My laptop is giving me awful warnings, something about a hard disk drive failure…run backup immediately…the shit is about to hit the fan. You know, the kind of thing you don’t really ever want to see pop up on your computer screen. So, since the laptop may crash while I am writing this post, I will keep this thread short and sweet.
The big news overnight was the shooting of two police officers in Brooklyn, NY:
Two police officers sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn were shot at point-blank range and killed on Saturday afternoon by a man who, officials said, had traveled to the city from Baltimore vowing to kill officers. The suspect then committed suicide with the same gun, the authorities said.
The officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were in the car near Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the shadow of a tall housing project when the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, walked up to the passenger-side window and assumed a firing stance, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said. Mr. Brinsley shot several rounds into the heads and upper bodies of the officers, who never drew their weapons, the authorities said.
Mr. Brinsley, who had a long rap sheet of crimes that included robbery and carrying a concealed gun, is believed to have shot his former girlfriend near Baltimore before traveling to Brooklyn, the authorities said. He made statements on social media suggesting that he planned to kill police officers and was angered about the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.
New York City and the USA as a whole are mourning the deaths of police officers Wenjian Liu and Raphael Ramos, shot dead Saturday in their patrol car a Brooklyn neighborhood.
Liu was a two-year veteran of the force with a new wife. Ramos had just marked his 40th birthday with his wife and their teenage son earlier this month.
“They were, quite simply, assassinated, targeted for their uniform and the responsibility they embraced,” an obviously shaken New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said at an evening press conference. “Both were ambushed and murdered.”
After the murder of two NYPD officers on Saturday, the outspoken head of the city’s primary police union blamed protesters and Mayor Bill de Blasio for the deaths of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
“There’s blood on many hands tonight,” NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch said Saturday night, ratcheting up already frigid tensions between City Hall and One Police Plaza.
Lynch blamed those who “incited violence on the street under the guise of protest,” — a reference to the swell of demonstrations in New York City and across the U.S. in the wake of a grand jury decision to not indict a New York police officer for killing an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, earlier this fall.
Lynch then went after Mayor de Blasio: “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.” He went on to praise the fallen officers, and said that those responsible for the killing will be held responsible.
Video at link.
They also have a suspect in the killing of all those children in Peshawar: Peshawar attack mastermind is Umar Mansoor, father of 3 – Hindustan Times
The most hated man in Pakistan is a 36-year-old father of three and volleyball enthusiast nicknamed “Slim”.
His real name is Umar Mansoor and the Pakistani Taliban say he masterminded this week’s massacre of 132 children and nine staff at a school in Peshawar – the deadliest militant attack in Pakistan’s history.
A video posted on Thursday on a website used by the Taliban shows a man with a luxuriant chest-length beard, holding an admonishing finger aloft as he seeks to justify the December 16 attack. The caption identified him as Umar Mansoor.
“If our women and children die as martyrs, your children will not escape,” he said. “We will fight against you in such a style that you attack us and we will take revenge on innocents.”
The Taliban say the attack, in which gunmen wearing suicide-bomb vests executed children, was retaliation for a military offensive carried out by the Pakistani army. They accuse the military of carrying out extrajudicial killings.
The accusation is not new. Many courts have heard cases where men disappeared from the custody of security services. Some bodies have been found later, hands bound behind the back and shot in the head, or dismembered and stuffed into sacks.
Some security officials say privately the courts are so corrupt and afraid, it is almost impossible to convict militants.
“You risk your life to catch terrorists and the courts always release them,” said one official. “If you kill them, then they don’t come back.”
The country is so inured to violence that the discovery of such bodies barely rates a paragraph in a local newspaper. Despite this, the school attack shocked a nation where traditionally, women and children are protected, even in war.
Six Pakistani Taliban interviewed by Reuters confirmed the mastermind was Mansoor. Four of them said he is close to Mullah Fazlullah, the embattled leader of the fractious group who ordered assassins to kill schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.
“He strictly follows the principles of jihad,” one said. “He is strict in principles, but very kind to his juniors. He is popular among the juniors because of his bravery and boldness.”
Mansoor got a high school education in the capital, Islamabad, two Taliban members said, and later studied in a madrassa, a religious school.
“Umar Mansoor had a tough mind from a very young age, he was always in fights with other boys,” said one Taliban member.
More at the link.
As for the Sony mess:
allout from the crippling cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment has called into question exactly what the future holds for one of Hollywood’s biggest names.
A paralyzed computer system has hampered the studio’s ability to make deals, promote upcoming movie releases and conduct business. Some employees at the Culver City film and television studio still were having trouble accessing their email this weekend.
But, beyond the day-to-day running of a studio, there’s a sense in Hollywood that big changes are ahead.
“Major upheaval will occur at Sony,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC’s Annenberg School. “This will reset the studio’s relationship with Japan.”
Emails released on the Internet by hackers show that Sony Corp. Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai had been concerned for months that “The Interview” could be trouble, given that the comedy depicted the fictional, gruesome assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Hirai ultimately agreed to the film’s release, but analysts say that may not be enough to save the jobs of Sony Pictures’ top two executives, Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal. They canceled the Christmas Day release of “The Interview” in the wake of terror threats on cinemas. Theater chains had worried about the safety of moviegoers and the impact on box office receipts over the crucial holiday season.
That decision, however, drew scorn from many — including President Obama — that the studio capitulated to a hollow threat from the North Korean hackers who federal officials say launched the cyberattack. This only added to the controversy surrounding the film.
“The current situation is likely to be a strain on relations with the Japan headquarters,” said Jochen Legewie, a crisis advisor and a managing director of the global consultancy CNC Japan.
But there is one thing about this hacking story…it’s got everything: Foreign intrigue, star wattage: Sony hacking has all elements of Hollywood thriller – Hindustan Times
The hackers who hit Sony Pictures Entertainment days before Thanksgiving crippled the network, stole gigabytes of data and spilled into public view unreleased films and reams of private and sometimes embarrassing executive emails.One month later, the Obama administration confirmed what many had suspected: The North Korean government was behind the punishing breach. US officials are promising a response, unspecified so far.
It was an extraordinarily public reaction from the highest levels of American government, considering that far more vital domestic interests have taken hits from foreign hackers in recent years – including the military, major banks and makers of nuclear and solar power whose trade secrets were siphoned off in a matter of mouse clicks.
Yet even in a digital era with an endless cycle of cyberattacks, none has drawn the public’s attention like the Sony breach and its convergence of sensational plotlines:
-an isolated dictator half a world away.
-damaging Hollywood gossip from the executive suite.
-threats of terrorism against Christmas Day moviegoers.
-the American president chastising a corporate decision to shelve a satirical film.
-normally reticent law enforcement agencies laying bare their case against the suspected culprits.
“I can’t remember the US talking about a proportional response to Chinese espionage or infiltration of critical infrastructure for that matter, as a policy issue in the same way that we’re talking about this today,” said Jacob Olcott, a cyberpolicy and legal issues expert at Good Harbor Security Risk Management and a former adviser to Congress.
Meanwhile, there was an interesting post at the Daily Mail: Maria Southard Ospina asks magazine editors worldwide to fix her using Photoshop
Plus-sized woman asks 21 magazine editors from around the world to ‘fix’ her using Photoshop. Guess which three countries made her thinner
Colombian-American Maria Southard Ospina told 21 editors to ‘fix’ a woman of her size while upholding the ideals of beauty in their country
Ukraine, Mexico, and Latvia were the only three countries to drastically alter her weight
Iceland refused to Photshop her image at all because they don’t believe in the practice saying, ‘I don’t believe in re-touching a person’s natural beauty’
Give that link a look over.
And can you believe it has been 10 years?
Cars. Fishing boats. Houses. Entire villages. The 2004 tsunami left Banda Aceh with mountains of debris up to 6 kilometers (4 miles) inland.
Driving in the remade communities today, it’s easy to wonder where it all went. Some of it is still there — recycled into road materials, buildings and furniture. Some of it was burned, creating new environmental hazards. And most of it was simply washed out to sea.
Ten years after that gigantic wave engulfed this city of 4 million on the day after Christmas, Banda Aceh has been almost totally restored. The tangled mountains of rubbish are gone, and it’s hard to imagine the destruction that once choked rivers, blocked streets and ripped up trees by the roots.
