Monday Reads: Another Slow Summer News Day


Good Morning!!

It’s another slow news day so far. Google’s top story is that the king of Spain Juan Carlos  abdicating in favor of his son. Silly me, I didn’t even know Spain was a monarchy.

From USA Today, Game of thrones: Spain’s king Juan Carlos abdicates.

Carlos, who turned 76 in January, said that he was handing power to Felipe, 46, in order to “open a new era of hope combining his acquired experience and the drive of a new generation.”

Some Spaniards said they had been waiting for it.

“This is part of an expected chronology (of events),” said Alberto Garzon, a lawmaker in the Spanish parliament and author of the book The Third Republic — about a future Spain without a monarchy.

Carlos has enjoyed high popularity for decades but in the past few years his approval ratings fell sharply after a series of personal blunders. He took an expensive African safari during the height of the euro crisis. His daughter, Princess Cristina, has been indicted for embezzlement and her husband stands accused of tax evasion and money laundering.

BBC News summarizes the reasons in a video: Why is King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicating? In 45 secs.

Liberty Ridge, Mount Ranier

Liberty Ridge, Mount Rainier

This is a sad story, but perhaps not too surprising:  Six Climbers Presumed Dead After Long Fall On Mount Rainier. From Northwest Public Radio:

Two experienced guides and four clients are presumed dead after what the National Park Service estimates was a 3,300 foot fall. The climbers were on their way down the mountain after an unsuccessful summit attempt via the difficult Liberty Ridge route on the northwestern side of Rainier.

An aerial and ground search happened Saturday after the group failed to return to their trailhead on schedule. From a helicopter, searchers spotted climbing gear at the base of a rock and ice fall and detected personal avalanche beacons. But the spotters saw no signs of life. A statement from Mount Rainier National Park says no attempt to recover bodies will be made until later in the season because of ongoing danger at the scene at the head of Carbon Glacier.

Interestingly, the guides involved worked for Alapine Ascents, the same Seattle company as some of the Sherpas who died on Mount Everest last month.

I’m not a risk-taker, and I will never understand why people want to get involved in such dangerous sports. But there are people who love to live on the edge and would rather die young doing something they love than live safely into old age.

It is a little-known fact that quite a few people actually die in National Parks every year. Oddly, I don’t like risky activities, but I do like to read books about them; and there are whole books about the different ways people have died in National and State Parks.

According to National Geographic, the dangerous ridge the climbers were using has been involved in numerous accidents in the past.

It’s called Liberty Ridge: a steep ramp of rock, snow and ice splitting a northern face of the 14,410-foot mountain in Washington State. Its stunning views and technical difficulty—hard but not too hard, experts say—have earned it a place in the book Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.

But its remoteness, steepness and exposure to the elements have also made Liberty Ridge the scene of epic rescues and more than its share of deaths….

“When you hear Liberty Ridge, it is a serious route… it’s not a casual route,” said Mike Gauthier, a climbing ranger at Mount Rainier National Park from 1990 to 2008 who was repeatedly called to the spot to rescue stranded climbers and search for missing people….

In his time on the mountain, Gauthier was repeatedly called to Liberty Ridge to rescue stranded climbers or search for missing people who didn’t survive. Often, the scene was on the ridge’s upper reaches, where the mountain is unremittingly steep, leaving few sheltered places to pitch a tent or to hide from avalanches or falling rocks.

“It’s just not an ideal location to hang out because you’re threatened there. You’re just exposed,” said Gauthier, who wrote the main guidebook for the mountain,  Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide.

Gauthier didn’t want to speculate about the group of missing  climbers but said a camp at 2,800 feet would have been in a section where climbers have often run into trouble.

risks At the LA Times, Maria L. LaGanga writes about the psychology of people who are drawn to mountain climbing: For some climbers, Mt. Rainier’s often deadly allure is irresistible.

“There is a draw, but I can’t explain it,” said Len Throop, owner of Eatonville Outdoor, who has climbed Rainier many times but never crested the summit. “From the first time I ever saw it, I felt a connection.

Even if you can’t see it, you know it’s there. And it’s dangerous. This week is one example, and it’s not even the worst.”

The worst accident came in June 1981, when 11 climbers died under giant chunks of ice….

Rainier has the largest system of glaciers in the United States outside of Alaska. The challenging terrain requires skill, stamina and equipment. Climbers must wear crampons, spiked implements that give their boots traction, and wield ice axes that help them arrest their slide down the mountain if they slip. They are often tied to their climbing mates for safety.

“It’s like being on a stair stepper at a steep angle for 10 hours, and that’s for just a normal route,” Grigg said. Liberty Ridge, the route the ill-fated climbers took last week, “is one of the most difficult on the mountain.”

Read the rest if you’re as interested in human behavior as I am. Apparently the climbing has to be done in the middle of the night with headlamps; so I guess the climbers don’t even  see the view while they’re working their way up the mountain.

140522-brian-williams-edward-snowden-interview_9c53a32a1246377662bda8ddc6cb26f7 Last night I watched most of Brian Williams’ interview with Edward Snowden. I still have to watch the final two segments, because I ran out of patience for being lectured to by a narcissistic 30-year-old. I’ll watch the rest today.

I’m not an expert at detecting deception, but I did notice that Snowden didn’t look a Williams during most of his responses to questions. He tended to look down and to the left as he spoke.

Michael B. Kelley of Business Insider asked a body language expert to review the video of Snowden and Williams.

Before Edward Snowden’s interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, body-language expert Dr. Nick Morgan considered Snowden a young guy who got a hold of a bunch of classified documents and was just telling his story about exposing intrusive American surveillance. “I came away [from the NBC interview] with a very different impression,” Morgan, a top U.S. communication theorist and best-selling author, told Business Insider. ”

As a body-language expert, I’d say this is a disingenuous performance, which surprised me.”

Morgan suggested that Snowden gave a studied performance, deliberately “subordinating himself” to Willams–as a way of sucking up and avoiding tough questions? Morgan also thought that Snowden had altered the pitch of his voice to make it lower than is natural for him.

A particularly telling moment came when Brian Williams asked Snowden, “What is your relationship with the host government?” Morgan, who didn’t previously know that Snowden’s Moscow lawyer is a Putin loyalist linked to the FSB, was struck by Snowden’s lack of eye contact and the slowing of his voice as he denied having any relationship with the Kremlin. “He was obviously lying,” Morgan said.

Frankly, anyone who believes that Snowden has no relationship with the Russian government (his lawyer works for the FSB!) is either incredibly ignorant or in deep denial.

RalphB called my attention to this interview with David Ignatious by Fareed Zakaria yesterday. Ignatious has a close relationship with the intelligence community, so I believe his assessment is worth looking at.

You mentioned there the damage to American values of the war on terror. How can America recover, and how hard is that going to be when Washington appears so divided? ….

Surveillance is an example. Because of the unexpected intervention of Edward Snowden, we are now in a period of experimentation with an alternative approach to surveillance.

I’m not someone who thinks Snowden is a hero. He promised to keep secrets, and he – despite his claim that he attempted to warn the NSA legally as a whistleblower – it’s clear that he took many of the nation’s most precious secrets with him and began distributing them to undermine what he thought were unconstitutional programs.

In our country, Congress and the courts have that responsibility for deciding what’s legal – not individual citizens. So it’s hard for me to see Snowden as a hero.

We don’t know the damage that comes from Snowden’s revelations. We may never really know that. But we do know one positive consequence, which is a searching national debate. As a result, we are now likely to experiment with a much less intrusive system of surveillance for our country.

Rather than the NSA holding our metadata for 5 years, the data will be held by communications companies for a year or two, and released by them only if there’s a court order.

Congress seems united in wanting this new approach, and we’ll see whether it works. Sometime in the future it will be urgent and essential to know who a terrorist in a safe haven in Syria was calling when in the U.S. Will we be able to know? Will the system we have put in place be sufficient to ensure the country’s security? I sure hope so. I’m sure it’s being designed with that in mind.

It would be terrible if we learn the results of the upheaval through another terrorist attack in a major U.S. city. After what we went through in Boston last year–and the aftermath continues–I certainly hope not.

Clearly, Snowden’s goal in giving an interview to Williams, who is not known for asking tough questions, was to improve his image in the U.S. and around the world. Predictably, he is now trying again to press his case for asylum in Latin America. From The Moscow Times:

“If Brazil offers me asylum, then I’ll gladly accept it. I would like to live in Brazil,” Agence France-Presse quoted Snowden as saying in an interview with Brazilian television channel Globo….

In a lengthy open letter published in the Brazilian press in December, he praised the Brazilian government for its stance against spying practices and volunteered to help the country in its investigation of NSA spying tactics if he were granted asylum.

I don’t think Ed should get his hopes up. I’d be shocked if Russia lets him go–to the U.S. or any other country. up

I’ll end with this column and cartoon from’s Jeff Darcy: Snowden follows Kerry’s advice.

Snowden likely did the interview to soften U.S. public opinion about him, but I doubt the answers he gave will alter the public’s view of him as either a traitor or whistle blowing hero.   It’s possible to believe both that the NSA  went to [sic] far and crossed the line and that Snowden was wrong in how he leaked that information.

In the interview Snowden claimed he was trained as a spy, given a false job title and false name.    Brian Williams failed to ask the obvious follow up question: What was the fake name, James Bond, Austin Powers, Maxwell Smart or Benedict Arnold?    The government’s answer is that Snowden was just an IT specialist contractor for the NSA.   The truth is probably somewhere in between.   What is certain, is that he should have never been hired and given security clearance.

When Snowden said that he was only in Russia because his passport was yanked, and he had planned to fly to Cuba, then on to Latin America, he failed to mention the Latin American countries on his destination list aren’t exactly known for their commitment to democratic freedoms and constitutional protections.

Snowden also gave weak answers to questions about national security damage caused by his leaks and why he didn’t share his concerns with Congress or other channels that would not have opened him up to treason charges….

Instead of talking to Brain Williams in Russia in 2014, Snowden should have  been talking years earlier, to appropriate members of Congress about his concerns, or gone on “60 mins” or “Dateline”  in disguise and blown his whistle.

Snowden defenders argue that if he were to come back to the U.S. he would never be seen again or at the very least, would never be able to have his case heard at a fair trial.   I doubt that.   Snowden has become too high profile and  Kerry has now put the country on record in a very public way,that Snowden would be assured his day in court.

I totally agree. The Greensnow cult members who claim Snowden would disappear into a torture chamber if he came back here are full of it. In this country, public opinion–if it is loud and persistant enough–has an effect. The U.S. is not yet a “surveillance state”–even Snowden admitted that in the interview–and it’s not a dictatorship either, despite the Greensnow cult’s “chicken-little” attitude.

So . . . what are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links in the comment thread.

39 Comments on “Monday Reads: Another Slow Summer News Day”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    WordPress helpfully removed all of my paragraph breaks, and I had to go back and fix every single one. So if you notice anything weird about the formatting, that’s probably the reason. Now I need to take some deep breaths and relax a little bit.

    Have a good Monday, everyone.

    • dakinikat says:

      Morning! Hope your visit with your mother is going well! I just couldn’t bear to watch the Snowden interview. I have been poking around the Greenwald book reviews. This thing just gets weirder all the time.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I left a reply on your comment from last night on the Saturday post.

        • dakinikat says:

          I saw that. I was wondering what you thought. Journalists appear to be a gang of sheep when it comes to criticizing their own in ways they don’t like.

          • bostonboomer says:

            I’m not in love with Michael Kinsley or anything. He is always snarky and doesn’t usually go too deeply into any subject. I thought his review was funny, because he was honest about how obnoxious Greenwald is.

  2. cwaltz says:

    Actually if you’ve ever dealt with the bureaucracy and tried to change something from within the government that the top had no interest in changing what Snowden did makes perfect sense.

    Speaking as someone whose spouse was vindicated in an Article 138 I can tell you that challenging the status quo is no easy feat. I’m pretty sure had I not been out of the military running interference with that my husband’s 10 years of service would of been down the drain because the military promoted a petty, vindictive person who felt he could abuse his power to bend my husband to his will. It took almost a year of “punishment” and during that time while my spouse was attempting to use the system in place the person in charge gave him substandard evals which ensured he would not be able to advance(these later got overturned)attempted to administratively separate him first under other than honorable then when he realized that things weren’t going his way tried for offering a hail Mary honorable, placed him in the galley out of his field to “punish” him, and essentially ignored doctors recommendations placing my husband’s health at risk(unfortunately for him while I was in I was well respected in the medical community on this particular base.)

    All in all I can say as a cog in the wheel your chances of changing what those at the top don’t want to change is very, very slim. Your best way of succeeding is outside the system(hint: what actually ended up getting the military’s attention was for some reason the Admiral’s office was worried that I would retain council for my spouse if he were separated. The first admin board which would of been comprised of members that were from the command of my spouse(who coincidentally have their evals written by the very asshole who was attempting to get my spouse tossed. The same asshole that gave my husband bogus evals because he was pissed that my husband wasn’t willing to physically willing to injure himself so he could have a blurb on his fitrep. So yeah, essentially a kangaroo court) was dismissed after I(who was outside the system) contacted the Admiral.

