Thursday Reads: They Shall Be Released

Bob Dylan reading3

Good Morning!!

President Obama is meeting with other NATO leaders in Newport, Wales today, and the focus of meetings will be Russia’s encroachment into Ukraine and how to deal with it. The Christian Science Monitor reports: NATO members gather in Wales with Russia at the top of the agenda.

Russia faced harsh criticism at the start of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Wales today with the 28 member state alliance reevaluating its security role in Europe amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance continues to witness “Russian involvement in destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine” even after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a seven-point peace plan. Russia maintains it has not armed rebels in eastern Ukraine or contributed to the conflict there.

Early reports from the summit suggest NATO leaders are set to agree to create “rapid reaction” forces that could be deployed in less than two days to regional crisis spots. Countries close to Russia, especially Poland, have called for NATO to permanently station troops on their territory, but Reuters reports this is unlikely to happen because it would break a 1997 agreement the alliance made with Russia.

As the Monitor reported, the creation of rapid response forces wouldthrust the United States into the center of any future conflict.

Terrific. Supposedly, Russian president Vladimir Putin in proposing a cease-fire, but he’s offering few specifics. From The New York Times: Putin Lays Out Proposal to End Ukraine Conflict.

Mr. Putin’s peace plan, jotted out during a plane ride over Siberia, muddied the diplomatic waters, leaving the West an excuse for delaying punitive sanctions that would also hurt European economies on the verge of a new recession. And it was expected to have some appeal to war-weary Ukrainians.

The ultimate effect, coming after Russian troops intervened in Ukraine last week to beat back a successful government offensive, may be to leave the country as a loose coalition that Moscow could still dominate, which critics of the Russian president say is his real aim.

It is being called a “seven-point plan,” but according to the Times,

Mr. Putin’s plan seemed to raise more questions than it answered. First, there was no mechanism for implementation. Second, just hours earlier, his own spokesman had repeated the Russian position, widely criticized as implausible, that Moscow could not negotiate a cease-fire because it was not a direct party to the conflict.

Analysts suggested that Mr. Putin’s strategy is to convince Kiev that it must negotiate, not fight, and to reinforce the idea that the overall outcome depended on Moscow.

“Russia wants to show that it is in command of what is happening,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of a prominent Russian foreign policy journal. “For Russia, it is important first to prevent the Ukrainians from thinking that they could win militarily, and to accept the separatist leaders as partners in negotiations.”

A few more headlines and opinions:

Al Jazeera: NATO summit to highlight unity against Russia.

Wall Street Journal: As Leaders Meet for NATO Summit, Alliance Says Russian Troops Still Active in Ukraine.

Foreign Policy: NATO’s Make or Break Moment (opinion).

Bloomberg: NATO Shifts Aim From Waterloo to East as Russia Menaces (opinion).

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European Central Bank News

The European Central Bank’s Mario Draghi finally decided to try to do something about Europe’s horrible economic situation. From the NYT: European Central Bank to Start Asset Purchases After Further Rate Cut.

FRANKFURT — Bolstering a surprise interest rate cut on Thursday, the European Central Bank will soon begin buying packages of bank loans in an effort to stimulate lending in the faltering eurozone economy.

The move is unprecedented, but appears to fall short of the broad, large-scale asset purchases advocated by many economists to prevent stagnation in the eurozone.

The central bank said that in October it would begin buying asset-backed securities, bundles of loans issued by banks to businesses and households. The central bank will also buy covered bonds, Mario Draghi, the E.C.B. president said. Covered bonds are similar to asset-backed securities, in that they also are made up of bank loans.

Perhaps more significantly, Mr. Draghi said that the central bank’s governing council was ready to take further measures if needed — a clear reference to quantitative easing, or broad-based purchases of government bonds or other assets.

Mr. Draghi did not say how much the central bank would spend buying asset-backed securities and covered bonds, adding that there was not yet enough information on the size of the market. He said the central bank would buy existing and new assets including residential and corporate loans. He said the purchases would be “significant,” if still short of a level considered quantitative easing.

More headlines:

CTV News: European Central Bank trims key interest rate to record low.

Marketwatch: U.S. stocks open up after ECB rate cut.

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Ferguson Civil Rights Investigation

As we heard yesterday, the Justice Department will likely announce today that it is launching a civil rights investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department.

From The Washington Post: Justice Dept. to probe Ferguson police force.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. this week will launch a broad civil rights investigation into the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department, according to two federal law enforcement officials.

The investigation, which could be announced as early as Thursday afternoon, will be conducted by the Justice Department’s civil rights division and follow a process similar to that used to investigate complaints of profiling and the use of excessive force in other police departments across the country, the officials said.

The federal officials said the probe will look not only at Ferguson but also at other police departments in St. Louis County. Some, like Ferguson, are predominantly white departments serving majority-African-American communities, and at least one department invited the Justice Department to look at its practices. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the pending inquiry.

The investigation is in addition to a Justice Department probe into whether Officer Darren Wilson, who fired the fatal shots, violated Brown’s civil rights. The new probe will look more broadly at whether the department employed policies and practices that resulted in a pattern of civil rights violations.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that five current and one former member of the Ferguson police force face pending federal lawsuits claiming they used excessive force. The lawsuits, as well as more than a half-dozen internal investigations, include claims that individual officers separately hog-tied a 12-year-old boy who was checking his family mailbox, pistol-whipped children and used a stun gun on a mentally ill man who died as a result.

More from The New York Times: Justice Dept. Inquiry to Focus on Practices of Police in Ferguson.

Ferguson’s police chief, Thomas Jackson, said in an interview on Wednesday night that he would welcome the investigation.

“We’ve been doing everything we can to become a professional police department and a professional city,” he said. “We have no intentional policies or procedures which discriminated or violated civil rights. But if we have anything there which may unintentionally do that, we need to know about it.”

Chief Jackson said he met with Justice Department officials on Wednesday afternoon and discussed the broader investigation. “Obviously, we have gaps. And any help we can get to help fill those gaps and to make ourselves stronger, we welcome,” he said.

What a crock of sh&t that is! I’ll just bet Jackson is thrilled about the Justice Department probe into his joke of a police force. Wouldn’t you love to hear what he’s saying privately?

In the Ferguson case, the Justice Department will conduct what it calls a “pattern or practice” investigation, with officials looking for evidence that the police have repeatedly violated residents’ civil rights. Such inquiries have been one of the Justice Department’s preferred tactics in addressing accusations of police misconduct.

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Rabid Bobcat Attacks 

Here’s a strange story I came across yesterday in The Boston Globe: Rabid Bobcat Spent Labor Day Weekend in Conn. Attacking People.

What’s worse than stumbling upon an angry bobcat on your nightly walk with your newborn daughter? Stumbling upon an angry, rabid bobcat on your nightly walk with your newborn daughter.

That’s what happened to Summer and Tom Berube last Sunday. The Lebanon, CT, couple were taking their evening walk with their infant daughter, Neeve, when a bobcat approached them.

According to NECN, the bobcat hissed and ran towards Tom, who was carrying his baby. Tom yanked a mailbox out of the ground and used it to defend his family, knocking the animal down when it leapt at him. Summer, meanwhile, said she “was just screaming at the top of my lungs for help.”

That help soon came from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which had already been alerted to the presence of an aggressive bobcat in the area. On Saturday, a woman in the neighboring Connecticut town of Bozrah was attacked by a bobcat while feeding her chickens. She was scratched and bitten, but quickly taken to a local hospital for treatment. If caught early enough, a postexposure vaccination prevents the disease from spreading.

I had no idea there were bobcats running around in New England, but according The Hartford Courant,  although sightings are rare, “Bobcats are common in Connecticut and are found in every town. They can weigh as much as 40 pounds, but rarely interact with people and rarely have rabies, DEEP said.”

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They Shall Be Released

Maybe you’re wondering why I’ve illustrated this post with photos of Bob Dylan. In 1968, I bought a two-record album in a plain white cover that was being sold by a street hawker in Harvard Square. I learned this morning from Wikipedia that it was known as “The Great White Wonder,” but either I didn’t know that then or I’ve forgotten. The recording was a bootleg of Bob Dylan’s so-called “basement tapes,” recorded in Woodstock, NY, with backup from The Band. Later, in 1975, a selection of the songs they had recorded was released as a studio album.

Anyway, the basement tapes are back in the news, because they are all going to be released as a 6-CD set.

The Guardian reports: Bob Dylan to share full Basement Tapes.

Bob Dylan is sharing the rest of his Basement Tapes. Four decades after the singer released 24 songs under that title – cuts he recorded with the Band in upstate New York – his label have agreed to unveil 114 more tracks from the same 1967 sessions.

“Some of this stuff is mind-boggling,” Sid Griffin, author of the set’s liner notes,told Rolling Stone. Packaged under the title The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11, the six-CD set incorporates alternate versions of Blowin’ In The Wind and It Ain’t Me Babe, covers of tunes by Johnny Cash and Curtis Mayfield, and at least 30 tracks that Rolling Stone claims “even fanatical Dylan fans never knew existed”. A shorter, two-disc compilation, The Basement Tapes Raw, will present 12 of the unreleased tracks alongside the original LP.

