This post is illustrated with cute pics of cats and dogs from petinsurance.review, because I’m dealing with a very bad cold this morning; I’d like to just crawl back under the covers and zone out. On top of that, my patience with our rude and crude new “president” is quickly running out. This clueless man is destroying our reputation as a nation, alienating our oldest and closest allies around the world, and antagonizing our most dangerous opponents–except, of course, for Russia.
Yesterday tRump had nothing to say about Russia attacking Ukraine, but he had no problem with threatening to send U.S. troops into Mexico; sending Michael Flynn out to put Iran “on notice,” whatever that means; and “blasting” and insulting the prime minister of Australia, one of our closest and most loyal allies.
I guess there’s now some disagreement on the Mexico threat. Here’s what the Associated Press reported yesterday: Trump to Mexico: Take care of ‘bad hombres’ or US might.
The phone call between the leaders was intended to patch things up between the new president and his ally. The two have had a series of public spats over Trump’s determination to have Mexico pay for the planned border wall, something Mexico steadfastly refuses to agree to.
“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt given to AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”
A person with access to the official transcript of the phone call provided only that portion of the conversation to The Associated Press. The person gave it on condition of anonymity because the administration did not make the details of the call public.
The Mexican website Aristegui Noticias on Tuesday published a similar account of the phone call, based on the reporting of journalist Dolia Estevez. The report described Trump as humiliating Pena Nieto in a confrontational conversation.
Mexico’s foreign relations department said the report was “based on absolute falsehoods.”
Americans may recognize Trump’s signature bombast in the comments, but the remarks may carry more weight in Mexico.
It certainly does sound like tRump, though, doesn’t it? Maybe the Mexico government is going to give us the benefit of the doubt for awhile, but I doubt if this will help public opinion south of the border.
During yesterday’s White House press briefing, Michael Flynn issued a vague threat to Iran. CNN: White House national security adviser: Iran is ‘on notice.’
President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn condemned Wednesday Iran’s recent ballistic missile test launch, calling it a “provocative” breach of a UN Security Council resolution.
Flynn called the launch the latest in a series of provocative moves by Iran that have included backing Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have attacked US allies.“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” Flynn said from the White House briefing room.Flynn did not say whether the US would take action beyond a verbal warning, and three senior administration officials, speaking on background, said Wednesday that they are still in the early stages of determining what action the US should take in response.“We are considering a whole range of options. We’re in a deliberative process,” one of the officials said.
Iran may also be giving us the benefit of the doubt for now. NBC News reports: Iran Brushes Off Trump’s ‘Empty Threats’ Over Missile Tests.
A top aide to Iran’s supreme leader blamed the “inexperienced” Trump administration for apparent U.S. threats and vowed his country would continue testing ballistic missiles.
Ali Akbar Velayati, who advises Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on foreign affairs, said that Iran had not breached a nuclear deal reached with six major powers in 2015 or a U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the accord. The White House has accused Tehran of acting “in defiance” of a separate U.N. Security Council resolution on ballistic missiles, as opposed to the nuclear agreement.
“This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran,” Velayati said. “Iran is the strongest power in the region and has a lot of political, economic and military power … America should be careful about making empty threats to Iran.”
He added: “Iran will continue to test its capabilities in ballistic missiles and Iran will not ask any country for permission in defending itself.”
The Washington Post reports on the call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: No ‘G’day, mate’: On call with Australian prime minister, Trump badgers and brags.
It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.
Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.
At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladimir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”
Trump was upset about an agreement between the Obama administration and Turnbull to swap some refugees being held in the two countries.
“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center.
Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admission of refugees, complained that he was “going to get killed” politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.”
Trump returned to the topic late Wednesday night, writing in a message on Twitter: “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”
U.S. officials said that Trump has behaved similarly in conversations with leaders of other countries, including Mexico. But his treatment of Turnbull was particularly striking because of the tight bond between the United States and Australia — countries that share intelligence, support one another diplomatically and have fought together in wars including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Australia has supported the U.S. in wars dating back to Vietnam and is one of the five trusted nations with whom we share intelligence. Why the hell can’t tRump stop his pathological bragging about winning the election? His behavior is an embarrassment to our country.
Bloomberg Politics’ David Tweet addresses tRump’s disgraceful Twitter obsession: Trump Twitter Bursts Throw Decades-Old Alliances Into Disarray.
For the first time in decades, America’s oldest allies are questioning where Washington’s heart is.
This week, President Donald Trump and his deputies hit out at some of America’s closest friends, blasting a “dumb” refugee resettlement deal with Australia and accusing Japan and Germany of manipulating their currencies. Ties with Mexico have deteriorated to the point its government had to deny reports that Trump told President Enrique Pena Nieto he might send U.S. troops across the southern border.
