Lazy Caturday Reads

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Good Morning!!

We’ve reached the end of another week in the post-Trump era, and we continue to deal with crises that developed and worsened during the monster’s regime. It’s clear that it will take a long time to recover–if recovery is even possible. On the plus side, it’s great to have a normal president again–a person with empathy and compassion–and a caring, engaged first lady, and White House pets!

Biden’s Covid relief package appears to be on track for passage, despite the efforts of Republicans in Congress. The New York Times: Republicans Struggle to Derail Increasingly Popular Stimulus Package.

Republicans are struggling to persuade voters to oppose President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan, which enjoys strong, bipartisan support nationwide even as it is moving through Congress with just Democratic backing.

Democrats who control the House are preparing to approve the package by the end of next week, with the Senate aiming to soon follow with its own party-line vote before unemployment benefits are set to lapse in mid-March. On Friday, the House Budget Committee unveiled the nearly 600-page text for the proposal, which includes billions of dollars for unemployment benefits, small businesses and stimulus checks.

Republican leaders, searching for a way to derail the proposal, on Friday led a final attempt to tarnish the package, labeling it a “payoff to progressives.” The bill, they said, spends too much and includes a liberal wish list of programs like aid to state and local governments — which they call a “blue state bailout,” though many states facing shortfalls are controlled by Republicans — and increased benefits for the unemployed, which they argued would discourage people from looking for work.

f41e011b0d7776d62868846f4192e37dOut in the real world, even Republican voters support the relief bill.

More than 7 in 10 Americans now back Mr. Biden’s aid package, according to new polling from the online research firm SurveyMonkey for The New York Times. That includes support from three-quarters of independent voters, 2 in 5 Republicans and nearly all Democrats. The overall support for the bill is even larger than the substantial majority of voters who said in January that they favored an end-of-year economic aid bill signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

While Mr. Biden has encouraged Republican lawmakers to get on board with his package, Democrats are moving their bill through Congress using a parliamentary process that will allow them to pass it with only Democratic votes.

“Critics say my plan is too big, that it cost $1.9 trillion dollars; that’s too much,” Mr. Biden said at an event on Friday. “Let me ask them, what would they have me cut?”

House Republican leaders on Friday urged their rank-and-file members to vote against the plan, billing it as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California’s “Payoff to Progressives Act.” They detailed more than a dozen objections to the bill, including “a third round of stimulus checks costing more than $422 billion, which will include households that have experienced little or no financial loss during the pandemic.” Ms. Pelosi’s office issued its own rebuttal soon after, declaring “Americans need help. House Republicans don’t care.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is moving forward with it’s investigation of Trump’s finances. Reuters: Exclusive: New York City tax agency subpoenaed in Trump criminal probe.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has subpoenaed a New York City property tax agency as part of a criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s company, the agency confirmed on Friday, suggesting prosecutors are examining the former president’s efforts to reduce his commercial real-estate taxes for possible evidence of fraud.

The subpoena issued to the New York City Tax Commission is the latest indication that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is looking at the values Trump assigned to some commercial properties in tax filings and loan documents.

photo-of-snow-catAlong with information already subpoenaed from creditors, the tax agency documents would help investigators determine whether Trump’s business inflated the value of his properties to secure favorable terms on loans while deflating those values to lower tax bills for those same properties….

The subpoena likely would compel the agency to provide detailed income and expense statements the Trump Organization would have filed as part of an effort to lower tax assessments on some of its commercial properties, according to people familiar with the commission’s operations. Trump’s holdings include Trump Tower and Trump Plaza.

Those filings typically would include valuations submitted by the company to challenge the market values assigned to Trump’s property by the city’s tax assessors, they added.

Subpoenas also have been issued to at least two creditors that helped finance Trump’s real-estate holdings, Deutsche Bank AG and Ladder Capital Finance LLC, Reuters has previously reported.

The Federal investigation into the January 6 insurrection is continuing to heat up. 

The Washington Post: U.S. investigating possible ties between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol rioters.

The Justice Department and FBI are investigating whether high-profile right-wing figures — including Roger Stone and Alex Jones — may have played a role in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach as part of a broader look into the mind-set of those who committed violence and their apparent paths to radicalization, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The investigation into potential ties between key figures in the riot and those who promoted former president Donald Trump’s false assertions that the election was stolen from him does not mean those who may have influenced rioters will face criminal charges, particularly given U.S. case law surrounding incitement and free speech, the people said. Officials at this stage said they are principally seeking to understand what the rioters were thinking — and who may have influenced beliefs — which could be critical to showing their intentions at trial.

769e257ae7490ca39b79e8e4d1bbe242However, investigators also want to determine whether anyone who influenced them bears enough responsibility to justify potential criminal charges, such as conspiracy or aiding the effort, the officials said. That prospect is still distant and uncertain, they emphasized.

Nevertheless, while Trump’s impeachment trial focused on the degree of his culpability for the violence, this facet of the case shows investigators’ ongoing interest in other individuals who never set foot in the Capitol but may have played an outsized role in what happened there through their influence, networks or action.

“We are investigating potential ties between those physically involved in the attack on the Capitol and individuals who may have influenced them, such as Roger Stone, Alex Jones and [Stop the Steal organizer] Ali Alexander,” said a U.S. official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a pending matter.

