Thursday Reads

Matisse-Marguerite-Reading1

Good Morning!!

I’m getting  slow start this morning after rereading some of yesterday’s morning thread and seeing Fannie’s and Beata’s comments. Life is such a mystery . . . it often seems sad and even meaningless. And yet life is wonderful and beautiful too.

I don’t even know how to express what I’m feeling right now. I just want to thank all of you for being here. When I get discouraged and disgusted with our politics and the behavior of some of my fellow humans, it helps me to share my feelings with you and to get your reactions.

Now let’s see what’s in the news this morning.

Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison yesterday. But with good behavior he could be released in as little as 7 years. Charlie Savage and Emmarie Huetteman at The New York Times:

In a two-minute hearing on Wednesday morning, the judge, Col. Denise R. Lind of the Army, also said that Private Manning would be dishonorably discharged and reduced in rank from private first class to private, the lowest rank in the military. She said he would forfeit his pay, but she did not impose a fine.

Before the sentencing, Private Manning sat leaning forward with his hands folded, whispering to his lawyer, David Coombs. His aunt and two cousins sat quietly behind him. As Colonel Lind read the sentence, Private Manning stood, showing no expression. He did not make a statement.

The materials that Private Manning gave to WikiLeaks included a video taken during an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 in which civilians were killed, including two journalists. He also gave WikiLeaks some 250,000 diplomatic cables, dossiers of detainees being imprisoned without trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and hundreds of thousands of incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan….

Mr. Coombs later told reporters that he would apply for a presidential pardon next week and read a statement from Private Manning that he said would be included in his request.

“I only wanted to help people,” Private Manning’s statement said, adding, “If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.”

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Pfc. Bradley Manning posing in a wig and lipstick.

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Pfc. Bradley Manning posing in a wig and lipstick.

Manning has expressed the desire to live as a woman, and although he may not be able to get hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery while he is in military prison, he has announced that he is now Chelsea Manning. From Joe Coscarelli at New York Magazine: Bradley Manning’s Long, Painful Road to Coming Out As Transgender.

Less than a day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for passing classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks, Army private Bradley Manning has a huge, if not exactly surprisingly, announcement: “I am Chelsea Manning. I am female,” the 25-year-old wrote in a statement to Today. “Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun.”

But the transition has colored much of Manning’s life for many years and factors heavily into how she became one of the most notable leakers in American history. Even if much of the world is only now paying attention to Manning’s gender-questioning, it’s always been a part of her story.

Manning’s full letter is titled “The Next Stage of My Life” and has notes of relief, her trial and sentencing finally complete after three years. “As I transition into this next phase of my life,” Manning wrote, “I want everyone to know the real me.”

Manning was wrestling with her sexual orientation while serving in Iraq and when she got involved with WikiLeaks. As reported by Steve Fishman in a July 2011 issue of New York, “Among fellow soldiers, Manning had to conceal the basic facts of his sexual orientation. On the web, he was proudly out and joined a ‘Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ group. He’d even begun to explore switching his gender, chatting with a counselor about the steps a person takes to transition from male to female.”

Manning will probably be in her early 30s when she is released from prison; so she’ll still have a long and probably interesting life ahead of her when that time comes.

Chris Lane

Chris Lane

Australians are calling for a boycott of U.S. travel after the senseless shooting of young Australian college student Chris Lane in Oklahoma. CNN:

The indiscriminate shooting of Christopher Lane, a 23-year-old Australian who was living his dream of studying in the United States on a baseball scholarship, has repulsed many in his home country and led to calls for Australian tourists to boycott the United States.

“It is another example of murder mayhem on Main Street,” former Australian deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer told CNN’s Piers Morgan.

“People thinking of going to the USA for business or tourist trips should think carefully about it given the statistical fact you are 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the USA than in Australia per capita per million people.”

Police said Lane was on one of his regular runs through what has been described as the affluent town of Duncan on Friday about 3 p.m. when a car carrying three teenagers drove up behind him.

“They pulled up behind him and shot him in the back, then sped away,” said Capt. Jay Evans of the Duncan Police Department. “It could have been anybody — it was such a random act.”

Here’s a long article about the shooting from new.com.au: Chilling 911 call details final moments of Melbourne baseballer Chris Lane’s life.

What a heartbreaking story.

Scalia-marks-25-years-on-court-F8EK737-x-large

The states of Arizona and Kansas have followed a suggestion from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, according to TPM: Accepting Scalia’s Offer, Arizona Sues Obama Administration On Voting Rights.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, was announced by Arizona’s Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett, and joined by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a high-profile architect of restrictionist laws, including Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070.

The issue involves the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, also known as the “motor voter” law, which requires states to let people register to vote simply by attesting they are citizens, when renewing their driver’s license or applying for social services. A 2004 law adopted by the voters in Arizona added the requirement that people registering to vote also provide proof of citizenship. The Supreme Court struck down that law earlier this year, concluding that it is trumped by the motor voter law. Arizona, the court ruled, could not add new requirements to the form prescribed by the federal law.

But during oral arguments in March, Scalia expressed his bafflement that Arizona did not launch a broader assault on the constitutionality of the NVRA form, written by the Election Assistance Commission. The state simply contended in that case that its proof of citizenship law did not violate the federal law. Even Scalia disagreed with that, voting against Arizona in the ruling, but also giving them a valuable tip in his 7-2 majority opinion.

“We hold that [the NVRA] precludes Arizona from requiring a Federal Form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” Scalia wrote in the June decision. “Arizona may, however, request anew that the EAC include such a requirement among the Federal Form’s state-specific instructions, and may seek judicial review of the EAC’s decision under the Administrative Procedure Act.”

Sigh . . . read more at the link.

Bobby Jindal

According to a new PPP poll, only 28 percent of Louisiana voters still think Governor Bobby Jindal is doing a good job.

Three years ago in August PPP declared Bobby Jindal to be the most popular Governor in the country. 58% of voters approved of him to only 34% who disapproved. Jindal’s fortunes have seen an amazing shift since that time though, and our newest poll finds him to be the most unpopular Republican Governor of any state- and the second most unpopular Governor in the country overall.

Just 28% of voters now approve of Jindal to 59% who disapprove.  That’s an 11 point decline in his net approval just since February when he was already at a poor 37/57 standing. Even Republicans are pretty divided on Jindal (43/42) while independents (35/45) and Democrats (14/78) generally give him poor marks.

