Many of you might be stuck in your homes today with all that weather so here are some things to keep you busy. First, Richard Engle’s Diary of his kidnapping in Syria has been published in Vanity Fair.
A group of about 15 armed men were fanning out around us. Three or four of them stood in the middle of the road blocking our vehicles. The others went for the doors. They wore black jackets, black boots, and black ski masks. They were professionals and used hand signals to communicate. A balled fist meant stop. A pointed finger meant advance. Each man carried an AK-47. Several of the gunmen began hitting the windows of our car and minivan with the stocks of their weapons. When they got the doors open, they leveled their guns at our chests.
Time was slowing down as if I’d been hit in the head. Time was slowing down as if I were drowning.
This can’t be happening. I know what this is. This can’t be happening. These are the shabiha. They’re fucking kidnapping us.
“Get out!” a gunman was yelling as he dragged Aziz from the car.
Then I saw the container truck. It wasn’t far away, parked off the road and hidden among olive trees. The metal doors at its rear stood open, flanked by gunmen.
That’s where they are going to put us. That’s here for us. We’re going into that truck.
I got out of the car. Two of the gunmen were already marching Aziz to the truck. He had his hands up, his shoulders back, his head tilted forward to protect against blows from behind.
Maybe I should run. Maybe I should run right now. But the road is flat and open. The only cover is by the trees near the truck. Maybe I should run. But where?
I saw John standing by the minivan. Gunmen were taking Ian toward the truck. It was his turn. Like me, John hadn’t been touched yet.
Maybe they’ve forgotten us? Maybe they don’t want us?
Our eyes made contact. John shrugged and opened his hands in disbelief. Time was going very slowly now, but my mind was racing like a panicked heart in a body that can’t move.
“Get going!” a gunman yelled at me in Arabic, pointing his weapon at my chest.
I looked at him blankly, pretending not to understand. Foreigners who speak Arabic in the Middle East are often assumed to be working for the C.I.A. or Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad. The gunman took me by the finger, holding on to it by the very tip. I could have pulled it away with the smallest tug.
But then what? Then go where?
John was the next to join us in the back of the truck. He walked slowly, as if being escorted to a waiting limo. John is a New Yorker and was dressed entirely in black. He has long white hair and a devilish smile, and his nickname is the Silver Fox. He and I had been in a lot of rough places—Libya, Iraq, Gaza. John, Ghazi, and Aziz were among my closest friends in the world.
At least I’ll die with my friends.
This will let you know how tough it is out here: “To Place Graduates, Law Schools Are Opening Firms”.
The plan is one of a dozen efforts across the country to address two acute — and seemingly contradictory — problems: heavily indebted law graduates with no clients and a vast number of Americans unable to afford a lawyer.
This paradox, fed by the growth of Internet-based legal research and services, is at the heart of a crisis looming over the legal profession after decades of relentless growth and accumulated wealth. It is evident in the sharp drop in law school applications and the increasing numbers of Americans showing up in court without a lawyer.
“It’s a perfect storm,” said Stacy Caplow, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who focuses on clinical education. “The longstanding concerns over access to justice for most Americans and a lack of skills among law graduates are now combined with the problems faced by all law schools. It’s creating conditions for change.”
Remember John Yoo. He was the lawyer/author of those Bush legal memos justifying torture. He thinks that Obama is “getting too much grief over targeted killing”.
And he wants Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—who filibustered Obama’s nominee to head the CIA for 13 hours on Wednesday—to lay off.
“I admire libertarians but I think Rand Paul’s filibuster in many ways is very much what libertarians do, they make these very symbolic gestures, standing for some extreme position,” said Yoo, now a UC Berkeley law professor, who once suggested it was okay for the president to order a child’s testicles be crushed. Referring to Paul’s marathon filibuster, an attempt to force the Obama administration to clarify its views on the use of military force against terror suspects in the United States, Yoo said “It sort of reminds me of young kids when they first read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and they suddenly think that federal taxation equals slavery and they’re not going to pay any federal taxes anymore.” Yoo’s statements were made on a conference call Thursday held by the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organization.
