Tuesday Reads: Liberals, Libertarians, and Concern Trolls

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Good Morning!!

Between the Red Sox being in the World Series and having to have a root canal on Saturday, I’ve been a little bit disconnected from politics. The Sox won again last night in St. Louis, and they’ll be coming back home to Fenway Park leading the series 3 games to 2; so they could end it tomorrow night. If this post is a little late, my aching jaw and baseball are the reasons why.

We’ve been talking a lot about libertarians lately, because so-called progressives have been aligning with those Ayn Rand fans since libertarian Edward Snowden began leaking top secret documents about the NSA and libertarian Glenn Greenwald began lecturing the world about what a great hero Snowden is for defecting to Russia and revealing the most secret counterintelligence methods of the U.S. and U.K.

The latest shameful episode was Saturday’s “Stop Watching Us” rally in Washington, at which supposedly “progressive” groups joined with anti-woman right-wingers like Justin Amash and neo-confederates like Ron and Rand Paul to protest the NSA doing its job of collecting foreign intelligence.

Before the rally took place, Tom Watson wrote a heartfelt column warning “progressives” that libertarians don’t make good bedfellows. Watson wrote that while he dislikes mass surveillance,

I cannot support this coalition or the rally. It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.

The Libertarian Party itself — inaccurately described by Stop Watching Us as a “public advocacy organization” — is a right-wing political party that opposes all gun control lawsand public healthcaresupported the government shutdowndismisses public education,opposes organized labor, favors the end of Social Security as we know it, and argues in its formal political manifesto that “we should eliminate the entire social welfare system” while supporting “unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.”

Yet my progressive friends would take the stage with the representatives of this political movement? Why? The loss is much greater than the gain. Organizers trade their own good names and reputations to stand alongside — and convey legitimacy to — a party that opposes communitarian participation in liberal society, and rejects the very role of government itself. And their own argument for privacy is weakened by the pollution of an ideology that uses its few positive civil liberties positions as a predator uses candy with a child.

This is an abandonment of core principles, in my view, out of anger over Edward Snowden’s still-recent revelations about the National Security Agency and its spying activity, particularly domestic access to telephone and online networks and metadata. It represents trading long-held beliefs in social and economic justice for a current hot-button issue that — while clearly of concern to all Americans — doesn’t come close to trumping a host of other issues areas that require “the long game” of electoral politics and organizing. Going “all in” with the libertarian purists is a fatal and unnecessary compromise; reform is clearly needed, but the presence of anti-government laissez-faire wingers at the beating heart of the privacy movement will surely sour the very political actors that movement desperately needs to make actual — and not symbolic, link bait — progress in its fight.

But it was to no avail. Watson was attacked for his argument that the anti-surveillance fever is distracting from other important issues. People like Greenwald and Snowden couldn’t possibly care less about alleviating poverty, protecting women’s rights or the right to vote. They’d have no problem with Social Security and Medicare being eliminated, and as for voting, they’re anti-government anyway. Glenn Greenwald–whom some uninformed people believe is a “progressive,” saves his worst attacks for Democrats and in the past has supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson for president. To Greenwald, sacrificing the entire legacy of FDR and the civil rights and women’s movements is no big deal. Here’s how he characterized the values of liberals who reject Ron Paul in 2011:

Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.

Of course, Greenwald is admitting that he’d sacrifice the social safety net and the rights of millions of Americans in a hopeless effort to defeat the military-industrial complex and its technologies. If you can stand to read the whole piece, you’ll also learn that Greenwald thinks Matt Stoller is a “brilliant” writer. Greenwald is a libertarian purist, with no understanding of how politics actually works. This is the pied piper that many “progressives” are following these days.

I guess I’m getting a little carried away here, so I’ll stop ranting and offer some pertinent links.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: Dark and Darkness

Morning All

Since Peej has the Happiness front covered, I will take care of the down and out blues department….

▶ Ruth Brown, If I can’t sell it, I’ll sit on it

Yeah, it’s one hell of a blues song…but it sure is a sad song too…and I mean what else can you say about being  so down and out and blue you need to turn to prostitution? The Blues…You know that also includes the dark, depressing and disturbing stuff too.

efd9c61ad9d32ab289a9d73bb0f8107bSo this post will focus on dark things…

Starting with this little update on the rodeo clown that caused Fox News, Glenn Beck and Hannity to have a conniption, not because of the disgusting racist “mockery” displayed at a state funded event…but because rodeo clowns always make fun of sitting presidents. Cough, cough. Tommy Christopher has this to say: You Would Not Believe How Common Rodeo Clown Mockery of Presidents Is

For days, conservatives in the media have been calling out Republicans in Missouri for denouncing a rodeo clown’s performance at the Missouri State Fair, although they keep referring to those Republicans as “liberals,” for some reason. However, conservative media watchdog Newsbusters has now swooped in with a welcome dose of cold, hard truthiness to let the Republicans, Democrats, and other decent people who were offended by the rodeo’s mockery of President Obama, know that this exact thing happens all the time! In fact, you wouldn’t believe how often!

Guess you can see where this is going:bc3d3f14d47162664d48d9db8a1cacf3

Despite conservative media attempts to frame reaction to this incident as liberal over-sensitivity, the performance drew immediate, harsh rebukes from Republicans and Democrats in Missouri, and resulted in a lifetime ban for the rodeo clown.

NewsbustersNoel Sheppard, however, wants to make sure that the mainstream media reports that “these things aren’t that unusual at such events,” and he’s got ironclad proof that sitting presidents are mocked by rodeo clowns at publicly-sponsored events all the time:

Maybe these folks should report that these things aren’t that unusual at such events, and that in 1994, a bull attacked a dummy wearing a George H.W. Bush mask without the world coming to an end, anybody being fired, or any press outrage.

1994? I guess that counts as frequent if you’re a cicada. Sheppard cites this passage from a 1994 Philadelphia Inquirer piece:

The big white gate flew open. The bull came out bucking. The rider flopped from side to side and the bullfighters held back, letting the bull make his moves until the rider dropped off. Licciardello crouched in a heavily padded barrel, a human target should the bull decide to charge. Hawkins waited near the barrel, holding his big inner tube. A dummy with a George Bush mask stood beside the clown, propped up by a broomstick. [...]

T.J. Hawkins rolled out the big inner tube, and the bull lowered his head, shot forward and launched into the tube, sending it bounding down the center of the arena. The crowd cheered. Then the bull saw the George Bush dummy. He tore into it, sending the rubber mask flying halfway across the sand as he turned toward the fence, sending cowboys scrambling up the fence rails, hooking one with his horn and tossing him off the fence.

Okay, fine, it wasn’t a sitting president, it was 20 years ago, and it wasn’t even a rodeo clown wearing a mask, but still, why was there no media outrage at this taxpayer-funded effigy eff-up? Well, it turns out the Philly Inquirer was doing a feature on Jimmy Lee Walker, and the Bush bit was just a bit of color thrown in to give readers a Proustian grasp of New Jersey’s Cowtown Rodeo, which is not a state fair, is not funded by tax dollars, and happens every week… in New Jersey. It’s like asking why ESPN is ignoring the prevalence of steroids in Wiffle Ball.

More stories from the dark side: The Inevitable Darth Vader/Breaking Bad Mashup Has Arrived and It Is Glorious

He was responsible for the Death Star. Two of them bitches.

empire business

Sure, as Heisenberg, Walter White strikes fear into the hearts of drug dealers everywhere. But take away the black headgear and he’s really just a sad old white dude with a bald head and a lung problem.

[...]

…illustrator PJ McQuade, who calls the above work “Darth Heisenberg.” That’s got a real nice ring to it, actually. And he’s not wrong — White is definitely in the empire business for sure. Though I’m kind of hoping that Walt doesn’t get a redemptive moment at the end of his story like Darth Vader did. Die in a million fires, Mr. White.

Hey, that is the Dark Side of The Force, no question about that. What about a Dark Religion? Or what some of the geezus freaks would have you believe was the deep dark devil side….

0ba83e4bbab1011f9d8a5ac124458606Well, here is an update on Georgia placing Bibles in the State Parks. You remember the deal Gov. Deal made a few months ago? That he would allow other religious material to be placed in the cabins located on state park property. Atheist books delivered to Georgia state park

Ed Buckner, a former president of American Atheists Inc., said he brought two atheist books for each cottage at Red Top Mountain State Park in Cartersville. The Cranford, N.J.-based organization had said it would supply atheist texts for lodging in Georgia state parks after the governor said in May any religious group could donate literature.

Bibles were temporarily removed earlier this year after Buckner complained about finding them in a cabin he rented at Amicalola Falls State Park. They were returned after the state attorney general said the books were permissible since the state hadn’t paid for them. In May, Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the Bibles returned to state park cabins and said any religious group could donate books.

“American Atheists does not believe the state of Georgia should be placing Bibles or atheist books in state park cabins; however, if the state is going to allow such distribution, we will happily provide our materials,” group president David Silverman said in a statement.

Buckner said Wednesday he was told by officials at Red Top Mountain State Park that the books he dropped off “The Skeptics Annotated Bible” by Steve Wells and “Fear, Faith, Fact, Fantasy” by Dr. John A. Henderson wouldn’t be immediately put in cottages at Red Top Mountain because the manager would have to make sure they complied with regulations.

Let’s see if those books really get to live next to the bibles in the cabin’s bedside table’s drawers…place your bets.

Okay, move on to the blackness and darkness of the criminal mind? The Killer Mind?  Criminologists identify family killer characteristics

Men who kill their families can be separated into four distinct types.

British criminologists have made the assessment after studying newspaper records of “family annihilator” events over the period from 1980 to 2012.

A family break-up was the most common trigger, followed by financial difficulties and honour killings.

Writing in the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, the team lists the four types as self-righteous, anomic, disappointed, and paranoid.

Each category has slightly different motivations and many cases also have a hidden history of domestic abuse. In four out of five cases the murderers went on to kill themselves or attempted to do so.

The research revealed the most frequent month for the crime was in August, when fathers were likely to be with their children more often because of school holidays.

4291bd843aea58d0f6193eb5c2c68c29Four types, ready?

  • Self-righteous: Killer seeks to locate blame for his crimes upon the mother who he holds responsible for the breakdown of the family. For these men, their breadwinner status is central to their idea of the ideal family. (case study: Brian Philcox)
  • Anomic: The family has become firmly linked to the economy in the mind of the killer. The father sees his family as the result of his economic success, allowing him to display his achievements. However, if the father becomes an economic failure, he sees the family as no longer serving this function. (case study: Chris Foster)
  • Disappointed: This killer believes his family has let him down or has acted in ways to undermine or destroy his vision of ideal family life. An example may be disappointment that children are not following the traditional religious or cultural customs of the father. (case study: Mohammed Riaz)
  • Paranoid: Those who perceive an external threat to the family. This is often social services or the legal system, which the father fears will side against him and take away the children. Here, the murder is motivated by a twisted desire to protect the family. (case study: Graham Anderson)

Be sure to read the whole article and then go back to read the case studies.

Have y’all seen the guest writer over at Charles Pierce? Esquire Civil War Reenactment: Robert E. Lee and What an Oath Means – Lt. Col. Robert Bateman

Take a look at his latest post and then check out the others he has written: Daily Politics Blog – Posts By Lt. Col. Robert Bateman – Charles P. Pierce – Political Blogging – Esquire

Op/Ed by Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz: Obama Suspends the Law. What Would Lincoln Say? – WSJ.com

e18337653e6ce22d6c71916736c3706dOver in England, spoons are saving the lives of young girls being sent into underage marriages: Spoon in underwear saving youths from forced marriage | The Raw Story

As Britain puts airport staff on alert to spot potential victims of forced marriage, one campaigning group says the trick of putting a spoon in their underwear has saved some youngsters from a forced union in their South Asian ancestral homelands.

The concealed spoon sets off the metal detector at the airport in Britain and the teenagers can be taken away from their parents to be searched — a last chance to escape a largely hidden practice wrecking the lives of unknown thousands of British youths.

The British school summer holidays, now well under way, mark a peak in reports of young people — typically girls aged 15 and 16 — being taken abroad on “holiday”, for a marriage without consent, the government says.

The bleep at airport security may be the last chance they get to escape a marriage to someone they have never met in a country they have never seen.

The spoon trick is the brainchild of the Karma Nirvana charity, which supports victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour-based abuse.

Based in Derby, central England, it fields 6,500 calls per year from around Britain but has almost reached that point so far in 2013 as awareness of the issue grows.

When petrified youngsters ring, “if they don’t know exactly when it may happen or if it’s going to happen, we advise them to put a spoon in their underwear,” said Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana’s operations manager.

“When they go though security, it will highlight this object in a private area and, if 16 or over, they will be taken to a safe space where they have that one last opportunity to disclose they’re being forced to marry,” she told AFP.

I guess that is a bright turn on a black horror story of abuse, but for something more disturbing…look at this old advertisement for Cellophane I found on Pinterest:

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That is fucked up!

3c612aa548ebc9314c695e36a8e864bbSome dark homophobic links:

The new pro-gay agenda over at Fox News | Political Insider | www.ajc.com

Elisa Chan reveals homophobic views in secret recording – San Antonio Express-News

And another WTF story out of Texas: Texas Deputy Sues Woman for ‘Mental Anguish’ After He Kills Her Son-in-Law | Video Cafe

You want a legitimate lawsuit? Sue the stupid asshole parents who won’t vaccinate their kids! Anti-vaxxers: Why parents who don’t vaccinate their kids should be sued or criminally charged. – Slate Magazine

I got that link from a post at LG&M: Upper-Class Twits Put Your Kids At Risk

The world in which 1)Jenny McCarthy can get a highly compensated talk show gig and 2)inequality is increasing leads to some grim results:

Why is anti-vaccination sentiment associated with the economic elite? Alex Seitz-Wald examines the question in Salon, in light of an uptick in parents refusing to vaccinate their kids.* But not just any parents. As Seitz-Wald explains, the unvaccinated kids are clustered in some of the wealthiest schools and neighborhoods, particularly in California, where some extremely expensive private schools have vaccination compliance rates as low as 20 percent. Anti-vaccination sentiment has been stereotyped as a mindless lefty cause, but in reality, Republicans are slightly more likely to oppose vaccination than Democrats. The real correlation is between having a lot of money and class privilege and opposing vaccination.

And, yes, I’m a big fan of making anti-vaxxer cranks legally liable for the injuries they inflict on others, although I’d definitely favor civil rather than criminal remedies.

I don’t know, by sister-in-law is an anti-vaxxer and she is a far left-la-leches-legue-natzi…who lives in the college town around Cornell.  These crazy nuts are putting other children at risk…they should be held legally liable. And the government should do more to get these kids vaccinated…if it means fines or some kind of other actions taken against the parents/guardians.

dc69d15592b667c72a5006023c1b7d11More here:  With fewer vaccinations, is your child’s school safe? Too many parents are seeking exemption from California’s vaccination law.- latimes.com

And here: What’s with rich people hating vaccines? It’s not just Jenny McCarthy. Data shows the anti-vaccination movement spreading to places like Malibu and Boulder- Salon.com

So…since we are on the topic of diseases…How about a story of death caused by disease? ‘Typhoid Mary’ Mystery May Have Been Solved At Last, Scientists Say

And say, do you want more stories on dead people?

Medieval tomb discovered by a… badger

Was that a large wooden badger?

A badger has reportedly proved to be a talented archaeologist after helping to discover the tombs of two medieval lords in Germany.

The 12th century burial site, which has been hailed as a “significant find” contains a sword, bronze bowls, a belt buckle and skeletal remains of two Slavic lords, according to Germany’s Der Spiegel Online.

The animal had made its underground home on a farm in the town of Stolpe in the eastern state of Brandenburg.

Two sculptors who also happen to be hobby archaeologists Lars Wilhelm and Hendrikje Ring, live on the farm and had planned to exhibit their art near the badger’s sett.

The pair were made aware of the artefacts when they found a human pelvic bone that had been dug up, prompting them to place a camera into the badger’s sett. Photographs taken with the device revealed pieces of jewellery, which the two then retrieved before notifying authorities.

Commenting on the discovery, Ring told the website,“It wasn’t exactly surprising to us because a whole field of ancient graves had been found on the other side of the road in the 1960s.”

More at the link.

Another story about an ancient grave…well not really ancient, just real old: New study reveals final days of a child, 800 years ago | Human World | EarthSky

Image Credit: Sydvestjyske Museer.

The researchers examined burial soil, at spots where the child’s major organs would have been situated, to understand the child’s final days.

In medieval Denmark, a pre-teen child passed away, and was buried in the town of Ribe. Eight hundred years later, chemists have learned more about this child’s final days by analyzing soil samples in burial remains. Their research uncovered evidence that the child had been seriously ill and received a large dose of medicine in the form of mercury, in a desperate attempt to save his or her life.

Professor Kaare Lund Rasmussen, a chemist at the University of Southern Denmark, and his colleagues, reported on a novel technique to detect non-local chemical traces in ancient graves that could shed light on the final days of a long-deceased person. They published their findings about the Ribe child in the journal Heritage Science and announced the results in an August 9, 2013 press release, in which Rasmussen said:

I cannot say which diseases the child had contracted. But I can say that it was exposed to a large dose of mercury a couple of months before its death and again a day or two prior to death. You can imagine what happened: that the family for a while tried to cure the child with mercury containing medicine which may or may not have worked, but that the child’s condition suddenly worsened and that it was administered a large dose of mercury which was, however, not able to save its life.

2a6df165b7c339698a1f20679e8be6c8Scientists are able to study the earth samples around the bones at the burial site to check for chemicals used as medicine during the middle ages.

Mercury, which is rarely found naturally in soil, is of particular interest to Rasmussen. It was used in some ancient cultures for various purposes, including medicine. While it’s possible to analyze ancient bones for the presence of mercury, bones only provide evidence of exposure for three to 10 years before death.

Organs, however, hold on to mercury over shorter intervals; in the lungs, for instance, mercury is excreted quickly. Rasmussen and his team were able to determine the amounts of mercury in the soil where major organs would have been situated. In that way, they could determine how long before death, on a timescale of days, the dose had been administered.

There is more detailed explanations at the link above.

And a link on searching for dead ancestors: Digging Up Family Roots in Sicily by Russell Shorto

As a writer I’ve always tended to seek out origins. My first book, about the search for the historical Jesus, was an attempt to get at the “real” story behind my Catholic upbringing. After living in Manhattan for several years, I wrote “The Island at the Center of the World,” a book about the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, the seed from which New York City grew.

Recently I began considering my family. Among its manifold curiosities is our last name. People always ask me about the derivation of “Shorto.” The story I’d heard as a child was that after my illiterate Sicilian great-grandparents settled in my hometown of Johnstown, Pa., they enrolled their children in school and said the name aloud: Sciotto. And the administrator wrote it as he or she heard it.

Anecdotes like that were good enough before, but once I began to take a serious interest in my roots they felt soft. I wanted a better sense of who we were and where we had come from. I’d grown up with some of the atmosphere of the Old Country — the primal aroma of frying meatballs, the smothering embraces of old relatives, whispers of Mafia shenanigans, funny traditions like taping a silver dollar to the bellybutton of a newborn. But really it was an American childhood. There was almost no information about how it all began, about the generation that had emigrated at the start of the 20th century. It wasn’t even clear where in Sicily the family hailed from.bf5cad33aa980ea8d25acc1a862be5aa

It is better than your usually travel piece. Take a look at it.

One last link for you, about that Greek Island we talk about so often: 9 top Greek islands I’m thinking Koufonisia or Naxos….

Today I am making the spaghetti sauce with meatballs, about 10 pounds of meatballs and a whole bunch of sauce too, so I will be very busy most of the afternoon.  Anyway…one last dark image before I go.

I will end this with a picture of Mae West dressed as a bat…found this image on Pinterest.

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What a dame!

Have a dark day, full of darkness! Post a comment if you have the inclination to do so…I think I need a vacation. See y’all later, Ciao!


Saturday Morning Open Thread: Libertarians Are Not Our Friends

color-rand-paul-ron-web

Good Morning!!

Sorry I’m posting this so late today. I’ve been pondering some issues that have been troubling me for a long time, and I keep getting stuck about how to write about them.

I’m beginning to see the libertarian influence on so-called “progressives” as a very serious problem for the future of our country. Here’s a somewhat incoherent beginning to a discussion of this problem. I’m putting this out there in the hope that I’ll get some feedback from you that will help me sort this out. So here goes…

Partial transcript:

“I’m a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul for their very principled positions in the U.S. Congress on a number of issues. They have been the strongest supporters of the fight against the U.S. attacks on Wikileaks and on me in the U.S. Congress. Similarly, they have been the strongest opponents of drone warfare and extrajudicial executions.

And so, that’s quite an interesting phenomenon in the United States. The position of the libertarian Republican–or a better description [right?]–coming from a principle of nonviolence, the American libertarian, that produces interesting results.

So, nonviolence, not going to invade a foreign country. Nonviolence, don’t force people at the barrel of a gun to serve in the U.S. Army [?? The U.S. doesn't have a draft]. Nonviolence, don’t extort taxes from people to the Federal government, with a [policeman?]….

Similarly, other acts of nonviolence in relation to abortion that they hold. I think that some of these positions that are held by Ron Paul…I can see how they come from the same underlying libertarian principle. I think the world is often more complex. By taking a laid out principle but sometimes simplistic position, you end up undermining the principle. In the short term, visions of the principle are one thing, visions of the principle…it’s quite hard to know [inaudible].

A few comments…

It’s not clear to me whether Assange supports the Paul’s position on abortion, but clearly it’s a side issue for him–not nearly as important as the Paul’s support of Wikileaks and Assange himself, since he later said that both political parties have been compromised and the only hope for the future comes from the libertarian portion of the Republican Party. HuffPo:

He then put forth an argument against both established political parties in Washington, claiming that nearly all Democrats had been “co-opted” by President Barack Obama’s administration, while Republicans were almost entirely “in bed with the war industry.”

The current libertarian strain of political thought in the Republican Party was the “the only hope” for American electoral politics, Assange concluded.

Assange sees federal taxes as “extortion.” I assume that includes the payroll taxes that support Social Security and Medicare. He never mentions social programs at all; as a libertarian he probably opposes them. This is in line with other libertarians who are leading the fight against the U.S. government keeping any secrets whatsoever, e.g., Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, Conor Frierdersdorf, and David Sirota (I’ll have more about this in a later post).

Not only does Assange not know that the U.S. doesn’t have a military draft, he’s pretty mixed up about recent U.S. history. In praising right wing racist news aggregator Matt Drudge, Assange said, via Raw Story:

“Matt Drudge is a news media innovator. And he took off about eight years ago in response to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.”

(Eight years ago was 2005, the first year of George W. Bush’s second term, when President Bill Clinton had been out of office for five years and the Lewinsky scandal and subsequent failed impeachment attempt were a matter of history.)

Assange claimed that Drudge made his name by “publishing information that the establishment media would not. It is as a result of the self-censorship of the establishment press in the United States that gave Matt Drudge such a platform and so of course he should be applauded for breaking a lot of that censorship.”

Assange says he supports non-violence. I’d like to point out that in U.S. history, one of the leading advocates of nonviolence and civil disobedience was a man named Martin Luther King. Fifty years ago King led a “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” But Assange favors the Pauls’ notion of “nonviolence.” (Assange doesn’t appear to know that Ron and Rand Paul are the recipients of vast corporate donations from the defense industry.) I wonder if Assange knows that Ron and Rand Paul oppose Civil Rights laws? I wonder if he cares?

Julian Assange–along with Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald–is currently the idol of the “emoprogs” who have become so distracted by the NSA leaks story that they don’t even notice that Republicans have a very good chance of retaking the Senate next year. These supposed “leftists” have forgotten all about jobs, protecting social programs, women’s rights, civil rights, economic inequality, and our crumbling infrastructure in order to follow a handful of privileged, young white male libertarian pied pipers who are focused only on their own personal “liberties.”


Thursday Reads

reading-in-the-garden Nikolay Bodanov Belsky

Good Morning!!

Yesterday, the White House announced that President Obama will not meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg as previously planned. From The Washington Post:

President Obama has canceled a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Putin. Russia’s decision to give temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has exacerbated tensions with the United States over a number of issues:

“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

Carney cited a “lack of progress” with Russia over the past 12 months on a broad range of issues including missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security and human rights and civil society issues. Carney added that Russia’s “disappointing decision” last week to grant Snowden temporary asylum, allowing him to live and work in Russia for up to a year, was also a factor.

President Obama discussed some of his issues with Russia in an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday night.

Saying that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Obama criticized a law, enacted in June, that prohibits public events promoting gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples. A Russian official has promised that the law will be enforced during next February’s Sochi Games despite the International Olympic Committee’s contrary stance.

After the announcement, Russian-American journalist Julia Iofee wrote at The New Republic: Obama Bails on His Inevitably Awkward Date With Putin

A week after Edward Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia, President Obama canceled his bi-lateral September summit in Moscow with Vladimir Putin, though administration officials are at pains to portray this as something greater than pure tit-for-tattery. Rather, they say, it was an excuse to avoid what, even without Snowden, would have been “a pretty dreary affair.”

A few days before Snowden turned up in Moscow, Obama and Putin met on the sidelines of the G8 conference in Northern Ireland. The resulting photo-op—Obama looking forlornly into the distance, Putin slouched and sullen—said it all: they looked like the aging couple at the neighboring table, intently working on their food and eavesdropping on your conversation because they had nothing to support one of their own. Moscow and Washington had talked and talked, they’d gotten START and the transport route to Afghanistan and the sanctions on Iran, but now, the kids are out of the house and they were talking past each other on Syria, on Iran, on pretty much everything.

Lawrence O’Donnell asked Ioffe to appear on his MSNBC show last night to discuss the issues surrounding the decision; but instead of allowing her to express her opinions, O’Donnell interrupted Ioffe, lectured her about Russia and Putin, basically implying she is a liar. Ioffe responded at TNR:

Tonight, I went on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, and Lawrence O’Donnell yelled at me. Or, rather, he O’Reilly’d at me. That O’Donnell interrupted and harangued and mansplained and was generally an angry grandpa at me is not what I take issue with, however. What bothers me is that, look: your producers take the time to find experts to come on the show, answer your questions, and, hopefully, clarify the issue at hand.

I was invited on the show to talk about Obama’s (very wise) decision to cancel his Moscow summit with Putin, about which I wrote here. I am an expert on Russia. In fact, it is how you introduced me: “Previously, she was a Moscow-based correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker.” I’m not going to toot my own horn here, but I was there for three years, I’m a fluent, native speaker of Russian, and, god damn it, I know my shit.

Which is why I wish you’d let me finish answering your bullshit question…

You can watch the interaction at MSNBC and read the things she would have liked to say about Putin at TNR. Basically Ioffe tried to explain the Putin doesn’t control everything that happens in Russia anymore than Obama controls everything that happens in the US. She believes that once the Bolivian plane was forced to land because the US suspected Snowden might be on board, Putin really had no choice but to allow Snowden to stay in Russia, because public opinion there strongly supported him.

I have quoted Ioffe in previous posts, and she certainly is no Putin apologist–as she asserts in her piece. I think O’Donnell treated her shamefully.

In other NSA news, mainstream reporters continue to published far more stunning revelations than anything that has come from Snowden and Greenwald. This morning at The New York Times, Charlie Savage writes about surveillance of e-mails between people in the US and foreign countries without warrants, which is being justified by an interpretation of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act.

The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials.

The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official.

While it has long been known that the agency conducts extensive computer searches of data it vacuums up overseas, that it is systematically searching — without warrants — through the contents of Americans’ communications that cross the border reveals more about the scale of its secret operations….

Government officials say the cross-border surveillance was authorized by a 2008 law, the FISA Amendments Act, in which Congress approved eavesdropping on domestic soil without warrants as long as the “target” was a noncitizen abroad. Voice communications are not included in that surveillance, the senior official said.

Read more at the NYT link.

And at Reuters, John Shiffman and David Ingram report that a DEA program that appears to use NSA data to target ordinary criminals in the and then require DEA officers to conceal the source of the information was also used by the IRS.

Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.

The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.

A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency.

Just as a reminder that Russia’s treatment of journalists and whistleblowers is actually a hell of a lot worse than anything that happens in the US, Human Rights Watch reports on Russia’s Silencing Activists, Journalists ahead of Sochi Games.

(Moscow) – Local authorities have harassed numerous activists and journalists who criticized or expressed concerns about preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The six-month countdown to the Sochi Games opening ceremony is this week.

Human Rights Watch has documented government efforts to intimidate several organizations and individuals who have investigated or spoken out  againstabuse of migrant workers, the impact of theconstruction of Olympics venues and infrastructure on the environment and health of residents, and unfair compensation for people forcibly evicted from their homes. Human Rights Watch also documented how authorities harassed and pursued criminal charges against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their legitimate reporting.

“Trying to bully activists and journalists into silence is wrong and only further tarnishes the image of the Olympics,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “One of the non-negotiable requirements of hosting the Olympics is to allow press freedom, and the authorities’ attempts to silence critics are in clear violation of that principle.”

Obviously that doesn’t justify the Obama administration trying to influence media coverage of the NSA story, but we do need to keep things in perspective. In that vein, Bob Cesca had a good post yesterday: The Real-Life Stories of Legitimate NSA Whistleblowers (Snowden Isn’t One of Them). I hope you’ll give it a read.

In other news, Yemen has been hit by 6 suspected US drone strikes in the past 2 weeks–probably linked to the recently reported threat of an imminent terror strike that led the US to close a number of embassies last weekend.

An official in Yemen said Thursday that the sixth suspected U.S. drone strike in just two weeks had left six suspected al Qaeda militants dead in the group’s former stronghold in the center of the country. The official told The Associated Press that a missile hit a car traveling in the central Marib province, causing the fatalities.

CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that Yemen has long been a haven for al Qaeda leadership, and the country claimed Wednesday to have disrupted a major plot, which may have exposed potential targets.

Yemeni government officials say security forces are turning up the heat on militants from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the global terror network’s branch based in the nation, after foiling the plot to strike foreign embassies, gas and oil installations, and the country’s port cities.

The government has even given a shoot-to-kill order on anybody who looks suspicious and refuses to identify themselves.

The alleged plot appears to have been similar to the January attack in Algeria which saw gunmen storm the Amenas gas plant, killing more than three dozen foreign workers.

Yesterday in The Daily Beast, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported that information about the terror threats came from an al Qaeda “conference call,” involving top al Qaeda leaders and around 20 other people–a report that aroused quite a bit of skepticism on Twitter. Why would these guys risk talking on a conference call? Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Beast article:

The intercept provided the U.S. intelligence community with a rare glimpse into how al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, manages a global organization that includes affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia.

Several news outlets reported Monday on an intercepted communication last week between Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate based in Yemen. But The Daily Beast has learned that the discussion between the two al Qaeda leaders happened in a conference call that included the leaders or representatives of the top leadership of al Qaeda and its affiliates calling in from different locations, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. All told, said one U.S. intelligence official, more than 20 al Qaeda operatives were on the call.

To be sure, the CIA had been tracking the threat posed by Wuhayshi for months. An earlier communication between Zawahiri and Wuhayshi delivered through a courier was picked up last month, according to three U.S. intelligence officials. But the conference call provided a new sense of urgency for the U.S. government, the sources said.

Al Qaeda members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more obscure al Qaeda affiliates such as the Uzbekistan branch. Also on the call were representatives of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The presence of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates operating in the Sinai was one reason the State Department closed the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to one U.S. intelligence official. “These guys already proved they could hit Eilat. It’s not out of the range of possibilities that they could hit us in Tel Aviv,” the official said.

Perhaps the call was encrypted in some way and the US had found a way to listen anyway? But then why would they blow future such operations by leaking the fact that they had listened to the call? This morning  CNN’s Barbara Starr tweeted to Josh Rogin:

Barbara Starr ‏@barbarastarrcnn2h

@joshrogin IT WAS NOT A PHONE CALL. IN FACT, AL QAEDA WENT TO EXTENSIVE MEANS TO SET UP WHAT YOU MIGHT SAY A VIRTUAL MEETING SPACE.”

I’m not sue how to interpret that either. I’ll update if I get anything more on this.

Once again, my morning post has gotten way too long. I have other news links, but I’ll put them in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same with whatever stories you’re following today, and have a tremendous Thursday!!


Sunday Reads: Hero Shrews, Jim Crows and Deep Fried Hexapus

From Veronica goes to Petunia's farm written and illustrated by Roger Duvoisin

From Veronica goes to Petunia’s farm written and illustrated by Roger Duvoisin

Good Morning

It’s the last Sunday in July, can you believe it?

I’ve got a variety of links for you this morning, several of them are rather long so you will need to go and read them in full because the articles are very good and should not be missed.

To start, let’s look at some headlines this morning:

The violence in Egypt is escalating: With dozens dead, U.S. tells Egypt to pull ‘back from the brink’ | Reuters

Yesterday the news out of Anthony Weiner’s campaign was yet another chance for Drudge to use the phrase “pulls out” in a headline, as in Weiner’s Campaign Manager Pulls Out: Weiner’s Campaign Manager Quits After Latest Revelations – NYTimes.com

Did you see this story out of Italy? Damn, it is disgusting…and is relavent to some of the other links I have for you today. Bananas Thrown At Black Italian Minister, Cecile Kyenge, During Speech

Italy’s first black minister, a target of racist slurs since her appointment in April, has condemned a spectator who threw bananas towards her while she was making a speech at a party rally.

Integration minister Cecile Kyenge, who was born in Democratic Republic of Congo, has angered far-right groups with her campaign to make it easier for immigrants to gain Italian citizenship.

Shortly before the incident on Friday, members of the right-wing Forza Nuova group left mannequins covered in fake blood at the site of the rally in Cervia, central Italy, in protest against Kyenge’s proposal to make anyone born on Italian soil a citizen.

“Immigration kills,” was written on leaflets accompanying the dummies – a slogan Forza Nuova has previously used when referring to murders committed by immigrants in Italy.

Although the bananas missed the stage where Kyenge was speaking, she responded to the gesture on Twitter, calling it “sad” and a waste of food, considering the economic crisis.

“The courage and optimism to change things has to come above all from the bottom up to reach the institutions,” she added.

Great response.

There was also a new Op/Ed in the New York Times, A New Defense of Voting Rights

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. took an important step toward repairing the damage from last month’s Supreme Court ruling striking down a central element of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He is right to adopt an aggressive approach to defending the most fundamental right in our democracy.

In a federal lawsuit first brought by black and Hispanic voters against Texas over its redistricting maps, the Justice Department relied on a rarely used provision of the act, Section 3, to ask a federal court to require Texas to get permission before making any voting changes in the state.

Until last month, Texas already had to get such permission under the act’s “preclearance” process. This process had long been the most effective means of preventing racial bias in voting laws in states with histories of discrimination. It required state and local governments that wanted to change the laws to first show there would be no discriminatory effect. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the act as unconstitutional; that provision laid out the formula that determined which jurisdictions had to get permission.

This is something that Ralph has been posting articles about in the comment section for quiet a while now…go to the link up top to read the rest of the op/ed. No disagreement with it from me…but I post it here along with the banana incident and this interview with Justice Ginsberg from last week, where she discusses the ramifications of SCOTUS decision on the Voting Rights Amendment:  Ginsburg says push for voter ID laws predictable

click to enlarge
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg poses for a photo in her chambers at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2013, before an interview with the Associated Press. Ginsburg said during the interview that it was easy to foresee that Southern states would push ahead with tougher voter identification laws and other measures once the Supreme Court freed them from strict federal oversight of their elections. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she’s not surprised that Southern states have pushed ahead with tough voter identification laws and other measures since the Supreme Court freed them from strict federal oversight of their elections.Ginsburg said in an interview with The Associated Press that Texas’ decision to implement its voter ID law hours after the court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last month was powerful evidence of an ongoing need to keep states with a history of voting discrimination from making changes in the way they hold elections without getting advance approval from Washington.

[...]

“The notion that because the Voting Rights Act had been so tremendously effective we had to stop it didn’t make any sense to me,” Ginsburg said in a wide-ranging interview late Wednesday in her office at the court. “And one really could have predicted what was going to happen.”The 80-year-old justice dissented from the 5-4 decision on the voting law. Ginsburg said in her dissent that discarding the law was “like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

Just a month removed from the decision, she said, “I didn’t want to be right, but sadly I am.”

Damn, her voice states the truth of this decision…and down here in the South…we are in an awfully wet monsoon.

Roberts relied heavily on another decision from 2009 in which the justices essentially left the law alone while warning Congress about serious problems with the data and urging lawmakers to do something about it. They didn’t.

In that case, Ginsburg joined Roberts and every justice but Clarence Thomas to leave prior approval in place.
Ginsburg said she probably shouldn’t have done that. “I think in the first voting rights case, there was a strong impetus to come down with a unanimous decision with the thought that maybe Congress would do something about it before we had to deal with it again,” she said. “But I suppose with the benefit of hindsight, I might have taken a different view.”

As I said up top, this is one of those articles you need to follow the link to read the rest of the interview, where she discusses affirmative action and other items like Scalia and his vocal position on gay marriage.

The next three articles are dealing with college campuses, and the rape culture mindset. I know that Boston Boomer and Mona have written about this recently, and you have probably already read a couple of the articles but I just thought I’d bring them up again.

From the New York Times:  Sex on Campus – She Can Play That Game, Too

At 11 on a weeknight earlier this year, her work finished, a slim, pretty junior at the University of Pennsylvania did what she often does when she has a little free time. She texted her regular hookup — the guy she is sleeping with but not dating. What was he up to? He texted back: Come over. So she did. They watched a little TV, had sex and went to sleep.

Their relationship, she noted, is not about the meeting of two souls.

“We don’t really like each other in person, sober,” she said, adding that “we literally can’t sit down and have coffee.”

Ask her why she hasn’t had a relationship at Penn, and she won’t complain about the death of courtship or men who won’t commit. Instead, she’ll talk about “cost-benefit” analyses and the “low risk and low investment costs” of hooking up.

“I positioned myself in college in such a way that I can’t have a meaningful romantic relationship, because I’m always busy and the people that I am interested in are always busy, too,” she said.

“And I know everyone says, ‘Make time, make time,’ ” said the woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity but agreed to be identified by her middle initial, which is A. “But there are so many other things going on in my life that I find so important that I just, like, can’t make time, and I don’t want to make time.”

That is enough of that.

Here is one response, via The Guardian: End the rape culture at university | Alexandra Brodsky

When someone attempted to rape me my freshman year, I asked my college, Yale University, for help, but instead I was basically advised to keep quiet. I shouldn’t formally report the assault, I was told. Despite my clear and repeated “no”, school administrators cast the whole event as a misunderstanding among friends.

In short, I was told to be a good girl. And for four years, I listened.

Women everywhere are used to being told to accommodate those who wrong us. With family, friends, bosses, and partners, we must always be understanding and flexible, ready to dig deep into our well of second chances and generosity. We must never complain or make trouble.

Our devotion to this image of the good girl particularly infects our responses to survivors of sexual violence. As the media coverage of the Steubenville trial showed, those who seek justice are blamed for overreacting and “ruining the lives” of their rapists. Because of our insistence on the femininity of victims, even male and genderqueer survivors are held to the good girl standard.

And this link here is to a response from earlier this week, and I actually read the article shortly after it was published in the Guardian…so I got to see some of the offensive comments before they were omitted by the Guardian staff. I obviously don’t need to tell you what the jest of the statements were…you already are familiar with that sort of shit talk.

College culture? An alcohol-fueled frenzy of sexual harassment | Raya Jalabi

Frat party in full swing

Frat party in full swing. Photograph: Chuck Savage/Corbis

It’s freshman year. I’m at a new student orientation party at the University of Pennsylvania, wondering what exactly is in my cup. “Jungle juice”, I’m told, as if that should explain things. I make out the words “everclear” and “blackout drunk” over the din of awful house music blasting from the expensive-looking speakers in some fraternity house. I have no idea what’s going on, and neither do many of my fellow classmates, which doesn’t stop them from passing out drunk.

I stayed for an hour or so – enough time to get asked, in the tradition of great cliches, if I were a lesbian, a prude, or a slut. Enough time to see multiple strangers pair off in dark corners, trying and failing to stand up straight.

From expensive bottles of vodka to nonexistent conversation, to black lights and vomit, this was an idea of fun that I hoped wouldn’t cross over to all sectors of campus life – though I eventually found out that it did. Swap out vodka for beer, or cheap nameless grain liquor, fraternity houses for bars or clubs, and this scene was replicated over and over for four years.

For an elite few at Penn, that night was fairly typical, including the confusion felt. A friend I wouldn’t meet for another three years was raped that night, at that party, probably in the room I stood in for all of 60 minutes. That was not too unusual an occurrence either.

There’s been much said about a recent New York Times article on women having sex at American colleges.

“It’s not representative!” “It’s too accurate!” “It’s not news!” “It’s old news!”

Well, this next bit is the part of Jalabi response that I want to highlight…

The reporter chose my alma mater for her exploration of college-age women’s sexuality, and her findings indicate that women were leaning into their careers and opting out of long-term romantic entanglements, for which they didn’t have the time, in favor of fleeting sexual encounters. In short, they were “hooking up”.

I have since graduated, but some of the observations made in Kate Taylor’s article rang an unfortunate bell, one I hear loudly tolling – even 100 miles and two years away from campus. That hook-up culture is now rampant is no surprise to me or anyone else who’s graduated from college in the last 25 years. But women, Taylor tells us, are the driving force behind hooking up in 2013, a product of a generation of women facing “broader opportunities” than ever before.

But this assertion of women’s agency in sexual encounters doesn’t sound quite right. How are we to interpret the fact that, despite their insistence on being sexually liberated, the women Taylor featured wouldn’t let their names (or number of sexual partners) be printed? Evidently, they still feared unwelcome repercussions from their touted sexual liberation.

[...]

…sentences such as: “Women said universally that hook-ups could not exist without alcohol, because they were for the most part too uncomfortable to pair off with men they did not know well without being drunk,” or “In general, she said, she thought that guys at Penn controlled the hook-up culture” sound more like the university life I knew.

So-called “hook-up culture” never was about women taking control. Instead, it always seemed to me a by-product of an institutionally destructive “college culture”, one that hurts women and whose effects can still be felt years after graduation.

College culture is a nebulous term, one defined divergently along racial, socio-economic, religious and geographic lines – lines that, on a campus like Penn’s, still hold incredible sway. I’m aware that my experiences are not necessarily representative of 8,000 other undergraduates’, but anecdotally, looking back, I can’t think of a single woman who spoke of exclusively positive experiences on campus.

From my friend who was raped at that “typical” Penn party, to the myriad others who were similarly subjected to sexual violence; to respected professors dismissing shared thoughts with a casual “thanks for that, sweetheart” in a room full of male peers; to grievous double standards when it came to sororities’ and fraternities’ respective rights and privileges; to disillusionment with our female university president’s indifference to women’s efforts on campus; to being labeled a lesbian-prude-slut for not hooking up … every female student had a story, and most of them weren’t pretty.

Through various women’s groups I was involved with on campus, I interacted with hundreds of different women: gay, straight, Catholic, black, poor, wealthy, white and more. And in our conversations, whether structured or informal, we kept coming back to the same issue: women rarely felt “safe” on campus – safe from familial, academic and peer pressures, safe walking home alone from a party at the other end of campus, safe from the dreaded email circular with an unflattering and compromising image, safe from friends’ judgment. Statistically, one in four college women will survive rape or attempted rape. This is the “culture” we should be looking at more closely.

Wow, powerful stuff…go. Read the rest of her article. Now.

In fact, I will take this opportunity to pause a moment…more reads after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »