Lazy Caturday Reads: We Are Screwed

Cat Lady Feeding the Cats, by Beryl Cook

Good Afternoon!!

This morning I’m having flashbacks to 2006. Democrats had just retaken the House and Nancy Pelosi became the first woman Speaker. But even before she took the gavel, she announced that “impeachment is off the table.” Never mind that Bush and Cheney had lied us into an endless war.

The New York Times, November 8, 2006: Pelosi: Bush Impeachment `Off the Table.’

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi promised Wednesday that when her party takes over, the new majority will not attempt to remove President Bush from office, despite earlier pledges to the contrary from others in the caucus.

“I have said it before and I will say it again: Impeachment is off the table,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said during a news conference.

The Milk Man and Woman with Cat, by Beryl Cook

Pelosi also said Democrats, despite complaining about years of unfair treatment by the majority GOP, “are not about getting even” with Republicans.

She said the GOP, which frequently excluded Democrats from conference committee hearings and often blocked attempts to introduce amendments, would not suffer similar treatment.

“Democrats pledge civility and bipartisanship in the conduct of the work here and we pledge partnerships with Congress and the Republicans in Congress, and the president — not partisanship.”

She also extended an olive branch to Bush on the war in Iraq, saying she plans to work with him on a new plan but will not support the current strategy and supports beginning redeployment of troops by the end of the year.

Pelosi also said she supports the idea of a bipartisan summit on the war.

Now Pelosi is once again Speaker of the House and she’s doing a repeat performance with an even worse “president.” Until recently, I thought her arguments about “getting the facts” by holding hearings before rushing into impeachment made sense.

But the situation with Trump become an emergency. He is stonewalling any and all efforts to question witnesses in Congressional Committees. He is using mob tactics to force a foreign country into helping him get reelected. We can’t wait for the 2020 election to get rid of him, especially because there’s no guarantee that he won’t successfully win by cheating.

Please check out this piece by Tom Scocca at Slate: Someone Should Do Something.

After seeing the events of the past few days, in the light of the events of the days before those, in relation to the events that took place in the weeks, months, and years before that, I am strongly considering writing something that would address the question of whether Nancy Pelosi is bad at her job. If I did, I would argue that the House of Representatives, under Pelosi’s leadership, has come to function as a necessary complement to the corruption and incompetence of President Donald Trump—that a lawless presidency can only achieve its fullest, ripest degree of lawlessness with the aid of a feckless opposition party, which the Democrats are eager to provide.

Cats Eyeing a Lobster, by Beryl Cook

My editor thinks that I should write this article. I understand that in a week when one of the president’s most dedicated flunkies went before Congress to openly sneer at the idea that he should answer questions, making a show of obstructing what was supposed to be an investigation into obstruction of justice—a week now ending with reports, confirmed by the president’s jabbering ghoul of a lawyer on television, that the president tried to force a foreign country to act against the Democrats’ leading presidential candidate—there is good reason to feel that something needs to be written. It is certainly the sort of situation that someone could write about: the opposition party sitting on its hands and issuing vague statements of dismay while the entire constitutional order is revealed to be no match for the willingness of a president and his enablers to break the law.

At some point, in the future, it will probably be necessary to publish an article pointing out the terrifying mismatch between the ever-increasing speed with which our political system is falling apart and the slow trudge toward November 2020, when the Democratic Party hopes that voters will do what current elected Democratic officials will not do and take action to remove our visibly degenerating president from office. If someone did write an article like that, they could point out that by allowing Trump to remain in office unchallenged until the election, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership are saying that, although they hope the voters decide Trump is disqualified from office, they themselves do not think he has done anything wrong enough to merit his removal. If he had, they would do something, and they have not.

Feeding the Tortoise, Cat Looking On, by Beryl Cook

Scocca continues in this vein for several more paragraphs, ending with this conclusion:

Everyone in our democracy—citizens and officials alike, voters and writers, marchers and starers-at-screens—has a role to play, or to consider playing. If I were going to write about this, I would say that it might be time to plan on doing something.

Meanwhile, Jerry Nadler is supposedly thinking about maybe holding Corey Lewandowski in contempt for his disgraceful “testimony” several days ago.

We’re screwed, folks.

Yesterday it became clear that the New York Times is likely to do to Joe Biden what they did to Hillary Clinton and other media outlets will follow suit. Trump actually tweeted a video that featured NYT reporters arguing that Trump’s and Giuliani’s charges about Biden are legitimate.

And Trump (and the media, especially the NYT) will do the same thing to any Democratic candidate who ends up running against him.

We can see the future right now. It’s 2016 all over again.

Look at what happened to Kamala Harris at a forum on LGBT issues. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: WATCH: ‘Biased’ LGBTQ Forum Question for Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren Goes Viral, Not in a Good Way.

On Friday, Democratic candidates participated in an LGBTQ forum in Iowa, moderated in part by Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Lyz Lenz. Her first question to Senator Harris was about a case in which, as attorney general of California, she defended the state corrections department against a lawsuit seeking gender reassignment surgery for a transgender woman inmate named Michelle-Lael Norsworthy.

“During your time as attorney general in California, you did send a brief seeking to deny gender-affirmation surgery for trans inmates,” Lenz said, adding “You stated that at the time you were just enforcing the existing law.:

By Beryl Cook

“But with this history, the question is, how can trans people trust you will advocate for them, and not just enforce discriminatory laws?” Lenz asked.

Harris responded by noting the support she has received from LGBTQ organizations in her home state, and said “When that case came up, it was because as attorney general, I had clients, and one of them was the California Department of Corrections, and it was their policy. When I learned about what they were doing, behind the scenes, I got them to change the policy.”

And here is how Lenz treat a nearly identical question to Elizabeth Warren:

But when Lenz brought up an arguably more damaging stance on the same issue with Elizabeth Warren, it wasn’t framed as a matter of trust, or even as something for which Warren should answer.

“In 2012, you wrote that you did not support gender-affirming surgery for trans inmates,” Lenz said — to a “Yeah” from Warren — then added “In January of this year, you reversed your opinion and said you had changed on this issue.”

But instead of asking Warren how she could be trusted on an issue that she just got right on (checks notes) 8 months ago, Lenz said Warren’s change “is great,” then asked “So you just said we have to get everybody on board, how do we even do that?”

“So, the way I think about this, and America, equal means equal,” Warren said, but did not address her prior comments in the remainder of her answer.

I guarantee you that if Warren is the nominee, she too will get the Hillary Clinton treatment from the media while Trump mocks her “Pocahantas” on an hourly basis.

 

Here is what the U.S. media should be doing about Trump.

Lenore Taylor at The Guardian: As a foreign reporter visiting the US I was stunned by Trump’s press conference.

…watching a full presidential Trump press conference while visiting the US this week I realised how much the reporting of Trump necessarily edits and parses his words, to force it into sequential paragraphs or impose meaning where it is difficult to detect.

The press conference I tuned into by chance from my New York hotel room was held in Otay Mesa, California, and concerned a renovated section of the wall on the Mexican border.