Paul’s conservative colleagues also pushed back on him on Thursday: On the Senate floor, John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) mocked Paul’s objections as “ridiculous.”
Yoo said that he thought the administration’s problems stemmed from its belief that it needed to provide “due process” to terror suspects abroad—or even in the United States, referring to a recently leaked white paper outlining the Obama administration’s legal views on targeted killings of US citizen terror suspects.
So, here’s an interesting study. It seems that the “States With Most Gun Laws Have Fewest Gun Deaths”.
“It seems pretty clear: If you want to know which of the states have the lowest gun-mortality rates just look for those with the greatest number of gun laws,” said Dr. Eric W. Fleegler of Boston Children’s Hospital who, with colleagues, analyzed firearm-related deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2007 through 2010.
By scoring individual states simply by the sheer volume of gun laws they have on the books, the researchers noted that in states with the highest number of firearms measures, their rate of gun deaths is collectively 42 percent lower when compared to states that have passed the fewest number of gun rules. The study was published online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
As proof, Fleegler pointed to the firearm-fatality rates in law-laden states such as Massachusetts (where there were 3.4 gun deaths per 100,000 individuals), New Jersey (4.9 per 100,000) and Connecticut (5.1 per 100,000). In states with sparser firearms laws, researchers reported that gun-mortality rates were higher: Louisiana (18.0 per 100,000), Alaska (17.5 per 100,000) and Arizona (13.6 per 100,000).
Speaking of working to end violence, today is Intentional Women’s Day. This year’s theme is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women” Here’s some headlines for that celebration. First off, here’s French economist and head of the IMF Christine Leguarde. You can watch her speak at this IMF Link.
Here’s some suggested readings for you.
From the UK Guardian: “International Women’s Day: school is ‘the new front line of feminism’”
Surveys and anecdotal evidence may suggest that few young women identify with the word feminism, fearing it sits at odds with a desire to wear makeup or heels. Yet there are increasing signs of an interest in gender equality issues among these same young women, who are now turning to social media such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook to reach out to fellow activists or just to share experiences and seek advice about what can be done.
Laura Bates, the founder of the #everydaysexism campaign, says that 10% of its more than 20,000 entries detailing harassment come from under-16s, with many more from colleges.
Campaign group UK Feminista has been so inundated with requests to speak to schools around the country that it has now launched a two-year programme of workshops and campaigns aimed at secondary pupils. Called Generation F: Young Feminists in Action, it comes as the government considers a cross-party bid to make sex and relationship education compulsory in schools.
Australian women make up just over half of the total Australian population.
In some areas, equality has been achieved, but in others there is clearly a long way to go.
The boards of both private and public organisations are still dominated by men.
For instance, only about 10 per cent of the executives of companies listed in the Australian Stock Exchange Market are female.
And according to federal government figures, average weekly earnings for women are $250 less than men.
United Nations Women director for Australia, Julie McKay, thinks a combination of socio-economic factors contribute to this situation.
“I think there’s a huge issue about unconscious bias, that we sometimes don’t even realise that we have, about the roles that women should play and the sort of characteristics that make different people leaders. But I think we also got other issues around accessibility and affordability of child care, which prevent many women being able to access work and particularly full time work.”
Many migrant and refugee women in Australia can be prevented from working in the field in which they’re experienced, due to lack of English skills or problems with qualification recognition.
But Chin Wong, from the Australian Migrant and Refugee Women’s Alliance, says that doesn’t mean they don’t get into the workforce.
She argues that female newcomers can be preferred by employers because they are more likely to ignore their rights, and tend to argue less than men about working conditions.
“Sometimes the women can find jobs easier than men and therefore a lot of times the man become the homemaker, and the woman has to go to work. But that doesn’t mean that when they come home they don’t still have to make sure that the houses are maintained, because that’s culture. Some of the cultures mean that the women have to do most of the work.”
Here’s two suggested reads on racism in America by Ed Kilgore with a link to Ta-Nehisi’s Coates’ guest column in the New York Time.
If you are a white person who has on occasion felt aggrieved at the persistence of allegations of white racism in America, do yourself and your conscience a favor and read Ta-Nehisi’s Coates’ guest column today in the New York Times.
