Sorry I’m so late this morning. I have no excuse other than my mental block against reading about the tRump horror show. Every day I wake up expecting to find that this narcissistic, unstable man has blown something up. One interesting thing is that the White House is leaking like a sieve every time tRump has one of his tantrums. The Washington Post got some doozies yesterday.
President Trump had just returned to the White House on Saturday from his final inauguration event, a tranquil interfaith prayer service, when the flashes of anger began to build.
Trump turned on the television to see a jarring juxtaposition — massive demonstrations around the globe protesting his day-old presidency and footage of the sparser crowd at his inauguration, with large patches of white empty space on the Mall….Trump grew increasingly and visibly enraged.
Pundits were dissing his turnout. The National Park Service had retweeted a photo unfavorably comparing the size of his inauguration crowd with the one that attended Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony in 2009. A journalist had misreported that Trump had removed the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. And celebrities at the protests were denouncing the new commander in chief — Madonna even referenced “blowing up the White House.”
So he sent Sean Spicer out to claim that his inauguration was the most attended and watched in American history–an easily refuted lie.
Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements, and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment.
On Monday, Spicer returned to the lectern, crisply dressed and appearing more comfortable as he parried questions from the press corps.
“There is this constant theme to undercut the enormous support that he has,” he told reporters. “And I think that it’s just unbelievably frustrating when you’re continually told it’s not big enough, it’s not good enough, you can’t win.”
Be sure to read the whole thing. It’s hilarious. The whining from tRump and his people is getting really old. I hope these folks will get their act together pretty soon, but I’m not holding my breath.
The New York Times finally worked up the courage to call a tRump statement a lie in a headline last night: Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers.
President Trump used his first official meeting with congressional leaders on Monday to falsely claim that millions of unauthorized immigrants had robbed him of a popular vote majority, a return to his obsession with the election’s results even as he seeks support for his legislative agenda.
The claim, which he has made before on Twitter, has been judged untrue by numerous fact-checkers. The new president’s willingness to bring it up at a White House reception in the State Dining Room is an indication that he continues to dwell on the implications of his popular vote loss even after assuming power….
As part of that conversation, Mr. Trump asserted that between three million and five million unauthorized immigrants voted for Mrs. Clinton. That is similar to a Twitter message he posted in late November that said he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
Voting officials across the country have said there is virtually no evidence of people voting illegally, and certainly not millions of them.
One thing we can be sure of: tRump will never get enough affirmation to satisfy his narcissistic needs. He is so psychologically damaged that he very likely can’t find enjoyment in anything other than finding ways to hurt other people–and now he’s in a position to hurt millions of people around the world.
It seems clear that tRump is a control freak, and here’s a creepy story at politico that demonstrates it: Trump assembles a shadow Cabinet.
The White House is installing senior aides atop major federal agencies to shadow the administration’s Cabinet secretaries, creating a direct line with loyalists who can monitor and shape White House goals across the federal bureaucracy.
The aides chosen by the White House — given the title of senior adviser in each agency — have already been responsible for hiring at some departments and crafting the blueprint of Trump policy before the Cabinet members win Senate confirmation to take office. They have worked with congressional aides, lobbyists and others seeking influence in the new administration.
The arrangement, described by four people involved in the transition planning, appears designed to help the White House maintain control over its priorities despite pledging to give Cabinet secretaries unusual autonomy. Having senior advisers reporting to both the agency chiefs and the White House could spur early tensions and create conflicts with that pledge of autonomy.
This morning tRump signed executive orders to resume building the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, along with five other orders related to the environment. NBC reports:
Trump signed a total of five orders regarding environmental issues in the Oval Office, including a pair addressing the pipeline projects as well as actions to expedite environmental reviews for high priority projects.
“The regulatory process in this country has become a tangled up mess,” Trump said.
Trump added that his actions on the Keystone and Dakota Access projects would be subject to terms and conditions being negotiated by the United States.
He also told reporters gathered in the Oval Office that if a pipeline is built in the United States, the pipe material should also be built domestically.
The decision has angered environmental advocates who say that the projects would have severe negative impacts on the areas where they are built and would encourage more reliance on fossil fuels. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its allies have vigorously protested the Dakota Access project, saying it would damage cultural sites.
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II told NBC News that the tribe would take immediate legal action to fight the executive order.
“The Trump administration’s politically motivated decision violates the law and the Tribe will take legal action to fight it,” said Archambault. “We are not opposed to energy independence. We are opposed to reckless and politically motivated development projects, like DAPL, that ignore our treaty rights and risk our water. Creating a second Flint does not make America great again.”
Greenpeace also announced that it would continue to fight the pipeline projects.
A couple of recommended long reads you should check out:
Michio Kakutani at Vanity Fair: Donald Trump’s Chilling Language and the Fearsome Power of Words.
The New Yorker: Philip Roth Emails on Trump (Roth wrote the alternate history novel The Plot Against America).
Please read them both if you have the time to spare.
I’ll wrap this up with some gossipy stories, because I just can’t write anymore about tRump’s “American catastrophe.”
Grayden Carter at Vanity Fair:
Trump’s messy birdcage of a mind careens from one random thought to the next. He likes to strut and talk big-league. One of his ongoing observations—in tweets and elsewhere—is that “many people” have been calling him “the Ernest Hemingway of Twitter!” These are presumably people who have never read one of Hemingway’s books. In manner and execution, and in his almost touching desire to be liked, Trump comes across not as larger than life but as one of the smaller people on the world stage. He always had a sort of oafish charisma: as we used to say at Spy, a hustler on his best behavior. In small groups, as many can attest, he has mastered the salesman’s trick of creating faux sincerity and intimacy when answering a question by including the first name of the person who asked it. But no amount of grifter charm can conceal his alarming disregard for facts and truth. It’s this combination of utter ignorance and complete certitude that his detractors find most terrifying. Trump not only doesn’t know the unknowns but appears to have no interest in even knowing the knowns. Fact-checkers can’t keep up. How often does Obama play golf? Who cares—let’s inflate the number by 50 percent. What’s the murder rate in a major American city? What the hell—let’s multiply it by 10. The writer Michael O’Donoghue used to say that the definition of insanity is the length of time it takes for a lie to be uncovered. The shorter the period, the crazier you are. By this standard, our president will be setting a new threshold for that definition.
In temperament, we now have an unbridled man-boy in the highest office in the land, one who will lash out at the most reasoned criticism. The brusque childishness of his response to Meryl Streep’s measured comments at the Golden Globes—about Trump’s mocking gestures in reference to disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski—was enough to be worried about. Then he hurled insults at Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a living icon of the civil-rights movement. Really? John Lewis? If he feels that he can so blithely attack two of the most respected people in the country, who is off limits? Trump was always a bad loser. But in the weeks since his disputed victory in the election we’ve discovered that this preening narcissist is also a very bad winner.
Read the rest at Vanity Fair.
Jezabel: Melania Hates Donald: A Theory, by Gabrielle Bluestone.
Donald Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, are now our president and first lady. But for how long?
Donald Trump has made no secret of his admiration for Ronald Reagan, an actor-turned-president who governed our country even in the face of his rumored deteriorating mental state. He even borrowed, and then copyrighted, Reagan’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
But there’s more—until Trump, Reagan was the only divorcée to ascend to the presidency. But Trump has never been content to merely follow in someone’s footsteps. Could he be the first president to actually get divorced while in the White House?
Either way, the Trumps certainly don’t mind spending time away from each other. In fact, Melania won’t be joining him in the White House until at least the summer, when Baron’s school term and her most convenient excuse for remaining in New York both expire. What will happen then? Only time—and their body language—will tell.
Click on the link to watch the telltale videos and read the commentary.
The New York Daily News: Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway allegedly punched a man in the face at President Trump’s inaugural ball.
Top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway allegedly punched a tuxedo-clad man at an exclusive inauguration ball just hours after the new commander-in-chief was sworn in, according to a witness.
Conway, who serves as President Trump’s senior counselor, apparently stepped between two men after they got into a scuffle at the invite-only Liberty Ball on Friday evening, an attendee told the Daily News.
But the two men wouldn’t break up the fight and Conway apparently punched one of them in the face with closed fists at least three times, according to the stunned onlooker.
More details at the link.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a nice Tuesday.
Looking at the news that’s breaking this morning, I’m finally getting the feeling that “the holiday season” is coming to an end. After all, today is the Epiphany–also known as Twelfth Night–the day the three Maji supposedly arrived at the stable in Bethlehem to pay tribute to the baby Jesus with gifts gold, frankincense and myrrh. From The Guardian:
It’s a significant day in many countries, particularly Catholic ones, where Twelfth Night parties and celebrations are commonplace and usually involve the selection of a king, and sometimes a queen and other characters. In France, for example, the galette des rois (“cake of kings”) has a token baked into it; patisseries sell it along with a gold paper crown for the recipient of the token, who becomes the party’s ruler.
Some Epiphany celebrations from British literature:
Samuel Pepys celebrated the feast – always on 6 January, which he says marks the end of Christmas – and in 1663 goes to see Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The drama is “acted well, though it be but a silly play, and not related at all to the name or day” – which it isn’t, apart from a general air of misrule. Pepys usually has or attends a party, with dancing and merriment, and always a “brave” or “excellent” cake. There are other tokens baked into it: one year he gets the clove, which indicates he is a knave, but he smuggles it into someone else’s slice. In 1669 he mentions a new fashion, which is to draw paper lots for king and queen of the party, rather than finding a bean, so as not to spoil the cake (and perhaps to avoid the cheating just mentioned).
In Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol, there is a reference to “immense Twelfth-cakes”, and Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present visit a “children’s Twelfth Night party”. Dickens’s letters show that in his household there was a party every year: the date is his son Charley’s birthday, but it’s clear he thinks a Twelfth Night party is quite normal.
In James Joyce’s short story The Dead, from his collection Dubliners (1914), Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta go every year to an important party held by the Misses Morkan. There is dinner, dancing and singing, but alongside the festivities we see darkness and contemplation: snow falls over Ireland, and Gabriel looks through it as he thinks about his own shortcomings and about the wife whom he thought he knew. The idea of a character having a metaphorical epiphany, a moment of revelation or realisation, comes directly from Joyce, and each story in Dubliners features one.
More examples at the link.
The new Republican-controlled Congress begins “work” today. The AP reports, via Huffington Post: New Congress Getting Sworn In With GOP In Charge.
Republicans are assuming full control of Congress for the first time in eight years in a day of pomp, circumstance and raw politics beneath the Capitol Dome.
They planned to move swiftly Tuesday toward a veto showdown with President Barack Obama over the Keystone XL pipeline, summoning unity despite a tea party-backed effort to unseat House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.
As mandated by the Constitution, Congress was to convene at noon.
In the Senate, with Vice President Joe Biden presiding, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was to automatically ascend to majority leader following his approval by rank-and-file Republicans last year.
McConnell and Boehner both were to deliver remarks on their chamber’s floors as they positioned themselves for two years of clashes with Obama.
First, Boehner had to survive his election as speaker — the main event on any opening day’s agenda. Tea party-backed Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Ted Yoho of Florida put themselves forward as challengers to Boehner, and at least 10 Republicans announced they would oppose Boehner.
The challenges to Boehner won’t go anywhere, but they could provide some brief entertainment. From Politico: Boehner likely to survive another squeaker for speaker.
John Boehner could lose the support of as many as 20 Republicans on his way to a near-certain reelection as House speaker, his allies concede — a political embarrassment for a GOP leader who narrowly survived a conservative rebellion two years ago.
The Ohio Republican needs votes from 217 lawmakers Tuesday to win a third term as speaker, meaning that opposition from 29 House Republicans could cost him the gavel. Boehner retained the speakership by a surprisingly narrow margin in January 2013, losing the support of 11 Republicans at a time when the GOP had a smaller majority.
This time, Boehner’s supporters say, he could lose anywhere from 12 to 20 GOP votes under a backlash from conservative members angry about their leaders’ reluctance to wage a frontal attack on President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. Losing that many votes won’t prove fatal for Boehner or even have a long-term impact on his speakership, but it could still prove embarrassing for a GOP leadership that faces a spate of difficult legislative deadlines and is under pressure to prove it can govern during the Republican-controlled 114th Congress.
The speaker’s allies believe they have the opposition under control, and as of Monday, the anti-Boehner crowd was far from having the numbers to force a second-ballot vote, let alone deny him a new term. But the dissenters and their allies in conservative media are fanning the flames.
Politico says that Boehner is looking forward to a “new reality” in which he triumphs over the wingnuts who have made his life miserable since he became Speaker in 2010.
