Thursday Reads: A Victory for Workers, Women Overcoming Misogyny, and Other News

Market Basket employee Tony Khater (left) celebrates with store director Al Jussaume (right) after learning of the sales agreement.

Market Basket employee Tony Khater (left) celebrates with store director Al Jussaume (right) after learning of the sales agreement

Good Morning!!

Score one for the workers! The Market Basket war is over and the the good guys won for a change. Late last night Arthur T. Demoulas signed an agreement to buy out his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas’ share of the business for $1.5 billion.

From The Boston Globe:

The epic battle over Market Basket that sparked an extraordinary worker revolt and captivated the public through the summer ended Wednesday when Arthur T. Demoulas reached a deal to buy the company from rival relatives for more than $1.5 billion.

Market Basket’s shareholders announced the deal at 11:15 p.m. after several days of suspenseful negotiations. Arthur T. Demoulas and his sisters will buy the shares of their cousin Arthur S. Demoulas and other relatives on his side of the family, who collectively own 50.5 percent of the company.

In a statement stripped bare of the emotion of recent days, the company and its shareholders asked managers, employees, and customers to return to stores to help get Market Basket running again. It also announced the reinstatement of Arthur T., who had been fired as president in June.

Market basket2

“Effective immediately, Arthur T. Demoulas is returning to Market Basket with day-to-day operational authority of the company,” the statement said. “All associates are welcome back to work with the former management team to restore the company back to normal operations.”

The sale agreement, which will take months to formally close, ends a fight so bitter it took the intervention of the governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire to help the Demoulas family resolve it after nearly a quarter-century.

The agreement authorizes Arthur T. to manage the business and stabilize operations at its 71 stores, where employee walkouts and customer boycotts had brought business to a virtual standstill for six weeks. He will also be able to rehire several managers who were fired along with him. However, until the deal closes, he will continue to work with the chief executives hired to replace him, Felicia Thornton and James Gooch.

Forbes: Warring Billionaires Finally Settle Family Score With Market Basket Deal.

Market Basket’s 25,000 employees will be heading back to work following a summer of discontent. The New England supermarket chain has been rocked by protests and customer boycotts since Arthur T Demoulas was ousted as President and CEO June 24th. He and his team, many of whom were also fired during the crisis, will be reinstated as management while the deal wraps up. They’ll work alongside co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch, who were brought in by the board after Arthur T and his management team were removed.

“Effective immediately, Arthur T. Demoulas is returning to Market Basket with day-to-day operational authority of the company,” reads a statement from Arthur T. “All associates are welcome back to work with the former management team to restore the company back to normal operations.”

“Tonight we raise a glass to Artie T and each other as we have achieved the most improbable of upsets,” writes the anonymous blogger behind website wearemarketbasket.com. The website as well as social media have been key sources of information for employees refusing to work following Arthur T’s dismissal. “Tomorrow we go to work and never, in the history of people going to work, will so many people be so happy to punch the clock.”

Arthur T2

Arthur T. will address workers this morning, according to the Boston Herald; but in the meantime, the job of restocking Market Basket shelves in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine has begun. From AP (via ABC News), Deliveries Roll Following Deal in Supermarket Feud.

Tractor-trailers bearing the Market Basket logo and laden with the tons of food it will take to restock the chain’s 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, as well as vendor vehicles, pulled up to loading docks before business Thursday, just hours after the announcement late Wednesday that Arthur T. Demoulas paid $1.5 billion for shares of the company owned by the rival family faction, led by cousin Arthur S. Demoulas….

“All associates are welcome back to work with the former management team to restore the company back to normal operations,” Arthur T. Demoulas said in a statement

“I feel like I won the lottery,” Market Basket truck driver Buddy Wemmers told The Boston Globe.

“I’m thrilled, this is epic,” said Tom Trainor, a district supervisor, told the Boston Herald.

Gary Sessa, a front end manager at the chain’s Tewksbury store, told WFXT-TV that company bakers came in at midnight after hearing the news and started baking cakes that say “Welcome back Artie T: Market Basket Strong.”

It does my heart good to see the workers win this battle. I hope this will encourage others to stand up against efforts to make businesses less worker-friendly and more profitable for stockholders. Perhaps it will even convince a few CEOs that treating their employees with respect can pay off in the long run.

Will Misogyny Never Die?

Kirsten Gillibrand with her preferred candidate for President

Kirsten Gillibrand with her preferred candidate for President

Senator Kirstin Gillibrand has a book coming out, and yesterday People Magazine released some tidbits from their interview with her. It seems that the mostly elderly men in Congress who are making decisions about women’s health and working conditions feel entitled to make judgmental remarks about their female co-workers’ bodies. The Washington Post reports: “I like my girls chubby,” a male Senator told Kirsten Gillibrand. Yes, really, by Jaime Fuller.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) has a new book coming out, “Off the Sidelines,” and has been making the media rounds to promote it. The New York Post highlighted parts of the book today, in an article titled, “Gillibrand: Male colleagues called me ‘porky’ after baby.”

As awful as that headline is, things get worse in the book, according to the story. One quote in particular stands out. Gillibrand reveals that one male Senator, after she lost about 50 pounds, came up behind her and gave her waist a squeeze. “Don’t lose too much weight now,” he told her. “I like my girls chubby.” She says that he was one of her favorite senators(!).

As Gillibrand’s title infers, the book goes into detail about the things that women in politics still have to deal with that their male counterparts, well, don’t….

Gillibrand surely isn’t alone in having to deal with such comments with her male colleagues at the Capitol, although some of her encounters are jaw-droppingly bad/offensive. When she was still in the House, a Southern representative told her, “You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat.”

I only wish Gillibrand had named names.

Fuller includes a link to this 2013 article by Olivia Messer at the Texas Observer, The Texas Legislature’s Sexist Little Secret in which she writes about what she experienced and observed as woman reporter covering the Texas legislature. The stories are probably representative of legislative bodies (pun intended) around the country.

It didn’t take me long to realize that as a woman, and especially a young woman, I’d be treated differently than my male colleagues. Within weeks, I’d already heard a few horrifying stories. Like the time a former Observerstaffer, on her first day in the Capitol, was invited by a state senator back to his office for personal “tutoring.” Or, last session, when Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton interrupted Marisa Marquez during a House floor debate to ask if her breasts were real or fake.

Thankfully I never experienced anything so sexually explicit. Instead, I encountered a string of subtle but demeaning comments. One of the first interviews I conducted for the Observer, in February, was with a male senator about an anti-abortion bill. I was asking questions about whether the bill would reduce access to abortion. At the end of the interview, as soon as I turned off my recorder, he said, “How old are you, sweetheart? You look so young.”

Another day, near the end of the regular session, I was at the Capitol (doing interviews for this story, coincidentally) when a House page stopped me on my way out of the chamber. “I’ve never seen you in here before,” he said. “Who do you work for?” I answered the question, assuming that he wanted to see my press badge. “Well, uh, this may seem forward,” he stammered, “but I’m not sure if I’ll ever see you again—could I maybe take you out to lunch or dinner some time?” He looked about 16, red-faced and innocent. I politely declined. When I walked over to the Senate chamber, a staffer stopped me. “Wow,” he said. “You look really beautiful today.” My face turned red. I thanked him and walked to a seat at the press table. It was the third time that day the staffer had mentioned my appearance, and I was beginning to feel that what I looked like mattered more than my work—at least to the men in the building. At a certain point, after enough of these run-ins—which included male staffers from both chambers, some of whom I knew to be married, hitting on me, making comments about my physical appearance, touching my arm—it finally occurred to me that, when I was at work, I was often fending off advances like I was in a bar.

What surprised me was how many women who work in the Capitol—legislators, staffers, lobbyists, other reporters—felt the same way. Everyone, it seemed, had a story or anecdote about being objectified or patronized.

Messer’s article is long, but it’s fascinating reading. At one point she writes about the night Wendy Davis and her female colleagues “took over the capital” and filibustered an anti-abortion bill.

Here’s another great commentary on the Gillibrand story by Olivia Nuzzi at The Daily Beast, Senate Pigs Called Kirsten Gillibrand ‘Porky’.

Clueless Politico reporter John Bresnahan

Clueless Politico reporter John Bresnahan

Naturally, these stories about sexism among male politicians were all over Twitter yesterday. One male Politico writer named John Bresnahan doubted whether Gillibrand was really telling the truth. He got shot down pretty thoroughly and later apologized and stopped tweeting for the night. Even plenty of young men like Bresnahan just don’t get it.

Politics isn’t the only field where men treat women like pieces of meat. Women in the tech field usually have plenty of horror stories about things their male colleagues. Here are just a few random links to stories about it from the past couple of years.

The New York Times, Technology’s Man Problem.

The Washington Post, Snapchat, sexism and the reason women don’t stay in tech.

The Washington Post, Google statistics show Silicon Valley has a diversity problem.

Alternet, High-Tech Industry Focused on Babes and Boobs Needs Killer Sexism App.

Business Insider, 9 Stomach-Churning Posts From Secret That Show Awful Sexist Behavior In The Tech Industry.

Women who write critically about video games–or even play games on-line–are targets for hatred and violent threats. This isn’t the first story like this I’ve seen: Feminist video game critic forced to leave her home after online rape and death threats. Raw Story reports:

Anita Sarkeesian, creator of an online video series analyzing problematic representations of women in video games, was forced to leave her home on Tuesday after death threats made online against herself and her family, Polygon reported.

“Some very scary threats have just been made against me and my family,” Sarkeesian posted on Tuesday. “Contacting authorities now.”

After confirming she had found a safe place to stay, Sarkeesian posted a screengrab of the threats, posted by a Twitter account calling itself “Kevin Dobson,” which identified her address and her parents, as well as several vulgar threats, including one to “ram a hot tire iron up [her] c*nt” (read the messages at Raw Story)

Sarkeesian reported the threats a day after she released a new episode of her series, Feminist Frequency, dealing with games that feature sexualized female victims or female characters introduced solely to highlight either a villain’s aggression or provide motivation for players to complete their missions.

The effect of introducing these “mature themes,” she argues in the episode, is the trivialization of painful experiences that are all too common….

“When games casually use sexualized violence as a ham-fisted form of character development for the bad guys, it reinforces a popular misconception about gendered violence by framing it as something abnormal, as a cruelty committed only by the most transparently evil strangers,” she says in the video. “In reality, however, violence against women — and sexual violence, in particular — is a common everyday occurence, often perpetrated by ‘normal men,’ known and trusted by those targeted.”

A few more links to interesting stories:

stonehenge

CNN, U.S. official says 1,000 Russian troops enter Ukraine.

Christian Science Monitor, UN: Ebola cases in W. Africa could top 20,000.

Wall Street Journal, Rebels in Syria Capture Border Crossing With Israel.

Reuters, U.S. air strikes on Syria would face formidable obstacles.

New York Times Video, Michael Brown’s Body (an amazing collection of interviews with residents of Michael Brown’s neighborhood).

Christian Science Monitor, What Republican wave? (Writer Doug Mataconis doesn’ think a Republican takeover of the Senate is inevitable).

E on Line, Discovery Channel’s Sons of Guns Canceled After Star Will Hayden Is Charged With Raping His 12-Year-Old Daughter.

Washington Post, Report reveals the horrors of 1,400 sexually abused children in a British town and the system that failed them.

WBUR Boston, Growing Number Of War Correspondents Work For Themselves.

Nature World News, Mystery of Sailing Stones Unveiled in Death Valley.

Discovery News, 2,700-Year-Old Phoenician Shipwreck Discovered.

Huffington Post, Archaeologists Discover 15 Previously Unknown Monuments Buried Around Stonehenge.

News.Com.AU, The truth about Stonehenge: New survey reveals more secrets

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Thursday!


Lazy Saturday Reads: Challenging Misogyny and Electing a Woman President

hillary-clinton-book-signing

 

Good Morning!!

A couple of days ago, Dan Murphy of The Christian Science Monitor tweeted a link to a 2013 post he wrote about on-line misogyny and noted that “It’s only getting worse.” It’s refreshing that some men recognize the problem. But why is it “getting worse” this week? I doubt if even Dan Murphy knows what’s driving the recent increase in on-line expressions of woman hatred.

Hint: A powerful woman released a memoir on Tuesday. There are now 552 customer reviews of the book on Amazon, most written by misogynistic Hillary-haters who obviously have not read even a single paragraph of Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices. 

We watched it during the 2008 presidential campaign, and we always knew it would happen again if Hillary dared to run again. The truth is that misogyny is even stronger than racism in this country; hatred of women is so powerful that even pointing it out can unleash rape and murder threats. From Dan Murphy’s post from last year about misogyny in the UK:

Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman got the ball rolling this time by daring to write on Tuesday:

There’s been a lot of focus of late on the weirdy-weirdos who send rape threats on Twitter, and rightly so. But much of the coverage makes several misguided assumptions. First, that angry misogynists only communicate on Twitter (allow me to introduce you to something called Reddit). Second, that this is a man-versus-woman thing. Some of the angriest messages I’ve ever received on the Internet have come from women, usually telling me how ugly I am. Lovely to meet you, too! And third, that legislating against rape threats on the Internet is a contravention of freedom of speech. Seeing as legislation against hate speech in the real world has not, as far as I know, contravened anyone’s right to freedom of speech, this argument makes no sense, except, maybe, to people who make rape threats and whose grasp of logic is, perhaps, not whipsmart.

Ms. Freeman soon received a bomb threat on Twitter. Also in the UK last week feminist writer Caroline Criado-Perez and Labour Party politician Stella Creasy received rape threats via Twitter. After Ms. Criado-Perez complained to police she’d received dozens of sexual threats over the Internet, a 21-year old man was arrested.

Hillary cartoon

The Hillary hate has been building up for awhile now, ever since Hillary stepped down as Secretary of State and the media began shrieking from the dark heart of its collective fear of a woman president–especially *This Woman.* I don’t know how bad its going to get, but I’m already sick of it. I want so much for Hillary to stand strong and prevail over the fear and hatred of women that is and will be projected on her for the next couple of years.

Even I fell for it yesterday when we discussed Hillary’s interview with NPR’s Terry Gross. I said I thought Hillary had sounded defensive when she responded to Gross’s question about changing her position on same-sex marriage. Luckily for me, Fannie and Janicen were there to point out my mistake:

Fannie

I am glad Hillary asserted herself and her tone. I don’t know why Terry Gross didn’t do her homework, or why she took the path that lead to the “twisting of her comments, insisting it was politics”. Hillary wasn’t trying to jump her (or as the media said, Hillary was being testy), she was being spot on about her response. Get ready, now that her book is out, we are going to see underreactions, overreactions, the ups and and downs, and everything else they will thrown into the mix. Hillary will be up against the Ducks, the Rick Perry’s who thinks gays are alcoholics, the tea party candidate who says the Bible tells me to stone gay people to death, and Rich Gohmert who debates at congressional hearings about who is and who is not going to heaven. She’s been around the block a couple times.

BB, you remember when Chris Hayes was attacked by a republican woman, she hammered his ass, and it was all because they “disagreed”. Hillary was NOT being nasty like this woman. She handled it well, I thought.

Let’s get back to Hillary’s history. She was speaking out against the oppression by the Uganda Bill “Kill the Gays”. She gave a hell of speech at George University. That was early in 2009.

Did Chris and Terry forget 2009 when she said:
“On behalf of Department of State and USAID, I want to congratulate the gays and lesbians in foreign affairs agencies on winning the Employee Resource Group of the Year Award by Out and Equal Work Place.”

It was Hillary who changed the policy at the Dept. State, to help provide benefits for same sex partners of those work were in foreign service. It was after this that Obama followed with other federal agencies. Obama had been nodding his head, while she was actually changing the laws, and the records are there for everybody to see. Terry and Chris refused to see.

Hillary Clinton also developed policy on transgender employees at the state department. She said stand up and be who you are. Keep in mind, she said “the struggle for equality is never ever finished”…. and she is right.

Hillary has been advocate for LGBT community for long time. She knows that they (we) are all flustrated because change is slow to come. It coming but very slowly. It was Hillary who marched in Pride Parade when June was declared Pride Month, she was right there with them, while Obama was working out.

Chris is getting lazy, get up off his ass and speak to those she has helped for many many years.

janicen

June 13, 2014 at 11:55 am(Edit)

I have to disagree that she sounded defensive. I think she sounded decisive. Gross kept stupidly pushing her agenda again and again. Clinton was polite for as long as humanly possible and then she just had to put the idiot in her place. I’m glad she responded as she did. Until then she was sounding like a politician. Once she cold cocked her, Madame President sounded like a leader.

Thank you, my dear friends. That is a clear demonstration of the value of a community blog where we can argue share our analyses with each other. I’m so glad we are still hanging in there together!

Now a response to the chorus of media criticism of Hillary as “testy” (IOW *bitchy*) from Jeremy Holden at Media Matters: How NPR’s Terry Gross Created A False Impression That Hillary Clinton Stonewalled On Marriage Equality.

By repeatedly asking the same question, NPR correspondent Terry Gross created the false impression that Hillary Clinton was stonewalling and dodging over the issue of marriage equality, despite the fact that Clinton consistently and repeatedly answered Gross’ question.

As a senator and during her 2008 presidential run, Clinton supported civil unions for same-sex couples and opposed marriage equality. In a March 2013 statement, she announced that “I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I support it personally and as a matter of policy and law.” She explained that her travels as secretary of state and her daughter’s wedding had been key to her changing her opinion on the issue.

Gross’ central question was whether Clinton changed her publicly stated position and supported gay marriage out of political expedience, a question she asked seven separate times during an NPR interview. Clinton consistently rejected Gross’ characterization throughout the interview, instead saying that her views on the issue changed over time.

SONY DSC

To me it seemed that Gross wanted Hillary to say that she had always supported same-sex marriage, but had pretended to oppose it for political reasons. Of course if Hillary had said that, she would have been pilloried for lying about her position. The truth is, as she stated very clearly, that Hillary’s views on same-sex marriage changed as she heard the logical arguments for it from LGBT activists–whom she had long supported. Here is Hillary’s clear response at the beginning of the exchange.

TERRY GROSS: Were there positions you believed in as senator but you couldn’t publicly support because you felt that it wasn’t time yet? That the positions would have been too unpopular? That the public wasn’t ready in regards to LGBT rights? And, you know, I often think that there are politicians who, you know, in their heart really support it but don’t publicly support it.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I was fully on board with ending discrimination in the workplace on behalf of the LGBT community. I did not support gay marriage when I was in the Senate or running for president, as you know, and as President Obama and others held the same position.But it, for me, became an opportunity to do what I could as secretary of state to make the workplace fairer – something I had always supported and spoke out about. And then when I was out of the secretary of state position and once again free to comment on domestic matters, I very shortly came out in favor of fully equality, including gay marriage.

Yet “progressives” like Chris Hayes writers at Firedoglake and Huffington Post ripped into Hillary for standing up for herself against Gross’s attempts to twist her responses.

Another defense of Hillary’s truthfulness–while expressing frustration with her positions–came from the Washington Post’s Johnathan Capehart: Gross misunderstanding of Hillary Clinton on gay marriage.

The history bears out Clinton’s contention. Her evolution on marriage equality was as irksome for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as was President Obama’s. But what made Obama’s evolution especially painful to watch was knowing that as a candidate for state senate in 1996, he unequivocally stated, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” As I covered Clinton from first lady to senator to presidential candidate, I never detected a whiff of that kind of political calculation in her opposition to same-sex marriage. If anything, her march to “yes” was maddeningly slow.

Hillary profile

Here’s another interesting example of contrasting views on Hillary and her behavior. First The UK Guardian’s review of Hard Choices by David Runciman: Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton review – buttoned-up but still revealing.

If Hillary Clinton becomes the next American president she won’t just be the first woman to hold that office: she’ll be the first secretary of state to get there since James Buchanan in 1857. Unlike in Britain, where foreign secretaries and chancellors of the exchequer routinely go on to the top job, senior US cabinet positions are not seen as stepping stones to the White House. No secretary of the treasury has ever become president. Cabinet officers are meant to be functionaries: people whose job is to make sense of the world. Presidents are meant to be politicians: people whose job is to lead it. In this long, exhausting, faintly robotic but ultimately impressive book, Hillary makes her pitch to be both.

According to Runciman, Hillary’s book is way too cautious and “prosaic,” but still “an amazing story.

Above all, what comes through is Clinton’s sheer persistence. This is how she does politics, by keeping going and totting up the small victories so that they outweigh the defeats. Unlike Obama, who still appears to believe that politics is about rational argument, and unlike George Bush, who thought it was about vision, Hillary believes it is about breaking things down. She is a disaggregator, who can’t see a problem without trying to make it smaller, more manageable, and only then does she try to fit the pieces back together again. Peace, she tells us, doesn’t necessarily begin with a grand fanfare. Sometimes it comes out of the temporary ceasefire that holds just long enough to make a difference. Part of why this book is so exhausting is its thoroughness: she travels the whole world and tells us about the different challenges she faced, taking them all seriously. Early on she quotes approvingly a maxim from Deng Xiaoping: “Coolly observe, calmly deal with things, hold your position, hide your capacities, bide your time, accomplish things where possible.” The US could do worse than having Deng as its next president.

Perhaps that’s the only option for a powerful woman in the misogynistic rape culture of the U.S.?

Hillary Rodham Clinton Signs Copies Of Her Memoir "Hard Choices"

Here’s feminist writer Jessica Valenti, also from The Guardian: Hillary Clinton’s book is exactly as ‘safe’ as female politicians are forced to be.

Hillary Clinton’s new book, Hard Choices – a memoir of her time as secretary of state – is finally out, and the critical consensus is that it’s a snore. CNN’s conservative commentator Ana Navarro called it “50 shades of boring” while the network’s liberal contributor Sally Kohn called it “safe” and “dry” – and joked that the book should have been called “Boring Choices“. The New Republic criticized its “dullness and lack of critical energy”. Politico’s Mike Allen called the 596-page book a “newsless snore”.

I’m not exactly sure how action-packed the minutiae of a diplomat’s life is supposed to be, but the Hard Choices haters ignore that a “safe” book was Clinton’s only real choice. After all, whenever she’s hinted at being anything other than measured and guarded, Clinton has been attacked as hysterical, a ballbuster or worse. So if people are bored by Hard Choices, they should blame the misogynist expectations of Washington, not the careful crafting of a seasoned politician.

When then-presidential hopeful Clinton teared up on the campaign trail in New Hampshire in 2008, for example, Maureen Dowd penned a column in the New York Times that asked “Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?”On CNN, Glenn Beck said, “After spending decades stripping away all trace of emotion, femininity, and humanity, Hillary Clinton broke down and actually cried. … I don’t buy the hype.” On Fox News, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol called the emotional moment “solipsistic and narcissistic”. Similarly, when Clinton got into a heated exchange during her Benghazi testimony, the New York Post ran a cover of Clinton yelling with her fists clenched; the headline: NO WONDER BILL’S AFRAID.

Any emotion that Hillary Clinton shows has always been used against her, and it has become a kind of stand-in for the many reasons women are said to be oh-so-unfit to lead. The building-up of her protective public armor, post- and potentially pre-White House, isn’t just smart for Clinton personally – it’s essential for the growing national image of women in politics.

It’s clear from reading Hard Choices that sexism – particularly during Clinton’s 2008 run for president – has taken a toll on her. “I knew that it arose from cultural and psychological attitudes about women’s roles in society, but that didn’t make it any easier for me and my supporters,” she writes. Indeed, the frenzy of misogyny was so intense that it’s hard to imagine enduring it all while vying for the most important job in the world.

After seeing the racism that has plagued Barack Obama’s presidency–and has, if anything, increased during his second term–we now know that the misogyny from the media and society as a whole would continue throughout a Hillary Clinton presidency. That is what it will take for a woman to break through that ultimate glass ceiling. If we are going to support Hillary in her fight to do just that we will need to stay awake and aware of the various forms the efforts to bring her down will take. I learned that lesson here yesterday, and I will rely on other Sky Dancers to keep me focused on the ultimate goal. I hope I’ll be strong enough to do the same in return.

Now, what else is happening in the world today? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads: Updates from Snowden-Greenwald Land and Other News

shelter5

Good Morning!!

The photos in today’s post are from a project by photographer Mark Makela to take pictures of children “learning to read by reading to homeless cats.”

Last February, photographer Mark Makela traveled to Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, to photograph a reading group where the participants were grade-school students and a group of cats. The idea for the group, known as Book Buddies, was hatched at the Animal Rescue League of Berks County when the program coordinator Kristi Rodriguez’s 10-year-old son was struggling with reading. Rodriguez decided to bring him into the shelter, where he could be in what she called a “nonevaluative” environment in order to feel more comfortable practicing his reading skills. It worked.

