Yesterday Politico published one of their bizarre pieces about the trials and tribulations of the whiny Village media. According to Dylan Byers, the White House press corps experienced ‘Extreme frustration’ over ‘having absolutely no access’ to Obama during his brief golfing vacation over the long Presidents’ Day weekend.
Ed Henry, the Fox News correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents Association, released a statement Sunday evening in which he said the press corps had been given no access to the president, who was joined on his outing by star golfer Tiger Woods, and that the WHCA would fight for greater transparency in the days ahead.
“Speaking on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, I can say a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend,” Henry said in a statement, relayed in a White House pool report. “There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency.”
Has Ed Henry ever complained about the White House press not getting access to information about drone strikes? Has he released any statements about the White House not being “transparent” about the DOJ defending Bush’s torture policies or involvement by the administration in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz?
No, it’s only when the press corps sees an opportunity for star-fucking. Obama goes golfing with Tiger Woods and wants a little privacy–probably requested by Woods–and the press corps goes nuts over lack of “transparency.” Here’s the White House response to the kerfluffle:
“The press access granted by the White House today is entirely consistent with the press access offered for previous presidential golf outings,” Earnest said. “It’s also consistent with the press access promised to the White House Press Corps prior to arrival in Florida on Friday evening.”
Excuse me if I don’t see this as a major issue. But for Politico, it’s earth-shaking. This morning they’ve posted another of their “Behind the Curtain” exposes by Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen, and, as usual, it’s hilarious. Get this–the headline is “Obama, the puppet master.”
President Barack Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.
Not for the reason that conservatives suspect: namely, that a liberal press willingly and eagerly allows itself to get manipulated. Instead, the mastery mostly flows from a White House that has taken old tricks for shaping coverage (staged leaks, friendly interviews) and put them on steroids using new ones (social media, content creation, precision targeting). And it’s an equal opportunity strategy: Media across the ideological spectrum are left scrambling for access.
No, this is not a gag post from the Onion. Vandehei and Allen are deadly serious about what they see as a scandalous situation. They are horrified to report that the Obama administration likes to use new technologies like e-mail and social media to communicate with the American people instead of just letting the DC media filter their message for them.
The results are transformational. With more technology, and fewer resources at many media companies, the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government. This is an arguably dangerous development, and one that the Obama White House — fluent in digital media and no fan of the mainstream press — has exploited cleverly and ruthlessly. And future presidents from both parties will undoubtedly copy and expand on this approach.
OMG! Scandalous!! And that’s just the beginning of a four-page article. Because this isn’t just about an outing with Tiger Woods. Oh no! It’s a vital national security isssue . . . or something. Turning to another related piece at Politico–this is obviously the issue of the week for them–Ed Henry says “This isn’t about a golf game.”
White House Correspondents Association president Ed Henry is standing by his complaints about the lack of press access to President Obama, pushing back against critics who say he and his fellow White House correspondents are just “whining” and don’t respect the president’s privacy.
“This is a fight for more access, period,” Henry told POLITICO late Monday night. “I’ve heard all kinds of critics saying the White House press corps is whining about a golf game and violating the president’s privacy. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“We’re not interested in violating the president’s privacy. He’s entitled to vacations like everyone else. All we’re asking for is a brief exception, quick access, a quick photo-op on the 18th green,” Henry continued. “It’s not about golf — it’s about transparency and access in a broader sense.”
Sure, Ed. Back to the “Behind the Headlines” piece:
“The way the president’s availability to the press has shrunk in the last two years is a disgrace,” said ABC News White House reporter Ann Compton, who has covered every president back to Gerald R. Ford. “The president’s day-to-day policy development — on immigration, on guns — is almost totally opaque to the reporters trying to do a responsible job of covering it. There are no readouts from big meetings he has with people from the outside, and many of them aren’t even on his schedule. This is different from every president I covered. This White House goes to extreme lengths to keep the press away.”
So why doesn’t the press complain during and after those big meetings then? And then there’s this:
“White House handout photos used to be reserved for historically important events — 9/11, or deliberations about war,” Kraft said. “This White House regularly releases [day-in-the-life] images of the president … a nice picture of the president looking pensive … from events that could have been covered by the press pool. But I don’t blame the White House for doing it, because networks and newspapers use them. So the White House has built its own content distribution network.”
Were any of these people around when the Bush administration was actually paying writers and pundits like Armstrong Williams to get their version of events into the media? From the NYT, January 29, 2005:
The Bush administration acknowledged on Friday that it had paid a third conservative commentator, and at least two departments said they were conducting internal inquiries to see if other journalists were under government contract. The investigative arm of Congress also formally began an inquiry of its own.
The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed having hired Michael McManus, who writes a weekly syndicated column and is director of a nonprofit group called Marriage Savers. Mr. McManus was paid $10,000 to help train counselors about marriage, an arrangement first reported in USA Today, but officials said he was paid for his expertise rather than to write columns supporting administration policies.
