Lazy Saturday Reads: Here We Go Again . . .

Brigit Ganley, The Dramatist

Brigit Ganley, The Dramatist

It’s Saturday!!

 

And a glance at the news headlines today reveals that everything old is new again. Remember 14-year-old Cherise Morales, who committed suicide after being raped by her teacher Stacy Dean Rambold? And G. Todd Baugh, the judge who blamed Cherise for the rape and sentenced the Rambold to only 31 days in jail and probation?

Well that decision *may* be overturned, but now we have another judge in Texas who sounds like a clone of Baugh–except she’s a woman! From the Dallas News: Judge says sexually assaulted 14-year-old ‘wasn’t the victim she claimed to be’.

A man sentenced to five years probation by a Dallas County judge after admitting he raped a 14-year-old girl won’t have to follow many of the restrictions typically given to sex offenders.

And the judge who issued the light sentence said Thursday that she did so in part because the girl wasn’t a virgin and “wasn’t the victim she claimed to be.”

State District Judge Jeanine Howard, who gave 20-year-old Sir Young deferred probation last week, also altered Young’s probation requirements. As a result, Young does not have to stay away from children, attend sex offender treatment, undergo a sex offender evaluation or refrain from watching pornography.

Wait a minute. Let me check my calendar. Is this really 2014?

District Attorney Craig Watkins said Thursday that his prosecutors would “always fight for our most vulnerable victims” like the one in this case. It is rare for prosecutors to critique a judge’s actions, but Watkins said he was “alarmed” by Howard’s decision.

“This young lady was 14 at the time she was sexually assaulted at school, and we cannot send the wrong message to rape victims who have the courage to seek justice,” Watkins said. “I am disappointed the judge would choose to give the defendant probation after he admitted guilt, but even more alarmed the judge failed to impose standard sex offender conditions of probation designed to protect society.”

Make sure you’re sitting down before you read this next bit. Judge Howard is a Democrat. She’s going to withdraw from the case now so she can better explain herself, but she doesn’t have to worry about being reelected because she’s running unopposed.

Howard said she made her decision for several reasons, including: The girl had texted Young asking him to spend time with her; the girl had agreed to have sex with him but just didn’t want to at school; medical records show the girl had three sexual partners and had given birth to a baby; and Young was barely 18 at the time.

“She wasn’t the victim she claimed to be,” Howard said. “He is not your typical sex offender.”

The girl’s mother said Friday morning that her daughter has never been pregnant and she was “livid” over the judge’s comments.

WTF?!

The victim, who is now 17, told The News on Thursday night that she feels it would have been better if she had never come forward about the 2011 assault. She and Young testified last week at his trial that she had told Young “stop” and “no” numerous times before and during the attack at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where both were students.

“I did what I was supposed to do. I went to the law about this situation,” she said. The judge’s probation sentence and the removal of the restrictions — “that says everything I went through was for nothing.”

Unbelievable! We’ll have to watch what happens with this case. But when will judges learn that 14-year-old girls are not able to consent to sex in the first place?

“Don’t Run for President, Hillary”

Why won't that stupid bitch quit? (WWTSBQ)

Why won’t that stupid bitch quit? (WWTSBQ)

Remember when MSNBC’s Krystal Ball told Hillary Clinton she shouldn’t run for President? Ball said that Elizabeth Warren, who  is approximately the same age as Hillary and has zero experience and would be unlikely to win should run instead because Hillary was once on the board of Walmart … or something? Of course Ball’s nonsensical “advice” was ignored by most rational Democrats.

Now comes Tina Brown, editor of The Daily Beast to lecture Hillary some more: Don’t Run for President, Hillary. Become a ‘Post-President’ Instead. Except Brown seems not to care at all about Hillary’s positions on issues or her qualifications. She simply thinks Hillary should do the easiest thing and avoid the “stress” of a campaign and a tough job like the presidency. Brown apparently has projected her own values onto Hillary, assuming that she (Clinton) is as narcissistic and self-involved as Tina Brown is. Never mind that Hillary has spent most of her life focusing on public service and fighting for causes like women’s rights.

Brown writes:

I know as much as anyone how much her most fervent supporters want Hillary Clinton to run for president. On the opening night of the Women in the World Summit the mere mention of the possibility had the audience on their feet. The fan base is there, and constituencies beyond it.

Because American women want a woman in the White House in their lifetimes, and Hillary has the experince, strength, and passion to do the job.

But should she do it? Would the bravest and best decision be for her to skip it? In the 2008 campaign the chronic negativity of the ladies and gentlemen of the press was relentless, and the gouging of Hillary was wholly unrelated to either her record or her behavior. It was just that her story had gotten old. It required new angles, or, heaven forbid, new facts, to make it interesting—whereas Barack Obama was a story that wrote itself.

The first black president was a hotter plot line than the first woman president. Bad luck for Hillary. Obama stole her exceptionalism, leaving the press only with the hair, the alleged cackling laugh, and the over-familiar back-story, which meant dogging Bill around, hoping he’d lose it once in a while. (He obliged.)

I joined the Hillary bus for a Newsweek story in 2008 I was fascinated how little attention in their copy the traveling reporters actually paid to anything she said when she got out. They were too busy filing recaps of blogs by commentators who weren’t there. Suddenly there would be media uproar about some killer soundbite from Hillary that someone had gotten traction for that in context wasn’t controversial at all. Remember that shit-storm when she said MLK’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act?

