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!!


Swimming in the Deep End of White Male Privilege: It’s just all for fun!!

tumblr_m3tgpi2pCq1rvi5n4o1_500White men just wanna have fun!!!  We saw a the lot of it yesterday!  I’m not even sure where to start on the list but the punch line to all of this is that women and black people just don’t seem to have a sense of humor.  Otherwise, we’d find all of these jokes supremely kewl.

So, the first example was the outrageously offensive The Onion Tweet last night that rocked the Twitter World.  For those of you that lack the satire gene, some one in the staff felt it satirical to call a 9 year old black girl–Quvenzhané Wallis–the “c” word.  I don’t know about you, but as a woman, the “c” word is on the level with the “n” word to me.  They took the tweet down with in the hour and they’ve finally apologized on their Facebook page.   I guess it took them about 8 hours to figure out how to say they were very very very very wrong. Yes, I’m posting the offending Tweet because they took it down and it needs to be seen because THEY OWN IT.  I’m offended by the word as any one, but really, it needs to be documented.

On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.
No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.

The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.

In addition, we are taking immediate steps to discipline those individuals responsible.the-onion2

Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.

But, really, that was just in keeping of the good ol’ boy spirit of the Oscars set by Seth McFarland.  I am not an aficionado of any of his work even though I am a big fan of the cartoon genre.  It’s because I don’t like being the butt of nearly every friggin’ joke that isn’t making black people the butt of the joke.  If I were a black lesbian I could be offended perpetually by him.

At this point there’s no question that Seth MacFarlane was a terrible Oscar host. Not only were his jokes unfunny, tired, self-centered and boring, but also incredibly sexist, homophobic and racist. Boob jokes. Diet jokes. “No homo” jokes. Rape jokes. Abuse jokes. Slave jokes. Jew jokes. And to add to the atrocity, the whole act was punctuated by MacFarlane’s absurd preoccupation with whether or not he was a good host, which—as mentioned—he clearly was not. So perhaps he was right in asking “what did you expect?”

I’m not putting the video up, you can go watch ‘em all.   There are so many things wrong with getting the Gay Men’s Chorus to sing a song about “I saw your boobs” and then insisting you’re not a member of the chorus at the end that I don’t know where to start with that either.  MacFarlane did not miss the opportunity to mess with Ms. Wallis either.  Then, there’s an AP reporter who couldn’t take the time to learn the young girl’s name.  Here’s some great analysis from Racialiscious.

First, there was an Associated Press — Associated Press! — reporter on the red carpet before the show allegedly telling Wallis, “I’m gonna call you Annie,” instead of by her given name, for which the reporter was quickly and rightfully corrected. In another bizarre outburst, model Chrissy Teigen saw fit to call her “a brat.”

Then Oscars host Seth McFarlane chose to involve her in a joke about George Clooney’s supposed preference for younger women, saying, “To give you an idea of how young she is, it’ll be about 16 years before she’s too old for Clooney.” Of course, there were more “jokes” where that came from throughout the evening.

And then came The Onion to steal the spotlight from him. Again: This is a nine-year-old girl. And these people think they have license to be “edgy” with her. Forget that it was an awards show.

It’s encouraging to note that not only were progressives and media critics up in arms over The Onion’s colossal misfire, but actors like Wendell Pierce, LeVar Burton and Marlee Matlin also publicly called the site out over it.

This morning we find that New York State Assemblyman Dov Kind celebrated Purim in blackface and found it great fun.  I can’t even believe what he would say if some black man had worn the stereotypical Jewish man costume for any celebration, so what’s the deal here?  He certainly had issues with Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” so why play stupid with the incredibly demeaning role that whites using “blackface” has played in the culture of our country?

Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind hosted a massive Purim party at his home yesterday that featured over fourteen hours of food 541383_10151386799644504_660710837_nand drink and, as is customary on the Jewish holiday, elaborate costumes. Mr. Hikind said a professional makeup artist came to his home to transform him into a “basketball player” with a costume that consisted of an afro wig, sunglasses, an orange jersey and brown face paint.

“I was just, I think, I was trying to emulate, you know, maybe some of these basketball players. Someone gave me a uniform, someone gave me the hair of the actual, you know, sort of a black basketball player,” Mr. Hikind explained. “It was just a lot of fun. Everybody just had a very, very good time and every year I do something else. … The fun for me is when people come in and don’t recognize me.”

Hikind is a right wing Democrat and has taken some awful positions including outspoken support of racial profiling by the NYPD.  This is what makes the choice of costume even more questionable.

The last few years have been an eye-opening experience for me.  Last year, we spent a good deal of time listening to the mansplain about rape and incest in the political realm.  Now, we get to see that good ol’ clean humor and fun is all about making women, GLBT, and minorities the butts of jokes.  But, let me just ask, how big of an insensitive asshole do you have to be not to realize that a 9 year old girl should be off limits completely?  I guess some guys just are not going to get out of the deep end even when they’re drowning.