alien concepts for Russian leaders.
Overstated Rhetoric Shorn of Political Context
David Kramer, president of Freedom House, hit the ball out of the park on this front when he hyperbolically declared that Obama’s response to Putin’s actions “will define his two terms in office” and “the future of U.S. standing in the world”.
Honorable mention goes to Ian Bremmer of Eurasia Group for calling this crisis “the most seismic geopolitical events since 9/11”. Putting aside the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Arab Spring, Syria’s civil war and tensions in the South China Sea, Bremmer might have a point.
Unhelpful Policy Recommendations
Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Commander of Nato, deserves a shout-out for calling on Nato to send maritime forces into the Black Sea, among other inflammatory steps. No danger of miscalculation or unnecessary provocation there. No, none at all.
Much more panicky heavy breathing at the link. Does anyone in Washington recall what happened when George W. Bush was president and Russia attacked Georgia?
Here’s a great example of Obama-blaming at Politico. Their top “morning brief” is DoD suspends military relationship with Russia
The Pentagon is putting on hold its military-to-military relationship with Russia over its incursion into Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, according to Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. “We have, in light of recent events in Ukraine, put on hold all military-to-military engagements between the United States and Russia,” Kirby said in a statement last night. “This includes exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences.”
Kirby also said there’s been “no change” in U.S. military posture in Europe or the Mediterranean, despite speculation in the news media about possible ship movements. “Navy units continue to conduct routine, previously planned operations and exercises with allies and partners in the region,” he said.
But apparently the Politico gang doesn’t see how that new could relate to President Obama, the Commander In Chief of our armed forces. Here’s what they say about Obama in the same “morning brief.”
AT THE WHITE HOUSE, the big question is whether President Barack Obama has what it takes to unite Europe behind a package of sanctions that would, in his words, “isolate Russia.”
Because Obama has no balls, get it?
Sigh . . .
At Time Magazine, Simon Shuster notes that Putin is also being judged harshly at home, despite the efforts of the Kremlin-controlled media: 4 Reasons Putin Is Already Losing in Ukraine.
At home, this intervention looks to be one of the most unpopular decisions Putin has ever made. The Kremlin’s own pollster released a survey on Monday that showed 73% of Russians reject it. In phrasing its question posed in early February to 1,600 respondents across the country, the state-funded sociologists at WCIOM were clearly trying to get as much support for the intervention as possible: “Should Russia react to the overthrow of the legally elected authorities in Ukraine?” they asked. Only 15% said yes — hardly a national consensus.
That seems astounding in light of all the brainwashing Russians have faced on the issue of Ukraine. For weeks, the Kremlin’s effective monopoly on television news has been sounding the alarm over Ukraine. Its revolution, they claimed, is the result of an American alliance with Nazis intended to weaken Russia. And still, nearly three-quarters of the population oppose a Russian “reaction” of any kind, let alone a Russian military occupation like they are now watching unfold in Crimea. The 2008 invasion of Georgia had much broader support, because Georgia is not Ukraine. Ukraine is a nation of Slavs with deep cultural and historical ties to Russia. Most Russians have at least some family or friends living in Ukraine, and the idea of a fratricidal war between the two largest Slavic nations in the world evokes a kind of horror that no Kremlin whitewash can calm.
Indeed, Monday’s survey suggests that the influence of Putin’s television channels is breaking down. The blatant misinformation and demagoguery on Russian television coverage of Ukraine seems to have pushed Russians to go online for their information. And as for those who still have no Internet connection, they could simply have picked up the phone and called their panicked friends and relatives in Ukraine.
Strongly worded statements, threats of travel restrictions, and summit no-shows. So far, these are the relatively mild diplomatic implications for Russia of itsincursion into Ukraine, as few in the West can stomach an open military confrontation with Moscow over its apparent occupation of Crimea.But the markets are punishing Russia much more swiftly than the diplomats. A wide range of Russian assets—stocks, bonds, and the ruble—plunged in value today. To shore up the ruble, which is plumbing record depths, Russia’s central bank unexpectedly hiked interest rates today. It ratcheted up the benchmark one-week rate from 5.5% to 7%, and traders report that the central bank has also been spending billions of dollars in currency markets to stem the fall in the value of the ruble.The two main Moscow stock markets, the Micex and the RTS, have fallen by more than 10% at the time of writing, in a broad-based selloff. Big Russian companies like Gazprom and Sberbank saw their share prices plunge as traders dumped their shares.
Is there any other political news? Not much to speak of, so I’m just about to wrap this up. But first, today is Fat Tuesday and, despite the bad weather Mardi Gras is going forward in New Orleans. From ABC News: Cold, Gray Morning Won’t Stop Mardi Gras Revelers.
A cold, gray day greeted revelers gathering Tuesday along parade routes as the Carnival season in New Orleans headed to a crest with the unabashed celebration of Mardi Gras.
The first street marching groups — including clarinetist Pete Fountain’s Half-Fast Walking Club — were to begin their marches along oak-lined St. Charles Avenue and into the business district. Later, the floats of the Zulu and Rex parades and hundreds of truck trailers decorated by family and social groups would wind down St. Charles Avenue.
Light rain began to fall early in the morning, but revelers were still expected to gather by the tens of thousands in the French Quarter, where the bawdy side of Mardi Gras was expected to be on full display.
Mark Nelson of St. Louis said he would be in the mix even in a downpour. It’s his first Mardi Gras.
“That’s why God made washing machines,” said Nelson, who was sipping on a daiquiri as he enjoyed the sounds of trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers, who performed at the Lundi Gras festivities Monday along the Mississippi River.
For those of us who can’t get down to NOLA, the LA Times offers Mardi Gras: Celebrate with king cake and 16 additional recipes!
So . . . what’s on your mind today? Please let us know in the comments. We want to hear from you!
Another snowstorm is coming, but it’s not yet clear how bad it will be or how much snow will fall in which areas. From the Weather Channel: Ice Storm Possible for Mississippi Valley, Ohio Valley; Snowstorm for West, Midwest, Northeast.
After a brief reprieve from blockbuster winter storms in the Midwest and East – and a much-too-lengthy reprieve in California – Winter Storm Titan is will lay down a swath of heavy snow from California to the East Coast, and also a swath of sleet and freezing rain from the Plains to the Mid-Atlantic States.
- Saturday: The main event east of the Rockies will begin to unfold as snow spreads east across portions of the Plains, Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. For parts of the Northern Rockies, this will just be a continuation of snow from the previous, weaker disturbance. Widespread snow is likely across Wyoming, but will gradually wind down over western and southern Montana. Farther south the snow will be more tied to higher elevations. (See inset map for details.)
- Sunday: The more significant part of Winter Storm Titan begins with snow, sleet and freezing rain becoming heavier. A stripe of significant ice accumulation is likely Sunday and Sunday night from the Ozarks through into the Mid-South region, Ohio Valley and West Virginia with snow farther north from the central Plains into the mid-Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley. These threats spread into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Sunday afternoon and night.
- Monday: Snow/sleet tapers off in the Ohio Valley Appalachians, but should linger in the Appalachians and along parts of the I-95 Northeast corridor much of the day, before ending off in the evening. Ice/sleet areas early in the day in the Mid-Atlantic states should changeover to snow Monday morning.
Whatever. Winter is almost over. It’s March 1, and there are signs of spring–at least down at Fenway South in Ft. Myers, Florida (and many other spring training locations). Yesterday the Red Sox played their first Grapefruit League game against the Minnesota Twins, losing 8-2. But who cares? A hot new pitching prospect shut down the Twins for two innings, striking out four–a good sign for the upcoming season. Baseball is back, opening day is a little over a month away, and that means spring is coming!
OK, I know I’m being really provincial, but I’ll bet you’re seeing signs of Spring too. What is giving you hope for the end of this long, cold winter? Even the folks down south have suffered greatly this year.