At the same time, the Government Accountability Office told the Education Department it was investigating a $240,000 contract with the commentator Armstrong Williams that came to light earlier this month, requesting that education officials turn over any paper or video materials related to the case. Another conservative writer, Maggie Gallagher, admitted earlier this week having a $21,500 deal with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Besieged with questions about contracts with outside public relations firms and columnists, officials at the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services said they were conducting their own inquiries…
Not to mention the supposedly legitimate reporters like Judy Miller who helped Bush/Cheney get us into the war in Iraq with the willing assistance of their editors and publishers. Here James C. Moore at Salon, from May 27, 2004:
When the full history of the Iraq war is written, one of its most scandalous chapters will be about how American journalists, in particular those at the New York Times, so easily allowed themselves to be manipulated by both dubious sources and untrustworthy White House officials into running stories that misled the nation about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. The Times finally acknowledged its grave errors in an extraordinary and lengthy editors note published Wednesday. The editors wrote:
“We have found … instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been … In some cases, the information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge … We consider the story of Iraq’s weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.”
The editors conceded what intelligence sources had told me and numerous other reporters: that Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi was feeding bad information to journalists and the White House and had set up a situation with Iraqi exiles where all of the influential institutions were shouting into the same garbage can, hearing the same echo. “Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations — in particular, this one.”
The reporter on many of the flawed stories at issue was Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and authority on the Middle East. The Times, insisting that the problem did not lie with any individual journalist, did not mention her name. The paper was presumably trying to take the high road by defending its reporter, but the omission seems peculiar. While her editors must share a large portion of the blame, the pieces ran under Miller’s byline. It was Miller who clearly placed far too much credence in unreliable sources, and then credulously used dubious administration officials to confirm what she was told.
That’s hardly ancient history, is it?
Here are a couple of good reactions to the Politico articles, while we wait for Charles Pierce to write about how he could barely keep himself from gargling anti-freeze this morning.
Eight years of accusing the Clintons of every possible crime, up to and including large-scale drug running and multiple murders, followed by eight years of dutifully promulgating whatever bullshit and phantasms the Cheney Regency invented, and the Very Serious Media is shocked, shocked that President Obama would rather “spend way more time talking directly to voters via friendly shows and media personalities”. Or that “Obama’s aides are better at using technology and exploiting the president’s ‘brand.’… [T]hey are obsessed with taking advantage of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and every other social media forums, not just for campaigns, but governing.”
The good news is that the Villagers don’t waste a lot of time and energy worrying about transparency when it comes to trivial information that is only interesting to gossip columnists. For instance, nobody’s issuing any ultimatums over silly issues like this:
For a country exhausted after more than a decade of war, remote-controlled drones—unmanned machines that deliver swift death to terrorists—are undeniably tempting. President Obama has ordered hundreds of strikes on “high-value,” as well as medium- and low-value, targets in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The administration says these killings have decimated al-Qaeda’s top ranks and done significant damage to the Taliban but refuses to say much more. Obama has yet to explain the basics of the broader policy: how decisions are made to send drones across sovereign borders; how officials determine a target is dangerous enough to merit assassination; what oversight is in place; and what is done to limit civilian casualties
I’m awfully relieved that the fourth estate has its priorities straight.
So…that should get you started on your morning’s reading. I’ll have some links on other topics in the comments section. Now, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I have exciting news this morning! Former great Republican hope Scott Brown has been hired as a Fox News contributor! You just knew Fox had to find another pretty face to replace Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods (h/t Charles Pierce). Brian Stelter wrote about it in yesterday’s NYT Media Decoder:
Fox News on Wednesday added the former Republican Senator Scott Brown to its contributor ranks, two weeks after Mr. Brown decided against another run for a Senate seat in Massachusetts.
Mr. Brown will make his debut as a paid pundit on Wednesday night’s edition of “Hannity,” the channel’s 9 p.m. program. “I am looking forward to commenting on the issues of the day and challenging our elected officials to put our country’s needs first instead of their own partisan interests,” Mr. Brown said in a statement.
Politico reported last week that Mr. Brown was in talks with the network. His hiring is the latest in a series of contributor changes Fox has made this winter; last month the network renewed Karl Rove’s contract and parted ways with Sarah Palin and earlier this month it declined to renew Dick Morris’s contract.
Mr. Brown became something of a hero to Republicans in 2010 when he won a special election for the seat formerly held by Edward M. Kennedy, thereby becoming the first Republican senator to represent Massachusetts since 1972. But his time in the Senate was brief: he lost to a Democrat, Elizabeth Warren, last November.
Hey, two years in the Senate, two years as Governor of Alaska–just auditions for Republican politicians who want to sell out to the right wing noise machine.
Brown made his Fox News debut last night on Sean Hannity’s show. The Boston Globe reports:
Former senator Scott Brown made a transition from potential comeback politician to pundit in just two weeks, making his debut as a contributor to Fox News on Wednesday night in an appearance also billed as an “exclusive” by host Sean Hannity.