His point of departure is the humiliating frisking of the very famous and distinguished actor Forest Whitaker by an employee of a deli in Coates’ own Manhattan neighborhood. But he uses this incident to make the very important point that if we disclaim the possibility of racist behavior on the part of “good” or “moral” people, we may well wind up excusing racism almost altogether.
The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion. We can forgive Whitaker’s assailant. Much harder to forgive is all that makes Whitaker stand out in the first place. New York is a city, like most in America, that bears the scars of redlining, blockbusting and urban renewal. The ghost of those policies haunts us in a wealth gap between blacks and whites that has actually gotten worse over the past 20 years.
But much worse, it haunts black people with a kind of invisible violence that is given tell only when the victim happens to be an Oscar winner. The promise of America is that those who play by the rules, who observe the norms of the “middle class,” will be treated as such. But this injunction is only half-enforced when it comes to black people, in large part because we were never meant to be part of the American story. Forest Whitaker fits that bill, and he was addressed as such.
I am trying to imagine a white president forced to show his papers at a national news conference, and coming up blank. I am trying to a imagine a prominent white Harvard professor arrested for breaking into his own home, and coming up with nothing. I am trying to see Sean Penn or Nicolas Cage being frisked at an upscale deli, and I find myself laughing in the dark. It is worth considering the messaging here. It says to black kids: “Don’t leave home. They don’t want you around.” It is messaging propagated by moral people.
The thing is, this has always been more or less true. My extended family (thought not, mercifully, my nuclear family) when I was growing up in the Jim Crow South was loaded with racists. None of them were members of the Ku Klux Klan, perpetrators of violence, or “bad people” by any general measure. Most of them were very regular church-goers. One of the sweetest people I ever knew was a great aunt who after MLK’s assassination allowed as how she wished she could take in the assassin and feed him and protect him for his great act in defending Christian civilization. That wouldn’t have been surprising to Dr. King himself, whose classic Letter From a Birmingham Jail was addressed to the good Christian clergy of that city who by their silence and calls for an unjust “peace” were defending segregation more effectively than the hooded riffraff of the Klan.
So, there are my suggestions today. Please be careful if the weather around you is “lionly”. What’s on your reading and blogging list?
It seems JJ’s having some issues with word press so I thought I’d just provide a few links to discuss since I really have a good case of blurry brain today. Something intense and wonky is beyond me this evening.
I don’t know if any of you watch Richard Engle on NBC. He’s one of the better foreign correspondents around. He’s missing in Syria right now. He hasn’t been in touch with NBC since Thursday. Syria’s a serious war zone right now with a mad dictator in charge of some fairly scary weapons so this is concerning.
NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has gone missing in Syria, according to Turkish news reports. The reports also say that Aziz Akyavaş, a Turkish journalist working with Engel, is unaccounted for. NBC News has been successfully keeping Engel’s status subject to a news blackout—one to which Gawker agreed until now—for at least the past 24 hours.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet is reporting that Engel and Akyavaş were last known to be in Syria and haven’t been in contact with NBC News since Thursday morning. The news has been reported widely in the Turkish press over the past 24 hours, including by Turkish news channel NTV, which presents itself as an international partner of MSNBC. It’s also been widely distributed on Twitter.
A lot of the worst nuts are keeping their mouths shut about the Sandy Hook massacre. However, there’s alway Dr. Dobson to bring on the theocratic fascism.
James Dobson dedicated his radio program this morning to discussing Friday’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut, which he attributed to the fact that God has “allowed judgment to fall upon us” because the nation has turned its back on him by accepting things like abortion and gay marriage:
Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I’m not talking politically, I’m not talking about the result of the November sixth election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.
I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.
And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.
I’ve really thought a lot of the gun nuts represent an insurrectionist attitude and that many of them are still what I would chararterize as neoconfederates or confederacy hold outs. Larry Pratt proved that royally on HardBall today. Frankly, I hope the FBI keeps a really good eye or twenty on him.
Pratt believes gun ownership is necessary to scare office holders and to remind them that we can take them out. I have no idea what to say to a man that is so obsessed with stolen elections that he suggests assassination as a way to correct things.
During the interview on Hardball, Pratt argued that guns are necessary to “control the government.” When Matthews asked for an example, Pratt pointed to 1946, in Athens, Tenn., when townsmen took up arms against corrupt government officials.
David Chipman, a former special agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who now works with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told Matthews that Pratt’s argument was bogus.
“Law enforcement is here as a force of good and we’re the good guys, and that’s what we saw in Newtown. When we get rhetoric like I’m hearing right now, I think this is extremely fringe, I believe most Americans believe otherwise.”
Pratt scoffed at Chipman as a tool of the government. I really think that people like Pratt–read Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachmann, Allen West, etc.–need to be outed for the insane extremists they are.
In what can only be seen as a malicious plot
by Newsweek’s editors[Update: this is a long blog post, not a magazine piece] to ensure Megan McArdle’s reputation does not outlive Newsweek, the Daily Beast has published a 4,000 word essay by its new hire on how to stop massacres like last Friday’s. McArdle begins her essay with a prescient harbinger (“There just aren’t good words to talk about Newtown.”) but recovers to churn out a fairly standard libertarian argument about why various government remedies won’t work. And it’s true, to some extent, that various regulatory solutions all have complications.
The problem comes at the end when, having dismissed the standard liberal regulatory measures as unworkable, she has to propose her own solution. This is what McArdle comes up with:
I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.
Are you kidding me? You think gun control is impractical, so your plan is to turn the entire national population, including young children, into a standby suicide squad? Through private initiative, of course. It’s way more feasible than gun control!
Yes, if only those first graders had learned to tackle a shooter with 2 semiautomatic weapons in hand and a chicken-fried brain. What a morooonnnnnn!!!!
There is one major headline today worth mentioning. That is the death of Hawaiian former Senator and World War 2 Hero Daniel Inouye.
Democrat Daniel Inouye, the U.S. Senate’s most senior member and a Medal of Honor recipient for his bravery during World War II, has died. He was 88.
He died of respiratory complications and had been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center since earlier this month. His office said his last word was “Aloha,” the traditional Hawaiian word for “hello” and “goodbye.”
President Obama praised Inouye, saying the nation has “lost a true American hero.”
“In Washington, he worked to strengthen our military, forge bipartisan consensus, and hold those of us in government accountable to the people we were elected to serve,” Obama said in a statement. “But it was his incredible bravery during World War II — including one heroic effort that cost him his arm but earned him the Medal of Honor — that made Danny not just a colleague and a mentor, but someone revered by all of us lucky enough to know him.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced the news of Inouye’s death on the Senate floor, sparking a round of tributes for the man Reid called “a giant of the Senate.” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hailed Inouye’s service and his reserve as a mark of “men who lead by example and expect nothing in return.”
While Ailes’s network said it wasn’t the right time to talk about legislation, Murdoch had no hesitation. Within hours of the attack, he took to Twitter to call for an automatic-weapons ban. “Terrible news today. When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz after similar tragedy,” he wrote, referring to Australia’s move to ban assault weapons in 1996 after a man used two semiautomatic rifles to kill 35 people and wound 21. That massacre came six weeks after the horrific mass school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland, in which sixteen children and one adult were murdered. (Despite Murdoch’s plea, automatic weapons are already illegal in the United States; Adam Lanza used semiautomatics.)
As a global media mogul, Murdoch’s newspapers and television networks have the power to shape public opinion. Already there are signs that parts of Murdoch’s empire are adopting the boss’s position. Today’s New York Post cover, fronting a photo of Obama, declared, “ENOUGH!” In London, where gun culture is decidedly outre, the cover of the Sun screamed, “END THE LUNACY.” Murdoch “is obviously very affected by what’s gone on,” News Corp. executive vice-president Joel Klein told me. “I think most rational people would think there’s no place for assault weapons. I don’t think it’s complicated.” He said that Murdoch will continue to advocate for gun-control policies.
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Oh, here’s a musical interlude to read by: