One more day until 2020 begins. Here’s what’s happening right now:
As 2019 draws to a close with “Death to America” is trending on Twitter. The New York Times: Protesters Attack U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Chanting ‘Death to America.’
BAGHDAD — Protesters broke into the heavily guarded compound of the United States Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday and lit fires inside to express their anger over American airstrikes that killed 24 members of an Iranian-backed militia over the weekend.
The men did not enter the main embassy buildings and later withdrew from the compound, joining thousands of protesters and militia fighters outside who chanted “Death to America,” threw rocks, covered the walls with graffiti and demanded that the United States withdraw its forces from Iraq.
The situation remained combustible, with protesters vowing to camp outside the compound indefinitely. Their ability to storm the most heavily guarded zone in Baghdad suggested that they had received at least tacit permission from Iraqi security officials sympathetic to their demands.
The American airstrikes on Sunday have resulted in the most serious political crisis in years for the United States in Iraq, stoking anti-Americanism and handing an advantage to Iran in its competition for influence in the country.
The airstrikes targeted an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, Kataib Hezbollah, which the United States accused of carrying out a missile attack on an Iraqi military base that killed an American contractor and wounded American and Iraqi service members. A spokesman for the militia denied involvement in the attack.
But the size of the American response — five strikes in Iraq and Syria that killed two dozen fighters and wounded dozens of others — prompted condemnation from across the political spectrum and accusations that the United States had violated Iraqi sovereignty.
Trump is blaming Iran, The Washington Post reports:
President Trump responded angrily Tuesday to the protesters’ actions, charging that Iran was behind a deadly militia attack that led to the airstrikes and blaming Tehran for the embassy siege.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many,” Trump tweeted from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”
A spokesman for the Kataib Hezbollah militia said the demonstrators intend to besiege the embassy until the facility shuts down and U.S. diplomats leave Iraq.
But the angry demonstrators defied appeals delivered over loudspeakers by the group’s leaders not to enter the embassy compound and smashed their way into one of the facility’s reception areas, breaking down fortified doors and bulletproof glass and setting fire to the room.
American guards inside the embassy fired tear gas to keep the militia supporters at bay. U.S. troops could be seen nearby and on rooftops, their weapons drawn, but they did not open fire. Embassy civil defense workers just inside the gates attempted to put out the fires with water hoses.
The protesters also smashed security cameras, set two guardrooms ablaze and burned tires. They made a bonfire out of a pile of papers and military MREs (meals ready to eat) found in the reception area, where guards normally search visitors. Kataib Hezbollah flags were draped over the barbed wire protecting the embassy’s high walls.
So much for Trump and Kushner’s plans for peace in the Middle East. And didn’t American taxpayers spend $750 million to make the Baghdad embassy impenetrable?
Here’s a little comic relief from The Daily Beast: Team Trump’s Furious Hunt to Find Out Who ‘Liked’ a Chelsea Clinton Tweet.
On the evening of July 10, 2017, staffers at the U.S. embassy in Brussels—the official office for the ambassador to the European Union—received an unusual call from the seventh floor of the State Department back in Washington. The office of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was irate. Someone in Brussels with access to the mission’s Twitter account had liked the wrong tweet. It had set off alarm bells in Foggy Bottom.
The tweet wasn’t just any tweet. It was one written by Chelsea Clinton and directed at President Donald Trump in a public spat that took the internet by storm.
That week in July, Trump drew criticism for his decision to let his daughter Ivanka fill his seat at the G-20 meeting of top economic powers in Hamburg, Germany. After days of the pile-on, Trump took to Twitter the morning of July 10 to claim his decision to have Ivanka represent the U.S. at the G-20 was “very standard” and that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany agreed. Not more than 15 minutes later, he switched his tenor and began attacking Clinton and the press. “If Chelsea Clinton were asked to hold the seat for her mother, as her mother gave our country away, the Fake News would say CHELSEA FOR PRES!,” Trump said.
Clinton shot back: “It would never have occurred to my mother or my father to ask me. Were you giving our country away? Hoping not.”
That tweet garnered more than half a million likes, including by the account for the U.S. mission to the European Union. That kickstarted a weeks-long investigation, prompted by the secretary’s office, into who exactly at the Brussels mission had access to the Twitter account and hit “Like” on Clinton’s tweet, according to two former U.S. officials. (Full disclosure: Clinton sits on the board of IAC, The Daily Beast’s parent company.) Nearly 10 people were interviewed about whether they, as administrators of the account, had mistakenly or deliberately pressed the “Like” button. All of them denied any wrongdoing, those sources said. One individual familiar with the exchanges said the secretary of state’s top managers in Washington “wanted blood” and called Brussels numerous times demanding the name of the culprit.
U.S. officials in Belgium were never able to give Tillerson’s office a name and soon after, the embassy restructured the Twitter account and limited access to just two individuals.
The Trumpies know what’s really important–protecting their boss’s fragile ego.
At The Washington Post, Greg Sargent explains why Mitch McConnell is counting on the political media to help him protect Trump in a fraudulent impeachment trial: Explosive new revelations just weakened Trump’s impeachment defenses.
If Mitch McConnell is going to pull off his scheme to turn President Trump’s impeachment trial into a quick and painless sham with no witnesses, the Senate majority leader needs the story to be covered as a conventional Washington standoff — one that portrays both sides as maneuvering for advantage in an equivalently political manner.
But extraordinary new revelations in the New York Times about Trump’s corrupt freezing of military aid to Ukraine will — or should — make this much harder to get away with.
McConnell badly needs the media’s both-sidesing instincts to hold firm against the brute facts of the situation. If Republicans bear the brunt of media pressure to explain why they don’t want to hear from witnesses, that risks highlighting their true rationale: They adamantly fear new revelations precisely because they know Trump is guilty — and that this corrupt scheme is almost certainly much worse than we can currently surmise.
