Thursday Reads

 DogReadingGood Morning!!

 

I’m pretty wiped out this morning, so this won’t be an extensive post. My mom is doing okay, but she needs help with a lot of things. This morning we’re going to have to deal with the Comcast people. It would really help if she could watch TV or listen to the radio! This afternoon I have to take her to the doctor, and then we might have to go back to the emergency room to have them put on a looser splint. They told us to do that if the one she has starts to feel too tight. But enough of my problems; let’s see what’s in the news.

The Bowe Bergdahl story gets more disgraceful with each passing day. Last night, via Little Green Footballs, NBC News reported that officials in Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, had been

deluged with angry calls from people who think that Bergdahl is an Army deserter or traitor who doesn’t deserve a hero’s welcome.

Jane Drussel, the president of the Hailey Chamber of Commerce, has been fielding dozens of angry calls.

“Well, (I feel) disappointment number one, just absolutely total surprise at how bad some of them are,” she told NBC News on Tuesday….

Drussel said many of the calls are cancelling trips to the town of about 8,000.

“Well, number one is, how dare we as a community support someone who in their mind they’re thinking of as a ‘deserter,’ a traitor. That they had plans to come here on their vacation, they’re no longer coming, they’re cancelling their reservations.”

“I just find that shocking,” she said. “You know, we’re Americans, and we need to act like Americans, and to me that’s un-American. Let things play out, and if there needs to be action taken, I’m sure it will be taken. But that’s not the city of Hailey’s responsibility.”

As a consequence of the threatening calls, the town has cancelled the welcome home celebration they had been planning. According to the Washington Post, the reason for the cancellation is concern for “public safety.” The small town of 8,000 people simply can’t handle an event that might attract a large number of angry protesters.

hillary_people_cover

The right wing focus on Bergdahl hasn’t kept them from carrying on the meme that Hillary Clinton is old and disabled. The former Secretary of State is pictured on the cover of People Magazine this week smiling broadly and holding onto a deck chair. But the inimitable Matt Drudge has a different theory. From Bob Cesca at the Daily Banter: Drudge Wonders if Hillary Clinton Used a Walker on People Magazine Cover.

Oh, Drudge, you magnificent bastard. There are very few right-wing trolls who are better than Matt Drudge at manufacturing an odious whisper campaign, and he didn’t disappoint today. Drudge posted the new People Magazine cover featuring Hillary Clinton, then wondered whether she was holding onto, wait for it, a walker. You know, like an old lady with brain damage. Wink, wink.

Of course he didn’t say it outright. He used the nefarious “Cavuto Mark” — a question mark at the end of a deliberately leading statement, made famous by Fox News Channel.

Yesterday afternoon, Reuters reported: Last of Navajo ‘code talkers’ dies in New Mexico.

The last of 29 Navajo Americans who developed an unbreakable code that helped Allied forces win the second World War died in New Mexico on Wednesday of kidney failure at the age of 93.

Chester Nez was the last remaining survivor of an original group of 29 Navajos recruited by the U.S. Marine Corps to create a code based on their language that the Japanese could not crack.

His son, Michael Nez, said his father died peacefully in his sleep at their home in Albuquerque….

About 400 code talkers would go on to use their unique battlefield cipher to encrypt messages sent from field telephones and radios throughout the Pacific theater during the war.

It was regarded as secure from Japanese military code breakers because the language was spoken only in the U.S. Southwest, was known by fewer than 30 non-Navajo people, and had no written form.

The Navajos’ skill, speed and accuracy under fire in ferocious battles from the Marshall Islands to Iwo Jima is credited with saving thousands of U.S. servicemen’s lives and helping shorten the war. Their work was celebrated in the 2002 movie “Windtalkers.”

May he rest in peace.

logan

Despite all the controversy over her faulty reporting on Benghazi, Lara Logan is “back at work on CBS News’ 60 Minutes,” according The Hollywood Reporter.

The news ends a suspension that began last fall after an erroneous60 Minutes report on the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi that resulted in the death of AmbassadorChristopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel. Logan had a handful of pieces in the works when she was suspended last November after her report that relied on a now-discredited interview with security contractor Dylan Davies.

She has been eager to return to work, say sources close to the correspondent, but the Benghazi report undermined her status as one of the veteran newsmagazine’s biggest stars and created a media feeding frenzy that unearthed a strident speech she gave a month after the Benghazi attacks in which she advocated for military intervention in Libya and asserted that the Obama administration was downplaying the threat from Al Qaeda.

At the time of her suspension last November, CBS News chairman and 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager told THR that the report was a “black eye” for the venerable newsmagazine, still the most watched of its genre.

A CBS News spokesperson confirmed that Logan has returned to work. 60 Minutes typically takes something of a production hiatus during the summer months, with new pieces sprinkled throughout a schedule that includes reruns and updates of previously aired segments. Logan likely will not be seen on60 Minutes until the fall, sources tell THR. But she’ll begin appearing on other CBS News broadcasts such as the CBS Evening News and CBS This Morning in the coming weeks.

I guess we already knew that CBS is no longer a serious news organization. This is just one more piece of confirming evidence.

From the Southern Poverty Law Center, Massive Investigation Uncovers White Supremacist Criminal Network in Oregon.

“Operation White Christmas,” as the year-old investigation is code-named, so far has resulted in the arrests of 54 individuals, mostly in the Portland area, leading to 11 criminal cases in state court and another 43 in federal court.

As for its scope, the investigation based in Portland and Multnomah County rivals the prosecutions of members of another violent gang, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

The Oregon suspects variously are affiliated with at least five known street and prison white supremacist gangs – European Kindred (EK); Rude Crude Brood; All Ona Bitch (AOB); Fat Bitch Killers (FBK) and Insane Peckerwood Syndicate (IPS), authorities say.

“The scope of this case is by far the largest ever undertaken by this agency in recent memory, based on the number of suspects investigated, the number of persons arrested and the amount of guns recovered,” Lt. Ned Walls, the investigations division supervisor for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, told Hatewatch.

What initially began as an investigation of drug and firearms trafficking by white supremacist gangs blossomed into a broader probe of robberies, home invasions, burglaries, kidnapping, assaults, shootings and witness intimidation, Walls said. Some of the crimes involved gang-on-gang violence.

“The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office would have had an impossibly hard time trying to conduct this investigation on our own,” Walls said. The department, he said, got “outstanding collaborative” support and involvement from the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, the Clackamas and Washington County Sheriff’s Offices in Oregon, the Portland Police Bureau, the Gresham, Ore., Police Department, Klickitat County, Wash., Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.

It’s good to know the Feds are seriously investigating right wing domestic terrorists, but it sounds like the investigation was initiated by local law enforcement.

