Tuesday Reads: VP Debate and Other News

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Good Morning!!

Tonight at 9, Vice Presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence will debate on national TV for the first and only time. We will have a live blog for discussion of the event.

NPR is billing these two as “softening the image” of the Democratic and Republican tickets.

Unlike running mates of the past, Pence and Kaine have not been unleashed as “attack dogs” to chew viciously on their adversaries. This year, the headlines about outrageous charges have come from the top of the ticket — with help from various TV surrogates and the rest of the media chorus.

Kaine and Pence, by contrast, serve to soften the image of the national tickets. They are Tim and Mike, known by the friendlier, shorter versions of their first names. Both have made their way in politics as loyal party men, to be sure, but as warmer and more personable versions of their respective partisan stereotypes. And both have been known for their ability to maneuver and adapt to changing political circumstances.

So far, at least, both have performed admirably in their subordinate roles. It might even be said that both have exceeded expectations in their assistance to the nominees who chose them.

Kaine has been a prolific fundraiser as well as an affable and effective salesman on the stump. Pence has been enormously influential in bringing religious and social conservatives around to accepting and endorsing Trump. Even some who had pleaded for primary voters to pick anyone but Trump have come on board this fall, however reluctantly; and several have done so after meeting with Pence. Former rival and bitter critic Ted Cruz is one example.

How anyone could consider Mike Pence “softer” on anything is beyond me. I can only assume that NPR is ignorant of or choosing to ignore Pence’s record in the House and as Governor of Indiana.

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Here’s one mainstream article that calls attention to Pence’s “baggage.” Roll Call (September 19, 2016):

Pence made national headlines in early 2015 when he signed into law the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which limited the legal actions that could be taken against an individual or business for asserting their religious beliefs.

The law sparked widespread outrage. Opponents contended that it would give license to religious conservatives to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. In response, several major events and corporations — including Salesforce.com, the NCAA, and the gaming convention Gen-Con — threatened to limit business ventures in the state or boycott it altogether.

Pence adamantly defended the RFRA legislation and refused to say whether it allowed for discrimination, which led to extensive questioning of his underlying motives.

What followed was a hemorrhaging of support from moderate Republicans in the state, and intense backlash on social media and in the press. So much so that he quietly signed a subsequent piece of legislation — dubbed the “RFRA Fix” — that clarified that the law did not allow businesses to discriminate based on a customer’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Read about more of Pence’s ugly record at the link. He tried to set up a state “news bureau,” a propaganda organ paid for by taxpayers.

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Pence is virulently anti-abortion and did everything he could to get rid of Planned Parenthood in the state. He attempted to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana. He has helped keep Indiana a “right-to-work” state. More background on Pence’s views:

Planned Parenthood: This Is Mike Pence’s Indiana, and It’s Terrifying.

Mother Jones: Mike Pence Has Led a Crusade Against Abortion Access and LGBT Rights.

Mother Jones: Pence Tells Evangelicals He’ll Help Trump Restrict Abortion Rights.

Bustle: Mike Pence’s Stance On Gay Marriage Is As Harsh As His “Religious Freedom” Views.

In These Times: Mike Pence May Be a Friend to Trump, But He’s No Friend to Workers.

Here’s the Clinton campaign’s take on Pence and his defenses of Trump:

Other News

Republican Trump supporters have been waiting breathlessly for an “October Surprise” from Julian Assange and Wikileaks. A couple of days ago, long-time Trump adviser and conspiracy theorist Roger Stone tweeted this cryptic warning:

Then yesterday he tweeted this:

But so far, Stone and the Trumpettes have been disappointed.

The Washington Post: Trump backers realize they’ve been played as WikiLeaks fails to deliver October surprise.

For weeks, backers of Republican nominee Donald Trump have hyped the tantalizing possibility that the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks was on the verge of publishing a set of documents that would doom Hillary Clinton’s chances in November….

The group’s founder, Julian Assange, did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm, suggesting to Fox News hosts that his scoops could upend the race with documents “associated with the election campaign, some quite unexpected angles, some quite interesting.”

The announcement by WikiLeaks that it would host a major news conference Tuesday only seemed to confirm that the bombshell was ready to burst. The pro-Trump, anti-Clinton media world rippled with fevered speculation.

But the dreamed-of takedown of Clinton was not to be.

The much-vaunted news conference, as it turned out, was little more than an extended infomercial for WikiLeaks on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of its founding.

Assange, whose group released a trove of hacked Democratic National Committee documents on the eve of the party’s convention this summer, breezily dismissed the idea that anyone should have expected any news at his news conference.

“If we are going to make a major publication about the U.S., we wouldn’t do it at 3 a.m.,” Assange said at one point, referring to the Eastern daylight start time for the event.That didn’t go over well with Trump backers who had stayed up through the night, thinking they’d be watching live the unveiling of the death blow to the Clinton campaign.