The Washington Post: U.S. Alleges Wider Oath Keepers Conspiracy, Adds More Defendants in Jan. 6 Capitol Riot.

U.S. authorities on Friday alleged a broader conspiracy by Oath Keepers to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, charging six new individuals who appeared to be members or associates of the right-wing group.

One self-described leader in the group, which recruits among military and law enforcement, sent a Facebook message claiming at least 50 to 100 Oath Keepers planned to travel to D.C. with him on Jan. 6 and that they would “make it wild,” echoing a comment President Donald Trump made on Twitter rallying supporters to the Capitol.

A 21-page indictment alleged that the defendants “did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and others known and unknown” to force entry to the Capitol and obstruct Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden as president in riots that led to five deaths and assaults on 139 police.

The nine-person indictment named three already charged military veterans — Jessica Marie Watkins, 38, and Donovan Ray Crowl, 50, both of Woodstock, Ohio; and Thomas E. Caldwell, 66, of Berryville, Va. The six new defendants include siblings Graydon Young, 54, of Englewood, Fla., and Laura Steele, of Thomasville, N.C. It also includes married couples Kelly and Connie Meggs, 52 and 59, of Dunnellon, Fla.; and Bennie and Sandra Parker, 70 and 60, of the Cincinnati area.

More details at the WaPo link.

74b47b2bb2069367067776f258164a25Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: The Capitol Rioters Are Starting To Face Much More Serious Charges For The Insurrection.

Bruno Cua, an 18-year-old from Milton, Georgia, was already facing serious charges when he was arrested on Feb. 6 in connection with the insurrection at the US Capitol a month earlier. He was accused not only of illegally entering the Capitol but also of assaulting police and of obstructing Congress’s efforts to certify the presidential election, which are felony crimes.

But it only got worse for Cua when a federal grand jury in Washington, DC, returned an indictment four days later. On top of the original set of charges, the grand jury bumped up misdemeanor counts he’d faced for entering the Capitol to felonies, citing evidence that he’d carried a “deadly and dangerous weapon” — in his case, a baton. The addition of a “weapons enhancement” meant the maximum sentence he faced for those counts jumped tenfold, from one year in prison to 10.

Cua is one of a growing number of defendants charged in the insurrection seeing their felony counts — and potential prison time — stack up as the investigation presses on. Other defendants only charged with misdemeanors when they were arrested are now facing felonies post-indictment. Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin in Washington had told reporters one week after the assault on the Capitol that the early rounds of arrests on misdemeanor charges were “only the beginning,” and promised more “significant charges” once prosecutors took these cases before a grand jury. New court documents in cases such as Cua’s show how that’s taking shape.

Of the more than 230 people charged to date, at least 70 are now facing a minimum of one felony count — the most common is obstruction of Congress, which has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. More than 30 are charged with assaulting or interfering with law enforcement officers, and at least 14 are charged with carrying or using a weapon that day. Weapons identified in the government’s court filings so far have included knives, Tasers, a hockey stick, a large metal pipe, baseball bats, fire extinguishers, and batons.

Now that Trump is gone, the Feds are admitting how dangerous right-wing extremism is.

Yahoo News: Feds now say right-wing extremists responsible for majority of deadly terrorist attacks last year.

The U.S. government is acknowledging for the first time that right-wing extremists were responsible for the majority of fatal domestic terrorist attacks last year, according to an internal report circulated by the Department of Homeland Security last week and obtained by Yahoo News.

cat-snowmanA review of last year’s domestic terrorist incidents by a DHS fusion center — which shares threat-related information between federal, state and local partners — found that although civil unrest and antigovernment violence were associated with “non-affiliated, right-wing and left-wing actors, right-wing [domestic violent extremists] were responsible for the majority of fatal attacks in the Homeland in 2020.”

The report, produced by the Joint Regional Intelligence Center, a DHS-funded fusion center, was sent out to police and law enforcement agencies nationwide as part of an intelligence-sharing system created after the 9/11 attacks.

While independent think tanks and outside groups have been pointing to the rise in ring-wing violence for some time, this appears to be the first known instance of an official government or law enforcement agency clearly acknowledging the trend, though senior officials have noted the rise in white supremacist attacks. The report also comes not long after the end of the Trump administration, which was criticized for downplaying right-wing violence.

So . . . lots happening this weekend. I’ll add more stories in the comment thread. What’s on your mind today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!

There seems to be a shooting or event at least monthly–if not weekly–that involves a right wing terrorist group.  There are so many of them recently images (50)that there has to be a series of causes leading to an uptick of violence. At what point do right wing media groups spreading lies and propaganda pass the point of freedom of speech to inciting violence and mayhem akin to shouting fire in in crowded theatre?

There were two terrorist attacks in America over the weekend, but don’t expect the mainstream media to call them that.

On Friday, 48-year-old Georgia resident Dennis Marx was scheduled to appear at the Forsyth County Courthouse in Cumming, Georgia, to face charges on 11 different felony counts.

Marx arrived at the courthouse on-time, but while in his truck, he threw “homemade spike strips” onto the road, and tried to run over a policeman.

After police opened fire on him, Marx began shooting at them from his truck, and proceeded to throw tear gas grenades, smoke grenades, and pepper spray grenades at them.

After a three minute long firefight, a SWAT team surrounded Marx, ultimately killing him.

Meanwhile, yesterday in Las Vegas, an armed couple screaming about “revolution”opened fire and killed two Las Vegas policemen inside of a local pizza joint.

After shooting and killing Officer Alyn Beck and Officer Igor Soldo, the couple took their weapons and covered their bodies with the Gadsden Flag, a yellow banner with contains a coiled snake around the words, “Don’t tread on me.”

The flag is named for Christopher Gadsden, the Revolutionary War general who designed it. It’s also a very popular symbol with the Tea Party movement.

After killing the police officers, the couple then fled to a local Walmart, where they killed an innocent bystander, before ultimately taking their own lives in an apparent murder-suicide.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, neighbors said the couple often spoke about mistrust for and killing of police officers, and “going underground” until the time was right.

Neighbors also told the Review-Journal that the husband claimed he had been kicked off the Bundy Ranch during the protests there last month.

And back in April, Frazier Glenn Miller, a well-known right-wing extremist and member of the KKK, shoot and killed 14-year-old boy and his grandfather at a Jewish Community Center near Kansas City.

Miller then drove to a Jewish retirement home, and killed another person.

As police arrested him, Miller screamed out “Heil Hitler.”

Frazier Glenn Miller, Dennis Marx and the Las Vegas shooters were right-wing extremists and domestic terrorists. It’s that simple.

Unfortunately, the media refuses to acknowledge right-wing extremism and domestic terrorism in our country, even though they pose a bigger threat to our national security than jihadists and Islamic extremists.

According to the New America Foundation, as of April of this year, 21 people had been killed in the United States in attacks motivated by Islamic extremism since 9/11.

Meanwhile, 34 people had been killed by right-wing extremist attacks during the same time period.

The fact is, right-wing extremism is on the rise, it’s dangerous, and it’s now a major terrorist force in America.

Right-wing extremist and militia groups aren’t the fringe groups they used to be – now Fox so-called News makes members of these groups like the ones who showed up at the Bundy Ranch into media stars and heroes.

But while the facts speak for themselves, the mainstream media (CNN, MSNBC, FOX, The New York Times etc…) refuses to acknowledge the truth.

pumpsThe more we find out about the husband and wife suicide pact team that murdered two police offers and a customer at Walmart, the more we can see the influence of right wing media. These folks were fans of conspiracies spun by the likes of Alex Jones.

Jerad Miller outlined his political views, which were largely based on conspiracy theories promoted by Fox News and Alex Jones, in his social media postings, and he posted frequently about firearms and violent revolution.

“We can hope for peace,” he posted June 2. “We must, however, prepare for war. We face an enemy that is not only well funded, but who believe they fight for freedom and justice. Those of us who know the truth and dare speak it, know that the enemy we face are indeed our brothers. Even though they share the same masters as we all do. They fail to recognize the chains that bind them. To stop this oppression, I fear, can only be accomplished with bloodshed.”

Jerad and Amanda Miller posted comments at InfoWars, Breitbart

A May 28, 2012, post on Jones’ InfoWars site appears to have been made by Jerad Miller, who expressed frustration with his arrest on drug charges and vowed he would rather die than be labeled a criminal.

“I am like a wild coyote,” he wrote, using the user name “Jerad” and a Gadsden flag as his avatar. “You corner me, I will fight to the death.”

He goes on to say he’s “broken hearted” to see other Americans placated by materialism and celebrity worship as they submitted to tyranny.

“So, do I kill cops and make a stand when they come to get me?” the post continues. “I would prefer to die than sit in their jail, when I have done nothing to hurt anyone.”

That post attracted an appreciative comment from another InfoWars user, Amanda, whose profile uses the same maiden name – Woodruff – as Amanda Miller, along with the same birth year and hometown as the shooting suspect.

“Jerad, baby, I love you with all my heart and I’ll stand behind you no matter what,” wrote Amanda, whose avatar appears to be Amanda Miller. “It’s true that its not fair that i can’t have a gun because you live with me. I know its not right that my rights get taken away from me because I live in the same home as you but I would love to see them try and enforce that. My love for you is deep and forever and f-ck what they have to say cause they have no right to do what they say is not right.”

The InfoWars user Amanda also claims the same job — head of the needlepoint department for Hobby Lobby — as Amanda Miller’s Facebook profile.

Yes, that’s the same Hobby Lobby whose extremist christian owners want to deny access to birth control to employees.  Perhaps the funniest and yet truly pathetic right wing meme started about these shootings today came from Alex Jones himself who stated that the shootings were a false flag operation by Harry Reid and the Democratic Party.

During his InfoWars.com radio show Monday, Jones accused the U.S. government of staging theLas Vegas shooting allegedly committed by Jeradand Amanda Miller that left two police officers and one civilian dead over the weekend in an attempt to smear conservatives before the midterm elections.

“There is so much proof of this being staged yesterday, when I first read about it, and this morning, that my mind exploded with hundreds of data points, and quite frankly it’s conclusive,” Jones said, before outlining why he believes this event is one in a long line of similar “false flag” operations perpetrated by the Democrats.

Jones cited the attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the chemical attacks in Syria and the “Fast & Furious” gun deal in Mexico as examples of other “false flag” operations committed by the U.S. If the government would stage those, he said they would “absolutely” use the Millers to kill two police officers in Las Vegas.

“Would they do this to get our guns and blame the tea party that’s sweeping in every runoff election and primary right now?” he asked. “I kept telling, they’re getting ready to false flag, and it happens right in Harry Reid’s district, right in his state, right in his city, with his police department.”

la-na-tt-shun-guns-20130312-001

As the rhetoric increases, so does the violence.

But what I am saying is this: there are some particular features of conservative political rhetoric today that help create an atmosphere in which violence and terrorism can germinate.

The most obvious component is the fetishization of firearms and the constant warnings that government will soon be coming to take your guns. But that’s only part of it. Just as meaningful is the conspiracy theorizing that became utterly mainstream once Barack Obama took office. If you tuned into one of many national television and radio programs on the right, you heard over and over that Obama was imposing a totalitarian state upon us. You might hear that FEMA was building secret concentration camps (Glenn Beck, the propagator of that theory, later recanted it, though he has a long history of violent rhetoric), or that Obama is seeding the government with agents of the Muslim Brotherhood. You grandfather probably got an email offering proof that Obama is literally the antichrist.

Meanwhile, conservatives have become prone to taking the political disagreements of the moment and couching them in apocalyptic terms, encouraging people to think that if Democrats have their way on any given debate, that our country, or at the very least our liberty, might literally be destroyed.

To take just one of an innumerable number of examples, when GOP Senator Ron Johnsonsays that the Affordable Care Act is “the greatest assault on freedom in our lifetime,” and hopes that the Supreme Court will intervene to preserve our “last shred of freedom,” is it at all surprising that some people might be tempted to take up arms? After all, if he’s right, and the ACA really means that freedom is being destroyed, then violent revolution seems justified. Johnson might respond by saying, “Well, of course I didn’t mean that literally.” And I’m sure he didn’t — Johnson may be no rocket scientist, but he knows that despite the individual mandate going into effect, there are a few shreds of freedom remaining in America.

But the argument that no sane person could actually believe many of the things conservatives say shouldn’t absolve them of responsibility. When you broadcast every day that the government of the world’s oldest democracy is a totalitarian beast bent on turning America into a prison of oppression and fear, when you glorify lawbreakers like Cliven Bundy, when you say that your opponents would literally destroy the country if they could, you can’t profess surprise when some people decide that violence is the only means of forestalling the disaster you have warned them about.

To my conservative friends tempted to find outrageous things liberals have said in order to argue that both sides are equally to blame, I’d respond this way: Find me all the examples of people who shot up a church after reading books by Rachel Maddow and Paul Krugman, and then you’ll have a case.

292650fullJust consider the number of death threats made to the Bergdahl family and their small home town since the right wing media has upped the volume on the deserter and traitor memes.

The father of Bowe Bergdahl, the Idaho soldier released from captivity in a controversial prisoner swap with the Taliban, has received emailed death threats that authorities are investigating, an Idaho police chief said on Saturday.

The first of the death threats sent to Bob Bergdahl at his home near Hailey, Idaho, was received on Wednesday, the same day the city canceled a planned rally celebrating the release of his son, Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said.

“There were four specific emails with death threats given to the FBI and they are looking into it,” Gunter told Reuters in an interview.

Authorities are providing security to Bob Bergdahl and his wife, Jani, but Gunter declined to elaborate on those measures.

Bergdahl’s release after being held for nearly five years in Afghanistan provoked an angry backlash in Congress among lawmakers over the Obama administration’s failure to notify them in advance. Some of Bergdahl’s former comrades have charged that he was captured in 2009 after deserting his post.

U.S. military leaders have said the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture are unclear, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging critics to wait for all the facts to be known before rushing to judgment on Bergdahl.

The threats came as Hailey, a tourist community of some 8,000 people in the mountains of central Idaho, was buffeted by hundreds of vitriolic phone calls and emails.

You just have to wonder how stupid people can be.  If there was an assault on right wing rights, the first to go would be any number of these media 9728_844290962067_8618897_51577728_4291738_noutlets.

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Reads: “Too Handsome” Hoax and Boston Bombing Conspiracy Theories

Omar Borkan Al Gala, fashion photographer, actor, and poet from Dubai

Omar Borkan Al Gala, fashion photographer, actor, and poet from Dubai

Good Morning!!

On April 24, I put up a lighthearted post about a story I’d seen on-line about three men from the UAE who were thrown out of a cultural festival in Saudi Arabia and deported for being “too handsome.” We are still getting hits on the post from all over the world, and it has been viewed thousands of times.

When I put the post up along with photos of Omar Borkan Al Gala, I had no idea if the story was actually true; I just thought it was silly and entertaining. I did quote from legitimate sources like Time Magazine though.

The post didn’t get much reaction at Sky Dancing that night, but on April 25, we had 6,700 page views from 4,672 unique visitors to Sky Dancing blog, and most of those folks were checking out the “too handsome” story and photos. We were linked at Gawker, The New York Daily News, Huffington Post UK, and hundreds of smaller sites. We got hits from countries I’d barely heard of before.

BTW, our beloved JJ works some kind of magic with Google that helps us stay at the top of searches, so that probably has contributed to our getting so much traffic from a silly post.

Anyway, last night I came across this interesting piece at at a site called “Islawmix: bringing clarity to Islamic law in the news.” The headline is “The Man Too Handsome for Saudi Arabia Who Wasn’t.”

