Tuesday Reads: Can The News Get Any Worse? Probably.

 8.15matisse-inattentive-reader-1919

Good Morning!!

It’s difficult to imagine how the news can get any worse . . . and then it does.

Bloomberg: CIA Torture Report Set for Senate Release Over Bush Objections.

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) — The Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee are preparing to issue their report on the harsh interrogation tactics the CIA used on terrorism suspects, defying the objections of current and former U.S. officials including former President George W. Bush.

The panel plans to release today a summary of a 6,200-page report concluding that the Central Intelligence Agency used extreme interrogation methods at secret prisons more often than legally authorized and failed to disclose all the activities to lawmakers and other officials.

Despite warnings from opponents of the report’s release, including some Republicans on the panel, that Americans would face retaliation overseas, President Barack Obama supports making the conclusions public, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said yesterday.

“The president believes that, on principle, it’s important to release that report, so that people around the world and people here at home understand exactly what transpired,” he said. Earnest said the administration has taken steps to improve security at U.S. facilities around the world.

Read the arguments for and against releasing the report at the link.  A brief summary of the conflict at USA Today: Obama, Bush teams battle over torture report. Of course Dick Cheney felt the need to butt in.

While Obama and aides support release of the report as to way to prevent future abuses, some Bush administration officials call it partisan second-guessing of techniques that proved necessary during the war on terrorism.

“What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it,” former vice president Dick Cheney told The New York Times. “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.” [….]

The dispute between Obama and Bush officials revolves around the legality of the interrogation programs and whether they yielded valuable intelligence as the U.S. raced to block terrorism in the years following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Cheney and other Bush administration officials say the programs yielded actionable intelligence that helped uncover possible terrorist plots.

Congressional Democrats say the report shows that tactics like waterboarding yielded nothing that could not have been obtained by other means.

The two sides agree on one thing: Release of the Senate report, detailing some of the less savory methods used to extract testimony from terrorism suspects, could lead to violent, anti-American protests in some countries.

Matisse woman reading2

Reuters has a minor preview on the contents of the report: Sexual threats, other CIA methods detailed in Senate report.

The report, which Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said would be released on Tuesday, describes how al Qaeda operative Abdel Rahman al Nashiri, suspected mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was threatened with a buzzing power drill, the sources said. The drill was never actually used on him.

It documents how at least one detainee was sexually threatened with a broomstick, the sources said.

Preparing for a worldwide outcry from the publication of such graphic details, the White House and U.S. intelligence officials said on Monday they had shored up security of U.S. facilities worldwide.

The report, which took years to produce, charts the history of the CIA’s “Rendition, Detention and Interrogation” program, which President George W. Bush authorized after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bush ended many aspects of the program before leaving office, and President Barack Obama swiftly banned “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which critics say are torture, after his 2009 inauguration.

The Christian Science Monitor asks what I think is an irrelevant question: Did torture yield results? I really don’t care; some things are just wrong period.

The 480-page document reveals the results of Senate investigation into the CIA’s use of torture and other techniques that violate international law against prisoners held on terrorism-related charges. Though many details of the Senate’s findings will remain classified – the document is a summary of a 6,000-page report that is not being released – the report is expected to conclude that the methods used by the CIA to interrogate prisoners during the post-9/11 years were more extreme than previously admitted and produced no intelligence that could not have been acquired through legal means….

The Los Angeles Times writes that the report is expected to say that the CIA used methods of “waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques more frequently than was legally authorized at then-secret prisons known as ‘black sites.’ “

The report will also likely state that the intelligence acquired from the use of such techniques was not useful to finding Osama bin Laden or preventing attacks on US interests, and “nearly all the intelligence gleaned through harsh techniques could have been obtained from more traditional intelligence-gathering systems,” the Times adds.

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We probably should brace for attacks on President Obama for daring to go on BET and talk about racism and then follow that up by joking around with Stephen Colbert.

BET Exclusive: Obama Talks Race, Racism and How Far America Has to Go. Watch the interview at the link. Joyce Jones highlights the main points:

Barack Obama – not the president, but the man – has a dream: his children will be viewed as individuals and judged not by the color of their skin but based on the content of their character, their behavior and their talents and gifts. Sadly, he observed in an exclusive interview with BET Networks, “misguided attitudes” mean that people of color still have less margin for error, particularly if they are male….

Hours before the interview aired, his critics on the right began lashing out at him for, according to Breitbart News, “playing the race card more overtly than ever before.” Others will say it’s about time he spoke up about the series of police-involved deaths of a disproportionate number of African-American men, which he acknowledged. But he also said that “institutionally” he is required to remain silent during the investigations of those incidents, which would be compromised “if it appeared that I was trying to steer to a particular outcome.”

That doesn’t mean he does not empathize with those who’ve expressed their anger and frustration more publically. The president recalled a meeting he had last week that included several young African-American leaders whose experiences of being stopped or treated suspiciously for no reason reminded him of his own. He also said that as long as the protests remain peaceful, they are necessary.

More details from CNN:

“I’m going to stay on this,” the President said Monday in an interview with BET, a network that reaches a predominately young African-American audience. “Not only am I going to stay on it … but hopefully the entire society says, ‘Let’s finally try to make some real progress on this.'”

Once criticized for shying away from the topic of race early on in his presidency, Obama has recently taken a more active role in sharing how his personal experiences help him to empathize with all kinds of people affected by the recent protests on racial tensions — from protesters, to victims, to law enforcement officers, to families, and most importantly, to black youth.

In his interview with BET’s “106 & Park,” the President cited a meeting he had with nonviolent protesters Monday — between ages 18-25. For him, he says, listening to young African-Americans describe their own experiences of being stopped for no reason, or being unjustly labeled as suspicious, strikes a personal chord.

“My mind went back to what it was like for me when I was 17, 18, 20,” the President said. “As I told them, not only do I hear the pain and frustration of being subjected to that kind of constant suspicion, part of the reason I got into politics was to figure out how can I bridge some of those gaps and understandings so that the larger country understands this is not just a black problem or a brown problem, this is an American problem.”

The President also made a point to invoke Attorney General Eric Holder’s race and civil rights record, saying, “He’s got a similar set of stories and experiences he can share.”

reader on black background matisse

The Boston Globe on Obama’s Colbert Report appearance:

Obama kicked off the show sitting in for Colbert to perform a regular feature of the program called ‘‘The Word’’ wherein Colbert’s rants are accompanied by snarky messages to the audience.

So when Obama, as Colbert, declared that there are aspects of ‘‘Obamacare’’ that people from both parties actually like, the text aside to the audience read, ‘‘Everything but the Obama.’’

Later, Colbert observed that the economy had been creating more jobs of late.

‘‘You have employed a lot of people — mostly as secretary of defense,’’ Colbert cracked in a reference to Obama recently nominating his fourth top civilian at the Pentagon.