That didn’t go over well with Trump backers who had stayed up through the night, thinking they’d be watching live the unveiling of the death blow to the Clinton campaign.

LOL! Read more hilarious stuff at the link. The Trump campaign is nothing but a “fever swamp” of conspiracy theorists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Just look at the campaign’s leadership and advisers like Alex Jones.

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Mother Jones: How Trump Became Our Conspiracy Theorist in Chief.

Consider Trump’s inner circle: Campaign CEO Stephen Bannon is on leave from Breitbart News, the conservative site he helped turn into a one-stop destination for breathlessly reported stories like “Muslim Prayer Rug Found on Arizona Border” (on closer inspection, the “rug” was probably a track jacket). Trump’s deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, a peddler of many of the wildest Clinton conspiracy theories of the 1990s, once made a documentary alleging that Hillary Clinton had murdered a critic’s cat. Trump adviser Roger Stone, a former Nixon campaign aide and political dirty trickster, wrote a book claiming that Chelsea Clinton got four plastic surgeries to mask the identity of her real father.

Populist movements have long flirted with what political theorist Richard Hofstadter, writing about Barry Goldwater in 1964, called the “paranoid style in American politics”—the penchant for framing opponents as the tools of a powerful but shadowy fifth column. But Trump has embraced and normalized the political fringe in unprecedented ways—and that could have far-reaching effects.

That Trump would devote much of the substance of his campaign to wild claims and ominous innuendo is not surprising: This is what first made him a conservative star. Five years ago, Trump embarked on a national press tour to question the legitimacy of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Obama, Trump suggested, was actually a Kenyan-born impostor named “Barry Soweto.” Establishment Republicans may have snickered, but Trump’s strategy was an unmitigated success. A CNN poll showed that his support among likely GOP voters nearly doubled once he started talking about the birth certificate. He became a regular guest on Fox & Friends, a sought-after speaker at conservative dinners, and a campaign prop for Mitt Romney, who flew to Las Vegas to accept Trump’s endorsement. In just a few months, Trump showed how intoxicatingly viral the netherworld of conspiracies could be. (Even when he finally conceded that Obama was born in the United States, he claimed the birther rumors originated with Clinton.)

From the day he kicked off his 2016 presidential campaign, an air of paranoia has infused almost everything Trump has said or done. He demanded a border wall on the grounds that Mexico was sending killers and rapists into the country, boosting his claims with an Infowars video he’d seen on the Drudge Report. He promised to “bomb the shit out of” ISIS, while insinuating that the current commander in chief harbored sympathies for the terrorist group (“There’s something going on”). After Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep, Trump fanned theories of an assassination. He trumpeted a National Enquirer story suggesting that Ted Cruz’s dad was involved in the Kennedy assassination (even though Stone had written a best-selling book fingering Lyndon B. Johnson).

Read the rest at Mother Jones.

Links Only

Time Magazine: Why Tonight’s Vice Presidential Debate is Unusual.

The New Yorker: Why the Vice-Presidential Debate Does and Doesn’t Matter.

Media Matters: .What Media Need To Know About Mike Pence’s Economic Record.

WSOC TV: Michelle Obama to campaign for Hillary Clinton in Charlotte.

Melissa McEwan at Share Blue: I published this photo of Hillary Clinton and the response was overwhelming. (Must Read!)

Deadspin: Trump Supporters Spent The Debate Tweeting At Jon Lester Because They Thought He Was Moderator Lester Holt.

What stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread and be sure to check back tonight for the VP Debate live blog!


Lazy Saturday Reads

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Good Afternoon!!

Today should be a big day for Bernie Sanders supporters. Get ready to hear about how Sanders now has the “momentum.” There are caucuses today in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, and he could win all three. There hasn’t been much polling so we still don’t know for sure; but most likely Sanders will cut into Clinton’s pledged delegate lead after today, possible by as much as 50 delegates, according to Al Giordano. 

Interestingly, it least writer in Hawaii, Anthony Pignataro, thinks Hillary could win in Hawaii. Kate Bradshaw at “Political Animal” in Tampa Bay: A different bird: Saturday’s Hawaii Democratic caucus might not turn out the way you expect.

Anthony Pignataro, editor of Maui Time Weekly (and one-time mentor to this reporter, who cut her teeth at said publication), says Maui’s strong progressive community, which packed the house at Maui Plantation to see Sanders’ wife, Jane, speak, in recent years has had enough of a voice to get voters to sign off on a GMO ban, but he’s not sure the same can be said for Sanders.

“He’s definitely riding the same wave of supporters who fueled a recent ballot measure that attempted to ban GMO cultivation in the county (though successful at the ballot box, the measure was later thrown out by the courts),” Pignataro said in an email. “At the same time, though, Clinton is generally favored to win the state.”

He said while there’s no real polling being done, (Hawaii is not exactly a high stakes state), but UH Political Science professor Colin Moore, who “makes the rounds” at election time and correctly forecast Trump’s win in the states caucus, has predicted a win for Clinton.