One more Boston story. The FBI is claiming that accused Boston bomber Dzhohar Tsarnaev “made a damaging statement” in a visit with one of his sisters recently. Of course they won’t even give a hint as to what he said, so I don’t know what to make of it. The Boston Globe:
The filing said that Tsarnaev, despite the presence of the agent, who was legally allowed in the room, “was unable to temper his remarks and made a statement to his detriment which was overheard by the agent.”
The filing did not say what the statement was.
The filing was made as part of an ongoing battle between the prosecution and defense over special administrative measures, special prison restrictions, that have been imposed on Tsarnaev.
The defense says the prosecution is refusing to turn over information they need and that the FBI is monitoring their meetings with Tsarnaev and preventing them from developing their defense strategy. I think the feds need to keep in mind that they will have a Massachusetts jury–very few people here support the death penalty, and most potential jurors will be troubled by FBI efforts that might prevent a fair trial. After all, we just recently went through the Whitey Bulger trial, in which we heard endless tales of FBI abuses and we’re still waiting for an explanation as to why an agent from the Boston office shot Ibragim Todashev down in Orlando last May.
We’re coming up on the 2014 Boston Marathon, and we still have almost no explanations of what really happened during the Marathon bombing and the shootout in Watertown a few days later. And then there’s the Waltham triple murder, which the FBI is trying to pin on two dead guys–Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Ibrigim Todashev. Susan Zalkind summed up many of the questions in this month’s Boston Magazine coverstory: The Murders Before the Marathon. There wasn’t a whole lot of breaking news in the article, but it’s a very good summary of events so far.
There’s a lot happening in Ukraine. I’ll just give you a couple of links to check out, because I’m not qualified to comment on the situation–other than I’m sick of everyone expecting the U.S. to get involved in every crisis.
The latest from ABC News: Putin Asks Parliament to Use Military in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin asked parliament Saturday for permission to use the country’s military in Ukraine, moving to formalize what Ukrainian officials described as an ongoing deployment of Russian troops in the strategic region of Crimea.
Putin’s motion loosely refers to the “territory of Ukraine” rather than specifically to Crimea, raising the possibility that Moscow could use military force in other Russian-speaking provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine where many oppose the new authorities in Kiev….
He said the move is needed to protect ethnic Russians and the personnel of a Russian military base in Ukraine’s strategic region of Crimea. Putin sent the request to the Russian legislature’s upper house, which has to approve the motion, according to the constitution. The rubber-stamp parliament is certain to approve it in a vote expected Saturday.
In Crimea, the pro-Russian regional prime minister had earlier claimed control of the military and police there and asked Putin for help in keeping peace, sharpening the discord between the two neighboring Slavic countries.
President Obama warned yesterday that there would consequences for military intervention in Ukraine, but he didn’t specify any actions he would take. At this point, I think these warnings are just being ignored, because there is seldom any follow-up. As I said earlier, I don’t want to get involved in any more foreign conflicts. Let Europe deal with it if they want to. We have plenty of problems here at home that require government action.
A week after violent protests forced Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich to abandon power in Kiev, Ukraine’s new leaders say Russia is trying to take control of the southern Crimea region, which has a majority ethnic Russian population.
France, Britain and Germany issued calls for de-escalation in Crimea hours after U.S. President Barack Obama warned that military intervention in the region would be deeply destabilizing and “carry costs”.
“France is extremely concerned by the reports from Crimea, which describe significant troop movements,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement. “We call on the parties to abstain from acts that could raise tensions and affect Ukraine’s territorial unity.”
It does appear that Putin is intent on reviving the Cold War. I hope he’s not successful.
Tomorrow night we’ll get an other episode of True Detective–there are only two to go. I gathered a bunch more links in the past couple of days. Some of them have spoilers, so be careful.
This is an older post, but it provides some very good background on the weird aspects of the story. From Grantland’s Molly Lambert, Carcosa or Bust: The Satisfyingly Weird Mysteries of ‘True Detective’. Just a taste:
Hallucinatory spirals, talk of “black stars” rising in the sky, dead women trussed up like ancient horned gods and tattooed with mysterious symbols, all supposedly in reference to Robert W. Chambers’s fairly obscure weird fiction classic The King in Yellow? Damn, True Detective, you’ve given me a lot to absorb.