Saudi Arabia often makes US (and international) headlines for its laws (legal mishaps?) regarding women, sex and religious minorities. Some of these stories undoubtedly belong there, but a surprising number gain traction thanks to a small amount of research and suspension of critical engagement. It seems that when it comes to Saudi Arabia (and sometimes her theocratic counterpart Iran, albeit less so),  the more bizarre the story may seem – in that way only the Saudi Arabia of our perception could normalize – the more believable it is.

News and blog media have a particular penchant for covering ridiculous, often inaccurate and even false fatwas (here’s our quick definition and a more nuanced discussion on it). And in August 2012, the internet went into a bit of an uproar over the alleged building of an all-female city to promote women’s participation in the workforce. Unfortunately, the dreams of the impending matriarchy were dashed when it was eventually revealed that the city was for both men and women, but created facilities specific for women to encourage their participation.

On the “too handsome” story, Islawix reports that

As it turns out, three men were not, in fact, deported from Saudi Arabia. Actually, no one was deported from Saudi Arabia and certainly not for being too handsome. And, actually, no one was even kicked out of the heritage and cultural festival except for a member of the religious police for protesting against the presence of a Gulf female singer. According to UK’s Al-Arab:

A member of the Saudi feared religious police, known as Mutawa, stormed the UAE pavilion at National Festival for Heritage and Culture, also known as Al Janadriyah, but was forced out by the Gulf Kingdom’s national guards.

The incident took place when the Mutawa member objected to the presence of the Emirati singer Aryam in her country’s pavilion.

It turns out that Al Gala actually was in attendance at the event, but he wasn’t kicked out or deported.

There was, indeed, an incident involving Al Gala (and apparently him alone): according to the head of the mutawaeen, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh (Arabic source), Al Gala had made his way into the family section of the event and was dancing inappropriately. Several complaints were made against him and he was taken aside by members of the national guard, questioned and that was it. He was not asked to leave the event, let alone the country. It turns out his uncomfortable dancing and not his uncomfortably good looks were the reason for some cause for concern and discomfort at the festival.

I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Al Gala hadn’t even been in Saudi Arabia that day. I just saw this as a lighthearted and funny story. I’m grateful to Islamix for sorting out the real facts, and I apologize for any contribution I made inaccurate reporting on Middle Eastern culture.

Although I don’t really think the reporting on the Saudi Arabia story was that big a deal, it does highlight a real problem with misinformation in the media generally.

As someone who has lived in Boston for nearly half a century, I was shocked and traumatized by the bombings that took place at the Boston Marathon on April 15. I think it’s understandable that as a Bostonian and as a psychologist with an interest in personality development, I’ve been curious about the alleged bombers and their motivations. Naturally, I have been following the story fairly closely since the beginning.

misinformation

I have been stunned by the amount of misinformation that has come not only from the media, but from the authorities involved in the investigation. It’s understandable that there is confusion in a chaotic story like this that involves horrible injuries and Hollywood-like shootouts in residential streets. I’ve lived here since 1967, and I’ve never seen anything like it. The misinformation coming from authorities and then printed unquestionably by the mainstream media contributes the the development of the kinds of bizarre conspiracy theories that appear in the wake of startling events.

For the past couple of days I’ve been on Twitter a lot, looking for information on the Tsarnaev brothers and their possible motives, as well as following updates on the investigation. I can’t begin to tell you the nutty stuff that is out there–claims that the FBI and/or CIA actually carried out the bombings and that the Tsarnaevs were framed; that the entire event was staged, with fake injuries and fake blood; that the shootouts were faked using “rubber bullets” or “dummy bullets”; that the bombings were carried out by Blackwater-type government mercenaries, and of course there were the inevitable Alex Jones blather about “false flag” attacks. I’ve had to block people who started following my tweets and trying to feed me this garbage.

wrong on Iraq

Here are some articles on the Boston conspiracy theories and their implications:

Newsday: Conspiracy theories about the Boston Marathon bombings, by Rekha Basu.

Basu points out–and I strongly agree–that conspiracy theories are often fed by misinformation coming not only from the media, but from the government. After all the lies from the Bush administration that led us into two endless wars followed by the Obama’s administration’s refusal to investigate or prosecute Bush administration crimes, it’s hardly surprising that Americans are more suspicious of their government than ever. Basu’s concusion:

The problem is, we’ve been fed just enough mistruths from both parties, especially on war matters, to be susceptible. The Bush administration went to war with Iraq insisting it had weapons of mass destruction, when it didn’t. The Obama administration claimed Osama bin Laden was killed after a gunfight with U.S. troops, when he never had a chance to put up resistance. Americans were lied to about Iran-Contra, the My Lai massacre, the CIA-engineered overthrows of left-leaning governments in Chile and Guatemala. Some of us who grew up in the anti-war 1960s now pride ourselves on questioning official answers.

PolicyMic: Boston Bombing Conspiracy Theories Aren’t Even Theories, Just Paranoia. This is a really thoughtful and helpful piece, IMO.

The wake of the Boston Marathon bombings brought with it an undertow of conspiracy theories ranging from the farfetched to the unbelievable. Two weeks ago, I never would have imagined being asked to explain, in casual social situations, what a “false flag” attack is. OnThe David Pakman Show, inspired in great part by curiosity about the response it would bring, we’ve been debunking many of these theories. In dissecting much of the material, in particular one short video released by Glenn Beck, I’ve been able to identify the fundamental misunderstanding that impedes productive conversation with conspiracy theorists. This is not an indication of my personal belief that any specific conspiracy theory is or is not true. This is not a denial, on my part, that governments don’t sometimes lie, distort, and distract, but merely an attempt to point out the fallacious nature of many conspiratorial arguments….

Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing, Beck developed and expanded on a theory about the young Saudi national who was injured in the explosion. Initially incorrectly assumed to be a suspect in the immediate aftermath on April 15, Beck believes he is actually an Al-Qaeda recruiter who the government is trying to sneak out of the country. The theory is much more involved, but the details are irrelevant to my discussion here.

After outlining his case, Beck repeated the fundamental misunderstanding that so many conspiracy theorists hold. “The burden of proof is on the federal government,” Beck said, “and so far they have not presented one shred of evidence that has refuted what the Blaze (Beck’s associated internet media outlet) has reported.”

This is the central issue and fundamental problem surrounding conspiracy theories and theorists. The burden of proof is not transferred to whoever is accused by the conspiracy theorist. The desire for the federal government to address whether the moon landing was faked, whether 9/11 was an “inside job,” or whether the Boston Marathon bombing was a “false flag operation” does not transfer the burden of proof to the federal government. The burden of proof is on he who proposes the theory.

Choose-to-Know-Stop-the-Misinformation-Profile-Picture-1

From Verdict, a legal analysis blog at Justia.com comes a piece by former Nixon lawyer and Watergate figure John Dean: Unfortunately, Conspiracy Theorists Are Now Busy Concocting Bizarre Explanations of The Boston Marathon Bombing.

Conspiracy-theory believers are now focusing on the Boston Marathon bombing, just as they did with the Sandy Hook killings of children and their teachers, by rejecting official information about the events. The increasing Internet prominence of people who reject “official” accounts of such events again raises questions: Who are these people? What are they doing? And why are they doing it?

Dean references a story in the Guardian that presents “a jaw-dropping list of the leading explanations being offered by conspiracy theorists for the Boston Marathon bombing,” and offers some background.

Conspiracy-theory thinking has had varying degrees of prominence throughout history.  Broadly defined a conspiracy theory is “a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event.”

A recent poll shows, for example, that “37% of voters believe global warming is a hoax, 51% do not. Republicans say global warming is a hoax by a 58-25 margin, Democrats disagree 11-77.”  And “51% of voters say a larger conspiracy was at work in the JFK assassination, just 25% say Oswald acted alone.” The poll noted that “28% of voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.”

You can read the rest at the link. I admit I have some issues with what Dean writes, because he suggests that to buy into any “conspiracy theory” is to abandon all critical thinking. And that definition is strange. I thought a conspiracy theory was the notion that more than one person was involved in planning or executing some event. Anyway, I would argue that the Warren Commission was based on a trumped up theory similar to the Bush administration’s propagation of it’s conspiracy theory about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It seems to me that one needs to apply “critical thinking” to both government activities and claims and to anti-government conspiracy theories. The problem IMO is that there are so many people out there who are just plain ignorant and/or stupid.

Anyway, I may have more on this in a future post. For now, here’s a link to a Salon article that Dakinikat posted awhile back on “the psychology of conspiratorial thinking” and another more recent article at Salon, originally published by Scientific American on “how conspiracists think.”

Now what’s on your mind today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and Have a terrific weekend!


Sunday Reads Late Morning Round-Up: Link Dump Brunch

Vintage Cigarette Card

Vintage Cigarette Card

Good Late Morning

I wanted to give Boston Boomer’s most excellent post from late last night some extra time this morning.  She has drawn some lines between points around the Tsarnaev family that puts the “spook” in spooky. If you have not read her post, go do it now!

We have come to the last Sunday in April, can you believe it? So…let’s get on with this morning’s reads.

Think of this as a Link Dump Brunch if you will…

This first link is a long read by one of my favorite writers and journalist, Kurt Eichenwald.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Is Not an Enemy Combatant, and Other Truths Republicans Don’t Want You to Understand | Vanity Fair

Take some time today to read that piece in full.

Next up, a review of the latest in that ricin case that just keeps on getting weirder…turns out, these dudes were Mensa wannabes. Mississippi Man Arrested in Sending of Letters Laced With Ricin

This is what the former suspect’s brother had to say… (that former suspect was Kevin Curtis…the Elvis impersonator.)

Mr. Curtis’s brother Jack said that neither he nor other relatives immediately dismissed the charges as false, given Mr. Curtis’s history of mental illness.

“We could understand, especially with the things that were tied to his initials,” he said. “I could see why somebody would think it was Kevin. But when they said President Obama, I thought, ‘Somebody messed up because he likes Obama.’ ”

So….they couldn’t rule out the possibility that Kevin did it, cause he was crazy? But when they found out that Obama was a target, they knew it couldn’t be Kevin…cause he likes Obama? That is some logical thinking if you ask me.