The endless heaps of twisted metal, splintered wood and broken concrete have all disappeared except for some scattered reminders for tourists and local residents. A drive along the coast highlights a stunning coastline with new houses perched near the beach. Lush mangroves have been planted to help withstand future tsunamis, fishermen are back at sea and farmers are again working their rice paddies.
Still, authorities are concerned about the health and environmental risks posed by debris contaminated by oil, asbestos and medical waste sitting on the seafloor off the coast and in 32 unregulated dump sites around the city.
I still can ‘t believe, ten years. Where have they gone.
Dec. 26, 2004 began much like any other Sunday. Dilla Damayanti was sitting in her parents’ living room having breakfast when the tremors hit: first an insistent shaking, then a pause, then a sudden violent seizure. The family quickly took refuge at a nearby mosque. “It was very quick,” she said. “Suddenly, water was coming, very fast.”
Dilla was just 5 years old when the Indian Ocean tsunami slammed into her small village near the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province. She and her family survived the waves, but from her refuge on the mosque’s second floor she saw something she would never forget — her young school friend, a girl named Nadia, washed away in the deluge.
“She was shouting, help, help, but there was nothing we could do,” recalled Dilla, now a high school student. “That’s why I cannot forget. I thank God that I survived.”
Ten years ago this month, an earthquake 160 kilometers off the coast of Sumatra island triggered waves which killed an estimated 230,000 people, devastated coastal communities in 11 countries, and added a terrifying new term to local peoples’ vocabulary.
Among the worst-hit regions was Aceh, an Indonesian province on the northern tip of Sumatra. As massive waves — some as high as 30 meters — surged inland, around 130,000 people were killed and more than half a million displaced.
Read those stories and remember some of the pictures and video from the days and weeks after that event. Do you wonder how some of the children who lost everything, parents…siblings…..grandparents, do you ever wonder how they turned out?
That one article from Jakata states that they people got their freedom that day.
Amrullah of Plan International said that at the time the tsunami hit, people affected by the war were already suffering from a variety of mental health problems. While the roadblocks and checkpoints of the civil war years are now gone, he added, “psychologically [they’re] not”.
The people of Aceh “got trauma from the military, then they were hit with the tsunami. We cannot measure the magnitude.”
But for all the problems still facing the region, ten years of reconstruction have dulled the grief, repaired shattered infrastructure and at least given people a fresh start.
Before the tsunami, life in Lamboro Nijid, a village on the outskirts of Banda Aceh, was tough. Due to the war, movement was restricted. Curfews were common. Local people were frequently taken in for questioning about their supposed links to GAM rebels, and sometimes tortured for information.
“When there was conflict the worst affected were the ordinary people,” said Rahmadullah, a resident of the village. Then, one day came the roaring waters to wash it all away.
“After, we could speak freely,” he said of Dec. 26, 2004. “What happened that day? We got freedom.”
I guess my question would be at price?
This is an open thread.
First up: Nebraska! The Buzzkill State. Ask me why the top of my bucket list is to never go back to this awful place again. They have a history of wasting taxpayer money challenging people’s individual rights so they can inflict their horrible moral codes on people. They’re suing Colorado claiming “legal weed in the Centennial State is draining the treasuries and placing stress on law enforcement in the others”. Poor little Puritan NitWits! More like we never EVER have any fun here so we insist that no one else can because we’re freaking Puritans and idiots to boot. They probably want to argue uptight white Jesus would never smoke pot but will find some other way to waste taxpayer money. Maybe it will just free the rest of us from Puritanical state laws in the end.
“The State of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system,” the lawsuit – which Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed Thursday – alleges. “Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining [our states’] own marijuana bans.”
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said that the lawsuit was “without merit” in a statement. “Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action,” he said. “However, it appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado.”
Bob Ferguson, the attorney general of Washington State – which has marijuana laws similar to Colorado’s – has said he would support the Centennial State if need be. With regard to his own state, he said it would “vigorously oppose any effort by other states to interfere with the will of Washington voters.”
Seven states border Colorado, and Nebraska’s Brunning has said he invited them to join his lawsuit. Kansas’ attorney general office told the Post that the state was assessing its options.
The two states that did file the lawsuit say that Colorado violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution when it allowed voters to pass a law that conflicted with federal marijuana prohibition. They also claim that the state has not been active in keeping marijuana from crossing its borders. They’re also upset that Colorado does not perform background checks on people who purchase pot and that it does not track those who do make purchases.
Currently, Colorado’s recreational marijuana retailers can sell up to an ounce of pot to state residents with ID who are over age 21. Adults with out-of-state ID may buy up to a quarter of an ounce. The Post reports that retailers have made more than $300 million in pot sales in 2014 alone.
Speaking of stupid Red States, Louisiana is back in the news again for basically forcing its children into poverty by giving them rotten educations. When oh when is this backward, puritan approach to public policy going be flushed? Then, I ask myself, why do I keep living in these virtual hellholes? At least I only spent the first year of my life in Oklahoma and an endless series of weekends in Kansas and Missouri. All are places that I wouldn’t recommend visiting let alone living in.
If a link exists between poverty and poor educational outcomes, Louisiana’s rate of school-aged children living below the poverty line may explain some of the state’s K-12 education struggles.
Louisiana has the fourth highest rate of school-aged children living in poverty among the 50 United States and Washington, D.C., according to 2013 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Only Mississippi, Washington, D.C., and New Mexico, respectively, have higher rates of poverty among children ages 5-17.
The national average rate of school-aged children in poverty is 21 percent, but just 10 out of Louisiana’s 64 parishes have a lower rate than that. In Louisiana, 27 percent of school-aged children are in poverty, or 212,904 potential students.
The rate is worse in Orleans Parish, where 39 percent of school-aged children — 20,922 of them — live in poverty. The rate in East Baton Rouge Parish is tied with the state average of 27 percent. Jefferson Parish’s rate is 28 percent.
Within the Orleans Parish School District borders, specifically, 38 percent of children ages 5-17 come from families in poverty, according to data released Wednesday (Dec. 17) from the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program.
So, let’s spend a little time with rotten white men that create and benefit from the system. I’m sure Gawker’s not making social commentary but their headlines seem to indicate you can get away with a lot of you’re rich, powerful, and in the system. Please tell me that Stephen Collins is not going to make money off of child sexual abuse. We’ve got to put a TRIGGER Warning here because this involves a 12 year old Babysitter.
In an allegedly soul-baring new essay to be released in this week’s issue of People (on newsstands Friday), 7th Heaven star Stephen Collins will explain “in vivid detail” how hesexually abused three underage girls in the span of 40 years.
Collins will have a one-on-one with Katie Couric on Yahoo this Friday as well, and the interview will also air on this week’s edition of 20/20 on ABC. A passage excerpted from Collins’ statement in Friday’s People:
Forty years ago, I did something terribly wrong that I deeply regret. I have been working to atone for it ever since. I’ve decided to address these issues publicly because two months ago, various news organizations published a recording made by my then-wife, Faye Grant, during a confidential marriage therapy session in January, 2012. This session was recorded without the therapist’s or my knowledge or consent.
On the recording, I described events that took place 20, 32, and 40 years ago. The publication of the recording has resulted in assumptions and innuendos about what I did that go far beyond what actually occurred. As difficult as this is, I want people to know the truth.
So, all we keep hearing is how “America’s Dads” are sexual predators. Is that just special? So, here’s another TV discussion on Cosby’s career as a serial rapist and sexual predator. This time Seven of the Cosby accusers commiserate via Dr. Phil. More trigger warnings because I know many of us need them.
In this video from Dr. Phil airing on Friday, several of the women respond to Cosby’s daughter Evin’s statement questioning the validity of the women’s allegations that they were drugged.
One woman tells Dr. Phil, “A body knows when it’s raped. You’re not only raped physically, but you are raped emotionally. And something in your spirit is gone forever. And he is a serial rapist. We all have that same thing in common. We all feel that.”
Another adds in tears: “I think that the more I personally talk about this, hopefully it will dissipate. And I won’t have to carry the shame anymore. And I would just like to say, Bill and Camille Cosby, shame on you, shame on you shame, shame on you, shame on you!”