Jindal’s White House prospects are dismal if his home state voters have anything to say about it. Just 17% of Louisianans think he should run for President in 2016 to 72% who believe he should sit it out. He ties for 4th among Republican primary voters as their top choice for their 2016 candidate- Rand Paul leads with 18% to 17% for Jeb Bush, 11% for Paul Ryan, 10% for Jindal and Chris Christie, 8% for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, 5% for Rick Santorum, and less than 1% for Susana Martinez. (That’s also an embarrassingly poor showing for Santorum given that he easily won the state’s primary last year.)

Jindal wouldn’t be likely to get to a general election but the news for him there is bad too- he trails Hillary Clinton 47/40 in a hypothetical match up. Every other Republican we looked at is more competitive with Clinton in the state- Ryan leads her 46/44, Paul does 45/44, Bush ties her at 44 each, and she leads Christie just 42/41. It looks like Clinton would have a chance to make Louisiana unusually competitive in any instance, but particularly so against Jindal.

It’s difficult to believe that Jindal is polling that well against Hillary.

A few more short takes:

A new article in LA Weekly offers some startling revelations about Michael Hastings’ state of mind before he was killed in a one-car crash: Michael Hastings’ Dangerous Mind: Journalistic Star Was Loved, Feared and Haunted. Based on a friend’s descriptions of Hastings’ behavior, it sounds like he was so severely depressed that he was delusional.

From The A Register, speculations based on The Guardian’s bizarre claims that British intelligence agents forced them to destroy computers that contained U.S. secrets stolen by Edward Snowden: MYSTERY of Guardian mobos and graphics cards which ‘held Snowden files’

A funny Buzzfeed list (with gifs) contributed by Marc Ambinder: 12 Ways To Easily Identify An East Coast Transplant In LA.

A very weird story that demonstrates the institutional stupidity of the Federal Bureau of Investigation: FBI suspected William Vollmann was the Unabomber.

A fascinating story at Defense One: Area 51 Has Been Hiding U-2 Spy Planes, Not UFOs

Finally, our old friend David Sirota really outdid himself yesterday with this story at Salon: This cowardly silence is an act of war, in which he claims that President Obama’s failure to object to the UK detaining Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda at Heathrow Airport is a crime against humanity . . . or something.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please share your links in the comment thread.


International Community Must Confront Putin and Russia on Anti-Gay Legislation

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There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” legislation–signed into law on June 30 by President Vladimir Putin–because of this month’s World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi as well as Edward Snowden’s decision to defect to Russia. Naturally there is concern about discrimination against gay athletes and coaches at international sporting events; and Snowden has been criticized because his supposed passion for human rights is belied by his embrace of Putin and his disastrous human rights record.

Here’s an explanation of the new law at PolicyMic: Russia’s Anti-Gay Law, Spelled Out in Plain English.

On June 30 this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” thus opening a new, dark chapter in the history of gay rights in Russia. The law caps a period of ferocious activities by the Russian government aimed at limiting the rights of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.

The violations of fundamental, constitutionally protected rights of Russia’s gay citizens have included multiple bans on gay pride parades in Moscow and other cities, hefty fines to gay rights groups accused of acting as a “foreign agent,” denial of registration to nongovernmental organizations, and regional laws banning the propaganda of homosexuality to minors, which served as a basis for the federal law enacted by Mr. Putin and unanimously passed by the State Duma. Against this backdrop, violent attacks on gays or “suspect gays” are becoming commonplace.

The federal law is spelled out in Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses.

Here is what Article 6.21 actually says:

Propaganda is the act of distributing information among minors that 1) is aimed at the creating nontraditional sexual attitudes, 2) makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive, 3) equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or 4) creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations.

If you’re Russian. Individuals engaging in such propaganda can be fined 4,000 to 5,000 rubles (120-150 USD), public officials are subject to fines of 40,000 to 50,000 rubles (1,200-1,500 USD), and registered organizations can be either fined (800,000-1,000,000 rubles or 24,000-30,000 USD) or sanctioned to stop operations for 90 days. If you engage in the said propaganda in the media or on the internet, the sliding scale of fines shifts: for individuals, 50,000 to 100,000 rubles; for public officials, 100,000 to 200,000 rubles, and for organizations, from one million rubles or a 90-day suspension.

If you’re an alien. Foreign citizens or stateless persons engaging in propaganda are subject to a fine of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles, or they can be deported from the Russian Federation and/or serve 15 days in jail. If a foreigner uses the media or the internet to engage in propaganda, the fines increase to 50,000-100,000 rubles or a 15-day detention with subsequent deportation from Russia.

As PolicyMic points out, the language of the law is so ambiguous that it is difficult to predict how it will be enforced or how it will be applied to foreigners. According to HuffPo, visitors to Russia should be concerned.

Bad news for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) travelers hoping to visit Russia, as foreign tourists will now be subjected to the same “gay propaganda” fines and sentences as residents.

Travel site Skift reports that the new law, signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 30, contains a provision that allows the government to arrest and detain gay (or “pro-gay”) foreigners for up to 14 days before they would then be expelled from Russia.

As far as what is considered “pro-gay,” the laws specifics are somewhat vague, butCanadian site Travel and Escape suggests “gay-affirmative” speech, displaying a rainbow flag and same-sex partners holding hands are among the prohibited actions.

A few days later, on July 3, Putin signed another law that bans adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples or by any unmarried couple or single parent in a country that recognizes gay marriage.

Today Harvey Fierstein published an op-ed in The New York Times on Russia’s Anti-Gay Crackdown, in which he reports there are rumors that Putin will soon

sign an edict that would remove children from their own families if the parents are either gay or lesbian or suspected of being gay or lesbian. The police would have the authority to remove children from adoptive homes as well as from their own biological parents.

Fierstein dismisses claims that these recently passed laws are designed to protect children from pedophiles. There is no scientific evidence to show that pedophiles are homosexuals; in fact research shows that the overwhelming majority of pedophiles are heterosexual males. So what is the explanation for the Putin’s war against gays?

Mr. Putin’s true motives lie elsewhere. Historically this kind of scapegoating is used by politicians to solidify their bases and draw attention away from their failing policies, and no doubt this is what’s happening in Russia. Counting on the natural backlash against the success of marriage equality around the world and recruiting support from conservative religious organizations, Mr. Putin has sallied forth into this battle, figuring that the only opposition he will face will come from the left, his favorite boogeyman.

Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians. In May a young gay man was murdered in the city of Volgograd. He was beaten, his body violated with beer bottles, his clothing set on fire, his head crushed with a rock. This is most likely just the beginning.

Yet, so far the international community hasn’t done much to push back against Putin’s anti-gay campaign. As Fierstein writes, “this must change,” and the upcoming Winter Olympics provides the perfect opportunity for enlightened government to put pressure on Putin and his regime.

Today, one gay reporter, James Kirchick, did his part to call attention to Russia’s repressive new anti-gay laws when he appeared on Russia Today, the state-owned TV station, ostensibly to discuss the Bradley Manning sentence. It turned into quite a scene.

According to The Washington Free Beacon, Kirchick was taken off the air when he refused to stop talking about Russia’s anti-gay laws and focus on Bradley Manning.

“A quick explanation now for the beginning of our coverage of the Bradley Manning sentences,” one host said later in the program. “We invited a guest on to discuss the fate of the whistleblower, but he used the chance to discuss his views on other unrelated issues and that’s why we had to take him off air. We would like to say sorry for any confusion caused.”

RT also refused to continue Kirchick’s car service, according to the reporter.

“True fact: (RT) just called taxi company that took me to studio to drop me off on the side of the highway on way to Stockholm airport,” Kirchick wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning following his appearance on the network.

This is an open thread, but any comments on the content of this post will be much appreciated.


Thursday Reads

judgegavel

Good Morning!!

There’s been quite a bit of legal and courthouse news this week, so I’m going to focus on that today.

Yesterday was a big day at the Boston Federal Courthouse as the Whitey Bulger trial was briefly eclipsed by the first court appearance of Boston Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. From The Boston Globe:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shuffled into the courtroom, appearing confident despite the ankle chains and an orange jumpsuit so big on him that it made him appear younger than his 19 years.

As federal prosecutors read the charges against him Wednesday in his first appearance since being captured in April, Tsarnaev repeatedly looked over his shoulder at the packed courtroom, at one point blowing a kiss to his sisters, one sobbing and another holding a baby.

He leaned into the microphone in the hushed courtroom to tell Judge Marianne B. Bowler with an accent that he pleaded not guilty to 30 charges, including use of weapons of mass destruction. More than 30 victims of the Marathon bombings and about a dozen supporters who say they believe Tsarnaev is innocent watched intently as the accused terrorist yawned and stroked the side of his face, which appeared swollen from a wound.

Tsarnaev, who could receive the death penalty, fidgeted in his seat as he listened to the charges, one of his attorneys patting him on the back gently several times. He had a visible scar just below his throat and had a cast on his left arm.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

ABC News talked to survivors of the April 15 bombings who showed up to watch Tsarnaev’s court appearance.

Friends and family members of people whose lives were shattered when two homemade bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 packed three rooms in a federal courthouse on Wednesday as suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to a 30-count indictment.

But the fleeting courtroom encounter brought little relief to Bostonians who said the 19-year-old —accused of conducting the deadly bombings with the help of his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev —showed little feeling.

“He came out and he smirked at the families,” said Ed Fucarile, 64, outside of the John Joseph Moakley federal courthouse along the water in South Boston. “The lawyers put their hands on his shoulders like it was going to be all right.”

Fucarile wore a Boston Strong t-shirt with the name of Marc Fucarile, his son who lost his right leg and still carries shrapnel in his body, the father said.

Marc Fucarile, 34, was standing near the second blast when it went off. He still has more surgeries to go, and has spent every day of the nearly three months since receiving medical care, his father said. Members of the family have taken weeks off work so that someone is always at Marc’s bedside, he said.

Read more survivors’ stories at the link.

Bulger defense team: J.W. Carney Jr. and Hank Brennan

Bulger defense team: J.W. Carney Jr. and Hank Brennan

At the Whitey Bulger trial, there was a bit of comic relief as Bulger flew into a rage toward the end of testimony and exchanged curses with his former close friend and partner Kevin Weeks. It was reminiscent of a scene from Sopranos.

Bulger’s lawyer, J.W. Carney, tried to portray Weeks as an opportunist who knew how to manipulate the system, someone who cut a deal with prosecutors to serve just five years in prison for aiding and abetting five killings, several of which, Weeks testified, he saw Bulger commit.

“You won against the system,” said Carney.

“What did I win? What did I win,” Weeks said, his voice sounding strained and tired. “Five people are dead.”

Asked whether that bothered him, Weeks shot back, “We killed people that were rats, and I had the two biggest rats right next to me …”

At that, Bulger turned and hissed, “You suck.”

“F— you, OK,” snapped Weeks.

“F— you, too,” shouted Bulger as the jury watched.

“What do you want to do?” said Weeks, his eyes locked on Bulger, who was flushed and staring right back.

At one point Weeks even threatened Carney, asking him if he’d like to step outside.

Weeks grew belligerent and threatening as Carney accused him of lying, challenged his motivation for cooperating, and suggested that Weeks, not Bulger, was a rat.

“You can’t rat on a rat,” said Weeks, adding that he lives in South Boston and walks the streets without being called a rat.

When Carney asked Weeks what he would do if someone did call him a rat, Weeks snapped that if he stepped outside the courthouse he’d show him.

James Bulger and Kevin Weeks

James Bulger and Kevin Weeks

Yesterday the testimony was even more grotesque and sickening, as forensic expert Ann Marie Mires testified about remains of murder victims Arthur Barrett, Deborah Hussey, John McIntyre, and Paul J. McGonagle. I’ll spare you the descriptions; you can go to the links and read more if you’re interested.

This morning  Carney asked the judge for a break in the testimony so the defense team could catch up.

The defense team for James “Whitey” Bulger is asking the judge to suspend testimony until next week so they can catch up on evidence.

Defense attorney J.W. Carney filed the motion with the court on Thursday.

“Simply put, the defendant’s counsel have hit a wall, and are unable to proceed further without additional time to prepare for upcoming witnesses,” the motion reads. “Counsel have struggled mightily to be ready for each day of the trial since it began on June 3, 2013, working seven days a week and extraordinarily long hours.” [….]

“A major problem has been the delay in the receipt of discovery from the prosecution,” the motion reads, citing examples of receiving binders of documents pertaining to testimony to be given by witnesses the evening before they take the stand.

