Thursday Reads

 DogReadingGood Morning!!

 

I’m pretty wiped out this morning, so this won’t be an extensive post. My mom is doing okay, but she needs help with a lot of things. This morning we’re going to have to deal with the Comcast people. It would really help if she could watch TV or listen to the radio! This afternoon I have to take her to the doctor, and then we might have to go back to the emergency room to have them put on a looser splint. They told us to do that if the one she has starts to feel too tight. But enough of my problems; let’s see what’s in the news.

The Bowe Bergdahl story gets more disgraceful with each passing day. Last night, via Little Green Footballs, NBC News reported that officials in Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, had been

deluged with angry calls from people who think that Bergdahl is an Army deserter or traitor who doesn’t deserve a hero’s welcome.

Jane Drussel, the president of the Hailey Chamber of Commerce, has been fielding dozens of angry calls.

“Well, (I feel) disappointment number one, just absolutely total surprise at how bad some of them are,” she told NBC News on Tuesday….

Drussel said many of the calls are cancelling trips to the town of about 8,000.

“Well, number one is, how dare we as a community support someone who in their mind they’re thinking of as a ‘deserter,’ a traitor. That they had plans to come here on their vacation, they’re no longer coming, they’re cancelling their reservations.”

“I just find that shocking,” she said. “You know, we’re Americans, and we need to act like Americans, and to me that’s un-American. Let things play out, and if there needs to be action taken, I’m sure it will be taken. But that’s not the city of Hailey’s responsibility.”

As a consequence of the threatening calls, the town has cancelled the welcome home celebration they had been planning. According to the Washington Post, the reason for the cancellation is concern for “public safety.” The small town of 8,000 people simply can’t handle an event that might attract a large number of angry protesters.

hillary_people_cover

The right wing focus on Bergdahl hasn’t kept them from carrying on the meme that Hillary Clinton is old and disabled. The former Secretary of State is pictured on the cover of People Magazine this week smiling broadly and holding onto a deck chair. But the inimitable Matt Drudge has a different theory. From Bob Cesca at the Daily Banter: Drudge Wonders if Hillary Clinton Used a Walker on People Magazine Cover.

Oh, Drudge, you magnificent bastard. There are very few right-wing trolls who are better than Matt Drudge at manufacturing an odious whisper campaign, and he didn’t disappoint today. Drudge posted the new People Magazine cover featuring Hillary Clinton, then wondered whether she was holding onto, wait for it, a walker. You know, like an old lady with brain damage. Wink, wink.

Of course he didn’t say it outright. He used the nefarious “Cavuto Mark” — a question mark at the end of a deliberately leading statement, made famous by Fox News Channel.

Yesterday afternoon, Reuters reported: Last of Navajo ‘code talkers’ dies in New Mexico.

The last of 29 Navajo Americans who developed an unbreakable code that helped Allied forces win the second World War died in New Mexico on Wednesday of kidney failure at the age of 93.

Chester Nez was the last remaining survivor of an original group of 29 Navajos recruited by the U.S. Marine Corps to create a code based on their language that the Japanese could not crack.

His son, Michael Nez, said his father died peacefully in his sleep at their home in Albuquerque….

About 400 code talkers would go on to use their unique battlefield cipher to encrypt messages sent from field telephones and radios throughout the Pacific theater during the war.

It was regarded as secure from Japanese military code breakers because the language was spoken only in the U.S. Southwest, was known by fewer than 30 non-Navajo people, and had no written form.

The Navajos’ skill, speed and accuracy under fire in ferocious battles from the Marshall Islands to Iwo Jima is credited with saving thousands of U.S. servicemen’s lives and helping shorten the war. Their work was celebrated in the 2002 movie “Windtalkers.”

May he rest in peace.

logan

Despite all the controversy over her faulty reporting on Benghazi, Lara Logan is “back at work on CBS News’ 60 Minutes,” according The Hollywood Reporter.

The news ends a suspension that began last fall after an erroneous60 Minutes report on the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi that resulted in the death of AmbassadorChristopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel. Logan had a handful of pieces in the works when she was suspended last November after her report that relied on a now-discredited interview with security contractor Dylan Davies.

She has been eager to return to work, say sources close to the correspondent, but the Benghazi report undermined her status as one of the veteran newsmagazine’s biggest stars and created a media feeding frenzy that unearthed a strident speech she gave a month after the Benghazi attacks in which she advocated for military intervention in Libya and asserted that the Obama administration was downplaying the threat from Al Qaeda.

At the time of her suspension last November, CBS News chairman and 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager told THR that the report was a “black eye” for the venerable newsmagazine, still the most watched of its genre.

A CBS News spokesperson confirmed that Logan has returned to work. 60 Minutes typically takes something of a production hiatus during the summer months, with new pieces sprinkled throughout a schedule that includes reruns and updates of previously aired segments. Logan likely will not be seen on60 Minutes until the fall, sources tell THR. But she’ll begin appearing on other CBS News broadcasts such as the CBS Evening News and CBS This Morning in the coming weeks.

I guess we already knew that CBS is no longer a serious news organization. This is just one more piece of confirming evidence.

From the Southern Poverty Law Center, Massive Investigation Uncovers White Supremacist Criminal Network in Oregon.

“Operation White Christmas,” as the year-old investigation is code-named, so far has resulted in the arrests of 54 individuals, mostly in the Portland area, leading to 11 criminal cases in state court and another 43 in federal court.

As for its scope, the investigation based in Portland and Multnomah County rivals the prosecutions of members of another violent gang, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

The Oregon suspects variously are affiliated with at least five known street and prison white supremacist gangs – European Kindred (EK); Rude Crude Brood; All Ona Bitch (AOB); Fat Bitch Killers (FBK) and Insane Peckerwood Syndicate (IPS), authorities say.