In Egypt, there is disturbing news about ancient archeological sites: Egyptians seize pyramid sites for use as cemeteries

Archaeologists fear for pyramid sites as illegal building gathers pace in wake of Arab spring

In Manshiet Dahshur, 25 miles south of Cairo, the villagers recently extended the boundaries of the cemetery. For Ahmed Rageb, a carpenter who buried his cousin in the annexe, it was a logical decision. “We want to bury the dead,” he said, strolling through the new cemetery after visiting his cousin’s tomb. “The old cemetery is full. And there is no other place to bury my family.”

There is just one problem. The new tombs are perilously close to some of Egypt’s oldest: the pyramids of Dahshur, less famous than their larger cousins at Giza, but just as venerable. This is protected land, and no one is supposed to build here – yet more than 1,000 illegal tombs have appeared in the desert since January.

Seems most of the people are not “burying” their dead…they are looking to do a little “illegal excavation.” Read more at the link.

This next link is regarding Obamacare and States refusing to go with expanding Medicaid. How it sticks it to those state’s poor people. Rejecting Medicaid Expansion Could Leave Poor Uninsured Even As Lawful Immigrants Get Aid

It seems that town in Georgia is not the only concentration of gun crazies in the US: Colorado town considers requiring AK-47s and AR-15s in every home

While we are on the subject of ignorant dumbasses…not that every gun crazed nut is an ignorant dumbass. Radio host Papantonio: Anti-intellectualism ‘has become almost epidemic in America’

“Chances are, if you are one of those corporate media-following bone heads who still believe that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, or Saddam Hussein blew up the Twin Towers, or Obama is a secret Muslim, or Obama wants to take your guns, or Obama has FEMA prison camps set up for Teabag Republicans, then search no further,” said Papantonio, who is also president of the National Trial Lawyer Association. “You truly are the undereducated, child-like, impressionable, irrational, dangerous cog in America’s political system that puts Democracy most at risk.”

In her book, Papantonio explained, Jacobs found that more than 40 percent of Americans under the age of 44 did not read a single book over the course of the previous year. And their concentration had deteriorated to the point that politicians needed to condense their messages into 8-second soundbytes to grab their attention, leading her to conclude that the country was now “ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism,” compounded by schools’ increased emphasis on passing standardized tests instead of comprehensive education on subjects like civics and humanities.

“If the Susan Jacobys are right and anti-intellectualism is a trend in America, then spoon-feeding our children with facts and figures designed merely to pass a standardized test will never prepare them to preserve democracy,” Papantonio said. “The truth is when we firmly grasp timeless themes that can be found in novels like The Grapes of Wrath,Elmer Gantry or 1984, we are on our way to better protecting democracy against the Mitch McConnels, the Rush Limbaughs, the Rand Pauls, Peter Kings, Louie Gohmerts, the Bill O’Reillys and Glenn Becks who infect the process of intelligent conservative rational thinking.”

Just yesterday, my dad wanted us to watch Idiocracy…and I couldn’t do it. I just could not see a movie making fun of what we… our society, has truly become.

Part of the theory of Idiocracy was that stupid people were the ones who kept having more kids, while those with higher IQ’s put off having kids till it was too late. So over time the population became dumber and dumber.

Alex Jones opens dating site for ‘Freedom Lovers’

There are those those who believe that there’s somebody out there for everybody. Including fans of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, whose specialized dating site for his listeners has gained some public attention little more than a month after opening.

As Uproxx reported on Friday, “Dating Freedom Lovers” offers fans of Jones’ InfoWars program the chance to connect with “people that share a passion for liberty and freedom.”

“I’m going to school to be a music teacher,” one user writes. “Hopefully I’ll start a private school someday to compete with the rotting public school system.”

Another hopeful romantic tells the site she is looking for a “TALL single male, with Celtic ancestry for life long [sic] relationship.”

“Unlike Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, which represent little more than vast snooping databases and NSA fronts, we are committed to preserving your privacy,” site administrators wrote in March 2013, adding that they “will never sell your information or divulge any of your details to any third party – government or corporation.”

Well, they have sites for Christian Mingles, Farmer’s only, Bootie Calls, Cougars, Plenty of Fish, you see what I mean…it was only a matter of time before they had something like, love…freedom fighter’s style.

Meanwhile: Today in Conservatism | Mother Jones

The Heritage Foundation and Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity presented the second annual Breitbart Award to Michelle Malkin, syndicated columnist and Fox News Channel contributor….The Breitbart Award honors those who advocate for the truth — a quality that Malkin exemplifies. As the founder of three successful conservative blogs — michellemalkin.com, Hot Air (now owned by Salem Communications), and Twitchy — has changed the way Americans consume media. Malkin dedicates her life to tackling the issues others often shy away from.

So there you have it. Michelle Malkin is now officially one of the best and the brightest of conservative journalism. Seriously.

I don’t know if staying quiet is Gov. Deal’s political suicide but…Students organizing Georgia integrated prom: Governor’s silence is ‘political suicide’

Interesting background on Ray Charles and Georgia’s State song:  The Late Movies: “Georgia on My Mind” | Mental Floss

WOW, Superman Turns 75: Did You Notice? by Danny Tyree

I am Spartacus! Check out this latest review of Pinning Down Spartacus by Mary Beard | The New York Review of Books

Let’s end this with something pretty.

This is beautiful…Milky Way over Crater Lake | Today’s Image | EarthSkyMilky Way over Crater Lake captured by our friend Ben Coffman Photography during the Lyrid meteor shower.  View larger.  This photo was taken last Saturday night, April 20.  Thanks Ben!  Visit Ben Coffman Photography on Facebook.

Have a great day, and share what you are thinking and reading about today.

(…btw, if you find any errors in the above post, sorry. I am fighting off a sinus infection…and spent all day yesterday making 244 little Scachatta  Sicilian pizzas. With all the cold meds and dopamax, I am seeing stars everywhere I turn. 😉 )


Twinkies, Fruitcakes and Dumb… Open Thread

Vacation vintage ad by JC Leyendecker

Vacation by JC Leyendecker

Good Afternoon

Well, I’m going to post a few quick reads for you now. This first one makes me scratch my head and wonder why? Dak can you enlighten us?

Gallup released the results of its states with least stress polls and I am surprised to see Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana on the top five.

Hawaii Remains State With Least Stress

Hawaii residents remained the least likely in the U.S. to say they felt stressed on any given day in 2012, at 32.1%. West Virginia residents, on average, were the most likely to report feeling stress, at 47.1%.

Five Least Stressed StatesFive Most Stressed States

These statelevel data are based on daily surveys conducted from January through December 2012 and encompass more than 350,000 interviews as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Nationwide, 40.6% of Americans reported feeling stressed “yesterday” in 2012, similar to past years.

Hmmm…and Mississippi is third on that list?

My question is who did Gallup ask in their polling research?

Lowest Stress States Report Most Enjoyment

Two of the five states with the lowest stress levels, Hawaii and Wyoming, also boasted the highest levels of enjoyment in 2012. In Hawaii, 89.7% of residents said they experienced enjoyment the day before the survey and 88.8% said so in Wyoming.

Five States with Most EnjoymentFive States With Least Enjoyment

You can click here to see where all the 50 states stack up: 2012 Stress Levels for all States

So, yesterday in the tweet universe, from one fruitcake to another:

Matt Drudge Tweets Kind Words For Alex Jones: ‘One Hell Of A Broadcast In Such Homogenized Media’ | Mediaite

I need a clean up on aisle ten. Ugh…these people make me sick.

Now for some good news!

Praise the Gawds above and the Basturds below: Twinkies are back: Hostess plant in Columbus, Ga., will reopen in July

Standing in front of a big “Welcome Back” banner, an executive for Hostess Brands said Tuesday the new company will hire up to 300 employees and reopen its Columbus plant to make Twinkies and other sweet treats.

The facility at 1969 Victory Drive, known as the Dolly Madison Bakery, is scheduled to be up and running again by July, Hostess Brands LLC Chief Executive Officer Michael J. Cramer said during a press conference at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

“Safely, you should be able to buy Twinkies by the end of July,” Cramer said. “I think we will be cranking them out here and a couple of other places around the country.”

The Columbus plant will initially employ 200 people but could create more than 300 jobs eventually, he said. The snack-cake factory had about 420 on its payroll when it closed last November. It was then that Dallas, Texas-based Hostess Brands Inc. shuttered its entire U.S. production and distribution network following a lengthy impasse with worker unions and a couple of rounds in Chapter 11 bankruptcy court.

In April, Hostess Brands Inc. sold the Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos and other brands to private investment firms Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. for $410 million.

“This is a huge deal that we were able to land it,” said Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. “(Cramer) was just really glowing about the fact that Columbus came after them and got it.”

The mayor said returning employees to an empty plant that has been in Columbus for many years also was emotional.

“I think it’s a huge morale boost,” said the mayor who loves Zingers. “There’s something, obviously, iconic about the Hostess brand. We have a decades-long relationship with them. So the smiles were a little brighter than at most of our job announcements.”

This is one of only four factories that will reopen to make the beloved icing stuffed cake treat. I guess the Obama endorsed Georgia Slave Labor Employment program had something to do with it.

The state’s Quick Start program will help the company with workforce training. It will also get assistance from Georgia Department of Economic Development, Columbus Technical College, the Consolidated Government, Development Authority and other agencies.

Cramer is hoping the new company can make an impact with children going back to school. “Well into July we hope every lunch bucket will have Twinkies in them when they return to school in the fall,” he said.

Cramer couldn’t state what the hourly salaries would be for the new company but said they would be competitive.

“We are putting together a company that doesn’t exist and isn’t selling anything right now,” he said. “We will put together a pretty good package of pay and benefits.”

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, the company will partner with the Georgia Department of Labor to hold a job fair to fill positions in production, sanitation, distribution, maintenance engineering and management. Lines are expected to be long at the 700 Veterans Parkway office. Applicants are encouraged to bring an updated resume and be prepared to wait.

Cramer is hopeful the new company will be in Columbus for a long time. “We have to make sure that when we get on the shelves, a product is made by people who will take pride in their work,” he said. “We will have a long history here in Columbus.”

The Columbus plant opened in 1971 and employed as many as 1,200 people about a decade ago. But staffing had fallen to around 420 by last fall. The local bakery was well-known for the sweet aromatic smell it emits to passers-by while making Twinkies, Zingers, Ding Dongs, fruit pies, doughnuts and other cake products.

Well, I hope these people at least get a “living wage” but since Georgia is a right to work state, they get what they get and that is all they get.

But, it is still jobs, right? And hell, at least Twinkies will be back in grocery stores.

Have a great evening.

This is an open thread.