That possibility is underscored by the Times report, a chronology of Trump’s decision to withhold aid to a vulnerable ally under assault while he and his henchmen extorted Ukraine into carrying out his corrupt designs.
The report demonstrates in striking detail that inside the administration, the consternation over the legality and propriety of the aid freeze — and confusion over Trump’s true motives — ran much deeper than previously known, implicating top Cabinet officials more deeply than we thought.
Please go read the rest at the link. It’s long but important.
I’ve been pretty successfully ignoring the news during these two holiday weeks, except for when I’ve had a blog post to write. Susan Glasser of The New Yorker had more trouble doing that, and now she has found a word to describe life in Trumpworld: Our Year of Trumpschmerz.
So much for the holidays. In the quiet of Christmas and New Year’s, the President of the United States has repeatedly attacked “Crazy Nancy” Pelosi and her family, inveighed against the “bogus Impeachment Scam” and circulated the alleged name of the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose complaint triggered it, retweeted an account that described former President Barack Obama as “Satan’s Muslim Scum,” hosted the accused war criminal he recently pardoned over the objections of military leaders, and promoted a post calling himself “the best President of all time.” He even accused the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, of personally ordering Canadian television to cut a seven-second snippet of the schmaltzy Christmas movie “Home Alone 2” that features Trump, an accusation the President refused to retract, although it was quickly proven that the scene was one of many edited out as a time-saver back in 2014, long before either Trudeau or Trump was anywhere close to power.
Even now, three years into the Trump Presidency, there is no language to fully capture the madness of all this, though many of my journalistic colleagues have gone to great lengths to record and codify just how disturbingly nutty 2019 has been. The Washington Post reports that Trump ended the year having made more than fifteen thousand four hundred false and misleading statements since his inauguration. CNN’s “Inside Politics” produced a four-page, single-spaced list of all the people and institutions Trump has attacked by name this year. There are online trackers for the unprecedented levels of turnover in Trump’s Administration and for the rapidly proliferating array of lawsuits involving Trump’s assertions of sweeping executive authority. By any measure, 2019 will go down as a remarkable year in the annals of the American Presidency: Trump began it by causing the longest-ever federal government shutdown in history, after Congress refused to spend billions on his proposed border wall, and ended it as only the third President in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives.
Glasser searched for a word to encompass the horrors of living in Trump’s world.
There must be one of those long German words for all that soul-sickening worry, right? Some tortured mouthful of consonants that captures the ceaseless anxiety and absurdity of Washington in the age of Trump? I asked my friend, the German scholar and writer Constanze Stelzenmüller, an astute observer of Trumpism at the Brookings Institution and especially of its toxic effect on the troubled transatlantic relationship. She said that, even in Trump-skeptical Berlin, there was no single, widely accepted word that describes this phenomenon but gamely offered up her own stab at it. The word she came up with is “Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz.”
Her word has pretty much everything that has come to characterize this uniquely dysfunctional moment in America’s troubled capital: Trump and his Administration (“regierung” means government); the slow-motion car crash of constant controversies (“schlamassel”); and the continuous pain or ache of the soul that results from excessive contemplation of it all (“schmerz”). Sure, it’s a mouthful, but that’s the point: there should be one word that sums up the Trumpian disruption we are experiencing, not merely a jumble of different ones. It’s the tweets and the other stuff, too: the endless attacks on enemies, real and imagined; the torrent of lies; the eroding of the basic functions of government; and the formerly unimaginable assault on our institutions. It’s impeachment and the Mueller Report and migrant children in cages, the bullying of allies, and the lavish praise of adversaries. It’s the uncertainty and worry that comes with all of the above.
On the brink of a new year, Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz has come to dominate our collective psyche. There is no taking a vacation from it. I confess that I have not yet figured out how to pronounce this unwieldy linguistic invention that so deftly captures our national Trump-soul-sickness. Luckily, I received a follow-up e-mail from Constanze, in which she proposed a shortened version that gets right to the angsty, anxious point: If “Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz” is too much, she said, you can just use “Trumpschmerz.” Either way, in German or in English, it’s my nominee for the word of the year in 2019. I suspect it will be in 2020 as well.
And with that I’ll turn the floor over to you, Sky Dancers. What stories are you following, if any?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I went to the other timeline for a very brief moment on Saturday and I’m trying to stay in the good timeline for awhile. Today, we can stay in our bubble. I’m giving myself permission to believe that most of us that live in this country have just about had enough of the last few years. I personally have endured enough. Join me in a bubble with “Gutsy Women” and the book tour that came to New Orleans with its authors Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsean Clinton. It’s a delightful book and I had a delightful time including getting to sing happy birthday to Hillary and handing her my Krewe of Hillary Campaign button while telling her that all her New Orleans Volunteers wore them proudly. I will always be with her. Fellow Hillary Volunteer Sharon Normand caught the moment on the photo at the top here. Yup, that’s my hand!
But Clinton received a rapturous response Saturday when she and her daughter Chelsea spoke at a sold-out event at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans about “The Book of Gutsy Women — Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience.”
The 450-page book by both mother and daughter profiles more than 100 women, in politics (Shirley Chisholm and Ann Richards), athletics (Abby Wambach and Venus and Serena Williams), medicine (Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton) and other fields, including Ruby Bridges, who integrated an all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960.
The 900 people who filled the Uptown church heard stories about famous and little-known women for $45, which included a copy of the book from Octavia Books, which sponsored the event.
“I’ve been a fan of hers for my entire life,” said Jennifer Greene, a New Orleans attorney originally from Little Rock. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
Neither Clinton mentioned President Donald Trump by name.
