Thursday Reads: A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That

Boris Karloff reads with friend

Boris Karloff reads with friend

Good Morning!!

Now that Congressional Republicans have successfully shot down President Obama’s rumored first choice for Secretary of State–Susan Rice–they are working on nixing the president’s possible pick for Secretary of Defense, Republican Chuck Hagel. Aaron Blake at The Fix:

Former senator Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) potential/likely nomination as Secretary of Defense looms this week amid a growing chorus of criticism over his past comments about Israel and his policy positions on issues including the defense budget.

It seems some are bent on defeating Hagel’s nomination before it can even become official — much as Republican senators did with potential Secretary of State pick Susan Rice just last week. In fact, the same GOP senators who scuttled the Rice pick are now expressing doubts about Hagel.

A battle over Hagel would be highly unusual — both because we just had one over Rice and because both senators nominated to Cabinet posts and Secretary of Defense nominees generally sail to confirmation.

Obama should have stuck with Rice and fought it out. Senate Republicans smell blood now. The only reason John Kerry may be approved for State is that Republicans fantasize that Massachusetts voters will repeat their past mistake of electing Scott Brown to fill an open Senate seat. This president is the worst negotiator ever. He really needs to get someone else to make deals for him. He just can’t accept the reality that Republicans hate his guts and will never give him a break, ever.

Meanwhile Rep. Darrell Issa must be drooling over the “scathing report” on the Benghazi attacks

Four State Department officials were removed from their posts on Wednesday after an independent panel criticized the “grossly inadequate” security at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi that was attacked on Sept. 11, leading to the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, resigned. Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and another official in the diplomatic security office whom officials would not identify were relieved of their duties. So was Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary who had responsibility for the North Africa region. The four officials, a State Department spokeswoman said, “have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”

The report by the independent panel has criticized officials in State’s bureau for Diplomatic Security displaying a “lack of proactive leadership.” It also said that some in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs “showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi’s security issues.”

The report did not criticize more senior officials, including Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary for management, who has vigorously defended the State Department’s decision-making on Benghazi to the Congress and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At a news conference at the State Department on Wednesday, Thomas R. Pickering, a former ambassador who led the independent review, said that most of the blame should fall on officials in the two bureaus.

But that isn’t going to stop Republicans from trying to hang the blame around Hillary Clinton’s neck.

Sen. Bob Corker, R- Tenn., slated to be the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee in 2013, told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell Wednesday that Clinton “has to come before us. I think it’s imperative.” ‘

Corker and other members of Congress were given a classified briefing on the report and afterwards he insisted that Clinton must testify before she leaves her post and the Senate votes on confirmation of her successor.

The secretary was slated to attend briefings on the Hill this week but has been recovering from the flu and a concussion she suffered in a recent fainting episode.

Of course the right wing conspiracy nuts are accusing Clinton of faking her illness. And in the House:

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the unclassified version of the report “omits important information the public has a right to know. This includes details about the perpetrators of the attack in Libya as well as the less-than-noble reasons contributing to State Department decisions to deny security resources.”

He also said, “In light of the report, I am concerned that the carefully vetted testimony of senior State Department officials at the October hearing was part of an intentional effort to mislead the American people.”

Hey Darrell, have you hot-wired any cars or burned down any businesses lately?

While Pentagon officials struggle to figure out how to protect foreign outposts without using Blackwater-type hired guns, they are dealing with a worldwide Military day care abuse scandal.

The Defense Department has launched a worldwide investigation into hiring practices at military child-care centers after a criminal probe of employees at an Army base near the Pentagon sparked a review that found more than 30 staffers who officials say should have been barred from contact with children.

Two civilian employees at the Child Development Center at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall appeared in federal court Wednesday in Alexandria to face charges of assaulting 2-year-olds in their care.

The president immediately urged a thorough investigation and a “zero tolerance policy when it comes to protecting the children of service members from abuse.”

Two workers at the day-care center at the base known as Fort Myer were recorded by surveillance cameras dragging, pinching, kneeing and taunting toddlers, according to federal court records. The center is the military’s largest day-care center, with more than 400 children ranging from 6 weeks to 12 years old. It is used by Pentagon employees and other service members in the Washington area.

A personnel review at Fort Myer began in the fall after a parent complained about an allegedly abusive caregiver.

The inquiry turned up evidence that at least 31 staffers had potentially disqualifying factors in their records, including history of drug use and past allegations of assault, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation said. The staffers have been suspended.

“This is not just one or two or three people,” the official said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of an ongoing inquiry. “This is a severe lapse in the background checks system.”

In police state news, two women in Texas are suing the Texas State Police for subjecting them to an “illegal roadside cavity search.”

A federal lawsuit filed by two Irving women claims that Texas State Troopers humiliated them by performing illegal cavity searches on the side of the road after a cigarette butt was thrown out of their car window.

State Trooper David Farrell called in a female trooper to perform cavity searches of Angel Dobbs, 38, and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley Dobbs, because he said that he smelled marijuana and the women were “acting weird,” attorney Scott Palmer told KTVT on Tuesday.

Angel Dobbs recalled that the female trooper, Kelley Helleson, asked for her permission to perform the search and then told her to “shut up and just listen.”

Unbelievable.

Dashcam video shows Helleson searching the anuses and vaginas of both women with the same latex gloves in full view of other passing cars.

“At this point, I’m in clear shock. I can’t even believe this is happening,” Angel Dobbs explained. Turns me around goes down into the front of my pants into my inner thigh and at which point she goes up with two fingers. I just look at her and say ‘oh my God, I’ve just been violated.’”

And then the trooper performed the same procedure on Ashley Dobbs without changing her gloves.

“She went down, then turned me around, and went down my front and then she actually dug,” Ashley Dobbs said. “I didn’t know what I could say, what I could do. I felt hopeless.”

Is it time for Texas to secede from the union and become part of Mexico (except for Austin, Ralph)? Nah, Mexico probably wouldn’t want to get involved.

The TSA is “Finally Investigating Cancer Risk of X-Ray Body Scanners” now that millions of Americans have been used as guinea pigs in the nation’s airports.

Following months of congressional pressure, the Transportation Security Administration has agreed to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to study the health effects of the agency’s X-ray body scanners. But it is unclear if the academy will conduct its own tests of the scanners or merely review previous studies.

The machines, known as backscatters, were installed in airports nationwide after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009 to screen passengers for explosives and other nonmetallic weapons. But they have been criticized by some prominent scientists because they expose the public to a small amount of ionizing radiation, a form of energy that can cause cancer.

The scanners were the subject of a 2011 ProPublica series, which found that the TSA had glossed over the small cancer risk posed by even low doses of radiation. The stories also showed that the United States was almost alone in the world in X-raying passengers and that the Food and Drug Administration had gone against its own advisory panel, which recommended the agency set a federal safety standard for security X-rays.

The TSA maintains that the backscatters are safe and that they emit a low dose of X-rays equivalent to the radiation a passenger would receive in two minutes of flying at typical cruising altitude.

Winter has arrived in the Midwest: Outages in Iowa as season’s first blizzard starts journey in the Plains.

(CNN) — Tens of thousands of people lost power in Iowa on Thursday as the first major storm of the season swept in, bringing blizzards, high winds and severe thunderstorms to the central United States.

The storm prompted the National Weather Service to issue a blizzard warning for a huge swath of the Midwest stretching from eastern Colorado to Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shoreline, including virtually all of Iowa.

The declaration warned of snow accumulations of up to 12 inches, complemented by 25- to 35-mph winds that will occasionally gust to 45 to 50 mph.

Oh goody.

The storm will race into western Illinois, the weather service said. Rain will quickly change to snow as the storm advances northeast, with the heaviest snow occurring overnight.

“Snow drifts several feet deep will be possible given the strong winds,” the blizzard warning states.
Wrapping around the blizzard warning on the north, south and east is a winter storm warning, which will be no picnic either. The winds won’t be quite as strong, but residents should expect a strong dose of rain, sleet and snow, with a few hail-packing thunderstorms thrown in for good measure.

Hmmm…what about my neck of the woods?

The “intense cyclone” will crawl across the Great Lakes region Thursday and slog into northern New England by Friday evening, the National Weather Service predicted.

Ugh…just what I needed.

I have three longer reads for you on the possible motivations behind mass shootings. I haven’t read any of these carefully yet, so I’m not sure if I’ll agree with the conclusions.

Scientific American is highlighting an article from 2007: Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings? The article focuses on the revenge fantasies of young shooters.

A Time article from July (written after the Aurora theater shootings) asks about “The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide.”

At Alternet: “What Is it About Men That They’re Committing These Horrible Massacres?”

I’ll be reading these articles after I publish this post. Let me know what you think.

Finally, Senators Diane Feinstein and John McCain are “condemning” the new movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty for falsely suggesting that torture led investigators to bin Laden’s hideout.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


55 Comments on “Thursday Reads: A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    Robert Bork died yesterday and I wonder how many are aware that because of his involvement with Watergate much of his “legacy” is what has been fueling the GOP obstructionism for past almost 40 decades.

    Since history is something we fail to appreciate, this man’s fatal nomination to the Supreme Court has been one of the underlying measures this party has clung to though his judicial outlook was rife with fascist reasoning. He believed that “power” should ultimately be in the hands of the POTUS and was thus summarily dismissed for consideration.

    But aside from those of us who lived through that time I seriously doubt many would have a clue about Watergate, the participants, and the outcome that was sought during that time of national upheaval. Robert Bork would have been at home with the Tea Partiers in his approach to judicial rulings.

    Since his defeat by the Senate Judicial Committee the Right has been bemoaning his loss since. He was a willing participant in the “Saturday Night Massacre” that occurred when Nixon sought to subvert the justice system and seize power by those willing to overlook the Constitution of the US. The Right has been fighting this battle for decades.

    However, since we know that “history” begins with the Reagan election of 1980, little of what happened prior is taught or discussed today. A time when the nation was facing a “takeover” by a president guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors” who was forced to resign in the face of his own involvement with subversive activities.

    Robert Bork had an active role in that event but I would hazard a guess that only a handful of us are knowledgable. “Watergate” was the result of an active press who “drilled down” in search of the facts.

    Something that is sorely lacking into today’s MSM.

    • janicen says:

      I’m no fan of Bork but when he wasn’t confirmed, we got Scalia in his place. Scalia is still around but the Bork passing would have meant a vacancy on the Court during a Democratic administration. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, we might have been better off with Bork.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Bork made Scalia look like a lefty. Bork had some horrific decisions and on-the-record opinions under his belt that disqualified him. I was reminded last night that one of those decisions was upholding a companies right to dismiss women who did not opt for sterilization while working jobs that might harm fetuses or fertility. He also had a poor civil rights record, opposing the voting rights act, women’s rights initiatives, including reproductive freedom, gay rights, etc. Scalia is an anal retentive rightwing nut job, but as hard as it is to imagine, Robert Bork would have been much worse.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I agree, Bork was worse than Scalia–as in horrible vs. unbelievably horrible.

      • RSM says:

        Kennedy was who we got in Bork’s place. Scalia was already on the court.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I couldn’t remember. I was thinking it might have been Thomas. Thanks.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      NPR’s profile yesterday of Bork (and I have to admit I wasn’t paying attention to politics in those “good old days”), they basically said that because Bork was so open about his repugnant, repulsive, disgusting constitutional opinions that is what led to current confirmation hearings where the candidates will barely acknowledge their names, marital status & whether or not they have children. Forget about them commenting on those “ideals” they hold dear that will influence their judicial opinions.

      Ding-ding-ding, Pat, you are correct. Today’s waist deep Republican BS & spoiled child behavior began with the downfall of the Nixon WH & Bork’s rejection. They’ve been seeking retribution for Bork’s mistreatment (in their eyes only) ever since.

  2. RalphB says:

    Wow. I hope those ladies collect a huge settlement from the TX DPS. All I can say is, if the rest of this loony state were to secede, we’re not going with ’em!

    • RalphB says:

      Guess they take littering seriously though.

      • bostonboomer says:

        The cops claimed they smelled pot and blamed the women for smoking in their car. One problem is pot does not smell like tobacco. The other problem is they left their dash cam on.

      • RalphB says:

        Those two are going to be in a pile of trouble I imagine. There’s no excuse for that search in public no matter what they said they smelled. I can’t imagine why they would do that kind of thing. No legitimate reason for sure.