So why do guys like these get away with things? Well, maybe because the criminal justice system identifies with them more than it does victims. Another shocking Gawker Headline: Ferguson DA Claims He Knew Witnesses Were Lying, Let Them Testify Anyway.
In his first interview since the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, St. Louis County District Attorney Bob McCulloch claims that he was well aware that several witnesses were not telling the truth, and that he allowed them to testify before the grand jury anyway.
Earlier this week, The Smoking Gun reported that Sandra McElroy, known as “Witness 40″ in the Michael Brown shooting case, was a serial fabulist who in all likelihood was not even close to the scene of the crime. McElroy’s testimony that she saw Brown “charge at the officer” “in a football position” most closely resembled Wilson’s own version of events.
McCulloch was aware of—and perfectly fine with—such falsehoods masquerading as evidence, he said during an interview with local radio station KTRS.
Excerpts from BuzzFeed:
KTRS: Why did you allow people to testify in front of the grand jury in which you knew their information was either flat-out wrong, or flat-out lying, or just weren’t telling the truth?
McCulloch: Well, early on, I decided that anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything was going to be presented to the grand jury. And I knew that no matter how I handled it, there would be criticism of it. So if I didn’t put those witnesses on, then we’d be discussing now why I didn’t put those witnesses on. Even though their statements were not accurate.
So my determination was to put everybody on and let the grand jurors assess their credibility, which they did. This grand jury poured their hearts and souls into this. It was a very emotional few months for them. It took a lot of them. I wanted to put everything on there. I thought it was much more important to present everything and everybody, and some that, yes, clearly were not telling the truth. No question about it.
McCulloch later added that he was “absolutely sure” that some witnesses lied under oath, but that he would not seek perjury charges. He also blamed the media for “latching on” to one witness who “clearly wasn’t present” at the shooting—a description that likely refers to McElroy.
The City University’s refusal to act against an adjunct professor caught on video resisting arrest and assaulting a police lieutenant during an anti-cop protest becomes more absurd by the day.
Other employers are tougher in the face of criminality. Chancellor James Milliken can see for himself by comparing CUNY’s stance regarding Eric Linsker with the decisiveness shown in two similarly recorded assaults.
The lieutenant saw Linsker as he was about to heave a garbage can from Brooklyn Bridge walkway onto demonstrators and cops below. Linsker had already hurled two cans, according to the NYPD. He struggled with the lieutenant, throwing at least one punch, the video shows.
CUNY is keeping Linsker in the classroom at full pay, while his union argues that he has “not yet been found guilty.”
Meanwhile, a second of the bridge cop beaters, Robert Murray, is an organizer for 32BJ SEIU. His employer — a union — saw Murray swing away on the same video and suspended him without pay, explaining that it “does not under any circumstance condone violence of any kind, including against police officers.”
Finally, when a video surfaced Friday showing a plainclothes cop twice punching an already restrained young suspect, the NYPD suspended the officer immediately.
The application of justice and laws solely depends on who is involved.
With that, I wish you good day, I’m spending the weekend getting as much sleep as possible! And yes, all that artwork up there is Robert Crumb’s Mister Natural. He still has all the answers. His site is a hoot and seeing his stuff always takes me back to better days.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
TCM has released their Remembers video for 2014:
Take a look, the pictures go by quickly because there is just so many people who passed away this year.
Now for the cartoons. We’ll just get down to it, because there are a lot of them tonight.
This is an open thread.
I’m quite a bit behind schedule this morning. I’m still in Indiana with my Mom, and we had to have some workmen come by this morning. I’m also trying to get organized for my drive back to Boston over the weekend, so I’m somewhat tired and stressed out.
Anyway, I’m working on a post that I will put up either later today or when I get back home. For now, here’s a TGIF link dump/open thread.
Today’s top stories
The Sony Hack is getting lots of attention.
NYT editorial, Sony and Mr. Kim’s Thugs. Here’s the gist:
Corporations, even large ones like Sony, cannot stand up to a rogue state and shadowy hacker armies all by themselves. That’s why the Obama administration needs to take a strong stand on this and future attacks. Officials said on Thursday that they were considering a “proportional response.”
Retaliation by the Obama administration over this attack would risk escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and between North Korea and Japan, where Sony’s corporate parent is based. However, there are things the United States can do. Although there are already heavy sanctions on North Korea, there may be ways to inflict more economic pain.
Washington could seek an international panel to investigate the attack and demand condemnation by the United Nations Security Council. The United States also needs to work with Japan and South Korea, two other regular targets of North Korean hacking, to improve their defenses and develop common responses like imposing sanctions.
China, North Korea’s main ally and benefactor, remains the best check on the Kim regime; experts say most North Korean hackers are based in China. But China has its own history of hacking American government and industry computers and has resisted Washington’s requests for talks on how to handle hacking attacks and their aftermath.
The international community needs to speed up work on norms on what constitutes a cyberattack and what the response should be. If China and the United States are unable to work together in this critical area, the Internet will become a free-for-all and everyone will pay the price.
Jang Se-yul, who defected from North Korea seven years ago, told CNN that he thinks there are 1,800 cyberwarriors in the agency stationed around the world. But he says even the agents themselves don’t know how many others work for the secretive group, called Bureau 121, whose mission is to “conduct cyberattacks against overseas and enemy states.”
The South Korean government thinks Bureau 121 is the agency at the heart of numerous cyberattacks from North Korea against elements in foreign countries, a government official who requested to be anonymous told CNN on Thursday.
North Korea’s hacking capabilities have become a global talking point recently, after a massive hack of Sony Pictures — the studio behind “The Interview,” a comedy depicting the assassination of Pyongyang’s leader, Kim Jong Un. That was followed by warnings that the movie not be shown in theaters…
From Hollywood to Washington, the outrage is spreading over Sony Pictures’ decision to cancel a movie release following a cyber attack and threats from a group of North Korea-backed hackers.
Politicians urged Sony not to back down in the face of threats tied to the release of the controversial comedy “The Interview,” and then began lashing out when the studio made it clear it has no further plans to release the film, which depicts an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un….
FBI investigators tracked the hackers who broke into Sony’s servers, published private information and threatened moviegoers back to the North Korean regime, U.S. law enforcement officials told CNN on Wednesday. The North Korean regime slammed the movie this summer as “terrorism and a war action.”
And despite the hackers’ threat to attack movie theaters, the Department of Homeland Security has said “there is no credible intelligence” supporting an active plot against movie theaters.
EXCLUSIVE: As it begins to dawn on everyone in Hollywood the reality that Sony Pictures was the victim of a cyberterrorist act perpetrated by a hostile foreign nationon American soil, questions will be asked about how and why it happened, ending with Sony cancelling the theatrical release of the satirical comedy The Interviewbecause of its depiction of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. One of those issues will be this: Why didn’t anybody speak out while Sony Pictures chiefs Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton were embarrassed by emails served up by the media, bolstering the credibility of hackers for when they attached as a cover letter to Lynton’s emails a threat to blow up theaters if The Interview was released?
Read the interview with Clooney at the link.
The Daily Beast, Paramount Bans Showing ‘Team America’.
Three movie theaters say Paramount Pictures has ordered them not to show Team America: World Police one day after Sony Pictures surrendered to cyberterrorists and pulled The Interview. The famous Alamo Drafthouse in Texas, Capitol Theater in Cleveland, and Plaza Atlanta in Atlanta said they would screen the movie instead of The Interview, but Paramount has ordered them to stop. (No reason was apparently given and Paramount hasn’t spoken.)Team America of course features Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, as a singing marionette.
Apparently, both Team America: World Police and The Interview are chock full of racist memes about Asians.
North Korea Is Not Funny. Let’s be clear: The Interview isn’t a courageous act of defiance against a dictator, by Adrien Hong at The Atlantic.
In recent months, the uproar over The Interview, a comedy about assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has triggered an escalating set of reactions: retaliatory threats from North Korean officials; a sophisticated cyberattack on Sony Pictures, reportedly orchestrated by North Korea; a pledge by the hackers to physically attack theaters showing the film; and now, on Wednesday, Sony’s decision to cancel the movie’s December 25 release altogether, as movie-theater chains began backing out of screenings. The latest development is an act of craven self-censorship and appeasement—a troubling precedent by the Free World’s leading culture-makers. But rightful calls to defend freedom of expression and go ahead with the movie are also mixing with a far more dubious strain of thinking: that the film itself is a form of defiance against a dictatorial regime. It is not.