    So I tend to disagree with your assessment that there was a better way for Snowden to address this. I don’t elevate the guy to hero as much as see what he did as something that was a principled action. He didn’t want to be a martyr so he went outside the system to change what he saw as wrong. I don’t see that as horrible. I just don’t think you should have to be a martyr to stand for your belief system. And essentially many that work within the system DO end up being martyrs. Anyway that’s my take and it is very much peppered by my experience with things.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’m sorry for what happened to you and your husband. As I noted below, active members of the armed forces face stiffer penalties than civilians. I have never made any “assessment” that Snowden could have changed things as an insider, although I think Darcy’s suggestion that Snowden could have gone anonymously to a media organization such as 60 Minutes or Frontline with his information. That wouldn’t have worked for his purposes, because he wanted attention and fame; not to do good as an anonymous source.

      I would have supported Snowden if he had done that. What I can’t support is revelations of U.S. means and methods of spying on foreign countries that also spy on us. Snowden has damaged the U.S.’ abilities to protect its interests around the world, as every country tries to do.

      You seem to take Snowden at his word as to his goals. I believe there is sufficient evidence to conclude that he deliberately planned his action years ahead of time (he admitted he started downloading data when he worked at Dell) and was assisted by Wikileaks and perhaps other with close ties to the Russian government. Based on what has been released, Snowden/Greenwald set out to deliberately damage the U.S. as much as possible by released means and methods used to spy on other countries.

      Because of Snowden, Putin was able to quickly take over Crimea after they found ways to hide their communications from the NSA based on Snowden’s revelations. Similarly, the Taliban forces in Afghanistan were able to change their methods and we able to kill many more Americans than they could have before Snowden’s revelations. Operations that were designed to catch human traffickers, drug dealers, and child porn purveyors have been destroyed by the Snowden/Greenwald revelations. None of that will result in Americans having more freedom from government surveillance, and of course corporations like Google collect far more data than NSA does.

      I do not believe that Snowden’s revelations will result in real changes. It would certainly be a good idea to have a “national conversation” about surveillance, but I don’t believe that “conversation” has been very helpful so far. It has mostly focused on whether Snowden is a “hero or traitor,” and has been based on very faulty and exaggerated reporting.

    • janicen says:

      What qualifications do Snowden/Greenwald have in determining what classified info should be released? Should all government employees who have access to classified info that they decide isn’t in the best interest of our citizens just go ahead and release it?

      I’ve had a problem with many aspects of the Patriot Act and its intrusions on American citizens’ privacy rights so I agree that our government has overreacted in many ways in its efforts to protect us from more terrorist attacks since 9/11. At the same time, I can’t justify Snowden’s and Greenwald’s behavior in all of this. They both come across as self aggrandizing narcissists who have yet to admit one single mistake or error in anything they have done. Not one. As well, anyone who dares questions their actions is derided and accused of some sort of collaboration with the government. Snowden/Greenwald’s actions are as autocratic as the actions they claim to be revealing.

  3. Shirt says:

    I am sure that Snowden will be treated no worse than Bradly Manning was.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Snowden would not be treated as harshly as Chelsea Manning was, because Manning was an active member of the armed forces and faced stiffer penalties for betraying his country. Furthermore, even Manning didn’t get the book thrown at him. He will likely be out in 5-7 years, when he will still be a young man. He took responsibility for his actions, and I admire him for that.

      • cwaltz says:

        John Kiriakou wasn’t in the military and he’s in jail for over 2 years for blowing the whistle on torture. Whether we like it or not the system tends to make martyrs of the principled.

        By the way, 5-7 years is a really long time in my opinion. Then again I think 2 years is a long time to be penalized for essentially telling the American people what the government is using our tax dollars for that they’ve arbitrarily chosen to hide for all sorts of reasons that aren’t necessarily for “national security”(for example, the TPP is considered “classified”)

        • bostonboomer says:

          Manning released State Department cables that did serious harm to our relations with other countries and caused a number of deaths. You don’t think he should have been punished at all? I don’t disagree that the government is too secretive, but I think there has to be a penalty for someone who violates his or her oaths. I believe in representative democracy. I will never be an anti-statist libertarian like Greenwald, Snowden, and Assange. It sounds like you agree with them that personal privacy is worth inflicting serious damage on civil society from criminals.

          I believe that law enforcement should be able to get access to criminals’ e-mails and phone records with a warrant. The Greenwald-Snowden crowd believes in universal encryption, even though it would allow child pornographers, pedophiles, and human traffickers to get away with their nefarious activities. I have serious problems with that. I’m not ever going to support anarchy, which is what this would lead to. Greenwald and Snowden also oppose any kind of gun control. I find that completely irresponsible.

          BTW, I notice you didn’t bother to respond to any of my reasons for criticizing Snowden’s behavior. Do you agree with Snowden and Greenwald that any kind of spying on or data collection from other countries is wrong? If so, then we simply disagree about the functions of government. I don’t believe our government is perfect by any means, but I prefer it to the government of the country where Snowden has chosen to live, and I prefer it to anarchy.

  4. dakinikat says:

    I’ve been trying to figure out this prisoner release thing with the Taliban. Interesting take from Pierce on McCain and his thing on the Sundays.

    • RalphB says:

      Charlie’s opinion of McCain is not nearly as harsh as mine.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Apparently there are suspicions about Bergdahl, and someone in the Pentagon is leaking info about it to embarrass or put pressure on Obama. Author is James Rosen, the reporter who was accused in a leak case.

      A senior official confirms to Fox News that the conduct of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — both in his final stretch of active duty in Afghanistan and then, too, during his time when he lived among the Taliban — has been thoroughly investigated by the U.S. intelligence community and is the subject of “a major classified file.”

      In conveying as much, the Defense Department source confirmed to Fox News that many within the intelligence community harbor serious outstanding concerns not only that Bergdahl may have been a deserter but that he may have been an active collaborator with the enemy.

      The Pentagon official added pointedly that no relevant congressional committee has sought access to the classified file, but that if such a request were made, key committee chairs would, under previous precedent, likely be granted access to it. Separately, the Pentagon confirmed Monday that it is looking into claims Americans died during the search for Bergdahl….

      Sources told Fox News that many officials in the Executive Branch are “quite baffled” by the White House’s decision to allow the president to stand alongside Bergdahl’s father this past weekend, given the father’s history of controversial statements, emails and online posts.

      • bostonboomer says:
        • Fannie says:

          In so many words I said that the GOP plans to impeach Obama, since day one, this they think is there reason to move on it. I hope they do, I can’t wait to get a truck load of popcorn for the occasion.

      • dakinikat says:

        I think the right wing are taking them out of context.

      • RalphB says:

        There is a story in the Daily Beast by some dude who was supposedly there at the time with all kinds of basically rumors and gossip in it. So far as I can tell there’s no substantiated information at all though. The people who were supposedly killed looking for Bergdahl are also largely pretty far afield, so I don’t know what the connections would be either.

    • RalphB says:

      Just in case they hadn’t shown their asses to the American people enough already:

      tpm: Conservatives Turn Their Criticism Toward Bergdahl’s Father

    • RalphB says:

  5. RalphB says:

    The NRA noticed these Open Carry assholes were hurting them.

    tpm: NRA Issues Amazing Statement Admitting Bringing AR-15s To Chipotle Is Dumb

    In a remarkably frank statement issued on Friday, the National Rifle Association said that gun activists in Texas had “crossed the line from enthusiasm to downright foolishness” with their demonstrations at fast food restaurants.

    But in its statement Friday, the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, went further, publicly denouncing the tactics employed by Open Carry Texas and other groups as “weird” and even “scary.”

    “As a result of these hijinx, two popular fast food outlets have recently requested patrons to keep guns off the premises,” the unsigned statement said. “To state the obvious, that’s counterproductive for the gun owning community.”

    In denouncing the demonstrations, the NRA said that using guns “to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners.” …

    • janicen says:

      “…the NRA’s lobbying arm…” Hahahahaha! The NRA is the lobbying arm for the firearms industry. So the lobbyists have lobbyists. Keep buying more guns, idiots. The lobbyists and their lobbyists need more money for their dinners and junkets. Hahahaha! That just made my day!

  6. RalphB says:

    Staind singer stops concert to berate ‘f*cking *ssholes’ molesting crowd-surfing teenage girl

    All right!

  7. bostonboomer says:

    This is amazing but true: Oliver Stone has signed on to direct a movie of Luke Harding’s book on Edward Snowden.

    • RalphB says:

      Oliver Stone can be a real nutcase at times. I hope this happens during a semi-sane period.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I think it’s going to be really funny. And who is Greenwald going to get to direct his movie now than the ultimate conspiracy director is taken? He must be livid that Harding got a movie deal.

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Documents Show How Russia’s Troll Army Hit America

    Russia’s campaign to shape international opinion around its invasion of Ukraine has extended to recruiting and training a new cadre of online trolls that have been deployed to spread the Kremlin’s message on the comments section of top American websites.

    Plans attached to emails leaked by a mysterious Russian hacker collective show IT managers reporting on a new ideological front against the West in the comments sections of Fox News, Huffington Post, The Blaze, Politico, and WorldNetDaily.

    The bizarre hive of social media activity appears to be part of a two-pronged Kremlin campaign to claim control over the internet, launching a million-dollar army of trolls to mold American public opinion as it cracks down on internet freedom at home.

    • RalphB says:

      wonder if twitchy is grifting off that? 😉 actually, I really do since money is money,