A military plane crashed in a residential neighborhood in California yesterday afternoon.  From the AP, via the Visalia Times-Delta:

A Marine jet crashed into a residential area in a Southern California desert community Wednesday, exploding and setting two homes on fire. The pilot ejected safely, and there was no immediate word of any injuries on the ground.

The Harrier AV-8B went down at 4:20 p.m. in Imperial, a city of about 15,000 near the U.S.-Mexico border about 90 miles east of San Diego. Witnesses described an explosion and thick plumes of smoke.

“It felt like a bomb was thrown in the backyard of the house,” said Adriana Ramos, 45, whose home is less than a block from the crash scene. “The whole house moved.”

Ramos fled with her 4-year-old granddaughter and 10-year-old daughter, who both cried at the sight outside….]

At the crash site, there was chaos as people ran in every direction, he said. The two homes were on fire and it was unclear if anyone was inside.

The plane was from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona, said Cpl. Melissa Lee, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. She had no details about what might have caused the accident.

As of this morning, no injuries have been reported. You can see video of the scene at The Week Magazine.

I have a few more links for you that I’ll post in the comment thread, and I hope you’ll do the same. What stories are you following today?

 

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Tuesday Reads

Henri Matisse, Woman Reading with Tea

Henri Matisse, Woman Reading with Tea

 Good Morning!!

 I need to begin with some local Massachusetts stories that may have national repercussions.

First there is an update to the story of Ibragim Todashev, who was allegedly a friend of accused Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Both men are deceased. As you may recall, Todashev was shot and killed in his home in Orlando by an agent from the Boston FBI office on May 22, 2013.

The agent, along with an agent from the Orlando FBI office and two Massachusetts state troopers, had been questioning Todashev about his possible involvement with Tamerlan in the murders of three men in Waltham, MA on September 11, 2011.

According to the agent and the trooper who was there with him, Todashev attacked the agent with a table and the agent had shot him in self defense. Todashev had supposedly been writing a confession to his involvement in the murders when he suddenly attacked. The agent who shot Todashev was later absolved of any wrongdoing by reports by the Florida State Attorney’s office, the DOJ, and the FBI. The FBI report has not been released; and in the other two reports, much information, include the names of the agents and troopers, some portions of photos of the crime scene were redacted.

Now to the latest news (which so far has gone unnoticed by the corporate media). A couple of days ago, a blogger named B. Blake revealed that he/she had succeeded in downloading a version of the Florida Attorney’s report that was not properly redacted. The unredacted photos and the names of the agent who shot Todashev along with the two Mass. state troopers have been published on B. Blake’s blog “The Boston Marathon Bombings:What Happened?” The post includes an explanation of how the unredacted materials were obtained and authenticated. I’m not going to post the photos or names of law enforcement personnel; but you can see them at the above link. In another blog post, B. Blake reports some background information on the FBI agent involved.

So far I’ve seen nothing reported about this in the mainstream press, but it is all over Twitter. I don’t know if this will get out into the mainstream, but the FBI must have noticed it by now. I don’t know what will happen next, but when Twitter gets hold of a story, it generally gets noticed by the media eventually. I hope no harm will come to the three men whose names have been kept quiet until now. Stay tuned . . .

The other Massachusetts story will probably be blown up way out of proportion by the GOP Obamacare haters. From The Boston Globe, Mass. scrapping flawed health insurance website: Next steps have uncertainties for users, insurers.

Massachusetts plans to scrap the state’s dysfunctional online health insurance website, after deciding it would be too expensive and time-consuming to fix, and replace it with a system used by several other states to enroll residents in plans.

Simultaneously, the state is preparing to temporarily join the federal HealthCare.gov insurance marketplace in case the replacement system is not ready by the fall.

As late as March, the state had considered rebuilding the balky Health Connector site, which has left thousands of consumers frustrated and many without coverage for months. But Sarah Iselin, the insurance executive whom Governor Deval Patrick tapped to oversee repairs to the site, said that approach turned out to be far too risky.

The state’s online insurance system must be ready by Nov. 15 for consumers to enroll in new health plans for 2015, and Massachusetts is one of several states under pressure from the Obama administration to make sure it meets the deadline.

The change mostly involves adopting a new software program and getting it up to speed by the deadline, which is set by law and has no flexibility.

Another unknown is whether the transition will create disruption for consumers. Eric Linzer, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, said some insurers may not be able to afford to remain in the program, meaning consumers could end up having to switch coverage.

“I can’t overstate the complexity and technical issues that come with not having to develop just one but two separate systems,’’ he said. “Given the time frame in which all this has to be implemented, this is going to be a significant undertaking for plans.’’

Massachusetts also provides more generous subsidies than the federal health insurance program for residents with incomes below 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Iselin said whether the state can retain those unique aspects of its program if it connects to the federal site is still under discussion with the Obama administration. According to the state’s plan, use of the federal website, if necessary, would be for no more than a year…

On the other hand, there is positive news long-term for Obamacare from a study of the effects of Massachusetts’ adopting universal health care in 2006. From the NYT: Mortality Drop Seen to Follow ’06 Health Law.

BOSTON — The death rate in Massachusetts dropped significantly after it adopted mandatory health care coverage in 2006, a study released Monday found, offering evidence that the country’s first experiment with universal coverage — and the model for crucial parts of President Obama’s health care law — has saved lives, health economists say.

The study tallied deaths in Massachusetts from 2001 to 2010 and found that the mortality rate — the number of deaths per 100,000 people — fell by about 3 percent in the four years after the law went into effect. The decline was steepest in counties with the highest proportions of poor and previously uninsured people. In contrast, the mortality rate in a control group of counties similar to Massachusetts in other states was largely unchanged.

A national 3 percent decline in mortality among adults under 65 would mean about 17,000 fewer deaths a year.

“It’s big,” said Samuel Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania and an authority on life expectancy. Professor Preston, who was not involved in the study, called the study “careful and thoughtful,” and said it added to a growing body of evidence that people with health insurance could reap the ultimate benefit — longer life.

Experts said the study, which was published online Monday in theAnnals of Internal Medicine, will not settle the long-debated question of whether being insured prolongs life, but it provides the most credible evidence yet that it might. Still, health improvements can take years to surface in mortality data, and some researchers were skeptical of the magnitude and suddenness of the decline.

Read more at the link.

In national news . . .

SCOTUS

NYT writer Adam Liptak has an interesting analysis of Supreme Court “in-group bias” in decisions involving “free speech.”

Justice Antonin Scalia is known as a consistent and principled defender of free speech rights.

It pained him, he has said, when he voted to strike down a law making flag burning a crime. “If it was up to me, if I were king,” he said, “I would take scruffy, bearded, sandal-wearing idiots who burn the flag, and I would put them in jail.” But the First Amendment stopped him.

That is a powerful example of constitutional principles overcoming personal preferences. But it turns out to be an outlier. In cases raising First Amendment claims, a new study found, Justice Scalia voted to uphold the free speech rights of conservative speakers at more than triple the rate of liberal ones. In 161 cases from 1986, when he joined the court, to 2011, he voted in favor of conservative speakers 65 percent of the time and liberal ones 21 percent.

