Thursday Reads: That Sense of Surreality…


Good Morning!!

I’m having another one of those mornings. Once again, I woke up with that feeling of surreality–the world can’t be as strange as it seems, can it?

Lots of allegedly intelligent, liberal Americans have been freaking out for months about revelations leaked by Edward Snowden that the NSA spies on foreign countries in order to protect U.S. national security. Snowden and his public relations handler Glenn Greenwald are heroes to these people despite the fact that Greenwald apparently sold Snowden’s remaining secrets to the highest bidder–a libertarian, pro-corporate billionaire named Pierre Omidyar. More on this story later.

None of us likes the idea of being spied upon, but at least the President of the U.S. must be getting the best security money can buy, right?

I’m afraid not. It’s still possible for a person suffering from schizophrenia to get onto a stage filled with world leaders and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with President Obama and wave his arms around in some kind of meaningless pantomime. From this morning’s Boston Globe: Interpreter for Mandela event: I was hallucinating.

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The man accused of faking sign interpretation next to world leaders at Nelson Mandela’s memorial told a local newspaper that he was hallucinating and hearing voices.

Thamsanqa Jantjie did not describe his qualifications for being a sign language interpreter, but told The Star he works for an interpreting company that paid him $85 for interpreting Tuesday’s event. He told Radio 702 Thursday he’s receiving treatment for schizophrenia and had an episode while on stage.

Watch video of the performance at the link.

ABC News has more detail via AP:

The man accused of faking sign interpretation while standing alongside world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service said Thursday he hallucinated that angels were entering the stadium, suffers from schizophrenia and has been violent in the past.

Thamsanqa Jantjie said in a 45-minute interview with The Associated Press that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic because there were “armed policemen around me.” He added that he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than one year.

Jatjie knew he had to do his best to act normal, so he waved his arms around and pretended to be interpreting the speeches of numerous world leaders, including Obama.

“What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium … I start realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how will it comes. Sometimes I react violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things that chase me,” Jantjie said.

“I was in a very difficult position,” he added. “And remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. If I start panicking I’ll start being a problem. I have to deal with this in a manner so that I mustn’t embarrass my country.”

Asked how often he had become violent, he said “a lot” while declining to provide details.

So exactly who hired Jantjie? It’s a mystery. BBC News reports: Owners of Mandela ‘fake’ interpreter firm ‘vanish’ The BBC is also using a different spelling for the schizophrenic interpreter’s name.

Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu apologised to the deaf community for the poor quality of interpretation given by Thamsanqa Dyantyi from SA Interpreters.

“He is Xhosa speaking. The English was a bit too much for him,” she said.

What is this man’s real name? I don’t know, but–get this–Bogopane-Zulu “did not rule out hiring him again”!

During a press conference, Ms Bogopane-Zulu, the deputy minister for women, children and people with disabilities, admitted that a mistake had been made but said there was no reason for the country to be embarrassed.

“There are as many as a hundred sign language dialects,” she said, to explain the difficulties he faced.

“He started well and later he became tired. Guidelines say we must switch interpreters every 20 minutes.”

She did not rule out employing him in some circumstances again.

Except the company she hired him through has “vanished into thin air.” And why didn’t they switch to other interpreters? The article doesn’t say, but it does say the man has interpreted at important events in the past.

And then there’s the Republican outrage over Obama shaking hands with Raul Castro at Mandela’s funeral. WTF? From TimeHere’s 14 People Freaking Out On Twitter After Barack Obama and Raul Castro Shook Hands. What was Obama supposed to do–slap Castro across the face with a glove and challenge him to a duel? (Actually some of the tweeters were being sarcastic and Time apparently missed the point.) I think cartoonist Bill Day had the best response.

Seeing Red

Seeing Red

And then there was the media freakout over Obama taking a “selfie” during Mandela’s funeral. Reliable Sources at the WaPo has the lowdown. 

Was Michelle Obama annoyed when her husband took that selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service? Roberto Schmidt, the Agence France-Presse photographer who snapped the photo of the president, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt, says no.

“I later read on social media that Michelle Obama seemed to be rather peeved on seeing the Danish prime minister take the picture,” Schmidt wrote on AFP’s blog. “But photos can lie. In reality, just a few seconds earlier the first lady was herself joking with those around her, Cameron and Schmidt included. Her stern look was captured by chance.”

The photo, which immediately became an Internet sensation, is only one piece of the day’s story; the leaders had a variety of expressions during the service and were acting “like human beings, like me and you,” he wrote. “I doubt anyone could have remained totally stony faced for the duration of the ceremony, while tens of thousands of people were celebrating in the stadium.”

But none of that matters, because the corporate media has decided that whatever Obama does must be harshly criticized. CNN even brought on Donald Trump to opine about Obama’s perceived gaffes, unemployment, and Obamacare. If that isn’t surreal, what is?

Here’s more strangeness: Secretary of State John Kerry expressed “disgust” at the government of Ukraine for cracking down on protesters. Here’s the official statement:

The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv’s Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity. This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy.

Last week in Brussels and Moldova, I underscored publicly the importance of all sides avoiding violence and called on President Yanukovych to fulfill the aspirations of the Ukranian people. We put the government on notice about our concern.

As Vice President Biden made clear to President Yanukovych during their phone call yesterday, respect for democratic principles, including freedom of assembly, is fundamental to the United States’ approach to Ukraine. This is a universal value not just an American one. For weeks, we have called on President Yanukovych and his government to listen to the voices of his people who want peace, justice and a European future. Instead, Ukraine’s leaders appear tonight to have made a very different choice.

We call for utmost restraint. Human life must be protected. Ukrainian authorities bear full responsibility for the security of the Ukrainian people.

As church bells ring tonight amidst the smoke in the streets of Kyiv, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better.

Has Kerry forgotten how peaceful “Occupy” protesters were treated in the streets of multiple U.S. cities just a couple of years ago? Some reports on the crackdowns (from foreign sources):

The Guardian: Police crack down on ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests. 

AlJazeera: Fierce crackdown on ‘Occupy Oakland’ protest

Getting back to the Greenwald-Snowden-Omidyar story, the attacks on Greenwald have moved from the usual critics to previous members of the Greenwald-Snowden cheering section. First Sarah Harrison–who accompanied Snowden from Hong Kong to Russia and then stayed with him for months gave an interview on the subject to a German newspaper. The Guardian reports, WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison: ‘How can you take Pierre Omidyar seriously?’

The WikiLeaks staffer and Snowden collaborator Sarah Harrison has criticised Pierre Omidyar, the eBay founder who is setting up a new journalism venture with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, for his involvement in the 2010 financial blockade against WikiLeaks.

In her first interview since leaving Moscow for Berlin last month, Harrison told German news weekly Stern: “How can you take something seriously when the person behind this platform went along with the financial boycott against WikiLeaks?”

Harrison was referring to the decision in December 2010 by PayPal, which is owned by eBay, to suspend WikiLeaks’ donation account and freeze its assets after pressure from the US government. The company’s boycott, combined with similar action taken by Visa and Mastercard, left WikiLeaks facing a funding crisis.

As for Greenwald’s decision to sell out to Omidyar,

Referring to Omidyar’s plans to set up a new media organisation, in which the former Guardian writer Greenwald – who wrote a number of stories from the Snowden revelations – will play a central part, Harrison said: “If you set up a new media organisation which claims to do everything for press freedom, but you are part of a blockade against another media organisation, then that’s hard for us to take it seriously. But I hope that they stick to their promises”.

Next, Greenwald was hit with an even harsher attack on his journalistic ethics by former FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds: Checkbook Journalism & Leaking to the Highest Bidders. It’s a pretty powerful critique.

A government whistleblower obtains over 50,000 pages of documents that implicate the government in severely illegal and unconstitutional practices. This whistleblower risks everything, including fleeing the country, in order to leak these documents and let the public know how its government has been breaking the nation’s laws and violating their rights. So he goes to another country and then entrusts all this evidence to a few reporters and wanna-be journalists. Why does he do that? He does it so that these reporters will present all this information to the public: not only those in the United States, but everyone all over the world. Think about it. Why else would someone risk everything, including his own life, to obtain and leak such documents? Are you thinking? Because what would be the point to all this, to taking all these risks, if 99% of these documents remain secret and hidden from the public? Ludicrous, right?

Now, here is what happens next: The whistleblower hands over these documents, and goes through a surreal escape journey. So surreal that even Hollywood could not have matched it. Of the handful of reporters who were entrusted with 50,000 documents, a few do nothing. By that I mean absolutely nothing. A couple from this entrusted group does a little bit more. They meet with a few mainstream media outlets, they spend many hours around the table with their mega companies’ mega attorneys and U.S. government mega representatives (the same government that is implicated in these documents).

Edmonds notes that Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has admitted that only 1% of the Snowden material has been published.

