Friday Reads: Of Buddhas, Taliban, and White Male US Domestic Terrorists

The oldest oil paintings are in Afghanistan. They were found in caves behind the 2 ancient colossal Buddha statues destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban. Many people worldwide were in shock when the Taliban destroyed The Banyam Buddhas. It was a Western Heritage site. Behind those statues are caves decorated with paintings from the fifth to ninth centuries.

Good Day Sky Dancers! 

So, it’s hard to remain dispassionately compassionate in today’s America.  Here I am wanting doctors and hospitals to turn away the unvaccinated for one.  Then, I’d like to trade the entire Trump family, that white male domestic terrorist that took up hours of everyone’s time plus thousands of dollars just to have a hissy fit in front of the Library of Congress while lying about having a bomb, and an entire list of Republican politicians to the Taliban in exchange for every Afghani who definitely would make better US Citizens then these freaks of white privilege, corruption, and angst.

Let’s send them the Proud Boys and get back the Afghanistani Girls Robotics Team. I’d say we’d definitely get the better deal.  Maybe Fox News–minus a few leggy,dyed, and dumb blondes–would like to set up its entire empire there and broadcast Tucker Carlson from the kind of government he seems to want.  Although the thought of Laura Ingrahm in a burkha has a certain appeal to me that I must admit.  Ah, but I cannot play Karma just as anyone with tendencies to Deism can play the Goddess or God.

BB sent me a link to a former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes who reported on the original removal of the Taliban from Afghanistan. I saw her on MSNBC where she completely ripped apart a young Obama staffer who basically was trying to say that the surge was a mistake but could only be seen from hindsight.  She’s fierce, outspoken, and amazingly well-versed on the entire 20-year commitment to your basic corruption story. First, here’s the transcript of her appearance on MSNBC.  Medhi Hassan sat in for Chris Hayes on that day.  The other participant in the discussion is Tommy Vietor is the former spokesperson for the National Security Council under President Barack Obama. He`s now a co-host of the podcast Pod Save America and host of Pod Save the World. She took him down with ease.

Thank you both for coming on the show. Tommy, let me start with you. You were on the NSC. This is a huge screw up is it not? You and I may agree with Joe Biden that this was the right thing to do, but this was a failure in the way that it was handled, in the way that you know it was not seen coming according to NBC reporting.

The CIA warned of a rapid collapse. And now they`re playing the blame game. General Mark Milley said today, nope, he never saw any of that Intel. This is bad, is it not?

TOMMY VIETOR, HOST, POD SAVE THE WORLD. Giving out the people who helped us in this war effort over the past few decades is bad. And they need to rectify that immediately. And obviously, that part of this process getting these Special Immigrant Visas out, getting the P1, the P2 Visas out. All these people that help the United States, the USAID, helped the news media. We need to get those people out.

And so, this mission isn`t over. Joe Biden needs to figure out how to get them out. I do agree with President Biden`s assessment that after 20 years, it was time to end the war in Afghanistan. The mission against al-Qaeda had gone well, the nation-building exercise was doomed to fail from the beginning and it was in the state to continue with this long.

HASAN: Sarah, you lived in Afghanistan. You also later advise the Joint Chiefs of Staff. What did we all get wrong about the durability even, dare I say, the popularity of the Taliban in parts of Afghanistan? What did we miss? What did U.S. general miss?

SARAH CHAYES, FORMER REPORTER, NPR: So, I actually disagree with Tommy on that. And I would say I don`t think the Taliban are particularly popular. I don`t think that`s quite an accurate way of putting it either. There were two decisive variables in this whole situation from the beginning. And they were Afghan government corruption aided and abetted reinforce (AUDIO GAP) and with every Afghan leader that we supported.

And the second decisive variable was the role of Pakistan. It`s not as though the Taliban or some, you know, grassroots movement that sprang up inside Afghanistan, as we often hear. I spent months interviewing people, both ordinary Afghans who had been living in Kandahar and in Qatar, across the border in Pakistan, and also key actors in this drama back in 1994.

Everyone agrees that it was the Pakistani military intelligence agency that basically concocted the Taliban back in about 1993, and then reconstituted them starting approximately 2003. And so, I actually think there`s a lot we could have done differently.

And having been also in interagency policy development in 2010-2011, I can tell you, there were some of us who were arguing very forcefully for a stronger U.S. stance in holding the Afghan government to basic standards of integrity, and it was explicitly rejected by the U.S. cabinet and President Obama.

And the same thing is true of Pakistan. Many people were pointing out the active role Pakistan had played, not to mention that they also provided nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran. So, I don`t understand one of those decisions that (INAUDIBLE) that period.


HASAN: You mentioned Obama, so let me bring Tommy back in. Tommy, you obviously worked for Barack Obama. You and I have talked many times before about various aspects of foreign policy that he may have got wrong, he could have done better on. Where does Afghanistan fit into that scheme in your view when you look at Syria, and Libya, and some of the other areas, Yemen, of contention that you and I have discussed? I mean, Joe Biden as successfully pulling troops out of Afghanistan. He may be doing it in a bad way, but he`s managing to do it. We know that Barack Obama had a similar instinct, but he never did this.

VIETOR: So, during the Obama years, especially early on, the threat from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan was growing and was significant. And, you know, that was largely because George W. Bush started the war there, took his eye off the ball, and then decided to invade Iraq.

So, what Obama decided to do was surge a bunch of additional troops in 2009 and 2010 to push back the Taliban, and try to buy some time and space to go after al-Qaeda and essentially prevent the government toppling — prevent major population centers from being overrun. What did that get us? It got us back to a status quo ante.

And in hindsight, I think that that major surge was probably a mistake, and that the U.S. should have shifted to a counterterrorism mission sooner and drawn down troops sooner. And I agree, Mehdi, in hindsight, it`s very easy to say the safe haven in Pakistan was a problem, corruption has been a problem. It`s very easy to identify those problems, solving them is much harder, especially when you have a bunch of other competing priorities like the need to be able to undertake counterterrorism missions in Pakistan, the need to keep the lid on Pakistan`s nuclear weapons program, the need to do a million other things, it becomes complicated.

And so look, I think the surge in hindsight was a mistake. I do think it was time to end this war, and that, frankly, it was doomed for a long time.

HASAN: Yes. And Joe Biden, of course, was one of those people who at least at the time, briefed the people he was against that search. It`s interesting him following up now as president. Sarah, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani turned up today in the United Arab Emirates, reportedly accused of taking $169 million of cash with him.

This was the guy who was supposed to be clean. He was the guy who was going to fix Afghanistan, the technocrat, the economist, and it looks like he may have just been as corrupt as everyone before him. We talk a lot about the Afghan military`s fault, but how much is Afghan political leadership over 20 years to blame for this debacle now?

CHAYES: Afghan political leadership and the incentive structure that the United States and many of its international allies put in place. We set up an incentive structure that rewarded the most corrupt. And again, I beg to differ with you, Tommy. A lot of us — it`s not in hindsight. A lot of us had been talking about Pakistan and corruption for years. That interagency process —


CHAYES: They were tracking — sorry?

VIETOR: I think that what was lacking were the solutions. You know, it`s not that there weren`t like ideas in white paper —

CHAYES: I`m sorry. I`m sorry, Tommy. The number of plants, the number of — the number of extremely explicit governance campaign plans that were put forward, I mean, with most likely most dangerous mitigation strategies for what might go wrong, I can think of three or four that were submitted and frankly, died in the national security staff.

So, I think there`s a bit of disingenuousness here. And again, I have had no, I want to say, sympathy for corrupt Afghan officials. But on the other hand, let`s just take a look. I feel like we`re in a hall of mirrors today. You know, look at the mansions in the massive neighborhoods around Washington where contractors and government officials live after having promulgated failed policies. And then we call —

HASAN: It is truly — it is truly horrific to see. Sarah, we`re out of time. I do want to give Tommy 20 seconds since you — since you made a couple of jobs there. We`re out of time but Tommy, 20 seconds, last word.

VIETOR: Listen, I would just say that white papers and plans in Washington in the Situation Room had bumped up against the reality in Afghanistan and Pakistan for 20 years. And the smartest people writing the smartest way papers have not managed to fix the problems. I don`t think it was the lack of trying. I think it was the lack of good ideas, I think it was time to end this mission.

CHAYES: Tommy, I`m sorry, I lived on the ground. I lived in Kandahar. Don`t you tell me as a — as speechwriter what realities are on the ground in Kandahar — in Afghanistan.

VIETOR: I wasn`t speaking to you.

HASAN: I wish — I wish we had — I wish we had more time.

CHAYES: Give me a break. I mean, seriously.

It was truly a joy to watch this.  Anyway, here’s the link to her website that BB sent me and her post “The Ides of August”.  There is a lot there but here’s more about the role of Pakistan in the Taliban.

Pakistan. The involvement of that country’s government — in particular its top military brass — in its neighbor’s affairs is the second factor that would determine the fate of the U.S. mission.

You may have heard that the Taliban first emerged in the early 1990s, in Kandahar. That is incorrect. I conducted dozens of conversations and interviews over the course of years, both with actors in the drama and ordinary people who watched events unfold in Kandahar and in Quetta, Pakistan. All of them said the Taliban first emerged in Pakistan.

The Taliban were a strategic project of the Pakistani military intelligence agency, the ISI. It even conducted market surveys in the villages around Kandahar, to test the label and the messaging. “Taliban” worked well. The image evoked was of the young students who apprenticed themselves to village religious leaders. They were known as sober, studious, and gentle. These Taliban, according to the ISI messaging, had no interest in government. They just wanted to get the militiamen who infested the city to stop extorting people at every turn in the road.

Both label and message were lies.

Within a few years, Usama bin Laden found his home with the Taliban, in their de facto capital, Kandahar, hardly an hour’s drive from Quetta. Then he organized the 9/11 attacks. Then he fled to Pakistan, where we finally found him, living in a safe house in Abbottabad, practically on the grounds of the Pakistani military academy. Even knowing what I knew, I was shocked. I never expected the ISI to be that brazen.

Meanwhile, ever since 2002, the ISI had been re-configuring the Taliban: helping it regroup, training and equipping units, developing military strategy, saving key operatives when U.S. personnel identified and targeted them. That’s why the Pakistani government got no advance warning of the Bin Laden raid. U.S. officials feared the ISI would warn him.

By 2011, my boss, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Taliban were a “virtual arm of the ISI.”

And now this.

Do we really suppose the Taliban, a rag-tag, disjointed militia hiding out in the hills, as we’ve so long been told, was able to execute such a sophisticated campaign plan with no international backing? Where do we suppose that campaign plan came from? Who gave the orders? Where did all those men, all that materiel, the endless supply of money to buy off local Afghan army and police commanders, come from? How is it that new officials were appointed in Kandahar within a day of the city’s fall? The new governor, mayor, director of education, and chief of police all speak with a Kandahari accent. But no one I know has ever heard of them. I speak with a Kandahari accent, too. Quetta is full of Pashtuns — the main ethic group in Afghanistan — and people of Afghan descent and their children. Who are these new officials?

Over those same years, by the way, the Pakistani military also provided nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea. But for two decades, while all this was going on, the United States insisted on considering Pakistan an ally. We still do.

So we are finally getting more coverage on Trump’s role in the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.  This is from Michael Crowly at the NYT: “Trump’s Deal With the Taliban Draws Fire From His Former Allies.  The former president and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, are attacking President Biden over Afghanistan even as their own policy faces harsh criticism.”

Days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks two years ago, President Donald J. Trump had a novel idea. He would invite leaders of the Taliban, the group that harbored Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan as the founder of Al Qaeda plotted his strikes on America, to join peace negotiations at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

The notion of any presidential meeting with the Taliban, let alone one close to Sept. 11, stunned many of Mr. Trump’s top advisers. But Mr. Trump was eager to engage with the militant group, which the United States had been fighting for almost 20 years, as he pursued his goal of removing American troops from Afghanistan by the end of his term.

Months earlier, at Mr. Trump’s direction, the State Department had begun face-to-face talks with the Taliban in Qatar to negotiate an American exit. Mr. Trump called off the Taliban visit to Camp David after an American soldier was killed in a bombing in Kabul, the Afghan capital, but the peace talks continued.

They culminated in a February 2020 deal under which the United States agreed to withdraw in return for Taliban promises not to harbor terrorists and to engage in their first direct negotiations with the Afghan government. Mr. Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, attended the signing ceremony in Doha and posed for a photo alongside the Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, which resurfaced this week on social media. Mr. Baradar is widely expected to become the head of a new Taliban government based in Kabul.

Some former senior Trump officials now call that agreement fatally flawed, saying it did little more than provide cover for a pullout that Mr. Trump was impatient to begin before his re-election bid. They also say it laid the groundwork for the chaos unfolding now in Kabul.

“Our secretary of state signed a surrender agreement with the Taliban,” Mr. Trump’s second national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said of Mr. Pompeo during a podcast interview with the journalist Bari Weiss on Wednesday. “This collapse goes back to the capitulation agreement of 2020. The Taliban didn’t defeat us. We defeated ourselves.”

And in an interview with CNN on Wednesday, former Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said that, while President Biden “owns” the ultimate outcome in Afghanistan, Mr. Trump had earlier “undermined” the agreement through his barely disguised impatience to exit the country with little apparent regard for the consequences. That included an October 2020 declaration by Mr. Trump that he wanted the 5,000 American troops then in Afghanistan home by Christmas.

Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Pompeo has responded to such criticism with contrition. Instead, they have attacked Mr. Biden for what they call his disastrous execution of the pullout they set in motion.

After Mr. Trump moved thousands of troops out of Afghanistan during his last year in office, Mr. Biden inherited just 2,500 troops in the country. Mr. Biden has cited the U.S. commitment in Doha to remove all remaining forces by May of this year, a deadline he did not meet, as a key factor in his decision to continue the withdrawal.

So my question continues to be this:  How the hell could any country hold a bunch of airports all over Afghanistan open for an exodus with only 2500 troops?  The only way was to surge again into Afghanistan, break Trump’s commitment, and really go against what the American people wanted as well as what Joe Biden had announced he was against over and over and over.

Again, here’s my suggestion.  We get the remainder of the Girl’s Robotic team that are still stuck in Afghanistan and we hand the Taliban Trump and his spawn. He said he likes them.  He can build a Trump Prayer Tower and pretend he’s a devout follower of Mohammed and everyone wins!  I’m sure they don’t want Lindsey Graham given his sexual preference but could we offer up Senator Kennedy from Louisiana as a court Jester of sorts?