The dilemma for officials globally is figuring out if Trump’s blunt style is simply a tactic to keep them off balance or the start of a move to tear up the rule book that has guided relations with the U.S. since World War II. In the mean time, allies have little choice but to prepare for the worst.
The latest attacks came against Australia and Japan, even with Trump’s new Pentagon chief in the region to offer assurances about the U.S.’s commitment to security ties.
“For those of us like Australia, Japan or Korea, who have been dependent on that continuity, we have got to start thinking about a situation where the U.S. is much more self interested, and more more capricious on what it might do,” said Nick Bisley, a professor of international relations at La Trobe University in Melbourne. “Countries in the region have got to sit down and say those old arrangements can’t last forever.”
tRump’s behavior is disgusting and dangerous.
Meanwhile, federal employees are struggling to deal with tRump and are pushing back in unprecedented ways.
The Washington Post: Resistance from within: Federal workers push back against Trump.
Less than two weeks into Trump’s administration, federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives. Some federal employees have set up social media accounts to anonymously leak word of changes that Trump appointees are trying to make.
And a few government workers are pushing back more openly, incurring the wrath of a White House that, as press secretary Sean Spicer said this week about dissenters at the State Department, sends a clear message that they “should either get with the program, or they can go.”
At a church in Columbia Heights last weekend, dozens of federal workers attended a support group for civil servants seeking a forum to discuss their opposition to the Trump administration. And 180 federal employees have signed up for a workshop next weekend, where experts will offer advice on workers’ rights and how they can express civil disobedience.
At the Justice Department, an employee in the division that administers grants to nonprofits fighting domestic violence and researching sex crimes said the office has been planning to slow its work and to file complaints with the inspector general’s office if asked to shift grants away from their mission.
“You’re going to see the bureaucrats using time to their advantage,” said the employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. Through leaks to news organizations and internal complaints, he said, “people here will resist and push back against orders they find unconscionable.”
The resistance is so early, so widespread and so deeply felt that it has officials worrying about paralysis and overt refusals by workers to do their jobs.
And check out this quote from the article:
Asked whether federal workers are dissenting in ways that go beyond previous party changes in the White House, Tom Malinowski, who was President Barack Obama’s assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said, sarcastically: “Is it unusual? . . . There’s nothing unusual about the entire national security bureaucracy of the United States feeling like their commander in chief is a threat to U.S. national security. That happens all the time. It’s totally usual. Nothing to worry about.”
According to Politico, some federal employees have begun using encryption to “thwart Trump.”
Federal employees worried that President Donald Trump will gut their agencies are creating new email addresses, signing up for encrypted messaging apps and looking for other, protected ways to push back against the new administration’s agenda.
Whether inside the Environmental Protection Agency, within the Foreign Service, on the edges of the Labor Department or beyond, employees are using new technology as well as more old-fashioned approaches — such as private face-to-face meetings — to organize letters, talk strategy, or contact media outlets and other groups to express their dissent.
The goal is to get their message across while not violating any rules covering workplace communications, which can be monitored by the government and could potentially get them fired.
At the EPA, a small group of career employees — numbering less than a dozen so far — are using an encrypted messaging app to discuss what to do if Trump’s political appointees undermine their agency’s mission to protect public health and the environment, flout the law, or delete valuable scientific data that the agency has been collecting for years, sources told POLITICO.
Fearing for their jobs, the employees began communicating incognito using the app Signal shortly after Trump’s inauguration. Signal, like WhatsApp and other mobile phone software, encrypts all communications, making it more difficult for hackers to gain access to them.
We are truly in uncharted territory. Unpresidented!
What stories are you following today?
Yesterday JJ posted a link to this brief post by Melissa McEwan:
I was managing to keep a lid on the bitterness about Hillary Clinton not being our president until I saw Donald Trump start to govern.
It’s going precisely the way I thought it would, so it’s not like I’m surprised.
It’s just that seeing it actually begin to unfold is triggering a deep well of resentment, and a profound grief, that I was only able to keep at bay until he was sworn in.
And now I cannot contain it. I am angry and resentful and grief-stricken in a way I have never felt before.
That’s exactly how I feel. The time from the election to the inauguration was bad enough, but now everything feels unreal and frightening. Last night on Rachel Maddow’s show, Dan Rather called it a “Twilight Zone feeling.” I think it’s likely that a majority of Americans feel this way. A man with the temperament and personality of a 6-year-old–sometimes a 3-year-old–is sitting in the White House watching Fox News and plotting the destruction of our country. And even more horrifying, he has the power to blow up the entire world if he so chooses.
I recall feeling desperate and enraged after the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush, but this is so much worse. I feel anxious and on-edge all the time. I’m afraid to get too far from my news sources for fear that he will do something drastic; and even if I try to escape into a book or TV show or video game I just can’t shake this feeling of everything being out-of-kilter. The only difference I can see between tRump and a dictator like Kim Jong Un is that we have a few checks and balances in place–for now–to keep our child-leader from killing or jailing his critics.
