Caturday ReadsPosted: January 18, 2014 Filed under: Barack Obama, Crime, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bob Woodward, Chicago street shootings, children killed by guns, Chris Christie, cognitive development in children, Delaware Valley Charter High School, George W. Bush, Glenn Greenwald, Krystal Dikes, New Mexico school shooting, NRA, NSA reform, Philadelphia school shooting, Rahelle Godfread, Robert Gates, Shawn Bair, shootings in public places, signals intelligence 34 Comments
It’s another three day weekend, and it’s really quiet around here. I never thought about MLK Day being a big vacation weekend, but I was out in the car yesterday and the streets were dead. Where do these people go–the ones with enough money to get out of town? Florida? New Hampshire? I don’t know, but it’s nice when they aren’t clogging up the streets with their cars.
I expect it will be a slow news weekend too, except for the football games tomorrow. Let’s see what I can find out there in cyberspace.
Of course there’s the speech President Obama gave yesterday on NSA reforms. To be honest, I didn’t watch it. I’d rather just wait and see what happens. Here are a few reactions to Obama’s proposals.
Of course Glenn Greenwald hated it, as he wrote in an op-ed for the Guardian: Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public. I tried to slog my way through it, but I couldn’t. He’s such a terrible writer–always nearly hysterical with rage and with absolutely no sense of humor to take the edge of his sarcasm and bile. He did end with a not-so-subtle threat to keep releasing U.S. intelligence secrets until America finally gives up spying altogether and accedes to Greenwald’s demands.
Today’s speech should be seen as the first step, not the last, on the road to restoring privacy. The causes that drove Obama to give this speech need to be, and will be, stoked and nurtured further until it becomes clear to official Washington that, this time around, cosmetic gestures are plainly inadequate.
After all, according to Glenn, there’s really no danger from terrorists or hostile countries like China and Russia. The entire goal of the national security apparatus and of signals intelligence is the instill fear in the populace.
A few more reasoned reactions:
Adam Martin at New York Magazine collects reactions from a number of people: So What Did People Think of Obama’s NSA Speech?
NPR’s Carrie Johnson offers: 5 Takeaways From The President’s NSA Speech.
Doyle McManus at the LA Times, who has been critical of both Snowden and NSA: A new day at the NSA — President Obama takes a step back from unfettered surveillance.
Individually, the concrete steps President Obama announced Friday toward reforming the National Security Agency‘s surveillance programs were modest. Taken together, though, they signal the end of an era of unfettered escalation in U.S. intelligence-gathering.
Since its establishment in 1952, the NSA’s history has been one of almost nonstop expansion. But for most of that time, the agency still faced limits on what kind of information it could gather and in the legal strictures that governed its programs.
That changed after the terrorist attacks of 2001, which prompted then-President George W. Bush to demand an all-out effort to collect every scrap of information available.
His order came at a time when the Internet, email, instant messaging and low-cost voice communications were pouring an unprecedented amount of private information into a global electronic network, available for sophisticated eavesdroppers to tap.
Bush brushed aside legal constraints and ordered the NSA to collect domestic telephone and email communications without court warrants. Later, Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court legalized much of that program retroactively, including the NSA’s collection of domestic telephone call records, known as metadata. The principle driving intelligence-gathering had become collect first, ask questions later.
Obama’s proposals are step back from that rule.
Read the rest at the link. I have no idea what will happen, but at least Obama is open to talking about it, unlike Bush/Cheney.
I thought this article at Mediaite was pretty funny: Robert Gates Wanted to Recruit Bob Woodward for the CIA.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates shared an interesting detail during a conversation with POLITICO’s Mike Allen about his new book: he wanted to recruit iconic Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward for the Central Intelligence Agency. Yes, that’s right, Gates wanted one of the men who broke Watergate wide open to move to the government side because of his “extraordinary ability” to pry details out of people.
Gates admitted he wasn’t exactly happy with Woodward’s assessment of his book, but beyond that he said he has great respect for Woodward, and admitted he would have liked to bring Woodward into the CIA because he has a gift that not everyone has.