The main wanna-be reporter begins his relentless pursuit of high dollars in return for … for what? In return for exclusive interviews where he would discuss some of this material. In return for a very lucrative book deal where he would expose a few extra pages of these 50,000-page documents. In return for a partnership with and extremely high salary from a Mega Corporation (think 1%) where he would … hmmmm, well, it is not very clear: maybe in return for sitting on and never releasing some of these documents, or, releasing a few select pages?

That’s right. The culprit is able to use his role in the whistleblower case, and his de facto ownership of the whistleblower’s 50,000-page evidence, to gain huge sums of money, fame, a mega corporate position, book and movie deals … yet, making sure that the public would never see more than a few percent of the incriminating evidence.

There’s much more scathing commentary at the link to Edmonds’ blog. Of course, Greenwald used his twitter timeline to call Edmonds “stupid,” and at the same time failed to respond to any of her criticisms. Of course Glenn had already had a bad day after Time chose the Pope as “Person of the Year” instead of Snowden. 

So those are some of the stories that gave me that feeling of surreality this morning. What are you hearing and reading today? Please post your links in the comment thread, and enjoy your Thursday!

40 Comments on “Thursday Reads: That Sense of Surreality…”

  1. bostonboomer says:
    • bostonboomer says:

      BTW, one of Edmonds’ claims in her piece is that NSA and Paypal have a data-sharing deal like Google and Facebook do. She has NSA sources for this.

  2. MsZanne says:

    Two thoughts: there was a whole lotta bs, including focus on a crazy interpreter for the deaf, that comes across as an attempt to diminish Mandela’s final goodbye. So I personally refuse to give it much air time.

    As for Sibel Edmonds. I LOVE that she’s attacking this strange Omidyar/Greenwald marriage, however, she’s a nutjob, as witnessed by her accusation that this arrangement is government sponsored and an attempt for the USG to get back the documents.

    Which begs the question: who is more crazy? Her or the Mandela memorial interpreter?

    • bostonboomer says:


      Good point about the interpreter. I just thought it was interesting that someone like that can still get close to Obama despite all the “national security” we pay for.

      Edmonds does seem like a bit of a whack-job. I admit I didn’t make it through the whole post and I missed that charge. It sort of makes sense in a very odd way.

      Thanks for commenting. It’s good to see you!

      • MsZanne says:

        Actually, your mention of the interpreter is about the only poignant statement made about it, very good point. I hate to think what that could mean in terms of security issues….

    • Fannie says:

      Good points MsZanne……………..according to Greenwald they haven’t even made a dent in NSA yet.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Politico Payola Scandal — Jonathan Chait

    Last month, Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple reported that Politico’s Mike Allen is running a similar scam — accepting lucrative payments from advertisers and lending his editorial voice to hyping, and sometimes parroting, their agenda. Given the relative importance of national politics vis-à-vis rock music, this struck me as a potentially career-ending revelation. Instead, Politico has ignored the report and carried on as if nothing at all were amiss.

  4. Fannie says:

    About the komondor dog……………damn he looks like a gigantic mop. Everytime I look at the photo I get a laugh, I guess he sleeps wherever he wants to.

  5. janicen says:

    I’m no mental healthcare expert by any stretch of the imagination but I’ve had a couple friends who suffered from mental illness and I witnessed times when they were out of touch with reality and I don’t recall that either of them were ever able to look back at these episodes, especially right after they happened and describe them with as much clarity as this interpreter. He seems too well coached in defending himself from criticism. I’d love to know more about this whole thing.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Supposedly liberal MSNBC hosts ignore labor dispute at NBC, refuse to provide any support to fellow employees in Writers Guild.

  7. I gave Sibel Edmonds a lot of positive coverage on my own humble blog — for a while. And then I decided that there was something decidedly odd about that woman. My former gf was a professional translator, and she knew people who worked for government agencies. I just don’t think Edmonds would have been given access to the kind of material she claims, during the short period she worked for the FBI. Moreover, her constant hints that “something big is coming” proved tiresome. Edmonds is the one truly guilty of drip-drip-dripping the data — and the data we’re getting from Greenwald is far more important.

    Ultimately, I decided that Sibel just likes attention. So I decided never to write about her again, unless circumstances forced the issue.

    Her motive for dissing Greenwald is obvious: Edmonds runs a whistleblower organization and Snowden bypassed it. She’s jealous.

    Her argument — EVERYONE’S argument — against the way Greenwald is handling the Snowden material is missing one key factor: An outraged message from Ed Snowden. Everything will change the moment Snowden says “That bastard Greenwald — how DARE he?” Until that point, I presume everything is going according to a plan to which Snowden has no overwhelming objection.