Yesterday defense teams rested in both the Bradley Manning and the George Zimmerman trials.

From the Guardian via Raw Story: Bradley Manning defense rests its case after calling just 10 witnesses

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Having called just 10 witnesses over the space of three days, the defence phase of the trial was brought to a close far quicker than expected. The defence had indicated in earlier hearings that it intended to call more than 40 witnesses, although many may yet still be presented in court during the post-verdict sentencing stage of the court martial.

By contrast, the prosecution took 14 days to make its case, drawing on 80 witnesses.

On Wednesday, the defence team lead by the civilian lawyer David Coombs, focused its attentions on the most serious charge facing the Army private – that he “aided the enemy” by transmitting information to WikiLeaks knowing that it would be accessible to enemy groups notably al-Qaida. Manning faces a possible sentence of life in military custody with no chance of parole under this single charge.

The final defence witness called, the Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, delivered blistering testimony in which he portrayed WikiLeaks as a legitimate web-based journalistic organisation. He also warned the judge presiding in the case, Colonel Denise Lind, that if the “aiding the enemy” charge was interpreted broadly to suggest that handing information to a website that could be read by anyone with access to the internet was the equivalent of handing to the enemy, then that serious criminal accusation could be levelled against all media outlets that published on the web.

Prosecutor John Guy with dummy

Prosecutor John Guy with dummy

Yesterday was quite a theatrical one in the Zimmerman trial, as a mannequin was brought into court and both a prosecutor and defense attorney Mark O’Mara got down on the floor and straddled the dummy in effort to act out what might have happened during an alleged altercation between Zimmerman and his victim Trayvon Martin.

As professional images go, what followed in the courtroom was probably not something for which Mark O’Mara would most like to be remembered.

Hitching up his pant legs and straddling a life-size human mannequin, Zimmerman’s lead defense counsel got down and dirty on the courtroom floor and proceeded to demonstrate for jurors the “ground and pound” move that they have been told Martin exerted on the accused.

Coming a day after he encouraged one of his witnesses, gym owner and mixed martial arts trainer Adam Pollack, to “step down from the stand to give me an example of a mounted position,” prostrating himself on the floor and asking Pollack, “Where do you want me?” the episode made for an awkward role play, leaving court observers snickering and biting their lips in the midst of an otherwise tragic plot.

Earlier in the day, prosecutor John Guy—described by one public observer in the courtroom on the trial’s opening day as “the supermodel of attorneys”—had also hopped on the mannequin for a similar demonstration in front of the all-female jury.

Don West and George Zimmerman

Don West and George Zimmerman

Later Judge Debra Nelson had a “testy exchange” with defense attorney Don West as she asked Zimmerman whether he planned to take the stand. Zimmerman seemed unsure, and West tried to step in.

West repeatedly challenged Nelson’s decision to press Zimmerman for a clear answer. The judge repeatedly slapped him down, her voice gathering volume every time.

“The court is entitled to ask Mr. Zimmerman about his determination as to whether he wants to testify,” Nelson insisted tersely after West objected to her line of questioning.

She looked back at Zimmerman: “How long do you think you need before you make that decision?” she inquired again, as the defendant—who had a minute earlier been made to raise his hand and swear under oath that any decision whether to testify would be his—turned to his counsel for help.

“I object to the court inquiring of Zimmerman about his intention to testify,” West whimpered for a second time.

“I object to the court inquiring of Zimmerman about his intention to testify,” West whimpered for a second time.

“And I have O-VER-RULED” Judge Nelson spat back—several times—as the objections kept coming.

Finally Zimmerman haltingly said he did not want to testify. I think he actually wanted to–if only. What a disaster that would have been for his attorneys! Closing arguments are scheduled to begin this afternoon.

In other news, I can’t resist sharing this article from Time Magazine about what former Russian spies think is probably happening to Edward Snowden in Russia.

In the summer of 1985, KGB colonel Oleg Gordievsky was called back to Moscow from the Soviet embassy in London, where he was serving as a resident spy. As a pretext, his commanders told him that he was going to receive an award for his service. But in fact the KGB suspected him of being a double agent — which he was — and they were looking to interrogate him. So upon his arrival, his KGB colleagues, still concealing their suspicions, took him to a comfortable country estate in the suburbs of the Russian capital, much like the one where Gordievsky and other former spies believe Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle-blower, has spent the past few weeks….

The official story coming from the Russian government since then is that Snowden has been holed up in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, waiting for some third country to grant him asylum. But few experts or officials in Moscow still believe that to be true. The accepted wisdom, unofficially acknowledged by most Western and Russian sources, is that Snowden was taken soon after his arrival — if not immediately — to a secure location run by some arm of the Russian government.

Putin wink

Experts and former spies who have dealt with the Russian security services are sure that agents would want to get the encryption keys to the data stored on Snowden’s four laptops. The only way to do that would be to get Snowden to give them up.

So Gordievsky believes Snowden would have gotten roughly the same treatment that the KGB spy got back in 1985. “They would have fed him something to loosen his tongue,” Gordievsky says by phone from the U.K., where he has been living in exile for nearly three decades. “Many different kinds of drugs are available, as I experienced for myself.” Having been called back to Moscow, Gordievsky says his KGB comrades drugged him with a substance that “turned out his lights” and made him “start talking in a very animated way.” Although the drug wiped out most of his memory of the incident, the parts he did recollect horrified him the following morning, when he woke up feeling ill. “I realized that I had completely compromised myself,” he says.

One of the substances the KGB used for such purposes at the time was called SP-117, which is odorless, tasteless and colorless, according Alexander Kouzminov, a former Russian intelligence operative who describes the drug’s effectiveness in his book, Biological Espionage. Now living in New Zealand, Kouzminov worked in the 1980s and early 1990s for the Foreign Intelligence Service, the spy agency known as the SVR, which handles undercover agents, or “illegals,” stationed in foreign countries. In his book, Kouzminov writes that various drugs were used periodically to test these operatives for signs of disloyalty or diversion. Once the drug had worn off, the agents would have no recollection of what they had said and, if their test results were satisfactory, they could be sent back into the field as though nothing had happened.

Yesterday, Snowden announced through Glenn Greenwald that “I never gave any information to Chinese or Russian governments.”  I guess he assumes that Chinese and Russian officials don’t read The Guardian, The Washington Post, or the South China Morning Post. Anyway now it’s not clear if he would even remember if he gave them anything.

For all you Snowden and Greenwald fans out there, this information comes from an article in Time Magazine based on interviews with people who have actual experience with the ways Russia deals with spies. Don’t shoot the  messenger.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focused on today. Please share you links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a tremendous Thursday!


Edward Snowden Issues Bizarre Statement Via Wikileaks

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I’ve been following the endless Edward Snowden soap opera just about non-stop for the past few days. I wish I were capable of writing a reasoned, logically argued post right now, but I’m not. This whole story has just become too crazy. I just can’t guarantee that this post will make a lot of sense, so I’ll just begin by posting Snowden’s statement. I’ve added emphasis to a few passages.

Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow

Monday July 1, 21:40 UTC

One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.

On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.

This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.

For decades the United States of America have [sic] been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.

I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.

Edward Joseph Snowden

Monday 1st July 2013

I’m mystified by this statement. Snowden could have stayed here in the U.S. and fought against the government actions that he claims are criminal. He could have followed in the footsteps of Martin Luther King by accepting the consequences of civil disobedience. He would have probably have gotten a great deal of support from the public if he had done so. Instead he chose to flee first to China and then to Russia–two countries with far worse domestic spying and human rights records than the U.S. And now he’s whining about the consequences of his fleeing.

President Obama did not promise not to take any actions to interfere with Snowden’s life. He indicated that he wasn’t going to do something as dramatic as bringing down Snowden’s plane or go to extreme lengths to negotiate with Russia or some other country for his return.  Snowden’s naivete is amazing. World leaders engage in deception. Countries spy on each other. When you reveal secret information stolen from your government you are engaging in espionage and you become a spy.

Because neither Snowden nor Glenn Greenwald has a coherent political ideology, neither of them is able to make a clear political argument to define and defend Snowden’s actions in reasonable, logical ways. So what we get is whining from Snowden and defensiveness and trumped up outrage from Greenwald and his followers.

Snowden apparently sees himself as a tragic martyr who should be applauded for “revealing the truth.”  He has the gall to compare himself to whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Thomas Drake who faced the consequences of their actions by pleading guilty to crimes. We don’t know yet what the upshot of Manning’s case will be, but Drake is not “powerless.” He served no jail time, and now he is free to make appearances and share his opinions freely. Furthermore, Snowden hasn’t been exiled. I’m sure he could work out a deal to return to the U.S. and face the music. But he doesn’t seem to think the rules apply to him.

As for Greenwald, he has such tunnel vision that he appears to believe that he can simply state that Snowden is a hero who has revealed the most important secret information in American history–and somehow this is so. Anyone who objects or simply asks mild questions about the “revelations” is  an enemy to be dismissed and attacked by legions of Greenwald fans who possess endless reserves of inchoate outrage. As I’ve said before, they remind of the Obot hoards of 2008.

If nothing else, Snowden’s leaks have gotten people talking about what the NSA is doing, although I have no idea if there is serious discussion of the actual content of the leaks outside the of people who closely follow the news and argue with each other on the internet. I have no idea if this episode will end with Americans being more knowledgeable about the government’s domestic spying programs.

The articles written about the leaked documents by Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian and Barton Gellman at the Washington Post have so far been confusing at best. Neither writer seems to have consulted with security and computer experts who could have helped them do a better job of explaining how the NSA programs work. I’ve gotten a much clearer understanding from reading Kurt Eichenwald’s blog at Vanity Fair.

Poor Ed. He’s learning that now that the information is out there, he is no longer that important. Ecuador doesn’t want to deal with him. Even Vladimir Putin has tired of using him to humiliate the Obama administration. Today he announced that Snowden could stay in Russia if he stopped leaking information designed to hurt the U.S.

Glenn Greenwald has also washed his hands of Snowden. Shortly after Putin made that announcement, Greenwald tweeted that “Snowden’s leak is basically done. It’s newspapers – not Snowden – deciding what gets disclosed and in what sequence.” Apparently Glenn is finished with Snowden too. That must have felt like a dagger through poor Ed’s heart.

We’ve learned that Snowden sent copies of the documents he stole to “many different people around the world,” so that he could continue to control the information. But it appears that someone–perhaps Wikileaks–must have all of it now, and Julian Assange has also said that nothing will stop publication of all of Snowden’s files now.

Snowden has become an object of pity at this point. And his whining about his situation isn’t going to help him look like a “hero.” He made the choice to leave his family, his home, and his girlfriend and run away from the consequences of his actions. President Obama did not do that to him.

Please discuss, or use this as an open thread.


Late Later Latest…Evening News Reads

No Birth Control for You... My, what would Jesus say?

Oh, I know it is late…so if you are up and about go ahead and treat this as an open thread.

Since it is so late, I just will post a few news items that did not make a lot of news today.

Bradley Manning to face formal trial on February 23 | World news | guardian.co.uk

The formal trial stage in the case of the WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning will begin on February 23, the US military has announced, when the soldier will be arraigned on all 22 counts relating to the largest leak of state secrets in American history.

Manning will be transferred on that day from his current imprisonment at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas to Fort Meade in Maryland, where he will be read all the charges against him and asked to give his plea. It will be the first occasion that he has come in front of a military judge representing the full power of the court martial system.

In most cases, the arraignment is a short and routine hearing that marks the accused’s official bringing to trial. In Manning’s case, however, it presents his trial lawyer David Coombs with the opportunity to raise objections to the conduct of the prosecution against his client.

Specifically…the fact that Manning has been in custody for such a long time…

In particular, Coombs has the option to complain about the exceptional length of time that Manning has been languishing in military jail. Under the US constitution, court martial cases must be brought within 120 days of charges being preferred against a suspect.

The military rule book, under rule 707 for speedy trial, makes clear that military justice must be dispensed quickly. It says that in some circumstances, delays may be prejudicial to the accused and may result in dismissal of the case.

A military spokesperson said that Manning’s 120 days, known as his “speedy trial clock”, began on 29 May 2010, yet he has continued to be held at the brig at Quantico marine base in Virginia and latterly at Fort Leavenworth for months beyond the deadline. The extra time taken to come to trial was due, the spokesperson said, to requests by Manning’s own defence team and the period in which classified documents were being handled.

“Offenses ordinarily should be disposed of promptly to serve the interests of good order and discipline. Priority shall be given to persons in arrest or confinement.”

If you did not know, CPAC is once again spewing the hate…oops, I mean basking in the glow of good Conservative Christian brotherhood. White Nationalists Agree: Multiculturalism is Bad

Right-wing members of Congress have never shied from associating with some of fringe agitators, but appearing with a white nationalist is beyond the pale. On Thursday afternoon, Iowa Rep. Steve King jovially appeared on a panel with Peter Brimelow, an anti-immigrant author that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has termed a white nationalist. Brimelow wrote Alien Nation and founded the online community VDARE, which SPLC describes as “a nonprofit that warns against the polluting of America by non-whites, Catholics, and Spanish-speaking immigrants.”

King had no qualms about associating himself with Brimelow when I caught up with the congressman after the panel. “Consider the source, I’m not in a position to judge people in the fashion that they seem to be so free to do,” King said of the SPLC.

King was not on the public schedule for the panel held at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and showed up as a surprise guest an hour after the panel started. Hosted by a group called ProEnglish—which supports English as the official language—the panel was titled “The Failure of Multiculturalism.” According to King’s assistant, the congressman had always planned to attend in order to push the bill he has sponsored to make English the country’s only official language. After standing at the podium and pitching his bill to make English the legal language—”there’s no reason to back off, there’s no reason to think all the names we’re called are accurate, they are not”—King sat down with the panelists to take questions. When Brimelow introduced himself to the congressman, King exclaimed, “Oh yes, Peter! I’ve read your books, I just hadn’t met you.”

And what did Brimelow say at the CPAC conference?

Brimelow’s prepared remarks during the panel railed against laws in Canada that dictate a dual national language, French and English. “I think it’s a hogwash,” he said of bilingualism, proudly touting his knowledge of only one language. “I’ve never felt the absence.”

And those other scheduled guest? Well some were not able to make it, they must be tending to property issues that usually arise when you burn a cross in someone’s yard.

Serge Trifkovic, a foreign affairs editor for Chronicle magazine, had to cancel his appearance at the last minute, but the panel’s moderator graciously read his anti-multiculturalism screed. Wrapped in the language of academia, the speech essentially explained why whites of European descent must reject notions of multiculturalism as a “neurotic” affront to their community. “Members of the Western elite class overwhelming subscribe to a neoliberal outlook in general, and to the tenets of multiculturalism in particular,” the speech read. “In other words, they tend to accept the principle that recognition, positive accommodation, and even celebration of demands and special political and moral claims of various ethno-racial, religious, or sexual minorities are obligatory through group-differentiated rights. The result is a obsessive favoritism of allegedly disadvantaged groups often hostile to the European descendent majority of Americans.”

Speaking of anti-culturalism…or should I say anti-Mexican: Mississippi Bill Changes Name of ‘Gulf of Mexico’ to ‘Gulf of America’ | Fox News Latino

Now before you get all pissed at a GOP legislator drafting a bill to rename the Gulf of Mexico, get this…it is a Democratic State Representative.

Mississippi State Rep. Steve Holland, a Democrat, has introduced a bill calling for the part of the Gulf of Mexico that is bordered by Mississippi to be renamed the “Gulf of America.”

The measure, known as HB 150 and introduced to the state House Marine Resources Committee, says the body of water will have its new name beginning July 1.

You just can’t make this shit up…

I am sure Dakinikat can think of a few new non-foreign names for BP aka British Petroleum.

And lastly, oh this is good…and dammit we need a laugh today!

Face Of The Day – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast

A photo that screams “Screw you guys, I’m going home”:

51Fy0

by Chris Bodenner

The story

…at the link!

Well, that is all I have for you tonight…and in my best Cartman voice…Screw you guys, I’m going home. (But since I am already home…There is a chocolate chicken pot pie with my name on it.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Copyright Protection vs Big Brother Howling at the Door

The United States Congress has been racking up historically low approval ratings, numbers bouncing from 3-9% over the last year.  Why?  Our legislative process has become paralyzed by partisan politics and perhaps, more importantly, the influence of massive amounts of money.  When lobbyists outnumber our representatives in the Halls of Congress by 5-1, the current inability and/or refusal to work in the interests of the American public is a given.

Money speaks.  Even the Supreme Court agreed in their disastrous Citizens United decision.  The more money, the bigger the noise.  The Do-Nothing Congress has earned its title.

Yet with all the pressing problems facing the Nation, one piece of legislation was kicked through the process and then flown, until recently, under the radar.  Specifically, that’s SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act, and its kissing cousin IPPA, Protect IP Act.

Last October, I wrote about this legislation here.  With a quick followup here.

On the face of it, copyright concerns are absolutely legitimate.  Any artist, musician, writer, etc., wants and expects protection of his/her creative efforts from rip-off artists.  You create something, it takes off, you expect the financial and psychic reward from that success.  There have been [and probably will continue to be] amoral individuals who plagiarize [steal] with abandon.  Corporations–those that still develop ideas and products–are also open to thievery by competitors.  Governments are vulnerable as well, which if anything [at least in my pea brain] demands that security measures around highly sensitive material be strong and effective, including careful clearance of those working with said materials.  Regardless of where one falls on the Manning case [hero or villain], anyone ever wonder how Bradley Manning, a private first class, was able to so easily tap records for Wikileaks, particularly after several red flags were ignored by Army personnel?

Accountability for lousy security anyone?

However, are we as a population willing to accept the radical tradeoff that SOPA represents, a serious curtailment of free expression and innovation, a barrier in the exchange of information between individuals and groups around the world to protect the financial and security issues of other entities?  And if so, what will the Internet be reduced to?

Think about the information that has circulated on the Net, regarding corrupt practices on Wall St. that led to the financial meltdown, the collusion of political partners, the failure of government bodies to investigate and prosecute guilty parties.  Do you think this information would have been disseminated as widely without the Internet access? Have we heard much about it in the mainstream press/newscasts?  Beyond Dylan Ratigan, that is, a MSNBC commentator.  Or, the ongoing global protests—The Arab Spring, the European Summer, the American Autumn, the Russian Winter.  Do you think these Movements would have gotten off the ground without Facebook and other social media outlets? Do you imagine we would have known of subsequent police over reactions?

Here’s the scoop from Techdirt on the byproduct of this asinine proposal, which is now suppose to be cleaned up and improved—the 2.0 version:

End result: SOPA 2.0 contains a crazy scary clause that’s going to make it crazy easy to cut off websites with no recourse whatsoever. And this part isn’t just limited to payment providers/ad networks — but to service providers, search engines and domain registrars/registries as well. Yes. Search engines. So you can send a notice to a search engine, and if they want to keep their immunity, they have to take the actions in either Section 102(c)(2) or 103(c)(2), which are basically all of the “cut ’em off, block ’em” remedies. That’s crazy. This basically encourages search engines to disappear sites upon a single notice. It encourages domain registries to kill domains based on notices. With no recourse at all, because the providers have broad immunity.

Look, I’m all for protecting the copyright of artists and other creators.  But not at the expense of free speech, open channels of communication and political discourse.

Here’s another question—do you not find it odd that so little time [make that anytime at all] has been spent by the mainstream press to discuss the problems with this legislation?  This is the same mainstream press that is suppose to be ‘free’ but has been consistently found wanting in actual reporting the news or investigating much of anything.  Yes, there are exceptions [Dylan Ratigan and recently 60 Minutes].  But by and large, the press today is held captive by the very forces paralyzing the government and buying off politicians.  These forces are keenly aware that restriction of a free-information vehicle, the Internet, is in their best interests.  There’s no doubt major news outlets are concerned by online sources ripping off their reports word-for-word.  But as far as distribution, information sharing and dissemination?  They’ve lost that battle to the Electronic Age.  And frankly, if the MSM had been doing their jobs–speaking truth to power–instead of playing lapdogs, their market share would not be as dismal.

In addition to the music and movie industries supporting this legislation [which at least makes sense], the American Bankers Association is a sponsor as well.  In fact, here’s a list of sponsors [interested parties].

If that link turns to gobblety-gook on you, check here at Wikipedia:

The link turning to gibberish was pretty weird—maybe a sign of things to come.  It worked perfectly fine the first time I checked it.

We do not need a bazooka to bring down a mouse.  The collateral damage can be significant, sometimes worse than the original problem.  That’s what this legislation represents.  And by collateral damage, I mean you, me and anyone plugged in at moment.  Sorry, but there’s something very disturbing that a complaint against a website can result in that site being ‘disappeared’ without explanation or appeal.

Consider this the ‘indefinite detention’ for objectionable sites on the Internet.

For additional information on the legislation itself, go here, here, here, and here.  Note that numerous online bigwigs [Google, Facebook,  Amazon, etc.] strongly oppose SOPA and have threatened a boycott/blackout, most likely on January 23rd in opposition to the upcoming cloture vote on the 24th.  Yves Smith has a good essay on what we’re looking at in terms of implications.

This is an important issue.  Citizen/online pressure can bring results.  Paul Ryan, for instance, stepped back just this past Monday from his initial support.  Resistance is everywhere and comes in many forms.  Here’s a boycott of another flavor.

An informed public is the best weapon against Big Brother and the invisible supporters of authoritative repress-freedom-for-the-sake-of-security measures.  We need to protect access to information to protect the present and future. We need access to information to save and preserve the core of our freedoms.


Wednesday Reads: History…War on Christmas, War in Iraq, and the Fog of War

Peace River Citrus...tasty orange juice, freshly squeezed.

Good Morning!

Ooof, that is quite a lot of war in the title for today’s post…lots of things to share with you this morning. It’s been raining pretty steady and the wind is whipping up the cows in the pasture down here in Banjoland.

Today’s post is going to focus on a theme that revolves around History…but first, a quick article about  something meteorological.

This weather link is so damn cool!

I saw this article when it was first published earlier this week, and planned on using it for today…Weird Kelvin-Helmholtz Wave Clouds over Birmingham and let me tell you, it is freaky!

While driving through Birmingham, Alabama, Redditor alison_bee couldn’t help but notice the bizarre, repetitive wave shapes appearing in the clouds near the horizon. While these strange cloud formations look otherworldly, they’re an example of what’s called Kelvin-Helmholtz instability — which is a pretty awesome name for a spectacular phenomenon.

What did I tell you?

Heres what Redditor and meteorologist zensunnioracle had to say:

Meteorologist here. These are indeed Kelvin-Helmholtz waves. What is happening is that the nocturnal near-surface layers (lowest 50-100m) of the atmosphere are much more stable than the layers above it in the mornings. Until the ground heats up due to daytime heating, the surface layers stay more stable than the air over it. Kelvin-Helmholtz waves occur when the wind shear between the layers destabilizes the topmost portion of that stable layer, and entrains the air into the unstable layer. What you see is stable air being lifted, cooled, and condensed so that this process becomes visible, though this commonly happens many places without being visible.

As spectacular as these waves are here on Earth, the same forces create similar patters on the gas giant planets like Saturn and Jupiter. While those are some truly enormous waves, these pictures from alison_bee should show that the Earthbound variety aren’t to be sneezed at either.

Video of these clouds as they roll over the city at the link…

Do you remember that hostage situation in a Russian cinema back in 2002? European Court Orders Russia to Pay Victims of 2002 Theater Siege

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to pay more than $1.3 million to victims of the government’s mishandled attempt to end the siege of a Moscow theater in 2002.

The Strasbourg-based court ruled Tuesday that Russia had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by a lack of planning and poor execution of the rescue operation.

Chechen militants refused to surrender after a standoff at the Dubrovka theater lasting several days, leading Russian security forces to launch a raid on the theater, where the militants were holding more than 800 people hostage. The troops fired an unidentified gas into the theater to try to knock out the militants, but nearly 130 hostages died in the attempt.

In addition, the report stated that Russia did not provide adequate medical aid to the hostages after its rescue effort and failed to conduct an effective investigation of the tragedy.

This comes at a time when tensions are running high in Russia, as Peggy Sue described it in a post last week, The Russian Winter.

Well, the Arab Spring is still ongoing, I thought this next post was interesting because it discusses British History in the Middle East, and the lessons that should be learned. The ‘Arab spring’ and the west: seven lessons from history

talat harb 1956/2011

October 2011: Egyptians in Talat Harb square, Cairo, protest against military rule; October 1956: Egyptians demonstrate in the same square against British-French invasion. Photograph: Getty/Associated Press

There’s a real sense in which, more than any other part of the former colonial world, the Middle East has never been fully decolonised. Sitting on top of the bulk of the globe’s oil reserves, the Arab world has been the target of continual interference and intervention ever since it became formally independent.