In other words, the media is full of assholes and even though Hillary could probably handle it, why bother? She should just be a “post-president” in the mode of Jimmy Carter and bask in the reflected limelight of her former-president husband.

Even the Wall Street Journal’s wingnut comumnist James Taranto seems to think Brown’s column is a little strange.

Does Brown disagree with Mrs. Clinton on matters of policy or doubt she would be a good president? One assumes the answer is no, though the column doesn’t say. Nor does Brown offer a more coldly political rationale–say, that Mrs. Clinton would be unlikely to win, or that a different candidate would better enhance the long-term fortunes of the Democratic Party.

Brown sums up her argument as follows: “She should forget it. If she wins, it’s too much stress for too little return.” By “return,” Brown means nothing more than “personal benefit.” By forgoing a campaign, Brown writes, Mrs. Clinton “can have her glory-filled post-presidency now, without actually having to deal with the miseries of the office itself.” ….

Brown….credits Mrs. Clinton with standing for something, namely “her global mission to promote women’s rights, education, and political participation.” She asks if skipping the presidential candidacy would be “the bravest and best decision,” though she doesn’t say a word about why it would be brave.

Her central argument, however, is that running for and serving as president would entail too much suffering, in large part because people, particularly in the media, would not respond to Mrs. Clinton fairly…

Taranto thinks he may have figured out Brown’s real motivation: she’s floating a trial balloon for Hillary, because maybe Hillary has doubts about running and wants to see how her supporters react to Brown’s arguments.

No, Mr. Taranto, that’s not it. Brown is just the latest example of women being women’s worst enemies–like when Gloria Steinem supported Barack Obama over Hillary in 2008. And, by the way, could you please stop referring to Hillary as “Mrs. Clinton?” She is a former Senator and Secretary of State for god’s sake!

Benghazi!!!!

Remember when Boehner thought Benghazi investigations were stupid?

Remember when Boehner thought Benghazi investigations were stupid?

And then there’s the GOP’s obsession with Benghazi!!–which is of course the stick they hope to beat Hillary Clinton with in 2016. From U.S. News and World Report: Boehner says he intends to appoint select House committee to investigate Benghazi.

Boehner said U.S. officials misled the American people after the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. He said emails released this week showed the White House has withheld documents from congressional investigators and asked, “What else about Benghazi is the Obama administration still hiding from the American people?”

“Americans learned this week that the Obama administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the people’s House,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “These revelations compel the House to take every possible action to ensure the American people have the truth about the terrorist attack on our consulate that killed four of our countrymen.”

Because Darrel Issa hasn’t already investigated enough? If only the House had spent half this much time investigating 9/11, we might know why the Bush administration ignored all those warnings.

Here’s Brian Beutler at The New Republic: The GOP’s Benghazi Obsession Returns With a Vengeance. Pay Attention, Hillary.

It is by sheer coincidence that just as Obamacare recedes as an issue, House GOP leaders have announced their intent to create a Select Committee on Benghazisomething they’ve long resistedand that Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, perhaps overcome by zeal to maintain control over the issue, subpoenas Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about the 2012 attackdespite the fact that Kerry was a senator at the time, and hasn’t been invited to testify, and is currently visiting Sudan.

The pretext for all this is the release of an email from White House adviser Ben Rhodes, which includes as a bullet point the goal that in speaking about the attack, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice should “reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”

Slate’s Dave Weigel did a great job earlier this week of placing the email in chronological context, to discredit the argument that the email represents evidence of a “coverup.” And while it might appear a bit unseemly for administration officials to be concerning themselves with the president’s image and the administration’s competence in the midst a crisis … this is actually completely uncontroversial. Would John Boehner and Darrell Issa have preferred it if Susan Rice went on TV that week and granted that the administration was in complete disarray? Or had refused to take a position on the administration’s handling of the situation?

Beutler goes on to explain that even though all of the Republicans’ claims on Benghazi have been debunked, he is *concerned* because they are still going  to use it to attack Hillary.

if Republicans are serious about working their base into a frenzy over Benghazi, it’d probably behoove liberals to mix a bit more clarity about the events in with the mockery. What’s really happening is pretty straightforward. Of all the Americans who’ve died in dangerous parts of the world over the last decade, Republicans have concerned themselves with Benghazi’s four victims, because they think there’s political utility in fostering suspicion that the administration was more concerned with the coverup than the attack itself.

Something tells me Beutler is another one of those “Please don’t run, Hillary” folks.

What do you think? Please let me know in the comments and, as always, post your links on any topic!


Monday Reads

sun

Good Morning!

I’ve found a few things to keep you interested this morning.  Some are depressing as usual and some are intriguing.   The Sun is going to reverse polarity soon.  This evidently happens every 11 years and causes some interesting space weather.

The sun switches its polarity, flipping its magnetic north and south, once every eleven years through an internal mechanism about which little is understood.

The swap could however cause intergalactic weather fronts such as geomagnetic storms, which can interfere with satellites and cause radio blackouts.

Nasa said in August that the change would happen in three to four months time, but it is impossible to give a more specific date. Scientist won’t know for around another three weeks whether the flip is complete.

The impact of the transfer will be widespread as the sun’s magnetic field exerts influence well beyond Pluto, past Nasa’s Voyager probes positioned near the edge of interstellar space.

The event will be watched closely by researchers at Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, which monitors the sun’s magnetic field on a daily basis.

