I hope everyone had a great day yesterday, regardless of how you spent your time. My day was very quiet, because I had an upset stomach from some brussels sprouts I ate on Wednesday night. My mom and I are going to have “thanksgiving” dinner at my sister’s place on Saturday, so we just hung out and relaxed.
It’s going to be a slow news day, obviously, but I’ll do my best to provide some interesting reading material.
The New York Times had a nice story about some help for Sandy victims that came from a surprising place–Rikers Island.
On the night that the storm roared into the city, Dora B. Schriro, the correction commissioner, slept on a couch in her office at the Rikers Island jail, bracing for flooding and reassuring inmates and employees that the island would weather the storm.
The next morning, the vast jailhouse complex was mostly unscathed, but Ms. Schriro was stunned by the devastation the storm had wrought elsewhere.
So she decided to put her jail, and those who call it home, to work. Inmates did 6,600 pounds of laundry for people in emergency shelters. The jail supplied generators and gas to fuel them to neighborhoods in the dark, and donated long underwear usually given to inmates. And officers with medical training provided emergency care to victims.
“There was a lot of loss,” said Ms. Schriro, who personally pitched in at food lines on the Rockaway Peninsula, in Queens. “It was our responsibility and opportunity to jump in and help.”
I was disappointed that the story doesn’t say anything about how the inmates felt about all this.
Jail officials did not make inmates available for interviews about the role they played in helping storm victims, but Ms. Schriro said, “I’m confident they knew what they were doing.”
I’m not sure what to think about that.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle of yesterday’s holiday was the fact that it was also the 49th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Journalist and assassination researcher Jefferson Morley wrote a piece about it at Huffington Post: JFK at 49: What We Know For Sure. Morley reports on new developments in the JFK story since the article he wrote in 2010 called The Kennedy Assassination: 47 Years Later, What Do We Really Know?
One nondevelopment is that “cultural elites” continue to deny any possibility that the official story of JFK’s murder could be flawed, despite new evidence that has been revealed in recent years. Morley writes that there is no real evidence of a CIA conspiracy to assassinate JFK, there is a great deal of evidence of “CIA negligence.” From the HuffPo link:
The truth is this: Lee Harvey Oswald was well known to a handful of top CIA officials shortly before JFK was killed.
Read this internal CIA cable (not declassified until 1993) and you will see that that accused assassin’s biography–his travels, politics, intentions, and state of mind–were known to top CIA officials as of October 10, 1963 six weeks before JFK went to Dallas for a political trip….
In the fall of 1963, Oswald, a 23-year old ex-Marine traveled from New Orleans to Mexico City. When he contacted the Soviet embassy to apply for a visa to travel to Cuba, a CIA surveillance team picked up his telephone calls. A tape recording indicated Oswald had been referred to a consular officer suspected of being a KGB assassination specialist.
Winston Scott, the respected chief of the CIA station in Mexico City, was concerned. He sent a query to CIA headquarters, asking who is this guy Oswald?
Oswald had been on the agency’s radar since 1959 when he defected to Russia, and they had a “fat file” on him; nevertheless, the CIA told Scott that Oswald had “matured” and there was nothing to worry about.
This optimistic assessment was personally read and endorsed by no less than five senior CIA officers. They are identified by name on the last page of the cable. Their names–Roman, Tom Karamessines, Bill Hood, John Whitten (identified by his pseudonym “Scelso”), and Betty Egeter–were kept from the American public for thirty years. Why? Because all five reported to deputy director Richard Helms or to Counterintelligence Chief James Angleton in late 1963. Because of “national security.”
Read much more at the HuffPo link. Not too many American still remember November 22, 1963 clearly, and as Morley says that dark day in Dallas “seems to be fading in America’s collective consciousness.”
It’s looking like once the final tallies from the presidential election are complete, Mitt Romney will have won about 47 percent of the vote.
The legacy of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign will be marked with by the number 47. Not only the 47 percent of voters that he notoriously dismissed during a fundraising event, but also by the 47 percent of voters who chose to support him. Analysts predict that Romney will have won under 47.5 percent of the popular vote when the final tallies come in, compared to President Barack Obama’s 51 percent.
Romney characterized 47 percent of American voters as dependent on big government and therefore sympathetic to the Democratic platform. Instead, the election proved that the conservative Republican platform could not make a strong enough appeal to the demographics outside of its own traditional backing.
What could be more appropriate?
This one is for Dakinikat: Why Black Friday Is a Behavioral Economist’s Nightmare. At New York Magazine, Kevin Roose writes:
The big problem with Black Friday, from a behavioral economist’s perspective, is that every incentive a consumer could possibly have to participate — the promise of “doorbuster” deals on big-ticket items like TVs and computers, the opportunity to get all your holiday shopping done at once — is either largely illusory or outweighed by a disincentive on the other side. It’s a nationwide experiment in consumer irrationality, dressed up as a cheerful holiday add-on.
As Dan Ariely explains in his book, Predictably Irrational, “We all make the same types of mistakes over and over, because of the basic wiring of our brains.”
This applies to shopping on the other 364 days of the year, too. But on Black Friday, our rational decision-making faculties are at their weakest, just as stores are trying their hardest to maximize your mistakes.
Read about all the potential shopping booby traps at the link.
Here’s a horrifying update in the global war on women: Saudi Arabia implements electronic tracking system for women
RIYADH — Denied the right to travel without consent from their male guardians and banned from driving, women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.
Since last week, Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together.
Manal al-Sherif, who became the symbol of a campaign launched last year urging Saudi women to defy a driving ban, began spreading the information on Twitter, after she was alerted by a couple.
The husband, who was travelling with his wife, received a text message from the immigration authorities informing him that his wife had left the international airport in Riyadh.
“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said columnist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Women still have a very very long way to go, as we have learned here in the supposedly “advanced” U.S. over the past few years.
But never mind the serious problems that face humanity, the wingnuts at Fox News are focused on the supposed “war on xmas.” From TPM:
In the days before Thanksgiving, Fox filled its shows with dire, sometimes terrifying segments about all the threats surrounding the merriest season of the year. There’s the eradication of free speech by atheist “loons,” the possibility of choking on our food, the diseases spread on airplanes, and the endless depression that comes from Christmas commercials.
If we even make it to Christmas, that is. Fox’s morning man Bill Hemmer charted the possibility that the “apocalypse” would arrive on Dec. 22, and just how sad it will be when we all get wiped out, leaving all those unopened presents under the tree.
Here’s a mash-up of Fox coverage of the “war,” courtesy of TPM.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you found something to your liking. Now what’s on your reading list for today.
Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of the murder of President John F. Kennedy. Many Americans are unaware that a great deal of archival information on the assassination and on Kennedy’s administration has become available at the National Archives in the recent years.
A number of important, even scholarly, books have now been published based on that new information. Unfortunately, more records–especially CIA records–remain hidden, but it seems clear that, as a Congressional Commission affirmed years ago, it is highly unlikely that Oswald acted alone. In fact, elements of our government were probably complicit in the assassination of a U.S. President. Here are some of the best of recent books dealing with the JFK assassination.
JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, by James W. Douglass
The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, by David E. Kaiser
The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence, by Gerald Blaine and Lisa McCubbin
Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, by David Talbot
Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA, by Jefferson Morley
Yesterday, the Atlantic published a piece by Jefferson Morley (the last author on my list): The Kennedy Assassination: 47 Years Later, What Do We Really Know?
…for all the crazy ideas out there, there remain sober and careful alternative views of the assassination. These theories may or may not ultimately be right, but they represent the continuation of serious discussion of the subject.
He then debunks “five common myths about the state of the debate itself.” It would be very hard to excerpt anything from this article, you really need to read the entire thing. But here is just a taste:
Myth 3. No one high-up in the U.S. government ever thought there was a conspiracy behind JFK’s murder.
Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, publicly endorsed the Warren Commissions conclusion that Oswald acted alone. Privately, LBJ told many people, ranging from Atlantic contributor Leo Janos to CIA director Richard Helms, that he did not believe the lone-gunman explanation.
The president’s brother Robert and widow Jacqueline also believed that he had been killed by political enemies, according to historians Aleksandr Fursenko and Tim Naftali. In their 1999 book on the Cuban missile crisis, One Hell of a Gamble: Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958-1964, they reported that William Walton — a friend of the First Lady — went to Moscow on a previously scheduled trip a week after JFK’s murder. Walton carried a message from RFK and Jackie for their friend, Georgi Bolshakov, a Russian diplomat who had served as a back-channel link between the White House and the Kremlin during the October 1962 crisis: RFK and Jackie wanted the Soviet leadership to know that “despite Oswald’s connections to the communist world, the Kennedys believed that the president was felled by domestic opponents.”
In the Senate, Democrats Richard Russell of Georgia and Russell Long of Louisiana both rejected official accounts of the assassination. In the executive branch, Joseph Califano, the Secretary of Army in 1963 and later Secretary of Health Education and Welfare, concluded that Kennedy had been killed by a conspiracy. In the White House, H.R. Haldeman, chief of staff to President Richard Nixon, wanted to reopen the JFK investigation in 1969. Nixon wasn’t interested.
Please read the whole thing. IMHO, 1963 is the year when everything started to go to hell for our country. The murderers were allowed to go free and even stay within our government, and today we are living with the results of allowing corruption to run rampant without any accountability.
I know not everyone likes Chris Hedges’ writing as much as I do, but please read his latest column at Truthdig if you can. It is depressing reading, I admit, but I believe Hedges is right and should be heeded. Again, a brief excerpt can’t do the piece justice, but I’ll include one anyway.
There is no hope left for achieving significant reform or restoring our democracy through established mechanisms of power. The electoral process has been hijacked by corporations. The judiciary has been corrupted and bought. The press shuts out the most important voices in the country and feeds us the banal and the absurd. Universities prostitute themselves for corporate dollars. Labor unions are marginal and ineffectual forces. The economy is in the hands of corporate swindlers and speculators. And the public, enchanted by electronic hallucinations, remains passive and supine. We have no tools left within the power structure in our fight to halt unchecked corporate pillage.
The liberal class, which Barack Obama represents, was never endowed with much vision or courage, but it did occasionally respond when pressured by popular democratic movements. This was how we got the New Deal, civil rights legislation and the array of consumer legislation pushed through by Ralph Nader and his allies in the Democratic Party. The complete surrendering of power, however, to corporate interests means that those of us who seek nonviolent yet profound change have no one within the power elite we can trust for support. The corporate coup has ossified the structures of power. It has obliterated all checks on corporate malfeasance. It has left us stripped of the tools of mass organization that once nudged the system forward toward justice.
Obama knows where power lies and serves these centers of power. The tragedy—if tragedy is the right word—is that Obama, after selling his soul to corporations, has been discarded. Corporate power doesn’t need brand Obama anymore. They have found new brands in the tea party, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Obama has been abandoned by those who once bundled contributions for him by the millions of dollars. Obama and the Democratic Party will, I expect, spend the next two years being even more obsequious to corporate power. Obama clearly loves the pomp and privilege of statecraft that much. But I am not sure it will work.
I highly recommend reading the whole thing. We are approaching the point of no return–we may even have passed that point, as Hedges argues.
This morning I came across this op-ed from a PA newspaper. I think it really expresses what we saw in Obama early on, and what so many other people seemed not to see.
Above all others: Obama’s arrogance, by Ralph R. Reiland, associate professor of economics, Robert Morris University
Reiland argues that Obama’s inflated self-esteem is a huge problem. You’ll recognize the quotes, but Reiland ties them all together nicely. Here is just one:
Patrick Gaspard, former community organizer, ex-lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union and now director of Obama’s Office of Political Affairs, is quoted in a 2008 New Yorker article describing what Obama said to him during his job interview: “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
As much of the world is now beginning to understand, Obama’s opinion of himself is not very accurate, and unfortunately he has surrounded himself with sycophants who reinforce his false self-image to the detriment of our country.
Long-time media sycophant Marc Ambinder presents the White House case for gate rapes (h/t Emptywheel) at The National Journal:
The White House and the Department of Homeland Security indicated today that they won’t yield to demands to amend new airline passenger screening rules that have been decried as wildly intrusive.
On the contrary, administration officials are quietly and aggressively defending the policies against what they see as a media frenzy of distorted information. For instance, the administration noted that fewer than one half of one percent of the 34 million passengers who traveled on airplanes in or to the U.S. last week were subjected to crotch-area pat-downs.
They also disputed the very notion of a public backlash, even as those words played ubiquitously on news tickers and as video parodies of the Transportation Safety Administration were being emailed around the globe. Before press coverage of the new rules reached a roar late last week, TSA received only 700 complaints nationwide about its procedures, an administration official said. The official insisted on anonymity because the information was not intended for public release. The issue is sensitive because physical space intrusions are just about the last thing an administration cast by Republicans as prone to governmental overreach needs.
Talk about clueless. I can’t imagine how Obama and his Chicago gang actually believe he can be reelected with such tone-deaf strategies.
At FDL, Emptywheel is doing yeoman’s work on the TSA story. Here’s a bit of her latest post: White House: Only 170,000 People Have Had Genitalia Groped by Complete Stranger in Last Week
The White House has started a pushback campaign on gate rape that is reminiscent of “Recovery Summer” or “Mission Accomplished” for its credibility.
It consists of a number of things, in addition to the inevitable army of talking-point-people using the word “enhanced” the same way Cheney did.
She is particularly angered by Obama’s claim that naked body scanners and crotch gropes are the only techniques that can prevent attacks like the one attempted by the underpants bomber:
Um, no. You see, after the underwear bombing, we had a whole bunch of studies that examined what went wrong and what might have been effective against the underwear bomber. And the answer–in the face of clear fuck-ups by the NCTC and CIA (and to a much lesser degree, the FBI for which John Pistole then served as second-in-command)–the answer was to stop fucking up and start sharing information. To claim that junk-touching is the only thing that would be effective at stopping the undie bomber, when we know that the intelligence community had already identified Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab but failed to stop him, is an out and out lie.
Mind you, crotch groping might be effective if al Qaeda or another terrorist organization decided to launch the same type of attack, this time from within the United States. Or it might be effective against another sort of attack we haven’t yet thought up. Then again, it pointedly wouldn’t be effective against an attack by an organization that has proven itself capable of adjusting and exploiting new weaknesses–that is, the organization we’re fighting.
If only fighting terrorism were the real goal of these police state tactics. Unfortunately, the goal (IMNSHO) is to scare the bejesus out of innocent American citizens to soften them up for even more invasive tactics to come.
Remember how Obama acknowledged that he doesn’t have to go through the nightmare of naked body scanning like the “small people”? Ian Welsh reminds us that most rich people don’t have to deal with this crap either–it’s just us serfs.
If important people don’t have skin in the game, things don’t get fixed and the quality of whatever experience they don’t experience doesn’t get better. Everyone, most especially the rich and powerful, must fly on the same planes, must be subject to the draft, must have their kids go to the same schools and so on. Only then will the general quality be high.
To the extent possible the rich have created an entire alternative structure: they don’t fly on the same planes, their kids don’t go to the same schools, they don’t fight in the wars, they have hotels that you will never enter (can you afford 50K a night?) They live in a system parallel to that of ordinary people.
The rich must never, ever, be allowed to opt out of the shared social and economic experience. Fly first class? Sure, but not on private jets. Drive in a limo? Sure, but not fly in a helicopter avoiding congestion. Get a room to themselves in the hospital? Sure, but not jump the queue for treatment in front of anyone.
Too late, that ship has sailed.
Okay, I’ve probably thoroughly depressed you, and I’m sorry for that. But still, where there’s life, there’s hope. Maybe you guys can find some cheerful news even though I couldn’t. What stories and blogs are you following today?