I don’t know about you, but I really missed JJ’s Friday Night Lite post last night, so I thought I’d start out Sky Dancing’s Saturday with some political cartoons. I hope you enjoy these — courtesy of Cagle Post.
A few more on Syria:
March on Washington 50th Anniversary:
Labor Day and Income Inequality
NFL Concussion Lawsuit
I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend!! And if you’re not out on the beach or doing something else more exciting, please post links to the stories you’re following today in the comment thread.
It’s difficult to find a single sentence in Secretary of State John Kerry’s forceful and at points emotional press conference on Syria that did not sound like a direct case for imminent U.S. military action against Syria. It was, from the first paragraph to the 15th,a war speech.
That doesn’t mean that full-on war is coming; the Obama administration appears poised for a limited campaign of offshore strikes, probably cruise missiles and possible aircraft strikes. President Obama has long signaled that he has no interest in a full, open-ended or ground-based intervention, and there’s no reason to believe his calculus has changed. But Kerry’s language and tone were unmistakable. He was making the case for, and signaling that the United States planned to pursue, military action against another country. As my colleagues Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan wrote, “Kerry left little doubt that the decision for the United States is not whether to take military action, but when.”
Kerry made the moral case for attacking Syria. He described what’s happening in Syria as “the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons,” which he called “a moral obscenity” and “inexcusable.”
Kerry made the international norms case for striking Syria. “All peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again,” he said. The argument here is that punishing Assad’s use of chemical weapons matters “beyond the conflict in Syria itself,” because the world wants to deter future military actors from using chemical weapons.Kerry hinted at international coalition-building, saying that he’d spoken “with foreign ministers from around the world.” He later said that “information [about the attack] is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners.”
The United States is not going to win approval from the United Nations Security Council, where Russia has consistently opposed even milquetoast resolutions condemning Assad. But Kerry still made a point of gesturing toward the institution it’s about to bypass, saying, “At every turn, the Syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the U.N. investigation, using it only to stall and to stymie the important effort to bring to light what happened in Damascus in the dead of night.” He accused Assad of blocking U.N. inspectors and “systemically destroying evidence.”
Kerry was mindful that the hyped up case for war against Iraq and the results of previous US engagement in countries like Egypt, Libya an Afghanistan have not been good. Yet, Kerry made it clear that the US was ready to take some kind of action today.
BREAKING NEWS: Secretary of State John F. Kerry says the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made preparations three days before last week’s chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus and fired the rockets from regime-controlled areas. This story will be updated shortly.
LONDON – French President Francois Hollande said Friday that his country is prepared to act in Syria despite Britain’s surprise rejection of military action, potentially making a nation that turned its back on Washington during the war in Iraq the primary U.S. ally in a possible strike against Syrian forces.
The Guardian characterizes the speech as “polarizing for world leaders.”
As the US moves towards military intervention in the Syrian conflict, world leaders have issued a string of belicose statements, with Iran and Russiastanding alongside the Assad regime against a western alliance led by the US, UK, France and Australia.
In their toughest terms to date, David Cameron and US secretary of state, John Kerry, spoke of the undeniable and “asbolutely abhorrent” and use of chemical weapons in Syria. In response, the Assad regime and Iran warned that foreign military intervention in Syria would result in a conflict that would engulf the region.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, intimated that Tehran would respond, should the west strike.
“We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region,” Araqchi told a news conference. “These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region.”
Walid al-Moallem, Syria’s foreign minister, also vowed that the regime would defend itself using all means available in the event of a US-led assault.
“I challenge those who accuse our forces of using these weapons to come forward with the evidence,” he told reporters at a press conference in Damascus. “We have the means to defend ourselves, and we will surprise everyone.”
Shia Iran is Syria’s closest ally and has accused an alliance of militant Sunni Islamists, Israel and western powers of trying to use the conflict to take over the region.
The rhetoric from the Shia camp came a day after Kerry gave the strongest indication to date that the US intends to take military action against the Assad regime. On Monday, Kerry said President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces had committed a moral obscenity against his own people.
“Make no mistake,” Kerry said. “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapon against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.”
President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines, based on our values and our interests. Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too.
But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency, these things we do know.
We also know that we have a president that does what he says that he will do. And he has said, very clearly, that whatever decision he makes in Syria it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway.
The president has been clear: Any action that he might decide to take will be limited and (sic) tailored response to ensure that, a despots brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable. And ultimately, ultimately we are committed — we remain committed, we believe it’s — the primary objective is (sic) to have a diplomatic process that can resolve this through negotiation, because we know there is no ultimate military solution.
It has to be political.
It has to happen at the negotiating table.
And we are deeply committed to getting there.
So that is what we know. That is what the leaders of Congress now know. And that’s what the American people need to know. And that is, at the core of the decisions that must now be made for the security of our country, and for the promise of a planet, where the world’s most heinous weapons must never again be used against the world’s most vulnerable people.
What do you think?
Today is the 8th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It is a day that changed my life completely. At first, I didn’t want to leave my home. They had given us so many warnings before for hurricanes that really hadn’t come to anything I thought I might be able to ride it out; but something inside me knew this would be different. So I loaded up my two labs and my cat, a big pink futon, and a badly packed suitcase and headed for a Lake Charles hotel room with some other Ph.D students from my program. I spent Sunday until Wednesday hunkered in.
I couldn’t think straight about what to grab or pack. I tried to cover the Steinway up with a tarp and hoped for the best. I brought weird stuff. I packed all my jazz fest t-shirts and some boxer shorts. I packed a silk skirt and some really impractical black pumps. I forgot so much that it wasn’t even funny. I just remember looking at everything before I left and thinking that just a few things wouldn’t cut it so might as well leave it all. Now, I think I would have the presence to grab a few practical things and meaningful items. But, not then. The drive was also indescribable. It was hours and hours of bumper to bumper traffic heading west on the I-10. I had tried to grab a few neighbors that I knew didn’t have cars too. Some folks were still determined to ride it out.
I slept on the futon between two beds for two nights with my dogs and cat, trying to get as much information as possible from a live broadcast from the TV and the internet. I thought that I would be able to head back, until I heard the news that the levees had broken and water was filling up the city. It was at that point we made plans to head to Texas to drop one student at the Dallas Bus Stop and the other at the Dallas Airport. I was headed to Omaha to stay with a friend and to give my children huge hugs. I spent weeks on the couch just watching Anderson Cooper and wondering if my home was okay. When I finally met Anderson and hung with him several times over the next few years it was always like seeing an old friend. He was a constant fixture in my life for what seemed like an eternity.
I finally made it back the first week of October to a scene of indescribable, utter devastation, with no electricity nearly anywhere, massive clean up efforts, and a very empty city. My home was mostly okay. That meant I served as refuge for folks for nearly two years afterwards. The only place that was pretty unlivable for awhile was my bedroom because the roof had come off my neighbor’s house and taken out the window and my bed. It took me a few weeks to get all the electricity in the house. I lived with the sound of AM radio. For the first week, my only company was the Washington State National Guard.
There were no birds, no bugs, no sounds. Everything was pitch black at night.
Later in the month, I spent nights in bars with returning friends whose stories of staying or leaving were often unbelievable. You can hear some stories here at the Survivor’s Stories project by NPR. Many, many of my friends have left and never returned. More than a few are still here but have become quite changed. I have to say that many of them have had problems with drugs and booze since then so they’ve been lost in a completely different way.
It’s also been a year since our last big hurricane and the passing of Karma, who was the last of my two labs who made the great trek out of the city with me. It is just Miles and me now that took that huge journey.
You learn a lot about people when you find yourself in the position of possibly losing everything. I remember being offered money by folks in Dallas an in Lake Charles. Every one in Omaha wanted to do something big to for any one of us that popped up there. It was lucky because it good cold fast and I hand nothing to wear. I took my Red Cross Debit Card and bought clothes. Friends and family sent me boxes of things at my friend’s house too. I came home with care packages stuffed with cleaning things, food and clothes. I really needed all of them by the time I finally opened my front door. The hurricane had shaken all kinds of dust out of the old place.
I remember the Ford Dealer in Dallas looked at my car when I was wondering if it would make it all the way to Omaha and didn’t charge me a dime. A GI in the waiting room took care of my dogs while I held Miles in my arm. A woman asked if there was anything at all that I needed. I also remember a Sugerland Trooper that pulled me over because I hadn’t decreased my speed since we were trying to figure out how to get to the busstop who announce to me that “This is Texas and we do things differently here than in Louisiana”. All I could say was “Believe me, I am not messing with Texas. I am dropping her off at the bus stop, and her off at the airport and I am heading north to my family as soon as possible”. All I thought at the time was he could keep this god awful place. I just wanted to hug my kids and see my little house in New Orleans again.