Ah, well.  Probably not realistic but you know, in war it’s not unusual to trade our traitors for theirs so why not?  We could use a few journalists that really know about the war and there are women doctors over there as well. They get the entire Fox news outfit and we get some great Journalists and more doctors that believe in vaccines!!  How about that?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Thursday Reads

A woman wearing a turban while drinking a chocolate shake and reading the newspaper

Good Morning!!

The news that bleeds this morning is the shooting at Fort Hood.

So here’s the most recent article on that from the Boston Globe: Fort Hood gunman sought mental health treatment.

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — An Iraq War veteran being treated for mental illness was the gunman who opened fire at Fort Hood, killing three people and wounding 16 others before committing suicide, in an attack on the same Texas military base where more than a dozen people were slain in 2009, authorities said.

Within hours of the Wednesday attack, investigators started looking into whether the man’s combat experience had caused lingering psychological trauma. Fort Hood’s senior officer, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said the gunman had sought help for depression, anxiety and other problems.

How is that even a question? I’ve written for years that we’ll pay a terrible price for these pointless wars and the way the men and women sent to fight in them. Massive numbers of Vietnam vets suffered from PTSD, Agent Orange exposure, drug addiction, and unemployment; and those guys mostly just went for one two-year deployment. But we didn’t have a draft when Bush decided he just had to act out his daddy issues and go back into Iraq and kill Saddam Hussein like his father failed to do. Talk about psychological problems!

The volunteer army wasn’t big enough for that, and they redeployed men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan again and again even when they were obviously had head injuries or PTSD. Now we’re all going to keep paying the price for Bush and Cheney’s folly, and the way they treated human beings like cannon fodder.

Back to the Globe article on the latest shooting:

The shooter was identified as Ivan Lopez by Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. But the congressman offered no other details, and the military declined to identify the gunman until his family members had been notified.

Lopez apparently walked into a building Wednesday afternoon and began firing a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He then got into a vehicle and continued firing before entering another building, but he was eventually confronted by military police in a parking lot, according to Milley, senior officer on the base.

As he came within 20 feet of an officer, the gunman put his hands up but then reached under his jacket and pulled out his gun. The officer drew her own weapon, and the suspect put his gun to his head and pulled the trigger a final time, Milley said.

The gunman, who served in Iraq for four months in 2011, had been undergoing an assessment before the attack to determine if he had post-traumatic stress disorder, Milley said.

He arrived at Fort Hood in February from another base in Texas. He was taking medication, and there were reports that he had complained after returning from Iraq about suffering a traumatic brain injury, Milley said. The commander did not elaborate.

One more from the Washington Post: Pentagon grapples to understand how yet another insider threat went undeterred.

Wednesday’s mass shooting by an Army specialist in Fort Hood, Tex., put the Pentagon on a dreaded, if increasingly familiar, footing as officials grappled to understand how yet another insider threat went undeterred.

It unfolded just two weeks after the Defense Department unveiled the findings of threeinvestigations into last year’s fatal shooting at a Navy Yard building in Washington, D.C., by a contractor and four years after a similarly extensive inquiry into a massacre at Fort Hood by an Army psychiatrist led to vows of sweeping reforms.

“We do not yet know how or why this tragedy occurred, but nearly five years after the Nidal Hasan shooting at Fort Hood in 2009, it is clear that we must do far more to ensure that our troops are safe when they are at home on base,” Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.), a former Army lawyer who was based at Fort Hood, said in a statement. “We must thoroughly investigate what happened today so that we can take whatever action is necessary to prevent something like this from ever occurring again.”

Yeah right. Keep on telling yourself that. To use an old military expression, “Situation Normal, All Fu*cked Up” (SNAFU).

Now let’s move on to the latest outrage from our right-wing, “religious” Supreme Court.

scotus blank check

From Adam Liptak at the NYT: Supreme Court Strikes Down Overall Political Donation Cap

The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its abolition of limits on election spending, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle….

The 5-to-4 decision, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority, echoed Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.

Wednesday’s decision seemed to alter campaign finance law in subtle but important ways, notably by limiting how the government can justify laws said to restrict the exercise of First Amendment rights in the form of campaign contributions.

Follow me below the fold . . . Read the rest of this entry »

Thursday Reads

Jospeh H Davis (American artist, 1811-1865) Charles & Comfort Caverly & Son Isaac 1836 Cat, Top Hat, Newspaper,  Painted Table, Patterned Carpet

Good Morning!!

The Villagers are still nattering on about excepts from retired defense secretary Robert Gates’ new memoir Duty, which will be released on January 14.

The DC media is focused on Gates’ criticisms of President Obama and how they will embarrass the administration and negatively affect Hillary Clinton’s chances in 2016. What has impressed me so far in the excepts I have read is that Obama was wary of the military and willing to stand up to them. Some examples from an e-mail I received from Foreign Policy Magazine yesterday:

Gates on what Biden did to poison the military well: “I thought Biden was subjecting Obama to Chinese water torture, every day saying, ‘the military can’t be trusted.'”

On Obama’s approach to Afghanistan: “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission.”

On Obama’s approach to Afghanistan: “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.”