The closest came when Chelsea answered a question about the rise of bullying in the United States.
“The bullies are often quoting the president, particularly when girls are being bullied,” Chelsea said. “It’s just so painful to me that his demeaning treatment of women broadly but specifically with my mom and Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and others is clearly being watched by kids across the country and often has given further motivation to the meanness already there.”
It really was just a conversation about how Chelsea and Hillary had picked the women for the book. Chelsea told us that that it had been significantly downsized given the original number of essays they had written. Some of the women were historical and some still lived or had lived recently so there some quite personal stories too. It was nice to be around nice people talking primarily about nice things. I long for the days when we could discuss things more politely and civilly.
When I was a little girl, my family subscribed to Life magazine, which came to our house every week on Friday. When I came home from school, I’d eagerly grab it and lie down on the floor in our living room to read it before I had to set the table for dinner. It was in those pages that I first encountered Senator Margaret Chase Smith, who was the first example I ever remember seeing of a woman elected official. Following her career—from the campaigns that led to her becoming the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress to her history-making candidacy for president of the United States in 1964—shaped my understanding of politics and public service. She embodied the thrill of breaking barriers—and the challenges that come with being “the first.”
Born and raised in Maine, Margaret discovered a passion for politics when her husband, Clyde Harold Smith, was elected to Congress. She campaigned for him and, after he was elected, joined him in Washington. During his first term, he became gravely ill, and Margaret stepped in to fill as many of his obligations as she could. She traveled back and forth between Washington and Maine, appearing at events on behalf of her husband. With Margaret’s help, Clyde was reelected in 1938. His health, however, declined quickly. In the spring of 1940, he put out a statement urging his friends and supporters to stand behind Margaret if he could not run in the upcoming election. “I know of no one who has the full knowledge of my ideas and plans or is as well qualified as she is, to carry on these ideas and my unfinished work for my district.” He died the next day.
Margaret easily won the special election to serve out her husband’s unexpired term. At the time, most of the few women who served in office had been elected or appointed to fill a seat vacated by a husband or father. It was so common it even had a name: “the widow’s mandate.” Though she had never planned on it, Margaret was now the state’s first woman member of Congress. (“Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington,” read one headline.)
Oh, and the Clintons stopped by Melba’s which is probably the most unique restaurant/literacy center/laundromat you’d ever want to see! And, did I mention the food? MMMMMMmmm …
On Saturday morning the Creole gumbo was simmering, the daiquiri machines were churning and the dryers were spinning at Melba’s and Wash World, the connected po-boy shop and laundry at Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans.
Then the sleek black SUVs pulled up and out stepped former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, former president Bill Clinton and their daughter Chelsea Clinton.
The political power family was not here to talk politics.
Instead, they were visiting the unique literacy program and family learning initiative that has taken root at Melba’s and Wash World with the support of their foundation. It’s a program they plan to bring nationwide in the months ahead.
Melba’s and Wash World together present a kaleidoscope of local art and New Orleans emblems around the business of doing some laundry and grabbing a quick bite.
Earlier this year, it also debuted its latest feature, the Family Read & Play Space. A colorful niche by the washers and dryers has kid-sized furniture, toys, coloring materials and a collection of books for a wide range of young readers. The aim is to turn the time families spend together on a laundry errand into an investment in a child’s future, strengthening early literacy and engaging their curiosity.
“We’re thrilled with what they’ve done here,” said Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But back to to the book event! They took two questions from the audience. Both were from little girls. One of the little girls just wrote you are my president. The other asked about bullying. Chelsea had some great stories and advice. She’s really a most articulate and impressive young woman.
The event’s most personal moment happened when a 9-year-old child in the audience asked the Clintons how they stand up to mean comments. Chelsea said she has gotten used to getting hate all her life because of who her parents were. People told her when she was 8 years old that they wished she had been aborted. When Bill Clinton was in the White House, everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Saturday Night Live made fun of teenage Chelsea’s appearance.
As painful as that experience was, she’s grateful because it’s left her better able to handle the abuse that many famous women have to deal with in the social media age. Today, she said, the most hateful comments come anti-abortion commenters, because of her pro-choice stance, and anti-vaccination activists, because she’s a professor of public health.
“I’m really thankful that that happened at a young age, because I think that has served me well, particularly in this moment we’re living through when there’s lots, sadly, of ugliness,” Chelsea Clinton said.
Hillary Clinton praised her daughter for always responding with politeness and “cheerful shade.” She said there will always be hate in society; what’s important is that “leaders in a democracy like ours are supposed to be trying to bring people together. They’re certainly not supposed to be fomenting bullying and hatred.”
She quoted what her husband Bill Clinton said in his recent eulogy for U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings: “Freedom cannot last if half of us are supposed to hate the other half about everything.”
Secretary Clinton never explicitly mentioned Donald Trump, the man she lost the 2016 election to, but he lingered as the elephant in the room.
At one point the moderator, Susan Larson, asked her to talk about “the role of anger as a motivating force for women.” Clinton gave a sighing, drawn-out, “OK …” and the entire room burst into laughter and applause.
“I think what’s important here is that the anger that you’re talking about is anger at injustice,” Clinton continued. “It’s anger at inequality… It’s that kind of anger that can motivate the movement into courage and into taking action.”
So, for me, today is a day where I just may continue to leave the TV off. Between watching the service for Elijah Cummings and listening to our last president’s words and then spending Saturday awash with tales of Gutsy Women by Gutsy Women I really want to stay in the bubble today and maybe for awhile longer.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I said this a few days ago, and I’m still feeling it: I don’t want to live in this world. America’s toxic culture of white supremacy and mass shootings is spreading around the globe, enabled by Trump. I stayed offline for much of the day yesterday so I wouldn’t have to read about the horror in New Zealand.