In The Interview, directed by the Canadian comics Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, a celebrity journalist (James Franco) and his producer (Rogen), tired of producing meaningless content, score a major scoop: an interview with Kim Jong Un (Randall Park). The CIA learns about the trip and recruits the two to kill the leader—a task that, judging from reports and leaked footage, someone eventually succeeds in doing.
This film is not an act of courage. It is not a stand against totalitarianism, concentration camps, mass starvation, or state-sponsored terror. It is, based on what we know of the movie so far, simply a comedy, made by a group of talented actors, writers, and directors, and intended, like most comedies, to make money and earn laughs. The movie would perhaps have been better off with a fictitious dictator and regime; instead, it appears to serve up the latest in a long line of cheap and sometimes racism-tinged jokes, stretching from Team America: World Police to ongoing sketches on Saturday Night Live.
It’s a thoughtful article. I need to go back and give it a careful read.
In other news . . .
Bloomberg View, Hillary Clinton Secretly Pushed Cuba Deal for Years, by Josh Rogin.
Although President Barack Obama is taking the credit for Wednesday’s historic deal to reverse decades of U.S. policy toward Cuba, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she was the main architect of the new policy and pushed far harder for a deal than the Obama White House.
From 2009 until her departure in early 2013, Clinton and her top aides took the lead on the sometimes public, often private interactions with the Cuban government. According to current and former White House and State Department officials and several Cuba policy experts who were involved in the discussions, Clinton was also the top advocate inside the government for ending travel and trade restrictions on Cuba and reversing 50 years of U.S. policy to isolate the Communist island nation. Repeatedly, she pressed the White House to move faster and faced opposition from cautious high-ranking White House officials.
After Obama announced the deal Wednesday, which included the release of aid contractor Alan Gross, Clinton issued a supportive statement distributed by the National Security Council press team. “As Secretary of State, I pushed for his release, stayed in touch with Alan’s wife Judy and their daughters, and called for a new direction in Cuba,” she said. “Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime’s grip on power.”
But according to the progs, Hillary is a triangulating warmonger. Hmmmmm . . .
A bipartisan, independent panel scrutinizing the U.S. Secret Service after a man with a small knife in his pocket jumped the perimeter fence and made it deep inside the White House is recommending sweeping changes at the agency.
The Secret Service’s “paramount mission” of protecting the president and other high-ranking officials “allows no tolerance for error,” and a “single miscue, or even a split-second delay, could have disastrous consequences for the nation and the world,” warns the panel’s final report, commissioned by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson after the September breach.
Read the recommendations at the link.
The New Yorker, The Unidentified Queen of Torture, by Jane Mayer.
The NBC News investigative reporter Matthew Cole has pieced together a remarkable story revealing that a single senior officer, who is still in a position of high authority over counterterrorism at the C.I.A.—a woman who he does not name—appears to have been a source of years’ worth of terrible judgment, with tragic consequences for the United States. Her story runs through the entire report. She dropped the ball when the C.I.A. was given information that might very well have prevented the 9/11 attacks; she gleefully participated in torture sessions afterward; she misinterpreted intelligence in such a way that it sent the C.I.A. on an absurd chase for Al Qaeda sleeper cells in Montana. And then she falsely told congressional overseers that the torture worked.
Had the Senate Intelligence Committee been permitted to use pseudonyms for the central characters in its report, as all previous congressional studies of intelligence failures, including the widely heralded Church Committee report in 1975, have done, it might not have taken a painstaking, and still somewhat cryptic, investigation after the fact in order for the American public to hold this senior official accountable. Many people who have worked with her over the years expressed shock to NBC that she has been entrusted with so much power. A former intelligence officer who worked directly with her is quoted by NBC, on background, as saying that she bears so much responsibility for so many intelligence failures that “she should be put on trial and put in jail for what she has done.”
Instead, however, she has been promoted to the rank of a general in the military, most recently working as the head of the C.I.A.’s global-jihad unit. In that perch, she oversees the targeting of terror suspects around the world. (She was also, in part, the model for the lead character in “Zero Dark Thirty.”)
According to sources in the law-enforcement community who I have interviewed over the years, and who I spoke to again this week, this woman—whose name the C.I.A. has asked the news media to withhold—had supervision over an underling at the agency who failed to share with the F.B.I. the news that two of the future 9/11 hijackers had entered the United States prior to the terrorist attacks. As I recount in my book “The Dark Side,” the C.I.A. got wind that one of these Al Qaeda operatives, Khalid al-Mihdhar, had obtained a multiple-entry visa into the United States eighteen months before 9/11. The agency also learned, months before the attacks, that another Al Qaeda operative, Nawaf al-Hazmi, had flown into Los Angeles. Yet the C.I.A. appears to have done nothing. It never alerted the F.B.I., which had the principle domestic authority for protecting the U.S. from terror attacks. Its agents had, in fact, been on the trail of at least one of the hijackers previously, but had no way of knowing that he had entered the United States. Nor did the C.I.A. alert the State Department, which kept a “TIPOFF” watch list for terror suspects.
Police Chief Art Acevedo suspended two officers in November for making jokes about rape victims. The Austin Police Association said at the time that the respective three-day and five-day suspensions were “fair and appropriate.” The incident took place after a local attorney had released a video in which the two Austin police officers are laughing and one of the officers comments: “Go ahead and call the cops. They can’t un-rape you.”
Recently, offensive comments were made to KUT’s reporter Joy Diaz, while she was covering a police-related story….
Just to set the scene, this reporter was at the police union’s building waiting to interview the head of the union. That’s when veteran officer [Andrew] Pietrowski approached me and started talking about the media fall-out over the video tape of NFL running back Ray Rice punching and knocking out his then-fiancé in a hotel elevator. Rice was suspended by the NFL and was released by his team.
Pietrowski says the event was blown out of proportion by the media. That’s when he explained.
“Now, stop and think about this. I don’t care who you are. You think about the women’s movement today, [women say] ‘Oh, we want to go [into] combat,’ and then, ‘We want equal pay, and we want this.’ You want to go fight in combat and sit in a foxhole? You go right ahead, but a man can’t hit you in public here? Bulls–t! You act like a whore, you get treated like one!”
Pietrowski retired from the force after learning that KUT planned to reveal his comments on the air.
S0 . . . . what else is happening? Please post links to the stories that interested you in the comment thread, and Happy Friday!
Finally we have some good news to discuss, if Republicans can somehow be prevented from ruining it. The U.S. and Cuba have reached an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries after 50 years of hostilities and sanctions. In celebration of this long-overdue step forward, I’m going to illustrate this post with the work of Cuban artists. You can read about the above painting of Marilyn Monroe superimposed on a photo of Che Guevara and the artist Adrian Rumbaut at the Cuban Art blog. Here’s a bit of background:
In the work, Adrian Rumbaut has reproduced Alberto Korda’s famous 1960 photograph of Che Guevara, and he inserts his vision of American Richard Avedon’s iconic photo of Marilyn Monroe as well. In the letters on the side of the painting, Rumbaut gives credit to both Korda and Avedon for their images, and provides the date of his painting.
Interestingly, Korda had worked as a fashion photographer as a young man, and he wanted very much to be the Richard Avedon of Cuba. He photographed the “beautiful people” of the Batista era before the revolution, and models lined up in front of his studio to have their picture taken. Taken by surprise by the “triumph of the revolution” in 1959, he worked subsequently with Raul Corrales, Castro’s official photographer, to capture the excitement of the revolution. In his image of Che, something survives of his earlier experience with beautiful women.
Korda’s image of Che — snapped in 1960 and also known as Guerrillero Heroico — has been repeatedly reproduced worldwide, serving as both a symbol of protest and as a fashion accessory.
The iconic photo has taken on increasingly exotic forms, each created with different intentions and evoking varied responses. Along with Marilyn Monroe, Jesus Christ, Madonna, and Princess Diana have all had their pictures adapted and inserted under Che’s familiar red star beret. It isn’t an exaggeration to note that Che the icon has overtaken Che the revolutionary.
