Tuesday Reads: Larry Klayman v. NSA; CBS’ 60 Minutes v. Truth; and Police v. Foreign Diplomats

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, 1957

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, 1957

Good Morning!!

Our weird winter weather is continuing. This morning’s temperature outside my house is zero degrees! And we’re expecting five more inches of snow this afternoon, most of it during the afternoon rush hour. I guess all I can do is grin and bear it.

Now let’s see what’s happening in the news today.

Lots of people are excited about the ruling yesterday by US District Court Judge Richard Leon that NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is “likely unconstitutional,” but the decision is on hold pending appeal by the Feds and as Reuters notes this morning, SCOTUS is probably going to have the final say on what happens to NSA surveillance programs following revelations from the massive trove of data stolen by Edward Snowden and passed to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

“This is the opening salvo in a very long story, but it’s important symbolically in dispelling the invincibility of the metadata program,” said Stephen Vladeck, a national security law expert at the American University law school.

Vladeck said 15 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have examined Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the provision of law under which the data collection takes place, without finding constitutional problems. “There’s a disconnect between the 15 judges on the FISA court who seem to think it’s a no-brainer that Section 215 is constitutional, and Judge Leon, who seems to think otherwise.”

Vladeck said there is a long road of court tests ahead for both sides in this dispute and said a higher court ultimately could avoid ruling on the big constitutional issue identified by Leon. “There are five or six different issues in these cases,” Vladeck said.

Robert F. Turner, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Center for National Security Law, predicted Leon’s decision was highly likely to be reversed on appeal. He said the collection of telephone metadata — the issue in Monday’s ruling — already has been addressed and resolved by the Supreme Court.

Maybe the solution would be to repeal the Patriot Act? Anyway, I think it’s important to note that this lawsuit was brought by Larry Klayman, a certified right wing nut who used to head Judicial Watch and now runs something called Freedom Watch.

larry Klayman

Here’s a little background on Klayman from The New York Times:

In the 1990s, he filed numerous lawsuits against President Bill Clinton and his administration, alleging a litany of personal and professional transgressions. Mr. Klayman later nettled Vice President Dick Cheney over his secret energy policy meetings and claimed that members of George W. Bush’s administration might have known in advance of the 2001 anthrax attacks in Washington.

More recently, Mr. Klayman, who has been called “Litigious Larry,” sued OPEC, accusing oil-rich nations of price fixing and of trying to “bring Western economies to their knees.” And he sued Facebook and its founder for $1 billion when, he said, it was too slow to take down a web page that threatened Jews with death.

The guy is a weirdo, so I have to wonder what it was that convinced a conservative Bush-appointed judge like Leon. And will ne be able to convince our right wing Supreme Court? I’d love to see NSA reined in, but I have serious doubts as to whether it will happen.

More on Klayman:

Mr. Klayman is a fixture of sorts in Washington. He founded, and then parted ways, with the conservative interest group Judicial Watch, which continues litigating grievances despite Mr. Klayman’s bitter departure. (He sued Judicial Watch, too, accusing it of breach of contract and other offenses.) His 2009 book is titled “Whores: Why and How I Came to Fight the Establishment.”

Mr. Klayman has not spared the current Democratic administration. At a Tea Party rally in October, he urged conservatives “to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”

Last year, Mr. Klayman filed a lawsuit in Florida arguing that Barack Obama was ineligible to be president because “neither Mr. Obama, nor the Democratic Party of Florida, nor any other group has confirmed that Mr. Obama is a ‘natural born citizen’ since his father was a British subject born in Kenya and not a citizen of the United States.”

 A little more on the case from Politico:

On June 6, just a day after the Guardian report [on Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA phone data collection], Klayman filed suit in Washington on his own behalf and on behalf of two clients — Charles and Mary Ann Strange, parents of a Navy SEAL killed in a disastrous helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2011….

Klayman said he and Charles Strange were being targeted by the government because of their claims relating to Strange’s son’s death, which include a complaint that a Muslim imam cursed the dead SEAL team members during a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base.

“My colleagues have received text messages I never sent,” Klayman told the judge. “I think they’re messing with me,” he said, referring to the government.

Klayman implored the judge to rule against the NSA program not only on legal grounds but in order to avert what the conservative gadfly said was a violent revolution on the verge of breaking out due to the federal governments [sic] unbridled use of power.

“We live in an Orwellian state,” Klayman said, warning that citizens angry about surveillance were about to “rise up.”

If litigation fails, “the only alternative is for people to take matters into their own hands,” he told Leon.

I wonder what parts of these arguments convinced Judge Leon?

Despite the weirdness, Charles Pierce is cheering Leon’s decision:

No matter what you think of Snowden, or Glenn Greenwald, and no matter what you think of what they did, this ruling does not happen if the NSA doesn’t let a contractor walk out of the joint with the family jewels on a flash drive. This ruling does not happen if we do not know what we now know, and we don’t know any of that unless Snowden gathers the data and leaks it to the Guardian. This entire country was founded after a revolution that was touched off to a great extent by the concept of individual privacy.

Read all about it at the Esquire link.

I know it’s difficult for some males to understand this, but if Americans do have a right to privacy, then American women should also have that right in making decisions about what happens to their bodies–they should be able to choose whether or not and/or when to have a child. Therefore, they should have access to birth control and abortion without the interference of the state. If women–who represent more than 1/2 of the U.S. population–can’t have privacy; then there is a very big disconnect in the law that needs to be clarified. Are women people? Are they citizens? Griswald and Roe were also decided on the basis of privacy.

Lara_Logan_crop

After their fluff piece on NSA on Sunday, CBS’ 60 Minutes announced yesterday that Lara Logan, who was “suspended” after she hosted an utterly false report on the Benghazi attacks, will be returning to the program next year. Politico’s Dylan Byers:

Logan and McClellan took leave following public pressure over an Oct. 27 report in which security contractor Dylan Davies claimed to have been present and active at the Sept. 11 raid on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Reports later indicated that Davies had told both his contractor and the FBI that he was not present at the compound on the night of the attack. Logan later apologized and “60 Minutes” retracted the story.

Despite public criticism and internal frustrations among some members of the “60 Minutes” team, CBS News chairman and “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager decided to stand by Logan. Earlier this month, he held a meeting with CBS News staff in which he defended the 42-year-old journalist, saying that as EP he was ultimately responsible for failing to catch the mistake.

As an antidote, I recommend reading TBogg’s take on this decision at Raw Story: Lara Logan is tan, rested and ready to come back and be kind of bad at her job again.

Last week, it was revealed that LA Sheriff’s Office deputies who have been indicted by a Grand Jury had illegally arrested and “roughed up” two foreign diplomats in 2011. From the LA Times:

An Austrian consulate official was improperly arrested and searched by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies at the Men’s Central Jail, according to four indictments filed against 18 department officials.

The incident occurred in 2011 when the official and her husband were visiting an inmate who was an Austrian national….

The Austrian consul’s husband was arrested outside the jail because he had walked near the doors going into the visiting center, according to one of the indictments unsealed Monday.

When the consul requested to speak to a supervisor about her husband’s arrest, she too was placed in handcuffs and arrested, even though she had committed no crime and would have been immune from prosecution, the indictment said.

The couple were taken to a deputy break room and searched, the indictment said.

Read more details at the link. And from Firedoglake, Peter Van Buren explains why this is so outrageous:

One of the primary jobs for any embassy or consulate abroad is the welfare of its citizens. Indeed, many of the first diplomatic outposts abroad were set up to protect sailors and merchants. This work typically includes visiting one’s citizens in foreign jails, a task young diplomats around the world conduct. As a State Department foreign service officer myself for 24 years, I must have done this hundreds of times. But no matter how many times I did it, it was always an unsettling feeling to walk into a jail, go through security into a cell or holding room, and then walk back out.

Getting out, and being treated properly inside, was however more than an act of faith on my part. Diplomats abroad are protected people; under both formal treaties and long-established traditions (“diplomatic immunity”), a country should not mess around with another’s diplomats. Take a look at Iran– over thirty years since the kidnapping of American diplomats in Tehran, our two countries still are a long, long way from reestablishing relations.

I once safely visited in an underground facility of an Asian country’s secret police an American Citizen who likely had been tortured. The system generally works everywhere, from first world countries to crappy police states in the developing world. However, one rough area where it does not work is in Los Angeles.

Please read the rest if you can.