“The scope of this case is by far the largest ever undertaken by this agency in recent memory, based on the number of suspects investigated, the number of persons arrested and the amount of guns recovered,” Lt. Ned Walls, the investigations division supervisor for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, told Hatewatch.

What initially began as an investigation of drug and firearms trafficking by white supremacist gangs blossomed into a broader probe of robberies, home invasions, burglaries, kidnapping, assaults, shootings and witness intimidation, Walls said. Some of the crimes involved gang-on-gang violence.

“The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office would have had an impossibly hard time trying to conduct this investigation on our own,” Walls said. The department, he said, got “outstanding collaborative” support and involvement from the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, the Clackamas and Washington County Sheriff’s Offices in Oregon, the Portland Police Bureau, the Gresham, Ore., Police Department, Klickitat County, Wash., Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.

It’s good to know the Feds are seriously investigating right wing domestic terrorists, but it sounds like the investigation was initiated by local law enforcement.

A military plane crashed in a residential neighborhood in California yesterday afternoon.  From the AP, via the Visalia Times-Delta:

A Marine jet crashed into a residential area in a Southern California desert community Wednesday, exploding and setting two homes on fire. The pilot ejected safely, and there was no immediate word of any injuries on the ground.

The Harrier AV-8B went down at 4:20 p.m. in Imperial, a city of about 15,000 near the U.S.-Mexico border about 90 miles east of San Diego. Witnesses described an explosion and thick plumes of smoke.

“It felt like a bomb was thrown in the backyard of the house,” said Adriana Ramos, 45, whose home is less than a block from the crash scene. “The whole house moved.”

Ramos fled with her 4-year-old granddaughter and 10-year-old daughter, who both cried at the sight outside….]

At the crash site, there was chaos as people ran in every direction, he said. The two homes were on fire and it was unclear if anyone was inside.

The plane was from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona, said Cpl. Melissa Lee, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. She had no details about what might have caused the accident.

As of this morning, no injuries have been reported. You can see video of the scene at The Week Magazine.

I have a few more links for you that I’ll post in the comment thread, and I hope you’ll do the same. What stories are you following today?

 


Thursday Reads: The Blame Hillary Game; Russia’s Internet Crackdown, and “Religious Experiences”

woman-reading Childe Hassam 1885

Good Morning!!

 

Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast (formerly of The American Conservative and Foreign Policy) is at it again. Not long ago, he caused an uproar by sneaking into a supposedly off-the-record meeting of the Trilateral Commission and secretly taping John Kerry saying that Israel is in danger of becoming an “apartheid state.” Not that there’s anything wrong with taping the remarks, but Rogin failed to note this fact in his subsequent reports. Instead he sourced the remarks to “an attendee” and “recording obtained by The Daily Beast.”

This morning Rogin has Hillary Clinton in his crosshairs: Hillary’s State Department Refused to Brand Boko Haram as Terrorists. Rogin’s point seems to be that Clinton is a hypocrite because since Nigerian group kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, she has criticized them in no uncertain terms.

In the past week, Clinton, who made protecting women and girls a key pillar of her tenure at the State Department, has been a vocal advocate for the 200 Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, the loosely organized group of militants terrorizing northern Nigeria. Her May 4 tweet about the girls, using the hashtag #BringOurGirlsBack, was cited across the media and widely credited for raising awareness of their plight.

On Wednesday, Clinton said that the abduction of the girls by Boko Haram was “abominable, it’s criminal, it’s an act of terrorism and it really merits the fullest response possible, first and foremost from the government of Nigeria.” Clinton said that as Secretary of State she had numerous meetings with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and had urged the Nigerian government to do more on counterterrorism.

What Clinton didn’t mention was that her own State Department refused to place Boko Haram on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2011, after the group bombed the U.N. headquarters in Abuja. The refusal came despite the urging of the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and over a dozen senators and congressmen.

“The one thing she could have done, the one tool she had at her disposal, she didn’t use. And nobody can say she wasn’t urged to do it. It’s gross hypocrisy,” said a former senior U.S. official who was involved in the debate. “The FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department really wanted Boko Haram designated, they wanted the authorities that would provide to go after them, and they voiced that repeatedly to elected officials.”

Hillary Clinton condemns Nigerian kidnappings

Hillary Clinton condemns Nigerian kidnappings

Rogin goes on to quote numerous–some by name and some not–critics who essentially blame Clinton for the current situation. Rogin quotes these sources (largely Republicans) as saying that if Hillary had designated Boko Haram a terrorist group, the government would have been better able to cut them off from financial support and get other countries to do the same. Because of Hillary’s refusal to do this, according to Republican Patrick Meehan, chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, “We lost two years of increased scrutiny. The kind of support that is taking place now would have been in place two years ago.”  John Kerry did add Boko Haram to the terrorist list late last year.

Rogin admits that not everyone agrees that designating Boko Haram a terrorist group would have made that much difference. Sources told Rogin that other efforts were made to deal with the issue. Yesterday f0rmer Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson defended the decision.

“There was a concern that putting Boko Haram on the foreign terrorist list would in fact raise its profile, give it greater publicity, give it greater credibility, help in its recruitment, and also probably drive more assistance in its direction,” he said.

The U.S. has plenty of ways to assist the Nigerian government with counterterrorism even without designating Boko Haram, Carson said. The problem has long been that the Nigerian government doesn’t always want or accept the help the U.S. has offered over the years.

“There always has been a reluctance to accept our analysis of what the drivers causing the problems in the North and there is sometimes a rejection of the assistance that is offered to them,” Carson said. “None of that has anything to do with putting Boko Haram on the foreign terrorist list.”

This sounds like a partisan issue to me, but I admit to having zero knowledge of Boko Haram and State Department policies in general. Frankly, I suspect Josh Rogin is trying to make a name for himself by undermining Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Obama administration foreign policy in general. But then, I’m also a partisan.

 As for Hillary herself, she spoke to ABC News’ Robin Roberts yesterday: Hillary Clinton Calls Nigeria Kidnappings ‘An Act Of Terrorism.’ The occasion was a “philanthropy event” at the Ford Foundation in NYC. CNN provides more detail about Hillary’s remarks: Hillary Clinton faults Nigerian government’s handling of search for kidnapped girls.

The Nigerian government has been “somewhat derelict” in protecting their children, Hillary Clinton said Wednesday as international attention focused on schoolgirls kidnapped by a militant group.

“The seizure of these young women by this radical, extremist group, Boko Haram is abominable, it’s criminal, it’s an act of terrorism and it really merits the fullest response possible, first and foremost from the government of Nigeria,” Clinton said, later adding that “the government of Nigeria has been in my view somewhat derelict in its responsibility toward protecting boy and girls, men and women in northern Nigeria over the last years.”

During her remarks at a philanthropy event in New York City, Clinton went on to say “the Nigerian government must accept help – particularly intelligence, surveillance and recognizance help – their troops have to be the ones that (are) necessary but they could do a better job if they accept the offers that are being made.”

The U.S. government has offered to help in the search for the schoolgirls. Officials have told CNN the Obama administration is sharing intelligence with Nigerian authorities and could provide other assistance, but there is no plan to send U.S. troops. Legislators on Capitol Hill have also called for the United States to do more to help the Nigerian government.

A little more from the talk:

“The Nigerian government has failed to confront the threat or to address the underlying challenges,” Clinton said of the kidnappings. “Most of all, the government of Nigeria needs to get serious about protecting all of its citizens… and ensuring the every child has the right and opportunity to go to school.”

Standing in front of high profile financiers and donors at the opulent Waldorf Astoria, Clinton went on to urge Nigerian citizens to hold their leaders accountable and implored religious leaders, Nigeria’s neighbors, the African Union and the international community to continue to stay involved in finding the schoolgirls.

“Every asset and expertise should be brought to bear,” Clinton said. “Everyone needs to see this for what it is, it is a gross human rights abuse but it is also part of a continuing struggle within Nigeria and within North Africa.”

Follow me below the fold . . .

Read the rest of this entry »


Lazy Saturday Reads: Here We Go Again . . .

Brigit Ganley, The Dramatist

Brigit Ganley, The Dramatist

It’s Saturday!!

 

And a glance at the news headlines today reveals that everything old is new again. Remember 14-year-old Cherise Morales, who committed suicide after being raped by her teacher Stacy Dean Rambold? And G. Todd Baugh, the judge who blamed Cherise for the rape and sentenced the Rambold to only 31 days in jail and probation?

Well that decision *may* be overturned, but now we have another judge in Texas who sounds like a clone of Baugh–except she’s a woman! From the Dallas News: Judge says sexually assaulted 14-year-old ‘wasn’t the victim she claimed to be’.

A man sentenced to five years probation by a Dallas County judge after admitting he raped a 14-year-old girl won’t have to follow many of the restrictions typically given to sex offenders.

And the judge who issued the light sentence said Thursday that she did so in part because the girl wasn’t a virgin and “wasn’t the victim she claimed to be.”

State District Judge Jeanine Howard, who gave 20-year-old Sir Young deferred probation last week, also altered Young’s probation requirements. As a result, Young does not have to stay away from children, attend sex offender treatment, undergo a sex offender evaluation or refrain from watching pornography.

Wait a minute. Let me check my calendar. Is this really 2014?

District Attorney Craig Watkins said Thursday that his prosecutors would “always fight for our most vulnerable victims” like the one in this case. It is rare for prosecutors to critique a judge’s actions, but Watkins said he was “alarmed” by Howard’s decision.

“This young lady was 14 at the time she was sexually assaulted at school, and we cannot send the wrong message to rape victims who have the courage to seek justice,” Watkins said. “I am disappointed the judge would choose to give the defendant probation after he admitted guilt, but even more alarmed the judge failed to impose standard sex offender conditions of probation designed to protect society.”

Make sure you’re sitting down before you read this next bit. Judge Howard is a Democrat. She’s going to withdraw from the case now so she can better explain herself, but she doesn’t have to worry about being reelected because she’s running unopposed.

Howard said she made her decision for several reasons, including: The girl had texted Young asking him to spend time with her; the girl had agreed to have sex with him but just didn’t want to at school; medical records show the girl had three sexual partners and had given birth to a baby; and Young was barely 18 at the time.

“She wasn’t the victim she claimed to be,” Howard said. “He is not your typical sex offender.”

The girl’s mother said Friday morning that her daughter has never been pregnant and she was “livid” over the judge’s comments.

WTF?!

The victim, who is now 17, told The News on Thursday night that she feels it would have been better if she had never come forward about the 2011 assault. She and Young testified last week at his trial that she had told Young “stop” and “no” numerous times before and during the attack at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where both were students.

“I did what I was supposed to do. I went to the law about this situation,” she said. The judge’s probation sentence and the removal of the restrictions — “that says everything I went through was for nothing.”

Unbelievable! We’ll have to watch what happens with this case. But when will judges learn that 14-year-old girls are not able to consent to sex in the first place?

“Don’t Run for President, Hillary”

Why won't that stupid bitch quit? (WWTSBQ)

Why won’t that stupid bitch quit? (WWTSBQ)

Remember when MSNBC’s Krystal Ball told Hillary Clinton she shouldn’t run for President? Ball said that Elizabeth Warren, who  is approximately the same age as Hillary and has zero experience and would be unlikely to win should run instead because Hillary was once on the board of Walmart … or something? Of course Ball’s nonsensical “advice” was ignored by most rational Democrats.