    About the handshake that shook the (right-wing) world: I pulled up pictures of Nixon shaking hands with Francisco Franco and Dubya shaking hands with Islam Karimov, leader of Uzbekistan. (Remember him? The guy who boils people in oil?) And a lot more along those lines…

    • Mary Luke says:

      There are two places one never makes a scene or a political statement. A wedding and a funeral. Even a politician’s funeral. Why? Because neither event is about you or the country you, as head of state, represent. That is why our leaders shake hands with our enemies. That is why we greet our most obnoxious relative kindly. Because at a wedding or a funeral, it’s not about us.

  8. RalphB says:

    Good interactive map with information for each state.

    TPM MAP: How Is Obamacare Enrollment Going?

    TPM has attempted to paint an interactive picture of how each state is doing thus far with total enrollment, as well as specifically in private coverage and Medicaid.

    So what do we know? A few things.

    One, there is wide disparity across states — and a lot of that can be traced to’s problems. California (107,087) has enrolled almost as many people in private coverage as the 36 states served by the federal site combined. Kentucky (13,145), which built its own site, has enrolled almost as many people as Texas (14,038), which relied on the feds.

  9. RalphB says:

    Yes, please! Budget deal reduces the maximum amount the federal government can pay most civilian and defense contractor employees on an annual basis from $952,308 for any employee in a given year to $487,000 with “narrowly targeted exceptions” validated by agency heads.

    Budget Deal Lowers Maximum Pay For Federal Contractor Employees

  10. dakinikat says:

    The Secret Service Explanation of the “signer”: Not OUR table

    Questioned about the obvious security issues related to having the fraudster so close to the president, the Secret Service released a statement saying: “Agreed upon security measures between the U.S. Secret Service and South African Government security officials were in place during the recent memorial service in Johannesburg. Program items such as stage participants or sign language interpreters were the responsibility of the host organizing committee.”

    Maybe if the guy would’ve have been a prostitute they’d have shown more interest.

  11. RalphB says:

    • NW Luna says:

      This site by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals has reliable info on emergency contraception (Plan B is the best-known name) and related info.

      Link below goes to their page which lists how many tablets of oral contraceptive pills to take to be equivalent to Plan B, by brand/generic name, and when to take them, if there’s no place that sells Plan B close by. Unfortunately it is the case in many areas that pharmacies don’t carry Plan B — or may not sell it depending on the pharmacist’s misogynist whim.

      Good idea to have this info handy, and to pass on to others, just in case.

  12. ANonOMouse says:

    I’m mystified by the “spies are spying” stories and the outrage. Of course they’re listening to conversations, that’s what spies do. Who in the hell thinks their cellphone conversations, txt messages, snail mail, landline, emails, tweets, facebook postings & comments, blog postings & comments are not monitored by multiple agencies worldwide. And the outrage over us spying on our allies is ridiculous. Allies are allies until they’re not. Moral of this story is, don’t say anything on any device, file, system, that you do not want to be public info. Even copiers & scanners keep date & source stamps of what’s done on them. I wish I could pull a few things back that I’ve put out to the blogosphere over the years, but it is what it is.

    As for the signing guy, Even I knew while watching the memorial that he wasn’t signing properly and I know very little about signing. Just the thought that this guy was on the stage with some of the most powerful people on the planet is tough to comprehend. I could do security better than that from my recliner.

    What a mess this world is, You’re right BB, it’s surreal.

  13. dakinikat says:

    Sick and wrong … I sure wouldn’t want any one to go to this guy even if it was to correct a cleft palate, you’d probably come back with body dismorphic issues

  14. dakinikat says:

    oh, fuck … this is so wrong!!!

    Ice Deports Gay Man By Mistake Who Is Then Tortured And Killed #p2

  15. RalphB says:

    Sure hope Dave Weigel is right about the deal.

    How You (Yes, You) Won the Budget Wars

    …It is a massive victory for Democrats, who took Social Security and Medicare cuts out of the conversation after two years of “Washington” insisting that they needed to happen.

    And it’s also the funeral of Fix the Debt. No one’s taking selfies at this bash. Fix the Debt, the iconic “just use this current panic to cut entitlements” pressure group, spent at least $43 million to influence the conversation. Its reward: bupkis…

  16. dakinikat says:

    More republican racism:

    Virginia GOP senatorial candidate: Desegregation ‘was the beginning of the decline’ for schools…

    A Republican candidate for the Virginia state Senate was back-pedaling on Thursday following remarks that suggested he thought the integration of the state’s schools hurt the quality of education, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot