Posted: November 7, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, Foreign Affairs, U.S. Politics | Tags: Adam Schiff, Arkady Dvorkovich, Bizarro World, Carter Page, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Donald Trump, House Intelligence Committee, Jared Kushner, Robert Mercer, Saudi Arabia, Steele Dossier, Steve Bannon
I’m having another one of those mornings when my head is spinning from trying to sort out all the nutty news out there. We truly are living in Bizarro World now. If you want proof, just try reading Carter Page’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee (pdf). I’ve read some of it, and hope to read more this afternoon. Some insights journalists have noted:
The Washington Post: Trump adviser sent email describing ‘private conversation’ with Russian official.
Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to President Trump’s campaign whose visit to Moscow during the election has drawn scrutiny, sent an email to fellow Trump aides during his trip describing “a private conversation” with a senior Russian official who spoke favorably of the Republican candidate, according to records released late Monday by congressional investigators.
The email appeared to contradict earlier statements by Page, who had said he had only Page also wrote that he had been provided “incredible insights and outreach” by Russian lawmakers and “senior members” of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration during the trip.
The email appeared to contradict earlier statements by Page, who had said he had only exchanged brief greetings with the senior Russian official, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, after he delivered a speech at a Russian university.
In his July 2016 note, Page wrote that Dvorkovich had “expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to a vast range of current international problems.”
Page had withheld the email from the Committee, claiming a 5th Amendment right to turn over some information while holding back anything that would incriminate him. Page was unaware that the Committee already had his emails.
Page’s email was read aloud by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) when Page met behind closed doors last week with the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 president election….
Confronted with his email, Page told the committee that he had not meant that he met with any officials but rather that he had learned of their views about the U.S. election from local media and scholars. He maintained that his interaction with Dvorkovich consisted of a brief greeting, and that he had learned his views on the campaign while listening to Dvorkovich’s public address. Page told the committee that he had not worked with the Russians to hack emails or otherwise influence the election.
OK . . . ?? Page’s testimony reads like something written out of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.
Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider: Carter Page’s testimony is filled with bombshells — and supports key portions of the Steele dossier.
Page revealed during his testimony that he met with both members of Russia’s presidential administration and with the head of investor relations at the state-owned Russian oil giant Rosneft during his trip to Moscow last July.
He also congratulated members of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team on July 14 for their “excellent work” on the “Ukraine amendment” — a reference to the Trump campaign’s decision to “intervene” to water down a proposed amendment to the GOP’s Ukraine platform….
Page also revealed that Trump campaign adviser Sam Clovis had asked him to sign a non-disclosure agreement upon joining the campaign — and that he discussed his July Moscow trip with Clovis both before he went and after he returned.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff confronted Page with an email he wrote on July 8 from Moscow to Trump campaign adviser J.D. Gordon saying that he had received “incredible insights and outreach from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration here.”
Former British spy Christopher Steele wrote in the dossier that an “official close to Presidential Administration Head, S. IVANOV, cornfided in a compatriot that a senior colleague in the Internal Political Department of the PA, DIVYEKIN (nfd) also had met secretly with PAGE on his recent visit.”
According to that official in the dossier, Diveykin told Page that the Kremlin had a dossier of kompromat on Hillary Clinton that they wanted to give to the Trump campaign.
Read the rest at Business Insider.
NBC News: Carter Page Coordinated Russia Trip With Top Trump Campaign Officials.
Former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, who has come under scrutiny in the investigation of Russian election interference, told a House committee that he sought permission for a July 2016 trip to Moscow from senior Trump campaign officials, and reported to other Trump officials about the trip when he returned.
It’s long been known that Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016, but he has said it was in his private capacity, unrelated to his role with the Trump campaign.
Page, whose sworn testimony was released Monday night, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that he sought permission to make the trip from campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and also notified Hope Hicks, who is now the White House communications director.
Lewandowski told Page he was clear to go on the trip as long as the travel was not associated with his work on the campaign, Page told the committee.
Page also acknowledged that he had been aware that another volunteer campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, had been meeting with a professor with links to the Kremlin, according to the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Check out this lengthy Twitter thread for more details on Page’s testimony.
And a reminder:
Charles Pierce: We’re Again Testing How Much Bullsh*t American Politics Can Withstand. Enter Carter Page.
Prior to Carter Page’s bravura piece of surreal performance art on Monday before the House Select Committee On Intelligence, there was Casey Stengel in 1958, confounding the Senate Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee that was looking into removing professional baseball’s exemption from the country’s anti-trust regulations. And then, 15 years later, Tony Ulasewicz, the hangdog ex-NYPD cop-turned-Nixonian bagman, explained to Sam Ervin and the special committee looking into Watergate how he handled the payoffs to the original Watergate burglars—including the piquant detail that, while he was roaming Washington with paper bags full of cash, he wore a subway motorman’s change dispenser on his belt because he was doing so much business in public phone booths.
But neither of them came anywhere close to the kung-fu fighting that Page did with the English language on Monday. The committee wisely released a transcript of Page’s testimony, and chunks of it were flying around the Intertoobz all Monday night. I found that the best way to read it was to dim all the lights and play all my Hawkwind albums really loud.
There’s just so much chewy goodness. For example, Page refers to the “so-called Putin regime,” but has no compunction of referring to “the Obama-Clinton regime” without the qualifying modifier. He also seems to believe that the Senate “Gang of Eight” was an actual gang, with Harry Reid as its jefe. His testimony begins with a long letter he’d written in response to the committee. Here, from that letter, he presents as evidence that he and the Russians were guiltless of ratfcking the 2016 election the fact that he is not yet wealthy.
If our government had a better understanding of Russia and the way business is now conducted in Russia, the 2016 Dodgy Dossier which alleged that I should have received a multi-million dollar bribe after President Trump’s victory in November would have been easily dismissed as a work of fiction by these supposed subject-matter experts.