Where is the show going with its recently clarified Lovecraftian ties? Does it even really matter, when the ride is this great? The most satisfying part of a mystery is rarely its resolution. Sustained anticipation is much of the thrill. Like earlier TV mysteries Twin Peaks, The X-Files, and Lost, True Detective is a show with its own internal mythology, which taunts both the protagonists and viewers with signs just beyond our comprehension. When some bits of information are guaranteed to be important later, every single bit of information feels like a potential clue. Attempting to read a show scene by scene and pluck out exactly what will prove crucial from a galaxy of visual and verbal details can feel absolutely maddening….
You can spend endless amounts of time pondering True Detective’s more concrete questions, let alone the existential ones. Are the wooden triangles strewn around the sites of the ritualistic murders pagan symbols, bird traps, or neither? Given creator Nic Pizzolatto’s professed affection for weird fiction, were Reggie Ledoux’s gas mask and the reference to a “green-eared spaghetti monster” meant to invoke Cthulhu, the giant octopus monster that signals cosmic doom in the work of seminal horror writer H.P. Lovecraft? Is the mystery even going to get solved?True Detective’s flashback structure accentuates the gaps in our knowledge. Everything we know is gleaned from flashbacks and interrogations, but there’s no guarantee that future information won’t flip our perspective. Hell, there’s no guarantee that Rust and Marty’s flashbacks are accurate. After all, if we can see Rust’s subjective hallucination of birds assembling into a spiral in the sky, who’s to say we’re not seeing other events from his subjective perspective too? This kind of theorizing, not baseless but impossible to prove conclusively, will make you feel like True Detective’s detectives. Maybe the show’s obsessions with madness, reality, and truth really are contagious.
Then read Lamberts latest post: Five Things to Consider for This Week’s Episode of ‘True Detective’. She has some good questions.
A guy at Reddit did some sleuthing and came up with some photos posted by True Detective crew members. Here’s a link to a lot of photos, some from the upcoming episodes. I looked at them, and got some sense of what’s coming, but not much more than I got from the teaser trailer. They didn’t ruin the suspense for me. Just be warned if you want to stay completely in the dark.
A few more links to explore as we wait for tomorrow night to roll around:
Rolling Stone: The Dark Thrills of ‘True Detective’
Slate: The True DetectiveGlossary
Complex Pop Culture: Pictures of You: “True Detective” and the Dilemma of the Dead Woman’s Photograph
Now what’s on your mind today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!!
Tuesday Reads: Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela; Robot Police; Republican Stupidity; Harold Ramis; and Women of “True Detective”Posted: February 25, 2014
There is so much foreign news these days, and I have to admit ignorance when it comes to discussing the situations in Ukraine, Venezuela, and Syria. I don’t even know where to begin to understand the issues, and to be honest I just don’t have the time to try to do it. But here are some articles from sources I trust that struck me as important.
I’ll begin with something I can easily understand and care about: the fate of children in these conflicts. From The Independent, ‘No one cares’: The tragic truth of Syria’s 500,000 refugee children. The article is about British photojournalist Ed Thompson and an art student from Lebanon, Sammy Hamze, who went to Lebanon to put a spotlight on what is happening to Syrian refugee families.
We have heard the stories. Children at risk of dying from the cold in refugee camps; vulnerable to trafficking; begging on the side of the road; left orphaned and out of school; girls sold into marriage. But what shook Thompson most was that the children, although appearing older than their years, were still so young. “They are innocent, completely innocent,” he says now. “One father told me to look at his family; he could barely feed his son. They had been through hell, walked through hell and got to hell. All they want to do is go home.”
The conflict that has torn Syria apart has raged for almost three years, left more than 100,000 people dead in its wake and driven nine-and-a-half million from their homes. It took intense political pressure to get the British Government to agree to offer hundreds of the “most needy people” in Syrian refugee camps a home in this country. “We live in the modern age – we can read what’s going on in Syria; we’ve never had more information at our fingertips,” says Thompson – “but no one cares.”
If anything can break through the apathy, it is his pictures.