“He has an extraordinary ability to get otherwise responsible adults to spill his guts to him, on background, nothing there for the historians, but his ability to get people to talk about stuff they shouldn’t be talked about is just extraordinary and maybe unique.”
Seriously, does Gates not know that Woodward began his career in naval intelligence “where he was a part of a group which briefed top intelligence officials; at one time he was close to Admiral Robert O. Welander, being communications officer on the USS Fox under Welander’s command.” Woodward even briefed Al Haig during the Nixon administration.
Woodward knew nothing about journalism until the Washington Post installed him at a small newspaper in the DC suburbs for a year so he could get some on-the-job experience before moving up to the big time? Before that, Woodward was involved in briefing Bernstein was the writer on the Watergate story and Woodward had the CIA/government connections.
Gates should know that once you’re in the “intelligence community,” you never really leave. Please forgive me for this, but I’m going to link to a post by Larry Johnson from 2005: Blowing the Whistle on Bob Woodward.
Woodward has been the consumate insider while cultivating the image of the hard charging investigative reporter. He is anything but, and it is time to blow the whistle on his incestuous relationship with certain government officials. The fact that the Washington Post is still covering for this joker says volumes about the decline of the Post.
When he appears on Larry King Live Tonight maybe he will answer a longstanding question, “When did he resign from Naval Intelligence?”
Johnson then reproduces a letter to the editor of the Tampa Tribune by Len Colodny. Colodny is coauthor of a book about Watergate called Silent Coup: The Removal of a President. Check it out.
This is interesting. Greg Sargent thinks President Obama might decide to encourage an increase in the minimum wage with an executive order.
Here’s some welcome news. At his meeting with Democratic Senators last night, President Obama indicated that he is giving serious consideration to executive action designed to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors, according to one Senator who was present.
Proponents want to see this executive action happen on the merits — theybelieve it could impact as many as two million employees of federal contractors, and would help the economy. But they also believe such action could give a boost of momentum to the push for a minimum wage hike for all American workers, which obviously would require Congressional approval, but is currently facing Republican opposition.
Senator Bernie Sanders told me in an interview that the president took the idea very seriously when asked about it last night.
Surely some Democrats could applaud Obama if he did that. Of course the Greenwald cult followers will ignore it, because it would only improve the lives of working class people and do nothing for the “privacy” of upper middle class white males.
These days it seems we’re getting shootings in public places on an almost daily basis. I posted about a grocery store shooting in Elkhart, Indiana a couple of days ago. The victims and the shooter have now been identified.
What happened, police say, is 22-year-old Shawn Bair walked into the store Wednesday at about 9:30 p.m. Surveillance video shows him making phone calls and texting people….
Police say Bair pulled out a .44 caliber semi-automatic handgun, and shot and killed 20-year-old Krystal Dikes. Police say she had just started working at the store stocking the shelves. Friends say she was a caring, compassionate person.
“I don’t know what his goal was, I don’t know what his aim was, mad at the world. There’s definitely a family grieving for her. Definitely. And lots of friends,” said Dikes’ boyfriend Kyle Barnett.
Also murdered was 44-year-old Rachelle Godfread who was shopping. Bair then held the manager of the store at gunpoint until police arrived.
Police still aren’t sure why Bair, who police have been in contact with before, decided to go on this rampage but his Facebook page is filled with violent images and posts. In one post he says he knows he’s going hell. One from 2010 says he realized everybody should die, no matter what race or religion.
According to the Chicago Tribune,
Rachelle Godfread, 44, had recently moved from southern Indiana to Elkhart, where she was closer to her son who played basketball at the South Bend campus of Indiana University. Now that college student has lost his mom.
Yesterday there was a shooting in a school gymnasium in Philadelphia. CNN reports:
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a juvenile suspect in a shooting that wounded two students at a Philadelphia school Friday, police said Saturday.
The shooting occurred at Delaware Valley Charter High School.
The suspect is not in custody, but police expect him, accompanied by an attorney, to turn himself in Saturday morning.
The shooter was in the school gym with seven other students, city police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said.
Some were playing basketball and others standing in a corner when he pulled a gun and fired.
The victims, a boy and a girl, both age 15, were hit in the arm. They were taken to a local hospital, police said, and their wounds are not life-threatening.
The Friday afternoon incident was at least the second shooting at or near a school this week in the Olney neighborhood.
And then there are the plain old street shootings. Again from the Chicago Tribune: Shootings leave 2 dead, 7 injured since Friday afternoon.
Two men have been killed and seven people injured in shootings on the South and West sides since Friday afternoon, according to police.
The violent start to the weekend, which came as downtown temperatures hovered in the teens, included a shooting that injured three people on a Dan Ryan Expressway ramp and another that left a 15-year-old girl hospitalized.
Police were called to the first of Friday’s homicides about 5:20 p.m., after gunfire rang out in 4900 block of West Huron Street in the Austin neighborhood.
Officers found 21-year-old Timothy Travis on the ground, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head, authorities said.
Travis, who lived in the 4900 block of West Quincy Street, was pronounced dead on the scene at 5:34 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Of course the “experts” are “weighing in”: Experts: N. Mexico suspect, other young shooters show preteens’ impulse actions.
(CNN) — The New Mexico middle school shooting allegedly by a 12-year-old boy highlights how such gunfire is now occurring in America’s earlier grades, raising disturbing issues on whether such youngsters know the devastating consequences of such violence and on how they should then be adjudicated, experts say.
“It’s becoming more and more common, especially in the middle-school age, for these kids to be committing these violent acts,” said Sheela Raja, clinical psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago….
That tally includes last October’s shooting in Sparks, Nevada, by a 12-year-old boy who killed himself after fatally shooting a teacher; a 2010 shooting in a Madison, Alabama, by a ninth-grader who fatally shot a boy, 14, in the head; a 2000 shooting in Mount Morris Township, Michigan, in which a 6-year-old boy killed another 6-year-old; and the 1999 shooting in Deming, New Mexico, in which a 12-year-old boy killed a classmate, 13.
Raja explains that children at these ages do not have the cognitive development to restrain strong impulses or to understand the full implications of their actions.
“People should remember that a 12-year-old is barely past the age of believing in Santa Claus,” said Wendy Walsh, a behavior expert and psychologist.
“While there is great variance in cognitive development, plenty of kids this age are unable to fully comprehend that death is permanent,” Walsh said. “Add to that the impact of violent video games where ‘downed’ characters get up again, and there is good reason to assume this child does not think like an adult.”
Wouldn’t it make sense to keep guns out the hands of young kids then? I know, stupid question.
From the NYT: In Age of School Shootings, Lockdown Is the New Fire Drill.
For students across the country, lockdowns have become a fixture of the school day, the duck-and-cover drills for a generation growing up in the shadow of Columbine High School in Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Kindergartners learn to hide quietly behind bookshelves. Teachers warn high school students that the glow of their cellphones could make them targets. And parents get regular text messages from school officials alerting them to lockdowns.
School administrators across the country have worked with police departments in recent years to create detailed plans to secure their schools, an effort that was redoubled after the December 2012 shootings in Newtown, Conn. At the whiff of a threat, teachers are now instructed to snap off the lights, lock their doors and usher their students into corners and closets. School officials call the police. Students huddle in their classrooms for minutes or hours, texting one another, playing cards and board games, or just waiting until they get the all clear.
Why should kids have to go through this at school–a place where they are supposed to be safe and protected? I guess because the NRA wants more and more guns everywhere and Congress doesn’t have the guts to do anything about it.
Another “expert” told Jake Tapper that mass shootings are on the rise. Isn’t it great that we have “experts” to explain that to us? /snark
OK, enough depressing news about death and destruction. What’s the latest on Chris Christie? Steve Kornaki has dug up some good stuff: Christie camp held Sandy relief money hostage, mayor alleges.
Two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor, according to the mayor and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc.
The mayor, Dawn Zimmer, hasn’t approved the project, but she did request $127 million in hurricane relief for her city of Hoboken – 80% of which was underwater after Sandy hit in October 2012. What she got was $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator plus an additional $200,000 in recovery grants.
In an exclusive interview, Zimmer broke her silence and named Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, as the two officials who delivered messages on behalf of a governor she had long supported.
Something tells me we have a lot more Christie corruption news to look forward to.
Now what stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comments and have a great long weekend!
Tuesday ReadsPosted: December 10, 2013 Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads | Tags: children killed by guns, climate models, gun violence, JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, missing Nevada family, Mordor, Nelson Mandela, Newtown CT, South Africa, winter landscapes, winter storms 22 Comments
I hope everyone is keeping warm this morning, as the deep freeze continues across most of the U.S. We’re expecting a little more snow this afternoon and evening, as winter storm Dion moves up the east coast. We’re fortunately that New England has suffered very little from this storm. Not too far south of us, it’s a wintry mess.
Weather Underground has the details
Winter Storm Dion is not done with the East Coast yet. It’s delivering a parting shot of quick, heavy snow that will blanket the entire I-95 corridor Tuesday morning, snarling traffic and flights as snow falls at the rate of 1-2 inches an hour.
“Dion is barreling in like a freight train,” said The Weather Channel’s winter weather expert Tom Niziol. “The snow is going to come down so heavily. We’re looking at very quick accumulations of 3-5 inches of snow. It’s going to overwhelm the streets and make a rough commute.”
The federal government is closed for a second day for non-emergency workers. Other employees are expected to telecommute Tuesday. All Washington D.C. area schools are closed as well.
“It’s been 1,048 days since Reagan National Airport had a 2 inch snowfall, but that could change Tuesday morning,” said The Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Seidel, reporting from Leesburg, Va.
1,650 flights were canceled nationwide Monday. Hundreds more flights are already canceled Tuesday morning.
“The good news is it’s a very quick storm,” said Niziol. “Conditions are already deteriorating Tuesday morning in Washington D.C. Philadelphia is after that. By about 10 a.m. Tuesday morning the entire I-95 corridor is covered by falling snow. By mid-afternoon the Northeast will improve and by the evening commute, Dion will be past Boston.”
Read the rest for the “state-by-state impacts.”
In Nevada, a couple and four children are missing after they went to “play in the snow” in the mountains. From the NY Daily News:
Rescue teams are scouring the Seven Troughs mountain range for James Glanton, Christina MacIntee, their two children, a niece and a nephew after the six went to go “play in the snow” in the remo[t]e northwest region, authorities told NBC News.
The family was reported missing late Sunday night and police are racing against time as temperatures dip far below the freezing level, according to reports.
“The temperatures out here are very cold. We would like to bring a successful end to this,” Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado told KTVN. “We would like to find them as soon as we can.”
The six were last seen in a silver Jeep cruising at a mining area roughly 20 miles from their home.
Driving into the mountains in the middle of a snowstorm is definitely not a good idea. I just hope these people can be found alive.
Rescue teams racing against the clock and the bitter cold worked into the night and were hoping to resume an aerial search Tuesday for a couple and four children who have been missing since Sunday when they went to play in the snow in the remote mountains of northwest Nevada.
“It’s got to be brutal out there,” said Mark Turney, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. “Let’s hope they are found quick.”
The temperature was expected to drop below zero again Tuesday after plunging to minus-16 degrees the day before in Lovelock, the rugged area where the group was believed to be, about 100 miles northeast of Reno….
The family has not had any communication with others since they went missing, according to Sheila Reitz of the sheriff’s office.
They went to the Seven Troughs area on isolated federal land about noon on Sunday in a silver Jeep with a black top, authorities said. It was unclear what supplies they might have been carrying.
“I’m hoping they all huddled together and stayed in the Jeep,” said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen, who added that the area has spotty cellular coverage. “That would be a best-case scenario.”
I have a bad feeling about this–but there’s always hope. I really really hope there will be a happy ending to this story.
When I woke up early this morning, NPR was broadcasting live from the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Here’s a link to the NPR live blog of the events. The BBC reports on President Obama’s speech:
Mr Obama delivered his address to huge cheers. He said: “It is hard to eulogise any man… how much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation towards justice.”
He spoke of how the example of Nelson Mandela had “set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today”.
Mr Obama said: “We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. While I will always fall short of Madiba (Mr Mandela’s clan name), he makes me want to be a better man.”
NPR reported there were also enthusiastic cheers for Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton.
Washington Post: South Africans, world leaders gather to mourn former president Nelson Mandela.
SOWETO, South Africa —Nelson Mandela was memorialized in a boisterous stadium ceremony here Tuesday as a teacher and a racial healer, a transcendent figure who changed history and touched hearts in his native country and around the world.
Scores of thousands of South Africans braved a pouring rain to join dozens of world leaders, including President Obama and many other heads of state, for a four-hour service filled with emotional tributes and joyous song.
“It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you,” Obama said, using the Xhosa tribal name that Mandela preferred. “He changed laws, but also hearts.”
South Africans from all walks of life, businesspeople to nurses to the unemployed, danced and clapped and sang in the hours leading up to the memorial service, their voices echoing across the stadium as if they were cheering at a soccer match. The rich crowded together with the poor, children with the elderly, all there to remember Mandela, the former South African president and African National Congress leader who died Thursday at the age of 95.
The anniversary of the Newtown, CT massacre is this Saturday, Dec. 14, but the town has decided against holding a public memorial.
Residents of Newtown, Conn., have decided against a public commemoration to mark the first anniversary this coming Saturday of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead.
Instead, the town is endorsing a “year of service” and is asking residents to put a candle in their window on Dec. 14, the day of the shooting, to show their commitment to the idea of service to each other.
Newtown families have also announced the creation of the website “My Sandy Hook Family,” where people can post their remembrances.
Newtown resident and psychiatrist John Woodall is an expert on resilience and a member of the committee that decided not to hold a town-wide event for the anniversary. He speaks with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson about the decision.
You can listen to the interview at the “Here and Now” link.
Mother Jones: At Least 194 Children Have Been Shot to Death Since Newtown.
A year after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mother Jones has analyzed the subsequent deaths of 194 children ages 12 and under who were reported in news accounts to have died in gun accidents, homicides, and suicides. They are spread across 43 states, from inner cities to tiny rural towns.
Following Sandy Hook, the National Rifle Association and its allies argued that arming more adults is the solution to protecting children, be it from deranged mass shooters or from home invaders. But the data we collected stands as a stark rejoinder to that view:
- 127 of the children died from gunshots in their own homes, while dozens more died in the homes of friends, neighbors, and relatives.
- 72 of the young victims either pulled the trigger themselves or were shot dead by another kid.
- In those 72 cases, only 4 adults have been held criminally liable.
- At least 52 deaths involved a child handling a gun left unsecured.
Additional findings include:
- 60 children died at the hands of their own parents, 50 of them in homicides.
- The average age of the victims was 6 years old.
- More than two-thirds of the victims were boys, as were more than three-quarters of the kids who pulled the trigger.
- The problem was worst over the past year in the South, which saw at least 92 child gun deaths, followed by the Midwest (44), the West (38), and the East (20).
Our investigation drew on hundreds of local and national news reports. In some cases specific details remain unclear—often these tragedies are just a blip on the media’s radar.
This has turned out to be a sad post, although I didn’t plan it that way. I’ll end with something interesting and not sad. A group of British scientists has analyzed the environments described in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as “an exercise in how climate models work” and to demonstrate their validity. From the University Herald: ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Landscapes Analyzed And Compared To Real Places In British Study.
Scientists at Britain’s Bristol University compared the climates of famous “Lord of the Rings” sites such as Mordor and The Shire to regions of the world, the San Jose Mercury News reported. They also generated computer simulations of various middle earth landscapes based on information given in the book (notorious for their vast amount of details not always directly related to the plot).
For example, Los Angeles, western Texas, and Alice Springs in Australia have climates closest to Mordor, the site of Sauron’s fortress.
As a whole, however, “the climate of Middle Earth has a similar distribution to that of Western Europe and North Africa,” according to the researchers, one of whom identified himself as Radagast the Brown after the wizard who lives among J.R.R. Tokien’s fictional nature.
The above finding isn’t too surprising, given that Tolkein was from England. His landscapes either resembled the places he knew best or the place he likely found most exotic (Africa). The Shire, home to hobbits Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, could have easily stood for Lincolnshire or Liecestershire, as researchers found environmental similarities between all three, according to the press release.