The letter also refers to the “gangster tactics” of “the transnational veritable organized crime network that Reid leveraged during the Clinton/Obama regime,” so you can pretty much figure out that we’ve turned a pretty dark bend in a pretty strange river.
Read the rest at the Esquire link above.
Other Bizarro World News:
Something strange is happening in Saudi Arabia and it seems likely Trump and Jared Kushner are involved. David Ignatius wrote on Sunday:
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says he’s cracking down on corruption. But the sweeping arrests of cabinet ministers and senior princes Saturday night looked to many astonished Arab observers like a bold but risky consolidation of power.
MBS, as the headstrong 32-year-old ruler is known, struck at some of the kingdom’s most prominent business and political names in a new bid to gain political control and drive change in the oil kingdom. By the count of the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya news channel, the arrests included 11 princes, four ministers and several dozen others.
Jared Kushner. Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. General Raheel Sharif at the US-Arab-Islamic Summit in Riyadh in May 2017.
“He’s creating a new Saudi Arabia,” said one Saudi business leader contacted Sunday. He noted that the anti-corruption campaign follows other aggressive but controversial moves, including a royal decree allowing women to drive and limits on the religious police.
“This is very risky,” the business leader said, because MBS is now challenging senior princes and religious conservatives simultaneously. The executive, who strongly supports MBS’s liberalization efforts, worried that “he’s fighting too many wars at once.”
This followed a secret visit by Kushner in October.
MBS is emboldened by strong support from President Trump and his inner circle, who see him as a kindred disrupter of the status quo — at once a wealthy tycoon and a populist insurgent. It was probably no accident that last month, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy.
Bloomberg: Trump Undercuts His Advisers Again With Saudi Tweets.
President Donald Trump again showed how quickly his tweets can outrun U.S. foreign policy planning, after he backed Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince over the arrests of dozens of officials before the State Department had completed its review of the moves.
While Trump had talked with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about Saudi Arabia as they toured Tokyo together Nov. 5 and 6, there was no formal consultation before he tweeted early Tuesday that King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman “know exactly what they are doing.” [….] A second tweet said “some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”
Trump and Kushner are running their own foreign policy out of the White House, probably based on their business interests.
The Intercept: CIA Director Met Advocate of Disputed DNC Hack Theory–at Trump’s Request.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo
CIA DIRECTOR MIKE Pompeo met late last month with a former U.S. intelligence official who has become an advocate for a disputed theory that the theft of the Democratic National Committee’s emails during the 2016 presidential campaign was an inside job, rather than a hack by Russian intelligence.
Pompeo met on October 24 with William Binney, a former National Security Agency official-turned-whistleblower who co-authored an analysispublished by a group of former intelligence officials that challenges the U.S. intelligence community’s official assessment that Russian intelligence was behind last year’s theft of data from DNC computers. Binney and the other former officials argue that the DNC data was “leaked,” not hacked, “by a person with physical access” to the DNC’s computer system.
In an interview with The Intercept, Binney said Pompeo told him that President Donald Trump had urged the CIA director to meet with Binney to discuss his assessment that the DNC data theft was an inside job. During their hour-long meeting at CIA headquarters, Pompeo said Trump told him that if Pompeo “want[ed] to know the facts, he should talk to me,” Binney said.
A senior intelligence source confirmed that Pompeo met with Binney to discuss his analysis, and that the CIA director held the meeting at Trump’s urging.
Pompeo and Trump are apparently running an alternative CIA investigation!
Finally, The Guardian reports from the Paradise Papers: Offshore cash helped fund Steve Bannon’s attacks on Hillary Clinton.
Eighteen months before guiding Donald Trump to election victory, Steve Bannon delivered the opening shot in the ruthless Republican campaign to paint their Democratic opponent as corrupt.
The future White House chief strategist produced a book in May 2015 accusing Hillary Clinton of trading favours for donations to her charitable foundation. Its questionable central charge, on the sale of a uranium company to Russia, recently became the subject of a House inquiry and feverish talk on conservative media.
But the financial arrangements of another foundation, which bankrolled Bannon’s creation of the book, Clinton Cash, have received less scrutiny.
Leaked documents and newly obtained public filings show how the billionaire Mercer family built a $60m war chest for conservative causes inside their family foundation by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid US tax.
The offshore vehicle was part of a network of companies in the Atlantic tax haven of Bermuda led by Robert Mercer, the wealthy hedge-fund executive and Bannon patron whose spending helped put Trump in the White House and aided a resurgence of the Republican right.
Read the rest at The Guardian link.
So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?
Posted: March 28, 2015 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: Amanda Knox, Andreas Lubitz, defense spending, East Village explosion, East Village history, gas leak, Germanwings crash, GOP Clown Car, LGBT prejudice, New York City, Rand Paul, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
I can’t wait for spring flowers and warmer weather, can you tell? I have all the symptoms of Spring fever, including inability to concentrate on anything serious, like politics or plane crashes. But I’ll do my best to give you some interesting links on this lazy late March Saturday.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Amanda Knox has finally been freed to live her life without the bizarre Italian legal system breathing down her neck. From the Chicago Tribune: Amanda Knox conviction thrown out by Italian court, closing legal saga.
Amanda Knox, who maintained that she and her former Italian boyfriend were innocent in her British roommate’s murder through multiple trials and nearly four years in jail, was vindicated Friday when Italy’s highest court threw out their convictions once and for all.
“Finished!” Knox’s lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova exulted after the decision was read out late Friday. “It couldn’t be better than this.”
The surprise decision definitively ends the 7½-year legal battle waged by Knox, 27, and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito, 31, to clear their names in the gruesome 2007 murder and sexual assault of British student Meredith Kercher.
The supreme Court of Cassation panel deliberated for 10 hours before declaring that the two did not commit the crime, a stronger exoneration than merely finding insufficient evidence to convict. Instead, had the court-of-resort upheld the pair’s convictions, Knox would have faced 28 ½ years in an Italian prison, assuming she would have been extradited, while Sollecito had faced 25 years.
“Right now I’m still absorbing what all this means and what comes to mind is my gratitude for the life that’s been given to me,” Knox said late Friday, speaking to reporters outside her mother’s Seattle home.
This case has made me grateful that in the U.S. Constitution contains a double jeopardy clause.
Things are getting really ugly in Yemen. From The Washington Post: How the Yemen conflict risks new chaos in the Middle East.
BEIRUT — The meltdown in Yemen is pushing the Middle East dangerously closer to the wider regional conflagration many long have feared would arise from the chaos unleashed by the Arab Spring revolts.
What began as a peaceful struggle to unseat a Yemeni strongman four years ago and then mutated into civil strife now risks spiraling into a full-blown war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran over a country that lies at the choke point of one of the world’s major oil supply routes.
With negotiators chasing a Tuesday deadline for the framework of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, it seems unlikely that Iran would immediately respond militarily to this week’s Saudi airstrikes in Yemen, analysts say.
But the confrontation has added a new layer of unpredictability — and confusion — to the many, multidimensional conflicts that have turned large swaths of the Middle East into war zones over the past four years, analysts say.
The United States is aligned alongside Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and against them in Yemen. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, who have joined in the Saudi offensive in Yemen, are bombing factions in Libya backed by Turkey and Qatar, who also support the Saudi offensive in Yemen. The Syrian conflict has been fueled by competition among all regional powers to outmaneuver one another on battlefields far from home.
Scary. All this because George W. Bush lied us into two needless, unwinnable wars.
Ahramonline: Arab leaders pledge support to Yemen.
Although Saturday’s Arab League summit was due to cover a range of regional topics, the ongoing crisis in Yemen took the lead spot as the summit opened with speeches from Arab leaders.
A Saudi-led military offensive is underway against targets held by Houthi rebels in the turmoil-hit country, with the backing of a number of Arab states.
In his opening speech, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said that military action was “inevitable” to restore legitimate rule in Yemen.
El-Sisi also said that Egypt has accepted a proposal by a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to form a joint Arab military force to counter the “unprecedented threats” facing the region’s stability.
Arab foreign ministers agreed on a draft resolution to form a joint Arab military force to counter growing security threats in the region. The proposal requires the endorsement of the Arab leaders during the two-day summit this weekend.
Saudi’s King Salman vowed in his opening speech that the military intervention will not stop until Yemen is stable and safe. The monarch said that Saudi Arabia supports the Hadi government’s legitimacy in Yemen and wants stability for the Yemeni population.
He further stated that the situation in the region necessitates an Arab coalition to fight terrorism.
More details from CNN: Arab League to discuss military operation in Yemen.
The Wall Street Journal on the incredibly selfish, suicidal co-pilot of that crashed Germanwings jet: Germanwings Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz Concealed Depression From Airline.
BERLIN—Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot who crashed an airliner into a French mountainside, was being treated for depression, a fact he concealed from his employer, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
Mr. Lubitz had been excused from work by his neuropsychologist for a period that included the day of the crash, this person told The Wall Street Journal, but he decided to ignore the advice and reported to work.
The Germanwings tragedy highlights a broader industry dilemma: reliance on pilots themselves to disclose serious physical or psychological ailments to their employer—and what can happen when secrecy urges or privacy considerations trump full disclosure, safety and medial experts say.
Despite mandatory, regular medical exams—supplemented by company-specific safeguards intended to periodically check on aviators’ skills and psychological state—airlines ultimately depend on employees to honestly assess and report when they shouldn’t be flying.
In return, Germanwings, a unit of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, and many other airlines around the globe promise to avoid punishing pilots who comply with that guiding principle.
Read more at the WSJ. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, this guy could have just shot himself or jumped out of a high window, but instead he decided to take 149 other people–including babies and high school kids–with him when he committed suicide.
A few stories on the terrible explosion in NYC’s East Village:
Newsweek: A Slice of New York City History Goes Up In Smoke.
An explosion in Manhattan’s East Village on Thursday injured an estimated 25 people and destroyed a row of landmarked buildings that have held meaning for generations of New Yorkers. At one time the mayor’s residence was there, and another building housed an iconic vintage-clothing store made popular in the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan.
“It’s a real tragedy. It was scary,” says Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council. “It’s shocking when this happens in an area that’s so close-knit. People really live on the streets here, in a good way. There’s a real community.”
City officials say the March 26 explosion happened at 121 Second Avenue and also damaged the neighboring buildings at 119, 123 and 125. The buildings all were awarded landmark status in October 2012 as part of a designation of an East Village/Lower East Side Historic District. The buildings in that district date mostly to the mid- to late 1800s, a time when wealthier New Yorkers started moving uptown and selling off their properties, which were often turned into tenement housing.
European immigrants began moving into the area in large numbers in the second half of the 19th century. An early influx consisted mostly of Germans, and the area became known as Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany. Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe moved there too and established a vibrant theater district.
“The East Village and the Lower East Side are remarkable in that they’ve seen successive waves of immigrants and new populations coming in and really shaping and affecting the physical environment, bringing with them their social clubs, their gathering places,” Bankoff says.
By the middle of the 20th century, the Village became an epicenter for artists and bohemians.
The historic district, one of 114 in the city, runs north-south from around East 7th Street to East Second Street and east-west from First and Second avenues to the Bowery.
Click on the above link to continue reading. More details on the fire at ABC News: NYC Building Fire: Restaurant Owner Smelled Gas Before Massive Explosion, Officials Say.
From The New Yorker, a thoughtful and interesting essay on living in the East Village by Sarah Larson: The East Village Fire: Love Saves the Day.
Finally, one of the passengers in the GOP Clown Car, faux libertarian Rand Paul, opens his big mouth and spews nonsense and hate.
From Charles Pierce’s “Stupid for Lunch” cafe: Rand Paul’s Take On Defense Spending. In which the cafe staff starts the five minute clock for Senator Rand Paul.
The staff at the Cafe has a small clock in one particular booth. The booth is reserved for Senator Rand Paul, whenever he stops by for a quick lunch, for which he invariably undertips, when he doesn’t try to beat itout the back door.
Time was when Senator Aqua Buddha entertained us all — five minutes at a time — about how the country was wasting its money on a whole mess of sophisticated boom-boom. The staff knows when to begin the countdown and they begin invariably to whisper again…
Continue reading at the link.
Atheist Ayn Rand must be spinning in her grave over this from TPM.
Rand: ‘Moral Crisis’ Led To Gay Marriage, US Needs Religious Revival.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Thursday told a group of pastors and religious leaders that the debate over gay marriage was a symptom of a “moral crisis” in America and said he hoped for “another Great Awakening.”
“Don’t always look to Washington to solve anything,” Paul said during a private prayer breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club.
“In fact, the moral crisis we have in our country — there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage — there’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage.”
Raw Story: Rand Paul calls for ‘tent revivals’ to resolve the ‘moral crisis’ of gay marriage.
“The moral crisis we have in our country — there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage — there’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think there would be some other sort of marriage, ” he explained. “I think the exhortation to try and change people’s thoughts has to come from the countryside.”
The libertarian lawmaker then took a slightly religious turn, saying “You know, I’ve said this before, we need a revival in the country.”
“We need another great awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying, you know,’reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform’.”
In a recent interview with Brett Baier of Fox News, Paul admitted that the use of the term ‘marriage’ for same sex couples offends him.
Watch the video at Raw Story. Honestly, I think that cartoon JJ post last night is beginning to make sense. Someone must have put LSD in Rand’s grits when he was a kid. Why would anyone vote for this wacko?
I’d write about the latest “revelations” about Hillary’s emails, but I don’t want to completely depress myself. I have to believe this will all die down before the 2016 primaries.
What have you been hearing and reading? Let us know in the comment thread and enjoy the rest of March. April is coming soon!
Posted: May 4, 2013 Filed under: Barack Obama, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Alex Jones, Boston Marathon bombings, Bush administration, CIA, conspiracy theories, false flag operation, FBI, Glen Beck, inappropriate dancing, John Dean, media misinformation, Omar Borkan Al Gala, Rekha Basu, Saudi Arabia, too handsome, Twitter, uncomfortable dancing
Omar Borkan Al Gala, fashion photographer, actor, and poet from Dubai
On April 24, I put up a lighthearted post about a story I’d seen on-line about three men from the UAE who were thrown out of a cultural festival in Saudi Arabia and deported for being “too handsome.” We are still getting hits on the post from all over the world, and it has been viewed thousands of times.
When I put the post up along with photos of Omar Borkan Al Gala, I had no idea if the story was actually true; I just thought it was silly and entertaining. I did quote from legitimate sources like Time Magazine though.
The post didn’t get much reaction at Sky Dancing that night, but on April 25, we had 6,700 page views from 4,672 unique visitors to Sky Dancing blog, and most of those folks were checking out the “too handsome” story and photos. We were linked at Gawker, The New York Daily News, Huffington Post UK, and hundreds of smaller sites. We got hits from countries I’d barely heard of before.
BTW, our beloved JJ works some kind of magic with Google that helps us stay at the top of searches, so that probably has contributed to our getting so much traffic from a silly post.
Anyway, last night I came across this interesting piece at at a site called “Islawmix: bringing clarity to Islamic law in the news.” The headline is “The Man Too Handsome for Saudi Arabia Who Wasn’t.”
Saudi Arabia often makes US (and international) headlines for its laws (legal mishaps?) regarding women, sex and religious minorities. Some of these stories undoubtedly belong there, but a surprising number gain traction thanks to a small amount of research and suspension of critical engagement. It seems that when it comes to Saudi Arabia (and sometimes her theocratic counterpart Iran, albeit less so), the more bizarre the story may seem – in that way only the Saudi Arabia of our perception could normalize – the more believable it is.
News and blog media have a particular penchant for covering ridiculous, often inaccurate and even false fatwas (here’s our quick definition and a more nuanced discussion on it). And in August 2012, the internet went into a bit of an uproar over the alleged building of an all-female city to promote women’s participation in the workforce. Unfortunately, the dreams of the impending matriarchy were dashed when it was eventually revealed that the city was for both men and women, but created facilities specific for women to encourage their participation.
On the “too handsome” story, Islawix reports that
As it turns out, three men were not, in fact, deported from Saudi Arabia. Actually, no one was deported from Saudi Arabia and certainly not for being too handsome. And, actually, no one was even kicked out of the heritage and cultural festival except for a member of the religious police for protesting against the presence of a Gulf female singer. According to UK’s Al-Arab:
A member of the Saudi feared religious police, known as Mutawa, stormed the UAE pavilion at National Festival for Heritage and Culture, also known as Al Janadriyah, but was forced out by the Gulf Kingdom’s national guards.
The incident took place when the Mutawa member objected to the presence of the Emirati singer Aryam in her country’s pavilion.
It turns out that Al Gala actually was in attendance at the event, but he wasn’t kicked out or deported.
There was, indeed, an incident involving Al Gala (and apparently him alone): according to the head of the mutawaeen, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh (Arabic source), Al Gala had made his way into the family section of the event and was dancing inappropriately. Several complaints were made against him and he was taken aside by members of the national guard, questioned and that was it. He was not asked to leave the event, let alone the country. It turns out his uncomfortable dancing and not his uncomfortably good looks were the reason for some cause for concern and discomfort at the festival.
