Thursday ReadsPosted: February 17, 2011
A couple of days ago President Obama actually did something I could cheer about. He awarded the Medal of Freedom to former Boston Celtics great Bill Russell. Of course he also awarded them to George H.W. Bush and Warren Buffett, but I’ll try to overlook that for now.
Obama suggested that Boston should have a statue of Russell, and according to the Boston Herald:
The unveiling of a Bill Russell statue in Boston appears to be just a matter of time.
According to Celtics [team stats] co-owner Steve Pagliuca, the organization has already begun the process of getting the statue created and placed. And it didn’t hurt Tuesday when President Barack Obama, while awarding Russell the Medal of Freedom, mentioned that such a monument should be erected for future generations.
That would be okay, but I agree with what I heard NPR sports commentator Bill Littlefield recommend yesterday: every school library should have copies of Russell’s books and biographies of him written by others.
Russell played for the Celtics in the days when racism was rampant in Boston.
As a highly visible public figure in the years when the country was emerging from a century of legally sanctioned discrimination, Russell threw his prestige behind the emergent Civil Rights Movement, participating with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the historic 1963 March on Washington. Russell’s years of living in Boston were not easy ones. At the height of the Celtics’ success there were many empty seats in the Boston Garden, while less successful teams in other cities played to full arenas. When Russell bought a fine home for his family in a historically white neighborhood, he received threats and insults. On one occasion, vandals broke into his home and splattered the walls with filth and graffiti. Unbowed, Russell focused his energies on his game, and enjoyed excellent relations with his teammates and other NBA players.
Once when a hotel in the South denied accommodations to black players, Russell protested by refusing to play in the game that night, drawing media attention to the injustice. He never let the disrespect he often received prevent him from giving his heart and soul to Celtics basketball, leading the team to 11 NBA championships. If only President Obama would take leadership lessons from Bill Russell!
For a long time Russell remained bitter about Boston, but in the past 20 years or so he has become a presence here again, a greatly admired and beloved part of Boston sports and social history. Never mind that the Medal of Freedom has been given to so many who don’t deserve it. This time it went to someone truly worthy.
In other news…
The White House is still leaking information to The New York Times in an effort to make it look like President Obama has been in full control during the ongoing crises in the Middle East.
President Obama ordered his advisers last August to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday.
Mr. Obama’s order, known as a Presidential Study Directive, identified likely flashpoints, most notably Egypt, and solicited proposals for how the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States, these officials said.
The 18-page classified report, they said, grapples with a problem that has bedeviled the White House’s approach toward Egypt and other countries in recent days: how to balance American strategic interests and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic demands of the protesters.
Administration officials did not say how the report related to intelligence analysis of the Middle East, which the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, acknowledged in testimony before Congress, needed to better identify “triggers” for uprisings in countries like Egypt.
Hmmm…I wonder why Obama looked so flatfooted and off-balance when the Egyptian protests began then? Why did he fail to make any definite stands? Why did he make so many vague and conflicting statements? Why is he now trying to blame all of this on the State Department? Do you suppose maybe he didn’t read the report?
Whatever. It’s too late. The rest of the world knows he’s incompetent even if a lot of Americans don’t.
The Obama administration offered to support a UN rebuke of Israel:
The U.S. informed Arab governments Tuesday that it will support a U.N. Security Council statement reaffirming that the 15-nation body “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” a move aimed at avoiding the prospect of having to veto a stronger Palestinian resolution calling the settlements illegal.
But the Palestinians rejected the American offer following a meeting late Wednesday of Arab representatives and said it is planning to press for a vote on its resolution on Friday, according to officials familar with the issue. The decision to reject the American offer raised the prospect that the Obama adminstration will cast its first ever veto in the U.N. Security Council.
Still, the U.S. offer signaled a renewed willingness to seek a way out of the current impasse, even if it requires breaking with Israel and joining others in the council in sending a strong message to its key ally to stop its construction of new settlements. The Palestinian delegation, along with Lebanon, the Security Council’s only Arab member state, have asked the council’s president this evening to schedule a meeting for Friday. But it remained unclear whether the Palestinian move today to reject the U.S. offer is simply a negotiating tactic aimed at extracting a better deal from Washington.
Gordonskene at C&L has a great post up about one of my favorite journalists of all time: Eric Severeid:
Before the days of spin, agendas and punditry, there was that somewhat extinct class of journalists known as “commentators” – and even though they were journalists first, their commentaries were secondary; separate and classified as such. They were usually imbued with a sense of professional objectivity we would find somewhat strange by todays standards with Entertainers masquerading as Journalists and Journalists masquerading as Entertainers.
One such commentator was Eric Sevareid. In the mold of Edward R. Murrow (in fact, often referred to as one of “Murrow’s Boys” during World War 2), Sevareid along with radio journalists Charles Collingwood, Robert Trout and many others from CBS and the other networks routinely offered commentaries on the days news, separate from their regular reporting.
Yes, those were the days…there may have been plenty of propaganda, but there was some actual journalism going on too.
You may have heard (despite the U.S. media blackout) that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Pervez Musharraf, former President of Pakistan for the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Ron Brynaert at Bradblog has an analysis of the U.S. media reaction. A sample:
“A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant for ousted military leader Pervez Musharraf on Saturday over allegations he played a role in the 2007 assassination of an ex-prime minister and rival,” the Associated Press reported over the weekend, although no major US newspaper seems to have followed up. “It was a major setback for the onetime U.S. ally, who was plotting a political comeback from outside the country.”
After the opening paragraph, the next four paragraphs of AP’s report are devoted to defenses of Musharraf, accusations against the present Pakistan government, and doubts that the warrant will amount to much. An independent United Nations report which blasted the Musharraf government’s security arrangements as “fatally insufficient” isn’t mentioned until near the end, and reports that the Musharraf government lied and manipulated evidence about the ultimate cause of Bhutto’s death are completely ignored.
“Musharraf, who has not been charged, described accusations that he had a hand in the attack on ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto as a smear campaign by a government led by her aggrieved husband,” the second paragraph states, even though the former coup leader is never directly quoted once in the article.
Al Jazeera has the latest on events in the Middle East:
The Bahrain capital of Manama was rocked by sporadic clashes, hours after riot police attacked a makeshift encampment of pro-reform protesters in the centre of the city, killing at least three and injuring dozens of others.
An Al Jazeera correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, said on Thursday morning that “clashes were no longer limited to one place…they are now spread out in different parts of the city”.
Another Al Jazeera online producer said that booms could be heard from different parts of the city, suggesting that “tear-gas is being used to disperse the protesters in several neighbourhoods”.
Latest reports, however, indicated that a tense calm had descended on the capital with troops patroling the streets.
There were also reports of dozens of armoured vehicles moving towards the Pearl Roundabout, the protest site that was raided by the riot police.
‘Day of rage’ kicks off in Libya: Protesters have reportedly taken to the streets in four cities despite a crackdown, heeding to calls for mass protests.
Protesters in Libya have defied a security crackdown and taken to the streets in four cities for a “day of rage,” inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, reports say.
Several hundred supporters of Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s longtime leader, have also reportedly gathered in the capital on Thursday to counter online calls for anti-government protests.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said that Libyan authorities had detained 14 activists, writers and protesters who had been preparing the anti-government protests.
Libya has been tightly controlled for over 40 years by Gaddafi, who is now Africa’s longest-serving leader.
According to reports on Twitter, the microblogging site, Libya’s regime had been sending text messages to people warning them that live bullets will be fired if they join today’s protests.
That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?