‘‘That’s boosted our numbers a little bit,’’ Obama replied.

Colbert, whose on-screen persona is that of an insufferable conservative scold, accused Obama of exceeding his authority on immigration. ‘‘When did you decide to burn the Constitution and become emperor?’’ he asked. The question was heard as a joke by many in the audience at George Washington University. But to Obama’s critics, the question had a ring of truth.

Obama dropped the comedy and replied, ‘‘Actually, Steve, everything that we have done is scrupulously within the law and has been done by previous Democratic and Republican presidents.’’

Watch part of the episode at the link.

Matisse the red table

You know how Republicans are constantly claiming that their anti-abortion laws are designed to keep women safe? From Think Progress: Large Study Confirms That Abortion Is Extremely Safe.

After analyzing data from nearly 55,000 women who received abortion care under California’s Medicaid program, researchers at UC San Francisco concluded that hardly any of them had serious complications within six weeks of their procedure. Just 126 cases necessitated follow-up care for surgery, a blood transfusion, or other conditions that require hospital admission.

Other studies, including data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have also confirmed abortion’s safety. We already had some evidence, for instance, that giving birth is about 14 times riskierthan having an abortion. But the new UCSF study goes a bit further than previous research by tracking the complete data on all of the health care used by women who have received abortions. Since many women have to travel long distances to end a pregnancy, the UCSF researchers also examined women’s follow-up care at facilities closer to where they live….

Despite the mounting evidence in this area, the notion that abortion may be dangerous for women is a pervasive assumption that hasbolstered the passage of dozens of state laws tightening restrictions on clinics and doctors. In a press release announcing their findings, the study authors indicated that they hope the new study “will contribute to the national debate over abortion safety.”

“Abortion is very safe as currently performed, which calls into question the need for additional regulations that purportedly aim to improve safety,” said Ushma Upadhyay, an assistant professor at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a leading research program based at UCSF.

Of course scientific studies won’t move right wing extremists, who do not believe in science in the first place.

The moorish floor

Yesterday I was relieved to see many women writers pushing back against the UVA rape story backlash and asking readers to remember that “Jackie” is a real person with real emotions, and the kinds of memory failures she may have evidenced are comment in human beings. I’m running out of space, so I’ll just provide some links to some of the articles I found.

From Buzzfeed, Annie Clark writes: There Are Too Many Jackies.

Clark and her friend Andrea Pino were students at UC Chapel Hill when they were sexually assaulted. Together they filed a complaint with the Department of Education under Title IX. Their work is what triggered the Obama administration to take a stronger position on sexual assaults on college campuses.

Read about it in Vogue, Campus Sexual Assault: Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino Are Fighting Back—And Shaping the National Debate. Clark and Pino started an organization called End Rape on Campus (EROC).

More important articles:

Roxanne Gay, Our Stories.

TPM, UVA Rape Victim’s Roommate Says Her Story Is Not A ‘Hoax’.

Buzzfeed, How Police And Hospitals Shut Down Rape Victims.

Jessica Valenti, Who is Jackie? Rolling Stone’s rape story is about a person – and I believe her.

Amanda Marcotte, UVA controversy allows woman-haters to get really, really ugly.

Maya Dusenbery, On Rolling Stone, lessons from fact-checking, and the limits of journalism.

Caroline Fairchild, Why the media obsession with Rolling Stone’s UVA rape story is all wrong.

Matisse.Woman-with-a-Veil-cr

Finally, some NBA players have begun wearing “I Can’t Breathe T-Shirts.”

From ESPN, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving address reasons for ‘I can’t breathe’ shirts.

NEW YORK — As he stood amid 70 or so media members inside a cramped Cavaliers locker room Monday night, LeBron James explained the significance of the powerful words that stretched across his torso during pregame warmups.

“If it feels important to me then I respond,” said James, who wore a black t-shirt with the words “I CAN’T BREATHE” prior to the start of his team’s game against the Nets at the Barclays Center. “If it doesn’t, I don’t. There are a lot of issues I have not talked about. For me, it is about knowledge and about a gut feeling that hits home for you. You feel it, and go about it.” [….]

…the story of the night was the activism of a number of NBA players. Before the game, the Cavaliers’ James, Kyrie Irving and the Nets’ Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett among others all wore the same black t-shirts. They are the latest professional athletes to make a personal statement on the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island man who was killed on July 17 after he was wrestled to the ground and choked to death by police officers arresting him for selling untaxed cigarettes. Last week a Staten Island grand jury decided not to bring charges in the police-involved death. That decision has prompted protests around the country, as protesters have mobilized around Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe.” A video recording of the arrest has been viewed by millions.

Unbeknownst to the players, protesters swarmed Atlantic Avenue outside the Barclays Center during the game, holding a “die-in” to protest the Garner ruling. The hashtag #RoyalShutdown was used by activists on Twitter as a rallying point.

That’s all I have. What stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and enjoy your Tuesday.

 

 

 


Wednesday Reads

The Striped Towel, Marie Fox

The Striped Towel, Marie Fox

Good Morning!!

I’m finally back home in Greater Boston. Last night at around 5PM, I almost teared up when I saw the sign reading “Massachusetts Welcomes You,” with the little chickadee on it. I’m so torn, because I love Indiana too; but I’ve lived in Boston since 1967–47 years–and I love it here too!

Here I am, 66 years old, and I have no idea what to do with the rest of my life. Should I move back to Indiana where my mother lives or should I stay here where I’ve lived for most of my life? And will I even have a choice? I can’t stay where I’m living indefinitely, and there’s no way I can afford an apartment in the Boston area unless I manage to get into subsidized elderly housing. It would be much cheaper to to live in Indiana.

I have no idea what will happen, and I’m not sure how much control I’ll have over it anyway. I guess I just have to keep on truckin’ and try not to agonize too much about the future.

Anyway, the new continues onward no matter where I am. Here are some stories that caught my attention today.

Hillary on The Daily Show

On last night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart tried to cajole Hillary Clinton into saying whether or not she’ll run for president in 2016. According to The Week, 

At the beginning of Tuesday night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart states (almost) unequivocally that his guest, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is declaring her candidacy for president in 2016 on his show. (Spoiler: She doesn’t.) But Clinton all but agrees with Stewart when he declares her candidacy for her, even knowingly answering all the right questions on his career aptitude test. If Clinton’s candidacy is supposed to be a long tease, maybe we’re approaching the denouement.

Clinton laughs a lot in the interview, and it’s clearly a friendly audience, but Stewart actually asks some interesting, tough questions. He also playfully tells her that nobody cares about her book, Tough Choices, and calls her out when she darts around his barbs. In fact, for somebody supposed to be a “terrible politician,” she fields the questions and turns around the criticism pretty skillfully.

Really? A “terrible politician?” That must be why she was elected to the Senate twice and why she won more primary votes than Barack Obama in 2008 (Yes, Virginian, Obama was nominated only with help from Superdelegate votes and Michigan Votes taken from Hillary and handed over to him by the Rules Committee.) In fact, she’s such a “terrible politician” than her former rival nominated her as his Secretary of State.

Sigh . . . Why don’t people actually watch and listen to Hillary herself instead of buying into the propaganda from her obsessed critics? Here is the Daily Show video from You Tube (I hope it doesn’t get taken down):

And BTW, “progressives,” getting Elizabeth Warren to run against Hillary for the nomination is a good recipe for electing Mitt Romney in 2016. From HuffPo: Ready For Warren Campaign Launches To Convince Elizabeth Warren To Run For President

WASHINGTON — An enthusiastic band of activists has launched a campaign to slow the momentum of Hillary Clinton and convince Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that she should run for president in 2016.

“I think there’s an opportunity for us to convince her if we’re really able to make the case as to why we think she’s the right person,” said Erica Sagrans, who has signed on as the Ready For Warren campaign manager.

The group already has a Facebook pageTwitter account and a new website with a petition encouraging Warren to run.

Sagrans, who worked on President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, will be joined by political activist Billy Wimsatt, who previously founded the League of Young Voters and is going to be a senior adviser to the new group.

Reached for comment, Lacey Rose, Warren’s press secretary, told HuffPost, “No, Senator Warren does not support this effort.”

I love Liz, but she had no political experience before running for the Senate two years ago, she is approximately the same age as Hillary, and she doesn’t have the connections to raise the necessary money. Please grow up or shut the fuck up, assholes.

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Old Fogies of the GOP

At Vox, Matthew Yglesias asks, “How long can the GOP last as the cranky oldster party?”

You can tell it’s the dog days of summer because some of Washington’s finest minds are spending their time debating the inherently unknowable question of whether today’s teenagers will grow up to be Republicans. Jon Chait says no way, but Harry Enten and John Sides and David Leonhardt say maybe….

More interesting than asking whether people born in the 1990s will be voting GOP in the 2020s, I think, is asking what kind of a GOP it would have to be for them to vote for it. As an older member of the left-leaning youth cohort, I was really struck by something John Boehner said four summers ago. He complained that the Democratic majority that existed that summer, paired with Barack Obama, was “snuffing out the America that I grew up in.”

Boehner was born in 1949 and presumably isn’t nostalgic for the sky-high income tax rates (or strong labor unions) of his youth. So what was so great about it? The racial and gender discrimination? In practice, he probably didn’t have anything at all in mind — he’s just mixing up disagreement with aspects of the Democratic agenda (the specific issue under discussion was the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill) with a generalized nostalgia for his youth. That probably resonates with a lot of older Americans, but while today’s teenagers might well turn against some of the failings of Obama-era liberalism, they’re unlikely to be pining for a return to Mad Men social norms….

There’s something very oldsterish about contemporary conservative politics. The constant bickering about Ronald Reagan is very odd to anyone too young to have any particular recollection of the Reagan years. Calling a group of people “Beyoncé Voters” as an insult is weird. Some of this oldsterism is just tics, but some of it has policy implications. The sort of budgetary priorities that call for huge cuts in all domestic spending, except no cuts at all for anyone born before 1959 is kind of weird. The huge freakout over New York City starting a bicycle program last summer was bizarre. It’s easy to imagine a political party that’s broadly favorable to low taxes and light regulation without sharing this particular set of tics. And then there was the time George Will wrote a column-length rant against blue jeans.

Not to mention Will’s wildly out-dated views on rape. Frankly, I think a lot of powerful Democrats are aging badly too. I’d like to see some of them move on and make room for some new blood. But let’s begin with the Republicans.

Beach Recliner, Candace Lovely

Beach Recliner, Candace Lovely

Speaking of cranky old folks, Dick Cheney has been all over the media lately, and I’ve had it up to here (point to neck).

From Politico: Cheney family sounds off after Iraq protests.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday defended the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, calling it “absolutely the right thing to do.”

“I believed in it then, I look back on it now, it was absolutely the right thing to do,” the Wyoming Republican said with regard to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Cheney made his comments at a POLITICO Playbook lunch conversation with his wife, Lynne, and daughter Liz at Washington’s Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, a lively event that featured jokes, a standing-room-only crowd and a few interruptions — protesters delayed the event twice, screaming at the former vice president for being a “war criminal.”

Notice the quotes around “war criminal,” as if that were hyperbole. I’m afraid not, Politico.

Mike Allen, POLITICO’s chief White House correspondent, began the event by asking Dick Cheney about his decision to lambaste the Obama administration over its foreign policy, particularly in contrast to former President George W. Bush, who has declined to criticize the president since he left office.

Citing a decades-long precedent of former presidents refusing to criticize their successors, Cheney said: “I’m not bound by those strictures.”

Of course not. Cheney has never been bound by any “strictures,” even as a young man when he managed to obtain five draft deferments while others his age were fight and dying in another pointless war he supported.

Solitude, Woman at the Beach, Rita C. Ford

Solitude, Woman at the Beach, Rita C. Ford

Fortunately, we have Charles Pierce: THINGS IN POLITICO THAT MAKE ME WANT TO MAINLINE ANTIFREEZE, PART THE INFINITY.

Its puerilty has finally crossed over into indecency. Its triviality has finally crossed over into obscenity. The comical political starfcking that is its primary raison d’erp has finally crossed over into $10 meth-whoring on the Singapore docks. Once a mere surface irritation, Tiger Beat On The Potomac has finally crossed over into being a thickly pustulating chancre on the craft of journalism. It has demonstrated its essential worthlessness. It has demonstrated that it has the moral character of a sea-slug and the professional conscience of theTreponema pallidum spirochete. Trust me. Stephen Glass never sunk this low. Mike (Payola) Allen has accomplished the impossible. He’s made Jayson Blair look like Ernie Pyle.

It’s not just that TBOTP invited the Manson Family of American geopolitics to come together for an exercise in ensemble prevarication. It’s not just that the account of said exercise is written in the kind of cacophonous cutesy-poo necessary to drown out the screams of the innocent dead, and to distract the assembled crowd from the blood that has dripped from the wallet of the celebrity war-criminal leading the public display. And it’s not as though this was a mere interview—a “get” that could help you “win the morning (!).” In that, it might have been marginally excusable. No, this was one of Mike Allen’s little grift-o-rama special events—a “Playbook lunch,” sponsored by that noted mortgage fraud concern Bank Of America. There’s an upcoming TBOTP “event” in L.A. that is sponsored by J.P. Morgan. I know what Mike Allen is, but I am so goddamn tired of haggling about the price. Here’s how TBOTP‘s own account of the event begins.