I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Al Gala hadn’t even been in Saudi Arabia that day. I just saw this as a lighthearted and funny story. I’m grateful to Islamix for sorting out the real facts, and I apologize for any contribution I made inaccurate reporting on Middle Eastern culture.
Although I don’t really think the reporting on the Saudi Arabia story was that big a deal, it does highlight a real problem with misinformation in the media generally.
As someone who has lived in Boston for nearly half a century, I was shocked and traumatized by the bombings that took place at the Boston Marathon on April 15. I think it’s understandable that as a Bostonian and as a psychologist with an interest in personality development, I’ve been curious about the alleged bombers and their motivations. Naturally, I have been following the story fairly closely since the beginning.
I have been stunned by the amount of misinformation that has come not only from the media, but from the authorities involved in the investigation. It’s understandable that there is confusion in a chaotic story like this that involves horrible injuries and Hollywood-like shootouts in residential streets. I’ve lived here since 1967, and I’ve never seen anything like it. The misinformation coming from authorities and then printed unquestionably by the mainstream media contributes the the development of the kinds of bizarre conspiracy theories that appear in the wake of startling events.
For the past couple of days I’ve been on Twitter a lot, looking for information on the Tsarnaev brothers and their possible motives, as well as following updates on the investigation. I can’t begin to tell you the nutty stuff that is out there–claims that the FBI and/or CIA actually carried out the bombings and that the Tsarnaevs were framed; that the entire event was staged, with fake injuries and fake blood; that the shootouts were faked using “rubber bullets” or “dummy bullets”; that the bombings were carried out by Blackwater-type government mercenaries, and of course there were the inevitable Alex Jones blather about “false flag” attacks. I’ve had to block people who started following my tweets and trying to feed me this garbage.
Here are some articles on the Boston conspiracy theories and their implications:
Newsday: Conspiracy theories about the Boston Marathon bombings, by Rekha Basu.
Basu points out–and I strongly agree–that conspiracy theories are often fed by misinformation coming not only from the media, but from the government. After all the lies from the Bush administration that led us into two endless wars followed by the Obama’s administration’s refusal to investigate or prosecute Bush administration crimes, it’s hardly surprising that Americans are more suspicious of their government than ever. Basu’s concusion:
The problem is, we’ve been fed just enough mistruths from both parties, especially on war matters, to be susceptible. The Bush administration went to war with Iraq insisting it had weapons of mass destruction, when it didn’t. The Obama administration claimed Osama bin Laden was killed after a gunfight with U.S. troops, when he never had a chance to put up resistance. Americans were lied to about Iran-Contra, the My Lai massacre, the CIA-engineered overthrows of left-leaning governments in Chile and Guatemala. Some of us who grew up in the anti-war 1960s now pride ourselves on questioning official answers.
PolicyMic: Boston Bombing Conspiracy Theories Aren’t Even Theories, Just Paranoia. This is a really thoughtful and helpful piece, IMO.
The wake of the Boston Marathon bombings brought with it an undertow of conspiracy theories ranging from the farfetched to the unbelievable. Two weeks ago, I never would have imagined being asked to explain, in casual social situations, what a “false flag” attack is. OnThe David Pakman Show, inspired in great part by curiosity about the response it would bring, we’ve been debunking many of these theories. In dissecting much of the material, in particular one short video released by Glenn Beck, I’ve been able to identify the fundamental misunderstanding that impedes productive conversation with conspiracy theorists. This is not an indication of my personal belief that any specific conspiracy theory is or is not true. This is not a denial, on my part, that governments don’t sometimes lie, distort, and distract, but merely an attempt to point out the fallacious nature of many conspiratorial arguments….
Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing, Beck developed and expanded on a theory about the young Saudi national who was injured in the explosion. Initially incorrectly assumed to be a suspect in the immediate aftermath on April 15, Beck believes he is actually an Al-Qaeda recruiter who the government is trying to sneak out of the country. The theory is much more involved, but the details are irrelevant to my discussion here.
After outlining his case, Beck repeated the fundamental misunderstanding that so many conspiracy theorists hold. “The burden of proof is on the federal government,” Beck said, “and so far they have not presented one shred of evidence that has refuted what the Blaze (Beck’s associated internet media outlet) has reported.”
This is the central issue and fundamental problem surrounding conspiracy theories and theorists. The burden of proof is not transferred to whoever is accused by the conspiracy theorist. The desire for the federal government to address whether the moon landing was faked, whether 9/11 was an “inside job,” or whether the Boston Marathon bombing was a “false flag operation” does not transfer the burden of proof to the federal government. The burden of proof is on he who proposes the theory.
From Verdict, a legal analysis blog at Justia.com comes a piece by former Nixon lawyer and Watergate figure John Dean: Unfortunately, Conspiracy Theorists Are Now Busy Concocting Bizarre Explanations of The Boston Marathon Bombing.
Conspiracy-theory believers are now focusing on the Boston Marathon bombing, just as they did with the Sandy Hook killings of children and their teachers, by rejecting official information about the events. The increasing Internet prominence of people who reject “official” accounts of such events again raises questions: Who are these people? What are they doing? And why are they doing it?
Dean references a story in the Guardian that presents “a jaw-dropping list of the leading explanations being offered by conspiracy theorists for the Boston Marathon bombing,” and offers some background.
Conspiracy-theory thinking has had varying degrees of prominence throughout history. Broadly defined a conspiracy theory is “a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event.”
A recent poll shows, for example, that “37% of voters believe global warming is a hoax, 51% do not. Republicans say global warming is a hoax by a 58-25 margin, Democrats disagree 11-77.” And “51% of voters say a larger conspiracy was at work in the JFK assassination, just 25% say Oswald acted alone.” The poll noted that “28% of voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.”
You can read the rest at the link. I admit I have some issues with what Dean writes, because he suggests that to buy into any “conspiracy theory” is to abandon all critical thinking. And that definition is strange. I thought a conspiracy theory was the notion that more than one person was involved in planning or executing some event. Anyway, I would argue that the Warren Commission was based on a trumped up theory similar to the Bush administration’s propagation of it’s conspiracy theory about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It seems to me that one needs to apply “critical thinking” to both government activities and claims and to anti-government conspiracy theories. The problem IMO is that there are so many people out there who are just plain ignorant and/or stupid.
Anyway, I may have more on this in a future post. For now, here’s a link to a Salon article that Dakinikat posted awhile back on “the psychology of conspiratorial thinking” and another more recent article at Salon, originally published by Scientific American on “how conspiracists think.”
Now what’s on your mind today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and Have a terrific weekend!
Posted: April 24, 2013 Filed under: open thread | Tags: Omar Borkan Al Gala, Saudi Arabia, too handsome, United Arab Emirates
Omar Borkan Al Gala, fashion photographer, actor, and poet from Dubai
You may have heard about this already; but, as you can see, I have photos!
Time Magazine reports: “Saudi Arabia Reportedly Deports Men for Being ‘Too Handsome’”
The men were visiting Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates to attend the annual Jenadrivah Heritage & Cultural Festival in Riyadh. They were apparently minding their own business when members of Saudi Arabia’s religious police entered the pavilion and forcibly removed them from the festival. Their offense? They were considered “too handsome” to stay for fear that women would find them irresistible, according to the Arabic-language newspaper Elaph.
A festival official said the three Emiratis were taken out on the grounds they are too handsome and that the Commission [for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice] members feared female visitors could fall for them,” Elaph reported this week, as quoted on the website Arabian Business. The Emirati men were subsequently deported to Abu Dhabi. In Saudi Arabia women are largely prohibited from interacting with unrelated males.
Apparently the incident was triggered by the appearance at the festival of a female singer named Ayram
UAE Singer Aryam
The UAE female singer Aryam was at the heart of an incident involving storming of the country’s stand at an a Saudi cultural festival by a member of the Gulf Kingdom’s feared religious police, the signer has said.
Aryam confirmed she went to the UAE pavilion at the annual Genaderia festivities but added she was there as a delegate of the UAE and had no intention to sing.
“I went to the UAE stand as a delegate and congratulated them on their folklore…I stayed there for 20 seconds and had no intention to sing,” she said, quoted by Arabic language newspapers in the region. “I strongly respect the traditions of Saudi Arabia and all Gulf states and I consider myself a Saudi woman.”
Aryam, of Egyptian origin, said she had been invited by the Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority to visit the national pavilion when the incident took place.
“I respect their traditions and had no intention to sign or perform anything,” said the 33-year-old Dubai-based Aryam, whose real name is Reem Shaaban Hassan.
The man in the photo above, Omar Borkan Al Gala, is reported to be one of the men who was “forcibly” deported for being “too handsome.” I have no idea if he is really one of the three men, but he’s pretty good looking and he does seem to be from the UAE. Here’s his Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Flicker page.
A couple more photos:
This is a “way too handsome” open thread!
Posted: November 23, 2012 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney, morning reads, U.S. Politics, War on Women | Tags: 47 percent, behavioral economics, Black Friday, CIA negligence, Dan Ariely, Fox News, Hurricane Sandy, James Jesus Angleton, Jefferson Morley, JFK assassination, Joanne Woodward, John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Paul Newman, Rikers Island jail, Saudi Arabia, war on xmas, Winston Scott
I hope everyone had a great day yesterday, regardless of how you spent your time. My day was very quiet, because I had an upset stomach from some brussels sprouts I ate on Wednesday night. My mom and I are going to have “thanksgiving” dinner at my sister’s place on Saturday, so we just hung out and relaxed.
It’s going to be a slow news day, obviously, but I’ll do my best to provide some interesting reading material.
The New York Times had a nice story about some help for Sandy victims that came from a surprising place–Rikers Island.
On the night that the storm roared into the city, Dora B. Schriro, the correction commissioner, slept on a couch in her office at the Rikers Island jail, bracing for flooding and reassuring inmates and employees that the island would weather the storm.
The next morning, the vast jailhouse complex was mostly unscathed, but Ms. Schriro was stunned by the devastation the storm had wrought elsewhere.
So she decided to put her jail, and those who call it home, to work. Inmates did 6,600 pounds of laundry for people in emergency shelters. The jail supplied generators and gas to fuel them to neighborhoods in the dark, and donated long underwear usually given to inmates. And officers with medical training provided emergency care to victims.
“There was a lot of loss,” said Ms. Schriro, who personally pitched in at food lines on the Rockaway Peninsula, in Queens. “It was our responsibility and opportunity to jump in and help.”
I was disappointed that the story doesn’t say anything about how the inmates felt about all this.
Jail officials did not make inmates available for interviews about the role they played in helping storm victims, but Ms. Schriro said, “I’m confident they knew what they were doing.”
I’m not sure what to think about that.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle of yesterday’s holiday was the fact that it was also the 49th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Journalist and assassination researcher Jefferson Morley wrote a piece about it at Huffington Post: JFK at 49: What We Know For Sure. Morley reports on new developments in the JFK story since the article he wrote in 2010 called The Kennedy Assassination: 47 Years Later, What Do We Really Know?
One nondevelopment is that “cultural elites” continue to deny any possibility that the official story of JFK’s murder could be flawed, despite new evidence that has been revealed in recent years. Morley writes that there is no real evidence of a CIA conspiracy to assassinate JFK, there is a great deal of evidence of “CIA negligence.” From the HuffPo link:
The truth is this: Lee Harvey Oswald was well known to a handful of top CIA officials shortly before JFK was killed.
Read this internal CIA cable (not declassified until 1993) and you will see that that accused assassin’s biography–his travels, politics, intentions, and state of mind–were known to top CIA officials as of October 10, 1963 six weeks before JFK went to Dallas for a political trip….
In the fall of 1963, Oswald, a 23-year old ex-Marine traveled from New Orleans to Mexico City. When he contacted the Soviet embassy to apply for a visa to travel to Cuba, a CIA surveillance team picked up his telephone calls. A tape recording indicated Oswald had been referred to a consular officer suspected of being a KGB assassination specialist.
Winston Scott, the respected chief of the CIA station in Mexico City, was concerned. He sent a query to CIA headquarters, asking who is this guy Oswald?
Oswald had been on the agency’s radar since 1959 when he defected to Russia, and they had a “fat file” on him; nevertheless, the CIA told Scott that Oswald had “matured” and there was nothing to worry about.
This optimistic assessment was personally read and endorsed by no less than five senior CIA officers. They are identified by name on the last page of the cable. Their names–Roman, Tom Karamessines, Bill Hood, John Whitten (identified by his pseudonym “Scelso”), and Betty Egeter–were kept from the American public for thirty years. Why? Because all five reported to deputy director Richard Helms or to Counterintelligence Chief James Angleton in late 1963. Because of “national security.”
Read much more at the HuffPo link. Not too many American still remember November 22, 1963 clearly, and as Morley says that dark day in Dallas “seems to be fading in America’s collective consciousness.”
It’s looking like once the final tallies from the presidential election are complete, Mitt Romney will have won about 47 percent of the vote.
The legacy of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign will be marked with by the number 47. Not only the 47 percent of voters that he notoriously dismissed during a fundraising event, but also by the 47 percent of voters who chose to support him. Analysts predict that Romney will have won under 47.5 percent of the popular vote when the final tallies come in, compared to President Barack Obama’s 51 percent.
Romney characterized 47 percent of American voters as dependent on big government and therefore sympathetic to the Democratic platform. Instead, the election proved that the conservative Republican platform could not make a strong enough appeal to the demographics outside of its own traditional backing.
What could be more appropriate?
This one is for Dakinikat: Why Black Friday Is a Behavioral Economist’s Nightmare. At New York Magazine, Kevin Roose writes:
The big problem with Black Friday, from a behavioral economist’s perspective, is that every incentive a consumer could possibly have to participate — the promise of “doorbuster” deals on big-ticket items like TVs and computers, the opportunity to get all your holiday shopping done at once — is either largely illusory or outweighed by a disincentive on the other side. It’s a nationwide experiment in consumer irrationality, dressed up as a cheerful holiday add-on.
As Dan Ariely explains in his book, Predictably Irrational, “We all make the same types of mistakes over and over, because of the basic wiring of our brains.”
This applies to shopping on the other 364 days of the year, too. But on Black Friday, our rational decision-making faculties are at their weakest, just as stores are trying their hardest to maximize your mistakes.
Read about all the potential shopping booby traps at the link.
Here’s a horrifying update in the global war on women: Saudi Arabia implements electronic tracking system for women
RIYADH — Denied the right to travel without consent from their male guardians and banned from driving, women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.
Since last week, Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together.
Manal al-Sherif, who became the symbol of a campaign launched last year urging Saudi women to defy a driving ban, began spreading the information on Twitter, after she was alerted by a couple.
The husband, who was travelling with his wife, received a text message from the immigration authorities informing him that his wife had left the international airport in Riyadh.
“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said columnist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Women still have a very very long way to go, as we have learned here in the supposedly “advanced” U.S. over the past few years.
But never mind the serious problems that face humanity, the wingnuts at Fox News are focused on the supposed “war on xmas.” From TPM:
In the days before Thanksgiving, Fox filled its shows with dire, sometimes terrifying segments about all the threats surrounding the merriest season of the year. There’s the eradication of free speech by atheist “loons,” the possibility of choking on our food, the diseases spread on airplanes, and the endless depression that comes from Christmas commercials.
If we even make it to Christmas, that is. Fox’s morning man Bill Hemmer charted the possibility that the “apocalypse” would arrive on Dec. 22, and just how sad it will be when we all get wiped out, leaving all those unopened presents under the tree.
Here’s a mash-up of Fox coverage of the “war,” courtesy of TPM.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you found something to your liking. Now what’s on your reading list for today.
Posted: March 7, 2011 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Afghanistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Wisconsin, womancession, Women's Rights
Good morning, news junkies!
Hey everyone, Wonk here… this will be a little lighter than usual because I’m putting this together on the fly this morning.
Let’s start off with the status of the cheddar revolution in the American Midwest. According to the national media, it sounds like the Wisconsin 14 could be heading home from their undisclosed hideout(s) in Illinois:
Here’s the latest from the NYT — “Talks to Resolve Wisconsin Battle Falter“:
Senator Fred Risser, one of 14 Democrats who left Wisconsin last month to prevent the Republican-dominated Senate from approving the collective bargaining measure, said it now seemed conceivable that he and his fellow Democrats would return to Wisconsin, at some point in the future, without a negotiated compromise.
“We have always said we would go back eventually,” Mr. Risser said, adding that the Democrats had yet to make any decision about when to go back to Madison, a move that would open the way for a vote on the proposal by Mr. Walker, a Republican elected in November. “We will have accomplished some of our purpose – to slow things up and let people know what was in this bill.”
And, from the WSJ — “Democrats to End Union Standoff“:
Playing a game of political chicken, Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin to stymie restrictions on public-employee unions said Sunday they planned to come back from exile soon, betting that even though their return will allow the bill to pass, the curbs are so unpopular they’ll taint the state’s Republican governor and legislators.