He is not alone. “While liberal justices are over all more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices,” the study found, “the votes of both liberal and conservative justices tend to reflect their preferences toward the ideological groupings of the speaker.”

Social science calls this kind of thing “in-group bias.” The impact of such bias on judicial behavior has not been explored in much detail, though earlierstudies have found that female appeals court judges are more likely to vote for plaintiffs in sexual harassment and sex discrimination suits.

Lee Epstein, a political scientist and law professor who conducted the new study with two colleagues, said it showed the justices to be “opportunistic free speech advocates.”

Much more–with chart–at the link.

There’s quite a bit of discussion today of Lara Logan and whether or not she will ever return to CBS’ 60 Minutes. The uproar is in reaction to a lengthy article at New York Magazine by Joe Hagen, Benghazi and the Bombshell: Is Lara Logan too Toxic to Return to 60 Minutes? I haven’t had time to read the article yet, but Talking Points Memo summarizes the main points: Lara Logan’s Return To CBS Up In The Air.

Lara-Logan

A lengthy New York magazine report published Sunday suggests that Logan’s return is far from certain. In the piece contributing editor Joe Hagan explores the tensions that simmered within CBS News, where his sources in the network described the current atmosphere as “toxic,” since Logan was forced to apologize last November for a flawed report on the Benghazi attacks.

The report that led to Logan’s suspension centered around a British security contractor, Dylan Davies, who gave a heroic first-person account of the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi. The contractor’s credibility was called into question after the segment aired, when it was reported that Davies may not have been present on the night of the attacks at the compound.

TPM quotes some of Logan’s CBS co-workers:

“It’s not an accident that Lara Logan fucked up,” one of Logan’s colleagues told the magazine. “It was inevitable. Everybody saw this coming.”

During the fallout from the report, a founding member of “60 Minutes,” Morley Safer, reportedly marched into executive producer Jeff Fager’s office and demanded that Logan be fired, but to no avail. Another unnamed source suggested to the magazine that CBS President Les Moonves has since “soured” on Logan, whom he previously treated as a favorite.

Think Progress reports that CBS was so embarrassed by Logan’s reporting that they “asked Nexis-Lexis to delete [the] transcript.”

In international news . . .

There’s an extremely disturbing story from Nigeria. BBC News: Boko Haram ‘to sell’ Nigeria girls abducted from Chibok

Abubakar Shekau, leader  of Boko Haram

Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram

Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram has threatened to “sell” the hundreds of schoolgirls it abducted three weeks ago.

Militant leader Abubakar Shekau sent a video obtained by the AFP news agency, in which he said for the first time that his group had taken the girls.

About 230 girls are still believed to be missing, prompting widespread criticism of the Nigerian government.

The Boko Haram insurgency has left thousands dead since 2009.

The girls were taken from their boarding school in Chibok, in the northern state of Borno, on the night of 14 April.

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden”, has attacked numerous educational institutions in northern Nigeria.

In the video, Abubakar Shekau said the girls should not have been in school in the first place, but rather should get married.

“God instructed me to sell them, they are his properties and I will carry out his instructions,” he said.

I wonder why it is that “God” give so many widely varying “instructions” to people of different “religions.”

More from CNN: ‘I will sell them,’ Boko Haram leader says of kidnapped Nigerian girls.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video first obtained by Agence France-Presse.

“There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women,” he continued, according to a CNN translation from the local Hausa language….”Girls, you should go and get married,” he said.

Not surprisingly, there has been much criticism of the government’s response to the kidnappings.

Weeks after the girls’ April 14 kidnapping, Africa’s most populous country seems to be no closer to finding them, triggering complaints of ineptitude — some of which are expressed on Twitter with the globally trending hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

Nigeria’s finance minister said Monday that her country’s government remains committed to finding the girls, but should have done a better job explaining the situation to the public.

“Have we communicated what is being done properly? The answer is no, that people did not have enough information,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told CNN’s Richard Quest.

Revealing details about the investigation is tricky, she said, “because you are dealing with people that you don’t know, and you don’t know…what they might do to these girls.”

There is much more information about the Boko Haram group at the CNN link.

Those are my offerings for today. What stories are you following? Please share your links in the comment thread and have a lovely spring Tuesday!


Tuesday Reads: Larry Klayman v. NSA; CBS’ 60 Minutes v. Truth; and Police v. Foreign Diplomats

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, 1957

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, 1957

Good Morning!!

Our weird winter weather is continuing. This morning’s temperature outside my house is zero degrees! And we’re expecting five more inches of snow this afternoon, most of it during the afternoon rush hour. I guess all I can do is grin and bear it.

Now let’s see what’s happening in the news today.

Lots of people are excited about the ruling yesterday by US District Court Judge Richard Leon that NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is “likely unconstitutional,” but the decision is on hold pending appeal by the Feds and as Reuters notes this morning, SCOTUS is probably going to have the final say on what happens to NSA surveillance programs following revelations from the massive trove of data stolen by Edward Snowden and passed to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

“This is the opening salvo in a very long story, but it’s important symbolically in dispelling the invincibility of the metadata program,” said Stephen Vladeck, a national security law expert at the American University law school.

Vladeck said 15 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have examined Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the provision of law under which the data collection takes place, without finding constitutional problems. “There’s a disconnect between the 15 judges on the FISA court who seem to think it’s a no-brainer that Section 215 is constitutional, and Judge Leon, who seems to think otherwise.”

Vladeck said there is a long road of court tests ahead for both sides in this dispute and said a higher court ultimately could avoid ruling on the big constitutional issue identified by Leon. “There are five or six different issues in these cases,” Vladeck said.

Robert F. Turner, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Center for National Security Law, predicted Leon’s decision was highly likely to be reversed on appeal. He said the collection of telephone metadata — the issue in Monday’s ruling — already has been addressed and resolved by the Supreme Court.

Maybe the solution would be to repeal the Patriot Act? Anyway, I think it’s important to note that this lawsuit was brought by Larry Klayman, a certified right wing nut who used to head Judicial Watch and now runs something called Freedom Watch.

larry Klayman

Here’s a little background on Klayman from The New York Times:

In the 1990s, he filed numerous lawsuits against President Bill Clinton and his administration, alleging a litany of personal and professional transgressions. Mr. Klayman later nettled Vice President Dick Cheney over his secret energy policy meetings and claimed that members of George W. Bush’s administration might have known in advance of the 2001 anthrax attacks in Washington.

More recently, Mr. Klayman, who has been called “Litigious Larry,” sued OPEC, accusing oil-rich nations of price fixing and of trying to “bring Western economies to their knees.” And he sued Facebook and its founder for $1 billion when, he said, it was too slow to take down a web page that threatened Jews with death.