Fans and skeptics alike saw the move as a plush landing pad for Brown, a telegenic former model who used his regular-guy appeal to great effect in his campaign for US Senate and whose upset win in 2010 was championed and chronicled on Fox….
Wearing a suit with an American flag on his lapel, Brown started off his appearance on the “Hannity” show smiling uncertainly, but he soon hit his stride with campaign-style talking points.
Asked by Hannity why he did not run again for “Kerry’s seat,” Brown said, “Well, it is the people’s seat, as you remember,” echoing the phrase he coined in the 2010 election to replace the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Ooooooh, isn’t he brilliant? Politico has more of Brown’s clever remarks for those of you who–like me–who missed the scintillating interview last night. Brown shared with Hannity the reasons for his decision not to run for another of “the people’s seats” as well as his evaluation of President Obama’s SOTU:
“To do five races in six years and raise another $30-$50 million and then and participate in a Congress that’s really dysfunctional and extremely partisan — I felt I could make a difference being on this show and doing other things,” Brown said. “I plan to stay involved certainly, but, you know, I’m going to continue to work and be part of the election process back home and other elections around the country.”
“We welcome you to the program and the network,” Hannity said. “Thanks so much for being here.”
Brown and Hannity then discussed the State of the Union, with the former senator saying he felt Obama proposed “things that we can work on, but the key is to do it together.”
“There weren’t too many olive branches being passed out to the members of Congress, especially the GOP, but there certainly were things that I felt have some promise, for example the trade with Europe and trying to develop jobs, but the problem is, everything he’s laid out — and he certainly laid out his priorities very clearly — how are you going to pay for them?” Brown said.
According to Politico, Hannity ended the interview by telling Brown, “Welcome to the family.”
The NYT’s Brian Stelter (linked above) says that Brown might still run for Governor of Massachusetts; but I think he’s dreaming, and so does Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan, who knows a thing or two about Massachusetts politics: Scott Brown can’t lose as top Fox hunk.
Scott Brown isn’t running for governor next year. That’s my bet.
Fox News, where he debuted last night, is a terrific paycheck. Good for him.
But you just don’t help your political career in the bluest of blue states by working for Fox, which spent the past election cycle bashing immigrants, Obamacare, higher taxes for billionaires, the Rev. Wright, our “socialist” president — and any tighter gun control laws because they would be an outrageous, unpatriotic, unconstitutional assault on Second Amendment rights.
Poor Massachusetts Republicans. They’re still pining for their main squeeze, the guy they hoped would run for U.S. Senate. And now Brown could become a regular on “Geraldo at Large.”
You have to go read Eagan’s piece–it’s priceless. Here’s just a tiny bit more:
I for one expect that Brown will do for the men of America what he did for the boyos of Massachusetts: He’ll make them swoon.
That alone could prove a ratings bonanza. Fox News may have thought they could never, ever find a contributor better looking than Sarah Palin. Now they have.
After I heard the news yesterday, I decided to do a little research on Scott Brown’s past, and I came across this October 2012 Boston Globe article by Sally Jacobs: Modeling years gave Scott Brown an early boost
It was approaching midnight inside a throbbing Studio 54, New York City’s nightclub extraordinaire and nocturnal epicenter of excess in the 1980s. As bartenders naked to the waist filled goblets of champagne, club cofounder Steve Rubell, famous for plucking favored guests from the surging crowd outside, was showing off his latest “pick.”
His name was Scott Brown. But Rubell, who recognized the 22-year-old Massachusetts man, who had recently won Cosmopolitan magazine’s 1982 “America’s Sexiest Man” contest and posed nude for its centerfold, promptly dubbed him “the Cosmo boy.” When Rubell spotted R. Couri Hay, The National Enquirer celebrity columnist and stringer for People magazine, he led Brown toward him, hoping his guest’s sudden renown might garner the club a mention.
“Rubell introduced me to Brown,” recalled Hay. “He said, ‘Here’s the Cosmo boy . . . How cute is he!’
Ah… the ’70s. Hays wasn’t all that impressed, but Brown managed to turn his Cosmo spread into a 7-year modeling career.
Brown was awarded a $20,000 contract by Jordache jeans, and his muscled body was splayed on a billboard overlooking Times Square in New York. For one of many sweater shoots, he stared moodily at the breaking surf on a Fire Island beach curled up in the lap of model Julianne Phillips, later the wife of Bruce Springsteen….
And when Boston columnist Norma Nathan dubbed him one of “Boston’s Most Eligible Bachelors” in 1982, Brown did not hold back. “ ‘I’ve always felt that I’ve done well with older women,” says Scott, who scores sex as ‘very important,’ ” according to the accompanying write-up. “ ‘I have the appetites of a 22-year-old man. It’s very important to me to satisfy a woman I am with.’ ”
Finally, Brown’s hard work has been rewarded with an opportunity appropriate to this “talents.” Maybe he’ll even get his own show! Margery Eagan suggests that our former two-year Senator would look good on a morning program next to “drop-dead stunning and really smart” Megyn Kelly.
