Tuesday Reads: Rachel and Trayvon, Reid Going Nuclear, Spy Stories, and Much More

Dog_getting_the_newspaper

Good Morning!!

I’m not sure if it’s the heat or the depressing news, but I’m having a hard time getting going this morning.

We’re into our third heat wave of the summer, and I’m actually getting acclimated to 90 degree weather; but I suppose it still has an effect on my body and mind.

I’m also somewhat depressed about the Zimmerman verdict and by the often ignorant reactions I see on-line and on TV.

Rachel and Trayvon

One bright spot in the coverage for me was Rachel Jeantel’s interview with Piers Morgan last night. She was real and authentic, and Morgan pretty much stayed out of the way and let her talk. I think she made a real impression on him and the reaction from the live audience was very positive too. It was refreshing. IMO, it says a lot about Travon Martin’s character that he had a friend like Rachel. I’m going to post the whole interview here in case you missed it or you want to watch it again.

From Mediaite:

Asked about what Trayvon Martin was like as a friend, Jeantel described him as a “calm, chill, loving person” and said she never saw him get “aggressive” or “lose his temper.” She said that the defense’s attempts to portray Martin as a “thug” were unfounded and defended his relatively mild drug use. “Weed don’t make him go crazy,” she said, “it just makes him go hungry.”

Jeantel also responded to the massive mockery she received in social media for the way she speaks, explaining that she was born with an under-bite that has made it difficult for her to speak clearly. When Morgan asked if she’d been bullied for her condition, she simply responded, “Look at me,” to laughter from the studio audience.

Morgan attempted to get Jeantel to offer her opinion of defense attorney Don West, who many claimed was condescending towards her when she was on the stand. Jeantel shook her head, declining to say anything bad about the man given her “Christian” upbringing.

In the second part of his interview with Jeantel, Morgan turned to the “creepy-ass cracker” comment she made and the major impact it had on the tenor of the case. She explained that the term is actually spelled “cracka” and defined it as “people who are acting like they’re police.” She said that if Zimmerman had calmly approached Martin and introduced himself, her friend would have politely said what he was doing there and nothing more would have happened.

Unlike the juror, Jeantel did think Zimmerman was racially motivated. “It was racial,” she said. “Let’s be honest, racial. If Trayvon was white and he had a hoodie on, would that happen?”

I’d also like to recommend this piece by Robin D.G. Kelley at Counterpunch:  The US v. Trayvon Martin.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senator Rand Paul, Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (also sponsor of his state’s Stand Your Ground law), along with a host of other Republicans, argued that had the teachers and administrators been armed, those twenty little kids whose lives Adam Lanza stole would be alive today.   Of course, they were parroting the National Rifle Association’s talking points.  The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative lobbying group responsible for drafting and pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, insist that an armed citizenry is the only effective defense against imminent threats, assailants, and predators.

But when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, teenage pedestrian returning home one rainy February evening from a neighborhood convenience store, the NRA went mute.  Neither NRA officials nor the pro-gun wing of the Republican Party argued that had Trayvon Martin been armed, he would be alive today.  The basic facts are indisputable: Martin was on his way home when Zimmerman began to follow him—first in his SUV, and then on foot.  Zimmerman told the police he had been following this “suspicious-looking” young man.  Martin knew he was being followed and told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, that the man might be some kind of sexual predator.  At some point, Martin and Zimmerman confronted each other, a fight ensued, and in the struggle Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.

Zimmerman pursued Martin.  This is a fact.  Martin could have run, I suppose, but every black man knows that unless you’re on a field, a track, or a basketball court, running is suspicious and could get you a bullet in the back.  The other option was to ask this stranger what he was doing, but confrontations can also be dangerous—especially without witnesses and without a weapon besides a cell phone and his fists.  Florida law did not require Martin to retreat, though it is not clear if he had tried to retreat.  He did know he was in imminent danger.

Why didn’t Trayvon have a right to stand his ground? Why didn’t his fear for his safety matter? We need to answer these questions as a society.  Please read the whole article if you can.
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Edward Snowden Emerges; Seeks Temporary Asylum in Russia

NSA leaker Edward Snowden attends a press conference at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport with Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks, left, July 12, 2013, in this image provided by Human Rights Watch.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden attends a press conference at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport with Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks, left, July 12, 2013, in this image provided by Human Rights Watch.