Devyani Khobragade

Today we learn that the NYPD also abused a foreign diplomat. The woman, a deputy consul general at the Indian embassy in NYC was arrested and handcuffed on the street and then subjected to a strip search at police headquarters. From The Guardian:

Bulldozers have removed security barriers outside the US embassy in Delhi as a diplomatic row prompted by the arrest of an Indian diplomat on visa fraud charges in New York intensified.

Devyani Khobragade, India‘s deputy consul general in New York, was charged last week with making false statements on an application for her housekeeper to live and work in the United States.

India’s national security adviser on Tuesday called the treatment of Khobragade “despicable and barbaric” and the country’s foreign secretary summoned the US ambassador. Politicians – including Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and vice chairman of the ruling Congress party, and Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Hindu nationalist opposition BJP – refused to meet a visiting US congressional delegation.

The removal of the barriers was one of a slew of retaliatory actions taken by the Indian government as outrage at the arrest grew, including the withdrawal of import clearances and special airport passes. The incident has become a major story in India, dominating TV bulletins.

The false statements were that Khobragade had agreed to pay the housekeeper the New York minimum wage ($9.25), but had agreed privately with the woman that her actual salary would be only 1/3 that amount.

From NDTV All India:

Furious with the US for the arrest and alleged strip search of its high-ranking diplomat Devyani Khobragade, India today retaliated with a slew of measures to pare down the privileges of American diplomats. (10 latest developments)

US diplomats in consulates across India have been asked to surrender identity cards issued to them and their families, which entitle them to special privileges. India has also withdrawn all airport passes for consulates and import clearances for the embassy.

The Delhi police removed barricades outside the sprawling US embassy in the capital.

Ms Khobragade was subjected to a humiliating strip search and was kept in a cell with drug addicts after her arrest for alleged visa fraud in New York last week. (Read) Noel Clay, a spokesperson for the US State Department, told NDTV that standard procedures had been followed during Ms Khobragade’s arrest.

The US has implied that she enjoyed only limited immunity.

As part of its reciprocal measures, India is asking for details like salaries paid to Indian staff employed in US consulates, including those working as domestic helps with the families of American officials.

It seems that, between the NSA revelations and the increasing use of police state tactics by law enforcement, the US is managing to alienate much of the rest of  all the world.

I’m out of space, so I’ll wrap this up. Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a great day!


Thursday Reads

morning coffee book

Good Morning!!

Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds is apparently recovering from stab wounds inflicted by his son Gus on Tuesday. The young man shot himself after attacking his father. But state officials are investigating why Gus was refused psychiatric care the day before the attack. NBC Washington:

The incident has raised new questions about the capacity of Virginia’s mental health system. Tuesday, it was reported that hours before the attack Gus Deeds was the subject of an emergency custody order — but a bed at a hospital or psychiatric treatment facility was not available, and he was released home.

Now the Washington Post is reporting that  three hospitals within a two-hour drive of Bath County did have beds available, and two of the three say they were never contacted by the Rockbridge County Community Services Board trying to find a placement for Deeds son.

The state inspector general has now launched an investigation to find out what led to Gus Deeds’ release after the custody order was issued.

“Regardless of whether or not there were beds, there was not a system to determine if there were beds available,” Howell said. “It seems to me we should have a clearinghouse of some kind so that when somebody needs a bed, there is a very efficient way to find out where one is available.”

According to NBC Washington,

Dozens of mentally ill patients at risk of doing “serious harm” to themselves or others in Virginia were denied access to some psychiatric treatment in a span of just three months studied by state investigators, according to agency documents reviewed by the News4 I-Team.

An audit of Virginia’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, performed over a 3-month span in late 2011, found 72 people “at risk for serious harm” and in need of care received less treatment than necessary, in part because of a shortage of available psychiatric beds in the state.

Internal state investigators call the shortfall “a failure of the system” and a “canary in the coal mine” warning for Virginia leaders.

Agency documents show a decline in the overall number of treatment space for the mentally ill in Virginia. A 2007 report found 1,794 available hospital beds for the mentally ill in Virginia, but the number had dropped to 1,699 beds available in 2011.

Internal investigators reported, “Acute and intensive treatment beds in … state-operated psychiatric hospitals have also decreased, while the population has grown by approximately 13 percent during the last decade.”

Gee, I wonder if this has anything to do with budget cuts in states controlled by Republicans? From Think Progress:

“Many states appear to be effectively terminating a public psychiatric treatment system that has existed for nearly two centuries,” wrote researchers in a 2012 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), a nonprofit group that examines mental health issues. “The system was originally created to protect both the patients and the public, and its termination is taking place with little regard for the consequences to either group.”

According to the report, Virginia eliminated 15 percent of its public psychiatric beds between 2005 and 2010. The state has just 17.6 such beds per 10,000 people — less than 40 percent of the recommended minimum 50 beds per 10,000 people. That didn’t stop Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) from proposing even more cuts to mental health programs in 2012.

But McDonnell isn’t the only one to embrace such cuts. In fact, state governments across the nation slashed psychiatric funding to the point that, overall, the nation’s hospitals had just 28 percent of the recommended minimum number of hospital beds by 2010. Those reductions continued in the following years as states slashed $4.35 billion in mental health services between 2009 and 2012, forcing State Mental Health Agencies (SMHAs) to shutter mental health hospitals and eliminate nearly 10 percent of total available beds in those three years alone.

This is an issue that was discussed during the recent VA race for governor. From the Oct. 23rd Washington Post: Virginia’s mental health system needs money; candidates differ on how to provide it.

The major-party candidates for governor of Virginia agree that mental health systems need more resources. But their approaches differ greatly, based in part on how they view the Medicaid expansion of the new health-care law in Virginia.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe favors a Medicaid expansion wholeheartedly. He says it would provide new health-care coverage for about 400,000 Virginians and would increase money for mental health treatment.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli II opposes a Medicaid expansion completely and says McAuliffe’s estimates of its effect on Virginia are greatly overstated. Cuccinelli wants to increase state funding for mental health, but he would do so by shifting current Medicaid funds from other health-care areas. He also said he would target waste, fraud and abuse and use the savings to bolster options for the mentally ill and the intellectually disabled.

Fortunately for the people of Virgina, Terry McAuliffe won the election, and corrective measures will likely be taken. But they’ll come too late for Gus Deeds and his family. If a wealthy and connected family has this problem, can you imagine what it’s like for poorer people who need mental health treatment in Republican-controlled states?

teen+police+brutality+2

This story out of Philadelphia is horrible: Mom of Alleged Teen Shoplifter Accuses Police of Brutality. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that the boy is African American.

The mother of the 14-year-old boy, who was arrested for shoplifting, is accusing police of roughing him up.

“The picture speaks a thousand words,” says Marissa Sargeant, who shared several graphic photos with NBC10 that shows her son bruised, cut and swollen.

The teen was arrested by Tullytown Police for retail theft at Walmart on Tuesday night, along with an adult relative.

“What he did was wrong. He was coerced by a 19-year-old. He does know better,” said Sargeant.

“Roughing him up?” I’d say that’s quite an understatement, based on the photo.

Authorities say after the teen’s arrest, and before he was loaded into a police car, he took off running along Route 13 while handcuffed.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler tells NBC10 that police officers yelled warnings at the teen and fearing for his safety, they fired a stun gun to subdue him. The D.A. says the Taser struck the boy in the face and with his hands cuffed, the boy had no way to brace himself against falling face-first.

“That doesn’t sound right. There’s no way, if he was running from behind, that he would get hit with a taser in the front of his face,” said Sargeant.

The mom suspects police probably beat up her son as well, and I’d have to agree with her. Heckler is “investigating,” but he doesn’t think police did anything wrong. Sounds like a really unbiased “investigation,” doesn’t it?

Republicans are still blocking President Obama’s judicial nominees right and left, and Democrats are once again threatening to get rid of the filibuster for appointments. {Sigh…} Do you suppose there’s any chance they actually mean it this time? From The Washington Post:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, is poised to move forward on Thursday with a vote on what is known on Capitol Hill as the “nuclear option,” several Democrats said. Mr. Reid and the senators who have been the most vocal on stopping the Republican blockade of White House nominees are now confident they have the votes to make the change.

“We’re not bluffing,” said one senior aide who has spoken with Mr. Reid directly and expects a vote on Thursday, barring any unforeseen breakthrough on blocked judges.

The threat that Democrats could significantly limit how the filibuster can be used against nominees has rattled Republicans. Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has brokered last-minute deals that have averted a change to filibuster rules in the past, visited Mr. Reid in his office on Thursday but failed to strike a compromise.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa took to the Senate floor and denounced Democrats, saying that if they changed the rules, Republicans would consider them applicable to all judicial nominees, including those for the Supreme Court. Mr. Reid has said he supports keeping intact the minority party’s ability to filibuster controversial Supreme Court nominees.