I did hear last night that somehow the massacre on the other side of the world was the fault of Chelsea Clinton. At least according to some Bernie Sanders supporters. Here’s the video of a young women in a Bernie T-shirt poking her finger at Chelsea and screaming in her face.
Clinton, who attended and worked at the university in various capacities, including co-founding the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership, was said to be invited to the vigil, according to students at the vigil.
But Clinton’s presence at the vigil was not a welcome sight for at least two activists who were at the vigil.
A video went viral on Twitter Friday night showing a confrontation between Clinton and a student activist, filmed and tweeted out by a friend, who can be seen in the video telling Clinton, “This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put into the world. And I want you to know that and I want you to feel that deeply — 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.” [….]
On Twitter, an account that appears to belong to the student activist wrote, “the CAUCASITY that chelsea clinton has showing up to a vigil for the 49 muslims massacred in an islamophobic hate crime after STOKING ISLAMOPHOBIA AND RACISM surrounding ilhan omar… f—ing ridiculous.” The account retweeted the video, posted by her “best friend,” writing, “apparently my brand is yelling at white politicians.”
Fact check: Chelsea Clinton is not a politician. Chelsea’s offense was that she sent a tweet about anti-semitism, after which she politely interacted with Rep Ilhan Omar, who had been criticized for tweets about politicians supporting Israel because they received donations from AIPAC. Here is what Clinton tweeted: “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”
On the other hand, let’s take a look at Trump’s history. Brian Klaas at The Washington Post: A short history of President Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry.
Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry has a long history. In 2011 and 2012, Trump insinuated that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim. In September 2015, at a campaign rally, Trump nodded along as a supporter claimed “we have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims.” Trump continued nodding, saying “right,” and “we need this question!” as the supporter then proceeded to ask Trump “when can we get rid of them [Muslims]?” In response, Trump said: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.”
In November 2015, on “Morning Joe,” Trump said that America needs to “watch and study the mosques.” Four days later, he indicated that he would “certainly implement” a database to track Muslims in the United States. Two days after that, he falsely claimedthat “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Then came the most egregious statement — one that should haunt Trump’s legacy forever and taint everyone who supported him subsequently: On Dec. 7, 2015, he called to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Three days later, Trump tweeted that the United Kingdom is “trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem.” On March 9, 2016, Trump falsely claimed that “Islam hates us.”
Upon taking office, Trump surrounded himself with anti-Muslim bigots. Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump adviser, was fired by the FBI for his Islamophobia. Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced national-security-adviser-turned-felon, said that Islam “is like a cancer.” And top officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have also stoked hatred of Islam.
In late November 2017, Trump retweeted three videos by Jayda Fransen. She was one of the leaders of Britain First, a neo-fascist hate group. She has been convicted of multiple hate-crime offensesand was involved in organizing “Christian patrols,” which included what Britain First called “mosque invasions” aimed at intimidating British Muslims. While Fransen was out on bail, she appeared on Radio Aryan, a neo-Nazi radio station. Her interview began right after the station concluded its reading from “Mein Kampf.” That is who the president of the United States chose to amplify to his millions and millions of Twitter followers.
There’s much more at the link if you can stand to read it.
President Donald Trump just used similar language to describe immigrants coming into the United States that the alleged mass shooter did to justify killing nearly 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand.
On Friday, Trump issued the first veto of his presidency to override a congressional blockade of the national emergency he declared at America’s southern border. During the veto signing ceremony, Trump explained why he felt a national emergency was warranted to stop migrants from entering the US.
“People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said, according to the White House pool report.
That is chillingly similar to the language the main suspect in Friday’s Christchurch terrorist attack used to explain why he chose to gun down at least 49 Muslims. In the rambling 74-page manifesto the 28-year-old suspected shooter posted online shortly before the attack, he writes that he was committing the killings “to show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands.”
It’s also the same language the man who killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last October used: In that case, the perpetrator blamed Jews for helping what he called “invaders”in the Central American migrant caravans who were trying to enter the US.
Informative articles on the New Zealand terrorist attack, links only:
David C. Atkinson at The New Republic: The Longer History of the Christchurch Attacks. For over a century, the United States has played a role in inspiring and enabling white supremacy in Australia and New Zealand.
More interesting reads to check out
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a fascinating story on that former Putin pal who supposedly died accidentally in a DC hotel room: Exclusive: Washington Autopsy Files Reveal Lesin Sustained Broken Bone In Neck.
WASHINGTON — Mikhail Lesin, the former Russian press minister who turned up dead in a Washington hotel room in 2015, sustained a fracture to a neck bone just below the jaw line “at or near the time” of his death, according to documents released by the city’s medical examiner that provide new details about his final days….
That detail, however, and others contained in the 149-page file released exclusively to RFE/RL offer the most precise scientific description to date about Lesin’s death, which officials ruled accidental and said was caused by blunt-force injuries amid excessive alcohol consumption.
Once a powerful media adviser to President Vladimir Putin, Lesin fell out of favor with the Kremlin elite sometime around 2012 and had lowered his public profile before he was discovered dead in the Dupont Circle Hotel, located a few blocks from the White House, on November 5, 2015….
Among the new details revealed by the documents:
• Lesin’s hyoid — a bone located about midway between the larynx and the jaw bone — was completely fractured;
• The FBI considered possibly taking over the case in early 2016. It wasn’t clear whether the agency formally did so, though earlier files released by the agency show its agents were involved in questioning witnesses and examining video recordings from hotel cameras;
• Lesin’s son, Anton, who lives in Beverly Hills, California, told investigators he did not know why his father was in the U.S. capital, and also reported that Lesin regularly had serious bouts of drinking while on business trips;
• The day after the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released an initial report, one of its officials was summoned to appear before a criminal grand jury looking into Lesin’s death;
• In a report filed the day of Lesin’s death, a forensic investigator with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner wrote that a detective had called and said a “friend” of the former Russian official had contacted him and “inquired about the decedent’s location.”