At 5PM (9AM ET) Russian Time, Edward Snowden met with human rights activists and attorneys in Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. Afterward he appeared at a press conference alongside Sarah Harrison of Wikileaks and Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch. He announced that he is seeking asylum in Russian until he can arrange to fly to a Latin American country.

NBC News/AP:

Although the meeting was not public, some of those present posted details to Twitter, including Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch who released a handout image that she said was of Snowden (see above).

Lokshina said Snowden would be making an official request to Russia for temporary asylum, adding that his condition was “just fine.”

The move indicates the difficulties facing Snowden, who has been offered asylum by three countries: Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. He is apparently unable to travel to them without entering airspace controlled by the U.S., risking an enforced grounding that would lead to his arrest.

Also among those present at Friday’s meeting was a prominent Russian lawyer, Genri Reznik, who later told reporters: “I think his claim should be satisfied… The law allows for political asylum.

“The values in the constitution of the US and Russia are similar, so I don’t think that there could be a lengthy conflict if Russia grants him asylum.”

Several hours earlier The New York Times had reported on an e-mail which “purported to be” form Snowden asking for the meeting with human rights organizations.

Several prominent human-rights organizations received e-mailed invitations late on Thursday to meet with Mr. Snowden, though they were initially doubtful about the e-mails’ origin.

No invitation was extended to Russian officials, said Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman. Journalists who asked to be included were told that Mr. Snowden’s team “will be following up with the press shortly afterward.”

Attached to the e-mailed request was a note complaining of U.S. interference with Snowden’s efforts to seek asylum in order to avoid prosecution for stealing and revealing classified information.

The e-mail, signed “Edward Joseph Snowden,” said he had “been extremely fortunate to enjoy and accept many offers of support and asylum from brave countries around the world,” and that he hoped to visit each of them personally to express his thanks. It went on to say that the American government had carried out an “unlawful campaign” to block his asylum bids.

“The scale of threatening behavior is without precedent: never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign president’s plane to effect a search for a political refugee,” the note said. “I invite the human rights organizations or other respected individuals addressed to join me on 12 July at 5:00 p.m. at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow for a brief statement and discussion regarding the next steps forward in my situation.”

Wikileaks has posted a transcript of Snowden’s statement to the human rights groups. In it he makes clear that he believes he has done the right thing by revealing U.S. espionage methods and targets around the world and says he will accept any and all offers of asylum, and that for now he will apply to stay in Russia.

I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela’s President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum. As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.

This willingness by powerful states to act extra-legally represents a threat to all of us, and must not be allowed to succeed. Accordingly, I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted. I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably.

The Washington Post questions whether Snowden can meet Vladimir Putin’s terms for allowing him to stay in Russia.

He explained that asylum is the only way he can guarantee his safety to stay in the country, where he’s been since arriving from Hong Kong in late June. “I am only in a position to accept Russia’s offer because of my inability to travel,” he said,according to Lokshina, adding that he ultimately hopes to travel to Latin America, where three countries have offered him asylum.

This puts Snowden in a difficult position: He had previously applied for asylum in Russia but then withdrew his application after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Snowden could only stay on certain terms. “If he wants to remain here there is one condition – he should stop his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners,” Putin announced at a July 1 news conference. That was broadly taken as a condition that Snowden stop leaking classified U.S. information.

Snowden’s earlier decision to withdraw his application for asylum in Russia seemed to suggest that he found Putin’s terms unacceptable. It’s not clear what’s changed, but Snowden seems to have his own interpretation of Putin’s conditions. “He has no problem with Putin’s condition because he does not believe he damaged the United States, or is damaging it,” Lokshina told the Post. Her comments to The New York Times also indicated that Snowden apparently believes his past leaks have not harmed the United States and so not violated Putin’s terms.

So does Snowden assume that he can leak anything that he decides will not be damaging to the U.S.? And what about the data that he has already given to Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, Der Spiegel , The South China Morning Post, and newspapers in Brazil and Australia? He has also claimed through Greenwald that many individuals around the world have complete copies of the stolen materials. Greenwald himself has stated that Snowden has already completed the leak to The Guardian and that it will be up to them to decide what gets published. According to the Post,

Snowden, or at least the WikiLeaks representative Sarah Harrison who is working with him, might already see hints of these potential contradictions. Snowden asked the attendees at Friday’s Moscow airport meeting to try to intervene with Putin on his behalf, Lokshina told The New York Times.

At least we now know where Snowden is and what his immediate plans are. Now we’ll await Russia’s response.