Apparently the DC police feel empowered to arrest and charge journalists now. The New York Times reports: Felony Charges for Journalists Arrested at Inauguration Protests Raise Fears for Press Freedom.
At least six journalists were charged with felony rioting after they were arrested while covering the violent protests that took place just blocks from President Trump’s inauguration parade in Washington on Friday, according to police reports and court documents.
The journalists were among 230 people detained in the anti-Trump demonstrations, during which protesters smashed the glass of commercial buildings and lit a limousine on fire.
The charges against the jouMexirnalists — Evan Engel, Alexander Rubinstein, Jack Keller, Matthew Hopard, Shay Horse and Aaron Cantu — have been denounced by organizations dedicated to press freedom. All of those arrested have denied participating in the violence.
“These felony charges are bizarre and essentially unheard of when it comes to journalists here in America who were simply doing their job,” said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Pen America. “They weren’t even in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were in the right place.”
Carlos Lauria, a spokesman and senior program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, called the charges “completely inappropriate and excessive,” and the organization has asked that they be dropped immediately.
“Our concern is that these arrests could send a chilling message to journalists that cover future protests,” Mr. Lauria added.
Witnesses reported that sweeping arrests during the parade targeted rioters, protesters and journalists indiscriminately. A lawyer representing dozens of people arrested, Mark Goldstone, told The Associated Press that the police had “basically identified a location that had problems and arrested everyone in that location.”
Yesterday, tRump began pressing forward with his promised Muslim ban, his fantasy border wall, and his threat to “defund” sanctuary cities by issuing a series of executive orders. He also threatened to reopen CIA “black sites” and reinstate Bush-era torture techniques. On Twitter, he even threatened to send Federal troops into Chicago to crack down on crime!
This isn’t creeping fascism; it’s galloping fascism.
The good news is that the White House and government agencies are leaking like crazy. Vox obtained leaked copies of draft executive orders: Read leaked drafts of 4 White House executive orders on Muslim ban, end to DREAMer program, and more. Yesterday the White House released two of the orders that were exactly like the drafts; therefore Vox decided to report on the others.
The two orders released today by the Trump administration, and delivered yesterday by our source, start the process of building President Trump’s famous “wall,” and make it easier for immigration agents to arrest, detain, and deport unauthorized immigrants at the border and in the US. Those policies are explained in detail here.
The four remaining draft orders obtained by Vox focus on immigration, terrorism, and refugee policy. They wouldn’t ban all Muslim immigration to the US, breaking a Trump promise from early in his campaign, but they would temporarily ban entries from seven majority-Muslim countries and bar all refugees from coming to the US for several months. They would make it harder for immigrants to come to the US to work, make it easier to deport them if they use public services, and put an end to the Obama administration program that protected young “DREAMer” immigrants from deportation.In all, the combined documents would represent one of the harshest crackdowns on immigrants — both those here and those who want to come here — in memory.
Read the rest at Vox.
Last night, ABC News ran an interview with tRump conducted by David Muir. I haven’t watched the whole thing yet, but the clips I’ve seen are terrifying. The interview confirmed what we already know–that tRump is a childish, ignorant buffoon who is clearly incompetent to hold any public office, much less be POTUS.
The Washington Post has published the entire interview with annotations by Aaron Blake. I can’t bring myself to post excerpts, but please read the whole thing at the Post. You watch the video there too if you can stand it.
tRump is running around saying dangerous things, apparently without even consulting the Cabinet members who would be charged with carrying out his orders.
Two of the officials who will be in charge of carrying out President Donald Trump’s terrorism detainee policies, Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, were “blindsided” by reports of a draft executive order that would require the CIA to reconsider using interrogation techniques that some consider torture, according to sources with knowledge of their thinking.
Lawmakers in both parties denounced the draft order on Wednesday even as White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he had “no idea where it came from” and that it is “not a White House document.”
It’s unclear who wrote the draft order or whether Trump will sign it, though members of Congress in both parties were taking that prospect seriously on Wednesday.
Some members of Congress said the document raised the specter of Trump following through on campaign vows to bring back waterboarding and other George W. Bush-era torture practices, which many lawmakers consider a shameful chapter of U.S. history.
The document, obtained and published by The New York Times and Washington Post, calls for the director of national intelligence to review whether to bring back the CIA’s infamous black-site prisons. Those were secret overseas facilities where the CIA carried out brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects from 2001 to 2006, as documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 investigation into the issue.
The draft order says terrorism suspects in U.S. custody will not be subject to “torture” or “degrading treatment.” But it characterizes a 2016 law barring torture as “a significant statutory barrier” and would revoke an executive order signed by President Barack Obama stating that suspects must be treated in compliance with international law.