Read many more details at the link.
The media has begun vetting Beto O’Rourke. Two interesting reads:
While a teenager, O’Rourke acknowledged in an exclusive interview, he belonged to the oldest group of computer hackers in U.S. history.
The hugely influential Cult of the Dead Cow, jokingly named after an abandoned Texas slaughterhouse, is notorious for releasing tools that allowed ordinary people to hack computers running Microsoft’s Windows. It’s also known for inventing the word “hacktivism” to describe human-rights-driven security work.
Members of the group have protected O’Rourke’s secret for decades, reluctant to compromise his political viability. Now, in a series of interviews, CDC members have acknowledged O’Rourke as one of their own. In all, more than a dozen members of the group agreed to be named for the first time in a book about the hacking group by this reporter that is scheduled to be published in June by Public Affairs. O’Rourke was interviewed early in his run for the Senate.
There is no indication that O’Rourke ever engaged in the edgiest sorts of hacking activity, such as breaking into computers or writing code that enabled others to do so. But his membership in the group could explain his approach to politics better than anything on his resume. His background in hacking circles has repeatedly informed his strategy as he explored and subverted established procedures in technology, the media and government.
“There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it,” O’Rourke said. “I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”
That doesn’t seem to problematic to me. As younger candidates come forward, they are likely to have on-line histories. This story from Politico is a bit more embarrassing: O’Rourke ‘not … proud’ of teenage murder fantasy writing.
Beto O’Rourke said Friday he is “not … proud” of fiction he wrote as teenager about murdering children, while acknowledging its surfacing could hurt his campaign.
“Stuff I was part of as a teenager … not anything that I’m proud of today,” O’Rourke told reporters outside a meet-and-greet here. “And I mean, that’s the long and short of it.”
O’Rourke’s remarks followed a report in Reuters that O’Rourke, as a young member of the computer hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow, wrote an online article about how society could work without money and, in a more disturbing missive, about killing children.
“One day, as I was driving home from work, I noticed two children crossing the street. They were happy, happy to be free from their troubles. … This happiness was mine by right. I had earned it in my dreams,” he wrote, according to Reuters. “As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two. I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.”
There’s more of this stuff, definitely creepy; but it was a long time ago. Bernie Sanders survived his early fantasy writings about rape and his theories about breast cancer being caused by sexual frustration.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?
Some pretty big news broke late yesterday: President Obama has again delayed his final decision on whether to go ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline. Presumably the announcement was deliberately held until the Friday news dump to reduce public attention to the inevitable Republican screams of outrage. From Reuters:
The Obama administration further delayed its decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project on Friday, with no conclusion now likely until after the U.S. mid-term elections in November.
President Barack Obama has said he will have the final say on whether to allow the pipeline connecting Canada’s oil sands region to Texas refiners, and several government agencies had been given until May to weigh in. This had raised expectations of a final decision by mid-year.
But the State Department said on Friday it was extending that agency comment period, citing a need to wait until the Nebraska Supreme Court settles a dispute over what path the $5.4 billion TransCanada Corp project should take.
“That pipeline route is central to the environmental analysis for the project and if there are changes to the route it could have implications,” a senior State Department official told reporters.
I have to admit I was surprised and pleased. I have long suspected that Obama really wanted the pipeline, but I think I was wrong. He seems to be trying his best to avoid it. Naturally Obama has already been accused of political calculation in pushing the decision past the midterm elections. Of course the decision won’t help Democrats from oil-producing states like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who has already announced that “I plan to use my power as chair of the Senate Energy Committee to take decisive action to get this pipeline permit approved.”
The State Department told Buzzfeed that politics was not involved in the decision.
“I can’t render judgement on when the final decision could take place,” a senior State Department official said on a conference call Friday after the department announced another delay in the State Department process that could bring with it the approval or rejection of Keystone. “We want this to move as expeditiously as possible, we recognize that this is an issue of great concern to the American public, to American business and we take that extremely seriously.”
The State Department review — necessary because the pipeline crosses the Canadian border into the United States — is being held up by a state court ruling in Nebraska in favor of pipeline opponents, department officials said. That decision, which endangers the existing planned pipeline route, is under appeal andobservers say final judgement won’t come until 2015.
…the delay drew immediate scorn from pipeline supporters on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Republicans derided it as a “shameful” concession to “radical activists,” while Democratic Senate energy Chairwoman Mary Landrieu called it “irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable.”
Both of Alaska’s senators condemned the move. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called the delay “a stunning act of political cowardice,” and Democratic Sen. Mark Begich said he was “frankly appalled at the continued foot-dragging by this administration.” Begich, like Landrieu, faces a tough reelection fight this year.
Some environmentalists complained about the Friday news dump announcement
“It’s disappointing President Obama doesn’t have the courage to reject Keystone XL right now, but this is clearly another win for pipeline opponents,” said Jamie Henn, spokesman for the climate activist group 350.org, which staged mass sit-ins outside the White House to protest the project. “We’re going to keep up the pressure on the President to make the right call.”
Naturally Canadian politicians are “disappointed.” CBC News:
“We are disappointed that politics continue to delay a decision on Keystone XL,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said. “This project will create tens of thousands of jobs on both sides of the border, will enhance the energy security of North America, has strong public support, and the U.S. State Department has, on multiple occasions, acknowledged it will be environmentally sound.”
Canadian politicians have grown increasingly irate over delays.