Read more and see some of Thompson’s photos at the link.
On Ukraine, I posted this article by Mark Ames in the comments yesterday, but I’ll link it again here: Everything you now about Ukraine is wrong.
I haven’t lived in that part of the world since the Kremlin ran me out of town, so I’m not going to pretend that I know as much as those on the ground there. Still, I’ve been driven nuts by the avalanche of overconfident ignorance that stands for analysis or commentary on the wild events there. A lethal ignorance, a virtuous ignorance….
Nearly everyone here in the US tries to frame and reify Ukraine’s dynamic to fit America-centric spats. As such, Ukraine’s problems are little more than a propaganda proxy war where our own political fights are transferred to Ukraine’s and Russia’s context, warping the truth to score domestic spat points. That’s nothing new, of course, but it’s still jarring to watch how the “new media” counter-consensus is warping and misrepresenting reality in Ukraine about as crudely as the neocons and neoliberals used to warp and Americanize the political realities there back when I first started my Moscow newspaper, The eXile.
Read about what Ames calls the “simplifications/misconceptions” that are driving Ames crazy at Pando Daily.
And then there’s Venezuela. At The Washington Post, Adam Tayor asks, Amid the coverage of Ukraine, is a crisis in Venezuela being ignored? It’s an interesting question. And what about Syria, which has pretty much disappeared in all the coverage of Ukraine? Is American media simply incapable of covering more than one foreign conflict at a time? Read all about it at the link.
One more story on Venezuela from Peter Weber at The Week: Venezuela isn’t going to be another Ukraine.
Venezuela is not Ukraine, and beneath the similarities in the protest movements are significant differences.
The first is time: The Kiev protesters started their demonstration in November after Yanukovych reneged on a European Union trade pact, and they gradually built up a tent fortress in the central Maidan Square. In Venezuela, the protests started on Feb. 4 at the university in San Cristóbal, with students showing their anger over the lack of police response to an attempted rape and crime in general.
The “brutal police crackdown” on the student protesters in San Cristóbal led to similar protests at other universities, which were also violently suppressed, says Francisco Toro in The New York Times. “As the cycle of protests, repression, and protests-against-repression spread, the focus of protest began to morph. What was at stake, the students realized, was the right to free assembly.” Toro continues:
It’s this intolerance of opposing views, and violent repression, that Venezuela’s students are now mobilized against. Today, after 13 deaths, 18 alleged cases of torture and over 500 student arrests, the protest movement has snowballed into a nationwide paroxysm of anger that puts the government’s stability in question. The protests’ lack of structure has given them resilience, but also an anarchic edge. There is no single leader in a position to give the movement strategic direction. [The New York Times]
Read more comparisons at the link.
In Other News . . .
If you think the prospect of being spied on by NSA is frightening, you need to read this article by James Robinson at Pando Daily: Knightscope’s new robotic law enforcer is like staring at the demise of humanity.
Knightscope’s autonomous, crime fighting robot has the complexion of a washing machine. In pictures it looks cute, the size of a penguin maybe. In person it is five feet tall with intimidating breadth. It moves steadily and with insistence. If you stare at it long enough, the twin panels of lights about two-thirds of the way up its body start to take on the appearance of shifty, judgmental eyes. It sees what you’re doing and wants you to cut it out.
The full name of the Knightscope robot on display at the Launch Festival this morning was the K5 beta prototype. Former Ford Motor Company executive and Knightscope CEO William Santana Li describes it to MC and festival organizer Jason Calacanis onstage as a “crime fighting autonomous data machine.” But that doesn’t come close to doing it justice….
As Santana Li outlines proudly, the beast before him on stage takes in 360-degree video through four cameras, is capable of thermal imaging, registers gestures, recognizes faces and can run 300 license plates in a single minute. It works off proximity GPS and scans its environment every 25 milliseconds. It runs off nearly identical technology to Google’s self-driving cars. He boasts that it can see, feel, hear and smell. It is autonomous, will roam outdoors, can take video, decide when it needs to return and charge its batteries and can detect biological and chemical pathogens and radiation.
