Sunday Reads: Glad-hand, Glad-hands, Glad-handing, Glad-handed

109c537979d7b4f0d8d4aafcea5e3d0fGood Whatever it is…

Morning, Afternoon, Evening…ugh.

(That this post is getting published, finally, is something in itself. I don’t know why, lack of motivation or enthusiasm…)

The images for today are hands used in political posters. I’ve gotten them from  board on Pinterest:  Affiche/Main – Poster/Hand on Pinterest | 1352 Pins

For a discussion on the use and symbolism of the fist in propaganda, take a look at this article from Lincoln Cushing:

A brief history of the “clenched fist” image

91c28e614a91264f169a1af85c22b9b5A persistent symbol of resistance and unity, the clenched fist (or raised fist) is part of the broader genre of “hand” symbols that include the peace “V,” the forward-thrust-fist, and the clasped hands. The clenched fist usually appears in full frontal display showing all fingers and is occasionally integrated with other images such as a peace symbol or tool.

52e84740d35979ea0cc3ba968fd9393eThe human hand has been used in art from the very beginnings, starting with stunning examples in Neolithic cave paintings. Early examples of the fist in graphic art can be found at least as far back as 1917 [1], with another example from Mexico in 1948 [2]. Fist images, in some form, were used in numerous political graphic genres, including the French and Soviet revolutions, the United States Communist Party, and the Black Panther Party for Self-defense. However, these all followed an iconographic convention. The fist was always part of something – holding a tool or other symbol, part of an arm or human figure, or shown in action (smashing, etc.).

Then there are a few other articles to look at here:

AIGA | Not Your Grandparent’s Clenched Fist

fe3cd0687f66bd2eed6cbab59b98f7edThe fist of protest has its roots in the deep traditions of revolutionary imagery of 1848 and French Romantic painting. It became a staple of banners and logos of unions and political parties. Raised out of the crowd, the fist clenched in strength, anger and determination could serve groups of almost any ideological stripe.

If some of you have access to JSTOR: JSTOR: Journal of Design History, Vol. 13, No. 4 (2000), pp. 319-339

This article focuses on the use of graphic signs in the political struggle between the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and the German Communist Party during the 1920s. It first examines the Nazi swastika’s relationships to a new ‘abstract and primitive’ style of trademark design that emerged in Germany during the First World War and to a discussion during 1919-20 about the Weimar Republic’s new emblem.

a86b51eaef29aee46058766ba0e550b3As the NSDAP’s sign grew more prominent in public discourse, John Heartfield, who was trained as a graphic designer, sought to counter it through satire and emblems that he designed for the KPD. The most powerful of the latter were a series of images in 1928 based on photographs of workers’ hands, which drew both on past emblems of worker solidarity and recent Surrealist photography. The clenched fist soon stood opposite the swastika as signs of the violent political struggle between left and right that marked the last years of the Weimar Republic. The article explores how practices of commercial graphic design became instruments of mass politics during the 1920s.

To see more posters:

Propoganda Posters

A History of Graphic Design: Chapter 36 – Art of Posters for Films – the Cuban School

Political Posters | OMCA COLLECTIONS

1c5e5c711aca0415d076f89bbb68964cAnd for some articles on the actual use of hand gestures in political protest and such:

Choreography and Gesture Play an Important Role in Protests – NYTimes.com

“Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”: Gesture, Choreography, and Protest in Ferguson – The Feminist Wire | The Feminist Wire

Thai protesters and The Hunger Games: what’s in a three-fingered salute? – Al Arabiya News

Opinion: Political Gestures « ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

 

I’ll connect the hand gestures to a situation that is getting heated in Egypt today.

What This Hand Gesture Means for Egypt’s Future – The Atlantic

Astute observers of recent pro-Morsi protests in Egypt will note a new symbol cropping up in photos of the protesting crowds: Demonstrators are now holding four fingers in the air. Many carry yellow posters emblazoned with the same gesture.

73d2c6da44e3092996deaafd43322ef5This new hand sign refers to the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, the site of a violent confrontation between Morsi’s followers and the Egyptian army. Reported deaths from the clash range from hundreds to thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. In Arabic, “Rabba” means “four” or “the fourth;” hence the new Rabaa symbol.

The new hand sign is important because it signals both a conscious shift in the Muslim Brotherhood’s focus from a global audience to an Arabic one and a rejection of the ideals of the Arab Spring.

The Rabaa replaced a more recognizable sign in the Arab world: the two-fingered “V for Victory” salute, a gesture that transcends language and nationality. Many Americans know of the V as the peace sign after its widespread use by the anti-war and counterculture movements of the late 1960s and 1970s. Invented by the BBC in World War II as a pan-Allied propaganda campaign — think a cigar-smoking, pinstripe-wearing Winston Churchill flashing the V and a grin — the sign came to the Arab world when Yasser Arafat popularized it in 1969. To this day, Palestinians have exhibited a two-fingered V upon their release from Israeli jails, and the sign is well represented at rallies in Gaza.

 

cb6265adcef53757c1d8e03e4117dd48Alrighty then…

Now to the links for this Sunday:

A mess in Egypt as the anniversary of the revolution comes around:

Addicting Info – Egyptian Police Guns Down Female Journalist Carrying Flowers (IMAGES)

On the eve of the 4th anniversary of the Egypt’s 2011 uprising, which was part of the Arab Spring, and which ultimately forced the overthrow of long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak, a female protester and reported journalist was shot by police near Tahir Square in Cairo.

d157e8b3abc8003fb47da8d1928df104Shaima Sabbagh was shot with birdshot as she was marching in remembrance of the Arab Spring and of the people killed during the revolution. She was shot at close range. Several people caught images of al-Sabbagh both before and after the shooting. Beware, they’re heartbreaking.  After Shaima was shot – her husband was arrested and their four-year-old son is without parents.

The AP is reporting 15 killed:

Egypt: 15 killed in clashes between Islamists, police – Houston Chronicle

However that number has risen according to Al-Jam:

Anniversary of Egypt’s revolution turns violent | Al Jazeera America

67c00cf24ef9941b3cba2301662d7bb0Thousands of Egyptian protesters chanted “down with the military and the regime” and “Interior Ministry are thugs” at a funeral on Sunday for a young mother and activist who was shot dead by security forces during a peaceful protest marking the fourth anniversary of Egypt’s Arab Spring revolution, according to local media reports.

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, 32, was one of at least 20 people killed during protests over the weekend across Egypt, mainly in Cairo and Alexandria, commemorating the Jan. 25, 2011 ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak from office, according to the Ministry of Health.

The funeral took place in Alexandria, Sabbagh’s hometown, where activists remembered the slain protester as an advocate for labor rights and children, independent daily Al-Shorouk reported.

14a37e1b583dc3da96cabbd04de1fff6Sabbagh was among dozens of protesters marching on Saturday to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the revolution, to place wreaths of flowers there to commemorate more than 800 people killed during the 18 days of turmoil that sought to usher in a new era of democracy in Egypt.

Some disturbing images at those links.

This next link about the reaction to Boehner’s outright “fuck you” to the President and protocol: Addicting Info – Fox News Actually Expresses Shock And Outrage Over Boehner And Netanyahu Undermining President Obama (VIDEO)

On Friday, the world watched in disbelief as Fox News actually defended the honor and office of President Obama in the wake of Speaker Boehner violating US protocol by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to Congress. In other news, pigs are flying.

0af590969a8654b197947327cb7a8b51During a segment on Fox, host Shepard Smith discussed the scandal with fellow host Chris Wallace, and both men were absolutely shocked and outraged by the actions of the top Republican in the House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, Boehner announced that he invited Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress. The problem is that Boehner did this without clearing the invitation with the White House, which is protocol.

“The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there. This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol,” said press secretary Josh Earnest.

760c844314c8385c125a4f9d51851022Furthermore, Netanyahu is specifically going to speak to Congress in an effort to trash Obama’s foreign policy in a deliberate attempt to wreck US nuclear negotiations with Iran, negotiations which a majority of Americans support.

You see, President Obama wants to use diplomacy to ease tensions between Iran, Israel, and the United States. That means securing an agreement that prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon while allowing them to use nuclear power as another source of energy in the Middle Eastern nation. But Republicans are literally trying to sabotage these efforts by seeking more harsh sanctions against Iran, which would be seen an act of American aggression at a time when the State Department and White House are seeking mutual peace.

97209ff809bcf7377f8fa4c9f1393590Since the announcement, Beohner and Republicans have felt a major backlash. But the last place they thought they’d receive outrage from, if at all, is Fox News. Well, that shipped sailed on Friday.

Well, I would not go so far as to call this completely shocking, as it was Shep who called Boehner out. Y’all know he is the Black Sheep of the network.

For more on Israel, not just the Boehner invite.

Netanyahu defends planned Congress speech as anti-Iran strategy | Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended on Sunday a planned speech to the U.S. Congress about Iran, saying he had a moral obligation to speak out on an issue that poses a mortal threat to Israel.

61d1ba5498797554a1ef60ef050b354cHis visit to Washington in March has opened up a rift with the White House and has drawn accusations in Israel that Netanyahu is undermining the country’s core foreign alliance in an effort to win an election due two weeks after the trip.

Briefing his cabinet on the March 3 speech to a joint meeting of Congress, Netanyahu said his priority was to urge the United States and other powers not to negotiate an Iranian nuclear deal that might endanger Israel.

Suzie Madrak makes a huge point here:

» Blog Archive » ‘We’ll pay non-Jews to leave Israel’

Gee, when people offered to send slaves back to Africa, we called that racist.

98ec75fc6b4a08e7c95b31a67c4a4df9Addicting Info – Israeli Soldier Posed With Palestinian Woman For PR Photo, Then Shot Her In The Head (IMAGES)

And flowing into this news:

Jewish outrage as ship named after SS war criminal arrives in Europe | World news | The Guardian

Leaders of Jewish communities and Holocaust memorial groups in Britain and the Netherlands have reacted with rage and despair at the arrival in Rotterdam of the world’s biggest ship, the Pieter Schelte, named after a Dutch officer in the Waffen-SS.

6032f4f401f6f4568273c0a951ecb88dThe vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, said: “Naming such a ship after an SS officer who was convicted of war crimes is an insult to the millions who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis. We urge the ship’s owners to reconsider and rename the ship after someone more appropriate.”

Esther Voet, director of the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (Cidi), based in The Hague, said that the timing of the ship’s arrival, shortly before Jews were targeted and killed in Paris and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, was “a coincidence, I’m sure, but a sign of the times. We lost our battle to have the ship’s name changed, and we are left eating dust.”

0dc5ee5688693816623e388bddf4daa2Survivors of the Holocaust in Britain also spoke out. Ruth Barnett, a tireless campaigner who arrived from Nazi Germany as part of the Kindertransport, said: “I am outraged by the intensity and extent of denial and indifference that fails to challenge things like this ship, and allows the impunity for perpetrators to think they can get away with it.”

The London-based Lloyd’s Register dug in to defend its role in the ship’s building and development, while the shipbuilder said it had been named in honour of the owner’s father for his “great achievements in the offshore oil and gas industry”.

Read the rest of that story at the link, especially the bullet points… it is obvious that the ship’s name is something that could be seen as a slight. (To say the least.)

d5066f243d4a1f56fe2aa2f0f6e4a859There is an op/ed over at the New York Times that should give you all pause…When Calculus of Loss Doesn’t Add Up – NYTimes.com

Joseph Kahn, The Times’s top-ranking editor for international news, told me that the Paris and Nigeria stories aren’t comparable. “These were totally different challenges,” he said, with the former happening in a major Western capital where The Times has a substantial staff.

He, and others, spoke of the difficulty of covering the Boko Haram story because of its remote location, the problems of verification, and the questions hanging over early reports. While Amnesty International was reporting as many as 2,000 dead, he told me, some trusted experts were cautioning against using the number. The Times needed to verify what had happened, something best done on the ground. But getting there is both difficult and time-consuming.

2b7a2cbd8422e20c48d518a6928ca805In retrospect, Mr. Kahn said, a story about the controversy over the numbers would have been one way to provide early and meaningful coverage — informing readers without falling prey to overstating what had happened. Such a story, especially if it had been prominently displayed and published quickly, would have been a valuable way to be transparent with readers about what The Times knew and what it didn’t know.

Mr. Kahn also said that while the Paris attack had an intense and short news arc, the Boko Haram story would continue and that The Times would keep covering it with commitment. The editor on the International Desk who handles Africa coverage, Greg Winter, told me last week that Mr. Nossiter (who has also been a leading reporter on the Ebola story) was in Nigeria again working on a major Boko Haram piece.

da8f847c13be0774621ab3c8167c30f8“I understand readers’ concerns about covering Nigeria, and I share them, which is why our correspondent has risked his life for years to cover the country and the turmoil in the north,” Mr. Winter said.

I asked Mr. Kahn how, in general, the numbers of violent deaths figure into editorial decisions. “We don’t cover everything equally,” he said. “It goes to gut news judgment, as we ask: ‘Is this a big deal? Are we going to deploy someone?’ ” Among the factors: “The circumstances, how unusual it is, the location, the relevance to American interests.”

And, he said, The Times has to be careful not to overreport violent death.

“Not every incident of carnage is a major story for The New York Times. You have to put it in context, and not fill the news report with unlimited doses of terrible violent news from around the world.”

ec4b59a449f88217fcaea31ca8aee875But, speaking of the recent Boko Haram attack, he said: “It could have had more attention and emphasis.”

I agree. I have no objection to the extent of the Paris coverage. But whatever the calculus of news judgments, these lost Nigerian lives surely were worthy of The Times’s immediate, as well as its continuing, attention.

Overreport violent death?

Cough…cough.

And on that note:

3e779e43d98a2ea62e793821d825ab35Nigerian city under attack from suspected Boko Haram militants | World news | The Guardian

9e34bef467ed52247964129d427e4e51Escaping Boko Haram on the Road From Bama | Al Jazeera America

Notice, not from the NYT…

About Yemen: Yemen Civil War? Masses Rally in Capital & South Secedes | Informed Comment

And now back to the US:

The following links are dealing with the GOP…and the usual shit.

House GOP Aborts Dumb Anti-Choice Bill Because Ladies Vote Too, Huh | Wonkette

The GOP White Guy Club Vs. Gynecology | The Mahablog

580f0bfee276b2bd99ba6151a293defbFree To Be Dumb: The Republican Iowa Freedom Summit Lives Up To Its Billing | News Corpse

“20-Week Bans Are Devastating for Women Like Me” | Mother Jones

Jorge Ramos, Voice of Latino Voters on Univision, Sends Shiver Through G.O.P. – NYTimes.com

Weeping Christian men apologize for letting you have an abortion

Funny or Die Apologizes for That Christian Bro Abortion Apology Video

And while on the subject of coochies:

34b722ecabd64f5932b4dcaf67d948d5Teen poses as doctor for month before caught in Florida | WGN-TV

Police in Florida and officials at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach have agreed not to charge a teenager they caught posing as a doctor.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports police were called Tuesday after a patient alerted staff at the medical center’s OB/GYN office that a juvenile dressed in a lab coat was inside an exam room. The patient said the lab coat had St. Mary’s logo and “anesthesiology” stitched on the front.

A security guard told police he’d seen the teen around the hospital for a month. Another said the teen entered secured areas of the hospital this week.

44bd08b08177533170f76e14a910df51The teen told police he’s been a doctor for years.

The teen’s mother told police he’s under the care of a doctor and is not taking his medicine.

WTF?

On to the Arts…Movies…etc.

Selma: Black History According to Oprah | Black Agenda Report

Julie Walters: lack of working-class actors is sad | Culture | The Guardian

Samuel L Jackson: ‘I create characters – it keeps me from being me all day’ | Film | The Guardian

b2d93a9da3408389ecbdb5792e4b28bfMission To Mars begins with some of the worst expository dialogue ever · Scenic Routes · The A.V. Club

Richard McWhorter, Legendary Assistant Director, Dies at 100 – The Hollywood Reporter

German scientists invent working teleporter, of sorts | Technology | The Guardian

Warner Bros’ bold stance on Wonder Woman opens the door for Hollywood evolution – Comment – Voices – The Independent

And something that will probably make a film one of these days, have you seen this story out of Argentina:

f8b86c3ae813f71b442aa1986c0b3411Spies, lies and death: plot thickens in Argentine scandal | Reuters

Prosecutor in Argentina presidential case was shot point-blank in forehead: authorities

Journalist who broke news of prosecutor’s death flees Argentina | Reuters

Gosh, what a lot of links for you today, and I’ve got a couple more:

Experts examine bones as Spain hunts for Cervantes’ remains (Update)

c4ab5a85544371f40b1db4db4dceccadWho was Chaucer? | Books | The Guardian

And end with two stories on women, journalism and internet threats.

Jezebel staffers express concern after Gawker Media seating chart is published | Capital New York

Wikipedia tacitly endorses GamerGate by blocking its opponents from editing gender-related articles | PandoDaily

That’s all folks….

BTW, here is a gallery of images, some of which were not put up in the post here.


Thursday Reads

reading-in-the-garden Nikolay Bodanov Belsky

Good Morning!!

Yesterday, the White House announced that President Obama will not meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg as previously planned. From The Washington Post:

President Obama has canceled a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Putin. Russia’s decision to give temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has exacerbated tensions with the United States over a number of issues:

“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

Carney cited a “lack of progress” with Russia over the past 12 months on a broad range of issues including missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security and human rights and civil society issues. Carney added that Russia’s “disappointing decision” last week to grant Snowden temporary asylum, allowing him to live and work in Russia for up to a year, was also a factor.

President Obama discussed some of his issues with Russia in an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday night.

Saying that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Obama criticized a law, enacted in June, that prohibits public events promoting gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples. A Russian official has promised that the law will be enforced during next February’s Sochi Games despite the International Olympic Committee’s contrary stance.

After the announcement, Russian-American journalist Julia Iofee wrote at The New Republic: Obama Bails on His Inevitably Awkward Date With Putin

A week after Edward Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia, President Obama canceled his bi-lateral September summit in Moscow with Vladimir Putin, though administration officials are at pains to portray this as something greater than pure tit-for-tattery. Rather, they say, it was an excuse to avoid what, even without Snowden, would have been “a pretty dreary affair.”

A few days before Snowden turned up in Moscow, Obama and Putin met on the sidelines of the G8 conference in Northern Ireland. The resulting photo-op—Obama looking forlornly into the distance, Putin slouched and sullen—said it all: they looked like the aging couple at the neighboring table, intently working on their food and eavesdropping on your conversation because they had nothing to support one of their own. Moscow and Washington had talked and talked, they’d gotten START and the transport route to Afghanistan and the sanctions on Iran, but now, the kids are out of the house and they were talking past each other on Syria, on Iran, on pretty much everything.

Lawrence O’Donnell asked Ioffe to appear on his MSNBC show last night to discuss the issues surrounding the decision; but instead of allowing her to express her opinions, O’Donnell interrupted Ioffe, lectured her about Russia and Putin, basically implying she is a liar. Ioffe responded at TNR:

Tonight, I went on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, and Lawrence O’Donnell yelled at me. Or, rather, he O’Reilly’d at me. That O’Donnell interrupted and harangued and mansplained and was generally an angry grandpa at me is not what I take issue with, however. What bothers me is that, look: your producers take the time to find experts to come on the show, answer your questions, and, hopefully, clarify the issue at hand.

I was invited on the show to talk about Obama’s (very wise) decision to cancel his Moscow summit with Putin, about which I wrote here. I am an expert on Russia. In fact, it is how you introduced me: “Previously, she was a Moscow-based correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker.” I’m not going to toot my own horn here, but I was there for three years, I’m a fluent, native speaker of Russian, and, god damn it, I know my shit.

Which is why I wish you’d let me finish answering your bullshit question…

You can watch the interaction at MSNBC and read the things she would have liked to say about Putin at TNR. Basically Ioffe tried to explain the Putin doesn’t control everything that happens in Russia anymore than Obama controls everything that happens in the US. She believes that once the Bolivian plane was forced to land because the US suspected Snowden might be on board, Putin really had no choice but to allow Snowden to stay in Russia, because public opinion there strongly supported him.

I have quoted Ioffe in previous posts, and she certainly is no Putin apologist–as she asserts in her piece. I think O’Donnell treated her shamefully.

In other NSA news, mainstream reporters continue to published far more stunning revelations than anything that has come from Snowden and Greenwald. This morning at The New York Times, Charlie Savage writes about surveillance of e-mails between people in the US and foreign countries without warrants, which is being justified by an interpretation of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act.

The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials.

The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official.

While it has long been known that the agency conducts extensive computer searches of data it vacuums up overseas, that it is systematically searching — without warrants — through the contents of Americans’ communications that cross the border reveals more about the scale of its secret operations….

Government officials say the cross-border surveillance was authorized by a 2008 law, the FISA Amendments Act, in which Congress approved eavesdropping on domestic soil without warrants as long as the “target” was a noncitizen abroad. Voice communications are not included in that surveillance, the senior official said.

Read more at the NYT link.

And at Reuters, John Shiffman and David Ingram report that a DEA program that appears to use NSA data to target ordinary criminals in the and then require DEA officers to conceal the source of the information was also used by the IRS.

Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.

The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.

A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency.

Just as a reminder that Russia’s treatment of journalists and whistleblowers is actually a hell of a lot worse than anything that happens in the US, Human Rights Watch reports on Russia’s Silencing Activists, Journalists ahead of Sochi Games.

(Moscow) – Local authorities have harassed numerous activists and journalists who criticized or expressed concerns about preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The six-month countdown to the Sochi Games opening ceremony is this week.

Human Rights Watch has documented government efforts to intimidate several organizations and individuals who have investigated or spoken out  againstabuse of migrant workers, the impact of theconstruction of Olympics venues and infrastructure on the environment and health of residents, and unfair compensation for people forcibly evicted from their homes. Human Rights Watch also documented how authorities harassed and pursued criminal charges against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their legitimate reporting.

“Trying to bully activists and journalists into silence is wrong and only further tarnishes the image of the Olympics,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “One of the non-negotiable requirements of hosting the Olympics is to allow press freedom, and the authorities’ attempts to silence critics are in clear violation of that principle.”

Obviously that doesn’t justify the Obama administration trying to influence media coverage of the NSA story, but we do need to keep things in perspective. In that vein, Bob Cesca had a good post yesterday: The Real-Life Stories of Legitimate NSA Whistleblowers (Snowden Isn’t One of Them). I hope you’ll give it a read.

In other news, Yemen has been hit by 6 suspected US drone strikes in the past 2 weeks–probably linked to the recently reported threat of an imminent terror strike that led the US to close a number of embassies last weekend.

An official in Yemen said Thursday that the sixth suspected U.S. drone strike in just two weeks had left six suspected al Qaeda militants dead in the group’s former stronghold in the center of the country. The official told The Associated Press that a missile hit a car traveling in the central Marib province, causing the fatalities.

CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that Yemen has long been a haven for al Qaeda leadership, and the country claimed Wednesday to have disrupted a major plot, which may have exposed potential targets.

Yemeni government officials say security forces are turning up the heat on militants from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the global terror network’s branch based in the nation, after foiling the plot to strike foreign embassies, gas and oil installations, and the country’s port cities.

The government has even given a shoot-to-kill order on anybody who looks suspicious and refuses to identify themselves.

The alleged plot appears to have been similar to the January attack in Algeria which saw gunmen storm the Amenas gas plant, killing more than three dozen foreign workers.

Yesterday in The Daily Beast, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported that information about the terror threats came from an al Qaeda “conference call,” involving top al Qaeda leaders and around 20 other people–a report that aroused quite a bit of skepticism on Twitter. Why would these guys risk talking on a conference call? Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Beast article:

The intercept provided the U.S. intelligence community with a rare glimpse into how al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, manages a global organization that includes affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia.

Several news outlets reported Monday on an intercepted communication last week between Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate based in Yemen. But The Daily Beast has learned that the discussion between the two al Qaeda leaders happened in a conference call that included the leaders or representatives of the top leadership of al Qaeda and its affiliates calling in from different locations, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. All told, said one U.S. intelligence official, more than 20 al Qaeda operatives were on the call.

To be sure, the CIA had been tracking the threat posed by Wuhayshi for months. An earlier communication between Zawahiri and Wuhayshi delivered through a courier was picked up last month, according to three U.S. intelligence officials. But the conference call provided a new sense of urgency for the U.S. government, the sources said.

Al Qaeda members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more obscure al Qaeda affiliates such as the Uzbekistan branch. Also on the call were representatives of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The presence of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates operating in the Sinai was one reason the State Department closed the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to one U.S. intelligence official. “These guys already proved they could hit Eilat. It’s not out of the range of possibilities that they could hit us in Tel Aviv,” the official said.

Perhaps the call was encrypted in some way and the US had found a way to listen anyway? But then why would they blow future such operations by leaking the fact that they had listened to the call? This morning  CNN’s Barbara Starr tweeted to Josh Rogin:

Barbara Starr ‏@barbarastarrcnn2h

@joshrogin IT WAS NOT A PHONE CALL. IN FACT, AL QAEDA WENT TO EXTENSIVE MEANS TO SET UP WHAT YOU MIGHT SAY A VIRTUAL MEETING SPACE.”

I’m not sue how to interpret that either. I’ll update if I get anything more on this.

Once again, my morning post has gotten way too long. I have other news links, but I’ll put them in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same with whatever stories you’re following today, and have a tremendous Thursday!!


Sunday Reads: Attack of the Killer Deer Heads

7c8964998f1b2e659e4d6e23c60f19f1Good Morning

I swear, if things here in Banjoland weren’t so backwards already…lately our internet service has been slower than the sweet sorghum syrup our county is famous for…

So, because of this crappy internet connection, I am forced to post a quick morning reads post. Hopefully the net will be working faster later today and I can get a longer thread up…but for now, here goes nothing.

It has gotten to be a cliché, that old Foxworthy joke about… “You know you’re a redneck if…” but tell me if this first story I have for you doesn’t fit the stereotype of one of these punchlines perfectly.

Woman arrested after assaulting man with deer head

The narrative of this story is just, well…you will see what I mean, check it out:

A 39-year-old Demorest woman was charged with aggravated assault after she allegedly stabbed and cut her husband with deer antlers Sunday night.

The man told Habersham County deputies he and the woman, Stella Irene Still, had been arguing for several days because she had seen his ex-girlfriend while they were out in public.

At the time of the assault, the man said he was sitting in his chair in the living room when the woman pulled his deer mount off the wall and attacked him with it.

And this is what the police report stated the woman did with the deer head:

“stabbed him with the deer’s antlers, which are attached to the deer mount, causing the puncture wounds to his neck and left arm,” the incident report states.

She then “began swinging the deer mount, striking him with the deer’s antlers which caused the lacerations to his neck, chest area, stomach, and leg,” the report states.

After the incident, the man went outside the house.

The woman “kicked down the front door to come outside,” the report states.

She then threw a rock at the man, striking him, before throwing a rock at his truck’s windshield, the report states.

Wow, she was pissed off, he must have done something mighty bad to get her that angry…those deer heads are heavy sonsofbitches!

What gets me is the facts stated by the cop at the end of the report.

“Outside the residence I observed the deer mount laying beside the stairs on the front porch which had blood on the wood portion of the mount,” the deputy’s report states. “I observed blood on [the victim’s] Chevrolet truck and [the victim’s] clothing that was in the cab of the truck. I also observed a rock with blood on it. The rock was laying in front of [the victim’s] truck.”

You know, if it’s not the kids in the neighborhood kicking and killing an old goat because they could not do the stare down, Jedi mind control, death thing like in the movie “Men Who Stare At Goats,” its people using deer heads mounted on the wall as assault weapons to attack their husbands as they watch NASCAR on TV.

Oof!

Okay, here are a few headlines to get you going, hopefully I can get another post up in a few hours.

Boardwalk crash: Driver was ‘moving purposefully,’ witnesses say – latimes.com

A driver who witnesses described as “moving purposefully” struck a dozen people on the Venice boardwalk early Saturday evening.

Two of the pedestrians were injured critically, two were categorized as having “serious” injuries and eight others suffered minor injuries, authorities said.

The incident occurred about 6 p.m. at the boardwalk’s intersection with Dudley Avenue. “The vehicle appeared to be moving purposefully down the boardwalk according to witnesses,” said Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

More info on this hit and run collision will be forthcoming I am sure.

Meanwhile, Robert Mugabe re-elected in disputed Zimbabwe vote – The Times of India

President Robert Mugabe won a landslide victory in Zimbabwe’s disputed election, officials results showed on Saturday, as opponents vowed to challenge the poll which the US said was not “credible”.

Mugabe, 89, appeared poised to extend his 33-year rule with a seventh term in office after trouncing his long-standing political rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, in Wednesday’s election.

Official results showed Mugabe won 61 per cent of the presidential vote and a super-majority in parliament, routing Tsvangirai who trailed heavily with 34 per cent.

But 61-year-old Tsvangirai, who has unsuccessfully tried to unseat Mugabe three times, condemned the vote as “fraudulent and stolen”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry meanwhile issued a statement Saturday describing the election as “deeply flawed”.

“The United States does not believe that the results announced today represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people,” Kerry said.

Tsvangirai plans to go to court to challenge the vote.

I’m sure you have seen this video by now…Yemeni girl from YouTube wants education, not marriage – CNN.com

A young Yemeni girl stares defiantly into the camera. Her question is a shocking one, coming from an 11-year-old:

“Would it make you happy to marry me off?” asks Nada Al-Ahdal.

In the nearly two-and-a-half-minute video, which was uploaded to YouTube and quickly went viral, Nada accuses her parents of trying to get her married off in exchange for money. She explains how she doesn’t want to be one of Yemen’s child brides.

“Death would be a better option for me,” she declares.

Nada also speaks on behalf of other Yemeni girls: “What about the innocence of childhood? What have the children done wrong so that you would marry them off like that?”

And finally, this is freaking scary…When one image is worth a thousand tweets – CNN.com

Meet the future. Her name is Maya Shaoolian. She is 2 years old.

Maya is just learning the basics of reading and writing, but she’s a veteran of technology. She’s been using an iPad since she was 1, says her father, Gabriel Shaoolian, the founder and CEO of marketing agency Blue Fountain Media. It’s fun for her, he says.

It’s also a window into how she’ll communicate: with apps and texts and instant images and video.

“She is part of a generation that will know nothing else but 140 characters and 16 seconds of video,” Shaoolian said. “She is part of a generation that will never know what a commercial is, because she consumes everything on demand. She wants content when she wants it, and without any interruptions. And it better be bite-size, because that is really all she has time for — and all her brain processes.”

This is not a lament, he hastens to add. Shaoolian says he draws his greatest lessons in technology usage from Maya. In fact, he thinks Maya and her friends will be better at making sense of those tweets and video snippets than, well, us.

“Her generation will be much more efficient communicating and grasping information,” he said. “I am certain that she will read between the lines and grasp every nuance, because she has not had to relearn how to communicate or digest information. This is the only way she knows.”

Uh…I am not sure about that. I have seen from my own kids, efficient communication in this new generation is not a strong skill…when everything is pared down to 140 characters or less.

I mean, to me efficient means getting the communication fast but also getting the information within the communication correct. And part of that is dealing with the emotional aspect of things…you don’t get that from 140 bits of words and a couple of smile faced emocon things.  Tell me Shaoolian, will these kids be effective communicators person to person? Will they be able to relate to each other on a face to face basis? My guess is no…

And that is all I can do for now. See you later on, until then please let us know what you are reading about this morning.


The Conversation We Must Have

It’s easy to overlook our far away wars and the deaths caused by drone attacks when most people in the country are trying topresident strangelove hang on to their jobs, homes, and incomes.  It’s more than enough effort just to hang on while watching your  hopes of secure, middle class lifestyles and retirement being diddled away in shows of Potomac political harangues, power plays, and stupid political memes.  However, a big portion of who we are as a country has to do with our face to the world and the values we display.  It’s a subject we must follow carefully because we’re as bad as we’ve ever been in many ways.

Hence, I bring you back to the topics of renditions, torture, drone strikes, domestic spying, and national security issues evoked by 9/11 and continued because we can’t have national discussions about the big policies any more.  We’re too busy defending erosion of our lives and rights here.  There is an important article at WAPO that highlights the immoral side of our “war” against terror that continues under the Obama administration.  Americans interested in human rights and our vision of an American “morality” must read this.

The three European men with Somali roots were arrested on a murky pretext in August as they passed through the small African country of Djibouti. But the reason soon became clear when they were visited in their jail cells by a succession of American interrogators.

U.S. agents accused the men — two of them Swedes, the other a longtime resident of Britain — of supporting al-Shabab, an Islamist militia in Somalia that Washington considers a terrorist group. Two months after their arrest, the prisoners were secretly indicted by a federal grand jury in New York, then clandestinely taken into custody by the FBI and flown to the United States to face trial.

The secret arrests and detentions came to light Dec. 21 when the suspects made a brief appearance in a Brooklyn courtroom.

The men are the latest example of how the Obama administration has embraced rendition — the practice of holding and interrogating terrorism suspects in other countries without due process — despite widespread condemnation of the tactic in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Renditions are taking on renewed significance because the administration and Congress have not reached agreement on a consistent legal pathway for apprehending terrorism suspects overseas and bringing them to justice.

I find this quote shocking.

The impasse and lack of detention options, critics say, have led to a de facto policy under which the administration finds it easier to kill terrorism suspects, a key reason for the surge of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Renditions, though controversial and complex, represent one of the few alternatives.

“In a way, rendition has become even more important than before,” said Clara Gutteridge, director of the London-based Equal Justice Forum, a human rights group that investigates national security cases and that opposes the practice.

Our country is caught up in fighting fights that were dealt with decades ago because one party wants to throw us back into the good ol’ days of witch hunts and control and ownership of other human beings through religious extremism and economic coercion and privateering.  We’re having to fight for the lessons of the civil war, the depression, and civil rights era.  Meanwhile, the national security industrial complex–in our names–erodes the very basic rights of our citizens and the way we behave abroad.  As pointed out at emptywheel,  Murdoch and son love them some Obama for extensions of abusive wiretapping.  Murdoch and son are themselves guilty of criminal wiretapping in the UK.  Is that ironic?

In addition to applauding Obama’s “fairly ruthless antiterror prosecut[ions] and unapologetic assert[ions] of Presidential powers,” the WSJ revels in this opportunity to mock those who thought illegal wiretapping was wrong.

This is a turnabout from 2007 and 2008, when letting U.S. spooks read al Qaeda emails or listen in on phone calls that passed through domestic switching networks supposedly spelled doom for the American Republic. Democrats spent years pretending that Mr. Bush’s eavesdropping program was “wrong” and “destructive,” as Attorney General Eric Holder put it at the time, lamenting that “I never thought I would see a President act in direct defiance of federal law.”

Maybe this mutual love of abusive wiretapping is why–as Elliot Spitzer has pointed out–DOJ has thus far failed to pursue News Corp under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

And finally, where is the inept U.S. Department of Justice in all this?

The DOJ has brought many irrelevant and tiny cases against companies for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal to bribe either individuals or government officials, even in a company’s overseas operations. The DOJ loves to use the statute to show just how tough it is.

Yet now they have the most important case sitting right there in front of them. It’s easy. Even a rookie could field this one.

But what are they doing? It’s not clear.

If they fail to make this case against News Corp., Eric Holder is a failure as attorney general.

After all, Eric Holder’s DOJ successfully fought to give legal sanction to Cheney’s illegal wiretapping. It would look rather silly, after having extended warrantless wiretapping past the end of the Obama Administration, for them to prosecute Rupert Murdoch for doing the same thing Cheney did.

There is little oversight in all of these human rights outrages.  Congress appears to be more interested in creating near-catastrophe problems with the economy and defunding planned parenthood then actually doing its oversight duties on the executive branch.  There are many things begun in the Bush administration that were criticized by Democrats that are now completely ignored by congressional committees.  Republicans have no interest in these issues and Democrats don’t want to criticize the administration.  Here’s another example of questionable policy from the WAPO article.

The State Department officially categorized al-Shabab as a terrorist organization in 2008, making it illegal for Americans or non-citizens to support the group. Still, Obama administration officials acknowledge that most al-Shabab fighters are merely participants in Somalia’s long-running civil war and that only a few are involved in international terrorism.

Is any one questioning the wisdom of adding dubious organizations to the terrorist list or is this just another way to expand the power, scope, and aggregate buying of the National Security Military Complex?

How many of you know that we’ve just recently upped its drone attacks in Afghanistan despite UN condemnation?  This caused Wired Magazine to call 2012 “The Year of the Drone in Afghanistan”.

Last month, military stats revealed that the U.S. had launched some 333 drone strikes in Afghanistan thus far in 2012. That made Afghanistan the epicenter of U.S. drone attacks — not Pakistan, not Yemen, not Somalia. But it turns out those stats were off, according to revised ones released by the Air Force on Thursday morning. There have actually been 447 drone strikes in Afghanistan this year. That means drone strikes represent 11.5 percent of the entire air war — up from about 5 percent last year.

Never before in Afghanistan have there been so many drone strikes. For the past three years, the strikes have never topped 300 annually, even during the height of the surge. Never mind 2014, when U.S. troops are supposed to take a diminished role in the war and focus largely on counterterrorism. Afghanistan’s past year, heavy on insurgent-hunting robots, shows that the war’s future has already been on display.

Many of the victims of these attacks have been citizens.  Drones are also operating in Pakistan, Yeman, and Somalia.

Reports say over 3,300 people, many of them women and children, were killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan between June 2004 and September 2012.

Rights and peace groups opposed to the targeted killings say the US administration has already violated international law by pursuing its assassination drone attacks.

Meanwhile, the UN plans to set up an investigation team in Geneva to probe the American drone attacks, as UN officials are concerned that Washington is setting a legal and ethical precedent for other countries developing armed drones.

The targeted killings started under former President George W. Bush and were expanded by President Barack Obama. In 2012, Obama personally approved the names put on the “kill lists” used in the targeted killing operations carried out by American assassination drones.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are not the only countries targeted by the US assassination drones. The unmanned aircraft are also operating in Yemen and Somalia.

According to a report compiled by the Washington think-tank, New America Foundation, the number of the US drone airstrikes in Yemen almost tripled this year compared with the previous one.

The report said that the United States has intensified its drone strikes in Yemenas well, increasing the number of operations drastically from 18 in 2011 to 53 in 2012 and killing at least 223 people.

Then, there is the Espionage Act where

There has been so much dysfunction in Congress these days–as well as active religious and right wing extremism aimed at women, GLBT, and minorities–that it’s hard to look to other faucets of our policy.  It’s important that we follow these important human rights abuses that are done in our name also.  It would be nice to be able to focus on really important policy issues for  a change, wouldn’t it?


Friday Nite Lite: Wake the F#@k Up!

Good Evening!

Time for another cartoon post, damn…it seems like the week flew by doesn’t it? Before we get to the funnies, here are a couple of news links I think you may find interesting.

Over at National Journal, they have a page that maps out Muslim Protests Around the World. They are supposed to be updating it as more hot spots come into play…gives me the creeps just seeing all those dots of violence across the globe.

In New Hampshire, they are suppressing the vote before the new voter id law comes into effect. Assholes.

And, this little news blip from NYP that I am really looking forward to: Samuel L. Jackson to support Obama in a provocative new ad calling on voters to “Wake the F–k Up”

They picked the perfect actor for a political ad loaded with f-bombs.

Samuel L. Jackson will film a provocative spot supporting President Obama’s re-election bid as early as tomorrow — telling voters to “Wake the f–k up, Vote for Obama.”

The ad is a riff on Jackson’s viral video “Go the F–k to Sleep,” where he narrates a children’s book written by Adam Mansbach.

It’s paid for by the Jewish Council for Education and Research Super PAC — which earlier this summer aired an ad of comedian Sarah Silverman offering “free lesbian sex” to billionaire Sheldon Adelson if he stopped supporting GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

It is coming out on Youtube Sept. 24th and I can’t wait. And if you want to laugh at something, I say check this out:

Samuel L. Jackson Beer

Drink Samuel L. Jackson’s beer — before he gets medieval on yo’ ass. (1:15)

Alright, let’s get on with the funnies…The cartoon pages were filled with things about Romney and his appalling performance the other day. Actually, it really wasn’t a performance act per say,  it was his real personality showing through.

Cagle Post » Political Posturing

Political Posturing © Steve Sack,The Minneapolis Star Tribune,romney,posturing,consulate,us,terror,embassy,death

Cagle Post » Romney Campaign Flies Flag at Full Staff

Romney Campaign Flies Flag at Full Staff © RJ Matson,The New York Observer,Romney Campaign Flies Flag at Full Staff,Libya,Ambassador Stevens,US Flag,Half Staff,Foreign Policy,2012 Election,2012 Presdential Election,Mitt Romney,Romney-libya

Cagle Post » Libya Tragedy

Libya Tragedy © Mike Keefe,Cagle Cartoons,libya; ambassador; stevens; riot; romney; political; election; campaign

Now a few comments on the Mideast situation in general:

Cagle Post » Suspenders

Suspenders © Joe Heller,Green Bay Press-Gazette,Suspenders, foreign policy, Embassy Killings, libya, embassador, Chris Stevens,Sam Bacile, Innocence of Muslims, terrorists, movie, islam, hate

I thought that one was clever…

Cagle Post » War and Oil

War and Oil © Bill Day,Cagle Cartoons,Romney, Big Oil, money, war

And that one has me singing this song:

Cagle Post » Plan to Attack Iran

Plan to Attack Iran © Pat Bagley,Salt Lake Tribune,Iran, Israel, Uncle Sam, United States, Strike, Nuclear, Atomic, Weapons, WMD, Netanyahu, Bibi, Ahmadinejad, Khameini, Attack

Now for a ride on the Romney/Ryan Express:

Romney Ryan Crossing © Adam Zyglis,The Buffalo News,romney, ryan, president, white house, election, race, gop, tax, policies, middle class, poor, railroaded, republican, plan, medicare, medicaid, mortgage, deduction

I think the better train to be getting on board is the love train:

Okay, now that you got your funk on…just a couple of more funnies to go!