Sing it with us: “Here’s the story of a man named Cheney …” Dick, Lynne and Liz Cheney had a message they wanted to send with their appearance at POLITICO’s Playbook lunch on Monday: We’re a family, we’re happy together, we joke together, and we’re beating the drum for an aggressive foreign policy together. It’s almost as if the Cheneys were the Brady Bunch—if the Brady Bunch had started a hawkish think tank and were warning the country about the failures of President Barack Obama’s leadership around the world.

Yes, and if Mike were an authoritarian greed-monkey with a borrowed heart that he declined to employ in any meaningful sense, if Carol were a lifelong scold and nuisance pretending to be a historian, and if Marcia were a talentless clown who, if it weren’t for the largesse of Mike’s friends and their foundations, would be selling phony subprime packages to the blind from a strip-mall in Kannapolis. Also, whatever editor it was who passed on the tone of this account should be sent back to the oyster cannery where they found him.

Please go over to Esquire and read the whole thing. It’s highly therapeutic. And here’s another counterpoint from The New York Daily News: Dick Cheney interview drowned out by hecklers Monday in D.C.

Cheney also told Jake Tapper than he doesn’t think Republicans should try to impeach President Obama, even though he is “the worst president of my lifetime.” How magnanimous of dear old Dick!

 

 Other News . . .

MSNBC,  Obama admin to join voting rights cases in Ohio and Wisconsin.

Bob Cesca, Protesters Carrying Firearms March Against Immigrant Children in Michigan.

The Arizona Republic, Arizona politician mistakes ‘Y’ campers for migrant children.

Huffington Post,  Americans Are Too Stupid For GMO Labeling, Congressional Panel Says.

Jonthan Chait, Diane Ravitch: Campbell Brown Shouldn’t Worry Her Pretty Little Head About Education Policy.

 

What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads

childe-hassam-french tea garden 1910

 

Good Morning!!

 

Things are not going well in Iraq, to put it mildly. John Kerry arrived in Iraq this morning and is currently meeting with Iraqi leaders, according to CNN: John Kerry holds talks in Iraq as more cities fall to ISIS militants.

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) — As radical Sunni militants snatch city after city in their march toward Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Iraq on Monday during the country’s tensest time since the U.S. withdrawal of troops in 2011.

Kerry is meeting with Iraqi leaders. He met Monday with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the man who some observers say needs to step down.

With al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government losing more ground to militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, Kerry has implored the leader to rise above “sectarian motivations” to become more inclusive and make the government more representative of Iraq’s population.

“I’m here to convey to you President Obama’s and the American people’s commitment to help Iraq,” Kerry said when greeting Iraq’s speaker of parliament, Osama al-Nujayfi. “The principal concern is the integrity of the country, its borders, its sovereignty,” he said. ISIS “is a threat to all of us.”

Kerry will also meet with Iraq’s foreign minister as well as Shiite and Sunni leaders.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and US Secretary of State John Kerry meet at the Prime Minister's Office in Baghdad. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and US Secretary of State John Kerry meet at the Prime Minister’s Office in Baghdad. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The discussions with the Maliki government are not likely to be particularly congenial. According to NPR:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Baghdad on Monday to personally urge the Shiite-led government to give more power to political opponents before a Sunni insurgency seizes more control across the country and sweeps away hopes for lasting peace.

The meeting scheduled between Kerry and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was not expected to be friendly, given that officials in Washington have floated suggestions that the Iraqi premier should resign as a necessary first step toward quelling the vicious uprising. Nor will it likely bring any immediate, tangible results, as al-Maliki has shown no sign of leaving and Iraqi officials have long listened to — but ultimately ignored — U.S. advice to avoid appearing controlled by the decade-old specter of an American occupation in Baghdad.

Still, having suffered together through more than eight years of war — which killed nearly 4,500 American troops and more than 100,000 Iraqis — the two wary allies are unwilling to turn away from the very real prospect of the Mideast nation falling into a fresh bout of sectarian strife.

“This is a critical moment where, together, we must urge Iraq’s leaders to rise above sectarian motivations and form a government that is united in its determination to meet the needs and speak to the demands of all of their people,” Kerry said a day earlier in Cairo. He was there in part to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to and discuss a regional solution to end the bloodshed by the insurgent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

Good luck with that. I wish Hillary were still in charge at State.

From Jay Solomon at The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Faces Opposing Regional Interests in Bid to Blunt Insurgency in Iraq.

AMMAN, Jordan—As the Obama administration’s top diplomat arrived in the Middle East to gather support to blunt a Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the U.S. was colliding with the region’s ethnic, tribal and sectarian divisions.

Deep gaps between U.S. and Arab views over the crisis have grown more obvious in recent days, say American and regional officials, hampering Washington’s response to the onslaught by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, which this month seized control of territories straddling Iraq and Syria.

The task gained new urgency on Sunday when ISIS swept through new Iraq towns and overran two border crossings with Jordan and Syria, blocking the Iraqi government’s access to its western frontier, security officials said.

President Barack Obama raised the stakes on Sunday, telling CBS News that ISIS threatens American interests if it turns to global terrorism, two days after he announced plans to send U.S. military advisers and supplies to Iraq and called for a new, more inclusive government in Baghdad.

The crisis in Iraq has exposed contradictions in traditional Mideast alliances, in some ways placing the U.S. alongside its sworn enemy, Shiite-ruled Iran, in a joint effort to halt ISIS, while in other ways putting Washington at odds with longtime Sunni allies in the Persian Gulf, who want to weaken Iran’s sway over Iraq.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei in 2009

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei in 2009

Meanwhile, yesterday, according to Reuters:

Iran’s supreme leader accused the United States on Sunday of trying to retake control of Iraq by exploiting sectarian rivalries, as Sunni insurgents drove towards Baghdad from new strongholds along the Syrian border.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s condemnation of U.S. action came three days after President Barack Obama offered to send 300 military advisers to help the Iraqi government. Khamenei may want to block any U.S. choice of a new prime minister after grumbling in Washington about Shi’ite premier Nuri al-Maliki.

The supreme leader did not mention the Iranian president’s recent suggestion of cooperation with Shi’ite Tehran’s old U.S. adversary in defense of their mutual ally in Baghdad.

On Sunday, militants overran a second frontier post on the Syrian border, extending two weeks of swift territorial gains as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) pursues the goal of its own power base, a “caliphate” straddling both countries that has raised alarm across the Middle East and in the West.

“We are strongly opposed to U.S. and other intervention in Iraq,” IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei as saying. “We don’t approve of it as we believe the Iraqi government, nation and religious authorities are capable of ending the sedition.”