We’ll probably have to wait until tomorrow to find out, since it’s 6 hours earlier in Hawaii than on the East Coast.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii

Here’s another take on today’s contests from CNN’s Chris Moody:

Democrats will hold presidential contests in Hawaii, Alaska and Washington state on Saturday, three states expected to be friendlier to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But with Clinton leading Sanders by more than 300 pledged delegates, and because none of the contests are winner-take-all, Sanders needs stunning wins in each state to give the Clinton campaign any real anxiety about the outcome of the race.
In the run-up to the votes, Sanders has left nothing to chance. His campaign has spent millions on ads in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, including a powerful television spot featuring Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who resigned her position with the Democratic National Committee earlier this year to endorse Sanders.
Going into Saturday’s contests, Sanders needs to net an estimated 75% of the remaining delegates, while Clinton only needs 35%.
Read what Moody thinks we should watch for at the link.
Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska

Anyway, if today goes very well for Bernie, Hillary’s lead could fall a bit below 300 delegates. Then there will be a break in the primary schedule until April 5 when Wisconsin holds its primary. The two candidates are close in the polls there, and Bernie thinks he could win the state. On April 9, Sanders will most likely win the Wyoming caucus.

Bernie supporters will be in ecstasy until the New York primary on April 19. New York will go big for Hillary. Then there there will be another break until Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island vote on April 26. Each of those states looks very good for Hillary, although I don’t think there’s been much polling in tiny Rhode Island.

Basically, there’s close to zero chance that Sanders will catch up to Clinton, but I still expect him to stay in until the convention. It’s really unfair to many of his young followers, because he’s taking money from them knowing he can’t win the nomination.

Meanwhile, the Hillary hate on blogs and social media is getting more unhinged than ever before. It’s hard to know how much worse it can get, but I expect it will get worse.

Bernie supporters are claiming election fraud in every state that Hillary has won, except possibly the Deep South states that they call “the Confederacy.”

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

Yesterday Dakinikat wrote about scandals and conspiracy theories. Here’s one the Sanders folks dreamed up. I can’t believe Booman Tribune actually published this: 

Ryan Hughes, MI and PA Bernie State Director, Accused of Accepting Hillary Super Pac Money

I have been holding onto this information, but since Niko House has posted a video regarding this allegation, I’ve decided to lay out for you what I know.

Ryan Hughes was the Sanders campaign’s state director for Michigan, and is now the state director for Bernie’s Pennsylvania campaign, as well. Mark Craig, the founder of a grassroots volunteer group in Michigan that supports Bernie Sanders, Flint4Bernie.org, had many dealings with Ryan Hughes after Hughes came to Michigan. Mark Craig also said he was one of the principle [sic] organizers for Bernie’s March 2nd rally and speech to thousands of people at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University. His grassroots organization was started in 2015, long before Ryan Hughes showed up as the paid director for Bernie’s campaign in Michigan.

Mr. Craig stated to me that knows a a senior employee who works for Priorities USA Action (“Priorities USA”), a Hillary Super Pac. In late February, after Craig casually mentioned to her that Ryan Hughes was running the Sanders’ campaign, that person told him Hughes was receiving direct payments from Priorities USA, all while Ryan Hughes worked as the Sanders’ campaign’s state director for Michigan, along with several other paid Sanders’ Michigan staffers….

Priotities USA Action is a Super Pac, to which unlimited contributions may be made, that supports one candidate in this election cycle: Hillary Clinton. As noted in my post yesterday about Mayor Weaver of Flint MI endorsement of Hillary, thetop donors to Priorities USA Action include many of Hillary’s wealthiest and most prominent supporters, including billionaires such as the J.B Pritzker and his wife, George Soros, James Simon (hedge fund manager worth over $15 Billion), Steven Spielberg, and many other wealthy individuals in the finance and entertainment industries.

Does that make any sense? Not to me. Why would a superpac that supports Hillary waste money on paying Bernie’s employees to sabatage him? If it happened, why are these people still working for Bernie’s campaign? Furthermore, Priorities USA has to report all expenditures to the FEC, and there were no such payments.  From the managing editor of Crooks and Liars:

But this conspiracy theory is all over Twitter and the Bernie reddit page. Sigh . . .

MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald explains Sanders’ path forward: Why Bernie Sanders Isn’t Dropping Out Despite Hillary’s Lead.

Even though Sanders came up short in Arizona, where his campaign invested most heavily, the Vermont senator ended up netting 17 delegates over Clinton Tuesday, thanks to lopsided wins in the Idaho and Utah caucuses.

He ended up taking away a tidy 57 percent of the pledged delegates up for grabs that day. And as it happens, 58 is the percentage of outstanding pledged delegates Sanders needs to win from now on in order to finish the primary calendar with more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton, according to an NBC News analysis.