        The littering comment was because the cause of the stop was one of the women threw a cigarette butt out of the car.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Do cops have the power to stop cars for littering in Texas? I wonder how common that is? There must have been something else going on with those moronic troopers.

      • It is the Ole ‘Broken Light Stop’, I don’t think he would have done that to a member of the ‘Hell’s Angles’, even if he thought he smelled cocaine. Since when are troopers certified as ‘SMELLERS’? I am so shocked and outraged about their violations of two citizens and their CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS! Arrgh!

        Remember the NEVER ASSUME RULE,

      • RalphB says:

        BB. As far as littering, they could but don’t usually stop cars for littering. During the drought we have passed some local ordinances which are very tough for throwing cigarettes out car windows though, due to the fire hazards. That would be their excuse but it shouldn’t work for this creepy business.

    • janicen says:

      This is a shocking and disgusting story. I think that not only should the police department and the state be liable, but the police officer should be personally liable for this assault.

    • Also, the troops don’t know anything about ‘STANDARD PRECAUTIONS’ and frankly shouldn’t be violating people period, but more shocking is that it seems to be the norm as they did it in plain view to intimidate the women and perhaps the wider Texas citizenry. SHOCKING! This practice must end, we are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, not some banana republic.

  3. janicen says:

    The thing about Hagel: I think he endorsed Obama, so maybe there’s a quid pro quo to consider, but frankly I’m sick and tired of Democrats having a Republican Sec of Defense or a Sec of anything. F@ck bipartisanship. If the moderate Republicans want some power let them take back their own party.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Me too, although Hagel is generally anti-war and would probably cut defense spending more than Republicans and the Pentagon like. That’s probably the source of the attacks on him.

    • RalphB says:

      Being more policy oriented than partisan, I like Hagel for SecDef. Unlike Leon Panetta who has complained that cuts to Defense would decimate the forces, Hagel has publicly stated that the Defense Dept is bloated and needs to be pared down.

      Find me a Democrat who has said that, and been generally anti-war, then we can talk about someone else.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I really don’t have a problem with Hagel. I think he left the Senate because he was so disgusted with what was happening to his party and Nebraska was starting to turn on him.

        This is sexist, but Hagel is nice to look at too.

      • RalphB says:

        Can’t leave out that his enemies are all the right people. The neo-cons and associated blowhards really detest him. That’s a big plus for me!

  4. Texas claims to be for Constitutional Rights, but that is only for their right to guns, not the RIGHTS of citizens, as these two women were SEXUALLY VIOLATED BY THE STATE POLICE. We are shocked when learning of Egyptians police/army doing ‘virginity’ exams, yet this story hasn’t been covered by the major news channels.

    Where the heck is Governor Perry who claimed he was for people’s rights and freedoms? I hope these ladies take this to a federal level in case there are other States trying to violate citizens. I am totally disgusted by what the troopers did.

  5. RalphB says:

    A review I read of Zero Dark Thirty said the movie showed the torture scenes while it was clear the information about Bin Laden did not come from them. That reviewer thought the film showed torture to be a horrible mistake. Reviews have been mixed about that though.

    Pardon my cynicism but I imagine McCain and crew are more worried about the larger public becoming aware of the fact that we did torture people. I’m sure they would all like that to be forgotten.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Amanda Marcotte: France Passes Law Granting Free Birth Control to Teenagers, and No One Balks

    If only we lived in such a civilized country.

    • Delphyne says:

      PT: Have you experienced personal attempts at intimidation for your research? How about colleagues?

      GW: I won’t speak for colleagues. The president of one of the largest handgun manufacturers in the country once told me, face to face, how much money he had committed to an intimidation effort and advised me to keep my life insurance paid up. There was a time when federal law enforcement agents recommended that I wear a ballistic vest. There is a wanted poster on the Internet.

      This was one of the questions asked in the article and it left me speechless.

  7. RalphB says:

    Josh Marshall gets to the bottom of why we’re going over the cliff.

    TPM: Direct Negotiations with the Terrorists?

