Lazy Caturday Reads: Bookstore Cats (And News)

Good Afternoon!!

California is burning and we have no national leadership. The current death toll from the Camp Fire in Northern California stands at 71, with more than 1,000 missing. Trump is going to California, not to help or comfort, but to educate politicians and firefighters about what they did and are doing wrong. Politico:

Trump said he will be meeting Saturday with Gov. Jerry Brown, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and emergency workers across the state.

“I want to be with the firefighters and the FEMA first responders,” Trump said, anticipating that he would likely be returning to the White House at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, “or something like that.”

The president also hinted at some potentially confrontational discussions he might engage in Saturday with California’s elected leaders, including on the state’s forest management efforts.

“I’ve been saying that for a long time this could have been a lot different situation, but the one thing is that everybody now knows that this is what we have to be doing, and there’s no question about it,” Trump said. “It should have been done many years ago, but i think everybody’s on the right side. It’s a big issue.”

Yesterday Trump explained his theory to Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

So is Trump bringing a rake with him?

Read About the Wildfires

Reuters: Teams search for 1,000 missing in California’s deadliest wildfire.

PARADISE, Calif., Nov 17 (Reuters) – Forensic recovery teams searched for more victims in the charred wreckage of the northern California town of Paradise on Saturday as the number of people listed as missing in the state’s deadliest wildfire topped 1,000.

Remains of at least 71 people have been recovered in and around the small Sierra foothills town 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco. It was home to nearly 27,000 residents before it was largely incinerated by the blaze on the night of Nov. 8.

Adams Avenue Book Store in San Diego, CA, Bartleby

The disaster already ranks among the deadliest U.S. wildfires since the turn of the last century. Eighty-seven people perished in the Big Burn firestorm that swept the Northern Rockies in August of 1910. Minnesota’s Cloquet Fire in October of 1918 killed 450 people.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has blamed the recent spate of fires on forest mismanagement, was due to visit the fire zones on Saturday to meet displaced residents. Governor Jerry Brown and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom planned to join Trump on his tour.

Authorities attribute the high death toll from the blaze – dubbed “Camp Fire” – partly to the speed with which flames raced through the town with little advance warning, driven by howling winds and fueled by drought-desiccated scrub and trees.

More than a week later, firefighters have managed to carve containment lines around 45 percent of the blaze’s perimeter. The fire covered 142,000 acres (57,000 hectares), fire officials said.

Besides the toll on human life, property losses from the blaze make it the most destructive in California history, posing the additional challenge of providing long-term shelter for many thousands of displaced residents.

The BBC has a timeline of the destruction of Paradise, CA: California wildfires: The day Paradise burned down. Here’s the introduction:

“Heavenly father, please help us.”

Sitting in the back seat of the car her husband was driving, Brynn Parrott Chatfield’s entire field of vision was filled with flames as she prayed.

Only the thin strip of road in front of them remained unburned.

Shades of orange, white, purple and pink burst out on both sides, hundreds of small fires all burning at the same time, low on the ground and up and over the trees.

“Please, help us to be safe.”

A wave of embers rose up from the surface of the road and struck their front windscreen. Brynn’s husband Jeremy drove calmly on down the middle of the road; no-one would be coming towards them into the fire.

“I’m thankful for Jeremy and his willingness to be brave…”

By now, no road was visible, and only a dense orange cloud could be seen in front of the car. Then suddenly, it cleared, and the fires seemed to scatter.

Clear skies opened up, the last embers bounced off the windscreen and the fire was finally behind them.

As a helicopter flew overhead, carrying water to try and douse the flames, Jeremy and Brynn knew they had made it out alive.

Soon after, almost nothing would remain of their hometown, Paradise, and the fire they fled in north-east California would become the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.

This is the story of how the fire spread.

More reads on the California disaster:

The Guardian: California’s DIY firefighters battle alone as the richest hire private teams.

The New York Times: As Inmates, They Fight California’s Fires. As Ex-Convicts, Their Firefighting Prospects Wilt.

The New York Times: Air Quality in California: Devastating Fires Lead to a New Danger.

The Los Angeles Times: California fire: If you stay, you’re dead. How a Paradise nursing home evacuated.

The New York Times: Everyone Is Talking About the California Wildfires. Read These Books on How to Fight Them.

Trump Is Fueling White Supremacist Extremism

David Neiwert at The Washington Post: Right-wing extremists are already threatening violence over a Democratic House. The introduction:

Seeking a more lenient sentence for Patrick Eugene Stein’s plot to murder hundreds of Somali immigrants in a small Kansas town, Stein’s attorneys turned to a novel strategy: They blamed the inspiration for his actions on Donald Trump.

“The court cannot ignore the circumstances of one of the most rhetorically mold-breaking, violent, awful, hateful and contentious presidential elections in modern history, driven in large measure by the rhetorical China shop bull who is now our president,” the lawyers wrote.

Stein and his two cohorts planned their attack to take place the day after the November 2016 election. Anticipating a Hillary Clinton victory, the three Kansans wanted to make a violent first strike against her presidency by setting off a set of Timothy McVeigh-style truck bombs at a Muslim immigrant community in Garden City, then gunning down survivors as they fled.

The plot had been exposed, and the men arrested, a few weeks before they intended to carry it out. It took place amid a national environment in which far-right militiamen had been vowing a violent resistance to a potential Clinton administration. That resistance was, at least temporarily, mooted by Trump’s victory.

But those same rumblings can now be heard from the very same far-right factions, likewise threatening violence, in response to this month’s takeover of the House of Representatives by Democrats. There is legitimate reason for concern that right-wing terrorist violence will continue and perhaps increase — and that extremists could soon begin targeting politicians in office, especially if Trump singles them out for scorn.

Read the Rest at the WaPo. Neiwert is the author of Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump.

Lucian K. Truscott IV at Raw Story: Donald Trump isn’t our president — he is the Jefferson Davis of a new red state confederacy in a slow-motion civil war.

In 1861, they were cadets from the Citadel Military Academy in South Carolina. On January 9, of that year, they were manning an artillery battery on Morris Island, an uninhabited island in Charleston Harbor when they fired on the United States steamship Star of the West, which was attempting to resupply the American garrison at Fort Sumter. The shots they fired that day, along with the bombardment of the fort by the Confederate States Army beginning on April 12 of that year, are generally considered by historians to be the first shots fired in what became the American Civil War.

In 2017, they were members of the so-called “alt-right” — white supremacists, neo-nazis, neo-confederates, white nationalists, and neo-fascists who were in Charlottesville for the so-called “Unite the Right” rally. On the night of August 11, 2017, as many as 200 of them marched carrying burning torches through the campus of the University of Virginia chanting white supremacist slogans such as “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” When they reached the statue of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, they clashed with a group of students who had surrounded the statue. The alt-right demonstrators swung and threw their torches and used pepper spray against the counter-protestors, injuring several.

The next day, the alt-right demonstrators marched through Charlottesville carrying Confederate and Nazi flags chanting “white lives matter,” “Jewish media is going down,” and “make America great again.” Many demonstrators were armed, some with semi-automatic assault-style rifles. They clashed again with counter-protestors, and at 1:45 p.m., a white supremacist demonstrator identified as James Alex Fields Jr. drove his 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protestors, injuring 19 and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

She was not the first to die in the new civil war. Already dead were black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina; a native of India in Olathe, Kansas; an Army lieutenant in College Park, Maryland; and many others.

But the death of Heather Heyer would become a focus of the violence and killing in the new civil war, because President Trump would put it there.

More at Raw Story (originally pubABlished at Salon).

More to Explore:

The Washington Post: Confederate pride and prejudice. Some white Northerners see a flag rooted in racism as a symbol of patriotism.

HuffPost: D.C.’s Neo-Nazi Brothers Were Hiding In Plain Sight.

ABC Action News Tampa: 39 suspected gang members charged in major drug, gun trafficking investigation in Pasco.

Jackson Free Press: Hyde-Smith Accepts $2,700 Donation from Notorious White Supremacist.

Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince

Yesterday someone leaked the news that CIA has concluded that MBS ordered the murder of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month in Turkey. The New York Times reports:

Bücherdorf Mühlbeck, Germany

The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to American officials.

The C.I.A. made the assessment based on the crown prince’s control of Saudi Arabia, which is such that the killing would not have taken place without his approval, and has buttressed its conclusion with two sets of crucial communications: intercepts of the crown prince’s calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince.

The C.I.A. has believed for weeks that Prince Mohammed was culpable in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing but had been hesitant to definitively conclude that he directly ordered it. The agency has passed that assessment on to lawmakers and Trump administration officials.

The change in C.I.A. thinking came as new information emerged, officials said. The evidence included an intercept showing a member of the kill team calling an aide to Prince Mohammed and saying “tell your boss” that the mission was accomplished. Officials cautioned, however, that the new information is not direct evidence linking Prince Mohammed to the assassination, which was carried out in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Undoubtedly the leak was motivated by Trump’s defense of MBS and his suggestion that another long-time U.S. resident Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen should be handed over to Turkey most likely to be tortured and killed.

NBC News: If Trump sacrifices Fethullah Gulen to protect Saudi Arabia, he will make a mockery of the U.S. extradition system.

In the unending swirl of shocking statements and decisions by the Trump administration, the latest scoop by NBC News could easily get lost. But it is nonetheless jaw dropping to hear reports that the administration may be thinking about surrendering to Turkish demands to extradite a long-time U.S. resident for the sake of placating Turkey and protecting Saudi Arabia in the wake of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder.

According to four people interviewed by NBC, the White House has instructed the Justice Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to find a way to remove Fethullah Gulen, a former ally-turned-foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan claims Gulen was the mastermind behind a failed coupagainst him in 2016. The elderly Gulen has lived in rural Pennsylvania for close to 20 years. He is a green card holder, or permanent resident of the U.S., and he adamantly denies Turkey’s accusations. But Trump presumably hopes that if he turns Gulen over to Turkey, Erdogan will return the favor by easing his campaign against Saudi Arabia, an important American ally that has been under intense scrutiny following the Khashoggi killing.

U.S. authorities have already reviewed Turkey’s two-year-old extradition request and found it without merit. But Trump, in an effort to help Saudi Arabia diffuse the Khashoggi crisis, is weighing whether or not to both sacrifice a man and make a mockery of the extradition system.

More Stories to Check Out

The Washington Post: Trump says he’ll speak with CIA about Khashoggi killing.

Politico: Trump hails Saudis as ‘spectacular ally’ in wake of CIA Khashoggi reports.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.


Monday Reads: WTF did Trump Voters do?

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’d like to continue to ignore the absolute breakdown of rule of law and sanity brought on by a group of outraged wypipo that just want their football and lives to be mired in some perverse black and white 50s sitcom, but it’s hard with headlines reading like an Orwellian Dystopia.

While Floridians and other survivors of hurricanes the last 2 seasons struggle to find water, food, and access to the things of basic civilization, T-Rump continues to golf at his various properties and travel to provide Hate Fest opportunities for aggrieved wypipo with random women leaders being targeted for the shouts of “lock her up”.  This kind of behavior would shame any sane person.  The word sane is the key idea here.

I’d like to say who are these people, but then it’s pretty obvious that I went to high school and university with a lot of them and used to sit in church pews surrounded by them. I’m not sure what wiring got crossed in their brains, but I don’t want to understand them, I want them to slink back under their rocks.

That pretty much sums it up.  KKKremlin Caligula just keeps showing himself to the world and about 20% of the population keeps acting like this is great and normal.  But then, most of them also believe in a literal garden of Eden and zombie Jesus born of a virgin when there’s absolutely no proof of any of that. It seems like everything done by Republicans encourages their psychotic breaks so the donor class gets to pillage the country of treasure and resources.  The VOX op ed piece is written by Matthew Yglesias.

President Trump trusts Kim Jong Un but not American climate scientists. He knows more about NATO than Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. He thinks the European Union was created to take advantage of America on trade. And he isn’t sure whether or not Vladimir Putin is involved in assassinations.

In short, his sit-down interview with 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl revealed the president of the United States to be grossly dishonest, woefully ill-informed, and congenitally incapable of admitting error or demonstrating any kind of moral or intellectual growth.

He is, in other words, totally unfit for high office and fairly obviously so. Even more amazingly, despite Stahl covering an incredibly wide range of issues, she broke essentially no new ground. Every terrible, disqualifying thing he said was something he’s said before.

Donald Trump says a lot of things that aren’t true

Portrait

That doesn’t include what’s going on with Saudi Arabia which is acting like an entitled Trump Voter with the actual ability to blackmail the country and its Placeholder in the Oval Office. Trump basically said that the murdered Saudi Journalists might have been killed by “rogue” killers and that the King said they didn’t do it. Oh, great!  It’s the believe a crazed dictator over all the evidence SNL skit redux!

For 45 years, it’s been considered out of bounds for Saudi Arabia. But all of a sudden, Riyadh made what many read as a veiled threat to use the kingdom’s oil wealth as a political weapon — something unheard of since the 1973 Arab embargo that triggered the first oil crisis.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, said on Sunday it would retaliate against any punitive measures linked to the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi with even “stronger ones.” In an implicit reference to the kingdom’s petroleum wealth, the statement noted the Saudi economy “has an influential and vital role in the global economy.”

Roger Diwan, a longstanding OPEC watcher at consultant IHS Markit Ltd., said the Saudi comments broke “an essential oil market taboo.”

While few think that Saudi Arabia is prepared to follow through, even the suggestion of using oil as a weapon undermines Riyadh’s long-standing effort to project itself as a force for economic stability. Jeffrey Currie, the head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs Inc., said Middle East tensions impacting the oil market have now “broadened to include Saudi Arabia.”

The images today should remind the older among us of the 1970s gas crisis.

In October 1972, a year before the U.S. oil crisis began, Atlantic author Steward Udall issued a warning, predicting a looming fuel shortageUdall, a former Secretary of the Interior for the Kennedy Administration, believed the auto industry was in an unsustainable growth pattern based on the folly that cheap gas prices would persist indefinitely. He saw American oil production reaching a plateau and worried about the stability of the Middle Eastern market:

Meanwhile, back to those “rogue killers” and the man who is totally shameless about spouting alternative facts.

President Donald Trump on Monday suggested that “rogue killers” may be responsible for the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, while also dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

“We are going to leave nothing uncovered,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. “With that being said, the king firmly denied any knowledge of it. … I don’t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers, who knows? We’ll try getting to the bottom of it very soon. His was a flat denial.”

In case any one needs to be reminded, the Saudi Royal Family are not nice people and the attacks on 9/11 were instigated by Saudis.  And, why do we continually kiss up to brutal regimes?  Are we really still in bed with craven dictatorships?  Of course, we are!!!!

So there was Crown Prince Mohammad at an April soirée at Mr. Murdoch’s vineyard in Bel Air, Calif. Guests included the Walt Disney Company’s chairman, Robert A. Iger; the studio chief at Warner Bros., Kevin Tsujihara; and the actors Morgan Freeman and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who overshared on Instagram that he was “blown away to be told about the level of love the Saudi people have for me.”

As the guest of honor at a Page Six-worthy dinner at the producer Brian Grazer’s Santa Monica home, the crown prince discussed Snapchat’s popularity in his kingdom with the Snap chief Evan Spiegel;Vice’s Shane Smith; Amazon’s chief — and Washington Post owner — Jeff Bezos and the agent-turned-mogul Ari Emanuel.

Mr. Emanuel, an organizer of the evening, had reason to celebrate: the Saudis planned a $400 million investment in Endeavor, his entertainment holding company. (In light of Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, Endeavor is reassessing the deal, according to a person with knowledge of Mr. Emanuel’s thinking, who shared it only on condition of anonymity.)

Vanity Fair noted at the time that the festivities were not marred by talk of civilian deaths in Yemen from Saudi-led airstrikes; the crown prince’s “anti-corruption” move to imprison scores of Saudi businessmen, including the owners of Saudi television networks and key rivals, at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton; or the five-year prison sentence the Saudi royal court handed the journalist Saleh al-Shehi for criticizing the government.

The embrace between the American establishment and the leader known as M.B.S. was set to continue in Riyadh later this month at a business conference hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed. The sponsors, partners and participants of the conference — known informally as “Davos In The Desert” — included a number of media companies: CNBC, The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, CNN and Fox Business Network.

With the exception of Fox, which is reviewing its participation, all of those organizations pulled out as the Khashoggi story climbed most-viewed article lists and drew cable coverage. The story’s popularity was helped along by its thriller-like qualities, which included the allegation that the journalist’s body was dismembered with the aid of a bone saw before it was removed from the consulate.

So much for that little fairy tale happy ending. But one still wonders why the Bible Belt continues to lose its license to smug righteousness with its unholy alliance with D’oh Hair Furor?   I don’t usually quote Maggie Habberman because I think she’s basically an overpaid gossip columnist but here we go. Why don’t the unhinged hatefests that are happening quite a few times a week turn off people who say they believe in the biblical Jesus?  I mean really?  Where in the bible does Jesus say “lock her up”?

Sharon Hurd didn’t know that President Trump had used the phrase “dumb Southerner” to describe his attorney general, but hearing it didn’t bother her.

“We’re ready for somebody to be that outspoken, because he seems to be getting the job done,” said Ms. Hurd, 73, a retiree who once owned a restaurant and a gift shop, standing on a street corner about an hour after Mr. Trump’s rally ended here this month. “He doesn’t try to take his words and make them please everybody, and I think that Southern people are noticing that.”

Few things have appeared to test the bond between Mr. Trump and the South, a political coupling of a thrice-married New Yorker and voters in the Bible Belt that seemed unlikely from the start. The president’s swing this month through deep-red Tennessee and Mississippi, where he basked in the warmth of supporters at political rallies, confirmed that despite the scandals and chaos that have churned out of the White House, their relationship endures.

“It is ironic that the warrior that they have found is a billionaire from New York, but he really speaks their language fluidly,” said Henry Barbour, a Republican National Committee member and party strategist based in Mississippi.

“I don’t think it’s about any specific set of policy positions, but it’s about somebody being a warrior for folks,” he said.

The relationship offers Mr. Trump benefits as well. In Johnson City, Tenn., and in Southaven, Miss., this month, Mr. Trump was far removed from bruising headlines about the special counsel investigation into possible campaign collusion with Russia, his personal finances or allegations of affairs.

And although Mr. Trump often paints a rosy, and sometimes distorted, picture of his support, his descriptions of mutual love with his voters match reality in parts of the South — particularly outside cities and suburbs. In his 2016 victory, he won every Southern state but Virginia. In Tennessee, public polling shows his approval rating is close to 60 percent, far greater than his national average.

I don’t get it and I’m not sure why continually writing about these people does much good for any of us other warn us that there are zombies living among us.  Oh, and then there’s this little shit show coming to my streets this week.  These walking specimens of human excrement have already terrorized the streets of NYC and Portland this week.  We’re not happy to be hosting them.

Newly released video reportedly shows the moment members of the far-right group the “Proud Boys” attacked anti-fascist protesters.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Metropolitan Republican Club on New York City’s Upper East Side Friday night, where Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes was scheduled to give a speech.

As the event was letting out, some of the attendees allegedly assaulted some of the so-called “Antifa” protesters.

Here’s from the Portland event.

Far-right groups Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer,clashed with anti-fascist protesters in Portland, Ore. on Saturday night.

Patriot Prayer, an Oregon-based group, was holding a rally in downtown Portland yesterday; after several hours of clashes, video footage shows, an antifa protester sprays one of the far-right group members with pepper spray, setting off further violence.

The incident appears to have taken place outside Kelly’s Olympian bar and follows similar violence at the hands of Proud Boys on Friday night in New York City. According to Twitter user @itsmikebivins, the violence in Portland was “way worse” than the violence in New York.

“Right-wingers were clubbing people with clubs,” @itsmikebivins continued. Portland police confirmed that the incident was part of violence that occurred between the groups throughout the day, and involved “hard-knuckled gloves, firearms, batons and knives.”

These idiots are like a cross between Clock Work Orange’s “droogies” and freaking NAZI Brownshirts with a dash of KKK thrown in, but hey, it’s liberals that are angry mobs!

Anyway, I will stay home and away from the TV news as much as possible.  My safe zone is the actual horror movies being shown on SYFY this month instead of the horror reality show that has overtaken our country.

Be excellent to each other.  Oh, and Elizabeth Warren does have Native American Heritage but I don’t want to play in to the all the American Indian Lore that’s floating around this story.   The only question to me is will Trump pony up the million to her chosen charity and will every one just go out and vote already!!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 

 

 


Tuesday Reads: Bizarro World News

Good Afternoon!!

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.”

The birth certificate translation service can significantly change a document’s graphical layout, often requiring additional space to accommodate different character counts or writing directions. Also, the foreign patent filing has specific requirements and nuances for each country.

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 1958confounding 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.

Robert Mercer

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?htt


Lazy Saturday Reads: Signs of Life After the Snowpocalypse

 crocus snow

Good Morning!!

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.

crocus

Things are getting really ugly in Yemen. From The Washington Post: How the Yemen conflict risks new chaos in the Middle East.

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.

Crocus in Boston

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.

crocus-in-snow

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.

Life after Snowpocalypse

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.

crocuses-in-snow

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.

“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.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

 


Saturday Reads: “Too Handsome” Hoax and Boston Bombing Conspiracy Theories

Omar Borkan Al Gala, fashion photographer, actor, and poet from Dubai

Omar Borkan Al Gala, fashion photographer, actor, and poet from Dubai

Good Morning!!

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.

misinformation

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.

wrong on Iraq

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.

Choose-to-Know-Stop-the-Misinformation-Profile-Picture-1

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!


Late Night: Three Men Deported By Saudi Arabia For Being Too Handsome

Omar Borkan Al Gala, fashion photographer, actor, and poet from Dubai

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

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:

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More here.

This is a “way too handsome” open thread!


Friday Reads: Sandy Aid, JFK, Real War on Women, and Fake War on Xmas

Good Morning!!

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.