On Saturday, Sanders is hoping to win an even larger portion of the delegates in Washington state, which holds the largest caucus of the entire year, with 101 delegates at stake. Alaska and Hawaii will also hold caucuses, which Sanders also hopes to win Saturday.

Tad Devine and Jeff Weaver

Tad Devine and Jeff Weaver

Seitz-Wald says the Sanders Campaign admits this is a “tall order.”

But it’s at least doable. “We’re trying to win more pledged delegates by the end,” Sanders senior strategist Tad Devine told MSNBC Friday. “If we can demonstrate that he is the strongest candidate by defeating her in these states, a lot of superdelegates are going to take a step back and say, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ And that’s when we will try to persuade them.”

Good luck with that after Bernie has repeatedly attacked President Obama and the DNC and after he admitted he only ran as a Democrat so he could get media attention and raise money.

And then there’s the Sanders campaign’s attack on Hillary Clinton, Amal Clooney, and George Clooney for holding a fundraiser from which most of the money collected will go to downticket Democrats.

The Hill reprints part of the text from a Sanders campaign email:

“In the movie Oceans 11, a gang of lovable thieves successfully heist $150 million from a vault in the basement of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas,” Sanders’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in an email to supporters.

“Fueled primarily from high-dollar donations, Hillary Clinton has raised more than that in this campaign, and is now enlisting the support of George Clooney (Danny Ocean) to pad that total at a dinner event that will cost people up to $353,400 to attend.”

Weaver added that the price of admission an “obscene amount of money.”

“It’s a sum that would require an employee making the federal minimum wage to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for more than 5 years,” he said.

Weaver included a fundraising pitch, saying that the Sanders campaign was relying on small donations from “working Americans.”

Amal and George Clooney

Amal and George Clooney

Again, the Clooney fundraiser is to support Democrats, not just Hillary Clinton. Apparently raising money for Democrats running for the House and Senate is problematic for Bernie, which explains why he hasn’t been raising money for them. Hillary has been doing it all along.

And then there are the demands Bernie is making before he’ll consider supporting the Democratic nominee. Huffpo: Bernie Sanders Lays Out His Requirements For Endorsing Hillary Clinton.

“If I can’t make it — and we’re going to try as hard as we can until the last vote is cast — we want to completely revitalize the Democratic Party and make it a party of the people rather than one of large campaign contributors,” Sanders said in an interview on the progressive Web show “The Young Turks.”

Sanders also listed policy demands he would make of Clinton, including a single-payer health care system, a $15 an hour minimum wage, tougher regulation of the finance industry, closing corporate tax loopholes and “a vigorous effort to address climate change.”

“I am very worried. I mean, I talk to these scientists. This planet is in serious danger. You can’t cuddle up to the fossil fuel industry — you’ve got to take them on,” Sanders said, alluding to Clinton’s ties to oil and gas companies.

He also expressed concern about Clinton’s consistency on policy issues.

“What we need is to create a movement which holds elected officials accountable and not let them flip” on issues, Sanders said.

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Because Bernie has been very consistent. He’s been calling for a revolution for 40 years with zero results. From the NYT:

On the night of the New Hampshire primary, the high-water mark of his presidential campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont called his rout of Hillary Clinton “nothing short of the beginning of a political revolution” and vowed to stop the “billionaire class” from buying elections.

It was barely different from the speech he gave March 15, the day he lost five of five primaries, when he asked thousands of his adoring fans: “Are you ready for a political revolution? Are you tired of a handful of billionaires running our economy?”

Nor, for that matter, was it much changed from his address to a spaghetti dinner of the Addison County Community Action Group in 1984, when he called for a “political revolution” and urged working people to take power from a “very small group of wealthy people.”

It is a political score Mr. Sanders has been singing for the last 40 years, and he does not seem ready to stop anytime soon. Regardless of the results on the scoreboard, the state on the map, the year or even the decade, Mr. Sanders has talked with clockwork consistency about an economy rigged against the working class, a campaign finance system that corrupts politicians and a corporate media that obscures the truth.

While politicians constantly try to stay on message, Mr. Sanders is the king of message discipline. While other candidates have been lampooned for robotic redundancies or caricatured as cut-and-paste campaigners, Mr. Sanders has made oratorical consistency his calling card.

His young and loyal fans practically sing along with his timeless refrains: “the richest one-half of 1 percent” in 1971, the “richest 1 percent of the population” in 1991 and “the top one-tenth of 1 percent” in 2015. Last year, the MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow began a segment on Mr. Sanders’s hyperconsistency by playing an audio clip of Mr. Sanders lamenting “the two-party system dominated by big money,” and asking viewers when he said it. The answer: 1989.

In other words, Sanders has not grown and changed at all over the past 40 years. Is that really supposed to be a good thing?

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?

UPDATE: Please send good vibes to NW Luna, who is braving the Washington Caucuses today!

 


Tuesday Reads

 cat-readingGood Morning!!