The original “Che” photograph was taken at a dangerous moment, a time when the new revolutionary government was preparing for imminent US invasion. It was at the start of the Cuban Revolution’s second year, and Castro’s government had ordered a boatload of weapons and ammunition — mostly rifles and grenades — from Belgium. The armaments were loaded onto a French ship, La Coubre which, unfortunately, exploded upon arrival in Havana Harbor in March 1960. The crew and 75 Cuban dockers were killed. More than 200 were injured.
Here’s a wonderful example of Cuban street art that I found at a Cuban travel site, Insight Cuba.
See more examples of Cuban “graffiti” at the link.
Some background on what’s happening from CNN yesterday: Cuba releases American Alan Gross, paves way for historic easing of American sanctions.
Washington (CNN) — U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held by the Cuban government since 2009, was freed Wednesday as part of a landmark deal with Cuba that paves the way for a major overhaul in U.S. policy toward the island, senior administration officials tell CNN.
President Barack Obama spoke with Cuban President Raul Castro Tuesday in a phone call that lasted about an hour and reflected the first communication at the presidential level with Cuba since the Cuban revolution, according to White House officials. Obama announced Gross’ release and the new diplomatic stance at noon in Washington. At around the same time, Cuban president Raul Castro was set to speak in Havana.
President Obama announced a major loosening of travel and economic restrictions on the country. And the two nations are set to re-open embassies, with preliminary discussions on that next step in normalizing diplomatic relations beginning in the coming weeks, a senior administration official tells CNN.
Talks between the U.S. and Cuba have been ongoing since June of 2013 and were facilitated by the Canadians and the Vatican in brokering the deal. Pope Francis — the first pope from Latin America — encouraged Obama in a letter and in their meeting this year to renew talks with Cuba on pursuing a closer relationship.
Gross’ “humanitarian” release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.
The developments constitute what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since 1961, when the embassy closed and the embargo was imposed.
Read much more at the link. It’s a good article that provides quite a bit of background on the historic agreement.
More details on the secret negotiations from William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh, authors of the book Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, published in October of this year.
Presidents frequently conduct sensitive diplomatic dialogues in secret, because the furor of public attention makes it politically impossible to reach the compromises necessary for agreement. These secret talks are often crucial for diplomatic advances — as we learned Wednesday with the stunning revelations about the impending talks between Washington and Havana that have been underway secretly for the past few months. President Barack Obama’s far-reading initiatives are reminiscent of the secret talks Henry Kissinger held with Beijing to lay the groundwork for President Richard M. Nixon’s historic diplomatic opening to China.
When the mere act of talking to an adversary is too politically sensitive, presidents can resort to private emissaries, despite the risks created by relying on amateur diplomats. Obama had help from both Canada and the Vatican in reaching these new agreements.
In our recent book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, we uncovered literally dozens of secret diplomatic contacts and negotiations. Despite what Kissinger called the “perpetual antagonism” between the United States and Cuba, there is a rich and colorful history of dialogue between these two nations over the last 50 years.
There are lessons to be learned from this half-century of back-channel talks about what works and what doesn’t when conducting secret negotiations.
First, a history of animosity makes adversaries wary. Neither wants to appear weak by making concessions too easily. Goodwill gestures may go unrequited and the apparent obstinacy of one side or the other can doom a diplomatic process before it gets off the ground. When Fidel Castro was in power, for example, he worried constantly that any concession to U.S. demands would be read as weakness and lead to a redoubling of U.S. efforts to overthrow him.
Read all about it at the Reuters link.
From the Masters of Cuban Art Image Gallery, “La Conga” by Evelio Garcia Mata.
“Garcia Mata plays the rhythm of the conga in the body of the mulatto dancer, who lifts her left arm as she does the kick-step. She wears a sensual typical dress and is accompanied by a group of six musicians. The painting beautifully represents when Afro-Cuban music became main-stream, and a representative of Cuban culture at large.”
– Alfredo Triff, Musician and Art Critic
Isn’t it amazing that Pope Francis–the first Latin American to lead the Church–was instrumental in making this happen? As a long-lapsed Catholic, I’m truly surprised and pleased. After years of regressive Popes, this guy seems to be a throwback to the days of Pope John the XXIII when it seemed that the Church might move into the 20th century.
From The Atlantic: How the Pope Helped End the Cuba Embargo.
On Wednesday, a senior Obama administration officials spoke of an “extraordinary letter” written by the pope to President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro over the summer in which he urged the two men to mend the relationship between their countries.
As one official noted, the correspondence “gave us greater impetus and momentum for us to move forward.”
In a press conference on Wednesday, which also happens to be the pope’s 78th birthday, President Obama credited Francis for his influential “personal plea” and thanked him for his “moral example.”
In particular, I want to thank his Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is.
According to officials, Pope Francis brought up Cuba several times during his meeting with the president in March and, given Francis’ significance as the first pope from Latin America, it’s fair to assume that his clout likely helped bring Castro to the table as well.
Vatican officials were also said to have been present during the negotiations between the United States and Cuba, marking them the only other country to directly participate in the talks. While Canada reportedly hosted the majority of the secret meetings of the two sides, according to a Vatican statement, the pope also hosted Cuban and American representatives together earlier this year during the final deal was struck.
Some reactions to Obama’s great achievement.
From the LA Times, Miami reacts to Obama’s Cuba move: Tears of joy, cries of ‘traitor’.
A tale of two restaurants unfolded in South Florida on Wednesday.
In Miami’s Little Havana, Versailles Restaurant hosted hard-line Cuban exiles railing against President Obama’s decision to establish full diplomatic ties with the Cuban government. They waved placards and hurled insults bilingually, putting on the show they’ve been rehearsing and staging for half a century.
The show at Versailles involved megaphones and pickup trucks, national news outlets parked in front of a spot that serves tasty espresso, and a handful of outspoken Cuban Americans who yell loud enough to scare viewers in Nebraska. Whenever major news breaks about Cuba, the media flocks to Versailles to take the pulse of the Cuban community.
Meanwhile in Hialeah, a city with a far larger number of Cubans and Cuban Americans than Little Havana, Tropical Restaurant served cafeteria-style meals to a quieter, more sanguine crowd. Here, many welcomed Obama’s decision.
“It’s going to be better for the Cuban people. It’s going to be better for the United States,” said ReinierOropeza, 33, an accountant who to came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1998.
Many Cubans here are young, or came to the United States more recently, or have closer ties with their families in Cuba.
Oropeza said many older Cubans are stuck in the past. “They are old and they stand back and blame Castro. They already did what they had to do. So young people have to take over now.”
Once again, read much more at the link.
Read more about this mural by 100 Cuban artists at The New York Times, Feb. 3, 2008: It’s Not Politics. It’s Just Cuba.
More reactions from Republican politicians:
(Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker John Boehner sharply criticized President Barack Obama’s policy change toward Cuba, calling it “another in a long line of mindless concessions” to a brutal dictatorship.
“Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner,” Boehner said in a statement.
Cry me a river, a$$hole. At least Cubans have free health care.
Marco Rubio, who is supposedly a Catholic after transitioning through the Mormon and Southern Baptist churches, had the temerity to “call out the Pope on Cuba” according to Politico.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Catholic, criticized Pope Francis on Wednesday after the pontiff played a key role in helping the United States and Cuba forge an agreement that resulted in the release of American Alan Gross from Cuba.
Rubio said he would “ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy.”
The Florida Republican said he didn’t criticize Francis’ personal appeals to help facilitate Gross’ release, but was speaking in response to the White House’s announcement about talks to normalize relations with Cuba after a nearly 50-year embargo with the country.
Rubio is set to play a major role in Cuba policy as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Western Affairs, and he noted Wednesday some of Congress’ leverage points, such as funding for embassies and nomination of a U.S. ambassador to Cuba.
“I’m committed to doing everything I can to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” Rubio said.
More from Huffington Post: Marco Rubio Fires Back On Cuba: Obama Is The ‘Worst Negotiator’ In My Lifetime.
President Barack Obama will get no money for his Cuba policy, no ambassador will be confirmed and the embargo will never be lifted, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) vowed in a blistering press conference on Wednesday.
In a historic move earlier in the day, Obama announced that the United States will begin talks with Cuba to normalize full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba in 50 years. The president’s remarks followed the release on Wednesday morning of American Alan Gross, who had been held in a Cuban prison for five years. Gross’ release was negotiated in exchange for the freeing of three Cubans who had been jailed in the U.S. for spying.