The Knightscope will get put out in the field gathering data, Santana Li says. The owner can log in to a security panel and get a read of what is going on in the area. The robot can scan license plates and report back on stolen cars. Its facial recognition capabilities can alert its owner to any registered sex offender in the area. The sample dashboard Santana Li logs in to, shows that the robot can report back about things as specific as how many people are lying horizontal and how many are gesturing with their hands. The company is working on giving it a 3M graffiti proof sheen, it emits a piercing sound if someone tries to tip it over and the machines will often work in pairs so they can protect each other.
How would you like to live in a world where one of those things is checking up on you wherever you go?
From Laura Bassett at Huffington Post, here’s the latest from the land of Republican misogyny and stupidity: Virginia Republican Says A Pregnant Woman Is Just A ‘Host,’ Though ‘Some Refer To Them As Mothers.’ Yes, someone really said that.
A pregnant woman is just a “host” that should not have the right to end her pregnancy, Virginia State Sen. Steve Martin (R) wrote in a Facebook rant defending his anti-abortion views.
Martin, the former chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee, wrote a lengthy post about his opinions on women’s bodies on his Facebook walllast week in response to a critical Valentine’s Day card he received from reproductive rights advocates.
“I don’t expect to be in the room or will I do anything to prevent you from obtaining a contraceptive,” Martin wrote. “However, once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.” Martin then changed his post on Monday afternoon to refer to the woman as the “bearer of the child” instead of the “host.”
Martin explained that he edited his post because “people took it the wrong way.” Read his original post at the link.
And then there’s good old Bobby Jindal, who still thinks he has a chance to be POTUS: Jindal Breaches White House Protocol To Take Shots At Obama.
The National Governors Association is supposed to bring Democrats and Republicans together to discuss policy and share ideas for mutual success, but after a meeting at the White House Monday, all pretense at bipartisan comity was shattered as a press conference with lawmakers descended into a partisan fracas.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal launched into a repeated assault on President Barack Obama’s leadership in the shadow of the West Wing, in defiance of established bipartisan protocol. Speaking after a meeting of the NGA at the White House, Jindal, the vice chair of the Republican Governors Association, said Obama is “waving a white flag” by focusing on executive actions with three years left in his term. “The Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy,” Jindal added….
Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy rose to challenge Jindal immediately after he spoke to reporters, calling his remarks on Obama waving a white flag “the most insane statement I’ve ever heard.”
Jindal then returned to the microphones to continue his barrage against the Obama administration, saying as Malloy walked off, “I want to make sure he hears a more partisan statement,” and saying Obama should delay the Affordable Care Act mandates. It wasn’t the first time Jindal had used the microphones outside the White House to attack the president, having done the same at last year’s meeting.
Fortunately, Bobby Jindal will never be president. What a horrible excuse for a human being.
As everyone knows by now, we lost a great comedy writer, director, and performer yesterday. From The Chicago Tribune: Harold Ramis, Chicago actor, writer and director, dead at 69.
Harold Ramis not only may be the most successful comedy writer-director that Chicago has produced, but some wouldn’t even confine that statement to Chicago.
“Harold was clearly the most successful comedy writer-director of all time,” said Tim Kazurinsky, who followed Ramis at Second City and later became his friend. “The number of films that he has made that were successful, that were blockbusters, nobody comes close. Even in light in of that, he was more successful as a human being.”
Ramis’ career was still thriving in 1996, with “Groundhog Day” acquiring almost instant classic status upon its 1993 release and 1984′s “Ghostbusters” ranking among the highest-grossing comedies of all time, when he decided to move his family back to the Chicago area, where he grew up and had launched his career.
On Monday, Ramis was surrounded by family in his North Shore home when he died at 12:53 a.m. of complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, said his wife, Erica Mann Ramis. He was 69.
Read The New York Times obituary here: Harold Ramis, Alchemist of Comedy, Dies at 69.
Finally, a little True Detective news. Dakinikat posted this in the comments yesterday, but if you didn’t go to the link you might have missed something really revelatory.