Sen. Mark Miller said he and his fellow Democrats intend to let the full Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair” bill, which includes the proposed limits on public unions’ collective-bargaining rights. The bill, which had been blocked because the missing Democrats were needed for the Senate to have enough members present to vote on it, is expected to pass the Republican-controlled chamber.
But, the following was posted in response to the WSJ piece on one of the Wisconsin 14’s facebook pages (which I found via wisopinion.com) — this is from freshman senator Chris Larson:
Sen. Miller’s comments are taken out of context in the Wall Street Journal article just released. Dems will return when collective bargaining is off the table. That could be soon based on the growing public opposition to the bill and the recall efforts against Republicans. Unfortunately, the WSJ fished for the quote they wanted, skipping this key step in logic: we won’t come back until worker’s rights are preserved.
Switching to the Mideast, Robert Fisk has an important read in the Independent this morning that I’ve only had time to skim — “America’s secret plan to arm Libya’s rebels“:
Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi. The Saudi Kingdom, already facing a “day of rage” from its 10 per cent Shia Muslim community on Friday, with a ban on all demonstrations, has so far failed to respond to Washington’s highly classified request, although King Abdullah personally loathes the Libyan leader, who tried to assassinate him just over a year ago.
Washington’s request is in line with other US military co-operation with the Saudis. The royal family in Jeddah, which was deeply involved in the Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, gave immediate support to American efforts to arm guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1980 and later – to America’s chagrin – also funded and armed the Taliban.
But the Saudis remain the only US Arab ally strategically placed and capable of furnishing weapons to the guerrillas of Libya. Their assistance would allow Washington to disclaim any military involvement in the supply chain – even though the arms would be American and paid for by the Saudis.
If the Saudi government accedes to America’s request to send guns and missiles to Libyan rebels, however, it would be almost impossible for President Barack Obama to condemn the kingdom for any violence against the Shias of the north-east provinces.
Thus has the Arab awakening, the demand for democracy in North Africa, the Shia revolt and the rising against Gaddafi become entangled in the space of just a few hours with US military priorities in the region.
Hillary talked about a perfect storm brewing last month. Deja vu.
More coverage on Libya:
Check out the title at the top of your browser on that NYT link at the end — I don’t know if the editors will change it by the time you check, but when I saw it it said, “Qaddafi’s Cult of Personality Faces Greatest Challenge.”
Here’s another item echoing the Bryce Colvert piece on the “Womancession” that I posted about on Saturday. From economics professor Nancy Folbre –– “His Recession, Becoming Hers“:
Men are more concentrated in industries that are both more sensitive to the business cycle and trending down as a share of total employment.
However, women are more concentrated in state and local jobs that are now on the chopping block as a result of efforts to cut taxes and reduce public spending. About 52 percent of state employees and 61 percent of the much larger category of local employees are women – many of them working as teachers, secretaries, or social workers.
Women make up a majority of two important public sector unions, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the American Federation of Teachers.
The economist Randy Albelda asserts that the conservative attack on public-sector unions resembles the welfare reform discussions of the 1990s, in which recipients of public assistance were labeled greedy, lazy welfare queens.
In more economic doom and gloom headlines…
From the Nation. Christopher Hayes — “Why Washington Doesn’t Care About Jobs“ (h/t Bostonboomer):
This disconnect between the jobs crisis in the country and the blithe dismissal thereof in Washington is the most incomprehensible aspect of the political moment. But I think there are two numbers that go a long way toward explaining it.
The first is 4.2. That’s the percentage of Americans with a four-year college degree who are unemployed. It’s less than half the official unemployment rate of 9 percent for the labor force as a whole and one-fourth the underemployment rate (which counts those who have given up looking for work or are working part time but want full-time work) of 16.1 percent. So while the overall economy continues to suffer through the worst labor market since the Great Depression, the elite centers of power have recovered. For those of us fortunate enough to have graduated from college—and to have escaped foreclosure or an underwater mortgage—normalcy has returned.
The other number is 5.7 percent. That’s the unemployment rate for the Washington/Arlington/Alexandria metro area and just so happens to be lowest among large metropolitan areas in the entire country. In 2010 the DC metro area added 57,000 jobs, more than any in the nation, and now boasts the hottest market for commercial office space. In other words: DC is booming. You can see it in the restaurants opening all over North West, the high prices that condos fetch in the real estate market and the general placid sense of bourgeois comfort that suffuses the affluent upper- and upper-middle-class pockets of the region.
What these two numbers add up to is a governing elite that is profoundly alienated from the lived experiences of the millions of Americans who are barely surviving the ravages of the Great Recession.
I think Hayes is on the money highlighting the 5.7 percent figure, but I’ve heard a lot of people with college degrees getting laid off or having trouble finding a job. Of course that’s anecdotal, but I’m still wondering about that 4.2 percent figure.
Two quick headlines related to the mess our Asshat-No-Cattle governor here in Texas is making of the ‘Don’t Mess With’ state:
Washington Post with a headline that shouldn’t surprise anyone who is paying attention — “In Afghanistan, U.S. shifts strategy on women’s rights as it eyes wider priorities.“
Some really nasty and revealing quotes in there about what Obama Admin insiders think of women’s rights in Afghanistan:
A senior U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy said changes to the land program also stem from a desire at the top levels of the Obama administration to triage the war and focus on the overriding goal of ending the conflict.
“Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities,” said the senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations. “There’s no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down.”
But, again, anybody who’s been paying attention is not surprised to see that Hillary’s agenda for women and girls does not translate into Obama’s agenda for women and girls.
Alright, I want to get you this thread up as soon as possible, so I’m going to cut it short there and maybe update later if I find more.
What’s on your blogging list today? I’m sure I missed a lot of important stuff, so help us all out this morning by sharing what you’re reading.