According to ARL’s website, studies at Tufts University found that the more relaxed, nonjudgmental audience of cats helps students to sustain their focus, maintain a higher state of awareness, and develop an improved attitude toward school. In August of last year, ARL officially started the Book Buddies program, inviting students in first through eighth grades to read to the cats. As an incentive to continue, once the students complete five books, they receive prizes. “It’s one of those opportunities that is unique and humorous and so endearing,” Makela said about the assignment to document the Book Buddies program.

See more marvelous photos at the Slate Magazine link above. Even more at Buzzfeed–including more girls.

Now to the news:

I’ve long suspected that Edward Snowden interacted with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and others in the hacker community before he made his final decision to steal a massive trove of data from NSA computers and then abscond to Hong Kong at the end of May last year.

We know that Snowden was in touch with Jacob Applebaum and Laura Poitras early on, because they published an interview with him in Der Spiegel that they had conducted by e-mail in Mid-May, before Snowden fled Hawaii. But Snowden could have actually met Applebaum in Hawaii in April 2013 when Applebaum vacationed there by his own admission. Did Snowden and Applebaum discuss Snowden’s plans to steal NSA files? Did Applebaum suggest which items Snowden should take? Note that Applebaum is deeply involved with Wikileaks and has been a long-time, passionate defender of Julian Assange.

Glenn Greenwald revealed in his new book “No Place to Hide” that Snowden had used the code name “Cincinnatus” in early communications between the two. Interestingly enough, a “cyber-party” had been held in Hawaii in December 2012, and the host was someone who called himself “Cincinnatus.” Once this news came out, people began speculating on Twitter that perhaps this wasn’t a coincidence. Suddenly, on May 17, the cyber-party announcement was deleted by someone with the Twitter handle @jskuda. Fortunately Twitter user @ShrillBrigade located it on the Wayback Machine. And check out the title of Cincinnatus’ talk: “Painlessly setting up your own fast exit.” (h/t @catfitz)

Then yesterday, former criminal hacker and technical adviser to Greenwald and Poitras’ Freedom of the Press Foundation Kevin Poulsen published a limited hangout at Wired: Snowden’s First Move Against the NSA Was a Party in Hawaii.

It was December 11, 2012, and in a small art space behind a furniture store in Honolulu, NSA contractor Edward Snowden was working to subvert the machinery of global surveillance.

Snowden was not yet famous. His blockbuster leaks were still six months away, but the man destined to confront world leaders on a global stage was addressing a much smaller audience that Sunday evening. He was leading a local “Crypto Party,” teaching less than two dozen Hawaii residents how to encrypt their hard drives and use the internet anonymously.

“He introduced himself as Ed,” says technologist and writer Runa Sandvik, who co-presented with Snowden at the event, and spoke about the experience for the first time with WIRED. “We talked for a bit before everything started. And I remember asking where he worked or what he did, and he didn’t really want to tell.”

shelter2

Runa Sandvik is a hacker who works at the TOR project along with Jacob Applebaum. TOR is a site (ironically funded by the U.S. Department of Defense) that provides free encryption software to people who want to hide their on-line activities (including drug dealers and child porn purveyors).

Poulsen writes:

The roots of Snowden’s crypto party were put down on November 18, 2012, when he sent an e-mail to Sandvik, a rising star in privacy circles, who was then a key developer on the anonymous web surfing software Tor.

Tor is free software that lets you go online anonymously. The software is used by a wide swath of people in need of extreme anonymity, including human rights groups, criminals, government agencies, and journalists. It works by accepting connections from the public internet, encrypting the traffic and bouncing it through a winding series of relays before dumping it back on the web through any of more than 1,000 exit nodes.

Most of those relays are run by volunteers, and the pre-leak Edward Snowden, it turns out, was one of them.

How about that? Snowden was already deeply involved with TOR in December 2012–and Jacob Applebaum of TOR just happened to travel to Hawaii a few months later in April! Coincidence? I don’t think so.

In his e-mail, Snowden wrote that he personally ran one of the “major tor exits”–a 2 gbps server named “TheSignal”–and was trying to persuade some unnamed coworkers at his office to set up additional servers. He didn’t say where he worked. But he wanted to know if Sandvik could send him a stack of official Tor stickers. (In some post-leak photos of Snowden you can see the Tor sticker on the back of his laptop, next to the EFF sticker).

Well, well, well. Now we know how Snowden got his TOR sticker. Did Runa give him the EFF sticker too? Read the rest of the Wired piece for more details.

Phew! I hope that made sense. This stuff is difficult to write about.

shelter1

Also yesterday, well-known and respected journalist and New Yorker writer George Packer published a no-holds-barred review of Glenn Greenwald’s new book in the UK Prospect: The errors of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. Among other things, Packer accuses Greenwald of “a pervasive absence of intellectual integrity,” and provides numerous examples. He characterizes Snowden as someone who lives on the internet, detached from the realities of the real world. Here are a few excerpts, but please read the whole thing.

Snowden’s leaks can be seen, in part, as a determined effort to restore the web to its original purity—a project of technology rather than law. “Let us speak no more of faith in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of cryptography,” wrote Snowden, in an early message to his collaborators. In March of this year, appearing remotely from Russia on a robotised screen onstage at a TED talk in Vancouver, Snowden said that the single best solution to the NSA’s abuses is stronger encryption: “The internet that we’ve enjoyed in the past has been exactly what we, as not just a nation but as a people around the world, need.” In taking nearly two million highly classified documents from the US, he was grabbing back the key to heaven.

As I’ve written previously, Snowden’s solution to the problem of government interference with its citizens is impenetrable universal encryption–never mind the fact that this would allow vast numbers of vicious criminals to hide their actions from law enforcement.

As I suspected, Packer writes that Greenwald’s book “contains no major scoops.” He does, however, praise Greenwald’s argument for the primacy of privacy as central to a “free society.”

Greenwald also makes a powerful case—all the more so for being uncompromising and absolute—for the central role of privacy in a free society, and against the utilitarian argument that, since the phone companies’ metadata on Americans hasn’t been seriously abused by government officials (not yet, anyway), none of us should be too worried. In a chapter called “The Harm of Surveillance,” he cites Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous opinion on the basic “right to be let alone,” and writes: “The desire for privacy is shared by us all as an essential, not ancillary, part of what it means to be human. We all instinctively understand that the private realm is where we can act, think, speak, write, experiment, and choose how to be, away from the judgemental eyes of others. Privacy is a core condition of being a free person.”

I would argue that these considerations are of vital importance to people like Greenwald who are financially secure. Those Americans who must deal with racial and gender discrimination, long-term unemployment, and especially grinding poverty have other, more urgent concerns. Can one be a “free person” under those conditions?

shelter3

Along similar lines, Packer writes:

If Greenwald and others were actually being persecuted for their political beliefs, they would instinctively understand that the rule of law has to protect people regardless of politics. The NSA disclosures are disturbing and even shocking; so is the Obama administration’s hyper-aggressive pursuit of leaks; so is the fact that, for several years, Poitras couldn’t leave or re-enter the US without being questioned at airports. These are abuses, but they don’t quite reach the level of the Stasi. They don’t portend a totalitarian state “beyond the dreams of even the greatest tyrants of the past,” as Greenwald believes is possible. A friend from Iran who was jailed and tortured for having the wrong political beliefs, and who is now an American citizen, observed drily, “I prefer to be spied on by NSA.” The sense of oppression among Greenwald, Poitras, and other American dissenters is only possible to those who have lived their entire lives under the rule of law and have come to take it for granted.

In the year since the first NSA disclosures, Snowden has drifted a long way from the Thoreauvian ideal of the majority of one. He has become an international celebrity, far more championed than reviled. He has praised Russia and Venezuela’s devotion to human rights. His more recent disclosures have nothing to do with the constitutional rights of US citizens. Many of them deal with surveillance of foreign governments, including Germany and Brazil, but also Iran, Russia, and China. These are activities that, wise or unwise, fall well within the NSA’s mandate and the normal ways of espionage. Snowden has attached himself to Wikileaks and to Assange, who has become a tool of Russian foreign policy and has no interest in reforming American democracy—his goal is to embarrass it. Assange and Snowden are not the first radical individualists to end up in thrall to strongmen.

Snowden looked to the internet for liberation, but it turns out that there is no such thing as an entirely free individual. Cryptography can never offer the absolute privacy and liberty that Snowden seeks online. The internet will always be a space controlled by corporations and governments, and the freedom it provides is of a limited, even stunting, kind. No one lives outside the fact of coercion—there is always a state to protect or pursue you, whether it’s Obama’s America or Putin’s Russia.

I’ve barely touched the surface of Packer’s scathing critique of Greenwald’s “journalism”; I enourage you to go to Prospect link to read more.

shelter4

I have a few more stories for you that I’ll list link-dump style:

It appears that the prosecution in the Boston Bombing case decided to leak some previously secret information–most likely to counter the defense’s argument that Dzhohar Tsarnaev was illegally questioned by the FBI when he was in the hospital with terrible injuries.

Reuters: Accused Boston bomber admitted role in attack, prosecutors say

NBC News: Government doc shows how closely Boston Marathon bombers followed al Qaeda plans.

NY Daily News: Boston Marathon bombers used ‘sophisticated’ bombs made of parts from Christmas lights, model cars: prosecutors.

Boston Globe: Christmas Lights Used in Boston Marathon Bombs.

KSDK.com: Feds: Boston bomber’s hideout note says he wanted to be martyr.

ABC News: FBI Feared Boston Bombers ‘Received Training’ And Aid From Terror Group, Docs Say.

This is encouraging from the Boston Globe: Oakland Examining Pension of FBI Agent who Shot Todashev

Other News:

The Economic Times of India: Google wants to show ads through your thermostat and car. (You though the NSA was bad?)

Information Week: Google Outlines Advertising Vision. (How would you like targeted Google ads appearing on your refrigerator or watch?)

The Atlantic: It Wasn’t Household Debt That Caused the Great Recession; It was how that debt was disproportionately distributed to America’s most economically fragile communities.

NYT: U.S. Sends Troops to Chad to Aid Hunt for Nigerian Schoolgirls.

USA Today: Thai military declares coup, detains party leaders.

Science Recorder:  ‘Aliens of the sea’ could lead to breakthroughs in regenerative medicine.

What stories are you following today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads: Boston Marathon Bombing, Heartbleed Bug, and Other News

kids reading

Good Morning!!

 

We’re approaching the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings–next Tuesday April 15–so it’s not surprising that more stories related to last year’s attacks are appearing in the media.

In a surprising and revealing story, the LA Times yesterday broke the news that shortly before last years’ marathon, alleged Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev tried to change his first name to “Muaz” in tribute to Emir Muaz, a militant anti-Russian fighter who was killed in Dagestan in 2009. From the LA Times:

Less than three months before the Boston Marathon bombings, a bitter, frustrated Tamerlan Tsarnaev visited a federal immigration office in the Boston area and signed forms seeking to legally change his first name.

Eager to recast himself in the model of a well-known rebel figure killed by Russian forces in 2009, Tsarnaev chose as his new name “Muaz,” according to a previously undisclosed Homeland Security Department petition form, which was obtained by The Times. It was not only a tribute to Emir Muaz, a celebrated fighter in Russia’s Dagestan republic, it was also the nickname rebels had given Tsarnaev during his six-month visit to the region in 2012, law enforcement officials say.

Asked as part of the Jan. 23, 2013, application to explain his name change request, Tsarnaev described the decision in political terms, according to a federal law enforcement official close to the Boston bombing case. “He said, ‘The Russian people have been terrorizing my home country for all these years.’ This is why he needed to come back to America and help,” the official said.

Emir Abu Muaz

Emir Abu Muaz

The name change request was an update to a citizenship application filed in 2012 that was held up by Homeland Security because of a domestic violence conviction against Tsarnaev and because officials learned that the FBI had investigated Tamerlan in 2011. The younger Tsarnaev brother, Dzhokhar had been granted citizenship at a ceremony on September 11, 2012. From the NYT, April 20 2013:

The record of the F.B.I. interview was enough to cause Homeland Security to hold up Mr. Tsarnaev’s application. He presented those papers several weeks after he returned from a six-month trip overseas, primarily to Russia, and only six days after his brother, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, had his own citizenship application approved. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in custody and is in serious condition in a hospital.

Late last year, Homeland Security officials contacted the F.B.I. to learn more about its interview with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, federal law enforcement officials said. The F.B.I. reported its conclusion that he did not present a threat.

At that point, Homeland Security officials did not move to approve the application nor did they deny it, but they left it open for “additional review.”

Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have argued that the FBI most likely tried to enlist Tamerlan as an informer and his resentment of the pressure they put on him may have contributed to his radicalization. The FBI claims they only met with Tamerlan one time, but his mother Zubeidat Tsarneva said last year that FBI agents “followed them for years.” Lawyers for younger brother Dzhokhar also say there were multiple contacts between Tamerlan and the FBI. From the LA Times:

…according to his brother’s lawyers, the FBI’s involvement went further. They said in court papers that there was “more than one” FBI visit to talk with Tsarnaev and his parents, that he was questioned about his Internet searches, and that the bureau “asked him to be an informant.”

“Tamerlan misinterpreted the visits and discussions with the FBI as pressure, and they amounted to a stressor that increased his paranoia and distress,” defense attorneys argued in the filings.

Federal prosecutors, however, told defense attorneys in a March 14 letter that they had “no evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was solicited by the government to be an informant.” They did not comment on whether there were multiple FBI visits….

The new revelations about Tsarnaev have prompted defense lawyers for his brother to characterize him as the key player who “supplied the motivation, planning and ideology behind the Boston Marathon attack,” according to recent filings.

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

A couple more tidbits: Massachusetts Rep. William R. Keating revealed yesterday that Russian warnings about Tamerlan Tsarnaev after his trip to Russia in 2012 included a suggestion that he might try to change his name. 

Keating said in an interview that Russian intelligence letters sent to both the FBI and CIA in 2011 about Tsarnaev predicted he would seek to change his name. The letter did not say what name Tsarnaev would take, according to Keating. Keating said Russian intelligence agencies read him a copy of the letter they sent to the FBI and the CIA. He took notes from the conversation, but was not given a copy of the letter.

“It’s amazing how much information they did know, the Russians,” Keating said. “Look at everything that’s there. The change of the name, that’s corroborated. That he wanted to travel back to Russia, that’s been corroborated. That he wanted to enlist with extremists, that’s corroborated. I mean, everything that was in that [warning] has been corroborated.”

However the Globe uncovered a different explanation for the desired name change:

During six months in Dagestan in 2012, Tsarnaev fell in with members of an Islamic advocacy group that believes in the establishment of an Islamic caliphate governed by sharia religious law that would span the Caucasus. They are sharply critical of US interventions in Muslim countries, but they do not openly espouse violence, and they are not outlaws.

His associates in Dagestan told the Globe that when Tsarnaev learned that he was named after a medieval Mongol warlord who conquered much of Central Asia, he wanted a new name. They said they chose the name Muaz, after an early Islamic scholar, and Tsarnaev adopted it. All of his friends in Dagestan know him as Muaz.

Finally, the NYT reported yesterday that Russia also withheld some of the information they had on Tamerlan.

Russian officials had told the F.B.I. in 2011 that the suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, “was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer” and that Mr. Tsarnaev “had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”

But after an initial investigation by the F.B.I., the Russians declined several requests for additional information about Mr. Tsarnaev, according to the report, a review of how intelligence and law enforcement agencies could have thwarted the bombing.

At the time, American law enforcement officials believed that Mr. Tsarnaev posed a far greater threat to Russia.

The new inspector general’s report found that it was only after the bombing occurred last April that the Russians shared with the F.B.I. the additional intelligence, including information from a telephone conversation the Russian authorities had intercepted between Mr. Tsarnaev and his mother in which they discussed Islamic jihad.

Phew! Lots of Boston bombing news all of a sudden. I wonder what else will come out in the run-up to this year’s Marathon, which will be held on Monday, April 21.

In other news . . .

OpenSSL_bug1

Yesterday tech sites and Twitter were abuzz with the news of the “Heartbleed bug” a software encryption vulnerability that has the potential to give hackers access to “two-thirds of the internet’s servers” as well as to private encryption keys such as those used by Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. Read all about it at Ars Technica.

In fact yesterday Cryptome.org published a supposedly private e-mail from Jesselyn Radack, who claims to be Snowden’s “legal adviser” and Glenn Greenwald. Radack had been tricked into responding to a fake Greenwald key created by an unknown hacker. The bug has been out there for two years, so tell me again how Snowden and Greenwald are so sure the stolen NSA data is safe from Russia and China?

This encryption stuff is all Greek to me, but here are a few more links to explore:

Washington Post: Heartbleed bug causes major security headache

The New Yorker: The Internet’s Telltale Heartbleed

CNet: Which sites have patched the Heartbleed bug?

Huckabee

Mike Huckabee is at it again. From TPM, Huckabee: Men Hunt Together, Women Go To The Restroom Together

As she live-tweeted the former Arkansas governor’s speech at a fundraiser for Iowa’s Faith and Freedom Coalition on Tuesday in Waukee, Iowa, Des Moines Register columnist Kathee Obradovich passed along this line on Twitter,”.@GovMikeHuckabee says men like to go hunt/fish with other men. “Women like to go to the restroom with other women.”

“Yes, he really said that,” Obradovich said in an email to TPM on Wednesday, adding that she ultimately did not write a column about the event….

His joke about women going to the restroom together came after he challenged those in attendance to stand for their convictions, even if they have to do it alone.

You see, I have a concern that one of the reasons we lose battles we should win is because we wait to see whether or not the crowd is going to be with us. My question to you tonight — it’s nice to see a nice, full crowd of folks here in this wonderful Point of Grace Church — but I just wonder if you were the only one who showed up tonight, would you still be ready to take on the cause? Because the fact is we don’t like to do things by ourselves. We really don’t. Guys like to go fishing with other men. They like to go hunting with other men. Women like to go to the restroom with other women. I don’t get that. I can tell you this much: if I ever say, ‘I have to go to the restroom’ and some guy says, ‘I’ll go with you,’ he ain’t goin’ with me. That much I know.

I wonder what Huckabee will have to say about this? Papyrus Referring to Jesus’s Wife Is More Likely Ancient Than Fake, Scientists Say. The NYT reports:

jesus wife

A faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.

Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’ ” Too convenient for some, it also contained the words “she will be able to be my disciple,” a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests.

The papyrus fragment has now been analyzed by professors of electrical engineering, chemistry and biology at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who reported that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. (Scientists at the University of Arizona, who dated the fragment to centuries before the birth of Jesus, concluded that their results were unreliable.)

The Times hastens to add that

The test results do not prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women, only that the fragment is more likely a snippet from an ancient manuscript than a fake, the scholars agree.

My response: There’s no proof he didn’t have a wife either, and the manuscript seems to suggest he might have.

I’ll end with this wonderful cartoon on reading over a lifetime by Lynda Barry, The 20 stages of reading. Check it out at the WaPo. I loved it and I think you will too!

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

 


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

grandmother-with-childWell, the women in Game of Thrones may be looking towards a year of kick ass revenge. The women of the United States of Superstitious nonsense still have to deal with mansplaining and not being taken seriously. These two stories just iced my cupcakes this weekend. First, CIA stooge Michael Hayden accused Senator Dianne Feinstein of being “too emotional”.  This is basically the most hackneyed insult a man can throw at a woman in power.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, may be too “emotional” to have produced a fair report on the CIA’s use of torture, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said Sunday.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday” about a Senate Intelligence Committee report which criticizes the CIA program as excessive and ineffective at fighting terrorism, Hayden said Feinstein “wanted a report so scathing that it would ensure that an un-American brutal program of detention interrogation would never again be considered or permitted.”

“That motivation for the report may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator, but I don’t think it leads you to an objective report,” Hayden said.

Hayden claimed a lack of knowledge about the report itself, but admitted that key information in the hunt for Osama bin Laden from a detainee who was later tortured by the CIA was actually attained before he was ever turned over to the CIA.

Still, Hayden said he believed that “the totality of information, including information from this program” led to finding bin Laden.

This tidbit came directly after my reading this bit of nonsense from a Virginia Republican.article-2222017-035C4964000005DC-367_634x423

A Republican Virginia lawmaker accused an elderly constituent of intellectual laziness after she urged him via email to support the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, the Loudoun Times-Mirror reported on Tuesday.

“How intellectually lazy are you?” state Thomas Greason (R) wrote Susan Merk as part of a series of emails between the two. “You are the problem. Good luck to you. You can not insult your way to ‘victory.’ If you are not willing to have a civil discussion, please do not write me again. It is a waste of my time.”

Greason’s remarks were the culmination of a contentious correspndence. Merk, a resident at a retirement community in Loudoun County, wrote Greason on March 24 saying it was “imperative” that lawmakers vote to support the state program under the Affordable Care Act. But Merk took issue with Greason’s response, in which he opposed such a move because the law “as already proven to be inefficient, costly, and an utter disaster.”

“This reply is pitiful — it’s nothing but partisan rhetoric, false accusations and invalid excuses,” Merk wrote back. “I will be sure to vote you out the next time you’re up for election.”

Greason’s ensuing response took a more aggressive tone towards Merk.

“Pitiful because I am willing to enter a dialogue with you?” he wrote. “All you liberals are the same. As soon as someone doesn’t agree with you, you shut down communication, call the other side names, take your ball and go home. I understand and am saddened by this approach at the federal level … but your reaction below is THE problem. I did not have to write you back … but I did. I think discussing differences is the only way to solve problems.”

On Monday, Greason told the Times-Mirror that he “must have been having a bad day” when he wrote his latest response to Merk.

I really get tired of the way these politicians treat older women. I hope their wives/mothers/daughters/grandmothers give them a good what for.

images (27)Those of you in larger cities can get your anger on with a new film about Anita Hill.  I will. NEVER. get over that travesty of a hearing.

Against a backdrop of sex, politics, and race, ANITA reveals the intimate story of a woman who spoke truth to power. Directed by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, the film is both a celebration of Anita Hill’s legacy and a rare glimpse into her private life with friends and family, many of whom were by her side that fateful day 22 years ago. Anita Hill courageously speaks openly and intimately for the first time about her experiences that led her to testify before the Senate and the obstacles she faced in simply telling the truth. She also candidly discusses what happened to her life and work in the 22 years since.

 

93 year old Mickey Rooney has died.

 Rooney had been in ill health for quite some time.

He was one of the most famous child actors in entertainment history.  He play the role of Andy Hardy in 20 films.download (6)

Rooney also teamed up with Judy Garland for “Babes in Arms” which was a huge hit back in 1939.

He was the first teenager ever to be nominated for an Oscar for his leading role in “Strike Up the Band” in 1940.

Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor stared in one of the biggest movies of the 40s — “National Velvet” — which launched Taylor’s career.

That’s about all I can find at the moment, I’m afraid.  I’m going to search for some more headlines as the day wears on.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads

cat computer sleeping

Good Morning!!

Southern California has been hit with a “5.1 magnitude earthquake” and “more than 100 aftershocks,” causing “relatively minor damage” according to the LA Times:

Most of the aftershocks have been small, but some were strong enough to be felt in the areas around the epicenter in northwestern Orange County…. Fullerton police said early Saturday that as many as 50 people had been displaced by the quake. Several buildings are being investigated for possible structural damage, including some apartment buildings. The quake, centered near La Habra, caused furniture to tumble, pictures to fall off walls and glass to break. Merchandise fell off store shelves, and there were reports of shattered plate glass windows. Residents across Orange and Los Angeles counties and the Inland Empire reported swinging chandeliers, fireplaces dislodging from walls and lots of rattled nerves.

The quake also caused a rock slide that damaged a car as well as numerous water main breaks.

Third-grade teacher Barbara Castillo and her 7-year-old son had just calmed their nerves after an earlier 3.6 temblor and sat down in their La Habra home when their dogs started barking and the second, larger quake struck, causing cabinet doors to swing open, objects to fall off shelves and lights to flicker. “It just would not stop, it was like an eternity,” said Castillo, an 18-year La Habra resident.

The search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 continues,

with various objects being reported by searchers, but this latest report from CNN is just nuts, Malaysia official: Maybe, just maybe, they’re alive.

Earlier this week, loved ones of those aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 heard this: “All lives are lost.”

But Saturday, a Malaysian official met with relatives and then told reporters he had not closed the door on the possibility that survivors may exist among the 239 people aboard the Boeing 777-200 ER that went missing March 8.

“Even hoping against hope, no matter how remote, of course we are praying and we will continue our search for the possible survivors,” said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transportation minister.

“More than that, I told the families I cannot give them false hope. The best we can do is pray and that we must be sensitive to them that, as long as there is even a remote chance of a survivor, we will pray and do whatever it takes.”

How cruel can you get? In China relatives were alleging some kind of conspiracy.

“They’re all still alive, my son and everyone on board!” yelled Wen Wancheng, 63, whose only son was among the passengers. “The plane is still there too! They’re hiding it.”

He held aloft a banner that read: “Son, mom and dad’s hearts are torn to pieces. Come home soon!”

I can’t even begin to imagine the torture those people are going through. To give them false hope is incredibly irresponsible.

Please don’t skip over this brief but must-read piece on the ongoing scandal involving the US nuclear arsenal.

The Daily Beast: Cleaning House at Nuke Command Raises Bigger Issues.

Nine Air Force officers were fired Thursday and dozens more disciplined for their roles in a cheating scandal involving airmen in charge of the nuclear weapons arsenal. But one source familiar with the Air Force program told The Daily Beast that the punishments handed out were more show than substance, and that problems in the nuclear program go far deeper than what has been addressed so far. According to a retired senior Air Force officer familiar with the Global Strike Command (the headquarters responsible for the Air Force nuclear arsenal), who spoke with The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, the punishments issued yesterday at the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana were a good show, but wouldn’t affect much substantive reform. “This issue needs leadership,” he said. “You’ve had two stars and three stars [general officers] running the reorganized nuclear enterprise of the U.S. Air Force who have been unable to raise morale, transform the culture and forestall this very type of thing.”

Read the rest at the link. I can’t understand why this scandal isn’t getting more attention. We’re talking about the people who are responsible for our nuclear weapons!

I have several articles on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Russian troops massing near Ukraine border

Russian troops massing near Ukraine border

There have been reports in the past few days that Russian troops are gathering on the Ukraine border and medical and food stations are being set up. From The Wall Street Journal: Russian Buildup Stokes Worries; Pentagon Alarmed as Troops Mass Near Ukraine Border.

Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said. Such an incursion could take place without warning because Russia has already deployed the array of military forces needed for such an operation, say officials briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence. (Follow the latest developments on the crisis in Ukraine.) The rapid speed of the Russian military buildup and efforts to camouflage the forces and equipment have stoked U.S. fears, in part because American intelligence agencies have struggled to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s specific intentions. The troop movements and the concealment—involving covering up equipment along the border—suggest Mr. Putin is positioning forces in the event he decides to quickly expand his takeover of the Crimea peninsula by seizing more Ukrainian territory, despite Western threats of tighter sanctions.

On the other hand, Russian officials are publicly denying any plans to invade Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama yesterday, supposedly to discuss diplomatic options. But can Putin be trusted? What would an invasion of Ukraine look like? Although, he suspects it won’t happen, Mark Galeotti at Business Insider provides an answer to that question.

In brief, the aim would be a blitzkrieg that, before Ukraine has the chance properly to muster its forces and, perhaps more to the point, the West can meaningfully react, allows the Russians to draw a new front line and assert their own ground truth, much as happened in Crimea (though this would be much more bloody and contested). This would not be a bid to conquer the whole country (the real question is whether they’d seek to push as far as Odessa, taking more risks and extending their supply lines, but also essentially depriving Ukraine of a coastline) but instead quickly to take those areas where there are potentially supportive local political elites and Russophone populations, and consequently pretexts (however flimsy) to portray invasion as ‘liberation.’

He goes on to explain in further detail, and it’s well worth reading. Here a few longer think pieces on Obama’s and Putin’s goals in the Ukraine crisis. Check them out if you have the time and inclination. Fareed Zakaria: Obama’s 21st-century power politics Mosaic: It’s Not Just Ukraine The Guardian: How Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea changed the world

In domestic political news . . .

Gallup reports some good news for Democrats: Young Americans’ Affinity for Democratic Party Has Grown. stmc_lm6lus16wuy9y-jyq

From 1993 to 2003, 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds, on average, identified as Democrats or said they were independents but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 42% were Republicans or Republican leaners. That time span included two years in which young adults tilted Republican, 1994 and 1995, when Republicans won control of Congress. Since 2006, the average gap in favor of the Democratic Party among young adults has been 18 percentage points, 54% to 36%. This Democratic movement among the young has come at a time when senior citizens have become more Republican. The broader U.S. population has shown more variability in its party preferences in recent years, shifting Democratic from 2005 to 2008, moving back toward the Republican Party from 2009 to 2011, and showing modest Democratic preferences in the last two years. A major reason young adults are increasingly likely to prefer the Democratic Party is that today’s young adults are more racially and ethnically diverse than young adults of the past. U.S. political preferences are sharply divided by race, with nonwhite Americans of all ages overwhelmingly identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic.

In Texas, Greg Abbot is still acting like a complete idiot. From Think Progress: Sidestepping Equal Pay Attacks, Greg Abbott Tries To Accuse Wendy Davis Of Gender Discrimination. Huh?

Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis

Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis

Texas gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) faces continued tough scrutiny over his campaign’s position against equal pay for women. His campaign has twice justified the gender wage gap and implied he would veto an equal pay bill that makes it easier for women to sue. Instead of addressing the criticism directly, Abbott has chosen to fire back accusations that Wendy Davis, his opponent in the gubernatorial race, is “defending gender discrimination.” Over the last week, the Abbott campaign has posted Facebook ads that call Davis a hypocrite on the gender wage gap, linking to a petition on his site that describes a client Davis once reportedly defended:

Sen. Wendy Davis continues to launch attacks over equal pay while shielding her own record of defending gender discrimination. And while on the Fort Worth City Council, Sen. Davis approved funds to defend a former city employee with a “legs and lipstick” policy.

Here, Abbott is referring to a routine vote Davis cast as a city council member that granted legal counsel funds to a Fort Worth employer sued for harassment and discrimination.

Why on earth would anyone vote for this man? The media has been taking note of the sexist attacks on Chris Christie’s former aide Bridget Kelley. Amy Davidson has a summary at The New Yorker: Chris Christie, Surrounded by Emotional Liars? Check it out if you can. This might be a good sign for better reporting in the New York Times Magazine. Jake Silverstein editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly has been hired to revamp the stagnant NYT Sunday magazine.

Under Mr. Silverstein, Texas Monthly has been nominated for 12 National Magazine Awards and won four, including the general excellence prize.

In an interview on his new role at The Times Magazine, Mr. Silverstein said, “I think this is a remarkable moment for the magazine to commit to the kind of long-form impactful journalism that has made the magazine one of the most influential publications throughout its history.”

Mr. Silverstein, 38, holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin and became editor of Texas Monthly in 2008. He is only the fourth editor of that magazine, which published its first issue in February 1973.

In the Boston bombing trial . . .

Accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys have requested records of any FBI contacts with Dzhokhar’s older brother Tamerlan and any FISA court ordered surveillance of the Tsarnaev brothers. From the Boston Globe: FBI pushed elder Tsarnaev to be informer, lawyers assert.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asserted Friday that his older brother and alleged accomplice had been encouraged by the FBI to be an informant and to report on the Chechen and Muslim community, according to court records. “We seek this information based on our belief that these contacts were among the precipitating events for Tamerlan’s actions during the week of April 15, 2013, and thus material to the defense case in mitigation,” the lawyers said in their court filing. “We base this on information from our client’s family and other sources that the FBI made more than one visit to talk with Anzor [his father], Zubeidat [his mother] and Tamerlan, questioned Tamerlan about his Internet searches, and asked him to be an informant, reporting on the Chechen and Muslim community

“We do not suggest that these contacts are to be blamed and have no evidence to suggest that they were improper, but rather view them as an important part of the story of Tamerlan’s decline. Since Tamerlan is dead, the government is the source of corroboration that these visits did in fact occur and of what was said during them.”The lawyers suggested that Tamerlan Tsarnaev could have misinterpreted his interactions with the FBI as pressure from the agency, and that they could have “increased his paranoia and distress.” The defense wants to investigate those factors as it seeks to portray Tamerlan as a dominating family figure who may have pushed the younger Dzhokhar to take part in the April 15 bombings last year. Tamerlan was killed days after the bombings in a confrontation with police in Watertown. Good luck with prying anything loose from the FBI.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread, and have a terrific weekend!


Tuesday Reads: Most Classless SCOTUS Justice, Ongoing Snowden Saga, and Other News

Matisse-Woman-Reading-with-Tea1

Good Morning!!

I’m enjoying some nice fresh air this morning after thunderstorms during the night. It looks as if the mini-heat wave we’ve been having here in the Boston area isn’t going to be as quite bad as originally predicted. It it supposed to be several degrees cooler than expected today and tomorrow and then we’re back to high 70’s temps. I hope that turns out to be right.

Unfortunately, because of this refreshing change in the air here, I slept longer than I should have and this post will go up a little bit late.

If there were a competition for “most classless supreme court justice,” there would be some serious competition among Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito; but I think in the end the first prize would have to go to Samuel Alito. Clarence Thomas at least has the grace to remain silent and Scalia supposedly can be funny at times. But Alito is just an immature, obnoxious disgrace, as he demonstrated at the State of the Union Address in 2010 when President Obama denounced the Citizens United decision.

Yesterday Alito used childish, offensive body language to publicly mock his senior colleague Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she read a dissenting opinion to a SCOTUS decision that will make it more difficult for employees to sue for sexual or racial discrimination. From Dana Millbank at The Washington Post:

The most remarkable thing about the Supreme Court’s opinions announced Monday was not what the justices wrote or said. It was what Samuel Alito did.

The associate justice, a George W. Bush appointee, read two opinions, both 5-4 decisions that split the court along its usual right-left divide. But Alito didn’t stop there. When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, Alito visibly mocked his colleague.

Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the high court, was making her argument about how the majority opinion made it easier for sexual harassment to occur in the workplace when Alito, seated immediately to Ginsburg’s left, shook his head from side to side in disagreement, rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling.

His treatment of the 80-year-old Ginsburg, 17 years his elder and with 13 years more seniority, was a curious display of judicial temperament or, more accurately, judicial intemperance. Typically, justices state their differences in words — and Alito, as it happens, had just spoken several hundred of his own from the bench. But he frequently supplements words with middle-school gestures.

Millbank goes on the describe Alito’s similar treatment of female Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor a few days earlier. Read about it at the link.

Garrett Epps provides more detail at The Atlantic: Justice Alito’s Inexcusable Rudeness.

I am glad the nation did not see first-hand Justice Samuel Alito’s display of rudeness to his senior colleague, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Because Alito’s mini-tantrum was silent, it will not be recorded in transcript or audio; but it was clear to all with eyes, and brought gasps from more than one person in the audience.

The episode occurred when Ginsburg read from the bench her dissent in two employment discrimination cases decided Monday, Vance v. Ball State University and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. NassarIn both cases, the Court majority made it harder for plaintiffs to prevail on claims of racial and sexual discrimination.  The Nassar opinion raises the level of proof required to establish that employers have “retaliated” against employees by firing or demoting them after they complain about discrimination; Vance limits the definition of “supervisor” on the job, making it harder for employees harassed by those with limited but real authority over them to sue the employers.

The Vance opinion is by Alito, and as he summarized the opinion from the bench he seemed to be at great pains to show that the dissent (which of course no one in the courtroom had yet seen) was wrong in its critique. That’s not unusual in a written opinion; more commonly, however, bench summaries simply lay out the majority’s rationale and mention only that there was a dissent. (Kennedy’s Nassar summary followed the latter model.)

After both opinions had been read, Ginsburg read aloud a summary of her joint dissent in the two cases.  She critiqued the Vance opinion by laying out a “hypothetical” (clearly drawn from a real case) in which a female worker on a road crew is subjected to humiliations by the “lead worker,” who directs the crew’s daily operation but cannot fire or demote those working with him. TheVance opinion, she suggested, would leave the female worker without a remedy.

At this point, Alito pursed his lips, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and shook his head “no.” He looked for all the world like Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, signaling to the homies his contempt for Ray Walston as the bothersome history teacher, Mr. Hand.

I guess I should be grateful that I’m old enough to recall the Warren Court. We won’t see a SCOTUS like that again in my lifetime, I’m afraid.

Of course the news is still being dominated by Edward Snowden, who once claimed he didn’t want the story of his leaks of classified information from NSA to be about him. “Really?” writes Dan Murphy of The Christian Science Monitor. “But if that were true, we probably wouldn’t even know his name.”

Two weeks ago, Edward Snowden gave The Guardian permission to disclose that he was the leaker of documents from the US National Security Agency.

“I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me,” the former NSA contractor said then. “I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

If that was really his desire, he’s certainly gone about it in a funny way. From that day, every step he’s taken couldn’t have been better calculated to draw attention to himself. Over the weekend he even turned the media dial up when he fled from Hong Kong to the loving bosom of Mother Russia.

And with the assistance of Julian Assange, Mr. Snowden’s “where’s Waldo” saga is turning into aWikiLeaks production.

Mr. Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, has staked out a consistently anti-American and techno-libertarian position in the past few years. The US government is motivated by malice and power lust in his worldview, its rivals like Russia (where state-owned broadcaster RT ran a show of Assange’s) get a free pass, and secrecyis an evil in and of itself. Though he presents himself as a champion of free-speech, Assange has sought refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, never mind that the country has a poor and deteriorating record on freedom of speech. The Committee to Protect Journalists listed Ecuador and Russia as two of the 10 worst places to be a journalist in the world past year.

Read the rest at CSM.

Meanwhile, Russia and China are pushing back against U.S. criticism of their refusal to help the U.S. extradite Snowden. From The Washington Post:

MOSCOW— Russia and China on Tuesday rejected U.S. criticism of their roles in the legal drama surrounding Edward Snowden, saying their governments complied with the law and did not illegally assist the former government contractor charged with revealing classified information about secret U.S. surveillance programs.

Snowden, 30, has not been seen in public since he reportedly arrived in Moscow on Sunday, after slipping out of Hong KongSecretary of State John F. Kerry on Monday strongly urged Russian officials to transfer Snowden to U.S. custody. “We think it’s very important in terms of our relationship,” Kerry said. “We think it’s very important in terms of rule of law.”

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Snowden had not actually crossed into Russian territory, apparently remaining in a secure transit zone inside the airport or in an area controlled by foreign diplomats. Moscow therefore has had no jurisdiction over his movements, Lavrov said, and has no legal right to turn him over to U.S. authorities.

It sounds like Snowden could still be in some VIP lounge at the Moscow Airport, but no one knows for sure. One witness told Reuters that Snowden did in fact arrive there yesterday. If he is in the airport, Russia can claim that Snowden technically never stepped on Russian soil.

In other news, Nelson Mandela is in critical condition for the second day, according to President Jacob Zuma.

Mr. Zuma said that he and Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president of the governing African National Congress, visited Mr. Mandela late Sunday.

“Given the hour, he was already asleep. We were there, looked at him, saw him and then we had a bit of a discussion with the doctors and his wife,” Mr. Zuma said. “I don’t think I’m in a position to give further details. I’m not a doctor.”

Doctors told Mr. Zuma on Sunday evening that Mr. Mandela’s health “had become critical over the past 24 hours,” according to an earlier statement from the presidency.

In the statement on Sunday, Mr. Zuma said that doctors were doing “everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well looked after and is comfortable.” Madiba is Mr. Mandela’s clan name.

The Telegraph reports that Mandela’s close relatives “have gathered at his rural homestead to discuss the failing health of the South African anti-apartheid icon who was fighting for his life in hospital.”

From NPR, President Obama today plans To Lay Out Broad Plan To Address Climate Change.

President Obama is expected to announce a sweeping plan to address climate change this afternoon.

The president has framed this issue as a moral responsibility, to leave the Earth in good shape for generations to come. But the nitty-gritty of any serious plan to address this problem is also a challenge, because it means gradually moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy supplies — and that means there will be economic winners and losers.

Winners include companies that produce clean energy — wind, solar and geothermal energy. That energy will be more in demand, and the administration intends to expand access to public lands, where companies can build windmills and solar facilities.

Public health is also a winner, because the plan would pressure coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions. Those plants not only produce carbon dioxide, but they are major sources of mercury, radioactive particles and chemicals that contribute to asthma.

The losers will be coal companies and the miners they employ as well as millions of Americans who can’t afford to pay higher electric bills. You can read the entire plan at the NPR link. More detail in this story at CNN. And at Business Insider, Josh Barro lists 3 Reasons Obama’s Carbon Plan Is The Best Solution Right Now

Today should be another busy news day with the ongoing Snowden saga, the President’s climate initiatives, the continuing Whitey Bulger and George Zimmerman trials, and more important SCOTUS decisions. If it gets hot here again this afternoon, I’ll have something to distract me at least. I’ll try to post an afternoon update.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!!