A number of writers have noted that the hit HBO series focuses almost exclusively on the male characters and that women and children are only seen and heard in terms of their effect on the men–for example, see this article at The New Yorker by Emily Nussbaum: The shallow deep talk of “True Detective.”
Yesterday two feminist writers took a different point of view. At Slate, Willa Paskin argues that the way the men of True Detective treat women is actually at the heart of the narrative–that by not listening to women, Detectives Marty Hart and Rust Cohle miss the very clues that would help them solve their 17-year case.
Ignoring women may be the show’s blind spot, but it is also one of its major themes. True Detective is explicitly about the horrible things that men do to women, things that usually go unseen and uninvestigated. No one missed Dora Lange. Marie Fontenot disappeared, and the police let a rumor stop them from following up. Another little girl was abducted, and a report was never even filed. “Women and children are disappearing, nobody hears about it, nobody puts it together,” Rust told his boss Sunday night, outlining what he believes is a vast conspiracy in the Bayou. Rust is haunted by women who aren’t there—his ex-wife and his dead daughter—while Marty cannot deal appropriately with the women who are.
I’m inclined to agree with Paskin. In fact, I’m going to take it a step further and argue that I think, whatever else happens, this inability of the main characters to really see women is going to be their downfall. Over and over again, the show obsesses about the gap between self-serving delusions and narratives and what’s really going on. Marty repeatedly talks about how detectives frequently overlook what should have been most obvious, what was right under their noses. He calls it the “detective’s curse”. “Solution was right under my nose, but I was paying attention to the wrong clues.”
I am going to offer this prediction, then: The solution will be right under their noses, but they missed it because they don’t really see women.
Indeed, the internet sleuths are already on it. Remember that all-important yearbook photo that they found one of the victims in? Well, guess what? Other female characters that Marty and Rust have interacted with are in the picture. Here’s the picture with the women helpfully numbered.
On the far right of the front row is a girl who grew up to be the woman who killed her three children because of Munchhausen by proxy syndrome–the woman whom Rust got to confess and then told her to kill herself. Was she traumatized at that school? Could she have given him some valuable information? Why didn’t Rust follow up on those photos?
Something to think about while we wait for Sunday night to roll around.
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comment thread.
Since it’s the weekend and most of us can probably use a little escape from reality, I thought I’d begin this post by writing a little about my latest obsession–the HBO show True Detective. Have you been following it? I don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but I had been hearing good things about this show; and a few days ago I decided to take the plunge. I ended up watching the first five episodes in three nights. Episode 6 will debut tomorrow night at 9PM, and HBO will repeat Episode 1 tonight at 10PM. I don’t want to ruin the series for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about it. I’ll post some interesting reading and try not to include too many leave it up to you if you want to read them now or later. I guess I’m hoping some other Sky Dancers will be interesting enough to watch the show too, so we can discuss it here.
True Detective combines two elements that have always fascinated and attracted me–mystery stories and occult horror. The story is set in Cajun country–south-central Louisiana. The two main characters are Rust Cohle and Martin Hart, played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson respectively. Cohle and Hart are homicide detectives who catch the case of a lifetime–a murder that combines sadistic cruelty with bizarre symbolism. Cohle is convinced from the beginning that they are dealing with a serial killer who has likely committed previous murders and who will commit more in the future if he isn’t stopped. They are then drawn into a 17-year investigation that powerfully affects both of their lives.
In fact, DePauw University in Greencastle served as a launch pad for his Hollywood career….
Before he moved west, Pizzolatto held a tenure-track post as a DePauw English professor. In 2010, his book “Galveston” was published. That summer, he decided he could not return to academia, he has said in interviews.
“I’d want to bring a flamethrower to faculty meetings,” Pizzolatto told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year. “The preciousness of academics and their fragile personalities would not be tolerated in any other business in the known universe.”
The award-winning novelist sold the film rights to “Galveston” [his first novel] and moved his wife and young family to southern California to try to break into another industry, not known for its own lack of preciousness and fragile personalities.