I’m going to give you the rest of the news in a link dump, because I’m just too traumatized to do more.
WaPo: Maybe Trump isn’t ‘lying’. Jennifer Rubin suggests that Trump may not be able to tell truth from fantasy.
New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman asks “Is Donald Trump’s War With CNN Personal?”
Nina Burleigh at Newsweek: Trump White House Senior Staff Have Private RNC Email Accounts.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and try to stay calm just for today. I love you all.
Good Evening Sky Dancers! I’m filling in for Minkoff Minx, who is having internet connectivity problems. This is an open thread to discuss the results of the Illinois primary, the latest news, and anything else on your mind.
There was a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in Mexico</ this afternoon. CNN:
Hundreds of houses collapsed after a strong earthquake that rattled residents in southern Mexican resort towns and the nation’s capital Tuesday, officials said.
The quake had a magnitude of 7.4, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Its epicenter was about 15 miles (25 kilometers) east of Ometepec, Guerrero, the USGS said, and its depth was about 12.4 miles (20 km).
In the nearby town of Igualapa, officials reported that at least 800 houses had collapsed, the Guerrero state government said in a statement. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries or deaths.
More than an hour after the quake, residents in Ometepec were feeling aftershocks, said Francisca Villalva Davila, the city’s comptroller.
A reporter for the Christian Science Monitor who was on the scene Mexico wrote about his personal reactions.
I have lived in Mexico City for six years and never worried much about earthquakes. But now I have a baby. And as all parents will understand, earthquakes have now joined the list of things like airplane turbulence and speeding taxis, to name but a few, that I now care desperately about.
So when the unusually long and strong earthquake shook this city right after noon local time, as I was typing away at a local Starbucks where I often work, I slammed shut my laptop and ran as fast as I could home (losing a powercord and mouse along the way).
The streets were packed with people who had evacuated, looking up at the highrises around us, wondering if there was damage and if buildings would hold. As I looked up and ran, I kept thinking not about what lay in my own path, but that the buildings standing firm must mean that mine probably did too.
Everyone was fine at home, my sweet baby outside with her caretaker and the rest of our neighbors. But the earthquake was the biggest that I felt since living here.
The polls close in Illinois at 8PM Eastern, so results will be coming in soon. It appears that Romney is way ahead, so unless Santorum gets his god to pull off a miracle for him, there won’t be much excitement. I’ll post any updates I hear, and I invite everyone else to do the same. CNN’s Political Ticker has a piece on the “nuts and bolts” of today’s primary.
With 54 delegates at stake, the state has already proved a prime battleground for Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum whose campaigns and supporting super PACs have spent millions of dollars in television ads attacking each other.
As with most other states, Illinois allocates its delegates proportionally. Voters directly elect the 54 delegates in the state’s 18 Congressional Districts.
Additionally, there are 12 statewide delegates reserved for a non-binding “beauty contest,” which has no impact on delegate selection Tuesday and will later be selected at the state convention in June.
The total delegate count also includes three delegates for Republican National Committee members, which are not tied to Tuesday’s primary results.
As happened in Ohio, Rick Santorum didn’t field enough delegates in every district, so he can at most win only 44. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich each filed a full slate of delegates.
The early exit polls suggest that Mitt Romney did better with Illinois voters than in other states in terms of “relatability.”
An improved sense that he understands voters’ problems gave Mitt Romney hope in today’s Illinois Republican primary, as did a less religiously focused, less strongly conservative electorate than he’s faced in some other contests, especially to the south.
Preliminary exit poll results find that six in 10 Illinois voters see Romney as the candidate with the best chance of beating Barack Obama, a bit better than his average across exit polls this year. More strikingly, Romney also leads Rick Santorum, albeit narrowly, as the candidate who “best understands the problems of average Americans.”
It’s only the second state, of six where the question’s been asked, in which Romney’s been poised to beat his rivals on empathy. The other was Florida.
Among other advantages for Romney, the Illinois primary is characterized by vastly fewer evangelicals than the Southern contests, and fewer voters expressing a desire for a candidate who shares their religious beliefs, two groups in which he’s generally struggled. About four in 10 are evangelicals, near the average in primaries this year and far below their 80-percent share in Alabama and Mississippi last week. Similarly, nearly half the voters in those states were highly focused on shared religious beliefs; it’s half that in Illinois today, fewer even than in Ohio early this month.
Read more at the link. I can’t imagine what kind of voter would rate Romney high on empathy! A low information voter, I guess.
In case you haven’t heard yet, President Obama is “fast-trackng the Southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline.”
President Obama plans to announce in Cushing, Oklahoma Thursday that his administration will expedite the permit process for the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, a source familiar with the president’s announcement tells CNN.
In January, the Obama administration denied a permit for the 1,700 mile long Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would stretch from Canada’s tar sands development to the U.S. Gulf Coast. That decision was met by persistent Republican criticism that the president has not been doing everything possible to create jobs and combat high gas prices.