“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, based on a lie,” Rubio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “The White House has conceded everything and gained little.”
“I’m committed to doing everything I can to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” he added.
Why is this moron in the U.S. Senate? Obama will have more battles ahead with the Republican Congress, but he seems determined to move ahead with the changes he wants to make anyway. I’m rooting for him.
What do you think? What other stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy your Thursday!
I hate that the blog has been in bitchfest mode lately…mainly because it brings the juju down, but dammit…the news is bad and the people are just hateful! For example:
A Chinese couple who got into a furious row with cabin crew on a flight could find themselves separated for quite some time after the incident escalated when hot noodles were thrown into the face of a hostess.
The incident that happened on a Thai AirAsia plane was captured on cellphone footage taken by other passengers that show one of the hostesses touching her face after being scalded when she was hit with a hot dish.
She was reportedly given first aid on board by her colleagues to deal with the burns and was taken to a hospital after the flight turned around and landed back in the Thai capital Bangkok.
The trouble started when the couple boarded the plane and found themselves seated separately on the charter flight from Bangkok to the Chinese city of Nanjing. And even though the seating was rearranged to put the couple together, they were still angry and refused to calm down.
The video clip showing the man shouting at staff members who are trying to restrain him quickly went viral after it was uploaded on Chinese social media network Weibo. A spokesman for the budget airline said that the plane had been forced to turn round so that the angry couple could be arrested.
The spokesman said that the decision to turn around had been made after the man claimed to have a bomb and threatened to blow the plane up.
They got what they wanted, and still were belligerent assholes.
What the hell is wrong with people?
And let me take it a step further. These assholes, horrid waste of breathing flesh and bone…half of these people are the ones who go on abusing, committing the assault or killing the innocent; and you can bet your ass that, the other half are the people who are just outside during the said violence, killing or assaults…taking obnoxious grinning selfies while there…in the background…human beings are losing their lives.
Some kind of low point that may even sum up something about the direction of society. “I wonder what has happened to empathy?” asks one Mail Online commenter. And you do wonder. Because it takes a special kind of narcissist to take a selfie while, not 100 feet away, people are cooped up with a gunman with their life in – how do you call it? – oh yes, danger. Their lives are in danger. Not a popcorn moment. Not a movie. Not something that, even if all goes well and the hostages make it out safe, you ought to find pleasing-as-punch.
A hostage runs towards a police officer outside a cafe, where other hostages are being held in Sydney
Compare the rubbernecker expression – one guy even literally grinning like a Cheshire Cat – with the terror on the face of the café worker who sprints into the arms of a policeman. I guess the rule should be: don’t selfie when there are a bunch of other selfies nearby that will probably be – at the moment you snap – either crying or close to it.
Tourists have always taken selfies of themselves at Sydney’s most iconic landmarks, but on a day that has horrified the city many people are taking macabre snapshots for old times’ sake as well.
All day people were uploading selfies of themselves on Twitter from as close as possible to where the hostage siege was taking place.
Just to make the photos more authentic some even took them with television cameras in the background. Two onlookers even looked like they were taking a ‘celebration selfie’ than one at a hostage siege. Others smiled happily as if they were standing in front of Sydney Opera House instead of a chilling hostage crisis that could yet end in tragedy.
I really don’t think this generation should be called the Millennial Generation, it should be called the Selfie Generation because that is the perfect description of what they are, selfish.
A few weeks ago I had a bad day. This is not unusual; in fact, it would be worth pointing out if I had a good one, which I believe happened last during the Clinton administration. The day in question was specifically a bad day in the classroom, something that in all honesty does not happen terribly often. Having taught at the college level for the better part of a decade, my expectations are so low that it’s nearly impossible to end up disappointed. I have come to accept the fact that the students have no interest in the subject matter and no desire to interact with me or their classmates in any meaningful way. I expect that they will sit there and look bored for an hour-plus, and that’s usually exactly what I get. Expectations met.
On this particular day, my morning class was presented with a very basic exercise I do with material on public opinion. I put up three pictures: Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, QB/Pizza Salesperson Peyton Manning, and chart-topping knucklehead Lil’ Jon, whose megahit “Turn Down for What” has been inescapable for the past six months. I change the celebrities every year or two to ensure that it’s someone relevant – I used Simon Cowell when “American Idol” first became a big hit, and so on. The way this has always worked is that the students of course identify the athlete and celebrity but have no idea who the elected official is. I also ask them some other celebrity-related questions, like who is married to Kanye West and what the couple named their recent child. The point I make is that Americans are indeed capable of retaining information; we know gobs of facts about sports, celebrities, and so on. We know almost nothing about politics because we do not pay much attention to it and we don’t find it interesting. There is no good reason we can’t know who are representatives are the same way we know the starting lineup of our favorite teams or the cast members of Real Housewives of Shreveport. We know the latter because it interests us and ignore the former because it doesn’t.
I am going to quote the rest of the post because it is so good and so damn true:
Lately, say for the past few semesters, I’ve noticed something strange: the students don’t seem to know any of the celebrity BS anymore either. Back in the mid 2000s, I would ask who is married to Tom Cruise (everyone immediately knew) and what they named their child (in unision, “Suri!”). Now, even though I update the “material” to be contemporary, they don’t really know. They still don’t know who the political figures are, of course, and now they don’t know the trashy celebrity gossip either.
After having this experience in the morning, I went next to an Honors class in which I had reserved the day for discussion. They had assigned readings and some basic questions they were required to answer so that they might have something to talk about in class (as opposed to showing up having read nothing and having never thought about the issue). I don’t even recall the topic, but after about 15 minutes of trying to get blood from a turnip I got exasperated. “OK,” I said, “it is painfully clear that you are not interested in the slightest in this topic. So please tell me, what would you like to talk about? We can talk about anything. Just tell me what interests you. I am serious, I really want to know.”
I won’t recount the entire unfruitful discussion that follows, but I asked dozens of questions that require no knowledge whatsoever to answer. What do you like? What do you do in your free time? Do you watch (sports, movies, TV series, video games, etc)? When you sneak your phones out in class, what are you doing on them? After about an hour I came to the conclusion, based on what this group of about 18 college freshmen and sophomores told me, that their interests are 1) Tumblr, 2) Netflix, and 3) texting each other. As to what they look at on Tumblr, the answer appeared to be random nonsense – memes, cat pictures, collections of pictures of Bad _____, and the like, so it’s not even like they’re using Tumblr to become acquainted with any topic, even a frivolous one. As for what they text each other about given their apparent lack of definable interests, the answer was that they talk about themselves and one another.
Every generation complains about the ones that follow, and I don’t believe that these kids are any dumber than college kids were 20 or 50 years ago. I simply do not understand, however, their complete lack of interest in anything. I get that they are not interested in news and politics; hell, I rely on that fact to make some important points while teaching them about those topics. I am absolutely baffled, though, at the idea that they are not even interested in any of the kinds of fluff that Americans use as alternatives to learning substantive things about the world – sports, Hollywood celebrity crap, pop music, etc. It is alarming to me that in a moment of frustration and total honesty I asked them – begged them – to tell me what does interest them given that my chosen topics so clearly do not and that the answer seems to be…themselves.
I’m trying not to sound like an old, out-of-it man, but this is baffling to me. And I’d be lying if I claimed not to wonder about the future prospects of a cohort of people who may have no interests of any kind outside of their own lives.
He is right, and I think that those selfie pictures during the hostage situation pretty much illustrate that point…to the extreme perhaps but y’all get the point I am trying to make here.
Anyway, I was happy to find out what interest my daughter’s boyfriend, he is into Mongolian history. Which is fine with me, I am glad. However he doesn’t know what the “Battle of the Bulge” is…yeah, fancy that. I mentioned at dinner last night that Dec. 16th was the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. I asked if he knew what that was…and his reply was, something with the civil war? Ugh.
But hey, he should have learned that in history last year. Do they not teach that anymore?
From mid-December 1944 through the end of January 1945, in the heavily forested Ardennes Mountains of Belgium, thousands of American, British, Canadian, Belgian and French forces struggled to turn back the final major German offensive of World War II. While Allied forces ultimately triumphed, it was an absolutely vicious six weeks of fighting, with tens of thousands dead on both sides. Today, the conflict is known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Here, 70 years after the start of the Ardennes Counteroffensive (as the battle is sometimes known), LIFE.com presents a series of photographs made by LIFE photographers throughout the fighting. Many of these pictures never ran in LIFE magazine.
For its final offensive to succeed, Germany needed four factors to work in its favor: catching the Allies off-guard; poor weather that would neutralize air support for Allied troops; the dealing of early, devastating, demoralizing blows against the Allies; and capturing Allied fuel supplies intact. (Indeed, Germany originally intended to attack on November 27, but had to delay its initial assault due to fuel shortages). On December 16, 1944, the German attack began: the Wehrmacht (the Third Reich’s unified armed forces) struck with 250,000 soldiers along an 85-mile stretch of Allied front, stretching from southern Belgium to Luxembourg.
The attack proved stunningly effective, at first, as troops advanced some 50 miles into Allied territory, creating the “bulge” in the American lines that gave the battle its memorable name.
American forces had been feeling triumphant — Paris had just been liberated in August — and there was a sense among some American and other Allied leaders that Germany was all but defeated. The attack in December 1944, officially labeled the “Ardennes-Alsace Campaign” by the U.S. Army, showed that any complacency the Allies might have embraced regarding the Wehrmacht was dangerously misplaced.
(At right: A Belgian woman surveys damage to her home caused by heavy fighting during the Battle of the Bulge.)
Nevertheless, as effective as the initial German efforts were, they failed to achieve the complete and early knockout of Allied forces that German military brass had hoped for, and counted on. (Wehrmacht Field Marshal Walter Model had given the attack only a 10 percent chance of success to begin with. The German name for the operation: Wacht am Rhein, or “Watch on the Rhine.”)
One of the most difficult aspects of the Bulge was the weather, as extreme — indeed, historic — cold wreaked havoc and turned relatively simple logistics of travel, shelter, and meals into a daily struggle. January 1945 was the coldest January on record for that part of Europe, and over the course of the battle more than 15,000 Allied troops alone were treated for frostbite and other cold-related injuries.
Many more pictures here: Pinterest– BATTLE OF THE BULGE
The rest of the links in dump format:
I don’t know if I would call it “heartwarming.”
Hurray for Benj!
I will end with Doug the Pug, cause all he wants for Christmas…is Food!
I really don’t want this to turn into a mini version of my mom’s rants on “people are no damn good” that I grew up hearing as frequently as some kids hear bed and supper time prayers. However, it seems that some of the things I’m reading these days just cry out for mom’s mantra on the nature of humanity. The last few days have seen a constant stream of evil on parade.
On Sunday, David Koch tried to convince ABC viewers that he wasn’t real “evil” because he actually was socially liberal. Yeah, lot of good that does us when every National Park is timber and animal free, fresh water has been fracked into nonexistence, and every school in America never turns out another scientist. Doesn’t this guy have enough money yet that he can just quit destroying the planet like some cartoon villain?
“I’m basically a libertarian and I’m a conservative on economic matters, and I’m a social liberal,” Koch responded.
Walters then asked Koch why he uses his wealth to elect socially conservative candidates if he supports gay rights and a woman’s right to choose.
“Well, that’s their problem. I do have those views,” he said.
“What I want these candidates to do is to support a balanced budget,” he added. “I’m very worried that if the budget is not balanced that inflation could occur and the economy of our country could suffer terribly.”
Asked whether he thought it was fair that he’s able to influence elections because of his vast wealth, Koch said that he obeys federal limits on how much he can contribute to individual candidates.
But Koch and his brother, Charles, also donate large sums to support the arts and other philanthropic causes. Walters asked why, then, Koch has developed a reputation as an “evil billionaire.”
“Well, I don’t understand that,” he said.
Yeah, he sure has his priorities straight. Fuck People. Fuck the Planet. Fuck the Economy. Just don’t fuck with my right to exploit every resource every where possible.
PolitiFact has named it’s Lie of the Year, 2014. Yup, it’s the damned hyped-up exaggerations on Ebola just ready made to prime the outrage pump of dumb red state Americans. Notice we heard nothing more about it once Fox News turned out its idiot viewership to let lose the plague of congressional republican locusts on the nation?
Yet fear of the disease stretched to every corner of America this fall, stoked by exaggerated claims from politicians and pundits. They said Ebola was easy to catch, that illegal immigrants may be carrying the virus across the southern border, that it was all part of a government or corporate conspiracy.
The claims — all wrong — distorted the debate about a serious public health issue. Together, they earn our Lie of the Year for 2014.
PolitiFact editors choose the Lie of the Year, in part, based on how broadly a myth or falsehood infiltrates conventional thinking. In 2013, it was the promise made by President Barack Obama and other Democrats that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” While no singular line about Ebola matched last year’s empty rhetoric about health care, the statements together produced a dangerous and incorrect narrative.
PolitiFact and PunditFact rated 16 separate claims about Ebola as Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire on our Truth-O-Meter in 2014. Ten of those claims came in October, as Duncan’s case came to the fore and as voters went to the polls to select a new Congress.
The Northern White Rhino will likely go extinct in a few years because a lot of Chinese Men are worried about Dick Performance. There are only five left now and they are all elderly and in Zoos and Reserves. This just makes me want to cry and hate people.
A northern white rhino has died at a San Diego zoo, leaving only five worldwide and bringing the species closer to extinction.
Angalifu, 44, died of old age Sunday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.San Diego Zoo Safari Park announced that Angalifu, one of six remaining northern white rhinos in the world, died Sunday. Credit: San Diego Zoo/Helene Hoffman
“With Angalifu’s passing, only five northern white rhinos are left on the planet, including Nola, our elderly female,” the zoo said in a statement.
He was one of a handful of northern white rhinos left worldwide, including a few at a wildlife conservancy in Kenya. There are no known northern white rhinos left in the wild.
Northern white rhinos and southern white rhinos are different subspecies genetically.
Last year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared the northern white rhino as “teetering on the brink of extinction.”
Rhinos are killed by poachers almost exclusively for their horns, which sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
Experts say that rhino horn is becoming more lucrative than drugs. The demand is driven primarily by buyers in East Asia, who believe it cures a series of ailments.
Meanwhile, pregnant women are being victimized by state laws and health officials that can’t seem to keep their religious views to themselves. A woman was placed in jail because of Wisconsin’s personhood law. The woman’s not a person, but the 14 week old fetus evidently is now and can be protected on the word of any religious hysteric that happens to be a nurse. Here’s a story where the state put lives at risk out of the concern of religious zealots that believe that women can’t be trusted to be pregnant. Here’s a story that violates every citizen’s right to privacy and every health care giver’s oath to do no harm.
Tamara Loerstcher was suffering from an untreated thyroid condition and depression and had begun to self medicate with drugs when, in late July 2014, she suspected she might also be pregnant. Loerstcher, uninsured at the time, went to an Eau Claire, Wisconsin, hospital for medical treatment and to confirm her pregnancy.
After submitting to a urinalysis, Loerstcher disclosed her past drug use to hospital workers. But instead of caring for Loerstcher, who as it turns out was 14 weeks pregnant, hospital workers had her jailed.
Those are the allegations in a soon-to-be-filed federal civil rights lawsuit by attorneys from National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the Carr Center for Reproductive Justice at New York University School of Law, and the Perkins Coie law firm.
Loerstcher and her attorneys, in a call with reporters, detailed her experience, including her alleged mistreatment by Wisconsin officials and the ongoing deprivation of Loerstcher’s constitutional rights under a Wisconsin law that grants authorities the power to involuntarily detain and confine a pregnant woman for substance use if she “habitually lacks self-control” and her substance use poses a “substantial risk” to the health of an egg, embryo, or fetus.
The Wisconsin policy is similar in nature to radical “personhood” laws pushed in state legislatures controlled by anti-choice lawmakers. “Personhood” amendments, which would outlaw abortion at any stage of pregnancy, were roundly rejected by voters in several states on Election Day.
According to Loertscher and her attorneys, unbeknownst to her, as hospital workers were preparing a prescription to treat Loertscher’s thyroid condition, they were also initiating unborn child protection proceedings on behalf of Loertscher’s then 14-week-old fetus.