Will we ever be rid of these insane wars started by Dick Cheney and his puppet George W. Bush? At least Bush has the decency to keep quiet, but Cheney just won’t shut up even though he has no answers for the current crisis. From Raw Story: Dick Cheney doesn’t ‘intend any disrespect’ by suggesting Obama ‘guilty of treason’

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday insisted that he did not “intend any disrespect” when he suggested that President Barack Obama was guilty of treason by trying to undermine the United States before leaving office.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week, Cheney — and his daughter Liz — said that the president was “determined to leave office ensuring he has taken America down a notch.”

He went on to suggest that Obama was a “fool” if he intended to work with Iran to prevent violence in Iraq.

“In this op-ed, you suggest the president is a fool,” ABC’s Jonathan Karl pointed out during a Sunday interview with Cheney. “That is the word you used, ‘only a fool would take the approach he’s taking in Iraq right now.’”

“It almost seems like you’re accusing the president of treason, that he’s intentionally bringing America ‘down a notch,’” Karl noted.

Cheney did not deny that he had accused the commander-in-chief of the United States of treason, but he insisted that he had not just called Obama a “fool” over the violence in Iraq.

“It referred to the fact that we’ve left a big vacuum in the Middle East by our withdrawal from Iraq with a no stay-behind agreement,” the former vice president said. “By the commitment that he made just a few weeks ago, that we are going to completely withdraw from Afghanistan with a no stay-behind agreement.”

See also, Dick Cheney’s amazing chutzpah on Iraq, by Paul Waldman (CNN)

Cheney needs to STFU and go on a hunting trip or something. Maybe he could take Tony Scalia with him.

 

In other news . . .

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Right wing nut and birther Ed Klein has a new Hillary hate book out, and the New York Post has been publishing laughable excerpts. The trouble is, the wingnuts will believe the lies and the media won’t counter them. Be sure to read what Joseph Cannon has to say about the De-KLEIN of journalism.

Why does anyone still print or read right-wing pseudojournalist Edward Klein?

A while back, this fictioneer published a book alleging a lesbian relationship between Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin — a work which one critic called “the sleaziest, most derivative, most despicable political biography ever.” Klein’s revelations always come from anonymous “informants” — one of whom, I’ve heard, is Slender Man.

Klein has a new book out and the NY Post is pushing it, even though the folks running the NY Post must know that they’re peddling garbage….

Anyone who takes this nonsense seriously must also believe that wrestling is real. Nevertheless, the right-wing propagandists are pretending to accept Klein’s work at face value. (See also here, especially the telling piece of “Hildebeest” research.)

This is a horrible story from the AP via Fox News: Researchers discover mass graves with bodies of immigrants in South Texas cemetery.

Volunteer researchers have uncovered mass graves in a South Texas cemetery that they believe contain the bodies of immigrants who died crossing into the U.S. illegally, according to published reports Saturday.

The discovery at Sacred Heart Burial Park in Falfurrias came in the last two weeks, as Baylor University anthropologist Lori Baker and Krista Latham, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Indianapolis, and their students worked as part of a multi-year effort to identify immigrants who’ve died in the area near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Teams unearthed remains in trash bags, shopping bags, body bags or without a container at all, according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times (http://bit.ly/1qqH7CZ ). In one burial, bones of three bodies were inside one body bag. In another, at least five people in body bags and smaller plastic bags were piled on top of each other. Skulls also were found in biohazard bags placed between coffins.

They exhumed 110 unidentified people from the cemetery in 2013. This summer, researchers have performed 52 exhumations, but because some remains were stored together, further study will be needed to determine exactly how many bodies have been recovered, Baker said.

These people just suddenly dropped dead as they crossed the border? Apparently this is the work of a local funeral home, Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams, which the state has been paying $450 each to deal with bodies of immigrants that have been discovered all over Texas. The funeral home has been paid for this service for at least 16 and as long as 22 years! Were there any autopsies? Did anyone determine whether any of these deaths were homicides?

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We haven’t heard much about Bowe Bergdhal lately. Via The Boston Globe, the AP reports this morning that he has been “Shifted to Outpatient Care.”

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been a prisoner of war in Afghanistan for five years, has been shifted to outpatient care at a Texas military base, the U.S. Army said in a statement Sunday.

Bergdahl, 28, had been receiving inpatient treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston. He is now receiving outpatient care on the base in San Antonio, according to the statement. The Army said his ‘‘reintegration process’’ is proceeding with exposure to more people and a gradual increase in social interaction.

He arrived at the Texas medical center on June 13 after nearly two weeks recuperating at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. Army officials said then that Bergdahl was in stable condition and was working daily with health care providers to regain a sense of normalcy and move forward with his life.

The Army statement Sunday said Bergdahl is receiving counseling from ‘‘Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape’’ psychologists’’ to ‘‘continue to ensure he progresses to the point where he can return to duty.’’

The Army said specifics of Bergdahl’s location would not be made public.

That’s it for me for today, except that I’ve become a World cup fan and I might even watch some of the games the US team isn’t participating in. Ralph’s enthusiasm has sucked me in!

What stories are you following today? Please let us know in the comment thread.

 

 


Tuesday Reads: Dreaming a Life; Obama and Putin; NSA and Snowden

coffee shop bike

Good Morning!!

I’m going to begin with an article I came across yesterday while reading the Guardian. It’s about a story from 2006 that I remembered and sometimes think about–a woman whose skeletonized body was found in her apartment three years after she died.

On 25 January 2006, officials from a north London housing association repossessing a bedsit in Wood Green owing to rent arrears made a grim discovery. Lying on the sofa was the skeleton of a 38-year-old woman who had been dead for almost three years. In a corner of the room the television set was still on, tuned to BBC1, and a small pile of unopened Christmas presents lay on the floor. Washing up was heaped in the kitchen sink and a mountain of post lay behind the front door. Food in the refrigerator was marked with 2003 expiry dates. The dead woman’s body was so badly decomposed it could only be identified by comparing dental records with an old holiday photograph of her smiling. Her name was revealed to be Joyce Carol Vincent.

Joyce Carol Vincent

Joyce Carol Vincent

How could such a thing happen? So often we hear sad stories like this and never get any answers to our questions. In this case, filmmaker Carol Morley decided to find out who Joyce Carol Vincent was, and she has made a documentary about her quest called Dreams of a Life. She writes:

In a city such as London, home to 8 million people, how could someone’s absence go unnoticed for so long? Who was Joyce Vincent? What was she like? How could she have been forgotten?

News of Joyce’s death quickly made it into the global media, which registered shock at the lack of community spirit in the UK. The story ran on in the British press, but still no photograph of Joyce appeared and little personal information.

Soon Joyce dropped out of the news. I watched as people discussed her in internet chatrooms, wondering if she was an urban myth, or talking about her as though she never mattered, calling her a couch potato, and posting comments such as: “What’s really sad is no one noticed she was missing – must have been one miserable bitch.” And then even that kind of commentary vanished.