For years, Boehner has had to stroke the egos of his House Republican Conference’s far-right fringe, the hardline conservatives who had an outsized voice in every legislative debate and often dragged the entire party with them, even when he implored them to ease up.
Sure, Boehner’s “brand” will be tarnished by the right wing challenges to his leadership, but
the GOP leadership thinks that Boehner’s almost-certain victory, plus the biggest House Republican majority in decades, gives him the legislative latitude he’s desperately sought since 2010.
No more shutdowns, no more mindless face-offs with President Barack Obama and the Democrats, they hope. Boehner and House Republicans will be able to push a conservative agenda, but they will pick their fights more carefully, choosing battles they can win on issues where they have the upper hand over the White House.
Top Republicans blare that they’re plainly sick of the chaos of the last few years, when Boehner was under pressure to deliver to hardliners in order to keep his job.
“I think a lot of members just want to get through this and get onto the business they got elected to do,” said a GOP lawmaker loyal to Boehner.
Good luck with that.
It won’t happen, but just for a moment, imagine Louie Gohmert as Speaker of the House (and third in line to assume the presidency if Obama and Biden were unable to continue for some reason!). Bob Cesca thought about the possibilities yesterday: Louie Gohmert for House Speaker Because Comedy.
I’m deadly serious about this. Contrary to popular opinion dictating that fringe political weirdos and radicals should be ignored until they somehow magically vanish (they don’t), I’ve always believed that the more they’re exposed as the weirdos and radicals they are, the faster they’ll be ejector-seated off the national bus. So, along those lines, the best thing to ever happen to the universe would be if Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) were to succeed in his mission to be elected Speaker of the House.
If you’re a Democrat and you want there to be more Democrats in Congress, you too should endorse the idea of this talking honeydew melon — this marble-mouthed gomer to ascend to the highest congressional post in the land where the entire nation will get a close-up view of his lobotomized gibberish. Of course he’ll never get there but, you know, dare to dream. While it’s fun to have a speaker who’s a weepy drunk, what we need is Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel. We need a Republican who’s been repeatedly kicked in the skull by a mule. On purpose.
Why Gohmert? For the comedy, obviously. The nation deserves to laugh at crap like this:
“We need to start eliminating money for any agency, including the White House, that is not following the law. And then you get their attention. That’s what the Founders anticipated.”
Yes, a sitting member of Congress clearly doesn’t realize that any spending bill passed by Congress, including the de-funding of the White House, would have to be signed by the president before actually becoming a law. And no, the Founders didn’t anticipate the House passing legislation that automatically becomes law.
Read several more examples of Gohmert’s wit and wisdom at The Daily Banter link.
And check this out at Raw Story, Gohmert warns America: ‘It’s going to devastate this country’ if I’m not elected Speaker of the House.
In an interview with Fox News host Martha MacCallum, Gohmert explained that he had announced over the weekend that he was running for the job of House Speaker because Boehner had not fought “tooth and nail” to stop a recent budget bill.
“What we do in the next two years, it’s likely going to determine whether we get a Republican or not in 2016,” the Texas congressman insisted. “For the Speaker to run in and pass the [budget bill] that totally funds Obamacare for all next year — we took the hostage of the Homeland Security — that was a huge mistake.”
“For Boehner to rush in when we had the control of the Senate coming into our hands this month, this week, and to make a deal with [Obama] that funds everything that Obama wanted for the year except Homeland Security is like [General] Custer saying, ‘Come on boys, let’s attack now before help gets here.’”
Read more and watch the video at the link.
According to The Hill, President Obama isn’t going to lie down and let crazy Republicans walk all over him: Bolder Obama ready to take on GOP.
White House officials feel emboldened headed into what Obama has described as the “fourth quarter” of his presidency.
Promising economic news, declining gas prices, and a flurry of executive actions that energized his liberal base have provided him with his best poll numbers in more than a year.
Aides and strategists believe this provides opportunity for him, even with Republicans taking control of both the House and Senate on Tuesday for the first time since 2006.
“Really for the first time in his time in office, the president has the economic winds at his back — and not in his face,” Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said.
If the winds continue to blow in Obama’s direction — no sure thing, as evidenced by the 300-point drop Monday in the Dow Jones industrial average — Obama’s White House will be able to stay on offense, Lehane said.
The administration is planning new executive actions and legislative proposals in the buildup to his State of the Union address at the end of the month. It is also staking out areas where the president will aggressively use his veto authority.
Finally, in the spirit of the holiday, did you know there’s a TV show called Black Jesus?
You can watch the first season at Adult Swim.
In other news . . .
Christian Science Monitor: Boston Marathon bombing trial begins with high-stakes jury selection.
New York Magazine: Bess Meyerson Dead at 90 — Remembering her three lives.
Time Magazine: White House Turns the Screw on Steve Scalise.
Olivia Nuzzi at The Daily Beast: Rand Paul’s Passive-Aggressive Trolling Campaign.
Seattle PI: Another police shooting in San Francisco. Man shot by San Francisco officers left suicide notes
Christian Science Monitor: After police turn back on mayor again, where does New York go from here?
The Daily Beast: Pediatrician: Vaccinate Your Kids—Or Get Out of My Office.
ABC News: Son of Slain Hedge Fund Founder Thomas Gilbert Sr. Charged With Homicide. His dad was going to stop paying his rent and reduce his allowance.
SF Gate: Mark Zuckerberg starts Facebook book club. Some of the books Zuckerberg has read are “Andre Agassi’s memoir “Open,” Walter Isaacson’s biography “Einstein” and Shel Silverstein’s children’s picture book “The Giving Tree.”” He also likes Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I think I’ll pass on having this guy tell me what books I should read.
The Telegraph: Prince Andrew’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein in 60 seconds.
What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday.
I have this “thing” set up so that I get an email every time Congress votes…for instance…
Yesterday’s Keystone Vote came through like so:
113 Congress – Session 2
On Passage of the Bill
A bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Vote Date: November 18, 2014 at 12:55PM
Roll Call Number: 280
Required For Majority: 3/5
Vote Result: Bill Defeated
via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z
Now…it is just a little annoying sometimes…what with the same shit over and over.
Take a look at a few bills from the past couple days:
113 Congress – Session 2
On the Cloture Motion
A bill to reform the authorities of the Federal Government to require the production of certain business records, conduct electronic surveillance, use pen registers and trap and trace devices, and use other forms of information gathering for foreign intelligence, counterterrorism, and criminal purposes, and for other purposes.
Vote Date: November 18, 2014 at 02:26PM
Roll Call Number: 282
Required For Majority: 3/5
Democratic Party: 52 YES, 1 NO, 0 Abstentions
Republican Party: 4 YES, 41 NO, 0 Abstentions
via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z
Let me know if you see a trend.
113 Congress – Session 2
On Agreeing to the Amendment
H R 1422
Stewart of Utah Part A Amendment No. 1
Vote Result: Agreed to
Democratic Party: 9 YES, 184 NO, 8 Abstentions
Republican Party: 223 YES, 0 NO, 11 Abstentions
via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z
113 Congress – Session 2
On Motion to Recommit with Instructions
H R 1422
EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act
Vote Date: November 18, 2014 at 12:52PM
Roll Call Number: 524
Required For Majority: RECORDED VOTE
Vote Result: Failed
Democratic Party: 194 YES, 1 NO, 6 Abstentions
Republican Party: 1 YES, 224 NO, 9 Abstentions
via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z
113 Congress – Session 2
On Agreeing to the Resolution
H RES 756
Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 1422) EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act; providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 4012) Secret Science Reform Act; and providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 4795) Promoting New Manufacturing Act
Vote Date: November 18, 2014 at 08:30AM
Roll Call Number: 522
Required For Majority: RECORDED VOTE
Vote Result: Passed
Democratic Party: 0 YES, 192 NO, 9 Abstentions
Republican Party: 227 YES, 0 NO, 7 Abstentions
113 Congress – Session 2
On the Nomination
Leslie Joyce Abrams, of Georgia, to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of Georgia
Vote Date: November 18, 2014 at 01:28PM
Roll Call Number: 281
Required For Majority: 1/2
Vote Result: Nomination Confirmed
Democratic Party: 53 YES, 0 NO, 0 Abstentions
Republican Party: 45 YES, 0 NO, 0 Abstentions
via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z
But it isn’t all total opposite when it comes to party breakdown in the voting results.
113 Congress – Session 2
On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass
H R 5162
An Act to allow a certain parcel of land in Rockingham County, Virginia, to be used for a child care center
Vote Date: November 17, 2014 at 01:54PM
Roll Call Number: 520
Required For Majority: 2/3 YEA-AND-NAY
Vote Result: Passed
Democratic Party: 171 YES, 0 NO, 30 Abstentions
Republican Party: 207 YES, 1 NO, 26 Abstentions
via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z
But the real article that got me going on all this shit was the headline on this one:
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.
“I look forward to the new Republican majority taking up and passing the Keystone jobs bill early in the new year,” the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday, shortly after the bill fell one vote short of the 60 votes needed to advance. He was joined by incoming Senate Energy Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who said the fight wasn’t over.
Give me a fucking break…
Republicans are likely to have enough votes to assure the bill’s passage in January, when they will have at least 53 seats — 54 if Cassidy wins the Louisiana runoff.
“If you look at new Congress, you can count four more (GOP seats) right away, and there may be others,” Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, the lead sponsor of the bill, said after the 59-41 vote Tuesday. “You can see we’re well over 60.”
Hoeven acknowledged that Republicans would need 67 votes to override a veto, but said one possibility is to include Keystone in a larger energy package that may not prompt a veto threat.
Cassidy, Landrieu’s Republican opponent, said Louisiana families “need better jobs, better wages and better benefits,” and the pipeline would provide them.
Democratic divisions were on vivid display in a bill that pitted environmentalists against energy advocates.
While Obama opposes the measure, likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has repeatedly refused to take a position. Most recently, her spokesman did not respond to two requests over the weekend to do so.
At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said the measure is something “the president doesn’t support because the president believes that this is something that should be determined through the State Department and the regular process that is in place to evaluate projects like this.”
Ugh…You know, if he was still in the senate, I bet Obama would be the only abstention.
Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., seems poised to take one last shot at changing how online purchases are taxed. Reid has signaled he’ll bring the unpopular Marketplace Fairness Act up for a vote by tacking it onto the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which is headed for certain renewal.
Passed in 1998 with bipartisan support, the ITFA bars states from taxing access to the Internet and imposing discriminatory Internet-only taxes. The legislation will expire on December 11 and pressure from the tech sector is on for its renewal. While the ITFA has proven enormously popular and indisputably successful, it has little to do with online sales taxes.
Men and women’s politics were further apart in 2014 than they’ve been in any U.S. election in two decades.
That’s one of many hard truths laid bare by the midterms, which generated a huge collection of data—from election returns to exit polls to financial disclosures—to help us make sense of two things: what exactly happened in the November elections and what it means going forward.
The top lines are obvious: Republicans took the Senate, padded their lead in the House, and grabbed contested wins in gubernatorial races. But here are seven numbers that illustrate what was going on beneath the surface.
Sometimes the hardest place to photograph is in your own backyard: When everything is familiar, it’s a challenge to make things look interesting. Yet, Tamara Reynolds has done just that in “Southern Route,” looking hard at the American South, which she calls home, and offering a searing, honest portrayal of the country’s most stereotyped region.
She knows that for some, the South evokes images of poverty and obesity, memories of racism and slavery, or words like “hillbilly” and “redneck.” The area that divided the country 150 years ago is stuck between pride and progress. Ms. Reynolds looks beyond these generalities to capture the genuine spirit of Southerners.
Although there is evidence of stereotypes, she said in her artist statement, “I have also learned that there is a restrained dignity and a generous affection that Southerners possess intrinsically.”
Can they do something about all these women coming forward about Bill Cosby raping them? Bill Cosby: Netflix postpones comedy special following Janice Dickinson’s claims star ‘raped me too’ – News – TV & Radio – The Independent
The Grio story is terribly graphic.
Meanwhile, in news around the world:
The arrest, detention and torture of eight people since the beginning of the month as part of a crackdown on “homosexuality” by the Gambian authorities reveals the shocking scale of state-sponsored homophobia, Amnesty International said.
“These arrests took place amid an intensifying climate of fear for those perceived to have a different sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
“This unacceptable crackdown reveals the scale of state-sponsored homophobia in Gambia. Intimidation, harassment, and any arrest based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity is in clear violation of international and regional human rights law. The Gambian authorities must immediately stop this homophobic assault”.
Amnesty International considers people who are arrested and detained solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity to be prisoners of conscience. They should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Japan’s magnetically levitating maglev train, faster than Japan’s bullet train, is doing test runs with passengers, members of the public, in central Japan. The world’s fastest maglev train, the 311 mph (500 km/h) Series L0 (pronounced “L zero”) prototype, made its first public run.
The trains will enter service between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027, barring any setbacks, said Gizmodo. One hundred passengers traveled a 27-mile route between the cities of Uenohara and Fuefuki on the Shinkansen train earlier this month, reaching speeds of up to 311 miles per hour. The train’s use of maglev technology reduces friction. The Central Japan Railway Company is running eight days of testing for the experimental maglev. The Daily Mail said selection of those lucky enough to experience the trial runs will be by lottery. A total of 2,400 people will take the high-speed ride over eight days. Almost 300,000 people had applied for the passes, said the Daily Mail. As the video of a recent trial run indicated, guests saw the stats on monitoring screens and snapped away with their cameras.
When completed in 2027,said Katie Amey in the Daily Mail, “their exceptional speed capacity will cut the travel time by half, linking Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station with Nagoya in about 40 minutes, a journey which currently takes approximately 80 minutes.” The maglev trains are expected to eventually consist of 16 carriages and carry up to 1,000 passengers at a time, she said.
Italian police have released video of recruits for the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate taking a loyalty oath – the first time such a ritual has been recorded, authorities claimed.
The footage was filmed secretly near a farmhouse in northern Italy, although the Carabinieri paramilitary police in Milan did not reveal how they were able to capture the ceremony without being discovered by the syndicate.
Police said the video shows a meeting of suspected mobsters in Castello di Brianza in northern Italy and that one of the recruits was just 17 years old.
The video also shows members taking a loyalty oath where they have to swear “under the splendor of the moon” and are reminded that traitors are expected to kill themselves and thus must keep an extra bullet on them at all times.
As four men huddle, one man repeats the loyalty oath: ”Right in this holy evening, in the silence of the night, under the light of the stars and under the splendour of the moon, I create the holy chain…the holy society.”
But did they get to record the secret handshake? /snark.
And finally…the photos for this post come from the African magazine, Drum.
Apartheid was an inescapable fact of daily life in 1950s South Africa. But when the staff of Drum magazine got to the Johannesburg offices, the feeling was of having ‘‘walked into a different world, a world outside South Africa,’’ says Jürgen Schadeberg, the art director there in the 1950s. Inspired by the American magazines Life and Look, Drum’s documentary portrayals of black urban life, arts, politics and culture were revolutionary. Some of those images will be part of a major exhibition that opens at the International Center of Photography this month called ‘‘Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life.’’ ‘‘It was dangerous and difficult work,’’ Schadeberg says, recalling how the secret police kept the magazine under surveillance. ‘‘What we tried to show was how unjust apartheid was.’’
- YEAR DRUM WAS FIRST PUBLISHED: 1951
- PEAK CIRCULATION IN SOUTH AFRICA: 100,000
- COUNTRIES IT HAS BEEN DISTRIBUTED IN OUTSIDE SOUTH AFRICA: NIGERIA, GHANA, TANZANIA, KENYA, UGANDA AND RHODESIA (NOW ZIMBABWE AND ZAMBIA
Well, that’s all folks!
Some pretty big news broke late yesterday: President Obama has again delayed his final decision on whether to go ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline. Presumably the announcement was deliberately held until the Friday news dump to reduce public attention to the inevitable Republican screams of outrage. From Reuters:
The Obama administration further delayed its decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project on Friday, with no conclusion now likely until after the U.S. mid-term elections in November.
President Barack Obama has said he will have the final say on whether to allow the pipeline connecting Canada’s oil sands region to Texas refiners, and several government agencies had been given until May to weigh in. This had raised expectations of a final decision by mid-year.
But the State Department said on Friday it was extending that agency comment period, citing a need to wait until the Nebraska Supreme Court settles a dispute over what path the $5.4 billion TransCanada Corp project should take.
“That pipeline route is central to the environmental analysis for the project and if there are changes to the route it could have implications,” a senior State Department official told reporters.
I have to admit I was surprised and pleased. I have long suspected that Obama really wanted the pipeline, but I think I was wrong. He seems to be trying his best to avoid it. Naturally Obama has already been accused of political calculation in pushing the decision past the midterm elections. Of course the decision won’t help Democrats from oil-producing states like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who has already announced that “I plan to use my power as chair of the Senate Energy Committee to take decisive action to get this pipeline permit approved.”
The State Department told Buzzfeed that politics was not involved in the decision.
“I can’t render judgement on when the final decision could take place,” a senior State Department official said on a conference call Friday after the department announced another delay in the State Department process that could bring with it the approval or rejection of Keystone. “We want this to move as expeditiously as possible, we recognize that this is an issue of great concern to the American public, to American business and we take that extremely seriously.”
The State Department review — necessary because the pipeline crosses the Canadian border into the United States — is being held up by a state court ruling in Nebraska in favor of pipeline opponents, department officials said. That decision, which endangers the existing planned pipeline route, is under appeal andobservers say final judgement won’t come until 2015.
…the delay drew immediate scorn from pipeline supporters on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Republicans derided it as a “shameful” concession to “radical activists,” while Democratic Senate energy Chairwoman Mary Landrieu called it “irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable.”
Both of Alaska’s senators condemned the move. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called the delay “a stunning act of political cowardice,” and Democratic Sen. Mark Begich said he was “frankly appalled at the continued foot-dragging by this administration.” Begich, like Landrieu, faces a tough reelection fight this year.
Some environmentalists complained about the Friday news dump announcement
“It’s disappointing President Obama doesn’t have the courage to reject Keystone XL right now, but this is clearly another win for pipeline opponents,” said Jamie Henn, spokesman for the climate activist group 350.org, which staged mass sit-ins outside the White House to protest the project. “We’re going to keep up the pressure on the President to make the right call.”
Naturally Canadian politicians are “disappointed.” CBC News:
“We are disappointed that politics continue to delay a decision on Keystone XL,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said. “This project will create tens of thousands of jobs on both sides of the border, will enhance the energy security of North America, has strong public support, and the U.S. State Department has, on multiple occasions, acknowledged it will be environmentally sound.”
Canadian politicians have grown increasingly irate over delays.
Alberta Premier Dave Hancock expressed frustration about “yet another delay” in the approval process of an issue he argued has been debated thoroughly enough.
“Keystone XL has been rigorously studied. We believe the project is in North America’s best interest as it provides energy security, jobs and a dependable energy source from an environmentally responsible and democratic friend and ally,” Hancock said in a statement.
TransCanada’s president and CEO Russ Girling called the delay “inexplicable” in an email to CBC News.
Lots more Canadian whining at the link.
The Keystone Pipeline is controversial, but apparently not as controversial as the daughter of a female potential presidential candidate getting pregnant. The bizarre conspiracy theories about Chelsea Clinton expecting a baby have already begun and they’ll probably never end.
From John Amato at Crooks and Liars: Will Chelsea Clinton’s Pregnancy Become Another Right Wing Conspiracy? Give me a break. Is the Pope Catholic? Amato knows it’s a silly question:
I’m forgetting myself because Hillary is not allowed to be a happy mother. We may see a normal life unfolding, but Teabirchers see coverups and conspiracies.
Maybe in my subconscious I think it was staged or set up. Lookit, I’m so, I know these people so well…I just do not attach much genuineness to them.
There were a host of others who were saying the same thing in Wingnuttia.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Hillary gets asked to comment on Chelsea’s pregnancy by the media, since that’s only natural, right? But after that happens more than once I really expect Limbaugh and all the wannabees to scream bloody murder that Chelsea’s announcement was staged, a set-up plot which is being aided by the librul media to cover up Benghazzzzzzzziiii!
And away we go! From Mediaite: Right-Wing Host Thinks Chelsea Clinton May Have ‘Staged’ Pregnancy to Help Hillary.
If you thought the Hillary Clinton “shoe truthers” were bad, wait until you meet the “baby truthers.” So far, conservative host Steve Malzberg is leading the charge with this video suggesting Chelsea Clinton’s pregnancy is being effectively “staged” to help her mother win the 2016 presidential election.
And excited Malzberg announced the 34-year-old Clinton’s pregnancy, saying, “Lo and behold, Hillary was by her side” when she made the announcement. “Hillary Clinton is going to be a grandmother when she runs for president!” he exclaimed.
“Now, pardon the skeptic in me,” Malzberg continued, before predicting the oncoming criticism from Media Matters and other watchdog website. “Malzberg said this was a staged, planned pregnancy?” he imagined they would ask.
“Well, now I’m not saying, when I say staged I have to believe she’s pregnant, if she says she’s pregnant,” he said. “I don’t mean that they’re making up she’s pregnant. But what great timing! I mean purely accidental, purely an act of nature, purely just left up to God.”
“And God answered Hillary Clinton’s prayers and she’s going to have the prop of being a new grandma while she runs for president,” he continued. “It just warms the heart, it brings a tear to my eye. It really does.”
I have so many more examples that I’ll have to do a link dump without excerpts:
Politico: What to expect when she’s expecting
Honestly, can you imagine this happening to a man running for president? For example,
“How will his daughter’s pregnancy affect Rand Paul’s chances for the Republican nomination? Did he “stage” this to get positive media? Enquiring people want to know.”
In my post yesterday, I mentioned that a huge trove of papers from the Clinton administration was going to be released. Well they are out there now, and so the Clinton haters are really having a field day what with drooling over ancient history and inventing conspiracies about Chelsea’s baby.
There are tons of articles on the document dump too; I’ll give you a few examples.
An email from Monica Lewinsky was omitted from the Clinton library’s latest document dump for privacy reasons….
Included in a list of withdrawn/redacted documents (commonly interspersed in the large .pdfs), midway through a batch of documents concerning Gen. Wesley Clark, is an email from Monica Lewinsky’s Pentagon email address.
Vaguely referenced as concerning a “medical record,” the omitted email is listed as four pages long.
The recipient, Ashley Raines, is identified as a Lewinsky friend and confidante in the infamous Starr Report, produced by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. The report would later disclose details of the Lewinsky affair and trigger a major scandal that led to Clinton’s impeachment. Raines served as White House Director of Office of Policy Development Operations and Special Liaison to Management and Administration, according to the report, working in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.
In 1996, after an initial affair with the president had stopped according to the Starr report, Lewinsky described the relationship to Raines and showed her gifts allegedly given to her by Bill Clinton, including “a hat pin approximately eight inches long, an antique looking brooch the size of a half dollar, special edition copy of ‘Leaves of Grass’ by WALT WHITMAN, items from Martha’s Vineyard with ‘Black Dog’ logo, including a ball cap, and a short, baggy summer dress, and an autographed photo of the two of them wishing LEWINSKY ‘Happy Birthday,’” Raines told Starr’s investigators, with lawyers present. Lewinsky told Raines that she had confided in Linda Tripp about her relationship with Clinton.
Many more breathless details at the link.
…the latest batch of archived documents from the Clinton White House — while not particularly newsworthy — were a rather bracing reminder that the very mellow former first lady has emerged in her current happy state after many years in a White House that often took on the tone of war zone.
Mark that down as one reason why Clinton might not want to go racing back….
The documents once again underscored the combative fashion in which the Clinton White House drove its agenda, and its obsession with the administration’s adversaries.
One unsigned and undated document contained in the files of Jane Sherburne, a Special Counsel to the White House between 1994 and 1996, details theories about how the right wing, with the help of think tanks and conservative publications, was funneling “fringe” stories to the media. It also expounds on the financial powers and connections of billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who was referred to as “The Wizard of Oz.”
Part of the problem, the memo suggested, was the fact that the Internet “allows an extraordinary amount of unregulated data and information to be located in one area and available to all.”
“The right wing has seized upon the Internet as a means of communicating its ideas to people,” the unsigned memo continues. “Moreover evidence exists that Republican staffers surf the Internet interacting with extremists in order to exchange ideas and information.”
If the LA Times thinks that is shocking, I don’t think they are following current events.
The WaPo: The most interesting tidbits from the Clinton document dump This one includes a list of 12 gossipy examples of supposed Clinton political machinations.
Here’s the best one I’ve seen yet from Buzzfeed: This Unsent Shade-Filled Letter From Clinton Staffers To A ’90s Radio Host [Don Imus] Is A Goddamn Masterpiece.
I wish it had been sent!
I’m running out of space and time, but I do have a few more serious items I want to share. I’ll put them in the comments.
So . . . What stories are you following today? Please share your recommended links in the comment thread and have a fantastic weekend!!
It’s a winter Saturday, a good day to stay in a comfy bed for awhile, relax, and catch up on the latest news. So let’s see what’s happening out there today.
First up, the all-important weather forecast. I know you won’t be surprised to learn there are more winter storms on the way. From the Weather Channel: Winter Storm Maximus Brings Snow, Ice to Midwest, South, East, Rockies Through Monday.
Winter Storm Maximus, the 13th named storm of the winter season in the U.S., will have deposited a wintry mess from coast to coast by the time it is finally over Monday.
This storm will have multiple waves of snow, sleet and freezing rain sweeping west to east across the country.
First, snow will taper off over parts of the southern and central Rockies. A few additional inches of snow are expected over the mountains of Colorado and northern New Mexico. This storm will drop snow in the west, parts of the South and Midwest and then move into upstate New York and Northern New England. It’s not yet clear what we’ll be getting in the northeast, but right now we are expecting a warm weekend, and the storm shouldn’t interfere with the Super Bowl tomorrow.
another wave of wintry precipitation kicks off early Sunday in the Southern Plains, spreading to the Ozarks and the Mid-South region Sunday afternoon, then sweeping quickly through the Tennessee Valley, Appalachians and East Sunday night and Monday.
Snow accumulations look most likely in a stripe from northwest Texas into parts of Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virgina, and Virginia with several inches of accumulation possible. Parts of northwest Texas and southern Oklahoma near the Red River could measure up to around six inches of snow.
“Maximus” will be closely followed by Winter Storm Nika, which will bring “widespread” snow and ice to the Plains, the Great Lakes, and the Northeast. Tomorrow is Ground Hog Day, but whether or not the sleepy rodent sees his shadow, it looks like winter is going to continue unabated.
In Georgia, where people are still trying to recover from their state government’s failure to prepare for a winter storm that had been predicted for two days beforehand, investigators are still trying assign blame for the massive f&ck-up.
From the Atlanta Journal-Contitution: Storm debacle ‘case study’ of emergency management failure.
After two inches of snow turned Georgia into a national punch line, the state’s top disaster responder was cast as one of the debacle’s chief enablers. But the performance of state emergency management director Charley English is only part of larger-scale breakdown of the emergency management system, records and interviews reveal.
Records show there were failures up and down the line before and during Tuesday’s storm.
The performance of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency Tuesday is “a case study in how things can go badly,” said Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.
It’s also a case study in what can happen if you keep electing Republicans who hate government and don’t believe it has a role in public problem-solving. According to the article, Gov. Nathan Deal and other government officials had plenty of warning that the storm was going to hit Atlanta, yet they did next to nothing to prepare. Read all the gory details at the link.
At The National Memo, Joe Conason provides an example of how government has worked well in two blood-red states: Universal Pre-K? Ask Republicans In Georgia And Oklahoma — And Then Ask Grover Norquist.
Among the biggest policy mistakes of the past 50 years is our continuing failure to provide quality early childhood education to all of America’s kids. For children, families, and society as a whole, the benefits of “universal pre-K” are not only significant and well documented, but offset the financial cost many times over. Although we’ve been aware of these basic facts since the early Sixties, most politicians have preferred to squander billions of dollars on malfunctioning weaponry, catastrophic wars, and petroleum subsidies….
Even if there were no economic upside to starting the education of every child at three or four years of age, the obvious social benefits would vital for any country that aspires to cultivating a vibrant democratic republic. Citizens who can read and do math (and perhaps take an interest in science!) are more likely to succeed at self-government. They are also far more likely to succeed in life.
Enhancing personal opportunity is how universal pre-school generates universal public savings — estimated by a large cohort of studies to lie somewhere between 7 and 17 dollars for every single dollar spent. Human brains mostly develop well before age five, so children who attend quality pre-school enter kindergarten with social skills, confidence, and knowledge that boosts achievement for many years.
So what happened in Georgia and Oklahoma?
In Oklahoma, where every child has been entitled to free pre-school since 1998, a well-known study by Georgetown University educators found substantially improved cognitive skills and test scores among Tulsa students who had attended public pre-K. The program made the difference between falling below national norms and moving up to achieve them. In Georgia, first to implement universal state-funded pre-school almost 20 years ago, painstaking research has likewise showed gains in math and reading that lasted through eighth grade, especially among underprivileged rural and urban children.
What about Grover Norquist? According to Conason he sends his own kids to D.C.’s free public pre-school program, despise his avowed opposition to taxes of any kind. Maybe some of those right wing Congresspeople should have a talk with him about early childhood education.
It’s looking more and more like the Keystone XL Pipeline will be approved, according to the NYT:
The State Department released a report on Friday concluding that the Keystone XL pipeline would not substantially worsen carbon pollution, leaving an opening for President Obama to approve the politically divisive project.
The department’s long-awaited environmental impact statement appears to indicate that the project could pass the criteria Mr. Obama set forth in a speech last summer when he said he would approve the 1,700-mile pipeline if it would not “significantly exacerbate” the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. Although the pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to the Gulf Coast, the report appears to indicate that if it were not built, carbon-heavy oil would still be extracted at the same rate from pristine Alberta forest and transported to refineries by rail instead.
The report sets up a difficult decision for Secretary of State John Kerry, who now must make a recommendation on the international project to Mr. Obama. Mr. Kerry, who hopes to make action on climate change a key part of his legacy, has never publicly offered his personal views on the pipeline. Aides said Mr. Kerry was preparing to “dive into” the 11-volume report and would give high priority to the issue of global warming in making the decision. His aides offered no timetable.
If so, there will be pushback from indigenous Americans: Keystone XL ‘black snake’ pipeline to face ‘epic’ opposition from Native American alliance.
A Native American alliance is forming to block construction of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline which still needs final approval from U.S. President Barack Obama after the State Department released an environmental report indicating the project wouldn’t have a significant impact Alberta tar sands production.
Members from the seven tribes of the Lakota Nation, along with tribal members and tribes in Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, have been preparing to stop construction of the 1,400 kilometre pipeline which is slated to run, on the U.S. side, from Morgan, Mon., to Steel City, Neb., and pump 830,000 barrels per day from Alberta’s tar sands. The pipeline would originate in Hardisty, Alta.
“It poses a threat to our sacred water and the product is coming from the tar sands and our tribes oppose the tar sands mining,” said Deborah White Plume, of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which is part of the Lakota Nation in South Dakota. “All of our tribes have taken action to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.”
Read the rest at the link.
The Economist has an interesting article about the Winter Olympic games and Vladimir Putin’s Russia: Sochi or bust: The conspicuous dazzle of the games masks a country, and a president, in deepening trouble
FEBRUARY 7th sees the opening of the winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea. The message of the games is simple: “Russia is back”. Sochi was planned as a celebration of Russia’s resurgence, a symbol of international recognition and a crowning moment for Vladimir Putin, its president, who for the present seems to have seen off all his challengers.
Appropriately, the opening ceremony will include the image of the Russian “troika-bird” from Nikolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls”. “Rus,” wrote Gogol, “aren’t you soaring like a spry troika that can’t be overtaken? The road is smoking under you, the bridges thunder, everything steps aside and is left behind!…Is this lightning thrown down from heaven? Other nations and states gaze askance, step off the road and give [you] right of way.”
The quote has long been used to justify Russian exceptionalism and moral superiority. Gogol describes Russia as a deeply flawed and corrupt country, but it is precisely its misery and sinfulness that entitles it to mystical regeneration. His troika carries a swindler, Chichikov, and his drunken coachman, but it is transformed into the symbol of a God-inspired country that gloriously surpasses all others.
So, too, with the Sochi Olympics. This grand enterprise, the largest construction project in Russia’s post-Soviet history, is also a microcosm of Russian corruption, inefficiencies, excesses of wealth and disregard for ordinary citizens. The Olympics are widely seen as an extravagant caprice of Russia’s rulers, especially its flamboyantly macho president, rather than a common national effort. The cost of the games has more than quadrupled since 2007, making them, at $50 billion, the most expensive in history. One member of the International Olympic Committee thinks about a third of that money has been stolen. Russia’s opposition leaders say the figure is much higher.
Check it out. It’s a long read, but worthwhile, IMO.
There’s some good news out of New York City, now that neo-facist Mayor Mike Bloomberg is gone. It looks like the “stop and frisk” policy will end soon: Mayor Says New York City Will Settle Suits on Stop-and-Frisk Tactics.
New York City will settle its long-running legal battle over the Police Department’s practice of stopping, questioning and often frisking people on the street — a divisive issue at the heart of the mayoral race last year — by agreeing to reforms that a judge ordered in August, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday.
In making the announcement, which he said he hoped would end a turbulent chapter in the city’s racial history, Mr. de Blasio offered a sweeping repudiation of the aggressive policing practices that had been a hallmark of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, but that had stoked anger and resentment in many black and Latino neighborhoods. He essentially reversed the course set by Mr. Bloomberg, whose administration had appealed the judge’s ruling.
“We’re here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference. “We believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.”
That’s great news, but I wish he had noted that women have also been targeted, often in sexually abusive ways.
I’ll wrap this up and put my remaining links in the comment thread. I hope you’ll do the same. Please let us know what stories you’ve found interesting today.
Have a great weekend everyone!!
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!!
Here’s an fresh thread, since the morning reads one is getting so long. I have several updates for you on the Snowden/NSA story.
Eli Lake of The Daily Beast got some disturbing news from Glenn Greenwald: Snowden’s Files Are Out There if “Anything Happens” To Him. I posted this link on the previous thread, but it should be highlighted. According to Greenwald, Snowden gave complete copies of the the secret NSA files he stole to “many people around the world.” Supposedly the files are encrypted, but from what we know of Snowden’s spycraft knowledge, I don’t think that’s a guarantee that they’ll stay secret. From The Daily Beast article:
Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian Newspaper journalist Snowden first contacted in February, told the Daily Beast Tuesday that Snowden “has taken extreme precautions to make sure many different people around the world have these archives to insure the stories will inevitably be published.” Greenwald added that the people in possession of these files “cannot access them yet because they are highly encrypted and they do not have the passwords.” But, Greenwald said, “if anything happens at all to Edward Snowden, he told me he has arranged for them to get access to the full archives.” [….]
A former U.S. counter-intelligence officer following the Snowden saga closely said his contacts inside the U.S. intelligence community “think Snowden has been planning this for years and has stashed files all over the internet.” This source added, “At this point there is very little anyone can do about this.”
Greenwald assured Lake that although he (Greenwald) is in possession of top secret information about “the technical specifications of NSA systems,” but that he won’t publish them. I wonder how well Greenwald’s computer is protected?
On Snowden’s aforementioned spycraft skills, let’s see what a real former spy thinks. From Foreign Policy:
We reached out to FP contributor David Gomez, a former assistant special agent-in-charge and counterterrorism program manager with the FBI, to get his take. When was Snowden being savvy — and when did it seem as if he’d just watched a few too many spy movies?
Cell phones in the fridge
While it’s true that cell phones can easily be compromised and turned into recording devices, Gomez says it’s unlikely that anyone seeking to record Snowden would have used a phone anyway. If someone had wanted to eavesdrop, Gomez explains, he or she more likely would have worn a concealed wire. Or, if a government’s agents had been trying to listen in from outside of the room, they might have deployed a long-range microphone, among other techniques. The bottom line: a refrigerated cell phone probably wasn’t stopping anyone who wanted to listen badly enough — though it may have extended the phone’s battery life.
Lining the hotel door with pillows
While not particularly effective at stopping anyone actively seeking to spy on Snowden, pillows could have muffled the sounds of any conversations going on in his Hong Kong hotel room enough that an unsuspecting person passing by wouldn’t overhear something alarming, Gomez says.
Wearing a hood while entering computer passwords, to avoid hidden cameras
The danger while entering computer passwords is unlikely to come from a hidden camera planted in the hotel, Gomez says, but rather from keystroke-logging software, against which a hoodie provides little protection.
Signaling his identity to reporters by carrying a Rubik’s Cube through a hotel
While spies do at times use signals to identify one another, the idea in doing so is to not draw attention to yourself, Gomez explains. Thus, when arranging a meeting, as Snowden did with a group of journalists in Hong Kong, it is both unhelpful and unnecessary to carry something as out of place as a Rubik’s Cube. It would have been better, Gomez adds, for Snowden to have simply described, say, his clothing in detail. “If you’re going to meet with all these people, what’s the point of being Sneaky Pete?” Gomez asks.
Gomez says Snowden seems to be an amateur.