Todd Hoeksema, director of the Wilcox Solar Observatory, said the polarity change is built up throughout the eleven year cycle through areas of intense magnetic activity known as sunspots which gradually move towards the poles, eroding the existing opposite polarity.

Eventually, the magnetic field reduces to zero, before rebounding with the opposite polarity. “It’s kind of like a tide coming in or going out,” Hoeksema said. “Each little wave brings a little more water in, and eventually you get to the full reversal.”

One of the most noticeable effect on Earth will be a boost in the occurrence, range and visibility of auroras – the Northern Lights. “It’s not a catastrophic event, it’s a large scale event that has some real implications, but its not something we need to worry about,” added Hoeksema.

rover-flagOne more space story.  The Chinese Flag is now on the moon.  They landed a rover there last weekend.

Shanghaist reports China has photographed its flag on the moon for the first time in history.

China landed a rover on the moon last weekend, becoming the third country after the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to do so. No vehicle has touched the moon since 1976. China launched its first lunar orbiter in 2007.

 I’ve been really upset by the news coming out of Syria recently even though our press has done a horrible job covering the country’s 

20131214_map504squalid conditions resulting from of all the violence  It’s been a harsh winter and the people are starving.  There are also human rights violations even though the chemical weapons usage has ceased. Here is some information on a Syrian activists as well as foreign journalists who have been imprisoned by the brutal regiem and others.

THE Syrian regime has long enjoyed locking up activists. Mazen Darwish, who since 2004 has run the Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression, has been in jail since February last year. Others have spent years behind bars. Sadly, some of the opponents to Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, have started to do the same. In the latest episode, on December 10th Razan Zeitouneh (pictured above), a lawyer who won several prizes last year for her dedication to peaceful activism, was taken along with three colleagues from their office in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.

Ms Zeitouneh and her colleagues ran the Violations Documentation Centre, a local organisation that since the start of Syria’s uprising-turned-war has tracked the death toll of both the opposition and regime fighters. She has been in hiding since 2011. She was taken along with her husband Wael Hamada and Sameera Khalil, the wife of Yassin Haj Saleh, a famed Syrian writer who left the country just two months ago as civil society activists and free speakers became targeted as much by extremist groups as the regime. He wrote movingly about his experience.

The suspected culprit in the latest abduction is the Army of Islam, a Damascus-based umbrella group believed to receive funds from Saudi Arabia. Most of the kidnappings are carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qaeda linked group which aims to create a borderless caliphate and considers both non-Muslims and liberal Muslims as heretics. On the same day as Ms Zeitouneh was kidnapped, El Mundo, a Spanish newspaper, announced that its Middle East reporter Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova have been held by ISIS since September 18th. Another 30 or so foreigners, a mixture of journalists and aid workers, are also being held, including Italian priest Paolo Dall’Oglio who spent three decades in Syria.

I would like you all to know that there is a war on Festivus and Fox News is the aggressor.

A fake holiday popularized by Seinfeld has become the symbol of secular pushback against religious dominion over American public life. Or something like that.

The Wisconsin and Florida state capitols currently have Festivus poles on display. To the uninitiated, the Festivus pole is a key component in the celebration of Festivus, a bizarre and agonizing December 23 holiday made famous by “The Strike,” a 1997 episode of the beloved NBC sitcom Seinfeld. Since the episode aired, the holiday has taken on a life of its own. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has thrown Festivus fundraisers, for example. And at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee on Wednesday, self-proclaimed “militant atheist” activist Chaz Stevens erected a 6-foot Festivus pole made out of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans in the state house rotunda in protest of the privately funded nativity scene at the capitol.

Harry Mihet, of the “religious liberty” law firm Liberty Counsel, called Stevens’ views “extreme” and his display offensive. “Is this how PC we’ve gotten in our society, really?” Fox News host Gretchen Carlson said on Tuesday. “I am so outraged by this. Why do I have to drive around with my kids to look for nativity scenes and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, kids, look. There’s Baby Jesus behind the Festivus pole made out of beer cans!”

festivus pole Oh Noes!!!  Plastic Baby Jesus is hidden behind a Festivus pole!   And a public airing of the Grievances!  Right in front of that Plastic Nativity Scene!!!

“This whole thing is just a serious feat of … ridiculousness,” says Chaz Stevens, who marched into the Capitol building on Wednesday morning clutching a case of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and a 6-foot pole made of PVC pipe. It’s a nod to the unadorned aluminum pole that is part of the secular Festivus holiday invented by George Costanza’s dad on Seinfeld.

The celebration also includes an “airing of grievances” during the family meal, in which each person describes disappointments experienced over the course of the year.

Stevens says when he heard about the Capitol Nativity scene, it was just too much. So he applied to the state to install his own display: a pole covered in beer cans.

“This is about separation of church and state,” Stevens says. “The government shouldn’t be in this business of allowing the mixture of church and state.”

The displays are allowed inside Florida’s Capitol building because the state has designated the rotunda as “a public forum.” Howard Simon of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says the state had no choice.

“They’re not going to be allowed to discriminate. It’s going to be a public forum for all forms of speech and expression and displays,” Simon says.

Professional Public Asshole, Paul Ryan, has decided that the debt ceiling will be the next hostage target.  I guess he wasn’t satisfied with the blood of the unemployed.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) signaled that Republicans would not raise the debt ceiling next year without some sort of concessions from Democrats, saying lawmakers were still crafting their strategy.

“We, as a caucus, along with our Senate counterparts, are going to meet and discuss what it is we want to get out of the debt limit,” Mr. Ryan said on Fox News Sunday. “We don’t want ‘nothing’ out of the debt limit. We’re going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight.”