I want to thank Dakinikat for getting me interested in watching True Detective. Awhile ago, I had sent her a long article about a series of murders in Louisiana: Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8? (I recently posted the link in a morning reads post too, but I don’t know how many people saw it.) Dak said she thought True Detective was based on those cases. Here’s another article about the murders–still pretty long: Jennings 8: Unsolved murders haunt town, police
Pizzolatto kind of confirmed that by tweeting the link to the article on January 28. So you might want to take a look at it. The author, Ethan Brown describes a series of murders of 8 prostitutes, some of whom knew each other. The police have investigated the cases as if they were committed by one serial killer, but Brown argues that there is more than one murderer and what connects the cases may be that members of law enforcement were involves in each of them. Similarly, there are hints in True Detective that powerful people may be involved in the cases Cohle and Hart are investigating.
As I mentioned above, the show is in some ways a typical police procedural that explores conflicts between two homicide detective partners with very different personalities. Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) is a seemingly ordinary guy, married with two daughters, who acts self-destructively by getting involved with other women and neglecting his family. Rust Cohle is a strange fellow who hasn’t been with the police department very long. He drives his partner and other detectives nuts with his obsessive approach to the case and his tendency to spout bizarre nihilist philosophies. But with each succeeding episode, the series moves more into the horror genre, as the detectives try to understand the bizarre symbolism that keeps cropping up in their cases–such as repeated hints about a “yellow king” chasing people through the woods and a spiral tattoo that appears on victims’ backs–and as the show reveals more about Cohle’s past history.
Now for a few reads that will give you a sense of why True Detective is so fascinating. You could endlessly chase the literary connections that Pizzolatto has planted in his tale. Start with this interview with author Nic Pizzolatto in the Wall Street Journal: Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of ‘True Detective’. It turns out Pizzolatto is a connoisseur of the weird horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft and his predecessors–as well as modern practitioners of the genre.
Horror and mystery go hand in hand on HBO‘s “True Detective.” The hit series…is rich in dread similar to the kind inherent in the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and it has featured words and imagery derived from Robert W. Chambers‘ story anthology “The King in Yellow.” As a result, the show has opened up the worlds of weird fiction and cosmic horror to broader audiences.
Executive producer and writer Nic Pizzolatto, responding through email, commented to Speakeasy about some of the more ominous literary and philosophical influences on ”True Detective,” as well as some of his favorite horror writers.
Read Pizzolatto’s recommendations for further reading at the link.
A couple more links on the literary references in the show:
Allyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress: The Crazy Mythology That Explains ‘True Detective’
A review of the first episode by Daniel Lefferts at Policymic:
More detailed reading about the “yellow king” mythology (some spoilers in these)
Gilbert Cruz at The Vulture: True Detective: Who Is the Yellow King? Here Are Some Theories
An outstanding article by Michael M. Hughes at io9:
Two episodes into the series, True Detective dropped a reference to one of the strangest, most compelling tales in the canon of weird fiction: Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a collection of short stories published in 1895. Knowing this book is key to understanding the dark mystery at the heart of this series.
This collection of stories has influenced writers from H.P. Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler, to Robert Heinlein, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin. The King in Yellow and his legendary city of Carcosa may be the most famous character and setting you’ve never heard of.
In fact, the more of the show you watch, and the more carefully you pay attention, you’ll find a number of Easter eggs aimed squarely at hardcore fans of the weird fiction genre. I’ll touch on a few of the more prominent ones, but I have a feeling the rest of the series will be a bonanza for true detectives of strange fiction.
Watch the official trailer here.
The music on True Detective is fantastic!
From Policymic: The Secret Sauce of ‘True Detective’ is its Awesome Soundtrack
There is tons more stuff out there, including great discussions by “experts” as well as amateurs in the comments sections of reviews and other articles. I have a feeling people will be talking about True Detective for a long time. The show will continue into a second season with different actors and a new storyline.
Now, before I run out of space, here’s some real news, in link dump fashion.
NY Daily News Ukraine Live Blog: Kiev, Ukraine: Protesters versus police in civil war revolt
Radio Free Europe: Yanukovych Denounces ‘Coup,’ Not Resigning
Christian Science Monitor: California in six easy pieces? A bid to let voters decide.