Nepal has been rocked by 7.3 magnitude earthquake only a few weeks after the last one. From The LA Times:

Still reeling from last month’s devastating earthquake, Nepal was hammered again Tuesday by a magnitude 7.3 temblor that caused dozens more deaths, unleashed fresh landslides and brought down unsteady buildings.

By late afternoon, Nepal’s Home Affairs Ministry said at least 42 people were killed and more than 1,117 injured in the largest aftershock yet recorded from the 7.8 quake on April 25. Officials warned that the toll could rise.

The epicenter was about 47 miles northeast of the capital, Katmandu, near the Chinese border, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The April 25 quake, which killed more than 8,150 people, was centered in the mountains west of Katmandu.

The tremor struck just before 1 p.m. local time, sending residents of the capital scurrying into the open air for safety, and was followed by a series of smaller tremors that rattled nerves even further.

Within hours, new makeshift tents had begun popping up in parts of Katmandu as families that had survived the earlier quake and returned to their homes in recent days decided again they were safer sleeping outdoors.

The Hindu is publishing live updates from Reuters. They report multiple aftershocks. What a terrible tragedy! Obviously this is a developing story, and we’ll hear more throughout the day and in coming days.

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I missed this important investigative article from the Baltimore Sun over the weekend: Freddie Gray among many suspects who do not get medical care from Baltimore police.

Records obtained by The Baltimore Sun show that city police often disregard or are oblivious to injuries and illnesses among people they apprehend — in fact, such cases occur by the thousands.

From June 2012 through April 2015, correctional officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center have refused to admit nearly 2,600 detainees who were in police custody, according to state records obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request.

In those records, intake officers in Central Booking noted a wide variety of injuries, including fractured bones, facial trauma and hypertension. Of the detainees denied entry, 123 had visible head injuries, the third most common medical problem cited by jail officials, records show.

The jail records redacted the names of detainees, but a Sun investigation found similar problems among Baltimore residents and others who have made allegations of police brutality.e

Salahudeen Abdul-Aziz, who was awarded $170,000 by a jury in 2011, testified that he was arrested and transported to the Western District after being beaten by police and left with a broken nose, facial fracture and other injuries. Hours later, he went to Central Booking and then to Bon Secours Hospital, according to court records.

Abdul-Aziz said last week that jailers at Central Booking “wouldn’t let me in the door as soon as they saw my face. … I thought I was gonna die that day. Freddie Gray wasn’t so lucky.”

Read the rest at the Baltimore Sun link.

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The Washington Post, which initially published leaks favorable to the Baltimore PD, published an editorial in response the the Sun article: Too much black and blue in Baltimore.

TWO OR three times a day on average, suspects in the custody of the Baltimore police are turned away by the city jail because they are deemed too battered, beaten, bruised or otherwise injured or sick to be processed and admitted. The police are forced to head instead for a hospital emergency room to seek treatment for suspects suffering from head injuries, broken bones, hypertension and an array of other afflictions.

The frequency of such occurrences was detailed over the weekend by the Baltimore Sun, which obtained records from the city’s detention center under the Maryland Public Information Act. According to those records, the jail has turned away nearly 2,600 ailing detainees since June 2012 — about 2 percent of all bookings.

That staggering figure suggests the Baltimore police are heedless, at best, of the physical welfare of suspects in their custody. It also may help explain how Freddie Gray could have pleaded for medical care at least five times after he was arrested last month before the officers who detained him bothered to summon a paramedic — by which time it was too late….

The police understand — and after 2,600 reaffirmations in three years, they should be acutely aware — that they are obliged to seek medical attention for suspects who are sick or injured before the jail will admit them. Yet somehow that obligation doesn’t seem institutionally ingrained in cops on the beat….

The Justice Department’s civil rights investigation of the city police, announced last week by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, should take account of these injured detainees, including the causes and circumstances of their injuries and whether police are adequately trained and instructed in assessing them. And it should examine whether African American suspects are more frequently hurt and denied prompt medical care than other detainees.

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Journalists are still reacting to Seymour Hersh’s poorly sourced accusations that the Obama administration conspired with Pakistan to stage a fake raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound and then lied about it. Here are two I found this morning:

Lawfare: Hersh’s Account of the Bin Laden Raid is Journalistic Malpractice, by Yishai Schwartz

When a journalist writes a tell-all story about a classified operation, and he suspects the story will catalyze anti-American anger, provide fuel for terrorist groups, and cause severe friction with foreign governments, the act of publication is morally fraught. When the story is based on obscenely thin sourcing and careens into conspiracy theories, the decision to publish becomes indefensible.

Seymour Hersh has had a long and distinguished history as one of America’s finest investigative journalists. In recent years, he has gone a bit kooky. In 2011, for instance, he suggested that Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander in Afghanistan, and the leadership of the US Joint Special Operations Forces were “all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.” His latest story, in which he claims that the entire story of Bin Laden’s killing is an elaborate cover-up for a joint Pakistani-American operation, may be his kookiest.

As many have already pointed out, Hersh’s version offers a combination of the inconsistent and the inexplicable. Why, for instance, would the Pakistanis help plan an elaborate raid, complete with a recall of Bin Laden’s Pakistani guards—rather than just hand Bin Laden over directly—if they always intended to claim he’d been killed in a drone strike hundreds of miles away? Worse, the key contentions rely on the exclusive word of one unnamed source who was a) retired, and b) on Hersh’s own account, only “knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.”

To be sure, there are scraps of Hersh’s hodgepodge narrative that may turn out to be true. That a CIA “walk-in” may have contributed to the intel leading to Bin Laden’s whereabouts, for instance, matches a tidbit that NBC has confirmed recently. And Hersh’s insistence that someone highly placed in the Pakistani intelligence services knew of Bin Laden’s presence has been pretty widely believed for a while. But leaping from these plausible and relatively minor details to the rest of the fantastic tale Hersh spins simply boggles the mind.

It’s unsurprising then that The New Yorker passed on the story (as it, along with the The Washington Post, have reportedly done with the last few of Hersh’s flights of fantasy.)

The London Review of Books, on the other hand, lacked the same degree of restraint. This is hardly surprising given the editorial leadership’s apparent lack of interest in fact-checking. As LRB senior editor Christian Lorentzen wrote in a 2012 piece suitably titled Short Cuts,” “the facts are the burden of the reporter…nobody at the paper fact-checks full time; that’s an American thing… I miss New York sometimes, but I don’t miss its schizophrenic obsession with facts, or the puritan hysteria that attends the discovery that a memoir should have been called a novel.” The LRB, it seems, takes pride in its sloppiness. Perhaps they have an editorial opening for Stephen Glass?

As a former fact-checker, I find the LRB’s approach part puzzling and part offensive. As a citizen who would like to form judgements and opinions on the basis of actual information, I’m horrified.

Wow! Read more at Lawfare Blog.

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Politico: Sy Hersh, Lost in a Wilderness of Mirrors, by Jack Shafer.

Hersh leads the reader into a Wonderland of his own, thinly sourced retelling of the raid on Bin Laden’s complex in Abbottabad, Pakistan. According to Hersh, who cites American sources, “bin Laden had been a prisoner of the [Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency] at the Abbottabad compound since 2006” and his ISI captors eased the way for the American SEAL team to skip into Pakistan on their helicopters, kill the al Qaeda leader, and then skip out.

It’s a messy omelet of a piece that offers little of substance for readers or journalists who may want to verify its many claims. The Hersh piece can’t be refuted because there’s not enough solid material to refute. Like the government officials who spun the original flawed Abbottabad stories, he simply wants the reader to trust him.

Hersh’s piece quarrels with almost every aspect of the official story, asserting that much of it is cover designed to protect the Pakistanis who sold bin Laden out to the United States for military aid….
Hersh may very well be onto something—what did the Pakistanis know, when did they know it, and how much did they help? And that debate appears to be starting in earnest already, with NBC News quickly building off Hersh’s article. But Hersh’s potentially valid question on that subject is almost lost in the broad sweep of rolling back so many other stories and quibbling with effectively every known detail of one of the most thoroughly leaked secret operations in history.

By re-exploring the bin Laden operation, Hersh has thrust himself into the phenomenological territories that Cold War spymaster James Jesus Angleton called a “wilderness of mirrors.” In this clandestine world, truths are constructed, obliterated and bent to serve their masters. Adversaries who would deceive abound in this place, and without a reliable map, a compass, a sense of direction and maybe even a pedometer, even the most intrepid voyager (or journalist) can find himself lost. I’ll volunteer to join a search party for Hersh—somebody I’ve long admired—if only somebody can tell me precisely where he is.

Another harsh indictment. I expect “progressive” conspiracy theorists like Glenn Greenwald and Marcy Wheeler will attempt to keep this story alive, but it doesn’t seem to be getting much traction in either the mainstream media or the sane alternative media.

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More interesting stories, links only:

At Politico, former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morell recounts his Benghazi experiences: The Real Story of Benghazi. A CIA insider’s account of what happened on 9/11/12.

Pew Research Center, America’s Changing Religious Landscape. Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow.

The Atlantic, American Religion: Complicated, Not Dead, by Emma Green.

Huffington Post, GOP Crowd Applauds Calling Immigrants Rats and Roaches, by Lauren Windsor.

Reuters, Verizon to buy AOL in push for digital content.

Fox News, Authorities say at least 7 victims found in Connecticut serial killer investigation.

NY Daily News: Connecticut serial killer already jailed for 2003 murder of still-missing woman: report.

What stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!


Lazy Saturday Reads: Friday Document Dump and Clinton Conspiracy Theories

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Happy Saturday!!

 

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.

Mary Landrieu

Mary Landrieu

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.

More reactions reported by Politico:

…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.

Chelsea Clinton and husband Marc Mezvinsky

Chelsea Clinton and husband Marc Mezvinsky

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.

Limbaugh recently said he believes that Hillary Clinton staged the now famous shoe-throwing incident.

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:

Vanity Fair: The Worst Reactions to Chelsea Clinton’s Pregnancy Announcement.

Slate: If It Happened There: America Awaits Royal Baby.

LA Times: Chelsea Clinton’s pregnancy fuels presidential election speculation.

US News: Dumb Questions About a Grandmother-to-Be

Politico: What to expect when she’s expecting

Newsday: Bouie: Chelsea Clinton’s baby is already campaigning?

TPM: NYT Columnist Insists That Chelsea Clinton’s Baby Is A 2016 Game Changer 

ABC News: Will Clinton Baby Affect 2016, and Is It Sexist to Ask?

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.”

Hillary beaming

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.

ABC News: Monica Lewinsky E-Mail Omitted From Latest Batch of Clinton Documents

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.

LA Times: For Hillary Rodham Clinton, archives evoke fiery White House years.

…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.

enhanced-6334-1397841801-3

 

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!!


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

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

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

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the “too handsome” story, Islawix reports that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

misinformation

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

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

wrong on Iraq

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Texas Judge: Extra Law Enforcement Staff Needed in Case Obama is Reelected

Judge Tom Head with Texas Gov. Rick Perry

You just can’t make this stuff up. Lubbock County Judge Tom Head appeared on Fox 34 News in Lubbock, TX on Monday night to warn the population of the danger that lies ahead if President Obama wins reelection in November. The threat is so serious that he wants to increase property taxes in order to increase salaries for attorneys in the DA’s office and hire seven more sheriff’s deputies to deal with the possible Obamapocalypse.

Judge Head said he and the county must be prepared for many contingencies, one that he particularly fears, is if President Obama is reelected.

“He’s going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the UN, and what is going to happen when that happens?,” Head asked.

“I’m thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we’re not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we’re talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.

“Now what’s going to happen if we do that, if the public decides to do that? He’s going to send in U.N. troops. I don’t want ’em in Lubbock County. OK. So I’m going to stand in front of their armored personnel carrier and say ‘you’re not coming in here’.

“And the sheriff, I’ve already asked him, I said ‘you gonna back me’ he said, ‘yeah, I’ll back you’. Well, I don’t want a bunch of rookies back there. I want trained, equipped, seasoned veteran officers to back me.”

How on earth does the Stupid Party GOP find these people?

Apparently some people were a bit concerned about the good Judge’s remarks, so today he recorded a rambling video in which he attempted to “clarify” things. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, the Sheriff has no recollection of any conversation with Judge Head about revolution or whatever Head is planning.

Just minutes ago, Sheriff Kelly Rowe said he’d never discussed any of the scenarios described by Head.

The White House media office had no immediate response Wednesday morning to Head’s remarks.

AJ reporter Andrea Sinclair is at the Lubbock County Commissioner meeting, and, Head said his remarks were taken out of context. He said he was referring to a “worst case scenario” if Obama is re-elected.

Sorry, Tom, that dog won’t hunt. Just like your fellow Stupid Party GOP members Todd Akin and Paul Ryan, you said what you said on videotape. We can all judge your remarks and their “context” for ourselves.


Late Evening News Reads: Cup of Tea?

Good Evening, getting ready to enjoy a couple old classic movies on TCM…so this will be a quick post.

I don’t think I am the only one that is getting fatigue from all this back and forth between the two political parties…Dak had a great post about it today, and it looks like many of you are bringing up the Tea Party. So for my first link, Special report: Tea Party grassroots army readies for battle | Reuters

For insight into the conservative Tea Party movement’s battle plan in 2012, check out Joe Dugan’s Google spreadsheets.

Dugan, 66, a retired manufacturing executive and chairman of the Myrtle Beach Tea Party, is particularly proud of the scoring system he’s devised for South Carolina legislators. Every vote by a member of the state’s House or Senate is recorded, with points awarded for those that reflect the conservative position.

“Let’s say you get above a five, we’ll actively campaign for your reelection,” Dugan says. “Below a three, then – Republican or Democrat – we’ll come after you.”

WTF?

“The Tea Party movement is more organized, more focused and more potent,” said Rep. Scott, who talks regularly to Dugan. “What happened in 2010 was not the end. It was just the beginning.”

Tea Party supporters now hold fewer sign-waving rallies, a hallmark of their early opposition to bank bailouts and President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform in 2009. But the movement isn’t losing steam.

Interviews with activists across 20 U.S. states indicate that Tea Party groups, far from fading, have evolved into an increasingly sophisticated and effective network of activists. They are working to unseat establishment Republicans who they believe have betrayed the principles of lower taxes, limited government, and free markets.

“Those who think the Tea Party is on the wane are in for a gigantic surprise in 2012,” says Debbie Dooley, co-organizer of the Atlanta Tea Party. “We have built a grassroots army and we will be a fine-tuned machine next year.”

So compare the threatening nature of this interview to these remarks from another Tea Party member, even though some of the right-wing leaning press are trying to make the man out as a “wannabe.”

Wannabe Tea Party politician unleashes racist Facebook screed against President Obama  – NY Daily News

A rabid Tea Party wannabe politician in California called for the assassination of President Obama and his “monkey children” in a recent Facebook rant – and then defended his right to do so Monday.

Jules Manson, who failed miserably in his 2011 bid for a City Council seat in Carson, Calif., urged the sickening reprisal, saying Obama’s support of a revised military authorization bill last week was an act of “treason” that “eroded” constitutional protections.

“It must be countered with assassinations onto them and their children,” he wrote in the original posting that has since been scrubbed from his Facebook profile.

“Assassinate the f—-n (N-word) and his monkey cWannhildren,” he prodded, according to a screen grab obtained by YourBlackWorld.com.

An angry backlash quickly ensued, and Manson, 48, toned down the vile rhetoric Monday while defending his right to spew hate.

They never want to own the violent actions and racist remarks from their members.

Ex-Carson Council candidate talks anti-Obama Facebook rant | abc7.com

Jules Manson, 48, posted the racially charged statement Sunday on his Facebook page. His post included the word, “assassinate,” referred to Obama using the N-word and referred to the president’s daughters as “monkey children.”

It’s a rant that Manson wishes he could take back.

“Basically, I mustered the most hateful and vile words I could think of to express my hurt and contempt for the president. However, I went too far. That’s all that was. It was harmless. I’m not the least bit racist at all,” Manson told Eyewitness News.

Manson has since apologized for the statement, but the damage was done. The Secret Service got wind of it and is now conducting an investigation to determine if Manson is a genuine threat to the first family.

“I consented to the search of my home, my vehicle and my person as well. Now, they’re questioning my family,” Manson said.

Manson considers himself a Libertarian and was angered by language in the Defense Authorization Act that he and others say could deny Americans their civil rights.

Manson insist he is not a racist…cough…cough…

Then you have this bit of New Jersey Tea Party conspiracy theory run amok Tea Party raises fear of UN at Ocean County freeholder meeting | The Asbury Park Press NJ | APP.com

Conspiracy fears over a United Nations plot to establish a one-world government in which property rights can be voided, brought a dozen Tea Party activists to Wednesday’s meeting of the Ocean County Board of Freeholders.

Specifically, Ocean County Tea Party members voiced concern with Gov. Chris Christie’s strategic plan for targeting growth in New Jersey and the county’s update of its own master development plan.

“I’m not attacking the need for planning and I’m not attacking the need for good environmental stewardship,” said David Sharp, 75, of Waretown. “What I am concerned about … a thing called Agenda 21 that has crept into the policy making of many government agencies.”

According to literature from the John Birch Society, Agenda 21 would mandate national service, control the size of families, reduce the amount of goods and services individuals can purchase and use, and virtually eliminate private ownership.

“Under the U.N. plan, the role of the government is to control the individual for a greater good in a global community,” Sharp said. “Quote, ‘Rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.’ That scares me and I see that happening in our country.”

And lastly:

In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback puts tea party tenets into action with sharp cuts – The Washington Post

If you want to know what a Tea Party America might look like, there is no place like Kansas.

In the past year, three state agencies have been abolished and 2,050 jobs have been cut. Funding for schools, social services and the arts have been slashed. The new Republican governor rejected a $31.5 million federal grant for a new health-insurance exchange because he opposes Obama’s health care law. And that’s just the small stuff.

A new “Office of the Repealer” has been created to reduce the number of laws and regulations, and the Repealer is canvassing the state for more cut suggestions.

In the upcoming legislative session, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) plans to roll out proposals to change the way schools are funded, taxes are levied and state pensions are administered.

A year after voters vaulted hundreds of tea party candidates to power in Washington and in state capitals, the movement’s goals are being pursued aggressively in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas.

It is enough to give one the tea party willies…

“It’s a revolution in a cornfield,” said Arthur Laffer, the 71-year-old architect of supply-side economic theory and former economic adviser for President Ronald Reagan who is now working with the governor. “Brownback and his whole group there, it’s an amazing thing they’re doing. Truly revolutionary.”

Brownback, 55, declined to be interviewed for this article but has said he wants to turn his small farming state into a national showcase for the virtues of limited government.

“The states are to be the laboratory for democracy,” he said recently at a dinner at the Kansas Policy Institute, a think tank in Wichita. “Why not here and why not us and why not now?”

Talk of the tea party fading is a bit optimistic, the people behind the movement are still there and it doesn’t look like they are going anywhere any time soon.