It’s another slow news day so far. Google’s top story is that the king of Spain Juan Carlos abdicating in favor of his son. Silly me, I didn’t even know Spain was a monarchy.
From USA Today, Game of thrones: Spain’s king Juan Carlos abdicates.
Carlos, who turned 76 in January, said that he was handing power to Felipe, 46, in order to “open a new era of hope combining his acquired experience and the drive of a new generation.”
Some Spaniards said they had been waiting for it.
“This is part of an expected chronology (of events),” said Alberto Garzon, a lawmaker in the Spanish parliament and author of the book The Third Republic — about a future Spain without a monarchy.
Carlos has enjoyed high popularity for decades but in the past few years his approval ratings fell sharply after a series of personal blunders. He took an expensive African safari during the height of the euro crisis. His daughter, Princess Cristina, has been indicted for embezzlement and her husband stands accused of tax evasion and money laundering.
BBC News summarizes the reasons in a video: Why is King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicating? In 45 secs.
This is a sad story, but perhaps not too surprising: Six Climbers Presumed Dead After Long Fall On Mount Rainier. From Northwest Public Radio:
Two experienced guides and four clients are presumed dead after what the National Park Service estimates was a 3,300 foot fall. The climbers were on their way down the mountain after an unsuccessful summit attempt via the difficult Liberty Ridge route on the northwestern side of Rainier.
An aerial and ground search happened Saturday after the group failed to return to their trailhead on schedule. From a helicopter, searchers spotted climbing gear at the base of a rock and ice fall and detected personal avalanche beacons. But the spotters saw no signs of life. A statement from Mount Rainier National Park says no attempt to recover bodies will be made until later in the season because of ongoing danger at the scene at the head of Carbon Glacier.
Interestingly, the guides involved worked for Alapine Ascents, the same Seattle company as some of the Sherpas who died on Mount Everest last month.
I’m not a risk-taker, and I will never understand why people want to get involved in such dangerous sports. But there are people who love to live on the edge and would rather die young doing something they love than live safely into old age.
It is a little-known fact that quite a few people actually die in National Parks every year. Oddly, I don’t like risky activities, but I do like to read books about them; and there are whole books about the different ways people have died in National and State Parks.
According to National Geographic, the dangerous ridge the climbers were using has been involved in numerous accidents in the past.
It’s called Liberty Ridge: a steep ramp of rock, snow and ice splitting a northern face of the 14,410-foot mountain in Washington State. Its stunning views and technical difficulty—hard but not too hard, experts say—have earned it a place in the book Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.
But its remoteness, steepness and exposure to the elements have also made Liberty Ridge the scene of epic rescues and more than its share of deaths….
“When you hear Liberty Ridge, it is a serious route… it’s not a casual route,” said Mike Gauthier, a climbing ranger at Mount Rainier National Park from 1990 to 2008 who was repeatedly called to the spot to rescue stranded climbers and search for missing people….
In his time on the mountain, Gauthier was repeatedly called to Liberty Ridge to rescue stranded climbers or search for missing people who didn’t survive. Often, the scene was on the ridge’s upper reaches, where the mountain is unremittingly steep, leaving few sheltered places to pitch a tent or to hide from avalanches or falling rocks.
“It’s just not an ideal location to hang out because you’re threatened there. You’re just exposed,” said Gauthier, who wrote the main guidebook for the mountain, Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide.
Gauthier didn’t want to speculate about the group of missing climbers but said a camp at 2,800 feet would have been in a section where climbers have often run into trouble.
At the LA Times, Maria L. LaGanga writes about the psychology of people who are drawn to mountain climbing: For some climbers, Mt. Rainier’s often deadly allure is irresistible.
“There is a draw, but I can’t explain it,” said Len Throop, owner of Eatonville Outdoor, who has climbed Rainier many times but never crested the summit. “From the first time I ever saw it, I felt a connection.
Even if you can’t see it, you know it’s there. And it’s dangerous. This week is one example, and it’s not even the worst.”
The worst accident came in June 1981, when 11 climbers died under giant chunks of ice….
Rainier has the largest system of glaciers in the United States outside of Alaska. The challenging terrain requires skill, stamina and equipment. Climbers must wear crampons, spiked implements that give their boots traction, and wield ice axes that help them arrest their slide down the mountain if they slip. They are often tied to their climbing mates for safety.
“It’s like being on a stair stepper at a steep angle for 10 hours, and that’s for just a normal route,” Grigg said. Liberty Ridge, the route the ill-fated climbers took last week, “is one of the most difficult on the mountain.”
Read the rest if you’re as interested in human behavior as I am. Apparently the climbing has to be done in the middle of the night with headlamps; so I guess the climbers don’t even see the view while they’re working their way up the mountain.
Last night I watched most of Brian Williams’ interview with Edward Snowden. I still have to watch the final two segments, because I ran out of patience for being lectured to by a narcissistic 30-year-old. I’ll watch the rest today.
I’m not an expert at detecting deception, but I did notice that Snowden didn’t look a Williams during most of his responses to questions. He tended to look down and to the left as he spoke.
Michael B. Kelley of Business Insider asked a body language expert to review the video of Snowden and Williams.
Before Edward Snowden’s interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, body-language expert Dr. Nick Morgan considered Snowden a young guy who got a hold of a bunch of classified documents and was just telling his story about exposing intrusive American surveillance. “I came away [from the NBC interview] with a very different impression,” Morgan, a top U.S. communication theorist and best-selling author, told Business Insider. ”
As a body-language expert, I’d say this is a disingenuous performance, which surprised me.”
Morgan suggested that Snowden gave a studied performance, deliberately “subordinating himself” to Willams–as a way of sucking up and avoiding tough questions? Morgan also thought that Snowden had altered the pitch of his voice to make it lower than is natural for him.
A particularly telling moment came when Brian Williams asked Snowden, “What is your relationship with the host government?” Morgan, who didn’t previously know that Snowden’s Moscow lawyer is a Putin loyalist linked to the FSB, was struck by Snowden’s lack of eye contact and the slowing of his voice as he denied having any relationship with the Kremlin. “He was obviously lying,” Morgan said.
Frankly, anyone who believes that Snowden has no relationship with the Russian government (his lawyer works for the FSB!) is either incredibly ignorant or in deep denial.
RalphB called my attention to this interview with David Ignatious by Fareed Zakaria yesterday. Ignatious has a close relationship with the intelligence community, so I believe his assessment is worth looking at.
You mentioned there the damage to American values of the war on terror. How can America recover, and how hard is that going to be when Washington appears so divided? ….
Surveillance is an example. Because of the unexpected intervention of Edward Snowden, we are now in a period of experimentation with an alternative approach to surveillance.
I’m not someone who thinks Snowden is a hero. He promised to keep secrets, and he – despite his claim that he attempted to warn the NSA legally as a whistleblower – it’s clear that he took many of the nation’s most precious secrets with him and began distributing them to undermine what he thought were unconstitutional programs.
In our country, Congress and the courts have that responsibility for deciding what’s legal – not individual citizens. So it’s hard for me to see Snowden as a hero.
We don’t know the damage that comes from Snowden’s revelations. We may never really know that. But we do know one positive consequence, which is a searching national debate. As a result, we are now likely to experiment with a much less intrusive system of surveillance for our country.
Rather than the NSA holding our metadata for 5 years, the data will be held by communications companies for a year or two, and released by them only if there’s a court order.
Congress seems united in wanting this new approach, and we’ll see whether it works. Sometime in the future it will be urgent and essential to know who a terrorist in a safe haven in Syria was calling when in the U.S. Will we be able to know? Will the system we have put in place be sufficient to ensure the country’s security? I sure hope so. I’m sure it’s being designed with that in mind.
It would be terrible if we learn the results of the upheaval through another terrorist attack in a major U.S. city. After what we went through in Boston last year–and the aftermath continues–I certainly hope not.
Clearly, Snowden’s goal in giving an interview to Williams, who is not known for asking tough questions, was to improve his image in the U.S. and around the world. Predictably, he is now trying again to press his case for asylum in Latin America. From The Moscow Times:
“If Brazil offers me asylum, then I’ll gladly accept it. I would like to live in Brazil,” Agence France-Presse quoted Snowden as saying in an interview with Brazilian television channel Globo….
In a lengthy open letter published in the Brazilian press in December, he praised the Brazilian government for its stance against spying practices and volunteered to help the country in its investigation of NSA spying tactics if he were granted asylum.
I don’t think Ed should get his hopes up. I’d be shocked if Russia lets him go–to the U.S. or any other country.
I’ll end with this column and cartoon from Cleveland.com’s Jeff Darcy: Snowden follows Kerry’s advice.
Snowden likely did the interview to soften U.S. public opinion about him, but I doubt the answers he gave will alter the public’s view of him as either a traitor or whistle blowing hero. It’s possible to believe both that the NSA went to [sic] far and crossed the line and that Snowden was wrong in how he leaked that information.
In the interview Snowden claimed he was trained as a spy, given a false job title and false name. Brian Williams failed to ask the obvious follow up question: What was the fake name, James Bond, Austin Powers, Maxwell Smart or Benedict Arnold? The government’s answer is that Snowden was just an IT specialist contractor for the NSA. The truth is probably somewhere in between. What is certain, is that he should have never been hired and given security clearance.
When Snowden said that he was only in Russia because his passport was yanked, and he had planned to fly to Cuba, then on to Latin America, he failed to mention the Latin American countries on his destination list aren’t exactly known for their commitment to democratic freedoms and constitutional protections.
Snowden also gave weak answers to questions about national security damage caused by his leaks and why he didn’t share his concerns with Congress or other channels that would not have opened him up to treason charges….
Instead of talking to Brain Williams in Russia in 2014, Snowden should have been talking years earlier, to appropriate members of Congress about his concerns, or gone on “60 mins” or “Dateline” in disguise and blown his whistle.
Snowden defenders argue that if he were to come back to the U.S. he would never be seen again or at the very least, would never be able to have his case heard at a fair trial. I doubt that. Snowden has become too high profile and Kerry has now put the country on record in a very public way,that Snowden would be assured his day in court.
I totally agree. The Greensnow cult members who claim Snowden would disappear into a torture chamber if he came back here are full of it. In this country, public opinion–if it is loud and persistant enough–has an effect. The U.S. is not yet a “surveillance state”–even Snowden admitted that in the interview–and it’s not a dictatorship either, despite the Greensnow cult’s “chicken-little” attitude.
So . . . what are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links in the comment thread.
Good Morning!! I have a few interesting reads for you today. There isn’t a lot to be happy about in the news these days, but I hope that some of my picks will bring a smile to your face.
Maybe this will do it: Clint Eastwood: ‘I don’t give a f*ck’ if gays marry. The superstar actor and director told GQ Magazine that he considers himself an Eisenhower Republican, and he doesn’t sound too happy with the people running the party these days.
“These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage?” Eastwood opined. “I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of.”
“They go on and on with all this bullshit about ‘sanctity’ — don’t give me that sanctity crap! Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want.”
“I was an Eisenhower Republican when I started out at 21, because he promised to get us out of the Korean War,” he told GQ. “And over the years, I realized there was a Republican philosophy that I liked. And then they lost it. And libertarians had more of it. Because what I really believe is, let’s spend a little more time leaving everybody alone.”
Go ahead, make my day, Clint.
This story is a few days old, but it made me smile: Zakaria destroys Rumsfeld’s Iraq war talking points. Zakaria interviewed Rumsfeld on September 11, and the old goat still tried to claim that al Qaeda was in Iraq before the U.S. invaded.
“There’s no question that al Qaeda and Zarqawi and people were in Iraq,” Rumsfeld argued. “They aggregated there.”
“If we hadn’t invaded, they wouldn’t have been there,” Zakaria pointed out.
“We don’t know that,” Rumsfeld insisted. “You don’t know that. I don’t know that.”
“But they went in to fight us. So since we weren’t there, why would they have gone into Iraq?” Zakaria countered.
“Why have they gone into Yemen and Somalia?” Rumsfeld asked. “Why do al Qaeda go anywhere? They go where it’s hospitable.”
“Right, and Iraq hadn’t been hospitable,” Zakaria said.
ROFLOL! Why is this joke of a man able to get a book contract? Why does anyone want to put him on TV? He’s a complete loon.
Speaking of deserving people getting their comeuppance, deadbeat dad and Tea Party Rep. Joe Walsh was “scolded” by a Chicago judge yesterday for failing to support his children.
A Chicago judge issued a preliminary ruling Wednesday against U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) in his child-support dispute with his ex-wife, ordering the Tea Party favorite to explain why he appears to be $100,000 behind in child-support payments.
Vega did issue a “rule to show cause” — which means Walsh has to tell the court why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for falling so far behind in child support over the past five years.
Laura Walsh argues her ex-husband owes more than $100,000, a number the congressman disputes. But Vega’s ruling means that the burden is now on the congressman to prove that he doesn’t owe the money, attorneys for both Walshes agree.
Laura Walsh has gone into court on numerous occasions since filing for divorce in 2002, seeking court orders to have her ex-husband meet his court-ordered child-support obligations.
What a slug that guy Walsh is!
I came across this fascinating piece by Sarah Jaffe at Alternet: Are Jobs on Their Way to Becoming Obsolete? And Is That a Good Thing? It’s a long read, but I highly recommend you take the time. Here’s just a sample:
Media theorist and author of Life, Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back Douglas Rushkoff ruffled some feathers this week when he dared, at CNN.com of all places, to ask that question. It seemed, perhaps, gloriously insensitive to the plight of unemployed workers, of union workers at the U.S. Postal Service, who are struggling like so many others to stay afloat in an uncertain economy while they’re demonized in the press as greedy for wanting a decent job.
He argues that perhaps we’re going about it backward when we call for jobs, that maybe it’s not a bad thing that technology is replacing workers, and points out that actually, we do produce enough food and “stuff” to support the country and even the world—that, in fact, we produce too much “stuff.”
He alternately harkens back to a past before jobs, when many people worked for themselves on a subsistence level, and forward to a future where we are all busy making games and books and communicating with one another from behind computer screens, with the hours we have to work dwindling.
Rushkoff’s ideas really resonated with me. I haven’t worked a full-time job since 1986, and although I don’t have a lot of money, I have never regretted my decision to quit my 9-5 job and find some meaning in my life by doing things that made me happy. I did find that meaning, first by working on my own problems and issues and then by helping and being a caregiver for my elderly ex-mother-in-law in return for a place to live.
Because my expenses were low, I was able to return to college and get a bachelor’s degree, then go on to graduate school and earn an MA and a PhD. During graduate school and after, I have worked as a teaching assistant and have taught a number of courses. But now that I’m finished with my education, I’ve been reluctant to search for a full-time teaching job.
Lately I’ve survived mostly on my Social Security and selling my huge accumulation of books on the internet with a few teaching jobs thrown in. I will also have another small source of retirement income from my days as a full-time office worker when I choose to take it. I’m enjoying the time I’ve had to follow politics closely and blog about it. I’ve never been all that ambitious. I went to school simply for the joy of learning. I do want to find ways to give back, but I don’t care that much about making piles of money. I might have to check out Rushkoff’s book.
At Truthout, I learned that liberal economist Dean Baker has also written a book, and you can even download it free! The book is called “The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. From the Truthout article by Keane Bhatt, Dean Baker: Why Didn’t We Make These Guys Run Around Naked With Their Underpants Over Their Heads?
KB: Your book argues that financial crises don’t have to lead to “lost decades” of massive pain and suffering and, even more importantly, that the US never even experienced a true financial crisis.
DB: There’s a lot of real sloppy thinking here. The main promulgators of this view are Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart and they say that they look back over 600 years of history and find that in almost all these cases, countries took over a decade to recover. It’s painful, because I’d like to think – and one would expect that they’d like to think – that we know more economics than we did 600 years ago. If we don’t – and we really haven’t learned anything – why do you guys get paid high salaries? I say that only partially facetiously. If we were to look back through time, a very high percentage – probably the majority – of newborn babies didn’t survive to age 5. You’d be an idiot to say that the past trend holds today – we have modern medicine, so we have a very good reason to expect that the overwhelming majority of children will survive to age 5. We have learned something in economics over six centuries, so it’s not some curse, they’re concrete problems.
Finance gets very mysterious and complicated. There are instruments that are hard for people to understand; they’re hard for me to understand. The basic story is not complicated: we need demand. As I say in the book, there’s very little about the financial crisis that explains where we are today. People who want to buy homes have no problem getting credit – you can’t go 0% down, but someone who, say, 15 years ago was able to get a home mortgage can expect to get a home mortgage today. In terms of businesses, the US, unlike Japan, has a very large capital market where firms can directly access capital through commercial paper and bond financing. The current rates are extraordinarily low in both nominal and real terms. So the idea that the banks being crippled would impede the economy doesn’t follow when hundreds of the largest firms can go straight to the market and get financing.
Let’s imagine that the big firms can get credit but the small ones can’t. That would create a situation in which the big firms are running wild, grabbing market share at the expense of smaller competitors crippled by lack of access to capital. This is not happening.
There’s a survey that the National Federation of Independent Business has done for a quarter century that asks businesses what are the biggest problems to expanding. And currently, almost no one mentions finance – either access or cost. So clearly the problem is not finance.
Read the whole interview if you can–it’s well worth it.
I’m going to end with a story that won’t necessarily make you smile, but it’s a story that puts the lie to the Bush/Cheney claims that torture helped make us safer. I think that’s a good thing. In fact, author and former FBI interrogator Ali H. Soufan argues that the opposite is true, and that in fact 9/11 could have been prevented with traditional interrogation methods. Watch his interview with Keith Olbermann:
So…what are you reading and blogging about today?
I’m not one to recommend CNN programming these days. Actually, I’m not one to recommend programming on any of the TV stations these days. However, I find FT’s Martin Wolf one of the few voices of economic reason in the world. He was interviewed on Fareed Zakaria’s program today. It’s one of the few CNN programs left with an international twist. They’ve watered down most of the new shows to the point I consider People Magazine a better source of global news. This program will be repeated this evening at 5 est so you may want to try to watch. Also, Canadian PM Harper is on the program. Both the Canadians and the Brit’s have economists for PMs. It’s amazing to listen to his interview because it’s full of wonky specifics rather than hopey changeyness–that as Martin Wolf says–lacks boldness of vision and action in its actualization. Listen to Harper. It’s an amazing contrast to some one who needs a teleprompter with words penned by a 27 year old frat boy to form a complete sentence.
Fareed Zakaria never insults the intelligence of his audience. That is also a reason I enjoy his program. He wants to stimulate discussions and thought. He has a juicy wonderful list of books that he recommends. This week’s selection is a biography of Keynes. You might know him as the father of economics and government stimulus, but he was also a very interesting character. He frequently attended white house dinners with
his husband of the moment and was known for writing some fairly outrageous social and political commentary. The book is: John Maynard Keynes, Economist, Philosopher, Statesman” by Robert Skidelski. I’m putting it on my summer reading list.
One of the primary reasons that I listen to Martin Wolf is that he is English so he has no political dogs in the hunt for a return to global prosperity. His focus is purely on getting out of this mess. That is why I’m listening to him even more than Paul Krugman. Krugman may have tenure at Princeton and a Noble prize, but much of his column has to do with maintaining popularity here at home. After all, he won’t get invited to all those sexy parties if he criticizes the home team too shrilly. Brit Wolf gives the Obama economic team an English B for a grade. That would translate roughly to a D here in the United States. He says that it’s not that the talent isn’t there because it is very much there. Wolf says that there is a time that calls for bold action. This was a time when bold action could be taken. He also says what we have gotten is basically carefully parsed politics as usual which is anything but bold.