I ask you, Fox fans, who’d you like to wake up to every morning: Gretchen Carlson or Megyn Kelly? Steve Doocy or Scott Brown? So what if Brown lacks edge. Leave that to Megyn. Just sit back and stare.
I’m not sure who those people are, but as long as Brown is out of the running for Massachusetts Governor I’ll be happy, so I hope his Fox Noise career will be a long and successful one.
Every Friday, Chris Cillizza names the winner of the “Who had the worst week in Washington” award. This week’s winner was Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson for claiming that Hillary Clinton faked her emotional response to his ridiculous and annoying questions during the Senate Beghazi hearing.
So who had the best week? I’d say it was Hillary Clinton. Everyone except the most out-there wingnuts could see how brilliant she looked as she testified in Congress and made Republicans like Johnson and Rand Paul look like lightweights.
After the hearings, the media wondered why she was wearing those big glasses with the thick lenses. The Daily News explains:
Closeups of Secretary of State Clinton taken during her Senate testimony Wednesday revealed that her head injury last month left her with lingering vision problems.
As she testified about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, the secretary of state appeared to have tiny vertical lines etched onto the left lens of her new brown specs.
Clinton’s spokesman confirmed Thursday night she is wearing the special glasses as a result of the fall and concussion she suffered last month, but he did not elaborate.
Experts told the Daily News that Clinton likely has a Fresnel prism placed on her glasses. The adhesive panel is used to treat double vision.
“If she’s wearing a Fresnel prism, then she has double vision without it,” said Dr. Mark Fromer, medical director of Fromer Eye Centers.
At New York Magazine, Dan Amira noted the many faces of Hillary adjusting her glasses during the Benghazi hearings and added captions to suggest what Hillary might have been thinking at the time. Here a couple of them:
I know everyone has heard about the latest Republican scheme to rig future presidential elections so Republican candidates win even if they lose the popular vote in a landslide. I’ve got a couple of useful reads for you on that effort. Josh Marshall writes about it at TPM under a photo of a nuclear mushroom cloud: This is a Big Big Deal.
The US electoral college system is based on winner take all delegate allocation in all but two states. If you get just one more vote than the other candidate you get all the electoral votes. One way to change the system is go to proportional allocation. That would still give some advantage to the overall winner. But not much. The key to the Republican plan is to do this but only in Democratic leaning swing states — not in any of the states where Republicans win. That means you take away all the advantage Dems win by winning states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and so forth.
But the Republican plan goes a step further.
Rather than going by the overall vote in a state, they’d allocate by congressional district. And this is where it gets real good, or bad, depending on your point of view. Democrats are now increasingly concentrated in urban areas and Republicans did an extremely successful round of gerrymandering in 2010, enough to enable them to hold on to a substantial House majority even thoughthey got fewer votes in House races than Democrats.
In other words, the new plan is to make the electoral college as wired for Republicans as the House currently is. But only in Dem leaning states. In Republican states just keep it winner take all. So Dems get no electoral votes at all.
Another way of looking at this is that the new system makes the votes of whites count for much more than non-whites — which is a helpful thing if you’re overwhelmingly dependent on white votes in a country that is increasingly non-white.
So now the GOP wants to go beyond making voting incredibly difficult for anyone who isn’t rich and white to making the votes of rich white people count more than anyone else’s. At The Atlantic, Molly Ball reports on her interview with a “Republican operative” who is leading the effort to “Take the Electoral-Vote-Rigging Scheme National.”
Jordan Gehrke, a D.C.-based strategist who’s worked on presidential and Senate campaigns, is teaming up with Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Republican secretary of state, to raise money for an effort to propose similar electoral reforms in states across the country, he told me this week.
Gehrke and Blackwell have been talking to major donors and plan to send a fundraising email to grassroots conservatives early next week. The money would go toward promoting similar plans to apportion electoral votes by congressional district in states across the country, potentially even hiring lobbyists in state capitals.
Gehrke isn’t saying which states the project might initially target. He says he’d like to see the plan implemented in every state, not just the ones where clever redistricting has given Republicans an edge, and he justifies it in policy, not political terms.
A presidential voting system where the electoral college was apportioned by congressional district might not be perfectly fair, he says, but it would be better than what we have now. It would bring democracy closer to the people, force presidential candidates to address the concerns of a more varied swath of the American populace, and give more clout to rural areas that are too often ignored. And while it might help Republicans in states like Virginia, it could give Democrats a boost in states like Texas. Ideally, this new system, implemented nationally, would strengthen both parties, he claims.
Uh huh. Sure. Read the interview at the link.
Connie from Orlando sent me this link to an article about violence against women at Truthout by Rebecca Solnit of TomDispatch: A Rape a Minute, a Thousand Corpses a Year: Hate Crimes in America (and Elsewhere)
We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.
Here I want to say one thing: though virtually all the perpetrators of such crimes are men, that doesn’t mean all men are violent. Most are not. In addition, men obviously also suffer violence, largely at the hands of other men, and every violent death, every assault is terrible. But the subject here is the pandemic of violence by men against women, both intimate violence and stranger violence.
It’s impossible to give the gist of this article with a few excerpts, so I hope you’ll go read the whole thing. Here’s a bit more:
Rape and other acts of violence, up to and including murder, as well as threats of violence, constitute the barrage some men lay down as they attempt to control some women, and fear of that violence limits most women in ways they’ve gotten so used to they hardly notice — and we hardly address. There are exceptions: last summer someone wrote to me to describe a college class in which the students were asked what they do to stay safe from rape. The young women described the intricate ways they stayed alert, limited their access to the world, took precautions, and essentially thought about rape all the time (while the young men in the class, he added, gaped in astonishment). The chasm between their worlds had briefly and suddenly become visible.
Mostly, however, we don’t talk about it — though a graphic has been circulating on the Internet called Ten Top Tips to End Rape, the kind of thing young women get often enough, but this one had a subversive twist. It offered advice like this: “Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone ‘by accident’ you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can call for help.” While funny, the piece points out something terrible: the usual guidelines in such situations put the full burden of prevention on potential victims, treating the violence as a given. You explain to me why colleges spend more time telling women how to survive predators than telling the other half of their students not to be predators.
To continue the violence against women theme, Amanda Marcotte gives her take on the crazy proposed law in New Mexico that would jail women if they try to abort a pregnancy caused by rape because the fetus must be preserved as “evidence.”
Of course, the entire idea that having a rapist’s baby would somehow be treated as proof of a rape is beyond silly. After all, the defense against the charge of rape is rarely to claim that the penis didn’t go into the vagina, but to accuse the victim of consenting and then, due to the unique viciousness of women, claiming it was rape for the lulz. Or to conceal her epic sluttiness by having the police grill her about her sex life, the defense attorney question her about it for the public record, and the entire community gossip about what a big slut she must be to press rape charges. I suspect Brown knows this, coming from the same anti-choice circles as Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, where the belief is that women are deceitful creatures who will lie and kill to conceal how much fun sex they’re having.
To understand what’s going on here, you have to understand that anti-choicers primarily understand abortion as an attempt by women to hide how naughty they are. Never mind that most women getting abortions are in their 20s and are mothers already; the myth that abortion patients are young girls having all this sexy fun they’re not supposed to have and then hiding the “evidence” with abortion is so erotic and enticing for anti-choicers that they’re not letting it go. That’s why hanging out in front of abortion clinics and yelling at patients is so crucial to the movement: They believe you’re trying to hide your shameful non-virgin status, and by gum, they’re going to be there to make sure they get a chance to see your face and cast judgment. You will not get to hide your non-virginity from them! They are entitled to pass judgment, and if they don’t get to do it by shaming you for being a single mother, they’ll show up and yell at you at the abortion clinic. And probably masturbate about it later. You laugh, but when you see behavior like this enough, you begin to realize that this anti-choice obsession with abortion is so profound that “sexual fetish, no matter how sublimated” is the likeliest explanation.
I really think she’s right about the fetus fetishists.
Remember that story about the scientist from Harvard who wanted to find an “adventurous woman” to bear a Neanderthal child? Turns out it was just a bunch of media hooey. From the LA Times: ‘Cloned cave baby’ stories missed the mark, scientist says.
Let’s be clear: That Harvard scientist you heard about is NOT seeking an “adventurous woman” to give birth to a “cloned cave baby.”
But that was the juicy story making its way around Web on Tuesday.
The blowup began when the German magazine Der Spiegel published an interview with Harvard synthetic biologist George Church, who is well-known for his genome sequencing effort, the Personal Genome Project, and for all sorts of other unusual and creative projects such as encoding his new book, “Regenesis,” in actual DNA.
In his interview with Der Spiegel, Church discussed a number of ways “DNA will become the building block of the future,” as the magazine put it. The interview touched on back-engineering dinosaurs, by first identifying the mutations that separated ostriches, one of the closest living relatives of the dinosaurs, from their long-extinct forebears. It discussed the possibility of using DNA to build gadgets in the future — “cars, computers or coffee machines,” as Der Spiegel put it. Church also talked about the possibility of synthesizing genes to promote virus resistance or longevity.
As for the Neanderthal baby? It did come up — as a hypothetical. Church said that the speed at which technology was evolving might make such a project possible in the relatively near future, depending on “a lot of things.” He also observed that before any woman served as a surrogate for a cloned Neanderthal fetus, society would first have to accept human cloning.
I’ve got several more reads for you, in link dump fashion.
Stephanie Fairyington at The Atlantic: The Lonely Existence of Mel Feit, Men’s Rights Advocate
Lawyers, Guns & Money: Neoconfederate Judges Rule NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional
Mia Fontaine at The Atlantic: America Has an Incest Problem
Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
How did y’all spend your first day of 2013?
Were you watching the fiscal “parley” of enemies down in the swamp?
After seeing what as become Obama’s calling card, his apparent need for approval and for people to “like” him…that makes Obama a shitty negotiator, I could not stand the constant cliff talk on all the news channels.
If, you avoided the news frenzy over the fiscal bunny slope, as Dakinikat calls it, you can read the updates as it happened here. Boston Boomer also posted this link in the comments, you should not miss it:
Otherwise, you can take a look at the following two articles:
(Check out Biden’s grin at that NYT link…he sure is pleased with himself.)
Yesterday was the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade . The still make those floats out of all natural flowers and plants, and even though the Rose Parade commentary can be annoying as hell, I still like to see the pictures of the floats and performers.
This year Dole won the top trophy, the third time in a row…The colors are wonderful and brilliant, way much nicer than the other tropical color we have seen a lot of lately. You know, that tangerine orange skin tone of the big man on the hill.
Blossoming with lush tropical flowers and fresh fruits grown by Dole just for the Rose Parade, the award-winning float “Dreaming of Paradise” honored the independent family farmers from around the world that Dole partners with, and paid tribute to the beauty and bounty of Latin America’s tropical paradise.
The float, which heralded Dole’s mission of being actively involved in the communities of independent family farmers, also served as a reminder that with responsible, sustainable growing and operating practices the dream of paradise can remain alive.
To capture the essence of a tropical landscape, the Dole float featured a 26-foot erupting volcano complete with smoke and real fire shooting 20 feet into the sky over prowling tigers, fluttering butterflies, chimpanzees, parrots, dragonflies and three life-like waterfalls cascading more than 1,000 gallons of recycled water. Fully completing the spirit of Latin America, twenty Costa Rican dancers dressed in traditional costumes performed alongside the exotic and rare flowers from around the world.
This image is also from the parade, you can click that photo of the Korean dancers to see more Rose parade pictures.
Of course, New Year’s Day does not only bring floats of flowers, it also brings plenty of college football. One state university that was nowhere to be seen on any bowl game field was Penn State. Their football program was punished by the NCAA for ignoring the obvious child abuse that was taking place within their “winning” football machine. A punishment that I thought lacked enough oomph in relation to the level of pain and trauma Penn States non-action caused. Well, guess what? The State of Pennsylvania is suing the NCAA. Money is honey and it is all that matters. State of Pennsylvania to file lawsuit against NCAA
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett will announce a federal lawsuit against the NCAA tied to the historic sanctions levied against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Corbett will hold a press conference on Wednesday morning in State College, Pa., to announce the suit, which will be filed by the state.
Penn State, which has been working in concert with the NCAA since the scandal, is not involved in preparing the suit. It is being handled solely by the state.
Corbett’s office has been vague in regard to the specific aim of the suit, but it appears to be dedicated to the overall sanctions issued by the NCAA in July. Corbett referred to them on Tuesday as “illegal sanctions.”
A wholesale suit against the NCAA by a third party as powerful as the state of Pennsylvania could loom as an important case in testing the ultimate power of the NCAA.
This suit against the NCAA could also have repercussions with any civil cases yet to be brought against Penn State University, as well as, the State of Pennsylvania because PSU is a state-run university.
Another possible suit that floated about news headlines this past week was proposed by the parents of a surviving victim of the Sandy Hook Shooting. However, it required prior approval by the state’s claims commissioner for the lawyer to even file a lawsuit against the state. Though the child’s attorney has withdrawn the request, I still feel it is an important issue that needs to be addressed.
The State of Connecticut has some of the most wealthiest residents in the nation, it also has a law that gives the state sovereign immunity against lawsuits…the only one in the country were only one person has the power to approve a suit brought against the state. Check this out…for an Attorney to seek permission to sue the State they must first get one man to sign off on it. For a…
…lawsuit to proceed…(you) need a single man in an obscure agency in Hartford to agree — J. Paul Vance Jr., the state’s claims commissioner.
Vance’s power is unparalleled. Connecticut’s system, experts say, is unlike that of any other state.
Seems like this one man is the all powerful Oz when it comes to “who” can hold the state accountable for their actions.
The position, which dates back to the 1970s and is appointed every four years by the governor and Legislature, determines whether many types of claims of damages or injury lodged against state government are “just.”
The commissioner, after reviewing evidence and if necessary, scheduling hearings, can: Approve immediate payment of claims worth $7,500 and under; recommend the General Assembly pay or reject claims over $7,500; and allow lawsuits against Connecticut to proceed.
His decisions can only be appealed to the Legislature.
According to a decade’s worth of reports, the fewest number of claims submitted were 288 in fiscal year 2006-07, with the most — 586 — in 2004-05. Since 2004, an average of two dozen lawsuits have been allowed to proceed each year.
Hey, the state’s claims commissioner is an important and influential post. I’d imagine this dude has many ethical decisions to make every day…not just whether lawsuits are justified to move forward, but also addressing any conflicts that arise from who or what company this commissioner associates with…I mean, this is a sensitive position to hold.
The role of the claims commissioner originates with the principle of sovereign immunity: Governments should be protected from paying damages private citizens can be held liable for.
“Sovereign immunity is something we got from England,” said Richard Kay, a University of Connecticut law professor. “It originates in the phrase, `The king can do no wrong.’ Nonetheless, in modern times, given all the things a state does … you want the state accountable for its wrongs.”
So, Kay explained, processes were established for states to grant the right to be sued. Initially in Connecticut, claims were filed with the General Assembly, then a commission was created and whittled down in the 1970s to one person.
Michael Tardif, a Washington-based lawyer who in 2005 helped author a report on sovereign immunity, said many states have decided to waive that protection, instead setting damage caps to protect finances.
“In most you can go to court and file a lawsuit,” Tardif said.
Other states may also have commissions or boards that must approve lawsuits against the state, but they have several members who must vote on whether the suit can go forward or not. In Connecticut, only one man holds ALL the cards.
“It’s a bizarre, convoluted and arcane system,” said state Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, a senior member of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, the first stop for claims appeals. “Hopefully it weeds out bad claims. The risk is it also weeds out legitimate claims.”
Cooney, who has handled around two dozen claims cases, argued, “You have one person who has the complete discretion to say either you can file a lawsuit or not … I don’t see any reason why the state should have this mechanism in place to make it incredibly difficult to sue the state when no other corporate entity or individual has the same shield.
“If a judge hears it and there’s no legal basis for a claim, the judge will render a judgement for the state,” Cooney said. “Our clients would feel they’re getting a fairer shake because they get their day in court.”
And just who is this man? Well, his name is J. Paul Vance Jr., and he gave up his Waterbury mayoral bid when he was first appointed to the position by Gov. Daniel Malloy in the Fall of 2011. (You can read about the politics of this appointment here.)
Vance, Jr’s comments have caused some concerns from litigation lawyers in Connecticut. When he was given the claims commission job, Vance’s comments to the Waterbury Republican American were:
“I’ve always been a litigator, primarily defense, so this is the perfect fit for me.”
According to Bridgeport Attorney Charles Willinger, who represents the victim of a chimp attack and has been waiting for Vance’s decision on their request to sue the state.
“The claims commissioner has been described by the Connecticut Supreme Court as `the conscience of the state.’ What he is supposed to be doing is not defending the state against claims.”
Vance declined to discuss pending matters, but he said he knows his responsibilities.
“My job is not to protect the state,” Vance said. “It’s to make sure it’s a fair process for people.”
“There is that (sovereign) immunity, and there are situations where that immunity should be yanked.”
That is a huge responsibility for Paul Vance Jr. to hold, and if the claims commissioner’s name sounds familiar, it should. His father is J. Paul Vance, Sr., the official “spokesman” for the state police in charge of the Sandy Hook investigation.
We have seen Vance Sr. in action during the past few weeks giving information, or should I say…not giving information, during press conferences about the Newtown shooting.
I’ve stated repeatedly that I have a gut feeling about the peculiar attitude of Lt. Vance Sr. at these press conferences. There is something strange about the lack of information coming forward too. As Dak mentioned in a comment a few weeks ago:
….people are trying to understand what caused this to happen or at least what factors contributed to it. The only thing that I’ve noticed about this particular shooting is that the police haven’t been very forthcoming with anything. In some of the other shootings, we had all kinds of people coming forward and the police offered up a lot of different bits and pieces of information. The Head of the State troopers hasn’t been saying anything which leads to all kinds of rumors and speculation as people try to understand how something this horrible could happen. I think it’s just people looking for answers when no information has been forthcoming from the traditional sources. Think of how we knew immediately from the Aurora Mall shooter’s school and the Tuscon Mall shooter’s school and parents about their issues. They both had to even go through the criminal justice system so it’s rather odd that the Connecticut State Police seem so tight about whatever it is they have. Again, I think it’s just rampant speculation because no has come forward with anything concrete. Probably doing the community a lot of injustice and likely the shooter and his mom who both are the sources of all kinds of media rumors.
I got the impression Lt. Vance was very defensive about giving information on the investigation. You can click this link below to review the press conference I am talking about:
Lt. Vance has a defensive attitude about his position as the singular voice of authority for all the various agencies investigating the shootings.
Maybe that has something to with Lt. Vance’s immediate family connection to the man who must approve any lawsuits the shooting victim’s families bring against the state.
Sounds like a conflict of interest to me…
And there is a difference in the tone and substance of the information they are releasing. Take the Columbine shooting, and how that was handled in the press:
In setting himself up as the sole source of reliable information, the state police spokesman was following a well-worn script for getting control of a big, growing story, says Steve Davis, who experienced similar challenges as the official liaison to the media covering the 1999 mass shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.
‘Brutally Honest’ When Needed
On the day of the Columbine shootings, Davis was on the phone and first realized something was wrong when officers rushed out of the office. Within minutes, he was in a car on his way to the high school, trying to make sense of dozens of early and contradictory reports.
“I know it’s hard to imagine now that it could have been any worse, but there were reports that day that we had as many as eight gunmen in the school. Some were [reportedly] hiding in ductwork,” remembers Davis, who is now the spokesman for the police department in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.
Davis said he told reporters at Columbine, “Look, let’s try to understand that there’s going to be a lot of misinformation here. I will try to confirm it and reconfirm it before I give it to you.”
But Davis said he also was “brutally honest” when needed. “Sometimes I had to tell them, ‘You know what? I do know the answer to your question, but … I can’t release it quite yet.’ “
He set up on-the-hour news conferences to keep reporters informed and control the flow of information.
“A big part of each news conference was just rumor control,” Davis says. But he took all questions and did his best to get timely answers for reporters, he says.
Davis seems to have been genuinely concerned with relaying information to the public, more forthcoming with information and less arrogant with his attitude.
Considering the state has also decided to keep affidavits and warrants sealed, is there something the state wants to keep out of the press? Sandy Hook affidavits remain sealed
A state Superior Court judge said Thursday that search warrant affidavits for the cars and home of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza and his mother would stay sealed for another 90 days.
Judge John Blawie granted motions filed Wednesday by Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky to extend the statutory sealing period for the five warrants, including three for the Yogonanda Street home where the 20-year-old Lanza fatally shot his mother, Nancy, four times in the face on the morning of Dec. 14, before embarking on the rampage that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.
The judge’s order also covers the two other search warrants, for the 2010 Honda Civic Adam Lanza drove to the school and for Nancy Lanza‘s 2009 silver BMW, which was parked in the garage attached to the home.
“The court finds that due to the nature and circumstances of this case and the ongoing investigation, the state’s interest in continuing nondisclosure substantially outweighs any right to public disclosure at this time,” Blawie wrote.
Those warrants and affidavits would have been made pubic 14 days after the being filed with the court. Danbury’s State Attorney Sedensky said…
…his applications that the affidavits contained information “not known to the general public” and that premature disclosure would “seriously jeopardize the outcome and success of the investigation” by “divulging sensitive and confidential information” known only to investigators.
Although no arrests have been made and “none are contemplated,” Sedensky also said the possibility has not been ruled out, and that releasing the information would make it difficult to solve crimes that others might have committed.
I understand the need to control the information coming out, and keep rumors and false media reports at bay, however much of the information first given by Lt. Lance was incorrect. (Like the name of the shooter, the weapons used to kill the students and faculty, etc.)
We have heard absolutely nothing new from Lt. Lance, in fact the only recent update to the investigation is reported by The Hartford Courant: Police To Re-Create Scene Outside Sandy Hook School
State police are considering partially re-creating the scene outside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14 as the first police officers responded to the mass shooting to try and answer a nagging question: Did Adam Lanza fire at police officers?
Police are discussing bringing back some of the cars that were in the school lot as the first Newtown officers and state police troopers arrived following 911 calls that was a shooter was on the loose. The cars will be placed exactly where they parked that morning as will the police cruisers of the first responders. The plan is to receate the scene in the coming week.
Police have found numerous bullets outside the school that hit at least three cars, including the one owned by Lauren Rousseau, who was killed by Lanza in her classroom along with 14 of her students and a special-education aide. The three cars that were hit, belonging to Sandy Hook staffers, were near where at least one of the first group of officers parked before running into the school, sources said.
Why weren’t these bullet holes investigated earlier?
Sources said the bullets that hit cars outside probably were fired from teacher Victoria Soto’s room. That was the second room Lanza entered as he firing at teachers and students. Soto and her aide, Mary Ann Murphy, were killed there, as were six students. Six other children escaped because, police believe, Lanza stopped firing briefly either because his gun jammed or he had trouble reloading his gun. Seven other students survived because Soto hid them in a closet.
Investigators are trying to determine if the bullets fired into the parking lot were strays as Lanza fired in Soto’s classroom or if he saw officers arriving and fired through the window at them. Investigators have done trajectory work in the classroom but now want to line up the police cars and see if it is possible some of the bullets were aimed at them.
No cruisers were hit and none of the officers interviewed so far has indicated that they were shot at. But several of the officers involved in the initial response have not been interviewed yet because they are still traumatized and they may not have realized they were being shot at as they ran towards the school.
Now, that article was published on Dec. 29th…and it states several of the initial response officers have not been interviewed yet? That seems strange to me….what do you think?
The partial re-creation will likely be one of the last things state police do at the school before wrapping up that part of the investigation. There are no plans to recreate what happened inside the school or to interview any of the students who survived, police say.
Well, it seems like police should talk to the students who survived for possible information relative to the case, it would also help these kids talk through this violent shooting that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
There have been several shooting deaths since the Sandy Hook massacre, and we know more about those crimes than we do about this shooting in Newtown. Think back to the information that was released in the days and weeks after the Holmes shooting in Aurora. The press had plenty of reports about James Holmes and what evidence they had found.
I sound like one of those conspiracy nuts, but there is a nagging in the back of my mind, and I can’t quiet let it go.
So, that is what I have for you this morning, be sure to post links to what you are reading today…hope to catch up with you later in the comment section.