“Apparently the other side wants to change the rules while still preserving the ability to block a Republican president’s ability to replace a liberal Supreme Court Justice with an originalist,” Mr. Grassley said.

At Politico, William Yeomans, an American University law professor and former Justice Department official says “Nuke ‘em Harry!”

Democrats, it’s time to bid farewell to the filibuster as we’ve known it. Your restraint has gone beyond admirable to foolish. The institution for which you have shown extraordinary respect over the past four years, as Republicans flouted its best traditions, is no more. Republicans have overplayed their hand by disregarding prior agreements and turning the Senate into a graveyard—or at least a critical care unit—for obviously qualified presidential nominees. Republican obstruction has left you with nothing to lose by bringing the Senate fully into the 21st century and allowing the majority to rule. It’s time to change the rules….

Worried about blowback? Don’t be. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) helped expose the Republicans’ loss of leverage when he threatened that if the Democrats changed the filibuster rule, Republicans would appoint more justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Whoa! Is he suggesting that Republicans won’t appoint more radically conservative justices if Democrats keep the filibuster? That might be a deal worth taking, but it wouldn’t be worth the paper it was printed on. If Republicans regain control of the White House, any Supreme Court nominees will very much be in the model of Scalia and Thomas, and their colleagues Roberts and Samuel Alito—if not worse. That means they will disregard any pretense of judicial restraint to eviscerate civil rights laws, restrain congressional authority to enact social legislation, support states over the federal government and big business over labor, oppose the interests of consumers and make sure the executioner stays in business.

In reality, Republicans have nothing left with which to threaten you. Just stop and think about how unimportant the filibuster has been to you. You chose not to use it to stop Thomas and Alito, even though more than enough Democrats to support a filibuster voted against each. You embraced Scalia (by unanimous vote!) and Roberts. When Republican presidents went too far, you mustered the majority vote necessary to stop them without resorting to the filibuster. That’s why we didn’t have a Justice Bork, Carswell or Haynsworth, or a Secretary of Defense Tower, or an Associate Attorney General Reynolds. Sure, Miguel Estrada would be on the D.C. Circuit, but that hardly justifies tying your own hands in perpetuity.

He’s absolutely right, but do the wimpy Dems have the courage to act? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Here’s your stupid right wing corporate media story for today from Media Matters. David Gregory compares Obamacare to the Iraq war.

Not once but twice in recent days Meet The Press host David Gregory announced that the troubled launch of President Obama’s new health care law is roughly the equivalent to President Bush’s badly bungled war with Iraq. The NBC anchor was quick to point out that he didn’t mean the two events were the same with regards to a death toll. (Nobody has died from health care reform.) But Gregory was sure that in terms of how the former president and the current president are viewed, in terms of damage done to their credibility, the men will be forever linked to a costly, bloody war and a poorly functioning website, respectively.

“Everybody looked at Bush through the prism of Iraq,” Gregory explained. “Here, I think people are going to look at Obama through the implementation of Obamacare.”  It’s Obama’s defining event of their two-term presidency. It’s a catastrophic failure that’s tarnished Obama’s second term, and will perhaps “wreck” his entire presidency, according to the media’s “doom-mongering bubble,” as Kevin Drum at Mother Jones described it.

But like the painfully inappropriate comparisons to Hurricane Katrina that have populated the press, Gregory’s attempt to draw a Bush/Obama parallel is equally senseless. Bush’s war morass stretched over five years, so of course it defined his presidency.  Obama’s health care woes are in week number six and could be fixed within the next month.

Media Matters points out that not only is this “the mother lode of false equivalency,” but it’s a sly effort to “downgrade Bush’s historical failures, and to cover the media’s tracks of deception.”

I’ll end with two fascinating science stories to take your mind off politics and other distressing news.

Mars rock

From BBC News: Black Beauty rock ‘is oldest chunk of Mars’

A rock discovered in the Sahara Desert is the oldest Martian meteorite ever found, scientists believe.

Earlier research had suggested it was about two billion years old, but new tests indicate the rock actually dates to 4.4 billion years ago.

The dark and glossy meteorite, nicknamed Black Beauty, would have formed when the Red Planet was in its infancy.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

Lead author Prof Munir Humayan, from Florida State University, US, said: “This [rock] tells us about one of the most important epochs in the history of Mars.”

Read the rest at the link.

And from The Sydney Morning Herald: Siberian DNA link to Native Americans discovered.

The genome of a young boy buried at Mal’ta, near Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia, about 24,000 years ago has turned out to hold two surprises for anthropologists.

The first is that the boy’s DNA matches that of Western Europeans, showing that during the last ice age people from Europe had reached farther east across Eurasia than previously supposed.

The second surprise is that his DNA also matches a large proportion – about 25 per cent – of the DNA of living Native Americans. The first people to arrive in the Americas have long been assumed to have descended from Siberian populations related to East Asians. It now seems that they may be a mixture between the Western Europeans who had reached Siberia and an East Asian population.

Amazing, huh?
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please share your links in the coMenusmment thread.

Thursday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Stories

matisse_woman_reading

Good Morning!!

Dakinikat has arrived safely in Seattle, where she’ll be visiting with her father, her sister, and her elder daughter Jean. I’m going to fill in for her tomorrow morning, but she’ll be back to her regular blogging schedule soon.

I have no idea what’s happening in the news, because I spent last night watching two PBS shows on the JFK assassination. I’ve still been plowing through JFK books too. But RalphB posted a very interesting link last night that I want to highlight. From Jonathan Cohn, via Bob Cesca, Jonathan Cohn explains How to Interpret Obamacare’s Low Enrollment Numbers for October.

According to HHS calculations, 846,852 people have used the site to complete applications. That means they have created accounts and submitted information to see whether they are eligible for federal programs or tax credits. Those applications include people applying for households with multiple members. In total, it represents 1,509,883 people. The federal government has processed applications for the vast majority of them—98 percent, or 1,477,853 people. Of those, about a third have actually selected a health plan or been deemed eligible for a program like Medicaid. That’s 502,466.

How does that half million break down? About four out of five (396,261) are in Medicaid. The rest (106,185) of them have picked private insurance plans. These numbers include both those who enrolled through the website that the federal government is maintaining (healthcare.gov) and those who enrolled through sites that states like California, Kentucky, and Connecticut are running on their own. The majority (three-fourths) of the people getting private insurance have done so through state sites. Just a quarter, or 26,794, have enrolled through the federal site.

But because the media narrative is that the the Obamacare rollout is “failed,” “botched,” and “worse than expected,” all we’re hearing is the 106,185 figure–as if getting people covered by Medicaid doesn’t count. Tell that to the previously uninsured families who will now be able to take their sick kids to a doctor! By the way, in the first month of the Massachusetts health care exchanges, only 123 people signed up. As Bob Cesca puts it,

because there’s an “Obamacare is a Failed Policy” script that must be serviced, the lowest number of the batch has to be quoted. That’s why you’ve been reading about 106,000 rather than 1.5 million.

Have I told you lately how much I think the corporate media sucks?

secret service badge

At a time when many Americans are remembering the JFK assassination and the lax security that contributed to his death, we’re learning about another scandal in the Secret Service. From The Washington Post: Two Secret Service agents cut from Obama’s detail after alleged misconduct.

A call from the Hay-Adams hotel this past spring reporting that a Secret Service agent was trying to force his way into a woman’s room set in motion an internal investigation that has sent tremors through an agency still trying to restore its elite reputation.

The incident came a year after the agency was roiled by a prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, prompting vows from senior officials to curb a male-dominated culture of hard partying and other excesses….

The disruption at the Hay-Adams in May involved Ignacio Zamora Jr., a senior supervisor who oversaw about two dozen agents in the Secret Service’s most elite assignment — the president’s security detail. Zamora was allegedly discovered attempting to reenter a woman’s room after accidentally leaving behind a bullet from his service weapon. The incident has not been previously reported.

In a follow-up investigation, agency officials also found that Zamora and another supervisor, Timothy Barraclough, had sent sexually suggestive e-mails to a female subordinate, according to those with knowledge of the case. Officials have removed Zamora from his position and moved Barraclough off the detail to a separate part of the division, people familiar with the case said.