Almost all of this material was harvested from reel-to-reel tape: 20 tapes in all, which the Band’s Garth Hudson kept stored in his Woodstock home. Jan Haust, a Toronto-based collector, acquired the archive about 10 years ago; he worked with Dylan’s reps to find a way to put them out. Although a few tapes were allegedly missing, and a handful of recordings “just [sounded] like a distortion”, everything else is making its way to the public. “We usually curate these packages more, but we knew the fans would be disappointed if we didn’t put out absolutely everything,” an unnamed Dylan source told Rolling Stone.

Fans of The Basement Tapes have always known that there was unreleased material. There have been several expanded, bootleg editions over the years, and musicians have even turned their attention to Dylan’s unreleased Basement Tapes-era lyrics. Earlier this year, T Bone Burnett collaborated with Marcus Mumford, Elvis Costello and others to record their own versions of his incomplete songs. “The stuff that people haven’t heard justifies, in every way, shape and form, all the hype, hubris and myth that surrounds these tapes,” Griffin promised.

USA Today has published a list of all the songs on the album to be released in November.

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a tremendous Thursday!


Thursday Reads: Police Shootings in Ferguson and Beyond

Owl reading

Good Morning!

While we at Sky Dancing Blog–along with many other Americans–have been following the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, often feeling shocked and traumatized by the overt racism on display among law enforcement personnel there, Fox News and some right wing blogs have focused on supporting Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown at noon on Saturday, August 9, touching off the protests and the police crackdown that has continued for the past 12 days. In the process they have also made efforts to smear Brown and undermine witnesses who saw the shooting.

Police initially claimed that Brown had assaulted Wilson in his police car and tried to take the officer’s gun. But there were a number of witnesses who reported seeing Wilson chase after Brown while shooting his weapon after which Brown turned around with his hands up, trying to surrender.

On August 15, without informing Governor Nixon or the Captain Ron Johnson, who was in charge of security during the protests, Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson released a 19-page document naming Michael Brown as a suspect in an alleged robbery of $48 worth of cigarillos at a Ferguson convenience store. The alleged “strong-arm” robbery took place shortly before Brown was killed. The obvious implication was that Brown deserved to die for this. Jackson also appeared on The Sean Hannity Show to push this narrative.

Later Jackson was forced to admit that shooter Darren Wilson didn’t know about the alleged robbery, and therefore it had nothing to the shooting. Recently we learned that police didn’t even have the video showing the convenience story “robbery” until days after the shooting, and the video appeared to show that Brown had actually paid for the box of cigarillos he took with him.

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has been documenting the latest right wing efforts to smear Brown and rehabilitate Wilson. On Tuesday, he linked to a post by Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit citing anonymous sources that claimed Darren Wilson had suffered an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket” during the struggle with Michael Brown. Johnson writes:

The entire right wing universe (including Drudge Report) is now screaming about this post by, yes, the Dumbest Man on the Internet again, claiming that anonymous sources told him officer Darren Wilson suffered an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket” in a struggle with unarmed teenager Michael Brown [NOTE: I'm not going to link to Gateway Pundit; you can find the link at LGF].

It’s possible that someone did leak this information to Hoft, but I’ll remind my readers that Jim Hoft is probably the single most dishonest right wing blogger on the Internet as well as the dumbest, with a very long history of distorting facts and completely making stuff up to push his far right, often overtly racist agenda.

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Johnson looked up the symptoms of an “orbital blowout fracture” and quoted the from description:

The most common symptoms are bruising, tenderness and swelling around the eye; redness of the eye; double vision, ordiplopia (seeing two images at the same time); numbness of the cheek, nose or teeth; nose bleeds (epistaxis) [See figure 1].

Symptoms that typically indicate a more serious injury are pain on eye movement, double vision, air under the skin around the eye, and numbness of the cheek/mouth/nose on the side of the injury. Severe trauma may cause facial bone fractures, injury to the eye itself, and injuries to the skull/brain.

You’d think someone who had just experienced such a serious eye injury would be in terrible pain and would have difficulty accurately shooting a gun. You also think he would need immediate medical attention; yet no ambulance was called for either Brown or Wilson, and Wilson was video taped walking near Brown’s body and show no signs of discomfort. Here’s the cell phone video taken by eyewitness Piaget Crenshaw.

Yesterday this story showed up on Fox News, with Bill O’Reilly reporting the “orbital blowout” claim; and today ABC News is reporting that Wilson suffered “a serious facial injury,” although they aren’t including the “orbital blowout fracture” claim. ABC news also has a video interview with an anonymous friend of Wilson’s. It’s odd that Wilson’s friends and supporters don’t want to give their names or show their faces while the eyewitnesses to the shooting have been upfront and straightforward about what they saw.

As for the facial injury, I guess we’ll have to wait and see if there is trial. At that point Wilson will need to produce medical records to prove he had a serious injury and had it promptly treated. Even then, we still won’t know how it happened. For all we know, he could have hit himself with his gun or on the car door. I can’t help but be reminded of George Zimmerman’s claims of serious injuries caused by Trayvon Martin–the injuries he didn’t bother to have a doctor examine until the next day. The bottom line is that even if Wilson actually was injured, Michael Brown should be alive and in jail now. Instead, Wilson chose to execute him on the spot.

The latest smear from right wing Wilson supporters is that Michael Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson has “recanted” his eyewitness version of the shooting. Once again, Charles Johnson responds, Did Michael Brown’s Friend Dorian Johnson “Recant” His Story? No, He Did Not.

Finally, a right wing site is raising money for Darren Wilson, and they have collected nearly $150,000 in the past three days.

The good news is that Ferguson was fairly calm yesterday after the visit from Attorney General Eric Holder. From The Washington Post, Eric H. Holder Jr., in Ferguson, shares painful memories of racism.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. arrived in the St. Louis area Wednesday to tour a community roiled by the police shooting of an unarmed African American teen — nine months after he had visited the same city to tout new initiatives aimed at keeping poor black men out of prison.

Long before the white-hot spotlight of the racially charged protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Holder had been intent on reforming an American criminal justice system that he said imposed “shameful” disparities on minority communities. The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 has thrust Holder, 63, into the heart of a national debate over racial justice that he has aimed to make part of his legacy.

In meetings with residents, Holder shared his own stories of being pulled over and accosted by police while growing up in New York City — and of being skeptical of police even while serving as a federal prosecutor in Washington.

“I understand that mistrust. I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man,” Holder said during an appearance at Florissant Valley Community College. “I think about my time in Georgetown — a nice neighborhood of Washington — and I am running to a picture movie at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin. Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells ‘where you going? Hold it!’ I say, ‘Whoa, I’m going to a movie.’ ”

A man identified as Kajiene Powell, with an object in his right hand, approaches police in north St. Louis. Police say that the object was a knife and that he threatened officers before he was shot to death. (St. Louis Police Department)

A man identified as Kajiene Powell, with an object in his right hand, approaches police in north St. Louis. Police say that the object was a knife and that he threatened officers before he was shot to death. (St. Louis Police Department)

Not far from the spot where Michael Brown died, another young black man was killed by St. Louis Metropolitan Police on Tuesday. A video of the shooting was released yesterday. From Huffington Post, St. Louis Police Release Video Of Kajieme Powell Killing That Appears At Odds With Their Story, by Ryan Grimm and Ashley Alman.

A convenience store owner called 911 on Tuesday when he suspected Powell stole drinks and donuts from his shop, according to a recording of the call. Another woman called to report Powell was acting erratically and had a knife in his pocket.

Two officers in a police SUV responded to the calls, the cell phone video shows. When the officers got out of their vehicle, Powell walked in their direction, yelling and telling them to shoot him already.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Tuesday that both of the officers opened fire on Powell when he came within a three or four feet of them holding a knife “in an overhand grip.”

But the newly released cell phone footage undermines the statement, showing Powell approaching the cops, but not coming as close as was reported, with his hands at his side. The officers began shooting within 15 seconds of their arrival, hitting Powell with a barrage of bullets.

Kajieme Powell apparently had long-term psychological problems. I’m not going to watch the video, but even in the still photo from the LA Times above, it looks to me as if police could have disarmed Powell and arrested him without using deadly force. The knife wasn’t raised as police claimed, and he certainly doesn’t appear to be within three feet of the officers.

A mentally disturbed man was killed by police in Sacramento, California on Monday. The Sacramento Bee reports:

Jeffrey Towe lived with delusions and profound mental illness, family members say. On Monday, he became the ninth person in the Sacramento region to die of police gunfire this year.

Towe, 53, fatally shot his own mother in 1990 in an incident that he said was a household accident. Two weeks ago, he delivered a collection of knives to his sister, telling her he couldn’t be trusted around them.

A Woodland police officer shot him dead Monday after authorities said Towe allegedly charged with a knife after officers arrived at his apartment building in response to a call about a disturbed, screaming man.

Towe’s death prompted local activists to converge Monday evening in Woodland, already motivated by the national story of the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and law enforcement response to protests there. They congregated downtown, blocking an intersection, chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” – a slogan popularized in Ferguson.

The story also describes another police shooting that took place on Monday night.
In that incident, a California Highway Patrol officer shot and wounded a man who allegedly pulled a gun on officers in a drunken-driving stop. The suspect, who was hospitalized in critical but stable condition, was identified as Heath Austin Nunes, 38, of Lincoln.

The four-county Sacramento region, which includes Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties, this year has nearly doubled the five fatal officer-involved shootings in 2013. In 2012, there were 16 fatal police shootings, including a record 10 by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. Statewide, California averaged 100 annual deaths from police shootings from 2006 to 2011.