Late last month, TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, announced it would move forward with the process to build the southern portion of the pipeline, which would begin in Cushing, the president’s third stop on his two-day energy tour. The White House praised the move.
Still, the permit process for a project like this can typically take a year or more. The source familiar with the president’s announcement says the administration could shave several months off that timeline.
You know, I had pretty much resigned myself to voting for Obama if necessary, but he seems to be working overtime to lose my vote again.
You can add another front to the war on women. According to an article by Robert Pear in the NYT today,
Women still pay more than men for the same health insurance coverage, according to new research and data from online brokers.
The new health care law will prohibit such “gender rating,” starting in 2014. But gaps persist in most states, with no evidence that insurers have taken steps to reduce them.
For a popular Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in Chicago, a 30-year-old woman pays $375 a month, which is 31 percent more than what a man of the same age pays for the same coverage, according to eHealthInsurance.com, a leading online source of health insurance.
In a report to be issued this week, the National Women’s Law Center, a research and advocacy group, says that in states that have not banned gender rating, more than 90 percent of the best-selling health plans charge women more than men.
Isn’t that just peachy keen? What stories have caught your eye this afternoon? Please share!
Herman Cain is really going for broke, I think his favorite answer to any question, whether it be on the economy, foreign policy or sexual harassment, should be his new campaign slogan.
I don’t know anything about anything…I ain’t walking that back.
The best commentary on Cain’s sexual harassment settlements is from a show that is not a “real” news program. Jon Stewart | Herman Cain Sexual Harassment | Daily Show Video | Mediaite
Herman Cain didn’t have what one would call a particularly strong start to his week, what with Politico uncovering allegations of sexual misconduct from the 1990s and all. On tonight’s Daily Show, host Jon Stewart made the most of the developments with pizza-themed innuendo, a list of Cain statements most outrageous than the claims as they appear currently, and a realization that, from now on, everything Cain says will “sound dirty.”
“Hey, you want sausage on your pie?” Stewart suggested as a probably Cain pick-up line. “Let me stuff your crust,” he continued, with a few other comical suggestions for what Cain could be saying (if it doesn’t exist already, expect #hermancainpickuplines to become a fairly popular Twitter hashtag game soon). But Stewart went on to find that “trying to defend our border with a giant Mexican zapper” was probably more problematic than what we currently know about the charges, and only Cain himself could make the situation worse.
Heh, wait it gets better…
Then Stewart turned to Cain’s responses, which were, repeatedly, that he did not sexually harass anyone, and that “other than the restaurant charges,” he had never been accused. Stewart, of course, noted the humor in this, as these were the only accusations anyone cased about. “Have you ever kidnapped a baby?” Stewart Joked. “Well, other than the Lindbergh baby, no.” Stewart also skewered a number of things Cain has said in the past, like his constant claims one week that he was “Black Walnut” flavored, and that extended smile at the end of his ads. “Stop looking at my black walnuts!” Stewart joked.
All jokes aside, the heart of the matter is not something to make fun off…but the way Cain has handled the situation in the last 24 hours, that’s the stuff that comedians dreams are made of…
Video at the link up top…you have to watch it, good stuff.
All this scandal talk seems to have benefited Cain…financially. Here comes the money portion of today’s post.
Mark Block, chief of staff to Herman Cain, says yesterday’s media frenzy over sexual harassment claims helped the campaign post one of its best fundraising days ever with $250,000 coming into the coffers. Block made the comment while on a panel at National Journal‘s 2012 Election Preview today. We won’t know until the disclosure forms are fully filed, but those are big numbers to cap an October where the Republican hopeful raised $3 million, according to CNN. As for the other big story of Cain’s week: “Done. Move on,” said Block in a recap from The Hill . “Let’s talk about what the American people want to hear about, and that jobs, jobs, jobs.”
“Done, move on,” could also refer to Block’s candor in regards to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel‘s report that the Cain campaign (perhaps illegally) owes some $40,000 to Prosperity USA, a now-defunct private corporation that Block and aide Linda Hansen ran. Slate’s Dave Weigel notes:
Okay…Let’s move on to the “hack” portion of the thread, check this out:
Cyber-attacks traced to China targeted at least 48 chemical and military-related companies over the summer in an effort to steal technical secrets, an American computer security company has said, raising the temperature of complaints about pervasive internet crime emanating from the new superpower..
The targets included 29 chemical companies and 19 others which make advanced materials used by the military, said security firm Symantec in a report. It said the group included multiple Fortune 100 companies but did not identify them or say where they were located.
“The purpose of the attacks appears to be industrial espionage, collecting intellectual property for competitive advantage,” said the report.
Well, where is Biden, denouncing this hack as a terrorist act.
The claim comes as a conference meets in London to discuss cybercrime and internet attacks, led by the defence secretary William Hague, and after the chief of the GCHQ listening agency warned that threats against government infrastructure from foreign hackers were at “disturbing” levels.
Security experts say China is a centre for internet crime, whether government-sanctioned or not. Multiple attacks against governments, companies and human rights groups have been traced to this country, though finding the precise source is nearly impossible. China’s military is a leader in cyberwarfare research but the government has rejected allegations of cyber-spying, and says it also is a target.
And in Mexico, the drug cartels have pissed of Anonymous…I wonder if this group can hit the cartels more than the Mexican Army and border agents have.
An international group of online hackers is warning a Mexican drug cartel to release one of its members, kidnapped from a street protest, or it will publish the identities and addresses of the syndicate’s associates, from corrupt police to taxi drivers, as well as reveal the syndicates’ businesses.
The vow is a bizarre cyber twist to Mexico’s ongoing drug war, as a group that has no guns is squaring off against the Zetas, a cartel blamed for thousands of deaths as well as introducing beheadings and other frightening brutality.
“You made a huge mistake by taking one of us. Release him,” says a masked man in a video posted online on behalf of the group, Anonymous.
“We cannot defend ourselves with a weapon … but we can do this with their cars, homes, bars, brothels and everything else in their possession,” says the man, who is wearing a suit and tie.
“It won’t be difficult; we all know who they are and where they are located,” says the man, who underlines the group’s international ties by speaking Spanish with the accent of a Spaniard while using Mexican slang.
The group also threatens to release names of journalist that are on the cartels payrolls.
“We demand his release,” says the Anonymous spokesman, who is wearing a mask like the one worn by the shadowy revolutionary character in the movie V for Vendetta, which came out in 2006. “If anything happens to him, you sons of (expletive) will always remember this upcoming November 5.”
The person reportedly kidnapped is not named, and the video does not share information about the kidnapping other than that it occurred in the Mexican state of Veracruz during a street protest.
Well, that is all for me today…we just got the doomsday date for my parents foreclosure…December 6th. So my mind is a bit occupied at the moment…What are you all doing tonight? Anyone up to egging a Bank of America branch out of spite?
But first, a few world news updates that should be mentioned…
We knew that the call for Assad to step down has been coming, well today the US is leading that global call for Assad to leave Syria. Secretary Clinton: For the Sake of Syrian People, the Time Has Come for President Asad To Step Aside | U.S. Department of State Blog
Today, President Obama called for the President of Syria, Bashar al-Asad, to step aside and took the strongest financial action against the Syrian regime thus far. Following the President’s statement, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed the situation in Syria.Secretary Clinton said, “For months, the world has borne witness to the Asad regime’s contempt for its own people. In peaceful demonstrations across the nation, Syrians are demanding their universal human rights. The regime has answered their demands with empty promises and horrific violence, torturing opposition leaders, laying siege to cities, slaughtering thousands of unarmed civilians, including children.”The Asad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the world and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.”This morning, President Obama called on Asad to step aside and announced the strongest set of sanctions to date targeting the Syrian Government. These sanctions include the energy sector to increase pressure on the regime. The transition to democracy in Syria has begun, and it’s time for Asad to get out of the way.”As President Obama said this morning, no outside power can or should impose on this transition. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders in a democratic system based on the rule of law and dedicated to protecting the rights of all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sect, or gender.[…]In closing, Secretary Clinton said, “…The people of Syria deserve a government that respects their dignity, protects their rights, and lives up to their aspirations. Asad is standing in their way. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for him to step aside and leave this transition to the Syrians themselves, and that is what we will continue to work to achieve.”You can read a complete transcript of the Secretary’s remarks here.
Other leaders in the European Union have joined Obama’s call for Assad to step down. Syria: Assad must resign, says Obama | World news | The Guardian
The US president was joined by David Cameron of Britain, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Angela Merkel of Germany, as well as the European Union in demanding Assad immediately resign.
David Cameron issued a joint statement with and Merkel that noted Assad had ignored appeals from other Middle East states, the Arab League and the United Nations security council to end the violent crackdown.
“Our three countries believe that President Assad, who is resorting to brutal military force against his own people and who is responsible for the situation, has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country. We call on him to face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people and to step aside in the best interests of Syria and the unity of its people.”
The EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said there had been a “complete loss of Bashar Assad’s legitimacy in the eyes of the Syrian people”.
I guess the President and other leaders were waiting on a UN report that was just released, as sort of a back up for Assad to step down.
The call from western capitals came as it was revealed that UN human rights investigators have listed the names of 50 regime figures who could be prosecuted by the international criminal court (ICC) for crimes committed against civilians during the violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
The list is believed to contain officials from the president’s inner circle and security agencies. It marks the first time that government insiders have faced the prospect of criminal charges since the five-month uprising began.
A decision on whether to refer the names to the ICC is likely to be made on Thursday.
The UN report accuses officials of torture, summary executions and abuse of children – allegations that could amount to crimes against humanity. It accuses security forces of indiscriminately firing at demonstrators, sometimes from helicopters, and says injured protesters have been killed inside hospitals, sometimes being locked alive in mortuary freezers. It says Syrian officials confirmed that around 1,900 demonstrators had been killed by mid-July, and states that hundreds more have been killed since then.
“Children have not only been targeted by security forces, but they have been repeatedly subject to the same human rights and criminal violations as adults, including torture,” the report said.
The report’s authors were denied access to Syria and spent four months interviewing defectors and demonstrators who had fled the country.
In US Political news…It looks like more and more professional pundits are seeing the light, just wish they would have listened to us a few years ago…George W. Obama? – CBS News
There was a terrible oil pipeline explosion in San Martin Texmelucan, Mexico.
A massive oil pipeline explosion lay waste to parts of a central Mexican city Sunday, incinerating people, cars, houses and trees as gushing crude turned streets into flaming rivers. At least 28 people were killed, 13 of them children, in a disaster authorities blamed on oil thieves.
The blast in San Martin Texmelucan, initally estimated to have affected 5,000 residents in a three-mile (five-kilometer) radius, scorched homes and cars and left metal and pavement twisted and in some cases burned to ash in the intense heat.
Relatives sobbed as firefighters pulled charred bodies from the incinerated homes, some of the remains barely more than piles of ashes and bones.
The disastrous accident is being blamed on thieves who were attempting to steal crude oil.
Investigators found a hole in the pipeline and equipment for extracting crude, said Laura Gurza, chief of the federal Civil Protection emergency response agency.
“They lost control because of the high pressure with which the fuel exits the pipeline,” he said.
The oil flowed more than half a mile (one kilometer) down a city street before diverting into a river. At some point a spark of unknown origin caused both to erupt in flames.
I found that story on Fox News. I’m not sure how much attention it will get in the U.S. Cudos to Fox for covering it.
The National Journal has a preview of what we’re in store for in 2012 if we can’t dump Obama and find a qualified, electable liberal to replace him. According to the author, Ronald Brownstein, there are two types of Republicans who might run for president: “managers” like Mitt Romney and “populists” like Sarah Palin.
The most prominent populists are former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The leading manager is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, although he could face competition from such current governors as Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, and, conceivably, New Jersey’s Chris Christie. Onetime House Speaker Newt Gingrich straddles both camps but leans toward the populist side. Outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a self-described “Sam’s Club” Republican with an equable manner, also straddles the line but probably tilts toward the manager camp, as would Sen. John Thune of South Dakota if he ran. Conversely, if Texas Gov. Rick Perry reverses his decision and joins the race, he would enter as a full-throated populist.
No matter which type we get stuck with, it’s going to be a nightmare.
The two groups disagree on some issues (trade, aid to banks), but the most important differences between them are cultural and stylistic, not ideological. The populists thunder; the managers reassure. The populists stress their social values; the managers tout their economic competence. The populists rage at the elite; the managers mingle easily with them.
To their supporters, the populists represent a cultural statement: Who they are is more important than what they will do. For the managers, that equation is reversed: Their biggest selling point is their agenda, not their identity.
Of course, Obama might be able to get some of his base back now that Congress has suddenly handed him DADT repeal. IMHO, Obama didn’t really want it, but he’ll take the resulting bump it will probably give him. It’s not clear yet what results the tax cuts will have on Obama’s popularity. I guess we’ll have to wait and see about that.
Also at the National Journal, there’s an interesting piece by Michael Hirsch: Obama Tried to Placate Liberal Economists
At a White House news conference on December 7 in which he announced a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts, Barack Obama chastised his liberal base for sticking unrealistically to their “purist” positions.
What the president didn’t say was that a few hours earlier he had met with and tried to assauge some his most vociferous liberal critics — economists Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Alan Blinder, and Robert Reich, the former Labor secretary.
Excuse me? Why the hell did it take so long for this story to get out?
“He didn’t really respond,” said one of the participants. “He said it was hard to change the narrative after 30 years” of small-government rhetoric and policies dating back to Ronald Reagan. “He seemed to be looking for a way to reassure the base. Or maybe it was just to reassure himself.”
Um…presidentin’ is hard. Part of the job is influencing “the narrative.” Maybe if Obama had actually tried, he could have accomplished something. But why try? Might as well just relax, play basketball, and vacation in Martha’s Vineyard wine tours, enjoying Hawaii, and let the other Reaganites control “the narrative.” The article even harks back to Obama’s praise of Reagan during the primaries.
We just have to dump this loser!
There’s a great post on Washington’s Blog arguing for a causal connection between income inequality and the crashes of 1929 and 2008.
…recent studies by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty are waking up more and more economists to the possibility that there may be a connection.
Specifically, economics professors Saez (UC Berkeley) and Piketty (Paris School of Economics) show that the percentage of wealth held by the richest 1% of Americans peaked in 1928 and 2007 – right before each crash…
Please go read the whole thing.
Raw Story reports that a new study supports the hypothesis that the “Supreme Court is becoming a tool of corporate interests.”
A study has found that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has undergone a fundamental shift in its outlook, ruling in favor of businesses much more often than previous courts.
According to the Northwestern University study, commissioned for the New York Times, the Roberts court has sided with business interests in 61 percent of relevant cases, compared to 46 percent in the last five years of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who passed away in 2005….
Meanwhile, a second study, from the Constitutional Accountability Center, has charted the growing influence of the US Chamber of Commerce on the courts. The chamber started filing amicus briefs with the top court three decades ago in an effort to prompt more business-friendly rulings.
According to the study, the Roberts Supreme Court has sided with the Chamber 68 percent of the time, up from 56 percent under the Rehnquist court, and noticeably higher than the 43 percent during the relevant part of Chief Justice Warren Burger’s court, which ended in 1986.
Fox News reports the results of another study, one that finds that “Prime Time TV ‘Objectifies and Fetishizes’ Underage Girls”
According to a new study conducted by the Parents Television Council (PTC), Hollywood is shockingly obsessed with sexualizing teen girls, to the point where underage female characters are shown participating in an even higher percentage of sexual situations than their adult counterparts: 47 percent to 29 percent respectively.
PTC’s report, entitled “New Target: A Study of Teen Female Sexualization on Primetime TV” is based on a content analysis drawn from the 25 most popular shows in the 12-17 demographic throughout the 2009-2010 television season.
“The results from this report show Tinseltown’s eagerness to not only objectify and fetishize young girls, but to sexualize them in such a way that real teens are led to believe their sole value comes from their sexuality,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “This report is less about the shocking numbers that detail the sickness of early sexualization in our entertainment culture and more about the generation of young girls who are being told how society expects them to behave.”
“Storylines on the most popular shows among teens are sending the message to our daughters that being sexualized isn’t just acceptable, it should be sought after,” Winter said.
I have to say, this study reflect what I’ve noticed in the small sample of TV I expose myself to. Prime time is sure different than when I was a teenager.
At the Washington Post, there’s a story about (surprise!) hypocrisy in the Senate.
The Senate Armed Services Committee prohibits its staff and presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation from owning stocks or bonds in 48,096 companies that have Defense Department contracts. But the senators who sit on the influential panel are allowed to own any assets they want.
And they have owned millions in interests in these firms.
The committee’s prohibition is designed to prevent high-ranking Pentagon officials from using inside information to enrich themselves or members of their immediate family.
But panel members have access to much of the same inside information, because they receive classified briefings from high-ranking defense officials about policy, contracts and plans for combat strategies and weapons systems.
Of course it’s not just hypocrisy. It’s a wide open invitation to corruption.
Since I’m a psychologist, I’m going to throw in a story about psychological research. The author, Tyler Burge, is a professor of philosophy at UCLA. He discusses one of my pet peeves–the way brain imaging research is glorified in the media, even though it’s really just based on correlations between brain activity and specific behaviors. While the results of these studies can be interesting, they aren’t sufficient to actually explain human behavior.
Imagine that reports of the mid-20th-century breakthroughs in biology had focused entirely on quantum mechanical interactions among elementary particles. Imagine that the reports neglected to discuss the structure or functions of DNA. Inheritance would not have been understood. The level of explanation would have been wrong. Quantum mechanics lacks a notion of function, and its relation to biology is too complex to replace biological understanding. To understand biology, one must think in biological terms.
Discussing psychology in neural terms makes a similar mistake. Explanations of neural phenomena are not themselves explanations of psychological phenomena. Some expect the neural level to replace the psychological level. This expectation is as naive as expecting a single cure for cancer. Science is almost never so simple.
Correlations between localized neural activity and specific psychological phenomena are important facts. But they merely set the stage for explanation. Being purely descriptive, they explain nothing. Some correlations do aid psychological explanation. For example, identifying neural events underlying vision constrains explanations of timing in psychological processes and has helped predict psychological effects. We will understand both the correlations and the psychology, however, only through psychological explanation.
Unfortunately, Burge wants to replace the evidence from brain imaging research with perceptual research. Okay, but perception doesn’t fully explain human behavior either.
I could make the same argument for other psychological fields. For example, what about child development? One problem with research on brain structures is that every child’s brain develops differently, depending on the experiences the child has with his or her environment. The brain is so flexible that each human brain is truly unique–even though there are obviously many similarities across individuals.
Anyway, it’s an interesting article. Check it out if you’re interested in psychology.
Soooooo… what are you reading this morning? Please share!