But I couldn’t let go. I didn’t want her to be forgotten. I decided I must make a film about her.

She began by placing advertisements in newspapers asking anyone who knew Joyce to come forward. It turned out that Joyce had lots of friends over the years. She had been engaged to be married before she died, and she had also spent some time in a battered women’s shelter.  Eventually, Morley was able to talk to many people who had known Joyce. She describes her journey in the Guardian article. It’s an amazing story, and I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.

Follow me below the fold for some news and opinion…

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The Tsarnaev Family Is Beginning To Look A Little Spooky

"Uncle" Ruslan Tsarni speaking to the media in front of his home in Montgomery Village, MD

“Uncle” Ruslan Tsarni speaking to the media in front of his home in Montgomery Village, MD

Ruslan Tsarni, pictured above talking to reporters, is brother to Ansor Tsarnaev and uncle to Ansor’s sons Dzhokhor and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Another brother, Alvi Tsarni, lives fairly close to Ruslan. At some point Ruslan and Alvi had their surnames legally changed.

As you can see from the photo above, Ruslan Tsarni lives in a rather stately, expensive-looking home. He has been identified in news reports as “a corporate lawyer and oil company executive.”

I’ve been floating around Twitter, Google, and Facebook for the past few days, mainly trying to find out anything I can about the mysterious “Misha,” who supposedly influenced Tamerlan Tsarnaev beginning some time in 2010.

I don’t want to get into too much in the way of conspiracy theory, so I’m just going to lay out the facts that are being reported around the internet and let the chips fall where they may. I really don’t know what it all means–maybe nothing–but there are certainly some interesting connections coming out.

I’ll get to the “Misha” story a little later; first some background on Uncle Ruslan, who has some “spooky” connections (pun intended). Daniel Hopsicker, who is somewhat eccentric but IMHO an excellent researcher and writer, has dug up some very suggestive stuff about Ruslan Tsarni. I got some additional information from this post at Democratic Underground.

Beginning in the early 1990s, Tsarni worked as a “consultant” for USAID, which is known to be frequently used as a cover for CIA operatives, according to Jeff Stein (SpyTalk) at the Washington Post.

Hopsicker writes:

The uncle of the two men who set off bombs at the Boston Marathon, who struck the only grace note in an otherwise horrific week, worked as a “consultant” for the Agency for International Development (USAID) a U.S. Government Agency often used for cover by agents of the CIA, in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan during the “Wild West” days of the early 1990’s, when anything that wasn’t nailed down in that country was up for grabs.

“Uncle Ruslan” Tsarni of Montgomery Village Md., whose name was the top trending topic worldwide on Twitter last Friday for his plain-spoken condemnation of his two nephews, has had a checkered business career, that began well before he graduated (as Ruslan Z Tsarnaev) from Duke Law School in 1998.

Tsarni was also a Halliburton contractor:

Ruslan’s involvement with USAID, while suggestive, might still be irrelevant, were it not for the discovery of his decade-long involvement with companies in the orbit of the Sun God, Halliburton, which stands accused in numerous and increasingly-credible accounts as “lead dog” in an invading force of “non-state actors.”

All of this, mind, was in support of a noble cause. We were fighting communism. No, wait? We weren’t anymore.

Still, we must have been fighting something. Wait. It’ll come to me…Maybe it was a push to weaken Russia’s grip over former Soviet Republics. That sounds like an admirable goal. Alas,  the means chosen to achieve it involved providing covert U.S. support, in Chechnya, to Islamic terrorists.

Haven’t we all already see that movie? No one with a functioning heart could be anxious to see it again. But, wait! Does Dick have a functioning heart?

Hopsicker has a pretty colorful writing style, and you can read all the details at his blog, but briefly, in 2005 Ruslan Tsarni went to work for Big Sky Energy (a Halliburton subsidiary) as Vice President, Business Development & Corporate Secretary. Before that Tsarni worked for two other Halliburton-connected companies, Nelson Resources and Golden Eagle Partners.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Audacity of Unrepentant War Criminals

Rumsfeld tweetThe Elephants of the Republican Party don’t seem to have very good memories. Diaper Dave Vitter, Ralph Reed, and even Mark Sanford seem to have continuing careers despite basic transgressions of civility and law. Words fail me on the convenient memories of the perpetrators of one of America’s greatest sins on its 10th anniversary.

The media and the Bush administration led a whole lot of people–never me–down a garden path filled with imaginary WMDs, mushroom clouds, and Al Quaida Terrorists to support its NeoCon Agenda which has cost this country precious lives and treasure. You’d have to ask the Iraqis if they feel ‘liberated’.  Too bad we can’t poll all the dead innocents because I’m sure they’d have something to say about Rumsfeld and Cheney’s War of Ideological Convenience too. It’s hard to believe they even have the audacity to pop their heads up like some Neo Con Ground Hog Day Rodents let lone make statements like the one above.  None of them can take vacations in Europe any more because most countries realize they belong in the justice system with the other War Criminals. There is nothing like the hubris of absolute gall.

There are so many things that are wrong with the lead-up and the shock-and-awe of the Iraq War that we should make yesterday a national holiday to remember the criminal enterprise that brought us the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and all the other murderous chicken hawks of the Republican Party.  Voters should be made to remember that Jeb Bush was also a signatory to neocon documents that became policies of the of group of folks that were disgruntled that Poppy Bush didn’t take the initiative to get us into Iraq after the Kuwait Invasion.  That’s another resurrection that shouldn’t happen. PNAC and all its signatories and enablers should go down in history as a list of War Criminals. Judith Miller and various other ‘journalists’ should be added to the list of enablers of war crimes too.

But, back to the absolute mistake and horror that became the Iraq invasion and occupation via Beltway Bob who mentions he got all caught up in the propaganda and complicity of the press at the time too. Even then he was showing signs of the gullibility trait that we like to kid him for around here.   Hence, his nickname. He spoke to Ken Pollack who is one of those people that should shrink into permanent obscurity.

I supported Ken Pollack’s war, which led me to support George W. Bush’s war. Both were wrong. The assumptions required to make them right — Hussein had WMDs, Hussein was truly crazy, Hussein couldn’t be contained, American military planners and soldiers could competently destroy and then rebuild a complex, fractured society they didn’t understand — were implausible.

But saying, in retrospect, that I shouldn’t have supported the Iraq War is easy. The harder question is how to avoid a similarly catastrophic misjudgment in the future.

So here are some of my lessons. First, listen to the arguments of the people who will actually carry out a project, not the arguments of the people who just want to see the project carried out. Who manages a project can be as important as what the project is.