The sports site Deadspin has decide to gather reports of police shootings and they are asking readers to help. We’re Compiling Every Police-Involved Shooting In America. Help Us.
The United States has no database of police shootings. There is no standardized process by which officers log when they’ve discharged their weapons and why. There is no central infrastructure for handling that information and making it public. Researchers, confronted with the reality that there are over 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the country, aren’t even sure how you’d go about setting one up. No one is keeping track of how many American citizens are shot by their police. This is crazy. This is governmental malpractice on a national scale. We’d like your help in changing this.

Here, we’re going to take a cue from Jim Fisher, who as far as we can tell has compiled the most comprehensive set of data on police shootings in 2011. Fisher’s method was simple: He searched for any police-involved shooting every day for an entire year. By our lights, this is the best way to scrape this information—any time a police officer shoots and hits a citizen, it will almost certainly make a local news report, at least. However, this is a time-intensive process, and our manpower is limited. Having gathered some of the data, we can say it will take the few of us here a very long time to do this on our own. So, we’re setting up a public submission form and asking for help with this project.

Check it out if you’re interested.

So I’ve run out of space and time for this post. There’s plenty of other news, so I’ll post some more links in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same. 


Thursday Reads: Ferguson, Missouri is a War Zone

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Good Morning!!

I spent most of the day and night yesterday following the shocking events in Ferguson, Missouri. As I read articles and tweets and studied violent images of police dressed as soldiers and riding in military vehicles, I had repeated flashbacks to the Civil Rights era. Except in those days, police weren’t outfitted with surplus military equipment provided by the Federal government. Back then, the cops had to resort to fire hoses to force people off the streets; but in Ferguson, St. Louis police are equipped with MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles) and LRADs (long-range acoustic devices).

Ferguson isn’t a large city, and reporters on the ground estimated the size of the “crowd” at somewhere between 150 and 250 people, who were largely protesting peacefully by holding their hands in the air and chanting “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” It’s long past time for Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (a Democrat) to step in and tell the cops to calm down and put away their military toys. If he won’t take action, then President Obama should instruct Attorney General Holder to do it.

The protests follow the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a still-unnamed Ferguson policeman last Saturday afternoon. Brown “had no criminal background,” according to KDSK.com. Police claim that Brown struggled with the officer and tried to grab his gun. But that makes no sense. Why did the officer choose to stop Brown as he peacefully walked down the street with a friend? That friend, Dorian Johnson tells a different version of events.

From USA Today: Witness to Michael Brown shooting comes forward.

Dorian Johnson said he was standing inches from Brown when the shooting occurred around 1:40 p.m. Saturday. He gave his account of the shooting to KSDK-TV.

“The officer is approaching us and as he pulled up on the side of us, he didn’t say freeze, halt or anything like we were committing a crime. He said, ‘Get the F on the sidewalk.’

After Johnson said the officer thrust open the door of his patrol car, hitting the pair, Johnson said the officer grabbed Brown around the neck and tried to pull him through the window. He said Brown never tried to reach for the officer’s weapon.

“The second time he says, ‘I’ll shoot,’ a second later the gun went off and he let go,” Johnson said. “That’s how we were able to run at the same time. The first car I see, I ducked behind for because I fear for my life. I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t understand why this officer is shooting his weapon at us.”

According to Johnson, the officer pursued Brown and fired another shot. which struck Brown in the back. He said Brown turned and faced the officer with his hands raised.

“My friend started to tell the officer that he was unarmed and that he could stop shooting (him),” Johnson said. “Before he could get his second sentence out, the officer fired several more shots into his head and chest area. He fell dramatically into the fatal position. I did not hear once he yell freeze, stop or halt. it was just horrible to watch.”

Unfortunately for the officer who killed Brown, two more witnesses have now come forward. From CNN:

While Michael Brown appeared to tussle with an officer before he was shot dead, he didn’t enter the police cruiser as authorities claim he did, two witnesses told CNN.

The women’s accounts corroborate that of a previous witness, all three of whom said the officer fatally shot the unarmed teen.

Police have said the black 18-year-old died in a dangerous struggle after trying to grab the officer’s weapon. Not so, say the witnesses.

“It looked as if Michael was pushing off and the cop was trying to pull him in,” Tiffany Mitchell told CNN on Wednesday night.

Mitchell had driven to Ferguson to pick up another woman Piaget Crenshaw. The two women witnessed the shooting from two different angles–Mitchell from her car and Crenshaw from a building nearby.

Neither woman, who gave their statements to St. Louis County police, say they saw Brown enter the vehicle.

Instead, a shot went off, then the teen broke free, and the officer got out of the vehicle in pursuit, the women said.

“I saw the police chase him … down the street and shoot him down,” Crenshaw said. Brown ran about 20 feet.

“Michael jerks his body, as if he’s been hit,” Mitchell said.

Then he faced the officer and put his hands in the air, but the officer kept firing, both women said. He sank to the pavement.

The protests in Ferguson, a town in which the population is 2/3 black but the political leadership and police force are overwhelmingly white, are largely driven by the fact that police will not name the shooter or released the results of Brown’s autopsy, despite Missouri’s sunshine law.

August 13, 2014: A device deployed by police goes off in the street as police and protesters clash in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

August 13, 2014: A device deployed by police goes off in the street as police and protesters clash in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

From The New York Times: Anonymity in Missouri Police Shooting Fuels Frustration.

FERGUSON, Mo. — In the five days since an unarmed young black man was fatally shot by a police officer here, the selective release of information about the shooting, and especially the anonymity granted to the officer, has stoked frustrations in this largely African-American community north of St. Louis, where residents describe increasingly tense relations with the police.

The police chief, Thomas Jackson, has repeatedly declined to identify the officer, who has been put on administrative leave. But on Wednesday, the chief did offer a new detail about the shooting, which has kindled nights of racial unrest and an unyielding police response with tear gas, rubber bullets and arrests.

Jackson claims there have been threats against the police officer and he needs protection. So why not simply arrest him for murder and send his family to a safer location? Instead, Wilson called in law enforcement support from St. Louis and enabled an incredible overreaction to largely peaceful protests. From the Times article:

On Wednesday night, scores of police officers in riot gear and in armored trucks showed up to disperse protesters who had gathered on the streets near the scene of the shooting. Some officers perched atop the vehicles with their guns trained on the crowds while protesters chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” A police spokesman said that some demonstrators had thrown Molotov cocktails at officers and that some had tried to set fires. The police used tear gas on demonstrators, and some protesters said rubber bullets had been fired at them. Police said one officer appeared to have suffered a broken ankle after being hit by a brick.

The police made more than 10 arrests. Among those arrested was Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman, who had been documenting the protests on social media, his wife said on Twitter.

Two reporters covering the protests also said they had been arrested inside a McDonald’s for trespassing and later released without charges or an explanation. The reporters, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post, both said they had been handled roughly by the police.

If you don’t read anything else on the events in Ferguson, read this article and look at the photos.

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More recommended stories:

Mashable: Ferguson or Iraq? Photos Unmask the Militarization of America’s Police.

As America scaled back its presence in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2012, military gear — amphibious tanks, weapons, uniforms and drones — spilled into local police arsenals. In June, an ACLU report warned of the “excessive militarization” of local law enforcement. “This has the effect of terrifying people, destroying communities and actually undermining public safety,” Kara Dansky, ACLU senior counsel, told Mashable in June.

The photos below show the heavily armed Ferguson police officers, dressed in camouflaged uniforms. They are set side-by-side with images of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of the photo comparisons below. Which was taken in Ferguson and which in Iraq?

Militarization of Police 02

 

NBC News: Michael Brown Killing: Missouri Governor to Visit as Unrest Grows in Ferguson.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said he would visit the St. Louis suburbs Thursday after police fired tear gas to break up crowds in a fourth night of civil unrest over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager.

Sixteen people were arrested, including two reporters, on Wednesday night in the suburb of Ferguson, and police said that two officers were injured, one hit by a brick, NBC affiliate KSDK reported….

Nixon said in a statement that the worsening situation in Ferguson was “deeply troubling.” He canceled a planned visit to the state fair. “While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern,” he said.

Too little, too late, IMHO.

The Baltimore Sun: Riots in Ferguson and what they mean, by Leonard Pitts.

To believe that this carnage — the windows smashed, the buildings torched, the tear gas wafting — is all about the killing of Michael Brown is to miss the point….

Because, again, this is not just about Brown. It’s about Eric Garner, choked to death in a confrontation with New York City Police. It’s about Jordan Davis, shot to death in Jacksonville, Florida, because he played his music too loud. It’s about Trayvon Martin, shot to death in Sanford, Florida, because a self-appointed neighborhood guardian judged him a thug. It’s about Oscar Grant, shot by a police officer in an Oakland, California, subway station as cellphone cameras watched. It’s about Amadou Diallo, executed in that vestibule and Abner Louima, sodomized with that broomstick. It’s about Rodney King.

And it is about the bitter sense of siege that lives in African-American men, a sense that it is perpetually open season on us.

And that too few people outside of African America really notice, much less care. People who look like you are every day deprived of health, wealth, freedom, opportunity, education, the benefit of the doubt, the presumption of innocence, life itself — and when you try to say this, even when you document it with academic studies and buttress it with witness testimony, people don’t want to hear it, people dismiss you, deny you, lecture you about white victimhood, chastise you for playing a so-called “race card.”