Alberta Premier Dave Hancock expressed frustration about “yet another delay” in the approval process of an issue he argued has been debated thoroughly enough.
“Keystone XL has been rigorously studied. We believe the project is in North America’s best interest as it provides energy security, jobs and a dependable energy source from an environmentally responsible and democratic friend and ally,” Hancock said in a statement.
TransCanada’s president and CEO Russ Girling called the delay “inexplicable” in an email to CBC News.
Lots more Canadian whining at the link.
The Keystone Pipeline is controversial, but apparently not as controversial as the daughter of a female potential presidential candidate getting pregnant. The bizarre conspiracy theories about Chelsea Clinton expecting a baby have already begun and they’ll probably never end.
From John Amato at Crooks and Liars: Will Chelsea Clinton’s Pregnancy Become Another Right Wing Conspiracy? Give me a break. Is the Pope Catholic? Amato knows it’s a silly question:
I’m forgetting myself because Hillary is not allowed to be a happy mother. We may see a normal life unfolding, but Teabirchers see coverups and conspiracies.
Maybe in my subconscious I think it was staged or set up. Lookit, I’m so, I know these people so well…I just do not attach much genuineness to them.
There were a host of others who were saying the same thing in Wingnuttia.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Hillary gets asked to comment on Chelsea’s pregnancy by the media, since that’s only natural, right? But after that happens more than once I really expect Limbaugh and all the wannabees to scream bloody murder that Chelsea’s announcement was staged, a set-up plot which is being aided by the librul media to cover up Benghazzzzzzzziiii!
And away we go! From Mediaite: Right-Wing Host Thinks Chelsea Clinton May Have ‘Staged’ Pregnancy to Help Hillary.
If you thought the Hillary Clinton “shoe truthers” were bad, wait until you meet the “baby truthers.” So far, conservative host Steve Malzberg is leading the charge with this video suggesting Chelsea Clinton’s pregnancy is being effectively “staged” to help her mother win the 2016 presidential election.
And excited Malzberg announced the 34-year-old Clinton’s pregnancy, saying, “Lo and behold, Hillary was by her side” when she made the announcement. “Hillary Clinton is going to be a grandmother when she runs for president!” he exclaimed.
“Now, pardon the skeptic in me,” Malzberg continued, before predicting the oncoming criticism from Media Matters and other watchdog website. “Malzberg said this was a staged, planned pregnancy?” he imagined they would ask.
“Well, now I’m not saying, when I say staged I have to believe she’s pregnant, if she says she’s pregnant,” he said. “I don’t mean that they’re making up she’s pregnant. But what great timing! I mean purely accidental, purely an act of nature, purely just left up to God.”
“And God answered Hillary Clinton’s prayers and she’s going to have the prop of being a new grandma while she runs for president,” he continued. “It just warms the heart, it brings a tear to my eye. It really does.”
I have so many more examples that I’ll have to do a link dump without excerpts:
Politico: What to expect when she’s expecting
Honestly, can you imagine this happening to a man running for president? For example,
“How will his daughter’s pregnancy affect Rand Paul’s chances for the Republican nomination? Did he “stage” this to get positive media? Enquiring people want to know.”
In my post yesterday, I mentioned that a huge trove of papers from the Clinton administration was going to be released. Well they are out there now, and so the Clinton haters are really having a field day what with drooling over ancient history and inventing conspiracies about Chelsea’s baby.
There are tons of articles on the document dump too; I’ll give you a few examples.
An email from Monica Lewinsky was omitted from the Clinton library’s latest document dump for privacy reasons….
Included in a list of withdrawn/redacted documents (commonly interspersed in the large .pdfs), midway through a batch of documents concerning Gen. Wesley Clark, is an email from Monica Lewinsky’s Pentagon email address.
Vaguely referenced as concerning a “medical record,” the omitted email is listed as four pages long.
The recipient, Ashley Raines, is identified as a Lewinsky friend and confidante in the infamous Starr Report, produced by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. The report would later disclose details of the Lewinsky affair and trigger a major scandal that led to Clinton’s impeachment. Raines served as White House Director of Office of Policy Development Operations and Special Liaison to Management and Administration, according to the report, working in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.
In 1996, after an initial affair with the president had stopped according to the Starr report, Lewinsky described the relationship to Raines and showed her gifts allegedly given to her by Bill Clinton, including “a hat pin approximately eight inches long, an antique looking brooch the size of a half dollar, special edition copy of ‘Leaves of Grass’ by WALT WHITMAN, items from Martha’s Vineyard with ‘Black Dog’ logo, including a ball cap, and a short, baggy summer dress, and an autographed photo of the two of them wishing LEWINSKY ‘Happy Birthday,’” Raines told Starr’s investigators, with lawyers present. Lewinsky told Raines that she had confided in Linda Tripp about her relationship with Clinton.
Many more breathless details at the link.
…the latest batch of archived documents from the Clinton White House — while not particularly newsworthy — were a rather bracing reminder that the very mellow former first lady has emerged in her current happy state after many years in a White House that often took on the tone of war zone.
Mark that down as one reason why Clinton might not want to go racing back….
The documents once again underscored the combative fashion in which the Clinton White House drove its agenda, and its obsession with the administration’s adversaries.
One unsigned and undated document contained in the files of Jane Sherburne, a Special Counsel to the White House between 1994 and 1996, details theories about how the right wing, with the help of think tanks and conservative publications, was funneling “fringe” stories to the media. It also expounds on the financial powers and connections of billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who was referred to as “The Wizard of Oz.”
Part of the problem, the memo suggested, was the fact that the Internet “allows an extraordinary amount of unregulated data and information to be located in one area and available to all.”
“The right wing has seized upon the Internet as a means of communicating its ideas to people,” the unsigned memo continues. “Moreover evidence exists that Republican staffers surf the Internet interacting with extremists in order to exchange ideas and information.”
If the LA Times thinks that is shocking, I don’t think they are following current events.
The WaPo: The most interesting tidbits from the Clinton document dump This one includes a list of 12 gossipy examples of supposed Clinton political machinations.
Here’s the best one I’ve seen yet from Buzzfeed: This Unsent Shade-Filled Letter From Clinton Staffers To A ’90s Radio Host [Don Imus] Is A Goddamn Masterpiece.
I wish it had been sent!
I’m running out of space and time, but I do have a few more serious items I want to share. I’ll put them in the comments.
So . . . What stories are you following today? Please share your recommended links in the comment thread and have a fantastic weekend!!
For the past few weeks, I’ve been suffering from a bad case of what JJ calls “PAD” or “Political Affective Disorder.” I’ve been finding myself escaping into a haze of detective stories, Criminal Minds reruns, and video games. I’ve still kept up with the news–barely–but I haven’t felt much like writing about it. I feel discouraged about the fate of our nation and I’m paralyzed about my own personal future too.
Beginning in 1993, I focused most of my attention of getting the education I missed out on as a young woman after I left college after only two years. From 1993 to 2010, I lived the life of a full-time student–and I loved it! After I finally achieved my goal–a doctorate in psychology–I had no idea what to do next. I was near retirement age, and faced the reality that the best “job” I might be able to get in the current economic climate was as an adjunct professor with low pay and no benefits.
I had learned after 12 years of teaching that the kinds of teaching jobs I might be able to get wouldn’t allow me to experience the aspects of teaching that I truly enjoyed–working directly with students and leading class discussions–wouldn’t be available to me. Instead I’d be lecturing to classes of 150-200 students with little opportunity for class discussion or personal interaction. In addition, I had serious problems with grade inflation and the “customers are always right” attitude of the universities I had taught at.
I had fantasies of focusing on writing and research, and I thought that might be a realistic goal, but then my mentor died suddenly and shockingly, and I no longer had anyone in academia to turn to for advice or to help me negotiate the publishing process. I was already so exhausted by the effort to complete my dissertation and my father’s death in March of 2010, that I really felt the need to just do nothing for awhile.
I threw myself into blogging, because it gave me opportunities to write and express myself on a daily basis. I’ve always loved following politics and it has been great to connect with so many other people who have the same interests and obsessions. But lately the world of politics seems as paralyzed as I am in my own life. The Republican Party has managed to largely control the agenda despite the fact that they only control the House.
Right now, I have the ability to live on a very low income and still have a decent lifestyle. But the day is eventually going to come when I won’t have a free place to live. I’m also finding myself less satisfied with just recovering from the effort to finish my Ph.D. and the major losses of my father and my academic father figure–my mentor. What will my future look like? I seems wrong not to use the skills and knowledge I’ve gained over the years to give back in some way, no matter how small.
Well, I can’t solve all those problems today. But I can keep on keepin’ on and imagine ways things might change. You might call it, “The Audacity of Hope.” And that’s where Hillary comes in. More and more I see her as a model for survival, for achievement late in life, for looking at problems in new and productive ways. Could she really become the first woman president at approximately the same age I am? Could she be a better, more innovative leader than Barrack Obama has been? I want to take that leap of faith and believe in her ability to win the nomination and general election and succeed as president. I also want to believe that she and we can survive the Clinton hate that we’ll all have to go through to make it happen.
Suddenly Hillary is all over the news! Yesterday Dakinikat posted a link to the first major interview (at New York Magazine) Hillary has done since leaving the State Department. Yesterday I was feeling so apathetic that I didn’t even manage to read the whole thing. But I’ve promised myself I’m going to do that today. In the meantime, here are some crib sheets and reactions to the New York article:
From NBC News’ First Thoughts:
*** Clinton news — everywhere! If you wanted an idea of what the media landscape would look like the moment we get a clear indication if Hillary Clinton is running for president, we got a taste of it over the past 48 hours. Hillary Clinton gave her first private-citizen interview to a news organization; Bill Clinton is making news ahead of his Clinton Global Initiative meeting; and the New Republic runs a tough piece on Bill Clinton aide Doug Band. It’s a reminder of what comes with the Clintons — excitement, news and attention, and baggage. Now on to these individual stories…
*** “She’s running,” Hillary confidante tells New York magazine: In her first interview with a news organization since leaving her secretary of state post, Hillary Clinton certainly didn’t seem like someone who was shutting the door to a 2016 presidential bid. In fact, it was the opposite. When New York magazineasked if she wrestles with running, Clinton responded, “‘I do,’ she says, ‘but I’m both pragmatic and realistic. I think I have a pretty good idea of the political and governmental challenges that are facing our leaders, and I’ll do whatever I can from whatever position I find myself in to advocate for the values and the policies I think are right for the country. I will just continue to weigh what the factors are that would influence me making a decision one way or the other.’” It’s a significant step that she’s decided to acknowledge publicly that she’s thinking about it. We may all think we know this and treat it as a given inside the Acela Corridor, but it’s still significant to read her SAYING it. But the article adds, “Some of her close confidants, including many people with whom her own staff put me in touch, are far less circumspect than she is. ‘She’s running, but she doesn’t know it yet,’ one such person put it to me. ‘It’s just like a force of history. It’s inexorable, it’s gravitational. I think she actually believes she has more say in it than she actually does.’” Other than sending signals that she’s running, the other unmistakable take away from the Hillary interview: She won’t be surrounding herself with a lot of the Bill alum, a la 2008. More Team Hillary, less Team Bill in 2016. Translation to nervous donors/supporters about a repeat of 2008: Mark Penn and other Bill veterans aren’t running this thing.