Now comes Tina Brown, editor of The Daily Beast to lecture Hillary some more: Don’t Run for President, Hillary. Become a ‘Post-President’ Instead. Except Brown seems not to care at all about Hillary’s positions on issues or her qualifications. She simply thinks Hillary should do the easiest thing and avoid the “stress” of a campaign and a tough job like the presidency. Brown apparently has projected her own values onto Hillary, assuming that she (Clinton) is as narcissistic and self-involved as Tina Brown is. Never mind that Hillary has spent most of her life focusing on public service and fighting for causes like women’s rights.

Brown writes:

I know as much as anyone how much her most fervent supporters want Hillary Clinton to run for president. On the opening night of the Women in the World Summit the mere mention of the possibility had the audience on their feet. The fan base is there, and constituencies beyond it.

Because American women want a woman in the White House in their lifetimes, and Hillary has the experince, strength, and passion to do the job.

But should she do it? Would the bravest and best decision be for her to skip it? In the 2008 campaign the chronic negativity of the ladies and gentlemen of the press was relentless, and the gouging of Hillary was wholly unrelated to either her record or her behavior. It was just that her story had gotten old. It required new angles, or, heaven forbid, new facts, to make it interesting—whereas Barack Obama was a story that wrote itself.

The first black president was a hotter plot line than the first woman president. Bad luck for Hillary. Obama stole her exceptionalism, leaving the press only with the hair, the alleged cackling laugh, and the over-familiar back-story, which meant dogging Bill around, hoping he’d lose it once in a while. (He obliged.)

I joined the Hillary bus for a Newsweek story in 2008 I was fascinated how little attention in their copy the traveling reporters actually paid to anything she said when she got out. They were too busy filing recaps of blogs by commentators who weren’t there. Suddenly there would be media uproar about some killer soundbite from Hillary that someone had gotten traction for that in context wasn’t controversial at all. Remember that shit-storm when she said MLK’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act?

In other words, the media is full of assholes and even though Hillary could probably handle it, why bother? She should just be a “post-president” in the mode of Jimmy Carter and bask in the reflected limelight of her former-president husband.

Even the Wall Street Journal’s wingnut comumnist James Taranto seems to think Brown’s column is a little strange.

Does Brown disagree with Mrs. Clinton on matters of policy or doubt she would be a good president? One assumes the answer is no, though the column doesn’t say. Nor does Brown offer a more coldly political rationale–say, that Mrs. Clinton would be unlikely to win, or that a different candidate would better enhance the long-term fortunes of the Democratic Party.

Brown sums up her argument as follows: “She should forget it. If she wins, it’s too much stress for too little return.” By “return,” Brown means nothing more than “personal benefit.” By forgoing a campaign, Brown writes, Mrs. Clinton “can have her glory-filled post-presidency now, without actually having to deal with the miseries of the office itself.” ….

Brown….credits Mrs. Clinton with standing for something, namely “her global mission to promote women’s rights, education, and political participation.” She asks if skipping the presidential candidacy would be “the bravest and best decision,” though she doesn’t say a word about why it would be brave.

Her central argument, however, is that running for and serving as president would entail too much suffering, in large part because people, particularly in the media, would not respond to Mrs. Clinton fairly…

Taranto thinks he may have figured out Brown’s real motivation: she’s floating a trial balloon for Hillary, because maybe Hillary has doubts about running and wants to see how her supporters react to Brown’s arguments.

No, Mr. Taranto, that’s not it. Brown is just the latest example of women being women’s worst enemies–like when Gloria Steinem supported Barack Obama over Hillary in 2008. And, by the way, could you please stop referring to Hillary as “Mrs. Clinton?” She is a former Senator and Secretary of State for god’s sake!

Benghazi!!!!

Remember when Boehner thought Benghazi investigations were stupid?

Remember when Boehner thought Benghazi investigations were stupid?

And then there’s the GOP’s obsession with Benghazi!!–which is of course the stick they hope to beat Hillary Clinton with in 2016. From U.S. News and World Report: Boehner says he intends to appoint select House committee to investigate Benghazi.

Boehner said U.S. officials misled the American people after the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. He said emails released this week showed the White House has withheld documents from congressional investigators and asked, “What else about Benghazi is the Obama administration still hiding from the American people?”

“Americans learned this week that the Obama administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the people’s House,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “These revelations compel the House to take every possible action to ensure the American people have the truth about the terrorist attack on our consulate that killed four of our countrymen.”

Because Darrel Issa hasn’t already investigated enough? If only the House had spent half this much time investigating 9/11, we might know why the Bush administration ignored all those warnings.

Here’s Brian Beutler at The New Republic: The GOP’s Benghazi Obsession Returns With a Vengeance. Pay Attention, Hillary.

It is by sheer coincidence that just as Obamacare recedes as an issue, House GOP leaders have announced their intent to create a Select Committee on Benghazisomething they’ve long resistedand that Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, perhaps overcome by zeal to maintain control over the issue, subpoenas Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about the 2012 attackdespite the fact that Kerry was a senator at the time, and hasn’t been invited to testify, and is currently visiting Sudan.

The pretext for all this is the release of an email from White House adviser Ben Rhodes, which includes as a bullet point the goal that in speaking about the attack, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice should “reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”

Slate’s Dave Weigel did a great job earlier this week of placing the email in chronological context, to discredit the argument that the email represents evidence of a “coverup.” And while it might appear a bit unseemly for administration officials to be concerning themselves with the president’s image and the administration’s competence in the midst a crisis … this is actually completely uncontroversial. Would John Boehner and Darrell Issa have preferred it if Susan Rice went on TV that week and granted that the administration was in complete disarray? Or had refused to take a position on the administration’s handling of the situation?

Beutler goes on to explain that even though all of the Republicans’ claims on Benghazi have been debunked, he is *concerned* because they are still going  to use it to attack Hillary.

if Republicans are serious about working their base into a frenzy over Benghazi, it’d probably behoove liberals to mix a bit more clarity about the events in with the mockery. What’s really happening is pretty straightforward. Of all the Americans who’ve died in dangerous parts of the world over the last decade, Republicans have concerned themselves with Benghazi’s four victims, because they think there’s political utility in fostering suspicion that the administration was more concerned with the coverup than the attack itself.

Something tells me Beutler is another one of those “Please don’t run, Hillary” folks.

What do you think? Please let me know in the comments and, as always, post your links on any topic!


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

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, 1957

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, 1957

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

larry Klayman

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

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

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

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

More on Klayman:

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

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

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

 A little more on the case from Politico:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wonder what parts of these arguments convinced Judge Leon?

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

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

Read all about it at the Esquire link.

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

Lara_Logan_crop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please read the rest if you can.

Devyani Khobragade

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

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

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

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

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

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

From NDTV All India:

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

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

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

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

The US has implied that she enjoyed only limited immunity.

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

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

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


Friday Reads: The Word for Today is “Surreality”

girl reading2

Good Morning!!

I’ve been browsing around the internet this morning, and all I can find is really surreal news. The Obamacare “fumble” or “botch” or “mess” or whatever else the pundits decide to call it is still the top story today; and it looks like President Obama could be in for an even worse day than yesterday. He must be glad it’s Friday. All the usual suspects are weighing in on the “problem” and of course Republicans are gloating.

Reuters summarizes Obama’s very bad Thursday: An apologetic Obama unveils fix on health law.

President Barack Obama on Thursday tried to ease the biggest crisis of his presidency, acknowledging missteps with his signature healthcare law and announcing a plan to help those seeing their current health plans canceled because of it.

Obama, trying to limit the political damage to his presidency and fellow Democrats, said health insurers could extend by at least one year policies due to be canceled because they do not comply with new minimum requirements under the law.

With insurers complaining the fix could create new problems and lead to higher premiums, it was not clear whether Obama’s plan would actually work, or soothe his party’s concerns that the botched rollout has undercut Democrats facing tough re-election fights in 2014.

A chastened Obama said he had “fumbled” the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, his biggest domestic policy achievement, and said he would have to work to regain his credibility and the public’s trust.

Also from Reuters: Obama to meet with insurers Friday on Obamacare fix.

The meeting comes a day after the president, under fire for the botched rollout of his top domestic policy achievement, announced he would allow individuals to keep insurance policies that were being canceled under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare….

Insurers and state regulators say that Obama’s fix for policies canceled under the law will create new problems for the industry and could lead to an increase in premiums.

The change, which Obama announced under growing pressure from lawmakers from his Democratic Party, would allow policies that do not meet Obamacare’s standards to be renewed anyway.

great-bather-reading-1937

From WaPo’s The Fix: ‘Keep Your Health Plan Act’ spells trouble for dozens of Democrats.

Intense focus on the early troubles of the Affordable Care Act already makes this a no good, very bad week for congressional Democrats, who are torn between supporting the signature domestic achievement of the Obama administration, but eager to be seen doing something to address significant concerns with the law….

At issue is the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” a proposal by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) that supporters believe would fulfill President Obama’s now-broken promise to let people keep their current health insurance plan if they like it.

Under the Upton proposal, anyone opting to keep their current plan wouldn’t face financial penalties established by the law. And the measure would allow insurers to sell their minimal plans to new customers. The bill is expected to pass easily in the GOP-controlled House.

Most Democrats believe that the Upton bill would fundamentally gut the ACA by allowing plans not compliant with the new law to continue. They believe that the administrative fixes announced by Obama Thursday will work, or are supporting a proposal by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that would let people keep their current health-care plans for the next year and require insurers to provide information on new plans that meet the law’s stricter requirements.

Chris Cillizza, also at The Fix, doesn’t think any of this is going to help Republicans much in 2014; Todd Purdum at Politico spanks Obama unmercifully, but at the end of his lengthy piece admits:

It is true that public support for many of the law’s crucial components — a ban on lifetime limits on health coverage; an end to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions; extended coverage for dependent children; improvements to Medicare — have always exceeded support for the law itself. White House officials take pains to note that those provisions are now beginning to take effect — on time, as planned.

Most state-run insurance exchanges are working far better than the federal website — which the administration was forced to make as big as it is only because some three dozen states with recalcitrant Republican governors declined to create their own exchanges as envisioned. And lest anyone forget, the old health insurance system was not so hot.

Picasso-La-Lecture

Of course Chuck Todd is thrilled, and he went on Morning Joe this morning to dance on Obama’s grave. From Mediaite:

NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday that the problematic roll-out of the Affordable Care Act represents an all-time political low for President Barack Obama. He said that the president’s press conference on Thursday was aimed more at Democrats in an attempt to keep them from abandoning him or his signature achievement.

“It seemed like he was trying to offer his party – the Democratic Party – and, basically, all the panicked Democrats on Capitol Hill a pound of flesh so that they don’t vote for these other bills,” Todd said of the bills circulating in the House and Senate that would allow those who have lost their health plans to keep them indefinitely….

“I talked to one of the old guard in Obama-land who said they’ve never seen that in private from him,” Todd added. “This is a moment that he hasn’t experienced in national politics before, is the impression that I was being given.”

“This clearly is the low of his presidency politically right now,” the NBC News reporter continues. “We obviously see it in the polls, but just the way he feels, his ability to lead the party, or, frankly, hope that the party doesn’t abandon him right now in this moment.”

You can just imagine how happy Karl Rove and The Wall Street Journal are about the Obamacare troubles.

I’ll spare you excerpts from those columns and refer you to Jonthan Chait: Conservatives Confident America Rejecting Obamacare, Ready for Every-Man-for-Himself Care.

The keep-your-plan fiasco, in addition to flummoxing Democrats, has not only held out to Republicans the tantalizing prospect that they can discredit and defeat Obamacare, but also drawn into sympathetic focus their own alternative vision.

Here is the basic ideological division. Obama wants the health-care system to do more to pool risk — which is to say, to shift the burden of covering the sick onto the healthy. Republicans want it to do less to pool risk, so that healthy people can be free of the burden of subsidizing the costs of those less medically fortunate.

The small portion of the populace that lies outside of either employer-based or direct government coverage provides the closest existing model for the health-care system conservatives favor. The minority within this market who have insurance, and are losing their plans as a result of regulations preventing insurers from excluding the sick, have dominated public attention and formed what conservatives imagine will be a constituency for their own brand of counter-reform: a deregulated market where healthy people can buy cheap, bare-bones plans, and sicker people have to pay large out-of-pocket costs. Obamacare’s torturous birth pangs have convinced giddy conservatives that they are on the cusp of a great ideological victory.

Read the rest at the New York Magazine link above.

woman-reading-1953

I’ll wrap up this section of my post with the most surreal Obamacare story I could find: Michele Bachmann: I lost my insurance:

Rep. Michele Bachmann says she is one of the people who lost their health insurance because of Obamacare and she won’t go shopping on a health exchange until it’s fixed.

“Are you kidding? I’m not going to waste an hour on that thing,” the Minnesota Republican said when Wolf Blitzer asked her on CNN on Thursday if she’d signed up on the exchange website. “I lost my health insurance under Obamacare. And so now I’m forced to go into the D.C. health exchange. I’m waiting until they fix this thing. I’m not going to sit there and frustrate myself for hours and hours.”

Don’t members of House have their own insurance plan? Did the rest of the House get their plans cancelled too?

Bachmann did not explain what about Obamacare caused her to lose her health insurance. The health law technically requires congressional staff go on the D.C. exchange, but it’s up to the individual congressional office to determine who qualifies as “official office” staff, so many Republicans have placed their aides on the exchange while Democrats have been split.

At the Daily Banter, Bob Cesca explains to Bachmann how to sign up for health insurance at the DC exchange, which is running quite smoothly, thank you very much.

I’ve run on way too long about the Obamacare story, but I haven’t been paying close attention to it and I needed to bring myself up to speed. I hope I didn’t bore the rest of you!

Pablo-Picasso-Two-Girls-Reading

Now let’s look at someone who really has a health care problem. Gawker reports on a woman with stage 4 breast cancer and the vile treatment she has been getting from her daughter’s school because of it (emphasis added).

An Albuquerque mother says her daughter’s elementary school principal banned her from school grounds for the way she smells. Kerri Mascareno was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in August, and while she’s undergoing chemotherapy to shrink her tumor, she’s also struggling with the administration at Tierra Antigua Elementary.

According to Mascareno, the school’s principal, Robert Abney, told her last week that she could no longer visit the school:

“He just said he knows this is going to hurt my feelings and he understands where I’m coming from because his mother had breast cancer and she had the same exact smell and I can no longer be in the school and that with me being in the school that I made his employees ill,” she said.

She claims that when she moved outside, the principal went to his window and told her to move farther away. “He just said that he would have to ask me to sit in my car because he could smell me through the window,” Mascareno said.

Calling Dr. Freud! Robert Abney needs psychological treatment STAT! Men with Oedipal complexes should not be in charge of running schools. I hope Kerri Mascareno sues and gets a million-dollar payday so she can leave the money to her children.

Yesterday I wrote about two Secret Service agents who have been removed from President Obama’s security detail. Today the WaPo reports that there have been complaints about misconduct by Secret Service agents in 17 countries!

Secret Service agents and managers have engaged in sexual misconduct and other improprieties across a span of 17 countries in recent years, according to accounts given by whistleblowers to the Senate committee that oversees the department.

Sen. Ronald H. Johnson (Wis.), ranking Republican on a Homeland Security subcommittee, said Thursday that the accounts directly contradict repeated assertions by Secret Service leaders that the elite agency does not foster or tolerate sexually improper behavior.

And get this:

Johnson said that one of those disciplined supervisors, Ignacio Zamora Jr., had helped lead the internal investigation into the April 2012 incident in Cartagena, where more than a dozen agents engaged in a night of heavy drinking and carousing with prostitutes ahead of a presidential visit.

One person involved in security in Cartagena said Zamora was chosen for the review because he served as the “second supervisor” on the trip, and was among the managers responsible for the security effort in advance of Obama’s arrival for an international summit.

Zamora is the agent who was disciplined for trying to break into a woman’s hotel room to retrieve a bullet he had left there.

Finally, once again I want to call your attention to a McClatchy article that RalphB linked to yesterday: Questions about ‘60 Minutes’ Benghazi story go beyond Dylan Davies interview; CBS conducting ‘journalistic review’. It’s long, but it is a must read. The writer, Nancy A. Youseff, goes through Lara Logan’s “60 Minutes” report line by line and finds numerous outright lies and distortions. Logan and anyone else involved with the story should be fired immediately and Logan should apply for a job at Fox News.

So . . . what are you reading and blogging about today? Please share your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads

fenway_wally_kids (1)

Good Morning!!

I hope you’ll forgive my provincialism, but the only news that really matters to me this morning is that the Red Sox mopped the floor with the Cardinals last night, winning Game 1 of the 2013 World Series 8-1. Chad Finn of The Boston Globe has the story: 

If you’re one of those straggling Red Sox fans who still believes in curses and ghosts and various other apparitions despite all of the affirming joys that have occurred since 2004, have I got a cockamamie theory to sell you.

Here goes: I think in Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday night at Fenway Park, the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals were somehow possessed by their baseball forefathers of 100 years ago.

Really. Think about it: The 2013 Cardinals arrived as the National League representative in this World Series with a sterling reputation and a vast reservoir of respect, having just vanquished the talented Dodgers with a combination of a deep lineup, a deeper bullpen, and a starting rotation led by true ace Adam Wainwright.

So what happens when they finally take the field? The Cardinals make three errors, botch a popup to the pitcher, and Wainwright, a strike-throwing machine who walked 35 batters all season, requires 31 pitches to get through the first inning. After the first, the Cardinals were already in a 3-0 hole that became 5-0 an inning later.

The way Jon Lester was dealing for the Red Sox, the five-run hole felt insurmountable, and it was. The outcome was determined long before the final 8-1 score became official.

It was pretty much over in the first inning. Then Red Sox fans could sit back and just enjoy it. I doubt if the rest of the games will be that easy, but winning the first one is a big plus. Game 2 tonight!

Now that I’ve bored everyone but myself, Pat J., and MABlue if he’s lurking out there, I’ll move on to the political news.

Republican disrespect for the President of the United States has reached an all-time low, according to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who claims that an “unnamed GOP leader” told President Obama to his face at the White House, “I can’t stand to look at you.” Todd S. Purdum at Politico:

Such an insult — delivered eyeball to eyeball — would trump Rep. Joe Wilson’s shouted “You lie!” on the House floor during the Obama’s health care speech to Congress in 2009.

It would top former Vice President Dick Cheney’s terse suggestion on the Senate floor in 2004 that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) should perform an anatomically improbable act. And it would make Dick Armey’s heated advice to a scolding Bill Clinton (“Perhaps it’s my Western upbringing, but I don’t listen very well when someone’s pointing a finger in my face!”) during the 1995 government shutdown seem positively polite by comparison.

Perhaps only John Quincy Adams’s dismissal of Thomas Jefferson as “a slur upon the moral government of the world” sounds worse — and Adams made that assessment in the late 1820s, after Jefferson was dead.

The White House and John Boehner are both denying it, but Durbin is sticking by his statement.

In fact, the alleged dis words are so personal, so passionate, so disaffected-high-school-sweetheart in tone — “I cannot even stand to look at you” — that it’s hard to imagine any grown man saying them to another — much less to the president. “What are the chances of an honest conversation with someone who has just said something so disrespectful?” Durbin’s Facebook post asked with understatement.

Frankly, I have no problem believing it. Which “GOP leader” do you think it was?

And how are “old-style” Republicans supposed to deal with the new GOP? John G. Taft, descendant of President William Howard Taft, wrote about their struggle in The New York Times: The Cry of the True Republican:

Five generations of Tafts have served our nation as unwaveringly stalwart Republicans, from Alphonso Taft, who served as attorney general in the late 19th century, through William Howard Taft, who not only was the only person to be both president of the United States and chief justice of the United States but also served as the chief civil administrator of the Philippines and secretary of war, to my cousin, Robert Taft, a two-term governor of Ohio.

As I write, a photograph of my grandfather, Senator Robert Alphonso Taft, looks across at me from the wall of my office. He led the Republican Party in the United States Senate in the 1940s and early 1950s, ran for the Republican nomination for president three times and was known as “Mr. Republican.” If he were alive today, I can assure you he wouldn’t even recognize the modern Republican Party, which has repeatedly brought the United States of America to the edge of a fiscal cliff — seemingly with every intention of pushing us off the edge.

Read the rest at the link; it’s not long.

Another disaffected Republican, Andrew Sullivan, reacted to Taft’s op-ed by suggesting that we are approaching The Decline And Fall Of Christianism.

The fusion of politics and religion – most prominently the fusion of the evangelical movement and the Republican party – has been one of the most damaging developments in recent American history. It has made Republicanism not the creed of realists, pragmatists and compromise but of fundamentalists – on social and foreign policy, and even fiscal matters. And once maintaining inerrant doctrine becomes more important than, you know, governing a complicated, divided society, you end up with the extremism we saw in the debt ceiling crisis. When doctrine matters more than actually doing anything practical you end up with Cruz cray-cray….

But there is some light on the horizon. The Catholic hierarchy has been knocked sideways by the emergence of Pope Francis and his eschewal of their fixation on homosexuality, contraception and abortion. That fixation – essentially a Christianist and de factoRepublican alliance among Protestants and Catholic leaders – has now been rendered a far lower priority than, say, preaching the Gospel or serving the poor and the sick. Francis has also endorsed secularism as the proper modern context for religious faith: “I say that politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and operate in independent spheres.”

Sullivan claims something similar is happening among younger evangelicals. I don’t buy it, but you can check out Sullivan’s arguments at his blog.

GERMANY_US_ALLIES__1628403f

German Chancellor Angela Merkel suspects that the NSA has been bugging her cell phone, and she’s furious about it.

From the Guardian:

The furore over the scale of American mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden shifted to an incendiary new level on Wednesday evening when Angela Merkel of Germany called Barack Obama to demand explanations over reports that the US National Security Agency was monitoring her mobile phone.

Merkel was said by informed sources in Germany to be “livid” over the reports and convinced, on the basis of a German intelligence investigation, that the reports were utterly substantiated.

The German news weekly, Der Spiegel, reported an investigation by German intelligence, prompted by research from the magazine, that produced plausible information that Merkel’s mobile was targeted by the US eavesdropping agency. The German chancellor found the evidence substantial enough to call the White House and demand clarification.

The outrage in Berlin came days after President François Hollande of France also called the White House to confront Obama with reports that the NSA was targeting the private phone calls and text messages of millions of French people.

According to a Merkel spokesperson,

Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, made plain that Merkel upbraided Obama unusually sharply and also voiced exasperation at the slowness of the Americans to respond to detailed questions on the NSA scandal since the Snowden revelations first appeared in the Guardian in June.

Merkel told Obama that “she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices, if the indications are authenticated,” Seifert said. “This would be a serious breach of confidence. Such practices have to be halted immediately.”

The Guardian doesn’t report how President Obama responded to Merkel’s outraged complaints. Maybe he just sat there listening passively?

Hillary Clinton was heckled by an audience member during a speech at the University of Buffalo last night, according to WIVB in Amherst, NY.

Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to a large crowd at the University at Buffalo Wednesday night, as part of the university’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

Clinton spoke to a sold-out crowd in Alumni Arena, and began her address by talking about the stagnation in Washington and its recent impact on the U.S. economy after a partial government shutdown.

“Recently in Washington, we’ve seen what happens when politicians operate on scorched earth, not on common ground,” Clinton said.

It was shortly thereafter a man stood up and started shouting, “Benghazi, Benghazi, you let them die.”

Clinton did not stop speaking, but addressed the heckler by saying that solutions to problems facing Americans start by sitting down and talking and listening, not yelling, which prompted the audience to give her a standing ovation.

I guess that’s a taste of what we’ll have to deal with if Hillary decides to run for President in 2016. Read more about her speech at the link.

Heidi cruz

You know how Sen. Ted Cruz wants so much to kill the Affordable Care Act so that millions of Americans will continue to live without health care coverage? And how he voted to take away health care subsidies from Congress and Congressional staffers? Well, it turns out he wouldn’t have been affected if that had happened. From the Atlantic: Ted Cruz Has a Health Insurance Plan from Goldman Sachs.

Senator Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi Nelson Cruz confirmed on Wednesday that her husband has health insurance through her job at Goldman Sachs. That puts to rest a question opened, but never answered, by Senator Dick Durbin during Cruz’s 20-hour talkathon on the Senate floor against Obamacare. The details come from an interesting New York Times profile of Nelson Cruz, a regional head of a Goldman Sachs division in Houston. Here’s the Times:

And while her husband has been evasive about where he gets his health coverage, Mrs. Cruz was blunt.“Ted is on my health care plan,” said Mrs. Cruz, who has worked in Goldman’s investment management division for eight years.

Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for the senator, confirmed the coverage, which Goldman said was worth at least $20,000 a year. “The senator is on his wife’s plan, which comes at no cost to the taxpayer and reflects a personal decision about what works best for their family,” she said.

Yes, Teddy-boy is covered by insurance provided by his wife’s employer, yet he would have gladly deprived Congressional staffers of their coverage. What an asshole!

Those are my contributions for today. What are you reading and blogging about? Please post your links in the comment thread.


Glenn Greenwald’s Dishonest Attack on Paul Krugman

glenn-greenwald

A few days ago Paul Krugman wrote a not-very-exciting post at his blog “The Conscience of a Liberal.” The point of the post was that right wingers have not been as successful in their efforts to hype fake scandals during the Obama administration as they were in the Clinton years. Krugman writes:

When Barack Obama was elected, I was sure that it would be the Clinton years all over — that he would be subjected to an endless series of claims of “scandal”, creating the sense of a tainted administration even though all the alleged scandals would turn out to be either trivial or nonexistent. Remember, after all those years of front-page headlines and $70 million in public funds, the Whitewater investigation came up dry.

In fact, however, none of that happened during Obama’s first term. But would the second term be different? For a little while it looked as if the old scandal machinery was finally springing back to life, with Benghazi, the IRS, and more. You could almost hear the sigh of contentment from a certain part of the press corps.

Krugman’s post had nothing to do with the NSA leaks, Edward Snowden, or Glenn Greenwald; but he made the mistake of just barely mentioning the NSA story.

But now it has all evaporated. Benghazi never made sense; it turns out that the IRS was targeting conservative as well as liberal groups. And as Chait says in the linked article, the NSA stuff is a policy dispute, not the kind of scandal the right wing wants.

And today, Greenwald chose to sic his permanently outraged shock troops fans on Krugman based on a deliberately obtuse reading of Krugman’s referencing Chait’s characterization of the NSA issue as a “policy dispute.” Here’s Greenwald’s take on it.

Defending the Obama administration, Paul Krugman pronounced that “the NSA stuff is a policy dispute, not the kind of scandal the right wing wants.” Really? In what conceivable sense is this not a serious scandal? If you, as an American citizen, let alone a journalist, don’t find it deeply objectionable when top national security officials systematically mislead your representatives in Congress about how the government is spying on you, and repeatedly lie publicly about resulting political controversies over that spying, what is objectionable? If having the NSA engage in secret, indiscriminate domestic spying that warps if not outright violates legal limits isn’t a “scandal”, then what is?

Of course it was really Jonathan Chait who made the distinction between “scandals” and “policy disputes.” Here’s what Chait wrote about it:

Obama’s prosecution of leaks, or use of the National Security Agency — is not a scandal at all. It’s a policy controversy. One can argue that Obama’s policy stance is wrong, or dangerous, or a threat to democracy. But when the president is carrying out duly passed laws and acting at every stage with judicial approval, then the issue is the laws themselves, not misconduct.

And of course it’s really Chait with whom Greenwald is enraged; because Chait had the temerity to write a somewhat humorous column in which he noted the similarities between Greenwald and Ralph Nader–one of which is that each of these men was apparently born without a sense of humor.

But instead of attacking Chait, Greenwald picks a fight with Krugman, who really doesn’t need that right now since he’s grieving the lost of his father. It’s probably a low blow for me to bring that up, but I can’t believe Greenwald didn’t know it, since he apparently reads Greenwald’s blog.

Greenwald has been running around to any media outlet who will have him announcing that he’s got an upcoming “bombshell” scoop that “will shock the world.” I wish he’d just get busy and publish it instead of spending so much time hyping his stories and lecturing everyone about how to interpret Edward Snowden’s behavior.

I think today I’ve finally had enough of St. Glenn to last me the rest of my life.