They choke off avenues of protest, prizing silence over justice, mistaking silence for peace. And never mind that sometimes, silence simmers like water in a closed pot on a high flame….the anger we see in Ferguson did not spring from nowhere, nor arrive, fully-formed, when Michael Brown was shot. It is the anger of people who are, as Fannie Lou Hamer famously said, sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Silence imposed on pain cannot indefinitely endure. People who are hurting will always, eventually, make themselves heard.

The only problem with Pitts’ column is that there haven’t been any actual “riots” in Ferguson yet–unless you count what the police are doing as rioting.

Riverfront Times: Watch Police in Ferguson Arrest, Tear Gas Journalists [VIDEO]

Police actions against press seem to be part of the reason Governor Jay Nixon finally decided to cut his Missouri State Fair trip short. The governor says he’ll arrive in St. Louis County Thursday morning to manage what’s increasingly becoming a volatile, violent and devastating time in St. Louis history.

SWAT officers arrested Wesley Lowery, a political reporter at TheWashington Post, and Ryan Reilly, a Huffington Post justice reporter, shortly before 7 p.m. while clearing out a McDonalds near the protests where they were working. The reporters say police asked for their identification and eventually arrested them when they weren’t leaving quickly enough.

The journalists say they were arrested without being read their Miranda writes and eventually released with nothing — no charges, no police report, no names of arresting officers. The Los Angeles Times says police only released them after their reporter alerted the chief of Ferguson Police (His response: “Oh, god,”), who then called St. Louis County Police.

Late last night, police in Ferguson also tried to order the media to shut off their cameras, and they attacked journalists from Al Jazeera and confiscated their equipment. 

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill decided last night that it was time for her to take some action, since Governor Nixon wasn’t doing it. She will meet with Eric Holder today to discuss the Ferguson situation.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) says she has a phone call planned with Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday to discuss the situation in Ferguson, Mo., where an apparently unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a police officer last weekend.

Amid clashes in the St. Louis suburb Wednesday night, the senator tweeted that she’s been working the phones to try to deescalate the “tense and unacceptable situation.” ….

Holder and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett briefed President Obama Wednesday and the president will receive another briefing Thursday.

I’ll have to end there, because this post is getting way too long. I’ll post more important links in the comments. I’ll leave it to you Sky Dancers to update me on the rest of the news. I’ve been too focuses on Ferguson to pay attention to anything else. See you in the comment thread.


Wednesday Reads: A Bare Chestnut Tree grows in Washington DC

Portrait by Nico Jungmann

Portrait by Nico Jungmann

Good Morning

We have a variety of links for you today, shall we just get down to it?

By the way, the images are from the Sketchbook of Nico Jungmann… enjoy them.

They have heard another series of pings, this time it lasted longer than 7 minutes, via USA Today: Official: Plane may be found in ‘matter of days’

Meanwhile: Ukraine says separatists hold hostages; activists deny charge | Reuters

Congrats to UCONN: Another National Championship for Connecticut Women’s Basketball

Out of all the news hitting the internets this past day or so, the one story that was more moving to me was this one…about the sapling that is being planted at the Capitol.

A very special sapling it is:  WASHINGTON: Sapling from Anne Frank’s “bare chestnut tree” coming to the Capitol

Congressional leaders will plant an Anne Frank Memorial Tree on the U.S. Capitol’s west front lawn April 30.

The sapling was taken from a chestnut tree that stood outside the Amsterdam annex where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II.

51RpgWALCVLIn her February 23, 1944, she talked about the tree:

“From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the sea gulls and other birds as they glide on the wind…I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”

The tree itself collapsed in 2010, but its stewarts crated saplings. Eleven have been given to sites throughout this country.

Isn’t it a pretty thought to have a connection to  a little girl who equated “solace in all troubles” to the very branches that brought forth this sapling? What I am yearning for right now is solace in all troubles, bet you are too.

Here is an picture of the tree viewed from inside the attic where Anne Frank hid, it was taken  before it fell back in 2010: Anne Frank tree knocked down by storm

In this Nov. 14, 2007 file photo the chestnut tree which comforted Anne Frank while she hid from the Nazis during World War II, as seen from the attic window in the secret annex at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands The monumental chestnut tree has fallen over on Monday, Aug. 23, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Museum says. Peter Dejong/AP/File

In this Nov. 14, 2007 file photo the chestnut tree which comforted Anne Frank while she hid from the Nazis during World War II, as seen from the attic window in the secret annex at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands The monumental chestnut tree has fallen over on Monday, Aug. 23, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Museum says.
Peter Dejong/AP/File

 

As I was saying, we could all use some solace now, with this kind of shit going on: Los Angeles Times Was Wrong to Retract Article on Rape at Occidental

 

On March 14, 2014, The Los Angeles Times issued a retraction of an article in which reporter Jason Felch stated that Occidental College failed to disclose 27 sexual assaults in its 2012 Annual Security Report (ASR). The retraction states that “Occidental representatives approached the Times early this month to seek a correction. Documents reviewed by The Times this week show that the 27 incidents did not fall under the law’s disclosure requirements for a variety of reasons.”

However, The Los Angeles Times did not perform due diligence in their investigation of the numbers, and they never should have issued a retraction. Felch had incontrovertible evidence that the College did not include anonymous cases in their 2012 ASR and had verification that the college could not lawfully account for 27 missing cases.

51HPaG-TJ5LGiven the evidence, The Times should issue a mea culpa, and especially after Occidental spokesperson Jim Tranquada recently admitted to the LA Weekly that Dean of Students Barbara Avery ignored federal Clery reporting requirements that year. “In 2012, out of concern for student confidentiality, the Dean of Students office did not always communicate to Campus Safety when a student initiated the sexual-misconduct process or otherwise reported a sexual assault.”

Harrumph…I think Jezebel is on to something there, don’t you?

Since we are talking about issues of “due diligence” or maybe somehow having the wool pulled over one’s eyes, there is an update to a little news story regarding a former Star Trek actress and a Scientist who had No Clue How He Ended up in Holocaust-Denier’s Creationism Documentary

A new documentary titled “The Principle” is the latest from creationists and geocentrists.  The film perpetuates the long disproven notion that the sun revolves around the Earth. It is narrated by “Star Trek’s” Kate Mulgrew, who starred as Capt. Kathryn Janeway in both “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Nemesis.” From the looks of the trailer, this film is the antithesis of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s scientific look at the universe in “Cosmos.”

The film was funded by the ultra-conservative, ultra-Roman Catholic Robert Sungenis, who also appears in the film. Sungenis is also known for denying the Holocaust, and for his  anti-Semitic articles, which his bishop demanded he stop writing.

According to  Raw Story, the film features several scientists — some without permission. Clips from the trailer show Michio Kaku, Lawrence Krauss and Max Tegmart. Krauss is incensed, and tweeted:

For all who asked: Some clips of me apparently were mined for movie on geocentricism. So stupid does disservice to word nonsense. Ignore it.

— Lawrence Krauss (@LKrauss1)  April 8, 2014

K51XDDYMu9tLrauss also wrote a piece for  Slate to explain his complete bewilderment at being included. He is also unsure the means taken to get the clips. Krauss will probably not take legal action, in order to not further stoke the publicity for the pseudo-scientific doc. He also lampoons the idea of geocentricism, saying, “The notion that anyone in the 21st century could take seriously the notion that the sun orbits the Earth, or that the Earth is the center of the universe, is almost unbelievable.”

Okay, so this in the lack of due-diligence I was referring to: OH THANK GOD: Kate Mulgrew Is Mad About the Geocentric Documentary, Too

Yesterday, we ended the day on a major bummer when we learned that Kate Mulgrew, the actor best known for playing Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager, would be narrating a documentary backed by geocentrists and Holocaust deniers. Today, she’s set the record straight.

Mulgrew took to her official Facebook page about an hour ago to address growing concerns that her involvement with The Principle, a documentary about how NASA is totally trying to hide the truth that the Sun revolves around the Earth from us or whatever, in some way reflected her own views.

“I understand there has been some controversy about my participation in a documentary called THE PRINCIPLE. Let me assure everyone that I completely agree with the eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was himself misrepresented in the film, and who has written a succinct rebuttal in SLATE. I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism. More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused. Kate Mulgrew”

51+e-aOLdfLSeems to me that she needs to, along with her assistants…agent, be a little more diligent when it comes to accepting offers to narrate a documentary as batshit crazy as this one. Unless the producers of the documentary have fraudulently re-edited her voice over to fit their agenda…but I believe she was a voice for hire as she states and just did not do the proper homework on the matter, and only seeing a check at the end of a day.

Speaking of crazy, have you seen this? Baby Accused of Murder Plot Goes Into Hiding in Pakistan

A 9-month-old Pakistani baby accused of raiding a state-run gas company and plotting to murder police has gone into hiding following his first court appearance last week.

Alleged infant criminal mastermind Muhammad “Musa” Khan was charged with conspiracy to commit murder Feb. 1, along with his father, grandfather and around 30 others. The group was protesting an increase in gas prices and a lack of available electricity in their area.

Baby Musa was granted bail in a Lahore court last week, and has another court appearance scheduled for April 12. His family hasn’t decided whether he’ll show up.

“Police are vindictive. Now they are trying to settle the issue on personal grounds, that’s why I sent my grandson to Faisalabad for protection,” the baby’s grandfather, Muhammad Yasin, told Reuters.

I guess the reasons for his arrest are being explain as, guilt by association?