On Obama and Bush: “During my tenure as secretary, Bush was willing to disagree with his senior military advisers on the wars, including the important divergence between the chiefs’ concern to reduce stress on the force and the presidents’ higher priority of success in Iraq. However, Bush never (at least to my knowledge) questioned their motives or mistrusted them personally. Obama was respectful of senior officers and always heard them out, but he often disagreed with them and was deeply suspicious of their actions and recommendations. Bush seemed to enjoy the company of the senior military; I think Obama considered time spent with generals and admirals an obligation.”

On Obama as an ice man: “I worked for Obama longer than Bush and I never saw his eyes well up. The only military matter, apart from leaks, about which I ever sensed deep passion on his part was ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the law prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military that Obama successfully pushed to repeal.”

On an oval office meeting that deeply pissed him off: “…Donilon was especially aggressive in questioning our commitment to speed and complaining about how long we were taking. Then he went too far, questioning in front of the president and a room full of people whether Gen. Fraser was competent to lead this effort. I’ve rarely been angrier in the Oval Office than I was at that moment; nor was I ever closer to walking out of that historic room in the middle of a meeting. My initial instinct was to storm out, telling the president on the way that he didn’t need two secretaries of defense. It took every bit of my self discipline to stay seated on the sofa.

Every one of those quotes made me like and respect Obama and Biden more. I’m sure I’m not alone in that reaction.

A couple more “criticisms” quoted in The Atlantic: Robert Gates: The Iraq War Undermined U.S. Efforts in Afghanistan.

President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan—especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty—were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan—a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government—were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009.

Who doesn’t agree with that? Well, sure some right wing nut jobs, but the majority of Americans have completely soured on the Iraq war, according to many polls over the past few years.

Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of. Those who ask about exit strategies or question what will happen if assumptions prove wrong are rarely welcome at the conference table when the fire-breathers are demanding that we strike—as they did when advocating invading Iraq, intervening in Libya and Syria, or bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. But in recent decades, presidents confronted with tough problems abroad have too often been too quick to reach for a gun. Our foreign and national security policy has become too militarized, the use of force too easy for presidents. Today, too many ideologues call for U.S. force as the first option rather than a last resort.

So Obama’s approach might have kept us out of Iraq, right? I don’t see that as a problem. I want my president to be wary of the military and hesitant to go to war. I want my president to get teary-eyed over granting rights to people who have been historically discriminated against and stay dry-eyed and rational when contemplating “military matters.”


So let Gates have his day in the sun. Today some in the media are already questioning whether his book may damage his reputation. From Foreign Policy again: Did Bob Gates’ New Book Just Trash His Golden Reputation?

Gates, 70, has unmasked himself as just another former Washington official writing just another kiss-and-tell in the soon-to-be-released Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, in which he takes shots at a sitting commander-in-chief, his top aides and Congress, an institution with which he often expressed frustration – but also respect. Gates was known for being discreet and sharp-minded, loyal to the office he occupied and careful about what he said in public. So deliberate were his public pronouncements about wars or national security policy or budgets that he became the E.F. Hutton of the Pentagon — everyone leaned in every time he had something to say.

But now his brand seems diminished by the scrappy, petty nature of many of his criticisms — even though some are substantive and legitimate — and a legacy he seemed quietly determined to protect may be permanently reduced to something less than what it once was.

We’ll have to wait and see. It’s also possible that the furor over Gates’ memoir will fade quickly, because another book is coming out on January 21, and it looks to be a lot more entertaining–the tell-all book about Fox News’ Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room, by Gabriel Sherman. Excerpts started leaking out yesterday and they are wild! Check these “key revelations” from Gawker:

  • During a salary negotiation in the 1980’s, Ailes offered producer Randi Harrison an additional $100 each week she would agree to have sex with him whenever he wanted.
  • He also privately thinks of Bill O’Reilly as “a book salesman with a TV show” and Brian Kilmeade as “a soccer coach from Long Island.”
  • During a 1990’s power struggle with NBC executive David Zaslav, Ailes was accused of making an anti-Semitic remark involving an obscenity and “the words ‘little’ and ‘Jew’.” NBC’s chairman and counsel believe “he probably said it.”

Roger Ailes

New York Magazine has published a lengthy except from Sherman’s book and it is the most fascinating and horrifying thing I’ve read in ages. Ailes is far weirder than I ever imagined. The article opens with a description of how Ailes moved into a rural town in upstate New York, hoping to return to his small-town roots, but instead bought the local newspaper and tried to transform it into a mini-Fox News. It’s a riot! Just a small except to whet your appetite for the bizarre:

As summer turned to fall, political issues began to arise. Alison Rooney, the copy editor, at first found reasons to be optimistic about the ownership change. She liked using the new computers to put out the paper and looked forward to the newsroom moving into a renovated two-story building on Main Street. But that honeymoon ended when Rooney laid out a press release from the Garrison Art Center that described a work invoking the “mythological story” of the Virgin Birth. After the release was published, the priest of Our Lady of Loretto wrote a letter to the editor, and Beth Ailes lit into Rooney. A few weeks later, Rooney got another dressing-down as she formatted a promotion of the high school’s upcoming production of Urinetown, this time from an editor who found the language offensive and removed the title of the show from the headline.