Carved into artificial states after the first world war, it’s been bombed and occupied – by the US, Israel, Britain and France – and locked down with US bases and western-backed tyrannies. As the Palestinian blogger Lina Al-Sharif tweeted on Armistice Day this year, the “reason World War One isn’t over yet is because we in the Middle East are still living the consequences”.

Just a side note, I think the comparison of those two photos is a perfect introduction to this article.

The Arab uprisings that erupted in Tunisia a year ago have focused on corruption, poverty and lack of freedom, rather than western domination or Israeli occupation. But the fact that they kicked off against western-backed dictatorships meant they posed an immediate threat to the strategic order.

Since the day Hosni Mubarak fell in Egypt, there has been a relentless counter-drive by the western powers and their Gulf allies to buy off, crush or hijack the Arab revolutions. And they’ve got a deep well of experience to draw on: every centre of the Arab uprisings, from Egypt to Yemen, has lived through decades of imperial domination. All the main Nato states that bombed Libya, for example – the US, Britain, France and Italy – have had troops occupying the country well within living memory.

If the Arab revolutions are going to take control of their future, then, they’ll need to have to keep an eye on their recent past. So here are seven lessons from the history of western Middle East meddling, courtesy of the archive of Pathé News, colonial-era voice of Perfidious Albion itself.

Please go to the link to read about the seven lessons, the first one is a big lesson that we will probably never learn…there are also embedded videos to support the article, some go back to Libya and Jerusalem in the 1930’s.

And for another History Lesson, there is a lengthy timeline here at this link to MoJo: Lie by Lie: A Timeline of How We Got Into Iraq

George Bush Dr. Strangelove

At A congressional hearing examining the march to war in Iraq, Republican congressman Walter Jones posed “a very simple question” about the administration’s manipulation of intelligence: “How could the professionals see what was happening and nobody speak out?”

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, responded with an equally simple answer: “The vice president.”

Oh… this is extremely detailed, so just go read the entire thing! Perhaps it will make you remember some of the events listed, as it made me recall them, in my mind’s vivid memory.

History has yet to write the story of Bradley Manning, however, Amy Goodman has done a good job of reporting on his case. Amy Goodman: Bradley Manning and the Fog of War

Accused whistle-blower Pvt. Bradley Manning turned 24 Saturday. He spent his birthday in a pretrial military hearing that could ultimately lead to a sentence of life … or death. Manning stands accused of causing the largest leak of government secrets in United States history.

Goodman explains the reasons for his “imprisonment” and gives a summary of what his outlook may be:

Back in the Fort Meade, Md., hearing room, defense attorneys painted a picture of a chaotic forward operating base with little to no supervision, no controls whatsoever on soldiers’ access to classified data, and a young man in uniform struggling with his sexual identity in the era of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Manning repeatedly flew into rages, throwing furniture and once even punching a superior in the face, without punishment. His peers at the base said he should not be in a war zone. Yet he stayed, until his arrest 18 months ago.

Since his arrest, Manning has been in solitary confinement, for much of the time in Quantico, Va., under conditions so harsh that the U.N. special rapporteur on torture is investigating. Many believe the U.S. government is trying to break Manning in order to use him in its expected case of espionage against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It also sends a dramatic message to any potential whistle-blower: “We will destroy you.”

For now, Manning sits attentively, reports say, facing possible death for “aiding the enemy.” The prosecution offered words Manning allegedly wrote to Assange as evidence of his guilt. In the email, Manning described the leak as “one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetrical warfare.” History will no doubt use the same words as irrefutable proof of Manning’s courage.

There are so many things going on these days that indicate a change in the rights and liberties of American citizens. We are in the process of losing these rights in this Bush/Obama Administration.

I love this history theme for today’s post…here is another article from Truthdig: William Pfaff: History Tells Us Not to Dismiss a Democratic Challenge to Obama

A week ago, in the Providence Journal newspaper (in Rhode Island), the publisher of Harper’s Magazine, John R. MacArthur, wrote that President Barack Obama, through expedient political compromises, has lost the moral authority that an American president must command, and therefore has lost his right to a second presidential term. Mr. MacArthur quotes in support of his argument the veteran journalist Bill Moyers, who was a member of President Lyndon Johnson’s staff from 1965 to 1967, and since has become a prominent commentator on public television and in liberal and Democratic Party circles.

Just click the link to read the rest…and there is a note at the end of the post you may find interesting too. (Especially those following the Euro/EU economic news.)

And for the last link, we’re going Medieval…on the Right and Left’s perceptions of the “War on Christmas.”  Illuminating the “The War on Christmas” — Got Medieval

No snark today, just a few pretty medieval pictures interspersed with thoughts on this whole War on Christmas thing that you hear so much about these days.

At heart, I think, the War is a matter of incompatible perception. One camp looks at Christmas and sees this:

British Library MS Additional 52539, f. 2 (click-expandable)

And the other, this:

British Library MS Egerton 2045, f. 95 (click to expand)

Behold, a pair of “Adoration of the Magi”.* Neither version looks very much like the medieval marginalia this series typically features** but they both muck about with the page’s margins, nevertheless, so they’re fair game.

The second adoration is actually the most properly called “marginalia”; look closely, and you’ll see there’s a tiny rectangle of text there in the middle of the page, barely a half line of scripture.  Everything else–Jesus and Mary, the three magi and their retainers, the gifts, the castle, even the camel–is located fully within the page’s sumptuously decorated margin, a margin that has expanded so as to nearly blot out the page’s text.

Likewise with the first; it’s marginal, if only just.  While it’s technically a “historiated initial,” if you squint at the lower left quadrant, you’ll see that the kneeling cup-bearing servant is slipping out into the margin.  Everyone else is crowded in so that there’s no room left for him to stand in the main image.

Which one is the metaphor for the Christmas War-Uponers, and which the Christmas Defense Squad?

There is so much one can learn about the attitudes and thought process of the Medieval mind through the art of page decorations.

As the above blog post analyzes the pictures of Christmas, that include the Savior, an occasional Christmas “Beasty” and all the other familiar characters, i.e. the Three Wise Men, I wonder what the three idiots on the curvy couch would have to say about all this marginalization going on.

So this is your History Lesson for the day, what else are you reading and thinking about? See y’all later in the comments.

Hmmm…that makes me think of the phrase, See You in the Funny Papers.