A police sub-inspector apparently claimed in a report that Yasin’s entire family beat him up during the protest. That sub-inspector has since been fired.

What else would we expect when they also will stone women for adultery when they are raped.

41MkHYQX+9LWith all the talk on equal pay these days, Researchers: More U.S. mothers staying at home because of unemployment | The Raw Story

More mothers in the United States are staying home, but the increase is linked more to unemployment and demographic changes than to choice, a study published Tuesday suggested.

In 2012, nearly one in three mothers, or 29 percent, did not work outside the home, up from 23 percent in 1999, said the study from the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

Most of the homemakers, 85 percent, indicated they stayed at home to look after their children. However, six percent said they did so because they could not find employment — up from one percent in 2000.

And another article dealing with numbers: This Map Shows The Deadly Aftermath Of War Right Here At Home

In 2008, The New York Times compiled a list of 121 cases in which veterans were charged with a killing after returning home, and Current TV, GOOD and MGMT.design collaborated to update the research in 2010. The Huffington Post collected data from these sources and more recent news articles to create the infographic below, which shows that at least 194 veterans have been charged with killings after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. It also shows that there has been a concentration of such incidents around military bases. Our research may not be a complete tally, but these were the cases we could confirm.

Infographic at the link above.

Alright then, the rest of the links are all dealing with shit, whether it be bullshit…fish shit, Japanese print fart shit, or GOP dipshit(s). (yes plural)

First the GOP assholes…GOP Candidate Wants To Get Elected To Keep His Daughter From Learning Evolution

I don’t know where the hell these people come from and yet…they keep getting elected or in this guy’s case, backed by those politicians already in office.

Aaron Miller, a Republican congressional candidate in Minnesota, said a big reason he’s running is to end classroom instruction on evolution, according to the Mankato Free Press.

Miller, a hospital account manager and Iraq War veteran, said during the congressional district’s Republican Party convention in Albert Lea on Saturday that Minnesota needs more religious freedom. He cited an incident in which his daughter was forced to learn evolution in school.

According to the Mankato Free Press:

He also called for more religious freedoms. He repeated his story about his daughter returning home from school because evolution was being taught in her class. He said the teacher admitted to not believing in the scientific theory to his daughter but told her that the government forced him to teach the lesson.

81xX07cI-QL._SL1500_Miller first mentioned his daughter’s evolution lesson at the Blue Earth County convention in March, according to the Mankato Free Press.

“We should decide what is taught in our schools, not Washington, D.C.,” Miller, who won the Republican endorsement for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District on Saturday, said during his speech.

Despite Miller’s attacks on Washington’s influence on education, Minnesota’s academic standards in science are set by the state Department of Education.

Not only is this guy a dipshit, he is a dumbshit.

Eric Holder got in some good jabs yesterday, Eric Holder to Louie Gohmert: ‘Good Luck With Your Asparagus’ | The Daily Banter

Gohmert brought up the “Operation Fast and Furious” scandal (because of course he did) and reminded Holder that he was hit with contempt of Congress charges by the House two years ago for failing to turn over Justice Department documents which the House had subpoenaed. Holder warned Gohmert, “You don’t want to go there, buddy.”

But that wasn’t the really good one. At the end of Gohmert’s time, Holder got the last word. As the chair recognized a different committee member, Holder said to Gohmert, “Good luck with your asparagus.”

This was an hilarious reference to an exchange between Holder and Gohmert last year when Gohmert inexplicably said that Holder “cast aspersions” on his “asparagus.”

Yes, Louie Gohmert said “cast aspersions on my asparagus.” What?

Oh Gohmert, you round-headed nincompoop. You’re lucky that’s all Holder said to you regarding that. If I was Holder, I’d make it a point to work the word “asparagus” into every other sentence. Why? Because this is exactly how a nutbag like Gohmert deserves to be treated.

Videos at the link.

51pmFCaSmxLOh, be glad we don’t have this kind of trouble to deal with: Carnivorous piranhas found blocking sewers in Shropshire

Residents in Telford have been informed “fishy smells” erupting from sewers in the area were actually thanks to the presence of sharp-toothed, carnivorous piranhas.

The fish, which are known for their voracious appetites and are commonly found in slightly more tropical climates than Shropshire, had been blocking the sewers after a resident chose to dispose of the dead fish down their toilet.

Matt Final and Jay Slater, who went to investigate the blockage for Severn Trent said: “We’ve certainly seen some weird things in the sewers over the years but we were a little shocked to remove piranhas.

Yeah, dead piranhas down the drain is a bit strange indeed. But at least they were not let out into the local pond or river while alive…I know it isn’t much of a news story, but fish down the shitter is only a segue to the final link: Today We Learned: Japanese “Fart Battle” Scrolls Exist

Let’s talk about farts. Specifically, fart battles as depicted in these hundreds-of-years-old Japanese “he-gassen” scrolls. They’re a real thing, and they might be the best real thing we’ve seen today. Check out some more examples below.

Fart-Battle-640x426

Besides just being incredibly fun to look at, because farts being funny is as much a universal constant as the speed of light, he-gassen scrolls also served some political function in their day. They were sort of like New Yorker cartoons—but with farts. The joke, according to Dangerous Minds and The Daily Mail seems to be that at the time, Japan’s view of foreigners wasn’t a favorable one.

When I saw that headline I immediately thought of Monty Python’s….I fart in your general direction..and it seems that the person who wrote the post thought the same thing.

This, but in Japan.

 

More pictures of Japanese prints at the link, as well as more info on the artwork.

That is all I have for you this morning. Have a good day and please share your thoughts with us today.


Saturday News Potpourri

Draper-Pot_Pourri

Good Morning!!

I have quite a few articles to share this morning, a real Saturday potpourri! So let’s get started. First up, on Thursday Attorney General Eric Holder gave a wide-ranging interview to Ari Melber of MSNBC, and quite a bit of breaking news came out of it. Here are some of the resulting headlines: NY Daily News: Eric Holder: Could talk deal with NSA-leaker Edward Snowden, but no clemency

Holder told MSNBC that the Obama Administration “would engage in a conversation” about a resolution in the case, but said it would require Snowden acknowledge wrongdoing…. At a University of Virginia forum, where Holder was asked about Snowden, he  elaborated on his position, saying, “If Mr. Snowden wanted to come back to the United States and enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers. We would do the same with any defendant who wanted to enter a plea of guilty, so that is the context to what I said.” But he stressed that the NSA leaker would not walk. “We’ve always indicated that the notion of clemency isn’t something that we were willing to consider.”

eric-holder-marijuana

Seattle PI: Holder: Marijuana banking regulations on the way

Attorney General Eric Holder says the Obama administration is planning to roll out regulations soon that would allow banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers. During an appearance Thursday at the University of Virginia, Holder said it is important from a law enforcement perspective to enable places that sell marijuana to have access to the banking system so they don’t have large amounts of cash lying around. Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges. Because of the threat of criminal prosecution, financial institutions often refuse to let marijuana-related businesses open accounts.

There’s a good piece about this at Forbes, but they won’t even let you copy their headlines anymore. Mediaite: Eric Holder: Voter ID Used to ‘Depress the Vote’ of People Who Don’t Support GOP

Attorney General Eric Holder sharply criticized state-level voter identification policies and said that he believes those policies are a “remedy in search of a problem.” He added that, while some may be arguing for voter ID in good faith, he believes that most are advocating for this policy in order to “depress the vote” of those who do not support the “party that is advancing” voter ID measures. “I think many are using it for partisan advantage,” Holder said of voter ID. “People have to understand that we are not opposed to photo identification in a vacuum,” he continued. “But when it is used in — certain ways to disenfranchise particular groups of people, whether by racial designation, ethnic origin, or for partisan reasons, that from my perspective is problematic.” He added that “all the studies” show that in-person voter fraud “simply does not exist” at a level that requires a legislative solution.

Politico: Eric Holder: Timing of Robert Gates book release ‘a mistake’

Attorney General Eric Holder waded into the controversy over former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s new book Thursday, calling it “a mistake” for Gates to have published his recollections before President Barack Obama left the White House. “It’s my view that it’s just not a good thing thing to write a book about a president that you served while that president is still in office,” Holder said during an appearance at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “From my perspective I think the world of Bob Gates, but I think that the publication of that book — at least at this time — was a mistake.” [....] In the course of offering his critique of the timing of Gates’s book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Holder twice praised the former defense secretary for his leadership. “I like Bob Gates a great deal. He was a good secretary of defense,” the attorney general said.

LA Times: Holder says no bank ‘too big to indict,’ more financial cases coming

“I think people just need to be a little patient,” Holder said, according to a transcript of an interview with MSNBC to air at noon Pacific time Friday. “I know it’s been a while. But we have other things that are in the pipeline.” [....] Holder has taken heat for telling a Senate hearing last year that some financial institutions were “so large that it becomes difficult to prosecute them” because criminal charges could hurt the U.S. and even world economies. Since then Holder has tried to emphasize that the Justice Department is not intimidated by the size of a financial institution and would bring any charges it believed it could prove.

As I said, quite a bit of news out of one interview. Good job by Ari Melber.

In other news . . .

The Economist has a brief article that provides some background on the situation in Ukraine: On the march in Kiev –The protests turn nasty and violent, but the president is not giving ground. ukraine-protests-2

JANUARY 22nd was meant to mark Ukraine’s unity day, a celebration of its short-lived pre-Soviet independence. Instead, it was a day of civil unrest and perhaps the biggest test of Ukraine’s post-Soviet integrity. After two months of largely peaceful encampment on the Maidan in Kiev, the protests turned violent. Five people were reported killed and hundreds were injured. An armoured personnel carrier pushed through the streets. Clouds of black smoke and flames mottled the snow-covered ground. Never in its history as an independent state has Ukraine witnessed such violence. It was triggered by the passage of a series of repressive laws imposing tight controls on the media and criminalising the protests of the past two months. One law copied almost verbatim a Russian example, including stigmatising charities and human-rights groups financed from abroad as “foreign agents”. If Russian human-rights activists denounce their parliament as a “crazy printer” churning out repressive legislation, says Oleksandra Matviichuk of the Centre for Civil Liberties in Kiev, Ukraine has a “crazy photocopier”. The clashes show vividly the refusal of the protesters to heed such laws.

Brian Glyn Williams, the U. Mass Dartmouth professor who interacted with Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and recommended some sources of information on Chechnya for a report Tsarnaev was writing, has a post up at HuffPo on how the history of Chechya and Dagestan is coming back to haunt the Winter Olympics in Russia: The Dark Secret Behind the Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Efforts to Hide a Tsarist-Era Genocide. Here’s the conclusion:

The twin bombings in Volgograd in late December 2013 and an earlier one in October are clearly meant to show the Russians that the Chechen-Dagestani terrorists have reignited their terror jihad. They are also meant to remind the world of the tragedy that befell the Circassians of the Caucasus’s Black Sea shore exactly 150 years ago this winter. This is the dark secret that Russia’s authoritarian leader, Putin, does not want the world to know. Putin has thus far been very successful in conflating Russia’s neo-colonial war against Chechen separatists with America’s war on nihilist Al Qaeda Arab terrorists. Any attempt to remind the world of Imperial Russia/Post-Soviet Russia’s war crimes in the Caucasus is a threat to Putin’s pet project, the whitewashed Sochi Olympics. This of course not to excuse the brutal terroristic acts of the Caucasian Emirate or the Chechen rebels, but it certainly provides the one thing that Putin does not want the world to see as he constructs his “Potemkin village” in Sochi, and that is an honest account of the events that have made this the most terrorist fraught Olympic games since the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

erik prince Remember Erik Prince, the Michigan millionaire who founded Blackwater? Guess what he’s doing these days? The WSJ has the scoop: Erik Prince: Out of Blackwater and Into China. Erik Prince —ex-Navy SEAL, ex-CIA spy, ex-CEO of private-security firm Blackwater —calls himself an “accidental tourist” whose modest business boomed after 9/11, expanded into Iraq and Afghanistan, and then was “blowtorched by politics.” To critics and conspiracy theorists, he is a mercenary war-profiteer. To admirers, he’s a patriot who has repeatedly answered America’s call with bravery and creativity.

Now, sitting in a boardroom above Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, he explains his newest title, acquired this month: chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China’s largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. Beijing has titanic ambitions to tap Africa’s resources—including $1 trillion in planned spending on roads, railways and airports by 2025—and Mr. Prince wants in…. “I would rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next,” says the crew-cut 44-year-old. Having launched Blackwater in 1997 as a rural North Carolina training facility for U.S. soldiers and police, Mr. Prince says he “kept saying ‘yes’ as the demand curve called—Columbine, the USS Cole and then 9/11.” In 100,000 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says, Blackwater contractors never lost a U.S. official under their protection. But the company gained a trigger-happy reputation, especially after a September 2007 shootout that left 17 civilians dead in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. At that point, charges Mr. Prince, Blackwater was “completely thrown under the bus by a fickle customer”—the U.S. government, and especially the State Department. He says Washington opted to “churn up the entire federal bureaucracy” and sic it on Blackwater “like a bunch of rabid dogs.” According to Mr. Prince, IRS auditors told his colleagues that they had “never been under so much pressure to get someone as to get Erik Prince,” and congressional staffers promised, “We’re going to ride you till you’re out of business.”

Awwwwww…..Poor little rich boy. Where’s my tiny violin?

a09bc_worlds-smallest-violin

Speaking of entrepreneurs, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ plans for his latest acquisition–The Washington Post–are becoming clearer, as he hires more right wing libertarians for the op-ed page. Now Pando Daily reveals what Don Graham is up to now that he’s dumped the family business: The company formerly known as WaPo moves into tech apps.

Today, the company formerly known as WaPo — now called Graham Holdings – has announced a new business endeavor in journalism. Surprisingly, said endeavor doesn’t have much to do with actual journalism at all — it falls squarely in the tech camp. It’s a content discovery app called Trove. Trove fits in the now-torrential trend of such applications. Companies like Flipboard,Prismatic, Rockmelt, and N3twork have all tread this ground long before Trove. They’re all convinced that places like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS readers are not good enough for finding the best stories…. The two men behind Trove have rich and storied histories. Vijay Ravindran, the CEO of Trove, served as The Washington Post’s Chief Digital Officer before the sale, and ran ordering at Amazon for seven years before that. Reuters oped columnist Jack Shafer even divpredicted (incorrectly) that Ravindran would be named the new WaPo publisher after the sale. The other Trove heavyweight is product lead Rob Malda, who is also the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Slashdot — the predecessor of every user-focused news aggregator since, from Digg to Reddit to Hacker News.

Read all about it at the above link.

A few short takes:

In other tech news, CSM’s Security Watch reports that Booz Allen, Snowden’s old firm, looking to help US government with ‘insider threats’. Author Dan Murphy asks, “Are defense and intelligence contractors the best choice to manage a threat they’ve contributed to?” Read it and weep.

According to Fox News, gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Ruger will no longer do business in California because they don’t want to comply with a new CA law that allows law enforcement to trace bullets to the individual gun they came from. After all, why would gun companies want to help police catch murderers? Unbelievable!

Did you know that this month is the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant satire, Dr. Strangelove? IMHO, it is one of the funniest movies of all time. Well, Eric Schlosser has a not-so-funny article about it at The New Yorker: ALMOST EVERYTHING IN “DR. STRANGELOVE” WAS TRUE. Don’t miss this one; it’s a must read!

Apparently the latest food craze to emerge from San Francisco is “artisanal toast.” How did toast become the latest artisanal food craze? Ask a trivial question, get a profound, heartbreaking answer. John Gravois writes about it at Pacific Standard: The Science of Society. Weird.

A silly test to take at Buzzfeed: Which Pop Diva Are You? I got Pink. I know nothing about her…but she looks kinda cool. PINK

Finally, I posted this link in the comments recently, but I don’t know if anyone looked at it. I’m posting it again, because I think it’s absolutely adorable. It’s some glamour shots of elderly people having fun dressing up and posing as various movie heroes and heroines. Here’s just one example:

"Easy Rider": Walter Loeser (l.), 98, & Kurt Neuhaus, 90

“Easy Rider”: Walter Loeser (l.), 98, & Kurt Neuhaus, 90

I hope you found something to tickle your fancy in this potpourri of articles. Now it’s your turn. Please post your recommended links in the comment thread, and have a wonderful weekend!


Tuesday Reads

autumn reading1

Good Morning!!

Is is just me or is there just about no important news coming out of Washington DC? We just finished with a horrible crisis in the government, and there’s another one coming up when Congress and the President have to deal with the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling once again. Yet there seems to be very little focus on dealing with this ongoing threat to the country’s ongoing well-being.

This silence on the economic situation makes me nervous. I suspect there’s a lot of planning and discussion behind the scenes on how those in power are going to convince the mass of Americans to give up our social safety net–they’re trying to figure out how to loot Social Security and Medicare.

I don’t think they’re going to be able to do it, because Americans are awake to the possibility now. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, President Obama still dreams of a “Grand Bargain,” and so do many other powerful people like Pete Peterson, Alan Simpson, and lots of Republican and Democratic politicians. Just look at how Twitter responded when “Fix the Debt” tried to hawk its greedy plans on the social media site recently. Dakiniat wrote about that yesterday too.  So I guess I see the current silence on as the calm before the storm which will hit after all the politicians enjoy their long, relaxing Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations.

Meanwhile, the biggest political story at the moment is the apparent mess that the government made of the Obamacare website. I haven’t tried to get on the site myself, so I don’t really understand what the problems are. But the media is very focused on them. From what I can tell, the biggest problem seems to be that the site is too slow. Today’s Washington Post reports that the government was aware of the problems but went ahead with the site launch despite them.

Days before the launch of President Obama’s online health ­insurance marketplace, government officials and contractors tested a key part of the Web site to see whether it could handle tens of thousands of consumers at the same time. It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously.

Despite the failed test, federal health officials plowed ahead.

When the Web site went live Oct. 1, it locked up shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users attempted to complete the first step, according to two people familiar with the project.

As new details emerged about early warning signs of serious deficiencies in HealthCare.gov, Obama on Monday gave a consumer-friendly defense of the health-care law, insisting that the problems many Americans have faced in trying to enroll in insurance plans will be fixed quickly.

“There’s no sugarcoating it: The Web site is too slow; people have been getting stuck during the application process,” he said at a White House event.

At the same time, he admonished Republican critics of the federal insurance exchange, saying that “it is time to stop rooting for its failure.”

Obama’s reaction to the problems isn’t getting good reviews, even from supposedly liberal journalists. At the Atlantic, Garrance Franke-Ruta called Obama “Insurance Salesman In Chief.

Of all the things Barack Obama ever expected to be during the course of his life, a television insurance salesman is probably not one of them.

But that’s the role he took on Monday morning in a Rose Garden speech pitching insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplaces and acknowledging for the first time just how troubled the website to access them is. His remarks failed to address many of the specific concerns raised byreporters and technologists about the gargantuan Healthcare.gov website, and he and provided no new information about what went wrong or how, specifically, it will be fixed.

Instead, his message was more like an infomercial designed for the general public: We know there are problems with the site and we are on it. Meanwhile, we’re offering a great product that will save you money, so keep on trying, even if it’s a little frustrating.

Young_Lincoln_By_Charles_Keck

On yesterday’s Morning Joe,

Washington Post healthcare reporter and commenter Ezra Klein pushed back against the administration’s reference to the problem as bugs and technical problems.“These aren’t glitches, the website, to a first approximation, simply isn’t working” Klein said on Monday’s Morning Joe. Early traffic problems that occurred when the site was overwhelmed by visitors on the first few days may have actually masked the public from the larger problems, he said, like garbled or false information being sent to insurers.

“No one beta-tested the site, which is almost criminal,” the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein said.

“They keep using the word unacceptable. It’s not unacceptable, it’s outrageous,” Mike Barnicle said.“This is the president’s singular achievement, and to be so reticent about the problems that have gone is kind of surprising.”

Politico criticized Obama’s “passive” response to the problems with the website:

Once again, Barack Obama risks looking like a bystander to his own presidency.

Here’s what he did to kick off the week: assemble a crowd in the Rose Garden to hear him repeat how “frustrated” he was about the many problems that plagued the launch of the Affordable Care Act’s website, promise that a “tech surge” was already on its way to set those problems right and implore people to bear with him until they see what the program can do.

Here’s what he didn’t do: explain why those problems weren’t addressed before the Oct. 1 launch, why he didn’t seem to be aware of them before they went very public, or who would be suffering the consequences for any of it. He didn’t apologize. He announced, in broad terms, who would be coming in to help. But he didn’t say anything about who would be shown the exits.

His “nobody’s madder than me” Monday echoed the kinds of statements he’s repeatedly made about problems over the last few months — “Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it” (the IRS scandal), “It’s not as if I don’t have a personal interest” (the NSA scandal), “This is not a world we should accept” (Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons). He puts himself forward as a man frustrated with what’s happened on his watch, promising change, insisting that nothing of the sort could ever happen again.

I have to agree. Obama’s passivity is one of the biggest complaints I have about his presidency–particularly in the way he has (or hasn’t) dealt with the economic crisis.

The New York Times reports that it will take “weeks of work” to fix the website problems, despite the fact that most of the problems have been identified.

In interviews, experts said the technological problems of the site went far beyond the roadblocks to creating accounts that continue to prevent legions of users from even registering. Indeed, several said, the login problems, though vexing to consumers, may be the easiest to solve. One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly.

“The account creation and registration problems are masking the problems that will happen later,” said one person involved in the repair effort.

Personally, I’m finding this all pretty depressing, because it was starting to look like the Democrats could retake the House in 2014. The Obamacare mess isn’t going to help that project.

Today, CNN reported the results of new new poll that found that: 75% say most Republicans in Congress don’t deserve re-election.

A CNN/ORC International survey released Monday also found a majority saying that the Republicans’ policies are too extreme. And according to the poll, Democrats have an 8-point advantage over the Republicans in an early indicator in the battle for control of Congress. But with more than a year to go until the 2014 midterm elections, there’s plenty of time for these numbers to change.

The poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, just after the end of the 16-day partial federal government shutdown that was sparked in part by an effort by House conservatives to dismantle the health care law, which is President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

A majority of those questioned blamed congressional Republicans for the government shutdown and said the President was the bigger winner in the deal to end the crisis.

The survey also found nearly eight in 10 saying the shutdown was bad for the country, and the standoff has led to a loss of confidence and satisfaction in government. And more than seven in 10 think that another shutdown is likely.

I hope Obama gets serious about fixing the Obamacare problems so Republicans can’t get up off the mat.

leaves books

Another big story in the news is the $13 billion penalty the Justice Department is seeking to get from JP Morgan Chase.

From Bloomberg: JPMorgan Guilty Plea Sought by Holder Shows Harder Stance.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon went to Washington almost a month ago to see if U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would settle a criminal probe of mortgage fraud at the bank if it paid more money to resolve related civil investigations.

Holder’s team, which included Deputy Attorney General James Cole and Associate Attorney General Tony West, said ending the investigation by the U.S. attorney in Sacramento would require the bank to plead guilty to something, according to a person familiar with the talks, which were held in a conference room that was Robert F. Kennedy’s office when he had Holder’s job….

Later, the department proposed the bank plead guilty to making false statements related to sales of toxic mortgage bonds. The bank proposed a nonprosecution agreement, which Holder rejected, the person said. The bank agreed to assist the continuing criminal probe. The negotiation typifies the harder line the Obama administration is taking in its second term.

Well, that’s good news IMHO.

Holder’s refusal to let JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank, escape criminal liability for its mortgage-bond sales, and the move to extract penalties for wrongdoing that led to the financial crisis, may go a long way toward appeasing critics of the Justice Department who have been urging charges against bankers since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008….

The effort began on orders from President Barack Obama, who promised in his 2012 State of the Union address to hold banks accountable for their role in helping trigger the deepest recession since the Great Depression. A mortgage task force of prosecutors and regulators set up to carry out the president’s mandate produced the record $13 billion deal, which requires a formal sign-off by both sides.

Great! Let’s hope Obama follows through. Another good sign is that The Wall Street Editorial page is up in arms about the settlement.

The tentative $13 billion settlement that the Justice Department appears to be extracting from J.P. Morgan Chase JPM +0.21% needs to be understood as a watershed moment in American capitalism. Federal law enforcers are confiscating roughly half of a company’s annual earnings for no other reason than because they can and because they want to appease their left-wing populist allies.

The settlement isn’t final and many details weren’t available on the weekend, but we know enough for Americans to be dismayed. The bulk of the settlement is related to mortgage-backed securities issued before the 2008 financial panic. But those securities weren’t simply a Morgan product. They were largely issued by Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, both of which the federal government asked J.P. Morgan to take over to help ease the crisis.

So first the feds asked the bank to do the country a favor without giving it a chance for proper due diligence. The Treasury needed quick decisions, and Morgan CEOJamie Dimon made them in good faith. But five years later the feds are punishing the bank for having done them the favor. As Richard Parsons notes nearby, this is not going to make another CEO eager to help the Treasury in the next crisis. But more pointedly, where is the justice in such ex post facto punishment?

The WSJ complains that banks are being turned into “public untilities.” I think that’s exactly what they should be.

We’d like to see Mr. Dimon fight the charges, but the political reality is that he and his bank don’t have much choice. His board is eager to move on, and the government will only turn the screws harder if he resists. In a post Dodd-Frank world, banks are public utilities and no CEO can afford to resist the government’s demands.

The real lesson of the Morgan settlement isn’t that justice has finally been done to the perpetrators of the crisis. That would require arresting Barney Frank and those in Congress who blocked the reform of Fannie and Freddie, plus the Federal Reserve governors who created so much easy credit.

Hahahahahahahaha!! The oligarchs don’t like it much when the shoe is on the other foot, do they?

I’m already running out of space, so here are a few more headlines link dump style:

CBC News: U.S. drone strikes break international law, report finds

Rolling Stone: U.S. Drone Strikes Violate Laws of War

CBS News: Sparks Middle School student: Gunman said “you ruined my life and now I’m going to ruin yours”

WaPo: Economy added 148,000 jobs in September, jobless rate fell to 7.2 percent

What’s the deal with Facebook?

BBC News: Facebook lets beheading clips return to social network

MacLeans: Facebook now allows teens to post public updates

Time: Keeping Teens ‘Private’ on Facebook Won’t Protect Them

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


Saturday Reads

matisse_woman_reading

Good Morning!!

The heatwave continues here, but I hope this will be the last day of extreme weather for the time being. It’s already 83 degrees outside my house at 7:30AM. I’m hoping and praying for a thunderstorm later on. Despite the heat, I’m doing fine–just not getting that much accomplished.

Several people are tweeting about a bomb being detonated by a passenger getting off a plane at Beijing International Airport, but I haven’t seen any news stories about it yet. Apparently the passenger was in a wheelchair and detonated a bomb after yelling something. There don’t appear to be a lot of casualties. Photo of alleged bomber holding up something and screaming. Picture of the smoky aftermath.

According to Jim Sciutto, an American living in China, the bomber is still alive and on the way to the hospital. A letter from him says that a beating by police in 2005 left him paralyzed.

The Aurora Colorado theater shooting was one year ago today, and survivors are still dealing with the aftermath. CBS News reports:

Caleb Medley was shot in the head and spent two months in a coma. Teenager Kaylan Bailey struggled in vain to save a six-year-old girl with CPR. Marcus Weaver was hit in the shoulder with shotgun pellets while his friend died in the seat next to him.

One year after the Aurora, Colo. theater massacre, survivors are struggling to cope with the physical and emotional wounds left by James Holmes, an enigmatic figure who opened fire at the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The rampage killed 12 people, injured 70 and altered the lives of the more than 400 men, women and children who were in the auditorium on July 20, 2012. Survivors still carry the trauma of that night but have found strength in everything from religion to cheerleading to taking up the issue of gun control.

Read examples at the link. NBC News has photos and remembrances of the Aurora victims.

Yesterday, President Obama spoke publicly about the Travon Martin case. CNN:

In unscheduled and unusually personal remarks, President Barack Obama tried Friday to explain why African-Americans were upset about last week’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin while lowering expectations for federal charges in the case.

“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama told White House reporters in a surprise appearance at the daily briefing….

Speaking without a teleprompter, Obama noted a history of racial disparity in law as well as more nuanced social prejudice that contribute to “a lot of pain” in the African-American community over the verdict.

“There are very few African-American men in this country who have not had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me,” the president said.

“There are probably very few African-American men who have not had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator,” he continued.

“There are very few African-Americans who have not had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had the chance to get off. That happens often,” he said.

Saying he didn’t intend to exaggerate those experiences, Obama added that they “inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.”

CNN also collected reactions to Obama’s remarks from Twitter. At Salon, Alex Seitz-Wald writes about “the time Obama was mistaken for a waiter.” Seitz-Wald surveys the negative reactions to Obama’s remarks from right wingers:

The immediate reaction from the right was scorn, and a belittling of the notion that Barack Obama, with his elite education at Punahou and Columbia and Harvard, his meteoric success, and his half whiteness, could possibly have been profiled. Or that Obama was overreacting – everyone locks their doors and it has nothing to do with race. Martin, after all, has been vilified as a thug in some circles on the right.

“I’m not saying profiling never happens, but where is the evidence?” one Fox News guest protested. “So Obama ‘could have been’ Trayvon 35 yrs ago? I had no idea Obama sucker-punched a watch volunteer & then bashed his head in. Who knew?” talk radio host Tammy Bruce tweeted. “There’s no reason to believe that Martin could have been Obama 35 years ago,” the conservative Powerline blog commented. On Twitter, some guessed Obama had “never set foot in a department store, unless you count Barney’s.”

As usual, the sneering right wingers were wrong.

…a stunning little blog post by the Wall Street Journal’s Katherine Rosman from 2008 that resurfaced this afternoon tells a remarkable story about Obama the year before his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that would make him a household name. Rosman was at a book party at the Manhattan home of a Daily Beast editor with a guest list “that can fairly be described as representative of the media elite,” when she encountered an unknown Illinois state senator “looking as awkward and out-of-place as I felt.” It was Barack Obama, of course, and they chatted at length.

When she left the party, an unnamed “established author” admitted to Rosman that he had mistaken Obama, one of the only black people at the party, for a waiter and asked him to fetch a drink.

That was when he was a state senator and Harvard Law grad, and just a few years from national fame, followed by his election to the Senate, and then the White House. And it was in New York City at a gathering of presumably liberal intellectuals.

African American leaders praised Obama’s speech, according to CBS News.

“I think the president did exactly what was needed, and he did it in only a way he can,” Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, told CBS News. “I believe he started a conversation today that must continue.”

Politically, using the shooting of 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman to talk about race was a risky move, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told CBSNews.com. Yet as a statesman, it was important for Mr. Obama “to lay out a vision of how best to move forward,” he said. “It should be an important starting point for a conversation on race in America and how we can become a better society.”

However, another Salon writer, African American author Rich Benjamin denounced Obama’s speech as “safe, overrated, and airy.” Benjamin compared Obama’s words unfavorably to recent remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder and asked whether Holder is acting as Obama “inner n****r.”

Finally the president has spoken about George Zimmerman’s acquittal. Even as the country waited for his singular response – the nation’s leader and a law professor who once looked like Trayvon Martin – the president danced around the issues. And what a dramatic anti-climax, listening to the president refuse to say anything insightful or profound about the acquittal. In signature professorial style, the president gave us the “context” to the episode and to black people’s “pain.” But he didn’t offer a meaningful opinion on the episode’s hot molten core: racial profiling, vigilantism, and “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered trenchant thoughts on the acquittal, demanding action. Before an audience of supporters, Holder recently called for a full investigation of Martin’s death after Zimmerman’s acquittal. Holder vowed that the Justice Department will act “in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law. We will not be afraid.”

“We must stand our ground,” he told supporters.

Some of us have an Inner Child. Others have an Inner Nigger. Is Holder the president’s conscience? Or his Inner Nigger?

Is Holder the president’s aggressive internal mind and voice — willing to speak truth to power, but unbothered with appearing like an angry black man?

Read it and see what you think. I must admit, I was a little shocked.

Meanwhile, in a House hearing on the IRS non-scandal, good ol’ Darrell Issa referred to African American Congressman Elijah Cummings as “a little boy.”

The testy exchange came after Cummings, a 62-year-old African-American congressman from Baltimore, challenged past insinuations by Republicans that the White House was behind the IRS targeting. Cummings was picking up on testimony from two IRS witnesses who both said they knew of no evidence of political motivations in the enhanced scrutiny, which also included some progressive groups.

But Issa took issue with Cummings, denying that he had implied the orders came from the highest office in the land and insisting that he only said the targeting came from Washington.

Issa interrupted at the start of another member’s remarks to express his “shock” at Cummings.

“I’m always shocked when the ranking member seems to want to say, like a little boy whose hand has been caught in a cookie jar, ‘What hand? What cookie?’ I’ve never said it leads to the White House,” Issa said.

In fact, he has pointed to the Obama administration and went so far as to call President Barack Obama’s top spokesman, Jay Carney, a “paid liar.”

Nice.

Ex-CIA head Michael Hayden, who supported and defended warrantless wiretapping under the Bush administration has published an op-ed at CNN in which he says that  Edward Snowden “will likely prove to be the most costly leaker of American secrets in the history of the Republic,” and that writer and inveterate Snowden defender Glenn Greenwald is “far more deserving of the Justice Department’s characterization of a co-conspirator than Fox’s James Rosen ever was.” He says Snowden has hurt U.S. intelligence and foreign policy in three ways:

First, there is the undeniable operational effect of informing adversaries of American intelligence’s tactics, techniques and procedures. Snowden’s disclosures go beyond the “what” of a particular secret or source. He is busily revealing the “how” of American collection….

As former director of CIA, I would claim that the top 20% of American intelligence — that exquisite insight into an enemy’s intentions — is generally provided by human sources. But as a former director of NSA, I would also suggest that the base 50% to 60% of American intelligence day in and day out is provided by signals intelligence, the kinds of intercepted communications that Snowden has so blithely put at risk.

But there is other damage, such as the undeniable economic punishment that will be inflicted on American businesses for simply complying with American law….

The third great harm of Snowden’s efforts to date is the erosion of confidence in the ability of the United States to do anything discreetly or keep anything secret.

Manning’s torrent of disclosures certainly caused great harm, but there was at least the plausible defense that this was a one-off phenomenon, a regrettable error we’re aggressively correcting.

Snowden shows that we have fallen short and that the issue may be more systemic rather than isolated. At least that’s what I would fear if I were a foreign intelligence chief approached by the Americans to do anything of import.

Well, that third point is really the government’s fault, not Snowden’s.

Greenwald reacted by tweeting that Hayden “belongs in prison for implementing illegal warrantless eavesdropping at Americans.” FAIR defended Greenwald, calling Hayden’s characterization of Greenwald as “co-conspirator” a “smear.”

There’s nothing new on the Snowden front, except that Russia’s treatment of its own whistleblowers is beginning to get some coverage. From CNN: “Putin, a hypocrite on Snowden, Navalny.”

On Thursday in Moscow, where former NSA contractor Edward Snowden awaits his asylum papers, a Russian court removed a major critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin’s list of worries, sentencing the charismatic opposition leader Alexei Navalny to five years in jail on theft charges. Amid intense anger at the verdict and fears that it would raise Navalny’s profile, the court agreed on Friday to release him pending appeal.

The trial and the predictable verdict, as the European Union foreign affairs chief said, “raises serious questions as to the state of the rule of law in Russia.” That’s putting it mildly. Navatny is the most prominent, but just one in a long series of politically-motivated prosecutions in a country where the courts seldom make a move that displeases Putin.

Navalny was particularly worrisome to the Russian president. He had gained an enormous following by speaking out against corruption and cronyism, labeling Putin’s United Russia “a party of swindlers and thieves” and using social media to help mobilize the president’s critics. He had just announced he would run for mayor of Moscow. But, like other Putin opponents with any possible chance to loosen the president’s complete hold on power, he will likely go to prison instead. Now that he’s released, Navalny is considering whether to stay or withdraw from the race for mayor.

According to Voice of America, Navalny still plans to run for Mayor of Moscow.

Then there’s the case of Sergei Magnitsky. The government auditor was sent to investigate the investment firm Heritage Capital, which was charged with tax evasion. When Magnitsky concluded the tax fraud was actually coming from the government side and became a whistleblower, naming a network of corrupt officials, he was accused of working for Heritage and thrown in jail, where he became ill, was denied medical treatment and died in 2009, when he was just 37. The United States responded with the Magnitsky Law, imposing sanctions on those involved in his death.

Death didn’t save Magnitsky from Russia’s courts, which found him guilty of tax fraud just last week.

Many others, including the performance group Pussy Riot, have seen even small scale political activism land them in jail.

I’ll end there and open the floor to you. What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comments, and have a stupendous Saturday!!