The Fort Worth Zoo’s new baby elephant is already a big hit with children who visit the zoo.
Their youthful fascination was enhanced Tuesday when zoo officials added a child’s inflatable pool to the elephants’ enclosure for Belle’s enjoyment. Belle could be seen rolling in the pool.
Saturday: An Autumn Potpourri of ReadsPosted: October 19, 2013 Filed under: Crime, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Affordable Care Act, anti-leak software, Ariel Castro, Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, Boy Scouts, Cleveland Police Department, Dave Hall, Edward Snowden, Elias Acevedo, FBI, Fox News lies, Glenn Greenwald, Glenn Taylor, Goblin Valley State Park, guns, hunting, Laura Poitras, murder, NSA, Obamacare, political fund-raising, potpourri, rape, rock formations, Sean Hannity, Tea Party, Ted Cruz 29 Comments
Isn’t that a gorgeous photo? It was taken in New Hampshire near Mount Washington in October 2011.
A potpourri is “a combination of incongruous things.” Well that’s what I have for you this morning. We’ll begin at Sea-Tac airport in Seattle where Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, 79, was arrested by TSA police for having a loaded gun in his carry-on bag. He was held for about half-an-hour and then released. He has a permit for the gun. Russell was on his way to Boston where a statue of him will be unveiled on November 1.
Did you hear about the morons in Utah who destroyed a 170-million-year-old rock formation and made a video of themselves doing it? From the Deseret News:
Two men have come under scrutiny by the public and possibly by prosecutors after a video made the rounds online showing them pushing over an iconic rock formation.
The men were visiting Goblin Valley State Park last week when they said they noticed a precariously perched
boulder that was loose and worried it would fall on someone. The delicate “goblin” formation, also known as a “hoodoo,” is one of many that gives the park its name.
What followed was a video showing the men joking and laughing as Glenn Taylor, of Highland, topples the rock, narrated by cameraman Dave Hall, who says lives have been saved. A third man, identified as Taylor’s son, watches.
These two ignorant fools, who are Boy Scout leaders (!), thought the ancient rock formation was suddenly going to tip over and crush someone.
Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg called the video disturbing. Possible criminal charges are being screened by the Emery County Attorney’s Office and the Utah Attorney General’s Office, he said….
The goblins date back more than 170 million years to the Jurassic Period, Swalberg said. The park, which gets more than 85,000 visitors per year, was dedicated in 1974 to protect the fragile formations, he said.
“There are some established trails in the park, but there are also areas where you can have self discovery and wander amongst the goblins,” Swalberg said. “That’s the beauty of Goblin Valley. It’s not meant to have people push over the goblins. It’s meant to enjoy.”
Check out the idiotic quotes from these guys in this Fox News story:
“This is about saving lives,” Dave Hall, who shot the video, told The Associated Press on Friday. “One rock at a time.”
The rock formation is about 170 million years old, Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg said. The park in central Utah is dotted with thousands of the eerie, mushroom shaped sandstone formations.
In a video posted on Facebook, Glenn Taylor of Highland, Utah, can be seen last Friday wedging himself between one formation and a boulder to knock a large rock off the formation’s top. Taylor and his two companions can then be seen cheering, high-fiving and dancing….
“My conscience won’t let me walk away knowing that kids could die,” Hall said.
While safety was their motivation, Hall said, it was exciting to knock it over, and that’s why they reacted with high-fives and cheers in the video.
“You can’t have a rock the size of a car that you can push with one hand, and have it roll, and not have an adrenaline rush,” Hall said. “It was a crazy, exciting moment.”
What an asshole! If these fools don’t get criminally prosecuted, at least maybe the Boy Scouts will discipline them.
Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith confirmed the men are members of the organization, saying in a statement that the organization is “shocked and disappointed by this reprehensible behavior.”
Boy Scout troops spend countless hours in state and national parks, guided by the principle of leaving nature the way they find it, Smith said.
“The isolated actions of these individuals are absolutely counter to our beliefs and what we teach,” Smith said. “We are reviewing this matter and will take appropriate action.”
Moving on , , ,
NSA officials admit they put off installing the latest anti-leak software at the Hawaii facility where Edward Snowden stole thousands of top secret documents before fleeing the country and eventually accepting asylum in Russia.
Well before Snowden joined Booz Allen Hamilton last spring and was assigned to the NSA site as a systems administrator, other U.S. government facilities had begun to install software designed to spot attempts by unauthorized people to access or download data.
The purpose of the software, which in the NSA’s case is made by a division of Raytheon Co, is to block so-called “insider threats” – a response to an order by President Barack Obama to tighten up access controls for classified information in the wake of the leak of hundreds of thousands of Pentagon and State Department documents by an Army private to WikiLeaks website in 2010.
The main reason the software had not been installed at the NSA’s Hawaii facility by the time Snowden took up his assignment there was that it had insufficient bandwidth to comfortably install it and ensure its effective operation, according to one of the officials.
Due to the bandwidth issue, intelligence agencies in general moved more slowly than non-spy government units, including the Defence Department, to install anti-leak software, officials said.
In other related news,
Snowden told The New York Times in an interview that he turned all of his files over to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras when the three met in Hong Kong last spring; he said he didn’t keep any of the files and therefore China and Russia could not have gotten access to them. From HuffPo:
Snowden said he did not retain copies of the documents and did not take them to Russia “because it wouldn’t serve the public interest,” the Times reported. He said his familiarity with China’s intelligence abilities allowed him to protect the documents from Chinese spies while he was in Hong Kong.
“There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents,” he said….
The Times reported that in the interview, which it said took place over several days in the last week and involved encrypted online communications, Snowden asserted that he believed he was a whistle-blower who was acting in the nation’s best interests by revealing information about the NSA’s surveillance dragnet and huge collections of communications data.
The only problem with these claims is that Snowden actually gave copies of some of the stolen files to the Chinese government-supported newspaper The South China Morning Post in August, long after he supposedly turned everything over to Greewald and Poitras. So where did that data come from?
Whatever the truth is, we do know the files are in the possession of Greenwald, Poitras, Wikileaks, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and several other news organizations as well as the British security services which confiscated the files from Greenwald’s live-in partner David Miranda when he was passing through Heathrow airport. So we can be sure there’s no danger of unauthorized release of secret information. Right?
That was sarcasm, by the way, in case you didn’t pick up on it . . .
Bob Cesca had a good post yesterday on Ted Cruz and his future plans. He apparently feels emboldened by his success in shutting down the government for two weeks, and plans more destructive behavior next time. Cesca writes:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the chief architect of the tea party shutdown and subsequent debt ceiling brinksmanship, might have lost an endorsement from his home town newspaper, but he managed to raise $1.19 million during the third quarter — nearly three times the haul of the second quarter total. That period of time didn’t include the shutdown, but it included his filibuster, which, it turns out, had a very important purpose: the make money for Ted Cruz. He also beefed up his email database with a petition that gathered over two million names and addresses.
When asked who “won” the shutdown battle, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) told Politico the winners were “the people that managed to raise a lot of money off this.” Now, I don’t know if that means the tea party necessarily “won,” but Cruz and the Heritage Action group, which pulled in $330,000, didn’t walk away empty-handed.
While Cruz and the others cashed-in, the shutdown ended up costing the federal government $24 billion. Via TIME, here’s a breakdown of just a few of the losses:
-About $3.1 billion in lost government services, according to the research firm IHS
-$152 million per day in lost travel spending, according to the U.S. Travel Association
-$76 million per day lost because of National Parks being shut down, according to the National Park Service
-$217 million per day in lost federal and contractor wages in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area alone
And we’re supposed to continue buying the line that the tea party cares about government spending and the national debt? That’s rich.
Obviously, Cesca writes, they are going to do a repeat performance early next year. Read all about it at the link.
More wingnut news . . .
Via Kevin Drum, Eric Stern wrote at Salon about how he “fact-checked” Sean Hannity’s claims about Obamacare. Stern writes:
I happened to turn on the Hannity show on Fox News last Friday evening. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity announced, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.” Three married couples were neatly arranged in his studio, the wives seated and the men standing behind them, like game show contestants.
As Hannity called on each of them, the guests recounted their “Obamacare” horror stories: canceled policies, premium hikes, restrictions on the freedom to see a doctor of their choice, financial burdens upon their small businesses and so on.
“These are the stories that the media refuses to cover,” Hannity interjected.
But none of it smelled right to me. Nothing these folks were saying jibed with the basic facts of the Affordable Care Act as I understand them. I understand them fairly well; I have worked as a senior adviser to a governor and helped him deal with the new federal rules.
So Stern actually contacted three of these folks and it turns out they all lied. As Drum summarizes:
One of them was apparently just lying, and the other two hadn’t even checked the exchanges, where they would have found that they could get better coverage for considerably less than they’re paying now.
Did you hear the latest in the Ariel Castro story?
One of Castro’s neighbors has now been charged with rapes and murders. From the Guardian:
Increased scrutiny of missing person cases in a Cleveland neighbourhood following the arrest of kidnapper Ariel Castro led to charges against a neighbour for the murders of two women in the 1990s, the FBI said on Friday.
Elias Acevedo, 49, was charged late on Thursday with the kidnapping, rape and murder of his 30-year-old neighbour, Pamela Pemberton, found strangled in 1994, and another woman believed to be Christina Adkins, a pregnant 18-year-old who disappeared in 1995. He also is charged with the rape of two young girls.
“Because the public became more aware and investigators were determined and relentless, people were re-interviewed and there was an increased interest in these missing person cases,” FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson said.
Acevedo, who lived on the same block as Castro, was arrested in June at his Seymour Avenue residence after police questioned Castro’s neighbours and discovered that Acevedo was a convicted sex offender who had failed to report his current address.
Acevedo became a suspect in the Adkins and Pemberton murders after the FBI re-examined the disappearance of other missing women from the Seymour Avenue neighbourhood after Castro’s arrest, according to a statement from the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office.
Imagine if the Cleveland police had actually done their job years ago?
I’ll end with this wacky story from CBS Atlanta.
Bear climbs tree stand to meet hunter.
A video of a showdown between a hunter and a bear in Canada posted in May of this year is making the rounds on social media as of late.
The video, posted by Jeffrey Moffatt, shows a hunter in a tree stand with a bear at the bottom of the tree.
Much to the surprise of the hunter, the bear climbs the tree in about three seconds and comes face-to-face with the hunter. No need for a hunting rangefinder when the damn thing is 3 feet away from you!
The bear sniffs around and eventually decides the hunter wasn’t a threat and climbs down the tree.
Moffatt said on YouTube that he only had a bow and arrow – no firearm – and did not have any cell service in case the situation would have gotten worse.
You have to watch the video!
OK, those are my contributions for today. What stories are you following? Please post your comments and links in the thread below.
Friday Reads: Summer Vacation EditionPosted: August 2, 2013 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Ariel Castro, Baby Elephant, Brad Delong, do NOT google pressure cookers and backpacks, Fed Chair, Ft Worth Texas, Larry, Mitch McConnell polls, Paul Krugman, rape culture, Summers 26 Comments
Still a little bit left of summer vacation left and I am sure some of you are hitting the road. It’s still hot down here in New Orleans but this weekend is Satchmo Summer Fest. Every little festival weekend is like a ready made holiday for me! I will probably go listen to some music and taste some home cooking!
There’s the usual this and that sorta stuff out there. Here is one helluva depressing take on a man that kidnapped and brutalized women for years. “Most of the sex… was consensual.” Yeah. RIGHT. Three young women held captive for 11 years and of course, they asked for it.
Ariel Castro’s words at his sentencing hearing on Thursday are almost jaw-dropping. Given a chance to speak before he was sentenced to life in prison, plus a thousand years for aggravated murder and for holding three young women captive for 11 years, he repeatedly blamed his victims.
He denied he raped and beat Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, claiming instead that they asked him for sex and that his sexual addiction was to blame. He even said the abuse couldn’t have been that bad because DeJesus “looks normal.” While many onlookers were astonished, abuse experts said they hear that kind of language and justification every day.