The guy is a weirdo, so I have to wonder what it was that convinced a conservative Bush-appointed judge like Leon. And will ne be able to convince our right wing Supreme Court? I’d love to see NSA reined in, but I have serious doubts as to whether it will happen.

More on Klayman:

Mr. Klayman is a fixture of sorts in Washington. He founded, and then parted ways, with the conservative interest group Judicial Watch, which continues litigating grievances despite Mr. Klayman’s bitter departure. (He sued Judicial Watch, too, accusing it of breach of contract and other offenses.) His 2009 book is titled “Whores: Why and How I Came to Fight the Establishment.”

Mr. Klayman has not spared the current Democratic administration. At a Tea Party rally in October, he urged conservatives “to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”

Last year, Mr. Klayman filed a lawsuit in Florida arguing that Barack Obama was ineligible to be president because “neither Mr. Obama, nor the Democratic Party of Florida, nor any other group has confirmed that Mr. Obama is a ‘natural born citizen’ since his father was a British subject born in Kenya and not a citizen of the United States.”

 A little more on the case from Politico:

On June 6, just a day after the Guardian report [on Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA phone data collection], Klayman filed suit in Washington on his own behalf and on behalf of two clients — Charles and Mary Ann Strange, parents of a Navy SEAL killed in a disastrous helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2011….

Klayman said he and Charles Strange were being targeted by the government because of their claims relating to Strange’s son’s death, which include a complaint that a Muslim imam cursed the dead SEAL team members during a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base.

“My colleagues have received text messages I never sent,” Klayman told the judge. “I think they’re messing with me,” he said, referring to the government.

Klayman implored the judge to rule against the NSA program not only on legal grounds but in order to avert what the conservative gadfly said was a violent revolution on the verge of breaking out due to the federal governments [sic] unbridled use of power.

“We live in an Orwellian state,” Klayman said, warning that citizens angry about surveillance were about to “rise up.”

If litigation fails, “the only alternative is for people to take matters into their own hands,” he told Leon.

I wonder what parts of these arguments convinced Judge Leon?

Despite the weirdness, Charles Pierce is cheering Leon’s decision:

No matter what you think of Snowden, or Glenn Greenwald, and no matter what you think of what they did, this ruling does not happen if the NSA doesn’t let a contractor walk out of the joint with the family jewels on a flash drive. This ruling does not happen if we do not know what we now know, and we don’t know any of that unless Snowden gathers the data and leaks it to the Guardian. This entire country was founded after a revolution that was touched off to a great extent by the concept of individual privacy. I can forsee it becoming common practice, to use the best VPN service available to protect ourselves and our famillies.

Read all about it at the Esquire link.

I know it’s difficult for some males to understand this, but if Americans do have a right to privacy, then American women should also have that right in making decisions about what happens to their bodies–they should be able to choose whether or not and/or when to have a child. Therefore, they should have access to birth control and abortion without the interference of the state. If women–who represent more than 1/2 of the U.S. population–can’t have privacy; then there is a very big disconnect in the law that needs to be clarified. Are women people? Are they citizens? Griswald and Roe were also decided on the basis of privacy.

Lara_Logan_crop

After their fluff piece on NSA on Sunday, CBS’ 60 Minutes announced yesterday that Lara Logan, who was “suspended” after she hosted an utterly false report on the Benghazi attacks, will be returning to the program next year. Politico’s Dylan Byers:

Logan and McClellan took leave following public pressure over an Oct. 27 report in which security contractor Dylan Davies claimed to have been present and active at the Sept. 11 raid on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Reports later indicated that Davies had told both his contractor and the FBI that he was not present at the compound on the night of the attack. Logan later apologized and “60 Minutes” retracted the story.

Despite public criticism and internal frustrations among some members of the “60 Minutes” team, CBS News chairman and “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager decided to stand by Logan. Earlier this month, he held a meeting with CBS News staff in which he defended the 42-year-old journalist, saying that as EP he was ultimately responsible for failing to catch the mistake.

As an antidote, I recommend reading TBogg’s take on this decision at Raw Story: Lara Logan is tan, rested and ready to come back and be kind of bad at her job again.

Last week, it was revealed that LA Sheriff’s Office deputies who have been indicted by a Grand Jury had illegally arrested and “roughed up” two foreign diplomats in 2011. From the LA Times:

An Austrian consulate official was improperly arrested and searched by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies at the Men’s Central Jail, according to four indictments filed against 18 department officials.

The incident occurred in 2011 when the official and her husband were visiting an inmate who was an Austrian national….

The Austrian consul’s husband was arrested outside the jail because he had walked near the doors going into the visiting center, according to one of the indictments unsealed Monday.

When the consul requested to speak to a supervisor about her husband’s arrest, she too was placed in handcuffs and arrested, even though she had committed no crime and would have been immune from prosecution, the indictment said.

The couple were taken to a deputy break room and searched, the indictment said.

Read more details at the link. And from Firedoglake, Peter Van Buren explains why this is so outrageous:

One of the primary jobs for any embassy or consulate abroad is the welfare of its citizens. Indeed, many of the first diplomatic outposts abroad were set up to protect sailors and merchants. This work typically includes visiting one’s citizens in foreign jails, a task young diplomats around the world conduct. As a State Department foreign service officer myself for 24 years, I must have done this hundreds of times. But no matter how many times I did it, it was always an unsettling feeling to walk into a jail, go through security into a cell or holding room, and then walk back out.

Getting out, and being treated properly inside, was however more than an act of faith on my part. Diplomats abroad are protected people; under both formal treaties and long-established traditions (“diplomatic immunity”), a country should not mess around with another’s diplomats. Take a look at Iran– over thirty years since the kidnapping of American diplomats in Tehran, our two countries still are a long, long way from reestablishing relations.

I once safely visited in an underground facility of an Asian country’s secret police an American Citizen who likely had been tortured. The system generally works everywhere, from first world countries to crappy police states in the developing world. However, one rough area where it does not work is in Los Angeles.

Please read the rest if you can.

Devyani Khobragade

Today we learn that the NYPD also abused a foreign diplomat. The woman, a deputy consul general at the Indian embassy in NYC was arrested and handcuffed on the street and then subjected to a strip search at police headquarters. From The Guardian:

Bulldozers have removed security barriers outside the US embassy in Delhi as a diplomatic row prompted by the arrest of an Indian diplomat on visa fraud charges in New York intensified.

Devyani Khobragade, India‘s deputy consul general in New York, was charged last week with making false statements on an application for her housekeeper to live and work in the United States.

India’s national security adviser on Tuesday called the treatment of Khobragade “despicable and barbaric” and the country’s foreign secretary summoned the US ambassador. Politicians – including Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and vice chairman of the ruling Congress party, and Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Hindu nationalist opposition BJP – refused to meet a visiting US congressional delegation.

The removal of the barriers was one of a slew of retaliatory actions taken by the Indian government as outrage at the arrest grew, including the withdrawal of import clearances and special airport passes. The incident has become a major story in India, dominating TV bulletins.

The false statements were that Khobragade had agreed to pay the housekeeper the New York minimum wage ($9.25), but had agreed privately with the woman that her actual salary would be only 1/3 that amount.

From NDTV All India:

Furious with the US for the arrest and alleged strip search of its high-ranking diplomat Devyani Khobragade, India today retaliated with a slew of measures to pare down the privileges of American diplomats. (10 latest developments)

US diplomats in consulates across India have been asked to surrender identity cards issued to them and their families, which entitle them to special privileges. India has also withdrawn all airport passes for consulates and import clearances for the embassy.

The Delhi police removed barricades outside the sprawling US embassy in the capital.

Ms Khobragade was subjected to a humiliating strip search and was kept in a cell with drug addicts after her arrest for alleged visa fraud in New York last week. (Read) Noel Clay, a spokesperson for the US State Department, told NDTV that standard procedures had been followed during Ms Khobragade’s arrest.

The US has implied that she enjoyed only limited immunity.

As part of its reciprocal measures, India is asking for details like salaries paid to Indian staff employed in US consulates, including those working as domestic helps with the families of American officials.

It seems that, between the NSA revelations and the increasing use of police state tactics by law enforcement, the US is managing to alienate much of the rest of  all the world.

I’m out of space, so I’ll wrap this up. Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a great day!


CBS: We Do Give a Damn about our Bad Reputation!

It has been evident for quite some time that news organizations were more about access to right wing politicians and audiences than the truth.  CNN has descended into People Magazine territory to compete with FOX.  The Home of Walter Cronkite and 60 minutes, well, it’s been bad.  Don’t even get me started on Meet the Press that is now aptly called Dancin’ Dave’s Disco.  It appears CBS decided Lara Logan went a bridge to0 far down the right wing memes and lies highway.

CBS News’ Lara Logan Taking Leave Of Absence Over downloadDiscredited ’60 Minutes’ Benghazi Report

Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of ‘”60 Minutes,” informed staff Tuesday that Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, would be taking a leave of absence following an internal report on the news magazine’s discredited Oct. 27 Benghazi report.

“As Executive Producer, I am responsible for what gets on the air,” Fager wrote in a memo obtained by The Huffington Post. “I pride myself in catching almost everything, but this deception got through and it shouldn’t have.”

On the Oct. 27 broadcast, Logan interviewed Dylan Davies, a security officer who claimed that he witnessed the terrorist attack on the Benghazi compound that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012. Davies, who had trained Libyan security guards for the State Department, claimed he scaled a 12-foot wall that night, knocked out a terrorist with his rifle and later saw Stevens dead in the hospital.

But four days later, The Washington Post reported that Davies had told his employer shortly after the attack that he never reached the compound that night, an account that conflicted with the one he had given to “60 Minutes,” as well as included in a memoir. The memoir was published by a conservative imprint that is a subsidiary of CBS, a financial relationship that was not disclosed at the time of the broadcast.

“60 Minutes” dodged questions for several days about the conflicting accounts.

Media outlet after media outlet discredited the report while CBS stood by the story.  It finally eeked out a well, it seems it coulda been a little more accurate sorta kinda apology.

Now, well, read the headline.

The rest of the pundit herds are circling the near dead Logan assuming she will head to FOX where she can lie with impunity.

It took a while, but CBS has concluded an internal investigation of the 60 Minutes Benghazi! story, and reporter Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan are taking a “leave of absence” that has been strongly recommended by their boss, CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager.

Most of the reaction to this development has focused on the question of what CBS has learned from this deeply embarrassing incident. But I wonder about Lara Logan. Will she take her medicine and climb back up the slippery pole of on-camera talent she seemed to be ascending quite rapidly before she decided to begin a new Benghazi! furor? Or will she make a strategic retreat into celebrity reporting or science reporting or sports reporting?

The short-cut for her, of course, will be to assume the mantle of Conservative Media Martyr and land a gig with Fox, where there will be no “internal investigations” of reporters who bend the rules in pursuit of Big Stories likeBenghazi!. If she resists that temptation, then perhaps there is hope for her as a legitimate journalist who admits when she’s wrong and rededicates herself to journalism.

Where’s Dan Rather now?

Wondering if Logan and McClellan are being paid while they’re away.

Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of ‘”60 Minutes,” informed staff Tuesday that Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, would be taking a leave of absence following an internal report on the news magazine’s discredited Oct. 27 Benghazi report. 

Fager’s memo and findings of an internal review [are at the link.]

Always thought Rather was set up to take that fall. CBS caved to wingnut’s invented outrage. Certainly Rather’s investigation was not so thoroughly disgraced at this Benghazi hoax, or should we call it a paean to wingnut conspiracy blather. Yet he was fired and he was blackballed from appearing on air during their JFK anniversary coverage just days ago. At the very least Dan Rather is owed a huge apology.

140119_600CBS is now saying it should’ve never aired the piece.

On Tuesday, CBS News completed an internal review of the process that led to 60 Minutes’discredited Benghazi story, for which the show has apologized and which has now caused correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan to take leaves of absence. An hour later, Brian Stelter, in his inaugural appearance as CNN’s media reporter, said that the review showed 60 Minutes never should have broadcast the story, and “shouldn’t have dug in their heels” once it was criticized.

“What the standards report suggests is that this shouldn’t have gotten on the air in the first place,” Stelter said. “This report shouldn’t have been broadcast at all.”

“Once it was broadcast,” he continued, “CBS did exactly the wrong thing: they got up against the wall, they got defensive, they got in this defensive crouch. Often times see sports teams or companies or nonprofits make these mistakes, where they try to defend themselves rather than figure out what went wrong. Well, finally they did figure it out. They did this long report to try to figure out what was right and what was wrong about the story. They found that parts of the story were true and parts of the story belonged on television. But that main source you mentioned, he was discredited. And as a result, it shouldn’t have been broadcast at all.”

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About friggin time. And apologize to Dan Rather while you are at it boyz!!!


Friday Reads: The Word for Today is “Surreality”

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Good Morning!!

I’ve been browsing around the internet this morning, and all I can find is really surreal news. The Obamacare “fumble” or “botch” or “mess” or whatever else the pundits decide to call it is still the top story today; and it looks like President Obama could be in for an even worse day than yesterday. He must be glad it’s Friday. All the usual suspects are weighing in on the “problem” and of course Republicans are gloating.

Reuters summarizes Obama’s very bad Thursday: An apologetic Obama unveils fix on health law.

President Barack Obama on Thursday tried to ease the biggest crisis of his presidency, acknowledging missteps with his signature healthcare law and announcing a plan to help those seeing their current health plans canceled because of it.

Obama, trying to limit the political damage to his presidency and fellow Democrats, said health insurers could extend by at least one year policies due to be canceled because they do not comply with new minimum requirements under the law.

With insurers complaining the fix could create new problems and lead to higher premiums, it was not clear whether Obama’s plan would actually work, or soothe his party’s concerns that the botched rollout has undercut Democrats facing tough re-election fights in 2014.

A chastened Obama said he had “fumbled” the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, his biggest domestic policy achievement, and said he would have to work to regain his credibility and the public’s trust.

Also from Reuters: Obama to meet with insurers Friday on Obamacare fix.

The meeting comes a day after the president, under fire for the botched rollout of his top domestic policy achievement, announced he would allow individuals to keep insurance policies that were being canceled under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare….

Insurers and state regulators say that Obama’s fix for policies canceled under the law will create new problems for the industry and could lead to an increase in premiums.

The change, which Obama announced under growing pressure from lawmakers from his Democratic Party, would allow policies that do not meet Obamacare’s standards to be renewed anyway.

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From WaPo’s The Fix: ‘Keep Your Health Plan Act’ spells trouble for dozens of Democrats.

Intense focus on the early troubles of the Affordable Care Act already makes this a no good, very bad week for congressional Democrats, who are torn between supporting the signature domestic achievement of the Obama administration, but eager to be seen doing something to address significant concerns with the law….

At issue is the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” a proposal by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) that supporters believe would fulfill President Obama’s now-broken promise to let people keep their current health insurance plan if they like it.

Under the Upton proposal, anyone opting to keep their current plan wouldn’t face financial penalties established by the law. And the measure would allow insurers to sell their minimal plans to new customers. The bill is expected to pass easily in the GOP-controlled House.

Most Democrats believe that the Upton bill would fundamentally gut the ACA by allowing plans not compliant with the new law to continue. They believe that the administrative fixes announced by Obama Thursday will work, or are supporting a proposal by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that would let people keep their current health-care plans for the next year and require insurers to provide information on new plans that meet the law’s stricter requirements.

Chris Cillizza, also at The Fix, doesn’t think any of this is going to help Republicans much in 2014; Todd Purdum at Politico spanks Obama unmercifully, but at the end of his lengthy piece admits:

It is true that public support for many of the law’s crucial components — a ban on lifetime limits on health coverage; an end to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions; extended coverage for dependent children; improvements to Medicare — have always exceeded support for the law itself. White House officials take pains to note that those provisions are now beginning to take effect — on time, as planned.

Most state-run insurance exchanges are working far better than the federal website — which the administration was forced to make as big as it is only because some three dozen states with recalcitrant Republican governors declined to create their own exchanges as envisioned. And lest anyone forget, the old health insurance system was not so hot.

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Of course Chuck Todd is thrilled, and he went on Morning Joe this morning to dance on Obama’s grave. From Mediaite:

NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday that the problematic roll-out of the Affordable Care Act represents an all-time political low for President Barack Obama. He said that the president’s press conference on Thursday was aimed more at Democrats in an attempt to keep them from abandoning him or his signature achievement.

“It seemed like he was trying to offer his party – the Democratic Party – and, basically, all the panicked Democrats on Capitol Hill a pound of flesh so that they don’t vote for these other bills,” Todd said of the bills circulating in the House and Senate that would allow those who have lost their health plans to keep them indefinitely….

“I talked to one of the old guard in Obama-land who said they’ve never seen that in private from him,” Todd added. “This is a moment that he hasn’t experienced in national politics before, is the impression that I was being given.”

“This clearly is the low of his presidency politically right now,” the NBC News reporter continues. “We obviously see it in the polls, but just the way he feels, his ability to lead the party, or, frankly, hope that the party doesn’t abandon him right now in this moment.”

You can just imagine how happy Karl Rove and The Wall Street Journal are about the Obamacare troubles.

I’ll spare you excerpts from those columns and refer you to Jonthan Chait: Conservatives Confident America Rejecting Obamacare, Ready for Every-Man-for-Himself Care.

The keep-your-plan fiasco, in addition to flummoxing Democrats, has not only held out to Republicans the tantalizing prospect that they can discredit and defeat Obamacare, but also drawn into sympathetic focus their own alternative vision.

Here is the basic ideological division. Obama wants the health-care system to do more to pool risk — which is to say, to shift the burden of covering the sick onto the healthy. Republicans want it to do less to pool risk, so that healthy people can be free of the burden of subsidizing the costs of those less medically fortunate.

The small portion of the populace that lies outside of either employer-based or direct government coverage provides the closest existing model for the health-care system conservatives favor. The minority within this market who have insurance, and are losing their plans as a result of regulations preventing insurers from excluding the sick, have dominated public attention and formed what conservatives imagine will be a constituency for their own brand of counter-reform: a deregulated market where healthy people can buy cheap, bare-bones plans, and sicker people have to pay large out-of-pocket costs. Obamacare’s torturous birth pangs have convinced giddy conservatives that they are on the cusp of a great ideological victory.

Read the rest at the New York Magazine link above.

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I’ll wrap up this section of my post with the most surreal Obamacare story I could find: Michele Bachmann: I lost my insurance:

Rep. Michele Bachmann says she is one of the people who lost their health insurance because of Obamacare and she won’t go shopping on a health exchange until it’s fixed.

“Are you kidding? I’m not going to waste an hour on that thing,” the Minnesota Republican said when Wolf Blitzer asked her on CNN on Thursday if she’d signed up on the exchange website. “I lost my health insurance under Obamacare. And so now I’m forced to go into the D.C. health exchange. I’m waiting until they fix this thing. I’m not going to sit there and frustrate myself for hours and hours.”

Don’t members of House have their own insurance plan? Did the rest of the House get their plans cancelled too?

Bachmann did not explain what about Obamacare caused her to lose her health insurance. The health law technically requires congressional staff go on the D.C. exchange, but it’s up to the individual congressional office to determine who qualifies as “official office” staff, so many Republicans have placed their aides on the exchange while Democrats have been split.

At the Daily Banter, Bob Cesca explains to Bachmann how to sign up for health insurance at the DC exchange, which is running quite smoothly, thank you very much.

I’ve run on way too long about the Obamacare story, but I haven’t been paying close attention to it and I needed to bring myself up to speed. I hope I didn’t bore the rest of you!

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Now let’s look at someone who really has a health care problem. Gawker reports on a woman with stage 4 breast cancer and the vile treatment she has been getting from her daughter’s school because of it (emphasis added).

An Albuquerque mother says her daughter’s elementary school principal banned her from school grounds for the way she smells. Kerri Mascareno was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in August, and while she’s undergoing chemotherapy to shrink her tumor, she’s also struggling with the administration at Tierra Antigua Elementary.

According to Mascareno, the school’s principal, Robert Abney, told her last week that she could no longer visit the school:

“He just said he knows this is going to hurt my feelings and he understands where I’m coming from because his mother had breast cancer and she had the same exact smell and I can no longer be in the school and that with me being in the school that I made his employees ill,” she said.

She claims that when she moved outside, the principal went to his window and told her to move farther away. “He just said that he would have to ask me to sit in my car because he could smell me through the window,” Mascareno said.

Calling Dr. Freud! Robert Abney needs psychological treatment STAT! Men with Oedipal complexes should not be in charge of running schools. I hope Kerri Mascareno sues and gets a million-dollar payday so she can leave the money to her children.

Yesterday I wrote about two Secret Service agents who have been removed from President Obama’s security detail. Today the WaPo reports that there have been complaints about misconduct by Secret Service agents in 17 countries!

Secret Service agents and managers have engaged in sexual misconduct and other improprieties across a span of 17 countries in recent years, according to accounts given by whistleblowers to the Senate committee that oversees the department.

Sen. Ronald H. Johnson (Wis.), ranking Republican on a Homeland Security subcommittee, said Thursday that the accounts directly contradict repeated assertions by Secret Service leaders that the elite agency does not foster or tolerate sexually improper behavior.

And get this:

Johnson said that one of those disciplined supervisors, Ignacio Zamora Jr., had helped lead the internal investigation into the April 2012 incident in Cartagena, where more than a dozen agents engaged in a night of heavy drinking and carousing with prostitutes ahead of a presidential visit.

One person involved in security in Cartagena said Zamora was chosen for the review because he served as the “second supervisor” on the trip, and was among the managers responsible for the security effort in advance of Obama’s arrival for an international summit.

Zamora is the agent who was disciplined for trying to break into a woman’s hotel room to retrieve a bullet he had left there.

Finally, once again I want to call your attention to a McClatchy article that RalphB linked to yesterday: Questions about ‘60 Minutes’ Benghazi story go beyond Dylan Davies interview; CBS conducting ‘journalistic review’. It’s long, but it is a must read. The writer, Nancy A. Youseff, goes through Lara Logan’s “60 Minutes” report line by line and finds numerous outright lies and distortions. Logan and anyone else involved with the story should be fired immediately and Logan should apply for a job at Fox News.

So . . . what are you reading and blogging about today? Please share your links on any topic in the comment thread.


TGIFriday Reads

Good Morning!

Well, it’s getting to be the silly season.  Now we have Republicans who were for oil subsidies before they were against them or against them before they were for them.  Evidently, angry town hall participants can’t figure out why oil companies that keep making record profits while gouging at the pump deserve huge tax breaks. So, Republicans are making up their minds as they go along.  Here’s one such example from the Wonk Room:  Paul Ryan Endorses Ending Oil Subsidies, Even Though He Voted For Them

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) agree.d to end subsidies to oil companies during a town hall in Waterford, Wisconsin, this morning, eliciting great applause from an overflow crowd in a very conservative section of his district. “We also want to get rid of corporate welfare,” Ryan insisted. “So we propose to repeal all that”

But Ryan voted twice this year to actually extend subsidies to oil companies, once on a motion to recommit on a shorter-term continuing resolution and again when he supported an amendment to the initial House CR. The Ryan budget, meanwhile, doesn’t specifically target oil subsidies, but only generally promises to end “corporate welfare.”

Earlier this week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also indirectly endorsed ending subsidies to the oil industry, before walking back his support.

CBS Reporter Lara Logan is offering up more information on her ‘merciless’ assault  during the Egyptian uprising.  Logan was separated from her colleagues for about 25 minutes.

She declined to go into more detail about the assault but said: “What really struck me was how merciless they were. They really enjoyed my pain and suffering. It incited them to more violence.”

After being rescued by a group of civilians and Egyptian soldiers, she was swiftly flown back to the United States. “She was quite traumatized, as you can imagine, for a period of time,” Mr. Fager said. Ms. Logan said she decided almost immediately that she would speak out about sexual violence both on behalf of other journalists and on behalf of “millions of voiceless women who are subjected to attacks like this and worse.”

It appears the Lake Havusu Arizona Newspaper filed to see Barack Obama Senior’s immigration file.  Their EXCLUSIVE–“Dad’s Immigration File Offers More Evidence Of Obama’s Birthplace” is an interesting read.  Sounds like Harvard couldn’t get rid of this particular Obama soon enough.  This really brings an interesting contrast to the President’s Book “Dreams of my Father”.

The documents also show that the CIS investigated the elder Obama as a polygamist, having a wife in Kenya and a “wife and child in Honolulu.” Dahlim’s memo adds that “Polygamy is not an excludable or deportation charge as Subject is a non-immigrant.”

Documents show that Obama, Sr. was denied an extension on his student visa in July, 1964, in part because Harvard University, where Obama, Sr., was a Ph.D. candidate, sought his removal. Obama Sr. eventually left the United States willingly after becoming an illegal alien for remaining in the country past the expiration of his visa.

An INS investigator, M.F. McKeon, wrote “They (Harvard officials) weren’t very impressed with him and asked us to hold up action on his application until they decided what action they could take in order to get rid of him. They were apparently having difficulty with his financial arrangements and couldn’t seem to figure out how many wives he had.”

Documents show that Harvard officials considered Obama, Sr. to be a “slippery character,” and conspired with the INS to have him deported.

After raising nearly every racist dogwhistle in the play book,  Donald Trump Bristles at Claim He’s a Racist.  Gee, why would anyone think that when the guy questions how the President–a legacy who graduated summa sum laude from Harvard–got into Harvard in the first place.

Trump tells TMZ … “That is a terrible statement for a newscaster to make.  I am the last person that such a thing should be said about.”

Bob Schieffer delivered a scathing statement against Trump Wednesday night on the “CBS Evening News,” reacting to Trump’s insinuation that President Barack Obama may not have had the grades to get into Harvard.

Schieffer said, “That’s just code for saying he got into law school because he’s black.  This is an ugly strain of racism that’s running through this whole thing.”

We asked Trump if he was suggesting Obama got into Harvard Law School through affirmative action.  He said, “Affirmative action is out there.  It’s a program that is available. But I have no idea whether it applies in this case.  I’m not suggesting anything.”

Politically-motivated accusation and innuendo is nothing new–as pointed out by Politico–but does Trump’s birther agenda shift the practice to a new low because it rose to the level of a media feeding frenzy?

Lurid conspiracy theories have followed presidents for as long as the office has existed. Yet even Obama’s most recent predecessors benefited from a widespread consensus that some types of personal allegations had no place in public debate unless or until they received some imprimatur of legitimacy — from an official investigation, for instance, or from a detailed report by a major news organization.

“There are no more arbiters of truth,” said former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “So whatever you can prove factually, somebody else can find something else and point to it with enough ferocity to get people to believe it. We’ve crossed some Rubicon into the unknown.”

It’s hard to imagine Bill Clinton coming out to the White House briefing room to present evidence showing why people who thought he helped plot the murder of aide Vincent Foster— never mind official rulings of suicide — were wrong. George W. Bush, likewise, was never tempted to take to the Rose Garden to deny allegations from voices on the liberal fringe who believed that he knew about the Sept. 11 attacks ahead of time and chose to let them happen.

Well, at least it’s Friday!  So, what’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?


Musing about My Reaction to News of the Attack on Lara Logan

Woman protesting in Cairo

Yesterday in the early evening, as I was surfing the ‘net, I came across the announcement by CBS that their foreign correspondent Lara Logan had been brutally sexually assaulted and beaten in Cairo on the day Mubarak resigned.

Normally, I would have posted this at Sky Dancing right away, but at first I hesitated because the description of what happened, although vague, sounded so awful and I thought it would be insensitive to rush to the keyboard to spread the news.

Within a short period of time, it became clear to me that both mainstream news sources and blogs were all posting the story and discussing it. Still, I hesitated. I checked with the other frontpagers to see what they thought, perhaps subconsciously hoping one of them would write the post that I didn’t want to write. Meanwhile, I continued reading reactions to the story at other sites.

Finally I realized that I was really blocked about this story for some reason. I simply couldn’t find the words to write anything coherent about it. I felt a very deep sadness and a sense of foreboding that I didn’t quite understand.

I usually react strongly to stories about violence against women, but normally I don’t have a problem writing about them. Why was I having writer’s block over this one? Thankfully, Minkoff Minx wrote a very sensitive and compassionate post last night, and I stopped obsessing about my “problem” and went to sleep.

This morning as I was driving to work, I again started thinking about the feelings I had had last night; and I was able to begin to better understand my strong reaction. I had been so thrilled by what took place in Egypt–that the protesters had been able to force the ousting of Mubarak and that they had done in relatively peacefully. I had also been excited to see women taking an active role in the demonstrations. I now realized that learning about what had happened to Logan, had tainted my enthusiastic feelings about the Egyptian protests. I also began to wonder if anything would really change for Egyptian women even if there were real changes in their government.

In my reading last night I had learned that Katie Couric had also felt in danger among the crowds in Tahrir Square. She had been pushed hard by an Egyptian man whom she described as being extremely angry, his eyes full of rage.

Even more disturbing, I read that Egyptian women are regularly accosted and groped by men when they go out in public. In fact, 86% of women in Egypt say they have been sexually harrassed. From Sarah Topol, at Slate:

Egypt has a sexual harassment problem. In a 2008 study, 86 percent of women said they had been harassed on Egypt’s streets—any woman walking through a crowd of men in Egypt braces to get groped. But in the square, crammed in shoulder-to-shoulder, men apologized if they so much as bumped into you. After wandering around the protests for days, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t been groped, a constant annoyance when I’m faced with large crowds in Cairo. When I pointed this out to other women in the square, we all took a moment to reflect. “I hadn’t even thought of that,” one woman in Tahrir told me. “But it’s because we’re all so focused on one goal, we’re a family here.”

Here is another piece about sexual harrassment of women in Egypt (h/t Dakinikat). In the article, Mary Rogers, a CNN producer and camerawoman who has lived in Egypt since 1994, wrote about her own personal experiences of being sexually harrassed. Be warned, it’s pretty disturbing.

Again at Slate, Rachel Larrimore asked whether the attack on Lara Logan was a “bad omen” for Egyptian women. She wondered if in the end women would really be empowered by the “revolution.” Or would they be sent back home with a “thank you” and a pat on the head?

As I continued thinking about all this, I recalled how as a young girl I had tried reading science fiction novels. I liked them a lot, but I was disappointed that male science fiction writers wrote about women in the future performing pretty much the same roles and working in the same jobs that women in the 1960s. I wondered why these supposedly imaginative writers were unable to imagine that future women might actually do exciting, stimulating jobs instead of continuing to be teachers, nurses and clerical workers eons into the future.

And yes, I know there are female science fiction writers now who imagine women of the future in adventurous situations–and perhaps there are even male writers now who can imagine such things. It doesn’t matter. For me the damage was done. I had learned something very depressing about the culture I lived in. Women were bit players–there only to provide foils for men, or to support or comfort men.

That is how I feel now about the Egyptian protests. Women were included for a time, perhaps because they were needed, perhaps because everyone was feeling excited, happy, and inclusive. For a time, even the groping of women stopped. But then, on that day when Mubarak resigned it began again. And a very famous American woman was horribly attacked by men who screamed “Jew! Jew!” as they violated and beat her.

And the day before, Logan had told Esquire.com that Egyptian soldiers hassling her and her crew had accused them of “being Israeli spies.” Logan is not Jewish.

After the attack, Logan returned to the U.S. where she spent the past several days in the hospital. It has been reported that according to network sources she was at first unable to speak and that her injuries were “serious.”

I want to be very clear. This isn’t just about the Middle East or Muslims. This could easily have happened here. Women are brutally raped every day in the U.S. Many more women are sexually harrassed at work or on the street.

Most women have experienced this–I know I have. I’ve been groped by strangers in public places. It is a terribly traumatic, degrading, and humiliating experience that can stay with you forever. I still occasionally flash back to times when this happened to me, and feel the remnants of helpless rage followed by sadness and even depression that follow such experiences. The trauma of actually being raped is, of course, far worse, and can change a woman’s life forever.

I’ll wrap this up for now. I just thought I’d share my thoughts on this, in hopes that others might relate to them.

Finally, I want to note some positive reactions following this heartbreaking event.

Nir Rosen, the “journalist” who sent out horribly offensive tweets attacking both Logan and Anderson Cooper was forced to resign from his fellowship at NYU today. He gave an interview to Fishbowl DC in which he tried to explain the unexplainable.

Egyptian activists have condemned the attack on Logan.

“It’s incredibly sad that this has happened, and it’s something that the spirit of Tahrir and the spirit of revolution was resolutely against,” Ahdaf Soueif, an author who spent a great deal of time in Tahrir Square, told the Guardian. “Women in the square were rejoicing that they felt freedom on the streets of Cairo for the first time, and [this is] definitely something that we want to stamp out alongside corruption and all the other social ills that have befallen Egypt during Mubarak’s regime.”

Mahmoud Salem, a well known Egyptian blogger, was one of many of the January 25 activists to express outrage. “Lara Logan, what happened to you was reprehensible, & I hope u don’t judge the egyptian people or Tahrir because of it,” he tweeted under his moniker Sandmonkey.

Finally, Logan is now home with her family and talking to friends about what happened to her–a healthy sign. And she is determined to go back to her job after a few weeks. Clearly she is a very strong woman with a good support system. I hope that her husband will stand by her and that she will be able to heal from this and go back to doing the work she loves.