Second, don’t trust what “everybody knows.” There is, perhaps, nothing more dangerous than a fact that everyone thinks they know, because it shuts down critical thinking. In a retrospective for Foreign Policy, Stephen Hadley, Bush’s national security adviser, said, “It never occurred to me or anyone else I was working with, and no one from the intelligence community or anyplace else ever came in and said, ‘What if Saddam is doing all this deception because he actually got rid of the WMD and he doesn’t want the Iranians to know?’ Now, somebody should have asked that question. I should have asked that question. Nobody did. It turns out that was the most important question in terms of the intelligence failure that never got asked.”

People that were that gullible and wrong do not need to be interviewed.  We need a day each year to point and laugh at them and spread national loathing in their general direction. However, I frankly believe that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld knew there were no WMDS.  They need a completely different sort’ve of treatment. The kind of treatment the court at The Hague dishes and serves cold.  I’m not sure if the President knew because frankly, at that time, he appeared at his most clueless on a scale of almost infinite cluelessness.  But, if you read the current writings of some of the men that should be standing in front of judges at The Hague, you would think that  the now well-known absence of WMDS isn’t even historically relevant. By the way, many Republicans still believe the Iraqis had them so when I say “well-known’ I leave out the cult of cluelessness that is the core Republican base.  Try this rationalization and excuse for size from HuffPo.  Richard Perle says  ‘Not A Reasonable Question’ To Ask Whether Iraq War Was Worth It.

NPR “Morning Edition” host Renee Montagne asked, “Ten years later, nearly 5,000 American troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded. When you think about this, was it worth it?”

“I’ve got to say, I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t, a decade later, go back and say, ‘Well, we shouldn’t have done that,'” Perle responded.

Perle’s refusal to evaluate the question seems to underscore just how little those who made decisions in the lead-up to the invasion want to go back and re-evaluate a choice that most Americans think was a mistake.

The war hawk made some spectacularly wrong predictions and proclamations prior to the Iraq war. Mother Jones reported that Perle claimed Saddam Hussein had ties to Bin Laden days after 9/11, suggested that war with Iraq would be easy (requiring only about 40,000 troops), and claimed that Hussein was “working feverishly” to acquire nuclear weapons. Perle also said that Iraqis could finance their own reconstruction.

Elsewhere in Wednesday’s interview, Monagne asked Perle if it ever crossed anyone’s minds that Iraq’s deception about its chemical weapons could have been directed towards, say, Iran — with which the country fought an eight-year war — rather than the United States.

“I’m sorry to say that I didn’t achieve that insight,” Perle replied.

Perle also cast the toppling of Hussein’s reign of nearly 24 years without any centralized authority as an opportunity. “You can say we left it broken. I think we left it open for opportunity. And then we closed our own opening by moving into an occupation,” he said.

If you really want to be appalled, go read John Yoo who justifies the war by saying “We shared the benefits with the Iraqis“. Why is UC Berkely paying this man to pollute young minds?

And isn’t that what we did in Iraq? We spent billions of dollars in Iraq as damages. We did so not because the war was wrong, but because it was right — and we shared the benefits of the war with the Iraqi people by transferring some of it in the form of reconstruction funds.

It’s at these times when I understand the appeal of an almighty deity that will firmly send such folks to eternal suffering for all their hubris, ignorance, and murderous acts. However, I’d just like to see a little justice done to them here on Earth while we can.  It could start with never, ever letting them show up as experts on anything and absolute excoriation when they try to redefine their mistakes.  I know it’s too much to think the Justice Department would deliver their arrogant asses to a court.  But, I would like to think the court of opinion and the press could treat them with the contempt they deserve.  It galls me to think that they’re moving around press circles trying to spread more lies and resurrect themselves.  What they should be doing is Public Service for the rest of their lives to make living tolerable for Iraqi veterans, their families, and for Iraqis.  None of them should live any kind of life of ease nor should any of us ever let them try to forget that they are Unrepentant War Criminals.


Tuesday Reads: SCOTUS and Voting Rights, Iraq War Buildup, and Reno Saccoccia

morning paper cat dog

Good Morning!!

There’s a great big sloppy white mess outside my house this morning–something like 6 or 7 inches of heavy, wet snow. I’m not sure how I’ll get out of here; I may have to try to hire someone to dig me out. Anyway, I’m resigned to being stuck in the house for today at least.

Soooo… let’s see what happening in the news.

I’m going to start out with some news from the Supreme Court. Yesterday the court debated another voting rights case, and once again Sonya Sotomayor went toe-to-toe with right-wing judicial activist Antonin Scalia. This time it was a case from Arizona over whether a state can require proof of citizenship beyond what is required by federal voter registration forms. Here’s some background from Spencer Overton at HuffPo:

The latest case involves the simple question of whether Arizona can refuse to accept a federal voter registration form. But the stakes are much higher. A victory for Arizona could accelerate a nationwide trend of political operatives attempting to manipulate election rules for political gain, and could undermine the power of Congress to protect voting rights.

The National Voter Registration Act requires that all states “accept and use” a single, uniform voter registration form for federal elections. States can still use their own registration forms, but they must also accept and use the Federal Form. The purpose of the Federal Form is to increase participation by preventing states from erecting barriers to voter registration.

The Federal Form requires that prospective voters check a box and sign the form affirming they are U.S. citizens under penalty of perjury. Arizona, however, adopted a state law requiring “satisfactory proof” of U.S. citizenship to register, such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport, or state driver’s license that shows citizenship.

As a result, Arizona initially rejected over 31,000 voter registration applications — including citizens who registered using the Federal Form. Community-based registration drives were hit especially hard, because they rely on approaching individuals who may not be carrying a birth certificate or similar documentation (or unwilling to give a photocopy of these sensitive documents to a registration-drive volunteer). For example, community-based registration drives in Arizona’s largest county — Maricopa County — dropped 44%.

chair_sonia_sotomayor1

Obviously, if Arizona wins the case, other red states would pass similar laws that would trump federal voting regulations. Yesterday, Sotomayor and Scalia “clashed” over the Arizona law. Talking Points Memo:

Much as they did weeks ago during arguments over the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, the two justices on Monday each led the charge on opposite sides of the case — Scalia for less federal involvement in states’ ability to set their voting laws, and Sotomayor for broad national authority to protect citizens’ right to vote.

Sotomayor’s opening volley began immediately after Arizona Attorney General Thomas C. Horne stepped up to defend his state’s law. She fired off a series of questions, which she would continue asking in different flavors throughout his argument, about inconsistencies between Arizona’s Prop 200 and the NVRA.

“If I see the purpose of the NVRA to simplify registration, how are Arizona’s provisions consistent with that objective and purpose, given that … many people don’t have the documents that Arizona requires?” Sotomayor said. She asked Horne why he thinks Congress would have required states to accept a voter registration form if states can then turn around and require additional information like a passport or birth certificate.

“Why isn’t that just creating another form?” she demanded. Arizona, she said, may object to the fact that proof of citizenship isn’t required, but “that’s what Congress decided.”