Another drama erupted after a reporter named Michael Turton was assigned to cover Haldane Middle School’s mock presidential election. After the event, Turton filed a report headlined “Mock Election Generated Excitement at Haldane; Obama Defeats McCain by 2–1 Margin.” He went on, “The 2008 U.S. presidential election is now history. And when the votes were tallied, Barack Obama had defeated John McCain by more than a two to one margin. The final vote count was 128 to 53.” Reading the published version a few days later, Turton was shocked. The headline had been changed: “Mock Presidential Election Held at Haldane; Middle School Students Vote to Learn Civic Responsibility.” So had the opening paragraph: “Haldane students in grades 6 through 8 were entitled to vote for president and they did so with great enthusiasm.” Obama’s margin of victory was struck from the article. His win was buried in the last paragraph.

Turton was upset, and wrote a questioning e-mail to Hunt, but never heard back. Instead, he received a series of accusatory e-mails from the Aileses. Turton had disregarded “specific instructions” for the piece, Beth wrote. “Do you anticipate this becoming an ongoing problem for you?” A short while later, Roger weighed in. Maureen Hunt’s instructions to focus on the school’s process for teaching about elections had been “very clear,” he wrote, and Turton’s “desire to change the story into a big Obama win” should have taken a backseat. Ailes described himself as “disappointed” by Turton’s failure “to follow the agreed upon direction.”

Soon afterward, Turton learned that Maureen Hunt had resigned, and Ailes continued his quest to bring “fair and balanced” to Philipstown.

John and Bonnie Raines, two of the burglars, at home in Philadelphia with their grandchildren. Mark Makela for The New York Times

John and Bonnie Raines, two of the burglars, at home in Philadelphia with their grandchildren. Mark Makela for The New York Times

Since I’ve been discussing new books so far, I guess I might as well continue. On Tuesday, The New York Times published interviews with some of the activists who broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania on March 8, 1971 and stole a massive number of files. They took the files to a remote location, studied them for ten days, and found evidence of the illegal FBI domestic spying program COINTELPRO. Unlike Edward Snowden, the burglars swore to keep their identities a secret so that the story itself would get all the public attention. From the Times article:

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups….

The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J. Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

“When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,” said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. “There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.”

That’s heroism in my book. They revealed real government abuses that had been almost unknown until they found the proof. Now one of the reporters who helped get the story out, Betty Medsger, has written a book called The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI. It came out this week, and I’m dying to read it.

By contrast Snowden and his PR man Glenn Greenwald have so far revealed very little that we didn’t already know or suspect about NSA domestic spying and have spent most of the seven months since they began rolling out their revelations 1) publishing articles about the NSA spying on foreign countries and their partnerships with foreign countries who have few espionage resources; 2) giving self-aggrandizing interviews and bragging about all the secrets they have; 3) Defending Snowden’s decision to defect to Russia. At the same time Greenwald has sold book and movie rights and worked on a media start up funded by libertarian E-bay and Paypal billionaire Pierre Omidyar. I haven’t heard anything about Greenwald sharing his earnings with Edward Snowden either.

Fortunately some in the media are beginning to point out inconsistencies in Snowden’s and Greenwald’s behavior. Here is an op-ed by Doyle McManus that lays out the case very well. Edward Snowden, in shades of gray I agree with just about everything he wrote.

Is Edward Snowden” Edward Snowden a whistle-blower or a traitor?

Debate over the renegade computer technician who leaked thousands of secret National Security Agency documents is too often reduced to that deceptively simple choice.

But it’s the wrong way to pose the question, because Snowden is both of those things at the same time. Yes, he’s a whistle-blower, and if that were all he had done, he would deserve our thanks for forcing a debate over the NSA’s swollen powers.

But he’s also a scoundrel who deserves prosecution and public condemnation. That’s because his leaks no longer seem focused on protecting U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights or toughening safeguards on the NSA. Instead, Snowden’s disclosures have expanded far beyond those laudable aims to exposing U.S. intelligence-gathering operations that appear not only legal but legitimate in the eyes of most Americans.

McManus is referring to revelations about the NSA doing it’s job, which is gathering foreign intelligence to protect national security. A little more:

“…most of those disclosures, from Merkel to Al Qaeda, have nothing to do with Americans’ right to privacy. Snowden has acknowledged that his ambitions go far beyond limiting what the NSA can do at home. “I have acted at great personal risk to help the public of the world, regardless of whether that public is American, European or Asian,” he told the Guardian in June.

Well, OK. But that makes him, by his own description, a global crusader against NSA spying anywhere, not merely a whistle-blower against potential abuses inside the United States. It means some of his disclosures have made Americans safer against government prying, but others have probably made us less safe.

And for a man who proclaims himself a fighter for universal rights, accepting asylum in Russia and praising his hosts for their devotion to freedom does not strengthen his claim to consistency, let alone nobility.

I’ll end there and turn the floor over to you. What stories are you following today. Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a great Thursday!

Sunday Reads: Potpourri

194Good Morning

Today’s post is bringing you a mixture of different links, a potpourri if you will…

But before we get to the bowl of fragrant, colorful, natural, synthetic, faded, smelly, moldy, dried, limp, withered reads, let us touch on something that I find hilariously ironic.

Look at this headline:

5 People Shot At 3 Different Gun Shows On Gun Appreciation Day

I don’t think there is anything else to say about that. Except maybe add this nugget of news from TPM:

Yep, Big Liars

It seems that the Obama kids are not protected by armed guards at the Sidwell Friends School.

I would not go so far as to say that the NRA are big liars, cough, but you decide.

Another headline for you:

Obama’s Plan May Put More Guns in Schools

Personally, I think that there should be mandatory full-time armed police person inside schools…and that they should be paid from a tax on ammunition. But I feel strongly, and passionately, that these armed individuals should not be volunteers, teachers, janitors and/or any vigilante obsessed gun-toting “concerned” citizens.

Okay then, moving right along, the links today are going to be in link dump fashion, since my head is killing me and this computer screen is burning my eyes.

The first couple of links I have for you are chilling and extremely disturbing. Be sure to read them in full.

Is PTSD Contagious? It’s rampant among returning vets—and now their spouses and kids are starting to show the same symptoms. Mac McClelland | Mother Jones

After reading Mac’s article, I think it is fair to say…yes, PTSD is contagious.

Coupled with these infographics that tell a sad story: Charts: Suicide, PTSD and the Psychological Toll on America’s Vets | Mother Jones

Another post that is related to traumatic experiences: Can Eye Movements Treat Trauma?: Scientific American

Studies are showing that moving your eyes back and forth like a ping-pong ball can help deal with PTSD. The technique is called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

This next article discusses Afghanistan: The 13-Year War- As we draw closer to the withdrawal in Afghanistan promised at the close of 2014, a look back at America’s longest war.

Emptywheel takes a look at the connection between Adam Swartz and the government’s investigation into Wikileaks. The Fishing Expedition into WikiLeaks

Here is an update on the ongoing hunt for pythons in Florida’s Everglades: Florida’s python update: 21 caught so far in Everglades hunt

And another update on the story we’ve followed about those possible Spitfires in Burma: No ‘lost Spitfires’ buried in Burma-Dig near Rangoon International Airport proves fruitless but Lincolnshire farmer insists search will continue elsewhere in the country

Want to see a list of Representatives who did not vote for Sandy aid? MAP: In These 22 States, Every House Republican Voted Against Sandy Aid

Take a look at this photo, it is still a messy situation.

Almost three months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, the GOP-controlled House approved a bill that provides $50.7 billion in disaster relief for the storm’s victims. While passage of the bill is being hailed as a bipartisan success by some (the vote was 241-180), a closer look at how the parties voted by state lines indicates otherwise. GOPers overwhelmingly voted against funding—unless, of course, their state was hard hit.

In 22 states, every last Republican representative voted against HR 152 or abstained on the bill, which includes $17 billion for immediate repair and an amendment introduced by a Republican, New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, that tacks on another $33.7 billion for long-term recovery and prevention. These included Maryland and the Carolinas (remember Hugo and Floyd?), states that are vulnerable to seasonal hurricanes but were largely spared by Sandy.

And…in the plastic yuk department: Plastics Suck Up Other Toxins: Double Whammy for Marine Life, Gross for Seafood

Combine that with the yuk from Coke’s sugary drinks: Coke: Wait, People Thought Vitaminwater Was Good for You?

Makes you think, what the hell are we doing to ourselves?

If it doesn’t make you question our self-destructive actions, this next link will…Labiaplasty: An investigation of the most popular trend in the field of ‘vaginal rejuvenation’ surgery.

Kirsten O’Regan: Labiaplasty, Part I – Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics

Kirsten O’Regan: Labiaplasty, Part II – Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics

You may need some eye bleach and a break from reading after that article. Ooof!

Why would any woman do that to herself? I mean, that is just fucked-up.

Couldn’t they just “think” about it and get the same benefit, if you could call it that. Check this out: AsapSCIENCE Demonstrates The Power Of Imagination- Thinking About Doing Something Is Pretty Much The Same As Doing It [Video] | Geekosystem

Ready for a strange and uncomfortable fact to start your Friday morning? Sure you are, and here it is, courtesy of the fine cartoonists and deep thinkers over at AsapSCIENCE: when you think deeply about a thing — seeing the letter ‘B,’ for example, or fixing a sandwich — the same parts of your brain involved in performing that action light up. Some studies even suggest that you can improve your piano skills just by thinking diligently about playing while not actually touching a piano. Check out AsapSCIENCE’s latest video below and learn more about how your brain is just weird sometimes.

Well, I guess all of us procrastinators will appreciate that video. (I won’t even begin to try and fix the f’d up grammar in that sentence.)

I’ve got another video for you:   The deer that thinks it’s a sheep | Earth | EarthSky

Photo courtesy the National Trust, UK

You will love this video. The deer attached himself to the sheep in early December 2012. He shows no sign of leaving.

Have you all seen this bit of twisted news in the world of ballet?

Bolshoi artistic director Sergei Filin ‘blinded’ by acid attack that left him with chemical burns- The former ballet star had acid thrown in his face by a man – it is thought the attack is linked to his position

Bolshoi ballet director Sergei Filin severely injured in acid attack -Doctors fighting to save eyesight of former dancer after assailant threw acid in his face outside central Moscow home

Wow, this post is getting long, and I am very late in getting it posted. Quickly…here are the rest of the links I have saved to share with you today.

Today it is the 100th birthday of Danny Kaye. From – Happy 100th, Danny!

Also from Movie Morlocks, some wonderful photography:  William Edward Cronenweth: A Legacy in Photos

More science links:

Scientists shed light on the ‘dark matter’ of DNA

Innovative approach results in improved writing skills at primary school

And finally, a travel piece: Swept away by a Sicilian symphony

Have a great day…and enjoy those links!

Mitt Romney: “It is without question the largest one-time careless expenditure of government money in American history” Really?

Mitt Romney mocks the people of New Hampshire for preserving historic landmarks

The title of this post is a quote from Mitt Romney’s speech this afternoon in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. Politico reports:

Mitt Romney used a 19th-century stone bridge here today to anchor his attacks against President Barack Obama, calling the 2009 economic stimulus the “largest one-time careless expenditure of government money in America’s history.”

“This is the absolute bridge to nowhere if there ever was one,” Romney told supporters as he motioned to the stone bridge behind him. “That’s your stimulus dollars at work — a bridge that goes nowhere. And so I hope that the president comes here, and takes a look at some of the stimulus program, there’s a long list by the way.”

Wow, the government must have really spent a lot of money for Romney to be this bent out of shape. Let’s see, how much stimulus money went into the bridge?

More than $150,000 from the federal stimulus bill was awarded to restore this one — which doesn’t cross a body of water and hasn’t had vehicle traffic in more than a century. Local officials say they want to turn the stone arch and its surrounding areas into a public park.

“It is without question the largest one-time careless expenditure of government money in American history, and the bad news is it was not just wasteful spending,” Romney continued. “It is wasteful borrowing as well because we still are going to be paying on that debt for years and years and years.”

Wait a minute! That has to be a misprint, right? Why just today Mitt and Ann Romney donated $150,000 to his presidential campaign. He must have meant $150 million went to the bridge. But no, the entire cost of the restoration was about $288,000, with the state providing the start-up funds.

What is Romney getting at here? Does he want to stop preserving historical sites and monuments? Is it really wrong for small towns like Hillsboro that are dependent mostly on tourism to want to preserve their historic sites and at the same time build lovely parks to attract visitors who might also spend their money in town? At the same time, the project provided much-needed jobs for New Hampshirites struggling to survive in a difficult economy.

The bridge that Romney complained about is named Sawyer Bridge, and it is one of the few remaining stone arch bridges in New England. The town of Hillsborough is home to four of them. From Huffington Post:

Romney’s attack on the $288,000 bridge restoration will run into several immediate challenges: Funding for the project was overwhelmingly supported by state Republicans, including a significant number who have now endorsed Romney for president. The infrastructure project created much-needed jobs during tough economic times. And it left behind a public park enjoyed by Granite State residents who take great pride in their early-American and colonial history — and who will be casting critical, swing-state votes in November. It’s a curious breed of conservatism that would find offense in the job-creating conservation of a stone arch bridge that is one of the earliest examples of dry-laid masonry vaults in New England.

I have to wonder, is Romney opposed to any federal support to preserve historic sites? What about the National Parks? Would Romney sell off that land if he were president? Would he open them to oil drilling and other kinds of industrial development?

Think about it. For Romney expenditure of $150,000 in federal stimulus funds represents “the largest one-time careless expenditure of government money in American history.” Really? I can think of some worse, more careless expenditures of government money. What about the Vietnam War? What about the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Bush financed with borrowed money that was kept off-budget?

Just to get a sense of the financial cost of those wars, I located this paper by Stephen Daggett of the Congressional Research Service (PDF) that lists the costs of America’s wars in $2011 dollars. According to Daggett in 2011,

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress has appropriated more than a trillion dollars for military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere around the world. The House
and Senate are now considering an additional request for $33 billion in supplemental funding for
the remainder of FY2010, and the Administration has also requested $159 billion to cover costs of
overseas operations in FY2011.

That’s more than the cost war in Vietnam, which in 2011 dollars was $738 billion. At that time the war in Iraq had cost $784 billion and the war in Afghanistan had cost $321 billion. And Romney is whining about New Hampshire getting $150 THOUSAND to restore a historic bridge while creating jobs and increasing income from tourism?

There is something seriously wrong with the way this man’s mind works.