The misconduct wasn’t reported to the inspector general until the end of October after the WaPo had started investigating the incident, but

According to the Secret Service’s internal findings, Zamora was off duty when he met a woman at the hotel’s Off the Record bar and later joined her in her room.

The review found that Zamora had removed ammunition from the chamber of his government-issued handgun during his stay in the room and then left behind a single bullet. He returned to the room when he realized his mistake. The guest refused to let him back in. Zamora identified himself to hotel security as a Secret Service agent.

The report apparently didn’t explain why Zamora took a bullet out of this gun or why the woman refused to let him back into her room. We’ll all have to draw our own conclusions.

Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen, Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Reserve, will be appearing before the Senate Banking Committee today for her confirmation hearing.

US News and World Report lists “three things to expect” from the hearing: 1.) Republicans talking about inflation, 2) “measured reassurances” to nervous Republicans about nonexisitant inflation from Yellen, and 3) “a jumpy stock market.”

USA Today offers “five things to watch for”: 1) “can she handle a national stage,” 2) “Will she sound like Greenspan or Bernanke?” 3) “How will Yellen reconcile the Fed’s dual mandate to boost employment while keeping inflation low with her own economic philosophy?” 4) “Will she drop clues on tapering?” 5) “How will she handle questions about “too big to fail” banks?”

If Yellen were a man, would USA Today be asking if she can “handle a national stage?” As for question 2, she’ll sound like Bernanke obviously. Read USA today’s speculations at the link.

On the stock question, markets are responding favorably so far. From the WSJ: U.S. Stock Futures Inch Higher.

U.S. stock futures held steady near record levels, as dovish comments from Federal Reserve chairwoman nominee Janet Yellen helped offset disappointing results from some blue-chip companies.

European markets rose as sluggish euro-zone growth figures suggested accommodative monetary policies would remain in place for some time….

Investors will be keenly focused on Ms. Yellen’s confirmation hearing before the Senate banking committee, starting at 10 a.m. In her planned opening statement, released late Wednesday, Ms. Yellen said that because unemployment is still too high, and inflation is running below target levels, the Fed is using its monetary-policy tools, even unconventional ones like asset purchases, to promote a more robust recovery.

“I believe that supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy,” Ms. Yellen said.

Investors will be listening to the question-and-answer period for any clues on when she might expect to start winding down, or tapering, the $85-billion-a-month bond purchase program.

From Bloomberg Businessweek: Yellen Says U.S. Performing ‘Far Short’ of Potential.

“A strong recovery will ultimately enable the Fed to reduce its monetary accommodation and reliance on unconventional policy tools such as asset purchases,” Yellen said in testimony prepared for her nomination hearing before the Senate Banking Committee today in Washington. “Supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy.”

Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairman, voiced her commitment to using bond purchases known as quantitative easing to boost growth and lower unemployment that remains above 7 percent more than four years after the economy began to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

“Her approach is, ‘Let’s do more QE now to get the job done faster,’ ” said Laura Rosner, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas SA in New York and a former researcher at the New York Fed. “Yellen is repeating her commitment to getting the job done.”

In three pages of prepared remarks for the 10 a.m. hearing, released yesterday, Yellen, 67, said unemployment is “still too high, reflecting a labor market and economy performing far short of their potential,” and that inflation is expected to remain below the Fed’s 2 percent goal. She also highlighted areas where the economy has improved, saying housing “seems to have turned a corner” and the auto industry has made an “impressive comeback.”

bodies

The situation in the Philippines is still desperate, according to the NYT: Traumatized City in the Philippines Begins to Bury Its Dead.

TACLOBAN, the Philippines — Pausing occasionally to dodge driving rains by hiding under loose scraps of plywood, a group of firefighters lowered unidentified bodies into a mass grave here Thursday, six days after the city was largely destroyed in Typhoon Haiyan.

For days, the bodies had sat in public. First they were uncovered on roadsides; then they were placed in body bags. After that, they were collected, and nearly 200 were stored at the biggest site, a government office. In the nearby City Hall, the center of local government relief efforts, the stench from the bodies could be powerful when the wind blew off the harbor….

The official death toll for Tacloban City rose to 2,000 on Thursday, but that covers only bodies that have been collected or visually confirmed by authorized officials. The visually confirmed bodies are those readily visible from roadsides, as relief crews have yet to start digging through towering piles of debris, much of it studded with nails.

There are also 3,000 injured, by the official tally, and 194 people for whom the paperwork has been completed for them to be declared missing.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Up in Canada, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is still refusing to step down:

It’s clear now, amid more damning allegations and public embarrassment, that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has no intentions of relinquishing his post.

City council must decide how to continue operating after Wednesday’sdramatic pleas from councillors for the mayor to seek treatment for alleged substance abuse.

He faces yet another challenging day at City Hall on Thursday following the release of more police documents alleging disturbing details about the mayor’s erratic behaviour.

Ford, however, has repeatedly refused to step aside, even after admitting last week that he had smoked crack cocaine about a year ago possibly while drunk..

“I can’t change the past,” he said in council Wednesday. “All I can do is move on and that’s what I’m doing.”

It’s like a family intervention played out in public; but the target of the intervention is in control of a large city. “He continues to be the chief magistrate of the city; he continues to have signing powers,” says city councilman  Anthony Perruzza.

Ryan Ferguson

Ryan Ferguson

I’ll end with some feel-good news. I’ve been following the Ryan Ferguson story for a few years now. Ferguson is a young Missouri man who has been in prison for 10 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Yesterday he was finally freed. If you aren’t familiar with the case, here is some background from CBS News and a timeline of the case from KDSK.com.

From The New York Daily News:

Ferguson — who was serving 40 years for the 2001 murder and robbery of Kent Heitholt, an editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune — said he was still dealing with the shock of walking out of the clink.

“When I finally realized it was actually over, it was incredible relief because I was afraid,” he told the news station. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. They don’t really tell you a whole lot. It was a sensation like no other, and seeing my family right there and hugging them, and knowing that we were going to go home together — it was amazing.”

A state appeals court vacated Ferguson’s conviction after the panel found he did not receive a fair trial.

The panel found that prosecutors withheld evidence from defense attorneys and managed to get a conviction from two witnesses who later recanted their testimony.

Ferguson was arrested after his friend, Chuck Erickson, told cops in 2003 that the pair attacked Heitholt during a night of drinking. A night janitor, Jerry Trump, also said during the trial that he saw the two teens near the parking lot where the editor was killed.

Erickson later admitted that he lied about what happened the night Heitholt was killed and Trump told a courtroom years later that he was coached by prosecutors before he testified. Trump could face perjury charges.

So…. those are my picks for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a great day.


Wednesday Reads: Election Results, Smoking Crack and Dueling Plagiarisms

021efd667a24acb55d0f80b82a096088Good Morning

Well…Election Day is over, and here are the results…in link dump format:

Ally of Clintons Narrowly Wins Election as Virginia Governor – NYTimes.com

Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Democratic fund-raiser and ally of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, was elected governor of Virginia on Tuesday, narrowly defeating the state’s conservative attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, and confirming Virginia’s evolution as a state increasingly dominated politically by the Democratic-leaning Washington suburbs.

Bill de Blasio poised to usher in new era of liberal governance in New York – The Washington Post

Bill de Blasio overwhelmingly was elected mayor here Tuesday, becoming the first Democrat to lead New York in 20 years and ushering in a new era of activist liberal governance in the nation’s largest city.

Shortly after polls closed at 9 p.m., several networks projected that de Blasio soundly defeated Republican Joe Lhota, a protégé of former mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Chris Christie Coasts to 2nd Term as Governor of New Jersey – NYTimes.com

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey won re-election by a crushing margin on Tuesday, a victory that vaulted him to the front ranks of Republican presidential contenders and made him his party’s foremost proponent of pragmatism over ideology.

Well, about that ideology.  You have to admit, he scored big points with his base when he took down that teacher who was a) an educator b) union member and 3) a woman…meanwhile, in Illinois a gay marriage bill was approved!

The General Assembly today narrowly approved a gay marriage bill, clearing the way for Illinois to become the 15th state to legalize same-sex unions.

The bill got 61 votes in the House, one more than the bare minimum needed to send the measure back to the Senate, which quickly signed off. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign the bill into law should it reach his desk.

Reaction is rolling in tonight from the White House to City Hall.

President Barack Obama issued a statement praising the General Assembly.

“As president, I have always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally under the law. Over time, I also came to believe that same-sex couples should be able to get married like anyone else,” he said in the statement. “So tonight, Michelle and I are overjoyed for all the committed couples in Illinois whose love will now be as legal as ours – and for their friends and family who have long wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and equally under the law.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement following the House vote.