    But the real issue here probably comes down to Boehner’s weakness, institutional and personal. It’s a question the White House has had from the beginning and suspects the worst on — that John Boehner can’t actually deliver any deal, almost no matter what’s included in it. Someone on Twitter just called him the rodeo clown of conservative politics, which about captures it.

    At the risk of offending everyone, do the Dems need to accept that Boehner’s an Abbas-like figure in this negotiation and to really get a deal they need to bite the bullet and open negotiations with Hamas?

  8. RalphB says:

    Dave Weigel lays waste to Republican conspiracy theories.

    Slate: The Ghosts of Benghazi

    The final report on the attack on the U.S. consulate makes one thing clear: Republican charges of a cover-up are pure fiction.

    • dakinikat says:

      Everything Republicans believe these days are conspiracy theories and legends or religious tripe.

    • Fannie says:

      Finally part of my question comes out: “Benghazi report single out ambassador for criticism”.
      Reported by Hannah Allam 20 Dec 2012

      Perhaps the most uncomofortable aspect of an independent panel’s review of the deadly Sept.11 attacks on US post in Libya is that part of the blame for security lapses lay with the incident’s most prominent casualty: Ambassador Chris Stevens.” “The embassey Stevens oversaw in Tripoli “did not demostrate strong and sustained advocacy with Washington for increased security in Benghazi. Plans for his trip from the Tripoli embassy to the Benghazi consulate also weren’t properly shared with the security teams, who were not fully aware of planned movements off compound.” And the review board wrote that Stevens simply didn’t envision such a scenario at the the Benghazi compound, despite a flurry of disturbing attacks against diplomatic targets that spring and summer. But Stevens’ status as an expert on Libya, and Benghazi in particular, the report state, “caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgements.”

  9. RalphB says:

    Matt Yglesias explains what Republicans want for Xmas.

    Slate: The “Plan B” Christmas Tree

    John Boehner’s “Plan B” alternative to negotiating with Barack Obama over a fiscal cliff alternative was supposed to be a simple measure to shift the pressure points—extend Bush tax rates for all income below $1 million, create a new millionaire’s bracket that uses the old Clinton marginal rate.

    But lots of House conservatives didn’t love that idea, so now Plan B also tries to roll back Dodd-Frank bank regulation reforms and turn us back to Bush-era financial regulation policy. It also cuts food stamps, Medicaid spending, and some Affordable Care Act provisions. In other words, it’s a whole conservative Christmas tree.

    There’s nothing wrong with that. If the point of the legislation is to outline a conservative alternative to Obama’s position, they may as well stuff it with things conservatives like. But its worth examining the ornaments. When John Boehner needs to add spending cuts to a deficit reduction bill to make his most conservative members happy, they don’t want to reindex Social Security benefits. They don’t want to monkey with the Medicare eligibility age. That’s not the stuff that gets them jazzed up. Taking food out of the mouths of hungry children, by contrast, is something they’re excited about. They’re eager to reduce regulation on banks and cut back on poor people’s health care. Cutting spending on the eldelry is something they’ll maybe consider as part of a deal with Obama. Cutting spending on the poor is their idea of Christmas.

  10. RalphB says:

    This is a good article by Clyde Prestowitz. Turns out to be unexplainable in logical terms.

    Foreign Policy: How to explain the fiscal cliff to non-Americans

  11. Update on the Texas Trooper FOURTH AMENDMENT VIOLATORS of citizen’s bodies, one the female trooper is now suspended with pay, while the trooper that called the second trooper for the cavity check and all around pat down of the two women because he thought he smelled pot, well he is still on duty.

    Why the male trooper is still on duty is beyond me…must be some Governor Perry policy.

  12. BB, I love…love the picture of Karloff!

  13. RSM says:

    Loaded gun, left in Tillamook theater, found by seventh-graders

    An idiot with a concealed-carry permit accidentally left his handgun in the movie theater. A round was chambered, and the safety was off. It fell to the floor when the kids found it. Thank heaven it didn’t go off. And thank heaven the kids knew about gun safety.

    Oh, and get this:

    On Wednesday evening, Gary Quackenbush, 61, turned up at the theater seeking his missing gun, “like it would be in the lost and found with lost eyeglasses and other things,” said Long.

    The mind reels.