Cagle Post » Twitter Trolls

Twitter Trolls © Paul Zanetti,Australia,twitter,trolls,phone,internet

And this from my favorite cartoonist, Mike Luckovich:

9/14 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Super-sized soft drinks | Mike Luckovich

mike091412

Sad but true, innit!

Have a wonderful evening, I will be enjoying a Friday Night Lights tradition, aka high school football game, with this little nip in the air its sure to be a good one.

So…in my best Mr. Samuel L. Jackson impersonation…this is a muthafukking open thread!


Wednesday Reads: Koch, Rep. King and the Democratic Divide

Good Morning!

Feeling a bit anxious today, I don’t know but something tells me this hormone patch isn’t working out so well. I think the hot flashes are way more bearable. So if I am a bit touchy you know why…

That said, let’s get on with the show!

First, I want to update you on Syria, yes…the killings are still going on. The newest fear is that Lebanon will become part of the battlefield. Syrian kidnapping of Lebanese pilgrims raises fears conflict will cross border

Syrian rebels kidnapped 11 Lebanese Shias and their Syrian driver in northern Syria on Tuesday, adding to fears that Lebanon is being drawn into the chaos next door, Syria’s state-run Sana news agency reported last night.

The victims were on their way home from a religious pilgrimage in Iran when rebels intercepted their vehicles in Syria’s Aleppo province. Women travelling in the group were released.

As the news of the kidnappings spread, residents of the southern suburbs of Beirut, a Shiite area, took to the streets and burned tyres and blocked roads in protest. The leader of Hezbollah, a strong ally of the Syrian regime, appealed for calm and warned his followers against revenge attacks targeting Syrians.

Then, there is this:  Syria massacre survivor tells of killing of army defectors at Jebel al-Zawiya

Mohammed Rahman Sohail

Mohammed Rahman Sohail, an officer in the Free Syrian Army, says he believes he is the sole survivor of the Jebel al-Zawiya massacre in which 83 men were killed.
With all the election crap going on, a lot of the world news is being pushed aside, and it is only the middle of May…what will September be like!
Sticking with some world news, there is also escalating violence in Yemen:
Dozens Killed by Bomb in Yemen, Raising Al Qaeda Fears –  There is a disturbing image at this link of body parts and blood strewn across the pavement.
A huge suicide bombing in the heart of Yemen’s capital Monday left more than 100 people dead and hundreds wounded, stunning the country’s beleaguered government and delivering a stark setback to the American counterterrorism campaign against Al Qaeda’s regional franchise, which has repeatedly tried to plant bombs on United States-bound jetliners.
[…]
The militant group, which goes by the name Ansar al Shariah, said in a Facebook post that the attack was aimed at Yemen’s defense minister and was intended to retaliate for the government campaign against Al Qaeda’s southern sanctuaries that began this month. The militants appear to be holding out and inflicting heavy losses on Yemen’s weak and divided army, despite a stepped-up United States campaign of drone strikes and military assistance.
Yemen on brink of food crisis, say aid groups–  This is a new warning and it comes a day before the Friends of Yemen group meets in Saudi Arabia.

Instability in Yemen has left the country facing a hunger catastrophe, with nearly half of people without enough food, aid groups have warned.

In a joint warning, a group of seven charities said 10 million Yemenis – 44% of the population – are undernourished, with 5 million requiring emergency aid.

Yemen has been shaken by pro-democracy protests, communal unrest in the north, and an Islamist conflict in the south.

I am going to move over to the US now, I have several links on the political front. We have had previous posts on all this stuff, lots of them…Boston Boomer has kept up to date on all of Romney’s faults…and Dakinikat has done the same with the economy and finance side of things.
Members Of New GOP Women’s Caucus Voted Against Equality For Women–  What is wrong with these women, I can surely bet that “special place in hell” will be packed to the rafters.
The 24 Republican Congresswomen in the U.S. House announcedyesterday that they have joined to form the Women’s Policy Committee, a caucus aimed at “raising the profile of GOP women in their roles as lawmakers, highlighting their diverse achievements and providing a unique, unified voice on a wide range of critically important issues.”But a ThinkProgress review of their voting records shows that the two dozen women have been fairly consistent in their legislative opposition to women’s rights:

  • Violence Against Women: Of the 24 women, 22 voted to rollback the Violence Against Women Act, backing a version of the bill that could violate the confidentiality of victims and that excluded protections for immigrants, LGBT people, and Native Americans.
  • Access to contraception: 21 of the 24 co-sponsored the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act” to take away regulations enacted under Obamacare requiring most employers to cover birth control in their health insurance plans, without additional cost-sharing.
  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: Of the 15 Republican Congresswomen who were in the House at the time, all 15 voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, a law that helps women hold accountable employers who discriminate in the pay practices based on gender.
  • Paycheck Fairness Act Act: 13 of those 15 also voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would update the 1963 Equal Pay Act by closing many of its loopholes and strengthening incentives to prevent pay discrimination.
  • Reproductive health: According to Planned Parenthood, 20 of the 24 GOP women earned a zero score, voting against reproductive health at every opportunity. The average score for the women was under 6 percent.
But women, don’t feel like you are the only ones getting beaten down in the Republican Game. Of course, immigrants are part of the festivities too. Rep. Steve King: Immigrants are like dogs

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, compared immigrants to dogs at a town hall meeting yesterday, telling constituents that the U.S. should pick only the best immigrants the way one chooses the “pick of the litter.”

King told the crowd in Pocahontas, Iowa, that he’s owned lots of bird dogs over the years and advised, “You want a good bird dog? You want one that’s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that’s the friskiest … not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner.”

King suggested lazy immigrants should be avoided as well. “You get the pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty good bird dog. Well, we’ve got the pick of every donor civilization on the planet,” King said. “We’ve got the vigor from the planet to come to America.” The liberal research group American Bridge captured the comments:

Video at the link. It makes me wonder… If Women=Livestock and Immigrants=Dogs, than what do Filthy Rich White GOP Men equal?

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire owners of of Koch Industries, are known as big spenders when it comes to lobbying and influencing public policy. Now, a new document filed with the IRS reveals how the Koch political machine funneled over $54.5 million in previously undisclosed funds to a litany of front groups designed to smear Democrats.

The disclosure suggests that a very wide variety of Republican groups active in the last major election, from pro-life organizations that ran ads on abortion to shadowy fronts that aired partisan commercials with the infamous Ground Zero Mosque conspiracy, have been highly dependent on Koch money. The document also reveals that the Koch’s political network spent much more on electing the current Congress than previously known.

Please read the entire article, this next paragraph should come as no surprise to you…
Sean Noble, a Republican consultant, was hired to help administer the Koch war chest. According to Politico, Noble was part of a group of GOP operatives who met regularly with Karl Rove’s superPAC to target 120 House of Representatives races in 2010. The close coordination was pivotal in helping the Republican Party capture 63 seats in one of the biggest midterm election landslides in modern history.
Which brings me to a series of articles on the Democrats, the press and the members of the post-election politician club.
Think of the next three links like a sandwich…the first and third links are like the rye bread with those seeds that get stuck in-between your teeth and annoy the hell out of you… and the second link is the pastrami, you know it is bad for your health, but you eat it anyway because well…you’ve been eating it on rye your whole entire life, what else are you gonna do?
Oh, and BTW, if you missed Dr. Dakinikat’s post yesterday, go read it now…think of it as the appetizer, before that pastrami on rye.
Okay, for that top slice of bread, you know…the one that keeps sliding off when you put the sandwich down to take a bite of the pickle spear on the side. The Emerging Democratic Divide –

Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker’s off-message criticism of the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s background at Bain Capital gave the campaign an untimely, unwanted headache this week. But more significantly, it exposed a tension that’s developing between the Democratic Party’s centrist wing and its more-outspoken liberal base—one that threatens to fester more openly if President Obama fails to win a second term.

Conversations with liberal activists and labor officials reveal an unmistakable hostility toward the pro-business, free-trade, free-market philosophy that was in vogue during the second half of the Clinton administration. Former White House Chief of Staff William Daley, who tried to steer the Obama administration in a more centrist direction, is the subject of particular derision. Discussion of entitlement reforms, at the heart of the GOP governing agenda, is a nonstarter. The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats are now nearly extinct on Capitol Hill.

“Centrist Direction,” I’ve said many times before that Obama has always seemed like right of center to me. I am so sick of the “centrist” label.  In fact some of these Democrats sound more like Republicans from several decades back.
“There are not a lot of moderates left in the Democratic Party, and Cory is one of the few of them left,” said former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama, an early Obama ally who has become increasingly estranged from the party. “I would like to think Cory speaks for a lot of voters in the Democratic Party, but sadly he doesn’t speak for a lot of Democratic operatives within the party. This isn’t Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party anymore.”
[…]

But Booker’s comments reflect an uncomfortable ideological divide within the elite elements of the Democratic coalition. As I wrote last month, wealthy voters made up a pivotal part of Obama’s winning coalition in 2008—not to mention contributing a good chunk of his campaign cash that cycle. But as Obama’s rhetoric has turned populist to capitalize on Romney’s biographical vulnerabilities, he has alienated some of those voters. Booker isn’t the only high-profile Democrat with Wall Street connections raising questions about the Obama campaign’s populist appeals. It follows similar criticisms from Obama auto adviser Steven Rattner, former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee, and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, a past Obama donor and supporter. Meanwhile, Wall Street money has dried up, playing a role in the president’s less-than-imposing fundraising totals for the year.

Over the past generation, losing Democratic presidential campaigns have sparked soul-searching within the party. After Walter Mondale’s landslide defeat in 1984, centrist Democrats formed institutions, like the Democratic Leadership Council, to counter the influence of the old, liberal guard. The DLC later provided the governing fuel for Clinton’s presidency. A decade later, when John Kerry lost to George W. Bush, it sparked the rise of the liberal netroots, which played a key role in the Democratic takeover of Congress two years later. The party’s activist base currently is firmly in charge, but that could change quickly if things turn south.

With Obama at the helm of the party and broadly popular among Democratic voters, there’s little incentive for Democratic critics to openly take on a sitting president. The harsh reaction to Booker’s mild apostasy on Meet the Press, and his subsequent walk-backs, was proof positive of that. But if Obama loses to Romney after embracing a message advocated by the party’s liberal wing, don’t be surprised if the knives come out in force after the election.

Where’s the Beef? That salted cured beef?  Bill Clinton’s $80 Million Payday, or Why Politicians Don’t Care That Much About Reelection « naked capitalism

“There was a kind of inflection point during the five-year period between 1997 and 2003 — the late Clinton and/or early Bush administration — when all the rules just went away. You went from a period, a regime, where people did have at least some concern about going to jail, to a point where everything is legal, and derivatives couldn’t be regulated at all and nobody went to jail for anything. And looking back I would say that this period definitely started under Clinton. You absolutely cannot blame this on George W. Bush.” – Charles Ferguson of Inside Job

“I never had any money until I got out of the White House, you know, but I’ve done reasonably well since then.” Bill Clinton

On December 21, 2000, as President, Bill Clinton signed a bill known as the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. This law ensured that derivatives could not be regulated, setting the stage for the financial crisis.  Just two months later, on February 5, 2001, Clinton received  $125,000 from Morgan Stanley, in the form of a payment for a speech Clinton gave for the company in New York City.  A few weeks later, Credit Suisse also hired Clinton for a speech, at a $125,000 speaking fee, also in New York.  It turns out, Bill Clinton could make a lot of money, for not very much work.

I look forward to the comments about this article…

Today, Clinton is worth something on the order of $80 million (probably much more, but we don’t really know), and these speeches have become a lucrative and consistent revenue stream for his family. Clinton spends his time offering policy advice, writing books, stumping for political candidates, and running a global foundation.  He’s now a vegan. He makes money from books. But the speaking fee money stream keeps coming in, year after year, in larger and larger amounts.

Most activists and political operatives are under a delusion about American politics, which goes as follows.  Politicians will do *anything* to get reelected, and they will pander, beg, borrow, lie, cheat and steal, just to stay in office.  It’s all about their job.

This is 100% wrong.  The dirty secret of American politics is that, for most politicians, getting elected is just not that important.  What matters is post-election employment.  It’s all about staying in the elite political class, which means being respected in a dense network of corporate-funded think tanks, high-powered law firms, banks, defense contractors, prestigious universities, and corporations.  If you run a campaign based on populist themes, that’s a threat to your post-election employment prospects.  This is why rising Democratic star and Newark Mayor Corey Booker reacted so strongly against criticism of private equity – he’s looking out for a potential client after his political career is over, or perhaps, during interludes between offices.

Read the rest and let’s discuss it below…
And here is that slice of rye, the one on the bottom, that always tends to be on the soggy side.  DISSENTING JUSTICE: IN DEFENSE OF CORY BOOKER: Why Think Progress Is Unfair and Unbalanced
Liberal blogs have fallen in line to excoriate Newark Mayor Cory Booker for describing President Obama’s campaign attacks against Bain and Company as “nauseating.” Although Booker has tried to walk back his commentary, he still faces a lot of criticism, especially since rightwingers have used his comments as a weapon against the president’s campaign strategy.
For several reasons, I strongly support Cory Booker, and I condemn progressives who criticize him for his remarks. And as I explain below, I am especially troubled by a Think Progress article that seeks to raise questions about Booker by exposing campaign donations he received from Bain executives and other financial industry employees. Here is why I support Booker and disagree with Think Progress.
And that is all the world news and political stuff I have for you this morning.
This last link is just a cool bit of health news:  Skin cells turned into healthy heart muscle cells

Scientist say they have managed to turn patients’ own skin cells into healthy heart muscle in the lab.

Ultimately they hope this stem cell therapy could be used to treat heart failure patients.

As the transplanted cells are from the individual patient this could avoid the problem of tissue rejection, they told the European Heart Journal.

So what are you all reading about today?


Black Friday Reads

Welcome to the traditional start of the National Crass Consumerism Season!

It’s that time of year when every trip to a store is an overwhelming assault on all of your senses in an attempt to get you to buy stuff!  It was hard to avoid all the commercials yesterday, wasn’t it?  Robert Scheer has a great piece up on Truth Dig that puts this time of year in perspective.

On this Thanksgiving we have been cheated of the bounty of that harvest as the stakes have been pulled up on 50 million Americans who have lost or soon will lose their homes. The housing crisis haunts a majority of Americans, even those who own their homes outright but have lost their jobs and must now sell in a downward-swirling housing market.

Good public education on every level, from preschool through college, is now a matter of inherited privilege reserved for those who can pick and choose affluent neighborhood settings for their children’s schools. And the prospect of affording one of those settings is dim for most parents in a country where securing a good job is beyond the reach of so many highly motivated people.

How many folks from my generation are honestly sanguine about the economic future of their children and grandchildren? What I have heard constantly, and just this week from a former top investment banker addressing a college class I teach, is that our offspring probably will face a decade of lost opportunity. I thought back to my college days and how shocked any of us, even those from the most impoverished of circumstances, would have been to hear such a prediction.

As The New York Times editorialized this Thanksgiving, “One in three Americans—100 million people—is either poor or perilously close to it.”

There’s a movement afoot called Occupy Black Friday.

Occupy Black Friday, which is among the groups calling for people to spend locally rather than at chain stores, could not be reached for comment.

The anti-consumption spirit of the various scheduled Occupy events has a precedent in Buy Nothing Day, the yearly undertaking — always scheduled to fall on Black Friday — in which participants refrain from spending any money.

Buy Nothing Day was created some 20 years ago by advocates associated with the Vancouver magazine Adbusters, which also issued the original call for the movement that would become Occupy Wall Street. While it remains a red-letter date on the calendars of many social activists, its effects on retail sales have traditionally been less than earthshattering.

“They’re fragmentary, they’re ephemeral,” said Richard Hastings, a macro and consumer strategist at Global Hunter Securities, of Buy Nothing Day and similar campaigns that have attempted to build commercial headwinds on Black Friday. “To really be quite poetic about it, they’re evanescent.”

Hastings said that “the Occupy movement in the U.S. can only have some impact if it starts to do boycotts” — but added that he does not expect the anti-Black Friday forces to change many minds this year.

Here’s a great suggestion for celebrating the day after Thanksgiving from the Daily Show!  Prior to Abraham Lincoln making Thanksgiving a National Holiday, New York used to recognize Evacuation Day.  Massachusetts celebrates the day on March 17th which has been co-opted by Saint Patrick’s Day.  The days were set aside in the colony to celebrate the day when the British evacuated that colony after the Revolution. They celebrate the end of the rule of an occupying army.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

There’s another great thing that happened on November 24, 1859.  That’s the publication date of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin.  Darwin’s epic release of his work changed our view of biology, botany, and creation myths. Scientists now accept this theory as a basis to the development of every living species even though many radical religionists still try to replace it with creation myths in classrooms in many states. Louisiana dingbat Governor Bobby Banana Republic Jindal gave religious myth equal footing with science this year in a case that’s law that’s bound to head to the supreme court.  He signed a “Louisiana Science Education Act” that sneaks religion into science classes. Scopes Monkey Trial any one?

Darwin had formulated his theory of natural selection by 1844, but he was wary to reveal his thesis to the public because it so obviously contradicted the biblical account of creation. In 1858, with Darwin still remaining silent about his findings, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace independently published a paper that essentially summarized his theory. Darwin and Wallace gave a joint lecture on evolution before the Linnean Society of London in July 1858, and Darwin prepared On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection for publication.

Published on November 24, 1859, Origin of Species sold out immediately. Most scientists quickly embraced the theory that solved so many puzzles of biological science, but orthodox Christians condemned the work as heresy. Controversy over Darwin’s ideas deepened with the publication of The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), in which he presented evidence of man’s evolution from apes.

By the time of Darwin’s death in 1882, his theory of evolution was generally accepted. In honor of his scientific work, he was buried in Westminster Abbey beside kings, queens, and other illustrious figures from British history. Subsequent developments in genetics and molecular biology led to modifications in accepted evolutionary theory, but Darwin’s ideas remain central to the field.

There is an astounding amount of evidence from the fields of genetics and molecular biology to now support Darwin’s basic ideas.  PBS maintains an Evolution Library that’s full of links to some of the most astounding new evidence that has made the theory even more developed and iron clad.  Here’s a great paper from the National Academy of Science on Science and Creationism.  This elucidates the difference between Darwin’s work and the modern theory of Evolution.

Contrary to popular opinion, neither the term nor the idea of biological evolution began with Charles Darwin and his foremost work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859). Many scholars from the ancient Greek philosophers on had inferred that similar species were descended from a common ancestor. The word “evolution” first appeared in the English language in 1647 in a nonbiological connection, and it became widely used in English for all sorts of progressions from simpler beginnings. The term Darwin most often used to refer to biological evolution was “descent with modification,” which remains a good brief definition of the process today.

Darwin proposed that evolution could be explained by the differential survival of organisms following their naturally occurring variation—a process he termed “natural selection.” According to this view, the offspring of organisms differ from one another and from their parents in ways that are heritable—that is, they can pass on the differences genetically to their own offspring. Furthermore, organisms in nature typically produce more offspring than can survive and reproduce given the constraints of food, space, and other environmental resources.

Darwin proposed that evolution could be explained by the differential survival of organisms following their naturally occurring variation—a process he termed “natural selection.” According to this view, the offspring of organisms differ from one another and from their parents in ways that are heritable—that is, they can pass on the differences genetically to their own offspring. Furthermore, organisms in nature typically produce more offspring than can survive and reproduce given the constraints of food, space, and other environmental resources. If a particular off-spring has traits that give it an advantage in a particular environment, that organism will be more likely to survive and pass on those traits. As differences accumulate over generations, populations of organisms diverge from their ancestors.

Darwin’s original hypothesis has undergone extensive modification and expansion, but the central concepts stand firm. Studies in genetics and molecular biology—fields unknown in Darwin’s time—have explained the occurrence of the hereditary variations that are essential to natural selection. Genetic variations result from changes, or mutations, in the nucleotide sequence of DNA, the molecule that genes are made from. Such changes in DNA now can be detected and described with great precision.

Today in 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act and named Tom Ridge it’s first Secretary.  The first two secretaries–Ridge and Michael Chertoff–have written books.  There’s an overview of each at the link above. Here’s some info on Ridge and the creation of the DHS.

Although Ridge was an early proponent of the creation of DHS, the White House initially was not supportive. As Ridge notes, President Bush’s focus was on strengthening the power of the executive branch that he felt over the years “had been improperly ceded to Congress” (p. 126). Hence, the White House wanted a strong cabinet around it. The real impetus for the creation of DHS came from Congress, which was increasingly frustrated by the lack of oversight of the billions of dollars over which Ridge had influence (but no real power). After the White House refused to allow Ridge to testify before Congress about his homeland security priorities, and after the legacy INS sent two visas to dead 9/11 hijackers to attend flight training school in Florida, DHS became a political inevitability. As Ridge recounts, Congress wanted him “unmuzzle[d]” and the White House realized “[i]t would be better for the administration to be the architect of the new department rather than allowing Congress to take the lead” (pp. 127, 129).
Although the White House eventually supported the creation of DHS – and asked him to lead it – Ridge describes how his vision of homeland security and that of the administration differed. As Ridge observes, “the silly prolonged debate with the White House over the design of the new department’s seal was as absurd as it was revealing” (p. 71). The Bush administration wanted an eagle emblem to hold arrows in both talons as if to say the key to victory over terrorism was through aggression, forward-leaning military, and counterterrorism action. Ridge countered: “We thought differently. There was far more to defeating the enemy than military action” (p. 71). To his credit, Ridge discusses in detail what else his vision of homeland security entailed, which can be summed up as creating an environment of trust and credibility with the public. As he explains: “Only disclosure and transparency would generate the confidence and trust needed by our government as it waged its war domestically” (p. 72).

There’s a few international stories that you probably should follow. First, Egypt is experiencing a huge amount of violence right before elections are to be held.
There have been massive protests in Tahir square, arrests, and assaults on journalists by the police.

A capital city convulsed with violence just days before the first democratic elections in decades might not seem ideal. But some voters think the demonstrations will keep the transition from stalling.

Abdul Rahman Mansour, a graphic designer in the capital, says the people on Tahrir Square are making sure their rights are respected and the country moves ahead.

American University in Cairo professor Said Sadek agrees, saying the protests serve as a wake-up call for the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. “After the end of Mubarak rule SCAF has no legitimacy except obeying and meeting the demands of the revolution. This is revolutionary legitimacy. So they have to follow what is happening,” he said.

International condemnation of Syria’s dictator is turning into action. The Arab League has asked for harsher sanctions and a possible fly over zone with help from the UN if al-Assad does not stop his violence against peaceful protestors.

In a special meeting in Cairo, the Arab League called on Syria to agree by Friday to admit a mission of 500 civilian and military observers to monitor the human rights situation and oversee efforts to carry out a peace plan that Syria agreed to on Nov. 2.

The Arab League suspended Syria this month after it failed to comply with the plan, under which it had pledged to withdraw all military units from the streets, stop killing protesters and allow the monitors to enter the country.

The league said that if Syria refused to admit the monitors, it would meet again on Saturday to discuss sanctions that could include the suspension of all trade except for essential humanitarian goods, a ban on flights to Syria, a travel ban on Syrian officials, and the freezing of all transactions with the central bank and of all Arab economic projects under way in Syria.

If enacted, the new penalties would deal a stinging blow to an economy already suffering under sanctions from the European Union and the United States. Syria’s two most vital sectors, oil and tourism, which account for more than a third of the government’s revenues, have all but come to a halt.

While there was no official response from the leadership in Damascus, Syrian state television said that the government would reject the deal as an infringement on its sovereignty.


In other news from the Arab spring uprisings, Yeman’s president has resigned.
However, protestors have problems with the succession.

A U.S.-backed deal for Yemen’s authoritarian president to step down fell far short of the demands of protesters who fought regime supporters on the streets of Sanaa Thursday in clashes that left five dead.

The agreement ending President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule provides for only the shallowest of changes at the top of the regime, something the U.S. administration likely favored to preserve a fragile alliance against one of the world’s most active al-Qaida branches based in Yemen.

The plan drawn up by Yemen’s oil-rich Gulf neighbors does not directly change the system Saleh put in place over three decades to serve his interests.

“It gives an opportunity for regime survival,” said Yemen expert Ibrahim Sharqieh at the Brookings Doha Center. “The only one we’ve seen changing here is the president, but the state institutions and everything else remain in place. Nothing else has changed.”

Saleh signed the agreement Wednesday in the Saudi capital Riyadh, transferring power to his vice president within 30 days. If it holds, he will be the fourth dictator pushed from power this year by the Arab Spring uprisings.

But the deal leaves much more of the old regime intact than the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya — something that will almost certainly translate into continued unrest. Protesters who have been in the millions for nearly 10 months were out again Thursday, rejecting a provision that gives Saleh immunity from prosecution.

Massive unrest around the world continues.  It is sad to see so much violence, but the spread of democracy into regions that have been ruled by harsh dictators and the fight to regain democracy in regions where corporatocracy has ruled is exciting in many ways.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?