As for Scalia:

The conservative jurist wasn’t convinced requiring people to attest under oath was sufficient.

“So it’s under oath — big deal,” Scalia said. “If you’re willing to violate the voting laws, I suppose you’re willing to violate the perjury laws.” He posited that only “a very low number” of voters would be harmed by a requirement to submit proof of citizenship.

Well that makes sense–not. Why bother having witnesses swear to tell the truth in court cases then?

Of course Anthony Kennedy was his usual waffling self. Again from TPM:

At one point, Kennedy wrestled with whether Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship requirement crosses a line. He asked the state’s attorney general, who was defending the law, whether states may also require proof of one’s address or date of birth when registering to vote. If so, he posited, then the federal requirement “is not worth very much.”

At another point, he launched a defense of Arizona’s actions in principle and took issue with some of the reasoning by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against Arizona.

“The state has a very strong and vital interest in the integrity of its elections,” Kennedy said, “even when those, and perhaps especially when those are elections of federal officials. And it seems to me the Ninth Circuit’s new test did not give sufficient weight to that interest.”

Roberts is apparently “leaning slightly” toward Arizona’s point of view. It’s really frightening that voting rights are in the hands of this conservative court. Thank goodness for Sotomayor’s willingness to be vocal in her arguments. Here are couple more interesting tidbits:

“Let me give you this example,” Alito said. “A person rides up to a place to register on a bicycle and gets out and hands in the federal form. This boy looks like he is 13 years old and he is carrying school books, he is wearing a middle school t-shirt, but he has filled out the form properly. Are they required to register him?”

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a native Arizonan who in 2010 ruled against her statein this case from a lower court on which she occasionally sits, was present in the chamber.

In the final moments, Scalia warned the Obama administration’s lawyer, who was arguing against Arizona, that if the constitutionality of the NVRA form is challenged in broader terms, “You’re going to be in bad shape — the government’s going to be.”

There was a little bit of good news from the Court yesterday, according to HuffPo: Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Goldman Sachs’ Appeal To Financial Crisis Lawsuit.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc suffered a defeat on Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a decision forcing it to defend against claims it misled investors about mortgage securities that lost value during the 2008 financial crisis.

Without comment, the court refused to consider Goldman’s appeal of a September 2012 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Goldman shares sank more than 2 percent.

That court let the NECA-IBEW Health & Welfare Fund, which owned some mortgage-backed certificates underwritten by Goldman, sue on behalf of investors in certificates it did not own, but which were backed by mortgages from the same lenders.

Goldman and other banks have faced thousands of lawsuits by investors seeking to recoup losses on mortgage securities.

The bank has said that letting the 2nd Circuit decision stand could cost Wall Street tens of billions of dollars.

{{applause}}

David Frum posted a fascinating article at The Daily Beast late yesterday on the lead-up to the Iraq War. Frum was a speechwriter for George W. Bush at the time. You should read the whole thing, but I’ll just quote this one intriguing portion:

The first time I met Ahmed Chalabi was a year or two before the war, in Christopher Hitchens’s apartment. Chalabi was seated regally at one end of Hitchens’s living room. A crowd of nervous, shuffling Iraqis crowded together at the opposite end. One by one, they humbly stepped forward to ask him questions or favors in Arabic, then respectfully stepped backward again. After the Iraqis departed, Chalabi rose from his chair and joined an engaged, open discussion of Iraq’s future democratic possibilities.

The last time I saw Chalabi was in his London apartment, on the very eve of war. My little group arrived past midnight. Chalabi was listening to the evocative strains of Sufi music. He showed me a black-and-white photograph of seven men, wearing the clothes of the 1940s. They were the board of directors of a company his father had founded: a mixed group of Sunni, Shiite, and Christian, and even a Jew. Chalabi remarked that this picture was taken while Europe was tearing itself apart in genocidal violence. He didn’t add that it was taken shortly after British forces defeated a pro-Axis coup in Baghdad—but failed to prevent a murderous pogrom against Baghdad’s Jewish population.

I was less impressed by Chalabi than were some others in the Bush administration. However, since one of those “others” was Vice President Cheney, it didn’t matter what I thought. In 2002, Chalabi joined the annual summer retreat of the American Enterprise Institute near Vail, Colorado. He and Cheney spent long hours together, contemplating the possibilities of a Western-oriented Iraq: an additional source of oil, an alternative to U.S. dependency on an unstable-looking Saudi Arabia.

You might imagine that an administration preparing for a war of choice would be gripped by self-questioning and hot debate. There was certainly plenty to discuss: unlike the 1991 Gulf War, there was no immediate crisis demanding a rapid response; unlike Vietnam, the U.S. entered the war fully aware that it was commencing a major commitment.

Yet that discussion never really happened, not the way that most people would have imagined anyway. For a long time, war with Iraq was discussed inside the Bush administration as something that would be decided at some point in the future; then, somewhere along the way, war with Iraq was discussed as something that had already been decided long ago in the past.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll leave you with this follow-up to the Steubenville rape trial.

Reno

From Deadspin: Fire This Asshole: Why Does Steubenville’s Football Coach Still Have His Job?

Reno Saccoccia is a local legend, in the way that 30-year coaches of football powerhouses in economically depressed Ohio Valley towns tend to be legends. He’s in the Ohio Coaches Hall of Fame. He’s won three state titles. When Saccoccia won his 300th game last year, a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 people packed Harding Stadium—christened “Reno Field” in 2007—and chanted “Reno, Reno, Reno” as he left the field.

He breakfasts regularly with the sheriff. His sister-in-law works in the county’s juvenile court, where he is licensed as a mediator. He “molds young boys into men.” So how did Saccoccia react when he got word that two of his young boys were accused of raping a passed-out student?

On the night of the assault, a Steubenville student recorded this video joking about it. Off-camera, someone says “Trent and Ma’lik raped someone.” Among the text messages released at the trial of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, one sent by Mays indicated that Saccoccia had seen the video:

Deleate that off You-tube. Coach Sac knows about it. Seriously delete it.

Saccoccia would later claim he was unaware of the social media evidence, angrily telling a reporter that he didn’t “do the internet.” But a flurry of texts sent on August 13, the day after the incident, indicated that Saccoccia had heard what had happened.

Even as all of Steubenville gradually heard the rumors, even after a local blogger alerted the country to what had happened in Steubenville, those involved in posting and sharing the photos and videos continued to play. They were only suspended eight games into the season, more than two months after the assault and arrests.

Less than a month later, Saccoccia testified on behalf of Mays and Richmond in a hearing to determine whether they would be tried as adults.

As we all know, the “boys” were tried as juveniles and got off easy. Seriously, this asshole has to go!

I have some more stories to share, but I’ll put them in the comments . . .   What are you reading and blogging about today? I’m stuck in the house, so I have all the time in the world to click on your links and read!