Loertscher and her attorneys claim that within days of Loertscher seeking care, hospital workers had already turned over Loerstcher’s hospital records to the state without Loerstcher’s knowledge or consent. They also claim that with those records in hand, state officials filed a petition accusing Loerstcher of abuse of an unborn child and held a hearing in which the state had appointed an attorney, known as a guardian ad litem, for the 14-week-old fetus, but granted Loerstcher no meaningful representation.
At the hearing, Loertscher and her attorneys allege she was ordered by the court into in-patient treatment even though she had not used drugs recently and voluntarily sought medical care. When Loerstcher refused to go to in-patient treatment, she was held in contempt of court and sent to jail, where she was held for 17 days without prenatal care and subject to abuse and harassment.
“This was my first pregnancy, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Loerstcher told reporters. “I was having lots of cramping and a lot of stress from everything and they [jail officials] wouldn’t allow me to see the doctor. They told me I would have to see a jail-appointed doctor who told me she wanted me to take a pregnancy test to confirm the pregnancy even though that’s why I was in jail, because I was pregnant. They knew that’s why I was there.”
Loerstcher claims she refused the pregnancy test, and in response, correction officials put her in solitary confinement and threatened to use a taser on her. “The jail doctor told me if I chose to miscarry, there wasn’t anything they could do about it anyways,” Loertscher said through tears.
About a week after Loerstcher’s release, she says she got a notice in the mail from the state stating they had found she had engaged in child abuse.
“It was really devastating to get that letter,” said Loerstcher. Unless it’s overturned on appeal, Loerstcher’s name will appear on the state’s child abuse registry for life. That would mean Loerstcher, who is a certified nurse’s aid, would be unable to work in her field, noted her attorney, and that she would be barred from ever volunteering at her son’s school after he is born in January. “This has very serious ramifications for her life and economic stability long term,” said Sara Ainsworth, director of legal advocacy at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women and counsel for Loerstcher.
In order to be released from jail, Loertscher had to sign a consent decree agreeing to additional drug tests, so she remains under state custody to some extent, her lawyer said.
More evidence that Republicans can’t be trusted to govern as written by Steve Benen. No idiot media seeking continual bipartisanship, there simply is no Bipartisanship Santa. A vote for a Republican is a vote for a destroyed economy, a destroyed ecosystem, a destroyed school system, and a lot of disenfranchised Americans who will have their rights stripped away quickly.
Just one month later, there’s already ample evidence that those assumptions about Republican maturity were completely wrong.Republican Tom Price, the incoming House Budget Committee chairman, said his party could demand steep spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling next year, the most provocative comments by a senior GOP member to date on how negotiations could play out.The Georgia congressman, during an hour-long briefing with reporters Friday, said the expected mid-2015 debate over whether to raise or suspend the debt ceiling offered Republicans an opportunity to make a sizable imprint on government policy.The far-right Georgian added that he wants to see Republicans bring back the so-called “Boehner rule” – an arbitrary policy that demands a dollar in cuts for every dollar increase in the debt limit – that even Republicans recognized as ridiculous a couple of years ago.“I prefer to think about it as opportunities and pinch points,” Price said, apparently using “pinch points” as a euphemism for “causing deliberate national harm.”It’s worth emphasizing that Price isn’t some random, fringe figure, shouting from the sidelines – the Georgia Republican next month will fill Paul Ryan’s shoes as chairman of the House Budget Committee.In other words, it matters that Price envisions a strategy in which Republicans threaten to hurt Americans on purpose unless Democrats meet the GOP’s demands.That said, Price would be wise to start lowering expectations – his intention to create a deliberate crisis will almost certainly fail.The gist of the plan is effectively identical to the scheme hated by House Republicans in 2011. Next year, the Treasury Department will alert Congress to the fact that it’s time to borrow the funds necessary to pay for the things Congress has already bought. As Price sees it, the GOP-led Congress will tell the Obama administration, “We’ll cooperate, but only if you slash public investments. If not, we’ll default on our debts, crash the economy, and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States.”Why Price or anyone else would want to slash public investments right now – hurting the economy, just as the recovery gains steam – is a bit of a mystery.
No conversation on evil can forget Dick Cheney. I’m not sure how close you’ve been following the Dick Cheney Torture-rama Press tour, but it’s pretty disgusting. I’m usually not up for Conor Friedersdorf, but even he thinks Cheney’s an Evil Dickhead. Cheney’s interview with Chuck Todd on Sunday was like watching one of those mad scientist movies.
That exchange leaves no room for mistaking former vice-president Cheney’s position: better to chain a man to the wall of a cell, douse him in cold water, and leave him there to freeze to death, even if he later turns out to be innocent, than to release that same man and risk not that he detonates a nuclear bomb in Manhattan, but that he ends up “on the battlefield,” where there’s a chance he could harm Americans. What if fully one-in-four prisoners tortured by the CIA were innocent?
Cheney is still unmoved:
Is that too high? You’re okay with that margin for error?
I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective.
The ends justify the means.
There is no clearer illustration of the morally corrosive nature of torture than the once unthinkable position that Dick Cheney is unashamedly espousing on television. The position is even less defensible than the conceit that the Office of Legal Counsel defines what torture is. It is so indefensible that Cheney himself can scarcely maintain it.
You have to wonder where you measure on the vast barometer of human sewage if Conor Friedersorf won’t defend your evil ass as a former Republican ‘Conservative” Vice President.
Jon Stewart for the win, however. “Puppet Master Cheney’s mind” is “the scariest fucking place in the universe.”
“George W. Bush, thank you for not dying while you were in office,” Stewart said to the former president.
When pressed by Todd to explain his definition of torture following the release of a Senate report criticizing the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” procedures, Cheney continually defined torture as the events of the 9/11 attacks.
“I see — that’s just what meets the definition of torture in his mind,” Stewart said. “His mind, I assume, being the scariest f*cking place in the universe.”
Stewart then tried to get a peek inside the “presidential puppet master’s” mind, only to find a scene out of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
“Never took him for a brony,” Stewart observed.
What set Cheney apart, Stewart explained, was his ability to set the “moral bar” for the U.S. at anything just shy of the worst thing that had been done to the country, as well as his confidence.
“He’s impervious to doubt,” Stewart said. “It never enters his mind that the confident, plain-spoken pronouncements of truth are often times complete bullsh*t.”
There, name that republican presidential candidate for 2016 over in that line up. Whichever one gets on the ballot, there will be a Koch entering his backside. My guess is that he’ll have Dick Cheney on the campaign trail for him too.
And, yes, David Koch is Evil. Amanda Marcotte gets it right.
Here’s the thing about men like David Koch: Making money is basically just a video game to them. For the rest of us, making money is about being able to pay for things we need and want, such as rent and food and actual video games. But David Koch has made so much money that he literally cannot spend it all. There is nothing he would want to buy he cannot already afford. The only purpose at this point in making more money is for the pleasure of beating your high score. In other words, it really is just a very consuming video game. But unlike when you kill people in Call of Duty or crush candies in Candy Crush, the game David Koch is playing is very real. Millions of people will suffer and die because he wants to “win” his video game by manipulating the public to avoid taking action on global warming. That is evil and hateful and selfish on a level that puts the word “selfish” to shame.
And no, being pro-choice and pro-gay doesn’t make up for it. That’s like having a hobby of strangling kittens and then saying it’s all good because you donate clothes to Goodwill once in awhile. Worse, actually, because David Koch isn’t actually pro-choice in any meaningful sense, because he gives money to anti-choice activists, as documented by Adele Stan at RH Reality Check. The Koch brothers give money to right wing umbrella groups, who then give it to anti-choicers. Why is fairly obvious. This is about manipulating misogynist, anti-sex hysteria in order to elect politicians who are on board with the anti-environmentalist agenda. A manipulation that is, in itself, evil on a couple of levels, both because you’re manipulating people and because you’re engaging bad people who have bad motivations to hurt and control others. It’s terrible, hateful behavior all the way down.
With that, I’ll leave you to grade papers. I’m pretty sick of humanity at the moment and I do not understand how any one with a will to survive could vote Republican anymore.
Anyway, I dare y’all to find good news today. Please!!!