NBC News asked them to weigh in on specific comments Castro made:
“Most of the sex that went on in that house, probably all of it, was consensual,” Castro said. “These allegations about being forceful on them — that is totally wrong. Because there was times where they’d even ask me for sex –many times. And I learned that these girls were not virgins. From their testimony to me, they had multiple partners before me, all three of them.”
The denial and rationalization comes as no shock to experts on rape and abuse. In fact, they say, it’s typical that men who rape or batter women will deny they did anything wrong, and even that the victim was “asking for it”.
“I think it’s actually very typical of an abuser,” says Barbara Paradiso, who directs the center on domestic violence at the University of Colorado-Denver.
“There is a widely held belief that women enjoy rape or that it is ‘just sex at the wrong time, in the wrong place’,” Rape Crisis of England and Wales says on its website. “Often when a woman is raped she is afraid that she will be killed – rapists often use the threat of killing a woman or her children to ensure her ‘submission’ and her silence after the attack. Women do not enjoy sexual violence. Victims of murder, robbery and other crimes are never portrayed as enjoying the experience.”
“I am not a violent person. I simply kept them there without being able to leave.”
“It is not uncommon for offenders to have justified their own behavior, oftentimes to see themselves as a victim,” Paradiso said in a telephone interview. “They often have a sense of righteousness around their behavior, that they had a right to do what they did or it was acceptable to do what they did that they were forced to do what they did because of the victim.”
“I never had a record until I met my children’s mother.My son was on there the other day saying how abusive I was but I was never abusive until I met her. And he failed to say that at the end before she passed away that them two weren’t even talking.
Castro’s son Anthony has said Castro beat him and his mother, Grimilda “Nilda” Figueroa, who died in 2012.
“What he’s saying, that I was a wife beater – that is, that is wrong. This happened because I couldn’t get her to quiet down. I would continuous tell her the children are right there, would you please? She would respond, I don’t care if the children are there and she would just keep going…the situation would escalate until the point where she would put her hands on me and that’s how I reacted, by putting my hands on her.”
It’s familiar thinking to Paradiso. “‘I had to hit her because she did x, y or z’,” she says. “(They are saying) ‘I had to bring her back into line’ … It doesn’t really surprise me at all that he said what he said. That behavior is completely based on power and control and domination, which our society supports. So I am not surprised that he said that.”
While his is an extreme case, experts say the pattern is anything but rare.
“I was taken aback [by Castro’s statements] but at the same time not shocked by it,” says Jennifer Marsh, vice president of victim services for RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. “It’s somebody who was not willing to accept that what they did was wrong and who may have convinced themselves that what they are doing is not wrong or justified. It read like the way that a perpetrator thinks.”
According to RAINN, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes, and only three out of every 100 rapists ever spends any time in jail.
So this is a real interesting story about a writer that basically googled two words and got a visit from the Counter Terrorism People. Those two words are “backpack” and “pressure cooker”.
It was a confluence of magnificent proportions that led six agents from the joint terrorism task force to knock on my door Wednesday morning. Little did we know our seemingly innocent, if curious to a fault, Googling of certain things was creating a perfect storm of terrorism profiling. Because somewhere out there, someone was watching. Someone whose job it is to piece together the things people do on the internet raised the red flag when they saw our search history.
Most of it was innocent enough. I had researched pressure cookers. My husband was looking for a backpack. And maybe in another time those two things together would have seemed innocuous, but we are in “these times” now. And in these times, when things like the Boston bombing happen, you spend a lot of time on the internet reading about it and, if you are my exceedingly curious news junkie of a twenty-year-old son, you click a lot of links when you read the myriad of stories. You might just read a CNN piece about how bomb making instructions are readily available on the internet and you will in all probability, if you are that kid, click the link provided.
Which might not raise any red flags. Because who wasn’t reading those stories? Who wasn’t clicking those links? But my son’s reading habits combined with my search for a pressure cooker and my husband’s search for a backpack set off an alarm of sorts at the joint terrorism task force headquarters.
That’s how I imagine it played out, anyhow. Lots of bells and whistles and a crowd of task force workers huddled around a computer screen looking at our Google history.
This was weeks ago. I don’t know what took them so long to get here. Maybe they were waiting for some other devious Google search to show up but “what the hell do I do with quinoa” and “Is A-Rod suspended yet” didn’t fit into the equation so they just moved in based on those older searches.
I was at work when it happened. My husband called me as soon as it was over, almost laughing about it but I wasn’t joining in the laughter. His call left me shaken and anxious.
What happened was this: At about 9:00 am, my husband, who happened to be home yesterday, was sitting in the living room with our two dogs when he heard a couple of cars pull up outside. He looked out the window and saw three black SUVs in front of our house; two at the curb in front and one pulled up behind my husband’s Jeep in the driveway, as if to block him from leaving.
Six gentleman in casual clothes emerged from the vehicles and spread out as they walked toward the house, two toward the backyard on one side, two on the other side, two toward the front door.
A million things went through my husband’s head. None of which were right. He walked outside and the men greeted him by flashing badges. He could see they all had guns holstered in their waistbands.
“Are you [name redacted]?” one asked while glancing at a clipboard. He affirmed that was indeed him, and was asked if they could come in. Sure, he said.
They asked if they could search the house, though it turned out to be just a cursory search. They walked around the living room, studied the books on the shelf (nope, no bomb making books, no Anarchist Cookbook), looked at all our pictures, glanced into our bedroom, pet our dogs. They asked if they could go in my son’s bedroom but when my husband said my son was sleeping in there, they let it be.
Meanwhile, they were peppering my husband with questions. Where is he from? Where are his parents from? They asked about me, where was I, where do I work, where do my parents live. Do you have any bombs, they asked. Do you own a pressure cooker? My husband said no, but we have a rice cooker. Can you make a bomb with that? My husband said no, my wife uses it to make quinoa. What the hell is quinoa, they asked.
They searched the backyard. They walked around the garage, as much as one could walk around a garage strewn with yardworking equipment and various junk. They went back in the house and asked more questions.
It seems even Kentucky folks are tired of Mitch McConnell. Can I get a witness?
New poll numbers released Thursday suggested that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is entering his reelection campaign next year facing two perilous obstacles: an electorate that wants him out of office and a viable Democratic challenger.
The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling — conducted on behalf of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Democracy For America and provided in advance to TPM — found Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who launched her Senate campaign on Tuesday, drawing the support of 45 percent of Bluegrass State voters and narrowly edging McConnell by a single point. Eleven percent of voters said they are undecided. The two liberal groups to commission the poll are both opposed to McConnell.
A slight majority of Kentucky voters — 51 percent — disapprove of the job McConnell is doing, giving the GOP leader an approval rating of 40 percent. PPP has previously identified McConnell as the least popular senator in the country, but the latest poll marks a marginal improvement It marks for a marginal bump since April, when McConnell nursed a 36 percent approval rating. PPP polled 1,210 Kentucky voters on those two questions, and the margin of error is 2.8 percent.
Kentucky voters may also be experiencing McConnell fatigue, according to PPP’s latest. When the pollsters asked if McConnell deserved reelection “[a]fter 30 years in the U.S. Senate,” 54 percent said he does not, compared with just 38 percent who said he does deserve another term. The pollster asked 625 voters that question, and it has a margin of error of 3.9 percent.
Nonstop cute at the Forth Worth Zoo where I might be spending a bit of time this month relearning the joys of teenagers. Don’t ask yet … I’ll share in good time. Just promise me you won’t faint when I do. Long time relationship curmudgeon–me–is in one and I am trying to relearn the joys of monogamy coupled with the agony of distance. There are pictures but I am trying not to jinx things quite yet. So, anyway, humor and pity me until I figure out wtf I am doing. Okay?
But now, time to OOOOOOOOOOOOO AND ahhhhh at Baby Elephant Belle!
Bell was born July 7 and is just the second Asian elephant to be born at the Fort Worth Zoo in its 104-year history.
Zoo spokeswoman Katie Giangreco says Belle weighed 330 pounds at birth is gaining two pounds per day. She says Belle “is curious and full of personality, learning new things every day, learning what her trunk is for, learning to use her legs.”
Belle’s mother, Rasha, is helping in that instruction.
Asian elephants have been listed as endangered since 1976.
I am gonna close with Krugman on an Op Ed by Brad Delong on Larry Summers. I have no idea why any one thinks Larry Summers has the temperament for the job of Fed Chair despite his credentials, but oh well. Let’s let the shrill one say it better than me.
Brad DeLong asks why the left views Larry Summers as a right-wing hyena. I think that’s a straw man, or maybe a straw hyena. What is true is that a lot of people even on the moderate left don’t trust Summers, even though much of his commentary over the years has been very much center-left — and since leaving office he has become one of our most prominent fiscal doves.
Where does this mistrust come from? Well, let me give you an example: Jackson Hole, 2005, a conference dedicated to celebrating the record of, ahem, Alan Greenspan. Raghuram Rajan had presented a paper warning that the risks of financial instability were much higher than most people were acknowledging. (I think Rajan has been wrong on many issues since then, but that was certainly a prophetic paper). And the response, in general, took the form of ridicule.
The principal discussant was Don Kohn (pdf), who was (barely) polite but completely wrong-headed, celebrating financial innovations such as “the growing ease of housing equity extraction”:
Leading off on the rest of the discussion (pdf) was Larry Summers, who wasn’t polite, dismissing Rajan for being “slightly Luddite” in questioning the value of financial innovation, which he compared (in a really bad analogy) to technological progress in transportation.
Let’s face it. Summers is an asshole. I don’t care about his degrees or whatever. Assholes should not be in places where they have to influence people into doing the right thing on policy that effects the entire globe. Even, if it is a well-educated asshole, it is still just an asshole.
That is all.
What is on your reading and blogging list today?
Afternoon News Reads: Quick Round-upPosted: May 15, 2013 Filed under: Barack Obama, Free Press, Journalism, Media, morning reads, Politics as Usual, Real Life Horror, Tea Party activists | Tags: AP Phone Records, Ariel Castro, Eric Holder, Nixon 39 Comments
Good Late Afternoon!
Dakinikat is boarding a plane and heading home, take care Dak….we hope you have a safe and uneventful flight back to the Big Easy! (Damn, just got a text from Dak that the plane has issues…ugh.)
Connie/Ecocatwoman is back at home from the hospital, healing and doing fine….thank the Goddesses above.
NWLuna is celebrating some good health news….the Taa-Taas are fine! (I think we should be screaming it from the treetops…)
After a period of major life changes, Mona is back blogging with us on the Front Page and that little nugget of cheer makes me clap like a kid whose just been served a big Banana Split.
That is just a quick update on a few of the Sky Dancers, real life has given all of us a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs.
Have I left anyone out?
This is going to be a link dump round-up…
CNN is reporting that they have a Source: 2 ‘rogue’ workers behind IRS targeting of conservative groups
The Internal Revenue Service has identified two “rogue” employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office as being principally responsible for “overly aggressive” handling of requests by conservative groups for tax-exempt status, a congressional source told CNN.In a meeting on Capitol Hill, acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller described the employees as being “off the reservation,” according to the source. It was not clear precisely what the alleged behavior involved.
Business Insider points out The Attorney General’s Willful Ignorance Of The AP Phone Records Seizure Just Seems Ridiculous:Attorney General’s AP Phone Records
Under current law, the DOJ has the right to demand media phone records when the DOJ can’t obtain the desired information through other reasonable means. The DOJ even has the right to do this without telling the media organization in advance–if it thinks telling the media organization will threaten the integrity investigation.
If those two conditions were met in this case, the DOJ has nothing to worry about. But Americans certainly have every right to ask whether those two conditions were met. (And, then, to wonder whether giving the DOJ these rights is really in the country’s best interests).
But Attorney General Eric Holder is saying that those conditions were met.
He’s saying he doesn’t know anything about the AP case, because he recused himself from it.
That just seems ridiculous.
It’s not ridiculous that Eric Holder recused himself from the case. If he felt he needed to recuse himself, he should have recused himself.
What seems ridiculous is that he’s using his recusal as an excuse to say he knows nothing about the case.
Eric Holder runs the Justice Department. He can be recused from a case and yet still make inquiries about it to understand the decisions that were made in investigating it so he can explain these decisions to Congress.
Even if he’s not involved in a decision in his organization, that doesn’t stop him from being able to ask questions about it for the purpose of relaying this information to investigators.
Then there are the comparisons being made to Watergate: Obama’s Nixon moment
When TV news rivals Greta Van Susteren and Rachel Maddow are beating the same political drum, something is very wrong in Washington.
The Barack Obama administration finds itself under attack from both the left and the right this week as it struggles to deal with three major scandals: the news that the Department of Justice had staged an unprecedented raid on The Associated Press’ phone records; the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting right-wing groups; and the ongoing fallout from the September attack in Benghazi, Libya.
It is the AP story that has most galvanized the media, threatening to disrupt the generally sympathetic coverage that the White House has enjoyed from large swaths of the press.
Everyone from CNN to Fox News took aim at the Justice Department for its wide-ranging subpoena of the AP’s phone records, thought to be an attempt to find the source of a leak regarding a foiled terrorism plot in Yemen on the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death.
Attorney General Eric Holder is due today to face tough questions on issues like the AP phone records affair by the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee.
But the grilling is already well under way.
This next story is beyond ridiculous…I will just give you the first paragraph, it is all you need: Accused Ohio kidnapper, Ariel Castro, ready to deny all charges
Not to be intimidated by the task ahead, the legal team defending Ariel Castro, the Ohio man accused of incarcerating and abusing three young women in his home for the best part of a decade, has asserted that he is no kind of “monster”, he dotes on the daughter born to one of his captives, Amanda Berry, and that he intends to plead not guilty to all the charges against him.
I don’t want to end on something as horrible as this…so here is a cartoon. Something funny. H/T Boston Boomer, who is babysitting her nephews today…
Senator Ted Cruz McCarthy’s Baby by Political Cartoonist Taylor Jones
Well, what are you reading this
Friday Reads: Why Media Must Examine Record of Cleveland Police Dept. in Violence Against Women CasesPosted: May 10, 2013 Filed under: misogyny, morning reads, Violence against women, War on Women, Women's Rights | Tags: Amanda Berry, Amanda Marcotte, Angel Cordero, Anthony Sowell, Ariel Castro, Charles Ramsey, Cleveland Police Department, Department of Justice, Elizabeth Loftus, false memories, FBI, Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, rape, serial murder, Slate Magazine 43 Comments
Yesterday I read something that infuriated me. I usually admire Amanda Marcotte’s writing on women’s issues, but I have real problems with her take on the neighbors of Ariel Castro who claim they called 911 over the years to report suspicious activity at his house on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland. Marcotte can’t believe that the Cleveland police would ignore such reports especially “considering Castro’s frightening history of domestic violence and child abuse.” She even provides links in the opening paragraph to a post at Slate in which she suggests that Castro’s neighbors must be “creating false memories”
As more details emerge from the bizarre kidnapping case in Cleveland, people are beginning to wonder how Ariel Castro could have kept women locked up in his house for a decade without anyone actually noticing that something strange was going on. Enter the neighbors,some of whom are telling the press that they did, in fact, see all sorts of weird behavior—and that they called the police, who did nothing about it. The police, however, are denying these reports, saying that the two visits made to the house in the decade were unrelated to any suspicious activities. Considering Castro’s frightening history of domestic violence and child abuse, it’s hard to imagine the police would just ignore it if the neighbors kept complaining about him doing things like dragging naked women around on leashes in his yard.
So what’s going on? Are all these people lying? Are the cops? Or is this a case of lost records or unrecorded police calls? One possible explanation is that the neighbors are simply caught up in the excitement over a national story unfolding in their backyard, and they’re misremembering their pasts because of it. False memories, particularly regarding incredibly emotional situations, are easier to develop than many realize.
This makes no sense to Marcotte, so she dredges up Elizabeth Loftus’ research on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony and the human ability to create “false memories.” For Amanda Marcotte, who seems to really care about the treatment of women who have been raped and otherwise abused, to excuse the Cleveland PD on this basis is a terrible mistake, in my opinion. Doesn’t she realize that Loftus is an expert witness who testifies almost exclusively for defendants accused of sexual abuse and assault? Couldn’t Marcotte at least look at the history of the Cleveland PD before dismissing accusations against them?
But no, she assumes that surely the Cleveland police department did the best they could, so any neighbor who worried about something being wrong at Castro’s house with it’s high fences, boarded up and trash-bag-covered windows must be “inadvertently” making up past concerns in order to alleviate their guilt or make themselves seem more important. I won’t go into a long essay on the problems with applying Loftus’ research in this case; I’ll just agree that anything is possible. But we need to ask ourselves: what is the most likely explanation in this particular case?
In another post at Slate, Justin Peters “explains” why he thinks the Cleveland PD “did everything they could and it still wasn’t enough.”
No. No, they didn’t. Let’s keep in mind that the Cleveland PD didn’t in fact find Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus. What happened is that
Berry noticed the front door of the home was unlocked but the outer storm door remained bolted. She was reluctant to attempt an escape because Castro was known to test the women by leaving doors in the house unlocked. He would beat them if they attempted to leave the unlocked rooms, police sources said. Berry made the decision to try to break through the storm door after seeing people on a neighbor’s porch. She gained the attention of neighbors such as Charles Ramsey, and they helped her and her 6-year-old child get out. She called 9-1-1 from a nearby home. [Ramsey was aided by another neighbor Angel Cordero, who wasn’t as good an interview as Ramsey]
When Berry called 911, she got an operator who tried his best to blow her off by saying
Dispatcher: We’re going to send them as soon as we get a car open.
It took Berry’s continued urging to get him to act immediately. Even Charles Ramsey said in his interview with Anderson Cooper, “Bro, this is Cleveland,” seemingly calling attention to the fact that in Cleveland missing women don’t get found in neighborhoods like his. This is a fact that all of Cleveland is aware of, which is why there is a lot of anger toward police in the city right now.
This is a morning reads post, so I’m not going to rant on and on about this. Instead I’ll give you some links to articles that support what I’m saying. But first let me ask a rhetorical question for Slate and Amanda Marcotte: Were the women who claimed they were attacked by now convicted Cleveland serial rapist and murderer Anthony Sowell “creating false memories” when they call 911 and were ignored? Were the neighbors who reported the smell of rotting corpses emanating from Sowell’s house and yard “creating false memories?” What about the thousands of rape kits that Cleveland PD never had tested? Why is the Cleveland Police Department currently under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department?
Violence against women is huge problem in this country, and the Cleveland PD is not alone in treating it as a lower priority than other crimes. IMHO, it’s very important not to forget that. Not ever.
Now I’ll end my rant and give you some links to click on. I know this is a distasteful subject, a painful subject, and I understand why no one really wants to read all the gory details. But sometimes gory details are necessary to wake people up to the reality of what happens to women in this country every fucking day–especially poor women, drug-addicted women, sex workers, and others whom society sometimes sees as “disposable.”
I’ll begin with a video from Democracy Now–an interview with Cleveland reporter Eric Sandy.
Here is Sandy’s article, The Long History of Ariel Castro, Cleveland Kidnapper and Monster. Please note that Castro did come in contact with law enforcement over the years because of his horrific abuse of his wife and children. None of his violent behavior was really taken seriously or adequately dealt with. I apologize for this long excerpt:
Once again, Tomba’s words at the Tuesday morning press conference hang in the air: “Every single lead was followed up no matter how small,” he said. Unavoidable thoughts hearkening back to Anthony Sowell’s 2011 serial murder convictions hang in the air, as well. The rescue at the Seymour Avenue house will bear out a legacy on the backs of all involved, much like Cleveland’s other high-profile crimes.
Stories revolving around Castro’s work as a bus driver and his interactions with family members fill out characteristics about the man – elements of his personality that may have led to both the kidnapping and to his evasion from law enforcement.
In 1993 and 2005, Castro was accused of domestic violence from his one-time wife. The former charges were reduced to mere disorderly conduct, while the latter incident offered grisly imagery of a fractured marriage still capable of wreaking havoc. Castro broke his ex-wife’s nose and ribs, dislocated her shoulders, knocked out one of her teeth and battered her so hard that a blood clot formed on her brain, according to filings in court. In an interview with investigators after the fact, Castro denied ever being abusive toward her.
That filing effectively killed Castro’s chances at even partial custody of his children. Nevertheless, as sources familiar with the man report, his penchant for manipulation pulled Emily and Arlene back into his gravitational pull at times.
Several years after the gross sexual imposition conviction of Colon blew over, Emily Castro gave birth to a girl. It’s unclear who the father was – though speculation points to either a former boyfriend who now lives in Cleveland or, according to the private investigator, something much more untoward, evil, and incestuous.
Emily was living in Fort Wayne, Ind., where she attempted to murder her 11-month-old daughter by slashing her throat four times in 2007. She was later convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“It is certainly a mystery as to how this happened or why this happened,” Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck told The Journal Gazette at the time.
It is indeed a mystery that may yet hold more clues as to who Ariel Castro has been all these years. Any answers that lay within may illuminate a gap in local law enforcement’s own investigations.
More articles to ponder:
Alternet: Why Cops Bust Down Doors of Medical Pot Growers, But Ignore Men Who Keep Naked Girls on Leashes
Daily Mail: Son of ‘abductor’ reveals how father padlocked doors to basement, attic and garage because ‘we weren’t allowed to go there’
Note the padlocked door in the background of the photos, which were taken in 2001–before the abductions of Knight, Berry, and DeJesus took place. Who or what was in those locked rooms at that time?
Daily Telegraph: ‘Ariel Castro locked my sister in a box and beat her’
CNN on the similarities with the Anthony Sowell case: Cleveland abductions a chilling reminder of ‘House of Horrors’
19 Action News: “Note of admission” written by Ariel Castro in 2004
KNYC.com: Police Report
Joan Walsh on the media sliming of Charles Ramsey: Charles Ramsey is still a hero
Plain Dealer: FBI previously investigated stepfather of Ariel Castro’s children in DeJesus and Berry cases.
Note that the stepfather tried to get police and FBI to investigate Ariel Castro in the disappearances. They ignored his pleas, and Castro was used as a source against the stepfather and allowed to testify against him–even with his history of domestic abuse! Did you know that Castro repeatedly abducted his own daughters?
The Daily Beast: My Neighbor the Monster
Doug Parker owns the home next to Cleveland suspect Ariel Castro. In his first interview, he recalls 20 years of confrontations, a bitter court case, and more red flags….
Parker says the police have been to the house more than they claim. For one, he says, he called the police in May 1996 when Castro pulled fence posts out of the ground and rolled up a chain link fence that ran between the two properties.
“He did it while I was at work, so I couldn’t stop him,” Parker says.The posts had been buried 18 inches, leaving holes that DeaAna, 6 years old at the time, tripped over while playing and injured herself. “The cops came, we talked, and one of them suggested I go to court on this,” Parker says. “And that’s what I did.”He was awarded $900 in damages and Castro was ordered to put the fence back up.
I guess those court records must have gone missing…
The Daily Beast: Cleveland Kidnapping, Anthony Sowell Case Linked by Indifferent Police
If you are stunned that three Cleveland women could be held captive for a decadewithout being discovered, then you are unacquainted with the case of Anthony Sowell, also known as the Cleveland Strangler.
Sowell was a registered sex offender who remained at liberty despite a series of sexual-assault complaints against him, until the police finally acted and discovered the bodies of 11 murdered women in his house and backyard.
At least some of those murders and rapes could have been prevented if the police had not reacted so indifferently when a distraught woman called them in September 2008, after being repeatedly raped, beaten, and choked by Sowell. She had at one point sought refuge in a bathroom, where she saw a headless body wrapped in plastic and positioned in a sitting position in the bathtub.
After managing to get away, the woman had stumbled as far as a bus stop before she could go no further. She would later testify: “I couldn’t walk no more. I was tore up. My body was tore up … My face, my female parts, my butt.”
She called the police. “They told me I had to come in and make a report,” she would testify. She further testified that she asked the dispatcher, “How do I get there?” The dispatcher told her: “Come in and make a report. We can’t take a report over the phone.”
She told the court that after the call, “I felt less than human. I didn’t know who to turn to.”
Plain Dealer: Michelle Knight, held captive since 2002, removed by Cleveland police from FBI database 15 months after disappearance
Cleveland police removed Michelle Knight’s missing person entry from an FBI database 15 months after she was reported missing in 2002 — and nearly a decade before she was rescued from her captor’s home on Cleveland’s West Side.
City spokeswoman Maureen Harper said Thursday that police followed proper procedures by removing Knight’s name from the database in November 2003 because they were unable to contact Knight’s mother by telephone to verify that her then-22-year-old daughter still was missing.
However, the police department’s written policy on investigating missing adults, at the time of Knight’s disappearance on Aug. 23, 2002, describes a different verification process. It states that an officer must go and see that a missing person has been found, then inform the FBI within two hours for removal from the National Crime Information Center database.
Kym Pasqualini, a national advocate for missing adults, said in an interview Thursday that the removal of Knight’s name and description from the database helped the case fall through the cracks.
NY Daily News: Cleveland captive Michelle Knight was gang-raped while in junior high.
She got pregnant from the rape and that victimization probably set her up to be revictimized when she learned her son was to be taken away from her. Sadly, she left home angry and upset and Ariel Castro offered her a ride.
NY Daily News: Michelle Knight’s twin brother talks about their history and his happy reunion with her.
This one is heartbreaking but speaks beautifully to me about human nature and our need for connection.
I guess this is enough for now. I’ll provide other links in the comment thread. If you made it this far, thanks for reading.
As always, this is an open thread and you are welcome post links on any topic in the comments.
Again, I understand this is a painful and distasteful subject. But please be aware that violence against women is truly endemic in the U.S. and it still isn’t treated with the necessary seriousness by law enforcement, the courts, or the media.
Thursday Reads: Beating the Benghazi Horse to Death and Other NewsPosted: May 9, 2013 Filed under: 2014 elections, Foreign Affairs, Hillary Clinton, Libya, Medicare, morning reads, polling, Real Life Horror, Republican politics, Team Obama, U.S. Military, U.S. Politics, War on Women | Tags: Ariel Castro, Bangladesh factory collapse, Bangladesh factory fire, Benghazi hearings, Bob Corker, caffeinated gum, Darrell Issa, Ed Markey, Gabriel Gomez, Gregory Hicks, Lindsey Graham, Medicare billing, Susan Rice, Thomas Pickering 40 Comments
I got an e-mail this morning from Dakinikat saying that she arrived safely late last night and is completely exhausted. Hopefully, she’ll get to see her Dad today and give him a great big hug.
Now let’s see what’s going on in the world this morning.
I’ve got to be honest, I’m confused about the latest GOP Benghazi hearings. I have no idea what the fuss is all about, and I really don’t even want to try to figure it out. Apparently, car thief and arsonist Darrell Issa just can’t let go of Benghazi, and is going to keep right on harping on it until someone figures out a way to stop him. I’m going to highlight some articles on this “controversy,” but, as I said, I can’t really explain it.
First, the allegations of wrongdoing:
NYT: Diplomat Says Questions Over Benghazi Led to Demotion
A veteran diplomat gave a riveting minute-by-minute account on Wednesday of the lethal terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11 and described its contentious aftermath at a charged Congressional hearing that reflected the weighty political stakes perceived by both parties.
During a chaotic night at the American Embassy in Tripoli, hundreds of miles away, the diplomat, Gregory Hicks, got what he called “the saddest phone call I’ve ever had in my life” informing him that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was dead and that he was now the highest-ranking American in Libya. For his leadership that night when four Americans were killed, Mr. Hicks said in nearly six hours of testimony, he subsequently received calls from both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama.
But within days, Mr. Hicks said, after raising questions about the account of what had happened in Benghazi offered in television interviews by Susan E. Rice, the United Nations ambassador, he felt a distinct chill from State Department superiors. “The sense I got was that I needed to stop the line of questioning,” said Mr. Hicks, who has been a Foreign Service officer for 22 years.
He was soon given a scathing review of his management style, he said, and was later “effectively demoted” to desk officer at headquarters, in what he believes was retaliation for speaking up.
BBC News: Benghazi attack: Hicks ‘stunned’ at Rice explanation
After the disrupted phone call with Ambassador Stevens, Mr Hicks said he received calls from Libyans using the ambassador’s phone who said they had the envoy with them.
But Mr Hicks decided not to act on the calls, fearing an ambush.
So the “whistleblower” chose not to do anything? What is his complaint then?
UN Ambassador Susan Rice has been the focus of outrage from Republicans in Congress, for giving the news media what has been acknowledged as an incorrect explanation for the attack.
She said on a Sunday chat show on 16 September that the attack had grown out of an anti-US protest, while other officials have said they knew at the time it was an organised, armed assault, possibly by an Islamist militant group.
“My jaw dropped and I was embarrassed,” Mr Hicks said on his reaction to her interview.
I guess it’s still about Susan Rice. . . Or more likely, it’s about Hillary Clinton and attempts to hobble any plans she may have to run for president.
Washington Post: At Benghazi hearing, State Dept. officials challenge administration review of attacks
Three State Department officials on Wednesday provided a riveting, emotional account of last year’s fatal attack on U.S. installations in eastern Libya as they accused senior government officials of withholding embarrassing facts and failing to take enough responsibility for security lapses.
The testimony provided new details on the Sept. 11, 2012, assaults on U.S. installations in Benghazi and their aftermath. But the new information failed to break the political logjam the attacks spawned, with Republicans and Democrats offering starkly different interpretations of what happened and who within the U.S. government is to blame.
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) opened the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing by saying that panel Democrats had “mostly sat silent” while Republicans tried to wrest the truth from an uncooperative Obama administration.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the senior Democrat on the committee, countered that Issa’s GOP majority had launched a “full-scale media campaign . . . of unfounded accusations to smear public officials.”
But in expanding the narrative of the intensely politicized episode, the witnesses raised fresh questions about whether then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her deputies were sufficiently engaged in assessing the security posture of diplomatic posts last year.
Time Magazine’s Michael Crowley: Terror, Security, and Hillary 2016: Making Sense of the Benghazi Hearings
The hearing by the Republican-led House Government Oversight & Reform Committee was not the first on the events surrounding the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans. Hillary Clinton, who was running the State Department at the time of the attack, testified for hours back in January. But the story was given fresh dramatic life and new narrative details through the testimony of two self-described whistle blowers who had not previously spoken in public: Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; Gregory Hicks, the former deputy of mission in Libya. Joining them was Eric Nordstrom, a former regional security officer in Libya, who had previously testified on the issue.
But “[c]ould the U.S. military have done more to help?”
Not according to the Pentagon – and the hearing’s key witness. Aircraft that might have buzzed the compound where the second pair of Americans died – and scared the militants away — were 900 miles north in Italy. “Time and distance are a tyranny of their own,” Admiral James Stavridis, who responded to the attacks as the NATO commander, told Congress earlier this year. Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated it would take as long as 20 hours to get the planes above Benghazi. Hicks testified that he asked the U.S. defense attaché in Tripoli if planes could be scrambled to help those under attack in the CIA annex in Benghazi, a battle that unfolded hours after the initial assault on the nearby U.S. consulate, which killed Stevens, and led to two more American deaths. “He said that it would take two to three hours for them to get on site, but that there also were no tankers available for them to refuel,” Hicks said Wednesday. “And I said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and we went on with our work.” Hicks also testified that a four man team of Green Berets in Tripoli were denied a request to deploy to Benghazi the morning after the attack began, though officials doubt they could have arrived early enough to save lives at the CIA annex.
Apparently the complaint is that the State Department didn’t order all military resources to get to Benghazi even though there was no way they could have gotten there in time to do anything to help?
So we’re back to preventing Hillary 2016?
Whether or not Republicans intended it, the shadow of national politics loomed over Wednesday’s hearing. Hillary Clinton completed a generally well-reviewed tenure of Secretary of State, as evidenced by her sky-high public approval ratings. But Benghazi is a clear black mark on her Foggy Bottom record, one that could haunt Clinton if she runs for president in 2016. Conservatives seized on Hicks’s testimony that, in a call with Clinton on the fateful night, he told her that a terrorist attack was underway–a fact that was slow to appear in the administration’s public rhetoric. Still, despite repeated discussion about what Clinton knew and when she knew it, no smoking gun emerged from Wednesday’s hearing, leading one Congressional Democrat to dismiss questions about her role as a “witch hunt.”
I guess that’s pretty much what it’s all about . . . A few more links:
Think Progress: Benghazi Review Board Chair Says Notion Of Cover Up Is ‘Pulitzer Prize Fiction’
“I think the notion of a quote, cover up, has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it,” former Ambassador Thomas Pickering said on MSNBC. He also rebutted claims that the review board tried to protect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from scrutiny:
PICKERING: I saw no evidence of it. She did publicly take responsibility for what happened below her and indeed one of the things the Congress did in preparing the legislation that established the Accountability Review Board was to say we don’t want a situation where heads of agencies take responsibility and then nobody who made the decision in the chain has to suffer any consequences for failure for performance. I believe in fact the Accountability Review Board did it’s work well. I think the notion of a quote, cover up, has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it.
Pickering offered to testify at the latest hearing, but Chairman Issa wouldn’t let him.
Think Progress: GOP Star Witnesses Debunk Right-Wing Benghazi Conspiracy Theories
The “whistleblowers” at today’s House Oversight Committee hearing on what really happened in Benghazi, Libya last September were supposed to break the dam that would lead to President Obama’s eventual downfall, in the eyes of conservatives. Instead, these witness actually served to debunk several theories that the right-wing has pushed on Benghazi, leaving the hearing a fizzle for the GOP.
Read the explanations at the link.
TPM: Top Republican ‘Fairly Satisfied’ With White House’s Account Of Benghazi
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) said Wednesday that he’s “fairly satisfied” with the Obama administration’s account of events that led to the deaths of American diplomats in Benghazi last year.
“We need to know were these people culpable or not. If they were, why are they still on the payroll? Other than that, I’ve been able to read all the cables. I’ve seen the films,” Corker told MSNBC. “I feel like I know what happened in Benghazi. I’m fairly satisfied.”
He cautioned House Republicans to be “respectful” if they probe the issue further.
“Look, if the House wants to have hearings,” he said, “I hope they’re done in a respectful way and hopefully it will shed some light on what happened.”
I guess that’s enough about Benghazi. I apologize for giving it so much space, but I thought if I were confused about this, some of you might be too.
A bit more news in the form of a link dump:
There has been another factory fire in Bangladesh! Reuters reports: Bangladesh factory fire kills eight; collapse toll tops 900
A DailyKos diary deals with a question that has been rattling around in my head: How did Jason Richwine Get a PhD from Harvard?
WBUR Boston University (NPR): Markey Edges Gomez In WBUR Senate Poll
The Hill on Suffolk University Poll: Markey builds strong lead over Gomez in Mass. Senate race
I realize the media is dying for another Scott Brown surprise, but it’s just not gonna happen.
Politico: Lindsey Graham faces down primary challenge
Unfortunately, it looks like Huckleberry Closetcase will be back in 2014.
Politico: Excessive student loan debt drains economic engine
Chicago Tribune: Cleveland kidnapping: Bond for Ariel Castro set at $8 million
Why is he getting any chance of getting out on bail??
Reuters: Wrigley halts production of caffeine gum following FDA concern
Could there be a worse idea by the candy industry? Kids would be getting that gum!
NYT: Hospital Billing Varies Wildly, Government Data Shows