The U.S. government spends more money than it brings in through taxes, which means the Treasury Department has to borrow money by issuing debt. The government can only borrow money up to a certain level -called the debt ceiling – which is set by Congress. In October, lawmakers agreed to “suspend” the debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014. The White House has said it will no longer negotiate with Republicans on conditions for raising the debt limit, but many Republicans have said they will only vote to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for budget changes like spending cuts.

The Republican party continues to be in complete denial about all things related to Real GDP and the debt and deficit in real terms.  Size is relative to both real GDP and to whatever has happened in inflation over the years.  You can’t arbitrarily look at a number without understanding the changes in prices and the overall size of an economy and its taxable assets.  Is it just me or is Paul Ryan one of the least serious people on the hill?

Oh, wait.  There’s also Darrell Issa.  One of the most fun things I’ve seen recently is that the HHS Department has refused to turn information over to Issa because they believe he will violate the privacy of millions of Americans.

Rep. Darrell Issa has issued a subpoena to MITRE, a government contractor, to turn over documents on healthcare.gov security testing. HHS says Issa has already seen the documents he is seeking.

Politico: HHS To Darrell Issa: We Don’t Trust You
The Health and Human Services Department told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa that it won’t turn over documents related to the security of the Healthcare.gov website because it can’t trust him to keep secret information that could give hackers a roadmap to wreak havoc on the system. Issa has issued a subpoena to MITRE, a government contractor, to turn over unredacted copies of security-testing documents by noon Friday. … Already, Issa has been given access to the documents he seeks “in camera” — meaning committee staff were able to review them in a room but not keep them — but he is seeking physical copies (Allen, 12/12).

Roll Call: HHS To Issa: You Can’t Be Trusted With Obamacare Documents
The HHS assistant secretary for legislation, Jim R. Esquea, signaled that HHS was blocking MITRE from turning over the documents, which have been subpoenaed, over concerns that Issa would — as he has done in the past — leak the documents to the public, potentially giving hackers a road map to the “potential vulnerabilities in the cyber defenses” (Fuller, 12/12).

Issa is having a hissy fit.

So, that’s my little bit of this and that this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Reads

matisse_woman_reading

Good Morning!!

The heatwave continues here, but I hope this will be the last day of extreme weather for the time being. It’s already 83 degrees outside my house at 7:30AM. I’m hoping and praying for a thunderstorm later on. Despite the heat, I’m doing fine–just not getting that much accomplished.

Several people are tweeting about a bomb being detonated by a passenger getting off a plane at Beijing International Airport, but I haven’t seen any news stories about it yet. Apparently the passenger was in a wheelchair and detonated a bomb after yelling something. There don’t appear to be a lot of casualties. Photo of alleged bomber holding up something and screaming. Picture of the smoky aftermath.

According to Jim Sciutto, an American living in China, the bomber is still alive and on the way to the hospital. A letter from him says that a beating by police in 2005 left him paralyzed.

The Aurora Colorado theater shooting was one year ago today, and survivors are still dealing with the aftermath. CBS News reports:

Caleb Medley was shot in the head and spent two months in a coma. Teenager Kaylan Bailey struggled in vain to save a six-year-old girl with CPR. Marcus Weaver was hit in the shoulder with shotgun pellets while his friend died in the seat next to him.

One year after the Aurora, Colo. theater massacre, survivors are struggling to cope with the physical and emotional wounds left by James Holmes, an enigmatic figure who opened fire at the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The rampage killed 12 people, injured 70 and altered the lives of the more than 400 men, women and children who were in the auditorium on July 20, 2012. Survivors still carry the trauma of that night but have found strength in everything from religion to cheerleading to taking up the issue of gun control.

Read examples at the link. NBC News has photos and remembrances of the Aurora victims.

Yesterday, President Obama spoke publicly about the Travon Martin case. CNN:

In unscheduled and unusually personal remarks, President Barack Obama tried Friday to explain why African-Americans were upset about last week’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin while lowering expectations for federal charges in the case.

“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama told White House reporters in a surprise appearance at the daily briefing….

Speaking without a teleprompter, Obama noted a history of racial disparity in law as well as more nuanced social prejudice that contribute to “a lot of pain” in the African-American community over the verdict.

“There are very few African-American men in this country who have not had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me,” the president said.

“There are probably very few African-American men who have not had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator,” he continued.

“There are very few African-Americans who have not had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had the chance to get off. That happens often,” he said.

Saying he didn’t intend to exaggerate those experiences, Obama added that they “inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.”

CNN also collected reactions to Obama’s remarks from Twitter. At Salon, Alex Seitz-Wald writes about “the time Obama was mistaken for a waiter.” Seitz-Wald surveys the negative reactions to Obama’s remarks from right wingers:

The immediate reaction from the right was scorn, and a belittling of the notion that Barack Obama, with his elite education at Punahou and Columbia and Harvard, his meteoric success, and his half whiteness, could possibly have been profiled. Or that Obama was overreacting – everyone locks their doors and it has nothing to do with race. Martin, after all, has been vilified as a thug in some circles on the right.

“I’m not saying profiling never happens, but where is the evidence?” one Fox News guest protested. “So Obama ‘could have been’ Trayvon 35 yrs ago? I had no idea Obama sucker-punched a watch volunteer & then bashed his head in. Who knew?” talk radio host Tammy Bruce tweeted. “There’s no reason to believe that Martin could have been Obama 35 years ago,” the conservative Powerline blog commented. On Twitter, some guessed Obama had “never set foot in a department store, unless you count Barney’s.”

As usual, the sneering right wingers were wrong.

…a stunning little blog post by the Wall Street Journal’s Katherine Rosman from 2008 that resurfaced this afternoon tells a remarkable story about Obama the year before his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that would make him a household name. Rosman was at a book party at the Manhattan home of a Daily Beast editor with a guest list “that can fairly be described as representative of the media elite,” when she encountered an unknown Illinois state senator “looking as awkward and out-of-place as I felt.” It was Barack Obama, of course, and they chatted at length.

When she left the party, an unnamed “established author” admitted to Rosman that he had mistaken Obama, one of the only black people at the party, for a waiter and asked him to fetch a drink.

That was when he was a state senator and Harvard Law grad, and just a few years from national fame, followed by his election to the Senate, and then the White House. And it was in New York City at a gathering of presumably liberal intellectuals.

African American leaders praised Obama’s speech, according to CBS News.

“I think the president did exactly what was needed, and he did it in only a way he can,” Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, told CBS News. “I believe he started a conversation today that must continue.”

Politically, using the shooting of 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman to talk about race was a risky move, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told CBSNews.com. Yet as a statesman, it was important for Mr. Obama “to lay out a vision of how best to move forward,” he said. “It should be an important starting point for a conversation on race in America and how we can become a better society.”

However, another Salon writer, African American author Rich Benjamin denounced Obama’s speech as “safe, overrated, and airy.” Benjamin compared Obama’s words unfavorably to recent remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder and asked whether Holder is acting as Obama “inner n****r.”

Finally the president has spoken about George Zimmerman’s acquittal. Even as the country waited for his singular response – the nation’s leader and a law professor who once looked like Trayvon Martin – the president danced around the issues. And what a dramatic anti-climax, listening to the president refuse to say anything insightful or profound about the acquittal. In signature professorial style, the president gave us the “context” to the episode and to black people’s “pain.” But he didn’t offer a meaningful opinion on the episode’s hot molten core: racial profiling, vigilantism, and “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered trenchant thoughts on the acquittal, demanding action. Before an audience of supporters, Holder recently called for a full investigation of Martin’s death after Zimmerman’s acquittal. Holder vowed that the Justice Department will act “in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law. We will not be afraid.”

“We must stand our ground,” he told supporters.

Some of us have an Inner Child. Others have an Inner Nigger. Is Holder the president’s conscience? Or his Inner Nigger?

Is Holder the president’s aggressive internal mind and voice — willing to speak truth to power, but unbothered with appearing like an angry black man?

Read it and see what you think. I must admit, I was a little shocked.

Meanwhile, in a House hearing on the IRS non-scandal, good ol’ Darrell Issa referred to African American Congressman Elijah Cummings as “a little boy.”

The testy exchange came after Cummings, a 62-year-old African-American congressman from Baltimore, challenged past insinuations by Republicans that the White House was behind the IRS targeting. Cummings was picking up on testimony from two IRS witnesses who both said they knew of no evidence of political motivations in the enhanced scrutiny, which also included some progressive groups.

But Issa took issue with Cummings, denying that he had implied the orders came from the highest office in the land and insisting that he only said the targeting came from Washington.

Issa interrupted at the start of another member’s remarks to express his “shock” at Cummings.

“I’m always shocked when the ranking member seems to want to say, like a little boy whose hand has been caught in a cookie jar, ‘What hand? What cookie?’ I’ve never said it leads to the White House,” Issa said.

In fact, he has pointed to the Obama administration and went so far as to call President Barack Obama’s top spokesman, Jay Carney, a “paid liar.”

Nice.

Ex-CIA head Michael Hayden, who supported and defended warrantless wiretapping under the Bush administration has published an op-ed at CNN in which he says that  Edward Snowden “will likely prove to be the most costly leaker of American secrets in the history of the Republic,” and that writer and inveterate Snowden defender Glenn Greenwald is “far more deserving of the Justice Department’s characterization of a co-conspirator than Fox’s James Rosen ever was.” He says Snowden has hurt U.S. intelligence and foreign policy in three ways:

First, there is the undeniable operational effect of informing adversaries of American intelligence’s tactics, techniques and procedures. Snowden’s disclosures go beyond the “what” of a particular secret or source. He is busily revealing the “how” of American collection….

As former director of CIA, I would claim that the top 20% of American intelligence — that exquisite insight into an enemy’s intentions — is generally provided by human sources. But as a former director of NSA, I would also suggest that the base 50% to 60% of American intelligence day in and day out is provided by signals intelligence, the kinds of intercepted communications that Snowden has so blithely put at risk.

But there is other damage, such as the undeniable economic punishment that will be inflicted on American businesses for simply complying with American law….

The third great harm of Snowden’s efforts to date is the erosion of confidence in the ability of the United States to do anything discreetly or keep anything secret.

Manning’s torrent of disclosures certainly caused great harm, but there was at least the plausible defense that this was a one-off phenomenon, a regrettable error we’re aggressively correcting.

Snowden shows that we have fallen short and that the issue may be more systemic rather than isolated. At least that’s what I would fear if I were a foreign intelligence chief approached by the Americans to do anything of import.

Well, that third point is really the government’s fault, not Snowden’s.

Greenwald reacted by tweeting that Hayden “belongs in prison for implementing illegal warrantless eavesdropping at Americans.” FAIR defended Greenwald, calling Hayden’s characterization of Greenwald as “co-conspirator” a “smear.”

There’s nothing new on the Snowden front, except that Russia’s treatment of its own whistleblowers is beginning to get some coverage. From CNN: “Putin, a hypocrite on Snowden, Navalny.”

On Thursday in Moscow, where former NSA contractor Edward Snowden awaits his asylum papers, a Russian court removed a major critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin’s list of worries, sentencing the charismatic opposition leader Alexei Navalny to five years in jail on theft charges. Amid intense anger at the verdict and fears that it would raise Navalny’s profile, the court agreed on Friday to release him pending appeal.

The trial and the predictable verdict, as the European Union foreign affairs chief said, “raises serious questions as to the state of the rule of law in Russia.” That’s putting it mildly. Navatny is the most prominent, but just one in a long series of politically-motivated prosecutions in a country where the courts seldom make a move that displeases Putin.

Navalny was particularly worrisome to the Russian president. He had gained an enormous following by speaking out against corruption and cronyism, labeling Putin’s United Russia “a party of swindlers and thieves” and using social media to help mobilize the president’s critics. He had just announced he would run for mayor of Moscow. But, like other Putin opponents with any possible chance to loosen the president’s complete hold on power, he will likely go to prison instead. Now that he’s released, Navalny is considering whether to stay or withdraw from the race for mayor.

According to Voice of America, Navalny still plans to run for Mayor of Moscow.

Then there’s the case of Sergei Magnitsky. The government auditor was sent to investigate the investment firm Heritage Capital, which was charged with tax evasion. When Magnitsky concluded the tax fraud was actually coming from the government side and became a whistleblower, naming a network of corrupt officials, he was accused of working for Heritage and thrown in jail, where he became ill, was denied medical treatment and died in 2009, when he was just 37. The United States responded with the Magnitsky Law, imposing sanctions on those involved in his death.

Death didn’t save Magnitsky from Russia’s courts, which found him guilty of tax fraud just last week.

Many others, including the performance group Pussy Riot, have seen even small scale political activism land them in jail.

I’ll end there and open the floor to you. What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comments, and have a stupendous Saturday!!


Late Night: The Benghazi “Sideshow” Will Never Die

Benghazigizer Bunny by Daryl Cagle

Benghazigizer Bunny by Daryl Cagle

Source: The Cagle Post

Today President Obama accurately called the endless Republican outrage over Benghazi “a sideshow.” Reuters reports:

The Benghazi matter flared up again last week after internal emails were made public showing that in the days after the attack, the administration tried to shape “talking points” to explain why four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, had been killed.

Obama rejected Republicans’ claims that the administration tried to cover up the role of Islamist militants in the attack to avoid looking weak on terrorism eight weeks before the presidential election.

Obama said Republicans have had political motives in criticizing him, his staff and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

“The whole issue of this – of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow,” he said. “The whole thing defies logic. And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations.”

All true, but it will make no difference. Benghazi has joined the ranks of Whitewater, Travelgate, and Monicagate. It will go on forever. It will never die even if someone shoots it with a silver bullet or pounds a stake through its heart. It win continue on without pause until the House finally tries to impeach Obama or his second term mercifully ends.

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This is how ridiculous it has gotten. Think Progress reports that convicted car thief and Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa believes Obama Covered Up Benghazi Terrorism By Calling It An ‘Act Of Terror’

House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) responded to President Obama’s forceful condemnation of the GOP’s effort to portray his administration’s response to the attacks on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya as a cover-up on Monday, suggesting that the president sought to downplay the severity of the incident by describing the killings of four Americans as an “act of terror” rather than a “terrorist attack.”

In the day following the Benghazi attacks, Obama appeared at the White House Rose Garden alongside then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In his remarks, Obama referred to the incident as an “act of terror” and used the phrase again at a campaign rally the day after in Denver, CO. “I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished,” he said.

But Issa claimed that Obama relied on the “act of terror” formulation to dissuade Americans from thinking it was a terror attack, thus improving his chances of re-election.

Amazing. I have half a mind to repost the long piece I wrote on Issa’s criminal history back in January 2011: New Chairman of House Oversight Committee Lacks Moral Gravitas (To Put It Mildly)

At the Atlantic Elspeth Reeve explains that no matter how “boring” the Benghazi “scandal” is, the Republicans will keep right on pushing it (emphasis added).

As we have noted before, the Benghazi scandal is boring. What is potentially scandalous is not what happened during the attack — that was done by bad guys, not the U.S. government — but the talking points U.N. ambassador Susan Rice gave on five political talk shows five days later. Naturally, people who are extremely skeptical of President Obama’s intentions want to give the scandal a greater sense of urgency. Retired Admiral James Lyons, for example, explained to The Atlantic Wire last week the theory that Obama colluded with terrorists to have Ambassador Chris Stevens kidnapped in order to set up a prisoner exchange with the Blind Sheikh. On Monday, after Obama called the ongoing theories a “sideshow” and before White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did the same, Limbaugh floated a different theory that would make Obama’s actions much worse, if not quite so treasonous. Rush was not alone in his floating; so long as there is an attack’s aftermath with which to create more aftermath, he never will be.

In the CIA’s original talking points, the very first bullet point says, “We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault…” We now know that’s wrong. The video played no part; the attacks were pre-planned. Limbaugh explained on Monday that he thinks the CIA and the State Department knew even at the time of the attack that the video played no part. Limbaugh says American intel knew the attacks were coming in Benghazi and Cairo. When the Cairo embassy tweeted an apology for the anti-Islam video on September 11, 2012, it was because the tweeter “knew in advance it was going to happen.” Limbaugh said, “The stated purpose of the apology was to stop and prevent any protest because we knew some were coming.” Therefore, “I am convinced that the administration concocted this video excuse before anything happened.”

So many want more there to be there, no matter how much Obama says “there’s no there there” — or perhaps because of it. At World Net Daily last week, Erik Rush speculated that Obama might have “orchestrated the attack” himself, “given his connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and legendary understanding of all things Islamic.” On his radio show on Monday, Glenn Beck theorized that the Muslim Brotherhood was behind a whole bunch of things: “I want you to know, the IRS story, the Benghazi story, and the Boston bombings—and more importantly the Muslim cover up, the Muslim Brotherhood cover up— they’re all connected.”

Of course in addition to their dream of impeaching Obama, the Republicans are desperate to keep the Beghazi sideshow going in order to keep Hillary Clinton from running for president in 2016. And that, in a nutshell, is why Benghazi will keep right on ticking and ticking and ticking….

Benghazi Hillary

Hillary and Benghazi by Randall Enos

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For Political Use Only by Mark Streeter


Thursday Reads: Beating the Benghazi Horse to Death and Other News

coffee shop bike

Good Morning!!

I got an e-mail this morning from Dakinikat saying that she arrived safely late last night and is completely exhausted. Hopefully, she’ll get to see her Dad today and give him a great big hug.

Now let’s see what’s going on in the world this morning.

I’ve got to be honest, I’m confused about the latest GOP Benghazi hearings. I have no idea what the fuss is all about, and I really don’t even want to try to figure it out. Apparently, car thief and arsonist Darrell Issa just can’t let go of Benghazi, and is going to keep right on harping on it until someone figures out a way to stop him. I’m going to highlight some articles on this “controversy,” but, as I said, I can’t really explain it.

First, the allegations of wrongdoing:

NYT: Diplomat Says Questions Over Benghazi Led to Demotion

A veteran diplomat gave a riveting minute-by-minute account on Wednesday of the lethal terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11 and described its contentious aftermath at a charged Congressional hearing that reflected the weighty political stakes perceived by both parties.

During a chaotic night at the American Embassy in Tripoli, hundreds of miles away, the diplomat, Gregory Hicks, got what he called “the saddest phone call I’ve ever had in my life” informing him that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was dead and that he was now the highest-ranking American in Libya. For his leadership that night when four Americans were killed, Mr. Hicks said in nearly six hours of testimony, he subsequently received calls from both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama.

But within days, Mr. Hicks said, after raising questions about the account of what had happened in Benghazi offered in television interviews by Susan E. Rice, the United Nations ambassador, he felt a distinct chill from State Department superiors. “The sense I got was that I needed to stop the line of questioning,” said Mr. Hicks, who has been a Foreign Service officer for 22 years.

He was soon given a scathing review of his management style, he said, and was later “effectively demoted” to desk officer at headquarters, in what he believes was retaliation for speaking up.

BBC News: Benghazi attack: Hicks ‘stunned’ at Rice explanation

After the disrupted phone call with Ambassador Stevens, Mr Hicks said he received calls from Libyans using the ambassador’s phone who said they had the envoy with them.

But Mr Hicks decided not to act on the calls, fearing an ambush.

So the “whistleblower” chose not to do anything? What is his complaint then?

UN Ambassador Susan Rice has been the focus of outrage from Republicans in Congress, for giving the news media what has been acknowledged as an incorrect explanation for the attack.

She said on a Sunday chat show on 16 September that the attack had grown out of an anti-US protest, while other officials have said they knew at the time it was an organised, armed assault, possibly by an Islamist militant group.

“My jaw dropped and I was embarrassed,” Mr Hicks said on his reaction to her interview.

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I guess it’s still about Susan Rice. . . Or more likely, it’s about Hillary Clinton and attempts to hobble any plans she may have to run for president.

Washington Post: At Benghazi hearing, State Dept. officials challenge administration review of attacks

Three State Department officials on Wednesday provided a riveting, emotional account of last year’s fatal attack on U.S. installations in eastern Libya as they accused senior government officials of withholding embarrassing facts and failing to take enough responsibility for security lapses.

The testimony provided new details on the Sept. 11, 2012, assaults on U.S. installations in Benghazi and their aftermath. But the new information failed to break the political logjam the attacks spawned, with Republicans and Democrats offering starkly different interpretations of what happened and who within the U.S. government is to blame.

Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) opened the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing by saying that panel Democrats had “mostly sat silent” while Republicans tried to wrest the truth from an uncooperative Obama administration.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the senior Democrat on the committee, countered that Issa’s GOP majority had launched a “full-scale media campaign . . . of unfounded accusations to smear public officials.”

But in expanding the narrative of the intensely politicized episode, the witnesses raised fresh questions about whether then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her deputies were sufficiently engaged in assessing the security posture of diplomatic posts last year.

Time Magazine’s Michael Crowley: Terror, Security, and Hillary 2016: Making Sense of the Benghazi Hearings

The hearing by the Republican-led House Government Oversight & Reform Committee was not the first on the events surrounding the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans. Hillary Clinton, who was running the State Department at the time of the attack, testified for hours back in January. But the story was given fresh dramatic life and new narrative details through the testimony of two self-described whistle blowers who had not previously spoken in public: Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; Gregory Hicks, the former deputy of mission in Libya. Joining them was Eric Nordstrom, a former regional security officer in Libya, who had previously testified on the issue.

But “[c]ould the U.S. military have done more to help?”

Not according to the Pentagon – and the hearing’s key witness. Aircraft that might have buzzed the compound where the second pair of Americans died – and scared the militants away — were 900 miles north in Italy. “Time and distance are a tyranny of their own,” Admiral James Stavridis, who responded to the attacks as the NATO commander, told Congress earlier this year. Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated it would take as long as 20 hours to get the planes above Benghazi. Hicks testified that he asked the U.S. defense attaché in Tripoli if planes could be scrambled to help those under attack in the CIA annex in Benghazi, a battle that unfolded hours after the initial assault on the nearby U.S. consulate, which killed Stevens, and led to two more American deaths. “He said that it would take two to three hours for them to get on site, but that there also were no tankers available for them to refuel,” Hicks said Wednesday. “And I said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and we went on with our work.” Hicks also testified that a four man team of Green Berets in Tripoli were denied a request to deploy to Benghazi the morning after the attack began, though officials doubt they could have arrived early enough to save lives at the CIA annex.

Apparently the complaint is that the State Department didn’t order all military resources to get to Benghazi even though there was no way they could have gotten there in time to do anything to help?

So we’re back to preventing Hillary 2016?

Whether or not Republicans intended it, the shadow of national politics loomed over Wednesday’s hearing. Hillary Clinton completed a generally well-reviewed tenure of Secretary of State, as evidenced by her sky-high public approval ratings. But Benghazi is a clear black mark on her Foggy Bottom record, one that could haunt Clinton if she runs for president in 2016. Conservatives seized on Hicks’s testimony that, in a call with Clinton on the fateful night, he told her that a terrorist attack was underway–a fact that was slow to appear in the administration’s public rhetoric. Still, despite repeated discussion about what Clinton knew and when she knew it, no smoking gun emerged from Wednesday’s hearing, leading one Congressional Democrat to dismiss questions about her role as a “witch hunt.”

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I guess that’s pretty much what it’s all about . . . A few more links:

Think Progress: Benghazi Review Board Chair Says Notion Of Cover Up Is ‘Pulitzer Prize Fiction’

“I think the notion of a quote, cover up, has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it,” former Ambassador Thomas Pickering said on MSNBC. He also rebutted claims that the review board tried to protect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from scrutiny:

PICKERING: I saw no evidence of it. She did publicly take responsibility for what happened below her and indeed one of the things the Congress did in preparing the legislation that established the Accountability Review Board was to say we don’t want a situation where heads of agencies take responsibility and then nobody who made the decision in the chain has to suffer any consequences for failure for performance. I believe in fact the Accountability Review Board did it’s work well. I think the notion of a quote, cover up, has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it.

Pickering offered to testify at the latest hearing, but Chairman Issa wouldn’t let him.

Think Progress: GOP Star Witnesses Debunk Right-Wing Benghazi Conspiracy Theories

The “whistleblowers” at today’s House Oversight Committee hearing on what really happened in Benghazi, Libya last September were supposed to break the dam that would lead to President Obama’s eventual downfall, in the eyes of conservatives. Instead, these witness actually served to debunk several theories that the right-wing has pushed on Benghazi, leaving the hearing a fizzle for the GOP.

Read the explanations at the link.

TPM: Top Republican ‘Fairly Satisfied’ With White House’s Account Of Benghazi

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) said Wednesday that he’s “fairly satisfied” with the Obama administration’s account of events that led to the deaths of American diplomats in Benghazi last year.

“We need to know were these people culpable or not. If they were, why are they still on the payroll? Other than that, I’ve been able to read all the cables. I’ve seen the films,” Corker told MSNBC. “I feel like I know what happened in Benghazi. I’m fairly satisfied.”

He cautioned House Republicans to be “respectful” if they probe the issue further.

“Look, if the House wants to have hearings,” he said, “I hope they’re done in a respectful way and hopefully it will shed some light on what happened.”

I guess that’s enough about Benghazi. I apologize for giving it so much space, but I thought if I were confused about this, some of you might be too.

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A bit more news in the form of a link dump:

There has been another factory fire in Bangladesh! Reuters reports: Bangladesh factory fire kills eight; collapse toll tops 900

A DailyKos diary deals with a question that has been rattling around in my head: How did Jason Richwine Get a PhD from Harvard?

WBUR Boston University (NPR): Markey Edges Gomez In WBUR Senate Poll

The Hill on Suffolk University Poll: Markey builds strong lead over Gomez in Mass. Senate race

I realize the media is dying for another Scott Brown surprise, but it’s just not gonna happen.

Politico: Lindsey Graham faces down primary challenge

Unfortunately, it looks like Huckleberry Closetcase will be back in 2014.

Politico: Excessive student loan debt drains economic engine

Chicago Tribune: Cleveland kidnapping: Bond for Ariel Castro set at $8 million

Why is he getting any chance of getting out on bail??

Reuters: Wrigley halts production of caffeine gum following FDA concern

Could there be a worse idea by the candy industry? Kids would be getting that gum!

NYT: Hospital Billing Varies Wildly, Government Data Shows

Sooooo . . . what’s new with you? What are you reading and blogging about today? Please share your links on any subject in the comment thread!