This city is still in the throes of recovery. There are parts that are still empty. There are parts that probably will never be the same. My part of town is now hip and cool and gentrifying. The house prices have been increasing rapidly since the Hurricane and the population is changing. So, there is good and bad. Just like everything. However, you can still tell us “old timers” because all we still ask is “How you making out?” and that always implies “after Katrina” .
Thursday Reads: Civil Rights Struggle, Syria Intervention, NYPD Spying, Boston Bombing, and “League of Denial”Posted: August 29, 2013
I’ve got so much news for you this morning, I don’t know if I’ll have room in a reasonable-length post, so I’ll get right to it. I’ll begin with some stories on yesterday’s 50th anniversary of the March On Washington.
PBS had an amazing interview with Rep John Lewis in which he recounted his memories of that day in 1963 and the speech he gave as a youthful leader in the Civil Rights Movement: ‘I Felt That We Had to Be Tough’: John Lewis Remembers the March on Washington. I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s a brief excerpt:
REP. JOHN LEWIS, D-Ga.: On that day, I was blessed.
I felt like I had been tracked down by some force or some spirit. I will never forget when A. Philip Randolph said, “I now present to you young John Lewis, the national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.”
And I went to the podium. I looked to my right. I saw many, many young people, staffers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, volunteers. Then I looked to my left. I saw all these young people up in the trees, trying to get a better view of the podium.
Then I looked straight ahead. And I saw so many people with their feet in the water trying to cool off. And then I said to myself, this is it, and I went for it.
On meeting with President Kennedy before the March, and how the podium and the crowd came to be so diverse:
He [JFK] didn’t like the idea of a March on Washington.
When we met with him, A. Philip Randolph spoke up in his baritone voice we met with the president. And he said, “Mr. President, the black masses are restless. And we are going to march on Washington.”
And you could tell by the movement of President Kennedy — he started moving and twisting in his chair. And he said, in effect, that if you bring all these people to Washington, won’t it be violence and chaos and disorder?
Mr. Randolph responded and said, “Mr. President, there’s been orderly, peaceful, nonviolent protests.”
And President Kennedy said, in so many words, I think we are going to have problems. So we left that meeting with President Kennedy. We came out on the lawn at the White House and spoke to the media and said, we had a meaningful and productive meeting with the president of the United States. And we told him we’re going to March on Washington.
And a few days later, July 2, 1963, the six of us met in New York City at the old Roosevelt Hotel. And in that meeting, we made a decision to invite four major white religious and labor leaders to join us in issuing the call for the March on Washington.
NPR had a wonderful story yesterday about the history of the Civil Rights Movement’s signature song: The Inspiring Force Of ‘We Shall Overcome’.
It is not a marching song. It is not necessarily defiant. It is a promise: “We shall overcome someday. Deep in my heart, I do believe.”
It has been a civil rights song for 50 years now, heard not just in the U.S. but in North Korea, in Beirut, in Tiananmen Square, in South Africa’s Soweto Township. But “We Shall Overcome” began as a folk song, a work song. Slaves in the fields would sing, ‘I’ll be all right someday.’ It became known in the churches. A Methodist minister, Charles Albert Tindley, published a version in 1901: “I’ll Overcome Someday.”
The first political use came in 1945 in Charleston, S.C. There was a strike against the American Tobacco Co. The workers wanted a raise; they were making 45 cents an hour. They marched and sang together on the picket line, “We will overcome, and we will win our rights someday.”
There’s much more about how the song was passed from group to group and changed over time. Please give it a listen–it’s only about 8 minutes long, but really fascinating.
Not a single Republican appeared at yesterday’s commemoration of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush couldn’t come because of health issues, but John Boehner and Eric Cantor are presumably in good health, but they refused offers to make speeches at the event, according to Roll Call.
That wasn’t a wise choice, said Julian Bond, a renowned civil rights activist, in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday afternoon.
“What’s really telling, I think, is the podium behind me, just count at the end of the day how many Republicans will be there,” Bond told news anchor Alex Wagner. “They asked senior President Bush to come, he was ill. They asked junior Bush, he said he had to stay with his father.
“They asked a long list of Republicans to come,” Bond continued, “and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ‘em this way.” [….]
Cantor’s decision to turn down the invitation to speak is especially striking given his stated commitment to passing a rewrite of the Voting Rights Act in the 113th Congress, and the many opportunities he has taken over the past several weeks to publicly reflect on the experience of traveling with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., to Selma, Ala.
Sadly, Dr. King’s dream of peace has not made much progress in the past 50 years. And now the U.S. and its allies are considering another military intervention–in Syria.
Fortunately, the UK is now hesitating. NYT: Britain to Wait on Weapons Report Ahead of Syria Strikes.
Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, who runs a coalition government, is facing political difficulties from legislators mindful of the experience in Iraq, when assurances from Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction proved inaccurate and a false pretext for war.
Mr. Cameron bowed on Wednesday to pressure from the opposition Labour Party and to some within his own coalition who want to allow United Nations weapons inspectors a chance to report their findings and for the United Nations Security Council to make one more effort to give a more solid legal backing to military action against Damascus.
At BBC News, Nick Robinson explains why Cameron “buckled.”
If you think that NSA domestic spying is invasive, you should take a look at what the NYPD has been up to since 9/11. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman of the AP have a new book out called Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America. There’s an excerpt at New York Magazine: The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities. It’s long, but a very important story. Please give it a read if you can.
Yesterday Apuzzo and Goldman published a related shocking story at AP: NYPD designates mosques as terrorism organizations.
The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.
Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.
The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials.
Boston Magazine has published more photos from “Behind the Scenes of The Hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.” Above is a photo of Tsarnaev exiting the boat in which he hid for hours as law enforcement searched all over Watertown for him. See more photos at the link.
In more hopeful news, one long-hospitalized survivor of the bombings was given the go-ahead to return home to California yesterday: Boston Marathon bomb survivor John Odom set to return home to Torrance (Daily Breeze News).
Nearly five months after a bomb almost took his life at the Boston Marathon, John Odom of Torrance was cleared by doctors on Wednesday to finally come home.
Odom’s wife, Karen, who has never left her husband’s side, has been chronicling her husband’s long recovery on Facebook, called it a “monumental” day.
“It’s official, John is released to go home!!!” she posted on the John Odom Support Page. “Although his recovery is nowhere near complete, there is no medical or physical reason he can’t fly home and continue his recovery in California. We are hoping to be home the end of next week, a few days shy of 5 months since we left on that now famous 4 day trip.”
“Famous” is one way to put it. The couple could have never imagined the journey they’ve been on since April 15.
Read the rest of this moving story at the link.
On October 8th and 15th, NPR’s Frontline plans to show League of Denial, “a two-part two-part investigation examining whether — as thousands of former players allege — the NFL has covered up the risks of football on the brain.” The documentary has so far been produced in partnership with ESPN, but last week the sports channel backed out of the collaboration presumably because of pressure from the NFL. From The New Republic: ESPN Quit Its Concussions Investigation With ‘Frontline’ Under Curious Circumstances.
“Frontline,” the prestigious, multiple-Emmy-winning investigative news show produced by Boston’s PBS member station, announced late Thursday afternoon that a 15-month-old partnership with ESPN in which they published a series of pieces exploring how the National Football League has (and has not) accounted for the relationship between playing football, head trauma, and brain damage, had come to an end. Dating back to last November, “Frontline” had run articles on its site featuring the work of Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, ESPN staffers (and brothers) even as these articles appeared at espn.com and as the brothers did segments for ESPN’s award-winning investigative series “Outside the Lines.” The end result—in addition to abook that the brothers are publishing in October—was to be a “Frontline” documentary, League of Denial (also the book’s title).
According to “Frontline,” the documentary will premiere this season on October 8 and 15, but, “from now on, at ESPN’s request, we will no longer use their logos and collaboration credit on these sites and on our upcoming film.” Executive producer David Fanning and deputy executive producer Raney Aronson expressed their “regret” and credited ESPN with “a productive partnership.” They added, “The film is still being edited and has not been seen by ESPN news executives, although we were on schedule to share it with them for their editorial input.”
Aronson told me late Thursday that ESPN contacted “Frontline” last Friday to request that it remove ESPN’s logo from its website, citing the technicality that it was a “trademark issue.” It wasn’t until Monday, after the latest collaboration was published on “Frontline”’s website and aired on “OTL,” that ESPN also requested that language describing collaboration not be used, and that it became clear the collaboration itself was coming to an end.
The circumstances are indeed mysterious. Perhaps it was over-cautiousness on ESPN’s part or perhaps indirect pressure from the League. If you’re interested in this important story, go read Marc Tracy’s piece at TNR.
A couple more useful links on this story:
Bill Littlefield at NPR’s Only a Game: ESPN And Frontline Part Ways Over ‘League Of Denial’
The authors of the book League of Denial will continue their involvement with the Frontline presentation.