Thursday Reads

Matisse-Marguerite-Reading1

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Lane

Chris Lane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a heartbreaking story.

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh . . . read more at the link.

Bobby Jindal

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few more short takes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday Reads

Good Morning!!

President Obama has left the country again. He was in Lisbon today for a NATO meeting, at which the organization agreed to build a missile shield, and they hope that Russia will go along with it too.

In general, senior NATO officials note a welcoming Russian tone under President Dmitri A. Medvedev to the idea of cooperation with NATO on missile defense and European security, and they also note the general silence of Mr. Putin, now prime minister.

On Saturday, Russia will be formally invited to take part in the missile defense system, especially with intelligence and radar sharing. Moscow has indicated that it is interested but has questions, and wants to ensure that the system is not aimed at countering Russian missiles.

The missile defense system approved Friday is different from the fixed-missile defense that President George W. Bush initiated and that proved controversial. The idea is to have a phased system of radars and antimissile missiles that would be less expensive than the Bush system. The NATO spokesman, James Appathurai, said the nearly $1.5 billion cost could be managed over 10 years.

Plenty of money for missile defense that probably won’t work, but nothing for the desperate long-term unemployed.

In one of his many bad decisions, President Obama invited Skeltor Alan Simpson back out of obscurity, and we may never get rid of him. With his latest pronouncement, he has moved way beyond inappropriate to sociopathic.

He predicted a government that approaches shutdown in April of next year.

“This is going to be beautiful politics – The brutal kind,” he told reporters in Washington at a forum put on by the Christian Science Monitor. “I love those,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye and a jokester tinge to his voice.

“The debt limit, when it comes in April or May, will prove who’s a hero and who’s a jerk and who’s a charlatan and who’s a faqir,” said Simpson. “And there it will be right there. Because they’re going to say, these new guys, some of them, and I’ve met a good deal of them and boy they’re sharp cookies,” he said, adding a message to new Congressmen.

“Compromise is not a filthy word,” said Simpson. “It doesn’t mean you’re a wimp when you learn to compromise. You either learn to compromise and legislate or go home – my personal view – anyway there they are and they’re going to say I will not vote for the debt limit extension until you cut this. Say, you can’t do that. you can’t possibly do that. well, then I’m not voting for it. and they’ll say well the government will close. Which they’ll say that’s what I came here for. Oh, I can’t wait. It’ll be something and I’ll be watching.”

You can watch it at the Christian Science Monitor site.

If only there really were a hell so Alan Simpson could spend eternity there.

Ezra Klein is thinking along the same lines as Simpson, but makes more of an effort to sound reasonable. He says Democrats should trade an extension of the Bush tax cuts to the rich for Republican votes to extend unemployment benefits and increase the debt ceiling when the time comes.

Ezra must have learned bargaining strategy from that great bipartisan choker compromiser Barack Obama.

Elsewhere in The Washington Post is the story of “one family’s plunge from the middle class into poverty.”

Walker used to make $100,000 a year as a nursing home executive until she lost her job a year and a half ago. Unable to find a new one, she shed her business suits and high heels and put on an apron and soft-soled shoes. This year, she and her daughter are living on $11,000: her unemployment benefits plus whatever she can earn selling home-cooked dinners for $10 apiece….

The Census Bureau recently reported that the poverty rate in the United States rose to 14.3 percent last year, the highest level in more than 50 years.

Texas and Florida saw the most people fall below the line. In Florida alone, 323,000 people became newly poor last year, bringing the state’s poverty total to 2.7 million.

The numbers tell another tale as well: Nationwide, in black households such as Walker’s, income plunged an average of 4.4 percent in 2009, almost three times the drop among whites. The number of blacks living below the official poverty line – $21,756 for a family of four – increased by 7 percent in just one year.

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the Catfood Commission, should be forced to read this article, memorize it, and then write on a blackboard 1,000 times, “I am a damn fool who knows nothing about economics.”

At Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn thinks “it’s time for a real mutiny.”

So much for 2010 as the year of mutiny, when the American people rose up and said, “Enough! Throw the bums out!” As the dust finally clears after the midterm elections, and the bodies are hauled from the field of battle, guess what? It was all so predictable. The safest thing to be in 2010 was an incumbent.

Out of 435 seats, 351 incumbents will be returning to the House in January. In the Senate, out of 100 seats, 77 incumbents will return in January. As the libertarian Joel Hirschorn puts it, “Welcome back to the reality of America’s delusional democracy where career politicians will continue to foster a corrupt, inefficient and dysfunctional government because that is what the two-party plutocracy and its supporters want for their own selfish reasons.”

What will Dear Leader do next?

Already there are the omens of a steady stream of concessions by Obama to the right.

There’s hardly any countervailing pressure for him to do otherwise. The president has no fixed principles of political economy, and who is at his elbow in the White House? Not the Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis. Not that splendid radical Elizabeth Warren, whose Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the Republicans are already scheduling for destruction. Next to Obama is Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the bankers’ lapdog, whom the president holds in high esteem….

Two more years, of the same downward slide, courtesy of bipartisanship and “working together”? No way. Enough of dreary predictability. Let’s have a real mutiny against Obamian rightward drift. The time is not six months or a year down the road. The time is now.

But who will lead the charge?

Dakinikat turned me on to this article about Obama’s Asian trip: Asia After Obama, by Brahma Chellaney

Significantly, Obama restricted his tour to Asia’s leading democracies – India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea – which surround China and are central to managing its rise. Yet he spent all of last year assiduously courting the government in Beijing in the hope that he could make China a global partner on issues ranging from climate change to trade and financial regulation. The catchphrase coined by US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg in relation to China, “strategic reassurance,” actually signaled America’s intent to be more accommodating toward China’s ambitions.

Now, with his China strategy falling apart, Obama is seeking to do exactly what his predecessor attempted – to line up partners as an insurance policy in case China’s rising power slides into arrogance. Other players on the grand chessboard of Asian geopolitics also are seeking to formulate new equations, as they concurrently pursue strategies of hedging, balancing, and bandwagoning.

Once again, Obama plays the role of Bush III.

At Truthdig, I learned that David Sirota has found a new hero to replace his now tarnished idol Barack Obama. These days Sirota is bragging about hanging with cut rate Rolling Stone gonzo writer Matt Taibbi.

Sirota reminds me of that little dog Chester in the Looney Tunes cartoons–the one that idolizes the big bulldog Spike. Chester jumps around Butch, trying to get his attention, praising him, agreeing with him; and when Spike brushes him aside, he just keeps coming back for more. Sirota:

Over drinks in my living room, Taibbi and I pondered the financial Masters of the Universe and their maddening infallibility. I asked him why they never fear facing legal consequences. Do they believe they’re untouchable? Or do they know law enforcement won’t pursue them?

“They’re not afraid because other than Bernie Madoff, when was the last time someone on Wall Street faced any real punishment?” he responded. “Sure, a few go to jail once in a while, but they’re usually out in a few months and then on the speaking circuit. That’s not exactly a deterrent against bad behavior that’s making you millions.”

Deterrence—it’s the vaunted idea behind “tough on crime” sentences for violent offenses. Lock the door, throw away the key, and the theory says that heinous acts will be prevented.

Duh! I think Sirota wrote this piece just so everyone would know he’s pals with Taibbi.

Since it’s Saturday Morning….

What’s on your reading menu this morning?


This American Life

My thoughts appear to be a bit disjointed today so I thought I’d paste together some links I found over morning coffee and let you all hash them over.

First, from the annals of No kidding … yes, you are a young con (artist), I offer up this you tube of some newbie conservative boys. They call themselves the ‘young cons’ and they prove, once again, that young privileged white boys can’t rap. Hide your young!

Next up, is the answer to my question why aren’t we hearing anything about POTUS and his Poll numbers anymore? Well, according to Rasmussen: “Overall, 54% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance so far. Forty-six percent (46%) disapprove.”

obama_index_june_5_2009The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 34% of the nation’s voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-four percent (34%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of 0. That’s the highest level of strong disapproval and the lowest overall rating yet recorded (see trends).

We continue also to see an erosion of support from left blogistan as David Sirota asks: Whither the sacred campaign promise? Is it just possible that one of these guys will eventually say that some of us were right one day?

But then behavior by President Obama suggests a more systemic assault on the campaign promise is under way.

It started in December, when he was asked why he was making Hillary Rodham Clinton his chief diplomat after criticizing her qualifications and promising Democratic primary voters that his views on international relations were different than hers. He responded by telling the questioner “you’re having fun” trying “to stir up whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign.” The implicit assertion was that anyone expecting him to answer for campaign statements must just be “having fun” – and certainly can’t be serious.

A few months later, in reversing a 5-year-old commitment to support ending the Cuban embargo, Obama offered no rationale for the U-turn other than saying he was “running for Senate” at a time that “seems just eons ago” – again, as if everyone should know that previous campaign promises mean nothing.

At least that was a response. After the New York Times recently reported that “the administration has no present plans to reopen negotiations on NAFTA” as “Obama vowed to do during his campaign,” there was no explanation offered whatsoever. We were left to recall Obama previously telling Fortune magazine that his NAFTA promises were too “overheated and amplified” to be taken literally.

It’s true that politicians have always broken promises, but rarely so proudly and with such impunity.

I’m just going to leave the last word to Stevie Wonder:

People keep on learnin’
Soldiers keep on warrin’
World keep on turnin’
Cause it won’t be too long

Powers keep on lyin’
While your people keep on dyin’
World keep on turnin’
Cause it won’t be too long

I’m so darn glad he let me try it again
Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin’
Till I reach the highest ground