“Today is a critical moment in history for Illinois and for the entire LGBT movement. Finally, gays and lesbians across our state are guaranteed the fundamental right to marry, and countless couples with children will be acknowledged for what they are under the law – families just like everyone else,” said Emanuel in the statement.

Hey, I know y’all have heard of this guy in Canada.  Rob Ford, Toronto Mayor, Admits Having Smoked Crack Cocaine (VIDEO)

Rob Ford said Tuesday he loves his job and will stay on as mayor of Toronto despite admitting for the first time that he smoked crack.

Ford earlier acknowledged he smoked crack “probably a year ago” when he was in a “drunken stupor,” but balked at growing pressure on him to resign.

“I was elected to do a job and that’s exactly what I’m going to continue doing,” Ford said. “On Oct. 27 of 2014, I want the people of this great city to decide whether they want Rob Ford to be their mayor.”

Well, check out the tie this dude was wearing when he gave his speech today: Rob Ford’s Ridiculous Crack-Apology Football Tie Now Available on eBay | Vanity Fair

For The World’s Most Dignified Press Conference this afternoon, Canadian mayor/crack enthusiast Rob Ford wore, naturally, The World’s Most Dignified Necktie.

It is black, made of polyester (the crack-cocaine of synthetic fibers), contains the logos of various N.F.L. teams (the Washington Redskin Native American mascot receives prominent placement), and is currently available for $14.99 on eBay. Is that more than the cost of an individual-sized portion of crack, or less? You’d have to ask someone who knows crack like the back of his crack-pipe-wielding hand—someone like Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

Who can speed-dial the crisis mangers more quickly: Surrey Clothing, which manufactured the tie, or the N.F.L., whose franchises now share the above screen grab with a portly 44-something crack lover?

So, he’s wearing a NFL tie…great branding there. Bullying football players, concussion cover-ups, racist team names…and a poster boy for drunk, crack smoking politicians.  But back to Rob Ford. Wow, now that guy has balls…dude gets caught smoking crack…admits he did it, possibly during a drunken stupor…and says he is staying put as Mayor of Toronto.

That is almost as ballsy as Rand Paul, who gets caught repeatedly plagiarizing, admits he did it…challenges Rachael Maddow to a faux duel…then announces he will go “dueling” Tarantino style on anyone’s ass who accuses him of cheating again! Only to turn around and blame his staff…what an asshole. Well, it looks like someone has finally had enough of Rand Paul’s shit: Washington Times ends Sen. Rand Paul column amid plagiarism allegations – Washington Times

Which leads me to this little op/ed from Cagle Cartoons: Corrections by Jason Stanford

Last week’s news contained some factual errors that merit correction. We strive for accuracy at all times and regret falling short in these rare instances.

An article on Sunday claimed that the National Security Agency collected data on tens of millions of phone calls in France and Spain. In actual—if less sensational—fact, the records were “handed over to the NSA by European intelligence services as part of joint operations.” We regret getting the story exactly backwards.

131506 600 Corrections cartoonsDaryl Cagle / Cagle Cartoons

Also on Sunday, a television news magazine featured an American security contractor who claimed to have fought off terrorists at the State Department compound in Benghazi. It now appears that this person filed an official report stating he was nowhere near the compound. We regret not checking out his story before giving him a national platform.

In repeated interviews on Monday and Tuesday, Sen. Lindsay Graham threatened to filibuster federal nominations because “the people who survived the attack in Benghazi have not been made available to the U.S. Congress for oversight purposes.” In fact, they did testify before Congress recently. The cable news anchors regret not challenging him on this easily verified factual misstatement.

A guest op-ed on Monday by actress and author Suzanne Somers misattributed the rantings of emails in ALL CAPS to Vladimir Lenin and Winston Churchill. Furthermore, her op-ed repeated the previously discredited assertion that Canadian doctors are fleeing socialized medicine for the unregulated profiteering in the United States. Also, Ms. Somers also mistook a dog for a horse, but in the greater scheme of things this worries us less than thinking the Thigh Master pitchwoman was a credible health care policy expert. We regret the error.

An article on Monday incorrectly implied that the Obama administration did not know about half of those with health insurance policies purchased on the individual market would receive cancellations. In fact, the regulations written in 2010 predicted that 40%-67% of those in the individual market would lose their policies because of market forces, including insurance companies unilaterally lowering benefits, shrinking coverage or increasing your co-pays, i.e., behaving like insurance companies. We regret the error.

In a follow-up story Tuesday, morning news co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck further claimed this information was “buried in Obamacare,” asking “Where was that information up at the top? Where was that in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012? Where was that information?” While she did list the progression of years in correct sequential order, the predicted changeover in the individual health insurance market had been previously reported in 2010 by the network that now employs her. She may or may not regret the error.

Okay, because it is so good…here is the rest of it:

Repeated television interviews last week featured consumers with cancelled insurance policies. After Michael Hiltzik of The Los Angeles Times and Paul Waldman of The American Prospect quickly debunked the horror stories, it became clear that the television journalists failed to do more than turn on the camera and say, “Golly” and “Oh, really? Wow.”

It is doubtful that a single television reporter asked any of these people four crucial questions: What did their old plan cover? Did they go to the exchanges? If the premiums were cheap, were the co-pays and deductibles affordable? Did they qualify for subsidies? We regret giving frightened consumers platforms to air uninformed complaints without ever performing what would be recognized by experts as “journalism” until the cameras were turned off. The answers to these questions revealed that the real horror story was how insurance companies could get away with junk policies that left consumers exposed to financial ruin until Obamacare came along.

Journalism’s apparent inability to ask follow-up questions, challenge assumptions and debunk lies has left the country in a bit of an uninformed tizzy about its national and financial security. All of this would have been simple to prevent had journalists had checked their facts before polluting the news with false information.

However, researching a subject can get in the way of achieving the ratings usually attained through sensationalizing falsehood and ignorance. We regret the errors, but we can’t promise it all won’t happen again next week. After all, we hear Sally Struthers has written something about Benghazi that’s really dynamite.

Oh…can’t wait for that report! Ya know, I loved Struthers’ work for starving children in Africa:

Starvin’ Marvin (Season 1, Episode 9) – Full Episode Player – South Park Studios

While trying to get a free promotional digital sports watch, the boys end up contacting an organization that helps starving children in Africa. Mistaking Cartman for a starving African child, government authorities send him to Ethiopia. Adding chaos to confusion, a flock of wild turkeys revolt after their treatment at the hands of the local genetic engineer. South Park is at the mercy of genetically altered turkeys.

If you don’t remember this episode…

Starvin’ Marvin is the eighth episode of the first season of the American animated television series South Park. It first aired on Comedy Central in the United States on November 19, 1997. In the episode, Cartman, Kenny, Kyle and Stan send money to an African charity hoping to get a sports watch, but are instead sent an Ethiopian child whom they dub Starvin’ Marvin. Later, Cartman is accidentally sent to Ethiopia, where he learns activist Sally Struthers is hoarding the charity’s food for herself. In an accompanying subplot, after genetically engineered turkeys attack South Park residents, Chef rallies the residents to fight back, in a parody of the film Braveheart.

Okay, joking aside…there’s another rape case on video that is making news. 16-Year-Old Florida Girl Held Down By Classmates, Raped On Videotape: Cops

A 16-year-old’s visit to a Hollywood, Florida home turned into a nightmare when a pack of five teens descended upon her, dragged her by the hair, kicked and punched her, then held her down while she was raped in a videotaped assault, police say.

Four of the accused and the victim are students at South Broward High, according to their Facebook pages. The three boys and two girls, ages 15 to 19, have been charged with felony sexual battery and false imprisonment.

“It just makes it all the more disturbing when you have this many people working in concert and aggression,” Maria Schneider, state prosecutor in charge of the juvenile unit, said Monday. “I can’t imagine how overwhelmed and under siege someone would feel under these circumstances. It’s very traumatic.”

Hospital officials declined to say whether the victim, who bled from an ear and drifted in and out of consciousness with her eyes swollen shut when police questioned her Saturday morning, remained hospitalized Monday. Because of the nature of the crime, the Sun Sentinel is not naming her.

There is some pretty graphic detail in the article.

Next up, two links from AJAM:

SC tribe looks to casino in NC to preserve its heritage | Al Jazeera America

In central South Carolina, clay is pulled from the land near the Catawba River by a Native American tribe of the same name. The loam is processed much as it was thousands of years ago, coiled into pots, scraped and burnished with river rocks and fired over an open pit until it can endure.

And in that ancient pottery tradition — the oldest continuing one in North America — lies the story of the Catawba people, according to the tribe’s elected chief, Bill Harris.

It is also motivation for its economic future. The Catawba Indian Nation, South Carolina’s only federally recognized Indian tribe, is looking to a casino resort and high-stakes bingo as a way to ensure its cultural future.

Central to the tribe’s plan for economic development: Holding the federal government to its promise, the tribe will expand throughout its ancestral lands. It has set its sights on 16 acres across the state line, in Cleveland County, N.C., where it hopes to build a 220,000-square-foot gaming facility and 750-room resort. It estimates that the $340 million casino project will initially create at least 4,000 jobs in a county where unemployment lingers at about 10 percent.

There’s another hurdle to the plan. The Cherokee, the Catawba’s historical trade rival, view the casino plans as competition.

“Based on the newly released information provided by Cleveland County, we are greatly concerned that this development will negatively impact job growth and revenue at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and for the western region of North Carolina,” Cherokee Chief Michell Hicks said in a statement in the tribe’s newspaper.

That is a long read, but it is interesting to see the competition between the two tribes…over what seems to be an endless supply of customers. The new outpost that Harrah’s Cherokee Casino is building is actually just north of Banjoville, on the other side of the Georgia/North Carolina border.

Median wage falls to lowest level since 1998  by David Cay Johnston| Al Jazeera America

Last year the median wage hit its lowest level since 1998, revealing that at least half of American workers are being left behind as the economy slowly recovers from the Great Recession.

But at the top, wages soared — the latest indication in a long-running trend of increasing inequality, with income gains going to top earners while the majority of workers see stagnant or falling wages.

Al Jazeera is the first news organization to report these figures from the Social Security Administration (SSA), which were released late in October.

The median wage — half of workers make more, half less — came to $27,519 last year, virtually unchanged from 2011. Measured in 2012 dollars, the median wage was down $4.

The 2012 median wage was at its lowest level since 1998, when the median stood at $26,984.

From its all-time peak in 2007, the median wage was down $980. That means someone at the midpoint in pay worked 52 weeks last year but earned about the equivalent of working just 50 weeks at 2007 pay levels, the last peak year for the economy.

The average wage, on the other hand, improved last year. It increased to $42,498, up $434, or 1 percent from 2011 after considering inflation. But the average wage remained below its $42,921 peak in 2007, I calculated from the SSA data.

These figures from the SSA cover only cash pay, not fringe benefits such as health insurance and pensions. The figures are reported to the Internal Revenue Service to verify what individuals put on their tax returns.

More on what those numbers mean at the link.

I will end with this cartoon from Luckovich: 11/6 Luckovich cartoon: ‘If you like your health plan…’ | Mike Luckovich

110613-toon-luckovich-ed

So…what’s going on in your world this morning? Tell us about it below in the comment section!


Tuesday Reads: The End of an Era

Katherine Graham meets with Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, Howard Simons and Ben Bradlee.

Katherine Graham meets with Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, Howard Simons and Ben Bradlee.

Good Morning!!

The big news today is of course the Graham family’s shocking sale of The Washington Post to billionaire Jeff Bezos of Amazon. This, along with the sale of The Boston Globe to Red Sox owner John Henry and the sale of Newsweek to IBT Media, signal the true end of an era.

The days when Americans woke up to the daily newspaper on their doorsteps is long gone. The place to go for the latest news these days is the internet and print newspapers and news magazines are struggling to survive. But the Globe and Newsweek have been on the auction block for a long time; the Post sale was a complete surprise, even to its employees.

From David von Drehle at Time Magazine: A New Age for the Washington Post

It’s hard to startle the journalism business these days, given the scale and speed of disruption of the media industry. But the Graham family selling the Washington Post to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for $250 million is an exception. Few newspapers in the world are as closely identified with a single family.

The story of the Grahams and the Post used to be told in giant pictures on the wall of the newspaper lobby on L Street not far from the White House. One grainy photograph documented the day in 1933 when the brilliant financier Eugene Meyer bought the paper for a song at a bankruptcy sale on the courthouse steps. Another (a favorite of all of us who worked there) showed Meyer’s remarkable daughter, Katharine Graham, beaming as she left another D.C. courthouse in the company of her favorite editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee, after they prevailed over the government in the Pentagon Papers lawsuit.

Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee leaving the courthouse after prevailing in  the Pentagon Papers case.

Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee leaving the courthouse after prevailing in the Pentagon Papers case.

But the most important photograph, according to Mrs. Graham’s son and successor Donald E. Graham, was the one that showed Meyer in the company of Philip L. Graham, the brilliant and tragic husband of Katharine and father of Don. They were smiling like a pair of lotto winners, which they were. The year was 1954, and after years of effort and red ink, they had finally bought out their last remaining rival for dominance of the morning-newspaper market in Washington. As other families would learn in other cities across the country — the Chandlers in Los Angeles, the Coxes in Atlanta, the Knights in Miami and so on — dominance of the morning-newspaper routes would become a decades-long license to print money.

Philip L. Graham and Eugene Meyer look at the first The Washington Post Times Herald, in Washington, March 18, 1954.

Philip L. Graham and Eugene Meyer look at the first The Washington Post Times Herald, in Washington, March 18, 1954.

Owning the morning meant that the Post would thrive as afternoon newspapers fell to the competition of television news. (The last afternoon paper in Washington, the excellent Washington Star, winked out in 1981.) It meant that advertisers hoping to reach a broad Washington audience had no choice but to pay the Post’s steadily increasing rates. That day in 1954 was the key to everything the Post later became, Don told me one day about 10 years ago when we bumped into each other in the lobby. Watergate, all the Pulitzer Prizes, the foreign correspondents, the celebrity columnists — all of it was possible because the patriarch and his son-in-law managed to lock up the morning.

A couple more links on the Post sale:

James Fallows at The Atlantic: Why the Sale of the Washington Post Seems So Significant

I have known and liked Donald Graham and his family over the years; many of my friends in journalism have at one time or another worked at the Washington Post. My first reaction to news that the family had sold the paper is simple shock. But it is shock based not on my positive-but-not-deep personal connection to the paper and its people but rather on sheer generational disorientation.

Readers below about age 40, who have known the Post only during its beleaguered, downsizing-its-way-out-of-trouble era, may find it hard to imagine the role it once played. Over the past decade-plus, the New York Times and theWall Street Journal have been the national newspaper organizations. It already seems antique even to use the word “newspaper” in such a construction, for reasons I don’t need to belabor now. But their flagship daily print publications make the NYT and the WSJ similar to the Financial Times and different from the other remaining ambitious news organizations — Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters, the broadcast and cable networks, NPR, etc.
There was a time when you would automatically have included the Post in that first-tier national grouping. Other mainly regional or local papers were strong — the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, and on down a nostalgic list. But more than any of the rest of them, the Post was fully in the national-newspaper derby and measured itself every day against the Times in talent level, depth and breadth of reporting, international coverage, sophistication, and all the other measures of a nationally ambitious operation. People who have started reading the paper in the past dozen years — rather, who have notstarted reading it — probably can’t imagine this difference in stature. But it is dramatic, and real.
Much more at the link.
David Remnick at The New Yorker: Donald Graham’s Choice

“The pattern of a newspaperman’s life is like the plot of ‘Black Beauty,’ ” A. J. Liebling wrote. “Sometimes he finds a kind master who gives him a dry stall and an occasional bran mash in the form of a Christmas bonus, sometimes he falls into the hands of a mean owner who drives him in spite of spavins and expects him to live on potato peelings.” And sometimes, out of the blue, the ownership changes and you don’t know what the hell you’re getting in your bucket—fresh oats or cut glass.

At around 4:25 Monday afternoon, the staff of the Washington Post was summoned to the paper’s auditorium, a vast room where the presses used to be. The meeting would begin at 4:30 P.M., they were told. Donald E. Graham, the leader of the Graham family, which has owned the paper since Eugene Meyer bought it at a bankruptcy auction in 1933, stood solemnly before journalists who had been demoralized over the years by staff cuts, precipitous plunges in circulation, and endless dark rumors. It was a room full of reporters and editors, and yet, as one told me, “we thought we were there to hear that the Grahams had sold the building.”

In fact, Graham told them, in a voice so full of emotion that he had to stop a few times to gather himself, they were selling the Post and a handful of smaller papers—for two hundred and fifty million dollars, to Jeff Bezos, the founder and C.E.O. of Amazon, who is estimated to be worth more than twenty-five billion dollars. Graham asked the people there not to tweet, just to listen. The assembled were so stunned that when it came time for questions no one had any for a while; Graham had to urge them out of their silence.

“This was just plain sad. Now we belong to a guy who is so rich that the paper is around one per cent of his net worth,” a reporter told me soon after the meeting. “This was the family acknowledging that we can’t do it anymore and we have to give it to someone else. And we love the Graham family, we are proud of the family.”

It’s a long and interesting essay–read the rest at the link.
Neil Irwin and Ylan Q. Mui at The Washington Post write that Bezos paid more than he needed to for the Post.

The purchase price is richer than many of those paid for other legacy print media properties in recent years.

The New York Times Co. agreed to sell the Boston Globe to Red Sox owner John W. Henry for only $70 million. Newsweek sold for a symbolic $1, plus assumed pension liabilities, to billionaire Sidney Harman in 2011.

The Post “has a much stronger position in its market than the Boston Globe does,” said John Morton, an independent newspaper industry analyst. “It doesn’t surprise me that it would command a much higher price.”

Still, Morton suggested that the prominence and the visibility of The Post made Bezos willing to pay a higher price than would be justified by the paper’s finances alone. “I think probably Jeff Bezos was willing to pay a premium to make this happen,” Morton said. “. . . Bezos has enough money that if he wants to make it a hobby, he can.”

Interestingly, The New York Times apparently sold The Globe for less than they could have gotten. According to the AP:

BOSTON — Three bidders who fell short in their attempts to purchase The Boston Globe say they offered more than Boston Red Sox owner John Henry’s winning $70 million bid and criticized the decision of the seller, The New York Times Co., to make a deal with him.

Springfield television station owner John Gormally, West Coast investment executive Robert Loring and U-T San Diego chief executive John Lynch all said their groups’ bids bested Henry’s.

Henry agreed to pay $70 million to buy the Globe, the Boston Metro and the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester, about 50 miles from Boston. The bid, announced Saturday, was a fraction of the $1.1 billion the Times Co. paid 20 years ago.

Lynch said his group offered “significantly more” than Henry and wondered how the Times Co.’s shareholders would react after learning the company accepted a lower offer.

“I’m just stunned,” Lynch told the Boston Herald. “I thought this was a public company that had a fiduciary duty to get the most by its stockholders.”

Gormally says his bit was $80 million, but he admits that local ownership will probably be better for the Globe in the long run. Perhaps the Times wanted to do us Bostonians a favor.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll just add a few more stories in link dump fashion.Mark Ames on Vladamir Putin’s “human rights” record: Snowden’s Savior Announces Plans To Build 83 “Concentration Camps” Across Russia (link unlocked for 2 days)

Nature World News: Enormous Sinkhole, Still Expanding, Creates Spectacle in Western Kansas [VIDEO]

A former student sues her high school for bullying she suffered–first lawsuit based on new Massachusetts anti-bullying law

WSJ: Boston Bombing Suspect was Steeped in Conspiracies

Wendy Davis: Ready to ride for governor of Texas? (Christian Science Monitor)

How the World’s ‘Most Biodiverse Place’ Could Be Ransomed for Oil Money (Miami Herald via PBS)

The Independent: Japan calls for nuclear disarmament at 68th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing

Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads

adolphe-monet-reading-in-the-garden(1)

Good Morning!!

I have a varied selection of stories for you today. I’ll begin with one that doesn’t involve politics, racism, murder, woman-hating, or any other depressing topics. A new study released yesterday provides additional evidence that Dolphins may see each other as unique individuals. From BBC News: Dolphins ‘call each other by name’

It had been-long suspected that dolphins use distinctive whistles in much the same way that humans use names.

Previous research found that these calls were used frequently, and dolphins in the same groups were able to learn and copy the unusual sounds.

But this is the first time that the animals response to being addressed by their “name” has been studied.

Dr Vincent Janik University of St Andrews

To investigate, researchers recorded a group of wild bottlenose dolphins, capturing each animal’s signature sound.

They then played these calls back using underwater speakers.

“We played signature whistles of animals in the group, we also played other whistles in their repertoire and then signature whistles of different populations – animals they had never seen in their lives,” explained Dr Janik.

The researchers found that individuals only responded to their own calls, by sounding their whistle back.

According to Janik,

“(Dolphins) live in this three-dimensional environment, offshore without any kind of landmarks and they need to stay together as a group.

“These animals live in an environment where they need a very efficient system to stay in touch.”

More from Discover Magazine:

Although humans start naming things almost as a matter of course during early development, the process of creating and using a name is actually quite complex. Scientists refer to names as learned vocal labels, meaning vocalizations that refer to specific objects. Both parrots and dolphins have used learned vocal labels while in captivity, and researchers had no reason to believe that the animals couldn’t do the same in their natural environments. Now biologists Stephanie King and Vincent Janik from the University of Aberdeen have found that, indeed, wild dolphins use the equivalent of a human name to address each other.

What’s interesting to me is that if these dolphins can recognize each other as individuals and recognize their own names, this suggests a level of self-consciousness that is seen in very few animals other than humans. Even human children do not develop the ability to recognize themselves (PDF) in a mirror or on film until they are at least 18 months old and the development of true self-consciousness and awareness that others have similar thoughts and feelings (theory of mind) takes much longer.

The Washington Post reports on a depressing, but not surprising, poll on attitudes toward the Trayvon Martin case. Zimmerman verdict poll: Stark reaction by race.

The not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman has produced dramatically different reactions among blacks and whites, with African Americans overwhelmingly disapproving of the jury’s decision and a bare majority of whites saying they approve of the outcome, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll….

The new survey underscores not only the gap between whites and blacks, but also how passionate many African Americans are about the case. Among African Americans, 86 percent say they disapprove of the verdict — with almost all of themsaying they strongly disapprove — and 87 percent saying the shooting was unjustified.

In contrast, 51 percent of whites say they approve of the verdict while just 31 percent disapprove. There is also a partisan overlay to the reaction among whites: 70 percent of white Republicans but only 30 percent of white Democrats approve of the verdict. Among all whites, one-third say the shooting was unjustified, one-third say it was justified and the other third say they didn’t know enough to have an opinion.

It figures that Republicans would be driving the results among whites. Republicans have truly become the party of white males who hate anyone who isn’t white and male. You have to wonder why any African American or any woman would choose to be a Republican. Unfortunately the poll didn’t break down the results by gender and geography. Would more women have disapproved of the verdict? It was an all-woman jury, but also a Florida jury. A more complex analysis would have been helpful.

Republicans–at least the ones who watch Fox News–are old too. It’s hard to believe, but even though Fox leads the other cable news channels in viewers, the average age of Fox viewers is 65-plus! From the NYT:

Fox News declined to make executives available for comment, but several recent signs — including changing personalities for some of its weekday programs — suggest the network may have decided the time has come to confront the issue of age.

Just how old is its audience? It is impossible to be precise because Nielsen stops giving an exact figure for median age once it passes 65. But for six of the last eight years, Fox News has had a median age of 65-plus and the number of viewers in the 25-54 year old group has been falling consistently, down five years in a row in prime time, from an average of 557,000 viewers five years ago to 379,000 this year. That has occurred even though Fox’s overall audience in prime time is up this year, to 2.02 million from 1.89 million three years ago….

“The numbers indicate they haven’t been replacing the younger viewers,” Mr. Moffett said of Fox News. Many of the loyal viewers the network has always had are simply aging up beyond the 54-year cutoff for many ad buyers. The result is an audience edging consistently above that 65-plus number.

News audiences always trend old, and the viewers of Fox’s competitors are hardly in the full flower of youth. MSNBC’s median age for its prime-time shows this year is 60.6; CNN’s is 59.8.

In terms of the rest of television, Fox News also is quite a bit older than networks considered to have a base of older viewers. CBS has frequently been needled for having older viewers, but at 56.8, its median viewer is far younger than Fox News’s. (Viewers at Fox News’s sister network, Fox Broadcasting, have a median age of 50.2; at ABC, the median is 54.4; at NBC, it’s 47.7.)

Speaking of old-fashioned viewpoints, I posted this in the comments yesterday, but it’s worth a closer look. Yesterday, Margaret Sullivan the NYT Public Editor posted a remarkable column about Nate Silver: Nate Silver Went Against the Grain for Some at The Times. Sullivan speculates that Silver may have decided to leave the Times for ESPN/ABC because his fact- and probability-based methods of writing about politics didn’t jive with the attitudes of some other Times journalists. She based her analysis on a number of conversations with Silver and “about him with journalists in the Times’s newsroom.”

* I don’t think Nate Silver ever really fit into the Times culture and I think he was aware of that. He was, in a word, disruptive. Much like the Brad Pitt character in the movie “Moneyball” disrupted the old model of how to scout baseball players, Nate disrupted the traditional model of how to cover politics.

His entire probability-based way of looking at politics ran against the kind of political journalism that The Times specializes in: polling, the horse race, campaign coverage, analysis based on campaign-trail observation, and opinion writing, or “punditry,” as he put it, famously describing it as “fundamentally useless.” Of course, The Times is equally known for its in-depth and investigative reporting on politics.

His approach was to work against the narrative of politics – the “story” – and that made him always interesting to read. For me, both of these approaches have value and can live together just fine.

* A number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work. The first time I wrote about him I suggested that print readers should have the same access to his writing that online readers were getting. I was surprised to quickly hear by e-mail from three high-profile Times political journalists, criticizing him and his work. They were also tough on me for seeming to endorse what he wrote, since I was suggesting that it get more visibility.

A few reactions to the Nate Silver story:

JM Ashby at Bob Cesca.com: Revenge of the Nerd

TPM: Nate Silver’s Seven Most Memorable Predictions

Politico: How ESPN and ABC landed Nate Silver

Business Insider got Silver’s own reaction to the Sullivan column: ‘The Culture Stuff Was Not A Big Factor’ In Me Leaving The New York Times

I’ll wrap this up with a some Edward Snowden updates. It’s very clear at this point that Snowden is being controlled by Russian intelligence. We don’t really know where he is, and his spokesman is an “attorney” who is in charge of PR for the Russian FSB. We also don’t know what Snowden has given the FSB in return for their help. Geoffrey Ingersoll at Business Insider:

Russian attorney Anatoly Kucherena — who also happens to be the head of public council for the Federal Security Service (FSB) — has announced that Edward Snowden may leave the Moscow airport on Wednesday.

His next destination: Russia.

That’s right, he’s likely not going too far.

We also know that Snowden supposedly said he has no plans to travel to Latin America because at this time, he thought it too dangerous to travel.

How do we know that? Well, Kucherena said Snowden said it, of course.

Not only does Kucherena run the FSB’s public council, but it seems he runs Snowdens public relations as well — he “helped” Snowden apply for temporary asylum, he relayed Snowden’s “promise” not to hurt the U.S. anymore, and he announced Snowden’s (very own) idea about possibly applying for Russian citizenship with the intent to stay for a while and “learn Russian culture.”

And here’s Michael Kelley, also from Business Insider: The Intel In Snowden’s Head Could Be More Damaging Than The Material He Leaked

National Security Agency whistleblower/leaker Edward Snowden reportedly flew to Hong Kong carrying “four laptop computers that enable him to gain access to some of the US government’s most highly-classified secrets,” raising the concern that data could have been compromised in China or Russia.

But the information in his head may be more valuable, and accessible, than highly encrypted files.

Beyond trying to acquire information about the 10,000 NSA files Snowden accessed in Hawaii, a U.S. adversary would want to learn from Snowden’s expertise of internal NSA processes — such as its recruiting and vetting processes — to gain insight into America’s decision loop.

“Snowden understood exactly how far he could push [the NSA],” Robert Caruso, a former assistant command security manager in the Navy and consultant, told Business Insider. “That, coupled with his successful exploitation of our entire vetting process, makes him very dangerous.”

There’s much more of interest in the Kelley article, including a timeline of Snowden’s activities. Highly recommended.

I have several more Snowden links that I’ll just list for anyone who’s interested to click on:

NBC News: Lawyer: Snowden hopes to leave Moscow airport by Wednesday

CNN: Snowden did not access ‘crown jewels’ of NSA intel, official says

The Voice of Russia: US communicates concerns over Snowden to Russian gov’t – ambassador

ABC News: New Snowden Documents Show NSA-Germany Spy Links: Report

Atlantic Wire: Edward Snowden Has Everything and Nothing

Now it’s your turn. What stories have caught your interest today? I look forward to clicking on your links!


Glenn Greenwald: If anything happens to Edward Snowden US will be gravely harmed

Dead man's switch

Dead man’s switch

It may be time for Edward Snowden to look for another spokesman/PR flack. Then again, it might already be too late.

Today Snowden’s designated media mouthpiece Glenn Greenwald gave an interview to an Argentine newspaper, La Nacion, in which he provided some rather stunning quotes about Edward Snowden’s ability to harm the U.S. government. Reuters picked up the story and reprinted the Greenwald quotes in English.

(Reuters) – Fugitive former U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden controls dangerous information that could become the United States’ “worst nightmare” if revealed, a journalist familiar with the data said in a newspaper interview.

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who first published the documents Snowden leaked, said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday that the U.S. government should be careful in its pursuit of the former computer analyst.

“Snowden has enough information to cause harm to the U.S. government in a single minute than any other person has ever had,” Greenwald said in an interview in Rio de Janeiro with the Argentinean daily La Nacion.

“The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare.”

I don’t know about you, but to me those sound like threats. Technically, they could be called “graymail” From the Urban Dictionary:

graymail:

to force the government to choose between prosecuting an employee for serious crimes or preserving national security secrets
Libby’s lawyers deliberated on how to graymail the government in order to achieve an acquittal.

It’s not illegal, but it doesn’t seem all that “heroic” either.

Greenwald immediately published a defense of his comment at The Guardian: About the Reuters article.

When you give many interviews in different countries and say essentially the same thing over and over, as I do, media outlets often attempt to re-package what you’ve said to make their interview seem new and newsworthy, even when it isn’t. Such is the case with this Reuters article today, that purports to summarize an interview I gave to the daily newspaper La Nacion of Argentina.

Like everything in the matter of these NSA leaks, this interview is being wildly distorted to attract attention away from the revelations themselves. It’s particularly being seized on to attack Edward Snowden and, secondarily, me, for supposedly “blackmailing” and “threatening” the US government. That is just absurd.

That Snowden has created some sort of “dead man’s switch” – whereby documents get released in the event that he is killed by the US government -was previously reported weeks ago, and Snowden himself has strongly implied much the same thing. That doesn’t mean he thinks the US government is attempting to kill him – he doesn’t – just that he’s taken precautions against all eventualities, including that one (just incidentally, the notion that a government that has spent the last decade invading, bombing, torturing, rendering, kidnapping, imprisoning without charges, droning, partnering with the worst dictators and murderers, and targeting its own citizens for assassination would be above such conduct is charmingly quaint).

So what are the distortions? Greenwald doesn’t say. I had google translate the La Nacion article, and the quotes appear to be identical with those reported by Reuters. Greenwald doesn’t deny saying them; he simply states categorically that what he said “has [nothing] remotely to do with threats.”

O-kaaay….  But they sure do sound like threats to me. In an update Greenwald provides a quote in context which he says proves he wasn’t threatening anyone:

Here’s the context for my quote about what documents he possesses:
“Q: Beyond the revelations about the spying system performance in general, what extra information has Snowden?

“A: Snowden has enough information to cause more damage to the US government in a minute alone than anyone else has ever had in the history of the United States. But that’s not his goal. [His] objective is to expose software that people around the world use without knowing what they are exposing themselves without consciously agreeing to surrender their rights to privacy. [He] has a huge number of documents that would be very harmful to the US government if they were made public.”

Greenwald then tries to fudge the quote about how the U.S. “should be down on its knees…”

And exactly as I said, the answer about the dead man’s switch came in response to my being asked: “Are you afraid that someone will try to kill him?” That’s when I explained that I thought it such an was unlikely because his claimed dead man’s switch meant that it would produce more harm than good from the perspective of the US government.

But here is the original quote from the La Nacion story (translated awkwardly by Google):

If something were to happen, those documents would be made public. This is your insurance policy. The U.S. government should be on your knees every day praying that nothing happens to Snowden, because if something happens, all information will be revealed and that would be their worst nightmare.

Please explain to me how that is “has [nothing] remotely to do with threats.” At the point Greenwald has taken on the role of a combination PR flack and defense attorney. He spends hours on Twitter sending out links to every favorable story about Snowden and he uses his Guardian column to write critiques of negative media reports on Snowden and himself. Greenwald is way out of his depth; his defenses of Snowden and his giant scoop are getting increasingly irrational. How long is The Guardian going to allow this to continue?