I joined as the president was explaining at length how powerful the concrete was. Very powerful, it turns out. It was unlike any wall ever built, incorporating the most advanced “concrete technology”. It was so exceptional that would-be wall-builders from three unnamed countries had visited to learn from it.

There were inner tubes in the wall that were also filled with concrete, poured in via funnels, and also “rebars” so the wall would withstand anyone attempting to cut through it with a blowtorch.

The wall went very deep and could not be burrowed under. Prototypes had been tested by 20 “world-class mountain climbers – That’s all they do, they love to climb mountains”, who had been unable to scale it.

It was also “wired, so that we will know if somebody is trying to break through”, although one of the attending officials declined a presidential invitation to discuss this wiring further, saying, “Sir, there could be some merit in not discussing it”, which the president said was a “very good answer”.

The wall was “amazing”, “world class”, “virtually impenetrable” and also “a good, strong rust colour” that could later be painted. It was designed to absorb heat, so it was “hot enough to fry an egg on”. There were no eggs to hand, but the president did sign his name on it and spoke for so long the TV feed eventually cut away, promising to return if news was ever made.

By Beryl Cook

He did, at one point, concede that would-be immigrants, unable to scale, burrow, blow torch or risk being burned, could always walk around the incomplete structure, but that would require them walking a long way. This seemed to me to be an important point, but the monologue quickly returned to the concrete.

In writing about this not-especially-important or unusual press conference I’ve run into what US reporters must encounter every day. I’ve edited skittering, half-finished sentences to present them in some kind of consequential order and repeated remarks that made little sense.

But instead of focusing on Trump’s obvious ignorance, incompetence, and actual psychopathy and dementia, the media with focus on tearing down whichever Democrat wins the nomination. If it’s a black woman it will be even worse.

Finally, here’s the latest on the Ukraine scandal.

The Washington Post: How Trump and Giuliani pressured Ukraine to investigate the president’s rivals.

Politico: Trump tries to move Ukraine scandal’s focus toward Biden.

Three Republicans call for impeachment.

Tom Nichols at The Atlantic: If This Isn’t Impeachable, Nothing Is.

George Conway III and Neal Kaytal at The Washington Post: Trump has done plenty to warrant impeachment. But the Ukraine allegations are over the top.

Beryl Cook and her cat

Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below. Have a nice weekend Sky Dancers!!


Thursday Reads: Another Crazy Day in Trump World

Good Morning!!

Trump apparently worked himself up into a frenzy last night. He woke up an sent out a series of angry tweets, in one of which he admitted for the first time that Russia helped him get elected. He actually deleted the first tweet but sent out another in which he made the same admission.

A little later Trump emerged from the White House and unleashed a rage-filled 17 minute rant in which he angrily denigrated Robert Mueller. He also contradicted his own tweet, claiming that Russia didn’t help him in 2016.

The Washington Post: Trump attacks Mueller, says he would have brought charges if he had evidence of a crime.

“Robert Mueller should have never been chosen,” Trump said of the former special counsel, who was appointed by former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein, a Republican Trump appointee.

Trump told reporters that he considered Mueller “totally conflicted” because he had discussions about the position of FBI director early in the Trump administration and is friendly with former FBI director James B. Comey, whom Trump fired in 2017.

“He loves Comey,” Trump claimed. “Whether it’s love or a deep like, he was conflicted.” [….]

Trump also cited a “business dispute” with Mueller on which he did not elaborate. In the past, White House aides have pointed to an alleged dispute over membership fees at Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia….

“You know who got me elected? I got me elected,” he said. “Russia didn’t help me at all. Russia, if anything, I think, helped the other side.” [….]

In his comments to reporters, Trump downplayed the prospect of impeachment. A growing number of Democrats were advocating that course on Wednesday after Mueller’s appearance.

“It’s a dirty, filthy disgusting word and it has nothing to do with me,” Trump said. “There was no high crime and there was no misdemeanor.”

This morning’s rant continued as Trump unleashed a number of insults about McCain and how Trump was “never a fan.” He also denied demanding that John McCain’s name be hidden on the U.S. Navy battleship named after McCain’s father and grandfather while Trump was in Japan.

The New York Times: White House Asked Navy to Hide John McCain Warship During Trump’s Visit.

The White House asked the Navy to hide a destroyer named after Senator John McCain in order to avoid having the ship appear in photographs taken while President Trump was visiting Japan this week, White House and military officials said Wednesday.

Although Navy officials insisted they did not hide the ship, the John S. McCain, they did give all of the sailors aboard the day off on Tuesday as Mr. Trump visited Yokosuka Naval Base.

USS Battleship John McCain

Two Navy sailors, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said that the McCain sailors were not invited to hear Mr. Trump speak that day aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp, while sailors from other American warships at the base were.

A Navy service member based on Yokosuka said that all of the American warships in the harbor were invited to send 60 to 70 sailors to hear Mr. Trump’s address, with the exception of the McCain. When several sailors from the McCain showed up anyway, wearing their uniforms with the ship’s insignia, they were turned away, the service member said.

White House aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly, confirmed the request was made but said that Mr. Trump did not know about it. A United States official said on Wednesday that the White House sent an email to the Navy with the request on May 15.

[Emphasis added] Raise your hand if you believe Trump had nothing to do with the request.

On the other hand, sailors wearing MAGA patches in support of Trump were allowed to attend the speech.

CNN: Navy reviewing ‘Make Aircrew Great Again’ patches worn by sailors during Trump visit.

The Navy is conducting a review to examine whether President Donald Trump-themed patches worn by sailors on their uniforms during the President’s visit to the USS Wasp violated Navy rules.

“Navy leadership is aware of the incident and reviewing to ensure the patch doesn’t violate DoD policy or uniform regulations,” US Navy spokesperson Lt. Sam Boyle told CNN.
Several service members aboard the USS Wasp were seen wearing the patches when Trump addressed sailors on Tuesday. The patches showed a Trump-like image and the slogan “Make Aircrew Great Again.” [….]

Close-up of the MAGA patch

Military personnel often wear unofficial unit patches, sometimes imbued with humorous images, as part of an effort to build unit cohesion and morale.

However, service members are prohibited from exhibiting political messages while in uniform.
Unit commanders are usually responsible for ensuring that the unofficial patches do not violate military regulations.
Department of Defense guidelines say that “active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.”

Trump faces more legal trouble about that massage parlor owner in Florida Cindy Yang.

The Miami Herald: Federal prosecutors demand Cindy Yang records from Mar-a-Lago, Trump campaign.

Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., this week sent subpoenas to Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, and Trump Victory, a political fundraising committee, demanding they turn over all records relating to Republican Party donor Li “Cindy” Yang and several of her associates and companies, the Miami Herald has learned.

Cindy Yang with Donald Trump

Yang, a South Florida massage-parlor entrepreneur, is the target of a public corruption investigation seeking to determine if she funneled money from China to the president’s re-election campaign or otherwise violated campaign-finance laws. She became a GOP donor in the 2016 election cycle and opened a consulting company that promised Chinese businesspeople the chance to attend events at Mar-a-Lago and gain access to Trump and his inner circle. Some of those events were campaign fundraisers that required guests to buy tickets for entry, payments that are considered political contributions. Foreign nationals are prohibited from donating to U.S. political campaigns.

Investigators are seeking evidence from Mar-a-Lago and Trump Victory as they build a potential case against Yang and possibly others close to her. The president’s club and the fundraising committee are not the targets of the investigation. The subpoenas cover records from January 2017 to the present. A spokeswoman for Yang did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One subpoena, issued by a federal grand jury in West Palm Beach, compels Mar-a-Lago to turn over all documents, records and communications relating to Yang, as well as 11 other people, one charity and seven companies affiliated with her, according to a person familiar with the investigation who asked for anonymity to discuss an ongoing probe. The people named in that subpoena include Yang’s family members, former employees at her massage parlors and several donors to Trump Victory. Prosecutors were trying to serve the subpoena to Mar-a-Lago through a South Florida law firm, the source said.

The second subpoena, for Trump Victory, was served to attorneys at a Washington, D.C., law firm. It seeks campaign-finance records relating to Yang and her associates.

Click the link to read the rest.

As Trump focuses on attacking the people on his enemies list, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are moving us closer to war with Iran.

USA Today: Escalating Iran crisis looks a lot like the path US took to Iraq war.

March 20, 2003 – War With Iraq – Shock & Awe . . . And Then Invasion.

The U.S. military’s guided bombs brought “shock and awe” to Baghdad in 2003 when American forces invaded Iraq 16 years ago to hunt for weapons of mass destruction. They never found any. Many observers, today, consider that war a failure.

Now, half of all Americans believe the U.S. will go to war with Iran “within the next few years,” according to a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll released in late May amid increased tensions between the two countries, longtime geopolitical foes.

The escalating Tehran-Washington crisis comes as the White House claims, without providing detail or public evidence, that Iran poses an increased threat to American forces and facilities in the Middle East – one year after Trump withdrew from an accord between Iran and world powers aimed at limiting Tehran’s nuclear capabilities.

Is Iran doomed to be an Iraq redux? This is just one of the questions raised by a crisis that has eerie parallels to the missteps that led to the Iraq War in 2003, where the buildup to conflict was precipitated by faulty intelligence and confrontational foreign policymakers such as John Bolton in President George W. Bush’s administration.

Read all about it at the link above. Meanwhile, does anyone know what Trump foreign policy is?

Fred Kaplan at Slate: Who Speaks for the United States?

Tuesday’s New York Times story on the serious disagreements between President Donald Trump and national security adviser John Bolton misses the bigger picture—namely, that Trump is having disagreements with his entire foreign policy team. To put it another way, it is impossible to say just what U.S. foreign policy is—or, to put it more starkly still, the United States has no foreign policy.

The Times story focuses on disputes over Iran and North Korea.
Bolton has described North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s latest short-range missile tests as violations of a U.N. Security Council resolution; Trump says they’re no big deal. Bolton has called for regime change in Iran; Trump said last week in Japan that he’s fine with the current regime, as long as it stays away from nuclear weapons.

But this dispute involves more players than Trump and Bolton. State Department spokespeople, as well as National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, have said—in agreement with Bolton—that the North Korean tests violated a Security Council resolution. Trump stands utterly alone in his view that Kim is an honorable, trustworthy partner.

On Iran, in contrast with what Trump says now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently laid out 12 preconditions for holding talks. Among the demands were that Tehran stop testing ballistic missiles, stop assisting militias in the region, and make several other concessions that would amount, in effect, to a regime change.

And of course, there are his long-standing disputes, over a host of issues, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, various combatant commands, and pretty much the entire intelligence community.

Imagine if you were a world leader who wants to align, or improve relations, with the United States. What do you do? Do you agree with—and act in ways that advance the policies of—the president, the secretary of state, or the national security adviser? It’s impossible to placate all of them simultaneously. So you begin to wonder: Who speaks for the United States?

Please read the whole thing.

So . . . that’s what’s happening so far this morning. What stories are you following?


Thursday Reads: Strange Sounds in the Sky, the Fall of Ramadi, and Other News

woman-reading

Good Morning!!

How could I have slept until 10AM? I can’t believe it. I’ve been waking up really early ever since the time change, which was ages ago. This will be a quickie post, because I have to get ready to go somewhere this afternoon.

Before I get to the latest political news, I wanted to share this weird story I came across a few days ago in The Daily Mail. Please let me know if you think it’s for real or some kind of bizarre mass hypnosis.

What IS this strange sound from the sky? Noise heard across the globe for nearly a DECADE – but nobody has an explanation.

A mysterious noise from the sky is continuing to baffle people all over the world – as well as giving those who hear it sleepless nights.

Sounding like a trumpet or a collective from a brass section of an orchestra, a selection of videos shot from the Canada to Ukraine, via the U.S., Germany and Belarus show strange goings on above us.

And the eerie sounds have been continuously heard at all different times and locations for almost a decade.

The first video posted on YouTube recording the unusual, unearthly sounds, was in 2008 when a user recorded the strange sounds in the sky from Homel, in Belarus.

That same year another anonymous user shared the ‘ear-deafening’ sounds that they insisted ‘were not a hoax,’ from a quiet neighbourhood believed to be in the U.S.

Kimberly Wookey from Terrace, British Columbia in Canada first captured the alien sound in June 2013, and since then she has managed to capture several recordings of the noise with her most recent being on May 7 this year.

There are several examples of recordings of the strange sounds at the Daily Mail link. I looked on YouTube, and dozens of these recordings have been posted. Of course the end-timers are going to think these are trumpets from heaven sounding the last days. Someone in New Jersey thinks it’s a UFO.

Is this going to be another crop-circles-type mystery/hoax? Anyway, I love strange stuff like this, so I thought I’d share and see what you think.

We haven’t been talking about foreign news much lately, but things are not going well in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). I’m sure you’ve heard that ISIS has taken over the Iraqi city of Ramadi. ABC reports: Fall of Ramadi: 30 Car Bombs, 10 as Big as Oklahoma City Blast, US Official Says.

The State Department is sharing new details about the deadly fighting in Ramadi, Iraq, last Sunday, saying the city fell into ISIS hands after the militant group set off 30 suicide car bombs in the city center, 10 of which each were comparable in power to the Oklahoma City truck bomb of 1995.

The explosions took out “entire city blocks,” said a senior State Department official who spoke to reporters at the State Department Wednesday on condition that he not be named. The vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs, were able to gain access to the city center after an armored bulldozer plowed through T-wall barricades lining the city’s critical government buildings, the official said, adding that the same bulldozer was later used as a power VBIED, itself.

Soon after the bombs went off, the Iraqis deployed a reinforcing column into the city center, but they were forced to retreat after coming under heavy enemy fire, the official said. That retreat led to a larger exodus of Iraqi security forces and the civilian populations, leaving the streets looking “barren,” according to this official.

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ABC also has video at the link. A little more:

The State Department and the Pentagon insist the fall of Ramadi does not closely resemble that of Mosul in 2014, when, after only a week of fighting, Islamic State forces were able to take over the entire city as ISF forces abandoned the posts, equipment and even their uniforms.

The State Department official argued that Ramadi has been fiercely contested for 18 months, as both sides controlled equal parts of the city. It wasn’t until the critical government center fell this weekend that ISIS was able to lay claim to the entire provincial capital.

But the official admitted that, in this case, the Iraqi forces did leave some U.S.-made weapons behind. The official suggested that if the enemy attempts to commandeer any of the bigger weapons, they would be killed in airstrikes.

matisse-woman-reading-at-a-yellow-table

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius disagrees. He calls the fall of Ramadi a “tragic replay” of the “Mosul debacle.”

The capture of Ramadi last weekend by Islamic State fighters is a significant setback for U.S. strategy in Iraq and shows that, nearly a year after the extremists overran Mosul, the United States still doesn’t have a viable plan for protecting the country’s Sunni areas.

The collapse of the Iraqi army in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, was in some ways a replay of the Mosul debacle in June 2014. The Shiite-dominated Iraqi military, though trained and retrained by the United States, appeared to lack the leadership or will to fight off a relatively small but ferocious onslaught of Sunni insurgents.

The Ramadi defeat exposed the sectarian tensions that underlie this war. Among the urgent questions: Are Shiite regular army troops ready to fight and die to protect Sunnis, or will their lines collapse in Sunni areas, as happened in Mosul and now Ramadi? If the tougher Iranian-backed Shiite militias are sent instead to do the job, will the Sunni population see them as a Shiite occupation army — setting the stage for a generation of sectarian revenge killing?

Gee, do you think maybe Bush and Cheney might have made a mistake when they attacked Iraq based on questionable intelligence?

e14df91a3f9b29f16e1cfaf6965d9e6f

Charles Pierce sees a replay of much tragic events in the more distant past:

The Fall Of Ramadi And The Vietnam Syndrome: In which we relive that which we ought not to have done in the first place.

It goes back to the “Bloody Shirt” campaigns in the decades after the Civil War. However, at least in those campaigns, the people waving the bloody shirt were doing so at people who actively had committed treason against the government of the United States and were attempting (with too much success) to win at the polls what they’d lost on the battlefield. More recent uses of the techniques sadly have been designed to cover the ass of bellicose mistakes, and worse, all over the world. Which means the “bloody shirt” begins to slide toward the Dolchstosslegendeof post-WWI Germany. And that never is a good thing.

In our current situation, we are seeing the beginnings of the kind of rhetoric that poisoned our politics for decades after the collapse of South Vietnam. In fact, there was a lot of that going around in 2006, when it became plain that the Iraq invasion had been sold on moonshine by a cabal of geopolitical fantasts and Dick Cheney….

The only way for the people who shook their moneymakers for the war in 2002 to justify their continued place in our politics is to use ISIL to replace the aluminum tubes and hope that enough people don’t notice what a grotesque fast shuffle this is. That will clear the way for the candidates on the Republican side — Rubio, Graham, Jeb (!), and, most recently, Chris Christie — who want to revive the old neocon hoo-rah while distancing themselves from its savage consequences. It looks very much like “Who lost Iraq?” may replace the disastrous decisions of the Avignon Presidency in this campaign, and that a good chunk of the Republican field will be perfectly happy to allow that to happen. For all the talk of the president’s fecklessness from the chickenhawk choir, what those candidates are about right now is the worst kind of cowardice.

Jesus. When will it ever end?

reading-lady-matisse-henri-fauvism-oil-on-cardboard-genre-terminartors-1372947212_org

Talking Points Memo discusses a recent survey of voter attitudes.

Study: Lawmakers Assume Voters Are Way More Conservative Than They Are.

“Pick an American state legislator at random, and chances are that he or she will have massive misperceptions about district views on big-ticket issues, typically missing the mark by 15 percentage points,” David Broockman and Christopher Skovron wrote in a study for the Scholarly Strategy Network originally published in 2013.

To investigate the question, the duo surveyed thousands of state legislators and compared their perceptions of voters to people’s actual views, derived from a large body of public opinion data.

Their conclusion: “legislators usually believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are.”

On three issues — universal healthcare, same-sex marriage, and welfare — lawmakers’ assumptions about what their constituents believed were “15-20 percent more conservative, on average,” than the actual base of public support for such issues.

Most striking, both liberal and conservative lawmakers assume their voters are much further to the right than they actually are.

I’m not surprised, but it’s good to see intuition backed by empirical research.

Matisse-Tha-Painting-Lesson1

More news, links only:

David Wiegel at Bloomberg Politics: Rand Paul Launches His ‘Filibuster’ Against Patriot Act Renewal.

Politico: Rand Paul calls it a night after 10 1/2 hours. It’s not clear whether his speech on the PATRIOT Act had any real effect on Mitch McConnell’s plans.

Michael Schmidt at the NYT: A Closer Look at Hillary Clinton’s Emails on Benghazi. Also, First Batch of Hillary Clinton Emails Captures Concerns Over Libya.

Des Moines Register: Huckabee decides to skip Iowa Straw Poll.

Bloomberg Politics: Iowa Republicans Are Worried About Jeb Bush’s Viability.

CNN: Jeb Bush rails against ‘intellectual arrogance’ in climate change debate.

The Hill: Obama: Climate change deniers endangering national security.

The WaPo: Fox News rules will limit the field in first GOP presidential debate.

 

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: Tales of Chris Kyle, AKA “The Devil of Ramadi” AKA “The American Sniper”

Lazy Saturday1

Good Afternoon!!

I could easily stay under the covers today and just ignore the outside world. Yesterday I thought I was getting over my cold, but today the sinus congestion has kicked back in and I’m coughing and I can tell there is stuff in my lungs. To top it all off, there’s a snowstorm outside that is expected to leave a big sloppy mess in its wake; and more snow is predicted for Tuesday. To be honest, I’m having difficulty working up much enthusiasm for the news today, so once again I’m going to focus on a story that has aroused my curiosity recently.

One thing I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of days is the success of the movie American Sniper. I suppose I should see it before dismissing it, but I really don’t want to sit through a movie about a guy who shot hundreds of people at a distance in a pointless war.

The first time I heard anything about Chris Kyle was when he was shot and killed along with a friend, Chad Littlefield on a Texas shooting range. The New York Times reported that Kyle worked with veterans suffering from PTSD by taking them to the gun range and letting them work out their issues there. That just seemed bizarre to me, but I’ve never been in a war or even held a gun in my hand, so there’s no way I could relate to this. Maybe there was something to it.

The alleged killer was a young veteran named Eddie Ray Routh, whom Kyle was supposedly trying to help. According to the Washington Post, the specific details surrounding Kyle’s death aren’t dealt with in the movie about him.

Chris Kyle (left) with Chad Littlefield

Chris Kyle (left) with Chad Littlefield

Kyle had returned from Iraq in 2009 and was

well acquainted with the difficulties soldiers face returning to civilian life, and had devoted much of his time since retiring in 2009 to helping fellow soldiers overcome the traumas of war….

In 2011, Mr. Kyle created the Fitco Cares Foundation to provide veterans with exercise equipment and counseling. He believed that exercise and the camaraderie of fellow veterans could help former soldiers ease into civilian life.

Mr. Kyle, who lived outside of Dallas with his wife and their two children, had his own difficulties adjusting after retiring from the Navy SEALs. He was deployed in Iraq during the worst years of the insurgency, perched in or on top of bombed-out apartment buildings with his .300 Winchester Magnum. His job was to provide “overwatch,” preventing enemy fighters from ambushing Marine units.

sniper4n-2-web

Kyle also wrote a book, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” in which he wrote that

[h]e did not think the job would be difficult….But two weeks into his time in Iraq, he found himself staring through his scope into the face of an unconventional enemy. A woman with a child standing close by had pulled a grenade from beneath her clothes as several Marines approached. He hesitated, he wrote, then shot.

“It was my duty to shoot, and I don’t regret it,” he wrote. “My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul.”

Over time, his hesitation diminished and he became proficient at his job, credited with more than 150 kills.

I just can’t relate to any of that, and I really don’t want to see a movie that glorifies that kind of killing. Why do so many people want to see it, and why do they see this man as a hero? I don’t get it. I spent some time yesterday reading about Kyle’s life and the movie from different points of view, and I’m even more mystified now than I was when I began reading.

One thing I learned is that Kyle was a serial liar or fabulist of some sort. He once claimed he had beaten up former Navy Seal, professional wrestler, and Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura in a bar fight. Ventura sued Kyle for defamation of character and won a $1.8 million settlement from Kyle’s estate.

US-POLITICS-VENTURA-ESPIONAGE

A St. Paul, Minn., jury awarded former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura $1.8 million Tuesday in his lawsuit against the estate of “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle.

On the sixth day of deliberations, the federal jury decided that the 2012 best-selling book defamed Ventura in its description of a bar fight in California in 2006. Kyle wrote that he decked a man whom he later identified as Ventura after the man allegedly said the Navy SEALs “deserve to lose a few.”

Ventura testified that Kyle fabricated the passage about punching him. Kyle said in testimony videotaped before his death last year that his story was accurate.

Legal experts had said Ventura had to clear a high legal bar to win, since as a public figure he had to prove “actual malice.” According to the jury instructions, Ventura had to prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that Kyle either knew or believed what he wrote was untrue, or that he harbored serious doubts about its truth.

The jury’s verdict was later upheld on appeal.

According to a long and fascinating piece by Michael McCaffrey, another wild story that Kyle liked to tell was how he was carjacked by some bad guys and ended up killing them and being thanked for it by the police.

Chris told many people, and some reporters, that just after his return from Iraq in 2009, he was carjacked by two men at a gas station on a remote Texas highway. Chris asked the men if he could reach into his truck to get his keys, and as he did he pulled a pistol from his waistband and shot both men in the chest from under his armpit. The two men were killed instantly. Chris called the police and waited for them while leaning against his truck. The police came, Chris handed them a phone number to call at the Pentagon. The cops called the number, and the people at the Pentagon told the cops that Chris Kyle was a war hero and a Navy SEAL. The police also went inside and watched the gas station surveillance video of the incident. The cops then let Chris go on his way. Chris claimed he got emails from cops all across the country after the incident thanking him for “keeping the streets clean”. Great story. Except none of it is true.  Not a word. There were no carjackers, no dead bodies, no cops, none of it. He made the whole thing up. His big mistake was then telling the story to his SEAL friend, Marcus Lutrell, author of Lone Survivor, and Marcus put the story in his second book, Service: A Navy SEAL at Work. Now it wasn’t just a tall-tale, it was in the public record, and it is demonstrably a lie. The New Yorker magazine and other journalists have investigated the story. They all come to the same conclusion. There were no carjackers. There were no dead bodies. There were no cops. None of it happened. No police departments know anything about it, no coroner ever saw the bodies, no gas station had any surveillance video or ever heard of such a thing and no cops ever responded to the scene and called the Pentagon.

Chris Kyle and his gun

Chris Kyle and his gun

And then there was the tale about how Kyle and another guy had gone to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and picked off looters from the roof of the Superdome. McCaffrey writes:

The second story that was told by Chris Kyle was that he and another SEAL were sent by the government to New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Once they got to New Orleans, Chris and another sniper went to the roof of the Superdome, and started shooting looters in the city. Chris Kyle said this to many people, he also said this on tape. Chris claims to have killed thirty looters all on his own. Helluva story. Only problem is…there’s not a speck of truth in it. Once again this is a total fabrication, or to put it less delicately, a complete, bold faced lie. Chris Kyle never went to New Orleans after Katrina. He never shot ‘looters’. Just like with the carjackers, there are no bodies and no documentary or corroborating evidence it occurred. None. Chris Kyle lied. Again.

Don’t take my word for it…Here are two links to in-depth articles about these two stories. (New Yorker–  LINK     Washington Post –   LINK)

Why would this man, who already had plenty of dramatic true stories to tell, make up these tall tales out of whole cloth? If you’re interested in the psychology of people like this, you’ll probably find McCaffrey’s suggested explanations as interesting as I did.

Eddie Ray Routh

Eddie Ray Routh

Here are a few more articles to check out if you find the hero-worship of Kyle and his own behavior as interesting and confounding as I do.

The New Yorker: In the Crosshairs — Chris Kyle, a decorated sniper, tried to help a troubled veteran. The result was tragic.

The Guardian: Chris Kyle and the Iraq war are more complex than American Sniper – or criticism of it, by Colby Buzzell.

Slate: How Accurate Is American Sniper? by Courtney Duckworth.

Alternet, via Raw Story: 7 big lies ‘American Sniper’ is telling America about Iraq and Chris Kyle, by Zaid Jelani.

Telesur: American Sniper? by Ross Caputi.

The Boston Globe: Many miss the point of Eastwood’s ‘American Sniper,’ by Ty Burr.

Rolling Stone: ‘American Sniper’ Is Almost Too Dumb to Criticize, by Matt Taibbi.

The Washington Post: Trial of Eddie Routh, killer of Chris Kyle, will be darkest chapter of ‘American Sniper,’ by Abby Philip.

What stories are you following these days? This is an open thread.


Wednesday Open Thread

NYC-Morning-coffee-shop

Hello, Sky Dancers!

This will be a quick post. All three of us bloggers are under the weather. JJ has bronchitis, I was up all night with a stomach virus, and Dakinikat is understandably overwhelmed with family issues.

So here we go . . . .

The sh** has really hit the fan down in Dallas. Last night, a group named National Nurses United held a press call in which they revealed that, for the nurses who cared for Ebola patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, “there were no protocols”  for dealing with the highly infectious disease. From CNN:

“The protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place, and that those protocols are not in place anywhere in the United States as far as we can tell,” National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said. “We’re deeply alarmed.”

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the claims, if true, are “startling.” Some of them, he said, could be “important when it comes to possible other infections.”

Some of the complaints made by anonymous nurses to National Nurses United:

On the day that Thomas Eric Duncan was admitted to the hospital with possible Ebola symptoms, he was “left for several hours, not in isolation, in an area where other patients were present,” union co-president Deborah Burger said.

Up to seven other patients were present in that area, the nurses said, according to the union.

A nursing supervisor faced resistance from hospital authorities when the supervisor demanded that Duncan be moved to an isolation unit, the nurses said, according to the union.

Nurses were given protective gear that didn’t cover their necks, and when they complained they were told to wrap medical tape around their necks.

“There was no one to pick up hazardous waste as it piled to the ceiling,” Burger said. “They did not have access to proper supplies.”

“There was no mandate for nurses to attend training,” Burger said, though they did receive an e-mail about a hospital seminar on Ebola…

According to DeMoro, the nurses were upset after authorities appeared to blame nurse Nina Pham, who has contracted Ebola, for not following protocols.

“This nurse was being blamed for not following protocols that did not exist. … The nurses in that hospital were very angry, and they decided to contact us,” DeMoro said.

And they’re worried conditions at the hospital “may lead to infection of other nurses and patients,” Burger said.

Heine-Brothers-painting-small

And today this headline tops the news: Second Health Care Worker Tests Positive for Ebola. CNN reports:

A second health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan has tested positive for Ebola, health officials said Wednesday – casting further doubt on the hospital’s ability to handle Ebola and protect employees.

The worker reported a fever Tuesday and was immediately isolated, health department spokeswoman Carrie Williams said.

The preliminary Ebola test was done late Tuesday at the state public health laboratory in Austin, and the results came back around midnight. A second test will be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

It gets worse. CNN again: 2nd U.S. health worker with Ebola flew the day before symptoms.

The second Dallas health care worker with Ebola was on a flight from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday — the day before she reported symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. Because of the proximity in time between the Monday evening flight and the first report of her illness, the CDC wants to interview all 132 passengers on her flight — Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth, which landed at 8:16 p.m. CT Monday, the CDC said.

The worker, a woman who lives alone, was quickly moved into isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, authorities said Wednesday.

The news cast further doubt on the hospital’s ability to handle Ebola and protect employees. It’s the same hospital that initially sent Thomas Eric Duncan home, even though he had a fever and had traveled from West Africa. By the time he returned to the hospital, his symptoms had worsened. He died while being treated by medical staff, including the two women who have now contracted the disease.

Get this: hospital administrators are still claiming they have everything under control.

“I don’t think we have a systematic institutional problem,” Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer of Texas Health Resources, told reporters Wednesday, facing questions about the hospital’s actions.

Medical staff “may have done some things differently with the benefit of what we know today,” he said, adding, “no one wants to get this right more than our hospital.”

Is that so? Well, you know the old saying, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” According to Vargas, 75 health care workers are still being monitored for symptoms.

coffee

The most recent Ebola case has just now been identified as 26-year-old Amber Vinson, according to USA Today.

Vinson, who was described as living alone without pets in a Dallas apartment, was identified by Martha Schuler, the mother of Vinson’s former stepfather, WFAA-TV reports.

Vinson was among the workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who helped care for Ebola patient Thomas Duncan, who died of the virus in October.

At an early morning news conference, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he could not rule out more cases among 75 other hospital staffers who cared for Duncan and were being monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are preparing contingencies for more and that is a real possibility,” Jenkins said.

In other news,

It seems there were some weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after all, and the Pentagon covered it up. The New York Times broke the story last night: The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons.

The soldiers at the blast crater sensed something was wrong.

It was August 2008 near Taji, Iraq. They had just exploded a stack of old Iraqi artillery shells buried beside a murky lake. The blast, part of an effort to destroy munitions that could be used in makeshift bombs, uncovered more shells.

Two technicians assigned to dispose of munitions stepped into the hole. Lake water seeped in. One of them, Specialist Andrew T. Goldman, noticed a pungent odor, something, he said, he had never smelled before.

He lifted a shell. Oily paste oozed from a crack. “That doesn’t look like pond water,” said his team leader, Staff Sgt. Eric J. Duling.

The specialist swabbed the shell with chemical detection paper. It turned red — indicating sulfur mustard, the chemical warfare agent designed to burn a victim’s airway, skin and eyes.

All three men recall an awkward pause. Then Sergeant Duling gave an order: “Get the hell out.” ….

From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule.

In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read the whole depressing thing at the link.

grandads-morning-coffee-james-richardson

Here’s the Washington Post’s take on the Times’ story: Pentagon ‘suppressed’ finds of chemical weapons in Iraq and related U.S. casualties.

These were not the “weapons of mass destruction” the George W. Bush administration used to justify invading Iraq in 2003. Rather, the Times said, the troops were injured when they stumbled across old, often corroded shells and warheads procured for use in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

The weapons were not the military threat to the United States described by the Bush administration. But the deadly sarin and mustard gas agents troops found were potent enough to cause injury, the paper reported. Unaware of the munitions’ content — which sometimes spilled on to their clothes and skin — as many as 17 soldiers were exposed, and some received haphazard, inadequate medical care.

The Times story suggests the Pentagon suppressed information about the chemical weapons because of the injuries, because it would have highlighted the massive intelligence failure surrounding the war and because the weapons were “built in close collaboration with the West.”

“The American government withheld word about its discoveries even from troops it sent into harm’s way and from military doctors,” wrote C.J. Chivers. “The government’s secrecy, victims and participants said, prevented troops in some of the war’s most dangerous jobs from receiving proper medical care and official recognition of their wounds.”

A few more stories that might be of interest, links only:

Morning-Call-Coffee-Cup-Sign

Christian Science Monitor, Michelle Obama viral turnip video: Will it sell healthy food?

New York Daily News, Anita Sarkeesian cancels Utah State lecture amid threats of ‘Montreal Massacre-’styled attacks.

Deadspin, The Future Of The Culture Wars Is Here, And It’s Gamergate.

MSNBC, Supreme Court saves Texas abortion access, for now.

Nate Silver, The Polls Might Be Skewed Against Democrats — Or Republicans.

11Alive.com, Exclusive Poll: Nunn leads Senate race by 3%.

Capital OTC, Remains of Iron Age chariot discovered by Leicester students.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and enjoy your Wednesday.


Thursday Reads

A woman wearing a turban while drinking a chocolate shake and reading the newspaper

Good Morning!!

The news that bleeds this morning is the shooting at Fort Hood.

So here’s the most recent article on that from the Boston Globe: Fort Hood gunman sought mental health treatment.

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — An Iraq War veteran being treated for mental illness was the gunman who opened fire at Fort Hood, killing three people and wounding 16 others before committing suicide, in an attack on the same Texas military base where more than a dozen people were slain in 2009, authorities said.

Within hours of the Wednesday attack, investigators started looking into whether the man’s combat experience had caused lingering psychological trauma. Fort Hood’s senior officer, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said the gunman had sought help for depression, anxiety and other problems.

How is that even a question? I’ve written for years that we’ll pay a terrible price for these pointless wars and the way the men and women sent to fight in them. Massive numbers of Vietnam vets suffered from PTSD, Agent Orange exposure, drug addiction, and unemployment; and those guys mostly just went for one two-year deployment. But we didn’t have a draft when Bush decided he just had to act out his daddy issues and go back into Iraq and kill Saddam Hussein like his father failed to do. Talk about psychological problems!

The volunteer army wasn’t big enough for that, and they redeployed men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan again and again even when they were obviously had head injuries or PTSD. Now we’re all going to keep paying the price for Bush and Cheney’s folly, and the way they treated human beings like cannon fodder.

Back to the Globe article on the latest shooting:

The shooter was identified as Ivan Lopez by Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. But the congressman offered no other details, and the military declined to identify the gunman until his family members had been notified.

Lopez apparently walked into a building Wednesday afternoon and began firing a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He then got into a vehicle and continued firing before entering another building, but he was eventually confronted by military police in a parking lot, according to Milley, senior officer on the base.

As he came within 20 feet of an officer, the gunman put his hands up but then reached under his jacket and pulled out his gun. The officer drew her own weapon, and the suspect put his gun to his head and pulled the trigger a final time, Milley said.

The gunman, who served in Iraq for four months in 2011, had been undergoing an assessment before the attack to determine if he had post-traumatic stress disorder, Milley said.

He arrived at Fort Hood in February from another base in Texas. He was taking medication, and there were reports that he had complained after returning from Iraq about suffering a traumatic brain injury, Milley said. The commander did not elaborate.

One more from the Washington Post: Pentagon grapples to understand how yet another insider threat went undeterred.

Wednesday’s mass shooting by an Army specialist in Fort Hood, Tex., put the Pentagon on a dreaded, if increasingly familiar, footing as officials grappled to understand how yet another insider threat went undeterred.

It unfolded just two weeks after the Defense Department unveiled the findings of threeinvestigations into last year’s fatal shooting at a Navy Yard building in Washington, D.C., by a contractor and four years after a similarly extensive inquiry into a massacre at Fort Hood by an Army psychiatrist led to vows of sweeping reforms.

“We do not yet know how or why this tragedy occurred, but nearly five years after the Nidal Hasan shooting at Fort Hood in 2009, it is clear that we must do far more to ensure that our troops are safe when they are at home on base,” Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.), a former Army lawyer who was based at Fort Hood, said in a statement. “We must thoroughly investigate what happened today so that we can take whatever action is necessary to prevent something like this from ever occurring again.”

Yeah right. Keep on telling yourself that. To use an old military expression, “Situation Normal, All Fu*cked Up” (SNAFU).

Now let’s move on to the latest outrage from our right-wing, “religious” Supreme Court.

scotus blank check

From Adam Liptak at the NYT: Supreme Court Strikes Down Overall Political Donation Cap

The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its abolition of limits on election spending, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle….

The 5-to-4 decision, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority, echoed Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.

Wednesday’s decision seemed to alter campaign finance law in subtle but important ways, notably by limiting how the government can justify laws said to restrict the exercise of First Amendment rights in the form of campaign contributions.

Follow me below the fold . . . Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads

Jospeh H Davis (American artist, 1811-1865) Charles & Comfort Caverly & Son Isaac 1836 Cat, Top Hat, Newspaper,  Painted Table, Patterned Carpet

Good Morning!!

The Villagers are still nattering on about excepts from retired defense secretary Robert Gates’ new memoir Duty, which will be released on January 14.

The DC media is focused on Gates’ criticisms of President Obama and how they will embarrass the administration and negatively affect Hillary Clinton’s chances in 2016. What has impressed me so far in the excepts I have read is that Obama was wary of the military and willing to stand up to them. Some examples from an e-mail I received from Foreign Policy Magazine yesterday:

Gates on what Biden did to poison the military well: “I thought Biden was subjecting Obama to Chinese water torture, every day saying, ‘the military can’t be trusted.'”

On Obama’s approach to Afghanistan: “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission.”

On Obama’s approach to Afghanistan: “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.”

On Obama and Bush: “During my tenure as secretary, Bush was willing to disagree with his senior military advisers on the wars, including the important divergence between the chiefs’ concern to reduce stress on the force and the presidents’ higher priority of success in Iraq. However, Bush never (at least to my knowledge) questioned their motives or mistrusted them personally. Obama was respectful of senior officers and always heard them out, but he often disagreed with them and was deeply suspicious of their actions and recommendations. Bush seemed to enjoy the company of the senior military; I think Obama considered time spent with generals and admirals an obligation.”

On Obama as an ice man: “I worked for Obama longer than Bush and I never saw his eyes well up. The only military matter, apart from leaks, about which I ever sensed deep passion on his part was ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the law prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military that Obama successfully pushed to repeal.”

On an oval office meeting that deeply pissed him off: “…Donilon was especially aggressive in questioning our commitment to speed and complaining about how long we were taking. Then he went too far, questioning in front of the president and a room full of people whether Gen. Fraser was competent to lead this effort. I’ve rarely been angrier in the Oval Office than I was at that moment; nor was I ever closer to walking out of that historic room in the middle of a meeting. My initial instinct was to storm out, telling the president on the way that he didn’t need two secretaries of defense. It took every bit of my self discipline to stay seated on the sofa.

Every one of those quotes made me like and respect Obama and Biden more. I’m sure I’m not alone in that reaction.

A couple more “criticisms” quoted in The Atlantic: Robert Gates: The Iraq War Undermined U.S. Efforts in Afghanistan.

President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan—especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty—were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan—a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government—were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009.

Who doesn’t agree with that? Well, sure some right wing nut jobs, but the majority of Americans have completely soured on the Iraq war, according to many polls over the past few years.

Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of. Those who ask about exit strategies or question what will happen if assumptions prove wrong are rarely welcome at the conference table when the fire-breathers are demanding that we strike—as they did when advocating invading Iraq, intervening in Libya and Syria, or bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. But in recent decades, presidents confronted with tough problems abroad have too often been too quick to reach for a gun. Our foreign and national security policy has become too militarized, the use of force too easy for presidents. Today, too many ideologues call for U.S. force as the first option rather than a last resort.

So Obama’s approach might have kept us out of Iraq, right? I don’t see that as a problem. I want my president to be wary of the military and hesitant to go to war. I want my president to get teary-eyed over granting rights to people who have been historically discriminated against and stay dry-eyed and rational when contemplating “military matters.”

robert_gates

So let Gates have his day in the sun. Today some in the media are already questioning whether his book may damage his reputation. From Foreign Policy again: Did Bob Gates’ New Book Just Trash His Golden Reputation?

Gates, 70, has unmasked himself as just another former Washington official writing just another kiss-and-tell in the soon-to-be-released Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, in which he takes shots at a sitting commander-in-chief, his top aides and Congress, an institution with which he often expressed frustration – but also respect. Gates was known for being discreet and sharp-minded, loyal to the office he occupied and careful about what he said in public. So deliberate were his public pronouncements about wars or national security policy or budgets that he became the E.F. Hutton of the Pentagon — everyone leaned in every time he had something to say.

But now his brand seems diminished by the scrappy, petty nature of many of his criticisms — even though some are substantive and legitimate — and a legacy he seemed quietly determined to protect may be permanently reduced to something less than what it once was.

We’ll have to wait and see. It’s also possible that the furor over Gates’ memoir will fade quickly, because another book is coming out on January 21, and it looks to be a lot more entertaining–the tell-all book about Fox News’ Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room, by Gabriel Sherman. Excerpts started leaking out yesterday and they are wild! Check these “key revelations” from Gawker:

  • During a salary negotiation in the 1980’s, Ailes offered producer Randi Harrison an additional $100 each week she would agree to have sex with him whenever he wanted.
  • He also privately thinks of Bill O’Reilly as “a book salesman with a TV show” and Brian Kilmeade as “a soccer coach from Long Island.”
  • During a 1990’s power struggle with NBC executive David Zaslav, Ailes was accused of making an anti-Semitic remark involving an obscenity and “the words ‘little’ and ‘Jew’.” NBC’s chairman and counsel believe “he probably said it.”

Roger Ailes

New York Magazine has published a lengthy except from Sherman’s book and it is the most fascinating and horrifying thing I’ve read in ages. Ailes is far weirder than I ever imagined. The article opens with a description of how Ailes moved into a rural town in upstate New York, hoping to return to his small-town roots, but instead bought the local newspaper and tried to transform it into a mini-Fox News. It’s a riot! Just a small except to whet your appetite for the bizarre:

As summer turned to fall, political issues began to arise. Alison Rooney, the copy editor, at first found reasons to be optimistic about the ownership change. She liked using the new computers to put out the paper and looked forward to the newsroom moving into a renovated two-story building on Main Street. But that honeymoon ended when Rooney laid out a press release from the Garrison Art Center that described a work invoking the “mythological story” of the Virgin Birth. After the release was published, the priest of Our Lady of Loretto wrote a letter to the editor, and Beth Ailes lit into Rooney. A few weeks later, Rooney got another dressing-down as she formatted a promotion of the high school’s upcoming production of Urinetown, this time from an editor who found the language offensive and removed the title of the show from the headline.

Another drama erupted after a reporter named Michael Turton was assigned to cover Haldane Middle School’s mock presidential election. After the event, Turton filed a report headlined “Mock Election Generated Excitement at Haldane; Obama Defeats McCain by 2–1 Margin.” He went on, “The 2008 U.S. presidential election is now history. And when the votes were tallied, Barack Obama had defeated John McCain by more than a two to one margin. The final vote count was 128 to 53.” Reading the published version a few days later, Turton was shocked. The headline had been changed: “Mock Presidential Election Held at Haldane; Middle School Students Vote to Learn Civic Responsibility.” So had the opening paragraph: “Haldane students in grades 6 through 8 were entitled to vote for president and they did so with great enthusiasm.” Obama’s margin of victory was struck from the article. His win was buried in the last paragraph.

Turton was upset, and wrote a questioning e-mail to Hunt, but never heard back. Instead, he received a series of accusatory e-mails from the Aileses. Turton had disregarded “specific instructions” for the piece, Beth wrote. “Do you anticipate this becoming an ongoing problem for you?” A short while later, Roger weighed in. Maureen Hunt’s instructions to focus on the school’s process for teaching about elections had been “very clear,” he wrote, and Turton’s “desire to change the story into a big Obama win” should have taken a backseat. Ailes described himself as “disappointed” by Turton’s failure “to follow the agreed upon direction.”

Soon afterward, Turton learned that Maureen Hunt had resigned, and Ailes continued his quest to bring “fair and balanced” to Philipstown.

John and Bonnie Raines, two of the burglars, at home in Philadelphia with their grandchildren. Mark Makela for The New York Times

John and Bonnie Raines, two of the burglars, at home in Philadelphia with their grandchildren. Mark Makela for The New York Times

Since I’ve been discussing new books so far, I guess I might as well continue. On Tuesday, The New York Times published interviews with some of the activists who broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania on March 8, 1971 and stole a massive number of files. They took the files to a remote location, studied them for ten days, and found evidence of the illegal FBI domestic spying program COINTELPRO. Unlike Edward Snowden, the burglars swore to keep their identities a secret so that the story itself would get all the public attention. From the Times article:

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups….

The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J. Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

“When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,” said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. “There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.”

That’s heroism in my book. They revealed real government abuses that had been almost unknown until they found the proof. Now one of the reporters who helped get the story out, Betty Medsger, has written a book called The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI. It came out this week, and I’m dying to read it.

By contrast Snowden and his PR man Glenn Greenwald have so far revealed very little that we didn’t already know or suspect about NSA domestic spying and have spent most of the seven months since they began rolling out their revelations 1) publishing articles about the NSA spying on foreign countries and their partnerships with foreign countries who have few espionage resources; 2) giving self-aggrandizing interviews and bragging about all the secrets they have; 3) Defending Snowden’s decision to defect to Russia. At the same time Greenwald has sold book and movie rights and worked on a media start up funded by libertarian E-bay and Paypal billionaire Pierre Omidyar. I haven’t heard anything about Greenwald sharing his earnings with Edward Snowden either.

Fortunately some in the media are beginning to point out inconsistencies in Snowden’s and Greenwald’s behavior. Here is an op-ed by Doyle McManus that lays out the case very well. Edward Snowden, in shades of gray I agree with just about everything he wrote.

Is Edward Snowden” Edward Snowden a whistle-blower or a traitor?

Debate over the renegade computer technician who leaked thousands of secret National Security Agency documents is too often reduced to that deceptively simple choice.

But it’s the wrong way to pose the question, because Snowden is both of those things at the same time. Yes, he’s a whistle-blower, and if that were all he had done, he would deserve our thanks for forcing a debate over the NSA’s swollen powers.

But he’s also a scoundrel who deserves prosecution and public condemnation. That’s because his leaks no longer seem focused on protecting U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights or toughening safeguards on the NSA. Instead, Snowden’s disclosures have expanded far beyond those laudable aims to exposing U.S. intelligence-gathering operations that appear not only legal but legitimate in the eyes of most Americans.

McManus is referring to revelations about the NSA doing it’s job, which is gathering foreign intelligence to protect national security. A little more:

“…most of those disclosures, from Merkel to Al Qaeda, have nothing to do with Americans’ right to privacy. Snowden has acknowledged that his ambitions go far beyond limiting what the NSA can do at home. “I have acted at great personal risk to help the public of the world, regardless of whether that public is American, European or Asian,” he told the Guardian in June.

Well, OK. But that makes him, by his own description, a global crusader against NSA spying anywhere, not merely a whistle-blower against potential abuses inside the United States. It means some of his disclosures have made Americans safer against government prying, but others have probably made us less safe.

And for a man who proclaims himself a fighter for universal rights, accepting asylum in Russia and praising his hosts for their devotion to freedom does not strengthen his claim to consistency, let alone nobility.

I’ll end there and turn the floor over to you. What stories are you following today. Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a great Thursday!