From The Daily Beast: Seven Juiciest Bits from Hillary Clinton’s New York Profile. Go read the whole thing, but I’ll excerpt the part I found most intriguing:
7. The future of Clintonworld now lies with Chelsea.
Of course, there’s a third person in the Clinton family: Chelsea, whose name has been added to the name of the foundation, making it the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Chelsea had tried out a number of careers before turning to the family business, first as a consultant at McKinsey & Co., then a hedge fund and a stint NBC. But not everyone at the foundation was happy about Chelsea’s sudden appearance and her decision to bring in an old McKinsey associate as CEO—and Bill eventually stepped out and defended his comrades, a move that hinted there might have been conflict between the three Clintons. “This is an operation that runs on its proximity to people,” one staffer said. “Now it’s three people. How does that work?”
But Hillary says Chelsea’s entrance is simply in her daughter’s DNA (a move that seemed especially true after Chelsea’s Daily Show appearance on Thursday night). Hillary said Chelsea, the family’s now-gatekeeper, “comes by it” at the foundation “naturally.” Ever the proud parents, Hillary said Chelsea is “an incredibly able—obviously I’m biased—but extremely well-organized, results-oriented person, so rather than joining a lot of other groups, on which she could pursue her interests, she thought, I want to be part of continuing to build something I have worked on off and on over the years, and I really believe in it. I was thrilled to hear that.”
A negative note from The Atlantic: Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign Is Already Haunted
Clinton-watchers have an abundance of bedtime reading options this Sunday with not one, but two long profiles aimed at a possible 2016 run for Hillary Clinton. In New York magazine, Clinton herself breaks a mini “press hiatus” to spend some time with Joe Hagan, who then digs into the extensive support system for the family dynasty. But it’s The New Republic’s profile of Doug Band, longtime advisor to Bill Clinton, that hints at one of the challenges Hillary will face in a 2016 campaign: the ghosts waiting in the wings from the Clintons’ long public life.
Band, writer Alec MacGillis explains, is “rarely written about, almost never quoted, and many Clinton associates are loath to discuss him on the record.” But lately, he’s emerged from under the Clinton umbrella to strike out on his own, leaving him more vulnerable to scrutiny. In the past few months, his name has popped up as something of an antagonist in stories of troubles at the family foundation. Even though Band declined to speak to MacGillis for his expansive profile, the piece connects some dots that could be unwelcome for Team Clinton: “the unease with Band reflects an unease with the phenomenon of post-presidential Clintonism itself,” he writes. That Clintonism angst, TNR’s piece posits, could extend to Hillary, albeit with few to no direct ties. Band’s role in the Clinton administration was as the body man, a presidential version of a personal assistant.
Taylor Marsh points out that Hillary is not Bill just because she’s married to him: Bill Clinton, Hillary, and a Bone Picking Exposé on Doug Band.
The fact is Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a trail to give us an idea what she’d do, let alone if she thinks similarly to her husband on economics. What we know about Hillary in matters commander in chief is that unlike where Bill started, she’s respected at the Pentagon, which is one reason a contingent of progressives will oppose her candidacy. People tried to hook NAFTA to her back during the 2008 season, which I debunked, because not even Carl Bernstein, someone who wrote a fairly tough book on Hillary, would allow that to go unremarked upon, throwing ice cold water on any notion she supported NAFTA, a free trade agreement that exemplifies neoliberalism.
Just because she’s Bill Clinton’s wife doesn’t mean her views are identical to him. You’d think Democratic activists and progressives would understand the insult of assuming Hillary would be just like Bill. Opposing NAFTA also doesn’t mean she won’t approve of other free trade deals. Of course, for many Iraq, then her role in Libya, now Syria, is enough to make her unsupportable.
The other issue is that to people inside the power structure who want to be in charge, pretending corporations aren’t part of politics is to lose your foothold on the ladder taking you upward. You can choose not to participate as a voter and activist, but anyone in the political food chain who wants to rise cannot. This is one of the immovable, unsolvable, implacable truths that create the catch-22 of American politics.
Anyone who wants to change the system can’t get access to power without using the system and by the time they rise within the system they’ve lost credibility with the voters who put them in office to fight the system. Once in the political stream that gives you access to the power as a politician, the corporations who run the world also control the political apparatus you need to get anything done. Thus instead of Barack Obama changing Washington it changed him, as it will anyone governing in the era of international globalization. It gets to the question of whether a person is strong enough to also exact their own pound of economic flesh so that the stacked deck for the wealthy against the middle class at some points starts evening out.
So we don’t talk about neoliberalism when it comes to Democrats, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, and a scorching investigation of Doug Band won’t change that fact, or that Hillary being married to Bill doesn’t tell us anything definitive about what she’d do if she ran for president and won.
John Dickerson at Slate via CBS News: Hillary Clinton: The long game.
Hillary Clinton, in her first interview after leaving the State Department, offered a wise metaphor about the current state of presidential election madness. “This election is more than three years away, and I just don’t think it’s good for the country,” she told New York magazine, referring to the fevered speculation about her possible candidacy. “It’s like when you meet somebody at a party and they look over your shoulder to see who else is there, and you want to talk to them about something that’s really important; in fact, maybe you came to the party to talk to that particular person, and they just want to know what’s next,” she says. “I feel like that’s our political process right now. I just don’t think it is good.”
Clinton knows what it’s like to be on both ends of that exchange. She was a political spouse; the shortsighted looked over her shoulder for many years, seeing her as merely an adjunct to her accomplished husband. Now, she is the person who draws every eye in the room–away from even her husband. (When someone says “Clinton”, it may not be long before a majority of people think of the former secretary of state and not the former president).
Read more at the link.
And finally articles on two important members of the Clinton orbit: